5/13/15

Chengyang Bridge, Sanjiang China


This covered bridge was built in 1915 in Chengyang, between two Dong minority villages of China. It spans 64m (211 ft) and stands 10m (33 ft) above the Linxi river. Each of the five piers is capped with tiered pagoda pavilions. Timberwork splays carefully up to the roof, and down to the stone piers. No nails are used to hold it together.

Subtle distinction is made between the pavilions. The top tier transforms as one approaches the middle of the bridge, increasing slope and appearing to rise up and disconnect from the structure. The center pavilion is hexagonal. This transformation from living structure to holy structure seems to be allegorical of an approach to the divine. These pavilions also serve a functional role, however, weighing down and pinning the spans together, much like the decorated tops of a cathedral's flying buttress.








5/12/15

Will Architecture Save The Movie Theater Industry?



The decline of the movie theater seems inevitable. While profits may be decent right now, it has come at a cost to the movie watcher. A third of the industry’s revenue is from food concessions, which generally taste gross and overpriced. People complain that theaters are dirty, noisy, uncomfortable, and stuffed with previews. Most people don’t want to bother. With cheap big-screen televisions widely available and on-demand viewing so easy, why would anyone go to a theater?

Emphasize Personal Relationships Within Society

While private home viewing has its benefits, the film theater will always have one important advantage: lots of people. Human beings crave to be around other people. Being part of a large audience is almost a necessity for artistic events. The power of suggestion makes us enjoy a movie a lot more if people around us are enjoying it. We subconsciously feed off the feelings and attitudes of those around us, building personal layers atop what we see on the screen and a general consensus of beliefs. Have you ever sat through a movie in an empty theater? Your impression would have been a lot different if the theater had been packed, I guarantee it.

The movie is just one part of the overall experience. Whether at a night out with friends, on a date with a significant other, or as part of a family get-together, the movie compliments your group experience, which is ultimately all about building relationships. This cannot be achieved by merely staying at home. We need to get out and stabilize these relationships within the broader context of our community. The movie theater is a perfect venue to do this. We can incorporate our relationships with friends and family in at such an artistic event.

Some businesses think they can attract more customers by making the experience more personal, by insulating people from those around them. But this is exactly the wrong approach. The theater needs to make a space for couples, friends, and families within a broader context. This involves carefully-designed transition spaces and architectonic celebrations of roles. From the parking lot to the theater seat, the designer should consider how these small groups interact with everyone else. Would it make more sense to clump seats together in groups? Should the ticket entrance be more spectacular than a simple single doorway?

Some people may feel uncomfortable be pushed to interact with a large community, but it is necessary, and ultimately people will like it more. It is also foolish to treat the wide variety of people and communities all alike. Speak to the diversity.



Procession To An Event

The TOHO cinema in Tokyo Japan is approached from a stylistic masonry staircase. A wood screen conceals the face of the theater from view. At the top of the stairs, the customer is hit with a soaring wall of glass. They ascend an escalator just inside this wall of glass, and then find themselves in a futuristic hallway of triangular walls and glowing floors. The theater room itself has sweeping curves and magnificent lighting. The visitor thus transitions from traditional, to modern architecture, and on to a future imaginary landscape.

A theater building needs to spark the imagination. It needs a subtle procession from the city road and mundane daily life to another world, where they can more easily suspend belief and take in fictional portrayals. This transition harks back to the person, the community, and the broader society.

Essential to the Epidaurus theater in ancient Greece was the hike people must make up the hill to access the location. From the vantage point, the people could view the plays with the city landscape in the background, and reflect on how the performance applied to their lives. The journey to the theater seat should likewise put people in a receptive state of mind.



Historic Theater Buildings?

While historic theater buildings may be pleasantly reminiscent of by-gone days, they are not really helpful to a movie theater experience, and this is why people don’t go to them. Historic buildings usually speak of a historical context that is no longer active in people’s lives. The transition from daily life to imaginary theater thus becomes distracted by the architecture, because the building is all about itself. This could be appropriate for musical theater or some other kind of performance, but not film, because movies, even if they are historic fiction, speak of current life.

It could be possible to remodel a historic building so that its past speaks to a new, more updated atmosphere. Historic references, particularly at the exterior of the building, aid in the customer’s procession. But it must quickly depart from historic once inside. Current movies are far removed from actual history. Film is a powerful medium that propagates whatever idea, ideology, and fact the director wishes to instill in the audience’s brains. This does not happen if the audience is still surrounded be reminders of actual reality. Murals of fantastic scenes on the walls are preferable to photographs of 19th century America.

Film is a powerful propaganda tool. It is two hours of people’s undivided attention in which you could put whatever you want into their heads. As with any media-centric building, it is the architecture’s role to instill permanence to the messages that are provided. The building is a vessel for the art, built in layers of physical reality, to frame the vast variety of performances it will display.

Theater has remained important since the earliest days of mankind. Film is a powerful type of theater that is unfortunately scorned today because it is not presented effectively. Architecture can take a much greater role to frame films correctly and to find the person’s place as an audience.

5/4/15

Hatshepsut Temple, Deir el Bahari Egypt



Senenmut, steward for Queen Hatshepsut, built the mortuary complex at Deir el-Bahri in the 15th century B.C. The "holy of holies" is pressed against the cliffs.

Sunlight - The axis of the main procession aligns to the winter solstice. Sunlight travels to illuminate the Osiris statue and images of Amen-Ra, Thutmose III, and Hapi in various places of the temple. This strategy of light penetration has been used around the world.

Spacial Closure - A wide ramp leads straight up three broad rows of columns, with a total height of 97 ft. The visitor faces an unbroken facade of columns with the cliffs behind them. The brain gets the impression that the facade is a single object with intervals punched out.

The cliffs and building speak to each other. The cliff roll horizontally along in clefts and bulges, while the columns and negative spaces of the building facade follow strict geometry. The building therefore imposes geometric reasoning on the cliffs. This set up the Deir el Bahri cliffs and the holy of holies for meaningful religious rituals. It is no coincidence that this temple resembles a theater, recessed into a cliff. The theatrical setting involved soaring cliffs, clever manipulation of sunlight, and uplifting procession.

Procession to the Sky - The approach ramp begins at a wide open field, and becomes increasingly straight and confined. The successive interruptions of columns become more frequent until it finally reaches the cliffs. The ramps penetrate each idealic tier and the worshiper feels like he will proceed up on to the sky. As with the Egyptian pyramid, it is both an entrance into a cave and into the heavens.

Read more in "Architecture of the Ancient Temple"







4/16/15

Bella Sky Hotel, Copenhagen Denmark


3XN designed the AC Hotel Bella Sky in Ørestad Copenhagen, completed in 2011. The two geometric towers are 76m tall and tilt out 15 degrees to achieve significant views of the city and surrounding grassy meadows. They slip past each other to get views of either side. The hotel has 814 rooms and 30 conference rooms, and a covered bridge connects the towers 70m above the ground.

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4/3/15

Symbolic Meaning Of The Louvre Pyramid

I.M. Pei's bold Louvre pyramid connects the vast wings of the museum to one central location. Most of the space is buried underground, keeping the visual attention on the historic palace.

Was Napoleon's monument to freedom Elephant of the Bastille a factor in the design? Did astrology form the shapes and arrangement? Johann Kepler charted horoscopes using this same form, and related it to profound scientific laws. Gender is also seen by many in the upright and inverse pyramids.

The Louvre in the heart of Paris fixes all the problems with Modernism. The shocking form seems to fit because it was derived by careful study and with thoughtful purpose.


Procession To Democracy

Democracy
Astrology
Golden Mean
Gender

Pei's concept sketches show two axis. The first runs through the park to the Arc de Triumph du Carrousel. Here it meets another tilted axis, which continues on into the Louvre. This Axe Historique is the strongest site axis in the world, extending through central Paris to the city's modern quarter.



This tilting of spaces at the Arc de Triumph and the pyramid keeps the composition unified yet unexpected.

In 1833, a column stood where the pyramid now stands. A third axis tilts slightly as it extends from this point on to the east. This third axis extended to the Place de la Bastille where a similar column was constructed in 1835 to commemorate the revolution against King Charles X.

The July column at the Place de la Bastille replaced the Elephant of the Bastille, which gives insight into the meaning of the Louvre pyramid. The Elephant was a large structure atop a fountain, which people could enter through a staircase and walk around inside, as with today's Louvre pyramid. It was cast in bronze from the guns captured by Napoleon in his conquests. In Victor Hugo's Les Miserable, it housed the homeless children of the Revolution. Run-down and despondant, it symbolized the humility and determination of democracy:



"There it stood in its corner, melancholy, sick, crumbling, surrounded by a rotten palisade, soiled continually by drunken coachmen; cracks meandered athwart its belly, a lath projected from its tail, tall grass flourished between its legs; and, as the level of the place had been rising all around it for a space of thirty years, by that slow and continuous movement which insensibly elevates the soil of large towns, it stood in a hollow, and it looked as though the ground were giving way beneath it. It was unclean, despised, repulsive, and superb, ugly in the eyes of the bourgeois, melancholy in the eyes of the thinker." -Victor Hugo

The Statue of Liberty in New York is a modern descendant from the Elephant. Visitors walk into and climb a stairway up the Statue, much like in the Elephant. The Louvre Pyramid achieves the same kind of procession, and directly links to its axis in the city. It therefore could assume the symbol of the poor and humble class. The poor gain access to the wealth of the world in the museum. History and art liberates the people.

Astrology

By 1850, the column in the courtyard was replaced by two circles. Pei's early sketches start to resemble these two circles. Yet while the inverted pyramid keep a circular outline, the large pyramid is decidedly rectangular. Pei took a square and fit another square inside it. How did Pei get this geometric form?

Astronomer Tycho Brahe built the Uraniborg observatory based on the classic chart of the four terrestrial elements. He applied the four states of the four elements (earth, fire, water, air) to the celestial sphere for the first time, asserting a new idea that stars are subject to change like anything else.

Tycho's assistant, Johann Kepler applied this building form to astrology. His rectangular horoscope used tilted concentric squares that look very similar to Pei's form at the Loure. If you lay the classic zodiac over the louvre pyramid, you can see how it fits.

Did Pei look at Kepler's horoscope for the pyramid entrance to the Louvre?





A 90 degree triangle approaches the pyramid from the left side. This T-square aspect pattern forms a trine, which is considered in astrology to be "a source of artistic and creative talent." This is therefore an appropriate entrance to an art museum. The Louvre's entrance forms a trine. The 120 degree trine in the musical scale indicates a perfect fifth step, which is the strongest relationship of notes in music. The sun moves almost exactly 120 degrees on the summer solstice in Paris.

Kepler fit platonic solids inside each other. The tetrahedron was surrounded by the cube. More complex platonic shapes fit inside the tetrahedron, until finally they formed a sphere. This could be the background for Pei's pyramid inside the Kepler square. The inverse pyramid fits inside a circle and the large pyramid inside a square.

Pei said he used a pyramid because it was "the most structurally stable of forms."1 The pyramid is glass so that it is only barely seen, an intellectual suggestion.

The large pyramid touches a line between the top of the historic palace and the inverse pyramid. Looking at it in plan view, the edge of the large pyramid touches lines between the ends of the palace and the center of the inverse pyramid. These lines of sight suggest calculus that is used to derive perfect solids. They are an intellectual manifestation of perfect forms.




The pyramid and square could be based on Keppler's laws of planetary motion. Kepler described the harmony of planets, music, poetry, etc. with proportions. Kepler's third law, that the period of a planet's orbit squared is proportional to the distance of the orbit cubed, describes the harmony of motion and distance. The pyramid volume is proportional to a line squared, and the cube volume is proportional to a line cubed.

The inverse pyramid's proportion to its outer circle is the same as the earth's proportion to the moon (27%). The large pyramid is likewise exactly 27% the width of the courtyard. The front entrance is half that distance from the front of the courtyard. Both pyramids thus relate the size of the moon to the size of the sun.

Kepler applied the mathematics of the perfect platonic solids to the epicycles of planets. Rejecting Ptolemic astronomy, Kepler declared that the earth revolves around the sun, and that the moon revolves around the earth, in elliptical orbits. He related these proportions to various things, such as the structure of the human eye. Indeed, if you overlay Kepler's drawing of the eyeball over the Louvre, you see that the proportions line up. The Arc de Triumph aligns with the front of the cornea, the inverse pyramid with the lens, and the large pyramid with the front of the optic nerve. The hedges in the park even look like light rays approaching the eye from the left. This is because the harmonic proportions of the Louvre universally describe naturally occurring systems.




Golden Mean

The pyramid proportionally relates a system of objects, so it is no surprise that the golden mean is a basis for the pyramid's size. The golden mean determines form and distance. The golden mean determines the pyramid's size between the front and back, and the left and right of the courtyard. The statue of King Louis XIV, which is the endpoint of the park axis, aligns with this proportion. The golden mean also relates the inverse pyramid to the fountain edge.



The Louvre pyramid has the same slope as the Great Pyramid in Giza, at 51 degrees. The significance of the golden proportion in the Great Pyramid thus applies to the Louvre. It uses the golden proportion to achieve its form. The procession into the front, descending down into underground also follows the Great Pyramid in Giza.

The summer solstice sun crosses just inside the Arc de Triumph along the Axe Historique as it sets. The sun therefore is of vital importance in this site axis. The setting summer sun establishes a line of site between the statue of King Louis XIV with the inverse pyramid:




Gender

The circle is traditionally female and the square male. The inverse pyramid thus appears female while the larger pyramid is male. This is strengthened by the popular notion that the Louvre is a metaphor for the chalice and blade. The chalice is the female aspect of creating life and is represented by an inverse pyramid. The blade is the male aspect of death and is represented by an upright pyramid. This metaphor is strengthened when you consider that the inverse pyramid is surrounding by living grass and the upright pyramid by fluid water. The Egyptians believed the waters of chaos must be crossed in the afterlife, and this is why they placed their funeral upright pyramids near the river Nile. Male/female relate to life/death and circle/square. The entrance procession continues this gender language, as the left side swirls in a circular motion and the right side descends in strict right angles. The Louvre's free-standing staircase is a structural marvel, and its unrestrained circular motion was not easily achieved.

I think this gender symbolism is the most significant thing about the Louvre pyramid. Modernism seems intent on destroying all gender in our architectural language, yet here is a stark example of Modernism pushing ancient gender language. Its subtle power is the stuff of mystery novels, yet it is not really understood.

Life and death are investigated as the pyramid plays with the idea of above-ground and underground. The water fountains reflect the blue sky on the ground. The clear pyramid alls light to fill the subterranean space. At the inverse pyramid, everything flips upside down. The blue fountains take the form of blue sky and the transparent pyramid fills into the building. Rather than the building against a sky, it is the sky against the building. It touches a solid form, a small pyramid, a polar opposite to the unsubstantial sky. This forces the visitor to investigate nature's opposites. From Keppler's investigation of natural systems, to perfect proportions, and natural opposite relationships, the Louvre makes the museum visitor investigate natural law.

Massimiliano Fuksas borrowed Pei's concept of glazed sky intruding into building space. His MyZeil mall in Frankfurt swirls glazing around the public space.





Sources:

^ I.M. PEI'S PYRAMID: A PROVATIVE PLAN FOR THE LOUVRE, New York Times, November 24, 1985

3/26/15

National Kaohsiung Stadium, Taiwan

Toyo Ito designed the National Stadium in Kaohsiung, Tiawan for the 2009 World Games. It seats 55,000 people and is usually used for football games.

Ito derived the stadium's shape from the skeleton of a winding dragon. The structure gestures to the entrance and then coils around the field. The surrounding park is lush and green, and the entrance vast and vague. The repetitive ribs influence the core structure, as Ito bends over chunks of concrete and repeats them below the seating. The concrete seems to sag under the weight of all the people. This stark difference in material but similarity in design speaks of the spectators' relationship to the athletes. The architecture is all about the event.

The roof is covered with 8,844 solar panels, and this is the first stadium to generate all of its electricity. It is also remarkable that it incorporates the solar panels into the general aesthetic, and pulls it off quite well. It could generate up to 1.14 gwh of electricity per year.

The 2009 World Olympics were an alternative to China's 2008 Olympics, and I am happy to promote it because my blog is censored in China.

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