Awards season is in full swing in the architecture world, with - among others - the World Architecture Festival and the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat recently handing out prizes for the best new buildings worldwide (OMA + Ole Scheeren's Interlace and Stefano Boeri's Bosco Verticale, respectively). However, it has been relatively quiet in our comments section; are we to assume that there are few strong objections to these winners?
Nevertheless, a quiet period doesn't mean there weren't some great discussions had in the comments over the past two weeks, with opinions shared on the success of BIG, the problem of negativity in architecture, and more. Read on to find out what our readers had to say.
On the Topic of Branding and Lighting
Sent to us via email, Fahed Baker gives an excellent analysis of Thomas Schielke's Light Matters column from September, arguing that the problem of failing to assimilate brand identities into designs in a meaningful way is not limited to lighting design, but architecture as a whole:
"I agree the exploitation of facades as giant billboards suppresses buildings’ identities. And it is more interesting to integrate lights with architecture in ways that preserve the brand identity. But I believe that more elaboration would help in distinguishing the architectural lighting from advertising panels.
"In the article, some examples show full integration of light with architecture, ie. Has Viceroy and Allianz Arena. In both cases lights expose a structure at night, which would appear during the day. Yet they are used in a way to light some parts of these buildings at a time, or give some effects to the whole building at another. It is true that they are used to serve the brand of the building, but they are contained by architecture. The Dexia Tower is introduced as an example for garish use of lighting. However, it still represents the same idea with different, maybe less attractive, lighting effects.
"I believe lights work perfectly at night if they emphasize the shadows cast by sun, or maybe add some other live effects to the architecture. That appears clearly in Louis Vuitton Building, in which electric lighting is the inverse of the day image of the building. And it is notable here that in this particular example the brand identity is integrated with the architecture regardless of lights. In Commerzbank, the brand identity is not as dominant and lights are used for subtle effects to highlight the architecture. So from a broader view, the question should be: how do we integrate brand identities with the architecture? That would be more consistent with Robert Venturi’s ideas." - Fahed Baker via email
How Can We Construct a New Sincerity in Architecture?
Vladimir Gintoff's essay about constructing a "new sincerity" in architecture circles - an attempt to move beyond constant negativity and point-scoring - sparked some great comments suggesting further guidelines on how to engage in a more constructive manner:
"I would say that in addition to these architects, designers, etc should share their passion with the rest of the world. Making smart comments, tearing others down others people's work and making long winded rants on message boards does not help anything. Outside of the few architecture circles, nobody on the rest of this planet cares or appreciates the work architects put into creating the built environment. Architects should learn to communicate with the average person otherwise architecture will remain what it is now in the public eye, either functional construction or fantastic starchitecture." - Anon-e-mouse
One interesting suggestion came from jtrevino79:
"A suggestion to architects: Don’t produce renderings that you know are impossible to build, out of desperation to win the design competition." - jtrevino79
I think connecting this topic to other widespread debates such as the role of rendering in design is interesting; what other issues might form a part of this discussion?
What's behind BIG's Business Success?
An article this week about the business strategy behind BIG caught plenty of attention from commenters, with the debate splitting in two directions. The first was a great discussion adding depth to the article by commenting on how the BIG design style accompanies the strategies discussed:
"I love a lot of their work, though I absolutely recognize that it's not the only way to do things, and that it's still way too early to tell whether their designs stand the test of time. There's no smoke and mirrors going on, they got big because they are very good at communicating their ideas in a clear & simple way, and convincing potential clients that they are directly addressing their needs in ways nobody else has thought of, so they win a lot of competitions. There's plenty that the rest of the architecture world can learn from their approach, whether you love or hate the designs." - Richie
A second thread developed around Matt's assertion that "BIG is so big because they exploit their employees by paying far less than average, and expecting an absurd amount of hours." However, this position seemed to be countered by bigster:
"I work at BIG and it's not like that at all. Sure people come and go but I promise anyone who has ever worked at BIG has loved working there - I've never seen anyone leave because they didn't like it there. So many negative assumptions are made, and they're completely wrong. The pay is competitive, I make more than I have at past offices, the hours are totally normal, the vibes of the office are incredibly positive. Everyone has fun and everyone feels like its a family no matter how BIG we grow." - bigster
Regardless, the discussion that formed around Matt's original comment does indeed apply to a number of well-known firms, and is an interesting debate about the ethics of employment at the top level of our industry; I'd recommend anyone interested to read the whole thread.
Snøhetta in San Francisco
Easily my favorite personal discussion from the past two weeks came from the last installment of this article series. Following the discussion about Snøhetta's apparently overbearing extension to SFMOMA, the commenter who started it all Simon de Vries returned to not only defend his initial reaction, but propose some conceptual starting points for an alternative design:
"I do agree to a certain degree and the initial comment of "bad decision making" was never aimed at Snohetta only. Rather it questions the decisions of the institution and the architects collectively in the early stages of conceptualizing and developing the brief that led to such excess in an environment where a remarkable sense of urban place is already present and a language of architectural expression already exists successfully and timelessly...
"Regarding a thought on an alternative response: the Botta building is a building of horizontals creating a moment closer to the earth and sets up scale for an urban square among the surrounding towers. I personally would explore the notion of the context as a place of towers (or walls and canyons) and the possibility of an extension as a tower, part of the vertical landscape and not competing for the horizontal." - Simon de Vries
This is only a short excerpt from Simon's comment - I really strongly recommend readers to check out the full discussion here.
Keep the debate flowing! Please post any responses to these topics in the comments below.