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center +

i n co n temp o rary eu ro p ean arch i tecture



start beginning as a theory based on social constructs and socio-economic stability, the

p e r i p h e r y has evolved to cover many other subjects of interest. analyzing g e o - p o l i t i c a l movements, dissecting the evolution of l a n g u a g e , or even spanning into

idea of the

theories on






attempting to understand the center versus the

periphery in architecture is, in an undesignated way, an inherent part of designing buildings and


in an attempt to shrink the broadness of the center vs. periphery theory down to a more tangible scale of architecture, the study of contemporary european architecture as related to this theory has thus been broken down into the following three spatial categories which will be further used to reference each specific case study in the book:




by covering all types of


complete with similar

or different

programs, the study of these buildings aims to show just how applicable this theory is. it can be said that any categorically


study can involve understanding

the difference between the center and the periphery. the abstract is not to prove that the the



apparent. who

is in use, rather that when thinking about a building or space, between the center and the periphery becomes very

this can help, not only myself as an architecture student, but any person


a building in any capacity.

the inspiration for this book came from 4 months spent studying, photographing, examining, sketching, and just plain enjoying architecture all over europe, while using genova italy as my home base.

what an incredible opportunity.

j o e mcneill




center will


and like

this in the descriptions of each case study or when using buzz words which may relate to them.

movement how one moves or circulates within the space

when referencing a case study, each will be labeled

arrangement how the actual space is arranged throughout the building

with one or more of these sub-categories.

classification will best describe the function and experience of the building as indicative of the center vs. periphery concept.

gathering where one gathers, congregates, or spends an extended period of time within the space


case studies will occur on a city by city basis in a clockwise fashion.

genova_ [the center of the universe]

the bigo architect_ renzo piano building workshop 1985 | 2001


part of a full-scale rehabilitation of the old harbour of genova, ‘il bigo’ as it is affectionately called, represents the center of the port city and mimics the often random angles of shipping cranes that have historically dotted the skyline. its angled members jut out over the water, held together by a core platform that acts as the foundation below water. this central landmark of the city has dual functions - a recognizable sculpture and a structural support for other . it represents a perfect example of a larger scale urban project - a link between the port and the city - and also a singular architectural center structure that outward toward the . by unifying the port city of genova, the centralization of the bigo has had a greater urban effect than just the sculpture itself. this is a recurring theme in comparing the ideas of center and periphery and will be seen again throughout the book. often times, individual architectural impacts help to centralize the periphery - an often sought out result for the rethinking of urban and cultural landscapes.


georges pompidou center architect_ renzo piano + richard rogers 1971 | 1977

movement arrangement

initiated as a revitalization project in the ancient area of paris called le marais, this cultural endeavor changed all the rules of traditional building practice. with all of the programmatic requirements for the arts on the interior, all of the could then occur on the outside of the building, or the . thus, the [vertical ] is a focal point on the main of the building as it snakes its way diagonally from the bottom to the top. this allows for an increasingly impressive of paris as the visitor makes their ascent. the building as a whole, turns inside out the typical concept of center and periphery as far as architectural details - centralizing the program without the distraction of mechanical, plumbing, and conditioning. this is an insight into how changing the arrangement of space can enhance and certainly alter the experience of a building. not only is the pompidou a rarity in urban form, but it acts as a cultural icon for the rethinking of exhibition space and building practice. the more traditional central aspects of a building are reversed here giving more attention to the program details at the center, all the while creating an impressive and unique facade on the periphery. on a larger scale, the pompidou has had a centralizing impact on the city of paris as it has transformed a once unused area into a center for arts, culture and tourism.

the arab world institute architect_ jean nouvel 1987 | 1988


a revolutionary building in its attempts to make that open and close automatically according to the time of day, the arab institute building epitomizes the manifestation of the effects of . an all glass building, the sense of transparency it creates gives the visitor a sense of exposure and openness. the core circulation - an elevator and a are adjacent to each other, however, the staircase runs along the facade near the apertures and the elevator is at the center of the building. whichever, circulation one chooses, the dynamic movement can be seen very clearly in this area of the building. again, this is a case of a center circulation surrounded by program. the building has a museum, library, auditorium, restaurant, and offices. however, here, the use of material helps to change the central and peripheral relationship. glass walls, partitions and open circulation enhance the visibility from any corner of the building to another. this centralizing effect is simultaneously enhanced and contradicted by the mechanical apertures which control the amount of light in the space. despite the current state of these mechanisms, which are broken, the space still feels shaded while at the same time, bright.


the tate modern architect_ herzog + de meuron 1998 | 2000

movement arrangement gathering

sitting on the banks of the river thames, this former power station building was converted to an art museum in the bankside neighborhood. the staircase acts as the main circulation in the middle of the long, rectangular floorplan. as the visitor moves about the building, there is a clear indication between the which the central staircase. as the visitor moves around the gallery space between interconnected rooms, one can always find their way back towards the circulation to get to the next desired floor. this relationship between the two is important, as the primary experience of a museum should be the art allowing the clarity of movement about the space to happen instinctively. this is quite successful at the tate. along the way in between floors, there are also windows which overlook the rear gallery space, the turbine hall, housed within little boxes that seem to be stuck onto the outside of the main gallery space. these operate as a space.


cube houses architect_ piet blom 1984

movement arrangement the cube houses were designed as an innovative way to create housing on top of a pedestrian bridge in rotterdam, the netherlands. representative of a ‘forest’ of houses, the cubes are tilted at 45 degrees and rested on a hexagonal shaped pole. they are also arranged with a small shared courtyard space in the middle which is also open to the public. by skewing the idea of the cubic living volume, the center of these buildings have several different uses as one makes their way from the bottom to the . the cube is separated into three different levels with the top level glazed to allow for in the pyramidshaped space. the pole portion houses the stairs. applying the center and periphery theory to the cube houses is seemingly difficult because upon study and experience, the space is very abstract. the spaces have actually become so unliveable that they are no longer occupied by private tenants but owned by a hostel for travelers. nevertheless, the same basic concepts apply here as they would to any other basic urban housing project. by using the cube houses as our first look into housing concepts as related to the center + periphery, other examples prove to be much more understandable. although the spaces are abstract, the access or circulation, is vertical from the street level. stepping immediately into the center of the building in the living room area, the visitor occupies the largest space. one truly feels at the center of the cube. the desire to reach the periphery of the cube begins at the ascent to the second bedroom level. once at the top, the views provide the sense that a summit has been reached. also, the aforementioned central courtyard of the houses provides a sense of normalcy for the inhabitants, as it unifies the entire site and supplies other mixed-use opportunities. these mixed-use companies lie outside the living space placing them amongst the periphery. it can be deduced that the spatial experience of the cube houses is an uncomfortable one - this could be due to the constant feeling of being suppressed or always at the center. the inherent desire is to reach a flat surface - the only one of which is the floor itself - therefore, the basic human desire is to get out. the phenomenological effect that 90 degree surfaces has is apparent here. while an interesting concept in changing the basic cubic volume, it seems as though the periphery [or outside] is the only place to be desired when inside the cube house spaces.

the arc architect_ cepezed 1995

movement arrangement gathering

the arc was an urban response to a of the kop van zuid area in rotterdam. situated among existing buildings, the waterfront, and old warehouses, the required number of units amongst the limited amount of space proved challenging. the semi-circular fan-shaped space was the response. the of the curve provides a elevation to the and the inner courtyard and parking area is designated private space for the residents. the inner, concave portion also allows for the circulation to occur to all floors and gives each unit a of the from their living rooms and . this is an important contextual application of the center and periphery concepts. in order to adapt to the site, provide views, and stay within the necessary size, careful study into both concepts helps to create a hierarchy of architectural elements that need to be followed for this specific program - circulation as it relates to the units, the outside space as it relates to views, and the private space as it balances with the public facade. without cohesive interaction among all of these ideas, the spaces might not work. again, not only does it work as an individual project but also on an urban scale as well.


the vincent van gogh museum exhibition wing architect_ kisho kurokawa 1990 | 1999

the exhibition wing is a new construction project built to an permanent collection van gogh museum designed by gerrit rietveld. the curved shape of the building contrasts with its very rietveld . the interior space provides a direct connection with the existing building. through inner circulation and ambulatory access to each floor of the museum, the visitor is taken through a series of exhibitions in a generally effortless manner. the fluidity of the curves and the open area views help guide the visitor. the assymetry of the exhibition wing joins with the of the existing museum space in a way that is almost unrecognizable to the visitor. here, the center versus periphery understanding occurs through new versus existing construction. the relationship between the two, in its seamless way, allows the visitor to focus on the program, which is art. we see the museum take a secondary and even tertiary role in the display of the art - it becomes only a structure to house it - but in an aesthetically pleasing way. the difference between the eastern cultural response of the architect [kurokawa] to the western response [rietveld] to housing a great artists’ works is gracefully hidden.


freitag flagship store architect_ spillmann echsle architects 2006

movement arrangement

built in the industrial area of zurich, the freitag company needed a place to make and sell their new recycled bags made from truck tarps. the container architecture, as related to the product which they sell, was the ideal solution. amongst a fairly low skyline, the tall portion of the structure [9 containers], stays within the height guidelines of the zurich community. due to the one-sided nature of a truck container, however, conventional architectural elements such as openings, fenestration, mechanical, and plumbing are essentially non-existent and make it difficult to incorporate them into the design of an inhabitable building. there is a on the along with hidden like conditioning. the interesting relationship created here between building program and building services [like the pompidou center] is understood when looking at it through the center and periphery concept. stacked containers can only be connected by hollowing out the bottoms. this creates 2 options for circulation - either vertically through the narrow space or on the exterior or . however, by stacking another column of narrow to the first column, the space widens, creating a new horizontal axis with which to vary the building program, circulation, storage, etc. so, by adding containers to the of the center column, the periphery, in turn, becomes more centralized. this is a complicated way of explaining a basic building block game, but helps in understanding how space can relate to site, context, and program, while still mainatining the most basic architectural concept in containers.


new national gallery architect_ mies van der rohe 1962 | 1968


this simple, yet beautiful project uses materials to express the relationship between center and . the seemingly heavy which hovers over the light, jewel of a glass box creates a dichotomy of architectural materials which work together to form a cohesive, modern design. when inside the space, the 360 degree provide a constant relationship with the outside even at night. and conversely, when on the , there is still a relationship with the interior space. the latest art installation by richard serra [spring 2011] helps accentuate this phenomenon with a glowing cube in the middle with video installations that cover a wide array of colors viewable from all . whether day time or night, the idea of perpetually centralizing the periphery is apparent. the scale of the building is also impressive, as its low stature, in a way, gives it a stronger bearing on the site - like placing a brick on a piece of paper - the paper is bigger than the brick, yet the paper will never move so long as the brick is in place. this undefined interworking of materials, night and day, light and dark, glass and steel - show a correlation with the importance of forming a symbiotic relationship between center and periphery.

unite d’habitation architect_ le corbusier 1956 | 1959


the unite projects by le corbusier combine his theories on with his on architecture. the large-scale apartment building in berlin is actually on the of the city - hence, its large size. the simplicity of the form, though, is what makes it a seemingly successful building. on piloti, the concrete rises above the , providing living space above and below. corbusier also succeeded in providing to every unit, giving every resident outdoor space and a . when entering the main lobby of the building, the visitor must enter the elevator to reach the private space. the are at the two far ends of the long, narrow building, on the periphery. the lobby is opened to the public. once on the desired ‘strasse’ or floor, the residential corridor divides the down the middle, one row on the left and one on the right. the stark relationship of corridor to private space is reminiscent of a prison hallway, but it’s simplicity allows it to be beautiful through function. this central to relationship may be the most basic of all that we have seen, but could also be the most successful. here, we also see the private space, which is central, also become peripheral when looked at from the perspective of the corridor. these interchangeable relationships are what make the simplicity of the project become slightly more complex.


‘parco della musica’ auditorium architect_ renzo piano building workshop 1994 | 2002

arrangement gathering

this project is based around music. the 3 bug-like structures all house different programatic requirements for concert halls and live performances. the acoustic requirements of each drive the overall design, and they are in order to create sound buffering. the space between the creates a piazza, a common italian gathering space, as an open-air amphitheater for outdoor concerts. on a slightly larger scale, regarding the whole site, the auditorium area links to along the rear side of the site. the attention paid to both the positive and created by the large volumes is a significant tool to linking central aspects with its . this happens very clearly on 2 scales with the auditorium - architectural and urban. this contextual approach was very important to rome and proves to be very successful as a whole for the project. within the structures, cherry wood panels adorn the ceilings - a desired approach to the best acoustics available. typical of theaters and stages, the seating generally occurs in semi-circular fashion. the viewing angles are all prime - a relationship of peripheral viewer to central musician, artist, or actor. circulation is direct within the volumes and takes a back seat to these other architectural aspects.

red cow

d e s i g n .


Center + Periphery in Contemporary European Architecture  

a study into the application of the center versus periphery theory in contemporary european architecture while studying abroad in Genova Ita...

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