A few months ago I bought a fantastic booklet by Irish illustrator Kate Brangan. Entitled Eighteen Theatres, Kate’s publications contains illustrations of exactly that – eighteen theaters from all over Dublin. It’s a fascinating collection of buildings and it highlights simply the sheer variety of architectural styles that can exist within a small city such as Dublin.
The booklet covers all of Dublin’s best known theater spaces; from the brash deconstructivist-style of Daniel Libeskind’s new Grand Canal Theater to the plain-faced facade of the Olympia Theater with its beautifully ornate canopy. Yet knowledge of Dublin or it’s theaters really doesn’t add much to this booklet – it’s Kate’s illustrations that really make it. Her sense of line is exquisite and her drawings strike that perfect conflicting balance of being restrained yet bursting with fun. To see all eighteen theaters check out her portfolio here.
Here is a short video about a current exhibition at the Kunsthaus Brenenz: Ai Weiwei: Art / Architecture. You may recognize some his of collaborative work, like the Beijing Olympic Stadium, or you may recognize the building that houses the exhibition, which was designed by Peter Zumthor. The video gives a good overview of his work without talking about the controversial aspects of Ai Weiwei’s life, like his recent arrest and release by the Chinese authorities. Above, you can see photos of one of the pieces from the show Moon Chest, one of the more abstract works in exhibition of mostly architecture.
Lebbeus Woods posted these kind, articulate words to commemorate the passing of Lauretta Vinciarelli. Vinciarelli was an Italian architect-turned-artist whose technical skill in portraying and a cognitive prowess in conceiving architectural spaces leave a vacuum in her absence. Woods points out that the spaces she creates are quite different than the “self-aggrandizing, egoistic” spaces that dominate much of contemporary architectural production. When students and practitioners become bored with creating flamboyant one-liners, these paintings of ordered and serene spaces are ripe with inspiration.
Had I only seen the plan for this project, I might have glossed over it. In this apartment complex in Japan, there are a lot of things going on that can be hard to pull off really well, namely diagonal and curved walls. Seeing pictures of the completed SMG by mejiro studio makes apparent that some of the moves that look almost cartoonish in plan can look surprisingly sophisticated when constructed. The limited color palette helps make the project look more serious, but the severity of the concrete and cinder block interior is teetering toward looking like a stylish prison.
During my final year of architecture school, I got in a surprisingly contentious conversation with my friend Mike about contemporary Japanese architecture, and whether it is better described as “intuitive” or “spiritual.” In hindsight, both are probably poor descriptors, but I still don’t think they are equally poor descriptors. Spiritual? Are you kidding me? It seems wrong in a few senses of the word; both as an understanding of immaterial values, and as something that contributes to a religious experience. Instead, many projects seem interested in evoking a feeling that is hard to describe because it just feels a certain way. Intuitively, I respond to projects like this one, in part because I’m not able to analyze the diagonal and curved walls the way I usually would, and in another part because I don’t know enough about this projects precedents. I realize it’s a bad argument, and proof of this may be that my friend Mike now works for a crazy, famous architecture firm on secret projects while I work in a research lab dodging rat excrement. Luckily, I have my spirituality to keep me buoyant when I am otherwise drowning in rat urine.
One of the reasons it can be difficult to talk about architecture, if you ask me, is because there are so many ways to describe the same geometry. Let’s say you have a cube shaped building that you like, so you call it a “compelling geometric primitive” to put your positive spin on it. Other folks who hate cubes may call it “another dumb and boring box.” Constantly infusing descriptions with subjective opinions may be annoying, but I was reading this description of this auditorium designed by Estudio Barozzi Veiga when I came across a description that I disagreed with for a different reason:
“A seafront auditorium in southern Spain has concave walls that resemble the deflated cheeks of someone taking a deep breath.”
This is where I have to let a little bit of my science geek come out because when I saw the massing of this building, I didn’t think about it being deflated, but of it being crenated. For people who don’t remember learning about what happens to cells in concentrated solutions: they shrink into these pointy shapes as water migrates out. The auditorium (not really an operahouse) sits overlooking a large body of saltwater, so maybe I’m thinking about osmosis because I’d like to be on that beach, reclining in the shade of a pretty nifty looking auditorium and thinking about getting into the water.