Tag Archives: CLAUDE MONET

#128: BLURRING THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN ART, SCULPTURE, AND ARCHITECTURE

December 25, 2020

(photo by Hunter Kerhart)

Architecture can—and most definitely should—be artistic. Masterpieces such as both Guggenheim museums, in New York City and Bilbao, Spain, are called “works of art” by pretty much everyone. Interesting that a legendary work of art such as the Monet’s Water Lilies would never be referred to as an exquisite “work of architecture.” Some sculptures on the other hand, such as those by Richard Serra, are indeed called architectural.

Sequence, by Richard Serra, 2006, SFMOMA, San Francisco, California (photo by Anthony Poon)

Poon Design was honored to be commissioned by two global hospitality brands, the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott at the 27-acre L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles. The Ritz stands proud as one of the highest standards of quality, earning the colloquial adjective that defines sophistication and elegance, “Ritzy.”

At the existing porte cochere and main entrance to the 54-level luxury hotel and residential high-rise, our client challenged us to replace the hundred foot long fence with something innovative. Not only was the existing fence not at all Ritzy, it was more akin to a low end motel—the fence barely better than a commercial chain link screen. Failing dramatically, the 9-foot tall fence was supposed to accomplished several things, most importantly: provide security and privacy to the residents and visitors who comprise high net worth individuals, Hollywood stars, celebrated athletes, and the like.

Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott at L.A. Live, Los Angeles, California (photo from gensler.com)
(photo by Hunter Kerhart)

Alongside creating a unique privacy scrim, the Ritz-Carlton gave Poon Design additional design objectives:

– Present a notable front door for a world-renowned brand,

– Provide security to the residents and their luxury cars arriving at the porte cochere,

– While providing privacy, allow natural light to enter the porte cochere, meaning, not a solid fortress-like wall,

– Screen out the movie complex across the street which brought glaring lights, noisy customers, and trash, and finally,

– Establish a friendly face, but one that can protect the hotel from bystanders, loiterers, and paparazzi—again, but not a fortress-like wall.

(photo by Hunter Kerhart)

The assignment was a triple-threat challenge of architecture, sculpture, and art. In response, we designed an 87-foot-long statement of contour and texture. Our 260 shaped steel fins at 10’-6” tall guard the Ritz-Carlton, while projecting a distinguished curbside appeal and allowing in dappled sunlight.

Plan, elevation, and detail

As a visitor moves alongside this wall of ever-changing angled slats, her views, perception and exposure to light constantly and mysteriously change. Even a stationary car on the other side of our wall appears to be in motion.

(photos by Poon Design)

In addition to the uplights in the ground, the steel’s powder-coated silver surface captures the constantly changing colors of the theater’s flashing signs and lights from across the street, and reflects it back as an everchanging light show.

Is it architecture because it is a mere freestanding wall—an element of a building? Is it sculpture that happens to serve many programmatic functions from security to trade dress? Or is it art because it’s sublime presence surpasses the base purpose of being just a piece of architecture?

A future design to come to enhance the streetscape at the Ritz-Carlton, by Poon Design

#84: KINETIC ARCHITECTURE: THE DESIGN OF MOVEMENT

June 6, 2018

Kiefer Technic Showroom, Gleichenberg, Austria, by Ernst Giselbrecht + Partner (photos by Ernst Giselbrecht + Partner)

It is uncommon to think of buildings as anything other than static. Generally speaking, architecture is the design of a fixed object, not of something that moves—such as a car speeding down the neighborhood street. Rather, architecture is thought of as the neighborhood street. Similarly, architecture is not performing arts, but the theater that houses the performing arts. Architecture is mostly a building made of sticks and stones, steel and glass.

It doesn’t move. But why not?

Sharifi-ha House, Theran, Russia, by Nextoffice (photos from archdaily.com)

A small segment of our design industry explores architecture as a kinetic thing, a building that moves. Note: I am not referring to a house that has a prosaic automatic garage door. Whether the intimate scale of a home or of a massive public building, the architectural environment can be designed to move, to change throughout the day according to the user’s needs.

Saitama Super Arena, Tokyo, Japan Aecom, left: (photo from aray.tistory.com); right: (photo from meisarchitects.com)

For example, a sports building can be designed to transform for basketball vs. hockey vs. a music concert. Being that the above example is a project in Japan, I see the inspiration as the popular Transformer toys.

Bengt Sjostrom Starlight Theatre, Rockford, Illinois, by Studio Gang (photos from studiogang.com)

Unlike a stadium’s roof retracting in a banal utilitarian way, this theater’s roof opens like an unfolding piece of paper, similarly to a fortune teller’s origami contrivance—letting in the sky and the stars, as if the building itself is part of the performance.

Brisbane Airport Parking Garage with kinetic aluminum façade by installation artist Ned Kahn, Australia (photo from mark-magazine.com)

Some architecture has been designed to be as striking as the art and sculpture movement known as Kinetic Art, an exploration that started in the early 1900’s. The exhibited facade captures the movement of the wind. Architecture has made visible what is typically invisible: the movement of air.

Constantly changing like the glistening sign of the Sparkletts truck, this building’s façade ripples in the wind. Maison Martin Margiela, Beverly Hills, California, by Johnston Marklee & Associates (left photo from archdaily.com, right photo from hiveminer.com)

One of my favorite retail facades in Beverly Hills is this small fashion boutique, Maison Martin Margiela. The exterior is composed of nothing more than the shiny things on the back of a Sparkletts water truck. At the boutique, applying the shimmering plastic discs to the entire building transforms the cute reflective circles into a powerful urban scale design of kinetic architecture and sculpture.

Three Ballet Dancers, by Edgar Degas, 1878

Even if architecture is a fixed and inanimate object, it can still express motion, merely through its artistry. Late 19th century Impressionist artist such as Degas or Manet attempted to capture movement in time, as one might experience it in reality. The 82-story Aqua Tower is static, unmoving like 99% of buildings. Not kinetic, but the tower’s ever changing balconies give the impression that the 850-foot tall facades are rippling in the Chicago wind.

Aqua Tower, Chicago, Illinois, by Studio Gang (left photo from studiogang.com, right photo by James Howe)

Whether suggesting motion or truly in motion, keep in mind the notion of progress—that good architecture is always moving the world forward. Architecture must stay in pace with life and how it evolves.

© Poon Design Inc.