It has always fascinated me how we perceive architecture in modern terms. It is often either considered this jewel box of divine creation, or an economic machine of utility. either way, we often view it as static. Yes of course the people, decoration and additives are a variable, but very rarely do we consider a building as morphing at a tangible pace. During construction, it is a period of transformation. The caterpillar is not analyzed for its beauty while it is still in its cocoon. Instead we just wait for the yellow ribbon to be snipped in order to make judgement. But what is the value of this? Is construction purely something we endure, waiting for the future product to make up for it? What about a project like Sagrada Familia, where there is an ever-expanding finish date? Can we not start to analyze the architecture of the construction? Is it not something just as integral to the form since it is the literal embodiment of structural need? Much of this scaffolding has been in place longer than temporary pavilions. Heck, it has been around longer than Mies’s Barcelona Pavilion was originally constructed. Sagrada Familia’s entire attraction is based on the hopefulness of the end result, but for many circuiting the tourist routes, they will most likely only see it in one state of construction. For them it will always have the scaffolding engulfing the southern facade and two cranes rounding out the forest of towers. I believe that there is validity in this. We need to start recognizing construction not as an economic band-aid but as a form of art itself.
From there the possibilities become much wider. We can start to look at a building from its inception; how it can be generated not to create a preconceived form, but an evolution based on need, cost, and light. The artistry becomes masterful at a smaller scale, with programmatic designation becoming a more fluid and diagrammatic play. Even more important, a building is never truly done evolving. We must recognize this, and adapt. It is ironic that a century old building becomes one of the most innovative in the world for recognizing this need. I hope I never live to see the day of its “completion.”
So after a quite chaotic last month, I found myself in beautiful Oslo for the first leg of my month long hoorah traveling some parts of Europe I haven’t seen yet. Maybe it’s the recovery from sleep deprivation, stress, or lack of sun, but Oslo is magic. The mixture of urban and wilderness creates beautiful viewpoints along the waterfront which you are always drawn to regardless of the wind level.
One of the most well known buildings in Oslo is the Opera House by the firm Snøhetta. It is worth coming to Oslo to see this building. The shifted planes of the mineral park/roof allow for a dynamic composition public interaction. Built into the water, it is exposed to the elements separating you from the city proper and gluing you to these irregular slanted forms. To me the wow factor of this building is all due to the visual folding of circulation that connects you on shifted vertical axes. When sunken into the main lobby space you are connected with the raising platforms flanking each side, and perplexed by the presence of people in the glass curtain walls that connect you straight to the sky. Conversely from the base, while you are grounded on top of tons of white marble, you feel the tension of suspension while looking down into the lobby. Additionally, small ant like people pop out above the top of this mass giving scale to the size of this massive structure.
In all I find this building extremely successful. Not just in its essence of a giant jungle gym inviting all of Oslo to create their own community, but also as a functioning factory. The program of this building is quite immense and it’s done so effortlessly with clearly defined public and private zones. There are buffers of separation, and each side takes on its own personality. We took the tour which I highly recommend since it gives you access to just about everything, including the costume and set design studios. I appreciate Snøhetta’s approach allowing a simple programmatic organization given the size and allowing the more regulated programs to become more understated and detail oriented.
There are some interesting decisions that were made regarding the material compositions and geometric forms that I am not sure that I would have come to myself because of the multiplicity of the language that it presents, but I am not convinced that it is necessarily a negative of the project. So often we are taught in design school to have a clear and concise language. Too much mixing of forms of materials equates to an over zealous imagination and inability to edit. The Opera House shows how this method of thought is essentially an easy way for architecture professors to shy away from teaching complex mixture and patterning that can be successful if done properly. While I am of course a proponent of the clear language that Peter Zumthor’s thermal baths transmit, why not enjoy the opposite end of the spectrum? I find merit in both, and that is the beauty of the gargantuan language of architecture; it is endless.
Enough of my tangents, here are some pictures of the building. Enjoy!
This week was kind of an odd week. After travelling for a week followed by an intensive workshop week, we were trying to adjust to business as usual despite the fact that this next week will be another history week with the great William JR Curtis. Despite this, it was an intensive process of trying to establish schematic ideas for our gastronomic atelier project. Even though most of what you see on here are awesome pictures of me galavanting through Europe, the picture above is why I am here, and I have had some of the best professors this year that have really changed my philosophy on life, not just architecture. That is why this program is ranked the number one study abroad program in America.