Monday, 20 May 2013

Junk Architecture

Sometimes the juxtaposition of two images, introducing articles on two different buildings is just so striking that it prompts you to commit to an opinion which you might otherwise hesitate to put out in public.  I had just such an irresistible urge, when once again viewing Dezeen, and seeing first an article on the new Design Museum in Barcelona by local studio MBM Arquitectes, followed closely by one on the Garden Terrace Hotel in Miyazaki by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.

It might be a little unfair to compare such two dramatically different building types, but not if the main frame of reference is the way in which they represent different attitudes to urban design.

I find it fascinating that the headline image of the Japanese building is in fact its unadorned blacktop driveway, and the way that such a humble utilitarian fragment can speak volumes about the entire narrative of cities as a series of gradients from the public to the private, played out fractally at different scales.

In contrast, the Spanish museum looks for all the world like one of those metal toolboxes, serving  as some ill-conceived metaphor for its exhibitions, while its urban gestures of water, overlooking lawn and long, glazed events space are portrayed as clumsy and forlorn.

The supporting images of each project serve only to reinforce the contrast.  The delicate refuge of the Japanese, a jewel in natural materials and greenery, subtly manipulating spatial sequence, and making the most of its introverted courtyard; the Spanish museum in comparison like dumped aluminium junk.

Mind you, I am conscious that even a casual study of the plans included in the article on the Design Museum reveals that on the urban design front, the photographer has done no justice to the concept. His frame appears drawn irresistibly to the architecture as sculpture, or possibly to Jean Nouvel's phallic Torre Agbar office tower behind it.  Ironic that the photographer should be taking the images from the other side of the new 'lake', a more crafted bank with steps down to the water, affording choices of summer shade, if not complimentary sunny winter prospect.  The new Design Museum may not be junk architecture, but even after allowing for the photographer's poor choice of images, it still looks like it.

Read the articles at:

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