Colour and texture at the service of the senses. Conceived by the Austrian designer Erwin Leo Himmel, this collection has opted for intense colours to imbue the bathroom space with happiness and a free-and-easy air. What is more, its harmonious forms and textured finishes appeal to the most demanding sense of touch. Vincent Gregoire, creative manager of the renowned agency Nelly, has chosen a range of colour schemes to make this series a genuine gift for the senses.
The signatures of the Germans Schmidt & Lackner appear on this extensive collection, which offers a large number of solutions for the contemporary habitat. Their proposal enables one to make the most of the space and it easily merges with any style.
Herzog & de Meuron’s winning proposal for the Museum of the 20th Century extension in Berlin has been called into question by German architect Wilfried Wang, the co-founder of Berlin-based Hoidn Wang Partner and (since 2002) the O’Neil Ford Centennial Professor at UT Austin’s School of Architecture. Wang believes the Swiss firm’s design is severely lacking in both architectural and urbanist respects.
Speaking in The Competition Project (whose editor translated Wang’s commentary, which first appeared in the German journal Bauwelt last year), Wang first discusses the project’s relationship with its immediate surroundings: Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie (completed in 1968) and the Hans Scharoun’s Berlin Philharmonic concert hall (completed in 1963).
By extending the form of this introverted structure to cover the entire competition site, little or no value is added to the immediate environs. To the contrary, that and the immense surfaces of the facades, right up to the edge of the pedestrian walkways, only serve to diminish the importance of the surrounding buildings. All the trees to the south of the site will disappear, and 90% of the outer walls of the building, regardless of the suggested use of porous brick detailing, are completely closed off.
Next in the firing line was the proposal’s program:
The corridors stacked over one another, labeled “Boulevards” by the architects, are connected in the quadrants by smaller corridors and stairs. The metaphor, “Boulevard,” is as misleading as was Le Corbusier’s “rue intérieur.” Boulevards are accessible 24 hours a day as open public spaces. In the evenings these corridors will be closed to the public. Rectangular exhibit areas are placed on three levels—not easily accessible to the visitor as a result of the labyrinth-like circulation plan.
The most extreme anti-urbanistic example honored by the jury with a merit award was OMA’s pyramid-like scheme, completely blocking any relationship between Mies and Sharoun by inserting their own icon in between the two.
By contrast, the shortlisted designs that entered the fray during the first open competition, Wang argues, were “more modern, sensitive, and led one to assume that a different solution would be in store.” These notions did filter into the competition’s final stage, said Wang, with SANAA and Sou Fujimoto’s (both from Japan) less disruptive proposed interventions.
Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA’s submission. (Courtesy SANAA via Competitions)
Note: For his Master’s degree in 1981, Wang researched six cultural centers including London’s South Bank Centre, Paris’s Centre Beaubourg and Berlin’s Kulturforum. In 1992 he published a monograph on the work of Herzog & de Meuron.
“Our instincts could be summed up by the words of Peter Smithson: ‘things need to be ordinary and heroic at the same time,’” said Jury Chairman Stephen Bates. “We were looking for an ordinariness whose understated lyricism is full of potential’.”
Through April, the jury members will visit each finalist project to evaluate the buildings firsthand and to see how they are used by the public. The Prize Winner will be announced in Brussels on May 16.
“The Jury’s selection consolidates the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award as a strategic element by which to promote research into, debate on and dissemination of contemporary architecture in Europe,” explained Anna Ramos, Director of the Fundació Mies van der Rohe.
“Issues such as collective housing, the complexity of the European city – both contemporary and historical – and the ability of architecture to create symbolic spaces provide us with the opportunity to extend the debate on the finalist works beyond architectural circuits, because they respond to the concerns of today’s European society.”
Malgorzata Omilanowska, art historian, former Minister of Culture in Poland and member of the Jury, added: “social housing, memory and the problem of context and new constructions in the old city centres have proven to be important to us as a Jury. The finalist works show the problematic of our time; what has happened in the last year reveals the really deep problem of populism and the lack of memory. These 5 projects show the problem that we face as citizens, not only as architecture specialists, but as members of today’s society.”
New for this year’s awards program, the 5 finalists and the Emerging Architect award buildings will be opened to the public between May 20th and 28th to meet the architects and Prize organizers and get a chance to learn more about the projects.