Places / Faces
©Alexandra Ruiz March 2015
Places / Faces
©Alexandra Ruiz March 2015
Bernard Tschumi’s Architecture and Disjunction is a classic, definitive collection of the French architect and theorist’s essays and lectures. Best known for his design for the Parc de la Villette in Paris, with its colorful, deconstructivist folies (the result of a collaboration with postmodernist architect Peter Eisenmann), Tschumi has been theorizing about the definition and expansiveness of the architectural field for decades.
In an informative essay titled “Architecture and Happiness”, Tschumi eloquently elaborates the theory that space directly affects the human psyche, and its design can help engineer our happiness or our sense of profound alienation. The latter effect is detailed in his title essay, “Architecture and Disjunction”, in which disjunction is not simply a spatial configuration that induces alienation, but a critical reimagining of architectural space that critically reflects on existing power structures and systems of capital.
Tschumi also poses several dozen captivating questions about the nature of architectural space in a single list. A few are reproduced below:
Architecturally, if space is the medium for the materialization of theory, is a space the materialization of the architectural concept?
Does the experience of space determine the space of experience?
Do all spaces in society taken together constitute a language?
Is space the product of historical time?
If space is an in-between, is it a political instrument in the hands of the state, a mould as well as a reflection of society?
Renowned architect David Adjaye was at LACMA last night for a talk with museum Director Michael Govan. The two discussed Adjaye’s work since his controversial London Elektra House (2000), which almost landed the young architect in jail, to his grand project for the National Museum of African American History, the last building to be constructed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Adjaye’s early work, and particularly his residential projects, seem to combine the spare rectilinear forms of Mies van der Rohe-style modernism with the New Subjectivity approach to classicism of Peter Behrens. Like the “Dirty House” in London’s Hackney district, the buildings are often black on the outside and entirely white on the inside, absorbing passing exterior light and revealing subtle variations in surface texture, while capturing light as it passes through windows and filtering it through the interior space. In a collaboration with Olafur Eliasson for the 2005 Venice Biennale, Adjaye focused solely on this filtering of light, designing a structure that created linear light patterns based on the position of the sun.
Born in Tanzania to a Ghanaian diplomat, Adjaye lived in Egypt, Yemen, and Lebanon before settling in London, where he studied at South Bank University and the Royal College of Art. He returned focus to Africa in the early 2000s when he completed an encyclopedic study of African vernacular architecture by region and metropolitan center. This focus on local context, yet on a global scale, is central to his practice. At LACMA, Adjaye said that he derives the forms and textures of his buildings from regionally distinct vernacular architecture, and integrates it into the aesthetic language of global contemporary design, in order to make local buildings both fit into and transcend their immediate context. A public library in a poor black neighborhood of Washington, D.C., for instance, features cubic wings raised on pilotees over the front entrance, mimicking the forms of raised porches in neighborhood homes while creating a public gathering and performance space. The exterior of his National Mall museum is a bronze design derived from the Gothic and Art Deco tracery of Charleston facades that were built by African Americans, while its material embodies a form sacred to the Yoruba and West African cultures whose ancestry most African Americans share.
Adjaye’s insistence on accepting low-budget public commissions like libraries and public housing projects is a welcome change for an internationally known “starchitect.” He repeatedly emphasized the need to build for people, to reinvest in the public sphere, and to make good design accessible for all.
The Gehry Residence in Santa Monica is home to deconstructivist starchitect Frank Gehry and was one of his first finished projects when he completed it in 1978.
In 1977, Frank and Berta Gehry purchased a 1920s bungalow for themselves. Over the course of the following year, Gehry wrapped and extended the façade with disjointed chainlink fences, raw plywood, corrugated metal, and reinforced glass.
The home is a testament to Frank Gehry’s former “bad boy” style, and his rebellious play with the materials of commercial and industrial construction still stands out in this charming neighborhood of colonial, craftsman, and Spanish revival homes.
A far cry from Gehry’s fluid, silver-plated “BLOB” buildings, the Gehry Residence is a testament to the depth of the architect’s long career.
1002 22nd Street
Santa Monica, California