The considerations regarding urban regeneration are far and wide. From the reuse of derelict infrastructure - like WORKac's project in St. Petersburg's New Holland Island - to the master-planning of cultural communities - like the design of Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi - to the development of an entire districts - like Foster + Partner's master plan for the West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong - the design of cultural centers that range in program, function and attraction have been a keystone in redeveloping the cultural impact of cities. The "Bilbao Effect" is still cited as proof that architecture has the capacity to revitalize cities centers and elevate their status in global design with these "architectural trophies". If you Build it, Will They Come?: New Cultural Projects in Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong and St Petersburg is a talk, organized by The Architectural Foundation that explores the relationship between grand urban cultural projects and the developmental strategies that are unique to each city. The discussion focuses on presentations from designers of the aforementioned projects in an effort to find both the specific relationships that exist between development and the site as well as the general understanding of how cultural centers thrive and revive the urban environment.
More after the break.
The term "Bilbao Effect" was coined because of the effect that the Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry had on the post-industrial city of Bilbao in Spain. With the name of a big architect attached to the unconventional building, the city regained much of its popularity with the rise of tourism for its new cultural attraction. Since then, this phenomena has been followed by architects, designers, and cultural critics noting how architecture and the thoughtful design of cultural centers can contribute to the revitalization of in an atmosphere where cities have lost much of the industry that once made them pros porous But this transformation into a "design city" has many more facets than the construction of a few noteworthy buildings. In an article in dwell from 2005, Jane Sitza writes that "being a design city takes more than a trophy building or two. Soft capital—such as Barcelona’s culture of street theater or Antwerp’s vivacious bar scene—adds the human warmth without which design alone can be too cool for school."
The three projects highlighted in If You Build it, Will They Come? focus on the characteristics of the architecture, while introducing public space, a plethora of activities and attractions, and a mix of program and function to create cultural centers that develop into "cities within cities". WORKac's proposal for the New Holland Island in St. Petersburg, Russia takes into account the rich history of the island as a ship-building center during Russia's expansion of its navy. It reuses the original structure of brick buildings to create a contemporary art museum, promenades and public space while incorporating a diversity of programs including residential development, a hotel, offices for tech-companies, retail spaces, galleries, and restaurants.
The development of this island follows the trajectory of turning itself into a functioning city where members of different social, economic and cultural classes are drawn into its activity. WORKac also takes liberties within the original structure to create larger, less monotonous spaces that create new experiential moments within the preserved and restored history of their functionality. Read more about the proposal here and watch the video here.
Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi is experiencing its own transformation. Like New Holland Island, it is slated to become a city within a city that features seven districts that are will be developed into cultural centers, beaches, retreats, areas of environmental preservations and promenades. Five big name architects will be designing museums in the cultural district including Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando, Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid.
The project featured in this discussion focuses on the Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Set to open in 2015, it will be a classical museum that will feature a majority of Abu Dhabi's own collection. The museum is designed as a low-lying horizontal mat-building that is partially on the island and partially in the water. This "micro-city" is a collection of scattered spaces that appear to float on the water, covered by a punctured canopy that opens the building to spontaneous reflections of light. It is designed to display artwork from cultures and civilizations around the world in a chronology that shows the connections between disparate regions and time periods. While its curatorial concept displays a global culture, its architecture is uniquely designed to respond to the history, culture and climate of its site. Read more on this proposal here.
The West Kowloon Cultural District is a development of 40 hectares, almost completely surrounded by water that offers expansive views of Honk Kong, whose design was awarded to Foster+Partners. The 40-hectare site is divided into 7 distinct programs: open space; offices; a hotel; residential buildings; retail, entertainment and dining; government; and education. Once again, the all-inclusive city within a city design direction is at the forefront of the WKCD's development.
In his presentation, Spencer de Grey of Foster+Partners notes the importance of open space to the development of a cultural center. The design is grounded by a 23-hectare Great Park that features cultural buildings of varying scales. This convergance of public and private space is what has the potential to bring vitality into this development. Like the previously mentioned projects, it offers a flexibility of development that is encapsulated in its diverse programs and functionalities. Read more about the proposal here.
These projects indicate that architects and planners acknowledge the importance of what Sitza calls "human warmth". They are designed with the intention of bringing diversity into a city by aspiring to create engaging cultural centers that encapsulate history, promote knowledge, and engage social spontaeity. Whether projects like these are focused on infrastructure, like the "Aerotropolis", on the reclamation of forgotten urban areas, regeneration of existing districts, they must be developed beyond the "architectural trophy" and become spaces of socio-cultural engagement and exchange. These projects take many years to develop, but we look forward to their realization.