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Monday, February 02, 2009

Book Review: HYBRIDS I

HYBRIDS I: High-Rise Mixed-Use Buildings edited by Aurora Fernandez Per and Javier Mozas
a+t architecture publishers, 2008

Following its Density, In Common and Civilities series, the editors of a+t are exploring hybrids, "structures able to combine different programs and encourage the interaction of a disparate sequence of urban uses, combining private activities with the public realm." The first in the series collects twelve international projects, from Steven Holl's Linked Hybrid to Jean Nouvel's Tour Signal, and an essay with accompanying designs from an architecture studio run by Iñaki Ábalos and Urtzi Grau; an essay on hybrids by Martin Musiatowicz begins the book. Like other a+t titles, the presentation of the projects is well-documented and graphically consistent. The latter enables easy comparison of certain aspects of the projects, such as site area and coverage, building height, and mix and proportion of uses (parking, living, live/work, offices, shopping, hotel, culture, civic, education, sport, other). The project text is supplied by the architect, meaning that the reader learns about the project but not from a particular critical stance.

Highlights from the twelve projects include Holl's project nearing completion in Beijing, BIG's Scala Tower and OMA's intriguing Dubai Renaissance, which graces the book's cover. This last is a bold design that purports to end the era of idolatry by becoming all function and engineering, a slim slab with functions stacked at will, à la Rem Koolhaas's well-known study of the Downtown Athletic Club in his Delirious New York. Its imposing scale and anonymous appearance is offset by the audacious proposal of rotating the building on a circular base, though this relationship to its mixed-use condition is unclear. But does this, or any project included here, point the way forward for tall buildings with hybrid functions? Certainly the editors will be adding to the mix with future books in the series, but these projects indicate that as buildings become bigger and taller it is only natural that a mix of uses follow suit. What used to occur across numerous buildings in cities over longer time spans is increasingly accomplished in mega-projects set on advancing the built environment faster than fine-grained, incremental urbanism.

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