Dictionary of Art
Part II. ARCHITECTURE -
Part III. ARCHITECTURE -
Although it claims to deal with the substance as well, in the end
Post-Modernist historicism addresses only the decorative veneer of the
International Style. Spurred by more radical theories, Deconstructivism,
another tendency that has been gathering momentum since
goes much farther in
challenging its substance. It does so by likewise engaging in
appropriation. Oddly enough, it returns to one of the earliest sources
of modernism: the Russian avant-garde. The Russian experiment in
architecture proved short-lived, and few of its ideas ever made it
beyond the laboratory stage. Recent architects, inspired by the bold
sculpture of the Constructivists and the graphic designs of the
Suprematists, seek to violate the integrity of modern architecture by
subverting its internal logic, which the Russians themselves did little
to undermine. Nevertheless, Deconstructivism does not abandon modern
architecture and its principles altogether, and remains an architecture
of the possible based on structural engineering.
Deconstructivism is a new term that combines Constructivism and
deconstruction. Strictly speaking there can be no architecture of
deconstruction, because building puts things together instead of taking
them apart. Deconstructivism nevertheless follows similar principles and
is symptomatic of postmodernism as a whole. It does so by dismembering
modern architecture, then reassembling it again in new ways. Although it
claims Michelangelo, Bernini, and Guarini as its ancestors,
Deconstructivism goes far beyond anything that can be found in earlier
architecture. We will find little common ground among its practitioners.
The main devices they have in common are superimpositions of clashing
systems or layers of space, and distortions from within that subvert the
normal vocabulary and purposes of modern architecture.
The history of ideas has shifted its emphasis since the 1920s from a
Utopian world view to a self-absorbed hermeneutics which, in its
criticism of "cynical reason", knew of no argument which could itself
not be criticized. Frenchman Jacques Derrida seems to stand at the point
of intersection of philosophy and architecture,- starting from works of
literary criticism, he discovered his interest in architecture when
Bernard Tschumi invited him to a discussion on the Park La Villette in
Following the conversion of the never-completed livestock market halls
for the new Paris abattoir into the "Cite des Sciences et de 'Industrie",
an international competition was held for a "Park of the 21st Century"
in the surrounding 136 acres of unused land. Architect Bernard Tschumi
won the competition with his strategy of "a discontinued building, ñ
whole which is split into a number of landmarks distributed over the
entire site". Covered galleries along the main axes and serpentine paths
link the main attractions of the site, whose focal points are red
pavilions, its "folies". Avenues trace the geometric plan and enclose
open areas of lawn. Not only the buildings are considered objects here,
but also the space between them, fully in the spirit of concrete poems,
which similarly determines the reading of words by means of spatial
caesura and omission. And poetic is indeed the word for those parts of
the park already completed.
Derrida formulated his thoughts in an essay entitled "Point de folie -
maintenant l'architecture", whose ambiguous meaning might be as
variously translated as "No madness at all - maintaining architecture"
and "Point of madness - now architecture". For him, architecture becomes
a significant event, but to questions on its content "an answer will not
be provided by gaining access to a meaning whose fulfilment would
ultimately be promised us. No, it is precisely a question of what
happens to that meaning." Tschumi's "folies", which are actually only
playful pavilions for various leisure activities, can be seen in this
context as contributions to the discussion on the possible
transformations of architecture within a self-created reference system
of points, lines and planes.
Derrida describes the red point in his
"structure as open to combinatorial substitutions or permutations, which
relate it as much to other frivolities as to its own parts". These "folies",
recalling the "follies" of English garden architecture, "primarily, but
not solely, deconstruct the semantics belonging to architecture".
Derrida also defines architecture itself as "an inhabited construct, a
heritage which embraces us even before we have attempted to think it".
means that manipulations performed by architects can only be
understood as such in so far as the viewer also shares the heritage in
question. In order to develop critical significance, therefore,
deconstruction would have to refer to a socially-established language of
form, a general understanding of architecture. Many critics, however,
see Tschumi's concept of heritage above all in Russian Constructivism,
and in the works of Leonidov and Tschernikov in particular. James Wines
from the SITE office noted by way of contrast that the cut and slashed
house ruins of sculptor Gordon Matta-Clark indeed embody the concept of
the dismembered archetype and thereby encourage critical consideration
of the unquestioning daily perception of architecture.
buildings, which make strong reference to concrete urban chaos and local
traditions, can be interpreted along similar lines. Widely-employed as a
skeletal structure in Los Angeles is the stucco box with a wooden lath
frame, concealed within simple and cheap industrial parts in such a way
that associations with improvised architecture cannot be altogether
dismissed. But Gehry employs his means with such sophistication and
subtle colouring that the artistic intention is immediately apparent.
Where he fills the inner courtyard of a law school with borrowings from
the classical vocabulary of a Roman forum, it is both understandable and
fully in the spirit of his client. At the same time, these "quotations"
- not truly such since
they remind rather than quote -
are robbed of their original components and their
monumentality in such a way that the final result develops congenially
out of the surrounding urban space Plywood panels intended as lining boards are combined with
ridiculously weak aluminum struts and inlaid plexiglass strips into a
small chapel. Columns lose their bases and capitals to become nothing
more than cylinders of concrete or galvanized iron; their significance
is revealed only by their positioning within the site. Gehry also plays
- as in the Edgemar Center
in Santa Monica - with
purely constructive alienation effects, creating a crown from a
distorted cube of steel framing, for example. Originally subordinate
architectural elements begin to lead a life of their own: stairwells,
chimneys and porches are clearly overemphasized.
A programme to revitalize Culver City, in the greater area of Los
Angeles, resulted in Eric Owen Moss transforming a rather insignificant
city with few outstanding buildings into a Mecca for devotees of
architecture. With the help of supportive clients, he converted and
extended existing architecture, chiefly former industrial buildings, to
house businesses from the media sector. In the case of the Samitaur
Building, for example, he added a 100-metre-long bar on stilts over the
street area. An entrance area and staircase on one corner, and a tiny, central inner courtyard, erupt sharply out of the rational
development of the body. Three sides of the pentagonal courtyard, with
its flat water basin spanned by a bridge, project beyond the facade.
Moss describes the sculptural entry area as a changing object, either a
sphere or a cylinder, if not a pumpkin, although originally an
hour-glass, with the sand inside it representing the visitor mounting
Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin is more about content than
form. Libeskind uses striking forms not as ends in themselves, but as
carriers of meaning. The ground plan of the metal-clad Jewish Museum
recalls a bolt of lightning,- it has no entrance of its own, but is
accessed below ground from the neighbouring Kollegienhaus. Next to the
main museum building Libeskind erected a pentagonal Holocaust Tower.
Here, as in the main building, the sharp-edged slits that are the
windows create strange moods, which reinforce the idea of a building
surrounding a historically produced void, namely the destroyed Jewish
culture. "The new annex is conceived as an emblem, a symbol, in which
the not-visible reveals itself as an empty invisible. The museum is to
be built around a void which runs through the building, a void into
which the public are to enter." For Libeskind, all the components of his
work are meanings in another sense, too; their position within the ground plan points
to these meanings, their interpenetration is the vocabulary from which
his syntax arises. Thus he says of the windows, they are "the actual
topographical lines which link the residences of Germans and Jews in the
immediate surroundings and radiate outwards". Understanding of this
architecture comes only with logical thinking and conscious intent on
the part of the visitor.
Although Deconstructivist designs have won major
awards, their experimental approach and ambitious scale have discouraged
actual construction. The most advanced designs to get off the drawing
board have generally been relatively modest affairs, but no less
exciting for that fact. The roof conversion for a Viennese lawyer's
office by Coop Himmelblau (fig.
has well been described as "a writhing, disruptive,
animal breaking through the corner." The internal disturbances are
incorporated into the structure itself: "It is as if some kind of
parasite has infected the form and distorted it from the inside." This
is directly akin to how deconstruction uses language.
Roof Conversion Project, Vienna.
Coop Himmelblau, also rendered Coop Himmelb(l)au,
avant-garde architecture firm that rose to prominence in the
1980s and ’90s. The two central members were Wolf D. Prix
(b. December 13, 1942, Vienna, Austria) and Helmut
Swiczinsky (b. January 13, 1944, Poznań, Poland).
Coop Himmelblau was founded in 1968 by
Prix, Swiczinsky, and Rainer Michael Holzer; Holzer left the
partnership in 1971. The firm’s name—German for “Blue-Sky
Cooperative”—was a wordplay describing their efforts to
“make architecture light and fluctuating like clouds.” In
the 1970s Prix and Swiczinsky, who had both studied at the
Technical University of Vienna, created designs that
dematerialized the heaviness of conventional architecture
through unexpected airy angles and complicated spatial
solutions. These exuberant results were achieved through a
process that Prix described as “draw[ing] with one’s eyes
closed,” a technique comparable to the automatic drawing
practiced by Dadaists and Surrealists in the 1920s and ’30s.
By the 1980s Coop Himmelblau had seen
their designs become built works. Their commissions featured
bold angular forms and open complex series of spaces, as
demonstrated in their conversion of a legal office’s attic
space (1983–88) in Vienna and their addition to the Funder
Factory (1988) in St. Veit an der Glan, Austria. Such
buildings, looking like angular explosions of metal and
glass, served as shocking disruptions of their traditional
surroundings and of people’s expectations of architecture.
This type of design merited their inclusion in the famous
Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) exhibition
“Deconstructivist Architecture” in 1988, since their work
seemed to “deconstruct” the clean lines, rectangular shapes,
and rigid spatial planning of Modernist architects such as
In the late 1980s Prix and Swiczinsky
moved to Los Angeles, where they opened a studio and began
to design exhibition installations, such as “Expressionist
Utopias” (1993) at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and
“Paradise Cage” (1996) at the Museum of Contemporary Art in
Los Angeles (with artist Kiki Smith). They also ventured
into the realm of household furnishings, designing the
unsettling tilting “Vodol” chair for the furniture
manufacturer Vitra in 1989. Coop Himmelblau’s later
buildings, which continued to challenge architectural
standards, include a Constructivist-inspired angular
steel-and-glass structure for the UFA Cinema Center
(1993–98) in Dresden, Germany; the futuristic glass SEG
apartment tower (1994–98) in Vienna; and an addition to the
Akron (Ohio, U.S.) Art Museum (begun 2004).
Coop Himmelblau. Funder Factory Works 3 in St. Veit/Glan, Austria,
Funder Factory Works 3. Axonometric projection of the overall complex
Coop Himmelblau. Funder Factory Works 3 in St. Veit/Glan, Austria,
"Ufa-Palast" cinemamovie theatre in Dresden, 1993-1998
Coop Himmelblau. "Ufa-Palast"
Eric Owen Moss.
Eric Owen Moss
Eric Owen Moss (b. 1943 in Los Angeles (LA), California)
practices architecture with his eponymously named LA-based
25-person firm founded in 1973.
Throughout his career Moss
has worked to revitalize a once defunct industrial tract in
Culver City, California.
Moss received a Bachelor of
Arts from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1965,
his Masters of Architecture from the University of
California, Berkeley, College of Environmental Design in
1968 and a second Masters of Architecture from Harvard
University Graduate School of Design in 1972. Moss taught at
Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in
1974 and was appointed director in 2002. He has held chairs
at Yale and Harvard universities, and appointments at the
University of Applied Arts in Vienna and the Royal Danish
Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen.
Moss received a 1998 AIA/LA
Medal for his architectural work as well as the Business
Week/Architectural Record Award in 2003 for the design and
construction of the Stealth project, Culver City,
California. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of
Architects and received the Distinguished Alumni Award for
the University of California at Berkeley in 2003. Moss
received the 2007 Arnold Brunner Memorial Prize from the
American Academy of Arts and Letters. There are ten
published monographs on the work of Moss' office.
Eric Owen Moss. Samitaur Building, Culver City, California, 1990-1996
Eric Owen Moss.
Prittard & Sullivan Building, Culver City, California, 1995-1997
Eric Owen Moss. "The Box", Culver City, California, 1990-1994.
"The Box", Isometric projection
Daniel Libeskind, (born May 12, 1946, Łódź, Poland), Polish
American architect known for introducing complex ideas and
emotions into his designs.
Libeskind first studied
music at the Łódź Conservatory, and in 1960 he moved to New
York City on a music scholarship. Changing his artistic aims
after arriving, he began to study architecture under John
Hejduk and Peter Eisenman at Cooper Union. After receiving
his master’s degree in the history and theory of
architecture from the University of Essex, England (1972),
he became known as an academic, especially for his time
teaching at the Cranbrook Academy of Art (1978–85) in
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
reputation as an architect was solidified when in 1989 he
won the competition to build an addition to the Berlin
Museum that would house the city museum’s collection of
objects related to Jewish history. Despite a decade of
opposition through local politics, the building itself was
completed in 1999 and opened as a museum in 2001. Libeskind,
who lost most of his family in the Holocaust, worked to
convey several levels of meaning in the building. The base
of the complex runs in a broken, zig-zag pattern, creating a
floor plan that resembles the Star of David, which Jews were
forced to wear displayed prominently on their clothing
during the Nazi occupation. Throughout the length of the
museum runs a space known as the Void, which is a path of
raw, blank concrete walls. Visitors can see the Void, but
they cannot enter it or use it to access other parts of the
museum; in this way, it suggests both notions of absence and
paths not taken. Crooked slices of window allow light that
creates a disorienting, almost violent feeling throughout
the structure, while, at the same time, an adjacent
sculpture garden creates a sense of meditative silence.
Because the spatial experience is so powerful, many felt
that the building might better serve as a memorial without
any installations. Controversy swirled over this proposal
until, in 2000–01, Libeskind remodeled the building somewhat
to facilitate its museum function.
On the basis of the
recognition he earned for this project, Libeskind received a
number of museum commissions in the late 1990s and early
21st century, including the Felix Nussbaum Haus (1995–99) in
Osnabrück, Germany. In 2003 Libeskind won an international
competition to rebuild the World Trade Center site in New
York City. During the competition phase, much debate arose
over whether a new, taller structure should be built or the
site left untouched as a form of memorial. Libeskind’s plan
thoughtfully addressed both these visions, combining a glass
tower, designed to be the tallest in the world, with open
memorial gardens that represent the “footprints” of the two
fallen towers. His design was praised by both the
architectural community and the general public, but
ultimately commercial and safety concerns overrode the
original design, and all that remained of Libeskind’s vision
was the overall height of the building: 1,776 feet (540
metres), a reference to the year in which the Declaration of
Independence was approved by the U.S. Continental Congress.
Libeskind continued to be
sought after for Jewish projects. Among these were the
interior of the Danish Jewish Museum (completed 2003) in
Copenhagen, a glass courtyard (completed 2007) for the
Jewish Museum in Berlin, and the Contemporary Jewish Museum
in San Francisco (completed 2008). He was also tapped for a
variety of art-museum buildings—including the Michael
Lee-Chin Crystal (completed 2007), an extension of the Royal
Ontario Museum in Toronto; and an extension to the Denver
Art Museum, Frederic C. Hamilton Building (opened 2006) in
Denver, Colo.—and many other structures.
Daniel Libeskind. Jewish Museum, Berlin, 1989-1999
Daniel Libeskind. Jewish Museum, exhibition space
Daniel Libeskind. Felix Nuhbaum Museum in Osnabruck, Germany, 1996-1998
Felix Nuhbaum Museum in Osnabruck.
Daniel Libeskind. London Metropolitan University, London
Frank O. Gehry.
Frank O. Gehry
Frank O. Gehry, in full
Frank Owen Gehry, original name Ephraim Owen Goldberg (born
Feb. 28, 1929, Toronto, Ont., Can.), Canadian American
architect and designer whose original, sculptural, often
audacious work won him worldwide renown.
Gehry’s family immigrated
to Los Angeles in 1947. He studied architecture at the
University of Southern California (1949–51; 1954) and city
planning at Harvard University (1956–57). After working for
several architectural firms, he established his own company,
Frank O. Gehry & Associates, in 1962 and established its
successor, Gehry Partners, in 2002.
Reacting, like many of his
contemporaries, against the cold and often formulaic
Modernist buildings that had begun to dot many cityscapes,
Gehry began to experiment with unusual expressive devices
and to search for a personal vocabulary. In his early work
he built unique, quirky structures that emphasized human
scale and contextual integrity. His early experiments are
perhaps best embodied by the “renovations” he made to his
own home (1978, 1991–94) in Santa Monica, Calif. Gehry
essentially stripped the two-story home down to its frame
and then built a chain-link and corrugated-steel frame
around it, complete with asymmetrical protrusions of steel
rod and glass. Gehry made the traditional bungalow—and the
architectural norms it embodied—appear to have exploded wide
open. He continued those design experiments in two popular
lines of corrugated cardboard furniture, Easy Edges
(1969–73) and Experimental Edges (1979–82). Gehry’s ability
to undermine the viewer’s expectations of traditional
materials and forms led him to be grouped with the
deconstructivist movement in architecture, although his play
upon architectural tradition also caused him to be linked to
Treating each new
commission as “a sculptural object, a spatial container, a
space with light and air,” Gehry was rewarded with
commissions the world over throughout the 1980s and ’90s.
These works possessed the deconstructed quality of his Santa
Monica home but began to display a pristine grandeur that
suited his increasingly public projects. Notable structures
from the period include the Vitra Furniture Museum and
Factory (1987) in Weil am Rhein, Ger.; the American Center
(1988–94) in Paris; and the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum
(1990–93) at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Gehry’s reputation soared
in the late 1990s. By that time Gehry’s trademark style had
become buildings that resemble undulating free-form
sculpture. This form arguably reached its zenith in his
Guggenheim Museum (1991–97) in Bilbao, Spain. In that
structure Gehry combined curvaceous titanium forms with
interconnecting limestone masses to create a sculptural feat
of engineering. He further explored those concerns in the
Experience Music Project (1995–2000) in Seattle. Constructed
of a fabricated steel frame wrapped in colourful sheet
metal, the structure was, according to Gehry, modeled on the
shape of a guitar—particularly, a smashed electric guitar.
As with the Guggenheim structure, he employed cutting-edge
computer technology to uncover the engineering solutions
that could bring his sculptural sketches to life. In his
2008 renovation of the Art Museum of Ontario in his
hometown, Gehry retained the original building (1918) but
removed an artistically unsuccessful entryway that had been
added in the 1990s. Although the updated museum shows many
characteristic Gehry touches, one critic called it “one of
Mr. Gehry’s most gentle and self-possessed designs.”
Gehry became known for his
work on music venues. The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los
Angeles was designed before the Bilbao museum but was
completed in 2003, to great acclaim. The Jay Pritzker
Pavilion in Chicago’s Millennium Park was completed in 2004.
Gehry also built a performing arts centre (1997–2003) for
Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., and designed the
New World Center (completed 2011) for the New World Symphony
orchestral academy in Miami Beach, Fla. As the 21st century
continued, Gehry continued to receive numerous large-scale
Although critical opinion
is sometimes divided over his radical structures, Gehry’s
work made architecture popular and talked-about in a manner
not seen in the United States since Frank Lloyd Wright.
Among Gehry’s many awards are the Pritzker Architecture
Prize (1989), the National Medal of the Arts (1998), and the
American Institute of Architects Gold Medal (1999).
Frank O. Gehry. The Architect's House in Santa Monica, California, 1978
Frank O. Gehry. Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, California, 1981-1984
Frank O. Gehry. Loyola Law School.
Steps between the main building
and the courtyard
Frank O. Gehry.
Edgemar Center in Santa Monica, California, 1984-1988
Frank O. Gehry. Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, 1991-1997
Computer generated wire model
Frank O. Gehry. Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
Frank O. Gehry. Deutsche Genossenschafts Bank, Berlin, 1995-2000
Frank O. Gehry.
Disney Music Concert Hall, Los Angeles, California, 1987-2003
Frank O. Gehry.
Disney Music Concert Hall.