Buildings" is a spectacular book that presents 39 outstanding
recent examples of great architecture from around the world when it was
published by Taschen in 2007.
Some of the
included projects have been treated in other recent books, but most are
new and all are very interesting. The color photographs in
this medium format book are wonderful.
In her introduction, Simone Schleifer provides the following commentary:
since the launch of Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao,
eye-catching, head-turning, and jaw-dropping buildings with curvy
shapes, jagged edges, and flashy materials have followed suite and made
the short lists for the world's most pretigious competitions.
Even architects, known for their classic style, have joined in
with extraodinary, fancy and curious designs. Regardless of
whether these odd-looking buildings are considered to be true icons or
merely snsationalistic examples of iconic architecture, there is no
reason why they cannot embrace the best of both worlds and express
underlying values through visually impressive design."
One of the more interesting
projects is the 7-story ING offices in Budapest that was designed by
Erick van Egeraat, János Tiba, Judit Z.
Halmágyi, Eszter Bódi. The mass of the extremely complex
building is treated a bit like an accordion and perpendicular lines are
rare as much of the building slants slightly one way or another.
The tilting is subtle and restrained and while it does not
convey a vertiginous sense of danger it definitely is very energetic,
and dynamic - a compressed sense of powerful motion.
The facade incorporates steel strips and slit
windows and two large glass atriums. The overall effect is
glitter but when notices the thing curved stainless steel ribbons that
prance about its facade one senses that this is delicate wrapping of
The text leaves much to be desired but is
certainly accurate when it states that "the hyperkinetic facade of the
building contrasts with the traditional robustness of Hungarian
architecture, fully integrating with the surroundings thanks to the use
of homogeneous materials."
The Casa da Música in Oporto, Portugal was
designed by Rem Koolhaas/Office for Metropolitan Architecture and
atypical of that firm's aesthetic for it is monumental, and ungainly
but impressive. The only hint at grandeur is its great, board
staircase entrance into a quite small opening in its otherwise mostly
blank facades. One expects a robot from "The Day The Earth
Stood Still" to emerge from the opening to tell earthlings to get their
act together. One of the book's captions for this entry
remarks that "While from some perspectives the building presents an
image of formal elegance, it appears remarkably unbalanced from some
others" and one suspects that Koolhaas would take that as a
External stairs are the prime design element for
Mahler 4 Tower in Amsterdam where Raphael Vinoly Architects took a
conventional two-setback, retilinear office tower with deep, thin piers
and carved an open fire escape that wraps around the building, an
The Dutch Embassy in Berlin, designed by Coop
Himmelb(l)au, takes a somewhat similar approach but applies it
with more tricks and polish, albeit in a small project that is notable
for its use of glass floors where part of the building is cantilevered.
Other parts of the building are intented and slightly angled.
Rem Koolhaas would applied the glass floor cantilevers on a
larger scale for a "peek-a-boo" building in the Flatiron district of
Manhattan that was not built.
Hotel in Hospitalet de Liobregat, Spain, by Richard Rogers and Alonso
& Balaguer, photograph by Gogortza & Liorella
Vienna, by Coop Himmelb(l)au, photograph by Gerald Zugmann
Vienna, by Coop Himmelb(l)au
form of the "exoskeleton" is "stuck" onto a side of the building in a
setback plaza but instead of mere structural columns at angles it is a
bright orange multi-story cantilevered section of the building that is
extremely bold and dramatic. This is higher-level
gamesmanship that appears to be throwing down gauntlets to the rest of
the architectural world.
explains that the asymmetrical project saved existing trees on
the site and that it contains 82 apartments and about 129,000 square
feet of office space and parking in a site near the Danube.
The book has
another entry design by Coop Himmelb(l)au, Expo 02 in Biel,
Switzerland, another sculptural fantasy. Two long roofs on
stilts jutting out into a lake harbor a group of three towers.
The text noted that "movement and pressure sensors turn the
visitors' movements into light and sound reflections, thus
interactivelyh shaping the Expo.
Branly Museum in Paris by Jean Nouvel, photography
by Pep Escoda
The Quai Branly
Museum in Paris exemplifies the trend toward mysterious complexity.
Designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel, it is highly original in
its massing and concept with some elements demonstrating a jarring
propinquity that is both odd and fascinating. Some facades have dark
brise de soleils that can open out from the bottom along right red
railings. Much of the complex is elevated above several acres
of gardens and one facade is fully landscaped vertically.
Some parts of the complex have cantilevered box elements of
different colors above a curved glazed "runway." You're not
in Kansas anymore.
Nouvel is also
represented in the book by his Agbar Tower. which is quite near Gaudi's
incredible Segrada Familia in Barcelona. The text
remarks that its phallic shape "emulates a perfectly constant water
spout under stabilized pressure," adding that its facade contains 40
colors and "the architectural form consists of two cylinders in the
shape of concentric ovals, crowned by a dome of steel and glass."
Art Museum Extension by Studio Daniel Libeskind, photograph by Bitter
shot to architectural glory with his Jewish Museum in Berlin, but he
has channeled his flamboyant designs into many other projects in recent
years including the multi-faceted extenstion to the Denver Art Museum
that is sort of a non-curvilinear Gehry phantasmogoria of rakish angles
and titanium shine. This building erupts and soars and its
contextual relationship to its surroundings is intimidating, thank
goodness for a change.
Square in Melbourne by LAB Architecture Studio, Bates Smart,
photography by Andrew Hoobs and Adrian Lander
Square in Melbourne, Australia, is one of the 21st Century's greatest
urbanistic marvels: it is as if the architects threw up all the
assembled elements of its construction up into the air so they would
fall into place helter-skelter, but not willy-nilly. Many of
the buildings in the low-rise complex have mutli-faceted facades of
fractal-like elements in pale orange, dark gray and white and one
prominently placed structure is a spectacular diamond-like jewel of an
all-glass structure. Window openings make jigsaw aesthetic
intriguing day and night. This great project, which
encompasses a major new "town square," was designed by LAB Architecture
Studio and Bates Smart.
Center 02 in Berlin by Murphy & Jahn, photographs by
Engelhardt/Sellin, H. G. Esch
The Sony Center 02
development in Berlin by Murphy & Jahn is a high-tech marvel of
slick engineering and very complex designs whose epicenter is a huge
"forum" that is reminiscent of the firm's great State of Illinois
Center in Chicago that made the firm's reputation. The
covered space is ribs of thin red metal strips and sail-like elements
soaring around a spectacular "harpoon" that literally ties everything
together. The space is totally unexpected and quite
thrilling, a rare architectural experience.
Another Murphy & Jahn
project in the book is the Munich Airport that is very elegant in its
unusual massing and large covered spaces.
Museum in Stuttgart by UN Studio, photographs by Brigida Gonzalez,
Christian Richters, UN Studio
The 9-story, Mercedes-Benz
Museum in Stuttgart by UN Studio can perhaps be likened to a drunken
and wobbly Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum or the superstructure of a huge
battleship as it sags from a direct bomb hit. Such allusions,
of course, belie its quite futuristic and dynamic aesthetic that tosses
symmetry out the proverbial rear window. Is this slip-sliding structure
an engine or is it just brazenly smacking its lips at our
consternation? Of course, we should have noted that its
canted strips of large windows in front of angled structural supports
conceals a dual ramp atrium for display of 150 cars. Yes,
it's a garage! Yet, from some perspectives could it be that
this svelte lady is winking at us and pursing her lips. At
once voluptuous and high-tech, this building never saw a rule it didn't
want to break and that's not only courageous but admirable!
Landesbank in Hannover, Germany, by Behnish Architekten, photography by
Roland Halbe, Schodder, Kandzia
The book profiles 39 major projects,
each with several excellent photographs. The text leaves much to
be desired and it would have been nice to at least know what year each
project was building, how large it is and who developed it an to have a
good index. Nonetheless the chosen projects are superb and offer
different views to some well-known and celebrated projects such as
Selfridges in Birmingham, England, and the Prada Aoyama Epicenter,