February 26, 2007

Olympic Developments; In with the Old, Out with the New

This week’s post is directed towards plans for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, which, despite their far proximity, have been under continuous review and discussion among the architectural community. With the recent environmental, or “green” push, issues of sustainability have been applied to these future projects. The first of which, the 2012 Olympic Games, to be held in London, is said by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), to be the “greenest games in modern times.” With innovations such as integrated renewable energy systems, water conservation, and low pollution along with recycling of materials during construction, the Olympic Village is doubtlessly gearing up to represent this popular shift towards sustainable living that the turn of the millennium has witnessed. The proposal for the 2016 Olympics has includes re-using the Los Angeles Coliseum as the centerpiece to the games. Although the design doesn’t add any of the “green” advantages, as does the London Village, the act of reusing the existing structure, is in and of itself environmentally savvy. The comments, posted below, address the balance between the design aesthetic and the intentions towards sustainability of these two projects.

Comment to How Green Will the London Olympics Be?
by Bonnie Alter

I appreciate your point that the environmental standards of the project are being put under tight review and are seen as possibly being not strict enough, while the idea of local indigenous communities being destroyed doesn’t raise concern. This gets into the issue of what is more sustainable: buying a brand new hybrid car, or just repairing the old one in the garage? Although I do believe it is more environmentally sound to take better advantage of existing structures and public spaces than to erect new ones that cause more pollution and create other environmental dilemmas, I do think the creating of a new Olympic Village is vital. Having not seen the full competition documents for the London Village, it is difficult to access whether the design would complement the Olympic Ceremony, but in the past, and in other proposals, the designs for these “global villages” represent international community and promote peace among nations. The erecting of new structures is symbolic of this effort and, without it I believe that the potency of the project would diminish. Given that, by erecting a building that is “green” is by all means appropriate in that it represents the global effort to be more environmentally efficient.

Comment to “Coliseum preps for face-lift; Games plan leaves the historic portion of stadium untouched” by Rick Orlov

My response to this proposal it double edged. I believe it is a great idea to re-use an existing stadium for the 2016 Olympics (as was mentioned, "this will be the crown jewel of the Olympics, as it was twice before”) however, there are glaring issues with the design and with the functionality of the renovation. Before commenting on these let me mention that the notion of re-use is for me the most sustainable process we have as designers. What is better for the environment isn’t to build a sustainable structure at all, but rather use what we have more effectively. However, although Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa embraced the plans, developed by architect David Jay Flood, I would like to state my disgust with these purely monetarily driven designs. In short, Flood’s proposal compounds the issue of a lack of student seating by reducing the total occupancy by 13,000 seats, and replaces them with 204 “luxury” box seats. These box seats are by no means luxury, but rather reflect the superficiality, in terms of both of its design aesthetic and structural integrity, that the entire endeavor is imbued with. The design is horribly unappealing, and rather than gearing the renovation towards improving the overall quality of the space, it is rather directed towards facilitating for the select high-dollar few. This move which still doesn’t bring resolve to even the box seats also sacrifices the experience for everyone else. In conclusion just let me add while the intent of some individuals may be interested in "spread[ing] the Olympic spirit throughout the region with events to be held everywhere" in order for this spirit to be experienced in the Coliseum is for a different design to be chosen.

February 20, 2007

Stitching Up the Gaps: The Architecture of Fashion

Skin + Bones, the current exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Downtown Los Angeles, challenges the notion of space making by drawing on parallels between architecture and fashion design. Through a concourse of both architectural and fashion based-projects, the exhibit brings to the surface the pertinence of their interrelation. Although vernacular understanding may place the two trades into disparate classes, work done by leaders in both professions proves that the practices of both architecture and fashion have intersected. However, the identification of this link between architecture and fashion is not new. In fact, the origins of their bond can be traced back to Adolf Loos, an architect and theoretician who was involved in the beginnings of the Modern Movement in architecture during the turn of the 20th century. Loos focused on the role that clothing and dwelling have an individual’s establishment of their own social standing and personal identity. While the ideas that he generated from this association indirectly influenced his architecture, current architecture has taken Loos’s exploration a step further by making more direct references to the fashion world.

The MOCA exhibit begins by stating the strategies in which architecture has adopted from fashion design. Such processes include printing, pleating, folding, draping and weaving. The first segment of the exhibit labeled “identity” features fashion collections that constitute distinct permutations of personal individuality. For instance, The “Defensible Dress” by J. Meejin Yoon from MY Studio, is equipped with latex dipped “quills” that become erect when movement is detected, thus the identity of the dress responds to changes in its surrounding environment. Similarly, the project entitled “Afterwards” by Hussein Chalayan and Marcus Tomlinson deals with the concept of an adaptable identity that also reacts to a dynamic setting. The chair upholstery in the installation can be removed from chairs to become a gown and the remaining structure of the chair can be transformed into a briefcase while the table is extruded from its center and is worn as a skirt. As noted in the gallery, the concepts of Chalayan and Tomlinson’s design “deal with fleeing one’s home and relates to the fragility of both shelter and identity.”

This project is contrasted with architect Jean Nouvel’s “light screen” for the Arab World Institute where metal patterns function as apertures that open and close mechanically to allow varying degrees of light through to the inside of the building. This concept came from the Islamic latticework screen that traditionally is used to prevent a woman inside from being seen. Here social paradigms relating to personal identity and self-expression are mirrored in Nouvel’s design. By beginning the exhibit with projects that are non-traditional, however share such direct similarities; there is an immediate interest in the potential of both fields as well as a curiosity into how the two trades correlate.

More specific similarities are seen as one progresses through the exhibit, making the correlation become increasingly apparent. For example, the shared tectonic principle of “folding” is seen in the fashion works of Tess Giberson, in her Structure One collection, and the works of architects Preston Scott Cohen, and Peter Eisenman. Gibson folds simple materials to achieve elegant and functional designs. The language of these designs is that of honesty in that the process of how the clothing was made becomes apparent. Similarly, in Cohen’s Tell Aviv Museum of Art, a single surface is “folded” to create a functional light well that illuminates the museum space. His design achieves the same sense of structural integrity and grace as does the fashion projects. At this point, the link between the actual processes of fashion and architecture has been confirmed in the mind of the onlooker. The rest of the exhibit expounds upon how additional production methods are used by both architecture and fashion. The portion of the exhibit titled “Structural Skin” shows projects that use this similar design quality. The fashion project by Miyake Issey and Fujiwara Dai attempts to create a pair of jeans in a single production process without using seams. Therefore, the surface material of the product or “skin” is in fact acting as the structure, thus “structural skin.” This same concept is seen in Herzog de Mueron’s Prada Aoyama Epicenter where the structure of the building functions as its skin. In the Prada building, the “honeycomb” moment frame structure is repeated three dimensionally inside the volume of the building to create spaces to serve the varied program. Thusly, the skin of the building is indeed its structure and visa versa.

The ideas made apparent in Skin + Bones represent the cross disciplinary-effort to advance societies notion of perceived space. By focusing on the most current of projects, the exhibit is projecting the direction of the future by identifying the radically progressive state of these fields today. In relating concepts seen in history to today’s high tech society, architecture’s imminent potential as a tool to redefine the urban condition becomes increasingly apparent.

February 10, 2007

Zaha's Performing Arts Center in Abu Dhabi: "Biological Beauty" or "Tourist Trap"

This week’s post is directed towards the recent unveiling of Zaha Hadid’s design for the Cultural Center in Abu Dhabi, which was commissioned by the Soloman R. Guggenheim Foundation and the Tourism Development Investment Company (TDIC). Zaha’s design relates to the surrounding cultural district, which will be populated by four additional institutions including the Contemporary Arts Museum by Frank Gehry Partners, the Classical Art Museum by Jean Nouvel Studios, the Maritime Museum by Tadao Ando, and the Sheikh Zayed National Museum (architect yet to be decided). Two comments (pasted below) to two blog posts from outside sources address issues of the project relating to first, the nature of the process that went into creating the design (and whether “organic architecture” is limited to the language of the signature style that Zaha has developed) and secondly, to the formal attributes of the project and the intent of the design (whether sensationalist or functional). The project is not only relevant to the topic of how the notion of urban space is progressing within the global community, but is also informative as to the role of architects within the socially and politically charged public realm within the Middle East.

Comment to Zaha Hadid in Abu Dhabi: Update from "Deezeen":

I agree that Hadid’s “biological analogy” is effectively applied to bring creative and inspiring solutions to both site and programmatic levels of the project. However, the notion of using “organic/natural” processes does not need to be constrained only to the curvilinear and amorphous formal language seen in Hadid’s work. Yes, the Center’s distinctive expression of form is one way of incorporating ideas relating to biological phenomena into the creation of space, but the processes seen in nature also employ more rectilinear and geometric forms and processes. When it comes down to it, the true test of the architectural process is the quality of the living spaces that manifest as its result. If Hadid only used eye-catching features for a strictly “sensationalistic” intent, than it is likely the spaces will be compromised as a result. However, if in fact the formal language of the project works for the enhancement of the occupied spaces of the building, than it would be unfair to allow the project to be given only to a sensationalist intent.

Comment to Keeping Up with the Jonses from "3 Quarks Daily":

I agree that the TDIC of Abu Dhabi and perhaps the Guggenheim Foundation have commissioned their architects to encourage tourism and to increase their local economy. However, I do not think that this can be seen as a reason to disregard the projects themselves as being of this same materialistic intent. Despite the growing trend of architecture as becoming a commodity used to boost national identity, it is still important to understand what the architecture itself is working to accomplish. Hadid’s Performing Arts Centre, for instance has integrated ideas relating to the circulation of people within the existing master-plan of the cultural center and has absorbed the dominant public corridors, the waterfront and pedestrian pathways. Hadid has used her architecture to embrace this energy and to open people up to ocean views, to views of the Abu Dhabi skyline, and to the rich program of performing arts theatres. Also public spaces have been integrated to the project in order to encouraged pollination between people along fluid pedestrian corridors. The meaning of her work thus goes beyond “destination architecture.”