Tag Archives: REX

THE MOST FASCINATING BUILDINGS OF 2023

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.

A DAY AND A HALF IN NEW YORK CITY

July 7, 2023

Lobby of 130 William Street (photo by Anthony Poon)

Having wrapped up client meetings in New York City, I had some time to myself. With nothing on the agenda, no one to meet, not much in particular to do, I put on walking shoes to wander this island of Manhattan (here and here). In a day and a half, I visited 20 new architectural works, walking 44,631 steps. Doing the math, that is nearly 20 miles.

THURSDAY

Midtown 

Royalton Hotel lobby, 44 West 44th Street (photo by Anthony Poon)

11:30 a.m.: I launched from my Times Square hotel, Philippe Starck’s acclaimed Royalton hotel. In the 1980s, Starck renovated this 1898 hotel, his first hotel re-envisioning. This stylish, irreverent renovation propelled Starck onto the global stage of design. Today, some of the ideas have become questionable, e.g., no mirror directly over the bathroom sink?

Left: Steinway Tower, 111 West 57th Street; right: Central Park Tower, 225 West 57th Street (photos by Anthony Poon)

11:52 a.m..: The Steinway Tower displayed optimism and technological/construction advancement, earning the title, the “World’s Skinniest Skyscraper,” designed by SHoP Architects.

12:12 p.m.: Within the famed “Billionaire’s Row” and its collection of “Supertalls,” the Central Park Tower cantilevered (somewhat awkwardly) building masses to grab views of Central Park. Architect AS+GG offered the tallest residential tower in the world, also the 15th tallest building in the world.

American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog, 101 Park Avenue (photo by Anthony Poon)

12:25 p.m.: How could I not stop into this random find, the Museum of the Dog? I toured an extensive collection of dog-related art, from paintings of presidents’ dogs to porcelain dog statuettes, from an exhibit on the history of the leash to the comprehensive library of books on dogs.

550 Madison Avenue (photo by Anthony Poon)

2:02 p.m.: Formerly the AT&T Building completed in 1984, Philip Johnson’s design with its infamous Chippendale crown received both Post-Modernist acclaim and the worst of ridicule. Last year, Norwegian Snohetta offered this new public garden, a wonderful oasis tucked into dense urbanity.

KAWS, 280 Park Avenue (photo by Anthony Poon)

2:29 p.m.: Artist Brian Donnelly, also known as the popular KAWS, blurs fine art and corporate art. Inside this generic corporate lobby, Donnelly installed a work of surrealism and wackiness.

MoMA, 11 West 53rd Street (photo by Anthony Poon)

4:31 p.m.: Yoshio Taniguchi’s 2004 redesign of MoMA mined the complexity of many levels, galleries, security points, and city facades to provide a coherently, exquisitely tailored museum.

Hudson Theatre, 141 West 44th Street (photos by Anthony Poon)

7:09 p.m.: “When in Rome…” as the saying goes. I visited Times Square’s Hudson Theatre to watch the Tony-nominated performance of Jessica Chastain in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Was the outrage back in 1879 really about a wife merely forging a husband’s signature? Seriously?

FRIDAY

Midtown 

Hearst Tower, West 57th Street (photo by Anthony Poon)

9:14 a.m.: I have always enjoyed a modern addition colliding into a traditional building. At the Hearst Tower, Norman Foster added a 40-story steel and glass structure on top of a 1928 Art Deco, limestone, six-story landmark. “Juxtaposition” is an overused word in architecture, but here it is appropriate.

Upper West Side

Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, 415 Columbus Avenue (photo by Anthony Poon)

9:53 a.m.: Certainly to be the next New York architectural icon and tourist mecca, I arrived at the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation just days before its grand opening. Jeanne Gang authored an oddly beautiful and Grotesque structure inspired by the geologic flow of wind and water—expressed by spray-on structural concrete, akin to that of a swimming pool.

Chelsea

Old Tree, Highline (photo by Anthony Poon)

12:02 p.m.: Plenty has been written about the successes (and some failures) of the Highline. But artist Pamela Rosenkranz’s Old Tree caught my eye, a fuchsia-red sculpture standing within the grays and grit of its city backdrop. She questioned what is artificial vs. natural.

The Vessel, 20 Hudson Yards (photo by Anthony Poon)

2:14 p.m.: Created by Heatherwick Studio, the Vessel heroically rose 16 stories with 150 interconnecting staircases and 80 landings. But after three suicides from the top in one year, the Vessel closed. Today, only the ground level was available to visitors—ending the once-promised Eiffel Tower of Manhattan.

The Shed, 545 West 30th Street (photo by Anthony Poon)

2:36 p.m.: Mere steps from the Vessel sits the kinetic Shed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. It is rare for architecture to move, yet the retractable shell of steel and fluorine-based plastic opens and closes on eight massive wheels 6 feet in diameter, transforming an outdoor space into a theatrical performance space, event hall, or exhibition space.

Little Island, Pier 55 (photo by Anthony Poon)

3:09 p.m.: A quirky visionary project, entitled Little Island, sits on 132 concrete structures called “tulip pots.” Heatherwick Studio, the same architect for The Vessel, created a 2.5-acre artificial island of rich topography and luxurious greenery, accented by a 687-seat amphitheater.

Lower Manhattan

left: “Jenga Tower”; right: “Bean,” 56 Leonard Street (photos by Anthony Poon)

3:31 p.m.: At the street level of the aptly titled “Jenga Tower,” sculptor Anish Kapoor brought an iteration of his famous “bean” from Chicago. Whereas that city was often called “The Second City” to Manhattan, it is here that Manhattan is second place getting a self-derivative art piece.

Perelman Performing Arts Center, 251 Fulton Street (photo by Anthony Poon)

4:35 p.m.: Architect REX’s Perelman Performing Arts Center will, when completed, serve as a hopeful beacon, transforming day to night, from a mute white cube to a glowing marble lantern. The design will complement the World Trade Center, its 9/11 Memorial, and the infamous Oculus, the most excessive subway station.

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church & National Shrine, 130 Liberty Street (photo by Anthony Poon)

5:38 p.m.: Speaking of Santiago Calatrava’s Oculus, this architect/engineer brought a second landmark to the area, the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church & National Shrine. Replacing the original 19th century church destroyed on 9/11, the new Byzantine-inspired building glowed, like the Perelman Center, as a lantern of renewal—through the use of thin slabs of translucent Pentelic marble—the same kind of stone used at the Parthenon in Athens.

Courtyard of 130 William Street (photo by Anthony Poon)

6:32 p.m.: Sir David Adjaye’s work is reductive, raw, deceptively simple. This 66-floor luxury condo tower explored arches and arches . . . and even more arches. The darkly-tinted, heavily-textured, hand-cast concrete panels expressed both an enigmatic mystery and somber toughness.

Temple Court, Beekman Hotel, 5 Beekman Street (photo by Anthony Poon)

7:00 p.m.: I concluded my NYC tour with a sumptuous meal at Tom Coliccho’s Temple Court restaurant set within the historic 1883 Beekman Hotel. The 2016 renovation of the Romanesque Revival structure, one of the city’s first skyscrapers, restored the splendor of its nine-story atrium.

A view out of my hotel window, the richness of the rarely seen back-of-house, city fabric (photo by Anthony Poon)

(I thank John Fontillas, Principal of H3, for his insights into generating this list to play architectural tourist.)

© Poon Design Inc.