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Thursday, August 11, 2011

AE25: Umbrellas

[The Umbrellas by Christo and Jeanne-Claude | image source]

In art and architecture the term "umbrella" makes me think of a couple things: 1-Christo and Jeanne-Claude's installation The Umbrellas in Japan in 1991 (above) and 2-abstractions of the term in building design, such as Eric Owen Moss's piece "The Umbrella" in Culver City, Brooks + Scarpa's Solar Umbrella in Venice, California, and the much-hyped Metropol Parasol in Sevilla, Spain by J. Mayer H. In the first, the installation looks like umbrellas but don't really function as such, since they arbitrarily litter the countryside. In the second, the buildings, or parts thereof, mimic the function of umbrellas without resembling them. Yet a couple recent projects come close to the appearance of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's artscape while functioning as umbrellas (providing shade and shelter).

[HTO Urban Beach, aerial photo by Tom Podolec | image source]

HTO Urban Beach was completed in 2007 to a design by Janet Rosenberg + Associates, Claude Cormier Landscape Architecture + Urban Design, and Hariri Pontarini Architects. The beach and the larger HTO Park are part of an even larger redevelopment of the city's waterfront, of which HTO is an early piece. The yellow umbrellas are found in the sandy area close to the water. From above they look like normal everyday beach umbrellas that people pitch into the sane in beaches from New Jersey to Nice, France, but from below...

[HTO Urban Beach, photo by Neil Fox | image source]

...It's clear that the umbrellas are permanent fixtures, mounted to poles that are anchored to the sand and the adjacent walkways. They stand straight up and look to be at least eight feet high, bold splashes of color that help draw people towards the water from the inland side of the park. I'm guessing that Claude Cormier is responsible for this element in the park/beach, since other projects on his web page utilize umbrellas of other colors. One is the Urban Beach at the Old Port of Montreal (below), currently in development.

[Urban Beach at the Old Port of Montreal, rendering | image source]

A rainbow of color is found in the umbrellas that cover the Centro Abierto de Actividades Ciudadanas (CAAC) in Córdoba, Spain by ParedesPino Studio (below). The umbrellas in various colors, sizes, and heights cover an equally colorful grid of paving that is used for recreation and commerce. Shade seems to be the driving consideration, as is the "fifth facade" seen by the surrounding buildings. Interestingly, Claude Cormier admits that the HTO Urban Beach is influenced by Georges Seurat's Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte; from above the CAAC's colorful dots also recall the pointillist masterpiece.

[CAAC, aerial photo | image source]

Yet from below the umbrellas are merely white. Perhaps this is so as not to compete with the quilt-like paving pattern or the people and colorful wares that will find their way into the space between the circles and squares.

[CAAC, photo by Jorge Lopez Conde | image source]


  1. A very nice and interesting study on an element which might never catch anybodies attention. But it is these small, seemingly unimportant elemants, that contribute very strongly to the vast urbanscape!!

  2. Thanks, Studio One. I actually started this post a year ago but didn't get around to it until now. Maybe the heat is making me pine for some shade outdoors!

  3. I totally agree with this post. The umbrellas look great from high in the sky. I feel its a nice touch and it's clear that the umbrellas are permanent fixtures, mounted to poles that are anchored to the sand and the adjacent walkways.

  4. a umbrella machine on:

  5. nice study Great job putting all these together!


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