Less Hadid, More Giant Women

The Architecture Foundation recently announced that they’ve called off plans for construction of a permanent London address. Program development will continue, but due to the current economic slump, their new Zaha Hadid-designed home was scrapped — and Life Without Buildings couldn’t be happier. Nothing against the AF or Ms. Hadid, but the aggressive design left us wanting, and paled in comparison to the sexy simplicity of Lacaton Vassal’s proposal.

Yes, it’s another Giant Woman Friday.

Continue reading “Less Hadid, More Giant Women”

New Uses for Ceramics

French architecture firm and Life Without Buildings favorite, Lacaton Vassal, were invited by CRAFT (Centre de Recherche sur les Arts du Feu et de la Terra a Limoges) to propose new uses for Limoges porcelain.

Their solution is nothing less than inspired: a procelain overlay for structural steel. Designed for steel profiles H, I, and U, the ceramic tiles add both fireproofing and a decorative element to the steel columns.Great idea, right? I’d love to see this go into production, although I do have one suggestion. For the first run, let’s appropriate the world’s largest ceramic – Jeff Koons’ Michael Jackson and Bubbles.

Sure, it may have sold at Sotheby’s for $5,600,000, but I think melting down this travesty of art and applying it to a steel column might really give it some integrity; an extra layer of meaning reminiscent of Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning.Plus…you know, we get the added benefit of MELTING A HIDEOUS CERAMIC STATUE OF MICHAEL JACKSON AND HIS MONKEY.

More Giant Statues…

More Goodness from the Architecture Foundation. I’d like to present Lacaton Vassal’s submission for the Foundation’s new building, a competition won by Ms. Hadid almost a year ago (above). Yep. That’s a giant lady in her undewear knickers. I haven’t written much about them lately, but for obvious (and not so obvious) reasons, Lacaton Vassal are my favorite firm in practice right now. (Although Adjaye & Associates are a close 2nd) Their solution is an elegant, versatile construction of simple materials – concrete slabs and a steel frame.

The building is easy to use, robust and adaptable, efficient and economic, and quite ordinary in its envelope: transparent, light, open, easy to access, changing. It is made exceptional by a giant statue of a woman rising through its floors, which will be perceived in fragments. The statue represents a contemporary ideal of beauty, and radically reinterprets the traditional interrelation of sculpture and architecture.

Emphasis mine. Two things I love: Lacaton Vassal and GIANT STATUES. These guys just get it. The statue works in so many ways. It would not only “represent a contemporary idea of beauty,” but also the basis for the historic understanding of beauty in Western Art. It abstracts the human body, presenting it at an unfamiliar scale in order to create a more human-scale experience while simultaneously making us aware of the spaces and forms of our own bodies. Perhaps a bit of a wink at Corbu’s Modulor?

The friction between the appearance of the architecture – direct, efficient, rigorous – and the statue – strange in the context, poetic – disturbs and transforms normality. The exceptional is not in the architectural form; the architecture is in the capacity of the building to gather realism and the imaginary, to transpose the ordinary, to take in different uses generously and create the unforeseen.

In all of the work I’ve seen, Lacaton and Vassall have stayed true to their ideas of comfort, generosity, poetry, and – above all – quality of life. Is it wrong to wish that Zaha would’ve lost this competition too?

If you’re not familiar with their work, check out this article from ICON and this article from BD

It Will be Beautiful Tomorrow: The Work of Lacaton & Vassal


[Nantes School of Architecture. Via Lacaton & Vassal]

I just got around to reading a brief write-up on Parisian firm Lacaton & Vassal, posted on BD last Friday, and I’m walking away quite impressed. The firm’s philosophy — and resulting projects — combine pragmatism, poetry, and comfort. Comfort being the operative element here. After a 17 year partnership, the firm is poised to move up an echelon with two new major projects. An architecture school in Nantes (pictured) and a business school in Bordeaux.

Flexibility has been a key element in their past work, and the Nantes school is no exception. Much of the building space will remain unprogrammed, and the its primary structure will allow for an unusually high degree of flexibility — including ramps to provide automobiles with access to all three stories of the structure. An Exerpt describing the design process, from the “Il fera beau demain” exhibition catalog:

“…then – that magic moment when the images come back, when the two directions of thought are perfectly attuned, interlock, fuel one another, as if spellbound. (A) moment of euphoria and ease, as if miraculously and unconsciously the joyous, living part that gives the project its meaning had steered the laborious part (concerned with) development.

Born who knows where, experienced somewhere, far away, in Africa or elsewhere, in books of poetry and films, in smoke-filled bars, train compartments, airport concourses, an image, a persistent idea, that one waits for, that one delicately gathers up, that one protects, safeguards, forgets and finds again. It stays there throughout the project and ends up being absolutely indispensable.

Architecture will be straightforward, useful, precise, cheap, free, jovial, poetic and cosmopolitan. It’ll be nice tomorrow.”

I love these guys.

&#183 Lacaton & Vassal [website]
&#183 Less Hadid More Giant Women [Life Without Buildings]
&#183 New Uses for Ceramics [Life Without Buildings]