Tag Archives: PETER EISENMAN

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. )

TRIBUTE: MICHAEL GRAVES INSPIRES (1934-2015)

July 3, 2015

Team Disney Building, Burbank, California, by Michael Graves (photo by MGA&D)

Writing my business plan for Poon Design Inc. decades ago, a small paperback on entrepreneurship suggested that I think about an existing company that might be a model for my future company. The topics at hand were not about the business model, profits, size of staff, or geography—or even design style.

Rather, the topic was about design culture. What kind of design culture did I envision for Poon Design, and what architectural firm inspired me?

The answer was a New Jersey company: Michael Graves Architecture & Design.

St. Coletta of Greater Washington, Washington, DC, by Michael Graves (photo by MGA&D)
St. Coletta of Greater Washington, Washington, DC, by Michael Graves (photo by MGA&D)

My interest did not have anything to do with Michael Grave’s colorful Post Modern buildings with their whimsical motifs and cartoonish proportions. My interest was in what Grave’s entitled “Humanistic Design.”

Graves designed for people. He did not design for headlines and critics, for academic debates, or for personal legacy. Designing for people—sounds obvious, right? It is no easy task to make good on this philosophy, as well as build a culturally impactful, artistically significant, and prolific career around designing in this basic manner. For people.

Toaster for J. C. Penney, by Michael Graves (photo by J.C. Penney)
Toaster for J. C. Penney, by Michael Graves (photo by J.C. Penney)

Graves and his team applied this belief system to every aspect of design, from hotels to houses, from office buildings to toasters, from university research centers to the design of a wheelchair. Sure, many architects believe their repertory is this broad. During his time, Graves was a pioneer in designing without borders.

Late 1980’s, beginning my young adult life in Manhattan, I was a fan of the New York Five. For a national conference with a seminal follow up book, the Museum of Modern Art assembled five architectural voices. All five held a common interest in Modernism and the landmark architecture of Le Corbusier (1887-1965). The five architects became instantly celebrated: Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, John Hejduk, Richard Meier, and of course, Michael Graves.

Though I was fascinated with the (mostly unbuilt) work of Hejduk (1929-2000), Graves was the individual that I studied, even as he abruptly departed the New York Five. He rejected the Five’s philosophical Modernist common ground. In a heralded crusade on the intellectual battlefields, Graves led a Post Modern movement that was diametrically opposed to the repertory of the New York Five (now Four). Alongside him stood other leaders, such as Robert Venturi and my past employer, Robert Stern,

A new chapter for him, Graves used bright colors instead of stark whites. He used classical elements such as pediments and columns, instead of abstract forms and zero ornamentation. He used humor and wit, instead of severe Bauhaus rationalism.

Hotel Michael, Sentosa, Singapore, by Michael Graves (Photo by MGA&D)
Hotel Michael, Sentosa, Singapore, by Michael Graves (photo by MGA&D)

In the late eighties, I was fortunate to be invited to Graves’ 25th anniversary celebration at Princeton University, where he was the Professor of Architecture Emeritus for 39 years. As a young architect in my twenties, I joined the most influential voices of our industry to honor a man of artistic virtuosity and commitment.

Michael Graves passed away in March of this year. All of us who work in his shadow, are standing in an impressively long shadow.

© Poon Design Inc.