By Carter B. Horsley
This wonderful, 155-page book illustrates and
describes 20 fascinating recent projects in Europe, almost all
of which have received no publicity in the United states
In addition to the photo-essays on 20 new buiding
projects, the soft-cover book also includes several provocative
essays: "The architectural triumph of post-industrial Bilbao"
by Carlos Guimaraes; "Abstract Romanticism, European landscape
architecture and the globulisation of nature," by Christian
Welzbacher; "Small-town architecture: Global regionalism
in Europe: by Habns Ibelings; a review by Gonzala Herrera Delicado
of the Caixa Forum in Madrid designed by Herzog & de Meuron;
a review by Lotte Sandberg of the Opera House in Oslo designed
by Snohetta AS; and an interview with Philipp Oswalt of the "Shrinking
Cities Project" by Christian Weitzbacher.
The cover illustration of the book is of the
RATP Bus and Administrative Centre in Thiais in France designed
by Emmanuel Combarel and Dominique Marree. In his commentary,
Xavier Gonzalex notes that this low-rise structure manages to
have a monumental quality and "derives its legitimacy from
the symbolic and fundamental link with the roadway, with the asphalt....[and]
seems to rise from the adjacent roadway and the parking facility....as
though foreced upward by a telluric surge, the ground curves,
changes shape and seems to loose depth, turning into a emcumberance,
a flexible epidemeris with curved edges....To achieve this continuity
of surfaces, the architects resorted to Ductal, a leightweight,
malleable, coloured cocrete containing Fibres. The result is a
dense, insert, silent, enigmatic structure, like 'the hull of
a Russian submarine skimming the surface of the water at Murmansk,'
the architects assert....The strict requirements of prfabrication
also produce a remarkably high-qiality finish, which guarantees
a precise, continuuous, perfectly adjusted cladding to its eges.
This 3-cm-thick skin is doecrated with ar raised crampon motif,
24mm in diameter and 7mm high, tht is reminsecent of Lego bocks.
Although seemingly a single block, the monolith is actually fractured,
extreuded, carved with the precision of a scapel; this material
extraction produces gaps that make its depth legible and bright
light inside the building.....In the midst of a cacophonous landscape
in which architecture is buried aunder company logos, discount
signs or advertising billboards that cancel one another out, the
monolith cuts a serene figure."
RATP is the largest public transport grup in
France, in charge of most of the Paris region's surban transport
systems and Thiais in the Val de Marne, a suburban area south
of Paris and close to Orly Airport.
In 2009, the Cloud Tower open-air stage opened
in Grafenegg near Vienna in Austria. It was designed by The next
ENTERprise of which Marie-Therese Haroncourt and Ernst J. Fuchs
are principals with Thomas Proksch of Land in Sicht as landscape
architect. The facility has seating for 1,670 persons. "The
most obvious reason for the name," according to the essay
on the building by Annie Isopp, "is the window at the rear
of the stage which allows the audience to look through to the
natural landscape and the sky beyond, even during conerts. But
according to the architects, the entire stage constructio is cloudlike;
its shiny metal surface reflects the sky and the trees....Visitors
are directed to thespectator area along broad tunnels through
the hill. Instead of meansdering paths, the sequences of vistaqs
and spaces typical of an English landscape park were achieved
by modelling the terrain....Because the stage is designed to operate
without electronic acoustic enhandcement, only hard materials
that reflect csound came under consideration....The Cloud tower
is only used as a stage for summer events, of course' explains
Fuchs. That is fifteen to twenty times a year. The rest of the
time it is an object in the park. ....The tiers are accessible
even when there is no event, and can be used for relaxing or for
For a Protestant community center in Mannheim-Neuhermsteim,
Germany, netzwerk architecten has designed an extemely attractive,
one-story pavilion those bright-white angled externior wall supports
bear a striking similarity to some of Toyo Ito's great designs
in Japan. In her essay in the book on this project, Ursua Baus
notes that the town "is a cheerless expanse of urban sprawl,"
but adds "a modest heart has now been implanted in this architectural
no-man's land....In 2003, netzwerk architects from Darmstadt won
a two-stage competitions against 440 other entires....Surrounded
by a row of upright supoorts that recall plants, the community
centre attracts passers-by, offering views of the interior and
what lies byond. It is set around a semi-public garden courtyard,
rather than shutting iself off from its mundane surrounding, the
structure of meeting hall, meeting rooms and youth centre seeks
contact.....A cosy, solid atmpophere with plenty of wood and coloured
walls was discussed with the community, but the architects were
able to persuade all involved of the potential benefit of a white,
apparently high-maintenance interior....The items required for
church services - organ, font, etc. - are on wheels, allowing
the room to be structured and furnished differently as needed."
One of the most acclaimed recent architectural
projects in New York City is Jean Nouvel's 100 Eleventh Avenue
apartment house in West Chelsea in which had placed about 1,700
different sized, rectangular windows installed at a variety of
angles, shattering the city's typical residential construction
of flush and simple curtain walls.
Well, once you venture outside myopic, rule-contricted
Manhattan you often discover that other people have invented wheels
or their equivalent despite their lack of publicity.
An apartment building in Amsterday, Netherlands,
designed by hvdn architecten, for example takes a conventional
glass-clad apartment building and sets its rectangular windows
at varying angles creating a highly textured effect, one that
almost appears to be, in great deconstructivist fashion, about
to flake apart.
"It's OK to steal an idea, as long as
you improve on it," according to architect Arie van der Neut
of Amstersdam-based hvdn. "It creates a responsibility towards
your predecessopr." In the case of this apartment building
Amsterdam-east, that predecessor is the Swiss firm of Herzog &
de Meuron. Van der Neut is the first to admit that hvdn's facade
concept is indeed based on the St. Gallen headquarters of teh
Swiss insurance firm Helvetia (2001).; Herzog & de Meuron
particularized the skin of a simple box shpae by titling the storey-high
windows in different directions so that they reflect the green
surroudings as a framnted landscape."
The Tram Stop at Sergio Cardell
Plaza in Alicante, Spain, was designed by Subarquitectura, a local
firm in whichAndres Silanes, Fernando Valderrama and Carlos Banon
are partners. The top consists of 36 meter long steel boxes about
the same length as the trams and the boxes are supported by only
two columns. They are performated with hundreds of five different
sized holes that are illuminated at night. "Light and air
pass through the boxes, modulating the shadow and generating a
gentle breeze that makes waiting for the tram more comfortable
during the hot summer months," the entry states.
The Dogan Media Center on Eskisehir
Road in Ankara, Turkey, has been designed by Tabanlioglu Architects.
"The basic cube form as been deformed and restructured by
protruding annexes, as well as subtractions on the outside. This
deformation gives a highly dymamic appearance to the building,
making it easier to be perceived from a fast-moving motorway.
The interior of the building consists of covered atriums with
different heights. The building is notable for its perforated
metal facades and the copoper-colored aluminum panels with laser-cut
circular holes also continued on the suspended ceilings inside
Herzog & de Meuron added
a perforated corrdoded cast-iron addition to a power station facing
the Paseo del Prado in Madrid. The building "floats"
above a one-story high public space with angled ceilings.
The book has been written by Hans Ibelings
and Kirstein Hannema.