July 22, 2007

Rotterdam 2 (Netherlands)

Rem Koolhaas started his career in Rotterdam, first as a journalist and then as a screenwriter (one of his unrealized scripts was actually for American soft-porn king Russ Meyer) before moving to London to study architecture and then founding OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture) in 1975.

The Kunsthal was OMA's first large project, built in 1992. The museum has no stagnant permanent collection, instead opting for a number of revolving temporary exhibits spread over more than 3000m of gallery space. Lots of architecture students were here, combing the premises with cameras and sketchbooks... it didn't take us long to join them. Inside, above one of the circulation ramps was a surreal and humorous picture of Rem (see photo), adding a chuckle to the underlying awareness that this space was frequented by loads of archi-tourists. Regardless, this was a great building. The gallery spaces felt light and open, and the transition along the meandering ramps offers a variety of bright and colorful rooms, each finished cleanly with budget-conscious materials (plywood, acrylic panels, florescent strip fixtures, etc.) Under the sloped concrete slab of the auditorium was an inviting cafeteria. The building sat well in the context of the surrounding park and appeared to be wearing well.

The strongest exhibit in the museum was Visionary Power - Producing the Contemporary City, which was effective in delivering strong visions and a 'wake-up call' on some of the realities of enlarging cities. With an estimated 150,000 people in the world leaving their rural existence every day, their numbers together could form a city the size of New York every three months. Along side this expansion there is increasing evidence that the world is ruled solely by economic forces... part of which is a conglomeration of flashy architecture trying to embody an image of wealth and economic power that seems to show little concern for residents quality of life. (read: China) The exhibit raised the question of whether or not architecture can form a resistance against such multinational powers.

Later in the afternoon we visited the Erasmus Bridge or "Erasmusbrug" by Ben van Berkel (1996), a cable-stayed bridge with an asymmetrical pylon. Nicknamed "The Swan," for its graceful form, the bridge felt very light and was reminiscent of a diving board. Next to this was KPN Tower by Renzo Piano with its leaning light square that "communicates with the square and the city." 40m wide and 90m tall, it is the largest light screen in Europe. The building was intended to be a reflection of its surroundings, which at least partially explains the large mast that punctures the screen (er.. sail).

In the same neighborhood was the Inholland University Ichthus College building by Erick van Egeraat (EEA). A building covered entirely in glass, unique for its use of horizontal fins on the facade that vary in density according the functions within. (i.e., there are more in front of private spaces, such as offices, and fewer in front of public spaces like the foyer).

We walked many blocks to find the Unilever Office Building (JHK Archiecten (2005)), a 130m long rectangular mass that 'floats' above an old factory (Blue Band factory) that was inspired by a nearby lifting bridge. We found this project to be impressive from a distance, but somewhat dis-embodied from its context up close. Maybe it was just our tired legs talking.

1 comment:

  1. "long side this expansion there is increasing evidence that the world is ruled solely by economic forces... part of which is a conglomeration of flashy architecture trying to embody an image of wealth and economic power that seems to show little concern for residents quality of life. (read: China) The exhibit raised the question of whether or not architecture can form a resistance against such multinational powers."

    I like to see these very ideas explored further in discussion of all of the 'functional' arts; ie; design.

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