IMG_0819

The Well-Serviced Apartment

Serviced apartments aren’t new. In one of the older parts of Dubai there’s an entire area of these apartment-hotel hybrids. Just like a hotel, your apartment is cleaned and your room made each day. There’s laundry and dry-cleaning services, a newspaper outside your door in the morning and you leave your key at the front desk when you go out.

The apartment bit comes from having a full-sized kitchen with basic equipment for cooking and eating. The financials make this arrangement less expensive than hotels and suitable for stays of, say, a fortnight to six months. For less than a week or two it’s not worth paying the premium for the sake of cooking, and for any stay over six months it’s cheaper to rent.

• • •

I recently wrote about the many services and facilities now being made available as part of the new communal living and, in doing so, putting the fun into Functionalism. This post is about the extended range of services facilities now available for the owners or renters of larger apartments. Let’s take the most upmarket example first – One Hyde Park by joke socialist Richard Roger’s company Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners.

4470_N179_completed

One-Hyde-Park-Apartment-London_16

What do you get for a record-breaking £6,000 per square foot? Naturally, the fittings are state of the art. In the penthouses, alarm clocks can be set to slowly open the skylights to the sound of soothing music, and artworks rotate to reveal TV screens. There is a 22m pool, a sauna, steam rooms, a gym, a squash court, and a golf simulator able to conjure up all the world’s great courses.

The facade glass is “bulletproof”. This is sweet, redolent of Prohibition-era drive-by shootings. But is it sniper-resistant? And no, I’m not about to google One Hyde Park glazing specifications or what the well-equipped modern sniper packs. There are panic rooms to avoid more personal rumblings but where they are on plan is not for me or you to know. I reckon one of those bathrooms is pressed into double-duty. Security are “SAS-trained”, they say.

On the smiley side of life, there’s a wine cellar, and a tunnel to the Mandarin Oriental [and!] through which meals can be served – after appropriate security checks, hopefully. Perhaps the 21st century will see a food-taster revival?

london-exterior-views-8-2

Candy [of developers Candy & Candy] sees the link-up with the Mandarin, which has 60 staff dedicated to servicing the apartments, as crucial.

We’re obviously not talking about employees on six-month contracts, or even with jobs. We’re talking about people who can have lunch in Mumbai or Doha, aperitifs in Palma and dinner in London. Not your average can’t-cook-won’t-cook. Why have a personal chef making a daily selection of things for whenever you might want to eat, when Heston Blumenthal and his team at London’s Mandarin Oriental can deliver?

mandarin

amenities

A nice touch is the private elevators from the car park so your driver can do discreet pickups and/or dropoffs. The lobby is just for show as any true ultra-high net worth individual would have their security OK the car park before making that potentially fatal leap from armoured car to private elevator. Anyone coming though the lobby door off the street is a likely assassin. I expect that lobby entrance door has multiple continuous recording cameras focussed on it, as well as metal detectors, explosives detectors and probably even a radiation detector – even though it won’t detect polonium-210. Still, you can’t be too careful.

Mandarin Oriental’s webpage has a link to its Residences around the world – all serviced by a Mandarin Oriental.

Untitled

The principle of safe refuges for flight capital was probably established in someplace like Switzerland, and perfected in London with an array of on-call services for intermittent residents and upmarket refugee housing. One Hyde Park is one large panic room.

An investigation by the Guardian discovered that 80% of the apartments had been purchased by offshore entities based in the British Virgin Islands, with ownership layered through sophisticated tax-avoidance schemes. The Observer revealed that only nine of 62 apartments were registered for council tax, with five of those nine paying the 50% reduced tariff for second homes.

Sheikh Hamad, via a Cayman-registered company, has a triplex on floors 11-13 of one of the block’s four towers. Other residents are Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man and a close ally of deposed former president Viktor Yanukovych. He bought one of the more expensive apartments for £136m. Also listed are a number of Kazakhs, including Vladimir Kim, a copper billionaire and former politician; Russians, among them Vladislav Doronin, who is stepping out with Naomi Campbell; Chinese, Malaysians and Nigerians.

What constitutes a safe haven for flight capital is relative. Dubai still looks good to many more moderately monied Middle Easterners and it’s probably Dubai where the money, the land, and the reason to build combine like heat, fuel and oxygen to make the superserviced apartment-hotel combination flare into an architectural type. Offhand, I can think of five developments where a apartment tower and a hotel tower are or were to have been paired for servicing by a hotel operator. I’ll list them in historical order.

2007-ish: Four Seasons Hotel and Residences
Architects: Arquitectonica; Operator: Four Seasons

A hotel tower and an apartment tower joined by amenities at the bottom and an array of lasers at the top. Nice idea. Didn’t happen.

2008: Icon Hotel
Architects: ATKINS

Didn’t happen either. Structurally, this apparent torus was two bended towers connected by a bridge. It had various entertainments top and bottom. [ICON HOTEL pdf] A guilty pleasure.

2013: 48 Burj Gate & Sofitel Downtown Dubai
Architects: Fentress Architects; Operator: Sofitel Hotels

This one’s live, but only after some value-engineering that, to my mind, improved it. The building on the right is the Sofitel Dubai Downtown hotel. The building on the left is offices until the 22nd floor and apartments 23–48. Both are managed by the hotel. Here’s what’s on offer.  

Sofitel

It’s not just food, laundry and cleaning, but interior redecorating, appliance maintenance, electrical troubleshooting, drain clearing, router wiring and IT setup, and all the usual tasks that owning property and living in it generally entail. The hotel will cook and deliver you any meal, bake cakes for special occasions and at Christmastime they’ll cook you and your guests a full Christmas dinner, trolley it along the service corridor and serve it in your apartment.

Within a 50m radius, two similar twin developments are underway.

The Address Sky View Towers
Developer: Emaar Properties; Architects: SOM; Operator: The Address Hotels + Resorts

It’s coming along nicely.

Burj Vista
Developer: Emaar Properties; Operator: The Address Hotels + Resorts

This one isn’t as far along yet, but it’s the same deal. A hotel tower and an apartment tower managed by the hotel – The Address group of hotels in these last two cases.

• • •

A decade ago, serviced apartments were neither fish nor fowl but they’ve now come into their own as an identifiable type. They’re no longer apartment buildings with a front desk and a gym on the ground floor and a pool on the roof like in that corner of Dubai I mentioned at the start.

rooftop pool

This shift started as soon as hotels and apartments began to coexist in the same building. They may have been on different floors and with different banks of elevators but they were serviced by the same operator. There may have been earlier examples but the original The Address hotel was one such building.

In neighbouring Burj Khalifa it’s more confusing. On the website of The Armani Hotel Dubai, there isn’t much difference between staying in one of the Armani Hotel Dubai Residences and staying in The Armani Hotel.

armani hotel

The residences are on levels 9–16 and for sale (at market-defying prices, apparently) and the hotel is on levels 1–8. Here’s a plan of a residences level. You can tell it’s residences because of the kitchens physically and conceptually separated from the living space. As foretold, these kitchens are mere alcoves for a microwave and minibar to produce hot water and ice – but not in large quantities.

Armani-Hotel-Dubai-32-1150x906

This new twin apartment-hotel combo avoids confusion. Guests are guests staying in hotel rooms and residents are residents living in apartments. Both groups are being farmed but, in peak season the hotel can focus on its premium-paying guests. The residents will still be there off-peak and the hotel will still be there as well and with as many amenities and services as the residents wish or can afford at prices 20% less than what guests or off-streeters pay.

6899004_81_z

• • •

If you’re keen, there’s always a few Armani Residences on the sale or rental markets at any given time • Click here for more information on Four Seasons residences • Click here for more information on Mandarin Oriental residences • Click here for more information on The Address residences

mountain

The building is not trying to be a mountain

The City of Mishima in Japan is twinned with Pasadena in California. Pasadena Heights is the name of a housing complex in Mishima and designed by Kiyonori Kikutake, completed 1974. I remember it from Japan Architect, the English language version of 新建築.

20120111_2321838 Here it is now, still at 35° 6’53.68″ 138°57’38.37″ Pasadena HeightsIts description on housingprototypes.org doesn’t do it justice. The Japanese language internet has more, and more recent information.

For a large project by the father of all Metabolists, Pasadena Heights is virtually unknown.

This alone makes me suspect it had something of real value to offer the world in terms of how people might live. As the Japanese are wont to say, 出る釘は打たれる。 Deru kugi wa utareru “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” And so it is with media content.

First, let’s get to know Pasadena Heights.  Here’s a plan of an apartment. There are 120.

20120111_2321839Each has two ways to enter. The first is via the 3m wide front path (1) and the terrace (3). entrance

20120108_2317584

To the left is a void over the level below. (“Woof!”)

20120108_231761020120108_2317588

The other access is from under the building using the rear walkway overlooked by the bedroom windows.

The front door opens into the kitchen that has the bathroom behind. Both are accessed directly from the living room, as are both bedrooms.

Pasade12b

Inside, there’s no circulation space as such. Going from one space to another is a part of life that doesn’t require a dedicated space to do it. In Japanese houses, passing through the living room and saying “I’m going to have a bath now” is what happens everyday. The usual reply is Go yukkuri! which literally translates as “Take your time!” but “Have a good one!” better conveys the sentiment.

pasadena terrace

Now – the part of the terrace fronting the living room is lit by a void above.

20120108_2317585pasadena living

This is the garden void you passed by earlier, but of the apartment above, the plan of which is flipped and offset. It’s a confusing but remarkable configuration.

20120111_2321841

It’s made possible by the modular plan in which the void to below and next to the path (1) , is offset one path’s width from the inner void above the living room terrace (2) and which is adjacent to the entrance garden of the flipped apartment above. The small bedroom (3) is offset a path’s width from the living room terrace void (2) and, because of that, will be beneath the living room terrace (and terrace void) of that flipped apartment above.

It all fits together like this.

20120111_2321836 20120111_2321840

and seems to work perfectly apart from the smaller bedroom having no chance of direct sunlight.

20120108_2317672

Another fault could be the parking. Despite being a resort with many summer houses, the climate of Mishima is warm, humid and wet in summer, and cool and wet in winter.

mishima-climograph

Whether you take the high path or the low path to your apartment, it’s a long walk from the car or the bus stop.

Nevertheless, those two functional deficiencies aren’t enough to explain this project’s obscurity. Many far more non-fuctioning buildings with far less to offer are far more well known.

  • It seems like another case of history favouring the famous over the useful. Kikutake is certainly well enough known, but usually for his Sky House and also for his “visionary” stuff like Floating City

5369a0564986dc3e34e6aca5fc28aa20

rather than, say, his Aquapolis for the 1975 Okinawa Expo that, having been realised, was no longer a vision. This is the contradiction. Visionary architecture is, by definition, useless and unbuildable. This is its attraction, and its insurance.

015-aquapolis-fairgrounds

Like Ron Herron’s Walking City, people could safely enjoy “visions” as the provocative media stunts they were – as representations of new thinking rather than actually being challenged or threatened by anything potentially useful that might upset the status quo. To have not been amusingly visionary may have been Pasadena Heights’ downfall. I no longer think or view visionaries in a positive way. They’re distractions, pointless diversions. This, come to think of it, is what the architectural media has become. People’s imaginations are captured by sketches and renderings of buildings, not by actual buildings. As you know, I don’t have a good feeling about this.

  • The idea of a megastructure doing the light, ventilation, social, and community thing is not what people want Metabolism to have been. Instead, Kisho Korokawa’s 1972 Nakagin Capsule Tower is consistently chosen to represent Metabolism’s “ideal” fusion of megastructures organised as if by Nature.
  • Perhaps it’s just a case of trees vs. mountains and trees travel better. Everybody likes trees. Napkin Capsule Tower or, for that matter, Isozaki’s 1961 Cities in The Air are trees. They didn’t change anything because they were never meant to.

isozaki c-in-the-air

The Japanese have another proverb. 鳥なき里の蝙蝠 Tori naki sato no koumori. It’s usually equated to “In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king” but my loose literal translation “In a land where birds can’t fly you get bats instead” is more appropriate for today’s media landscape. 

  • Pasadena Heights has something of The House That Came to Nothing about it. “Insufficiently mainstream to genuinely disturb and insufficiently crazy to entertain” I wrote and this seems to be the case here too. Let’s put this one on the IN-tray for now.
  • Perhaps it’s just too grey, too concretey. This was the problem with Brutalism and it stems from its misfit social agenda of not wanting to waste resources on things like decorative coatings and finishes that JUST DON’T MATTER. Pasadena Heights may have fared better had it been painted white. It didn’t do VS any harm. Even so, the thing about concrete is that it’s concrete – it’s there. Again, you can’t build and be visionary at the same time. As soon as it’s built, it’s no longer a vision. This was the downside of Aquapolis. It couldn’t live up to the vision.
  • Still on the topic of concrete, perhaps there just too much of it? I don’t think so. Suppose we do a reverse-BIG on this project and unconfigure it back to its most compact and conventional? All our apartments now stack vertically, without flips. The rear terrace voids remain but are now horizontal slices of a conventional lightwell. The front terrace shrinks so the front path is now an attached open access corridor. What we have is a conventional five-storey block of apartments on a slope. What’s been lost?

20120111_2321839

The front terrace is gone and the remaining side is smaller, darker and less private. The roof of the smaller bedrooms is now the floor of the bedroom above, and the suspended floors of the rear bedrooms are now the roofs of the apartments below. Individual rear access is lost. In fact, there’s no connection to the ground and, because of that, the problem of how to get from the parking area to the apartments is now worse. In all, when you consider what this building would be like with minimal surface area, the additional concrete has been used very well. 

  • 1975 was a time of Post Modernism – the time when things started to mean stuff. Pasadena Heights was never meant to be anything more than what it was. It wasn’t pretending to be a tree, or even a mountain, or even a European mountain village (like Ando’s Rokko housing). This was not, in the idiom of the times, “where it was at”. The building outlived Post Modernism but it’s memory didn’t.

• • •

I’ve just been going through Rem Koolhaas and Hand Ulrich Obrist’s Project Japan once again. There’s lots of rare photographs implying thoroughnes, completeness and access to privileged information and, because of the age of the people interviewed, for the last time. There’s a lot of sky houses and floating cities happening. His 1961 Stratiform is there

06_mack

and so is Kisho Kurokawa’s 1972 Capsule Village

Capsule Village

There’s loads more if you like your structures mega and unbuilt but, as far as the built work goes, we get the usual suspects and no more – a Sony Tower here, a Yamanashi Press Centre there, and Fumihiko Maki’s Hillside Terrace. Although this last is a pleasant and successful piece of urbanism, I don’t see any Metabolism happening.

Hillside_Terrace_A_B_2010

For all their highfalutin’ statements about social change and adaption, the Metabolists didn’t produce much in the way of social change and adaption. If Nakagin Capsule Tower didn’t turn out to be a model for the future then its “visionary” status should be revoked – along with Kurokawa’s.

By overemphasising how “visionary” Metabolism was to the exclusion of all else, Koolhaas and Obrist are making sure any useful built projects aren’t recorded for future generations. Pasadena Heights is secretly archived as a potential good idea. If you think OMA’s Singapore Interlace has some shared DNA with the 1974 Soviet Tbilisi Ministry of Highways, then a similar re-imagining could be on the cards for 1974 Metabolist Pasadena Heights.

But maybe BIG got there first.

20120108_2317672 Mountain_Dwellings_-_interior

5

More Poor Doors

A friend recently emailed to say that something I posted reminded him of Ponte Tower in Johannesburg and asked if I knew it. I didn’t. He included a link to Philip Bloom’s documentary. Ponte Tower is a circular, 52-storey apartment tower with a lightwell in the middle.

ponte_jacques

The lightwell is very photogenic.

Googling around, I found mention of “servants’ rooms” facing the lightwell whilst those of the owners faced the view. Surely not I thought, even in 1975 South Africa? For such a configuration  to be possible architecturally, there’d need to be shared corridors or a lift and stairwell servicing every two double-sided apartments Moscow style. (Ref. The Big Brush)

Sure enough, a plan showed something totally different.

ponte-plan ff3868_ponte_city_johannesburgThis building isn’t air conditioned. All living rooms are cross ventilated and all bathrooms and kitchens naturally ventilated even if they don’t benefit much in the way of light. It’s a good solution when ventilation is more important than light. Moreover, it matters little if the corridor is open or semi-closed.

  • 1975: Completed. When built, Ponte City was seen as an extremely desirable address due to its views over all of Johannesburg and its surroundings.
  • 1980-: During the late 1980s, gang activity had caused the crime rate to soar in the tower and surrounding neighbourhood.
  • 1990s: After the 1994 end of apartheid, many gangs moved into the building and it became extremely unsafe.
  • 2001: Trafalgar Properties took over management of the building and began making numerous improvements.
  • 2007: Ownership changed once more and a project to revitalise the building began (by evicting everyone).
  • 2008: Credit crisis stopped the revitalisation and the building was handed back to the original developer Kempston who, it seems, has succeeded with a scaled down yet more realistic plan to make the building into safe and comfortable housing for people to live in.

The riches-to-rags story of Ponte Tower thus had a final solution that didn’t involve dynamite.

The bit about servants facing the light well is a narrative that, like a virus, attaches itself to an image to generate an image of a building in peoples’ minds. This one began from a story told in comic form and that features a building with a central lightwell and an elite having apartments facing out, and servants having apartments facing the lightwell.

re_doing-dubai-3 re_doing-dubai-5

These images are from the dpr-barcelona blog. I quote.

There is a graphic novel by Wes Jones called Re:Doing Dubai, which proposes a post-critical overview of the real state market in Dubai. Jones designed [in the way of a cartoon] a cilindrical building in Dubai with two layers: the inner space for the rooms of the workers facing to the center of the tower, and on the external face there are high-end developments for tourist and rich people, with views to all over the city.

an-architecture.com tells us the comic was first seen as an exhibit at the 11th Venice Biennale in 2008.

11th

First of all, let’s give Dubai of 2008 a break for, in 2006 I, for one, designed an apartment project with a separate social housing entrance for a project in the UK. I’m not particularly proud of having done so.

1 FLOOR

The long corridor could be split into three, serviced by separate stairs, elevators and entrances. As shown below in green and pink below, the social housing was in the middle of the buildings (where view was worst). All entrances were, however, off of the same path and, although lobby entrances were separate, they weren’t hidden. (With this project, income differences weren’t all that great. All apartments had to be designed to the spatial standards of the social housing in order to receive a building subsidy from the government. The “free” market has no minimum spatial standards.)

HOUSING 1

All I’m saying is that that cartoon wasn’t A) fiction and B) wasn’t a future Dubai. It was a UK reality in 2007. The idea of Dubai tends to make people in other places to feel better about themselves. As an idea of an “other” place, it allows people to vent collective outrage at unsavoury social phenomena seemingly invisible at closer range. Anyway, it’s 2015 now. Let’s see how things have moved on. Dubai’s much the same.

poor door 2 poor door 3 poor door 1

One Tower Bridge

Worldwide property business is looking up at the moment. Here’s a spirited defence of poor doors, on Business Insider.

poor door 4

But let’s ignore that and go back to the comic for a closer look at this bit.

re_doing-dubai-5

Here we have, in true archi-cømic style, an over-excited explanation of how brilliant and wonderful the solution is. For the outer ring people, there’s a virtuous eco-justification for social segregation. It’s all they want to know.

4Meanwhile, the inner-ring people are made to feel grateful for what light and air they get. It’s all they need to know.

5

• • •

There is one good thing about this comic and that is at least the two half-narratives describe two truths that, together, describe why the building is the way it is. Moreover and more importantly, those two truths exist for the respective users. 

This is vastly more moral than the ornamental fictional narratives tailored to media demographic and that are already a feature of our present. Somewhere between 2008 and 2015 we slipped from reality-based fiction to fiction-based reality.

FUN!

FUN!tionalism

It’s back – this time with the emphasis on FUN! 

Flashback. Remember New York’s 2013 adAPT microflat competition? The winning project was by Monadnock Development LLC, Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation and nARCHITECTS. Apartments were between 250 sq.ft and 370 sq.ft.

50fecd83b3fc4b598f00001b_mayor-bloomberg-announces-winner-of-adapt-nyc-competition_8405925508_970c9dabb8_b-1000x647

Skilful yes but I find convertible furniture and rooms a bit soul-less. They’re so willing to bend themselves to accommodate and please they’ve no personality of their own, no policy for being. They’re never-ending wish-fulfilment rather than an acceptance of how little space one has – anti-existentialist “bad faith” architecture if ever there was. Once you’ve suggested you take coffee in the living room do your five dinner guests politely admire the view, backs turned, as you manically stash the table and put the sofa together?

Nevertheless, it was good to see some thought put into kitchen design

new york micro apartments 5

even though it wasn’t to the degree shown by Mart Stam in his 1923 Haas am Horn.

Bauhaus-Haus-am-Horn-kitchen-1923

I liked the way the clothes storage and bathroom were thought of as one

orange-bathroom-closet-jpg_191354

even though Hannes Meyer’s 1930 Bauhaus went into more detail.

bauhaus clothes storage

And I do get the “CANVAS”/”TOOLBOX” nomenclature, but I appreciate the graphics more

nArchitecture-microunit6

because they remind me of Herbert Bayer’s 1925 design for a cinema.

Herbert Bayer, Design for a Cinema, 1924-1925

As an antidote to today’s architectural circuses, and even with all these failings, it was good to see even misguided thought put into how people could live with convenience and dignity in a small amount of space. Karel Teige wouldn’t have liked microflats either – and for much the same reasons. He’d have said they aspire to be mini-bourgeois homes with their range-hoods and ovens and their areas for dining and sleeping and entertaining pathetically separated in space or time.

debutart_jurgen-ziewe_9163

Karel Teige thought the hotel room the housing typology most suited to single workers. In The MIinimum Dwelling, he used the example of New York’s 1924 Hotel Shelton on Lexington and 49th (now the New York Marriot East Side).

hotel sheltonhotel 1

Teige wouldn’t have been so approving of today’s hotels where the “doorman” gestures his hand towards the door to save you the trouble of obstructing the motion sensor yourself. But as a Communist, Teige was enthusiastic about formerly domestic functions being outsourced and provided communally.

hotel 2

Even eating.

6a62729c16d55ed4d03e3aa4648a134d

Karel Teige’s minimum dwelling units with communal facilities proved to be a successful model for communal living for the elderly. It’s also what we’re now rushing towards in the general residential rental market. New York studio apartments are now smaller than hotel rooms

and, what’s more, that they’re approaching 1930’s eastern European size standards.

Jiri Voženilek, 1931 A one-person dwelling

Jiri Voženilek, 1931 A one-person dwelling

The kitchen has all but atrophied into an electric kettle and minibar. Teige correctly theorised that the small size of the minimum dwelling units in new large-scale rental apartment developments would be compensated for by the many facilities on offer for communal use. This is what is now happening.

When I say communal I don’t mean miserable commie communal fun but life-enhancing capitalist communal fun. These new communal facilities are designed to not only compensate for small living areas but to actually add value by putting fun into Functionalism. Just as Teige predicted in 1932, you won’t be doing your own cooking, cleaning or laundry. In this new paradigm, you’ll be spending your quality time tanning, having barbecues, workouts, saunas and facials. Space is yesterday’s bourgeois architecture. It’s now about how little time you want to spend at the room where you sleep and how much you time you want to spend using the flash communal facilities.

infinity edge pool, outdoor bar and lounge, private cabanas, an outdoor kitchen area for barbecues, lap pool, hot tub, steam room, sauna, spa area, squash court, weights room, cardio space, juice bar, yoga and pilates studio, daycare, golf simulator, flexible workout space, studio, lounge area
(626 First Avenue)

grilling terrace with dining cabanas,  game room, golf simulatorskylit 50-foot swimming pool with sundeck, 3,300 square-foot fitness centre, spa suite with private treatment rooms, chef’s demonstration and catering kitchen, private dining room, drawing room with grand piano and multiple seating areas1,200 square-foot group fitness studio, boxing studio, private training studio, cinema screening room, children’s playroom, tweens’ den, library
(New York by Gehry)

They make it sound disturbingly like what we imagine working at Google to be like. This alone should place us on intellectual orange alert. There’s a fine line between social productivity and economic exploitation but, whether communist or capitalist, it matters to keep the workers happy and productive.

These types of developments are targeted toward young professionals making low six-figure salaries who aren’t quite ready to buy”. [Alexander Durst, son of Douglas Durst]

This is exactly what Teige is saying here. “… efforts to force the family-based-household-type dwelling on the working class is in conflict with its proletarian content, for the conventions and habits of bourgeois family life have not yet taken root in the lifestyle of the working class and are totally incompatible with the status of working women, for whom the bourgeois apartment with all its housekeeping chores becomes an impediment to both their economic and their cultural emancipation.” [Karel Teige, The Minimum Dwelling, p323]

There are important differences however. “With the progressive pauperisation of the proletariat, the increasing discrepancy between high rents and low wages becomes ever more glaring, thus making the housing shortage even more critical. In the final analysis, the solution to the housing problem cannot be sought within the context of an economic system in which the accumulation of wealth by a few creates an accumulation of poverty by the many.” [ibid, p323]

Bummer.

The approaches of Karel Teige and today’s property developers couldn’t be more opposite yet they’re both concerned with agreeable living arrangements for the productive members of the workforce – Teige for the purely communistic ends of social productivity, and property developers for the purely capitalistic ends of economic exploitation. That they both converge on the same spatial and social arrangements I find amazing.

9780262201360

I keep going back to The Minimal Dwelling. In 1930, Karel Teige gave us the conceptual apparatus for understanding why and how people should live in 2015 New York apartments the size of 1924 New York hotel rooms.

Levittown-Sprawl

It seems that post-war baby-boom Levittown-life was the social aberration and, along with it, the case-study good-life architecture aspirations it spawned. We’ve long since lowered our aspirations but only now is the architecture starting to catch up. Fun!tionalism is with us.

• • •

  • Fun!tionalism is where property speculation, financial hocus-pocus and the service industry converge. (Why’s it taken it so long?)
  • Fun!tionalism seems like an architectural turning point. Space is so last century. Why have space? Space is for people who lounge in living rooms talking about art and drinking wine. Space and light are the aspirations of sixty-somethings.
  • Fun!tionalism is a new and non-architectural way of adding value to living space. As a concept, it has the potential to add far more value to far less space and for far more people than the concept of space ever did.

• • •

The people who approach architects and ask them to design tiny apartments with loads of communal amenities developers, not the people going to live in them. Despite these middlemen, buildings having loads of tiny apartments with loads of communal amenities are an architectural area showing a high level of activity no-one’s really made sense of so far. They’re a new architectural product of our times and for our times. Art galleries, opera houses and culture centres are mere representations of yesterday’s notions of an architecture increasingly difficult to believe in. 

15305727619_e388bed17b_b

Moneymaking Machines #2: 625 W57th Street

We saw in Moneymaking Machines #1 how New York by Gehry for Forest City Ratner received the financing to make it possible in its present form only one month before the 2008 financial crisis. This window of opportunity would have closed if more time had been spent wrangling over rights of light and other issues.

w57-15The Durst Organization, the developer behind 625 West 57th Street made its planning application in 2010, when financing was still difficult and so had to resort to less conventional forms of financing – technically, to what’s known as the EB-5 visa program. Basically, investors who stump up $500,000 per family and create 10 jobs receive a green card.

durst Here’s a pdf brochure targeting potential investors. We don’t know how successful it was. It couldn’t have been sufficient for, in October, 2014, loan

“It was a complicated transaction and all parties cooperated to make something that was seemingly difficult relatively easy to get done,” said Jordan Barowitz, director of external affairs for Durst.

Here’s the link to the nyc scheme review online folder. The community impact analysis is based on an assumption of 863 units. Apartment floor plans are absent from designboomdezeen and ArchDaily. I found this plan here.

w57-9 It’s one of the lower floors and seems to be mainly 1-bedroom apartments although the regular pattern of walls leaves open the option of converting a one-bed into two studios, or three one-beds into two twos at the last minute if doing so has advantages and the approved total doesn’t change. That decision will be made after sufficient expressions of interest have been received. It’s as instant as accommodation demand and supply gets.

“We haven’t set the rents yet, but we think at the top of the building we can touch $90 a square foot,” he (aforementioned Jordan Barowitz) told MO [Mortgage Observer].

  • Another interesting thing about the plan is a corridor more than half a city block long.
  • The main elevator lobby is in the top right corner – as you’d expect if you wanted your elevators to go all the way to the top. The garbage chute must close by for the same reason.
  • The two long, truncated sides of the building complicate fire escape requiring four fire escape stairs on the W58th side and two more on the W57th side.
  • The single-loaded (lower) W57th wing of the building gets out of the way pretty quickly to add value to the profit-dense (upper) W58th wing. For the amount of accommodation the lower wing contains (15 x 1-bed or 30 x studios max?) the complications it causes and the value it subtracts in terms of view and shadow, I can’t believe it was worth building. Shape.

  • From this photo, the building is shading itself but not that much more than the building immediately south already is.

Notice the building immediately behind? It’s time now to talk about The Helena. The Helena is an apartment building by the same developer in the south-east corner of the development site. fab things like this

Most of The Helena’s apartments are studios but, if you check availability, here’s what $4,100 per month gets you.

The Helena is marketed as a green building – which is nice.

greenWhat’s more interesting is how the developers applied to have the entire block re-zoned so the entire block could be considered a single development. As far as I can work out from these documents, this meant that

EIS

  1. the new portion of the development could exploit any newly created development capacity as well as any development capacity not unexploited by the existing buildings
  2. rights of light issues internal to the site could be ignored
  3. loss of view internal to the site could also be ignored

Nos. 2 and 3 don’t really matter if the existing building’s tenants are renting from the same developer.

139532924.ZLgNkRut.p4 Nevertheless, this view won’t exist any more. Is that a Noguchi coffee table I see?

HELENA VIEW Not everyone was pleased.

  • The CB4 Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen Land Use and Zoning Committee of Manhattan Community Board 4 voted unanimously to recommend denial unless the project includes permanent affordable housing. (Noland)
  • “The City Planning Commission should not allow the project to proceed without a guarantee of permanent affordable housing. It would be short- sighted to affix an expiration date to the affordable housing component, forestalling an adverse socioeconomic impact of this development, but not mitigating it. We understand there are unique challenges to achieving permanent affordable housing on this site. But we cannot support a project that provides an indefinite benefit to a select few with exceptional wealth while offering only temporary benefits to the community.” (Duane/Nadler)
  • “The project should provide affordable units through the 80/20 Housing Program if the mini-storage facility is converted to include residential uses.” (Stringer)
“The applicant has agreed to enter into the 80/20 program and would provide 20 percent of the 835 residential rental units on projected development sites 1 and 2 (or up to 167 units) as affordable housing units for a period of 35 years.”

  • There should be more than 35 years of permanent affordability. (Restuccia)
  • My objection to the Durst pyramid is the fact that the affordable housing unit will be affordable only for 35 years. (Brender)
  • The community needs permanent affordability. A high concentration of affordable housing will expire in the next five to ten years. (Klein)
  • Community District 4 wants and needs permanently affordable housing. Without permanently affordable units, it cannot maintain its mixed-income residential character. (CB4)
  • One thing the community absolutely needs is permanent affordable housing. (Bloomberg)
“The project will be a welcome contribution to the city’s ongoing needs for mixed income housing. It represents an opportunity to add 750 units, approximately of which about a hundred fifty would be set aside for low income households for 35 years. It is a significant commitment that should not be taken lightly, since the site itself could remain under its existing zoning and be developed for nonresidential uses. This would be an unfortunate option, given the significant benefits of residential use at this location.” (Perine, Lamberg) “It’s far better to create housing that will be affordable for 30 or 35 years as opposed to building nothing at all.” (Lamberg) “The applicant also understands how important permanency is to the community, but is unable to offer permanent affordable housing on the project site, as the City’s inclusionary housing program requires permanent affordable housing units, and the applicant controls the site pursuant to a 99-year ground lease, of which 87 years are remaining. That ground lease requires that the site be returned to the fee owner at the end of the lease term, free of any leases or tenancies.”
  • “The lease requirements should be renegotiated with the landowner to allow for permanent affordable housing.” (Brewer, Noland, Restuccia)

“While the applicant recognizes the need for affordable housing in the community, it is not possible to renegotiate the lease.” 

G A M E   O V E R

Now that’s a done deal, let’s talk about The Shape.

Durst’s property is designed to take advantage of most of the available square footage permitted under a recent rezoning. It will fit within the envelope of the site and help preserve the views of another Durst family building next door, known as the Helena.  [New York Daily News]

Let’s deal with that first sentence first. 2010 Spring: BIGs website says they were commissioned 2010.  purple 2011 February: The project began to appear in the architectural internet.  2012 July: A document outlining the scope of work of an Supplemental Environmental Impact Assessment is uploaded to the nyc.gov site.

743 iso

In the Key, the text corresponding to the blue hatched area reads “EXISTING BUILDING TOWER REGULATION AGGREGATE SQ. FT. NON COMPLIANCE WAIVER PURSUANT TO ZONING RESOLUTION 74-743(a)(2) EXISTING CONDITION APPROVED PER SPECIAL PERMIT C010151 ZSM, WAIVER CURRENTLY REQUESTED TO REFLECT CONDITIONS IN CURRENT LARGE SCALE GENERAL DEVELOPMENT.”

“Takes advantage of a recent rezoning” should read as “rezoning was applied for after the design was completed. The “recent rezoning” could refer to a 2001 rezoning but the 2012 rezoning was so recent it was in the future. read all about it! I think everyone is caught with their pants down here. Perhaps going back to the BIG site will give us some clues. Point block meets perimeter block, the story goes. really The previous setback limits didn’t change along the length of the site. Given that they were relaxed in order to accommodate this building, I can’t see what advantages a tetrahedrish building has over a long slab building directly in front of The Helena. It’s not a question of maximising the number of apartments because that’s already fixed at 853. site section A long slab building would:

  • Have more efficient access and shorter corridors that would, in turn make for more efficient servicing and simplified fire escape.
  • Be less vulnerable to possible future development on the north side.
  • Be less vulnerable to possible future building on the south side. The site is currently a car park. (Given this precedent for “large-scale general development’ any new neighbours might well want a huge wall of apartments on their northern boundary – or their southern. Or both.)
  • Have preserved more views (and thus rental values) for more apartments in The Helena.
  • Have meant more expansive (albeit still oblique) views west to the river and a more egalitarian distribution of that view.
  • Have meant more people have brighter apartments. Nothing much can be done about direct sunlight into the north facing apartments but having them closer to the centre of the site means they can at least see more sky.

It might have been a bit boring and maybe that’s all it comes down to. Here’s that second sentence again.

It will fit within the envelope of the site and help preserve the views of another Durst family building next door, known as the Helena. 

It’s always good for buildings to fit within their site boundaries but we now know that those were adjusted to accommodate the design. As for preserving views from the Helena, here’s a plan of its 14th-33rd floors. views Apartments D faces the East River and you’d think it’s these people who’d stand to lose the most as those apartments have no windows facing other directions, unlike the C and  E apartments. 5424969173_6e175c25e1_b Allowing views for (half of the) D apartments) is good but it completely blocks oblique views from all of the north side apartment types E thru M. Half the building, basically. And for what? SITE215305727619_e388bed17b_bThis development gives new meaning to the term “view corridor”. There are many, too many, construction pics on skyscrapercity.com. cherry I’m sure the Dursts would prefer the tenants of The Helena to not move or ask for rent reductions, but they have been sold out for the sake of this new development.

• • •

We’ve come to the end. I still don’t know why this building is the way it is. Nobody seems to be telling the truth. Here’s a statement from the BIG website. The developer approached us and asked up to introduce a new housing typology into New York. Any or all of these words could be false. Perimeter block meets point block seems to have taken the worst of both for little apparent gain. “The 800,000-square-foot polyhedronic behemoth, which will mainly have studio and one-bedroom apartments, is an almost entirely self-contained Epcot-like mini-city. Renters will rarely have to leave the building. And they’ll pay for the privilege. Prices have not been announced, but Durst thinks he can push $90 a foot for the top-floor pads. That means a large one-bedroom will likely go for more than $5,000 a month.” [therealdeal]

• • •

But man, that’s one helluva fugly corner streetwise. I got the tetrahedral blues.

West-57th-Street-by-BIG-ARCHISCENE-net-06

money-shot

Existential Architecture: Being There.

Architecture and Philosophy don’t sit well together. Kant had a bit to say about aesthetics but not much to say about architecture. What little he did you’ll find here. The author of the piece says “Kant is responsible for the notion that architecture should express ideas, and also for competing views on what ideas it should express.” If so, Kant’s got a lot to answer for.

Wittgenstein’s name always gets a mention whenever talk turns to philosophy and architecture – and always in connection with the 1926 Haus Wittgenstein in Vienna, designed by Wittgenstein and architect Paul Engelmann who quietly stepped away from the project once it became obvious Wittgenstein was a nightmare to work with.

Boriana_Ventsislavova_1_27aa2914a5One hears the anecdote of Wittgenstein having a ceiling raised by 30mm repeated as an example of his perfectionism. I’d love to know more about this. Raising a ceiling must have meant a whole world of pain for everyone. Was there a fake ceiling in this temple of honesty? Did raising a ceiling mean raising a floor? It’s not the kind of behaviour one would expect of a logical positivist whose every statement requires either empirical or logical verification in order to be cognitively meaningful. Saying “the proportions aren’t perfect!” is neither empirically nor logically verifiable. 

• • •

Architects tend to steer well clear of philosophy. And well they might.

  • It’s difficult to get your head around it.
  • It’s not sexy.
  • When you think of Philosophy, you don’t think Money or Art.
  • It’s too much trouble.
    • Why care about philosophy when entire architectural movements can be built on one or two misappropriations from literature or the world of Art?
    • Why even go that far when you can have a healthy cashflow on the basis of statements no more profound than “I like curves”?

Unfortunately, the messy pluralism we have today, isn’t working and the previous post showed that the history of new architectures hates a vacuum. What makes this situation even more unfortunate is that, in the great chain of content provision, we can’t trust the media or architects to give us coherent, or even honest reasons why buildings are the way they are. We’re on our own, mostly in the dark, and need an autonomous basis for judging good vs. bad, truth vs. lies and fact vs. hype. Here’s my best shot.

• • •

EXISTENTIALIST ARCHITECTURE

Søren Kierkegaard is considered to have been the first existentialist philosopher.

Søren-Kierkegaard

Three of Existentialism‘s central ideas are all we need.

#1: Existence is more important than Essence

Individuals are independently-acting, responsible, conscious beings (“existence”) and not what labels, roles, stereotypes, definitions, or other preconceived categories they might fit into (“essence”). So how about this?

A building should be what it is rather than how it might appear to others. 

This denounces architectural pretensions of all sorts. It may even denounce all of what’s commonly thought of as architecture.

One innovation here is applying the same requirement of existence over essence to images of buildings yet to be built. This should hopefully check the current imbalance between the design of a building (existence) and the marketing of a building and/or its designers (essence).

#2: Facticity

Facticity is what a thing is. Much of the facticity of people consists of things they weren’t able to choose but have nevertheless shaped their values. Even so, people are still free to choose how important to them those unchangeable facts are.

This reminds me of the Minimalists deciding that space and light are the essentials of architecture. Says who? One chooses what facts are relevant. One is responsible for one’s own values, regardless of society’s values. This of course, is what the problem always comes down to – what is important? “Which of these many factors am I going to use to determine how this building is going to be? Or shall I just invent some new ones and call it a theme?” 

When designing a building, it’s difficult to know what facts are relevant and that need to be acted upon. But some architects manage to get it right and they’re the ones I call misfits.

A building should not deny the facts of its existence.

  1. Buildings are artificial objects. Any pretensions to having, or to having the appearance of any of the qualities of organic or natural objects is inauthentic. This includes, but is not limited to growth and movement.
  2. Buildings are static, physical objects. Any pretensions to denying their physicality is inauthentic. This includes, but is not limited to weightlessness, transparency and motion.
  3. Buildings have a reason for existing. Any pretensions to catering to other reasons is inauthentic. This is the existence–essence conflict.
  4. Buildings are products of their time and place. In terms of Existentialist Architecture, this means the use of materials and technologies appropriate for a time and place. It does not mean the adoption of whatever stylistic fad is currently circulating as that would be contrary to #1 Existence over Essence.
  5. Buildings are for humans to use. This means that the indoor environment cannot be ignored.

#3: Authenticity

The role of facticity in relation to authenticity involves letting one’s actual values come into play when making a choice. One takes responsibility for the act of choosing instead of choosing either-or without allowing the options to have different values.

Being inauthentic is to deny one’s factiticy. Being inauthentic is to deny that one has choices that one must take responsibility for. An inauthentic building would result from:

  • pretending choices are random or meaningless. This would generate an ad-hoc architecture.
  • designing for a theme rather than a project. The project is the facticity.
  • Following rules that stipulate how one should think and act instead of thinking and acting.

The concepts of authenticity and its opposite (what Existentialists call “bad faith”) transfer easily to architecture.

A building should not pretend to be something it isn’t. 

For a building to appear to have the qualities of something that is not a building (or the building it actually is) is inauthentic. This includes all of the buildings above, as well as all buildings that appear to be from a time they are not.

qt

• • •

These three linked concepts of Existence & Essence, Facticity and Authenticity can be applied as they are to buildings.

  1. Existence: A building should be what it is rather than what others want it to be.
  2. Facticity: A building should not deny the facts of its existence.
  3. Authenticity: A building should not pretend to be something it isn’t. 

They are very similar to what I wrote of not long ago as dysfunctionalism.

  • All kinds of fake surfaces, proportions, illusions and ornamentation are inauthentic, as well as being wasteful.
  • To design a building for its media impact is inauthentic and to give essence priority over existence – as well as being unethical.
  • To design a building in denial of its environmental facticity is inauthentic – as well as irresponsible.
  • Globalised design agendas and building solutions are denials of facticity just as much as The International Style was.

These three concepts underlying Existential Architecture let us easily identify the diverse varieties of what isn’t Existential Architecture, and let us do it across stylistic, historical and even cultural categories. With #2, environmental determinants are included for the first time as part of a buildings facticity, no more or less important than any other aspect. All Existential Architecture is environmentally-aware architecture.

• • •

“So show us some Existential Architecture then!”

  • All vernacular architecture is Existential Architecture. Wherever it is, vernacular architecture is generated by nothing else but its facticity. It’s what we like about it.

  • Existential architecture is industrial buildings. What industrial buildings and vernacular architecture have in common is their direct and immediate response to their respective facticities. We appreciate that they do what they do in the best way they can.

Albert Kahn ford factory 1924

  • Existential architecture is any building that is generated from what it does and where it is.

small-grain-elevator

  • The buildings of Hannes Meyer and all the other misfits featured in this blog are all Existentialist Architecture in that they don’t waste resources to satisfy external expectations.

  • Buildings in extreme environments are all Existentialist Architecture. They do what they do without regard for external perceptions of style or comfort.

station STS-133_International_Space_Station_after_undocking_1

moro_02

  • Existential Architecture includes all buildings that make the best use of available resources without regard for external appearances.

Lapatie House

  • Existential Architecture includes the houses from the golden age of Danish Modernism.

Untitled 11

  • Existential Architecture is what it is.

money-shot

You’ve seen these examples before. Existential Architecture is what misfitsarchitecture has been all about. Anti-dysfunctionalism. Another thing all these examples have in common with Existentialism is an essential humanism. Existentialism is about thinking yes, but it’s also about acting, feeling and living human individuals.

In addition to making sense of the present and giving some guidelines for the future. Existential Architecture

  • includes the past – no other way of thinking about architecture has ever done this – it’s always been about the new.
  • includes climate as circumstances a building must not deny – if it is a building,
  • includes indoor environmental control as something a building must not deny – for buildings are there for people. 

Existential Architecture is an approach towards being rather than an affected style for show. With no visual style to champion, it is beyond fashion.

• • •

Existentialist philosophy has other concepts. The notion of The Absurd contains the idea  that there is no meaning in the world beyond what we give it. This might be relevant to how we construct images of buildings in our minds on the basis of limited information that doesn’t even have to be true. The Other and The Look are also interesting concepts but  frankly I’m out of my depth. I’m more familiar with Angst and Despair as they’re what I feel a lot of the time about the current state of architecture. Existential Crisis could be what what now passes for architecture is headed for if too many people start to question the foundations for its existence and whether that continued existence has any meaning, purpose, or value.

Old Ideas for New Architectures

This part of a two-part post will quickly revisit some ideas used to lend credence to some of last century’s new architectures – in preparation for part two to follow. Radical Functionalism.

  • The idea of a building being configured according to certain useful criteria relating to buildings and their occupants’ needs didn’t last very long.
  • Functionalism had an essential humanism at its core but this fact never made it across the Atlantic.
  • Functionalist buildings took into account the construction of buildings and the spatial, illumination and ventilation needs of their occupants.
  • It was accused of failing to respond to their aesthetic needs.

josef polášek municipal housing in brno Futurism.

  • Architect Sant’Elia is poster boy but would’ve been overlooked had it not been a slow decade for architectural history.
  • Sant’Elia advocated the sensible use of modern materials to adapt to mobility and change. His interests were in sync with those of his artist colleagues rather than being derived from them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Santelia01.jpg

  • Futurism/Sant’Elia and Functionalism share the view that materials and methods of construction might be important for buildings.
  • Instead, architects latched onto the Futurist ART notion it was best to create everything new and unlike anything that had ever existed.  Thus …

A New Architecture. 

  • The Futurist notion of “New is good” had architectural staying power but the idea of buildings doing useful things was corrupted almost immediately.
  • The New Architecture’s ostensibly functional inspirations were the luxury transatlantic ocean liners to which Le Big C was no étranger, and American grain elevators.

ml_JosephineBakerHouse_07_x 3925989201_30b329de6d_z

  • Le Corbusier saw all the right things yet still managed to not see anything but geometric primitives casting shadows.

ste00994

  • His architectural genius and his architectural crime was to appropriate things that were fit-for-purpose and reappropriate them as a metaphor for functionality in things that weren’tBuildings do more than block the sun in picturesque ways.

PaleStillLife

  • Corbusier even claimed functional justification for his paintings, saying they were what the eye really wanted to see. Never trust an architect who paints.

The 1940s. 

Ralph rapson

  • However, oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1938 and, by 1950, exported so we could build the energy-dependent architecture of International Modernism.

International Modernism.

  • This is the style of corporate America post WWII, the style of offices, hotels, airports and other symbols of dollar capitalism. These buildings represented progress and modernity.
  • It was international because it represented the aspirations of clients and client nations worldwide to the symbols of modernity and progress whereas it was really a vehicle for the projection of American corporate might and political influence worldwide.
  • These days we call this globalisation. We accept that sequences of similar buildings will appear in diverse countries having nothing in common except rich clients with a desire to impress.
  • Discussion of International Modernism fussed with aesthetic trivia such as curtain walling proportions, and spandrel and mullion minutiae as if they mattered.
Teheran Hilton 1965

Tehran Hilton 1965, fourteen years before the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

  • Internationalism is understood in terms of rational structure and lack of ornament etc. but its core driver was Globalism inasmuch as the commercial and political are ever separate.
  • The International Style represented a truth still playing itself out.

Danish Modernism.

  • Danish Modernism is an outlier, but only it that it doesn’t fit Charles Jenck’s Modernism-bad-Post-Modernism-necessary thesis. It’s pointless arguing about it now. The damage is done.
  • Danish Modernism integrated construction, function, economy of means, fundamental passive design, natural materials and a humanistic approach to living into an architecture of rare beauty.
  • Its development stopped when the Danish government discontinued the practice of granting loans for the construction of houses of less than a certain area.

Untitled 11 Metabolism

  • The only architectural movement that didn’t originate west of “The Orient”.
  • Metabolism championed large megastructures organised as if by a process of organic growth. It was architecturalised nature, 3D Art Nouveau writ large, “organic” architecture reprised.
  • Easier theorised than done, its ambitions reached further than its cantilevers.
  • Its unbuildability was proof of its visionaries’ visionairiness.

c-in-the-air

  • Lack of theory should have made it travel better than it did. Metabolism’s notions of adaptive urbanisation enjoyed vicarious favour when seen to be emanating from London’s Architectural Association.
  • Its unbuildability was proof of its visionaries’ visionairiness.

51d719a5e8e44ebb50000029_ad-classics-the-plug-in-city-peter-cook-archigram-_749_medium High-tech. 

  • An idea-free architecture for the times. In place of actual principles was a mood board inviting us to take whatever we thought was good about Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace, Pierre Chareau’s Maison de VerreArchiGram and the Case Study Houses.
  • What all these had in common was the use of stock industrial or prefabricated components as metaphors for speed, economy and change – in much the same way as Roy Lichtenstein’s or Andy Warhol’s art were metaphors for mass production and consumption rather than – God forbid! – actually being mass produced or mass consumed.

  • In a classic demonstration of how architecture subverts what is good in the world, Hi-Tech prefabrication became the new bespoke, limited to single projects with new ways to make them expensive one-offs. CNC was used to explain how the cost would have been far more had all those pieces been fabricated by hand.
  • Richard Rogers has a few Warhols in his living room.

Eric Morin

  • High-tech’s celebration of large spans was attractive to clients for airports and other big sheds.

Madrid_barajas_airport_terminal_t41 London_Stansted_Airport_Terminal Post Modernism.

  • Post Modernism co-existed with High-Tech, mopping up the Artist (or was it the Intellectual?) end of the market.
  • PM was a late 20th century architectural movement based on opportunistic analogies with Post-modern Literature. The blurring of “high” and “low” culture was the one architects took and ran with.
  • Buildings were re-evaluated as things that carry messages and signs That Mean Things. Architects started reading Roland Barthes.
  • Post Modernism was crap. We’re still cleaning up after it.

Minimalism. 

  • A niche movement, Minimalism borrowed ideas from Minimalist Art of which Donald Judd is representative. The main idea is to strive for an essential objectness that emphasises some ‘fundamental’ relationship between it and a viewer.

The most notable critique of minimalism was produced by Michael Fried, a formalist critic, who objected to the work on the basis of its “theatricality”. In Art and Objecthood (published in Artforum in June 1967) he declared that the minimal work of art, particularly minimal sculpture, was based on an engagement with the physicality of the spectator. He argued that work like Robert Morris‘s transformed the act of viewing into a type of spectacle, in which the artifice of the act of observation and the viewer’s participation in the work were unveiled. Fried saw this displacement of the viewer’s experience from an aesthetic engagement within, to an event outside of the artwork as a failure of minimal art.

  • Minimalist architecture is also open to this criticism.

130318_S07_ST_001

  • Minimalist architects endeavour to reduce architecture to its essential qualities which, for some reasonare always “space” and “light”.
  • The label Minimalism can be applied to whatever anyone thinks the essentials of architecture are.
oil rig close

Here’s a minimalist building that’s all about keeping people safe and comfortable in a harsh environment. It has an essential objectness emphasising the fundamental relationship between it and its occupants.

  • Also significant is the amount of money it takes to contrive construction details to make a building appear as if only made of space and light.
  • Minimalism was a new way to make buildings more expensive.

Deconstructivism.

  • Like Post Modernism, Deconstructivism selected it’s inspirations from a literary movement – Deconstruction. Deconstructivist buildings are built representations of one or more of its ideas.
  • Those ideas actually have little to do with Deconstruction. Any name containing the word “construction” obviously has something to do with buildings. If only.
  • The most abused idea was the one saying a complete “text” could be understood from a fragment of it. This led to buildings looking as if they were in the process of becoming something or, depending on how you look at it, of unbecoming something.
  • As an idea to kickstart some new way for buildings to look, it was sufficient. 
  • Like Post modernism, DeCon was pretty tricksy.
  • D-con was another way of making buildings pretentious and expensive.
  • As with Post Modernism, it didn’t matter what it was telling us.
Gymnázium_v_Orlové

The facade above isn’t really “falling into place”. Beneath all these apparently not-quite-there-yet surfaces is a very real and stable reality of columns, slabs and enclosing walls.

  • As with Internationalism, it didn’t matter where a building was. This was to be the link with …

Parametricism: 

  • Parametricism’s endgame is to cover the planet with grey goo.

76bc73dd478129bec73fca6fa6accd60

  • Patrick Schumacher, its irrepressible populist, has described Parametricism in terms of Niklas Lurmann‘s social theories of communications. Despite his efforts, people still respond to Parametricism without the burden of theory. Zipless architecture.
  • Ostensibly an offshoot of angular deconstructivism, this new Internationalism is perfect for global power players to whom the old signifiers weren’t signifying anything. The local and culture-specific meanings of Post Modernism were too external and angular D-con too aggressively challenging. Never a good message for your average globalist.
  • What these dudes wanted was a style that could represent their new shared global economic and political agenda – motion without progress, a directionless dynamism with neither beginning nor end.
  • And lo, this style came to pass. 

Heydar-Aliyev-Cultural-Center-by-Zaha-Hadid03-640x325

• • •

Ideas come and go, one after another. It’s convenient for some new and more attractive idea to come along before we tire of one or before its failings become obvious. Nothing ever gets improved. This has parallels with the world of fashion. It actually doesn’t really matter what the inspiration for the next one is if it’s only ever going to be about surface form.

Of all the ideas listed above, Radical Functionalism was the only architecture whose principles didn’t imply a specific visual articulation. It was a philosophy of building rather than some new reason to make buildings look different. This was its strength but, as it turned out, the reason for its failure.

The next post will take some ideas from Philosophy and use them as the basis for an architecture that includes EVERYTHING MISFITS’ LIKES and excludes EVERYTHING ELSE.

• • •

Doing this will convert misfits’ manifesto into a theory. This theory will identify buildings that are actual manifestations (rather than analogies) of its ideas. It will be – more easily transferable to buildings than anything we’ve seen in the past – simpler to understand and easier to implement than anything currently on offer, and – more honest than anything we can expect to be offered in the future. It’s time. It’s time we had something like this.