Tag Archives: BRICK

THE MOST SEDUCTIVE BUILDINGS OF 2019

December 31, 2019

UCCA Dune Art Museum, Qinhuangdao, China (photo by Qingshan Wu)

I am avoiding “The Best of” list, because I don’t know how to define “the best.” Instead, I have chosen the adjective “seductive.” Seduction is an act that might lead to enticement or worse, being led astray into questionable moral ground. Seducing someone suggests lurid temptation and even sexual desire.

So why not? Why not list ten projects of 2019 that have led the creative mind astray, enticed and tempted us to desire such an experience?

(photo by Iwan Baan)

1: The 500,000-square-foot National Museum of Qatar is both a structural feat of glass-fiber reinforced concrete over steel frames, as well as a metaphor of the local mineral formations called the Desert Rose. Upon seeing this work of Atelier Jean Nouvel, I initially questioned if such a striking work of originality was real or a make-believe digital image. Yes, it is real.

(photo by Ameen Deen)

2: Architect Formzero designed this “Planter Box House” for a retired couple in tropical Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. With edible plants abound and sustainable split bamboo as the concrete formwork, the design is a combination of a green house, garden courtyards, and vertical farm, as well as a statement of Abstract art and Minimalist sculpture.

(photo from cityfodreamsmacau.com)

3: For me, the 770-room Morpheus Hotel in Macau doesn’t represent the curvaceous surfaces of China’s traditional jade carving—as PR statements promote. Regardless, Zaha Hadid’s free styling steel and aluminum exoskeleton presents a stunning visual character unlike anything seen before in city skylines.

(photo by Edmund Sumner)

4: In Kopargaon, India, the undulating roof of a building is transformed into a walkable surface, a social area for this children’s library. Sameep Padora’s singular exploration of local tile vaults in structural compression defines the Maya Somaiya Library.

V&A Dundee

5: Is it a museum or a massive sculpture? A giant symbolic ship honoring the historic waterfront? Or maybe the bizarre building surface recalls the cliffs of Scotland? Over 2,500 textured precast concrete panels create this enigmatic and beautiful United Kingdom project called V&A Dundee.

(photo by Maurizio Montagna)

6: In my early years living in New York City, I was fascinated by the works of Peter Eisenman and his propaganda of Formalism, Deconstructivism, the Avant-Garde, Post Humanism, Jacques Derrida, Giuseppe Terragni, blah, blah, etc. I have no idea what the “emancipation and autonomization of the discipline” is about. Critics and users alike considered Eisenman’s buildings to be hostile environments or simply confusing. But at the Residenze Carlo Erba in Milan, the result is not an overly complicated pompous statement of critical theory and mathematical analogs, but rather, the design is an elegant and beguiling composition of program, structure and geometry.

(photo by Iwan Baan)

7: Toshiko Mori’s Fass Elementary School is much more than yet another one-classroom schoolhouse. It is a poetic statement of global and local proportions. The modest output of village labor and techniques, such as the bamboo structure, mud brick walls and a grass-thatched roof, delivers a profound, elemental and humane building for the remote area of Sengal, West Africa.

(photo by Aesop)

8: To his students, Louis Kahn famously suggested, “You say to a brick, what do you want, brick?” In Brooklyn’s Park Slope, how far can Frida Escobedo go with a brick for Aesop, the beauty products boutique? The theme-and-variations on brick patterns, details, tones, and textures are far-reaching, as Escobedo finds inspiration in the historic fabric of New York’s brick and brownstone buildings.

(photo by Edmund Sumner)

9: Simply called the “House in a Garden,” Gianni Botsford’s 2,500-square-foot jewel-of-a-building occupies a tight urban London site. Recalling the Pantheon in miniature, a heavenly oculus tops off the double-curved, copper and timber roof.

(photo by Qingshan Wu)

10: (See first image and above.) Yes, this is the third museum on my list. Buildings that house art are usually also seductive statements of art themselves. In Qinhuangdao, China, the UCCA Dune Art Museum goes bizarrely further. Dug into sandy dunes like children with beach toys, this museum is sometimes there and sometimes not. With cave-like galleries partially hidden from the sea, OPEN Architecture’s design for Qinhuangdao is primitive, raw and unforgettable.

(For the list of my all-time 15 favorite buildings, visit here. )

(DI)STRESSED OUT: LIFE WITH PATINA

September 29, 2016

My fave pair of jeans, by AG (photo by Anthony Poon)

What is it about our favorite pair of jeans—weathered and perfectly broken in? How about the ol’ leather jacket—worn and faded? The lustrous surface, cracking a little—almost poetically.

The Silver Room, Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles, California (photo by Anthony Poon)
The Silver Room, Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles, California (photo by Anthony Poon)

But a car. No one wants a car that has been distressed, with a shattered windshield and scratches on the sides. No, we want our cars immaculate. Like new.

Many think of architecture like a polished car. Buildings should look new. Buildings are constantly being renovated, and historic building hopefully restored to their original sheen.

left: The Acropolis at Athens, by Leo von Klenze, 1846; right: Today’s Parthenon, Athens, Greece (photo from wanderforlife.com)
left: The Acropolis at Athens, by Leo von Klenze, 1846; right: Today’s Parthenon, Athens, Greece (photo from wanderforlife.com)

But why not we embrace a building as worn, like our denim jeans or favorite leather shoes?

Renovation by Martin / Poon Architects of the legendary 1924 Gordon Kaufman-designed estate, Los Angeles, California (photo by Martin / Poon Architects)
Renovation by Martin / Poon Architects of the legendary 1924 Gordon Kaufman-designed estate, Los Angeles, California (photo by Martin / Poon Architects)

Consider the dreamy paintings of Antiquity, with the gleaming majesty of white temples. Think of how they look today: tired, old, covered in both soot and scaffolding. Most buildings can’t look the same as they did on the first day.

And I argue that they shouldn’t.

Amazon summarizes the book by my thesis advisor, Mohsen Mostafavi, On Weathering: The Life of Buildings in Time. “On Weathering illustrates the complex nature of the architectural project by taking into account its temporality . . . weathering makes the “final” state of the construction necessarily indefinite, challenges the conventional notion of a building’s completeness.”

I suggest that we embrace building materials that patina with inherent beauty. I think of the tag that comes with my jeans, “Variations and changes in color and surface are not defects of the material, but considered to be part of the fabric’s natural beauty.”

left: New copper (photo from ecrc1.org); right: Patina’d copper (photo by Ian Crossland)
left: New copper (photo from ecrc1.org); right: Patina’d copper (photo by Ian Crossland)

Copper, for example, expresses evolution and maturity, as it starts shiny and bright, deepening to a rich “dirty penny” brown, eventually becoming a vivid and brilliant green. Bricks begin life as a crisply cast block of masonry. Over time, the edges soften and the surfaces crack a little. The standard red color becomes twenty different shades of the hue of origin. Consider the 200-year old brick sidewalks of Boston.

left: New bricks (photo milbricks.com); right: Worn bricks (photo from bgfons.com)
left: New bricks (photo milbricks.com); right: Worn bricks (photo from bgfons.com)

Materials aside, allowing architecture to breathe, express its age and soul, and change even mutate—all this displays character and life, like the worn grooves in a wood service stair. Progress: A caterpillar does not exists only as a worm.

Daily life, Cinque Terre, Vernazza, Italy (photo by akulamatiau)
Daily life, Cinque Terre, Vernazza, Italy (photo by akulamatiau)
For $1,200 at Barneys New York, you can get a brand new pair of shoes that are already distressed and patina’d (photo by Anthony Poon)
For $1,200 at Barneys New York, you can get a brand new pair of shoes that are already distressed and patina’d (photo by Anthony Poon)
© Poon Design Inc.