It’s Valentine’s Day and that means this is the day to stand out in front of the world and let anyone and every know just how much love is in your heart. Since I am the elder statesman in the studio and I am surrounded by young single people (at least where I sit), I am a bit on a Valentine’s Day island. Sure, they can one up me on just about every other thing (like going out at night) we are going to keep the Valentine’s Day celebrations on the down-low. I did, however, ask everyone to tell me what their favorite building was …. the one that they truly loved.
[cue the sexy love building music]
Michael Malone – Brion Vega Cemetery, San Vito d’Altivole, Italy.
Architect: Carlo Scarpa completed 1969-1978
Not really a single building but more a garden with building like objects. One of Scarpa’s few ground up commissions, it is an exquisite lesson in architecture telling a story through metaphor. An abstract and personal take on death and the world beyond told through beautiful objects and spaces in service to memory and detailed to delight the living. The recurring motive of the interlocking rings speaks to love and eternity and their knitting together of two people, two places, two states of being two understandings of the cosmos.
Ryan Thomason – Amsterdam Orphanage, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Architect: Aldo van Eyck completed 1960
A beauty not in the mystic and distant sense, but in the attainable and present sense. A beauty of youth, of conviction, of place, and of occasion. A beauty that could shift the center towards the collective. While skin may wrinkle and fashions come and go, a beautiful idea remains as vibrant as the moment it was created.
Peter Joe – The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Vizcaya, Spain.
Architect: Frank Gehry completed 1997
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain is a real gem, it has a very organic flow within the landscape set against the backdrop of a more contemporary and tradition grid of the city. I have always admired the way the buildings skin, the titanium panels, beautifully compliment the environment that it surrounds. While the titanium skin mirrors its surrounding landscape, at the same time it etches out its own identity by violating the rules and being the opposite of the building that surround it. It complements its surroundings and stands on its own.
Morgan Newman – Pantheon, Rome, Italy.
Architect: Apollodorus of Damascus Completed 126 AD
2000 years old. Still standing. Simple plan. Amazing space. Much bigger than you think it would be.
Paul Pascarelli – National Building Museum, Washington D.C.
Architect: Montgomery C. Meigs completed 1887
Built before the advent of structural steel and poured in place concrete, it is constructed of 10’ wide masonry walls and wrought iron roof trusses. Openings in the roof allow for air circulation from vents in the base of the building up to the roof openings providing natural air circulation for the comfort of occupants. Despite the heaviness of its construction, it carries an air of fine detailing as can be seen in the exterior articulation of the fenestration, the corner columns and the wrap around frieze depicting the Civil War. On the inside there the interior column details and Renaissance style colonnades serving as the perimeter circulation.
A building that was almost demolished for the expansion of Judiciary Square, it is now recognized for its historical significance and I find it appropriate to be utilized today as our country’s National Building Museum.
Audrey Maxwell – Couvent Sainte-Marie de La Tourette, Lyon, France.
Architect: Le Corbusier completed 1956-1960
I met my first architectural love in the summer of 2003 during a whirlwind tour of European architecture. We traversed six countries and visited legendary 20th C buildings by the likes of Aalto, Mies, Gaudi and Siza, but it was a hillside monastery by Corbu that ultimately stole my heart. I wrote in my journal about the moment the building became visible through the trees: “The effect [was] overwhelming and immediate. I found myself suddenly small, recognizing the existence of something greater.” It took my breath away. Ten years later, I’m still convinced it was love at first sight.
Ezra Loh – Therme Vals, Graubunden Canton, Swizterland.
Architect: Peter Zumthor complete 1996
One of my favorite buildings is the thermal baths in mountain village of Vals, Switzerland. It is one I hope to someday visit and has long been a project that has fascinated me for its local history, location, and its powerful composition of natural light, materiality, and one of nature’s most important elements – water. From those who have experienced the baths, it is said to be a multi-sensory experience as you move through the different rooms constructed from slabs of the local stone quartzite taken from below the site. I especially like the architect’s narrative that relates the building to a rectangular stone mass that when carved and chiseled away, creates the building’s interior. It’s a simple concept, but its charm and complexity lies in the detailing expressed in the modulated joint assembly of the massive stone walls, slivers of natural light that creep in from above, and the sequence of carefully controlled views as you move through the building. All of which are timeless characteristics I believe any architect can fall in love with.
Bob Borson – Electricity Substation (50/10KV), Amersfoot, Netherlands.
Architect: Ben van Berkel UNStudio completed 1989 – 1993
Okay – confession time. This isn’t really my favorite building although I do really like it and it is an important building in the architectural consciousness of the man you’ve all come to know and love as Bob Borson. I was going to pick Couvent Sainte-Marie de La Tourette but since someone else selected it, I thought I would try come up with another significant blip along the line of my architectural consciousness. I discovered Ben van Berkel and this Electricity Substation in an issue of El Croquis back in the early 1990’s. It was the first time I had really ever dialed into the possibility of what an architect could do. I know that sounds incredibly naive, especially since 25 years old at this time and had been out of architecture for a year. I can distinctly recall thinking that this project could have been a nothing. It is an un-manned facility, it didn’t need to be anything special, but here it was – it was amazing!! This was the building that flipped the switch in my brain that anything and everything can be designed. I will acknowledge that as far as shape making goes, I still find it quite evocative, but that’s not why it’s I’ve included it on this list.
Do you have a building that you love, that is significant to you? What building flipped your architectural switch on?
Happy Valentine’s Day building, I love you.