Search results for "shenzhen"

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OMA-Designed Shenzhen Stock Exchange Building Soars Into Hong Kong Sky
Next Tuesday, the nearly 850-foot-tall Shenzhen Stock Exchange Building will be inaugurated as the new head of capitalist trading in Hong Kong. OMA, Rem Koolhaas’ architectural firm, was commissioned to design and construct the soaring structure in 2006. After nearly $500 million in expenditures, according to reports by the Wall Street Journal blog, the square-form skyscraper with a surprising floating base, is complete. Situated 118 feet above an outdoor, ground-level plaza, the Shenzhen Stock Exchange’s three-story cantilevered podium creates drama in the building’s form while satisfying practical needs. This floating base provides shade to pedestrians, a garden rooftop, and an outward indication of interior operations. OMA located the stock exchange’s main trading floors in the interior of this base, allowing maximum square footage for the computer servers. With a facade constructed of a gridded exoskeleton over a patterned glass curtain wall, the building reacts to changes in weather, muting to reflect grey days and brightening when the sun peeks out. The generic skyscraper design of the rest of the structure allows it to fit in with existing neighbors, but clever details like these set it apart from the typical.
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Ole Bouman, Jeffrey Johnson, Li Xiangning to Curate Shenzhen Biennale
It has just been announced that the Shenzen Biennale will be jointly curated by former NAi head Ole Bouman who will serve as Creative Director and American Jeffrey Johnson and Chinese scholar Li Xiangning, who will act as Academic Directors. The theme of the biennale which opens in December 2013 will be urbanization "outside the mainstream" and will take place in multiple sites around the region. Bouman will be responsible for curating the exhibition, "focusing on forward-looking design practices, and large-scale works" while Li Xiangning and New York-based Jeffrey Johnson will be responsible for a curatorial review and theoretical research. The last Shenzen Biennale (2011) was curated by Terence Riley and was one of the most interesting architecture exhibitions of the year.  
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Synthesis Wins Shanghai Competition With "Urban Canyon" Concept
Los Angeles-based Synthesis Design & Architecture (SDA) in association with Shenzhen General Institute of Architectural Design and Research have won an invited competition to design the 1.9 million-square-foot, mixed-use Shanghai Wuzhou International Plaza in Shanghai. Their slick “Urban Canyon” concept summons images of a magnificent gorge cutting through the city with its two nested cliff-like structures that have been carved from the landscape by staggered, pebble-looking buildings. The facades’ and roofs’ grooved titanium-zinc cladding adds to the metaphor while mimicking the energy and vibrancy of the city. Divided into two blocks, the northern area houses luxury retail shops and developer Hong Kong Wuzhou International Group’s corporate offices. The southern section is a retail, lifestyle and entertainment complex anchored by two office towers. Sky bridges connect the buildings and outside, plazas, landscaping, seating areas, and dynamic lighting are integrated. Practical details are still being finalized.
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Foxconn Said to Be Considering Investment in American Manufacturing
Much has been made of the decline of American industry and, more recently, the rise of small-scale urban industry, but one of the largest international manufacturers, Taiwan-based Foxconn, could change the industrial scene completely if it decides to build factories in the United States. The Guardian reports that Foxconn is considering Detroit and Los Angeles for potential outposts thanks to rising costs overseas, but the company infamous for manufacturing Apple products among others at its 800,000-worker-strong Chinese facilities would have to adapt to radically different American ways of working. It was early last year—after a string of workers committed suicide and a lethal explosion tore through a plant—when Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook asked the Fair Labor Association to assess Foxconn’s working conditions. Reforms where set in place that doubled Foxconn’s worker salary levels in China and cut overtime hours. The increase in costs in places like China has prompted the company to consider locations overseas. In September, plans were announced for a nearly $500 million factory to be built in São Paulo, Brazil where Foxconn will hire up to 10,000 people to make computer and some Apple products. The company also plans to open a new phone factory in Indonesia by the end of 2012. If built, Foxconn's new U.S. factories and work standards would be altered for the American workforces, who won’t likely work for China’s low wages or live in work dormitories. Instead of manufacturing products that rely heavily on hand labor, the American factories would  primarily build flat screen televisions, which use a primarily automated process. Company officials would not comment on the possible expansion into the U.S., but did say American engineers will be invited to its Chinese facilities to learn about its manufacturing process.
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Setting the Stones Right
Chinese architect Pei-Zhu's OCT Design Museum in Shenzhen, China.
Courtesy Studio Pei-Zhu

If you build it they will come! Well not necessarily if you are talking about new arts facilities, claims “Set In Stone,” a just released study from the Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago.

It won't be good news for architects to learn that many new cultural buildings built on the assumption that they would benefit their institutions, in fact, “put enormous strain” on them. More disturbing still, the report claims that some institutions stumbled when they became “signature pieces for leading architects.” The study makes important recommendations for civic leaders, arts organizations, donors and government officials contemplating new cultural buildings.

First, it recommends that clients focus on their organization’s mission and the public’s “demand for the project.” Before formulating final plans, leaders and donors need to understand the precise reasons for the project, as well as determine need, attendance and long-term financial support. Successful projects were driven by both the organization’s artistic mission and also by clear and definable needs. The report recommends that leadership be clear and consistent throughout the process and that a single project manager be appointed to monitor the project through to completion. Finally, they suggest the need for flexibility—both in terms of how to generate income but also in light of the fact that cultural projects can take as long as ten to 20 years to complete. It’s a cold, hard reality that the community served by the building may be different than the one that originally envisioned the building.

According to “Set in Stone,” projects usually faltered when they became signature set pieces for the aspirations of donors or local community leaders. Initial cost projections for these projects were frequently both extremely and unreasonably low, making the final tab much more expensive than anticipated. More than 80 percent of the projects studied ran over budget, some by as much as 200 percent.

The study also found that cities in the South had the greatest increase in cultural building in part because it had lagged behind the rest of the country for many years. But more to the point, “increases” in cultural facilities were most common in communities that had also had increases in personal income and in education among their residents. Finally during the study period (1994-2008), New York led the country in cultural building spending $1.6 billion, while the Los Angeles area witnessed an expansion of $950 million and the Chicago area saw spending of $870 million on arts related projects.

In October, I traveled to Shenzhen, China to the opening of the Hong Kong and Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture. The curator of this fascinating exhibition, Terence Riley, took the assembled journalists on a tour of Shenzhen which 20 years ago had a population of 35,000, but now has over 10 million. Riley pointed out the new Arata Isozaki-designed concert hall, a contemporary art museum by Coop Himmelb(l)au, and a design museum by Chinese architect Pei-Zhu. None of these new cultural facilitates had any collections or work on their walls. The design museum was being used to film a car commercial.

In China, it did not seem to matter whether or not the facilities had anything in them, only that Shenzhen had a cultural district with museums designed by famous architects. In the U.S., our cultural institutions have to work harder. Of course, with the still slow economy, the number of cultural projects in this country has already decreased. Going forward, it hardly needs a massive study to understand that institutions need to plan and develop only those projects the public really wants, demands, and needs.

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Who Builds Your Architecture?
Who builds your architecture? "Not architects," said Reinhold Martin. "By definition, architects do not build; they make drawings, write contracts, and do all these other things." At New School's Vera List Center on May 3, a roundtable facilitated debate and speculation on the rights of the lesser-discussed "workers" that make architecture happen. Organized by Kadambari Baxi, Mabel Wilson, and Beth Stryker, in collaboration with The New School's Vera List Center for Art and Politics, the discussion focused on Dubai and the Middle East, but the implications of these issues are felt world-wide. Reports of widespread worker abuse in global projects in developing countries are common now, and the panel sought to shed light on these sometimes horrific problems. Reinhold Martin, author of The Organizational Complex: Architecture, Media, and Corporate Space, moderated the panel consisting of sociologist Andrew Ross, architects Peggy Deamer and Fred Levrat as well as Human Rights Watch senior researcher on the Middle East Bill Van Esveld. The problem is that the high cost of architecture is often offset by the low cost of labor. Big name architects often continue practicing despite the possibility of potential human rights abuses. Nicolai Ouroussoff said that Steven Holl Architects' Vanke Center in Shenzhen, China "demonstrates what can happen when talented architects are allowed to practice their craft uninhibited by creative restrictions (or, to be fair, by the high labor costs of most developed societies)." There are reports that workers immigrate from one country to another, are misled into jobs that they did not sign up for—jobs that pay much less than they were told—and they sign contracts that make them essentially indentured servants, as they cannot quit due to immigration and labor laws. What are the responsibilities of the architect in this scenario? Deamer feels that the problem is two-fold. It is a problem of the owners, not the architects. The owner has the power to change how things are done. What architects can do is think of everyone as a designer, from the fabricator to the bricklayer. Then, architects start to see themselves as workers, not as annointed ones. Everyone is equal. Ross agreed. "The creative profession has been degraded...we are no longer in control," he said. His work with the Gulf Labor Coalition has been to pressure NYU, the Guggenheim, and the Abu Dhabi Government into fair labor practices at sites in the Middle East. He said that often architects do not respond to his pleas to cooperate with human rights groups and unions. These are often difficult situations, with clients' interests and authoritarian states making the contracts, making activism more complicated. Schools are implicated, too. Often schools teach students how to subvert union labor, or at least they teach that architects cannot have a say in this debate. Does "Who builds?" come down to criticism? By using the word "starchitect," a term Martin prefers not to use, critics are not only elevating them above the realm of "service" or labor, into "anointed ones," using Deamer's term. These architects often cannot even pay their own employees a fair wage, so how would we expect them to care about workers half-way around the world? The panel raised many initial questions, while searching for answers. Will solutions come from architects, or are they impotent to change anything, given their role within the forces of capital? Will change come from an engaging conversation aimed at clients? Or will this be a student-led movement? From the tenor of the discussion, what is important is that we are finally talking about these issues, and that these abuses are being brought to light.
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Tracking the Origins of MVRDV’s Cloud
Urban design historian Grahame Shane weighs in on the controversial project tracing MVRDV’s explosive imagery to its source in research. When Ole Scheeren departed from OMA Beijing with the MahaNakhon Bangkok tower to found his own office in 2010, he had the idea to connect tower and urban village, marking a key moment in a very Dutch delirium that moved beyond OMA's CCTV tower. In the Bangkok tower the developer’s website claims this skyscraper "melds with the city by gradually 'dissolving' the mass as it moves vertically between ground and sky." MVRDV pursued this same research and logic in their Cloud twin tower development in Libeskind's masterplan for the ex-US base in downtown Seoul. The firm had earlier developed the Sky Village project in Copenhagen in 2008, similar in concept to the MahaNakon project with its spiral upwards. Indeed, this spiral had long been a concern of Ken Yeang, the Malaysian architect in his "Bioclimatic" Malaysian skyscraper projects of the 1990's. MVRDV pursued this research in their 2011 Vertical Village show in Taipei, Taiwan, that opened at the same time as the announcement of the Cloud. Given MVRDV's devotion to data mining and layering, it is probable that they followed the logic of the delirious Dutch research that believes you can collage anything beside anything else in a pragmatic, post-modern method of assemblage. This line of research descends from Koolhaas' appreciation of the Downtown Athletic Club in Manhattan in Delirious New York (1978). MVRDV's Hannover Expo Pavilion of 2000 demonstrated this technique, as did their project for the Metacity/Datatown exhibit of the same year. All interrelationships are then either pragmatic or better yet random. Then there is the fiction in a scheme like the CCTV, MahaNakhon, or the Cloud that no one person controls the emergent "free" assembly. Yet in Beijing or Bangkok the designers repressed the village-like interior organizations within the building mega-form, allowing a surface marking only, breaking the building surface as a pixilation in the MahaNakhon. The Cloud design represented a step further in this logic, as it projects a so-called three-dimensional vertical village between the two towers. It would seem the excitement of the creation of an urban village half way up two skyscrapers blinded MVRDV to the very obvious 9/11 image the design might provoke. Why was MVRDV so excited? There was already an Asian mega-structural tradition of platforms between towers and even the idea of vertical villages as in Hiroshi Hara's 1988 theories about urban scale in 3-D. Hara completed the Osaka Umeda Skygarden demonstration project in 1993. This tradition continued in the work of Chinese architects such as the Shenzhen based Urbanus group with their Urban Village and skyhook research of 2003-2004. Why was the Cloud breakthrough so important for MVRDV? The design maintained the tower surfaces but burst out of the mega-form to introduce a three-dimensional, cuboid platform with terraces and stepped rooms inside a grid structure showing trees and shrubbery, a veritable hanging garden. Anyone who has visited Bangkok and eaten on the three-dimensional rooftop terraces, could recognize the appeal of this structure. But here its form was also that of a rationalized Brazilian favela or hill town perched above Rio or São Paolo, echoing Safdie's Montreal Habitat (1967). The Vertical Village show asked whether one can hybridize the top-down modernist skyscraper and the forms of the self-build bottom-up favela to make a new "vertical urban village." Oliver Wainright writing for Domus magazine in October 2011 described the sequence of the exhibition that began with an analysis of existing urban villages , drawn in Atelier Bow Wow-style linear axonometrics with calculations of their density and Floor Area Ratio (FAR), proceeding via a corridor of images mined from the web using the terms "vertical village" to a contrasting display of massive, modern building projects for housing slabs and blocks that repress individuality in the search for cheap mass housing. Wainright described how the positive qualities of informal urban villages are outlined in one gallery as an "Urban Community Quality Wheel," which led to other rooms where visitors could use "Housemaker" and "Village Maker" software to adjust the parameters of a vertical urban village design. Wainright wrote that "tweaking settings from typology to aspect, hours of sunlight to distance from neighbors, the Grasshopper script then projects each house into the Rhino model, from where you can spin your clustered cloud of vertical dwellings around to your heart's content—and then share it on Facebook." The Cloud project with its favela-like bridge between two towers emerged from this research. MVRDV released the images without seeing the connection to the 9/11 twin towers, later issuing an apology. How could these otherwise savvy media operators have been so blind? Was it naïvete? Or a planned headline-grabbing publicity stunt? This blindness and emotional disconnection is interesting. Did MVRDV think that the design somehow incorporated the bottom-up built logic of the invisible favelas and shanties in their Cloud as it enveloped the two towers? Did MVRDV hope to signify the one billion slum dwellers here as the global system stresses out? Was their exceptional blindness the result of the uncanny return of the repressed masses in the outlying urban villages and favelas? Why do we need urban villages now in skyscrapers, in Clouds or in museums? Koolhaas and OMA have proposed the "Museum as City" for the Beijing National Arts Museum (2011) with horizontal "Arts Villages" held between "streets" and its vertical "Arts Lantern." What is the symbolism of the village here? Is it time to reverse the mega-scale of the Bubble Years and start over with urban villages? D. Grahame Shane teaches Graduate Urban Design at Columbia University and undergraduate students at The Cooper Union in New York. He also lectures for the Bartlett School of Architecture in London and at the Polytechnic in Milan. He is the author of Recombinant Urbanism: Conceptual Modeling in Architecture, Urban Design and City Theory (John Wiley & Sons, 2005).
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AIA Chicago's 2011 Design Excellence Awards
On October 28, over 800 architects, designers, contractors, and their clients gathered together at Navy Pier in Chicago to celebrate the architecture firms recognized with 2011 Design Excellence Awards. Firms were honored for achievements in the following four categories: Distinguished Building, Interior Architecture, Regional & Urban Design, and Unbuilt Design. Out of 357 entries, there were 42 awards total-- 10 Honor Awards (the highest distinction), 24 Citation of Merits, and 8 Special Recognitions. Half of these awards were for designs in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, while the remaining awards were for designs in other cities, states, and countries. Some noteworthy projects among the 39 winning projects included the world's tallest building in Dubai, "blending a hotel, luxury residences and office space," an international design center in Chicago for a Benton Harbor based corporation, the creation of a native wildlife refuge, boardwalk and education pavilion at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo in "a space that was once a polluted urban waterhole," a LEED Gold certified civil engineering building in Duluth, Minnesota, and a visionary master plan for the city of Gary, Indiana that connects the city to the surrounding area. Here are the firms that took home multiple awards: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP with 10 awards Perkins+Will with 6 awards DeStefano Partners/Lothan Studio with 3 awards Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture with 2 awards Goettsch Partners with 2 awards Murphy/Jahn with 2 awards Ross Barney Architects with 2 awards UrbanWorks Ltd. with 2 awards   And here is the list of winners by category:   DISTINGUISHED BUILDING HONOR AWARD: James / Swenson Civil Engineering Building, Duluth, MN --BY: Ross Barney Architects Nature Boardwalk, Education Pavilion and South Pond Transformation at Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago --BY: Studio Gang Architects with Shaw Sustainable Solutions of Illinois, LLC One Haworth Center, Holland, MI --BY: Perkins+Will CITATION OF MERIT: Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE --BY: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP College of DuPage Technology Education Center, Glenn Ellyn, IL --BY: DeStefano Partners/Lothan Studio Fullerton and Belmont Stations Reconstruction, Chicago --BY: Ross Barney Architects Gary Comer College Prep, Chicago --BY: John Ronan Architects Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, Chicago --BY: Murphy/Jahn Shanghai Huawei Technologies Corporate Campus, Shanghai, China --BY: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP UNO Veterans Memorial School Complex, Chicago --BY: UrbanWorks Ltd. West Combined Utility Plant, University of Chicago, Chicago --BY: Murphy/Jahn SPECIAL RECOGNITION: 300 East Randolph Vertical Completion, Chicago --BY: Goettsch Partners Peace Corner Youth Center, Chicago --BY: DeStefano Partners/Lothan Studio Rosa Parks Apartments, Chicago --BY: Landon Bone Baker Architects INTERIOR ARCHITECTURE HONOR AWARD: Confidential Law Firm Headquarters, Chicago --BY: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP Jenner & Block, Chicago --BY: Goettsch Partners World of Whirlpool, Chicago --BY: Valerio Dewalt Train Associates CITATION OF MERIT: CompTIA The Computing Technology Industry Association Inc., Downers Grove, IL --BY: Perkins+Will Confidential Banking Firm Headquarters, Charlotte, NC --BY: Perkins+Will Mumford Hall Conversion, Chicago --BY: Harding Partners New Trading Firm, Chicago --BY: Cannon Design One Haworth Center, Holland, MI --BY: Perkins+Will Public Areas at the Residences of Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE --BY: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP Serta International, Hoffman Estates, IL --BY: Epstein / Metter Studio Sprinkles Cupcakes, Chicago --BY: Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture University of Illinois, Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Halls Dining Remodel, Urbana-Champaign --BY: DeStefano Partners/Lothan Studio SPECIAL RECOGNITION: Burj Khalifa Level 153, Dubai, UAE --BY: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP   REGIONAL & URBAN DESIGN HONOR AWARD: Farming the Chicago Stock Yards, Chicago --BY: UrbanLab Guangzhou University Town-- 4 Villages, Guangzhou, China --BY: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP Panama Government City Master Plan, Panama, Republic of Panama --BY: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP CITATION OF MERIT: American College of Greece, Athens, Greece --BY: VOA Associates Incorporated Groundplanes for Gary, Gart, IN --By: UrbanWorks Ltd. Moraine Valley Community College Entrance Gateway + Quadrangle, Palos Hills, IL --BY: Teng + Associates SPECIAL RECOGNITION: A Vision for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Region Recognizing a Global Resource, Chicago --BY: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP   UNBUILT DESIGN HONOR AWARD: King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia --BY: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture CITATION OF MERIT: Dubai Bridge, Dubai, UAE --BY: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture Shanghai Eastern Hepatobiliary Hospital, Shanghai, China --BY: Perkins+Will Shenzhen Archive Towers, Shenzhen, China --BY: Jaeger and Partner Architects, Ltd. with Saltans Architects_Intl.,Ltd Tianjin Museum, Tianjin, China --BY: Perkins+Will SPECIAL RECOGNITION: Prairie House: House for a Fashion Pattern Maker and Fiber Artist, Northfield, IL --BY: The Office for Robotic Architectural Media & Bureau for Responsive Architecture Takshing House Redevelopment, Hong Kong, China --BY: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP The S-Tower, Seoul, Korea --BY: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP    
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Sharing the Spotlight
Steven Holl's Vanke Center in Shenzhen, China.
Iwan Baan


Sharing the Spotlight

A five-part feature on architectural lighting. Click on a project to learn more.

Stay tuned! A new project added every day.
Mansueto Research Library
Vanke Center
Shenzhen, China
Art of the Americas Wing
MFA Boston
Claremont University Consortium
Claremont, CA
South Shore High School



Clockwise from top center: Courtesy University of Chicago, Iwan Baan; Steve Hall / Hedrich Blessing, Luke Gibson, Nigel Young / Foster & Partners


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Spotlight: Vanke Center
Holl's horizontal skyscraper sits on legs of concrete, glass, and light.
Iwan Baan

This project is one section of AN's five-part feature on architectural lighting, "Sharing the Spotlight." Click here to view additional projects.

Vanke Center
Shenzhen, China

Steven Holl Architects
L'Observatoire International

The Vanke Center in Shenzhen, China is a culmination of architect Steven Holl’s long-time pursuit to defy gravity. Although physically elevated above ground on broad concrete pillars, the secret behind this levitation effect is the building’s lighting design. “Steven thinks of light as an integral material, like stone or glass,” said Jason Neches a principal at L’Observatoire International, the New York-based lighting design firm. The firm’s contribution to the design is evident: the solid concrete-core supports, for example, which house the circulation up to the first floors, are wrapped in glass and lit to give the impression that the building floats. “Steven wanted uplighting, which provides a dramatic effect,” said Neches. “But since people are drawn to light, they would have looked down when we wanted them looking up at the building. So it is lit top-down.”

The value of intrinsic lighting design seems obvious, but lighting designers are too often enlisted after a project has already been developed. With complex projects such as Vanke, the solution was to work with the architects from the outset. “Steven brings us in very early on in the design process for most projects, usually just after the concept stage,” said Neches.

Vanke’s complex interior spaces posed a particular challenge for L’Observatoire in spite of the firm’s familiarity with Holl. “Its diverse program meant that different parts of the project were advancing with different schedules,” said Neches. As well, its setting in China meant that traditional practice puts the finishing touches in the hands of local designers “to nurture local industry,” as Neches put it. In the underground auditorium, for example, L’Observatoire only took it through design development before handing it back to Holl’s Beijing office for final specifications of the lighting fixtures.

Left to right: Lobby elevators with the building plan mapped in lights; The "untied bowtie" staircase blending natural and artificial light; the horizontal skyscraper is visible behind a reception desk; Light walls and an illuminated desk in the auditorium lobby.

According to Neches, Holl has a clear vision before the designers even come to the table, and they are asked to provide feedback on the quality of light rather than have vital creative input. “However,” said Neches, “there is always flexibility so we can affect a change if we think it will make the space better.” In the case of the “bowtie” staircase area, which was difficult to read in plan and section, L’Observatoire used a 3-D physical model to test and demonstrate various lighting fixtures and options for the interior. As a result, track lights have been integrated into folds and facets of the bowtie with areas of highlights, while in a cove at the wall, there is an uplight to encourage people to gather.

The Vanke’s relatively monochromatic interior relies heavily on lighting to create different atmospheres. “We have a lot of opportunities with Steven,” said Neches. “These are the benefits of working with an architect who thinks of light as another building material.”

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Year of Living Sedately
Courtesy Peter Zumthor / Walter Herfst

Every summer, the Serpentine Pavilion offers the chosen architects of the plot adjacent to the London gallery a chance to offer a meditation on essential qualities in their work. In this way the pavilion is not only a showcase for designers who haven't yet built in the UK, but also a physical gauge of architecture’s current preoccupations. This year, it is the garden.

Rather than open out the pavilion to the surrounding rolling green of Kensington Gardens, Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, working with landscape designer Piet Oudolf (also responsible for the plantings on New York’s High Line), has enclosed his own patch of green. If the pavilion is any kind of bellwether for the current social condition—for it clearly is not a reflection of the UK's current economic condition Zumthor tells us we should take note and be quiet. Inside his cloistered pavilion—“coffin-like,” as one observer commented on Jonathan Glancey's recent article for The Guardian—there is space only to sit and to reflect.

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Indeed it is a far cry from previous pavilions: Kjetil Thorsen and Olafur Eliasson's 2007 conical viewing platform, Gehry's bombastic theatre-cum-promenade in 2008, and SANAA’s translucent and shimmering surfaces in 2009 offered follies in the landscape, a pleasant interlude in a visitor's trip to the gallery and a unique space to house a cafe. Zumthor's design, however, eschews the pavilion's requisite commercial opportunity and presents an altogether prescriptive program. The tar-textured enclosure forces the visitor to do nothing but look and think. The central atrium, a sharply cut rectangle open only to the sky, compels the viewer to look inwards or upwards but never outwards. As Glancey notes, the experience at times stirs claustrophobia more than contemplation: “Outside…you suddenly feel free and here is that very thing he's trying to encapsulate...nature.”


The design is intended to create a palpable contrast between the open space of Kensington Gardens and the pavilion's interior. While lights have been fitted along the corridors, these are not always switched on creating a somewhat menacing threshold. Perhaps the intention was to provide a sense of danger sandwiched between idyllic places—a compelling aspect of the design that has not received as much attention as the cloister courtyard. Landscape designer Oudolf has spoken of an integrated design to draw in passersby. In The Telegraph in June, he said, “I want visitors to see that architecture is simple and planting is complex. Looking into plants brings you into another kind of thinking, connected with inner space.”

If the pavilion, a 4,200-square-foot timber-frame structure wrapped in scrim and covered with a black duct sealant, reflects architecture today, it is a fitting collaboration between Zumthor and Oudolf. Their rectangular box enveloping a courtyard garden is in tune with a wider movement towards ground-skimming designs and landscaped architecture such as Stephen Holl’s Horizontal Skyscraper in Shenzhen, China or Morphosis’ Shanghai Giant Interactive Group Campus. Zumthor, in The Independent, cited this year's pavilion as a memory machine: “I think of gardens I have seen, that I believe I have seen, that I long to see.”

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Will Kimmelman Replace Ouroussoff at the Times?
The Architect's Newspaper has heard from multiple sources that the New York Times may be close to naming the art critic Michael Kimmelman as the paper's new architecture critic. Outgoing architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff resurfaced today with another far flung report, a glowing review of Steven Holl's Vanke Center in Shenzhen, China. Will it be his last? Though Kimmelman is best known as an art critic, he has written on architecture several times in recent years during his posting in Europe, including an excellent piece on David Chipperfield's Neues Museum in Berlin and a profile of Peter Zumthor for the New York Times Magazine.