Tate Modern: 10th Anniversary

29 04 2010

The groundbreaking renovation of the Bankside Power Station into the home of Britain’s ‘Modern Art Scene’, the Tate Modern, will celebrate it’s 10th birthday this May.

The international design competition was launched in July 1994, and was won by Herzog & De Meuron, the innovative Swiss architects. Often heralded as their pièce de résistance, the Tate Modern is a beautiful, deft and fitting ‘re-thinking’ of the building. Coming in just shy of £150 million for the conversion meant all eyes were watching to see what HdM would do – they did not disappoint. The newly revamped ‘Tate Modern’ was completed in January 2000, and opened to the public in, you guessed it, May of that year.

Much of the internal structure of the building remained intact, including the vast ‘Turbine Hall’ which has housed many fantastic installations over the past ten years (Olafur Eliasson’s ‘The Weather Project’ being one of my favourites: http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/exhibitions/eliasson/about.htm). Also, an electrical sub-station that took up the southern third of the building remained under the ownership of EDF Energy (the French energy giants) until 2006 when they agreed to release half of this holding to the museum.

The biggest change to the structure is the addition of the two-story glass extension on one half of the roof (this houses all the essential parts of any public building – the obligatory cafe / restaurant etc. Externally then, the building may appear to be relatively unchanged. For me though, it is the subtle adaptation of what was once considered an eyesore on the Thames, into something that Britons have come to love and cherish. It is sympathetic to it’s industrial roots, and yet steers away from them in all the right places.

As Ada Louise Huxtable (juror for the Pritzker Prize the year HdM won) says: “They [HdM] refine the traditions of modernism to elemental simplicity, while transforming materials and surfaces through the exploration of new treatments and techniques.”

To celebrate the anniversary, the Tate is holding a series of events free to the public between 12th – 16th May. This includes an exhibition entitled: ‘No Soul For Sale’ – a three-day festival mixing cutting edge arts events, performances, music and film.

Check out the Tate website for more information: http://www.tate.org.uk/


Adobe CS5

15 04 2010

Adobe have announced the release of Creative Suite 5 – and it looks pretty bloody good!

I know some in the architectural profession do not like the ease with which certain elements of packages like Photoshop can jeopardise the process of designing a building, but when you see some of the extraordinary things you can do, and easily too, surely it’s not a bad thing?

The potential to create even more stunning, rich and interesting visuals for projects look set to explode (in a good way).

Watch the ‘Design’ video here:


Masterpieces: Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias

14 04 2010

Santiago Calatrava’s ‘Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias’, or ‘City of Arts and Sciences’ was built between 1996 – 1998 and sits on the outskirts of Valencia, Spain.

It is vast, white, clean and utterly breathtaking. It is an almost perfect symbiosis of organic forms and modernism that still looks brand new today – even though it is now more than 12 years old. The ‘city’ is populated by several key buildings that each have their own purpose, and their own inspiration.

El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofìa: Valencia’s Opera House and cultural centre wasn’t actually opened until 2005, but is part of the whole scheme. It’s impressive form makes seeing this building quite an extraordinary experience. Standing at the base of the giant spine that runs across the whole facade, you really get a feeling of the sheer volume of the building – 40,000 sq. metres. It’s a wonderful mix of rendered concrete and glass that suits the city perfectly and on a bright sunny day the entire complex is dazzling.

L’Hemisfèric: sits in front of the Palau de les Arts and, from the air, resembles an open eye. It was the first phase of the project to be opened to the public back in 1998 and is truly one of the most fascinating. The vast eye opens and closes via a complex arrangement of hydraulics allowing the building to adapt to the needs of the guests inside. The building houses a planetarium, an IMAX theatre and restaurants and other tourist services.

L’Umbracle: a subtle (in comparison) landscaped garden adjacent to the main thrust of the complex. It offers an exhibition of plants indigenous to Valencia and the local area, as well as displaying various contemporary artworks.

L’Oceanogràfic: this is were the complex eventually leads you – Europe’s largest aquarium. It houses over 45,000 animals and 500 different species within it’s sculpted, marine-like form.

The complex, as a whole, is an awesome experience. The landscaping between each structure lends perfectly to the fluid, effortless lines of the ‘city’. What I love most about this project, and most of Calatrava’s work, is that the buildings constantly challenge you. Every step you take, you are confronted with a new angle in which to appreciate the wonderful complexity of their design. When you’re in ‘Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias’ there is no escape from Calatrava’s ever-changing creations; you cannot turn your head without noticing something new and fantastic about the environment you are standing in. There is also a nod to, and appreciation of, the fact these buildings are in Spain – each are clad (in some from) with intricate mosaic tiles not unlike the ones you’d find on many of Gaudi’s creations – this makes the complex feel firmly rooted in it’s Mediterranean home.

A little alien, perhaps, to it’s surrounding landscape, but ‘Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias’ really showcases Calatrava and the groundbreaking work he has created.

Take a look at the complex’s official website for some very interesting ‘virtual tours’: http://www.cac.es/?languageId=1

4 Mile Run Bridge

14 04 2010

Grimshaw, Arup & Scape's winning entry

Arup, Grimshaw and Scape have been announced as winners of the ‘4 Mile Run Bridge’ competition in Northern Virginia, USA.

The project seeks to revitalise and restore the ecology of the revered park space and act as a conduit to bring local communities together – which is, in effect, what a bridge is for (metaphorically speaking). The winning entry sees a beautiful, yet simple design, that sweeps majestically across the water.

Have a look at the winning presentation here: http://www.4milerun.org/PDF/Team1_4MileRun.pdf

A little more Orbit

12 04 2010

Anish Kapoor explains, briefly, the idea behind his Olympic Tower. David Sillito asks him inane questions, but it’s nice to see some 3D visualisations of the tower.

Brunnenstrasse 9

11 04 2010

Stark doesn’t quite cover it. Berlin’s newest gallery space in trendy Mitte has provoked quite a reaction from artists, designers and architects alike. The space has been inundated with praise, and I can see why.

It’s shell may seem a little, well, bleak; but look closer at it’s ‘unfinished’ exterior and you begin to understand the story of this place. It’s an exercise in flexibility. Every part of it (nearly) can be re-arranged, moved and reconfigured to suit the needs of the inhabitants. The facade, the walls, windows and doors can all be relocated to change the space inside. This wonderful, movable building, sits perfectly in its ever-changing surroundings and instead of appearing a little bit gimmicky, actually brings a whole new level of ingenuity to minimal, modernist architecture. Along the interior walls you’ll find holes ready to support another floor, staircases that can be moved and a ground floor that can be (partly) removed to give a double-height gallery space in the basement, should the tenant require it.

The interior intentionally exposes the buildings skeleton: untreated concrete floors and walls, MDF panels and uncased strip fluorescent lighting. This base state, however, is really rather beautiful and, knowing the potential the space still holds to change, makes it even more attractive. You can not only appreciate it for what it is now, but what it could be. This space is malleable, and it’s exciting to know that one day it will change.

It’s a fascinating approach to what will be a mixed-use building. Arno Brandlhuber, the minimalist genius who designed the space, has his studio in the penthouse suite of the building, along with the painfully trendy fashion magazine 032C on the third floor and the gallery KOW in the ground floor gallery space. This can, of course, all change if needed. So when I say that ‘stark’ doesn’t quite cover it, I mean it. This building is more the sum of its minimalist concrete parts. It’s an uplifting, ingenious creation that proves minimal design can, and will, stand the test of time.

images courtesy of: http://atelierhaussmann.wordpress.com/

Gardens by The Bay – Squint Opera Movie

8 04 2010

A truly groundbreaking project which I’ve had the pleasure of being involved with, in a small way, during my time with the lead consultant’s on the project – Grant Associates. I could rattle on for ages, but just watch the video to get the idea! The project was won in 2006, so I’m a little out of date on this one, but thought it was more than worth a mention.