Tag Archives: jean nouvel

Jane’s Carousel

Jane's Carousel in Brooklyn, New York by Ateliers Jean Nouvel, 2011.

On September 16, 2011 Jane's Carousel officially opened in a small but prominent corner of Brooklyn Bridge Park between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel (the Pritzker Prize winner is also responsible for the earlier 40 Mercer Residences and 100 Eleventh Avenue, as well as for the MoMA Tower that is in planning), the project is named for artist Jane Walentas, who almost single-handedly brought the 1922 carousel from Ohio to Brooklyn's DUMBO neighborhood. Many people probably recall glancing inside a glass storefront on nearby Water Street, a way station of sorts for the carousel as it was restored and its future was planned. Its existence in a malleable glass box is the culmination of decades of Jane's work, care, and drive.

Of course it should be noted that Jane's husband, David Walentas, is a developer responsible for much of DUMBO's transformation from an industrial area to a gentrified one with shops, residences, offices, and now parks along the East River. His 1983 master plan for DUMBO included a carousel for the riverside park, and the following year the couple purchased the carousel in Youngstown, Ohio. In a sense DUMBO, Jane's Carousel, and Brooklyn Bridge Park are a synthesis of globalization and the loss of manufacturing in North America: The first and last are occupy former industrial buildings and land; the second arose from Youngstown's decline as a steel town, among other circumstances. This large-scale view probably won't impact one's experience of the place, but it is interesting to consider the project as part of global circumstances (we could also add on to it how Nouvel is a global "Starchitect" based in France but who probably spends more time in transit than his home city).

Jane's Carousel is a completely restored historic Carousel made by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC #61) in 1922. ... It was the first Carousel to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. -janescarousel.com

The combination of a colorful carved-wood carousel and a glass pavilion with a reflective stainless steel ceiling may seem a bit odd at first, but in a number of ways it makes perfect sense. The enclosure puts the carousel on display; it allows riders to have views of the bridges, DUMBO, and Manhattan across the East River; it opens itself up via large glass doors on two sides to announce itself as open and allow breezes through; and of course it shelters without competing with the look of the carousel. And while it may appear to be just a dumb box, Nouvel's design is more nuanced than that monicker. It features butt-glazed glass on two sides, while the other two have the operable panels. In the middle of the ribbed stainless steel ceiling is a glass oculus that aligns with the carousel below; this opening brings light to the top of the carousel but also makes the space appear to extend upward.

Lastly, the project deserves to be discussed in terms of its location within DUMBO and Brooklyn Bridge Park. The pavilion sits in Empire Fulton Ferry Park, a peninsula that is currently cut off from Brooklyn Bridge Plaza to the south, but which will connect the parks to the east and south in a chain over over 1.5 miles. Currently Jane's Carousel is best accessed from Dock Street to the south or from Main Street Park to the east. Whatever the approach, the pavilion's location gives it a prominence, aided by the way it is raised slightly from the surrounding boardwalk on a plinth. The epicenter of Brooklyn Bridge Park may be south of Brooklyn Bridge, but Jane's Carousel will help draw people to the northern end of the park, where the unique position between the bridges -- and the round and round of the carousel -- gives a unique vantage point on this place of transformation.

Brembo Research Office

Brembo Research Office in Bergamo, Italy by Jean Nouvel.

Last week's dose featured German car-maker BMW's attempt at creating an image for itself through architecture, not a novel idea. Coop Himmelb(l)au used computer technology to design what might ultimately become a dated design more attuned to its process (computer) than its content (car). In contrast, Jean Nouvel's design for the automobile brake-manufacturer Brembo's Research Office and Workshop in Bergamo, Italy uses its location, alongside the Milan-Venice Highway, as an opportunity to create a strong image that responds directly to a car's horizontal movement.

Selecting the site for its visibility to drivers between Venice and Milan, Brembo's physical identity will use its trademark red, in this case a one-kilometer long wall which also acts as a sound barrier to the offices and other uses on the other side. The wall, made of grooved, lacquered aluminum, will appear to extend into the horizontal parking surface on the highway side. By locating a parking podium between the moving cars and the red wall, Nouvel has attempted to mediate between the highway and the office that are reached by piercing through the wall.

The aerial view at left (click for expanded view) illustrates the various parts of the development, including the red wall and parking podium, the approach road, the pond, and the offices integrated into the landscape beyond. The architects decision to locate office spaces beyond the wall - and the wall itself - ironically recognizes the automobile by stifling its physical effects. Therefore the Research Office acts as a symbol of the company who manufactures parts that attempt to lessen an automobile's destructive impact, hopefully allowing the driver to stop before hitting another car, for example.

In contrast to the colorful, yet bare highways side of Brembo's Bergamo facility, the office buildings are transparent and integrated with trees and other landscape to create an oasis apart from the speeding cars. Reminiscent of Nouvel's earlier Foundation Cartier in Paris, landscape is treated as a zone between the building and the greater urban condition. In the former the condition was the streets of Paris, in the latter the condition is the roads connecting cities. So in turn the landscape plays a greater role in the building's design, a commendable offset to the image-oriented facade of the trademark Brembo-red wall.

[Google Earth link]

The Hotel

The Hotel

The Hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland by Jean Nouvel, .

The Hotel, a renovation in Lucerne, Switzerland by the French architect Jean Nouvel, connotes a place of fantasy. A place where dreams come true, just like in the movies. Nouvel's impetus for projecting film stills (including Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris, Federico Fellini's Casanova, and Peter Greenaway's The Pillow Book, among others) upon the ceilings of The Hotel's guest rooms may not be its connection to filmic fantasy, but a hotel, or transient lodging in general, definitely has many relationships to the medium of film.

One of the most interesting relationships drawn between hotels and film exists in Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train, in which a Japanese tourist in Memphis takes pictures, not of famous sites, but of his hotel room. His reasoning rests in the memorability of unique sites and attractions versus the forgetfulness of hotel rooms. To this character the transient places he moves through have just as much, if not more, significance than the notable destinations. Most films aren't as direct in connecting movies and hotels. Instead the majority of dramas use hotels as a stage for important events: discovery in Barton Fink, delusion in The Shining, deceit in Last Year at Marienbad, and death in Psycho. The hotel becomes a stage for change, as it is a transition between point A and point B: home and away, life and death.

Is Nouvel simply reversing this relationship that exists, or is he attempting to comment on people and their actions? With society's level of self-consciousness higher than ever before one thing rarely affects another without it being affected upon as well. Reality does not affect film without film affecting reality. Nouvel must be aware of this reciprocity and that hotels are viewed as places where romance will be played out "just like in the movies". The hotel has always existed as a place free from the bondage and security of home, as a escape, though reading the hotel as informed by film adds another layer of meaning that Nouvel's design attempts to explicate, or at least question.

As described on the first page, the primary design gesture of The Hotel is rooms illuminated by projections of film stills. The examples listed all have one thing in common: they deal with the complexities of love, albeit in very different ways. By focusing on love stories, and scenes that suggest sex, the guest is explicitly aware of the hotel's role as a place for romance and change, at least in the world of film. Most impressively though Nouvel articulates the public spaces of the hotel (lobbies, bars, restaurant) as a 3-dimensional continuation of the 2-dimensional gesture within the rooms (see image on page two). The transparency and reflectivity of the glass, in concert with the minimal lighting, creates a mood of voyeurism in which the guest becomes director, or actor, in a variation on the films playing out overhead.