So as teenagers in figure drawing class, we all had that moment when the beautiful model dropped her robe to the floor and stood there in all her naked glory, surrounded by students in awe and dropped jaws. Then our teacher said to study the model and draw.
There are the usual suspects: Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, I.M. Pei, and so on. Call them celebrity architects or call them “Starchitects,” but one greater walks amongst these mere mortal rock stars. I speak of one who is called an “architect’s architect.” He is Pritzker-winning, Swiss architect, Peter Zumthor.
Many non-architects may not even know the name of the enigmatic Zumthor, for his Haldenstein-based practice is small and artisanal, perhaps even cultish. But in a short time to come, Los Angeles will know Mr. Zumthor’s work.
In 1984, opera legend Kiri Te Kanawa sought success in an unexpected arena. Courageously stepping into the world of Broadway, she recorded her jazzy version of the 1957 Bernstein and Sondheim musical, West Side Story.
One year prior, jazz great Wynton Marsalis waltzed onto the classical stage with trumpet concertos by Mozart and Haydn—setting aside Marsalis’s New Orleans Dixieland roots.
Whether these two artistic efforts were successful or not, the term “crossover” entered the mainstream lexicon. Te Kanawa and Marsalis crossed over to uncharted universes, creating new sounds and challenges.
I am not referring to the acoustic engineering of a concert hall or the aural quality of a restaurant. Rather, all works of architecture have a certain artistic volume level, from blank mute to in-your-face loud. The visual and experiential clamor of a building can reverberate with a subtle hum, or brash feedback and distortion.
Architecture possesses this important and noble side, such as the design of the historic cathedrals in Europe, New York’s September 11 Memorial, or inspiring public schools. But what about humor? Can a building be funny?
Yes! Architecture can be a witty query or a laugh-out-loud punch line.
(Continuing on my rants from previous posts on agency agony.)
I respect the city process where my designs are reviewed and approved for construction. In theory, this process can offer productive checks-and-balances. But since this is so rare these days, my idealism is often extinguished.
True story. The planning code for some new homes by Poon Design was unclear. We went to the top, asking the Planning Director for clarification on the required length of the driveways. This boss stated the driveways are to be 15 feet long. Seemed clear enough, right?