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New European Architecture 08/09

Edited by Hans Ibelings and Kirsten Hannema, A10 Media BV, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2009, pp. 156, $63.50

RATP Centre in Thiais, France by Combarel and Marrec

RATP Bus and Administrative Centre in Thiais, France, designed by Emmanuel Combarel and Dominique Marrec

By Carter B. Horsley

This wonderful, 155-page book illustrates and describes 20 fascinating recent projects in Europe, almost all of which have received no publicity in the United states

In addition to the photo-essays on 20 new buiding projects, the soft-cover book also includes several provocative essays: "The architectural triumph of post-industrial Bilbao" by Carlos Guimaraes; "Abstract Romanticism, European landscape architecture and the globulisation of nature," by Christian Welzbacher; "Small-town architecture: Global regionalism in Europe: by Habns Ibelings; a review by Gonzala Herrera Delicado of the Caixa Forum in Madrid designed by Herzog & de Meuron; a review by Lotte Sandberg of the Opera House in Oslo designed by Snohetta AS; and an interview with Philipp Oswalt of the "Shrinking Cities Project" by Christian Weitzbacher.

The cover illustration of the book is of the RATP Bus and Administrative Centre in Thiais in France designed by Emmanuel Combarel and Dominique Marree. In his commentary, Xavier Gonzalex notes that this low-rise structure manages to have a monumental quality and "derives its legitimacy from the symbolic and fundamental link with the roadway, with the asphalt....[and] seems to rise from the adjacent roadway and the parking facility....as though foreced upward by a telluric surge, the ground curves, changes shape and seems to loose depth, turning into a emcumberance, a flexible epidemeris with curved edges....To achieve this continuity of surfaces, the architects resorted to Ductal, a leightweight, malleable, coloured cocrete containing Fibres. The result is a dense, insert, silent, enigmatic structure, like 'the hull of a Russian submarine skimming the surface of the water at Murmansk,' the architects assert....The strict requirements of prfabrication also produce a remarkably high-qiality finish, which guarantees a precise, continuuous, perfectly adjusted cladding to its eges. This 3-cm-thick skin is doecrated with ar raised crampon motif, 24mm in diameter and 7mm high, tht is reminsecent of Lego bocks. Although seemingly a single block, the monolith is actually fractured, extreuded, carved with the precision of a scapel; this material extraction produces gaps that make its depth legible and bright light inside the building.....In the midst of a cacophonous landscape in which architecture is buried aunder company logos, discount signs or advertising billboards that cancel one another out, the monolith cuts a serene figure."

RATP is the largest public transport grup in France, in charge of most of the Paris region's surban transport systems and Thiais in the Val de Marne, a suburban area south of Paris and close to Orly Airport.

"Cloud Tower open-air stage" near Vienna

Cloud Tower Open-air stage, Grafenegg, Austria, The next ENTERprise

In 2009, the Cloud Tower open-air stage opened in Grafenegg near Vienna in Austria. It was designed by The next ENTERprise of which Marie-Therese Haroncourt and Ernst J. Fuchs are principals with Thomas Proksch of Land in Sicht as landscape architect. The facility has seating for 1,670 persons. "The most obvious reason for the name," according to the essay on the building by Annie Isopp, "is the window at the rear of the stage which allows the audience to look through to the natural landscape and the sky beyond, even during conerts. But according to the architects, the entire stage constructio is cloudlike; its shiny metal surface reflects the sky and the trees....Visitors are directed to thespectator area along broad tunnels through the hill. Instead of meansdering paths, the sequences of vistaqs and spaces typical of an English landscape park were achieved by modelling the terrain....Because the stage is designed to operate without electronic acoustic enhandcement, only hard materials that reflect csound came under consideration....The Cloud tower is only used as a stage for summer events, of course' explains Fuchs. That is fifteen to twenty times a year. The rest of the time it is an object in the park. ....The tiers are accessible even when there is no event, and can be used for relaxing or for a picnic."

Community Center by netzwerk achitecten

Community Cenre at Mannheim-Neuhermsheim, Germany by netzwerk architecten

For a Protestant community center in Mannheim-Neuhermsteim, Germany, netzwerk architecten has designed an extemely attractive, one-story pavilion those bright-white angled externior wall supports bear a striking similarity to some of Toyo Ito's great designs in Japan. In her essay in the book on this project, Ursua Baus notes that the town "is a cheerless expanse of urban sprawl," but adds "a modest heart has now been implanted in this architectural no-man's land....In 2003, netzwerk architects from Darmstadt won a two-stage competitions against 440 other entires....Surrounded by a row of upright supoorts that recall plants, the community centre attracts passers-by, offering views of the interior and what lies byond. It is set around a semi-public garden courtyard, rather than shutting iself off from its mundane surrounding, the structure of meeting hall, meeting rooms and youth centre seeks contact.....A cosy, solid atmpophere with plenty of wood and coloured walls was discussed with the community, but the architects were able to persuade all involved of the potential benefit of a white, apparently high-maintenance interior....The items required for church services - organ, font, etc. - are on wheels, allowing the room to be structured and furnished differently as needed."

Apartment buiding in Amsterdam by hvdn architecten

Apartment Building, Amsterdam, Netherlands, hvdn architecten

One of the most acclaimed recent architectural projects in New York City is Jean Nouvel's 100 Eleventh Avenue apartment house in West Chelsea in which had placed about 1,700 different sized, rectangular windows installed at a variety of angles, shattering the city's typical residential construction of flush and simple curtain walls.

Well, once you venture outside myopic, rule-contricted Manhattan you often discover that other people have invented wheels or their equivalent despite their lack of publicity.

An apartment building in Amsterday, Netherlands, designed by hvdn architecten, for example takes a conventional glass-clad apartment building and sets its rectangular windows at varying angles creating a highly textured effect, one that almost appears to be, in great deconstructivist fashion, about to flake apart.

"It's OK to steal an idea, as long as you improve on it," according to architect Arie van der Neut of Amstersdam-based hvdn. "It creates a responsibility towards your predecessopr." In the case of this apartment building Amsterdam-east, that predecessor is the Swiss firm of Herzog & de Meuron. Van der Neut is the first to admit that hvdn's facade concept is indeed based on the St. Gallen headquarters of teh Swiss insurance firm Helvetia (2001).; Herzog & de Meuron particularized the skin of a simple box shpae by titling the storey-high windows in different directions so that they reflect the green surroudings as a framnted landscape."


Tram stop Alicante, Spain, by Subarquitectura

Tram stop Sergio Cardell Plaza, Alicante, Spain, Subarquitectura

The Tram Stop at Sergio Cardell Plaza in Alicante, Spain, was designed by Subarquitectura, a local firm in whichAndres Silanes, Fernando Valderrama and Carlos Banon are partners. The top consists of 36 meter long steel boxes about the same length as the trams and the boxes are supported by only two columns. They are performated with hundreds of five different sized holes that are illuminated at night. "Light and air pass through the boxes, modulating the shadow and generating a gentle breeze that makes waiting for the tram more comfortable during the hot summer months," the entry states.

Dogan Media Centre by Tabanlioglu Architects

Dogan Media Centre on Eskisehir Road, Ankara, Turkey, by Tabanlioglu Architects, 2008

The Dogan Media Center on Eskisehir Road in Ankara, Turkey, has been designed by Tabanlioglu Architects. "The basic cube form as been deformed and restructured by protruding annexes, as well as subtractions on the outside. This deformation gives a highly dymamic appearance to the building, making it easier to be perceived from a fast-moving motorway. The interior of the building consists of covered atriums with different heights. The building is notable for its perforated metal facades and the copoper-colored aluminum panels with laser-cut circular holes also continued on the suspended ceilings inside the bilding.

Caixa Forum in Madrid by Herzog & de Meuron

The Caixa Forum in Madrid designed by Herzog & de Meuron

Herzog & de Meuron added a perforated corrdoded cast-iron addition to a power station facing the Paseo del Prado in Madrid. The building "floats" above a one-story high public space with angled ceilings.

The book has been written by Hans Ibelings and Kirstein Hannema.

Click here to purchase the book for $63 from Amazon.com

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