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"New Architecture, an International Atlas"

by Francisco Asensio

Harry N. Abrams, pp. 511, 2007, $40

Book cover

Book cover

By Carter B. Horsley

In this lavishly and well illustrated book, Francisco Cerver offers a survey of "significant international architecture created during the past 15 years."

While the text is a bit stilted and short, the selected projects are not just the usual "roundup" and include many fascinating developments. Some famous projects such as Frank O. Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, are not left out, but the real treasures here are the chapters on Shin Takematsu's Swanium, Tadao Ando's Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, Ted Tokio Tanaka's fabulous light environment at the Los Angeles International Airport, and the Westfalen Cultural Forum in Munster, Westphalia, Germany, by Ulrich Königs & Jorg Rekittke.

Tianjin Great Museum

Tianjin Great Museum ("The Swan") by Shin Takematsu, Architect & Associates + Kawaguchi & Engineers

In 2000, Shin Takematsu and Kawaguchi & Engineers won the international competition for a major museum compound in Tianjin, which is 87 miles from Beijing, China. The project, according to the author, "joins three existing museums into one synthetic space including a multi-functional space for exhibitions and a storage place. The structure is based on a geometry of spherical surfaces, which facilitated the design of the whole building as a single system. It consists of an envelope 200 meters (656 feet) in diameter and 34 meters (112 feet) high, which closes in upon itself as it reaches the water. The final shape unexpectedly turned out like a swan, which gave rise to the decision to clad the building in white ceramic tiles and to call it Swanium."

Takematsu is one of the most lyrical of all Japanese architects.

Emirates Towers

The Emirates Towers by Norr Limited in Dubai

These two spectacular towers are perhaps the finest skyscraper duo in the world as they resonate and seem to dance about each other as a spiritually kindred couple with their own distinct personalities. The office tower is 1,165 feet high and the hotel tower is 1,000 feet high. The level of detailing and finish here is very impressive.

The author provides the following commentary:

"The towers are arranged symmetrically over a horizontal three-story granite base in which the common public activities of the complex as found. Large corridors illuminated by skylights and panoramic elevators link a variety of services such as commercial galleries, bars, restaurants, the leisure areas of the hotel, and the parking areas situated in an annex below an undulating structure, echoing the forms of sand dunes, with a capacity for 1,800 vehicles. The triangular floor plan of both towers was inspired by Islamic geometric motifs, a resource that is repeated in other elements of the project: the shape of the flat roofs, the pergolas, the skylights, and the motifs in the flooring. The rigidity of the geometry is broken by the smoothness of the curves in the base covered in granite; the siting of the commercial galleries in the towers; or the water fountain in the entrance to the hotel. The main access to the office tower is by wheeled vehicle over a ramp that follows the circular outline of the base. The water fountains also find their inspiration in Islam. The lobby is organized around a central core with a battery of elevators grouped in four units. The first floors of the towers have a geometry that is different from the standard floors; they function as support floors for the main activities of the towers, for example, conference halls. They occupy a glass cylinder eight floors high, with a high porch on the ground floor. The main entrances to the towers are located on the most iimportant street of the city, dominated by a large fountain. On the standard floor plan of the hotel, a central body of elevators is organized around an atrium of thirty-one floors, and the rooms are arranged along the perimeter of the facade. The seven top floors are connected by three private elevators that serve fifty-seven special rooms for executives, four presidential suites, and a restaurant with exclusive view of the coast. The towers are primarily finished in glass and lustrous metals that produce luminous efects that change throughout the day. At night, the artificial illumination highlights the silhouettes and reinforces the idea of a unique figure. The peaks of the towers culminate in aerials that rise toward the heavens, emphasizing the total sensation of height created by the complex."

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth by Tadao Ando

Tadao Ando won an international competition in 1997 to design as modern art museum next to the Kimball Art Museum designed by Louis Kahn in Fort Worth. The Kimball is one of the great small museums in the United States in terms of the quality of its art collections and its building has always been highly praised by Louis Kahn lovers. Ando's new museum almost puts the Kahn structure to shame for it is one of the world's most lyrical and poetic structures. Its pavilions seem to float on an artificial lake and its huge walls of glass are topped by flat but very broad overhangs supported by "Y"-shaped columns. Proportions are just about perfect and the aesthetic here is memorable enough to have been created in Japan.

Le Sémaphore by Christian Drevet

Le Sémaphore, Roussillon, France, designed by Christian Drevet

At Le Sémaphore near Roussillon, France, Christian Drevet has created a roadside theatrical installation that consists of a slanted and illuminated mast - the sémaphore - a large screen, and a "parallelepiped" structure.

"The mast anchors the building to its site," the author maintains, "establishes a visual reference that is identified from the motorway, and introduces itself intothe collective memory. The metal screen protedts the reast face from the sun, defines the entrance, and creates a backdrop for the view from the approach road. Finally, as a mysterious volume dropping over the motorway, the partially buried parallelepiped accommodates the theatrical program and uses the inclined roof to distribute the different interior functions according to the spaces required. Behind the metal screen are a second skin of glass and behind that, a double wall forming a curtain. Each successive layer of skin is perceived as a different scenic plane and, according to the light, offers sensations and optical illusions."


Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Ted Toko Tanaka, TTTA

Ted Tokio Tanaka of TTTA has created one of the world's most colorful high-rise "environments at LAX, the Los Angeles International Airport. He has sprinkled the grounds with pylons that range in height from 25 to 100 feet and the cylindrical forms are capable of displaying up to 300 colors in three hours. The results are a spectacular urban extravaganza.

The Center in Hong Kong

The Center, Hong Kong, Dennis Lau and Ng Chun Man Architects + Engineers (H.K.) Ltd.

The Center in Hong Kong is a stunning, 1,135-foot-high, 73-story skyscraper designed by Dennis Law and Ng Chun Man Architects + Engineers (H.K.) Ltd.

The reflective-glass tower is cantilevered over its base that has dramatic diagonal stainless steel bracing and dark granite walls. "The floor plan is the result of a 45-degree rotation of two identical squares that form a star-shaped polygon. The stair-elevator core is situated in the center in the form of a cross surrounded by empty space," the author noted.

Other major and interesting projects included in the book include: the Ribble Way Footbridge in London by Wilkinson Eyre Arq. and Flint & Neill Partnership Inc.; Shinkansen: Shin-Minamata Station by Makoto Sei Watanabe; the French National Library in Paris by Dominique Perrault; Plaza 66 in Shanghai by Kohn Pedersen Fox; the International Forum in Tokyo by Rafael Viñoly; the Paper Art Museum in Mishima, Shizuoka, Japan by Shigeru Ban; the Auditorium in Nagaoka by Toyo Ito; Torre Agbar in Barcelona by Jean Nouvel; an exhibition hall in Amsterdam South-Axis, Holland, by Ben Van Berkel; the New Trade Fair in Leipzig, Germany, by Von Gerkan, Marg & Partner; lighting masts at Expo 2000 Hannover, Germany, by Volkwin Marg Arq; the Palace of the Arts in Lille, France by Jean Marc Ibos and Myrto Vitart; the Triangle des Gares Euralille in Lille, France, by Jean Nouvel; and the Westfalen Cultural Forum in Munster, Westphalia, Germany, by Ulrich Königs & Jorg Rekittke.


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