Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Unbuilt Guggenheim, Manhanttan

Manhattan has been a backwater of modern architectural design for more than a generation, indeed, with few exceptions such as the Lever House and the Seagram and Citicorp Center Buildings, and the United Nations complex, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue since World War II.

Now the Guggenheim museum has offered to erect a gigantic and ultra-modern mixed-use complex with museum, shown above in a model on view at the Fifth Avenue museum, on the East River waterfront in Lower Manhattan south of the South Street Seaport. It has been designed by Frank Gehry, whose sprawling, sinuous and silvery project for the same museum in Bilbao, Spain, completed in 1999, has been widely hailed as one of the very greatest buildings of the 20th Century.

Unfortunately, the museum, which was encountering financial difficulties, abandoned this ambitious plan at the end of 2002.

Gehry is widely recognized as the greatest living architect whose combination of plastic, poetic and high-tech designs have broken the rigid hold of rectilinear design that has dominated most modern architecture until very recently. (Some expressionistic architects like Mendelsohn experimental with curves early in the century, some super Art Deco-skyscrapers like the Chrysler and Chanin Buildings and the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and 570 Lexington Avenue were initiated in the late 1920s and some angled buildings have been erected by some Deconstructivists in the 1990's, but these are rather rare exceptions.)

Gehry's work is very complex but also inviting and just plain spectacular. There have, of course, been some very fine "conventional," "corporate" designs of considerable refinement erected in recent decades by Kohn Pedersen Fox, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, I. M. Pei & Partners and Cesar Pelli and some flamboyant structures by Helmut Jahn and some quite complex works by Peter Eisenman, among others, as well as very fine and interesting projects by Arquitectonica, Legoretta, Eric Owen Moss and S.I.T.E., but none have had the glamour and glory of Gehry's recent work that employs silvery metals and computer modeling to achieve very intriguing designs. The Japanese stable of articles is formidable and Arata Isozaki, Kenzo Tange and Shin Takematsu are just the most obvious of many fabulous architectural talents that have dominating the architectural world for a generation and there is a new generation of European architects that also show great promise including Daniel Liebeksind, whose work now places him second only to Gehry in the race for title of most innovative and dramatic designer of memorable spaces.

The state of architecture world-wide, indeed, is at an historic high, but Manhattan, despite the presence of many very fine architects, remains a back-water, mired in Not-In-My-Back Yard community activists and virtual design ignorance on the part of most of its political leaders.

The new Guggenheim-Gehry proposal is sensational, which is not to say perfect, and desperately needed for New York to both demonstrate that it can once again foster great design and to give a significant boost to Lower Manhattan.

Lower Manhattan was the city's main corporate center until after World War II and the start of a major exodus to midtown and, worse, the suburbs. By the start of the 1960's, the downtown office market was in dire trouble despite the fact that it boasted the world's most famous and romantic skyline. David Rockefeller, then head of the Chase Bank, tried to stem the exodus by erecting a huge new headquarters, One Chase Manhattan Plaza, but its great bulk and boxy design severely clashed with the existing skyline, but it was sufficient to reduce the flow out of the market and would lead to the far greater black skyscraper nearby at 120 Broadway, both designed by S. O. M. The state and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey also recognized the need to bolster downtown and the authority would erect in the early 1970's the twin towers of the World Trade Center and use its excavated material to create a huge landfill adjacent to it along the Hudson River that would become Battery Park City. With 10 million square feet of office space, however, the World Trade Center depressed the downtown office market for some time and the original bold designs for the landfill development were significantly modified and toned down. In the 1980's, however, Olympia & York, the Canadian developers, won the contract for the major commercial section of Battery Park City and commissioned Cesar Pelli to design its World Financial Center, a huge cluster of large office buildings, all with different rooftops and mixed-facades with a spectacular, enormous skylit Wintergarden as its centerpiece fronting on a large-yacht marina. While the development of the rest of Battery Park City has been accomplished according to design guidelines developed by Alexander Cooper and Stanton Eckstut that tried to recreate the niceties of good pre-war residential construction in the city, the result has been very pleasing but still conventional - such a result, of course, could be considered exciting and excellent given the city's poor record in quality design, but some admirers of modern design considered it a lost opportunity.

In the 1970s, some very interesting mid-size office buildings were erected by the William Kaufman Organization on the east side of Lower Manhattan - 77 Water Street and 127 John Street, and a bit later, the beautiful curved, reflective glass tower at 17 State Street, but these paled in comparison with the scale of the silvery twin towers of the World Trade Center, the strong vertical piers of One Chase Manhattan Plaza, and the ungainliness of the huge tower at 60 Wall Street for the Morgan bank.

In the meantime, the South Street Seaport struggled to expand throughout the 1970's and 1980s and become a very nice but not terribly successful tourist attraction. Once Battery Park City had been launched, city planners envisioned a similar development along the East River south of the South Street Seaport, a project that was known as Manhattan Landing and would have erected several major office towers and possibly some residential uses on landfill in the East River.

Despite all this rather significant activity, downtown's health was precarious as landlords were only able to obtain rents that were a good 20 to 25 percent below those in Midtown as many workers found getting to downtown added to their commute and downtown did not have comparable shopping, dining and transportation amenities. The stock market crash of 1987 gave downtown a major shock and by the early 1990s many older office buildings there began to be converted to residential uses. That trend was quite healthy in that it preserved many wonderful older builders and significantly reinforced and expanded downtown's residential component, attracting more amenities and making it a more rounded "community" that did not shut down at 5PM. The boom of the late 1990s, however, coupled with the lack of new construction, halted that trend and some conversion plans were withdrawn as the office market and office rents tightened considerably.

Meanwhile, the city got in a large battle with New Jersey over Ellis Island, eventually losing most of it and the city also got mired in plans to redevelop Governor's Island, just off the tip of Lower Manhattan near Brooklyn where plans to significantly upgrade DUMBO, the waterfront area in Brooklyn across from Lower Manhattan between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, got mired.

In 1999, the Guggenheim Museum, flush with world-wide praise for its new museum in Bilbao, Spain, designed by Gehry, and under the very dynamic leadership of its director, Thomas Krens, proposed an immense mixed-use project for the former Manhattan Landing site that would be designed by Gehry.

The city's response was to ask for other proposals and in September, 2000, it was still considered the Guggenheim proposal and another one that proposed a hotel and office complex. The second proposal's designs have not been publicly shown, but the Guggenheim opened a spectacular exhibition at its Fifth Avenue museum of its proposal.

One could say that downtown's great skyline of the 1930's was ruined by much of the post-war development, although the pleasant towers of the World Financial Center did mitigate somewhat the imbalance created by the World Trade Center's twin towers.

The Guggenheim/Gehry plan will, if built, usher in a new era for downtown while shifting the balance of interest quite a lot to the east side of Lower Manhattan. This is no small plan, but a very flamboyant project of great magnitude that will be highly visible for not only will parts of reach be about 40-stories high, containing condominium apartments or offices, but it will several blocks long on the river side of the East River Drive with very broad, curved open plazas and esplanades beneath its flurling canopy of silver-colored, asymmetrical, curved museum spaces.

When the Whitney Museum of American Art initiated its "satellite" museums in the 1970s in such places as the first floor of the Philip Morris Building on Park Avenue across from Grand Central and in the basement of the castle-like office building known as Federal Reserve Plaza downtown, they were fine but conventional, box-like spaces and not terribly large.

The Guggenheim/Gehry project is huge and will contain more than a half-million square feet of space, but that figure is deceiving as most of this space will contain very high ceilings and thus be a much large structure than a conventional half-million-square-foot office building.

The Guggenheim Museum's Frank Lloyd Wright building on Fifth Avenue has been attracting visitors for more than four decades to gawk at and admire its daring inverted spiral rotunda design.

A world landmark, it is very, very modest in comparison with the new Gehry museum. Gehry's Bilbao Museum has probably attracted more interest and attention than any new building in the world since the Chrysler Building and its silvery spire was unveiled in 1931.

The museum's exhibition on the proposed downtown Gehry-designed museum is overwhelming in its inclusion of hundreds of preparatory studies, sketches and models and it includes a very large model of the present design as well as a very large model of Lower Manhattan with the museum project model in place, in scale, shown below. The latter model of downtown is in wood, but the museum project model on it is silver-colored.

Some unusual buildings have different facades on their four principal sides so that views of it have perhaps 16 or so different representations. The Gehry design explodes such architectural simplicity and will look different from hundreds of different angles and it will absolutely change the experience of driving along the FDR drive as it rises to its full height at its edge with the elevated highway creating a very dramatic canyon.

More importantly, the promenades along the river and the interior spaces are likely to become the city's most sensational architectural experiences. Gehry's recent designs are great sculptural art, imbued with the energy of Kandinsky, the metallic skins of David Smith and Brancusi and the imaginativeness of Piranesi and Gaudi. Because of their scale and complexity, they offer even richer experiences and make the public art of architecture truly a great art form. The great Gothic cathedrals enthrall, awe and enchant, but Gehry's new spatial environments entice, intrigue and bewilder. Bewilderment, as opposed to mere confusion or chaos, is not easy to find or define, in terms of architecture, or the other arts. Architecture is not just about facades, or interiors, but is multi-faceted and interactive with the viewer and user. Surprise has always been a good architect's tool, the processional fusillade of doors that ends in a giant room, or a meandering arcade that ends into a grotto. It is the disorienting adventure that opens up the user's perspective and mindsets, that encourages environmental shifts and emotional departures. These are the guts of Gehry's designs, the substance that many designers dream of and rarely create, the spatial shifts that are exciting but not extraneous, or mere folly.

Much has been written recently of Krens's magisterial, megalomaniac kingdom-building as if he were a sane, but brash Ludwig. Ambitious and very intelligent, Krens at least has visions, grand visions, and unfortunately most New Yorkers have not for a long time have not had the latter. Still, the recreation of Times Square in barely a decade after many years of neglect and despair has kindled hopes that the city need not be static and may be able to compete and regain its pride as the exciting center of the world.

What is quite extraordinary is one source familiar with the project has indicated that the Guggenheim already has very, very significant funds committed to this specific project from outside New York as well as commitments of significant private art collections specifically for it.

Despite its gargantuan scale, the project may well be realizable in the very near future, if, of course, the city gets off its duff and approves it.

None of the public discussions and reports so far have bothered to recall the city planners' previous Manhattan Landing plan for the site. The old plans were rather conventional in nature but at least large-scale, even larger than the Guggenheim/Gehry plan. Given the wonderful new vistas of architectural drama that are sprouting around the world, new plans are called for and it is exceeding doubtful that the city planners and other developers would come up with anything to rival the Guggenheim/Gehry proposal in concept.

It is, of course, the responsibility of the Guiliani Administration to protect the best interests of the city and to not make special deals that preclude fair competition. At the same time, history has demonstrated time and again that "requests for proposals" often lead to decisions based on immediate direct economic return as well as to a very long development cycle due to community involvement and environmental reviews and the like and that architectural merits and quality often are not given their due priority.

It should be clear to most reasonable people that a grandiose facility like the Guggenheim/Gehry proposal would pyrotechnically alter downtown. It would become an incredible magnet for tourists from around the world and the nation and would therefore greatly boost the livelihood of the adjacent South Street Seaport as well as revitalize all of Downtown, which is sorely lacking in cultural amenities.

In the fall of 2000, the Giuliani Administration apparently is preoccupied with a plan to build a sports stadium over the exposed, open train yards to the west of the former General Post Office Building that is planned to be converted partially into an expanded Penn Station. That plan completely overlook and ignores a prior plan by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to build a massive, mixed-use development of residential and commercial towers over the yards, a plan that would significantly enhance the resurgent Chelsea neighborhood immediately to the south and hark back to the brilliance of the Terminal City plan that created Grand Central Terminal by surrounding it with high quality hotels and office buildings. These plans are complicated, of course, by the city's perceived needs to expand the Javits Convention Center to the north and recent published reports have indicated that many planners believe that the city's shortage of available development sites requires a coordinated plan and one that focuses strongly on the Far West Midtown area.

A new sports arena should not be largely subsidized by the city and even more importantly should not be cited over the West Side train yards. Thought should be given to other locations where it will have less impact on traffic and more long-term economic development potential for the city. Ideally, one should have been considered for Battery Park City and perhaps still could be. Other sites that should be strongly considered are Central Park North, the Lower East Side, East Harlem and Harlem or Randall's Island, or even East River locations in Brooklyn or Queens. In no case, of course, should it be a giveaway to the owner of a professional sports team, but a world-class, spectacular facility that will provide real revenues to the city from its users as well as being capable of accommodating many uses. In short, it should follow the architectural lead of the Guggenheim/Gehry proposal and provide the city with a very major new landmark of great distinction.

The Guggenheim/Gehry proposal, moreover, is real and at hand and should be the focus of the Guiliani Administration's development attention.

It is not, however, something that should be swallowed whole immediately.

Unlike the Bilbao project, this Gehry design seems a bit wild, or rather, ungainly. Wildness is by no means a negative in design. The Bilbao design, however, "comes together" in a grand, albeit abrupt, way and its thrusts and waves and curves seem to make some sort of visually organic sense.

The downtown scheme, on the other hand, appears much more haphazard, and even hazardly in its swoops and loops and exploded tower. Without doubt, Gehry has fashioned wild and wonderful interiors that justify this almost amorphous project, and without doubt Gehry is absolutely competent and capable of tinkering with the design a bit more. It needs a bit of taming. The basic notion of huge, silvery ribbons cascading as if in rapids is fine, but the very large advertising signs at the north end and the rather strange tower are not in context with the rest of the design, nor the surroundings. One would have thought that Gehry might place the project's tower at the end closest to the South Street Seaport and applied a bit of Deconstructivist flourishes to conjure the tall masts of old sailing ships about its pinnacle or whatever. Also the northernmost and southermost components of the project are treated different architecturally, and therefore appear rather awkward.

Apart from the sensational façade treatment, which hopefully will have equally spectacular illumination effects at night, the greatest aspect of the design would appear to be the very, very large esplanades/promenades along and into the East River not far south from the Brooklyn Bridge.

The thought of these great, curved esplanades, of course, suggests the need for the city to do something about their vistas, that is, to encourage the development of really spectacular new landmarks on the other side of the river. Apparently, the city is not going to give Governor's Island to the United Nations for a major new project (see The City Review article), but the Brooklyn waterfront just to the south of the Brooklyn Heights esplanade surely has plenty of development potential and other areas in downtown Brooklyn could hopefully become the site of a few more great towers so that Brooklyn's great Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower will not be its own great skyscraper.

Certain projects by merits of the strength of their design become defining "moments" for their cities. The Eiffel Tower, of course, for Paris. "Big Ben" and the Houses of Parliament for London. Trinity Church, the Woolworth Building, the demolished Singer Building, the MetLife Building on Madison Square Park, The Empire State Building and the Chrysler Buildings in New York, for example, as well as Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Terminal and the United Nations - projects that escalate the ambiance, style and ambitions as well as pride of the city.

Not all such projects are immediately or forever successful as history has shown, but their contribution to the city is incalculable, or at least obviously extremely beneficial. The Solomon/Gehry proposal, even if not modified as suggested above, is such a project that will catapult the redevelopment of such long neglected areas as the Lower East Side and much of Brooklyn and do so with an exceeding high and exciting design standard.

The legacy of the Guiliani Administration depends on this project.

Tor Vergata University (Roma II) by Santiago Calatrava

Ground has been broken for a new Campus Master Plan, Sports City and Rectorate Tower.

Located to the east of central Rome, Tor Vergata University currently has a 1,480 acre campus serving 38,700 students in six schools: economics, law, engineering, arts and humanities, medicine and science.

Calatrava’s master plan for the campus, conceived with conscious reference to the Circus Maximus, is designed as a long promenade, bordered along its entire length by a double row of cypresses. At one end will be the new Sports City; at the other, the Rectorate of Tor Vergata University. A large urban park, linking the University with Sports City, will become a forum for meetings and social and cultural events.
Other buildings, to be developed later, will ultimately line the avenue, providing accommodations for students and housing new university faculties.

Sports City, to be developed in an area close to the Torrenova access to the Rome-Naples highway, will be comprised of two identical fan-shaped pavilions, arranged symmetrically, and a series of external infrastructure works to complete and complement the development. One of the pavilions will house the multi-purpose arena (Palasport); the other will accommodate the swimming pools (Palanuoto). The buildings will be functionally independent and therefore able to host different events at the same time.

The Palanuoto/Palasport complex will also contain gymnasia, laboratories, classrooms, teaching facilities, and a fitness and rehabilitation center, as well as offices and shops. Externally, the sporting area will be rounded off with a track for track and field events and an open-air swimming pool.

The essential element of the Rectorate, to be located at the opposite end of the main axis, is a tower, configured as a spiral winding around itself to produce a unified space that appears to stretch upward. The tower’s vertical profile is accentuated by metallic columns, which both constitute the structure and mark its shape. The design is transparent, so that the tower can draw light from the surrounding glazed surfaces and also (when illuminated at night) become a light source in itself.

A harmonious whole will be achieved in the campus by the presence of water, which will be a constant feature around the buildings and throughout the park. All architecture along the central promenade will be characterized by the transparency of the buildings, with alternating solid surfaces and glazed sections creating softly diffused light in the interiors and striking lighting effects externally, accentuated by reflections from the water. The landscaping will create a familiar setting, with the use of Mediterranean species such as cluster pines, false acacias and olive trees.

Sports City is scheduled for completion in time for the World Swimming Championships, to be hosted by Rome in 2009.

Client: Tor Vergata University (Roma II)
Architect: Santiago Calatrava LLC

Digital Beijing by Studio Pei Zhu Urbanus

Digital Beijing

Beijing Olympic Park

Beijing, People's Republic of China

Studio Pei Zhu / Urbanus 2007

The building, located on the northern end of the cities central axis, servea as the control and data center for the 2008 Olympic Games. At other times it will accommodate a virtual museum and an exhibition center for manufacturers of digital products.

The concept for Digital Beijing was developed through reconsideration and reflection on the role of contemporary architecture in the information era. Unlike its neighbors, PTW’s Water Cube and Herzog & de Meuron’s Bird’s Nest, Digital Beijing looks to use simple building construction and materials. A dark stone, quarried in the northern part of China, covers most of the exterior, with a glass curtain wall covering the east façade.

In contrast, the interior is covered with a composite fiberglass material develop by the architect.

In the future, it is expected that the building will be constantly under renovation as it evolves to keep pace with technology.

The project has been widely regarded as one of the great, yet unknown, structures on the Olympic campus, but also has its critics:

"Next door is Digital Beijing, an ominous-sounding "data and control centre" by the Chinese architect Pei Zhu. It is shaped, cheesily, like a mainframe computer from the 1960s, cut with linear glass strips evoking a circuit board. Four gloomy stone slabs, divided by glass atria, do an excellent Orwellian Ministry of Truth impression. It's slightly less spirit-crushing inside." - Tom Dyckhoff of Times Online

Friday, August 29, 2008

Shang Hai Ren Building By Bjarke Ingels

Architecture in China never ceases to amaze us—case in point—the REN Building. Copenhagen’s Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) proposed this eye-catching design over a year ago to coincide with Shanghai’s “Better City, Better Life” 2010 World Expo . The building takes its form from the Chinese character for person 人 (”ren”) and combines two buildings (one symbolic of mind and the other symbolic of body). We love the poetic inspiration that reflects both site and cultural sensitivity.

“The first building, emerging from the water, is devoted to the activities of the body, and houses the sports and water culture center. The second building emerging from land, is devoted to the spirit and enlightenment, and houses the conference center and meeting facilities. The two buildings meet in a 1000 room hotel, a building for living.”

It’ll be exciting to see if the plans for the project are approved. Check out more views and an animated fly-through of the project below.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Frank Gehry

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2008
Designed by Frank Gehry
20 July – 19 October

The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2008, which gives England the first built project by legendary architect Frank Gehry, is now open to the public. The spectacular structure – designed and engineered in collaboration with Arup – is anchored by four massive steel columns and is comprised of large timber planks and a complex network of overlapping glass planes that create a dramatic, multi-dimensional space. Gehry and his team took inspiration for this year’s Pavilion from a fascinating variety of sources including the elaborate wooden catapults designed by Leonardo da Vinci as well as the striped walls of summer beach huts. Part-amphitheatre, part-promenade, these seemingly random elements make a transformative place for reflection and relaxation by day, and discussion and performance by night.

The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion series, now entering its ninth year, is the world’s first and most ambitious architectural programme of its kind, and is one of the most anticipated events in the international design calendar.

Frank Gehry said: 'The Pavilion is designed as a wooden timber structure that acts as an urban street running from the park to the existing Gallery. Inside the Pavilion, glass canopies are hung from the wooden structure to protect the interior from wind and rain and provide for shade during sunny days. The Pavilion is much like an amphitheatre, designed to serve as a place for live events, music, performance, discussion and debate. As the visitor walks through the Pavilion they have access to terraced seating on both sides of the urban street. In addition to the terraced seating there are two elevated seating pods, which are accessed around the perimeter of the Pavilion. These pods serve as visual markers enclosing the street and can be used as stages, private viewing platforms and dining areas.'

Julia Peyton-Jones, Director, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director said:
'It is an exciting moment for London. Frank Gehry’s visionary Pavilion is remarkable and will be a landmark for the city this summer.'

The Pavilion is the architect’s first built structure in England. He has collaborated for the first time with his son Samuel Gehry. Since 2001, Peter Rogers, Director of Stanhope, has donated his expertise to all aspects of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilions and he continues to play a major role. The Pavilion is a fully accessible public space in the Royal Park of Kensington Gardens, attracting up to 250,000 visitors every Summer and is accompanied by an ambitious programme of public talks and events.

Frank Gehry
Raised in Toronto, Canada, Frank Gehry moved to Los Angeles in 1947. He received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Southern California in 1954, and studied City Planning at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. In subsequent years, Gehry has built an architectural career that has spanned four decades and produced public and private buildings in America, Europe and Asia. His work has earned him several of the most significant awards in the architectural field, including the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture, the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the Wolf Prize in Art (Architecture), the Praemium Imperiale Award, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Award, the National Medal of Arts, the Friedrich Kiesler Prize, the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal and the Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal. Recent projects include the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Bilbao, Spain; Maggie’s Centre, a cancer patient care centre in Dundee, Scotland; and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California. Some current projects include the Lou Ruvo Alzheimer Center in Las Vegas, Nevada; the Princeton Science Library in Princeton, New Jersey; the Hall Winery in Napa Valley, California; and the Puente de Vida Museo in Panama City, Panama.

Arup has worked on many of the Pavilions commissioned by Julia Peyton-Jones. Arup collaborated with Gehry Partners LLP to help evaluate the design strategies, choice of materials and structural typology of the 2008 Pavilion. Arup is also providing the engineering and specialist design on the project. The Arup team includes David Glover, and Ed Clark with Cecil Balmond.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion Commission

The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion commission was conceived by Serpentine Gallery Director, Julia Peyton-Jones, in 2000. It is an ongoing programme of temporary structures by internationally acclaimed architects and individuals. It is unique worldwide and presents the work of an international architect or design team who, at the time of the Serpentine Gallery's invitation, has not completed a building in England. The Pavilion architects to date are: Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen, 2007; Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond, with Arup, 2006; Álvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura with Cecil Balmond, Arup, 2005; MVRDV with Arup, 2004 (un-realised); Oscar Niemeyer, 2003; Toyo Ito with Arup, 2002; Daniel Libeskind with Arup, 2001; and Zaha Hadid, 2000. Each Pavilion is sited on the Gallery’s lawn for three months and the immediacy of the process - a maximum of six months from invitation to completion - provides a peerless model for commissioning architecture.

This year the project management of the Pavilion is being provided for the Serpentine Gallery by Jonathan Harper, Joanna Streeten and Tim Morse at Savant.

Serpentine Gallery Park Nights

Park Nights is a programme of events that runs between July and October 2008 in and around the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion designed by Frank Gehry. Park Nights includes Friday and Saturday night talks, performances and music, plus film screenings both in the Pavilion and on a 50-foot open-air screen. The programme culminates in October with the Manifesto Marathon, the latest in the Gallery’s acclaimed series of marathon events, conceived by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Serpentine Gallery Co-Director of Exhibitions and Programmes and Director of International Projects.

Oslo Opera House by Snohetta

Architects: Snohetta
Location: Bjørvika, Oslo, Norway
Client: Ministry of Church an Cultural Affairs
Area: 38.500sqm
Construction start: 2004
Completion: 2007
Contractors: 55 contracts
Geological Engineer: NGI
Structural Engineer: Reinertsen Engineering ANS
Electrical Engineer: Ingeniør Per Rasmussen AS
Theatre Planning: Theatre Project Consultants
Acoustics: Brekke Strand Akustikk, Arup Acoustic
Artists, integrated artwork: Kristian Blystad, Kalle Grude, Jorunn Sannes, Astrid Løvaas og Kirsten Wagle
Photos: Snohetta, Nina Reistad, Statsbygg, Erik Berg & Nicolas Buisson

About the Building Client and the User

Statsbygg is Norway’s largest civil property manager, with 650 employees. It is the state’s main consultant on building and property issues, development and management. Statsbygg is a management company under the Ministry of Renewal and Administration, but provides services and support to all ministries and state organs.
In 1998 the National Assembly decides that Statsbygg would be the building client for the new operahouse, responsible for planning and management. Statsbygg procure services in the private sector, but are responsible for professional coordination and quality control of the consultants, contractors and suppliers.
The Norwegian Opera and Ballet is the building’s end user. They are Norway’s largest music and theatrical institution. Their core purpose is to be the national producer of opera, ballet, music and dance theatre, and concerts. They intend to have approx. 300 shows and 250,000 visitors per year. The Operahouse will be a workplace for approx. 600 employees from more than 50 professions.
Architect’s description

The operahouse is the realisation of the winning competion entry. Four diagrams, which were part of the entry, explain the building’s basic concept.

“The wave wall”

Opera and ballet are young artforms in Norway. These artforms evolve in an international setting . The Bjørvika peninsula is part of a harbour city, which is historically the meeting point with the rest of the world.. The dividing line between the ground ‘here’ and the water ‘there’is both a real and a symbolic threshold. This threshold is realised as a large wall on the line of the meeting between land and sea, Norway and the world, art and everyday life. This is the threshold where the public meet the art.

“The Factory”

A detailed brief was developed as a basis for the competition. Snøhetta proposed that the production facitities of the operahouse should be realised as a self contained, rationally planned ‘factory’. This factory should be both functional and flexible during the planning phase as well as in later use. This flexibility has proved to be very important during the planning phase: a number of rooms and romm groups have been adjusted in collaboration with the end user. These changes have improved the buildings functionality without affecting the architecture.

“The Carpet”

The competion brief stated that the operahouse should be of high architectural quality and should be monumental in it’s expression. One idea stood out as a legitimation of this monumentality: The concept of togetherness, joint ownership, easy and open access for all. To achieve a monumentality based on these notions we wished to make the opera accessible in the widest possible sense, by laying out a ‘carpet’ of horizontal and sloping surfaces on top of the building. This carpet has been given an articulated form, related to the cityscape. Monumentality is achieved through horizontal extension and not verticality.
The conceptual basis of the competition, and the final building, is a combination of these three elements - The wave wall, the factory and the carpet.

Urban situation

The operahouse is the first element in the planned transformation of this area of the city. In 2010 the heavy traffic beside the building will be moved into a tunnel under the fjord. Due to its size and aesthetic expression, the operahouse will stand apart from other buildings in the area. The marble clad roofscape forms a large public space in the landscape of the city and the fjord.

The public face of the operahouse faces west and north - while at the same time, the building’s profile is clear from a great distance from the fjord to the south. Viewed from the Akershus castle and from the grid city the building creates a relationship between the fjord and the Ekerberg hill to the east. Seen from the central station and Chr. Fredriks sq. The opera catches the attention with a falling which frames the eastern edge of the view of the fjord and its islands.

The building connects city and fjord, urbanity and landscape.
To the East, the ‘factory’ is articulated and varied.
One can see the activities within the building: Ballet reheasal rooms at the upper levels, workshops at street level. The future connection to a living and animated new part of town will give a greater sense of urbanity.
Collaboration with artists

For Snøhetta, close collaboration with artists has always been an important part of building projects. As early as the competition stage, artist were invited in as collaborators, and the wished to continue this from the beginning of the design phase. Snøhetta have tried to avoid having artist apply ‘decoration’ to the architecture, prefering to allow for an open dialogue between artists, artisans and professionals with various approaches to important building elements. With the operahouse, the architect intended that both the large marble clad roofscape and the aluminium clad facades should be approached as collaborative endeavours.

An early collaboration was established for the sone roof with artists: Kristian Blystad, Kalle Grude og Jorunn Sannes. One year later, in accordance with the guidelines for state funding building projects, a committee for integrated artwork was established. This committee engaged the artists Astrid Løvaas og Kirsten Wagle to collaborate on the design of the metal cladding elements.
Choice of materials

The materials, with their specific weight, colour, texture and temperature, have been vital to the design of the building. Snøhettas architecture is narative. It is the materials which form the defining elements of the spaces. It is the meeting of the materials which articulates the architecture through varied detail and precision.

In the operahouse, three main materials were specified as early as the competition entry: White stone for the ‘carpet’, timber for the ‘wave wall’, and metal for the ‘factory’. During the continued work on the project, a fourth material, glass, which allows for the exposure of the underside of the ‘carpet’, has been given specific attention.


After an international tender competition, th italian marble, La Facciata, was chosen. This is a stone which, in common with other marbles, retains its brilliance and colour even when wet. It has the necessary technical quality in terms of stabitity, density, and longevity. The producer, Campolonghi, has had the professional ability, capacity, and experience necessary for such a large and complex project.
The accessibble area of the ‘carpet’ is approx. 18,000 m2. Its detailed design has been important: the architect desired that it should not interfere with the general dorm of the building but that it simultaneously was articulated enough to be ineresting at close quarters.
Together with the artists several alternatives were proposed before a particular non repetitive pattern with integrated riased areas, special cuts, various surface textures, and specific details were designed to articulate the main geometry.


Oak has been chosen as the dominating material for both the ‘wave wall’ and the main auditorium.
For the wave wall it has a light and varied surface. Oak is used throughout for the floors, walls and ceilings. The wave wall has a complex organic geometri made up of joined cone shapes. It is also an important acoustic attenuator within the foyer space. To achieve these goals it is made up of smaller elements which can deal with the changing geometry and provide acoustic absorption.
Inside the auditorium oak has been chosen for a number of reasons: It is dense, easily formed, stable and tactile.
The oak has been treated with amonia to give a dark tone. Here too oak is used for floors, walls, and ceilings, as well as balcony fronts, and acoustic reflectors.


An operahouse is designed and built to have a long lifespan. This means that a simple, modern metal cladding, such as we associate with factories and workshops, needs to be re-evaluated and redesigned.
After a consideration of aesthetics, longevity, maleability and the possibility to make very flat panel, aluminium wa chosen. To give the panels further quality, a collabarative process was begun with two artists.
The design team initially aimed for an industrial modulrity but that the panels themselve should have greater visual quality. The panels were punched with convex spherical segments and concave conical forms. The pattern was developed by the artists based on old weaving techniques.
In all, eight different panels were designed which give a constantly changing effect depending on the angle, intensity and colour of the light playing on them.


The high glass facade over the foyer has a dominant role in the views of the building from the south, west, and north. Early in the project it was realised that this glass faced was more important than previously assumed, both during the day and night when it would act as a lamp illuminating the external surfaces.

The glass façade is up to 15 meters high. It was the architects intention to design a glass construction with an absolute minimum og columns, framing, and stiffening in steel. The solution was to use glass fins where minimised steel fixings are sandwiched inside the laminates.
The requirements for the glass’s stiffness increased due to the desire for large panels and slim joints where the panels meet.
Thick glass of this sort tends to be quite green rather than transparent. It was therefore decided that the façade of the operahouse would use low iron glass.

plan 1
Plan solution, general arrangement

The building is split in two by a corridor running north-south, the ‘opera street’. To the west of this line are located all the public areas and stage areas. The eastern part of the building houses the production areas which are simpler in form and finish. Comprising 3 to 4 storeys above ground. There is also a basement level - U1 - below this part of the building. The sub stage area is a further 3 storeys deep.

The building’s western part

A marble clad plaza leads the visitors to the foyer and other public areas. A secondary entrance on the north façade gives firect access to the restaurant and foyer. To the south, the foyer opens up to the inner oslo fjord and views of Hovedøya island. To the west and north it is views of the city which dominate, while the auditoria lie to the east. There can be as many as 1900 audience members in the building. 1400 in the main auditorium, 400 in stage 2 and 150 in rehearsal room 1, which doubles as a black box theatre.
There is a brasserie to the south of the foyer, a restaurant to the north and several bars which can be run separately from the performances. Service functions such as education spaces, cloakrooms, toilets, information/ticketing desk and diverse smaller rooms are located around the foyer. From the foyer, at ground level, and from the public galleries, access is provided to the two main auditoria.

The large stage area occupies a significant part of the building footprint. Here is the main stage (16m x16m) with an 11.8m deep substage, two side stages and two rear stages, as well as a scenery hall and store. There is a free height of minimum 9m throughout these areas. Storage for the backdops is located above the rear side stage. Finished scenery for several performances and acts can stand ready on the rear and side stages as well as below stage. In addition, the large rehearsal room is located in direct connection to the stage areas and can provide further scenery storage should this be necessary.

The orchestra rehearsal room - an acoustically sensitive space - is also located in the western part of the building - at basement level. This hall is the orchestra’s most important rehearsal space and can also be used for recording purposes. The requirement for variable acoustics is achieved by the use of adjustable panelling and drapes. The room can achieve similar acoustics to the main auditorium.

A passage from the foyer, along the southern façade, leads to rehearsal room 1 allowing it to be used as a public performance space.
The same area of the building at the upper levels houses sponsor lounges and a VIP room.
The building’s eastern part
To the east of the ‘opera street’ are located all the production and administration areas; approx 1000 rooms of varing size and function. The opera street is the main communication artery for all the employees - almost 600 persons from more than 50 professions.

A large loading dock running east west splits the back of house area in two. Here also, the dimensions of the space are given by the size of scenery elements, up to 9m high.

To the north lie the ‘hard workshops’ where the scenery is made. Several professions have their workspaces here, carpenters, metalworkers, painters and decorators. The finished scenery is moved through the loading dock and directly into the rear stage area.

To the south lie all the other functions necessary to serve the needs of the dancers and singers: ‘Soft workshops’ with costume production, wigs, hats, gloves and make up areas. Also administration and changing rooms are located here.
A spaceous green courtyard is at the heart of this area on levels U1 and Ground.
Most of the changing rooms house 4 performers with all the necessary costume and make up for each show. The rooms are also intended to be a place for relaxing and concentrating and are therefore equipped with a day bed.

The opera and ballet departments have several large rehearsal rooms in this zone on levels 3 and 4. and it is possible to transport scenery from the loading dock to the rehearsal spaces on level 3 via an elevator with a clear height of 6m. The largest of the rehearsal rooms has a clear height of 9m and is as large as the main stage. This allows the dancers to practice a complete performance. All these spaces have walls with acoustic attenuation. There are also a number of small rehearsal rooms at palan 2.

The wig makers, make up artists, and dressers are located closer to the stage at level 1 (ground). From here the artistes can access the stage areas at ground level or from the basement.

At level 2 there are msic archives, offices, and support functions for the orchestra as well as a health center and gym.
Level 3 houses the administration department with a large canteen wo the south with a terrace overlooking the fjord.

The main auditorium

The main auditorium is a classic horseshoe theatre built for opera and ballet. It houses approx. 1370 visitors divided between stalls, perterre, and three balconies. Technical spaces occupies the area above balcony 3.
The orchestra pit is highly flexible and can be adjusted in height and area with the use of three separate lifts.
On each side of the stage are mobile towers which allow for adjustments in the proscenium width for ballet or opera without damaging the acoustics of the hall. Reverberation time is fine tuned using drapes along the rear walls and control rooms for sound and light are located to the back of the hall.
The form of the auditorium is based on several relationships: short distance between the audience and the performers, good sight lines, and, above all, excellent acoustics. The architectural intentions for a modern auditorium with traditional, acoustic musical performance have been developed in parallel with requirements for visual intimacy and acoustic excellence. In older opera halls acoustic attenuation was often achieved by using rich decorative, sculptural elements on most surfaces. In this case the requirements have been met with a clean, carved aesthetic using a modern formalistic language.
The requirement for a long reverberation time results in a room with a large volume. In this case the volume is increased by the use of a technical gallery which cantilevers out over the walls below, giving the hall a T shaped section. The main structure of the stone clad roof above is included in the volume of the hall rather than being hidden behind a false ceiling.

Optimum acoustics have been achieved by the following methods:
• We have, also as an aesthetic move, given the balcony fronts a geometry which changes relative to its location in the room and the acoustic function necessary in each location. At the sides the form reflects sound back down to the audience whilst at the rear it sends soungs in multiple direction to avoid focussing.
• The oval ceiling reflector visually finishes the hall and also reflects sounds in very specific ways. The same principle is used as with the balcony fronts.
• The rear walls at each level are made up of convex panels to avoid focussing and to spread sound evenly through the room.
• The geometri of the interlying walls, main orchestra reflector, and the mobile towers are modulated to scatter sound around the space. Using timber staves of varying dimensions to modulate sound of different wavelengths.
• All the surfaces are of relatively dense materials to avoid high frequency vibrations. Balcony fronts are 50mm solid oak where the rear wall panels are 100mm MDF with oak veneer.

The double curvature of the balcony fronts and oval ceiling ring are made of pre-fabrcated oak elements made of solid stave glued together, amonia treated and the routed from 3D computer drawings before oiling and polishing. The dark coluour is particularly suited to the theatre space and the oak gives a rich, warm, and intimate feel to the space.
The seats are designed to absorb as little sound as possible. Materials are dark timber and a specially design orange red fabric as a counterpoint. Text display screens are built into the seat backs so that the audience can individually choose to read the libretto in a number of languages.
The auditorium is illuminated by a snøhetta designed chandelier in the form of a shallow lens as well as inbuilt LED fittings in the cailigs and floor.

The chandelier

The chandelier, which is suspended inside the oval reflector, is an important element in the hall as performs several tasks. It is the auditoriums main source of illumination, using LED for the first time in such a setting. It weighs 8.5 metric tons and has a diameter of 7m. It is made up of 5800 hand cast glass crystals through which 800 LED lights shine. This bathes the room in a cool diffuse light. The whole chandelier can be lowered to the floor for maintenance.

It is also an important acoustic reflector. This explains the particular form which scatters and diffuses sound. The distance between the strips of crystals increases towards the stage to allow a greater amount of sound to pass through and therefore contribute to the reverberance of the space. It is placed forward of the centre in order to allow unhindered sightlines from the follow spot room on the rear of the oval reflector.
Finally it forms a visual closure to the hall itself to take attention away from the technical spaces and structure above.

The stage curtain

The stage curtain is also an important element in the auditorium. Together with the chandelier and seat fabric it is a contrast to the dark timber. It has been made by the american artist Pae White, following an international competition. She has worked with digital images of aluminium foil which reflects and adopts the colurs of the auditorium. These images are then transferred to a computer driven loom.

Stage 2

Stage 2 can, depending on the chosen seating configuration, house an audience of up to 400. It will be used by both opera and ballet, as well as for banquet functions, rock concerts, experimental performances and children’s theatre. It is a multi use hall where the seats, which are on large wagons, can be repositioned in a number of different configurations. There are 2 large elevators which form an amphitheatre, orchestra pit and transport seating wagons for storage in the basement.
The area which is normally the stage is made up of removable floor elements. The auditium has no flytower but rather an extensive motorised pully system to hang and transport scenery, backdrops and acoustic reflectors when necessary. A 9m high sliding gate connects the stage area with the back stage zones and scenery stores. The reverberation time in the hall can be damped down for amplified performances.

The client required an auditorium with the flexibility of a black box but with an amount of architectural quality and identity. These to requirements are generally considered to be mutually exclusive, but after close discussions with the end user, a solution was found where of a black box has a high quality cotrasting, freestanding structure placed inside it.
This ‘object’ has rounded, high gloss, red paneling on the outside and a cooler metallic silver finish in towards the stage.
Four technical bridges span across the space at high level housing lighting and ventilation and forming an important visual and acoustic ceiling.
Between the columns, large, black painted doors and removable panels are used to adjust to different configurations. These panels have also been given acoustic consideration.


The exterior of the operahouse becomes diffuse as night falls. The large timber ‘wave wall’ in the foyer is illuminated and the building takes on a completely different character. The interior becomes the façade. It shows how interdependent the interior and exterior of the building are.

The building’s architectonic ideas and concepts have also been used in the buildings interiors. The task has included considerable interior planning based on the schedule of rooms, functions, colours, materials, and surface treatments, coordinating lighting schemes, technical instalations, built in furniture, wet rooms, kitchen solutions, elevator cars, fittings and fixtures.
It has also encompassed design and coordination of the end user equipment and loose furnishings.
Cooperation between the various architectural diciplines has been vital.

Interiors concept, public spaces

The experience of the buildings exterior clearly requires that the interiors be of equally high architectural quality.
On entering the building one is first lead in under the lowest part of the sloping roofscape. Where the ceiling falls to meet the floor.
This area is used for the public cloakroom where a copse of slim columns hold the visitors coats. Further out into the foyer, four volumes hold up the roof. The perforated, illuminated cladding of these is another example of integrated artwork. In this case by Olafur Eliasson. These white form house the public toilets. Moving out into the open space of the foyer one is below an expance of white, sloping cailing held up by angled white columns which meet in clusters at floor level.
The grand staicase is peeled out of the wooden wall and leads up to 3 galleries around the auditorium. Thus providing access to the upper levels of the hall.The interior of the wooden wall has an intimate feel in contrast to the open, white foyer.Dark light locks lead the audience into the heart of the building. The main auditorium.The feeling is of being inside a carved out piece of timber, or perhaps within a musical instrument.

Furnishings and equipment in the public areas

The interior, from cloakroom to auditorium can be described as a formalistic journey which takes the visitor from the open unknown to the enclosed and secure. The level of abstraction to be seen in the outer spaces ahs made it natural to minimise the number of recognisable builing elements and details.
At the same time it has been a clear aim that the furniture elements use the same design language as the building as a whole.
Larger elements such as bar counters, shop fittings, ticketting desk, and cafè interiors are either integrated in larger building forms or designed as free standing sculptural forms in white corian. These can be completely closed down when not in use.

The cloakroom and foyer are further furnished using simple seating forms and high tables made of steel plate coated with industrial rubberized black lacquer. Upholstery is with flat sheets of felt and sheep skin. Signage is made of the same black steel and white glass surfaces complete a number of the interior elements.

Furnishing of the production areas

These zones are designed around eronomics, functionality, and experience. The harde workshops are rational rooms where the logistics of mechanisation dominate the design. Wig and make-up workshops have been provided with specially designs workstation modules specific to the user’s requirements. The costume department, which is a hectic space full of activity has been given solution specific to its complex logistics.

The three artforms; Ballet, opera, and orchestra all have their requirements for changing rooms fulfilled with standardised but purpose built furniture. However, the orchestra have larger, 10 man changing rooms with areas for unpacking instruments, rest, and changing prior to a performance, amd with shared access to toilets and showers. The Ballet, choir and soloists have smaller 4 or 6 man rooms with person specific places and showers shared with the neighbouring room.
For the ballet these rooms function as a home base in a day filled with training and rehearsals.

All the changing rooms are specially design with fitted, standardised furniture, make up tables, day beds and cupboards.

A great deal of work has gone into designing the rehearsal spaces for the different groups. These are important working spaces, with optimised acoustics, ventilation, and lighting. The intention has been to provide a great deal of spacial quality and the acoustic wall panelling in particular contributes to this.

Material use in the production areas

The brief for these area specifies that they should be simple and inexpensive. This means that they are of general office quality with painted walls and linoleum flooring. This works well as a neutral background to the opera’s colourful costumes and stage elements which enliven the spaces.
The colour palette is therefor quite simple and neutral.

The open courtyard forms a central reference point to the production areas and the corridors which encircle it are given a dark colour to make orientation easier.
The rehearsal rooms have different characters for ballet, opera and choir.. The ballet spaces are light and airy with views over the fjord to the south. Whilst the choir space is more introvert with daylight from a high clerestory window facing east. Enclosing the musical experience. Colours and materials have a warmer, darker hue.

Furniture and end user equipment

Even though the building is large, there is little loose furniture. We have attempted to to simplify and standardise the choice of furniture and relate it to the building’s architectural design. A small number of quality furniture producers have been chosen and the pieces have a clean, contemporary design which is simultaneously classical enough to be timeless.


The opera’s landscape comprises of the marble roof, additional marble clad areas, and the areas between the building and the surrounding streets. Access to the plaza and the main entrance is over a marble clad footbridge over the opera canal. The plaza forms a part of a public promenade and cycle lane which continues around the west and south sides of the building, and eventually coming to a planned bridge over the Aker river to the east.

As early as the competition entry, Snøhetta proposed that the roofscape should be openly accessible to the general public and that it should be clad with white stone. Today the building’s defining feature is the characteristic geometry of the roof as it rises from the fjord and is laid out like a carpet over the public areas. An important move has been to introduce channels along the roof edges with ramps and steps. This allows the integration of regulation height balustrades with raising the line of the roof itself.
To achieve enough acoustic volume in the auditorium, the roof has been raised indepently inside the line of the balustrades. This has created a new viewing point from which the city and the fjord can be experienced. The roofs are mostly too steep for wheelchair use but access to the near flat, upper areas is provided via a dedicated elevator.

The surface treatment of the stone, its pattern, cuts and lifts which create a shadow play, have been designed in close collaboration with the artists. The white marble is ‘La Facciata’ from the Carrara quaries in Italy. The north facede and all the stone cladding which is in contact with water is a norwegian granite called ‘Ice Green’
Prototypes and tests at full scale were studied at the contractor’s facitities before the final choices were made for colour nuance and surface texture. A running quality control regime has been implemented throughout the production process

Adjacent areas During the building period it became clear that rapid and considerable settling of the ground level around the building would need to be addressed.
Large areas of gravel which is designed to take local vehicular traffic have been laid around the building footprint. This is easy to adjust as the ground sinks relative to the building which is founded on the bedrock. Trees are planted in the gravel areas, and a zone of street furniture is located along the pavement line with cycle parking, benches and specially designed streetlamps in stainless steel. The pavements are of asphalt with black granite edges and larger areas of granite paving wto highlight the entrances to the restaurant, opera street, and stage entrance. The dark grey colur palette is a clear contrast to the light stone and aluminium of the building itself within a cool monochrome language.
Landscaping of the surrounding areas has been designed in collaboration between Snøhetta and Bjørvika Infrastructure who have been responsible for the planning of the street around the operahouse.


The courtyard is a garden in the middel of the production area of the building. Surrounded by facades of black glass, aluminium and timber and open to the sky. There is direct access to the courtyard from ground and basement levels while the upper levels experience it as a green lung deep inside the building. In front of the sound insulated rehearsal rooms at basement level, vegetation has been planted to form a screen. The floor of the courtyard is a composition of timber dekking, white marble, and green areas. A marble cladd stair connects the two levels. Grasses, climbing plants and perennials are planted around clusters of cables reaching up to the upper levels and providing shade to the facades.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mountain Dwelling, Copenhagen by Bjarke Ingels

Architect: BIG
Project: Mountain Dwellings
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Partner-in-Charge: Bjarke Ingels
Project Leader: Finn Nørkjær
Project Architect: Jakob Lange
Project Manager: Jan Borgstrøm
Contributers: Annette Jensen, Dariusz Bojarski, Dennis Rasmussen, Eva Hviid-Nielsen, Henrick Poulsen, Joao Vieira Costa, Jørn Jensen, Karsten V. Vestergaard, Karsten Hammer Hansen, Leon Rost, Louise Steffensen, Malte Rosenquist, Mia Frederiksen, Ole Elkjær-Larsen, Ole Nannberg, Roberto Rosales Salazar, Rong Bin, Sophus Søbye, Søren Lambertsen, Wataru Tanaka
Client: HØPFNER A/S, Danish Oil Company A/S
Size: 33.000 m2
Expected completion: June 2008

Right next to their VM Housing project, BIG is currently finishing their new project: Mountain Dwellings. But this time, the client asked for a specific program with 2/3 parking and 1/3 living. Rather than doing 2 separate buildings, BIG decided to combine the splendours of the suburban backyard with the social intensity of urban density, resulting on a terraced housing over the parking area.

The parking area needs to be connected to the street, and the homes require sunlight, fresh air and views, thus all apartments have roof gardens facing the sun, amazing views and parking on the 10th floor. The Mountain Dwellings appear as a suburban neighbourhood of garden homes flowing over a 10-storey building - suburban living with urban density.

The residents of the 80 apartments will be the first in Orestaden to have the possibility of parking directly outside their homes. The gigantic parking area contains 480 parking spots and a sloping elevator that moves along the mountain’s inner walls. In some places the ceiling height is up to 16 meters which gives the impression of a cathedral-like space.

The north and west facades are covered by perforated aluminium plates, which let in air and light to the parking area. The holes in the facade form a huge reproduction of Mount Everest. At day the holes in the aluminium plates will appear black on the bright aluminium, and the gigantic picture will resemble that of a rough rasterized photo. At night time the facade will be lit from the inside and appear as a photo negative in different colours as each floor in the parking area has different colours.