Posts tagged with "Adriaan Geuze":

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Close contact in an Aldo van Eyck sculpture pavilion in the Netherlands

In the first half of the 1960s, Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck worked on a commission for a sculpture pavilion in Arnhem. The pavilion was for a temporary one-year exhibition that was on view between 1965 and 1966. But a permanent pavilion was recommissioned through van Eyck's widow and built in 2006 at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo. 

Built of concrete block and glass, the pavilion is a rectilinear block with straight and curved walls, and is roofed by glazing that attracts diffuse light from all sides. The building is currently being renovated, and the sculpture has been removed from the site; this sucks out part of the soul of the project, but the statues will be reinstated. Since 1994, the landscaping on the Kröller-Müller site has been attended by Adriaan Geuze of West 8. The lines of its ground plan is so compelling that a commercial firm has emblazoned it on articles of clothing and its linear patterns also suggest the complexities van Eyck found in the tribal artifacts he included in a video he narrated and made for students.

On the north side, the pavilion is composed of regimented, straight rows  of walls, but, from within, the walls are voluptuously curved; there is an orchestrated bending one way, then the other, so the viewer is partially closed in. Informally placed within and outside the structure, the sculptures have admiral pedigrees of sculptors and artists of van Eyck's period of the avant-garde, including Isamu Noguchi, Antoine Pevsner, and Alberto Giacometti.  The remarkable sculptures are placed on low plinths and in niches at the level of the visitor, so there is an immediacy to the relationship between subject and viewers. The opposition of curved and straight walls, together with the sculptures on plinths and in niches, are part of van Eyck's version of "twin phenomenon" which, in turn, can be linked to his take on opposites and the notion of relativity.  There is no predictability for viewers; they unexpectedly encounter curved or straight walls with the statues often and up-close.

Large, rough-surfaced, rectilinear concrete blocks joined with mortar, like bricks, give texture, and force an implied brutalist effect on the walls.  Above the pavilion, the transparent roofing lets the diffused light in from all sides, creating an aura to the sculpture and building elements below. From the pavilion's open and closed, straight and curved walls, there is intimacy in the narrowed spaces.

Van Eyck often sees his buildings as small or tiny cities (a theme from Leon Battista Alberti, perhaps, that became popular with Team 10, the small international architecture group of note that van Eyck belonged to). The formal arrangement can also be traced to the ideas of Camillo Sitte, the Viennese author of a town planning book of the late 19th century, who tried to save traditional towns from unthinking modern developers who had disdain for picturesque niceties, namely, enclosed historic civic space.  The spaces between walls and views out of the pavilion are its unorthodox windows and doors, and the structure's spaces are similar to streets and plazas with visitors meandering in this tiny city.  You can easily meet a statue and feel an immediacy of relationship with it—again, its height is relatively human size. So, like the domestic paintings by the 17th century Dutch painter, Pieter de Hooch, there is a sense of the incremental measurements of human scale and the interpenetration of interior and exterior scenes. Van Eyck, like de Hooch, was a firm believer of making his architecture for individual contact and pleasure. This tiny city-like space is not bustling with activity—it's visited by individual, interested spectators. However, the spaces are sympathetic to engagement with visitors, and these visitors behold the sculpture and its architectural setting as reciprocal relationships, affecting interpersonal behavior.

Nearby, on the grounds of the Kröller-Müller Museum, there is another pavilion by Gerrit Rietveld (1888-1964), who lived and worked a generation before van Eyck.  Rietveld was the designer of the well-known de Stijl chair (1917) and Schroeder House (1924). Rietveld's pavilion was situated nearby, both in Arnhem and Otterlo, but Rietveld's pavilion is nearly opposite of the formal virtues of van Eyck's; approximating a De Stijl structure, it is open and brightly lit, filled with architectonic features intersecting at right angles—no curves or diffused lighting.  Their pronounced differences will be mentioned in the blog Apertures in the Wall.

Research assistance provided by Cees Boekraad
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AN tours the Hills on Governors Island with West 8's Adriaan Geuze

"To get here, you take a ferry, you leave the city for a small vacation. The logic of the park is that you are being reborn," explained West 8 founding principal Adriaan Geuze, as he and The Architect's Newspaper ascended Outlook Hill on an uncharacteristically grey June morning. Despite the drizzle, the hill provides a vertiginous view of the Statue of Liberty and the New York Harbor, a not-seen-before perspective that is sure to induce awe in new visitors' eyes and spawn hundreds of thousands snaps for the ephemeral visual catalogues of Instagram, Facebook, and platforms yet unknown. The Hills on Governors Island, designed by West 8 with Mathews Nielsen, celebrates its public opening today, less than three years after its official groundbreaking. In contrast to parks that lure with slick design and entertainment options, its program is emphatically sincere: The names of the four hills—Outlook, Grassy, Slide, and Discovery—are honest indicators of their respective offerings. 26-foot-tall Grassy Hill provides a spread of green for vegetal lounging, while Discovery Hill hosts a site-specific cast concrete sculpture by artist Rachel Whiteread. Adjacent 70-foot-tall Outlook Hill tops out well above the treeline to offer panoramic views of the harbor, New Jersey, and three of five boroughs. Geuze veered from the paved path to climb the scramble, a pile of rectangular rocks gleaned from the island's former seawall that forms a non-linear path up Outlook Hill. Climbing up hand-over-foot, he gestured uphill: "Is this the path? Or is this the path? I like that ambiguity. Because its so informal, it allows you to colonize the space mentally, to say 'Hey! This is cool! Is this for me, or is it supposed to be for children?' The scramble triggers your attention and because it's not clear what it is, that gives you a sense of freedom. There's not a billboard to explain what this is. You're just aware of it." The designers were aware, too, of Olmsted's influence on New York City park design (and the parks' subsequent influence on New Yorkers ideas of nature) but the Hills is a departure from Olmsted's (faux) naturalistic aesthetic. The curvature and undulation of the landscape is dramatized by the Hill's white concrete edges which function "almost like eyeliner" and add an archness to the design. West 8 drew on a century of city park design by using 17 species of trees most commonly found in New York parks, although the plant configuration and selection on the most exposed areas respond directly to the windblown, salt-sprayed landscape. At ground level, the hills are planted with fast-growing grasses and covered with a layer of biodegradable coconut fiber to anchor the soil and prevent erosion, while lawns are self-draining (see diagrams above).

We moseyed down one of those lawns to Slide Hill, which features four alluring metal slides, short and long. The composition of the slides is reminiscent of those that West 8 designed for Madrid Río in 2011. This reporter was wearing an outfit that was unfortunately not conducive to sliding, but she did watch a landscape architect fly down the longest chute after taking measurements at the top of the hill. Despite the rain, she scooted down quickly.

On the golf cart back to the ferry terminal, Geuze considered Governors Island's place in New York. Reflecting the contradiction of its central location and relative isolation, he mused on the many views expressed in the harbor: "We tried in the design to expose all the layers," on and off the Hills. "On the ferry, you sit with people you don't know, people who may have a different social status or income. This is a democratic island, a place for people from all boroughs."

Ferries depart seven days per week from Manhattan and Brooklyn through September 25. The full schedule can be found here.

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Houstonians love botanic gardens, but not necessarily in their backyards

Neighbors of the recently approved Houston Botanic Garden (HBC), designed by New York–based West 8, oppose the plans, saying that the to-be-built garden will increase traffic in their neighborhoods and prevent neighbors from criss-crossing the site on foot, as is local custom. Right now, the 120-acre site, in the southeastern area of Houston, is home to publicly-owned Glenbrook Golf Course. "The Park Place Civic Club is taking the position of formal opposition," President Larry Bowles told The Houston Chronicle. "Members feel that the garden will disrupt the neighborhood environment that we're used to here and that the open space that the current Glenbrook Golf Course provides will be in essence taken away." The HBG organizers are planning to lease the site from the city, which means that there's extra imperative to keep the public engaged. West 8's plans respond to community desires for connection to the bayou, shady walking paths, access to the outdoors, and space for community events. The master plan will connect the two "precincts" of the garden, named the Island and the South Gardens, with a bridge over Sims Bayou, one of the few bayous in its natural state, that defines the northern border of the proposed park. The bridge over the bayou is part of "Botanic Mile," a wending drive that will take visitors to the heart of the park, an arrival plaza in the South Gardens. The design had to be hurricane- and flood-proof: Landscaping will elevate the site's topography to bring it outside of the 100-year floodplain. Rounding out the program are a classic glass conservatory for exotic plants, as well as amenities like a cafe, visitor's center, lecture hall, and events pavilion.   With a goal of opening in 2020, the group has raised $5 million already, and aims to raise $15 million through 2017. Construction on the project's first phase is expected to begin in 2018. Tomorrow, a public meeting will be held to discuss plans for the HBG. Adriaan Geuze, co-founder and principal of West 8, will be on hand to answer residents' questions.  
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Pictorial> The Hills come alive on Governors Island

Standing near the top of Outlook Hill, Leslie Koch, president of The Trust for Governors Island, explained the reason for commissioning four huge earth mounds on an island in the middle of New York Harbor. "Most New Yorkers don't experience that fancy view [of the skyline]. You don't get to see the city on high from the city that created views." The Hills, part of a $220 million renovation of Governors Island, do create new ways of viewing the city and its surroundings. Landscape architecture firm West 8 was selected in 2007 to produce a master plan for Governors Island that included redesigns of the entire former military facility. Construction of the Hills began in 2013. Design was preceded by extensive on-site observation: the design team, led by Adriaan Geuze and Jamie Maslyn, spent hundreds of hours observing how visitors used the space. Maslyn noted that, for example, adults were using the swing sets intended for children. Discovery and play, consequently, are two themes that predominate in the realized design. To get to the site, visitors pass through a 40 acre welcome area. The space is meant for slow-paced leisure: reading, napping in hammocks, meandering through flower beds. The topography here creates a threshold for the rest of the site. Approached from the welcome area, the four hills rise smoothly from the level base of the island. Bright white concrete edging, to Geuze, "paints the topography more dramatically" and differentiates between fast and slow spaces. There is no main, or suggested, path to approach the hills. The paths fork in equally appealing directions, affording glimpses of the Statue of Liberty, lower Manhattan, or the Verrazano, depending on which way one turns. The hills obscure and reveal these sites gently, manipulating the horizon dramatically while accommodating a range of programs. Ranging in height from 25 to 70 feet, the names of the hills—Outlook, Slide, Discovery, and Grassy—correspond with their most salient feature. "Each of the hills," Koch noted, "embodies one of the attributes New Yorkers love about the island." A zigzag path takes visitors up to the apex of Outlook Hill, 70 feet above ground. The vantage point afforded by the new topography allows visitors to see, standing still, the East and Hudson Rivers, Buttermilk Channel, New York Harbor, and the mouth of the Atlantic.  The design team was intent upon creating a way  for people of all ages and abilities to experience this view. All of the paved paths are at a maximum 4.5 percent slope: ADA compliant and wheelchair friendly. Granite blocks, harvested from the island's 1905 sea wall, create scrambles up the hillside to engage young people (or adventurous adults). Adjacent Slide Hill (40 feet high) will feature elements of pure play: four long slides. Discovery Hill (40 feet) will host a permanent installation by sculptor Rachel Whiteread, while Grassy Hill (25 feet) will be a place to relax on a sloping lawn. Governors Island's exposed location makes it vulnerable to the effects of both normal and extreme weather. To prevent the hills from shifting, settlement plates were planted at the base of the hills to measure changes in elevation. Molly Bourne, principal at Mathews Nielsen, vetted plants on their ability to withstand salt spray and high winds. Sumac and oak trees (around 860), as well as 43,000 maritime shrubs, will adapt to harsh conditions on the island. Storm resiliency is an integral feature of the design. Post-Sandy, 2.2 miles of sea wall, erected in 1905, were replaced in 2014 by a more modern fortification. Some of the pieces were repurposed as infill, along with an imploded building and a parking lot on the site of the Hills. In all, 25 percent of the fill is from the island, while the rest of was delivered via barge down the Hudson. While the Hills' official public opening is set for 2017, the site is open for previews on September 26th and 27th. Details here.
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Quick Click> Islands, Dykes, Riverside, Stateside

Double Dutch. First Manhattan, now Governor's Island--the Dutch just can't get enough of New York Harbor. Adriaan Geuze of West 8 talks with author Brian Davis about West 8's proposal for a new public park on "the island next to the island at the center of the world," via Design Observer. No more Jersey Shore? Speaking of the Dutch, oceanography professor Malcolm Brown told WYNC that residents of the New York-New Jersey area should brush up on their dyke-building skills, warning that higher sea levels may come sooner than we think, via Transportation Nation City Center. Planetizen pointed us to a fascinating post on Per Square Mile about Cahokia, a pre-Columbian settlement on the Mississippi, which, until Philadelphia surpassed it ca. 1800, was the largest city in North America. Start Spreading the News. New York: If you can make there...well, it doesn't guarantee you'll make it in Moscow. For whatever it's worth, New York now ranks as the most affordable of the four cities that the world's wealthiest citizens are likely to call home. New York beats out Moscow--yes, Moscow--as well as Hong Kong and London. The Real Deal quotes a study conducted by Savills PLC, an affiliate of Stribling.