Contents : G-Star Raw HQ, Amsterdam | Torre Agbar, Barcelona | Holocaust Memorial, Berlin | Amager-Bakke, Copenhagen | Blue Planet & UN City, Copenhagen | Edificio Bacardi, Havana | Guggenheim Helsinki, Finland | The Shard, London, UK & 62 Buckingham Gate | 9 DeKalb Avenue, New York City | Frank Gehry’s Beekman Tower, New York City | Fulton Center Station, New York City | Hudson Yards, New York City | Madison Square Garden & Penn Station, New York City | VIA 57 West, New York City | West 28th Street, New York City | The Whitney, New York City | Oslo Opera House, Oslo, Norway | Gagosian Gallery, Paris | Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia | Transbay Transit Center, San Francisco | Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), Toronto | Louvre Abu Dhabi, UAE
In a relatively short time, G-Star Raw grew from a Dutch-based clothing company to a global fashion powerhouse among those who love military-style clothing, impeccably constructed, well designed and with a fine attention to details and cut. What does one do when such a company needs a new headquarters, designed and built with the same aesthetic ? You hire OMA, or Office for Metropolitan Architecture, a company based in Rotterdam, and founded by none other than Rem Koolhaas himself. In other words, cool was introduced to uber-cool, and the results are impressive. The firm had its work cut out for itself but ultimately succeeded in the creation of a building as fascinating as the products within it.
Nothing can announce a city’s arrival on the global stage faster or with more aplomb than a world-class building from a world-class architect. Barcelona took a tremendous risk but ultimately hit a home run with Jean Nouvel. The Pritzker Prize-winning, French architect created a beautiful gem when he designed Torre Agbar. Located in the tech neighborhood between Avinguda Diagonal and Carrer Badajoz, the tower’s concrete-and-glass exterior resembles ripples of water. At night, an LED design illuminates the structure. It’s a building whose modern design might seem out-of-place in such a city as historic as Barcelona. Nothing, however, can be further from the truth as Torre Agbar gives Barcelona a modern skyline while simultaneously paying homage to the city’s favorite if not controversial son, Antoni Gaudi.
Architect Peter Eisenmann’s and engineer Buro Happold’s 2005 work, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, i.e., Holocaust-Mahnmal, will leave you awed, stunned and perhaps even devastated. Made of more than 2,700 stone monoliths of various heights, and taking up an entire city block, the size and scope of it is almost hard to take in. As you walk throughout the paths between the stones, an intentionally disorienting experience, you will be struck by the uneasy silence of the area despite being located in downtown Berlin between the Brandenburg Gate and Pottsdamer Platz.
Here in Copenhagen, simply turning trash into treasure is for those who lack imagination. Why not go one step further, create buzz-worthy architecture and ultimately challenge conventional wisdom about waste treatment ? This small nation has brilliantly figured out how to convert trash to energy, do it efficiently, and most importantly, accomplish this while virtually undetected. The Danish architect Bjarke Ingels has built an urban ski slope right on top of the plant and―as only the Danes can seem to do―made it a stunning architectural destination unto itself. Set to open in 2017, Amager-Bakke, or Amager Slope, is already causing a buzz.
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 is the Ocean Tank, featuring sharks and visible through jaw-droppingly huge plate-glass windows; the Coral Reef; and the Amazonas rain forest.
It’s second major achievement 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.
The fact it has been decades since any modern architecture has been designed and built-in Havana, Cuba is both a blessing and a curse. The latter is problematic since what makes an urban area thrive is the constant and consistent introduction of new buildings, businesses and public spaces―assuming, of course, they are all worthy of fruition. The former, many would argue, is exactly why Havana retains a genuine, old-world charm. The city, although crumbling in many areas and poor, still succeeds because that charm cannot be manufactured or duplicated with a nondescript, cookie-cutter skyline which characterizes many other places around the world. And one of its most noteworthy examples is Edificio Bacardi at Avenida de Bélgica No. 261, between Empedrado y San Juan de Dios. Although the company, now officially known as The Bacardi-Martini Group, is no longer headquartered in the country, it’s building still stands as both a tribute to grand architecture and one of the world’s most famous and iconic logos―the silhouette of the bat which adorns its bottles sits triumphantly atop the building.
Blurred Lines. The Guggenheim, already a world-renowned institution, was propelled in the stratosphere with the opening of its Frank Gehry-designed Bilbao institution.
The architect took his talent for sensuous and curved titanium materials and applied it in ways we had never seen. Along the way, it also put Bilbao, Spain on the map in the world of cultural institutions. Imagine then the skipped heartbeats that took place when the famed museum launched a search for someone to design its latest location―in Helsinki, Finland. Kudos belong to the winner Moreau Kusonoki Architects which managed the same feat Gehry did but only by going in a completely different direction―that of understated, minimal elegance. Taking local materials and the Scandinavian art of simple, minimalist lines, Kusonoki’s winning design becomes part of the Finnish landscape, blending harmoniously in her surroundings. I’m counting the days to its opening so I can visit and experience first-hand this achievement.
Many appreciate London’s deep history but may not understand the city’s reticence about adding modern architecture, particularly that which could draw attention from Big Ben or Westminster Abbey, to its famous skyline. London fired a shot heard round the world of architecture when it unveiled The Shard, a 95-story modern skyscraper, designed by the renowned Renzo Piano, wrapped in glass and in the shape of a pyramid near London Bridge. In one fell swoop, traditional London transformed itself and demanded to be taken seriously in embracing modernity. Visitors now have the chance to see the entire city and savor the views from high above. This modern tower was no fluke or one-hit wonder either. Designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects and located along the city’s famed Victoria Street, 62 Buckingham Gate is unlike many buildings in London. Imagine an architect creating glass and steel origami with the ease and angles of that created with scratch paper. The result is startling…and brilliant.
SHoP Architects, the firm behind the Barclays Center in New York City’s Brooklyn, unveiled its designs for the borough’s tallest structure, unwittingly upsetting a large number of New Yorkers in the process. There is no question their building, 9 DeKalb Avenue, is gorgeous, its signature feature being a series of vertical bronze accents, a subtle nod to the historic Brooklyn Dime Savings Bank with which the proposed tower would share part of its footprint.
The issue, however, is not with the building itself, but the precedent it may set and which may set Brooklyn on a development path from which it cannot escape. Local residents are concerned the tower will have long-term, serious consequences on the neighborhood, located between Brooklyn Heights and Bed-Stuy, thereby shifting it from its claim of authenticity to one thriving on purely commercial interests. They do not want the downtown area, and as a natural extension of this, the entire borough, characterized by the overdevelopment of tall, slender buildings, a trend that has gone nearly unabated with its sister borough, Manhattan. Midtown, for example, at Central Park South, has a number of them and the long shadows they cast over the Park, particularly during the shorter daylight hours of Fall and Winter, has robbed the area of the solemn peace that accompanies the winter solstice. Their argument, and its valid one, is that Manhattan’s skyline, although dazzling, causes the eventual eradication of the neighborhoods below and that’s precisely what sets Brooklyn apart.
World-renowned, Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry, admired for the sensuous curves of titanium which form the outer skin of the Guggenheim Museum’s Bilbao location along with the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, has consistently managed to surprise and impress over his long and storied career. One of his most recent creations is New York City’s Beekman Tower, the tallest residential tower in the world. From a distance, the building seems out-of-place and its surface appears as if something has gone horribly wrong. It’s only as you get closer you realize Gehry has introduced his trademark curved metal to the tower’s exterior. Upon closer inspection still do you fully realize and appreciate the enormous complexity of engineering involved―that of undulating water being poured from an unseen source above. It’s a building so exquisite, in fact, the first reaction you have will be that of shivers down your spine.
The journey really is as important as the destination. And for the City That Never Sleeps this has never been truer than with the opening of the spectacular, new Fulton Center Station at Fulton Street and Broadway. Not content with a simple transit hub, the city’s MTA, the local agency with oversight of the project, has unveiled a glass and steel marvel, the centerpiece of which is the Sky Reflector Net. Built by Arup, James Carpenter Design Associates and Grimshaw Architects, the Sky Reflector is an eight-story dome comprised of glass prisms designed to refocus natural sunlight and illuminate the station.
The City that Never Sleeps has arguably the most recognizable skyline in the world and it’s about to become even more unique. An unsightly area, a scar if you will, on the City’s West Side is about to be transformed. When the ambitious and massive project is completed, the unused and run-down area will morph into the new Hudson Yards redevelopment, creating a brand new neighborhood, to be known not only for the glass prisms marking its boundaries but also for its noteworthy green initiatives : there is an onsite generator, a car and pedestrian traffic efficiency system, and trash recycling center to be completed underneath.
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 80 year-old firm’s Lever House, 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. The firm has taken on the holy grail of 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. SOM’s trademark glass facades, and multiple platforms, allow for an almost unfathomable space where patrons have 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.
If there were any concerns the self-appointed capital of the world was becoming complacent and erecting too many, cookie-cutter towers, two recent developments should end that. The first was the design plans for Hudson Yards, an area on Manhattan’s west side. The second, and no less noteworthy, is BIG / Bjarke Ingells’s VIA 57 West, a building which combines the Scandinavian practice of shared urban spaces with American bravado of pushing the limits on what a skyscraper can achieve. Residents enjoy enviable views and a lush garden in the middle of the epitome of the urban jungle.
Pritzer Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid has unveiled her first project in New York City, a condominium at West 28th Street near the city’s High Line pedestrian park. Her characteristic materials, which bend into sensuous curves much like Frank Gehry’s titanium designs for the Guggenheim Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, are showcased spectacularly. The High Line’s Standard Hotel, which sits atop the park, has been that urban project’s focus for some time. It now has competition.
The Whitney, the formal name of which is The Whitney Museum of American Art, has transformed itself, not just in terms of its new location, between the High Line and the Hudson River, but also because of its new home, designed by none other than Renzo Piano, an architect who recently designed the headquarters for the New York Times. Rather than taking his usual minimal approach and giving the museum sleek lines and wrapped in glass, the renowned architect went in a different direction altogether. It has received a lukewarm reception as the exterior appears like a hodgepodge of partially completed ideas which never are fulfilled. Missing is what many expected to be a grand statement. Think of the Hearst Building, for example, which rises in dramatic and modern fashion from its historically protected, street level entrance. Herein lies Piano’s genius, however. What he has achieved is only appreciated once you enter the building. Missing are narrow corridors and galleries separating people from one another. Instead, huge spaces and generous amounts of natural light flood greet you. In other words, don’t stand outside and simply admire the great architecture. Come in and experience the great art. Brilliant.
Having landed a number of high-profile, international architecture and design projects over the years, Oslo-based Snøhetta has won universal praise for that city’s opera house, an understated but elegant structure located in the Bjørvika neighborhood. Home to The Norwegian National Opera, Ballet, and Opera Theatre, the building’s characteristic gentle slopes and stark white exterior convey its cold, white winter environs. It’s also, just as importantly, pedestrian friendly as its design facilitates and encourages strolling around its buildings. One of its most recent exhibits is as impressive as the building which sponsors and hosts it. Artist Monica Bonvinci’s Hun Ligger, or “She Lies,” is a permanent sculpture floating on the water outside the Opera House. Made of stainless steel and glass, and intended to resemble a chunk of ice, the structure is able to move with the wind and tide.
The Louvre is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest museums. It’s only drawback is the same that characterizes other urban collections of art―its inability to showcase truly large-scale works. The Paris branch of the Gagosian Gallery, however, can. The prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel designed the building which sits at 800 Avenue de l’Europe, Le Bourget in a former airplane hangar, near the French Air & Space Museum.
As is typical with Nouvel’s work–he is, after all the genius behind Barcelona’s Torre Agbar and New York City’s Tower Verre / MOMA―the exterior is light, fluid, and experimental and more than hints at the great spaces within.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art has struck not gold…but titanium. The City of Brotherly Love has bragging rights to one of the world’s greatest art museums and its about to undergo a 10-year expansion project―overseen by none other than Frank Gehry himself. The renovation will vastly expand the museum’s space and features a tremendous underground construction project. The famed architect will create a series of exhibition halls lit by natural light but the ultimate question on everyone’s mind is, of course, will the new space feature the architect’s signature curved titanium hallmarks, so brilliantly used in the Guggenheim’s Bilbao outpost or L.A.’s Disney Concert Hall ? It’s too soon to tell but there is a new exhibition devoted to the project opening 1 July called “Making a Classic Modern: Frank Gehry’s Master Plan for the Philadelphia Museum of Art.”
If all goes as planned, San Francisco’s famous yet understated skyline will undergo a massive transformation in the next few years, the most obvious of which will be a new glass tower, easily soaring above others in the City by the Bay. That new tower is just one of the many features of world-renowned architect Cesar Clarke Pelli’s new Transbay Transit Center, a block-long urban project featuring a new transit hub for bus and rail lines, an amphitheater, cycle paths and a rooftop park with plenty of green space in the heart of downtown San Francisco. It will become the city’s tallest, replacing the iconic pyramid-topped TransAmerican building in that statistic, and in the process, changing how we see the city, easily one of the most recognizable in the world.
Hardly known as a city with a famous skyline―the iconic CN Tower notwithstanding―Toronto is often maligned by even its own residents as the lesser of the two in comparison to Montreal. Perhaps it has leveled the playing field a tad, however, in its sibling rivalry. Its Art Gallery of Ontario, also known as AGO, a not-so-subtle irony pointed out by the city’s naysayers, has transformed itself with a number of renovations, the most recent of which was overseen by non other than Frank Gehry himself. The famed architect lent his material-bending design skills, his first for his home town of Toronto, and created the spiral staircase in the Gallery’s walker Court. Located on the Grange Park District, the gallery, or Musée des beaux-arts de l’Ontario, is one of the largest in North America with noteworthy collections include African, Canadian, European and Renaissance art; drawings; the graphic arts and photography; prints; and sculptures. It also has a cafe, library, lecture hall, requisite restaurant, and theatre hall. As impressive as that it, the Gallery makes a statement on the outside, before you even enter its exhibition spaces. Its facade on Dundas Street, for example (pictured,) won praise for restraint, subtlety, and gossamer-like presence. The blue titanium exterior on the facade facing Grange Park, however, is bold with the inclusion of stairwell looking like its punched its way through the material.
What happens when one of our most famous and admired architects, one of the greatest museums in the world, and a country hungry to create an unparalleled cultural destination―sans any limits on funding or creativity―meet and agree on a singular vision ? There could be a number of answers but the only one that matters is the one which will open in 2015 in the United Arab Emirates. Jean Nouvel has joined forces with the French government and created an outpost to the beloved and highly prized Louvre. His creation, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, is one of his finest. Exquisite and subtle, the building’s most note-worthy visual element resembles a hand-sewn fabric button and appears to float effortlessly over the waterfront characterizing Saadiyat Island’s Cultural District.