Architectural Exhibitions

World architecture... what's happening generally....

Architectural Exhibitions

Postby gunter » Fri Jun 18, 2010 4:27 am

'Seven architects build small spaces' at the V+A

Commissioning contemporary architectural exhibits for a museum is almost an exercise in contradictions.

Sometimes genuine architectural issues are explored in a thought provoking way and sometimes it just becomes an exercise in filling up the under-used spaces of grandiose institutions with pretentious curiosities.

Without the discipline of satisfying an actual functional requirement, architecture seems to very quickly fall back into mere imagery, or even degenerate into amateur sculpture.

I suspect that much of this exhibition, which opened on Tuesday and which will run to the end of August, falls into this latter category.

As I understand it, the V+A invited nineteen, out-there, architectural practices to submit projects on the theme of making small spaces. Interesting idea, but when the ideas came in, it seems that predictably they abandoned the whole architectural exploration of small space making thing and just picked the seven most eye-catching objects.

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‘Arc’, by Rintala Eggertsson Architects from Norway is essentially an Ikea-like [their words] stack of shelves built around a staircase. Now a habitable bookcase is an interesting concept, but instead of exploring the spatial possibilities of being filed under the Dewey Decimal system, the architects appear to have become side-tracked by the task of ensuring that the six thousand plus titles accommodated on their hundreds of shelves are all sustainably kosher, as if inadvertently including one Top Gear Christmas Annual would have invalidated the whole exercise.

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‘Wool Shed’
by Rural Studio from Alabama, is another exercise is timber, but there’s nothing flat-packed or bookish about this one. ‘Wool Shed’ is a simple, open ended, structure with a steep mono-pitched form, it is earthy and rough sawn . . . and empty, except for a sort of creeper composed of eleven long-life bulbs at the end of white plastic, surface mounted, cable-duct branches.

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Emptyness is taken to another level by ‘Spiral Booths’ by Vazio S/A from Brazil. The architect tells us, in the video presentation, that he has written the book on the ‘voids’ between buildings and he certainly seems intent on hollowing out a niche for himself by selling the notion that the spaces between buildings are actually urban voids . . . . spaces that we had previously understood to be spaces.

‘Void’ is probably the first piece of jargon that the architectural student picks up. Simple gaps, or uninspired windows in a dull façade, can take on the qualities of mysterious anti-matter and a quivering crit presentation be transformed into a veritable dissertation by the use of terms such as ‘voids’.

'Spiral Booths' is actually another tower, this time constructed in cold steel [since timber presumably will perish in the void] and to heighten the visitor’s experience both this one and 'Wool Shed' are located in a darkened room. On entering ‘Spiral Booths’ you are immediately confronted by a red velvet curtain which inevitably you pull back to reveal a tiny space with nothing inside. Undaunted you proceed up the steel stairs opening more red velvet curtains on the way to reveal more empty spaces. Nothing different happens at the top so you descend the stairs checking the curtains again in case you’ve missed something.

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Back out in the light, a completely different experience awaits with ‘Beetle’s House’ by Terunobu Fujimori.

Here we’re looking at a cartoon-like timber tree-house in the Grimm fairytale tradition complete with stove and quirky gables, but charred black with a blow-torch and varnished. Climbing the ladder to peep inside you’re slightly disappointed to find that it’s not actually inhabited by some Pythonesque character from the fertile imagination of Terry Gillian.

Is this a serious exploration of the nature of making small spaces? Possibly not, but it does raise a smile and at least it’s not a feckin void.

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Making a serious exploration of the nature of small spaces is what we’re promised with ‘In-Between Architecture’, by Studio Mumbai.

In the video presentation, we’re brought through the slums of Mumbai where people have created family homes out of minute spaces between adjoining structures.

While I think this one is worthy and probably comes closest to satisfying the theme of the exhibition, I would question the choice of presentation. In making the structure out of ashlar quality cast plaster blocks, the installation seems to doff it’s hat too much to the monumentality of it’s gallery setting and I think this diminishes the potential power in the message that this is the reality of living space for very many people in the developing world.

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Missing the point completely, in my opinion, is ‘Inside/Outside Tree’, by Sou Fujimoto [not to be confused with compatriot, Fujimori of the charred tree house above].

First off, I object to the use of the term ‘Tree’ here. At best this is a squat shrub and, either way, the concept seems remote and unrelated to the prismatic choice of presentation, which in turn is compromised by the crude stitching together of the Perspex panels with plastic cable ties. The earlier concept models suggest that this project was originally heading in a different direction, at least in terms of presentation, but I would still question whether it actually has anything to say.

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‘Ratatosk’ by Helen + Hard Architects from Norway, has the benefit of being located outside in the great courtyard of the V+A which, on a sunny day, is the ultimate urban oasis for the pretty and the prosperous.

‘We don’t have a particular style’ say the architects in the video clip ‘. . . . we are just concerned with sustainability’.

. . . . . .in the next scene we see the design team picking out some wonderfully weather-sculpted trees on a Norwegian hillside and cutting them down with a chainsaw . . . . to sustained jollity.

To create the installation these Norwegian trees were then sliced lengthways and assembled into a kind of grotesque primeval gazebo with long strands of bent timber glued to the stumps of their former branches and arched over to the other side like a dodgy comb-over . . . sorry . . . ‘delicate canopy’.

Clever slabs of wood chips in net bags mimic weathered rocks around the base, while the inner face is inscribed with tracts from a grim fairytale, or possibly a curse.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Overall my impression of this exhibition is that once again architecture has been bought and reduced to caricature and once again architects have been happy to participate. Maybe others will find this exhibition stimulating and thought provoking, but I suspect that many will see little more than our old willingness to embrace superficiality at the first sight of an Arts Council grant.
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Re: Architectural Exhibitions

Postby missarchi » Fri Jun 18, 2010 2:52 pm

I would like the arts to embrace the black arts but it's been too white for too long.
Real sites and people its not to much to ask for.
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Re: Architectural Exhibitions

Postby spoil_sport » Sat Jun 19, 2010 9:43 pm

I went to visit this exhibition, and I must say, by and large I agree with your assessment gunter, an exercise in pointlessness, I think in particular, that the Fujimoto structure had a metal guard rail which only allowed observers to step about two feet inside it and no more summed it all up, surely the ability to "be inside" and interact with the piece is the fundamental distinction between architecture and sculpture. It all defeated the purpose in a way, ie that architecture by definition has a purpose.

However on a point of correction, "spiral booths" by Vazio S/A was not entirely "empty" there was an accompanying piece of performance art within, some interpretative dance for good measure.
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Re: Architectural Exhibitions

Postby gunter » Sun Jun 20, 2010 12:37 am

spoil_sport wrote:. . . that the Fujimoto structure had a metal guard rail which only allowed observers to step about two feet inside it and no more summed it all up, surely the ability to "be inside" and interact with the piece is the fundamental distinction between architecture and sculpture.


I think this was one of those projects that just didn't come together. In fairness to Fujimoto, his concept model had a lot more finesse to it than the finished work, although both versions still seem pretty pointless to me as any kind of exploration of small space.

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'Inside/Outside Tree' concept model

spoil_sport wrote:However on a point of correction, "spiral booths" by Vazio S/A was not entirely "empty" there was an accompanying piece of performance art within, some interpretative dance for good measure.


There wasn't any performance art when I was there, s_s . . . . though now that you say it, I see mention of 'performance art' in the exhibition notes although exactly how intrinsic it is to the design would be open to question considering that the architect states: ''I still don't know how the theatre and dance companies will make use of it and how the visitors will react''. :rolleyes:

Further explanation of the Vazio S/A design philosophy is provided here:

'' Some time ago, I published a book [History of the Void in Belo Horizonte, Cosac Naify 1999] that is an essay on unban informality, the postcard, photography and, of course, the void. Departing from a text on the representation of the periphery I wrote for my Master's Degree at the Architectural Association, the book outlines a possible way to work in the city under construction, praising the destruction, provoking a reverse aesthetic reading of the postcard and searching the latent voids of our city Belo Horizonte.

Since then, I have researching the architectural richness, which must rely on a programme or events to be exhibited. This approach is presented in some of the projects I have developed at Vasio S/A [especially in Topographical Amnesias II], and asserts a vision in which the city and its problems are seen as triggers of new projects - actions in atypical places, such as architectural interventions in mining areas or plays in vacent lots; a vision in which informality and the city are seen as something that could lead us to new solutions and opportunities''


. . . all a bit clearer now I think
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Re: Architectural Exhibitions

Postby missarchi » Mon Jun 21, 2010 12:57 pm

I have always wondered if exhibitions are about networking and architectural family rather than the "exhibition"
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Re: Architectural Exhibitions

Postby gunter » Mon Jun 21, 2010 7:12 pm

For an altogether more positive take on proceedings, here's the Guardian review:

1:1 with the V&A's Small Spaces

A teahouse on stilts, a tower of books, a woodland shelter – seven one-off buildings have taken root in the V&A's galleries. Jonathan Glancey gets a sneak preview of a striking new show

Jonathan Glancey
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 9 June 2010 21.30 BST


''Finding a fairytale Japanese teahouse sprouting from wooden stilts in a corridor of the Victoria and Albert museum is an unexpected yet curiously apposite experience. Unexpected, because this bewitching structure is one of seven brand-new, imaginative and full-scale buildings installed through the museum's galleries this week; and apposite because this glorious Victorian pantechnicon is so jammed with curiosities that Terunobu Fujimori's Beetle's House looks almost part of the furniture.
It's not immediately obvious, but there is a powerful thread animating and holding together these seven buildings, commissioned by the V&A's curator of designs, Abraham Thomas. The thread is made of what I'd call resistance – architectural resistance to the ever-growing world of buildings that look as if they have been designed by computers and built by robots.
Like Fujimori's teahouse, each building has been designed both as an escape from the world of one-dimensional, globalised architecture, and as a means of expressing what can be done with a paucity of materials and a wealth of imagination. These are not mere installations but solid buildings (you can walk into and through them), placed within the museum in a way that enhances their architectural host and its kaleidoscopic collections. From the top of a timber book tower, for example, named The Ark and designed by Rintala Eggertsson Architects (a Finnish-Icelandic team based in Oslo), you look across a wall of books and the frame of the tower itself into the hushed reading room of the National Art Library.
Even better is a plaster cast of an ad-hoc living space in Mumbai, squeezed between a warehouse and the architects' office (Studio Mumbai). Walk in, look out through the chutes and slits that pass for windows, and a cast of Michelangelo's David stares you in the face. It's an odd conjunction, and yet this beautifully cast house, with its shadowy, shoulder-high alleys, narrow stairs, shrine for contemplation, sleeping platforms and internal courtyard wrapped around a plaster-cast tree, is at home amid the V&A's haunting Victorian reproductions of Renaissance marvels.
No architect had a hand in the original Mumbai building, and yet an empathetic local firm has been inspired by its improvised architecture. And there is much to be learned from it: the way its narrow, shady corridors open on to a courtyard where the dazzling Mumbai sunshine is cooled by the canopy of a tree. While poor in terms of electrical and mechanical services, a house like this has more soul and beauty – accidental as well as deliberate – than almost any new home in a modern British cul-de-sac. Sadly, the original Mumbai house has been demolished, but its genial spirit now lives on alongside Michelangelo's David.
Bijoy Jain, who founded Studio Mumbai in 1995 after studying in St Louis, Missouri and working in Los Angeles, has said he is confounded by the mysteries of modern India. He is fighting his own architectural resistance movement against an India in which, as he says, local people are trained to speak in faux-British accents in call centres, while highly trained structural engineers email drawings to overseas contractors to realise expensive buildings (some of them designed by British architects) on the cheap. He designs modern Indian buildings. Like all seven architects contributing to this show, he believes in working with his hands as well as his mind and eyes.
Elsewhere, two very different architectural studios – one from Tokyo, the other from Stavanger in Norway – show how computer-aided design and construction can be used to craft new forms of building, combining the most sophisticated man-made and the rawest natural materials. Sou Fujimoto's Inside/Outside Tree, growing from a landing outside the museum's architecture gallery, is a transparent shelter built entirely of sheets of acrylic polygons, held together by white plastic cable ties. Designed with the help of a computer, the structure is based on that of a stylised tree cut from an imaginary cube. If this sounds a little arcane, the result is enjoyably ethereal – especially when the afternoon sun floods through the high windows behind and sets the structure aglow.
Out in the museum's John Madejski Garden, Helen & Hard Architects (based in Stavanger) have created a building named Ratatosk, after Ratatoskr, a mythological Nordic squirrel. This is made from ash trees that have been split apart and then milled by a computer-driven machine. This curious forest building is currently an empty shelter, but it would make another fine teahouse.
Small Spaces is a modest but inventive exhibition with a powerful message about the importance of nurturing local architecture, whether working with traditional materials or the very latest technologies. Architecture should be led by imagination and skill rather than by slick imagery and marketing. Clearly, those of us who believe this have a long fight on our collective hands, but in the design and making of the V&A's seven small buildings, we have at least the beginnings of the necessary ammunition. When this show closes at the end of the summer, I hope the museum keeps these buildings in its capacious fold. The curators haven't yet made up their minds. But even when they become historic curiosities, these buildings will have something worthwhile to tell us''.


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That second paragraph again . . . '' . . . there is a powerful thread animating and holding together these seven buildings . . . . The thread is made of what I'd call resistance – architectural resistance to the ever-growing world of buildings that look as if they have been designed by computers and built by robots''.


I dunno where Glancey's getting this, I don't see these guys as some kind of magnificent seven riding in to bolster the resistance of some village of peasant Luddites against robotic forces usurping the human environment. Neither are these seven architects propounding some kind of alternative handcrafted future. As Glancey goes on to report, the majority of these seven projects have been produced with exactly the same kind of computer wizardry that he identifies as part of the problem.

This is muddled thinking, computer aided design and precision in construction are not the enemy, . . . the bland and the banal are the enemy.

If there is to be a challenge to the soulless state of contemporary architecture, I can't see it coming from the kind of art-house self-indulgence I see at the V+A. To be honest, I can't see any real change in our architectural outlook happening until we get over our utter disdain for tradition and begin to accept that we can learn something from an understanding of tradition and begin to focus what powers of innovation we have on the real challenge of making - buildings, places and spaces - better, not just different, . . . or conforming to current, award-attracting, boxology, . . . or packaged in environmentally-tinted corporate slickness.

The art conscious public will probably lap this V+A exhibition up, but I think the message they will get from it is that everything in architecture land is fine, it must be, the best and the brightest are beavering away on their quirky 1:1 models, surely everything in the garden is rosy. The public are unlikely to read this exhibition as a call to resist the inexorable slide into soulless architecture, as Glancey seems to suggest that it is, if anythink it's just going to grease the slide.
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Re: Architectural Exhibitions

Postby GrahamH » Thu Jun 24, 2010 12:47 am

gunter wrote:
This is muddled thinking, computer aided design and precision in construction are not the enemy, . . . the bland and the banal are the enemy.



Yes this sums up the gist of that article, but also explains the apparent basis of most of the contributors' concepts - namely to avoid the bland and banal by making the structures as quirky, abstract and, by association, as pointless as possible.

Wandering about the exhibits, you are struck by the arty installation quality of most of the pieces, rather than any meaningful exploration of small space one would expect of such commissions, and as espoused by the brief. Some bucked the trend: I think the wood shed was the most successful in highlighting a broad range of issues, from the origin of material, to who erects the structure, to the intended user of the structure, to the design and tactile character of the structure itself. In terms of exploring small space, it brought into focus how a cheap, simple, plentiful material can be used to maximum effect through its deployment, its crafting and its impact at close quarters. Likewise, the simple heightening of the roof angle highlighted how the small primitive form of the domestic shed or similar garden building can be injected with a dash of pizzazz. I quite liked the plastic conduit vine, if not those awful IKEA bulbs – the lowest form of CFL life. Maybe that was the point.

Agreed with the assessment of the others though. There were, however, some decent proposals in the 19 chosen projects that didn’t make the cut for the final seven, which can be viewed here. The striking Triptyque Architecture piece has something quite potent to say (one would love to be a fly on the wall at the Health & Safety subcommittee meeting on that one), while Productora Architecture’s proposal forces a greater engagement with one’s surroundings, if not necessarily exploring small space – indeed if anything, quite the opposite, involving interaction with a grandiose Victorian staircase hall. Anna Heringer’s piece is without question gunter’s favourite.

It is a shame this project did not explore on a more practical level ideas of small space, refuge and utility. Of course, by their nature, installations require an eye-catching form that ascends beyond the characteristics of an MFI showroom, but equally, more identifiable, more relevant subjects surely ought to be the order of the day. The hot press, the reading nook, the lavatory cubicle, the building society mortage consultation booth, the balcony, the ticket office, the public seat (as was attempted). People are fascinated by miniature spaces. They can be as virtuous as they can be the more commonly perceived hindrance to personal comfort and public expression. Why can we not make this type of design project relevant, and keep the above sort of stuff for whatever chic gallery owner wants to play wendy house?
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Re: Architectural Exhibitions

Postby gunter » Thu Jun 24, 2010 1:35 am

Ha, I knew Graham would find his way to this little piece of provocation, we can't help ourselves, we're drawn to this stuff like flies to shite.

I take your point that there seemed to be quite a few interesting projects in the not-selected group although Anna Heringer's Finnish ashtray with bathtubs submerged in a sea of barley grain would have been a little too trippy for me.

I did like the look of Tham + Videgard Architects' 'Cloud Chamber' though, I would have liked to see that one developed at full scale.

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Sorry, I don't know how I got it into my head that the other one was called the 'Woolshed' when clearly it is the 'Woodshed'
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Re: Jean Nouvel - 2010 Serpentine Pavillion Guest Structure

Postby PVC King » Sun Jul 04, 2010 10:41 am

Click on the link for photo montages

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2010
by Jean Nouvel
10 July – 17 October 2010This year—the Serpentine's 40th Anniversary—the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion is designed by world-renowned French architect Jean Nouvel. This 2010 Pavilion is the 10th commission in the Gallery’s annual series, the world’s first and most ambitious architectural programme of its kind. It will be the architect’s first completed building in the UK.
The Pavilion commission has become an international site for architectural experimentation and follows a long tradition of Pavilions by some of the world’s greatest architects. The immediacy of the commission – a maximum of six months from invitation to completion – provides a unique model worldwide.
The design for the 2010 Pavilion is a contrast of lightweight materials and dramatic metal cantilevered structures. The entire design is rendered in a vivid red that, in a play of opposites, contrasts with the green of its park setting. In London, the colour reflects the iconic British images of traditional telephone boxes, post boxes and London buses.
The building consists of bold geometric forms, large retractable awnings and a sloped freestanding wall that stands 12m above the lawn. Striking glass, polycarbonate and fabric structures create a versatile system of interior and exterior spaces, while the flexible auditorium will accommodate the Serpentine Gallery Park Nights and Marathon and the changing summer weather.
Nouvel’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion will operate as a public space, a café and as a venue for Park Nights, the Gallery’s acclaimed programme of public talks and events, which attracts up to 250,000 visitors each summer. The pavilion design highlights the idea of play with its incorporation of traditional French outdoor table-tennis tables.
The Pavilion opens on July 10 on the Serpentine Gallery lawn, where it will remain until October. Jean Nouvel will be discussing the groundbreaking design of the Pavilion at a talk, on Monday 12 July at 5pm.
Julia Peyton-Jones, Director, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director, Serpentine Gallery, said: “It is an honour to bring Nouvel’s globally acclaimed work to London for everyone to enjoy.”
There is no budget for the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion commission. It is paid for by sponsorship, sponsorship help-in-kind and the sale of the finished structure, which does not cover more than 40% of its cost. The Serpentine Gallery collaborates with a range of companies and individuals whose support makes it possible to realise the Pavilion. On the occasion of this 10th anniversary, the Pavilion program this year is being supported by Arts Council England, through its Sustain programme.
Jean Nouvel
Jean Nouvel (b. 1945, Fumel, France) studied at the Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris. From 1967 to 1970, he worked as an assistant and then as project manager to the acclaimed architects Claude Parent and Paul Virilio. Nouvel has headed his own architectural practice since 1970. In 1994 he established Ateliers Jean Nouvel, which is now one of the largest architectural practices in France with offices worldwide. Ateliers Jean Nouvel specialises in the fields of architecture, urban design, landscape design, industrial design and interior design. Along with the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion commission, Nouvel has recently unveiled his plans for the new National Museum of Qatar.
Nouvel’s body of work is unparalleled in its innovation and range. His approach is characterised by a conceptual rigour, rather than by an overarching aesthetic. He emphasises research, analysis and discussion, creating designs that are highly individual to each project. A key part of Nouvel’s process is his embrace of other disciplines, including music, literature and the moving image.
Admission to the Pavilion is free
Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2010
by Jean Nouvel
July – October 2010
Serpentine Gallery
Kensington Gardens
London W2 3XA
T 020 7402 6075
information@serpentinegallery.org


Also on the grounds of the Serpenine this summer:
Christian Boltanski
The Heart Archive
10 July – 6 August 2010


Friday evenings in the Summer: Park Nights
Park Nights is an annual series of music, theatre, performances, talks and film screenings stages on Friday nights in the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Jean Nouvel. Park Nights culminates on the weekend of 16 and 17 October with Map Marathon, the latest in the Serpentine's series of Marathon events, conceived by Hans Ulrich Obrist.
Full details for Park Nights events
Park Nights events are ticketed. Buy early to ensure your space:
Tickets £5/4
Available from the Gallery Lobby Desk
or Ticketweb: (0)8444 771 000
http://www.ticketweb.co.uk



It is almost fully up and quite striking, almost more so than the 2008 Gehry pavillion; it is about a ten minute walk up Exhibition Road from the V & A; so visiting both is simple enough. The recent refit of the Kensington Creperie is also worth a look a really good 1950's style American Ice Cream Parlour into a Victorian shop is very well executed.
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Re: Architectural Exhibitions

Postby PVC King » Mon Oct 25, 2010 9:31 pm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/gallery/2010/sep/27/anish-kapoor-kensington-gardens-sculpture

Really very good and works surprisingly well in a classical parkland
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