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 ♦

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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.

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? ♦

bridging a chord: calatrava in jerusalem

 Jerusalem’s Chords Bridge by architect Calatrava marks an important moment of emotional and urban renewal for the ancient city. The Chords Bridge’s 118m-canted pylon and asymmetric cable-stayed span is its highest structure, crossing a nexus of major road routes. It is a pedestrian and (beginning August 2011) light rail link that connects the city with Jerusalem’s outskirts.

Its defiant posture and unique engineering, set against an historic neighbourhood, has also connected along the span of its construction- beginning to end- with fierce criticism.

Nir Alon, freelance journalist, has pointed to cost overruns, and delays in linking Jerusalem’s first light rail systems which the bridge carries. In ‘Jerusalem’s Calatrava Bridge: Beauty or Egocentric Monstrosity?’ Alon leaves the reader in no doubt that he faults its design for problems and delays, referring to its long period of unveiling as “a bridge to nowhere”. “Jerusalem,” he writes,

“has just joined Valencia, Seville, Lisbon, Lyon and other cities in the world proudly displaying Calatrava’s monumental designs.”

A more important question lies however in whether civil projects should invite opportunities for the creation of landmarks and individual creativity. Do Valencia, Seville, and Lyon share the distinction of ‘egocentric monstrosities’ or, do they share- as with Jerusalem’s Chords Bridge-  a truly distinctive landmark, a bridge creative of geographic moments literally and spiritually transporting reattachment to ‘place’? Do they carry more than just a load span? Structures such as Seville’s Alamillo Bridge (also by Calatrava) have become sources of civic pride and urban regeneration. Could a “conventional concrete bridge” costing half the Chords Bridge $70M price tag?

During construction, Architectural Record critic Esther Hecht noted arguments that Jerusalem is a ‘poor city’, with “enough monuments to attract tourists and cannot afford another”. Both parts of this statement would seem to contradict one another here.

Is it ‘enough’ that many of Jerusalem’s historic landmarks are also recognized sites of contemporary discord as well as history?

Has it enough of another kind, so many that the Chords Bridge need not have gained international attention as modern, secular, an engineering marvel in the heart of Jerusalem that links light rail commuters and pedestrians, alleviates hourly peak traffic by up to 23000 cars, and is shared by all the city’s inhabitants? That reaches heavenwards and across town, linking tourists to the city’s ancient wonders while attracting its own?

The Chords Bridge, coming as it does during the 60th anniversary of Israel, may mark a unique and majestic site of re-attachment, an engineering feat, a cause for wonder and celebration in a city in need of new journeys ♦[Photos sourced and attributed from Flickr Commons]

building a masterpiece: calatrava in milwaukee

 Calatrava’s Quadracci Pavilion, Milwaukee Art Museum,  (Photo by mjuzenas)

News  services and online media are reporting on the excitement leading up to next month’s ‘Building a Masterpiece: Santiago Calatrava and The Milwaukee Art Museum’ exhibit (Sept 8-Jan 1). The Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) is celebrating the anniversary of the building with a self-exhibit of the Quadracci Pavilion- now a world famous architectural icon for the city.

The exhibit marks 10 years since 2001, when the art museum’s opening saw its distinctive robot wings first machine into life, their movements beckoning visitors into the facility.

Exhibiting the ‘masterpiece’ – locals refer to the building simply as ‘The Calatrava’- signals the long-term gains, to the museum and the city, of a bold, imaginative architectural statement, and the creative courage on behalf of its architect and Museum board.

Designed by Santiago Calatrava, the futuristic exhibition space was the Spanish-born architect’s first completed work built in the US. Submitting to the building’s design competition, Calatrava conceded the relatively new city had given the designer pause after a lifetime career designing  modern bridges and stations against the backdrop of Europe’s more historic centers. The year of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s new pavilion completed however, TIME Magazine hailed the architecture ‘Top Design of 2001’.

Quadracci Pavilion, Interior by Santiago Calatrava (Photo by O. Palsson)

Despite critics’ initially railing against its ‘exhibitionist’ design and construction continuing amid reports of cost over-runs the art museum building’s daring originality, strong lines, and bridges to the surrounding landscape have proven itself a true exhibit, a financially repayed landmark and tourist destination.

‘Building a Masterpiece’ also displays the architect’s watercolors and models, “works of art in themselves—that track the evolution of the building’s design” reports Chief Art Museum Curator Brady Roberts to the Chicago Tribune. He says,

Calatrava’s “models reveal the complex development of the moving wings … one of the most spectacular architectural elements in the world.”

Viewers will witness through Calatrava’s drawings his search for design sources in Nature and the body, rather than architectural precedents.

Calatrava has trained as artist, engineer and architect. Rare in an age of specialization it has perhaps allowed a celebrated blending of function, dizzying mechanical feat and pure fantasy. ‘Building a Masterpiece’-  housing and forming an exhibit- builds on this blend and offers insight into Calatrava’s art.

If only more of our civic structures could repay as much ♦

(Photos sourced and attributed from Flickr Commons]

buildings that wave to us?

When we think of stone and concrete buildings the words movement, flow and waving don’t come readily as descriptors. For centuries, architecture has exploited inert stability to create feelings of permanence from these favoured materials. The Parthenon, its stone base atop the Acropolis, the stone buttresses that guard like giant sentinels around gothic cathedrals. These buildings ‘move’ us, yet stand quite still.

Now these feelings may change- change being the ‘operative’ style of architect Santiago Calatrava.

The Spanish-born designer/engineer is the purveyor of a revolution in architecture, devoted to displaying Nature’s constant ability to move and shift.

Montjuic Tele-Comm. Tower, Barcelona (Photo by Christopher Michel)

Famous for his dramatic bridges which often feature tensioned masts suspending huge spans across rivers, there are also buildings such as his Lyon TGV station, where sweeping organic forms depict the sense of speed and excitement of travel.

His Montjuic Tower, Barcelona, leans and counterbalances, supported like a dancer in ballet, limbs outstretched at the most dramatic moment of equipoise.

These buildings have an easy imagination of movement, of physics diagrams – all pressing forces – drawn large and imposing. Instead they form and function as telecommunications towers and town halls.

Calatrava’s latest projects however, literally move, machines gesturing for our closer attention. With Calatrava, his robot buildings can unfold, rotate and undulate, acting as we act, describing movements as living sculpture. Calatrava’s work- often bare, white, and sharing many of the forms of the body, are not decorative in any traditional sense. Instead, moving parts provoke our own movement and function.

This is Calatrava’s most astounding achievement. Consider the widespread sense that we approach buildings only as passive viewers, leading to buildings decorated or ornamented as something primarily of appearance. Yet buildings critically house our active movement, and shape them.

Milwaukee Art Museum (Photo by Ken Ilio)

Consider his Milwaukee Art Museum, describing its lakeside connection to the water with mechanical arms, symbolising the wing motions of birds in the surrounding landscape. When the museum closes, so do these arms, or change according to other movements in Nature- wind and solar conditions in an architecture that is responsive.

In his birthplace Valencia, Calatrava designed its planetarium, a spherical planet form, with its opening and shutting roof acting like an observing, moving eye.

These forms and motions do not simply adorn these buildings- they are the buildings themselves. Rather than functioning as signs for the building- they are the buildings signalling. Not only are they important visual elements, but kinetic ones also- occupying and defining space, but also moving and describing it. They symbolise what buildings seemingly never do- change.

This literally moving architecture challenges us to imagine not only changing Nature to live in it, but living in a changing Nature. A ‘future written in stone’ now waves to us instead with the hand of Calatrava.♦

City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia (Photo by Victor Abellon)

[images sourced and attributed from Flickr Commons]