Monday, March 31, 2008
After three days in Rome the feeling of incomprehension amidst a city whose center is composed almost entirely of exquisite architecture laced with innumerable masterpieces has not diminished in the slightest. It is not only the buildings, which would be enough to keep me thoroughly happy for years, but the urban spaces, network of streets, cobblestones, statues, monuments and the wonderful cafe lifestyle, traffic that seems to be imported from Delhi, beautiful people and brilliant sunshine that illuminates the city and brings, what could be seen as a museum, to life. The only downfalls, that I have found so far (it is only three days and I don't speak the language yet so I really have no idea) are the illegal street vendors and millions of tourists which diminish the experience of this archetypal city. It is amazing to be in St Peters and I can only imagine what it would be like during mass without a thousand tourists taking photos, but like so many 'must see attractions' the possibility of sitting alone to absorb them is asking way to much most of the time.
On arrival and as I walking into the centre of Rome I was mesmerised by the facades of the buildings, after a while because of the flatness of so many of the facades I got the impression that it was somehow superficial whilst exquisite. Discovering what lay behind so many of these facades though this initial impression evaporated and the world of incredibly high ceilings, vaulted arcades, painted ceilings, centuries old paintings and sculptures, marble floors, courtyards and countless other details was all a bit much. I was lucky enough to be in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj and the tempietto of San Pietro by myself and spent a number of hours wandering through the rooms of the Galleria trying to work out at what point Architecture, at least that which has large budgets, became stripped of so much of what makes these spaces so impressive. Not so much the paintings and ornament which could be seen as total overkill. The Vatican Museum was unlike anything I have ever seen. The quality and proportions of the spaces and the durability of the construction is remarkable and a constant reminder of the importance and influence of classical Italian Architecture. Going to EUR was an excellent way to be reminded of something other than Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces. Long story.
It goes without saying that there is a lot to be said for three or more course meals and espresso. I am particularly fond of fried stuffed zucchini flowers at the moment.
Having been to four enormous cities in as many weeks I am off to Milan tomorrow morning where I intend to find a house and a job. It has been an amazing experience and I am feeling recharged and inspired and looking forward to being in one place and taking it all in without feeling the desire to get up and run around all day trying to see as much as possible. It is also about to get very interesting and more than likely difficult and stressful.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Lever House (1952) is located opposite Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building Lever House’s tower and podium is as copied and rarely equaled as the Seagram building. Together these two towers define 20th century skyscraper architecture.
The single-storey mezzanine base is supported by columns creating a public pedestrian area beneath. The tower sits on top of the podium with the lowest floor of the tower recessed to reinforce the seperation between the two elements. The opaque glazing of the top three floors conceals the machinery and reflects earlier skyscraper design by creating a capital at the top of the building and balancing the geometry of the base.
At only 24 stories the building is dwarfed by the surrounding towers but it’s diminuitive scale does not diminish the impact of it’s high quality and elegant design. Lever House was one of the first SOM buildings that brought the firm to prominence.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
This house designed by David Adjaye for British Artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster, named the Dirty House (2002), is located in the dirty streets of a slowly gentrifying suburb of East London. The exterior responds to the roughness of the surroundings. The thick brick walls of the existing two-storey warehouse have been painted black, covering the roughness of the construction when viewed from a distance but still visible under the black paint on closer inspection. The highly reflective glazing of two rows of windows, one at ground level fitted flush with the exterior wall and one at the first storey that are set back revealing the thickness of the wall. The windows protect the interior from being visible whilst reflecting the brick facades of the neighbouring buildings, a shiny image of the grimy neighbourhood opposite. The glazing at the upper level that contains the main living area is set back forming a protected and private balcony which is covered by a large white roof.
The work-live house contains two introverted 6m high studio spaces in the existing brick building and a new one storey glass enclosure which is an open bright loft like space that contains a large living area, dining area and kitchen with a large skylight and a more private bedroom and bathroom suite seperated from the open plan living areas by a wall of closets. The interior is a gleaming white space with an introverted quality for the studio spaces and open and light for the living areas.
The interior makes reference to important 20th century artists such as James Turrell and Dan Flavin and pristine white gallery spaces whilst acknowledging and embracing the grittier character of the neighbourhood that is typical of areas artists have inhabited because of the availability of cheap studio space and which are subsequently gentrified. In doing so the Dirty House is not only a functional and well-designed space for living and working but also rich in meaning and references both to the city and contemporary art.