Wednesday, June 2, 2010

1111 Lincoln Road by Herzog & de Meuron

Herzog & de Meuron have produced not a new cultural behemoth but a strange sculptural structure, reviving the idea of the car park as a figure in the city.

1111 Lincoln Road
Design Team: Herzog & de Meuron
Location: Miami, USA
Status: Completed 2010

Multistorey carpark is always synonymous with paranoid, corrupt dystopia & denied its own architectural expression and buried - beneath the ground, unseen, uncelebrated, a poorly-lit, dirty secret. However, the latest building (carpark) from Herzog & de Meuron is a surprise to all of us.

Envisioned by developer Robert Wennett and designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the multistorey carpark is part of the 1111 Lincoln Road development. Robert Wennett, has used Miami Beach's parking shortage to smuggle in a layer of retail for which he otherwise would have struggled to get permission. Boutiques and bookshops at ground level establish a pattern of (upmarket) retail for (the now mid-market) Lincoln, while four condos on a new street at the side help with profits, leaving Wennett's own penthouse and a restaurant to occupy the top floor. There is even a shop halfway up the ramps, isolated and intriguing.

A stack of raw, sharply chamfered concrete layers is prised apart by wedge-shaped columns, which wind into each other and draw the eye into the slightly sinister shadows against the vivid blue of the Florida sky. It is almost shocking. As you ascend through the structure, its concrete planes fold themselves beneath you, each level exposing a yet more compelling vantage-point on the surrounding city. At one point a complex tangle of steel by artist Monika Sosnowska turns out also to be a safety feature, stopping kids getting struck beneath the ramp. By the time you reach the top, the city, the sea and the sky twinkle before you in a filmic panorama.

The idea is to create a series of layers that extend the public realm up into the building, to attract events, parties and life into the structure. Both architects and developer see the structure as an experiment in a new kind of downtown transport architecture, a building as exciting to enter as to emerge from, blinking into the Miami sun.

The public street in front of the car park has also been transformed. Artist Dan Graham has built a curvaceous glass pavilion outside. Beside the raw concrete, a gleaming white monolithic block provides one of the very few Swiss avant-garde drive-in banks.

This is not a conventional piece of regeneration, even if it is on a site that frankly needed it. A building dedicated to consumption in every way, most notably to fuel and fashion, it nevertheless becomes a stark and thoughtful reflection on the contemporary city. It strips architecture back to its sinewy muscles and the US city back to its autopianism. The diametric opposite of the sunny, pastel-tinted, much-loved art deco for which the city is known it is a vernacular derived from local conditions - sun, shopping, views and traffic.

via ft

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

M&G Ricerche by Samyn and Partners

The building is situated like an island in the middle of a rectangular pool and follows the outline of the foundations of a convent which once occupied this site.
M&G Ricerche Research Laboratory
Design Team: Samyn and Partners
Location: Venafro, Italy
Status: Completed 1991

As chemical industry research laboratory, the centre consists of two areas: a technical area with pilot plants for the development of production and processing methods, and a chemical-physical area with labs for the synthesis and analysis of chemical products. The implementation of these chemical and physical largescale experiments has a varying space requirement which is predictable only with difficulty. From this fact resulted the requirement to create an open, column-free space as large as possible, which at the same time would allow for separate tests to be carried out in smaller protected units.

The site eventually chosen, Venafro in the South of Italy, is a large valley surrounded by hills, fields and traditional buildings.

A light tentlike form appeared from the first sketches and evolved into an almost oval form, 85 m by 32 m, creating a single volume covered with a lightweight 15 m high structure, and supported by symmetrical metal lattice arches held by six longitudinal suspension cables.  This space, lit by the translucency of the membrane, as well as by the perimeter steel framed and arched window, is used for both types of research.

The structure is placed in the centre of an oval reflective pool, designed for security, thermal regulation, and to enhance the form and the landscape with its reflections and coolness.  The closed research areas as well as the offices are completely air-conditioned.

The membrane is made of PVC coated polyester, stretched between metal arches. At its base, a cable holds the feet to the arches positioned in the pool.  The junction between the membrane and the metallic perimeter half-arches is made of a supple transparent PVC material that is fixed into the perimeter of the half-arches and on to the membrane's main suspension cable.

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