This guy: a smallish, plastic enclosure designed by Gernot Riether and constructed using a plastic made from sugar. Gernot won an annual competition hosted by the AIA to “bring life” to New Orleans a city rich with a history all its own. But the small pavilion has more than just sugar embedded in it; it was designed and fabricated using extensive digital tools that made sure each “cell” would be oriented, sized and shaped correctly. I was surprised to read this:
“Using PETG as a material suggests a negative carbon footprint. According to one of it’s world’s largest manufacturer, Dow Chemicals, every 0.5kg of PETG produced from sugar cane represents a total gain of almost 1kg of CO² removed from the atmosphere. Since the AIA pavilion used 123kg of material, the production of the pavilion would remove 246kg of CO² from the atmosphere. This demonstrates that producing PETG from sugar cane has tremendous environmental benefits that might make plastic the building material of the 21st century.”
Is that even possible?
This is out of control. Even though the form seems less aggressive when modeled in wood or rendered in desaturated hues; at scale this project is not timid. NYBillboard is the work of Chris Precht who was clearly inspired by the work of Archigram for this megastructure. The project addresses both social and environmental concerns, potentially producing 13% of its own energy through photovoltaic panels, wind turbines, and algae. It breaks with tradition and building codes to introduce a top-heavy billboard into a forrest of tapered towers in downtown Manhattan– at least in theory.
Today is holiday here; a break from work or summer classes, because stateside, it is Memorial Day: a day to remember the folks who died serving under the American flag. So this week, I thought we start in the United States by looking at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The memorial was designed by Maya Lin while she was still an undergraduate student at Yale. It shouldn’t be too surprising that a memorial to a controversial conflict would elicit a lot of dispute itself, but anger ignited after Lin’s design was selected: fueled by disagreements over what a memorial should be, the austerity of Lin’s design and, sadly, her race. At the dedication ceremony in 1982, Lin’s name wasn’t even mentioned.
Whenever something this important is this abstract, the interpretations of the form, materiality– everything– are open to many readings. The memorial has not turned out to be the scar that that detractors feared it would be. Most of the controversy dissolved when visitors experienced that it wasn’t a dig at veterans, but a powerful tribute to the men and women inscribed in its walls. That it was conceived by someone so young, selected by the jury, survived the political tumult and built on the national mall is unlikely and I’m not sure a similarly situated design would survive today.
Occasionally in school when architecture students and architecture professors disagreed about the direction or propriety of a project, you would hear the anecdote about Maya Lin, whose studio professor allegedly disliked her memorial project and gave her a low grade. “It just shows you how little professors know,” you might hear as tired people stood around a model picked apart physically and conceptually. But the strength of an idea isn’t if it is immune from criticism and controversy, but if it can survive.
Have you ever seen an enthusiastic child hug a cat? They will squeeze and squeeze until the cat gets annoyed and scampers away. The Treehugger Pavilion reminded me of such enthusiasm.
This pentagonal pavilion was built surrounding a tree for the National Garden Show in Koblenz, Germany, and I think the form of the supports and the color-changing ceiling are all very exciting. That said, I think the central tree is a little lost in all of this architectural enthusiasm. It’s always a very real possibility that photographs just don’t convey the space similar to how it is actually experienced; for instance, would you guess that the floor plan of this structure was square, or pentagonal? The tree trunk seems nearly strangled at the floor and ceiling, but maybe the transition is just too abrupt for me. From the inside of the pavilion, the canopy of the tree is abstracted as a geometric array of back-lit LED panels. In short, I can’t decide what this project is about: the tree or the pavilion that hugs it?
For more photos and information, click here.
This is new old news, or almost news that has been in hibernation. (Did you know that if this building were in Canada, it would still be in hibernation?) But this building, a public museum, is in Antwerp and actually about the history of Antwerp: “Visitors will discover how Antwerp and the world have been indisputably linked with one another for hundreds of years.” For the past one year, the finished building has been closed to the public while artifacts slowly migrated into the museum. And now, it’s ready to open.
I’m a huge fan of the architects, Neutelings Riedijk because their projects are distinctive but also straightforward. Well, maybe not always straightforward: they once designed a casino that looked like a pineapple. This project is not a fruit, and has a circulation path that spirals through the building, easily identifiable thanks to the corrugated glazing. If you can’t make it to Antwerp, because you’re snowed in or something, you can take a virutal tour here.