Even though Swedish architecture firm Jågnefålt Milton didn’t win first place in the competition to design a master plan for the Norwegian city of Åndalsnes, their proposal was innovative enough to snag third. What Jågnefålt Milton proposed is to prefabricate chunks of buildings and roll them through the city on rail tracks, focusing the development of the town in concentrated ribbons of existing (and some new) infrastructure. In the winter, just roll your house somewhere sunny and in the summer, roll your house somewhere breezy. It’s radically different from the the other proposals and the renderings are straightforward, but at the same time it’s curious and interesting to see small pieces of architecture just hanging out along the tracks.
These images of the Teshima Art Museum are from the website of the italian architecture magazine Domus. The museum is a collaboration between half of the Pritzker-Prize winning firm SANAA (that half being Ryue Nishizawa) and the artist Rei Naito. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you may remember Bobby posting a video of another Sanaa project back in March when their selection for the 2010 Prizker Prize was announced. The video he posted features the Rolex Learning Center, which, formally, is the most obvious predecessor to the Teshima Art Museum.
But there are differences. Tucked on top of a hill on the Japanese island of Teshima, the museum is unlike most art museums– unlike most buildings– in that it doesn’t treat the outside as a source of contamination and is completely open. This is because of the art work that the architecture serves: a piece by Naito called Matrix, relies on wind that enters the two large oculi to animate drops of water on the floor. But the form of the building also comes from water, according to an interview with Naito:
“My work will be inside the building. I wouldn’t exactly call it an art museum. It’s shaped like a falling water drop. There are no [columns] and it’s a large concrete building, about 40 meters wide. My work will essentially be composed of water on the floor. We work together so he asks me what do you want to do and I ask him what do you want to do. While listening to each other we consider the wider surroundings on the island”
It’s a beautiful consideration, and with photographs this stunning (the photographer is Iwan Baan, no surprise) we can only imagine the ephemeral experience of standing between the huge holes in an expansive drop of concrete and the smaller drops of water on the floor.
We’re still talking about unbuilt projects right? Here’s another gem: the Viva Hotel and Casino designed by Bruce Goff in 1961. If you’re lucky enough to live in L.A., you may have visited Goff’s Pavilion for Japanese Art at LACMA. I came across the perspective rendering (above) of the Viva Hotel and Casino while shopping for postcards at the Art Institute Chicago. (Between here and here, the Institute has around 150 images of Goff’s work available to view online. Much more of his work is tucked away in archival boxes.) Because his work is often described as organic, I tend to associate Goff with predecessor Gaudi, and I was reminded of Goff’s unbuilt hotel when helpful reader DS posted a link to this article about reviving an unbuilt Gaudi hotel at Ground Zero.
Below are some other Goff drawings in the Art Institute Chicago collection.
By now, you might have heard internet whispers that Lord Norman Foster may be transforming the old HP campus into Apple City. It shouldn’t be surprising that a crazy successful technology company would hire a crazy successful architect, but I was a little surprised with the rumored selection. Why? I think Apple’s approach to technology (as evident in their product design) and Foster+Partners approach to technology (as evidenced in their architecture design) while parallel, are not as close to each other as some other firms. The technology physically embedded in Apple devices increasingly calls less attention to itself: hinges are concealed, latches are magnetic, even the sleep indicator light shines through almost invisible holes in front of the aluminum casing. The technology utilized by Foster + Partners is a little more expressive: think of the diagrid structure expressed on the exterior of many of their projects (including Hearst Tower, 30 St. Mary Axe, and the Bow.)
Comparing buildings and objects may be comparing apples and oranges, so let’s compare tables and tables. The maple tables used in Apple Stores are a bit less expressive than Foster + Partners’ Tecno – Nomos desking system (above, top picture). Foster makes the surface of the table disappear as much as possible so he can show off the details of a base that resembles the feet of an Apollo Lunar Module. The maple tables used in Apple Stores hide things– things like power sources, security devices, and cash drawers. Yes, these are just two details, but these are two incredibly detail-oriented companies; comparing tables demonstrates differing attitudes about technological expression.
There is precedent. The lower picture above is Foster’s built work for the IBM Pilot Head Office. It’s an older project, completed in 1971, but it was designed for a growing technology company and looks more like something I would expect for Apple than Foster’s more recently completed Shanghai Expo Pavilion or the Masdar Development (folks seem to be using renderings of Masdar to break the news since the new campus will purportedly borrow technology Foster developed there.) My thoughts are that the bits borrowed from the desert will deal more with sustainable infrastructure than building expression. But I look forward to seeing what parts he adopts and adapts for Cupertino, how he structures and expresses structure in his solution, and what kind of tables you’ll find when the campus opens.
BONUS FEATURE: Below are some representative projects from Foster + Partners as well as a few that I think/hope will influence the firm as they maybe plot out Apple City.
Maybe it’s a product of the architecture firms where I’ve worked, or maybe it’s because of economic conditions that have persisted since I entered and graduated from architecture school, but most of the projects I’ve worked on have been shelved, canned, or axed. I think this is likely true for most architects and may explain explain why I (and others) have an affinity for unbuilt projects. In some instances, the projects are unbuildable by design; but other projects are aborted thanks to someone’s hubris other than the architect. So this week I thought we’d look at projects that didn’t quite make it.
One of my favorite unbuilt projects is the Monument to the Third International by Vladimir Tatlin. The highlight of the structure, for me, is the rotating geometric volumes inside the helix: each one a different shape, each one a different function and each one rotating at a different speed. To be clear, these are building-sized chunks of his project rotating like a giant clock. It sounds like something from Dubai, but this was 1919 in recently-revolutionized Russia.
What is your favorite unbuilt project?