Friday, August 22, 2014

Today's archidose #778

Here are some photos of Råå Day Care Center (2013) in Helsingborg, Sweden in Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter, photographed by Matthew Gribben.









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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Today's archidose, now with Instagram

Since starting the "Today's archidose" feature in 2006, when I asked readers to contribute photos of contemporary via Flickr for consideration on this blog, I've done 777 posts. Given that Flickr isn't the primary means for people to share photos online, I've decided (somewhat well after the fact) to open the Today's archidose feature to Instagram.

It basically works the same way as the Flickr instructions, but instead of joining a group, just tag your Instagram photos #archidose (I'd link to the tag here, but Instagram only allows clicking on tags that through their app) and I'll dig through them as I consider what to post. It helps that a number of proactive Instagram users have already been using the #archidose tag.

To start, here is one of my photos, of SOM's One World Trade Center as seen from West Street:


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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book Review: Building as Ornament

Building as Ornament by Michiel van Raaij
nai010 Publishers, 2014
Paperback, 240 pages



Before he took the helm at Dutch website Architectenweb, Michiel van Raaij penned one of my favorite architecture blogs, Eikongraphia (Iconography), which looked at buildings united through their resemblance to other things, things outside architecture. Projects, many not yet built at the time, were given a title that made it clear what sort of building-size iconography was in place: Gherkin, by Foster and Rocks, by Mazzanti, to name just a couple of the built projects. Michiel's comments were always in-depth and insightful, but much of the fun was in seeing the sheer number buildings being designed in such a way.

That was 5 or 7 years ago (the posts stopped in the middle of 2010), and today the prevalence of what Michiel calls "building as ornament" is much more widespread. It's hard to go a week without seeing a just completed building or just unveiled project on Arch Daily that resembles this symbol or that animal or this fruit or whatever the case may be. Michiel actually contends that we are witnessing the second generation of iconographic buildings, which are more nuanced than the attention-getting iconographic buildings of the first generation that he was covering on his blog.

While the trend of building as ornament can be grasped by many people, there is a good deal of disagreement over whether these second-generation icons are good or bad. Michiel sees them as unavoidable, not going away anytime soon. Therefore, he argues, architects should be deliberate and careful with how they design buildings as large-scale communication devices. Enter the interviews, which enable him to discuss the intentions of designing recognizable icons with eight prominent architects and two historians. There's Auke van der Woud, Denise Scott Brown, and Charles Jencks in the "iconographic detail" section; Adriaan Geuze, Michiel Riedijk, Alejandro Zaero-Polo, and Ben van Berkel in the "layered iconography" section; and Steven Holl, Winy Maas, and Bjarke Ingels in the "singular iconography" section. The interviews are bookended by two projects sections with numerous renderings and photographs of designs by other architects, and interspersed with two collage sections, one on "alphabet" buildings and one on "island" projects.

Occasionally in the interviews Michiel is met with resistance by the architects, ones who don't want to be known for designing "buildings that look like X or Y." While the author is able to clarify his intentions and then eke out some insight from his subjects, the end the chapter with Winy Maas's interview is telling of the precariousness of "building as ornament." It shows the reader MVRDV's controversial design for The Clould in Seoul from 2011, when comparisons to the destruction of the Twin Towers spread like crazy through the media, although the architects denied any intention as such (Michiel's interview happened before the design was released, and not surprisingly MVRDV did not return the author's later requests for comment). The design is a lesson in regards to the precariousness of iconography and confusion of messages across cultures; it certainly points to more nuanced design moving forward, along the lines of what Michiel is calling for.

Are we witnessing the end of icons or just a hiccup toward something else? Or to put it another way, is this book a snapshot of a brief period or a polemic for the evolution of icons? We will know in the coming years, as the answer lies with the architects (many in the book) that are fulfilling the wishes of clients around the world for buildings that stand out and get attention.

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Today's archidose #777

Here are a couple photos of Emerson College Los Angeles (2014) by Morphosis Architects, photographed by Riley Snelling.

Emerson College

2742

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mummers Theatre, RIP

While I haven't paid close attention to the fight to save John M. Johansen's Mummers Theater* in Oklahoma City, I'm disheartened to see this photo taken by Timothy Hursley last week of the one-of-a-kind building's demolition:


[Click image for larger view | Photo: Timothy Hursley]

One year before, Hursley visited the building with his sons:

[Click image for larger view | Photo: Timothy Hursley]

*Those interested, albeit at this admittedly late stage, should visit the Save the Stage Center Facebook page and The Architect's Newspaper's extensive coverage of Mummers and what will replace it.

(Thanks to Tim Hursley for sending along the photos.)

Rebel Architecture - Guerrilla Architect

The first installment in Al Jazeera's six-part "Rebel Architecture" series is on Spanish "self-build legend" Santiago Cirugeda:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Today's archidose #776

Here are some photos of Farmville, under consruction in Paredes, Portugal, by AND-RÉ, photographed by José Carlos Melo Dias.

Paredes, Incubadora de empresas. AND-RÉ

Paredes, Incubadora de empresas. AND-RÉ

Paredes, Incubadora de empresas. AND-RÉ

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Architecture Misquote #3: Winston Churchill

Book Review: Book Mountain Spijkenisse

Book Mountain Spijkenisse: Biography of a Building by Nicoline Baartman, Winy Maas
MVRDV/nai010 Publishers, 2013
Hardcover, 260 pages



Book-length case studies of buildings are great for giving more space than a monograph or magazine in explaining the history, design, realization, and in some cases post-occupancy of a particular building. But this type of book begs the question: Who writes it and who is it for? The first could be the architect (the most common), or perhaps the client, or even a freelance writer commissioned by one, both, or neither. And in most cases the answer to the second is "other architects." The answer to the first for this "biography" of MVRDV's Book Mountain in Spijkenisse, the Netherlands, is "all of the above"; and for the second it is "everybody."

MVRDV Boekenberg
[Photo: Jonas Klock/Flickr]

The library is part of a district in the admittedly unexceptional town of Spijkenisse near Rotterdam, which also includes residences designed by MVRDV (photo above). The project's evolution from a library into something larger is explained in the book, as is the history of the town, something that the hip-roofed form of the library taps into. What is most interesting about the book is that the story of the library is told in three intertwining ways:

1 - A narrative by journalist Nicoline Baartman,
2 - A photographic essay by Marcel Veldman,
3 - And a pictorial documentation by the architects.

Further, #1 and #3 occupy two sides of the same pages, as MVRDV's contribution is found entirely within gatefolds, in the vein of Diller Scofidio + Renfro's large book on Lincoln Center. Therefore one can read Baartman's text without ever encountering MVRDV's visual essay. Veldman's photos, on the other hand, happen in five spots spaced throughout the book on glossy b/w pages; they are hard to miss.

MVRDV Boekenberg
[Photo: Jonas Klock/Flickr]

The contributions are three ways of telling roughly the same story: painting a picture of the town and its people, describing the building, and speculating on the place's future now that it has this special library. The book therefore is greater than the sum of these parts, at least when readers take the time to read each piece or parts of each piece. Sure, there is some overlap in terms of what is learned, but these areas point to what is important, what it is about the place and the building that the architects and Baartman felt the need to discuss. As can be expected, I found myself focusing on certain parts and skimming others for both; MVRDV's visual history of the place does a great job of explaining Spijkenisse, as do Baartman's interviews with residents, particularly the ones she talked to inside the library.

MVRDV Boekenberg
[Photo: Jonas Klock/Flickr]

This experiment of sorts for telling multiple stories about a building is not the only one for MVRDV; they also created a "biography" of the Glass Farm, a similar forward-thinking/vernacular-formed building in Holland. Like the buildings themselves, the books have a strong public component, in that they strive to make architecture understood by a larger audience (the forms, and in the case of the Glass farm the graphics, make modern architecture easier to digest). I'm all for broadening architectural appreciation, without dumbing things down of course. Book Mountain Spijkenisse is commendable in this regard, and I hope other architects and publishers take note.

MVRDV Boekenberg
[Photo: Jonas Klock/Flickr]

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