image via deezeen

Why is it that in studio one’s own architectural projects are always received so critically by peers and professors (well, at least, mine always are) – while professionals that produce work of dubious quality seem to be praised. Why is it that famous architects are not shot down like students?

From time to time I will be taking architect’s projects and pretending I am their tutor, and it seemed an easy choice to select everybody’s favourite punching bag- Zaha. The facility of this exercise is self-evident: the wave of universal admiration for Zaha has passed, and the tide of the Digital Formalists has turned. It is really too late to be criticising Hadid, she has, I believe, already fallen from the forefront of contemporary architectural discussion. Nonetheless, I was particularly struck by the accompanying text to her project for the Guggenheim Hermitage museum in Vilnius.

“The building appears like a mystical object floating above the extensive artificial landscape strip, seemingly defying gravity by exposing dramatic undercuts towards the surrounding entrance plazas. Large activated green fields flow around the museums sculptural mass, underlining its enigmatic presence with curvilinear lines echoing the elongated contours of the building. Contrasting with the vertical business district skyline it is a manifestation of Vilnius’ new cultural significance.

In the interior a canyon like air space allows for architecturally refined communication and circulation spaces mirroring the Fluxus spirit of informality and vivacity surrounding art. Through manipulations of the ground at the riverfront, towards the park and the bridge, different levels are made accessible. An intensification of public life at the river is our aim. The positioning of the building on the riverbanks, respectively the cities edge, creates a strong sense of place within Vilnius. The exterior spaces are modulated landscape formations creating several imprints or plinths upon which various activities and performances can take place.”

My. A moment’s pause. I suppose my first question would be, what is an ‘activated green field’? Are these irregular triangles of grass ‘activated fields’? because they look a lot like grass roofs. Presumably retail. Notice there are no people walking on them. They are not portrayed as inhabited spaces, and since they subsequently belong to the order of having (we own them, or consume them by viewing them) and not the order of being (by which we experience them in the act of existing amongst them), how can they be ‘activated’?

I could continue, but I think we all know where I am going with this. High Distinction (A) for presentation (although I would be interested to know Zaha’s precise relationship to the drawings- I can’t help but think of Milli Vanilli) but a Credit plus (C+) for attention to landscape- and who the hell is writing their press releases?

I was watching a film by Chris Marker the other day (of La Jetee fame) called Sans Soleil, wiki says of the film:

Sans Soleil is a meditation on the nature of human memory and the inability to recall the context and nuances of memory and as a result, how the perception of personal and global histories are affected.”

One of the really poignent remarks was about Japanese poetry. In Western poetry all nouns are modulated by adjectives- but the beauty of Japanese poetry is that the nouns are never modulated, ‘rock’, ‘rope’, ‘boat’, ‘chrysanthemum’, ‘mountain’ – they appeal to the infinte, to the thing itself, and not to some adjectival simulacrum.

Early C20- “Shinto priests crossing a courtyard of the Meiji Temple in Tokyo. Snow is falling on the pine-trees and the cloisters and on their paper umbrellas.”

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