I am pleased to introduce my guest this month, Meto Mihaylov, Architect · Basel, Switzerland · Meto spent Christmas with our family in 2006 when he attended Westtown School in Pennsylvania, with my son Joshua. Lo and behold, we recently connected again (thank you Facebook), and my charming Bulgarian friend is now an architect! So naturally I queried….
Q: What led you to become an architect, your favorite architect/s? Did your time living in the U.S. influence you in any way?
A: My name is Meto. I come from Bulgaria. I have lived and studied in high school for one year in the USA. After this I studied architecture at a University in Denmark and now work as an architect in Switzerland.
In my culture it is normal to pick a profession at a very early age. I was a little kid when I saw the ancient city of Plovdiv for the first time. I fell in love with its old buildings and with its atmosphere, and decided that I wanted to become an architect.
NYC made the biggest impression on me when I was in the USA and solidified my intention to study and do buildings. Please visit this city at least once in your life if you can.
At University I learned more and more about the contemporary work of the 20th and 21st century. It is scary to see how Professors in Europe teach architectural theory no different than religion is taught in a religion class. “Le Corbusier is God, and if you question any of what I tell you- you are dumb”. I like it when people question things and point out defects in buildings. This is a constructive way to work and achieve better results. Architects must not be the ones who judge architecture because they are too immersed into it and lose the objectivity. We do not build for architects- we build for people, for children, for shopping, for doctors etc. I like to ask friends and family to give me their opinion on my buildings during the design process, because their view tends to be much more objective, human, and overall better than when I ask my colleagues.
My list of professional influences reflects my worldview. There are certain architects whom I like, but I always try to be fair and see the pros and cons in their work. I do not believe in unconditionally worshiping an architect like I see many architect friends do. The character of a person, in architecture, always shows up in the work, so I like to study architects also as individuals, in order to understand their thought process better.
I like the organic form of Oscar Niemeyer but even more I like his overall organic approach to life. The houses of John Lautner have a similar effect- a completely revised space which makes life better. He was also very good at sustainable budget houses, not only the houses for the rich, like the one in the movie “The big Lebowski”. When it comes to the ever-present-for-good-or-bad field of Modernism, I find Paul Rudolph to be the one who really cracked the code of the modern form and proportion, overcoming the haunting sterility of modernist structures.
I recently had the good fortune to hear SeARCH’s Bjarne Mastenbroek present his way of seeing things and I found a lot of common ground with him. He works in the real world, where he has a budget amidst a financial crisis, and has to build residential buildings and schools in Holland two times cheaper and three times better than twenty years ago. When you manage to do something like this, you are truly creative and innovative, and a real architect, unlike someone like Zaha Hadid, who gives someone sketches of an unknown spaceship, budget- unknown, energy requirements for building it and after- unknown, building time- unknown, “oh, and by the way- I designed it but you have to build it yourself, because I can’t”. So, back to Mastenbroek, and I will leave you with him. He will build the first passive hotel in the ski resort of St. Moritz in the Swiss Alps, where, until now, only the richest of the rich built the most unsustainable, most expensive villas possible (Norman Foster built his own house there). Mastenbroek made a research and he will heat the hotel with 60 cows, which in winter will produce more heat just in staying inside glass rooms, than a radiator or floor heating. No cars allowed, you will have to reach the place on a dog sled. The sloping roof will be a part of the ski slope. The Swiss government, based in the capital city of Bern, is going to discuss changing the law of the Canton (State) of Graubünden in 2014, so that the crazy Dutchman can do the cow hotel. Keep an eye out, you will see it happen soon.
Be careful with architects. I can tell you that this industry often makes people extremely selfish and gives them a mania for fame. They stop wanting to make the world a better place and start wanting only attention. Please do not trust that single persons create buildings just because the media find it much easier to give you a single name. Even Mastenbroek cannot complete a house alone. Buildings are done by dozens of people and it is real teamwork that brings about a great result in the form of a built structure. Thank you for reading this and look for the architecture that makes a true innovation.
Architect Meto Mihaylov
Zentrum Paul Klee (by Renzo Piano) — in Bern, Switzerland.
Paradigm Gallery’s photo.
National Congress of Brazil Oscar Niemeyer Architect via escuyer.tumblr.comvia
Oscar Niemeyer was one of the most important architects of the 20th century and he did not like angles. “Right angles don’t attract me. Nor straight, hard and inflexible lines created by man,” he wrote in his 1998 memoir The Curves of Time. ” I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman. Curves make up the entire universe, the curved universe of Einstein.” via theaustrailian.com.au and gizmodo *great Niemeyer architecture images
Was he ahead of his time, anticipating the direction of architecture?
EDIFICIO COPAN STAIRS by Oscar Niemeyer
People are far more likely to call a room beautiful when its design is round instead of linear. What about architecture, curves versus angles? The reason may be hard-wired into the brain. There have been recent studies by neuroscientists that conclude, “Curvature appears to affect our feelings, which in turn could drive our preference.” It’s also critical to point out that just because people have a natural neural affinity for curves doesn’t mean round design is always superior. If researchers asked people to rate architecture based on functionality instead of beauty, for instance, they might get different results.
CoDesign, in their post Why Our Brains Love Curvy Architecture shared: When the great architect Philip Johnson first visited the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry, he started to cry. “Architecture is not about words. It’s about tears,” Johnson reportedly said. Something about the museum’s majestic curves moved him at an emotional level.
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Architect Frank Gehry
image via scarflove.tumblr.com
Curves are making big statements on skylines around the world from the exquisite (in my humble opinion) Guggenheim Bilbao to London’s “Gherkin” , the “Marilyn Monroe” Towers in Ontario, many of Zaha Hadid’s Designs, Calatrava, and the Apple Campus 2 — its massive new headquarters designed by starchitect Norman Foster.
The Gherkin, Architect Norman Foster
Curved buildings can point to nature, whereas angular buildings contrast with it
Paul Silvia, assistant professor of psychology
Monroe Curves, Absolute Towers by Ma Yansong of MAD Architects
Calatrava via voguevoyager.tumblr.com
Curved or angular, do you have a preference?
Some of the rooms had a round style like this
Courtesy Oshin Vartanian via CNN
Others had a rectilinear form, like this
Courtesy Oshin Vartanian via CNN
In short, what we learned from our research and fastco.design’s work, “Time and again, when people are asked to choose between an object that’s linear and one that’s curved, they prefer the latter. That goes for watches with circular faces, letters rendered in a curly font, couches with smooth cushions–even dental floss with round packaging.
The beautiful Solvesborg bridge in Sweden
The beautiful Solvesborg bridge in Sweden
Completed in 2013, the Solvesborg Bridge in Sweden is the longest pedestrian bridge in Europe. The bridge consists of a higher part made out of three characteristic vaults and a long wooden bridge for pedestrians. ljusarkitektur has developed a unique lighting scheme to enhance its landmark status. the use of color changing LED fixtures from lumenpulse graze the suspension cables of what is considered Europe’s longest bicycle and pedestrian viaduct.
The team of architectural lighting experts planned the lighting “with respect for the birdlife and is inspired by the migration of the birds during the whole year. In this way the character of the bridge changes over the year and the night. In addition to this there are a number of scenarios to be used for different events in the city.” http://www.ljusarkitektur.com/en/portfolio/solvesborg-bridge/
“The overall design was achieved without impacting on the local wildlife – to limit glare, the firm integrated deep, custom glare shields, which also hide the light sources. influenced by the surrounding fauna and flora, ljusarkitektur pushed the fixtures’ flexibility and controlability to program different color sequences throughout the year. managing to be both dynamic and understated, the glowing, reflective installation has turned the bridge into an attraction in its own right.” http://bit.ly/1hlrDLJ
I close with the words of Louis Kahn who was an architect known for his philosophy of incorporating natural light in his architecture. Indeed this project is LED lighting but the use of light takes it to another level and enhances the architectural grace of the structure and it’s setting.
“I sense a Threshold: Light to Silence, Silence to Light – an ambiance of inspiration, in which the desire to be, to express, crosses with the possible … Light to Silence, Silence to Light crosses in the sanctuary of art.”
Those who cross this bridge may not say these exact words but I am certain they experience “the sanctuary of art” this bridge gifts to the world.
Solvesborg bridge in Sweden
Due to the length of the bridge, at intervals along the way parts of the nature have been accentuated with light, for example trees and reeds are lit.
Solvesborg bridge in Sweden
“Instinctively I was drawn to the beauty of things coarse and unrefined; things rich in raw texture and rough tactility. Often these things are reactive to the effects of weathering and human treatment.
And lastly, I was attracted to the beauty of things simple, but not ostentatiously austere. Things clean and unencumbered, but not sterilized. Materiality, pared down to essence, with the poetry intact.” Leonard Koren http://bit.ly/1dtfdzh
thursday’s child: wabi sabi
wabi sabi is flea market finds, not michigan ave purchases. it celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. it reminds us that we are all transient beings, that our bodies as well as the material world around us are fleeting. through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace wrinkles and rust, grey hairs and frayed edges and the march of time they represent. it’s a fragmentary glimpse of the part, not the whole, the journey not the destination.
http://bit.ly/1bu20Z0 The Space Between Ms. and Mrs. A Blog Post
Wabi means things that are fresh and simple. It denotes simplicity and quietude, and also incorporates rustic beauty. It includes both that which is made by nature, and that which is made by man. It also can mean an accidental or happenstance element (or perhaps even a small flaw) which gives elegance and uniqueness to the whole, such as the pattern made by a flowing glaze on a ceramic object.
Sabi means things whose beauty stems from age. It refers to the patina of age, and the concept that changes due to use may make an object more beautiful and valuable. This also incorporates an appreciation of the cycles of life, as well as careful, artful mending of damage.
– “The Classic Tradition In Japanese Architecture: Modern Versions Of The Sukiya Style”, Teiji Itoh, Yukio Futagawa
“Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional. … The closest English word to wabi-sabi is probably “rustic”. … Things wabi-sabi are unstudied and inevitable looking. .. unpretentious. .. Their craftsmanship may be impossible to discern. “
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Maman by Louise Bourgeois in front of The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain image via koikile on Flickr
Today’s museums are as much about the architecture as they are the collections within. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain was designed by Frank Gehry and was the starting point of a trend that still continues, often referred to as the Bilbao Effect. Simply put, Bilbao’s $200-million gamble bringing the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum to the Basque region of Spain paid off, culturally and economically. The Guggenheim Museum’s success in Bilbao did more than perhaps any other cultural institution to convince leaders and developers that where mega-projects go, economic transformation follows. (The Atlantic Cities.com.).
Jacqueline Pfeffer Merrill writes that over the past fifteen years, other cities sought to imitate Bilbao’s success by building new museums or museum additions designed by starchitects as part of civic renewal projects. Examples include the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland designed by Steven Holl, the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester, England and the Royal Ontario Museum addition in Toronto, both designed by Daniel Libeskind, the Denver Art Museum addition designed jointly by Daniel Libeskind and a local architecture firm, and the Connecticut Center for Science and Exploration in Hartford, Connecticut designed by César Pelli. The Ars Aevi Museum in Sarajevo designed by Renzo Piano is to be opened in Sarajevo in 2014. All of these projects are meant to use the drawing power of a spectacular building to attract tourists and other visitors to cities that would not otherwise be major destinations.s, by OMA. (Philanthropy Daily).
To learn more about the Guggenheim Bilbao: visit little aesthete wonderful images and information….
In addition to being an architect, Steven Holl is also a watercolorist who uses this medium to explore the possibilities of light. Above is a watercolor “sketch” of one of his studio’s latest projects, the Nanajing Museum. Read more: INHABITAT INTERVIEW: 7 Questions with Architect Steven Holl
I offer to you, just for fun, Wikipedia’s lists of: Starchitects, Former Starchitects, and Canonic Architects
Starchitects: feel free to offer any names you feel should appear on these lists
Royal Ontario Museum-Studio Daniel Libeskind
The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (beeld en geluid). Image by Iwan Baan
Museum of Biodiversity (or Biomuseo) Panama City, located in the alleged epicenter of biodiversity, Panama’s Biomuseo strives to tell compelling stories about nature’s wonders and thus stress the importance of their safeguarding. Architect Frank Gehry
The Watermill Center is a wondrous world. It was founded in 1992 by stage director, playwright and visual artist, Robert Wilson. With a degree in Architecture from Pratt Institute and enormous talents in painting, sculpting, furniture and lighting design, he is a genius in many arenas.
He has been described as a pioneer in the art world who has changed the way we look at theater, art and design. Here is a classic example of Robert Wilson’s unique approach and extraordinary vision.
When Robert Wilson sent his ‘shopping list’ for the contents of his installation for the Isamu Noguchi: Scultpural Design exhibition at the Design Museum in summer 2001, it included: nine tons of silver sand; six tons of black lava sand; numerous sacks of broken glass; scores of aluminium squares; several dozen of bales of fireproofed straw; and enough loose hay to build a haystack.
The result was a sensational sequence of galleries: one shrouded in darkness, the next brightly illuminated, followed by stepping stones tripping across an elegantly raked sea of sand and the icy white set elements from Martha Graham’s 1944 Herodiade standing in a lake of shattered glass.
It was an extraordinary tribute to the work of Isamu Noguchi, the American-Japanese designer-sculptor whom Wilson had befriended in the 1960s and 1970s while making his name as a promising young theatre director and designer in New York.
Isamu Noguchi Installation by Robert Wilson
The Watermill Center describes themselves as an interdisciplinary laboratory for the arts and humanities. They also are loosely, a museum. The Watermill Collection of over 7,000 art and artifact pieces spanning the history of humankind is integrated into all aspects of the building and grounds as a reminder that the history of each civilization is told by its artists.
One of the artists is Robert Wilson himself. When you visit the museum you will see some of the chairs he has designed. As of 2011 the collection of chairs numbered 1,000, including his designs and many international classics.
The center is set up as a laboratory for the arts and humanities to support the work of emerging artists. Watermill is a global community living and working together among the extensive collection of art and artifacts. If you are fortunate enough to be accepted into the Residency Program, then this is what you have access to: in Wilson’s words, “I maintain the space and allow others to interface with it, change it, and develop their own work in an aesthetic that can be completely different from my own.”
In conclusion we quote Robert Wilson from a story in Artspace , A Place Where We Ask Questions
When I was a student, I was assigned to design a city in three minutes. I handed in a drawing of an apple with a crystal cube in the center. When asked, I explained that it was my idea for a city—that our communities need centers like the crystal cube that can reflect the universe, the same way the cathedral was the center in a medieval village. It was the tallest building, the place where people congregated to exchange ideas; where artists showed their work; and where people came for contemplation and spiritual growth.
Watermill is such a center: a place where we ask questions. We must always ask, “What is it?” But we must not say what it is—for if we know what we are doing, there is no reason to do it.
I share Watermill with artists who are doing what no one else is doing. They continue to inspire me year after year. Robert Wilson