Tag Archives: MAD

GORGEOUS—BUT HOW THE HECK DID THAT GET BUILT?

July 23, 2021

King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, by Zaha Hadid Architects (photo from architizer.com)

Every so often, I see a great design, a building of extraordinary exploration and creativity. Having appreciated the architectural marvel, my first question is this: How did the architect convince the client to build this incredible design? It’s not the bold design concepts with which I am impressed. We all have them, from our early student work to veteran sketches. The challenge is getting said ground-breaking ideas implemented.

Gallery House, Bansberia, Mithapukur More, India, by Abin Design Studio (photo from architizer.com)

Often, architects generate beautiful designs, even earth-shattering, potentially career-changing ideas. But without a courageous client, a true believer in the architect’s talents, such designs remain pencil lines on paper or digital files in the computer. But big ideas do get built, and I wonder how the successful architect persuades the board of directors. I can’t imagine it goes like this.

Cloudscape of Haikou, Hainan Province, China, by MAD (photo by AOG Vision)

Client, “Love the gorgeous roof design, but how much more will this cost?”

Unfazed Architect, “I would need to double your budget. . . so about $50 million more and an extra year of time.”

Upset Client, “A really creative design, but c’mon, are you insane?!”

Architect with a Grin: “You should really do it. It will be great”

Converted Client: “Uh, okay, I am convinced. Let’s do it!”

De Young Museum, San Francisco, California, by Herzog and de Meuron (photo by Steve Proehl)

This kind of thing doesn’t really happen, does it? But then, we see these incredible museum designs (here, here, and here), performing art centers, even residential estates—and we see them a lot. Take the example of the de Young Musuem in San Francisco by Swiss architects, Herzog and de Meuron. How the heck did they get their design endorsed by the museum board and stakeholders, as well as the typically conservative community focused more on historical preservation and Victorian dollhouses than groundbreaking Modernism?

De Young Museum, San Francisco, California, by Herzog and de Meuron (photo by Duccio Malagamba)

Yes no argument—the design is striking with its custom-perforated, dimpled-copper exterior panels. But how does the client embrace this? What devices of persuasion do the architects use when presenting their warping low-slung building, all covered in murky brown metal from top to bottom, holes and bubbles on the surface, and a twisted contorted observation tower—all set within the idyllic setting of Golden Gate Park? And at $135 million?

Musee Atelier Audemars Piguet, Jura-Nord Vaudois, Switzerland, by BIG (photo from architizer.com)

What about the Danish company named BIG? Its fearless leader, Bjarke Ingels, comes up with ideas literally from the pages of comic books. Keep in mind again: We all have exciting fantastical ideas. Yet, BIG gets them all built. These aggressive ambitious designs of Ingels—that usually sit in the back pages of another architect’s sketchbook—are for BIG, constructed in reality.

Grove at Grand Bay, Miami, Florida, by BIG (photo from architizer.com)

After these design and political hurdles, such a project must also: leap through the permitting agencies; make itself constructible in the real world of labor and materials; and all the other logistical nightmares that even the most modest of architectural projects must endure, i.e.: weather, costs, schedule. Maybe the influence over the client is done through sheer salesmanship and will power, mystique of the genius-artist, or Jedi-mind tricks. I don’t’ know. So if anyone knows the secret, please shine a light for the rest of us.

Anhui Science and Technology Musuem, Hefei, China, by Preston Scott Cohen, Inc. (photo from prestonscottcohen.com)

THE MOST INTRIGUING BUILDINGS OF 2020

January 15, 2021

Phoenix Central Park, Chippendale, Australia (Right photo by Martin Mischkulnig; left photo by Julia Charles)

As I stated at the close of 2019, I avoid “The Best of” list, because I don’t know how to define “the best.” For the end of 2019, I instead listed ten worthy projects that fit my list of The Most Seductive Buildings. For the end of 2020, the operative adjective is intriguing.

To intrigue is an act of arousing one’s curiosity or interest—to fascinate. Being intriguing can be illicit or titillating. In no particular order, I list below ten projects from last year that intrigue, enthrall, and captivate.

(photo by Hong Sung Jun)

1: For this shopping center in Korea’s Gwangyo, OMA explores the Grotesque. Like Beethoven countering Mozart’s premise that music is supposed to be pretty and lyrical, architect Rem Koolhaas has created something ugly and even frightening, yet extraordinary—beautiful in its own unabashed way.

(photo by Cristobal Palma)

2: A single poetic gesture from architect Ryue Nishizawa graces this promontory in Los Vilos, Chile. The shaped concrete roof of a weekend house is as graceful as the Pacific Ocean waves. The glass walls embrace the limitless surroundings and deliver a small structure as a gift to Mother Nature.

(photo by Chong‐Art Photography)

3: 14,600 triangular panels, each 3 feet by 7 feet, recall flowing silk, as well as nod towards Guangzhou’s tattoo culture. The design of the Sunac Guangzhou Grand Theatre honors the district’s history as a trading port, the Silk Road on the Sea, through the wavy skin of tessellated red aluminum panels, by Steven Chilton Architects.

(photo by Richard Barnes)

4: At the D.C. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, with this project known simply as the Reach, Steven Holl Architects created building additions that blur the lines between architecture, art, sculpture, and landscape. As oddly shaped toy-like pieces, the new performance, rehearsal, and education components sprinkle themselves across a sculpted green lawn on the Potomac.

(photo by Dan Glasser)

5: Dedicated to the French fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent, the 40,000-square-foot museum presents over 20,000 items of couture clothing and accessories, including drawings and sketches. Elegant throughout, as are Laurent’s clothing designs, the building by Studio KO explores the patterning and texture of brick as if a woven fabric. Sophisticatedly and with understatement, architecture and fashion collide in Marrakesh, Morocco.

(photo by Nic Lehoux)

6: An unexpected addition to the housing market of Beverly Hills, MAD’s residential building speaks to us like a layered cake. With retail and commercial components on the bottom wrapped by a living wall in the middle, the structure is topped off with a rooftop village of eighteen houses, each expressing its own gable form. Conceptual strong, the resulting mixed-use project succeeds through the committed execution of a simple diagram.

(photo by Edmund Summer)

7: The Naila House in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, explores the iconic phrase, “less is more.” Architect BAAQ’ composed this house in a cross-shaped courtyard arrangement of four volumes, with airy facades facing the Pacific Ocean. Contrasting the weight of the concrete plinth, vernacular wood screens and walls allow the home to breathe and connect to the rocky landscape and nearby beach. Ignoring the typical comforts of home, the simplicity of the design challenges our architectural complacency.

(photo by Shengliang Su)

8: A captivating creation of wings and courtyards with more wings and courtyards within, the Shou County Culture and Art Center expresses the old square-ish town surrounded by city walls. Drastically different from the above courtyard project in Mexico, this project by Studio Zhu-Pei, handsomely composed and forcefully intimidating, contains within each courtyard the energy and diversity of the historic Ahui Province and Huai River,.

(Top photo by Qingshan Wu; bottom photo by Archstudio)

9: By ARCHSTUDIO, my third courtyard project on this list is a renovation of a Beijing residence with seven pitched-roof buildings. Old meets new not seamlessly in aesthetic and structure, but seamlessly in experience, thoughtfulness, and Feng Shui. Modern materials and fabrication methods, such as curved glass and cantilevers, confront dilapidated wooden beams and arched doors.

(photo by Martin Mischkulnig

10: (See first image and above.) The unconventional sensuality of conventional materials define the Phoenix Central Park, by Durbach Block Jaggers Architects and John Wardle Architects. A 13,000-square-foot visual and performing arts center supports the ongoing transformation of an ignored inner-city suburb in the Chippendale neighborhood of Sydney. Billionaire client and art collector, Judith Neilson, demanded “a total work of art” from the two collaborating design studios.

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

© Poon Design Inc.