Posts tagged with "Cecil Balmond":

In “Nincompoopolis,” Boris Johnson’s architectural follies mask even bigger failures

For the U.K.’s latest passport design, a page is dedicated to British-Indian artist, Anish Kapoor. This is nothing untoward; Kapoor is a distinguished artist both nationally and on the world stage. On the page are three of his works: Marsyas, Temenos, and the Orbit, the latter of which was designed with the help of equally esteemed British engineer, Cecil Balmond.

At 377 feet, the Orbit is Britain’s tallest sculpture. A press release for its 2014 re-opening proudly proclaims that the ArcelorMittal Orbit—to call it its official name after Indian steel giant Lakshmi Mittal—“originated in 2009 when [former] London Mayor Boris Johnson launched a competition to design a sculpture for the Olympic Park.”

The term sculpture is perhaps too kind, since the Orbit looks like Kapoor and Balmond both sneezed while trying to wrest control of the mouse with Rhino running on the computer. Today, despite adding a slide, it costs the taxpayer $13,100 a week to keep running. The omnipresent Orbit looms over the London 2012 Olympic site in the London borough of Newham and now the work—an inescapable reminder of Johnson’s eagerness to create an icon—will follow Britons around the globe.

Though a picture is sometimes worth a thousand words, thankfully there is better documentation of Johnson’s foibles in the built environment. Critic Douglas Murphy’s Nincompoopolis: The Follies of Boris Johnson, does this superbly and goes beyond, relating it to Johnson’s ironic ineptitude on more serious issues with real-world ramifications, such as the Heygate Estate evictions in South London. In this instance, Johnson remarked that it was “vital we push forward with work to unlock the economic potential” of the area as he approved the replacement masterplan, seemingly oblivious of the implications. The estates were home to more than 3,000 people. 

The darker manifestation’s of Johnson’s mayoralty come later in the book, which is laid out in two parts: Johnson the architectural meddler comes first and Johnson the hapless, apathetic, and willfully ignorant politician, after. In this sense, Murphy’s depressingly long catalogue of Johnson’s errors posits the more obvious architectural blunders as a mask to his more inimical failings.

To make the grim reading digestible, Nincompoopolis is filled with personal touches from Murphy (all but two of the images used are the author's own) who found himself in London just as Johnson took the reins in 2008. His sophisticated anger is both fitting and relevant, delivered with a dry sense of humor, as he dismantles everything wrong with each project, from the process (or lack of it) to the final product. The reader is doused with lashings of context, followed by a predictable punchline: Johnson.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. The Garden Bridge, with a corrupt tendering process in which Johnson played a central role, was scrapped by incumbent Mayor Sadiq Kahn. A shopping mall version of the Crystal Palace was another near-miss, and orders have been stopped on the New Routemaster London bus. These failed follies can hardly be classed as wins, however, with millions of dollars of public money having already been squandered on them.

Perhaps a bright spot can be found in the socially-minded work of Peter Barber Architects, which Murphy duly mentions. Johnson is also credited for issuing new housing standards in the shape of the London Housing Design Guide which, bemusingly for him given his track record, called for less “iconic” architecture and beckoned in the “New London Vernacular.” However, as Murphy points out, much of this genuinely good work rides on the legacy of former mayor Ken Livingstone, who worked with Richard Rogers during his time as mayor. “In a city that has been undergoing so much housing struggle, no amount of tasteful brick detailing can mask the problems,” Murphy remarks.

The bearer of an American passport which reads “Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson,” London’s former Mayor will never have to suffer the full consequences of Brexit, in which he played a leading role. Nor will he have to look at the Orbit embarrassingly sprawled across a page of official national documentation.

Brexit, hopefully, was Johnson’s political swan-song. It made sense as well. The Routemaster and Crystal Palace fiascos were projects inspired by a misplaced public love of nostalgia, to which Johnson, seeing his chance as a so-called man of the people, rushed ham-handedly to cater to.

Inspiration also came from New York, where Johnson was born, but again, these ideas were executed in the wrong way. The High Line’s success spurred the Garden Bridge into almost becoming a reality, but ignored the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Johnson was determined to emulate the grandeur of antiquated world expos, but this somehow resulted in the Orbit and nearly led to a enormous glass mall, neither of which approached the legacy of 1964.

Nincompoopolis is a playful word, more endearing than insulting. However, Murphy does not shy away from showing that beneath Johnson’s boyish bravado and messy hair, depicted atop the Orbit on the book's coveris a more clueless and sinister character.

Nincompoopolis: The Follies of Boris Johnson Repeater Books $10.00

Cecil Balmond awarded the University of Virginia’s 2016 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture

The University of Virginia has awarded esteemed Sri Lankan-British engineer Cecil Balmond its highest accolade in the form of the 2016 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture.

This year marks the 50th year of the award, with Balmond joining previous winners including Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Philip JohnsonFrank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Peter Zumthor and Richard Rogers.

The award acknowledges Balmond's contribution to the discipline, with his notable works including the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the Serpentine Pavilion, and the Victoria and Albert Museum Spiral (all in London).

Balmond, throughout his career, has worked extensively with Dutch firm OMA collaborating on the China Central Television Headquarters in Beijing, the Kunsthal in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and the Congrexpo in Lille, France. He has also contributed to a number of publications in the field of academia. In 2000, Balmond founded the critical design and research group Advanced Geometry Unit.

https://vimeo.com/65878662

Leslie Greene Bowman, President and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, said, “his vast contributions to science, architecture, academia, diplomacy, and culture reflect an insatiable appetite for useful knowledge and dedication to improving life in a new nation. We are honored to welcome the 2016 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal recipients, each of whom has had, and will continue to have, a profound impact on our world.”

Speaking of the award, Balmond commented, “for a long time I have seen the name of Mr Jefferson as a talisman, defining bold horizons and being an ardent brand for discovery and refined design. To be part of this heritage, in receiving the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal for Architecture this year is indeed a very great honor and one that truly delights me.” 

The award will be presented by Bowman at the University on April 13, Thomas Jefferson's birthday. Locally, the day is also known as Founders Day, as it was the day Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in 1819.

At the ceremony, Balmond will give a free public lecture. An exhibition of his work, titled Informal, will showcase projects of note. The exhibition will be open to the public and on display at the University from March 28 through April 15.

Cecil Balmond to design sculpture honoring Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in Los Angeles

Soon a Cecil Balmond sculpture will grace Santa Monica Boulevard. The Farhang Foundation announced that the British hyphenate—artist-architect-engineer—is the winner of Freedom: A Shared Dream, an international art competition to create a urban art/sculptural landmark in honor of the ideals of Persian emperor Cyrus the Great who, according to the foundation, “championed the principles of religious diversity and personal freedom for all.” https://youtu.be/dk25grW_AEI The competition drew 300 submissions from around the world. The panel of jurors for this competition included Kamran Diba of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Farhang Foundation trustee Shazad Ghanbari, LACMA’s Linda Komaroff, curator and Sotherby’s VP Scott Jay Schaefer, and Bennett Simpson of MOCA. An animation shows a highly articulated metal cylinder mounted aloft curved supports sitting on a median strip. Internal lighting makes the artwork glow at night. "The Cyrus Cylinder is Talismanic of a great vision for all peoples—and I hope my design is an artwork which projects the cylinder's deep values, not only to L.A. but also to the world," said Balmond in the Farhang Foundation’s press release. The final sculpture will be unveiled at an official ceremony in 2017. Construction costs are unknown. The foundation is working closely with the City of Los Angeles. When finished, the sculpture will be to the city by Farhang Foundation on behalf of the Iranian-American community.

World’s tallest tunnel slide to wind five times around the 2012 London Olympics Orbit Tower

What better way to prolong the relevance of a pricey sculpture commissioned for the 2012 Olympics than to tack the world’s longest tunnel slide onto it? Nearly 376-feet tall, the ArcelorMittal Orbit Tower designed by Turner Prize–winner Anish Kapoor and structural designer Cecil Balmond is the UK’s tallest public art piece - a helter-skelter eight-strand lattice of distinctive red metalwork modeled after an “electron cloud,” according to Balmond. Wrought from 2,000 tons of steel, the commemorative Orbit Tower lords over London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as a hallmark of the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics hosted in the city. Suspended 264 feet above ground, the tunnel slide will snake around the tower five times, ending in a straight 164-foot stretch to the ground. Speed of descent peaks at a dizzying 15 mph, with the vertigo-inducing ride lasting about 40 seconds. On the way down, visitors can glimpse snatches of East London views through the transparent sections of the slide. Currently, adrenaline junkies will be one day abseil down the tower for $134, or $205 for GroPro footage of the descent and a commemorative T-shirt. “What more exciting way to descend the ArcelorMittal Orbit than on the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide,” said Peter Tudor, the park’s director of visitor relations. “We are committed to ensuring our visitors have the best possible day out every time they visit Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and as with all our venues, we are constantly exploring ways to ensure we lead the way with the latest visitor experience. This slide really will give a different perspective of Britain’s tallest sculpture.”  If heights don’t intimidate you, plan to be in London in Spring 2016 to catch a ride on the world’s tallest slide.  

Iowa City picks Cecil Balmond for downtown art project

Iowa City this week picked engineer-turned-artist Cecil Balmond to anchor an overhaul of the city's downtown pedestrian plaza. His sculpture will be the focal point of Iowa City's Black Hawk Mini Park Art Project, the first phase of an $11 million streetscape redevelopment project that officials hope to start next year. Balmond's work aims to enliven public spaces with forceful, architectural installations. His studio has strung shafts of light in Anchorage, Alaska, explored the Solid Void of sculpture with a forest of metal filigree in Chicago's Graham Foundation, and woven steel like rope to bridge a Philadelphia railway. The Chicago Transit Authority recently tapped Cecil Balmond Studio to contribute art for an overhaul of the 91-year-old Wilson Red Line station. An artist review panel consisting of Genus Landscape Architects Brett Douglas and Angie Coyer, and Iowa City staff Geoff Fruin and Marcia Bollinger selected U.K.–born Balmond over artists Vito Acconci and Hans Breder. Construction on the project is expected to begin next year.

Balmond’s Snow Words Brings New Light To Alaska

Cecil Balmond, who famously left ARUP to start his own firm, Cecil Balmond Studio, a couple years ago, has a mesmerizing new project. The ethereal light sculpture, dubbed Snow Words, stretches out towards the Alaskan sky and illuminates the lobby of the new Crime Detection Laboratory in Anchorage. Suspended between a glazed skylight and a mirrored floor, the 30-foot-high beacon, which opened last month, seems to float within its laser-cut cylindrical shell. Made of LED-lit rods calibrated to a unique sequence, the installation commemorates the officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The tower of light features 24 aluminum tubes containing 206 LED strips encased in acrylic and spaced according to patterns which “draw inspiration from prime numbers.” Each tube is programmed independently allowing for infinite variety as the lights gently pulsate from a bright white to a faded glow. Balmond has been busy—and exhibiting his adventurous, artistic side—since leaving Arup. Some other new work includes Arcelormittal Orbit (2012), the wondrous pavilion with Anish Kapoor for the London Olympics; and Star of Caledonia sculpture in Scotland (2011). More images of Balmond's new work below.