Tag Archives: MVRDV


January 12, 2024

(photo by ArchExist)

From 2023, many new works of architecture fascinate me. They captivate, enthrall, and entice. What fascinates me varies, from rigorous simplicity to new sculptural forms, from a view of the past to fresh social programs. Here I list only ten wonderful buildings of which there are so many more.

(photo by ArchExist)

1: Appearing like nine stacked ice cubes, the Xinxiang Cultural Tourism Center aptly focuses on winter sports and recreation. With few cues to scale and size, the composition epitomizes contemporary architecture’s fascination with purity and abstract sculpture. Architects Zone of Utopia with Mathieu Forest Architecte created for the city of Pingyuan, China, enigmatic structures that beautifully transform throughout the day, throughout the seasons.

(photo by Iwan Baan)

2: Half a million, locally-produced bricks comprise the 62,000-square-foot workshop, the Hermes Maroquinerie de Louviers, France. French-Lebanese architect, Lina Ghotmeh, employs one of history’s most iconic forms: the arch. Though modest conceptually, the cascade of various-size arches flexes its muscles delivering drama through repetition, as well as an abundance of natural light for the 260 leather artisans of this world-class luxury brand.

(photo from architizer.com)

3: The Panyaden Secondary School in Chiang Mia, Thailand, composed mostly of bamboo and earth, is deceptively simple. This school employs technology unexpected within its vernacular walls, such as an advanced facial recognition system that checks body temperature and air-cleaning systems that scrub away pollutants. Like leaves scattered across the landscape, Chiangmai Life Architects has designed a peculiar but striking village of learning environments and social and recreational areas.

(photos by Sergio Pirrone)

4: The expression of differing components of a house can be consistent and seamless or explicit and jarring. For House CR, architect dmvA created two halves, one that is sympathetic to the neighboring traditional houses and another that responds to its contemporary workspace and flexible exhibition area. Through a game of boundary pushing and interpretation, the odd 2,000-square-foot design stays in compliance with the restrictive housing planning laws of Zonhoven, Belgium.

(photo by Iwan Baan)

5: To great fanfare in Manhattan, Studio Gang opened the Richard Gilder Center. Processes in nature and geology, such as the movement of water and wind, shape the wow-factor, five-story atrium. Shotcrete, a spray-on concrete used in swimming pools, roadways, and overpasses, form the digitally-designed, curving walls and ceilings of this sculpturally cavernous museum poised to join the Bilbao-effect.

(photo by Kaori Ichikawa)

6: An international collaboration—Osaka-based company, Ryuichi Ashizawa Architects, with New Jersey-based Acari + Lovino Architects—designed the JST Harrisburg Production Engineering. Located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the 79,000-square-foot semiconductor production facility challenges the traditional notion of orthogonally-planned corporate complexes, instead exploring the metaphor of a tree root system, appropriate for a company’s health, growth, and outreach.

(photo by Iwan Baan)

7: REX joins the ensemble of architectural wonders at New York’s World Trade Center (Arad’s 9/11 Memorial, Snohetta’s Museum Pavilion, Calatrava’s Oculus and St. Nicholas Church, and SOM’s Freedom Tower) with the 90,000-square-foot Perelman Performing Arts Center. Within this 138-foot tall, translucent Portuguese marble cube, REX and theater consultant, Charcoalblue, have designed a dynamic kinetic interior of three theaters that can be mechanically manipulated into a dozen different performance venues.

(photo by Eiichi Kano)

8: Conscious of the intricate hillside on which this museum sits, the building’s floors shift up and down in harmony. For the town of Hangzhou, architect Kengo Kuma designed the 50,000-square-foot China Academy of Art’s Folk Art Museum using parallelograms and geometric division to arrive at a cohesive whole of roof forms. Applying reclaimed roof tiles from nearby structures, the museum’s village-like character, though distinctly modern, responds to the context of the surrounding traditional homes.

(photo by Scott Norsworthy)

9: The architectural team of MJMA and Raimondo delivers a muscularly minimal, 5,700-square-foot, glass box, the Neil Campbell Rowing Centre. “Less is more” has rarely looked so elegant and profound. For the city of St. Catharines, Canada, this net-zero and zero-carbon fitness center employs mass timber construction with glulams and CLT systems.

(photo by Ossip van Duivenbode)

10: Originally a controversial museum for Enver Hoxha, the communist dictator of Albania, the Pyramid of Tirana has been re-envisioned as a cultural center and park. The addition of colorful boxes throughout—a welcome and whimsical intervention—contain restaurants, workshops, offices, classrooms, and other social uses. The 120,000-square-foot structure has had a questionable past, as a conference center, radio station, nightclub, and NATO base, and architect MVRDV has transformed it into it current successful chapter.

For past years’ “top ten” lists, visit 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022.


November 10, 2023

Cenotaph for Newton, by Etienne-Louis Boullée (1784)

A common misconception is that architecture strives to be beautiful. The famed 1st century Roman architect, Virtruvius, did proclaim that architecture must have venustas—the Latin term for “beauty.” But for every Mozart seeking  beauty,  there is a Beethoven pursuing other qualities—challenging ones even. Indeed, some works of architecture are odd, strange, and even supernatural—if such a word can be used to describe a building.

Merriam-Webster defines supernatural as “relating to God or a god, demigod, spirit, or devil,” and “departing from what is usual . . . to transcend the laws of nature.” Below, I describe a few projects that have peaked my interests, that perhaps relate to a demigod, bucking the rules of the expected.

right: Temple of Divination; left: Classicism and Romanticism, by Jean-Jacques Lequeu (circa 1800)

18th century French architect, Jean-Jacques Lequeu—alongside colleagues, Claude-Nicolas Ledoux and Etienne-Louis Boullée—offered peculiar visionary designs that, though never constructed, stoked curiosity. On the left, Lequeu offers a river of fire entering a Greek temple, while honey perfume counters the burning odor. On the right, the design of a hunting gate celebrates the spoils of victory, displaying the heads of the hunted and defeated.

Casa dos Leões, Porto Alegre, Brazil, by Henrique Oliveira (photo by Eduar, from yatzer.com)

In 2009, artist Henrique Oliveira birthed the Casa dos Leões, a parasitic organ-like visitor within a townhouse in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Oliveira comments, “My works may propose a spatial experience, an aesthetic feeling, a language development and many more nominations to refer to the relation it establishes with the viewer.” Just random words. For me, the message—whatever it may be—is one of uneasiness.

Steilneset Memorial to the Victims of Witch Trials, Vardø, Norway, by Peter Zumthor (photo by thisispaper.com)

Perhaps it isn’t just the official title: the Steilneset Memorial to the Victims of Witch Trials. Or not just the experiential results designed by artist Louise Bourgeois and architect Peter Zumthor. The eeriness of this 2011 Norwegian project arrives through its thesis: To commemorate the 1621 trial and execution of 91 individuals suspected of witchcraft.

Conical Intersect, Paris, France, by Gordon Matta-Clark (photo from researchgate.net)

Commenting on the demolition of a building and the destruction of a community, American artist Gordon Matta‐Clark presented an ambitious architectural intervention in 1975. Through excavation and carving, he juxtaposed the history of a location with the recent eviction of the inhabitants—a commentary on memory and powerlessness, origin and futures unclaimed.

Apartment, Vienna, Austria, by Adolf Loos (photo from vivanht.com)

Austrian architect and theorist, Adolf Loos, authored this 1903 room of intimacy, luxurious, and whiteness for his wife, Lina. He was 32, and she was 19. The angora sheepskin bed skirt that becomes the floor is sensual even erotic, but also bizarre even creepy.

Valley, Netherlands, Amsterdam, by MVRDV (photo by Ossip van Duivenbode)

It’s as if the conventional steel and glass high-rises dissolved away revealing 200 quirky cantilevered apartments, like a residential canyon carved into corporate masses. Located in Amsterdam, the 2022 design of three towers includes apartments, offices, restaurant, and cultural facilities—as well as contradiction and the unconventional.

Petra, Jordan (photo by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay)

Petra, the surreal and archaeological city in present-day southern Jordan, holds a rare accolade as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. A town chiseled into the sandstone cliffs, Petra displays the advancements of the Nabataean Arabs, a civilization dating back 2000 years ago. The city was not constructed by traditional building methods of adding materials one on top of another. Rather, Petra was created from cutting and removing stone sections of a mountain—construction through subtraction.

Na Hale ‘Eo Waiawi, Honolulu, Hawaii, by Patrick Dougherty (photos from amusingplanet.com)

North Carolina-based sculptor, Patrick Dougherty, works with tree branches and twigs as a painter would acrylics and oils. Not just mind-boggling, multi-story bird nests, the projects are temporal like much in nature, intended to make a statement then dissolve and disappear.

Setenil de las Bodegas, Southern Spain (photo by artsartistsartwork)

Known as the Cave Village of Spain, this southern town comprises whitewashed homes constructed into the surrounding cliffs. The earthly masses hovering over the residences become an omnipotent daily presence to confront, a physical burden to accept. Most would build a city atop a mountain, or within like Petra, but not underneath.

Back to music—adjectives of Mozart’s music might be delightful, lyrical, and exquisite. Whereas for Beethoven: intimidating, discordant, and aggressive. And so it might be with some architecture.


December 30, 2022

(photo from Adam Mork)

In 2017, I listed my all-time favorites. In 2019, I presented ten projects I called the most seductive. In 2020, the adjective used was most intriguing. In 2021, my essay displayed buildings that were the most striking. For the end of 2022, I highlight what takes my breath away. Defining breath-taking typically involves words such as awe-inspiring, astonishing, wondrous, and even out-of-this-world.

(photo from Adam Mork)

1: The western coast of Greenland offers the Ilulissat Icefjord Centre, both a research center and eloquent sculpture. Focusing on the study of massive glaciers and climate change, Dorte Mandrup’s design expresses the human condition within the science of ice, such as archeological artifacts contained in prisms of glass.

(photo by MVRDV)

2: MVRDV’s “art depot” at the Museumpark, Rotterdam, comprises multiple exhibit halls, a rooftop garden, and restaurant. This Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen takes a behind-the-scenes approach by presenting all current works along with ones usually hidden in storage, both in full display. The architect sees the mirrored exterior as an innovative response to complementing the surroundings.

(photo by Iwan Baan)

3: Google Bay View aims to operate the 42-acre campus on carbon-free energy by 2030. For Silicon Valley in Mountain View, California, a collaboration between Denmark’s  BIG and England’s Heatherwick Studio created 1.1 million square feet of building, which includes an event center for 1,000, short-term accommodation for 240 employees, 20 acres of open space, and three main buildings covered in lightweight translucent canopy structures.

(photo by Office of Architecture in Barcelona)

4: The project’s title, Origami House, is apt as this Barcelona house folds, creases, and rises out of the land adjacent to a forest and golf course. Designed by Office of Architecture in Barcelona, the paper white crispness and hidden service facilities (where are the stairs?) delivery a surreal composition, part home, part arts and crafts, and part dreamscape.

(photo by CreatAR Images)

5: MAD Architects conceived the Quzhou Stadium in China as “a piece of land art.” Though with allusions to Bradbury’s science fantasy, this 30,000-seat stadium is no fiction. As an Earthwork, it links the worlds of art installation, landscape design, and architecture, while also straddling the visions of a mad man and artistic genius.

(photo by Leonardo Finotti)

6: Since the 18th century, coffee has been a mainstay of Brazil’s economy. For the city of Carmo de Minas, Gustavo Penna Arquiteto & Associados deliver an iconic headquarters for CarmoCoffees. Introverted and introspective, save for the concave skylight, this warehouse for processing, tasting, and selling coffee explores the colors found in coffee beans.

(photo by Iwan Baan)

7: Sou Fujimoto reinterprets nature at the Hungarian House of Music in Budapest’s City Park. Inspired by sound waves, the roof structure with its 100 Swiss cheese-like holes is both inspired by nature and “neo-nature.” The connection from inside to outside is exploited though a continuous translucent glass façade, like a candy wrapper.

(photo by W Workspace)

8: Tens of thousands of aluminum pieces make up the high-relief exterior of the Museum of Modern Aluminum. Bangkok possesses a deep history of aluminum production, and he city of Nonthaburi became home to this 4,300-square-foot, prickly composition by HAS Design and Research. Serving as both a public space and urban getaway, the museum is viewed as an extension of the natural landscape offering contemplation on this busy street.

(photo by Atelier FCJZ)

9: Different than the Rohe’s Farnsworth House and Johnson’s Glass house, both using glass in the vertical direction, Yung Ho Chang explores glass in the horizontal direction. Unlike the two renowned precedents which allow views out to the landscape, the Vertical Glass House focuses on viewing up to the sky and down to the earth. Located in Shanghai, China, the residence is poetic and ambitious, though with glass floors, perhaps impractical.

(photo by OMA, Chris Stowers)

10: OMA often explores new types and forms of architecture. With the Taipei Performing Arts Center in Taiwan, the exploration reveals powerful results if not clumsily beautiful. OMA reversed the typical floor plan where the audience and performance spaces are central within the overall structure. Instead, the technical support spaces are now in the middle, and the audience is dramatically cantilevered on the exterior, hovering over public spaces, greeting the city’s fabric.

(For my recent list of faves in Los Angeles, visit here.)

© Poon Design Inc.