Category Archives: installation


Höhenrausch.3 in Linz, Austria, by Various Architects and Artists, 2013

Photographs by Otto Saxinger and Andreas Kepplinger; courtesy of Im OÖ Kulturquartier

The first time I heard about some of the rooftop structures atop the Im OÖ Kulturquartier (Im OÖ) in Linz, Austria, was in reading a monograph on Japanese architects Atelier Bow-Wow. The Linz Super Branch allowed visitors to traverse the rooftops of the buildings and gain a unique perspective on the city. Turns out that the rooftop has been updated annually since Atelier Bow-Wow's 2009 installation, per its inclusion in the catalog S AM 11 / Lookout, which accompanies an exhibition at Swiss Architecture Museum in Basel, Switzerland. The catalog attributes the concept to Raoul Bunschoten, while Im OÖ attributes the urban/artistic consultancy to him and his firm CHORA. Whatever the case, the most recent additions go vertical, adding a contemporary twist to the historical skyline.

Most visible from the surrounding streets, especially at night when it's awash in color, is Wen-Chih Wang's "Bamboo Cupola." Im OÖ describes it as such: "Transformations of space are at the heart of the installations by the Taiwanese artist Wen-Chih Wang. He expands given architectural structures with fantastic constructions of bamboo and rattan. Thus a 15-meter-high tower made of woven bamboo grows out of the Höhenrausch.3 rooftop walkways, so that a light-flooded space emerges that invites lingering. The bamboo tower is illuminated from the inside at night, thus becoming an unusual object in urban space in the dark, too."

A bit less artistic, but a construction that can be climbed to gain even higher views of Linz, is the "Upper Austria Tower." Im OÖ describes this addition as such: "The Upper Austrian Tower rises 31 meters into the sky on the highest point of the parking garage building. The local tower of the Höhenrausch.3 tower quartet is a copy of the lookout tower Alpenblick along the Czech border in Ulrichsberg. The functional architecture of the "rural" lookout tower made of fir wood becomes a new, temporary landmark of the city of Linz. In contrast to these urban surroundings, it displays the material of wood.Through the climb up over seven levels, the urban space opens up like a theatrical staging."

One last rooftop element worth mentioning is a slender white piece that looks like an antenna but is Lang/Baumann's "Diving Platform." Again, Im OÖ's statement: "An about 13-meter-high Diving Platform rises up from the central platform of the Höhenrausch.3 rooftop landscape, but no one can dive from here. Intermediated between a functional object and a sculpture, this work involves a kind of mental acrobatics, the idea of what it could be like to climb up and enjoy the view. Lang/Baumann refer often in their works to functionality, design or architecture and enrich existing situations or spaces by the dimension of poetry and imagination."

Vaulted Cork Pavilion

Vaulted Cork Pavilion in Porto, Portugal, by Pedro de Azambuja Varela, Maria João de Oliveira and Emmanuel Novo, 2013

The following text and images are courtesy of Joao Morgado and the architects.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

The Vaulted Cork Pavilion was built for Amorim Isolamentos Lda., to demonstrate its cork building materials at Concreta 2013, a biennial building fair held at Exponor, Porto.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

This architecture and research project was developed by Pedro de Azambuja Varela, Maria João de Oliveira and Emmanuel Novo, while studying in the Digital Architecture Advanced Studies Course (CEAAD), a joint venture between ISCTE-IULisboa and FAUPorto. All the fabrication was carried out at VFABLAB-IUL, and the coordination was carried out by Professors Alexandra Paio and José Pedro Sousa.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

This construction started out as challenge to materialize concepts and investigation developed within CEAAD during 2012 and 2013, all related with expanded cork agglomerate. These concepts are: the possibility to span vaults with cork alone; a compound translucent cork material; and a system for radiation and acoustic optimization. All these concepts ought to be shown within the pavilion in a symbiotic relation formalized by the continuous and metamorphic shape.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

Architectonic space lies within an interrelationship between inner and outer space, promoting dynamic fluxes and circulation all around the construction. The outside provides circulation and rest areas, where people can relax in benches or wavy forms. The inside is a tunnel like space that has a continuous bench and an exhibition space, where people can find shelter from the trade fair's harsh noise and lights. All this was formalized as a shape that grows from the floor creating a smooth transition between the floor and vaulted roof.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

Cork characteristics were a main driving force in the space's conception. The floor and walls are smooth and soft, and the smell is very particular. Inside the space, one has the feeling of being inside another environment, such is the effect of changing light, sound, smell and touch. The grass on the exterior - showing the possibility of using cork on living roofs - creates a symbiosis of living plants and cork bark while responding to the client's wish of showing a construction system of cork insulated green roof.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

The construction approach for this project dealt mainly with time constraints. Following the research developed the year before the pavilion construction system would be that of a compression only vault. This means the supporting structure would be built out of blocks that should efficiently transmit the load forces downwards through a stereotomic fit. The apex of stereotomic thinking created such complex polysurfaced blocks that even a new science was born with it: Descriptive Geometry. These kinds of blocks were carved with a CNC milling machine, but their 3D nature makes the process very slow as it needs many passes. Straight down 2D cutting, creating silhouette type shapes, is much faster, as the drill may plunge down and carve most of the material in a few passes. This led to rethinking of the structure as a 2D process, leading to the design of arches that would be fixed together as in a barrel vault.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

Although the parametric nature of this built form hints at its digital genesis, the first approaches were sketch driven. The project was developed with its group members separated by distance, relying in the digitized hand drawn sketches, online meetings and many different proposals. This is how the main hypotheses were laid out, which were to be translated into pure geometry language so that the computer would be able to calculate a final shape. The variables were created so that the various aspects of the pavilion would take shape: the sinuous curve which defines one arm of the catenary arches, the bulging longitudinal shape, the height of the exterior bench and its conformity with the sweeping vault curve. All these variables were put together as parameters of a complex algorithm that resolved all the geometry needed to draw the 120 individual cross-sections.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

Once the shape was agreed upon, another algorithm was crafted to automatically create the geometry of the hundreds of unique blocks that were to be CNC cut at the VFABLAB. All the blocks were labeled with a meaningful system, easing the work of the Amorim team while assembling the various pieces. These were pre-mounted in chunks of three arches, so that final assembly in the trade fair would be easier and error-free. Its final assembly was a success; the cork blocks were very efficient as a stereotomic system. The acoustic cork was key in decorating the interior and translucent cork provided light in the interior and a glimpse of mystery from the outside, effectively working as stained glass windows.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

Drawing courtesy of the architects

Drawing courtesy of the architects

High School Extension with “Crinkled Wall”

High School Extension with "Crinkled Wall" in Kufstein, Austria, by Johannes Wiesflecker and Karl-Heinz Klopf, 2012

Photograph by David Schreyer

Paper is a suitable metaphor for knowledge, considering how ideas have been expressed and shared via books and other paper media for centuries. Even as digital technologies are supplanting books, newspaper, and magazines as the preferred means of sharing information, paper still plays a large role in learning. We write on paper, we draw on paper, we still read things on paper, and we throw paper away. In this sense, especially the latter case, it is appropriate that artist Karl-Heinz Klopf has contributed a "Crinkled Wall" (commissioned by BIG Art) to the High School Extension in Kufstein designed by Johannes Wiesflecker.

Photograph by David Schreyer

Photograph by David Schreyer

The location of the Crinkled Wall is strategic. It sits perpendicular and adjacent to the street, giving the school a distinctive public face; it faces an open space to ensure it is visible from a distance; and it faces south, shielding some of the classrooms from direct sunlight (they gain sunlight from the sides, one of which is angled in the tapered plan to capture some direct light from the south).

Photograph by David Schreyer

Photograph by David Schreyer

While the crinkled wall resembles a crumpled piece of paper, it has to be built from something more substantial. Concrete is the resulting material, and views from the side (the two photos above) make it appear like the surface is thick, as it wraps the corner. But as the photo below attests, the wall is relatively thin, hung a few feet in front of the classroom windows.

Photograph by David Schreyer

Photograph by David Schreyer

The thinness of the concrete panels accentuates the allusion to paper, a material whose form is mirrored from one side to the other when crumpled, though from the inside the materiality of the Crinkled Wall—its texture, its formwork holes—comes to the fore. The same happens on the exterior when it rains, turning something abstract into something dripping with its reality. This is important, because Klopf opted to sculpt something tactile rather than something made of bits and bytes. An LED facade can also express knowledge, learning, and information. By selecting paper, Klopf makes us aware of the analog-digital shift underway (computers may have a "recycling bin" with "wastepaper" in them, but they aren't the same as the real thing), helping us to realize it is not absolute or simple.

Photograph by David Schreyer

Site Plan

Floor Plan

Building Section

Dead Garden

Dead Garden in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, by Vazio S/A, 2012.

The following text and photos are courtesy Carlos Teixeira of Vazio S/A for their Dead Garden installation, part of the White Night festival in September 2012.

White Night is the expression originated in Russia and the Nordic countries, and refers to the phenomenon of permanent twilight. Inspired by St Petersburg’s ‘White Nights’, where music and the arts keep the population entertained throughout the long summer evenings when the sun never sets, the term has been used in a series of events in various locations around the world to celebrate a night dedicated to the arts.

That’s why thousands of people ran into the Municipal Park on the evening of September 14 for the first White Night Festival in the country. Organizers expected 20,000, but the number recorded was close to 100,000 visitors – a totally unexpected crowd given an event where the keynote was (supposedly) contemporary art. The main theme of the evening was, besides the 60 temporary art and architecture installations, the removal of the railings that separate this Park from its neighboring cultural center, the Palacio das Artes.

The first Brazilian edition featured art direction by Paulo Pederneiras (Grupo Corpo dance company’s choreographer), according to whom "the White Night is much more than a cultural event. It is a reinterpretation of the city’s downtown, within a content of density and cohesion, so that the visitor can experience the city’s public realm in a different way. The potential will unfold in countless playful experiences and new possibilities of meaning." The removal of the railings that separate the Municipal Park and the Palácio das Artes is a gesture that points to the beginning of a reintegration both physically and symbolic: the cultural center really inside the park, as envisioned in the 1970 original design by architect Oscar Niemeyer; and the park really inside the city, as the visitors were expected to experience the Park throughout the White Night festival.

Vazio S/A’s Carlos Teixeira was one of the participants with "Dead Garden," a corridor that re-links these two historically separated venues with an inductor of movements made of pruned trees’ branches, and set on the lawn between the park and the Palacio das Artes. Dead Garden departs from the context of the park’s dense landscape design, employing its lifeless elements. The branches were collected inside the park and, not unlike a field magnetically rearranged, were intended to reactivate a lost connection and regain a latent possibility of circulation.

Alexandre Arrechea: No Limits

No Limits in New York City by Alexandre Arrechea, 2013.

Since 2000 the Sculpture Committee of The Fund for Park Avenue and the Public Art Program of the City of New York’s Department of Parks & Recreation have collaborated with artists and arts organizations to install sculptures in the middle of Park Avenue. Since 2007 the exhibitions have occurred on a regular basis, twice a year. The first for 2013 is No Limits, featuring pieces by Cuban artist Alexandre Arrechea, who currently lives in Westchester County. Ten large sculptures extend from 54th to 67th Street. Each one is based on a famous building in Manhattan, many of them on or near Park Avenue.

On a Monday morning walk from 59th Street to Grand Central Terminal I was able to look at and photograph half of the sculptures. Easily the most striking of these is Sherry Netherland, seen in the first four photos. The actual building, a hotel, is located at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park. Arrechea curls the building in on itself, like a snake biting its tail or a circle that is cracked to reveal the decorative top. As with the other pieces, it's hard not to wonder what the deformation says about the building, but the playful forms can be appreciated without any intellectual investigation.

I believe the same way that a building is exposed to daily elements and changes - cold, heat, rain, fog - it is also exposed to constant changes in function - increases and decreases in market value, tenant use, and therefore purpose and social value. These persistent modifications are something I want to capture and embody in my work, creating a new model in constant negotiation with its surroundings. -Alexandre Arrechea

This quote by the artist gets to the heart of the transformations: What people usually think of as static—buildings—are actually flexible in various ways. Arrechea sculpts the scaled-down buildings in steel, a material that is seen as rigid and cold, but which is liquid and hot before its "final" formation. This choice makes perfect sense, and it lends the pieces a certain impossibility: How could a steel model of the Sherry Netherland curl like that? How does the Seagram Building get wound up like that?

Arrechea's statement about flexibility and change is fairly broad, but I think that each piece is making a statement about the particular building it references, be it about the form or something deeper. The Seagram is wound like a tape or hose as if to say that the stacked floors can be repeated almost endlessly; there is no vertical variation unlike the Sherry Netherland, for example. The Flatiron takes away the building's signature triangular plan and turns the facade into a flag or sign, a symbol of itself that borders on the two-dimensional. And if the artist's drawing at the end is any indication, both CitiGroup and Court House are kinetic; the former spins like an off-kilter top, suitable given the tower's asymmetrical top; and the latter's pendulum swing must be a metaphor for this country's legal system.

The sculptures are best seen from the sidewalks to the east and the west, as most of them are oriented to the sides. This means that views up and down the avenue from within the median are not as strong, but getting close to the pieces is also a treat; a close-up photo of Seagram shows some details not visible from afar. Many of the sculptures get lost against the backdrop of Park Avenue's skyscrapers, but I think as the trees bloom the art will stand out even more, lending some appreciation to the sculptures and the buildings they reference.

Podčetrtek Traffic Circle

Podčetrtek Traffic Circle in Podčetrtek, Slovenia, by ENOTA, 2012.

Podčetrtek is a small town in eastern Slovenia on the border with Croatia. Although only a few thousand people call Podčetrtek home, the town features a surprising amount of striking contemporary architecture, thanks to Ljubljana's ENOTA. Previously the office of Dean Lah and Milan Tomac designed and realized the Termalija (2004), Hotel Sotelia (2006), and Orchidelia (2009), all run by Terme Olimia, a thermal spa that bills itself as "a popular destination for those who want more than just to experience the beneficial effects of thermal water." Terme Olimia touts the place's history and the benefits of the hot springs for treating certain diseases and conditions, such as rheumatic diseases and arterial disorders.

Terme Olimia is "witnessing a very successful development of health tourism," and with that success comes increased traffic, something that spurred the spa to commission ENOTA for a traffic circle between the spa and the Podčetrtek Sports Hall (2010), designed by the same architects. The circle provides access to the Terme Olimia on the west and the Sports Hall on the east. Instead of addressing the extra traffic through a stop light (as would be the case in the United States), a circle is used to slow traffic and disperse drivers to their destination.

The design's relationship to the thermal spa is obvious. Water occasionally sprays up through the dark concrete blocks, giving the impression that the hot springs under the ground created the landform. ENOTA describes how the roundabout "suggests a tectonic shift somewhere beneath the Earth's surface having caused the road surface to bloat and belched out the massive blocks." They also mention how it alludes to their sports hall: "the irregular arrangement of the elements forms a composition of surfaces, which corresponds to the expression of the hall's folded volume."

These photos suggest that the roundabout also references the surrounding hills, as if the same actions that created that topography worked upon their design. Yet the design is playful enough that these references do not need to be known or understood for people to appreciate it. The large blocks are tall enough that they give some intrigue as to what is on the other side of them, but not enough that it is unsafe. The disheveled blocks also do a great job in marking a place that happens to be in the middle of a road. While the roundabout feeds the spa and sports hall, many people may remember the traffic circle more than those buildings.

Endesa Pavilion

Endesa Pavilion in Barcelona, Spain, by IaaC, 2011.

The following text and images are courtesy Institute for advanced architecture in Catalonia (IaaC).

Endesa Pavilion is a self-sufficient solar prototype installed at the Marina Dock, within the framework of the International BCN Smart City Congress. Over a period of one year it will be used as control room for monitoring and testing several projects related to intelligent power management.

The pavilion is actually the prototype of a multi-scale construction system—a façade composed by modular components, like solar brick, that respond to photovoltaic gaining, solar protection, insulation, ventilation, lighting...The same parametric logic adapts façade geometries to the specific environmental requirements for each point of the building. It is is a single component that integrates all levels of intelligence that the building needs.

From "form follows function" (classic XX century statement) to "form follows energy": The façade opens in reaction to the solar path—active and permeable to the south, closed and protective to the north. The behavior of this skin makes visible the environmental and climatic processes that surrounds the prototype. Higher overhangs allow more energy collection and greater protection against the incident radiation during summer.

Solar houses should be built with solar materials. The wood, grown with solar power, is used now to build a self-sufficient photovoltaic pavilion. The current digital fabrication techniques, and the last advances in energy management and distributed production, make technology closer to the user, open and participatory. The Endesa pavilion is an accessible device, technologically soft and easily understandable. Its construction, materials and energy, and its climatic behavior are transparent to the inhabitant.


Wendy in Long Island City, New York by HWKN, 2012.

Wendy is the name Matthias Hollwich and Marc Kushner (HWKN) gave their competition-winning entry for the 13th Young Architects Program (YAP) at MoMA PS1, which was recently unveiled and is on display until mid-September. The YAP "is committed to offering emerging architectural talent the opportunity to design and present innovative projects." Some basic and minimal criteria -- providing shade, seating, and water -- and a generous courtyard allow for varied experimentation, some successful, some not. Wendy is more the former than the latter, an iconic form that is dynamic, explosive even, yet actually quite rational.

HWKN explains that Wendy "is composed of nylon fabric treated with a ground breaking titania nanoparticle spray to neutralize airborne pollutants." This is the same nanoparticle that was used in Richard Meier's design for the Jubilee Church in Rome, though there it was part of the concrete admixture, not applied on top. HWKN is using it as a coating, potentially creating a precedent for applying it to exterior facades, both old and new, as a means to protect them from pollution and clean the air. To maximize the surface area of the fabric, Hollwich and Kushner pulled the material in and out, in and out, creating a blue starburst enclosed in scaffolding.

This scaffolding is the second element in the installation's design, a cheap armature for the expensively coated fabric. Or as MoMA curator Pedro Gadanho describes Wendy, "[it] is slightly trashy and provocative — as it uses scaffolding systems, but also a visual language that is graphic and pop." The almost cubic grid of scaffolding is like a fine,wire-like enclosure from a distance, but it never entirely disappears. The closer one gets, the stronger its presence. Its role is important, not only for structuring the fabric and the interior space, but for the way it sets up an orthogonal grid against which the angular form reads. It is a datum for the explosion happening within.

And yes, Wendy does enclose an accessible space. A flight of stairs on one side of the cube leads to a landing and two branches up to another landing. Within the space one is up close not only with the scaffolding -- made up of diagonals as well as orthogonal members, keeping the perimeter gridded -- but also large fans that cool the space and blow mists of water out of some of the tapered projections. This is the last of Wendy's elements: water. In addition to the mist, there are some pools in the northeast courtyard and a stream of water that arcs from one side of the same courtyard to the other. The fabric, scaffolding, fans, and water combine to create a memorable experience. While people cannot literally see they fabric cleaning the equivalent of 260 cars' emissions over the summer, they can see the shape of what it takes to do such, and perhaps even the future of "clean architecture".


RE:ACTIONS in Brussels, Belgium by Alive Architecture, 2012.

Popular today is a phenomenon that is alternately called tactical urbanism, D.I.Y. urbanism, provisional urbanism, or some other such name describing the localized, bottom-up approaches and subsequent interventions for small pockets of urban space around the world. Proof of its popularity lies in essays, such as Mimi Zeiger's four-part Interventionist's Toolkit at Design Observer; books, like a+t's latest Strategy and Tactics publication reviewed this week; and the United States contribution to the upcoming 2012 Venice Beinnale, titled Spontaneous Interventions. And of course proof lies in the numerous projects sprouting up all over the place, being shared in these and other blogs, publications, and exhibitions.

One project recently brought to my attention that fits this mold is Alive Architecture's RE:ACTIONS for the Red Light District in Brussels. The local practice headed by Petra Pferdmenges initiated and developed three urban actions based on the wishes of the district's diverse actors and realized in spring 2012. In the order of their presentation here, and with links to videos on You Tube, the three actions are: a mobile food stall, "Piadina Wagon"; "People's Wall", a temporary exhibition mounted on a gray, stone wall; and "Sweet Flowers", the distribution of flowers on Easter Sunday.

The research-based practice Alive Architecture reclaims the public role of the designer by making social challenges explicit through self-initiated and/or commissioned projects, writings, educational activities and participation in conferences.

In the way the three actions responds to the wishes of the area's workers, the project reminds me of last year's Young Architects Program at MoMA PS1, Holding Pattern. Interboro Partners populated the courtyard with objects that nearby people and organizations needed. Therefore the design took on a longer second life in fulfilling their needs. Alive Architecture's interventions do not have that longevity, but in responding to the needs of locals with realized "designs", the actions have the potential to enact future change. This can come in staging the actions again; in fact the Piadina Wagon is set to return to the Red Light District this summer.

In order of the three actions presented here, they scale from largest to smallest and greatest to least physical footprint. The food truck not only occupies a parking place and adjacent sidewalk area, it requires a transaction for eating and drinking. The artwork sits on an otherwise blank wall, spurring observation and contemplation. While the flowers, fleeting in and of themselves, are mobile pieces that brighten the day for the gentlemen visiting the workers. Yet each is rendered via line drawings to let the voices be heard, to understand the impact of the actions, and to give the project a wider reach.

Holding Pattern at MoMA PS1

Holding Pattern at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, New York by Interboro Partners, 2011.

The name of Interboro Partners' winning design for the 12th annual Young Architects Program at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, Queens is apt, but not immediately so. Approaching the museum -- a distinctive pairing of an old Romanesque Revival public school in brick and a late-20th-century courtyard addition in concrete -- a series of ropes with cloth tied to the concrete walls and suspended over the courtyard are all that is visible. While this "soaring hyperboloid" stood out when the designers were announced as the winner of the YAP competition, it is only one aspect of the design, and probably the least significant when looked at in detail.

Entrance into the courtyard to see the installation, which is geared to the summer Warm Up series that started last Saturday, now occurs through a new entrance kiosk designed by Andrew Berman Architect. Walking into the courtyard, the draping cloth has a strong presence, but it barely shades the courtyard in the summer months when the sun is predominantly overhead. This stems from the way the fabric is hung from the ropes as well as the spacing of the ropes, but it serves a more metaphorical role: it caps the courtyard and acts as a unified container for the varied objects found underneath it. This extends to the distinctive shadow patterns that trace the gravel, walls, and the parts of the installation.

To create Holding Pattern, we asked MoMA PS1's neighbors the following question: Is there something you need that we could design, use in the courtyard during the summer, and then donate to you when Holding Pattern is deinstalled in the fall? -Interboro Partners

So what occupies the various courtyards, big and small? What are the things to be donated to MoMA PS1's neighbors? My daughter made a beeline straight toward one a handful of kiddie pools. Nearby are some chaise lounges, a lifeguard station, and a platform misting water through holes in one corner. Beyond are picnic, ping pong, and foosball tables, a bike stand, and four rows of trees in planters. Trees are also found in one of the small courtyards to the side of the large triangular one, but these trees are composed in a maze with straw bales. The smallest, squarish courtyard is lined with mirrors to be donated to the Long Island City School of Ballet.

Tying most of these disparate objects together are the plywood and plastic that Interboro Partners used in their basic designs for the planters, pools, and seating. Combined with off-the-shelf pieces (ping pong table, foosball table, bike rack, mirrors), these custom pieces strike a balance between the needs of MoMA PS1 for Warm Up and the needs of the museum's neighbors. The most striking insertion are the trees, a bit of green and purple in the gray courtyards. In all cases (except for perhaps the canopy, it's not clear what will happen to that), the installation is a literal holding pen for the diverse elements. Holding Pattern continues the social and environmental awareness of WORKac's Public Farm 1 from 2008, admirably tying an annual event frequented by people outside Long Island City to the members of the community that might not otherwise be able to take advantage of MoMA PS1's presence.