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The Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary Architecture

By the editors of Phaidon Press, 824 pages, 1,056 projects by 656 architects, 4,600 color photographs, 2,400 line drawings and 62 maps, 2004, $160

A Weighty and Mighty Tome

By Carter B. Horsley

The Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary Architecture, which was published in May, 2004, documents 1,052 buildings by 656 architects in 75 countries that were completed since January 1998 with 4,600 color photographs and 2,400 line drawings.

This is a giant book: it measures 20.8 by 16.1 by 3.9 inches and its shipping weight, with a transparent plastic briefcase, is 19.7 pounds. There are no more than two projects per page and there are numerous illustrations for each project. One project even has 12 color photographs.

Although many lovers of architecture will be familiar with some of the projects, most of the projects and architects will be unfamiliar to most. Rafael Moneo and Herzog & De Meuron have 9 projects each; Tadeo Ando has 8 and Frank Gehry 6.

The book showcases the selected projects with thousands of well-chosen color photographs plans, elevations, and cross-sections. Major elements of each project are described in elegantly succinct texts. Rather than simply pay lip service to the concept of "world" architecture, this book ranges throughout 75 countries on six continents. And although the big names in the field are here, the focus is on the ingenuity and diversity of contemporary architecture, regardless of the fame of its creator.

The text commentaries for each project are succinct but excellent and the book also provides economic, environmental, and demographic information for all the countries represented in the survey.

This is without question the architectural book of the year, indeed, of this millennium so far.

The selection of projects highlighted in this article is based solely on those that caused this reviewer to interrupt his page-turning on his first perusal. The overwhelming majority of the included projects are intriguing and interesting. Everytime, one reopens the book, however, one discovers other interesting projects.

The National Museum of Australia in Canberra, (see The City Review article on "Architects Now") shown above, is one of the more colorful projects. Designed by Ashton Raggart McDougal in association with Robert Peck von Hartel Trethowan and it won a competition for the project in 2001. The commentary notes that "the museum employs the metaphor of a Boolean string, a computer-generated mathematical precept." "The string represents a tangling of these formalized axes; its contortions embrace the land, water, space and building. the tangled canopies, pathways, landscape elements and the crescent-shaped footprint of the building, a reference to the convergence of cultures within Ausralia. The symbolism of the knot is also a commentary on the complexity of contemporary issue relating to indigenuous Australians. The Australiam Institute of Aborigimal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, incorporated in the Museum, is a black version of Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye, a sardonic reference to the notion of a white icon."

Another great Australian project is the Victoria University Online Training Cente in Melbourne that was designed by Lyons in 2000. It is notable for its stunning facade. The text notes that "Through techniques of scaling, the building seems to transform as the viewer changes distance and position. The facade combines a voncentional construction system with new digital technologies. Metal panels are imprinted with a pixelated graphic image, derived from colours and forms within the surrounding landscape. the intricate pattern of shimmering, distorted dots read as perforations, imbuing the thin layers of the facades with a sense of depth. From the south, the project emreges from and recedes into the grassland backdrop. Sequences of graphic cuts across the surface are folded out to form angled, hooded openings. These glazed punctuations gradually shift in legibility, and dissolve into the seamless, shimmering surface when seen from the opposite direction. Providing visual connections and controlled levels of natural light to the interior, these openings challenge assumptions that computer environments are hermetic. The building responds abstractly to its function as a and to the surrounding landscape, through the sale, colour and manifuplation of its suface." While the building is not beautiful, the ingenuity of its facade treatment is very exciting.

Federation Square in Melbourne

Federation Square in Melbourne, Lab Architecture Studio in association with Bates Smart, 2002

Perhaps the most spectacular project in the book is Federation Square in Melbourne, which was designed by Lab architecture studio in association with Bates Smart in 2002. A very complex low-rise project of jumbled geometries, the project contains the National Gallery of Victoria, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and a national television broadcasting centre as well as retail and commercial spaces and restaurants. "The design for Federation Square, Melbourne's new cultural centre," the entry for this project notes, "responds to the need for visual and formal coherence with complex and contorted geometry. This has not produced a resolved iconic object that is either rigid or pure in form; it is rather an emergent form that can respond to the different needs of the diverse activities that take place there.....Cladding materials include sandstone, zinc and glass. The large high-volume atrium, which acts as a 24-hour public thoroughfare and covered meeting place, is enclosed and glass and paved in sandstone...."

Imperial War Museum of the North

The Imperial War Museum of the North, Manchester, England, by Daniel Liebeskind, 2002

Daniel Liebeskind's second most important commission before the World Trade Center was the Imperial War Museum of the North in Manchester, England, in 2002. "It continues," the entry notes, "his distinctive language of zigzags and clashing diagonals, originally presented in his Jewish Museum of Berlin, provoking devate about whether this translation of style to a new context dilutes the original potency of the work. This project provides a highly internalized visitor experience, with few views to the outside....Externally, the building is conceived as a composition of three shards: roof forms mimic shattered fragments of a sphere smashed on the ground, and present the elements of earth, air and water. ...for many observers, it is a textbook example of Deconstructivist architecture, realizing in built form the tortured story of the capacity of the human race for self-destruction."

Walch's Event Catering Administration Building in Lustenau, Austria

Walch's Event Catering Administration Building, Lustenau, Austria, Dietrich Untertrifaller Architects, 2000

One of the wildest and most sensational projects in the book is Walch's Event Catering Administration Building in Lustenau, Austria that was designed and built in 2000 by Dietrich Untertrifaller Architects. The book entry for this project notes that "The building is constructed from prefabricated timber elements, and the interior and exterior walls clad with chipboard." "This, however," it continued, "is not visible from the outside, as the entire building is covered with a skin, thework of Austrian artist Peter Kogler, The net-like material can be looked through from inside, but no views into the building are possible when standing outside, even in darkness. The tubular forms printed on the translucent material diminish all sense of the dimensions and proportions of the building. Theatrically lit at night, it appears as a strange, alien object, with no reference to its context."

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth by Tadao Ando

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Tadao Ando Architect & Associates, 2000

The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth was designed in 2000 by Tadao Ando Architect & Associates and it adjoins Louis Kahn's 1972 Kimball Art Museum. "Tadao Ando's design arranges the rectangular volumes in a row, surrounded by a large pool of reflective water and landscaped gardens. Each block is constructed of a concrete box within a glass box: the concrete, which protects the collection within from the harsh desert environment, exaggerates the transparency of the glass, while the glass, which provides monumental public circulation areas, mitigates the massiveness of the concrete....Huge, cantilevered concrete roofs shade the building from strong sunlight, with the roof slabs supported on Y-shaped concrete columns 12 meters (40 feet) high. a system of continuous linear skylights and clerestory windows allows diffused natural light to cascade down into the galleries."

The Aluminium Forest by Architectenbureau Micha de Haas

The Aluminium Forest, Utrecht, Netherlands, Architectenbureau Micha de Haas, 2001

The Aluminium Forest in Utrecht, Netherlands was designed by Architectenbureau Micha de Haas in 2001 and sits on 368 piloti of varying dimensions and functions. "The variation in width of separation and angle of each column," the book entry observes, "animates the whole, giving he impression of an oversized and alien amphibious creature teetering on the edge of the water. The close proximity of the columns enables the building to defy expectations of the stength ad versatility of aluminium, displaying innovate aspects which partly result from the use of aerospace technology."

Sendai Mediathèque by Toyo Ito

Sendai Mediathèque, Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Toyo Ito & Associates, 2001

Another very successful experiment with columns and one of the most elegant and striking designs is the Sendai Mediathèque in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture in Japan. It was designed by Toyo Ito & Associates in 2001 and employs a remarkable structure system of large hollow tubes that are angled slightly and differently as they rise.

Simmons Hall, M.I.T. by Steven Holl

Simmons Hall, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Steven Holl Architects, 2002

Simmons Hall at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was designed in 2002 by Steven Holl Architects and is a monumental structure that defies scale and creates its own colorful skyline. The dormitory was designed in association with Perry Dean Rogers Architects. The 10-story-high structure has five large openings that, the entry observes, "roughly correspond to main entrances, view corridors and outdoor activity terraces." "A tight grid of windows is connected by a shimmering exterior of anodized alumium, reflective during the day and glowing at night....Colour on the window heads and hambs defines the ten residential 'houses' within the building."

Gérald-Godin College in Montreal

Gérald-Godin College, Montreal, Saucier + Perrotte, 2000

The angled geometry of the "black and stretched aluminium external skin" of the Gérald-Godin College in Montreal is stunning. It was designed by Saucier + Perrotte in 2000.

Agnelli Art Gallery in Torino

Giovanni and Marella Agnelli Art Gallery, Torino, Italy, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, 2002

The Giovanni and Marella Agnelli Art Gallery sites atop the Fiat Factory in Torino, Italy, that was designed in 1917 by Matté Trucco. The art gallery was designed in 2002 by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop.

]UFA Cinema Center in Dresden

UFA Cinema Center, Dresden, Germany, Coop Himmelb(l)au, 1998

One of the most famous works in the book is the UFA Cinema Center, designed by Coop Himmelb(l)au in 1998 in Dresden, Germany. The building contains eight cinemas with seating for a total of 2,600 seats. Half of the theaters are underground and the other four are "slotted together as a series of interlocking wedges, forming a six-storey block," the entry noted, adding that "Grafted on to the side of this block is a skewed crystalline volume that serves as the foyer to the complex. Fire-escape stairs run down the length of the cinema block behind a scaffolding-like grid. The raw concrete monolith of the cinema block provides an earth-bound foil for the dynamism and lightness of the glass foyer, in which ramps, stairs and bridges, some glazed, some enclosed by galvanized metal balustrades, carve irregular angular patterns through the space. A café housed in a double inverted cone is suspended over the foyer, providing cinema-goers with dramatic views through the foyer and over the square."

El Croquis head office in Madrid

El Croquis Head Office, Richard Levene and Fernando Marquez Cecilia, Madrid, Spain, 1998

El Croquis is a major architecture publication published in Madrid Spain. Richard Levene and Fernando Marquez Cecilia, the editors and publishers of the magazine, designed its head office in 1998. The very handsome project consists of two tilted low-rise structures that sit on a Cor-ten steel platform. Street facades are travertine marble and the garden facades are Iroko wood.

Sondika Airport in Bilbao by Calatrava

Sondika Airport, Bilbao, Spain by Santiago Calatrava, 1999

Santiago Calatrava's Sondika Airport in Bilbao, Spain, was designed in 1999. The book entry for this project notes that "Ramps and passages peel off from the main hall, disappearing underground into the underbelly of the car-parks, or leading up to the airy viewing platform," adding that "The building is dynamic in its flows and creates an incredible sense of gravity, constituting an appropriate transition space between earth and sky."

The Gallery, Singapore

The Gallery, Singapore, by William Lim Associates and Tang Guan-Bee Architects, 2000

William Lim Associates and Tang Guan-Bee Architects designed a three-dimensional Mondrianesque building called The Gallery in Singapore in 2000. The project is a hotel and in addition to its projecting windows with different colored frames, its facade is enlivened by rectilinear lights at night, a precursor to the Porter House apartment building facade in the Chelsea section of New York a few years later.

Colorium, Dusseldorf

Colorium, Dusseldorf, Germany, Alsop Architects, 2001

Another superb example of the use of color, and another homage to Mondrian, is the Colorium in Dusseldorf, Germany. Designed by Alsop Architects in 2001, it is an office building that is part of a "Media Harbour" project that will include works by Frank Gehry, Fumihiko Maki, Steven Holl and David Chipperfield. "A patchwork of coloured panels made up of 17 distinct types of glass blurs the regularity of the floor divisions and allows entire elevations to be read as intricately patterned collages....The tower is capped by a projecting crimson plant instation which is transformed by lighting into a glowing light box."

North German Regional Clearing Bank in Hannover

North German Regional Clearing Bank, Hannover, Germany, Behnisch, Behnisch & Partner, 2002

One of the more complex projects is the North German Regional Clearing Bank in Hannover, Germany, which was designed in 2002 by Behnisch, Behnisch & Partner. "Despite being for a large commercial client," the project's entry maintained, "the building eschews monumentality, with the scale broken down to create a humane working environment. The tower and spaces around the courtyard are organized with an angular geometry. The erratic plan is exploited to provide a variety of office accommodation and open circulation spaces, with exterior views and plentiful daylight, avoiding the featureless corridors typical for countless modern office buildings. Mini-blocks of offices spectacularly busrt out at different angles from the tower itself - at one place steppping dramatically out floor by floor - again fragmenting the mass of the complex."

Experience Music Project in Seattle

Experience Music Project, Seattle, Washington, Gehry Partners, 2000

Located next to the base of the Space Needle in Seattle, the Experience Musice Project was designed by Gehry Partners in 2000. "The fragmented and undulating forms of the building are inspired in part by the image of a shatter Fender statocaster guitar, an image that is reinfoced by looping steel cables which suggest broken guitar strings." This is one of Frank Gehry's most colorful projects. The Seattle Center Monorail passes through its interior.

Walt Disney Concert Hall by Gehry Partners

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, Gehry Partners, 2003

A far simpler and more graceful project by Gehry Partners is the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles that was built in 2003. The hall has 2,275 seats and an interior of timber with skylights to allow natural light to enhance daytime concerts.

"Samsung Corporate Headquarters by Rafael Vinoly

Samsung Corporate Headquarters, Seoul, South Korea, designed by Rafael Vinoly, 1999

In 1994, Samsung stopped work on a new 20-story corporate headquarters building in Seoul, South Korea, and commissioned Rafael Vinoly to rethink the design. His solution was to enlarge the project and add a cultural and educational centre as well as retail spaces while tripling its height to create the tallest skyscraper in the city. "The new scheme centres on three architectural interventions. The first is the vertical extension of the three circulation towers to support 'the cloud,' a two-story volume containing a restaurant and nightclub at the top of the builidng. The second is a giant-scaled cornice, added to the top of the original building's volume and extending over a public plaza below. Finally, a separate volume was constructed above this cornice to accommodate the offices," the entry for the project observed. The result is an extremely handsome and interesting structure.

Donghu Financial Centre, Seoul, by Kohn Pedersen Fox

Donghu Financial Centre, Seoul, North Korea, Kohn Pedersen Fox, 2002

Another project in Seoul by an American architectural firm is the Donghu Financial Centre. Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, it was built in 2002 and is distinguished by its subtle use of diagonals. "The design concept of 'layering' was derived from traditional Korean handicrafts such as shik-tak-bo, in which pieces of cloth are randomly patched together. The building's services were layered vertically by means of an organizational core. To distinguish the building from its surrounding rectagular neighbours, an organic design approach was used rather than the predominating geometric idiom. A strong sculpture statement is made by the undulating, diagonal curtain walls. The resulting north-facing elevation is a collection of slightly canted surfaces, each reflecting a different part of the sky and surrounding cityscape...the curtain walls terminate in soaring vectors of stainless steel....," the project's entry noted.

131 Rue Pelleport, Paris

131 Rue Pelleport, Paris, Frédéric Borel Architecte, 1999

Another tower that interestingly employs diagonals vertically is 131 Rue Pelleport apartment house in Paris, which was designed in 1999 by Frédéric Borel Architecte. "The angular form," the entry maintains, "creates a frozen moment on the crossroads in the manner of the Roman baroque, with excess and sheer dynamic movement....The 20 apartments are organized around an opaque core containing services, while the external surfaces, forming the facade, are used to define and divide the spaces of inhabitation. This allows the interiors to be fully orientated towards the light and the surprising views of Paris, with private exteiror spaces that can be transformed into winter gardens."

Inchon International Airport by Terry Farrell & Partners

Transportation Centre, Inchon International Centre, Seoul, South Korea, Terry Farrell & Partners, 2002

One of the most spectacular projects is the Transportation Centre, Inchon International Airport, also in Seoul, South Korea. Designed by Terry Farrell & Partners in 2002, it is highlighted by its great hall. "A steel portal truss structure rises from the ground and vaults over the hall, its skeletal fluidity and spatial sweep recalling the form of a crane, a sacred bird to the Korean people, in take-off. It is an icon of dynamism, symbolising native culture, flight and the future. The biomorphic forms of the whole compostion evoke flight and dynamism. but the symbol of the future is the pod-lke flight control centre, with a glass belly that acts as an aerofoil in the natural ventilation of the hall below," the text notes.

Yokohama International Port Terminal, Foreign Office Architecture

Yokohama International Port Terminal, Japan, Foreign Office Architecture, 2002

Another great transportation project is the Yokohama International Port Terminal in Japan. It was designed in 2002 by Foreign Office Architecture. This project has a spectacular landscaped roof and even more spectacular interiors with slanted wood walls and floors.

Concert Hall in León, Spain

Concert Hall, León, Spain, Mansilla + Turlon, 2002

In 2002, Mansilla + Turlon designed a concert hall in León, Spain that is distinguished by its stunning facade of rectangular windows in angleddeep inserts conjuring the modernity of Le Corbusier.

A windowless, curved exterior composed of about 15,000 aluminum disks, the Selfridges Department Store in Birmingham, West Midlands, England, (see The City Review article on "Architects Now") was designed in 2003 by Future Systems. Unquestionably distinctive, it is both high-tech and organic, an instant landmark of strange aesthetic. "The fluidity of the building's bubble-shaped form is matched inside with an organically-shaped atrium....Future Systems re-interpreted the notion of a department store," according to the book's entry for this project, "not only in its appearance, but also by analysing the social function such a building plays in contemporary society. The form of the building is soft and curvaceous in response to the nature curve of the site. It is expressive in a way that is aesthetically innovative but also clearly signifies its function as a department store, without the need for signage." To some observers, however, the signification is not so clear and perhaps the aluminum disks should have pricetags on them.

Guthrie Pavilion in Malaysia

Guthrie Pavilion, Shah Alam, Malaysia, T. R. Hamzah & Yeang, 1998

The Guthrie Pavilion in Shah Alam, Malaysia, was designed by T. R. Hamzah & Yeang in 1998 and is a nautical-themed pavilion is a golf clubhouse with office space. Three masts hold five canopies that protect the building form the sun and aluminium louvres further help energy considerations.

Royal Library in Kobenjavn

Royal Library, Kobenjavn, Denmark, Schmidt, Hammer & Lassen, 1999

The Royal Library in Kobenjavn, Denmark was designed in 1999 by Schmidt, Hammer & Lassen and "the twisted shapes and inclined facades of this high-profile building, nicknamed the "Black Diamond," have made it a landmark," the entry notes. "The granite-clad diamond structure broadens the traditional concept of a library, accommodating a wide variety of cultural events,...This extension to the existing Royal Library appears to float on a ribbon of raised glass, which allows views into thefoyer from outside and panoramic views of the waterfront from inside."

"Festival Walk," Hong Kong, Arquitectonica

Atrium of Festival Walk in Hong Kong, designed by Arquitectonica, 2003

Arquitectonica designed a very graceful shoppng center called "Festival Walk" in Hong Kong in 2003 that is notable for its handsome facades and spectacular atriums criss-crossed by stainless-steel escalators.

One of the stunning projects in China is the Library for Zhejiang University's Ningpo Campus in Zhejang Province. Designed by MADA s.p.a.m., it was completed in 2002. Each facade is different. The entry for this project observes that "Whereas the grid of windows and recesses in the facade somewhat tames the impact of the nine-storey cube, the sublime qualities of size are evoked on the inside, there the common facilities - conference centre, exhibition gallery, screening room, cyber lounge and reading deck - are suspended within a full-height atrium. The atrium is bounded on all sides by stacks, which in turn are surrounded by rows of four-seater study-tables, positioned against the external walls so that each receives natural light directly from its own window. Raised on an honirific podium and easily recognized from a distance by its coloured finishes and Corbusian, funnel-shaped skylgihts, the library's repetitive fenestration minics that of the the surrounding buildings, perhaps to camouflage its newness."

Another great Chinese project is the Nanning Gateway in Nanning, Guangxi designed by Denton Corker Marshall in 2002. The project has two huge metal red flowers on either side of the main road into the city, one is complete but the other is deconstructed into separated petals spread along a considerable length of the highway.

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