ART-itecture: when art contaminates architecture

Vision 3.0 | Dicembre – Gennaio 2019

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Vision 3.0 – year II n. 5
ART-itecture: when art contaminates architecture

Is it possible to create a building, which can fit in with its surrounding context, despite the fact it doesn’t have windows?
This is the challenge that the new MVRDV project has had to face for the entertainment district in Seoul.
Two buildings, which, for functional necessities, will not be needing external openings but in order to conform with their sur- roundings, will be imprinting on their prospects the design of nearby buildings. Due to this, they got their name: The Imprint. A project, which assembles 3869 cement and fiber-glass panels, all whole pieces, printed thanks to 3D technology.
By day, the white and solid volumes create an atmosphere of stasis, suspended and silent, an echo of the veiled poetic of De Chirico: they imitate reality but at the same time they alter it, with deforming perspectives and surreal lights. By contrast, at night, the architecture comes to life and the energy explodes towards the outside thanks to sinuous and inviting façade drapes, which signal very colorful and psychedelic entrances.
Architecture? Art? I would rather define it as a ‘contamination’.

The project, in fact, is the result of a synergy between different artistic disciplines, which step outside of their respective environments, conjugate the function of living – certainly considered a priority – and combine it with a strong aesthetic valence; from here emerges the role of the designer, who is simultaneously sculptor, painter and artisan…a need, which man has felt since the most remote of times, and which we state as being part of our everyday life when, for example, we personalize, based on our taste, the environments in which we live, from our homes to our work places.
A delicate topic, which travels along the line of subjectivity (art or not art, pretty or ugly) and which, in the case of architecture, feels the weight of the responsibility, in engaging a vast audience of users and visitors. Just like with other arts, of which it is a part of, architecture is the expression of the time we are living in and the progress of the use of new materials which is allowing us to create ever bolder structures.
Let’s think, for example, about the new skyscraper of the Shenzhen Energy Company in China, designed by BIG Bjarke Ingels Group. A point of reference in the urban skyline, it is a vibrant and plastic tall development, which adapts to solar exposure guaranteeing a better screening on the more exposed sides and vice versa. The central cut is a visual echo of the iconic canvasses by Lucio Fontana, in an architectural transposition of his famous ‘cuts’.
Even the Morpheus Luxury Hotel in Macao (Zaha Hadid Architects), represents an authentic work of contemporary art, evidently inspired by the rich tradition of Chinese jade carving. The fluid shapes of the three central vortexes, which include the connecting bridges between the two blocks of the building, create vast and scenic ‘urban windows’ onto which the hotel’s rooms overlook.
The context plays a fundamental role in the de- signing and the architect (artist), can decide whether to contrast it with works of art, which detach themselves entirely from it, or on the other hand, to accommodate it by interiorizing the story, the culture and the constructive tra- ditions into a harmonic integration.

The Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center in New Cale- donia, by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, is a perfect example of dialogue with the environment. The shells, which appear to be archaic, are a visual echo of the indigenous huts, from which the use of traditional constructive materials (such as wood and stone) was inspired by to then fuse them together with more contemporary ones like glass and steel.
A call to tradition also for Abu Dhabi’s Louvre by Jean Nouvel, with a modern reinterpretation of the symbol of the dome: an immense steel structure, with a diameter of 180 meters. The trait, inspired by the sophisticated geometric carvings of Arab architecture, creates a ‘shower’ of sunrays that underpin and make the atmosphere magic…after all, even the knowledgeable use of contrasting lights/shadows is art.
A new frontier of architecture is then represented by movement, be it because of simple coatings or because of entire parts of the building.
The Fosun Foundation cultural center (Foster + Partners and Heatherwick Studio), in the waterfront area in Shanghai, is, in fact, characterized by the rotation of three, brass tubular membranes (echoing traditional Chinese theaters) which run along the perimeter of the building, juxtaposing on infinite ‘dances’ (also forms of art) which reveal and conceal the inside of the building.
Even if motionless, it is impossible to not get enchanted by the tension, which pushes into contact the rooftops of the former railway buildings of Coal Drops Yards in King’s Cross, London (Heatherwick Studio). A new great shopping neighborhood, prospectively focused on the static “kiss” of these two rooftops, which appear to come to life, and unleash a great emotional charge.
If, on one hand, up until now we have analyzed works that fuse together aesthetics and utility, there are also projects, which are purely architectural, which lose their functional character and make way uniquely to the expressive one, as they become authentic works of art.

The London Mastaba by Christo and Jeanne- Claude, is a colossal pyramid trunk composed of 7.506 petrol barrels, stacked horizontally on a floating platform, which reflects onto the waters of the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, thereby creating games of light, typical of an impressionist painting.
What is left of these works of art? They all start with a space, the non-matter, which man fills, via subtraction, in favor of architecture. In time, a process of alteration and mutation takes over, which will lead sooner or later, to the abandonment, up to the disappearance, of what was and of what is no more.
These are the foundations of the ‘rovina metafisica’ (the metaphysical ruins) by Edoardo Tresoldi, a further stage of the architectural vital cycle. The language of transparency accompanies the observer through an oneiric space, a temporal interpenetration between past and present, an ethereal memory of encumbrances and of the languages of original architecture.

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