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The Architectural Review Issue number 1403 January 2014 Volume CCXXXV Founded 1896 Quam bene non quantum

13

Editorial view

14

Overview afritecture; hats off to Isabella Blow at Somerset House; restoration of Donald judd’s residence and studio

18

Broader view George Monbiot on rewilding our environment

20

View from Columbus, Indiana

23

Viewpoints Farshid Moussavi

24

Zaha Hadid Architects

‘Her life was a constant dance with death, with fashion as its cloaked accomplice’

Nigel Coates, p14

‘The Heydar Aliyev Centre is, even to the most intrepid Zaha follower, something of a shock to the system’

Peter Cook, p24

Heydar aliyev cultural centre, Baku, azerbaijan

38

Renzo Piano Building Workshop Kimbell art Museum extension, Fort Worth, uSa

52

Lacaton & Vassal FraC, Dunkirk, France

62

Sharon Davis Design Women’s Opportunity Centre, Kayonza, rwanda

71

Architecture and photography Two exhibitions in La on architecture captured by camera

80

Urbanism The animated city

90

Reviews The landscapes of Le Corbusier; the arctic; auguste Perret; archiLab at FraC; critical experiments in education

96

Archive Towards another architecture: july 1976 to December 1977

98

Reputations nikolaus Pevsner

102

Folio Kirsty Badenoch

‘The very simplicity of Piano’s design might tempt one to paraphrase Venturi, suggesting a ‘decorated shed’ but without the decoration’

Adrian Dannatt, p38

‘Embedded in the language is the belief that architects were male and architecture female, implying that the architect should be the master of the Mistress of the Arts’

Steve Parnell, p96

‘He said late in his career that whenever he saw his name in print now, it was usually preceded by the word not, as in ‘not, as Pevsner assumed ...’’

Susie Harries, p98

Cover: interior of the Heydar Aliyev Centre, Baku, Azerbaijan, by Zaha Hadid (p24). Photograph by Hufton + Crow ar | january 2014 3


contributors

Andrew Ayers is the author of The Architecture

of Paris and is a frequent contributor to this magazine. This month he reports on the Dunkirk FRAC by Lacaton & Vassal and the Auguste Perret exhibition at the Palais d’Iéna, Paris

Roberto Bottazzi is an architect, researcher and educator living in London. His research on the impact of globalisation and digital technology on architecture and urbanism has been widely published. He visited the ArchiLab exhibition at FRAC in Orléans Peter Buchanan is a London-based architecture

writer and lecturer. Former AR Deputy Editor, this month he reviews a recent exhibition at MoMA in New York, Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscape, and the accompanying book

Nigel Coates is an English architect, author,

and prolific designer of interiors, exhibitions, products and lighting. In this issue he reviews the Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! exhibition at London’s Somerset House

Peter Cook is an architect, educator and long-time

columnist of the AR. He was founder of Archigram and now practises with Gavin Robotham as CRAB studio (Cook Robotham Architectural Bureau). He assesses Zaha Hadid’s Heydar Aliyev cultural centre in Baku, Azerbaijan

Catherine Croft is a journalist, campaigner

and director of the Twentieth Century Society. She describes the restoration of Donald Judd’s house at 101 Spring Street in New York’s Soho in this month’s Overview

Adrian Dannatt is an artist, art critic, writer, editor and journalist. As a child he was the star of the television series Just William. Here he appraises Renzo Piano’s extension to the Kimbell Art Museum, originally designed by Louis Kahn, in Fort Worth, Texas

Jonathan Glancey is an architectural critic

and writer who began his career as Assistant Editor on the AR, and went on to be architecture and design editor at The Guardian from 1997 to 2012. This month he writes on the animated city

Susie Harries is a writer specialising in culture,

history and the arts. Her most recent book, Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life, was awarded the 2011 Wolfson History Prize. She gives us the essence of the man in Reputations

the architectural review

Ayla Lepine is an architectural historian and writer, and is currently a teaching associate in the Department of Art History at the University of Nottingham. This month she reviews Imperial Gothic by GA Bremner

editorial

Lesley Lokko is a Ghanaian-born Scottish architect,

Creative Director

academic and novelist who divides her time between Johannesburg, London, Accra and Edinburgh. She attended the recent Afritecture symposium at the architecture museum in Munich

Andrew Mead is a London-based writer interested in landscape, architecture and photography. This month he reviews the Arctic exhibition at the Louisiana museum, Humlebaek, Denmark George Monbiot is a writer and Guardian columnist

known for his environmental and political activism. His latest book Feral advocates rewilding Britain, which he explains in Broader View

Farshid Moussavi is director of Farshid Moussavi

Architecture and professor in practice in the Department of Architecture, Harvard University Graduate School of Design. She gives us this month’s Viewpoints on the art of planning

Nicholas Olsberg was chief curator of the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. In these pages he discusses the relationship between architecture and photography

Steve Parnell is a lecturer at the University of Nottingham. He holds a doctorate on the role of the architectural magazine. In the new Archive section he assesses the AR’s Towards Another Architecture series that ran between July 1976 and December 1977 Jack Self is a London-based designer and

writer. He founded Fulcrum, the Architectural Association’s weekly magazine, in 2011. This month he reviews Contestations: Learning from Critical Experiments in Education

Michael Webb is an architectural writer and critic based in Los Angeles. This month he writes on the Women’s Opportunity Centre in Kayonza, Rwanda by Sharon Davis Design

Editor

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Editorial view The AR archive illuminates the story of modern architecture

In a magazine as long lived as the ar (founded in 1896), there is a perpetual sense of being a privileged witness to the history of modern architecture. In a fascinating sub-plot, you can also track the changing ways in which this history is presented; the medium as well as the message. When the ar came into being, photography was still in its infancy, so drawings were the main means of conveying all kinds of subject matter, from architecture to the decorative arts. The cover of the first issue featured an ink drawing by the then editor, Henry Wilson, depicting the Spirit of architecture, a sort of arts & Crafts goddess, heroically leading her sisters of the other arts towards the future. now Wilson’s goddess would be brandishing an iPad, showing the way to new digital opportunities for both architects and publishers. Since that first issue there have been another 1,402. The buildings, ideas and discourse that shaped and defined the modern architectural era are now contained in 234 bound volumes occupying around 9 metres of shelf space. To our knowledge, there are only two complete collections in existence, one in our London offices and the other in the rIBa Library. Leafing through our back pages is always a compelling experience, but clearly future generations of architects, scholars and other interested parties will not necessarily have the opportunity or patience to engage with a physical entity resembling a medieval chained library. So a key ambition, starting this year, is to digitise the entire archive in order to disseminate more

widely the ar’s rich repository of ideas, insight and intelligence and in a way that chimes more aptly with the technology of the times and the needs of our readers. Making our past more accessible will intensify the ar’s relationship with architecture and the global community of architects. rather than a static physical entity, the archive’s myriad digital currents will feed into and sustain a complex and evolving organism in ways our predecessors could only have dreamt of. as part of this engagement we are introducing a new section, Archive, which will examine key moments in architectural history and bring to life the changing relationship between the message and the medium. Curated by Steve Parnell, the first article (p96) considers ‘Towards another architecture’, a 1970s campaign to encourage architecture to recover its ‘grip on social imagination’, in the same way as the ar’s recent Big Rethink attempted to redefine the correlation between architecture, society and ecology. Being a journal of record is a crucial part of the ar’s mission and appeal. But it’s not enough just to be a passive witness, ‘an architectural Debrett, the recorder and illustrator of an established aesthetic’, as Parnell notes, quoting from an ar editorial of 1976. now more than ever, architectural magazines must be relevant and engaging, propositional rather than reactive, cultivating an agile and fertile reciprocity between different media to illuminate the past, present and future of architecture.

Catherine Slessor, Editor

ar | january 2014 13


Overview MUNICH, GERMANY

Good intentions and bad deeds As the spotlight falls on Africa following the death of Nelson Mandela, a timely exhibition on the continent’s built environment gives cause for hope, writes Lesley Lokko

The ANC ambition was ‘to decently house’ 12.5 million South Africans; sadly it failed 14 ar | january 2014

Last month in Munich, a group of architects, activists and academics met to talk about african architecture under the rubric of ‘building social change’. On Friday 6 December, the world woke to the news that nelson Mandela had peacefully passed away the night before. I happened to be in johannesburg at the time; shortly after 9am, someone sent me an image (which I won’t share with you) of an angrylooking young (black) man, staring into the camera with the words, ‘RDP Mandela. We Will Remind You’ stamped across it. I looked at it for a moment, unsure whether to laugh or cry. rDP, South africa’s Reconstruction and Development Programme is perhaps Mandela’s most troubled legacy. It was implemented in 1994 by his anC administration to address the immense socio-economic disparities brought about by the consequences of apartheid across a range of sectors from land reform to healthcare, and nowhere has it remained more controversial than in the realm of the built environment, particularly housing. By anyone’s standards, it was a wildly ambitious project: to ‘decently house’ 12.5 million South africans without proper housing, access to clean water, electricity, sewage systems, and so on. nearly two decades on, the dream of a better life for all remains disappointingly unfulfilled. Perhaps the most damning criticism (if you’re an architect, at least), lies not just in the overall design of the programme, but in design itself. rDP houses are uniformly cheap, dreary and ugly, resembling the bleak building programmes of the apartheid state Madiba fought his whole life to bring down. In Long Walk to Freedom, he recalls Soweto, which he visited after his release from prison, as ‘the teeming metropolis of matchbox houses, tin shanties and dirt roads, the mother city of black urban South africa, the only home I knew as a man before I went to prison’.

Parts of Soweto have changed beyond belief, granted, but it’s also true to say there’s often little difference between the new models of urban development, and the old. In the South african nobel Laureate nadine Gordimer’s collection of essays, The Essential Gesture (1998), there’s a sentence that I cannot forget: ‘row upon interchangeable row of identical brick cabins in barrack formation without any architectural reference points to community − add or subtract a row here or there, nothing would be noticed, the dreary paradigm of black segregated townships. With all the world’s experience of humanizing low-cost housing at their planners disposal, [rural South africans] are passing from their round thatched huts to this?’ ‘This’ − architecture, planning, building social change − was the topic very much at the heart of the discussions in Munich last month. South africa (and by extension, the rest of the continent) will be the focus of the world’s attention for the next few weeks, and although it couldn’t possibly have been predicted, in a curiously elegant way, the Tu Munich’s somewhat risky decision to put on this exhibition has already paid off. Why risky? Well, ‘africa’ is always risky. at the best of times, ‘africa’ is a difficult subject, for inhabitants and visitors alike, dogged by a potent mixture of emotions that are often difficult to disguise or deflect. Guilt, anger, passion, fascination, sorrow, hope and joy ... all of human emotion is embedded in the discourse, no matter how we try to hide it. We’re careful with our language, cautious with our thoughts, often unsure how to proceed, how to work out what we think or say, or even why. In terms of architecture, the potential for our words (and works) to fall into that murky territory between good intention and bad deed, is huge. Currently showing at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, the 29

practices whose work features in this ambitious exhibition straddle this line (or lines) with varying degrees of sophistication, success and ease. Part of this has nothing to do with the selected practices, or even their projects. There’s an ambiguity in the exhibition title itself − ‘Afritecture’ − and its strap-line − ‘Building Social Change’ − that manifests itself across the exhibition and accompanying symposium in different but compelling ways. To begin with, there’s the unspoken but hopeful expectation that the term ‘Afritecture’ will finally deliver a concrete (sorry) vision of contemporary african architecture, almost irrespective of building typology or programme. We’ve all been waiting for it and for quite some time, too. But ‘building social change’ promises something different − architecture with a conscience, heart, that promises to do good, make things somehow better ... and therein lies the tension. The uncomfortable twinning of desires is further provoked in the ways in which so many of the projects featured in the exhibition have come about. roughly two-thirds are ‘development’-driven, products of that complex intertwining of local interests, and those of the international aid-anddevelopment agencies for whom africa remains a primary stomping ground. It’s a complicated cauldron, one that inevitably produces its own distinctive cuisine. But how are we to judge the results? By whose standards of taste, sensitivity or ethics? at what scale and in what context? The vast majority of the works featured are by Western-trained architects, and although more than half of the projects are by african architects, most studied or worked in the West, tasked with that difficult job of translation between local, culturally specific practices and global standards of aesthetics and production.


wieland gleich

Luyanda Mpahlwa’s Sandbag Houses in Cape Town: timber frames and sandbag infill construction present a cheerful, cost-effective, energy-efficient solution for the community and yet it’s even more complicated than that. The Irish architect Killian Doherty (whose own project, the Kimisagara Community Centre in Kigali, rwanda, is featured in the exhibition), sums it up perfectly. ‘How can Western practice outrun the ghosts of the postcolonial and come closer to a modern african architecture? as

interests between local (african) government, international nGOs and architects are inextricably linked, is this contemporary mode of practice simply the newest face of neocolonialism?’ It’s a tough and uncomfortable question and my guess is that the answers will take time to emerge. Happily, Afritecture: Building Social Change isn’t afraid to put

The Kimisagara Centre in Kigali, Rwanda uses football to catalyse social reconciliation

these contradictions centre-stage and let its authors, architects and audience thrash it out. There are some beautiful and moving projects: Diébédo Francis Kéré’s Educational Facility and Women’s Centre (Burkina Faso); Luyanda Mpahlwa’s Sandbag Houses (South africa); the Tu Munich’s Skills Centre (Kenya); Doherty’s Kimisagara Community Centre (rwanda) and Sharon Davis’s Women’s Opportunity Centre (also in rwanda, see p62) stand out, for different reasons. Some are sensuous, poetic spaces; others have a history of design development and community involvement that eclipses what they might look (or feel) like. Some are almost über-urban, some remote and rural, and others lie in that indeterminate, ‘informal’ space in between that is somehow particular to africa. at the day-long seminar that accompanied the exhibition, there were some memorable moments; frank, provocative

and perhaps even painful conversations over the course of the day. a brilliant closing presentation from an austrian architect that wasn’t about africa at all, but about building a centre for the homeless in Vienna, which neatly brought the subtext of social change back full circle − a poignant reminder that africa doesn’t have a monopoly on social injustice. Over the past decade, there have been a handful of key events in the emerging discourse around african architecture that really stand out. This is one of them. In spite of the complexities (and possibly even because of them), there is enormous creative potential constantly welling underneath the surface of this discourse, flammable, like oil. rDP planners are duly reminded. Please take note.

☛ Afritecture: Building Social Change, at the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich until 2 February

ar | january 2014 15


LoNdoN, UK

Blown away as Marc jacobs says, museum shows about fashion never really work. ‘They kill the clothes dead when what they need is to be worn, to give them life and movement.’ In Isabella Blow’s case this is no longer an option. a vivacious fashion driver whose depression was her achilles heel, she died by her own hand in 2008, leaving behind the rich, bumptious collection presented at Somerset House. at lunch a few days after the opening, two über-fashion friends could not contain themselves. ‘It’s too soon, no distance’ they chirruped. Certainly she was never comfortable in life and often joked about ending things. Despite her innate enthusiasm and an unerring conviction for the currency of style, her life was a constant dance with death, with fashion as its cloaked accomplice. Gown after gown, and hat after hat, visiting this exhibition you are reminded how cleverly Isabella hid behind versions of the same flamboyant mask. Many of Philip Treacy’s hats partially obscure the face, or in some cases cover it completely. a scarf caught in the wind appears to stick to her profile, covering her eyes, and all but compromising her identity. But fashion always expends much more energy avoiding capture than articulating hard and fast rules. Here the aptly titled Fashion Galore! stirs its essence: to abstain from any rationale, to assert its very newness while sidling alongside its ciphers and stereotypes. Therein lies its relevance − even to architects. The riverside galleries at Somerset House are never easy; their bridge-like configuration demands clever distraction from the rigidity of the path they prescribe. rightly the exhibition begins at the beginning, in a dark 16 ar | january 2014

diego Uchitel

Nigel Coates

The ultimate designers’ muse, the late Isabella Blow habitually hiding behind a mask valve of a room filled with family memorabilia; we learn that Isabella was born into an aristocratic family that fell on hard times, and it was fashion that helped reshape her personality. She championed young designers, in particular Hussein Chalayan, alexander McQueen and hat designer Philip Treacy, buying their degree collections and promoting them however and whenever she could. In the front row at McQueen’s thrilling autumn/Winter 1996 catwalk presentation entitled Dante, and held provocatively in Christchurch, Spitalfields, she cheer-led his unique combination of cutting skill and punk macabre. Clothes she acquired from it are installed here on mannequins arranged statue-like on tall plinths in a colonnaded chapel, sadly more Mussolini than Hawksmoor, and no match for Christchurch. The architectural additions continue with walls of safety plastic and mirrored louvres. We climb the stair to the principal galleries and enter

a sequence of spaces dedicated to various fashion moments in which Blow was instrumental. She was always in her element when ‘truffling for talent’. More fabulous clothes, more scintillating hats, and yes, her voice rings through. We learn about her passionate orchestration of clothes not only to wear, but how they appear in the fashion stories she edited for the likes of The Face, Tatler and the Sunday Times. at her height she was an essential presence at any fashion event that counted; she not only wore the clothes but was a fashion guiding light that was always hot on the trail. ‘I need a silhouette that won’t catch in car doors.’ For it wasn’t only hats she loved. Design collaborator Shona Heath offsets the dry rigidity of Carmody Groarke’s layout with some wayward display cases for smaller items like shoes and accessories. adding occasional outbursts of surrealistic exuberance, these TV-like blocks sprout arms and limbs − a pair of odd shoes (so Issy). and there are

more shoes by the most desirable of designers like Manolo Blahnik and alain Tondowski. Often they had been worn into the ground. Given this swirling lifestyle and the sheer energy of Issy and her clothes, the mannequins in militaristic line-ups seem off kilter. Wouldn’t it have been possible for us, the visitors, to mix more equivocally with the mannequins? The architecture of the show colludes with the clothes to take over, and sometimes Issy’s voice seems dulled to a whisper, most literally in a circular side-chamber dedicated to some of her finest outfits. More mannequins on high plinths, this time with spooky Issy faces and occasional transparent bubble masks, fill the room with yet more exquisite hats and gowns. But close to the wall you can hear her talking. She’s living the life, hurrying from city to city, show to show. By sticking to the walls in the manner of the dome at St Paul’s, she speaks to you from the beyond. Very clever. Seeing the culture of clothes through the eyes of the wearer, and in Blow’s case the obsessive collector, adds insight in spades. avoiding the behest of the designers themselves, this is a refreshing way of interpreting fashion. But rather than letting the story loose, curiously the ‘architecture’ impedes it. I am reminded of the clichéd view of the architectural temperament − that which imposes order and geometry wherever possible. Whether in fashion, or dance, or music, when geometry is involved people misinterpret it as architectural. Gianfranco Ferré’s clothes were said to be ‘architectural’. But surely there is more to architecture than that? When called upon to do, and this exhibition is a good example, architecture should be able to evoke movement rather than contain it.

☛Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! is at Somerset House, London, until 2 March 2014


Conservative measures Catherine Croft

joshUa white

architect adam yarinsky of architecture research Office (arO) thinks experiencing Donald judd’s art can help architecture make a more vital connection to contemporary life. It is this conviction that made the design-led practice want to take on a restoration. Writing about one of judd’s large-scale works, yarinsky says: ‘… it was not an object to which I reacted, but rather an instigator of a new reciprocal relationship between itself and me’. Similarly 101 Spring Street intuitively gives every visitor a heightened sense of spatial awareness. yarinsky has also discovered (from judd’s bookcase) that he and judd shared an interest in adolf Loos, particularly in the complex interlocking of spaces. I buy his argument that 101 Spring Street is not primarily a historic building, but essentially a very large work of art, of profound relevance to architecture. judd bought the whole of 101 Spring Street in 1968, when new york’s SoHo was a run-down industrial district; blighted by plans for robert Moses’ Lower Manhattan Expressway (judd was to join the successful

conservation battle against this massive piece of proposed infrastructure). Many artists moved into the area, attracted by cheap buildings with large floorplates and generous windows, but few developed such an intense relationship with their surroundings. 101 was designed by nicholas Whyte and built in 1870. It is a classic cast-iron building: a largely prefabricated, systembuilt structure. Its proto-modern credentials appeal to yarinsky, who points out that it makes less attempt than most of its neighbours to replicate masonry details. although it would originally have been painted a stone colour, with sand added to emulate stone, it has been kept the grey of judd’s era. Its prominent facades wrap a corner site in the Cast Iron District. In 1989 judd wrote an essay about the building and the aim has been to return it to the state it was in when judd died in 1994. When judd acquired the building, there was a different business on each floor. Following a notorious garment district fire, building code changes required the addition of an external fire escape, sprinklers, and enclosure of the open staircase − crude and pragmatic works. judd’s view had been that the building should be repaired and basically not changed, and

Judd’s loft with art works by John Chamberlain, Claus oldenburg and Stephen Flavin

joshUa white

NEw YoRK, USA

The restored building sits resplendent on a corner site of the Cast Iron district he allocated separate floors for sleeping, eating and working. He partially re-opened out the stair, and began to install large-scale art work. Every intervention he made was very deliberate and has specific impact on how the component parts of each floor are read. For instance, on the third floor there is no skirting board and a narrow shadow gap between the floor and the walls − so the floor is a simple plane, while the fourth floor has identical floor and ceiling. The subtle differences are crucial. The restoration faced two outstanding challenges: how not to detract from this careful orchestration of space (specifically how to provide fire safety without subdividing each floor from the staircase again) and how to improve environmental performance. arup helpfully developed a performance-based fire protection system, installing very early warning smoke detectors which continuously sample air. a back-up generator on the roof (rebuilt to carry a very heavy plant load) provides emergency power for air intake and exhaust fans, as well as the discreet computer-controlled fire shutters on the second and ground floor. Computational fluid dynamic modelling of possible fire scenarios demonstrated that this would give staff and visitors time to escape. a reworking of the envelope

was critical to improving environmental performance. a special scaffold enveloped the building throughout the construction period, allowing the largest art works to be boxed up in situ (they were too big to move). There has been no attempt to freeze the exterior in a state of artful decay: the building now has the perfect restoration judd never managed. The cast iron was extensively repaired, with 1,300 non-structural elements being taken off site for thorough cleaning, patching, and in a few instances allowing the recasting replacements. Spandrel panels were refixed with concealed stainless-steel brackets. Every individual sash has been replaced with a new doubleglazed unit, but careful choice of replacement glass, and a dark edge spacer between panes minimises visual impact. The window frames were taken off site, but have been reinstated, complete with carefully preserved chipped paintwork. In contrast, walls have been replastered to match judd’s choice of material, but while his efforts soon stained as residual oil seeped out of the building, the decision has been made to ‘correct’ this fault in the restoration. Similarly judd’s bathroom floors were pitted plywood, painted grey, but it was decided to honour judd’s intention and install the slate he would have liked instead. The original rope-operated lift provides level access, and an adjacent set of cupboards has furnished a service riser. neither of the two basement staircases was code compliant, and both have been replaced, allowing arO their biggest design input (welded steel plate referencing judd’s work and the industrial context − possibly confusing, but pleasingly understated). yarinsky has the selfawareness to appreciate that he has not applied a pure conceptual ethos, but has made dozens of individual decisions. The project makes the case for intelligent pragmatism over dogma. ar | january 2014 17


Broader view Walk on the wild side Rewilding our environment would take us back to a healthier balance, restoring lost natural food chains, says George Monbiot

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Have you ever wondered why most deciduous trees can resprout from wherever the trunk is broken? How they can withstand the extraordinary amount of damage done to them − hacking, splitting, twisting, trampling − when a hedge is laid? Why understorey trees such as holly and box are so much stronger and hardier than canopy trees like oak and beech, even though they carry less weight and are subject to lower shear forces from the wind? There is, I believe, a single explanation for all these mysteries. Elephants. Does that sound ridiculous? If so, it’s because we have forgotten that ours is an elephant-adapted ecosystem. until around 30,000 years ago, Europe was dominated by the straight-tusked elephant (Elephas antiquus). It was a temperate forest species, much larger than any elephants alive today. any trees that could not withstand its attentions would quickly have been wiped out. There are also signs, in some of our thorny shrubs, of rhino adaptation. There were two species of browsing rhinos in Europe: the Merck’s and the narrow-nosed. There were also hippos, hyaenas and lions, all living in a climate similar to today’s. In fact lions persisted in Europe throughout the ice age. They pursued reindeer across the frozen tundra of southern Britain. until a few hundred years ago, grey whales fed in estuaries all over Europe. until the 18th century, fin whales and sperm whales harried shoals of herring within sight of the British coast. For several years the worldrecord bluefin tuna was one caught off Scarborough on the yorkshire coast in 1933. Elephants of several species also lived in the americas, as well as a beaver the size of a black bear, armadillos as big as small cars, ground sloths the weight of elephants and monstrous predators, such as the great american lion, the giant sabretooth and the short-faced

bear − which appears to have specialised in driving giant lions and sabretooths off their prey. The argentine roc (Argentavis magnificens) had a wingspan of 26 feet. Sabretooth salmon 9 feet long migrated up Pacific rivers. These animals, like megafaunas almost everywhere, were hunted to extinction by people. Megafaunas were once universal, on land and at sea. Ours is a ghost ecosystem, adapted, like our ghost psyches, to circumstances that no longer prevail. all this has been forgotten by almost everyone, including many professional ecologists. The elephant in the forest is the elephant in the room: the huge and obvious fact almost everybody has overlooked. For me, this thought − that the mark of these animals can be seen in every park and avenue and leafy street − infuses the world with new wonders. Palaeoecology − the study of past ecosystems, crucial to an understanding of our own − feels like a portal through which we may pass into an enchanted kingdom. The megafauna lives on in our stories. The heroic epics we have preserved − tales of ulysses, Sinbad, Sigurd, Beowulf, Cú Chulainn, St George, arjuna, Lac Long Quân or Glooskap − are those which resonate with our evolutionary history. In computer games, fantasy novels and films, the ancient sagas of battles with lost monsters maintain their essential form. We retain a suite of behavioural and emotional adaptations to a dangerous world. We invent quests and sports to provide safe outlets for these urges. To know this about ourselves and the world we inhabit is, I believe, radically to alter our sense of self. The fisheries scientist Daniel Pauly invented a term that’s crucial to an understanding of how we see the world: shifting baseline syndrome. The people of every generation perceive the ecosystems they encountered in their childhood as normal, even

if those ecosystems were in fact highly depleted. With every generation, the ratchet turns a little further, and we become less aware of what went before. This is one of the reasons, for example, why the great bald uplands of Britain are widely considered natural. People eulogise the ‘natural beauty’ of the Lake District, the Pennines, Snowdonia and the Scottish Highlands, whose hills are almost treeless. But that bare state is the result of centuries of intensive grazing, mostly by sheep, which have reduced complex forest ecosystems to something resembling a bowling green with contours. In doing so, the sheep have destroyed not only most of the wildlife of the hills, but also the ability of the land to retain water. Dense vegetation absorbs even very heavy rain when it falls, then releases it slowly. But bare hills, whose soil has been compacted by grazing animals, scarcely absorb it at all. It flashes off, causing floods downstream, followed by water shortages. Partly because we have forgotten how watersheds used to function, we have tried to address the problems of both flooding and falling water tables at the end of the pipe, concentrating on what happens on the floodplains while ignoring the far greater influences upstream. Only when we understand that the hills were once largely forested does the obvious solution jump out at us: reforest some of the hills. This is an example of rewilding. rewilding means the mass restoration of ecosystems. It’s not an attempt to restore primordial wilderness, which is by definition impossible, but to permit ecological processes to resume. Over the past few decades, ecologists have discovered the existence of widespread trophic cascades. These are processes caused by animals at the top of the food chain, which tumble all the way to the bottom. Predators and large herbivores can transform the places in which


Natasha Durley

they live. In some cases they have changed not only the ecosystem but also the nature of the soil, the behaviour of rivers, the chemistry of the oceans and even the composition of the atmosphere. These findings suggest that the natural world is composed of even more fascinating and complex systems than we had imagined. They alter our understanding of how ecosystems function and present a radical challenge to some models of conservation. They make a powerful case for the reintroduction of large predators and other missing species. already, species such as wolves, bears, lynx, bison, moose and beaver are spreading back across Europe, re-occupying places from which they had been exterminated. The main reasons are that there is less persecution and that farming is retreating from infertile places. One estimate suggests that between 2000 and 2030, farmers on the European continent will vacate around 30 million hectares of land, an area roughly the size of Poland. If this is the case, perhaps it’s unambitious only to consider the re-establishment of the species that are coming back. Perhaps we should also think of bringing back our lost megafauna. The same species of lions, hyaenas and hippos live in africa today. The asian elephant might make a good substitute for the straight-tusked elephant, the black rhino for the two browsing species we have lost. Why, if the land is available, should we not have a Serengeti on our doorsteps? Wouldn’t that enhance our lives, reinvesting them with thrills we have lost as we have reduced and harnessed the natural world? rewilding gives us the chance to construct a positive environmentalism, a better future rather than inexorable decline. It offers us the hope that our silent spring could be followed by a raucous summer.

George Monbiot’s Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding is published by Allen Lane

ar | january 2014 19


View from... Fire Station No 4 by Venturi Rauch Scott Brown is one of many remarkable buildings commissioned for Columbus, Indiana by the Irwin family

Columbus, Indiana The enlightened patronage of an American industrialist has something to teach us about how to make great places, says Simon Henley

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Some 23 years ago I drove 13,500 miles around north america in search of great architecture. My journey took me from Eugene, Oregon, where I was studying, to most of the great american cities and I saw firsthand the best that Wright, Mies, Kahn, Saarinen, Gehry, Meier and Morphosis had to offer. My one regret: I missed Fire Station no 4 by Venturi rauch Scott Brown. It was an accident. We had arrived in Columbus and found Peter Eisenman’s Wexner Center. It was the building of the moment in the style of the moment. It was OK. We then set off in search of the fire station. But, we failed. a few days later we realised we had been in the wrong state. We had of course been in Columbus, Ohio, not Columbus, Indiana. In 2013 I cycled from Chicago to new york. This time, my route took me to the other Columbus where, at last, I stood in front of Fire Station no 4. In the flesh it was tiny but just as remarkable as it had been the first time I set eyes on its silhouette in a book. We spent less than 24 hours in Columbus but in that short time sought out works by Eliel Saarinen, Eero Saarineen, rocheDinkeloo, IM Pei, Harry Weese and Edward Larrabee Barnes. This time I had done my research. I knew that there was more to see than Fire Station no 4 but I had no idea quite

how much and why this remote city should harbour such great works of architecture. The answer was patronage. The story begins in 1937 when the Irwin family commissioned Eliel Saarinen to design the First Christian Church. The Irwins had settled in Columbus in the mid-19th century, established a general store, then the Irwin union Bank and Trust and in 1919 the Cummins Engine Company which pioneered the commercial diesel engine. Eliel worked on the church with his son Eero and ray Eames. In the 1950s Eero designed a glazed pavilion downtown for the Bank and a house for j Irwin Miller. after his death in 1961, his associates Kevin roche and john Dinkeloo took over the practice and designed the downtown Columbus Post Office (1965) with its monumental tiled masonry and Corten steel arcade, and, across the road the Cummins Engine Company HQ (1977), which is where our visit began. It wasn’t long before our curiosity about the Cummins building yielded an impromptu tour by a knowledgeable member of staff. The tour led to the basement where the walls were adorned with photos of fine buildings, which it turned out were all right here serving a city with a population of just 44,000. Between 1957 and 1998 the Cummins Foundation

architectural Program funded 42 public buildings including Venturi’s Fire Station no 4; 12 schools by The architects’ Collaborative, Edward Larrabee Barnes, Gunnar Birkerts, john M johansen, Mitchell Giurgola and richard Meier; rocheDinkeloo’s post office; a number of apartment buildings by Gwathmey Siegel; the county hospital by robert Stern; and the county courthouse, county library, county jail and city hall. Cycling around the leafy streets of Columbus, stumbling upon these works that stand side by side with small town american homes, it is strikingly obvious that this is not patronage as we know it. The town’s designers were chosen from a ‘list of first-rank american architects ... suggested by a disinterested group of the country’s most distinguished architects’. Those commissioning the work then ‘had independent control of the project, design and budget’. unlike new york, Paris or London, patronage Columbusstyle doesn’t bring financial reward, media attention and cultural kudos. Instead, it makes a better place and a richer physical environment because it’s possible, and because you can. The British have learnt many bad habits from americans but this is an exceptionally good one to which we should pay very careful attention.


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Viewpoints

farshid moussavi

Planning is a lost art form

last words

Going through the uK planning process can be very trying for architects and clients as decisions are made ‘case-by-case’ by individual borough planning departments. The system is exposed to unpredictable factors: the sensibility of the planner in charge; the discussions that the department has had about adjacent sites; any previous relationship the department has had with the client; the politics within the planning committee; and so on. Without a masterplan to guide it, a long negotiation ensues between the planning officers and the architect (and their planning consultant) until an option is approved or the proposal is dismissed entirely. Obtaining permission in the uK has indeed become an art form in itself. It is true that planning departments confront a great challenge in deciding how to regulate design in urban environments built mostly by the private sector. new york has a similarly negotiated planning process for large sites considered to have particular public significance or impact. However, on smaller sites, zoning and design guidelines created by urban designers who work for the city govern building envelopes, massing and facades. If you follow the rules, no approval is needed (‘as of right’ development). In these cases, architects/clients have clarity about the requirements; while the design guidelines protect the public’s interest. Paris has a design-led planning system which has been refined ever since the 19th century when Haussmann devised a coherent

urban system that could be built by countless developers. With the exception of the ‘light and air’ zoning of the 1960s, design guidelines continue to be created by architects working for the government as urban designers in the City Planning Department and the atelier Parisien d’urbanisme (aPur). These then facilitate individual planning applications with parameters that are not dogmatically rigid, allowing architects some flexibility in their solutions. Within such guidelines, contemporary architects have managed to be quite innovative, working with given alignments, density and light requirements but testing new materials and forms. In the case of new development areas in France, an architect is similarly appointed by the city as an urban designer to develop an area masterplan; they are then retained as coordinating architects for several years to supervise and give guidance on all individual planning applications for sites within those masterplans. The uK and French systems are diametrically opposite. The French system is projective: architectes-urbanistes draw up masterplans to inform decisions made subsequently for each site. The uK system is reactive: there is no holistic vision going forward, and applications are decided individually. In the projective model, as the planning officers are advised by their architecteurbaniste, they can take the position of design negotiators. In the reactive model, the planning officers must act as Feng Shui masters and divine the dynamics of a given site solely grounded on

past decisions. as in any stare decisis legal model, this curbs future thinking and encourages the retroactive and conservative. regardless of which system is adopted, a ‘bridge practice’ is needed to ensure that planning decisions about individual sites are informed by a vision for the city: not just form, the insulating skin and site specificity. To this end, the previous uK government set up CaBE (the Commission for architecture and the Built Environment), comprised of architects and engineers, to review each planning proposal from the perspective of design; however the current government has cut all its funding. In the uK a bridge is therefore needed more than ever to make explicit, as part of the planning process, the three-dimensional implications of written policy and make the case for a robust urban form. I personally really enjoy the uK system: it is not ‘projective’ but it turns the city as an idea into a permanent construction site. However it is at its best when planners with design acumen (such as Peter rees) engage confidently in the process, creating a productive dialogue leading to both better architectural design and stronger visions for the city. Otherwise, just as architects have planning consultants as their advisors on planning matters, planners need urban designers as their advisors on design matters. an urban designer or urbaniste in every planning department could become the advocate that makes the balance between the case-bycase concerns of planners and architects’ projective imaginations.

‘You could argue this is not essential, but if life is only about the essentials, you end up with those wretched places in the world that I don’t want to visit’

‘I really do believe that the world can be saved through design, and everything needs to actually be architected’

‘It’s really embarrassing that they come up with nonsense like this. What are they saying? Everything with a hole in it is a vagina?

thomas heatherwick on his thames garden bridge proposal for london

Kanye west surprises students by turning up unannounced at harvard Graduate school of design, quoted on archdaily, 24 November

Zaha hadid quoted in the Guardian, 28 November, defending her design of the al-wakrah stadium in Qatar

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peak flow Confounding context, scale and materiality, the Heydar Aliyev Centre adds to a growing repertoire of prodigious object buildings in the ambitious, oil-rich capital of Azerbaijan

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Heydar Aliyev Centre, Baku, Azerbaijan, Zaha Hadid Architects

1. (previous page) supremely tactile curves frame views of grimly functional soviet-era apartment slabs in Azerbaijan’s capital city 2&3. (Left and overleaf) confounding scale, context and materiality, meringue-like peaks ripple across the vast piazza

CritiCism

peter Cook When we send out a probe into space we claim that it is all about understanding, discovery and a celebration of technology, but underneath all that effort we are surely seeking reassurance and some flora, fauna or at least odd drops of water that might suggest we are not alone in the universe. The architectural traveller is much the same: seeking reassurance − relishing the discovery that other societies need to store food, support roofs, celebrate the point of entry, prepare the foreground and seduce us into a comfortable recognition of those same values and habits that we enjoy ourselves … ‘Oh − so that’s alright’. Well, the Heydar aliyev Centre isn’t going to play their game: it is anything but reassuring, anything but cosy, and even to the most intrepid Zaha follower, something of a shock to the system. So it just stands there − a white vision, outrageously total, arrogantly complete, just about real though located in a general-purpose location that you would have trouble remembering without the presence of this extraordinary object. Certainly there are some better spots in town: the bay of Baku is about to host a ‘Caspian Lotus’ and a ‘Full Moon Hotel’ that will join the Crystal Hall of ‘Eurovision’ fame, while the three ‘Flame Towers’ sit on a significant hilltop; whereas the aliyev Centre has to inhabit − albeit heroically − a sloping but otherwise characterless site away from the city centre and surrounded, at a distance, by Soviet period apartment slabs and approached via a sweeping but otherwise commonplace highway. The great white presence is seemingly scaleless, only referential to those who will (again seeking reassurance) find an associative symbol in almost anything. The linear joints on its surface soothe those who enjoy their reassertion of the geometry of the skin − rather in the manner of a wire-frame diagram and therefore serving to remind everyone that it has been computer-generated. In a sense, by this token it continues the mood − at least on the outside − of super-humanness. The fact that these same lines define the presence of a series of panels certainly has none of the residual ‘construction’ symbolism that excited the High-Tech kids. So the challenge of this building is that you must forget all those reassuring conditions of scale, context, materiality and even − dare one say − normal human experience. It is a unique object that confounds and contradicts the reasonable. With its wave form sweeping up − almost lunging − into the sky and then, as you glide around its perimeter, sweeping down to disclose the fact that it does, after all, contain humanly occupied space. Further wave forms fall out from the principal fold and begin to suggest a hierarchy of total-to-particular, with cleavages or ‘tucks’ on the northern corner that enliven the ‘welcome zone’ and the library above and a rather larger set of tucks on the southern flank that enliven the auditorium bar and balcony. The form of the rest of the building is concerned with a giant upward wave followed by the virtuoso moment when the tail of the wave tucks in upon itself: confounding the niceties of good animal or formal behaviour. alongside this nose-into-tail moment, the main entrance glides towards the inner spaces. as you enter, all that you see is gleaming white, with people zazzing about as dark specks: behind the skim of the glass balustrades that seem to maintain the near-abstracted and super-scaled audacity of the whole. ar | january 2014 27


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Heydar Aliyev Centre, Baku, Azerbaijan, Zaha Hadid Architects

4. (Left) huge expanses of glazing flood the interior with natural light. the use of semi-reflective glass gives an intimation of what goes on inside 5. the intensely object building surveys a heroic landscape of steps, terraces and lawns. parking for 1,500 cars is buried under the hill

From the earliest days of the Hong Kong Peak we could observe Zaha’s fondness for the diagonal and from the MaXXI museum in rome (ar august 2010) we know how this predilection is played against the desire to overlap and fold. If the MaXXI sits in her portfolio as one of those key referencing projects from which both gambits and language move forward, there is a sense that here in Baku, with so much territory available and a simple brief − for auditorium, multi-purpose hall, library and museum, plus all the necessary circulation − there is the opportunity to reassess the MaXXI language and perhaps move further forward from its very linearity. So the building can develop along a train of thought and become something other than a mere sequential composition. There is of course some straightforward placement: auditorium and multi-purpose room on the north-east, library facing north for controlled daylight, museum and galleries on the south-west. These lie between the huge mouth of the main entrance and the extraordinary gliding staircase hugging the north-west wall. If I describe this last element as fabulous I am deliberately gushing in the manner of a film fan, with the adrenalin rush of a 10 year old at a Broadway production, or the pilot of a glider. The totality, the whiteness, the speck of a single person walking down it, the sheer spectacle of it − you have to throw out those English morals and weedy thoughts about world problems: here is architecture as ultimate statement of theatre. There’s plenty more (especially circulation) that is extravagant, as even a cursory reading of the plans will reveal, yet the way this voluptuous building breathes is in a category of its own. Then, turning your head, there’s a distant gem: as you gaze up within the wave a piece of the white world congeals, for once you recognise scale, incident,

5

function; almost as if the old knotted architecture is reminding you of its pre-existence. So this ‘normal’ element becomes a gem surrounded by the breathless, the white, the total, enhancing it rather than challenging it. Moreover, there is the use of layers of balconies and great carved-away voids that are effectively part of a single, continuous public space with selected moments when they suggest, in the traditional sense, an ‘activity’. Whereas the auditorium is, and has to be a far more predictable space, where the sweep of the geometry is more by way of being a re-quotation of that outside. It is elegant and seems to work (I’ll assume that the over-dependence on loudspeakers is a cultural rather than acoustic issue). It hints that the Hadid office might perhaps quite like to do a wooden building? Such architecture demands to be sustained in the way in which it is made and in the last two years we have heard many stories of Guangzhou Opera House − as achieving a near-zenith of Zaha’s inventiveness, followed by whispers that it is flakey in execution − but here in Baku, no such criticism could be made: all the details and finishes are

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the Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku, Azerbaijan, Zaha Hadid Architects

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impressive. The skin panels align impeccably, the counters are crisp, the balustrades sheer, the Werner Sobek space frame secretly rides the general figure perfectly and the wide spans feel inevitable rather than daring feats. Which causes my eye to fall upon the presence and patterning of the window subdivision. For more than 160 years there have been great glass houses and a few buildings such as this where roof and walls merge and the only other condition is the void: which of course, you fill in with glass. and of course you design it so that it will not fracture. But I believe that those old Gothic characters were the most canny, they (through necessity and design), pulled the tracery down into even the largest of windows. Modernism put paid to all of that insisting upon the division of surface into either (a) solid or (b) void. So the game has become one of ‘let’s pretend’ − paint the mullions grey or have glass restraining glass or even wires. But those last two are rather British and High-Tech-y for the Hadid office − which is after all quite German when it comes to windows. So we have a rather insistent ‘up and down’ transom pattern − quite black, solid looking and surely a bit ploddy among all this élan. It’s a tough one but at least I’m reassured to find something that isn’t beautiful. By contrast, the streaks of neon are brilliant: both deft and at the same time setting their own very powerful dynamic. The garden too is a clever essay in stepped patches of lawn (pity nobody seems to go there). So, all in all, we are to be forgiven for wondering how it can all come about. The world at large is intrigued by the Zaha Hadid phenomenon: the architectural world jealous of the succession of mouth-watering commissions and of the (let’s admit it, guys) high success rate. That she herself is unique we know and can continue to be the subject of TV and the popular press, but there needs to be some observation of the phenomenon and the machine. at every gathering Zaha will invoke the presence of Patrik Schumacher: as valued colleague and often as butt of some throwaway comments. Left with these and his famous diatribes on the subject of Parametricism we miss out on the fact that the machine − that is the Hadid office − is very largely his construct. Living in the London architects’ village and having an ear to so many Hadid employees past and present, one is struck by the consistently high calibre of the staff and that this is undoubtedly Schumacher’s doing. On a job like Baku, star acts like Cristiano Ceccato (one of the former co-founders of Gehry Technologies) and Saffet Kaya Bekiroğlu (on the London aquatics Centre via Gehry) are surely backed up by layers and layers of way above-average devotees. This condition exists within an ambience whereby Zaha has broken all the rules of restraint − with a flair and dare − creating her own language, style, gallery and soon a museum of her work. It sets up a detachment that in the past belonged only to Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier who seemed to ‘possess’ all who came into contact with them. all of this is supposed to be out of keeping with our world of circumspection, restraint and morals. Moreover I have deliberately not mentioned politically controversial clients: only because I am cynical enough to suspect that powerful clients of the past were much about the same (was Prince albert really that special?). So for this observer, Baku stands alongside the Sydney Opera House and the Bilbao Guggenheim and mercifully she didn’t have to deal with all those so-called democratic creeps who sent jørn utzon into exile. So bully for the aliyevs I say. 36 ar | january 2014

Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku, Azerbaijan, Zaha Hadid Architects

6. (previous page) narrow slits of neon incised into the sinuous walls of the glacial interior emphasise the fluidity of form 7. (right) the cavernous 1,000-seat auditorium is formed of curved strips of American oak planed in situ, as in boatbuilding Architect Zaha Hadid Architects photographs Hufton + Crow, 1, 4, 5, 6 Hélène Binet, 2, 3, 7


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DUELLING PARTNERS Expanding the Kimbell Art Museum, Renzo Pianoʼs new lightweight pavilion duels discreetly with Kahnʼs original concrete vaulted masterpiece

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1. (Previous spread) the new lightweight pavilion spreads out over the parkland site 2. Piano duels discreetly with Kahn (right) across a tree-filled lawn

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3. Kahn’s concrete barrel vaults are brought into the new building through floor-to-ceiling glazing 4. Aerial view. The 65m distance between the two was carefully calibrated


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Kimbell Art Museum Extension, Fort Worth, Texas, USA, Renzo Piano Building Workshop

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REPORT

ADRIAN DANNATT ‘What does the building want to be?’ In the case of the Kimbell Art Museum the fabled dictum of Louis Kahn resulted in a rightly revered single-storey structure of matched elegance and austerity. Asking the same question of his new building for the museum, Renzo Piano could be categorical in listing its intent: discreet, subdued, modest, reverential and deferential towards the original architecture. If these stones, or concrete, could speak it would be in a perfectly modulated whisper. And all the auguries are good − not only did Piano work in Kahn’s office in the 1960s but when he won the Menil Collection commission in Houston he came to Fort Worth to study the Kimbell as prototype. Yet any addition to a famous and much-loved building is fraught with risk, especially in the context of institutional trophy Modernist ‘masterpieces’. And with every museum expansion there is an added suspicion of selfaggrandisement; to quote Aalto out of context, that ‘architecture has an ulterior motive’, whether civic pride or a demonstration of the power of donor and board rather than any true necessity. Museum directors always claim they really have to expand simply to show the permanent collection, a mantra matched by the architect’s sworn desire to respect the original building, both oaths usually long forgotten by the gala opening. In the case of the Kimbell, both claims have been fully honoured; as director Eric Lee happily explains, the new wing allows almost the entire collection to be displayed − 95 per cent of the works − and Piano’s pavilion not only respects Kahn’s building but reflects it, quite literally, from across the park, keeping a guarded distance in deference. The Kimbell has the advantage of a small but truly important collection, only 350 objects among which are stellar works by the likes of Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, many bought surprisingly recently. Indeed when the Kimbell opened in 1972 there was concern that there might not be enough art in the collection to fill the building. The Kimbell is notably well-endowed, meaning they can still buy key works and can hire an architect like Piano without being bogged down in the local politics of municipal financing. The staff is small, bureaucracy minimal, the collection manageable, and the museum’s remit straightforward: to display a tightly-edited collection of major art works in an ideal environment. If the Kimbell’s purchasing power might stand comparison with the Getty, its scale and intimacy suggest the Frick, the chronological deployment of a world-class collection through a simple enfilade of adjoining rooms. The new Renzo Piano pavilion provides space for the permanent collection while ensuring that visiting exhibitions will have the room they have previously lacked. More importantly, it frees up the Kahn building and allows it to resume some of its original schematic function and flow, shifting libraries, research, offices and administration to the new wing. Thanks to the relative availability of land in Texas, even within a city like Fort Worth, the Kimbell has a large plot of park at its disposal so that Piano was able to build an entirely separate structure at a carefully judged distance from the Kahn building, facing it, as if parallel-parked across the lawn. Indeed judging the precise gap between these two pavilions − finally resolved at 65 yards from wall to wall, close enough for visitors to be able to cross yet far enough to maintain visual independence − was an essential part of the initial scheme, with Ben Fortson, vice president of the board even measuring out the ideal distance himself.

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Louis Kahn's original Kimbell Museum RPBW expansion

Kimbell Art Museum Extension, Fort Worth, Texas, USA, Renzo Piano Building Workshop

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The space between the two buildings also provides for an underground car park, an unusually luminous space, strip-lit and painted white in contrast to most such stygian underworlds. The exit from the car park is by stair or glass lift emerging by the Piano building, ostensibly so all visitors will then have a view across to the Kahn wing. But in practical terms it seems perverse that you cannot also exit by the Kahn building as this underground space links them so conveniently. As it is, visitors make their way across the lawn to reach the Kahn building, across a discreet stone path which serves as low-key bridge between the buildings. This landscaped lawn between the buildings is a verdant buffer-zone with Kahn’s restored water-garden and an imposing copse of trees, whose bosky depths conjure the sylvan glade of the museum’s famous Poussin, The Sacrament of Ordination. These tall trees have to be regularly cropped in relation to Kahn’s famous curved roofs, but even so are sufficiently dense to almost obscure the buildings, both being such modest single-storey structures as in Texan vernacular might be termed ‘lowriders’. The sophistication of the Kimbell is evident again, few institutions would develop important buildings by two famous architects, neither of which can barely be seen from the other, discreetly veiled by woodland instead. Though aiming to echo elements of the Kahn building, Piano would hardly be so obvious as to reference the famous curve of its cycloid-vaulted roofs and opted instead for a simple roof of glass and steel with operative louvres. This has a practical problem that those outside Texas

5. (Previous page) white oak beams burst through the glass curtain walls in a High-Tech take on Classical trabeation 6. Archive images of Kahn’s original gallery 7. Kahn’s sketch shows his famous cycloid vaults in section 8. Stairs rise imposingly to Kahn’s somewhat sepulchral facade 9. Casting the original concrete vaults 10. (Overleaf) Piano’s galleries are naturally top-lit

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might not imagine, namely seasonal hail storms of exceptional violence, for which the roofing system can be adjusted for maximum deflection. The most notable feature of the roof are the 29 pairs of coupled wooden beams of Douglas fir, specially brought down from Canada, of exceptional 100-foot length and attractive sheen, an off-white laminate polish which sets the tonal palette. The roofing structure also casts a dynamic shifting pattern of shadow upon the walls, a visual flourish abetted by strong Texan sun, while the generosity of the concluding canopy provides necessary protection for the wood. Piano’s pavilion contrives to give the impression of being approximately the same dimensions as the Kahn opposite, though posited as an ‘open’ transparent structure as opposed to the more defensive aspect of the latter. Thus the Piano building weighs in at approximately 102,000 square feet compared with the 120,000 square feet of the Kahn. Indeed the very simplicity of Piano’s design might tempt one to paraphrase Venturi, suggesting a ‘decorated shed’ but without the decoration. The view into the building is as important as the view out, not least as seen from passing traffic, and its exceptional transparency ensures direct sightlines all the way through from the back of the Piano across to the Kahn. Entering the building through the all-glass facade, you are welcomed by a typical Piano museum void, an empty space which eventually will have an entrance desk and cafeteria seating, the closest a single-storey building can get to an atrium, with the two main galleries opening off on either side. To the north is a single small-scale room to showcase non-Western works; typically the Kimbell only owns eight African sculptures but they are among the most important in America. Leading off opposite is the West Gallery which ends in a curtain glass window-wall with a row of chairs, somewhat reminiscent of the seated viewing-area at the Beyeler Foundation (AR December 1997). Likewise in the adjoining Asian galleries there is a view up to the garden along a sloping grass-covered staircase, similar to the


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Kimbell Art Museum Extension, Fort Worth, Texas, USA, Renzo Piano Building Workshop

staggered lawn-ramp at the Nasher Sculpture Center in nearby Dallas. Instead of Kahn’s travertine, much expertise has been deployed on the poured-in-place concrete walls, created with the Dottor Group which has long worked with Tadao Ando, not least on the Modern Art Museum just on the other side of the Kimbell. These 30-foot walls are exceptional for having so few tie-bar holes, only at the ends, and the precision of their construction ensures they seem to float above the wooden floors. Likewise their carefully controlled light-grey tone, with two per cent titanium in the concrete mix, has a rare silky finish, an unusual yet effective texture for the display of Old Masters. These walls also look their best thanks to the adjustable system of louvres and stretched scrim, which allows a maximum of filtered daylight. The ‘breathing’ floor of white oak discreetly echoes the use of the beams deployed along the roof and AC venting has been perfectly integrated, rising through the gaps, to avoid the visual distraction of any dominant grille Separated by a small garden, glazed passageways lead to the rear section of the building which holds a small 9

gallery for light-sensitive works, the library, classrooms and offices. It also features a 298-seat double-height auditorium of exceptional acoustics and raked red seating designed by Piano for Poltrona Frau. This is accessed by a narrowing canted double-stairway of vertiginous perspective, one of the few ‘dramatic’ flourishes to an otherwise entirely sober and quiet design. On the ground floor are offices whose large windows look out onto a concrete wall, a deep light well, which also provides the backdrop to the auditorium. In this termination of the building with an extensive broad blank wall, something like a moat, there is a distinct sense of Vauban’s military architecture, a concrete crevasse of tactical intent. This abrupt conclusion suggests the building’s one possible failure, namely its defensive stance with regard to the surrounding cultural landscape. For the Kimbell is part of the Fort Worth Arts District, three aligned museums, the aforementioned Modern Art Museum completed by Ando in 2002, followed by the Kimbell and then the Amon Carter Museum built by Philip Johnson in 1961. The Ando museum is just across from the Kahn Kimbell, which has an entrance that gives directly onto it. Just on the other side of the Piano pavilion, a few minutes up a hill, is the Amon Carter but this is now entirely blocked by the Piano building which provides no exit or entrance on that side. Indeed terminating in this concrete well shaft, the Piano denies any sense of the other museum, so close and yet now irretrievably isolated. Surely the Amon Carter should have been included in the circulation of visitors rather than being actively cut off? But this quibble aside the Piano project ideally fulfils its brief, guarding a literal and creative distance from its predecessor while providing such serene exhibition spaces. To this end, it might prompt a concluding quotation from one of the Kimbell’s many masterpieces, Saenredam’s Interior of the Buurkerk, whose pristine walls provide, as the museum puts it, ‘clarity and harmony … and a crisp cool light that floods the interior’. AR | JANUARY 2014 45


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Kimbell Art Museum Extension, Fort Worth, Texas, USA, Renzo Piano Building Workshop

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Kimbell Art Museum Extension, Fort Worth, Texas, USA, Renzo Piano Building Workshop

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11. (Previous spread) the long low building is invitingly transparent 12. Galleries are calm, neutral spaces for the display of a small but significant collection 13. Stairs descend to the auditorium in a muscular concrete moat bridged by walkways

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dunkirk spirit Reinvented as a modern, lightweight doppelgänger, a heroic industrial boat shed forms the template for this new arts centre in Dunkirkʼs harbour

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report

Andrew Ayers On the British side of the Channel, Dunkirk is indelibly associated with Operation Dynamo, the 1940 evacuation of 340,000 allied troops with the assistance of a now legendary civilian flotilla. But in France the town was long synonymous with shipbuilding, after the founding there in 1898 of the ateliers et Chantiers de France (aCF), which for almost a century built first liners and warships, then oil tankers and car ferries, until their closure in 1988. In an all-too-familiar story, the municipality suddenly found itself saddled with over 150 hectares of docks and industrial wasteland, which have undergone redevelopment in two stages: the first, carried out in the 1990s, followed a masterplan drawn up by richard rogers; the second, which is currently being realised, follows a plan elaborated by French architect and urbanist nicolas Michelin, whose distinctive Gâbles housing scheme (2010) now marks the skyline. Of the countless structures that made up the shipyard complex, there is only one significant survivor today: the 75 metre-long, 25 metre-wide, 30 metre-high concrete aP2 (atelier de préfabrication n° 2), built in the 1940s and nicknamed the ‘cathedral’ by locals. now standing rather forsakenly opposite the dyke that protects the area from the sometimes violent caprices of the north Sea, it carries all the weight of 90 years of Dunkirk’s industrial memory on its reinforced shoulders, and was chosen by the regional and local authorities (no doubt because they didn’t quite know what else to do with it) to become the new home of the FraC nord-Pas de Calais. Founded 30 years ago in a wave of decentralisation, France’s FraCs

(fonds régionaux d’art contemporain) are contemporary art collections assembled by each of the country’s 23 regions independently of central government and of each other. The nord-Pas de Calais’s includes emblematic works by the likes of Dan Flavin, andy Warhol and Donald judd, as well as furniture and design objects. Like a number of its confrères (including the FraC Centre, ar november 2013), the FraC nord-Pas de Calais decided that, after 25 years of collecting, it was time to commission a purpose-built home, to provide both adequate reserve space (for an ever-growing collection that is mostly displayed on short-term loan) and permanent gallery space. Some €15 million were allocated, and the obligatory architectural competition held in 2008; of the 85 entrants, five were asked to draw up detailed proposals, from which Lacaton & Vassal emerged as the clear winner. But so audacious did their scheme appear that the authorities kept one other (by De alzua/Flint) in reserve in case Lacaton & Vassal’s promises proved too good to be true. In their response to the FraC’s brief, Lacaton & Vassal combined approaches they had previously tried out at the Palais de Tokyo (ar February 2003 and May 2012), the nantes School of architecture (ar june 2009) and the Tour Bois-le-Prêtre (ar january 2012). When converting the Palais de Tokyo they had felt that ‘the architecture was already there’ and that their job was to ensure its inherent qualities were not lost, while at nantes, following their credo of ‘doing more with less’, they provided far more space than stipulated in the brief for the same budget. Here in Dunkirk they took one look at the aP2 and concluded that its magnificent interior volume, reminiscent, as they pointed

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1. (previous page) the translucent new twin, deploying six levels of exhibition space, has exactly the same volume, footprint and height as the adjacent Ap2 boat shed, but is a lighter, more contemporary rendition 2. the shipyard in its heyday with the imposing 75-metre long industrial ‘cathedral’ to the right 3&4. (opposite and overleaf) the original industrial shed seemed too magnificent a space to disturb so the architects opted for a facsimile made of cheap materials common in agricultural buildings. the original hangar (overleaf), warts and all, could then be used for extra space for large-scale exhibitions

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FrAC nord-pas de Calais, dunkirk, France, Lacaton & Vassal


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‘The new structure is a lightweight doppelgänger of the original, reproducing its exact dimensions and silhouette, with an outer envelope comprising a metal-framed, plastic-clad greenhouse’ out, of the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern (ar august 2000), ‘was so strong from an architectural point of view, and aesthetically so overwhelmingly beautiful, that we didn’t want to fill it’. Consequently, instead of trying to cram the FraC’s programme into the aP2, they proposed constructing a new, adjacent edifice which, thanks to the use of commercially available prefabricated materials, could be tailor-made just so while remaining on budget, leaving the aP2 as ‘unprogrammed’ space that could be used for monumental temporary exhibitions, or loaned to the municipality for cultural events. The new structure would be a lightweight doppelgänger of the aP2, reproducing its exact dimensions and silhouette, with an outer envelope comprising a metal-framed, plastic-clad greenhouse under which would shelter a trabeated concrete-framed structure containing the reserves at one end and gallery and administrative space at the other − in other words, the winter-gardens system Lacaton & Vassal had used at the Tour Bois-le-Prêtre to provide extra space and bioclimatic insulation would here be expanded from a micro to a macro scale as in a Buckminster Fuller protective dome. The municipality was naturally worried that this literal doubling of their initial ambitions would prove impossible to realise

within the allocated budget, but by using cheap materials usually employed in agricultural construction, and by choosing only readily available prefabricated elements − no non-standard door or window frames whose special manufacture would make them far more expensive than the off-the-peg equivalent − the architects managed successfully to pull the rabbit out of the hat. While most of the building is clad in the same corrugated polycarbonate panels used at the Tour Bois-le-Prêtre, the upper levels required a different treatment because here the architects proposed creating another unprogrammed space that would take advantage of the splendid volume between the concrete-frame structure and the greenhouse roof. Since a higher level of insulation was required than that provided by polycarbonate, Lacaton & Vassal came up with the ingenious idea of using air-filled cushions in ETFE sheeting (another material commonly used in agriculture). Since the building faces north, its principal facade avoids sun exposure, while the roof is equipped with retractable canvas shades to shield the upper space from the hot summer rays. The concrete-frame structure is closed on all four sides with an insulating skin which, where the reserves are concerned, takes the form of prefabricated sandwich panels more usually used in cold-storage facilities. With its classic Lacaton & Vassal arte povera vocabulary borrowed from agricultural and light-industrial buildings, the FraC nord-Pas de Calais has a rough-and-ready workaday feel that is entirely in tune with the prevalent penchant for exhibiting contemporary art in reclaimed industrial sites, and its modular gallery spaces provide a perfectly neutral backdrop for anything one

FrAC nord-pas de Calais, dunkirk, France, Lacaton & Vassal

entrance café exhibition space unloading dock/transit workshop hoist WCs reserves experimentation/ mediation 10 balcony 11 administration 12 archive store 13 belvedere 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

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‘By using cheap materials usually employed in agricultural construction, and by choosing only readily available prefabricated elements, the architects managed successfully to pull the rabbit out of the hat’ may wish to display in them. The building’s bioclimatic organisation means that the drama of a promenade architecturale to move one round the building is impossible: the lifts rise directly at the entrance, while the staircases, which if not handled properly become terrible thermal bridges, are sandwiched between the greenhouse facade and the concrete-framed structure, where they enjoy sweeping views across the coastline. But drama enough is provided by the aP2’s grandiose volume, the under-theroof space − whose plunging views constitute the climax of one’s progression through the building − and also the five-storey-high internal street that runs at first-floor level between the aP2 and the new structure. This was designed in response to nicolas Michelin’s proposed footbridge/elevated walkway (due to be built in 2015) that will link the shipyard redevelopment zone to the beach on the other side of the dyke; cyclists and promenaders will traverse the FraC longitudinally with splendid views either side into the aP2 and the new structure’s first-floor galleries. Herzog & de Meuron’s Tate Modern has become the yardstick by which conversions of this type are measured, and the FraC nord-Pas de Calais compares more than 7

favourably, for unlike the Swiss duo’s transformation of the brute grandeur of the Bankside Power Station into a sterile ghost of itself with all the ambience of an out-of-town DIy store, the French pair has left the raw drama of the aP2 intact, scars, warts and all. Indeed their approach might be described as radical, and is in diametric opposition to that employed by Herzog & de Meuron on another industrial ‘conversion’, the CaixaForum in Madrid (ar june 2008), where a disused power station was demolished and its phantom summoned from beyond the grave by mounting its reconditioned facades (which were listed) halfway up the new building like butterflies pinned on a board. One could say that Lacaton & Vassal have also created a phantom, but theirs takes the form of a cheeky doppelgänger rather than a sorry wraith. This cloning, moreover, sets up a dialogue between the concrete and the lightweight, the permanent and the impermanent, between conservation and recycling, and between the certainties of a bygone industrial era and the quandaries of our climate-conscious age. But in one instance the FraC nord-Pas de Calais fails where Tate Modern fails: the aP2 is just as unsuitable for displaying most kinds of art work as the Turbine Hall, such vast spaces overpowering and dwarfing anything placed within them. Indeed, as we have seen at the Tate, it is generally only site-specific special commissions that can rise to the challenge of investing these monumental volumes. Without the Tate’s generous operating budget, you wonder how the FraC will exploit the full potential of its new space. as well as a functional new home, it is the luxury of this challenge that Lacaton & Vassal has offered the FraC nord-Pas de Calais.

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5. one of the exhibition spaces in the new hangar 6. within a lightweight and bioclimatic envelope, the space under the roof is dramatically infused with natural light 7. the austere, white-walled spaces are fluid and flexible 8. Lacaton & Vassal’s ‘cheeky doppelgänger’ offers views out over the harbour or plunging downwards from the observation deck

Architect Lacaton & Vassal photographs Philippe Ruault 60 ar | january 2014

FrAC nord-pas de Calais, dunkirk, France, Lacaton & Vassal


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PlantInG SEEDS Drawing on local precedents, this centre teaches cultivation skills to the women of a Rwandan village, improving both their prospects and those of the community 62 ar | january 2014


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Michael Webb The Women’s Opportunity Centre in rwanda was conceived as an economic incubator that would serve a local community and become a model of sustainability in this impoverished country. It was sponsored by Women for Women International, an nGO founded by a refugee from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to help women in strife-torn states rebuild their lives. The organisation has rented space in many countries, from Bosnia to Congo; in rwanda the government gave them a two-hectare plot of land near the village of Kayonza and invited them to build a ground-up facility. For this ambitious project they picked Sharon Davis Design, a new york practice that had collaborated on their earlier Kosovan venture. rwanda is one of the smallest, most densely populated countries in africa. Scarred by the 1994 genocide, in which Hutu extremists massacred nearly a million of the Tutsi minority, it welcomes outside assistance and is relatively free of corruption. Davis knew little of africa before this assignment, but she responded enthusiastically to the challenge. Drawing on the expertise of a hydrologist, engineer and landscape architect in new york, she did a lot of research in rwanda 64 ar | january 2014

before starting her design. ‘I wanted to use locally available materials and find inspiration in the vernacular tradition,’ she explains. Those traditions have been lost in the rush to modernise, but Davis found a model in the recreated King’s Palace. That gave her the idea of building in the round. an arc of circular classrooms frame a community space. a pair of curvilinear administrative offices, orthogonal housing, stables, and a covered market border the trapezoidal site. Four tented rooms accommodate guests. Vernacular structures had thatched roofs supported on a wood frame and walls of woven reeds, all of which required frequent maintenance. Davis considered the alternatives and specified bricks, 450,000 of which were hand-made on site by the centre’s users. She designed the perforated brick walls of the classrooms as self-supporting coils, with a single recessed entrance. The engineer was unsure how much weight the walls could support and recommended an independent roof structure. Thatch harbours bugs and indigenous clay tiles are heavy and require massive supports. So Davis chose corrugated metal, ubiquitous throughout africa, to create lightweight canopies, supported on tapered steel girders, which float above the masonry. It was an inspired solution. The complex

1. (previous page) set in the verdant Rwandan landscape, a loose necklace of classrooms encircles community space 2. Rather than the ubiquitous thatched timber-frame structures, brick walls support corrugated metal roofs 3. the farmers’ market shop sells the produce grown on the model farm

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captures the spirit of a traditional village using contemporary materials that can be locally sourced and assembled. Brickwork proved much stronger than anticipated, and should be able to withstand seismic shocks. The curved plan was ideal for classrooms, where up to 25 women form a circle to interact more effectively. Pierced walls and the detached roofs shade the interiors from the equatorial sun, drawing in cool breezes but shutting out wind-driven rain. The openings are large enough for occupants to look out, but small enough to ensure privacy. Corrugated metal facilitates the collection of rainwater, which is channelled into underground cisterns to keep it cool. From there, a small solar pump raises it to a tower at the top of the site, where it is filtered and sold as drinking water – a precious commodity win this drought-prone country. It was important to Davis and the sponsor to make the complex self-sufficient, for economic and social reasons. Construction of the centre cost about £800,000, but it should

‘The complex captures the spirit of a traditional village using contemporary materials that can be locally sourced and assembled’

pay for itself in sales of water and produce, and rents charged for market stalls and event spaces. There’s a model farm adjoining the site so lessons can be directly applied. In rural rwanda, women eke out a living in subsistence farming, fetching water and scavenging wood for fuel. The goal is to teach them new skills, in cultivation and marketing, and have them become teachers in other villages. The 300 women directly served by the Kayonza Centre could enlighten a broad spectrum of their sisters, country-wide. Inevitably, there is resistance to change. Local masons were initially reluctant to build the pieced brick walls, but they acquired valuable skills in doing so, as did the women who made the bricks. When the project began, there were few rwandan architects and no building codes; the situation has since improved. Davis designed hygienic composting toilets that save water and allow human waste to be used as fertiliser, in place of the pit latrines that pollute the aquifers. Some villagers are still reluctant to make use of the waste. as the architect notes, it’s a cultural issue that calls for education and time to win over doubters. She has become an advocate and plans to focus her practice on the opportunity to serve and innovate in africa.

Women’s opportunity centre, Kayonza, Rwanda, Sharon Davis Design

4. the women are taught skills in subsistence on the farm, making the centre self-sufficient in terms of produce, even deploying human waste as fertiliser

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Women’s opportunity centre, Kayonza, Rwanda, Sharon Davis Design


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6 top chord of spine truss used as gutter funnel from gutter to chain drain steel chain drain 150mm dia pipe connecting to cistern water collection chamber access panel

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Women’s opportunity centre, Kayonza, Rwanda, Sharon Davis Design 5. (opposite) circular classrooms facilitate interaction and intimacy 6. light seeps through the brick walls 7. chain drains are used to collect rainwater which is then stored in underground cisterns

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architect Sharon Davis Design photographs Iwan Baan

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PHOTOGRAPHY

THe sHATTeRed GlAss

Exploring photography’s obsession with architecture as motif and metaphor, a cluster of exhibitions in Los Angeles ended by questioning the neutrality of the camera in the architectural assignment NICHOLAS OLSBERG ar | january 2014 71


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1. (Previous page) in a number of series devoted to ‘isolated houses’, John Divola looked at these modern ruins not as deserted sites but as places where life has only just receded or invaded 2&3 (opposite). Frederick Evans is best known for his images of English and French cathedrals. Shown here (2) Southwell Minster, Nottinghamshire; (3) ‘A Sea of Steps’, stairs to the Chapter House, Wells Cathedral, Somerset, 1903

nothing better suited a long exposure and a limited depth of focus quite so well as the wall of a building. architecture, especially under an unchanging sky and devoid of passers-by, could sit for its portrait for a very long time. and, cumbersome as the equipment may have been, cameras were vastly more efficient in recording historic and remote sites than the patient pencils of the renderers of historical surveys. The 19th century got to know its medieval cathedrals from the work of Frederick Evans, its French monuments through the vast commissioned photo surveys of the Missions Héliographiques and Excursions Daguerriennes, and its renaissance Italy through the studio of the brothers alinari; while lantern slide lectures welcomed vast audiences into a kind of athenaeum of knowledge about historical and exotic architecture. Confined as the scope of the camera was, quickly and almost forever lost to architectural photography was the emerging romantic language of rendering and veduta in which buildings were magically animated by scudding skies or shafts of sun, with cavorting or reclining elements of the populace, and through speeding carriages or stately sedans. For practitioners themselves, photographic records of great buildings were central sources: the american architect Henry Hobson richardson, for example, placed in his draftsmen’s studio a vast library of photographic albums of French works from the romanesque through to the renaissance, examples of form and detail with which to ground his office practice. But it took a surprisingly long time for architects to move toward 72 ar | january 2014

‘Erich Mendelsohn’s clear reliance on photographic studies of his Einstein Tower established the scale and viewpoint of his apparently spontaneous virtuoso freehand sketches’


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PHOTOGRAPHY 4. Prominent Czech Modernist Jaromír Funke applied the tricks of the ‘New Vision’ style of photography to architecture: tilted and vertiginous views turned buildings into abstractions and gave them motion commensurate with the tempo of the modern age

assigned photography in circulating their own new work, rather than the line engravings established as common visual currency by the 19th-century print reviews. Frank Lloyd Wright was one pioneer, commissioning photography and very assiduously directing it for his early publications, most significantly in the inexpensive Sonderheft that paralleled his luxurious Wasmuth print portfolio − a photographic handbook of his house designs aimed at the market of american householders who might be interested in commissioning new ones. We now know that Wright and his little studio in Fiesole actually worked from just such photographs to establish the drawings for the great Wasmuth prints. Even more striking was Erich Mendelsohn’s clear reliance on photographic studies of his Einstein Tower to establish the scale and viewpoint of the apparently spontaneous virtuoso freehand sketches with which he would as a sort of party piece regularly demonstrate its form. It is perhaps only a short step from such use and abuse of photography to a habit of mind that begins to conceive of a design in terms of the camera’s establishing view, or to the construction of the path that takes tourists down to the nearly inaccessible site from which the professional camera captured the famous but otherwise unknowable upward view of Fallingwater − as if we had not seen the building properly until we could picture it from the published viewpoint. Between the wars a new version of the Missions Héliographiques emerged, devoted now not to inciting preservation of a gloried past but to locating and promoting the radically new. It was Erich Mendelsohn’s photographic ‘architect’s picture-book’ of Amerika that did most to introduce Europe after the Great War to the glories of cities built of the steel frame and the tall building. It was a Viennese publisher’s printed photo albums of Neues Bauen in the early 1930s that made architects around the world familiar with new building sensibilities and techniques emerging in russia, Germany, the uS and France, and in the work of adolf Loos; and a similar role was played by photography in Wendingen, the Bauhaus books, the portfolios of Cahiers d’Art and such contemplations on the juxtaposition of old and new as Berenice abbott’s Changing New York. architectural photographs were still, however, largely trapped in the conventions that had emerged with the early constraints in the process of making them. It was probably impossible in the face of cinema to add people or motion to such pictures, since we were all by the 1930s tutored by films to look at the figure and anything in movement as the subject of an image rather than ornaments to its true motif. yet as scale grew and the dynamics of urban movement became more rapid, there were evident difficulties with the traditional ground level, slightly distanced and static portrait of a building’s facade. Hence many of these publications relied on tempered versions of radical experiments by such avant-gardists as Lissitzky, umbo and rodchenko in tilting, fragmenting and twisting the viewpoint, or in time lapse and collage, using such techniques to capture architecture that spoke to the great heights and bright lights of the electric city.

This approach − cinematic and vivid and embracing of context − was short-lived. With postwar shelter magazines fuelling demand, photo studios (many borrowing from wartime experience and from Hollywood) in the booming construction world of the ’50s and ’60s worked with new equipment, film and techniques to bring back the emptiest and most static conventions of picturing architecture. This led to decades of the commercial photographer’s neatly framed views of uninhabited buildings, set under a blue sky, devoid of passing traffic, lit inside by relentless floods of artificial light, and peopled, if at all, like julius Shulman’s models in Koenig’s Case Study 22: in vividly complementary dress and posture. It was the age of Kodachrome to which one suspects the design impulse itself fell victim. In the early ’70s, gradually and then with accelerating force, architectural photographers began taking radical cues from art practices, like those of Gordon Matta-Clark, which used buildings as their motifs. The focus might be on incidents and casual episodes in a structure rather than a sense of its whole and it is this new tradition that holds sway among the photographers of choice to whom leading designers are now directed. a figure like Luisa Lambri might dwell on the single face of a wall, while Iwan Baan − cheerfully protesting a complete ignorance of architecture − can tell us that his real interest in a new work lies in what surrounds it rather than what it is.

Startling juxtapositions all this is brought to mind by a recent convergence of exhibitions in Los angeles. Two complementary surveys of the Getty’s holdings looked at the persistent conventions of using the building as motif and metaphor − first in some startling juxtapositions of work from the earliest days of architectural photography to the present, and then in a look at 180 years of conversation between the window and the lens. at the Hammer Museum a career retrospective of james Welling showed us a trajectory toward the unexpected, mystical − and often largely unrecognisable − observation of optical physics upon our environs that started with observations of abandoned new England mills and the rusticated stone buildings of richardson. There Welling had wedded the sombre photographic palette and flattened perspectives of much architectural image-making in the buildings’ own times to apparent accidents of composition in which a casual detail or episode seems to appear simply because the lens had so framed it or a passing sensation of the texture of the material had caught the eye. Meanwhile Woodbury university’s julius Shulman Institute − dedicated to reflection on the relations between architect and photographer − launched an incisive exhibition and publication on the changing character of the architectural assignment, looking through the work of 10 current architectural photographers to find the distinctive sensibilities in each that takes their work ‘Beyond the assignment’. Shadowing all these ‘Daguerrian excursions’ is an encyclopaedic multi-venue presentation of the great California photographer john Divola, who, we are now a little surprised to realise, has been quietly constructing ar | january 2014 75


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one series of narrative masterworks after another, starting − as Welling began his excursion with the forlorn brick mills of deindustrialising new England − with tales of shattering emotional power that are told by portraying moments in the progressive abandonment and desecration of deserted buildings. Divola’s sullied walls and shattered glass people every site with a human presence one cannot see − the ghostly figures of social displacement and distress. Some of the same sense of a just absent person − of space somehow inhabited when no figure is seen − lies among the shadow and light effects in Timothy Hursley’s view of Philip johnson’s study and in undine Pröhl’s chiaroscuro photograph of Kengo Kuma’s house in Connecticut. Other contributions to the Woodbury show − including its curator Bilyana Dimitrova’s brilliant observation of a data centre by Sheehan Partners − violate all the unspoken tenets of commercial photography by insinuating actual human incidents into the scene and by focusing on such matters as light coming from within rather than the lighting of the form seen from without. In the same way Paul Warchol’s upward view of the catenary curves at Steven Holl’s Kiasma Museum uses tiny and vague human forms not only as staffage to establish scale and perspective but also to suggest the thralldom of light and shadow on a shell of catenary curves − the sheer phenomenological magic that we sense in the viewers’ experience. These strategies can work − as in 76 ar | january 2014

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5. Undine Pröhl’s photograph of Kengo Kuma’s extension to a house by John Black Lee in Connecticut 6. Timothy Hursley imbues Philip Johnson’s study with a somewhat sinister presence: is a séance about to take place in this room? 7. (Opposite) human figures animate this data centre by Sheehan Partners, in a photo by Bilyana Dimitrova


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PHOTOGRAPHY 8. (Opposite) Paul Warchol plants static and moving people in his photograph of Steven Holl’s Kiasma Museum, eliciting an empathetic imagining of ourselves in the space depicted 9. James Welling’s image of Philip Johnson’s Glass House transforms a modern icon into a motif

James Welling: Monograph, at the Hammer Museum until 12 January; Beyond the Assignment: Defining Photographs of Architecture and Design, Julius Shulman Institute, Woodbury School of Architecture, finished on 1 November 2013. The exhibition has an accompanying catalogue

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Dimitrova’s near digital concatenation of illumination or Hursley’s suggestion of johnson himself as a shadow figure − to almost poignant metaphoric effect. yet each practitioner clearly talks a language of their own. By acutely confining all the images in the show to a single moderately sized format, Beyond the Assignment: Defining Photographs of Architecture and Design serves as an essay in characterisation, while the technique of addressing the same question to each subject in the catalogue reinforced the idea that each protagonist brought a singular identity of looking into the process of their work. This is one facet of the unexpected − that it derives from giving rein to a very personal way of seeing, or of choosing from what the camera saw. Welling’s capture of the improbable view presents quite another aspect of this thesis, and with it an interesting question. There is an evident sympathy between the way he looked at richardson and the way richardson looked at his works. But nothing could take us further from the reductivist version of Miesian logic and clarity that informed Philip johnson’s designs than the obscurantist double take upon his glass house we see in Welling’s interpretation of the glass house. Here, as in Thomas Struth’s streaking bypasses of Mies’s German work or Hiroshi Sugimoto’s chiaroscuro distortions of Mies’s north american landmarks, great and lesser works of modern architecture seem to revert to the status of motifs. yet it is prudish to find these travesties

‘We were left for decades to live with the commercial photographer’s neatly framed views of uninhabited buildings, set under a blue sky, devoid of passing traffic, lit inside by relentless floods of artificial light, and peopled, if at all, like Julius Shulman’s models in Koenig’s Case Study 22: in vividly complementary dress and posture’ of an architect’s intentions shocking, for once works have insinuated themselves into our common mental landscape of a place or culture, they have surely earned the right to become − like a misty view of the Eiffel Tower or sunrise at the Taj Mahal − whatever an artist or tourist may choose to make of them. Why should the gloried high points of Modernism as a remembered culture be any more exempt from interpretation than the monuments of Paris in the Belle Époque or the India of Shah abbas? and why should we not − as the photographers at Woodbury suggest − move ‘Beyond the assignment’ and stop pretending that a photograph, by observing familiar conventions, actually tells us what a building looks like when what it really does is tell us how one photographer proposes we might look at it: sometimes, at its best, to their own surprise. ar | january 2014 79


urbanism

The bustling metropolis bustles no more, as emptied docks become waterside developments, markets move to the peripheries and industry elopes, draining the lifeblood of the city Jonathan Glancey

1. the long-gone surreal sight of liners at the ends of Manhattan streets explains the otherwise faintly mystifying equation by Modernists (such as le corbusier) of ships with buildings 80 ar | january 2014

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Corbis

The animaTed CiTy and iTs deCline

Some years ago, while researching a BBC radio programme in new york, I was introduced to the oral archives of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. a ferry ride from Battery Park, Ellis Island is, of course, where some 12 million immigrants to the united States were processed between 1892 and 1954 in the long, lantern-lit shadow of the Statue of Liberty. I listened to the voices of long dead immigrants recording their immediate impressions of new york. In particular, I remember the lilting voice of an Irishman describing his first encounter with this thrilling and hopeful city. It was 1913. Someone had shouted ‘Land ahoy!’, and what our man saw first as he raced, aged 18, to the side of the deck was, no, not the Statue of Liberty waiting to receive its ‘huddled masses yearning to be free’, but the pinnacle and then the improbably tall Gothic shaft of the Woolworth Building. newly complete, the Woolworth Building rose a staggering 241 metres above the teeming city streets. Far higher than the most ambitious medieval cathedral, it was the world’s tallest building. Dubbed the ‘Cathedral of Commerce’, it was a symbol of dynamic american enterprise as well as of freedom and the opportunity for anyone to make it as big as Franklin Winfield Woolworth had done with his famous 5c and 10c stores. and then, as its fellow liners were to arrive for several more decades before the advent of the Boeing 707, our young Irishman’s ship sailed right up to those cliff-like Manhattan streets and berthed alongside them. The two − liner and skyscraper-studded streetscape − were inseparable. They fed each other with people, promise and prosperity. and how wonderful they looked, each enhancing the aesthetic, scale and sheer wonder of the other. Generations of new yorkers and visitors to Manhattan thrilled to the surreal visual games played by the scale of great ships lined up at the end of boisterous streets, ending vistas in portholed hulls, fluttering masts and steaming chimneys, and plumes of nautical steam intermingled with clouds of steam rising from the very pavements of the city. Here, urban games were taken to a further level when liners were tugged from their city berths and, as they turned, so streets and individual buildings appeared to waltz around them in slow motion. Many of us must have felt at least something of this much-missed new york spectacle as our own ships − not quite as grand perhaps as Lusitania or Queen Mary − have nosed their way into Helsinki, Liverpool or Venice. arrival by air today is nearly always a disappointment with airports located, understandably, miles from great city centres, and entry to them made by public transport. To stand on the prow of a big ship, however, as it points towards Engel’s supremely confident neoclassical cathedral commanding Helsinki’s South Harbour, or noses close by Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore while turning in front of the Doge’s Palace, or approaches Liverpool’s Three Graces head on, is to feel the connection between city and sea, urban trade and ocean waves, the ebb and flow of commerce and culture, currents and even tides of immigration and emigration: it is, in fact, to look, face to facade, at the very reason great cities exist, and why they were created in the first place.


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2. liners still berth beside helsinki’s cathedral, but in greatly reduced numbers 3. liverpool’s three Graces dwarfed by ship power 4. Gondolas − once the doughty transporters of merchandise rather than supersized tourists − pull into campo dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo in Venice

‘When we hear of plans to move ships − passengers and cargo − ever further from major city centres, we should be ready to take up metaphorical cutlasses and fight them every inch of the way’ 82 ar | january 2014

and, so, when we hear of plans to move ships − passengers and cargo − ever further from major city centres, we should be ready to take up metaphorical cutlasses and fight them every inch of the way. Ships, ports and the flow of people, traffic and goods they fetch and carry animated city centres for thousands of years. They have only gone in the past half-century, and their loss is plain to see in cities as far apart as London, new york and Shanghai. It is not only that the big ships have so often gone from the ends of central city streets, but what has replaced them − continues to replace them − is, all too often, a banality of global design, a cleaning up, a sanitising of what were until recently, or even now, energetic, life-enhancing, theatrical and highly animated places that were part and parcel of what made a truly great city great. all that mighty seaborne trade affected not just the character, spirit and tempo of life in city centres, but also the design, structure and purpose of many of their major buildings. as your vaporetto whines and growls into Fondamenta nuove, look afresh at ‘San Zanipolo’, the magnificent Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo dominating this flank of Venice. This, of all churches, resembles a powerful galleon that has berthed here, much like those steel-hulled transatlantic liners in Manhattan, its doors wide open to city life around it. Its principal space is, of course, a nave − from the Latin, navis, a ship − and the sacred building is a ship of souls, its course set far over the bar, and beyond the furthest imaginable horizon. So the animation of the sea, and seafaring, is set into the very stones of Venice; of Helsinki, London, Liverpool and Shanghai, too. Buildings, and institutions, like San Zanipolo, have gone further. They have produced and nurtured pageantry and processions, legends and, of course, saints, that have brought colour, imaginative life and animation to their host cities. Each year, the Doges of Venice − and their less powerful and less glamorously dressed successors − re-enact the wedding of Venice to the Sea, a festival both sacred and secular, and one that still matters. Venice might no longer be the physical heart of an empire, yet water, travel and a sense of wonder are still the principal ingredients in its story of survival as a tourist city, if one haunted by a magisterial past. Beyond this, ships brought food and goods to city markets. From childhood, I remember well the London wholesale markets served directly by the ships I could walk to and watch unload from where american-style skyscrapers loom today in all their sanitised and hermetic high-rise bathos. narrow streets leading down to the river Thames past Wren’s City churches were filled with fishermen’s baskets. Covent Garden market was an ever changing and wondrous garden of fruit, vegetables and flowers. Cockney sparrows − birds, not the market porters − flitted from fruit stalls to pallets laden with cabbages and cauliflowers. In the evenings, cloud-like congregations of starlings wheeled in chattering, ever-changing formations over the market, over the theatre and cinema queues of close-by Piccadilly and Leicester Square. It was as if, from morning till evening, the city expressed itself exultantly, through nature and what it had nurtured in commerce and

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buildings, from ships to churches to market squares: here was one of the great, animated cities expressing its identity through its economic lifeblood. The richness of this animation grew in great trading cities over centuries in ways that encouraged pageantry, rituals and processions. These might take the form of festivals celebrating city trades, London’s Lord Mayor’s Show, or sublime and supremely theatrical religious processions like those that take place in Seville during Holy Week between cavernous churches set along streets that keep pace with the Guadalquivir, the navigable river that flows inexorably south linking this compelling andalucian city to the sea. added to these are sights that still help to make moments in the 21st century somehow surreal: Horse Guards trotting en masse along the Mall glimpsed between columns of plane trees from the lake in St james’s Park where pelicans sail like stately white galleons between clattering flights of feral pigeons and with a backdrop of fairytale buildings, from the gleaming white stucco facades of john nash’s Carlton House Terrace to the romantic roofscape of alfred Waterhouse’s national Liberal Club. Between 1976 and 2003, there were moments in the afternoon here where pretty much anyone and anything alive stopped in that exquisite park to look upwards and gawp at Concorde, the thunderous and sensationally supersonic sky-god that passed over the city centre in much the same mythical manner as ra had ridden across the Memphis sky in his boat Sektet, or apollo had soared across the sky dome of athens in a fiery chariot drawn by horses even wilder than those ancient Greeks admired − as we do today in the controversial halls of the British Museum − along the friezes of the Parthenon. The Parthenon itself, by the way, was not just a brilliantly wrought civic temple; it was also − possibly − an idealised representation in marble of a Greek warship, the force that preserved Greek cities and ancient Greek trade. as with San Zanipolo, here was an architecture echoing to the sounds, movements, soul and (human) purpose of the sea.

organic and elemental new forms of urban animation that, in their own special ways, seemed almost organic and elemental as well as highly purposeful, emerged from the mid-19th century. These included railways, power stations and electric lighting. Steam trains plumed in and out of stations, their dramatic presence enhanced by rhythmic beats that echoed to the pulse of industrial-era cities themselves. as a young boy, I can remember Merchant navy, West Country and Battle of Britain Pacifics pounding out from Waterloo with long green trains for Southampton − its docks, liners and freighters − along by the river Thames and against the highly animated architectural spectacle of Barry and Pugin’s Palace of Westminster. On squally days, when seas were rough, gulls patrolled noisily over river, station and steam expresses. a little further west along the Thames, Battersea Power Station, dressed in soulstirring architecture − at once as ancient as the Ziggurat of ur and as modern as the steam turbines that raced

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5. a forest of masts in the old london docks 6. today these have been replaced by a forest of wipe-clean towers, which conceal the economic activity inside despite their transparency 7. the Parthenon was also a vast storehouse of money that towered above the city below it

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8. clouds of starlings wheeling around St Paul’s cathedral 9. everyday pagentry and pomp brings brilliant life to the Mall 10. a machine, of antique design, for making clouds 11. (overleaf) the Sultan’s elephant stalked london in 2006 8

biLL sCoTT

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inside its stately bulk− created clouds of pure white steam that, assisted by prevailing winds, sailed slowly back over Westminster, the West End and Waterloo. as children, we thought of this titanic power station as a machine for making clouds. as for electricity, who could fail to be thrilled − watching through top deck windows, as London buses turned into Piccadilly Circus − by the highly animated play of neon adverts writhing across and around the facades of corner buildings? In recent years, I have been increasingly saddened on walks around ‘regenerated’ areas of old industrial cities, with their rivers, railways, ports and old commercial streets where things were once made or sold with gusto, and especially on visits to city planning offices when shown the same banal global presentations. In Helsinki, until very recently, it was possible to walk to a restaurant and visit an art gallery in the shadow not just of ships sailing in from across the Baltic, but in the company of giant new ships under construction. The very idea of building an 80,000-ton cruise ship close to Soho or SoHo might seem a little absurd, and yet Helsinki built ships with pride, as Venice had once done in its expansive arsenale, and as close to its heart as it was possible to get. For all too many planners, politicians, local people and architects, too, such activities are considered somehow dirty and demeaning today. Heavy industry in a city centre, when we can have ever more ‘luxury’ river-view, sea-view apartments with gyms and spas and enormous, built-in plasma-screen tvs instead? at an ever accelerating pace, such animated activities and the life and culture, the pageantry and processions, the life and soul that went hand-in-hand, piston-in-cylinder with them, are being eradicated from cities built on them. Wholesale markets are pushed to city frontiers, shipyards to other countries where labour is cheap, power stations to coasts ... More than this, the sheer animation associated with, and created by, such activities and commerce is being lost. There are, of course, many people who will argue that city centres are better off without steam trains, cloud-making machines, printworks, food markets and other pronounced and sometimes pungent activities. no, the city should be a polite place of global-style apartment blocks, staid avenues, silent docks and neat commercial, clerical and cultural industries. as clean as a new pin, as thrilling as a walk in a cul-de-sac in a far-flung dormitory suburb. The most exciting new ‘interventions’ encouraged by all too many planning offices and local politicians in great cities worldwide are shopping malls, marinas (for polite yachts and dainty meals) and the occasional new museum in which visitors can look at photographs of how their city used to be when it was alive, alive-o! and, yet, it might be argued that our chaste, newly ‘regenerated’ cities and their most significant buildings are as much reflections of energetic trade and commerce today as Venice and San Zanipolo were five hundred years ago. Why? Because today it is banks, hedge funds, insurance companies and their piratical crews that sail the high seas of commerce, and especially of ‘e’ rather than ‘sea’ trade. Computers, the internet and new forms of communication and transaction mean there is little need for the ships, machines, trades, crafts and cultures of previous eras.

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john gay / engLish heriTage

‘Battersea Power Station created clouds of pure white steam that, assisted by prevailing winds, sailed slowly back over the city. As children, we thought of this titanic power station as a machine for making clouds’


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The buildings in which the new electronic commerce is executed are a fusion of ship and market hall: today, these skyscrapers are berthed by old city docks − London’s Canary Wharf is a prominent example − and proclaim the efficacy of the businesses they house through the monumental scale, shininess and sheer audacity of their cloud-piercing structures. unlike ships and working docks, though, these new era ships of commerce are animated only inside their sleek superstructures. They offer nothing to the streets they dominate. Some appear to flash fire from relentless glass facades at sunset. One − the so-called Walkie-Talkie in the City of London − goes so far as to be actively hostile, with sunlight reflected from its convex curves and then beamed down like rays from an alien’s space gun to pavements below. Windows, however, are sealed. unlike churches, markets, chattering printworks or Waterloo station in steam days, they are silent. as are the bland new apartment blocks lining the redundant port districts of Helsinki, the Thames from Battersea to Beckton and beyond and other once great cities by the sea. as for Venice, its commerce and the bulk of its population absconded to Mestre on the mainland decades ago. although the ceremony of the marriage of the city to the sea is still enacted every year, I suppose the union today is that of global tourism to a city forced to prostitute itself as a supine theme park. Where once the culture of a city was vigorously expressed through a sense of animation fuelled by the nature of its rattling commerce, today, the animation I am celebrating and pleading for is often imposed. Festivals, street theatre, public art and other events along with sensational and meaningless ‘iconic’ design projects − have you heard, for example, of plans for a kitsch ‘garden’ bridge across the Thames? − have become replacements for culture that has grown and expressed itself, from architecture to pageants, from the essential nature and working life of the city.

barry Lewis / Corbis

artificial animation although such artificial animation is showered on cities today, it is mostly irrelevant, meaningless and more the stuff of ‘bread and circuses’ than heartfelt, indigenous artistry, celebration and display. But, if public art and all too many new festivals and cultural events can seem − and are − artificial, then architecture has been in danger of becoming even more irrelevant in cities that once knew, instinctively, and from the streets and markets up, how to celebrate their special, their truly unique identities. Because many new city buildings can belong to any other city, their design has tended to become, if not inevitably, much the same around the globe. Skyscrapers no longer speak of the rise from rags to riches of local-boymade-good Franklin Winfield Woolworth, but of essentially anonymous corporate commerce. Equally, and perhaps more strangely, the new apartment blocks that line the shores of the old ports of old cities are all the same, too; perhaps this is because as cities lose their distinct qualities, and sense of animation, there is nothing special to express in the design of new houses. and, yet, around the very South Harbour that the

‘The most exciting new ‘interventions’ encouraged by all too many planning offices are shopping malls, marinas and the occasional new museum in which visitors can look at photographs of how their city used to be when it was alive, alive-o!’ City of Helsinki wishes to blandify today, the streets of the arts and Crafts Katajanokka district are alive with some of the most highly expressive apartment blocks to be found in any city worldwide. Their romantic skyline and animated facades encapsulate and celebrate a sense of national romantic Finnishness at a time when Helsinki’s artists, musicians, poets and architects were creating the cultural upswell that would help lead on to the country’s independence from russia in 1918. These apartment blocks seem almost alive − ‘building beings’ as the late Imre Makovecz would have said − and bring a festivity to the streets they adorn. How well they sit by the sea and ships and the sound of hooters, herring gulls, cathedral bells and icebreakers crackingly at work on the frozen sea in long winters. I am not arguing for isolationism, for cities to be somehow frozen in space and time. all great cities have been exposed to and imbued with cultures from overseas, whether john Lennon buying the latest Elvis records newly shipped into Liverpool from the States, or London dining on chop suey and curry as 19th-century ships returned to the Port of London from Canton and Calcutta. To enjoy and to adopt the best of design and culture − special to other cities − is not just to be open-minded, but also to nurture and further animate home-grown culture. I was, for example, among countless Londoners thrilled by the arrival of the Sultan’s Elephant in 2006. This astonishing automaton − a gigantic and deeply exotic 50-ton robotic elephant − was designed by François Delarozière, creative director of the royal de Luxe theatre company of nantes. It had been commissioned by the cities of nantes and amiens as part of celebrations to commemorate the centenary of the death of jules Verne in 1905. For three days, the Sultan’s Elephant transformed familiar London streets into strangely exotic avenues and jungle clearings. Here was no imposed public art or local authority approved public event, but an expression of the imaginative souls of two distinctive French cities making its thrilling way through a city that has been in increasing danger of being sanitised, globalised and de-animated. Today, the quest should surely be to find new forms of urban expression, to think of how new forms of trade and commerce might add to what has gone before rather than leading down a path towards a state of global inanity. Great cities were not made to sit down and gawp at computer screens; they were created for commerce and trade, each different, each special and each with its own voice, from the sudden screech of a rush of whirling starlings over central squares to the hooters of liners coming to berth in streets paved, if not in gold, then with a highly animated sense of their own special selves. ar | january 2014 89


Reviews Too much of a good thing peTer buchanan Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes, Jean-Louis Cohen (ed), Thames & Hudson, £49.95 Much modern architecture conforms to the archetype of stripped, abstract forms unresponsive to context and culture − a vision that was promulgated by the Museum of Modern art’s influential 1932 show The International Style. This tabula rasa approach was always, of course, an exaggeration; but it was given credence by the general tendency to publish buildings without referring to or illustrating their context. Le Corbusier, too, followed this trend, repressing the context of his buildings in the Oeuvre Complète so as to stress the universal applicability of his approach and solutions. But when architects visited the buildings, what often most struck them is how much the designs draw on, and are sensitively attuned to, their settings. Perhaps to make amends for the pernicious influence of their 1932 show, MoMa belatedly organised an exhibition showing just how very much Le Corbusier learnt from and responded to local contexts and cultures during his wide-ranging travels and when designing for many parts of the world. This book originated as the show catalogue.   Large in format, copiously illustrated and handsomely produced, the book is divided, after the editor’s main introductory essay, into geographic sections arranged according to their chronological and biographic significance for Le Corbusier. These sections are introduced with simplified maps, the early ones charting his crucial formative journeys and all indicating locations of projects and built works. (Le Corbusier visited, designed 90 ar | JaNUarY 2014

projects for and built in all continents except antarctica and australia.) The wide range of essays and authors (which include many esteemed Corbusian scholars − although others of these are not represented − along with many writers that are new to this reviewer) all discussing differing works or aspects of Le Corbusier’s life and thinking, attests to the scale of the still burgeoning field of Le Corbusier studies. all of this, and the intention behind the show and catalogue, is laudable and promising. But the book is a disappointment, and for several reasons.  The wide range of essays gives a suitably kaleidoscopic vision of Le Corbusier’s prodigious and multifaceted achievements. But many texts are so short they barely nibble at their subject, which is especially frustrating when the topic is potentially very interesting. They also vary considerably in quality: some authors seem to struggle even to sustain their short

below: richard pare’s photographs for the book Le corbusier: an atlas of Modern Landscapes are characteristically well-composed but betray a lack of deep knowledge of the buildings

allocated length. Others are less than convincing in their speculative readings − this complaint from a reviewer who often wishes authors would dare to be more speculative. and some are snide, pointing out that Le Corbusier’s perceptions of foreign lands merely repeat the clichés of the time. That may be so, but what matters is how these informed his architecture, a topic these authors don’t address. Of course Le Corbusier’s views were selective and unbalanced − he was looking for architectural guidance and inspiration, not for an encompassing and objective overview of all aspects of a country. Besides, the views of these current authors, even if better informed and correct by our standards, also reflect the prejudices of their own time.  The book opens with, and includes elsewhere, recent panoramic images by richard Pare, some on gatefolds. Several of these have the virtue of including some of the context of the buildings. But these


pictures would be much more illuminating if the photographer had been guided by someone with a deep understanding of Corbu’s work, just as Lucien Hervé’s photographs in the Oeuvre Complète had obviously benefited from Le Corbusier’s own input. Like these photographs, the rest of the illustrations are largely those that curators would consider ‘original art works’, such as sketches, paintings and drawings (mostly from the Fondation Le Corbusier), contemporary photographs by Le Corbusier and others, and so on.  Hence architectural drawings, which were once humble working documents, mere means towards the final art work ends (the buildings), are treated as final ends in themselves, reproduced to show the current condition of the total sheet, discoloration, tears and all. Quite apart from elevating such documents to the status of art works being ultimately a problematic form of consumerist commodification, they tend to be reproduced here far too small; the result is that many are pretty much inscrutable. This, together with the lack of the conventional plans, sections and so on − such as found in the Oeuvre Complète − included in the book, makes it difficult for the reader to follow the description and argument of some texts. If this book had been smaller in format, this kind of criticism would carry less force as the book could be read in conjunction with the relevant volume of the Oeuvre Complète. But the unwieldy large format makes it difficult to study both books together − the lesson here being that large books should be relatively self-sufficient in illustration.   Ultimately, this book would be a useful resource in a library. But otherwise, probably only those committed to owning absolutely everything about Le Corbusier would consider it an essential purchase.

reimagining the arctic anDreW MeaD Arctic, Louisiana Museum, Humlebæk, Denmark until 2 February There is a book about the arctic with a very apt title, The Last Imaginary Place. Its archaeologist author robert McGhee surveys years of progressive enlightenment about the region, as facts replace fantasies and science supplants the imagination. Faced with this proliferating information, McGhee asks: ‘Do knowledge and clear vision compensate for the loss of the imaginary world, or is it possible for the two levels of perception to coexist?’ He decides they can.  This interplay of the factual and the imaginary is at the heart of a big exhibition at the Louisiana Museum, which focuses on the last two centuries − a period in which the arctic was first an ideal realm for artists, a site of sublime landscapes, but is now ripe for exploitation, as recent Greenpeace protests over oil drilling have highlighted. In the process it reminds us that the region is not just a place of inhuman ice and snow but of architecture and habitation, whether in longstanding coastal settlements in Greenland, industrial towns in Siberia, or widespread US military installations from the Cold War. If the exhibition prompts more trains of thought than it pursues, that’s perhaps inevitable with so resonant a subject.  The blurb says excitedly that the show is about ‘dreams, destiny, adventure and beauty ... a tale of fear, fascination, desire, downfall’, but it begins rather dourly with photographs taken in 2003 by Darren almond − near monochromes in shades of grey and white in which the horizon almost vanishes and the landscape is a source of bleakness not beauty. They make an effective

above: the sublime imagery of romantics such as caspar David Friedrich created a pre-existing vision of the mysterious pole, which was then recreated for a technological age by photographs such as this

contrast with what lies beyond: the arctic in the visions of 19th-century artists, presented as reproductions in huge freestanding light-boxes. Of course these paintings were fictions, contrived in the studio, and the show puts them in context by including smaller versions of works by Caspar David Friedrich, Turner et al, which equally aspired to the sublime.  as knowledge about the arctic increased, the awe, fear and beauty of the sublime were displaced by data. In an alluring group of antique maps we see the shift from the voids and speculations of renaissance cartographers to the precise plotting of mineral deposits in geological surveys of Greenland. This mapmaking comes right up-to-date with the work of ScanLaB, which creates digital models of ice floes − the results resemble space probe images of distant planets.  Ironically, the names most readily associated with the arctic are not of people who have discovered most about it but who instead have been in quest of the North Pole. The exhibition takes a sceptical view of such ‘heroism’, but there is rich visual material on one of these adventurers, Fridtjof Nansen, in some engaging vintage photos − for instance, Nansen ruminatively smoking a pipe in front of his ship, the Fram, which ar |  JaNUarY 2014 91


was trapped in ice for two years.  Eventually the ice broke up and released the Fram from its grip, but today it seems that the ice is disintegrating more generally. The show’s line on climate change is neatly summed up in one caption: ‘There is a widespread consensus that global warming exists and has been man-made over the last 200 years. Disagreement concerns what the effects of these changes will be.’  Taking a long view of fluctuations in climate, one exhibit features the remains of a forest discovered well above the current tree-line in northern Greenland − it’s thought to date from a warm inter-glacial period some 2 million years ago. But the impact on the region’s residents of any future change is not examined. What we find instead in the section on habitation are 19th-century watercolours of a Greenland village with its church and seminary, and photographs of the Siberian town of Tiksi − a military and scientific base now largely abandoned with the end of government funding. There is some intriguing material on US military infrastructure in the arctic, including a gung-ho propaganda film on the creation of Camp Century, a nuclear-powered research station beneath the Greenland ice cap. But while a special Greenland issue of Arkitektens Forlag (2012:4) is on sale in Louisiana’s bookshop, the show

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itself gives little sense of today’s townscape and architecture. This seems like a real omission, given the excellent photos by Olaf Otto Becker and Joël Tettamanti that could readily fill the gap.  Punctuating the exhibition are works by contemporary artists, who the curators say are taking a renewed interest in the arctic after decades of indifference. Ellie Ga spent five months as the only artist on a scientific exhibition in the arctic Ocean, but judging from her Drift Drawings − meagre both aesthetically and intellectually − she hardly made the most of her time. Other works have more to offer: Jacob Kirkegaard’s eerie Icefall, surrounding you in a darkened room with the sounds of a melting glacier; a hypnotic video by Sophie Calle, shot from a ship slowly steering past gleaming icebergs; and more icebergs, with fantastic profiles, in a photograph by Per Bak Jensen. Clearly the sublime can still be found in the arctic, not least in a time-lapse sequence of the Northern Lights, which proves that nature can still upstage Hollywood when it comes to special effects.  Less elegant than it could be, the catalogue reproduces many of the works and contains some worthwhile texts, including one by Peter Davidson, whose fine book The Idea of North has much in common with

below: Mercator’s historic map of the north pole shows a remote and icy terrain quartered by rivers

The Last Imaginary Place. ‘The north has always been a place of marvels and wonders, of which the first, perhaps, is ice itself ... Greenland is powerful as an idea, one of the most powerful ideas of north. Even to Scandinavians, it was the true ultima Thule,’ writes Davidson.   But recent months have seen not just Greenpeace protests about oil drilling but the announcement that a UK company, London Mining, is about to create a vast open-cast iron ore mine in Greenland − ‘the largest commercial project in the country’s history’. Perhaps almond’s bleak photographs at the start of the show are prescient. Whether through climate change, mining, or just too much information, the arctic of the imagination is precarious now and may soon lose its power to enchant.

classical concrete anDreW ayers Auguste Perret: huit chefs d’oeuvre!/?, Palais d’Iéna, Paris, until 19 February 2014 The son of an exiled Communard stonemason, auguste Perret (1874–1954) never completed his diploma at the École des Beaux-arts, but by the time of his death had risen to become one of the grand old men of French architecture − a member of the académie des Beaux-arts in 1943, president of the Conseil de l’Ordre des architectes in 1945, an rIBa royal Gold Medallist in 1948, an aIa medallist in 1952, and so on. Despite the maverick, entrepreneurial aspects of his ascension, which resulted from the family-run Perret Frères’ pioneering development of reinforced-concrete construction, the portrait that has generally been painted of him up till now is of a rather cold technocrat, and his buildings can seem dry and severe to the uninitiated. This exhibition, which is currently being displayed in Paris’s Palais d’Iéna − a Perret masterpiece − aims to change all that. Its chief curator, Joseph abram (a long-time Perret scholar and the man who got Le Havre listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site), has chosen to put the emphasis on Perret’s personal and artistic development through an analysis of ‘eight masterpieces?/!’: the rue Franklin apartment building of 1903–04, the Théâtre des Champs-


Élysées (1906–13), Notre-Dame du raincy (1922–23), the Salle Cortot (1928–29), the Garde-Meuble du Mobilier National (1934–36), the aforementioned Palais d’Iéna (1936–46), the town hall of Le Havre (1952–58) and the church of St Joseph du Havre (1951–57). Displayed in the Palais’s salle hypostyle, a long, classicising column-filled hall, the exhibition is organised in three parts. The most substantial of these deals directly with the eight buildings in question. running down one side of the room are wall displays featuring over 100 drawings produced by Perret’s office, as well as archive photos by Studio Chevojon (which worked with Perret for almost 50 years) illustrating both the construction history of the buildings in question and other, related projects. Complementing these two-dimensional documents are large-format models. Many of the items selected are truly splendid: a coloured rendering of a Greek-Ionic portico realised by Perret for Julien Guadet’s atelier at the École des Beaux-arts; the original model of the Le Havre town hall; an enormous, beautifully detailed section of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées; a perspective rendering of Perret’s unbuilt scheme for the Chaillot hill; or a large-scale elevation of one of the columns of his new order − a sixth addition to the Classical canon that would be adapted to the requirements of reinforced concrete − to name a few. Equally splendid are examples of Perret’s sober yet luxurious furniture, aptly placed in front of the section on the GardeMeuble (now the Mobilier National). So far so conventional. The middle strip of the exhibition gets more personal. It is here, in display cases arranged thematically, that Perret’s education, artistic and intellectual development, family life, friendships and reputation are considered via a wide array of highly evocative documents and objects. We find some of the textbooks and manuals that formed part of Perret’s library, personal effects such as his snuff box, pince-nez and academician’s sword, numerous family photographs (many showing the Perret brothers larking about), stereoscopic images taken by the brothers that give an insight into how they viewed the world, and countless letters. While you expect correspondence between Perret and Le Corbusier (who, as Charles-Edouard Jeanneret,

undertook a 14-month internship with Perret in 1908–09), you are perhaps less prepared for letters from the likes of Louis aragon, andré Gide or Jean Dubuffet (the latter wrote beautifully of the pleasure he experienced living in a Perret-designed house). The artistic milieu in which Perret moved is also evoked by portraits and busts of him, as well as by antoine Bourdelle’s study for the facade frieze of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. The third section of the exhibition takes all this a stage further via contemporary reactions to Perret’s oeuvre as well as a series of objets rapportés. among the former are Louise Lemoine and Ila Bêka’s portrait of life at 25 bis, rue Franklin (largely filmed from the point of view of the building’s Italian concierge) and student projects from the Versailles School of architecture, while the latter are a series of talismans, or objets à réaction poétique, conjuring up the genius loci of each of the eight buildings: a Pleyel piano as favoured by alfred Cortot, Falconnier glass bricks from the rue Franklin, a Ballets russes poster, and even the 1849 Lambot rowing boat, considered by Perret and his contemporaries as the first realisation in reinforced concrete. The only downside to this gem of an exhibition is the mise en scène, realised by OMa, which recycles

above: the salle hypostyle of auguste perret’s palais d’Iéna elegantly reinterprets the classical language of architecture for an age of béton armé below: the exhibition reveals perret as a warm and brilliant character

leftover sets they designed for the event ‘24h Museum’ − held last year at the Palais d’Iéna by the Fondazione Prada, which is also the main sponsor of the Perret exhibition − as well as tribune seating they conceived for one of Prada’s Miu Miu fashion shows at the Palais. Not only does the result look makeshift and cheap, it renders the splendid volume of the salle hypostyle totally unreadable. and they’ve even managed to mess up Perret’s extraordinary escalier d’honneur: a dizzying display of the technical possibilities of reinforced concrete, it derives much of its effect from being set against glazed concrete latticework, which OMa have hidden behind black curtains serving as a backdrop to a monumental photograph of Perret’s disembodied head, producing an effect startlingly reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz. No doubt this is meant to be read as some kind of ironic questioning of the concept of a canon of ‘masterpieces’ − as suggested by the show’s title with its exclamation and question marks − not to mention of the masters themselves, but Perret’s work proves more than robust enough to stand up to this kind of treatment. and the portrait that emerges of him, as well as being warm, touching and brilliant, sets him both in his own time and in the pantheon of posterity. ar |  JaNUarY 2014 93


The school in the marketplace JacK seLF Contestations: Learning From Critical Experiments in Education, Tim Ivison & Tom Vandeputte (eds), Bedford Press, £1 My end-of-year design crit last July began the same way as all the others: I presented my architectural scheme, then waited for a panel of tutors to assess the work. Perhaps the proposal failed to excite the panel, or perhaps − like the students − they were suffering from sleepdeprivation; in any case I found the energy of the discussion lacking. But rather than suffer through a weak response I found myself irritably demanding that they make more of an effort. Bemused, the panel couldn’t seem to decide who, as it were, was judging whom? Were they deciding if I should pass? Or was I deciding if they’d provided value for money? I was not being flippant. I’d been reflecting on the problem for some time, and intended to expose the fundamental ambiguity at the core of neoliberal education: am I the consumer of a service, or the product of a system? I am hardly the first person to ask this question. However, what sets Contestations apart as a remarkable publication is the lucidity and brilliance with which its authors form a response. as Tim Ivison and Tom Vandeputte note in their introduction, ‘Once marginal and tactical, the discourses and practices discussed here increasingly represent practical, even necessary steps towards post-neoliberal learning.’

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While I am sceptical about the term ‘post-neoliberal’ − the forces of neoliberalism seem to be doing just fine − I admit there doesn’t seem to be a better way of describing pedagogical strategies intended to operate outside or in parallel to the (possibly fatally) compromised institutions of mass education as they exist today. The process at work within architecture schools over the last decade is indicative of the general trend: either by government reform or self-initiation, there has been a push to render the complex educational process compatible with market metrics. at a macro level this has meant a new form of aggressive competition based on the perceived ‘value’ of a degree, which is always expressed in vocational statistics: how much do graduates typically earn, how quickly are they employed, and so on. The only unknown variable in this profit/loss calculation is the ‘reputation’ of a school, influenced by increasingly sophisticated branding and marketing operations. If, at the micro level, there is a sense that pupils and teachers are somehow victims of the same system, it is because metric measurement exploits both parties equally (though separately). Sean Dockray, founder of the fantastic online book repository aaaarg.org, neatly surmises, ‘Library cards, passwords and keys are assigned to individuals; so are contracts, degrees, loans and grades. Student and faculty are individuated at every turn, perhaps no more clearly than in online learning where each body collapses into his or her own profile.’ Meanwhile, educators find themselves wrestling with a

above: a crit at the aa. In a market-obsessed age, this venerable ritual fails the ultimate test: customer satisfaction below: DFab arch, ‘the world’s first industrial robotic laboratory for non-standard architectural assembly processes’, was installed in eTh Zurich in 2005. With better facilities and no fees, wouldn’t british students be better off − and more faithful to neoliberal ideals − heading to europe?

bureaucratic hydra intent on dictating even the content of their classes. It is here, as the well-known activist Bifo Beradi explains, that the greatest threat to universities is located. For while the academy has never been truly fiscally or politically independent, it has always been epistemologically autonomous: in other words, for most of their history it has been up to universities to determine what and how they will teach. That is less and less true, as the 2011 closure of Middlesex’s philosophy department testifies. Even though it was perfectly viable, the withdrawal of all funding from certain arts and humanities courses turned this well-regarded department into a financial black hole overnight. Far from being the case of free-market economics, this amounts to state intervention in the academic direction of the university. as Beradi notes, the death of epistemological autonomy is more broadly ‘destroying the space of autonomy for all intellectual life’. Unsurprisingly, as the artist Gregory Sholette notes, ‘it seems that those who labour in, or are being processed by, the neoliberal edufactory system have begun to revolt, and the new structural adjustment initiated by the so-called Great recession has served as a focusing agent for this rebellion’. Within architecture the frustration has produced a diverse spectrum of effects: a surprisingly radically politicised generation of students, who see no contradiction in being Marxists who ruthlessly demand greater value for money; the intense desire to experiment with new forms of learning institutions (from self-funded collectives to alternative archetypes like The London School of architecture); a targeted resistance to technocratic neoliberal management and the oppression of debt (at a recent architecture Foundation event The Guardian’s Olly Wainwright argued that the logic of a neoliberal EU market demanded UK students should seek free education in Switzerland). Within this context Contestations is essential reading, as the models it describes − from crowd-sourced diplomas to after-school activism − go beyond anything yet attempted within the design fields. a rigorous and enjoyable read, Contestations pragmatically demonstrates the possibility of post-neoliberal pedagogic autonomy.


second nature roberTo boTTaZZI Archilab 2013: Naturalizing Architecture, FraC Centre, Orléans, France, until 30 March 2014 archiLab has always played a part in mapping the role that digital tools have played in pushing the boundaries of architectural research, a condition that this ninth edition only reinforces. The 2013 edition presents works by 40 architects and designers generated by combining the increasing computational power available with the inspiration drawn from ‘molecular biology, even the processes of replication, transcription and translation of genetic material’. The work selected is of outstanding quality: from Minimaforms’ interactive installation, to marcosandmarjan’s experiments with building components, to Jenny Sabin’s captivation with biological systems, the overall effect is that of a consistent body of work able to question established notions of scale and material. The computational paradigm not only includes actual computers but also extends to the parallel development of computercontrolled machines able to materialise digitally generated forms allowing architects to venture into unconventional territories for experimentation. Data − which computers can now sense, mine and visualise in ever-larger quantities − have an essential capacity to challenge traditional definitions of architecture: Biothing convincingly explores the potential Big Data will have in controlling the material resolution of architecture, thinning the divide between organic and inorganic matter. Similar topics also inform − with different outcomes − the work of both Michael Hansmeyer and Marc Fornes & TheVeryMany in which biological references are replaced by the mathematics of form. The works on display − which also include other fields such as communication, fashion and art − could not have been produced and, at times, even imagined without computers. The implicit and provocative statement underlying this edition is that computation has by now positioned itself as an

unavoidable tool for experimentation in architecture; it is here considered as a given so much so that the term ‘post-digital’ would perhaps be more accurate. The curatorial strategy − which is not only confined to the exhibition, but also extends to the organisation of the catalogue and accompanying two-day symposium − perhaps marks the most evident difference with previous versions of archiLab. The catalogue, for instance, comes across less as an encyclopaedic exercise, but rather as a polemical statement about the present and future of architecture. Coherently then, designers’ and theoreticians’ contributions are woven together in a seamless fashion merging design experiments and theoretical essays which expand the discussion to include fields as diverse as epistemology, mathematics and material sciences. Mario Carpo, rivka Oxman, Lambros Malafouris, annick Lesne, Graham Harman, Giuseppe Longo and Franck Varenne provide an extremely rich and complex set of references and criticisms emerging from the integration of computational tools in the creative disciplines. This discussion takes place under the very ambitious agenda set up

above: Daniel Widrig’s ‘Tower study no 7’, an example of the organic yet computer driven design, so strikingly reminiscent of art nouveau, that dominated archiLab 2013

by Frédéric Migayrou in his opening essay, a historical tour de force singling out apparently minor and yet decisive moments in the relation between nature and architecture. By surveying various examples from Mannerism to the present day, Migayrou maps a different genealogy of modernity with the aim of carving out a philosophical and methodological framework within the territories enabled by the conflation of computation and biology. His theoretical opening is all the more provocative if compared to parallel efforts developed by critics such as Charles Jencks or anthony Vidler. Migayrou’s narrative about a different origin of modernity in the 15th century and its unsuspected link to recent developments in the sciences marks an element of true novelty within the contemporary architectural discourse. The potentials and problems emerging from the curators’ thesis were at the centre of the discussions that took place during the symposium on 24 and 25 October. Particularly poignant were the observations by mathematicians probing the presupposed ‘naturalness’ of computation; that is, the rigour with which computers simulate natural phenomena. The gap between representation through models − be it digital or analogic − and reality was for instance problematised by Longo’s foray into the different paradigms that sciences and art use to articulate such relations which concluded in the polemical observation that computers are completely artificial. The different definitions of model provided by scientists and designers became a particularly rich topic. Scientists simulate existing phenomena, a process judged by its predictive success. However, designers employing similar models have a different outlook: they lack phenomena to recreate, and the gap between the expected and what simulations actually return is the measure of success. By restaging the fundamental relation between architecture and nature, archiLab 2013 produced one of its most convincing editions to date. The combination of experimental design at all scales and materials coupled with theoretical investigations foregrounded a body of work which will play a key role in defining how we conceptualise and fabricate architecture. ar |  JaNUarY 2014 95


archive Towards another architecture sTeve parnell The country is in the grip of recession, architects are suffering mass unemployment and the ar is promoting a rethink of architecture. Sound familiar? Well, the year was 1976 and ar’s editor Lance Wright was launching a series of anonymous articles (clearly written by him) called Towards Another Architecture. recessions are good for campaigns. The high level of architectural unemployment was addressed in the December 1976 editorial, ‘no Work’, which suggested that it was time ‘for architects to consider offering a “design-and-build” service for small jobs […] and for them to re-train some of their younger assistant architects as building tradesmen’ as tradesmen earned more than assistant architects. nominally the love child of Corb’s Vers une architecture and Banham’s ‘architecture autre’, Towards Another Architecture had revolutionary aspirations, as its july introduction explained: ‘From now on […] the role of the ar begins to change from that of an architectural Debrett − the recorder and illustrator of an established aesthetic − to that of a seeker for a new kind of architectural sensibility. In the course of time the whole paper will be transformed by this new impetus. […] architecture needs above all to get back to her customary grip on the social imagination so that people once more are moved naturally and as a matter of course to give much more of their attention, their time − and indeed their money − to the business of turning the buildings they need into an architecture which will enthral them ... The ar therefore intends to use its art pages more consciously than before as a means of enriching the now somewhat impoverished visual vocabulary of architecture.’ 96 ar | january 2014

The ar itself needed a direction, after its long-term editorial partnership of jim richards, nikolaus Pevsner and Hubert de Cronin Hastings broke up early in the decade, and the successful quartercentury-long Townscape campaign was waning. It continued for a while under Kenneth Browne as Townscape editor but, without Hastings’ vision and energy, it was time to move on. It had, in fact, made more impact than Hastings had dared to even imagine. Towards Another Architecture seemed to take Hastings’ postwar campaign as a model, starting off by lauding the primacy of the visual in architecture and calling for visual re-education. However, this time those in need of re-education were the architects rather than the public. The language of the Towards Another Architecture pieces is as patriarchal and pompous as any Townscape peroration, and already as dated. Embedded in the language is the belief that architects were male and their subject, architecture, was female, implying that the architect should be the master of the Mistress of the arts. In the above passage, we see Wright employing the building/ architecture duality, equating architecture with good building and implying that the architect’s business is to impart his (sic) artistic talents to transform building into architecture. If only the populace could see the beauty of good building, then they would donate their money to the cause and architectural unemployment would be but a distant memory. QED. The series asked several fundamental questions about its discipline, starting with ‘What is architecture?’, followed by ‘What does architecture do?’, then ‘What does architecture talk about?’, and so on. It ran alongside a section called RSVP, which encouraged readers to discuss the premise and content of the series. It was no coincidence that a piece by Boyd auger called ‘a return to Ornament?’, sandwiched

above: front cover of the ar from July 1976. It was in this issue that lance Wright launched his campaigning series of anonymous articles, Towards another architecture above right: the opening title from Wright’s series acknowledged the ambitious scale of the campaign Below right: Boyd auger’s writing on ornament in the september 1976 issue attempted to answer some of the questions Wright posed

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between RSVP and Towards Another Architecture, posed as an answer to the previous month’s question, ‘What is architecture?’ and likewise for the following month’s ‘Ornament in an Industrial Civilisation’. The first few instalments of Towards Another Architecture focused on making the environment human by turning buildings into communicating objects and what they could say. This, Wright argued, was the road back to public acceptance. architecture was enjoying − or enduring − its semiotic turn. Symbolism and decoration enabled this parlance and it seemed that another architecture merely consisted of connecting the public with its architecture through the medium of ornament. Curiously, despite the lofty ideals, the buildings praised in the magazine were those such as Lasdun’s national Theatre (january 1977), Piano & rogers’ Centre Pompidou (May 1977), Stirling’s runcorn housing and a school for handicapped children (in an industrial High-Tech idiom) by Foster (both november 1976). This shows a clear divide between editorial ambition and policy, or what the editor wants to publish and what readers want to read. Fortunately, the comments of some of the readers in RSVP were more grounded and introduced dimensions beyond that of the visual as to what another architecture could be. In august 1976 robert adam asserted that: ‘It is not so much “whether or not an age produces ‘architecture’”, it is what a society considers to be architecture that demonstrates its values. What contemporary society considers to be architecture is architecture.’ Then, in February 1977, russell Bateman provocatively observed: ‘architects are manipulated by those who pay and providing we conspire to fit into that which is defined for us, we shall continue to despise our real clients − the people who make up society.’ Towards Another Architecture


became more interesting when it was juxtaposed alongside a series on the History of Taste, started in april 1977. Wright’s dated view was that the architect should define architectural taste and he seemed to be calling for the return of the enthusiastic amateur genius: ‘Would it not be better if architects were to look on themselves, not as the sole legitimate practitioners but as the trendsetters whom others are encouraged to copy? Is not the “amateur architect” as legitimate and praiseworthy a figure as the amateur in any other branch of art?’ More progressive was Louise Campbell’s contribution in ar September 1977, which broached the relationship between class and taste in culture, noticing that in Industrial Art in England, Pevsner concluded that ‘the hierarchical nature of English society and education militated against the widespread adoption of the modern style’. Meanwhile, over at academy, an american with a PhD in architectural history was inventing another architecture: Post-Modern. Charles jencks penned responses to early RSVPs, but by january 1977 he was writing articles in AD on radical Eclecticism and he published the first edition of The Language of Post-Modern Architecture that june. Banham detested his former student’s movement, of course, famously calling it ‘building in drag’. It was as far from ‘une architecture autre’ as he could have imagined. nevertheless, Post-Modernism stole Towards Another Architecture’s mojo and Wright’s initiative died in December 1977, the same issue in which a balanced review of jencks’s book appeared. The ar, like the architectural establishment en masse, went on to shun jencks’s movement as passionately as AD promoted it, while it quietly returned to being the definitive architectural Debrett through the 1980s, focusing mainly on High-Tech and romantic Pragmatism. ar | january 2014 97


Reputations Nikolaus Pevsner susIE hARRIEs no one took a dimmer view of how nikolaus Pevsner would be remembered than Pevsner himself, reviewing his career from the perspective of what he had meant to achieve. as a young lecturer in Germany in the 1920s, he had planned and developed his working life along entirely orthodox lines, only to see it turn 10 years later into a sequence of art-related odd jobs overseas, connected as often as not by coincidence. By rights, he would have been remembered as a solid and conscientious academic in a respectable German university, almost certainly a professor of art history with particular interests in Italian Mannerist painting and the English arts and Crafts. Instead, Hitler’s anti-semitic edicts brought him to England to become a reluctant pundit on modern design and a buyer of cutlery and carpets for a furniture firm, an editor and journalist, a paperback inventoriser of England’s architectural heritage. The end of the 1960s found him with three-quarters of The Buildings of England under his belt and a very poor estimation of what he had achieved. He was, he confided to his diary, ‘no longer a scholar’. He had no time for primary research, and his work on topics he had once considered specialisms − Mannerism, William Morris, art nouveau − had long been outdated. His ideas on Modernism were three decades old. ‘I have nowhere propelled my subject,’ he wrote. He had never made any claims to be an original thinker, and he firmly denied having a philosophical cast of mind. Some of his guiding principles − his belief in zeitgeist, for one − could be easily attacked, and had been: he had never examined them particularly critically, and they were readily dismantled. He was not a theorist, 98 ar | january 2014

and he made no conscious effort to gather disciples. However, his German training had given him the confidence, and the wide reading, to produce generalisations that seemed to make sense of a mass of data. Hence the success of his Pioneers of the Modern Movement, which was influential enough to be accused of having skewed the teaching of art history for a quarter of a century. But even this mark of authority was something he was unable to enjoy. He was perfectly aware that his account of the evolution of Modernism was not comprehensive − he had chosen to follow a single line of descent, from William Morris to Walter Gropius, at the expense of others − and he regretted the fossilisation of a polemic into a pedagogic platitude. He was on record as saying that, if it were not for the royalties, he wouldn’t mind if Pioneers went out of print. If it had, future critics might have been less ready to convict him of being determined to promote Modernist architecture in Britain at all costs. In Pioneers, he undoubtedly tried to convince English readers in the 1930s of the aesthetic virtues and ethical strengths of the international Modern Movement, as expressed most purely in the work of Gropius and the Bauhaus. But by the early 1940s he was already advocating a milder form of Modernism refracted through the prism of national character. ‘Lincoln Cathedral is as English as amiens Cathedral is French and Florence Cathedral, Italian. This is what we must again have, if we believe that a healthy European life cannot exist in uniformity and regimentation. Should international planning impose an international idiom, nearly all the visual pleasure would go out of the new buildings.’ To be acceptable in England, Modernism must be humanised, to accommodate the English vernacular

‘I am fully aware,’ he wrote in 1974, ‘that in the history of art history I would not exist, except as a compiler, an entrepreneur and a vulgarisateur ...’

Nikolaus Pevsner 1902-1983 Notable works Pioneers of the Modern Movement, later published as Pioneers of Modern Design; The Buildings of England Contributor to the AR From 1936 he was a frequent, contributor to the AR (albeit sometimes writing under pseudonyms) and 1943-45 was acting editor while JM Richards was on active service Awards CBE 1953; RIBA Gold Medal 1967; knighted 1969 Quote ‘A bicycle shed is a building; Lincoln Cathedral is a piece of architecture. Nearly everything that encloses space on a scale sufficient for a human being to move in is a building; the term architecture applies only to buildings designed with a view to aesthetic appeal’

and the element of irrationalism in the English character. Pevsner was part of the ar’s postwar drive to promote the softer version of Modernism that would coalesce in the visual planning theory of Townscape; but he was far from being its spearhead. jim richards was always adamant that Pevsner was employed as a resident historian at the ar, not a theorist or policymaker and certainly not a front-line campaigner. That he might have had any impact, as a historian-cum-critic, on what was actually built is in any case debatable: Lionel Brett, as just one practising architect, found the notion hilarious. Pevsner has sometimes been blamed for the shortcomings of the Holford plan for redeveloping the setting of St Paul’s, when at most he used his public profile to air the ar’s attitude to the project − which was in any case a matter of approving pre-existing plans rather than shaping them. So if Pevsner was not a scholar, theorist or Modernist ideologue, where does that leave his reputation? ‘I am fully aware,’ he wrote in 1974, ‘that in the history of art history I would not exist, except as a compiler, an entrepreneur and a vulgarisateur.’ His tone is disparaging, but there are more positive ways of interpreting these labels. Throughout his writing career, he ‘compiled’ information across an extraordinarily wide field of reference: his bibliography runs to 66 pages. To him, this meant he was no more than ‘a GP in the field of art history’. To others, it meant he had done some of the ground work for a vast range of future studies. He said late in his career that whenever he saw his name in print now, it was usually preceded by the word ‘not’, as in ‘not, as Pevsner assumed ...’ He is still regularly challenged, corrected and contradicted − which suggests that half a century on, his works are still valuable reference points. ‘Entrepreneur’, too, fits best in its sense of ‘go-between’. Through his own intellectual voraciousness,


GERALD NASON (AR OCTOBER 1984)

Pevsner developed a wide web of contacts and sources, which he shared freely with friends, students and colleagues. and ‘vulgarisateur’ is an unnecessarily disparaging word to express his efforts to make the history of art, and in particular of architecture, something which belonged to a far wider audience than the charmed circle of the cultivated who had laid claim to it before the war. Pevsner was a pillar of the art history establishment without ever being fully an insider. He never held any of the most prestigious academic posts in art history, and he wrote principally for a lay readership − it was this above all, according to Ernst Gombrich, that separated him from many of his peers, rather than his religious or political beliefs. He was a populariser, and it was hard for him, brought up to think of himself as a potential Herr Professor Doktor, to recognise the importance of what he achieved in that role. When the rIBa gave its 1967 Gold Medal to Pevsner instead of to a practising architect, it was for ‘affirming the value and meaning of architecture instead of simply seeing it in terms of cash and cost’. Through his relationship with Penguin − one of the main channels of access to so-called ‘high culture’ for ordinary people − he opened up the appreciation of architecture: how it has evolved, why it matters, its value as a means of understanding society or simply as an omnipresent source of aesthetic and intellectual pleasure. In The Buildings of England, he did a great deal to distinguish and define English architecture as an art form. john Summerson once called him, for the people of England, ‘a bringer of riches, the wisdom, the entertainment of architectural scholarship to more people probably than any man alive’. not perhaps what he’d had in mind when he left Germany as a specialist in Italian Mannerist painting, but something to settle for. ar | january 2014 99


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Preserving Venice by Aarhus School of Architecture graduate Kirsty Badenoch, who won the Serjeant Award for Drawing in this year’s RIBA President’s Medals 102 ar | january 2014


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The Architectural Review | January 2014