Tag Archives: RICARDO BOFILL

THE NOISE OF ARCHITECTURE

September 22, 2017

(photo from jimjenningsarchitecture.com)

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.

Here I list fifteen projects that represent the dynamic range of architecture’s capacity to blare, starting with silence and increasing to an uproar.

1. If you are wondering where the architecture is, that is exactly the point. The Tidal Pools de Leca da Palmeira intentionally blur the lines between nature and manmade. In so doing, Alvaro Siza (here and here) created a quiet structure for Porto, Portugal.

(photo from mimoa.eu)
(photo from uncubemagazine.com)

2. Present though voiceless, Jim Jennings’ Art Pool + Pavilion in Calistoga, California, provides the visitor nothing to relate to. The project is powerfully hush and abstract. (Black and white image above.)

3. Looking like not much more than a barn, rock star architect, Peter Zumthor, delivers a house/office, offering only a single window for scale. Here in Hadlerstein, Switzerland, Zumthor barely speaks and shows off his capacity for restraint.

4. The Benesse House in the Kagawa District of Japan does not need to yell to get your attention. Practicing a meditative Zen-like harmony, Tadao Ando’s (here and here) building is at noiseless peace.

(photo by Tadao Ando)

5. What appears to be a typical sacred building starts at first through its name, the “Cardboard Cathedral.” Then it hits you: Shigeru Ban literally used cardboard tubes for this New Zealand project.

(photo by Stephen Goodenough)

6. Like a child’s toy, a cylinder on top of a box comprises the Stockholm Public Library in Sweden. But for Gunnar Asplund, this is no simple toy. The sheer scale and volume makes the building’s presence loud and clear.

(photo from architectsjournal.co.uk)

7. Wang Shu’s China Academy of Art seems to be contextual with the vernacular of Hangzhou, China. But it is the architect’s details and use of materials in innovative ways that provide this project a slight degree of commotion.

(photo from npr.org)

8. For his Experimental House in Muuratsalo, Finland, Alvar Aalto generated an outcry with his brick patterns.

(photo from Architizer.com)

9. Rafael Moneo (here and here) used a cylinder, as did Asplund above. But for Moneo’s Atocha Train Station in Madrid, the crisp brick pillars form a cylinder in an untraditional way. And they resound with a majestic boom.

(photo from europaenfotos.com)

10. For a housing project cutely entitled “Xanadu,” Taller de Arquitectura (here and here) created something that demands more attention that your generic hillside apartment. In La Manzanera Alicante, Spain, Xanadu may have some items that appear to be normal, like clay tile, gable roofs, painted stucco and residential scale windows—but upon a second look, the overall composition is a hullabaloo.

(photo by Ricardo Bofill)

11. The green, glazed terra cotta, exterior tiles on this addition possesses a visual bark, especially in counterpoint to the traditional original building. In Sarasota, Florida, Macado Silvetti clearly wanted the Center for Asian Art to create a racket when having the new holler to the old.

(photo from machado-silvetti.com)

12. I typical attribute the work of Antonio Gaudi to jazz. His fantastical improvised vision of the world, seen here at Casa Batlo in Barcelona, breaks the rules of composition and color, resulting in an intuitive, lyrical work.

(photo from apetcher.wordpress.com)

13. The historic collaboration between Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei, and Swiss architects, Herzog & de Meuron (here and here) offered up the 2008 Olympics’ Chinese National Stadium, also known as the famous “Bird’s Nest”. This artistic structure in Beijing blasted onto the world stage with its surreal knitting of massive steel members, alongside the building’s enormous presence.

(photo from hoesthetics.net)

14. This image of the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas has not been distorted. Frank Gehry (here, here, herehere and here) designed an interior that has quite an uproar—one that questions if such noise is good for the purpose of this facility, the healthiness of one’s brain.

(photo from newsroom.clevelandclinic.org)

15. Similar to the Center for Asian Art, above, this Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto represents a dialogue between old and new. But here, Studio Libeskind’s (LINK best friends) new addition screams and cries for attention. The juxtaposition fascinates, but does architecture need to bellow like this?

THE BUSINESS WORLD WANTS TO THINK LIKE DESIGNERS

March 31, 2017

Design Thinking artwork (photo from readytomanage.com)

When The New York Times published an article about seeking “Fulfillment,” the headline declared, “Think Like a Designer.”

“Design Thinking” (“DT”) is impacting universities, companies and entrepreneurs. Thought leaders have applied the mindset of an architect to address challenges in our world.

Poon Design’s previous studio, Beverly Hills (photo by Anthony Poon)
Poon Design’s previous architecture studio, Beverly Hills (photo by Anthony Poon)
A lot of financial, busy-ness, busi-ness, business, mumble-jumble (photo by Anthony Poon)
A lot of financial, busy-ness, busi-ness, business, mumble-jumble (photo by Anthony Poon)

The difference in mindset between an architect and business person can be quite remarkable. For example, I might sketch ideas quickly into a journal—improvise, test, reject, and try again. In contrast, a finance person might spend two weeks authoring a highly-detailed, 30-page spreadsheet. Drowning in overwrought details, he forces unwanted answers.

To explore DT further, I interviewed good friend Christine Fang, Associate Director for the Apex Systems Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, at Virginia Tech. Decades ago at UC Berkeley, I studied architecture and music, while Chris studied finance and accounting. Young in our fields in New York City, I worked at the offices of Robert A.M. Stern, while she at Morgan Stanley.

Book cover of Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur
Book cover of Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur

Anthony: How did all this DT begin?

Christine: Many educators agree that DT is linked to the d.school at Stanford, influencing disciplines such as business and entrepreneurship. Through examining how designers approached projects, tools were developed for the ideation of business ideas. One tool mixing DT and entrepreneurship is the Business Model Canvas (“BMC”). BMC looked more like an architect’s building blocks, rather than a 30-page business plan. I remember when I recently called you about a reference to an architect in the BMC business book, Christopher Alexander, whom you studied at Berkeley.

Architect Christopher Alexander, an influential architect and design theorist, who ideas have influenced architecture, urban design, software, sociology, anthropology, and other fields. The Eishin Higashino High School and College, Higashino, Japan, by Alexander (photo by Robert Baum)
Christopher Alexander, an influential architect and design theorist, who ideas have influenced architecture, urban design, software, sociology, anthropology, and other fields. The Eishin Higashino High School and College, Higashino, Japan, by Alexander (photo by Robert Baum)

Anthony: How does DT help in communication and interaction? Does mindfulness have a role?

Christine: As a business student 25 years ago, I wasn’t sure how future communication in society would work with such deep silos of specialization, like business school vs. architecture school. Surely business people and architects would have to interact, but what happens if there is a basic inability to share and collaborate? There is even a recently published book by Gillian Tett on this topic, The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers.

With DT bridging at least two silos, you’ve now got designers crossing over into the field of business with a level of comfort, and vice versa. Underlying these crossovers is mindfulness. That is a whole other topic, but suffice it to say that when we approach each other with an authentic wish to understand one another, and not just continue to fortify silos for the sake of them, we can truly start to communicate and interact.

Architect Ricardo Bofill converts WWI-era cement silos into his home and office, Sant Just Desvern, Spain (photo from boredpanda.com)
Architect Ricardo Bofill converts WWI-era cement silos into his home and office, Sant Just Desvern, Spain (photo from boredpanda.com)

Anthony: How does the concept of “unit size,” as in a building block, relate to a finished project, both in architecture and entrepreneurship?

Christine: I used to envision that an artist like Diana Krall could potentially not have to think about business while creating music. Her artistic process would be only one segment at the beginning of a value chain. Next, an entrepreneur must think about producing content for customers, next is building a business concept that can thrive, and next is being part of a whole market with other players. In business terms, we call it being able to “scale.”

Diana Krall (photo from larazon.es)
Diana Krall (photo from larazon.es)

I refer to “unit size” being the cause of differences in communication. Clarifying whether our assessments refer to a business idea, an actual product, a venture, or a market (from smaller to bigger unit size) can lead to more accuracy. In mainstream terms, on Shark Tank, for example, the judging investors criticize the candidates who think only at the unit size of their product. The candidates should think about having an entire business venture worth investing in.

Think of businesses as being made up of conceptual building blocks. You start with a spark of an idea. You have to develop it into an offering like a product or service. Then you create an even bigger unit called a business. And finally, you build up the supporting activities around it to become a sustainable venture.

Anthony: So what happens when different disciplines discuss issues at different unit sizes?

Christine: When “design” is mentioned, there is already a communication gap. What are we designing exactly? The product (like the iPhone) vs. the whole business (like Apple)?

Harvard Business Review article, Design Thinking by Tim Brown
Harvard Business Review article, Design Thinking by Tim Brown

Anthony: What are the challenges in DT for businesses?

Christine: Like with any new concept where we stretch conventional definitions, we need to proceed with complete mindfulness. We need to know that there will be square pegs being put in round holes, that not everything about the approach will be perfect. People who too quickly adopt DT can be ill-advised, or even offend my design friends. There is a whole lineage that led to the design way of thinking, and it would be inappropriate for educators and business practitioners to treat a designer’s education and training as cliché. However, the benefits of applying Design Thinking to business certainly outweigh any short-term negative outcomes. We’re just at the beginning.

The conventional design process, let’s try a new approach. (photo from ithinkidesign.wordpress.com)
The conventional design process, let’s try a new approach. (photo from ithinkidesign.wordpress.com)
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