Category Archives: art

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The Drawings of Dame Zaha Hadid

One of the world’s most visionary architects died last week. She was only 65. Zaha Hadid’s structures are famous for their use of fragmented geometry, swooping gestures and futuristic style. Iraqi-born Hadid, who had a background in mathematics, studied at the Architectural Association in London. In 2004 she won architecture’s highest honor, the Pritzker Prize, becoming the first woman to receive the award (and Muslim, no less). She had a profound effect in our field, and opened so many doors for women in architecture. The world has lost one of its leading form makers.

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Aside from being a remarkable architect, Zaha Hadid was also a fashion, furniture and product designer. (Behind: Malevich’s Tektonik – her 4th-year student design project for a hotel on the Hungerford Bridge over the Thames)

Hadid drew on Russian Suprematism (think painter Kazimir Malevich) to create her own unique language of drawing, painting and building. Exhibitions of her drawings, paintings, reliefs, and installations have toured the world. Her intricate, abstract drawings were means of visualizing her architectural ideas.

The World (89 Degrees)

The World (89 Degrees)

Berlin: Blue Beam, Victoria City Aerial

Berlin: Blue Beam, Victoria City Aerial

Hong Kong: The Peak

Hong Kong: The Peak

Manhattan: A New Calligraphy of Plan

Manhattan: A New Calligraphy of Plan

Weil Am Rhein: Vitra Fire Station

Weil Am Rhein: Vitra Fire Station

Lebbeus Woods, an artist known for his unconventional architectural designs, and a kindred spirit no doubt, discussed Zaha Hadid’s drawings in his blog here.

Her striking and experimental designs were often dismissed as impractical, and at times even “impossible” to build. Until Hadid completed her first built work, the Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein, Germany, in 1994, she was largely considered to be a paper architect. Since then, however, she has proven that her deconstructivist, largely column-free, designs work as buildings and not just as futuristic, theoretical concepts. Below are some of her projects that have been built around the world.

Vitra Fire Station. Photo by Wojtek Gurak.

Vitra Fire Station, Weil Am Rhein. Photo by Wojtek Gurak.

Phaeno Science Center, Wolfsburg. Photo by Werner Huthmacher.

Phaeno Science Center, Wolfsburg. Photo by Werner Huthmacher.

London Aquatics Centre: Olympics Swimming Venue, photo by Hufton+Crow

London Aquatics Centre: Olympics Swimming Venue, photo by Hufton+Crow

The Investcorp Building, University of Oxford. Photo by Luke Hayes.

The Investcorp Building, University of Oxford. Photo by Luke Hayes.

Messner Mountain Museum Corones, South Tyrol, Italy. Photo by Werner Huthmacher.

Messner Mountain Museum Corones, South Tyrol, Italy. Photo by Werner Huthmacher.

Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku, Azerbaijan. Photo by Hufton+Crow.

Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku, Azerbaijan. Photo by Hufton+Crow.

Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku, Azerbaijan. Photo by Helene Binet.

Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku, Azerbaijan. Photo by Helene Binet.

MAXXI Museum of XXI Century Arts in Rome

MAXXI Museum of XXI Century Arts in Rome

Guangzhou Opera House. Photo by Iwan Baan.

Guangzhou Opera House. Photo by Iwan Baan.

Hadid's design for the 2022 World Cup stadium in Qatar is currently under construction amid controversy concerning working conditions for labourers.

Hadid’s design for the 2022 World Cup stadium in Qatar is currently under construction amid controversy concerning working conditions for labourers.

La Ville de Québec

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Guy Levesque crafting another of his extraordinary hand carved molds.

Guy Levesque crafting another of his extraordinary hand carved molds.

Meet Guy Levesque, a rare find. He provides a glimpse into the world of a true artisan. For over 25 years, from his workshop-gallery in the Old Port district of Quebec City, he has brought the medieval art of Venetian mask making to Canada. His influences span Commedia dell’arte, Japanese Noh, to the contemporary. His chosen media are leather and metal, which can also be seen in his unique furniture pieces.

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Une tradition québécoise: le tire d'érable (maple taffy)

Une tradition québécoise: le tire d’érable (maple taffy)

Ice Fishing Architecture

(All photos below by Richard Johnson.)

While the Canadian Maritimes are bracing themselves from Snowmaggedon 2015, we find someone who actively seeks out winter culture. Turning his attention from his usual commercial assignments, architectural photographer Richard Johnson travels coast to coast across Canada’s expansive landscape to photograph ice fishing huts.

For the last 8 years, Toronto-based Johnson has photographed 725 ice huts in 9 provinces. He shoots these wintry scenes on overcast days, so as to avoid shadows. When you factor in weather and time to scout out locales, he is left with only 2 weeks a year to capture these solitary figures.

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Each hut is photographed frontally, centred in a square format. The horizon line is a consistent strike across each image, represented by the distant shore or a row of faraway trees. This straightforward “objective” point of view recalls the architectural images or typologies of Bernd and Hilla Becher who documented edifices like cooling towers and storage silos.

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A section of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s Coal Bunkers.

The minimalist approach of Johnson’s photography invites viewers to compare and contrast the huts’ varying characteristics. Some enclosures are more engineered —a modified trailer tricked out with solar panels—while others are assembled ad hoc —a plastic tarp draped over a frame of two-by-fours. Though they generally adhere to the basic, archetypal house shape, regional idiosyncrasies emerge: 4’x8’ sheet plywood with little embellishment in Manitoba; popular sheet metal in Ontario; porch-fronted log cabins in Alberta.

Some of the quirkiest, most colourful huts can be found in the La Baie des Ha! Ha! region of Quebec. Eccentric decoration —faux wood panelling, sunflower decals, or camouflage— makes them stand out from the pack. Interiors typically contain wood burning stoves, a trough, and vents for cross-circulation. “It’s all about what you can reuse and repurpose,” says Johnson.

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There is a broader ‘urban’ angle here. Temporary settlements of hundreds of ice huts exist in northern Quebec and Manitoba. Johnson’s panoramic series Ice Villages shows the structures in their larger context and how they relate to one another: some are laid out in a haphazard way, others arranged in a systematic fashion. The seasonal communities that sprout up often include hockey rinks, small eateries, and the odd maple syrup kiosk. Fishermen stay for a month at a time, revelling in the camaraderie while they cast their lines in lakes and bays.   It is their getaway.

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This is an ongoing project. Richard Johnson has yet to visit British Columbia and the territories. In the meantime, Ice Villages is on display at the Bulthaup Toronto showroom through April 2015. www.icehuts.ca

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Canadian shooting locations 2007-2012.

 

Architecture on Film: Cathedrals of Culture

Architecture takes centre-stage in the 3D film Cathedrals of Culture, rather than its more usual background role. According to reviewers, this six-part documentary, directed by six acclaimed filmmakers, explores the cultural significance of six iconic and very different buildings from angles not seen before.

Oslo Opera House

Oslo Opera House, a futuristic symbiosis of art and life. Photo by Øystein Mamen.

Spearheaded by German filmmaker Wim Wenders, the film asks the question: “If buildings could talk, what would they say about us?” Wenders builds on the 3D techniques he first employed in the documentary Pina. He is joined by Michael Madsen, Robert Redford, Michael Glawogger, Margreth Olin and Karim Aïnouz. Each lends a distinctive artistic approach to the project, exploring a day in the life of these “cultural machines” — the Berlin Philharmonic, the National Library of Russia, Halden Prison, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the Oslo Opera House and the Centre Georges Pompidou. Narrated by the imagined voices of the buildings themselves, the film ambitiously aims to uncover “the soul of buildings.” While The Guardian’s Oliver Wainright says it presents a “limited and internalised view of architecture”, as a formal exercise its camerawork and visual mastery is captivating.

Salk Institute for Biological Studies

The Salk Institute, an institute for breakthrough science. Photo by Alex Falk.

The Berlin Philharmonic, an icon of modernity. Photo by Wim Wenders.

The Berlin Philharmonic building, an icon of modernity. Photo by Wim Wenders.

Centre Pompidou

Centre Pompidou, a modern culture machine. Photo by Ali Olcay Gozkaya.

The National Library of Russia, a kingdom of thoughts. Photo by Wolfgang Thaler

The National Library of Russia, a kingdom of thoughts. Photo by Wolfgang Thaler.

Halden Prison, the world's most humane prison. Photo by Heikki Färm.

Norway’s Halden Prison, the “world’s most humane prison.” Photo by Heikki Färm.

Cathedrals of Culture premiered at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival. Keep an eye out for its next screenings. In the meantime, see the official trailer: