Tag Archives: pritzker prize

McCormick Tribune Campus Center

McCormick Tribune Campus Center in Chicago, Illinois by Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), 2003.

The first completed building in the United States by Rem Koolhaas and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), and only the second building on the Illinois Institute of Technology campus since the sixties (beat by one month by Helmut Jahn's design for a dormitory across the street to the south), the McCormick Tribune Campus Center straddles Chicago's well-known elevated train tracks to connect the educational and residential areas of the campus designed by the great Mies van der Rohe in 1940.

Rem Koolhaas's design was chosen in February 1998 from a field of five finalists - including Peter Eisenman, Zaha Hadid, Helmut Jahn, and Kazuyo Sejima - in an international competition to design the new campus center, the focus of a new campus master plan by Mies's grandson Dirk Lohan. A possible reason for selecting Koolhaas is because his design comes closest to balancing the Modernist principles of Mies with contemporary, avant-garde architecture, whereas the four other architects' designs split between the former (Jahn and Sejima) and the latter (Eisenman and Hadid). While this is only speculation it helps in considering the school's wishes to be of its time without completely abandoning its past.

The winning design is comprised of two elements: a concrete tube, clad in corrugated stainless steel, that wraps the "L" to dampen the train noise and the main building, a one-story, 110,000 square foot structure containing the program spaces (Welcome Center, dining, auditorium, meeting rooms, bookstore, cafe, post office, offices, convenience store, and campus radio station) under the tube. Movement through the main building is along diagonal paths located according to research analyzing the walking patterns of students across the site. Seeking to accommodate students, the paths intersect to create island spaces and nodes of activity for the students and faculty.

Although the plan appears confusing, the building's interior spaces are surprisingly legible, mainly due to the predominance of diagonal views across the spaces stretching both in plan and section. By seeing across and through to other spaces one is always aware of his/her location in the overall building, with color playing a role: orange is prevalent on the west facade, green is used in the central dining area, and red saturates a narrow ramp of computer terminals, for example. Throughout the interior a multitude of unique materials are used, including wire mesh between panes of glass that bends light, wall coverings that create the illusion of movement, and translucent fiberglass with a honeycomb core for walls and tabletops.

In combination with the wide palette of materials, graphic designers 2x4 created a consistent graphic language for the Campus Center based on the international symbol for a human, with large scale graphics in some areas and, most strikingly, portraits comprised of the miniature symbols describing the different activities taking place in the building. What appears to be an image of Mies van der Rohe at the northeast entry (image at top) is actually made up of these small symbols. When split by the automatic parting doors they become Koolhaas's humorous play on Mies's lasting influence and stature at IIT.

Complications arose in the Campus Center's construction when preservationists protested to the architect's intention to reuse the Mies-designed Commons Building at the northeast corner of the site as part of new building, in effect destroying its pristine form. Since state funds were used for some construction costs, a ruling was made by Illinois in favor of the preservationists, so Koolhaas had to redesign a portion of his design to meet their demands. Fortunately this compromise does not affect the quality of the new building, and fortunately the Commons is accessible via the Campus Center in two locations and will be restored to its original state inside, extending the uniqueness of Koolhaas's design and its mutual existence with the ghost of Mies.

[Google Earth link]

Brazilian Museum of Sculpture

Brazilian Museum of Sculpture in São Paulo, Brazil by Paulo Mendes da Rocha, 1988.

Paulo Mendes da Rocha's Brazilian Museum of Sculpture in São Paulo, Brazil is a simple yet provocative design that uses a large beam to give the museum a presence, while also fulfilling the need for shade and shelter for the exterior plaza. The architect's sketch, at left (click images for larger and expanded views), clearly illustrates this idea and its focus toward the visitors that use the plaza for relaxation, relief and performances.

The image above shows the entry to the museum which is actually buried under the plaza. The museum's differing ceiling heights create a stepped outdoor space that is split by the entry fissure (click for museum plan). These different heights also accommodate the stepping required to create outdoor seating for the plaza space, giving it a multi-functionality that is usually required for art institutions and their treatment of open space.

An interesting aspect, and possibly unintended consequence, of the raised concrete beam is its framing of the surroundings. Depending on the visitor's proximity to the structure, a short, wide sliver of space is visible between the beam and the plaza surface, and with the dull gray of both the view beyond is emphasized, gaining importance through the visitor's experience. Much like sculpture changes in relation to the viewer, the context is changed by the building's presence and the visitor's relation to it.

Paulo Mendes da Rocha's building was a finalist for the first Mies van der Rohe Award for Latin-American Architecture in 1998, a prize that went to Enrique Norten for a multi-use building in Mexico. The award helped to give exposure contemporary architecture in Latin-American countries, overlooked by most western-focused publications, a condition that is slowly changing as architects like Norten and Mendes da Rocha become more well known internationally.

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Prada in Tokyo, Japan by Herzog & de Meuron, 2003.

Soon to join OMA's store in New York's Soho district, the undertaking by Swiss architect's Herzog & de Meuron for the new Prada store in Tokyo is almost complete and ready for public scrutiny. Though the store will probably not garner as much attention as Rem Koolhaas' supposed $40 million-plus space that opened two years ago, it is notable for being the second store completed, of a planned six, that will increase Miucca Prada's ever-growing stamp on the world. With stores in the works for Los Angeles and San Francisco, Tokyo's store is also important for its presence in Asia, a presence that Prada needs for its focus to extend beyond Europe and North America.

Resembling a crystal or a child-like representation of a house, the form is an important element of the design, both luring shoppers to its interior and affecting the same interior through its skin. Composed of rhomboid-shape glass panels, the skin wraps in a diagonal pattern that covers each exterior surface equally. Variation in this skin is achieved by selectively locating panels with convex, concave and flat surfaces that affect both the exterior and interior through the reflection and refraction of light. The by-product of the building's form and surface, two conflicting gestures, is a simultaneous sense of the known and the unknown, the old and the new. Herzog & de Meuron developed the form over time after determining the store, which also contains offices, should be vertical, creating a public plaza at grade and giving the building a presence in the Aoyama neighborhood.

Early models of the interior (click for image) illustrate how the idea of the skin extends through the building, with horizontal tubes extruded from the rhomboid shapes acting as structural, spatial and display elements. In the first case, these elements brace the building from horizontal forces; in the second, they are occupiable containing dressing rooms and other functions; in the third, the exterior faces allow display opportunities. It remains to be seen to what extent these pieces were executed and how successful their presence becomes, though their potential is great because they alleviate the character of the interior as merely slabs and columns set within the exterior shell.

Together the exterior form and skin and the interior spaces attempt to give the building's identity an "oscillating character", in the words of the architects. This character is achieved through the use of the three glass profiles outside and the relationship of the visitor to the horizontal tubes and vertical supports inside, as well as the view out through the windows. The glass acts as an eye between the city and the store, and vice-versa, sometimes distorting and sometimes focusing the view. The intended oscillation is most apparent through the concave and convex panels, each creating an effect different than the typical flat glass.

As touched upon earlier, the building's form and surface create an unsettling combination, though this does not appear to be an accident. The form alludes to the familiarity of the domicile, a typology expressed by a hip roof above a square, or rectangular, base. At Prada, the lack of differentiation between wall and roof through materials and openings contributes to this unsettling feeling. This uniform surface articulation, analogous to partially-popped bubble wrap, combines with the bowed glass to create a unique character for the building, based on the time of day, weather, observer's location, and other variables. Overall the skin is the building's most important element, and the most relevant to its purpose: a place for fashion, an "artform" based on skin, surface and their articulation to create a unique character.

Architecture and fashion are two compatible fields, increasingly brought together by the growing importance of image and the popularity of buildings that look at surface similar to fashion, of which Herzog & de Meuron play no small part. Witness magazines like Wallpaper* which blur the lines between fashion spreads and building profiles, placing waifish models posing in the latest Tadao Ando building. It's all about image. Much as fashion designers use material and form to create a unique image, so do architects. Also each selectively covers and reveals. In Tokyo, the store is revealed in a glass veil, an ever-changing glimpse into the world of Prada.

[Google Earth link]

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]

Chesa Futura

Chesa Futura in St. Moritz, Switzerland by Norman Foster and Partners.

Upon first glance of renderings for the Chesa Futura apartment building in Switzerland's Engadin Valley, it is difficult to believe it is the work of London's Norman Foster and Partners. Although the architect's work in recent years has embraced forms that veer from the orthogonal, the overt "blobbiness" and choice of materials stand apart from his recent oeuvre.

Situated on a slope overlooking the town of St. Moritz, Foster refers to the form as novel, though the building is responsive to its site in ways that dictates its form. The image above illustrates the large south-facing openings with balconies that face the lake and surrounding mountains. Likewise the north side responds to the sun, or lack of, with smaller openings and greater thermal mass. The form enables openings to wrap the building so the vista is greater than a flat wall.

Foster chose timber for the building's exterior for two reasons: timber is the indigenous architectural material in the area and it is a renewable resource, aiding the environment through carbon dioxide consumption while growing. Also, since the timber is locally forested, very little energy is used in transporting the material. Over time the larch shingles will show their age, coloring to blend in with the surroundings, appearing to grow like the neighboring vegetation.

The building is raised above the slope on angled pilotis for various reasons: to avoid timber rot from excess moisture, to maximize views and to "reinstate the rocky texture and scale of the mountain terrain beneath the building". A cylindrical core leads to a level of underground parking and storage.

Hopefully the materiality of the final product, as seen in the construction photo above, will lend the building a less "alien" quality in the landscape than the renderings indicate. Regardless, Foster's past work illustrates that a building's environmental aspects are just as important as its aesthetics.

[Google Earth link]

Bowral House

Bowral House

Bowral House in New South Wales, Australia by Glenn Murcutt, 2001.

Featured is the Bowral House in Southern Highlands, New South Wales, Australia by 2002 Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate Glenn Murcutt. The following text and images are from the Pritzker's award announcement.

The Australian architect, Glenn Murcutt, who works as a sole practitioner, primarily designing environmentally sensitive modernist houses that respond to their surroundings and climate, as well as being scrupulously energy conscious, has been named to receive the 2002 Pritzker Architecture Prize. The 66 year old Murcutt lives and has his office in Sydney, but travels the world teaching and lecturing to university students.

In announcing the jury’s choice, Thomas J. Pritzker, president of The Hyatt Foundation, said, “Glenn Murcutt is a stark contrast to most of the highly visible architects of the day — his works are not large scale, the materials he works with, such as corrugated iron, are quite ordinary, certainly not luxurious; and he works alone. He acknowledges that his modernist inspiration has its roots in the work of Mies van der Rohe, but the Nordic tradition of Aalto, the Australian wool shed, and many other architects and designers such as Chareau, have been important to him as well. Add in the fact that all his designs are tempered by the land and climate of his native Australia, and you have the uniqueness that the jury has chosen to celebrate."

Pritzker Prize jury chairman, J. Carter Brown, commented, “Glenn Murcutt occupies a unique place in today’s architectural firmament. In an age obsessed with celebrity, the glitz of our ‘starchitects,’ backed by large staffs and copious public relations support, dominate the headlines. As a total contrast, our laureate works in a one-person office on the other side of the world from much of the architectural attention, yet has a waiting list of clients, so intent is he to give each project his personal best. He is an innovative architectural technician who is capable of turning his sensitivity to the environment and to locality into forthright, totally honest, non-showy works of art. Bravo!”

The formal presentation of what has come to be known throughout the world as architecture's highest honor will be made at a ceremony on May 29, 2002 at Michelangelo’s Campidoglio in the heart of Rome. At that time, Murcutt will be presented with a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion. Murcutt is the first Australian to become a Pritzker Laureate, and the 26th honoree since the prize was established in 1979. His selection continues what has become a ten-year trend of laureates from the international community. In fact, architects from other countries chosen for the prize now far outnumber the U.S. recipients, nineteen to seven.

The purpose of the Pritzker Architecture Prize is to honor annually a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.

Peek und Cloppenburg

Peek und Cloppenburg

The following text and images are by The Renzo Piano Building Workshop for their Peek und Cloppenburg Department Store in Cologne, Germany, currently under construction.

The German chain store Peek und Cloppenburg was looking to set up a new commercial space in the center of Cologne, near the city's cathedral. Our client already had a reasonably clear idea of the type of building it wanted to construct: it should evoke a close association between glass and wood, along the lines of the IBM traveling pavilion.

The store (covering a surface area of 22,000 square meters, including 15,000 m² of public space) will be located in a somewhat "rough" and congested urban area. Currently, the project site is occupied by a large highway that will eventually be underground, and above which the building will be constructed.

The building will have two parts: one rather classical, cubic in form, and the other being a huge, 5-story glass nave. Inspired by the orangeries, greatly popular in the 19th century, this glass house will borrow its principal elements from these historic models. The main structure will consist of vertical wooden beams, spaced 2.5 meters apart. Between each beam strips of metal will support the glass. The roof of the glass structure will be much lower at the center of the building, to avoid rivaling a neighboring church. The curvature of the site will leave enough space in front of the church to create a public square.

The transparency and lightness of the overall structure, and its virtually diaphanous quality, will contrast with the rest of the district, while hopefully rendering it less oppressive.

Grande Bibliotheque

Grande Bibliotheque

Grande Bibliotheque in Montreal, Quebec, Canada by Christian de Portzamparc, 2001.

The following text and images are translated from the web page of Christian de Portzamparc, his competition entry for the Grande Bibliotheque in Montreal, Quebec (won by Canada's Patkau Architects).

We have, with Elizabeth de Portzamparc, conceived this library project around the interior of a vast volume, a public place illuminated and heated during the long winter months of Montreal.

Elizabeth de Portzamparc developed an urban passage on two levels, accessible from the street and the underground network, opening on to a broad park. This interior street distributes typically open spaces in permanence: conference centers, exhibition spaces, newspaper kiosks, children's play areas, internet cafes etc...

Christian de Portzamparc imagined the large volume of surface and light like an aquarium with four "fish": the two largest, suspended and containing spaces of controlled access; the smaller two, installations on the ground, shelter public space on the sidewalk.

At a time when one notices that public spaces everywhere are formed from the places of trade and entertainment, the Grande Bibliotheque represents a chance to imagine a great public place in Montreal, open 24 hours, created around a program of culture.

Graduate House

Graduate House

Graduate House in Toronto, Ontario, Canada by Morphosis, 2000.

Darlings of the architectural undergrad, Santa Monica, California's Morphosis, currently headed by co-founder Thom Mayne, created a large following through a layering device: layering of spaces and materials. Since the departure of co-founder Michael Rotondi the firm has embraced digital media, using the computer to develop forms that veer from the orthogonal, such as the Diamond Ranch High School in Ponoma, California. Their design for Graduate House (with Teeple Architects) at the west entrance to the St. George Campus of the University of Toronto recalls their earlier work, particularly the Salick Health Care Office Building of 1991, each building creating a strong presence in their respective setting through a juxtaposition of unconventional, harsh materials and transparent materials.

At Graduate House, a dorm for graduate students that also contains a restaurant on the first floor, the primary material is a dull, gray metal panel with built-in projections that give the facade a much-needed horizontality while setting up and framing the window openings. Facing Spadina Avenue, the main entry is recessed, marked by a tall, mustard yellow wall and a curtain wall, and toward Harbord Street to the south, a steel frame, covered in perforated metal with irregular openings, wraps the horizontal metal panels. Even with these features the obvious focus of the exterior is the cantilevered frame and perforated, green metal signage; a contemporary gateway to the campus.

Applied to the perforated metal, the semi-transparent letters "UNIVERSITY OF TORONT" gives way to a free-standing letter "O" at end of the cantilever, an unsurprising gesture from Thom Mayne that implies more layering than is physically present. Also evident is the way the sign affects the adjacent exterior skin: glass banding below and metal panels rising slightly to cradle it. A testament to Mayne's ability to compose different materials and forms into a cohesive whole is evident here: the seemingly unrelated signage giving the building a center and unifying the disparate parts.

Unfortunately, as with most public institutions, the budget is apparently low. The majority of the funds are seemingly devoted to the facades as the dorm rooms are minimal in size and features. But addressing the design with this aspect in mind, Graduate House is a welcome addition to a neighborhood that is graced by an eclectic mix of buildings and people. In effect the building is a reflection of its surroundings, embracing the diversity but also aware of its important location as an entry to campus.

[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.