This is the story of how I ended up unexpectedly in Dusseldorf, Germany this weekend.
Friday night, me and my travel buddy were biking harder than ever to catch my bus to Paris. We made it right on time. Exhausted and out of breath with shaky limbs, I forced myself to sleep and hoping to wake up ready to check all the awesome stuff the city has. I was really excited to visit one of the most prominent cities for architecture in the history. But..
I couldn't sleep. The guy sitting next to me kept asking me if I have internet on my phone and if I can access the latest news. I told him I put my phone in flight mode so I don't get charged extra when I pass the border. However, I noticed the bus has been not moving for more than an hour. People were talking anxiously and I overheard about the attack in Paris and the official was closing the border. The bus was going to attempt to go through anyway, as the majority of passenger on board hold French passport. That means no luck for me. Luckily, the bus was parked in front of Utrecht central station. We got off the bus and tried to catch the last train. It was 12.38 midnight, we got on the last train to Amsterdam departing at 12.40. We stayed over at a friend's place that night, I decided to quickly come up with a plan to go to Dusseldorf, Germany. And here is how the weekend goes..
The dock is a prominent area of the city where Rhine river bends and creates delta. This is also where the city established new development, where contemporary architecture has its place and proliferates. Dusseldorf's Aldsadt (old city) is just right up north of the delta and substantially small, that's why I will not expose much about it and instead put my interest towards the new development.
In Orbit by Tomas Saraceno
K21 Museum was the first destination we checked once arrived in Dusseldorf. We went directly to see this awesome installation which was supposed to end a year before but got extended until the end of 2015. The Argentinian artist's installation features layers of net stuffed with giant balloons suspended 40 meters above the ground. It offers a totally immersive unconventional spatial experience, beyond belief, beyond expectation!
This model reminds me of typical Maya generated project with fluid continuous surfaces.
The layers of net allows a unique creation of space. Difference between levels are gradual and indistinctive, allowing people to fluidly move from one level to another. Floor, or the surface you step on becomes more of a field of landscape that goes up and down
Once I stepped in, it feels unusual to step on an unstable surface. We are used to step on the firm stable ground, here, you have to constantly balance yourself as other people moves, the momentum would transfer through the nets and you would need to react to counter balance.
K21 has a great Tomas Saraceno collection, here is another one, this one involves spider webs. This time he explores the notion of controlled nature, where human put certain boundaries and condition the spiders to populate the space organically but in accordance to a certain parameter established before.
A Long Day by Chiharu Shiota
I must admit this is yet another amazing installation that blows me away here in the same museum. Shiota's work is spatially interesting as it involves manipulation of everyday objects in such a delicate way. My first impression is somehow reminds me of Alice in Wonderland. Why? Because it looks like it comes from the Wonderland, magically surreal.
A set of desk and chair with sheets of paper sort of blown up and floats away and spread out inside the room, Shiota used black thread to capture the moment, the dynamic, the sense of movement of objects. Even though the thread looks random, it does add another level of depth of space and directionality, it shows relationship between objects, it informs where each object is going to move or from, and it creates a field of vector traces that forms so-called pseudo space. The installation ultimately offers the experience of understanding the presence of defined space without defining the space. Beyond, it explore the possibility to freeze a dynamic moment and a notion to defy the nature of gravitational force.
Similar approach is being studied in capturing an object in the air. Stunning work!
The Stadttor by Overdiek, Petzinka & Partner
I discovered this building by chance when I was roaming around the south dock. At a glance, it looks humongous, however, the technical aspect of the facade is amazing. First of all, its approximately 60 meter-tall spider fitted glass facade. Second of all, of course spider fitted means no mullion on each window frames. Worth to notify is the gigantic truss structure behind the facade to support mainly the building but also the glass facade. Glass panels are laminated and fitted with silicone sealant to each other and leveled by the spider fitting. Sure enough you can tell the amount of effort to engineer the detail and to assembly within certain range of precision tolerance.
What the facade actually does is to have double skin assembly which the outer layer performs as weather / water barrier while the inside provides temperature insulation. This strategy allows the building to reduce the amount of energy needed to operate since it only conditions air within the insulated inner facade, reducing the need to condition significant amount of air in the atrium.
Roggendorf Haus by Rosalie, Norbert Winkels with Flossis, artwork by Rosalie, Stuttgart
That reminds me of the climber toy I used to got from McDonald when I was 7 years old. Not sure how I feel on having it oversized and climbing 5 stories building. It's pretty interesting to see this strategy of integrating art installation on the facade as an architecture decision in order to leave the existing facade as is. In terms of its response to the context, it sets apart its architecture approach from the other building around. I guess it does its job.
Der Neue Zolhoff, Frank Gehry
The starchitect's project might be not as famous as it should be, however, it does embody Gehry's mastery on material use and fabrication method. The three buildings are office towers featuring different facade materials. The north building is finished with white plaster, taking advantage of the material finishes, the building shape is more curvilinear, with soft swooping angle with less pointy edges. The center building is clad with Gehry's signature metal panel, the building shape features soft fold as in fabric or paper. The third, south building, has brick facades, the building shape is more choppy and with more aggressive angular edges. Gehry produces the building's shapes based on the pre-determined material and its limitation.
The building seems to distance itself from its surrounding context, typical Gehry building. However, I feel it is necessary to acknowledge his determination on pushing forward the potential of different material. His genius also appears on the use of typical window system throughout the three buildings. The system allows the window to be placed in whichever angle possible relative to the facade as it has several elements with adjustable properties to allow such flexibility.
Ko-Bogen by Daniel Liebeskind
Yes this is another Liebeskind building with criss-crossing lines that slices the building. I was not quite impressed with this building. However, it is necessary to notice that this is a commercial project where every square footage need to be sell-able. Still, the pattern shift on the facade is quite weak to justify; and the deeper slice with fancy planter box? I hope it could serve at least as circulation or balcony. Oh well, it is hard to justify every architecture gesture especially in commercial project. I have to admit that Daniel Liebeskind is really good at conceptual thinking and his approach is best applied towards cultural projects or project that requires deeper thoughtful interpretation.
To end our trip, we went to NRW Forum right up north the Aldstadt. They really have awesome contemporary art collection there. In addition, do check the glass collection! Unfortunately I don't have much documentation on that as both my phone and camera battery ran out.
We accidentally extended our Dusseldorf trip for another night. We missed our train back to Amsterdam by 5 minutes after waiting for 2 hours in the train station. We were initially trying to catch the earlier train back. However, the earlier train got delayed for 2 hours, which makes it not so different from our initial train schedule. We spent the time in a bookstore reading almost all English magazines available. We were aware of the schedule of our train back, we went to the platform to found out that our train back was delayed for 10 minutes. As the weather was a bit windy, we went back down to wait. As we chatted, time went by. We missed the train by a mere 5 minutes.