A cat has become a museum
There once was a chinese emperor who liked cats a lot, and one day he called upon the most famous painter in the Empire and asked him to paint him a cat. The artist liked the idea and promised that he would work on it. A year passed and the Emperor remembered that the painter still had not given him the painting of the cat. He called him: What of the cat? It is nearly ready, answered the artist. Another year went by, and another and another. The scene kept repeating itself. After seven years, the Emperor’s patience came to an end and he sent for the painter. What of the cat? Seven years have gone by. You have promised and promised but I still haven’t seen one! The painter grabs a sheet of rice paper, an ink well, one of those brushes like you can only get in the East and… in an elegant and sublime gesture he draws a cat, which was not just a cat but only the most beautiful cat ever seen. The Emperor was ecstatic, overwhelmed with such beauty. He did not neglect (which is no longer the case nowadays) to ask the artist how much he would charge for such beautiful drawing. The painter asked for a sum which surprised the Emperor. So much money for a drawing that you did in two seconds, in front of me? said the Emperor. Yes Excellency, that is true, but I have been drawing cats for seven years now, replied the poor painter.
The project for the Museum Mimesis, already under construction in the new town of Paju Book City in South Korea, is a cat. The client didn’t have to wait for seven years for his drawing of a cat, but Álvaro Siza has been drawing cats for over seven years now. He has never seen a Korean cat, because he has never been there.
In one day I briefed him on the site, and brought along a small site model, showing the boundaries and the immediate context. In one single gesture, a cat was drawn. The Mimesis is a cat. A cat, all curled up and also open, that stretches and yawns. It’s all there. All you need to do is look and look again. At first the design team members could not understand how that sketch of a cat could be a building. I have in my days seen many sketches of cats, and am always overwhelmed by them, can’t get tired of them. I want to see more cats, more sketches of cats, for several seven years have gone by.
In architecture, after an initial sketch comes the torment. The initial design, models, drawings, corrections to these, doubts, new drawings, new models, a presentation to the client, who had already seen other projects but could not conceal his surprise at this one. Once approved, we progressed the project on through the usual steps, which in Korea are shorter and less bureaucratic.
The brief has not been altered, but it is necessary to make some adjustments as part of the evolution process. To think of materials, techniques, infra-structure, representational conventions, so that everyone understands, in an attempt to make everything work out. In the basement we will have the archives, the service area, maybe an extension to the exhibition area, as is becoming a habit in museums designed by Álvaro Siza. The ground floor is a space for arrival and distribution, areas for temporary exhibitions and a café/restaurant with all necessary back up. Administration areas, staff circulation, area for the administrative archive and staff toilets are located in the mezzanines. The top floor is for exhibition space.
Light, always light, so carefully studied. Both natural and artificial is seen as essential. Allowing to see without being seen. Models and more models were constructed, some of which you could enter into. Also 3D images. Form will be given by cast concrete, light grey, the colour of a cat. Inside, the white of the walls and ceilings, of the marble, which we hope will be from Estremoz and also the honey colour of Oak. Timber for the internal frames, and glass. As for the external windows, timber, painted steel and crystalline glass.
The building progresses, so do we, as it is in Korea. It is a technically difficult job; we were concerned at the quality of the contractor and sub-contractors involved. Our friends and partners are enthusiastic and reassure us.
To draw a cat is really difficult, try it! It can take seven years! At least!
Mimesis Museum, Paju Book City, South Korea, by Álvaro Siza with Carlos Castanheira and Jun Sung Kim, Photography by ultimasreportagens
After World War II, post-war Europe was suffering from a lack of housing with many displaced people from the extensive bombing raids. In response to the housing crisis in Europe, Le Corbusier began delving into designing large scale, communal residences for the victims of World War II. One of the most notable projects in this series was the Unite d’ Habitation in Marseilles, France. This project had inspired a continued implementation of the design type across Europe. The fourth building in the series is the Corbusierhaus in Berlin, Germany. Completed in 1959, it was designed as a symbol for the modernization of Germany after the war and the Cold War.
Designed for the International Building Exhibition of 1957, the Corbusierhaus is almost an exact carbon copy of the Unite in Marseilles. Among the dense living conditions, there are elements of communal living that provide amenities and activities for people to come together. Within the large housing block there is a kindergarten, medical facility, several recreational spaces, and a garden; a continuation of the conceptual “city within a city” bringing people’s every day activities and needs into the housing block. Corbusierhaus was also an extension of the idea of the “vertical garden city” of bringing the villa into a high-rise.
Corbusierhaus was intended to bring a modern touch to Germany, as it was trying to redefine itself after World War II. The modern structure and use of beton-brut concrete give the housing block a neutral aesthetic composed of egalitarian housing. The standardization of the units and ingenious spatial configuration of the units is a trademark of the Unite series, as well as the reduction of the corridors to every third floor. These corridors were repurposed by Corbusier to have dual functions of not only a circulation space, but a new communal space for the neighbors to gather and socialize. The “rue interieur,” or interior street, added to the spatial complexity of the Corbusierhaus, as well as redefine the social parameters of a public circulation space.
The owner’s affection for a stone outcropping on her property and the views from its peak inspired the design of this house. Conceived as a bunker nestled into the rock, the Pierre, the French word for stone, celebrates the materiality of the site. From certain angles, the house–with its rough materials, encompassing stone, green roof and surrounding foliage–almost disappears into nature.
To set the house deep into the site, portions of the rock outcropping were excavated using a combination of machine work and handwork. The contractor used large drills to set the outline of the building, then used dynamite, hydraulic chippers, a selection of wire saws and other hand tools, working with finer and finer implements as construction progressed. Excavated rock was re-used as crushed aggregate in the concrete flooring. Excavation marks were left exposed on all the stonework, a reminder of the building process.
A 17-minute film by Marcel Meili and Christoph Schaub unviels the story of ‘Il Girasole’ the rotating modernist house built into the Po Valley hillside in northern Italy. Affectionately termed ‘The Sunflower’, the house was built in the 1930s by architects Angelo Invernizzi and Ettore Fagiuoli, with the help of their artist, sculptor, furniture-maker and architect friends. Powered by an electric motor, Il Girasole is able to rotate a full 360 degrees on its circular base, highly radical in the way that all the components of the house (including its courtyard) are part of the structure’s rotational sphere. The film is simple and direct, juxtaposing the unveiling of the imposing house’s engineering detail and history with intimate re-enactments of the architect and his wife interacting with the space, narrated throughout by the architect’s daughter.
Il Girasole House, by Angelo Invernizzi and Ettore Fagiuoli, via: Wallpaper
Award winning practice, MCK Architects is based in Sydney, Australia and specialise in one-off houses of high quality finish and detail that are responsive to context and designing for heritage sensitive areas.
Paddington x2 Residence, by MCK Architects
Casa de Cerveira, by Emanuel Fernandes Silva, Manuel Pais Vieiravia, dEMM arquitectura
Interested in creating a new form of design found at the intersection of architecture, art, industrial design, typography, graphic design, and interior design, Walter Gropius was inspired to create an institution known as the Bauhaus at Dessau, with an emerging style that would forever influence architecture. Initially a school in Weimar, growing political resentment forced the move to Dessau. Gropius took this as an opportunity to build a school that reflected his hopes for the education that would be had within it’s walls. The style of the Dessau facilities hints at the more futuristic style of Gropius in 1914, also showing similarities to the International style more than the Neo-classic style.
As a practiced architect, Gropius was interested in including structural and technological advancements as he designed this revolutionary school for architecture and design students. Some of the various progressions include a window glazing, a skeleton of reinforced concrete and brickwork, mushroom-like ceilings of the lower level, and roofs covered with asphalt tiles that were meant to be walked on. It’s size “belied the enormous symbolic significance it was to gain as its national and international reputation grew as an experimental and commercial laboratory for design after 1927 as a hotbed of architecture and urban design.” To incorporate the students of the Bauhaus, the interior decoration of the entire building was done by the wall painting workshop, the lighting fixtures by the metal workshop, and the lettering by the print shop. With the Bauhaus building, Gropius thoughtfully laid out his notion of the building as a ‘total work’ of compositional architecture.
“Like De Stijl painting, in a sense the Bauhaus was composed of basically related functional elements that produced a cohesive interrelated asymmetric whole.”
Bauhaus at Dessau, by Walter Gropius, Photography by Thomas Lewandovski, via: archdaily
Walter Gropius, 1883-1969: The Promoter of a New Form, Edited by Peter Gössel.
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Bauhaus: A Conceptual Model, Edited by Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau
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Built on the outskirts of Wengen with an impressive view of the Eiger-Monch-Jungfrau mountain massif. Originally designed with a flat roof, Richard Neutra was forced by planning officials to add a gabled roof, lending the building a unique position in his oeuvre.
Rentsch House, Wengen, Switzerland, 1964, by Richard Neutra, Photography by Iwan Baan
Led by Yoshiyuki Moriyama, Tokyo architectural firm Baqueratta specializes in building modern minimalist small and medium-sized residences. RA House is a house with impressive views.
RA House, by Yoshiyuki Moriyama, Baqueratta
Brazillian Metro Arquitetos Associados and Paulo Mendes da Rocha recently completed the Museum of Modern Art, Santos (MAM). The building’s structure which is all-metal, consists of two parallel walls, 20 m apart, connected with metal trusses of 60 m x 20 m which are supported on pillars. The facade of the museum is made with pre-cast slabs of concrete and plastered internally. The building, suspended by steel beams, has been integrated into the existing Benedito Calixto Art Gallery and has a built area of 8,180 m².