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Friday, April 3, 2015

21st-Century Architecture

2022 World Cup Stadium, Qatar, Zaha-Hadid Dezeen                        
Villa F,
Hornung and Jacobi
Architecture, Germany
Some might consider it presumptuous of me to write about 21st-century architecture a mere fifteen years into this century. However, keep in mind that buildings built, or being built, today will likely remain part of the this century's landscape, and quite possibly well into the next several centuries as well. In choosing outstanding examples, I've tried to include a variety of different type structures, from stadiums to private homes, including skyscrapers (a terribly antiquated term), high-rise communal structures, as well as similar low-rise endeavors. I've studiously avoided the "funny" or "silly" or the desperately ugly. In amassing these examples I came to realize that not one was located in the United States. In fact, most are in China. Some are in the more or less peaceful environs of the Middle-East (top). Only one was designed by an American architect. The Spanish seem to come up with some of the more expressive examples of domestic architecture while the Chinese are the most daring (outlandish?) and therefore prone to simple bad taste, at least by western standards
Dupli Casa, Ludwigsburg, Germany, architects
Georg Schmidthals and Thorsten Blatter
Casa del Acantilado,
(Cliff House), Fran
Silvestre Architects.
Spanish east coast

With the exception of Villa F (above, left) proposal by German architects, Hornung and Jacobi, all of these structures are either complete or under construction. I've included Villa F as an excellent indication of what the future holds as well as the holistic integration of form, function, beauty, and interior/exterior space. Dupli Casa (above, right) I've used before in discussing Minimalist Architecture. Casa del Acantilado, (right) is an even more daring Spanish take on Minimalism. And, though I don't expect all architecture of the 21st-century to be Minimalist, that does seem to be one of the few traits most of these "landmark" examples to some degree have in common. In selecting these groundbreaking structures, I've also tried to avoid warmed-over 20th-century traits and those which have gone out of their way to be strange simply for the sake of being strange. I think architects from later centuries will look back on these examples as some of the best this century (or at least its earliest decades) had to offer.

The Colonnade House, 2011, ldeia da luz in Lagos, by the Portuguese
architectural Studio of Mário Martins
The Colonnade House sweeping curve.
Among common traits to be expected as we move along during this century is one that began during the 20th-century but seems likely to become more common in the years to come. In its simplest form, it's merely an affection for the curve, often juxtaposed against the cube as in The Colonnade House (above). In other manifestations, it could best be termed amorphic or organic architecture much like the Qatar World Cup Stadium (top), though some have termed it anthropomorphic, likening it to an open vagina. Maybe it's about time, we've certainly had our share of phallic architecture during the past century or two. Regardless of any sexual imagery it might suggest, it's strikingly beautiful.

Marmooka City, United
Arab Emirates.
Rotating Tower of Dubai,
United Arab Emirates.

The Arabs, principally in Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, seem to have a rare mixture of both money and good taste, though their architects are usually imported from other nations. In addition to the Qatar World Cup Stadium, Dubai has both the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, the tallest hotel in the world, the Burj al Arab, and soon, the most "twisted," building in the world, the Rotating Tower of Dubai, construction of which is in a preliminary stage (on hold at the moment, probably waiting for the price of oil to go back up). A similar structure is scheduled to begin construction in London soon. Marmooka City, (above, right) is delightfully wavy as opposed to being twisted.

Ring of Life, Fushun, China,
a landmark observation platform.
Dezeen Sheraton Huzhou
Hot Spring Resort by MAD
However it's the Chinese, as they revel in a massive "building boom" in several major cities, which have created something of an architects "playground." Hot Spring Resort (above, left) by MAD (a Chinese architectural firm, not the magazine) is one of the more successful examples of the new spirit of adventure to be found in that country's 21st-century architectural works of art. It's a hotel, by the way. The ring of Life (above, right) designed by Hollywood entertainment designer, Gary Goddard, serves no other purpose than to attract attention (and tourists) to China's new city of Fushun. It's a high-rise observation structure, kind of a doubling down on St. Louis's 20th-Century Gateway Arch.

China's Olympic "Bird's Nest" Stadium, designed by Swiss architects,
Herzog and DeMeuron, and the China Institute of Design and Architecture.
Perhaps China's most famous example of 21st-century architecture is Beijing's iconic "Bird's Nest" Olympic Stadium (designed by British architects, by the way). For the most part it received rave reviews as the world gathered there to play games. Some of Beijing's other examples of "new build" structures were not so well received by international tourists. Beijing's Linked Hybrid buildings in the capital, are rather stunning, though somewhat 20th-century as to style and concept. Speaking of 20th-century, China's Dadun Village development (bottom) in Lingshui, Hainan Province, calls to mind some of the worst excesses of American "architecture" from the post-war Levittown communities. Pity the poor man who comes home drunk.

The Linked Hybrid buildings in Beijing
Dadun Village development in Lingshui, Hainan Province, China.
Interesting photography but dehumanizing architecture.

I couldn't resist including this. Either the architect had
a sense of humor, or it was a government project.
Maybe it's simply for men who like to pivot as they pee.


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