paved paradise

1111 Lincoln Rd Miami Beach. [Photo by X. de Juareguiberry]

1111 Lincoln Rd Miami Beach. [Photo by X. de Juareguiberry]

Herzog and de Meuron’s 11 11, a radical Miami Beach parking garage, shows mixed use and modern design can revive an urban environment.

Stevie Modern

Commissioned by developer Robert Wennett, the Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron departed from the staid tradition of parking garages that too frequently, blighted rather than improved their urban environment. With 11-11, there were to be no uniform floors stacked in repeated fashion. V-shaped and canted columns instead reach into street view, muscular forms supporting the building’s elegant, slender floor plates. These floors would be layered at irregular intervals of between eight to 34 feet. The perimeter would remain open- celebrating the structure, heightening a generous sense of internal space and its connecting views to the city. Parked cars- openly displayed- crest above street level. An open central stair connects light from a landscaped rooftop above. “In America,” Herzog explains,

Architecture is all about cladding. That the building is all bones and muscles is one of its most interesting aspects.

The architects and developer sought to celebrate rather than hide 11 11‘s true function as a 300-car garage.

We all know how look- they either pretend to be buildings or they are clad in some funny, self-consciously design-y way.

The radical design forms part of developer Wennett’s intention to create an iconic space, drawing visitors to special events held alongside more permanent retail and restaurant spaces housed at the fifth and ground level (see video). .

1111 logo creates place identity Photo by miamism

These encourage users’ movement through the building’s mixed use layers, activity that adds safety and desirability to the environment. To this end, landscaping, artworks and four residences are housed within the property. The developer’s commitment to the address extends to incorporating his own residence- by Herzog and de Meuron- at its rooftop. Smart business: the mixed use made for a profitable increase in allowable floor space.

Rooftop 1111 Lincoln Rd Photo by X. Juareguiberry

Rooftop 1111 Lincoln Rd Photo by X. Juareguiberry

While the $65 million project required planning permission to exceed height restrictions and design permission from the Miami Beach preservation board, there are signs Herzog and de Meuron’s reconceived parking-design approach has gained influence beyond its Lincoln Rd address. International architects Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry have separate plans in development for mixed-use garages, likely to become added landmarks in the area.

1111 Lincoln Rd- Photo by X. de JuareguiberryDeveloper Wennett has said the advent of the internet has meant physical spaces such as 11 11 will need to work harder in creating enticing modern experiences. Herzog and de Meuron, awarded for large-scale projects including the Beijing Olympic stadium and LondonTate Modern, also have a history with smaller-scale aesthetic responses to more mundane elements of urban fabric. Their critical response to the parking garage revives possibilities for the extraordinary, and restarts modernist dreams of the car, left parked by an increasingly dynamic age ♦


eames: the architect and the painter

They gave shape to the American 20th century.

It began with a plywood chair. After successive failures at pushing materials to their limits, Charles and Ray Eames began a stint producing leg splints from their small home apartment during WWII. Using their very own gerry-rigged machine (made from a few heating coils and a bicycle pump) they eventually produced a successful new lightweight chair by moulding ply. They were not to know how successful they would become.

Under the motto “the best, for the most, from the least” they had created the icon of the modern postwar chair. Beautiful yet comfortable to use, adopting functional materials molded in two directions, Eames’ chairs would be able to negate the need for expensive upholstery. Today over 50 Charles and Ray Eames designs have remained in production, many synonymous with the modern design age.

LCW Chair, 1945. By Charles and Ray Eames

The Eames’ creativity would spread in bursts to countless areas, from furniture, to film projects, exhibitions, architecture, and painting. Their story is retold in an inspiring new biopic, filmed with a matching graphic and musical creativity from documentary film-makers Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey.

As its trailer shows, EAMES: the architect and the painter, narrated by actor James Franco, explores the lives and work of an extraordinarily talented and eccentric couple.

Modern design was born from a marriage of Art and Industry. The Eames office was born from the marriage of Ray Kaiser, a painter who rarely painted, and Charles Eames, an architecture school drop-out who never got his license.

As the couple’s fame grew, their design studio Studio 901, Los Angeles, drew in four decades of talented artists and designers, working to the vision of their married bosses. TIME referred to one of their chair designs as “the greatest of the 20th century”.

“Never delegate understanding,” Charles Eames had said. Their practise consisted of solving design problems through measurement of the human body and by constant experiment.

Eames Stamps. Photo by brandon shigeta

Much of the colour, artistry and aesthetic sensibility of their work has later been credited to Ray Eames. In the sexual politics of the 1950’s and ’60’s, it was unusual for a married couple to share in business decision making. Eames: the architect and the painter highlights the Eames’ modern example of the productive career-focussed team. Their very image together formed “perhaps their best work of design”, the couple featuring in shared appearances on television and in magazines. While much of the critical attention was focussed on Charles, he could also generously defer to his wife Ray, saying,  “Anything I can do, she can do better.”

Eames Home and Studio, 203 Nth Chautauqua Blvd (Pacific Palisades)       Photo: B. Shigeta

Working from an initial design by architect Eero Saarinen, Ray and Charles Eames designed their modernist home and studio. With material shortages during WWII, they had hit upon the idea of a modern architecture made entirely from pre-fabricated factory materials. Far from austere, the home became a famous architectural symbol of open plan freedom and postwar sophistication.

Today, Sam Grawe, Editor in Chief at Dwell Magazine, cannot recall a magazine issue not featuring Eames furniture.

I think you see that optimism of the American spirit in their designs, a blue-print for how we could live our lives… Every designer owes them some amount of debt.

Lounge Chair 670 and Ottoman 671. By Charles and Ray Eames

In their personal story and the quality of their work through measurement and problem-solving, the film demonstrates Eames’ particular sensibilities of Modernism, and the drive that animated their projects.

Eames’ furniture and artworks are much copied, with originals fetching high prices at auction. Despite this deserved appreciation their legacy is perhaps best paid tribute by looking as they did, to the next stage of design, and with that same forward-thinking optimism ♦

EAMES: the architect and the painter, is available on DVD from Bread and Butter Films.

thinking BIG: bjarke ingels

A waste treatment plant you can ski down? Bjarke Ingels enjoys thinking big. Principal architect of Danish firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), his projects have begun steadily appearing in major architecture journals, gaining critical attention and fame by daring to confront sustainability as not just a goal to be accommodated, but celebrated. By rigorously adopting the mechanics of energy, water, and environmental physics, design sustainability is used as a driver in BIG’s projects to create free-flowing and muscular forms that sustain, shelter, educate and inspire.

Bjarke Ingels, Principal of Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) Photo by Pedro Botton

Ingels, speaking at a recent conference refers to this philosophy as “hedonistic sustainability“;

Architecture seems entrenched in two equally unfertile fronts: either naively utopian or petrifyingly pragmatic. We believe…[in a] fertile overlap between the two. A pragmatic utopian architecture that takes on the creation of socially, economically and environmentally perfect places as a practical objective.


Ingels’ solutions should inspire a new active role for policy makers and designers to rethink what it means to create sustainability.

Waste Recycling Plant, Copenhagen, Bjarke Ingels Group

The problem of designing a waste-recycling plant large enough to encompass Copenhagen’s present and future needs presented more than a problem of designing a 2- dimensional facade; The Amager Bakke plant is to be the largest building in Copenhagen, located in a central district. The solution lay in addressing yet another, seemingly unrelated problem. Copenhagen’s landscape is flat, and despite heavy snowfalls, an inconvenient distance from popular ski facilities in Sweden. Instead, BIG designed the treatment plant with social participation in mind. In providing energy from the city’s waste, a more multi-use public amenity would be created. The plant’s mass would be concealed as a ‘mountain’ and its roof would form 3 giant ski slopes.

Using energy from waste, humidifiers would pump snow to the roof. The ‘pollution’ (excess but largely non toxic smoke emitted from the plant) would be compressed into puffed light-display ‘smoke rings’, adding to a sense of play while visually representing 0.1 tonne of carbon in each ring. Commended by TIME as one of ’50 Best Inventions’ Ingels says it perefctly expresses his concept of hedonistic sustainability.

You take the symbol of the problem- the pollution, the chimney- and turn it into something playful…This is not only economically and ecologically sustainable, but also SOCIALLY sustainable because it turns a power plant into a park, and flat land into a manmade mountain for skiing.

In another of Ingels’ projects, as this stunning animation shows, BIG faced different challenges within the strict geometric confines of New York City’s high real estate values, building codes, and city blocks. As in his other projects however, Ingels addresses challenges creatively to form unique and appealing design solutions.  BIG’s residential tower design for West 57th St, a 600 home apartment complex due to begin construction this year, is deliberately low-rise along its waterfront-facing perimeter. This form maximises available sunlight and preserves views for inhabitants of the rear adjoining complex also owned by the client developer.

West 57th St Residential Tower, NYC Bjarke Ingels Group

Rather than a lightwell invisible to the street, the building rises dramatically skywards- 400 feet- to its opposite corner. The dynamic pyramid-like form produced reveals the courtyard feature in the roof-face. Apartments are given individual expression by orienting each toward views from their distinct vantage points. The result is an exciting passive solar design which preserves amenity to adjoining structures while maximising available land space, sunlight, and distribution of available views. With its free form use of space the design will challenge the staid block-formations of a dense urban fabric to striking visual effect. The complex is due to be completed by 2015.

Sustainability is not about how much of our living standards we are prepared to sacrifice…it can’t be a moral problem or a political dilemna. It’s a design challenge.

Through ‘hedonistic sustainability’ the Bjarke Ingels Group presents a model for introducing design challenges as engines of innovation in modern architecture. Not only do these projects make economic and ecological considerations central, they create a place for joy aswell. That is BIG thinking ♦

BIGamy, which details the thinking behind BIG and Bjarke Ingels’ design process is a forthcoming book published by the Graham Foundation. Yes is More!, BIG’s 400pg archi-comic is availaible for download from iTunes.

a towering decision

Evil, not value, is an absence and a negation. Evil is impotent and has no power but that which we let it extort from us. 

Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual

As if ripped from the fiction pages of Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead, the collective press have clamoured to condemn designs for a skyscraper that daringly breaks with convention.

Called The Cloud, Dutch architect firm MVRDV‘s radical residential design in Seoul, South Korea, calls for a 260m and 300m modern twin skyscraper. Linking the towers together 27 stories above ground, an organically shaped mid-section of enclosed public spaces frees ground space below for open parkland. The project is expected to be completed in 2015.

The twin form rises majestically vertical, its pixellated glazing reaching full expression in the link-form, where a staggered intersection of cubed spaces create an aggregate cloud-like formation. The design is futuristic, recalling other forward thinking designs such as Moshie Safdie’s Habitat building (1967) in Montreal, Canada, or Kisho Kurokawa’s Nakagin Capsule Tower, Tokyo, Japan. This cubic formation can be also be seen in the context of many previous MVRDV projects.

MDRDV ‘The Cloud’ Detail of ‘link’ form

The New York Post has called the design ‘sick!’, The Weekly Standard  and the HuffingtonPost condemning The Cloud as ‘awkwardly resembling’ passing smoke from 9/11. To demonstrate its argument, the NewYork Post carefully juxtaposed pictures of the smoke blowing from the World Trade Center following from the plane flight explosions in New York City which claimed the lives of 3000 people, against the design images for The Cloud.

Their own smoke of conspiracy is furthered by seeking to prove that the MVRDV “must have been aware” of its resemblance, as if possible that any in the West could not recall those indelible images of destruction. It noted that Daniel Libeskind was the project developer for both the Ground Zero site and the Yongsan Business District in Seoul. One St Louis news site even asked if the design sought to “mock” the 9/11 tragedy.

On a superficial level, the images, if not the reality could be configured to resemble one another, but for the fact that on every other level, the project and the event are diametric opposites. Which should we choose? To build a monument to an enemy’s ancient lust for death within our memory, or monumentalize our own modern love for innovation in the world? To encourage the construction of beauty or propose that even more such buildings never appear in view?

How to oppose a collective that seeks to raze buildings to the ground: By joining a collective that seeks to prevent them from ever rising? Or, is it time to really strike fear into the hearts of those seeking an end to modern civilisation, by continuing to build it? ♦

calatrava shows his colours

Calatrava’s modern design of the Peace Bridge (current construction in Calgary, Canada) marks a departure from the architect/engineer’s favoured white and neutral colour schemes. This gives us pause to consider the importance of colour as an element in the modern design of architecture.

Historically, the Western taste has been culturally influenced by the Renaissance copying of ancient Greek and Roman stone architecture. These buildings, temples lying in bleached ruin however – no longer bare the brash blues and yellows archaeologists have since discovered were their main exterior colours. Statues, beautifully carved from the purest white marble (as for example, on the Parthenon) were in fact painted bright red, increasing their visibility from long distances under the Athenian sun. It would be interesting to speculate what sense and profound uses of colour we would have culturally inherited by these eye-popping schemes had they survived the ravages of Time.

An aspect of white is the way in which through light it captures a form’s sculptural, rather than linear quality, a factor that Santiago Calatrava, a trained artist and sculptor –  aswell as architect and engineer –  is keenly aware.

Gerret Reitveld’s 1923 ‘De Stijl’ Red Blue Chair serves a clear example, famous for its bright planar colour scheme. Colour’s impact can be appreciated when compared to its earlier and lesser-known all-white and natural ply versions created from 1918. Our perception of the form is significantly altered.

Colour serves to separate elements, drawing attention to abstract planes and lines. White instead tends to focus the eye on form’s integration. Calatrava’s neutral schemes from his most recognised complex bridge and building spaces appear unified, overtly sculptural, as if carved from a single body.

In recent work however, it appears Calatrava is exploring the possibilities and effects of bright infusions of colour. The City of Calgary’s proposed footbridge is one such project – its extreme design integration allowing for greater articulation through colour. As with the bright infusion purple with teh addition of ‘The Agora’ to his all-white City of Arts and Sciences, (Valencia Spain) Caltrava’s bright red schemes points to an exciting new stage in the architect’s career.

The looping coils of the Peace Bridge design disperses structural load more evenly than a typical post and span construction, increasing material efficiency while serving as a design element to support the tread of the span, reaching above to glass-shelter pedestrians from snow and wind. It is a masterfully integrated and woven structural form no less coherent for its distinctly ‘Canadian’ red.

This stunning animation (approx. 3 mins) captures the project through Calgary’s dramatic seasonal changes, and points to the creative evolution in the designs of one of the world’s most ‘colourful’ architects ♦

in milan, a vertical forest grows: stefano boeri

In David Deutsch’s futurist book The Beginning of Infinity’ Deutsch refers to the skyline of Manhattan as a shape and material surface formed by humanity’s natural tendency to bend matter and geology to its own pattern. Its canyons of skyscrapers are not so much geology as economics, politics and human psychology- structures and networks which bear ultimate and in this case triumphant form: a distinctly human ecology. 

Architect Stefano Boeri’s latest project, Bosco Verticale or ‘Vertical Forest’ is currently rising above Milan, reshaping Nature to address the urban needs of a polluted industrial city. The Financial Times has already labelled it  “the most exciting new tower in the world“. Staggered balconies at each level allow a carbon-absorbing reforestation of mature trees to shield the exterior of the skyscrapers, providing a forested layer round each apartment structure.

Though Boeri’s computer renderings look positively utopian, the cranes and concrete cantilevered trays, already outstretched from their central cores, await the trees that when planted, will help scrub the city of smog, decrease humidity, encourage birdlife and repatriate oxygen into the atmosphere, all while reducing energy usage.

The 110m and 86m treed towers, irrigated from the building systems’ own grey-water, will each sustain natural shade and acoustic protection to apartments while tree species are chosen to alter to seasonal climates.

Though projects such as these have been envisaged before, it is the first to reach construction stage on so large and impressive a scale. Long-term success of this futuristic concept points to an ecological advancement of cityscape and the ‘beginning to infinity’ harmonising design and technology to brings forest spaces forward, and up, in an exciting urban future ♦

falling for fallingwater

Fallingwater, by Frank Lloyd Wright (1939) [Photo by +DW+]Most fans of modern trail-blazing architect Frank Lloyd Wright would be aware of his masterpiece Fallingwater, in Pennsylvania. It was completed in 1939, and continues to draw thousands of visitors to its unique site every year.

Architect and historian Kenneth Frampton writes that Fallinwater’s,

fusion with the landscape is total, for…nature permeates the structure at every turn…the fit of the building with its site is an essential, if not, the essential dimension of the work.

For those who’ve been fortunate enough to have wandered through the physical spaces of any of Wright’s designs, it is more than a visual experience as spaces and surfaces interact in a way that compresses and frees, opens up vistas and carefully frames our views of interiors and landscapes beyond. These qualities until now have been difficult to transmit to viewers in other parts of the world.

The wonders of 3D immersive graphics and online sharing help capture more than a glimpse of modern architecture in a way that can be shared by all. Cristobal Vila’s 3D modelling of Fallingwater is a treat, beautifully capturing this masterpiece through a construction of elements and taking the online viewer through some of the residence’s most unique spaces and its arresting site. Be sure to experience this short and inspiring video (approx 4 mins) of one of the world’s most beautiful dwellings ever built ♦

[image sourced and attributed from Flickr Commons. Frampton cited in Carlson, A. (2000) Aesthetics and the Environment. London: Routledge]