Danish architectural firm 3XN has struck lightening twice…

…and quickly found itself in the stratosphere of the architecture world with the opening of Europe’s largest aquarium, located in Copenhagen’s Kastrup suburb.  Known as Den Blå, or Blue Planet, the building resembles the swirling motion of water found in whirlpools and houses a number of exhibitions and ecosystems, the most impressive of which are the Ocean Tank, featuring sharks and visible through jaw-droppingly huge plate-glass windows; the Coral Reef; and the Amazonas rain forest.

Blue Planet

© 2013 commons.wikimedia.org

Its second major achievement recently has been the opening of the United Nations regional headquarters, consolidating far-flung offices and operations into a sleek, new and brilliantly designed building known as UN City Copenhagen.  The ribbon cutting was conducted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.  The star-shaped structure is constructed around a central hub, or atrium, through which everyone must pass in order to reach other parts of the building, an ingenuous approach to an organization whose philosophy is wholly dependent on diplomacy and working together.

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UN City, Copenhagen © 2013 3XN

Manhattan’s new Fulton Center Station…

…due to open next year, is a tremendous construction project intended to improve service / connections involving close to a dozen subway lines, the Fulton, Park Place and World Trade Center stations, and PATH.  While the efficiency will be appreciated by New Yorkers, it’s the station itself which has art and architecture fans around the world watching. Designed by James Carpenter, the station’s signature architectural element is the soaring “Sky Reflector Net” which allows natural light to pour into the station and with its reflective surface literally fill the various corridors and levels with its ambient light.

Sky Reflector Net-01

© 2013 commons.wikimedia.org

At what point do utilitarian fixtures…

…around our homes cease to be objects and instead become increasingly objets d’art ?  It may depend upon whom you ask.  Pose the question to the Danes, ever the vigilant force in streamlining and minimalism, and they will tell you that everything, regardless of size or use, should be designed with only the most dedicated aesthetic in mind.  Ask the Italians and they will inform you everything must be treated with artistic flair.  Otherwise, what’s the point ?  With that in mind, one can only gaze with admiration at Davide Oppizzi’s new creations for Graff, the 90-year old design company whose commitment to form and function give  ordinary items an untapped sleekness and sensuality.  The new Atemis shower, for example, forces us to ask a simple question…how could you bathe any other way ?

Atemis-01

© 2013 Archiproducts

 

Jan Kath, originally from Bochum, Germany…

Jan Kath

© 2013 Jan Kath

…has been an admirer of hand-spun and woven fabrics of the Himalayas for years.  Proving that the intricate patterns which characterizes the region, along with the painstakingly task of construction by hand can be moved into the modern era with contemporary artistry, the designer has opened a new showroom in New York on West 25th Street.  And what better way to introduce his beautifully crafted, one-of-a kind carpets than with the new “From Russia With Love” collection (pictured left) ?

Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM)…

…one of the largest architectural and engineering firms in the world, made its mark with beautiful, impeccably designed and minimalist commercial glass towers (believe it or not, they’re not mutually exclusive.)  The nearly 80 year-old firm’s Lever House in New York City, for example, is still considered a landmark achievement in the then-innovative concept of the “curtain wall” when it was constructed over 50 years ago.

MSG-01

© 2013 SOM

The firm has taken on the holy grail of all projects when it submitted a design for the re-imagined Madison Square Garden & Penn Station complex in the heart of Manhattan.  Long considered one of the world’s premier sports and concert venues, the Garden–as its commonly known–is also derided as one of the ugliest buildings in North America, a reputation, despite numerous attempts at expansion and renovations, it has never escaped.  Its made even more obvious by its mere presence in a city known for the most recognizable skyline on the planet. The adjacent Penn Station, one of the busiest transportation hubs in America, has a reputation hardly any better than the Garden’s.

MSG-02

© 2013 SOM

New York’s Senator Patrick Moynihan was the city’s greatest champion for a new, accessible Penn Station which was not only to serve local trains and Amtrak but was to strive for an ideal where public transportation, and the buildings which provide it, exist for a greater common good–an almost utopian view, if you will, of urban planning.  Sadly, the Senator’s passing in 2001 meant he never saw this lofty dream fulfilled.

MSG-03

© 2013 SOM

Plans may be rapidly moving forward, however, and the Senator’s dreams finally realized with SOM’s plans. Their trademark glass facades, and multiple platforms, allow for an almost unfathomable space where patrons have nearly unobstructed views of everything else taking place around them. Their design may be much more futuristic than, say, Grand Central Station’s layout, but the intent is the same. For the self-proclaimed Capital of the World, nothing less than a spectacular, mind-bending space is acceptable and SOM may have just pulled that off.