Hangover, dizzy, and nauseous is what happen after all those heavy head banging bass thumping new year party. Similar aftermath, what happen with buildings past all those festive celebration?
I traveled from the most east side of Western Europe heading west to the most west point, the end of Europe continent during last Christmas holiday. It was around the Christmas season and I noticed that it's interesting to see all these architecture projects sort of being dressed for this event that most of West European looking forward to the entire year.
And here is the showdown!
Introducing the scoring system. What? Beauty can't be measured. Yes I agree with that. However, this time we need it to measure the success rate of integrating a new parameter in regards to the existing one.
*This is to rate the integration of Christmas tree to the architecture design. NOT to rate the architecture itself.
Unite d' Habitation
The presence of the tree complete the balance of the overall composition that is trying to break away from blatant symmetry. The notion of perfectly mirrored geometrical balance was instilled from the classic architecture. Modernism onwards, is trying to negate the previous statement of architecture which means static stable object. Unite d' Habitation is one of the greatest prototype of modern living, new expression of architecture as a machine for living. A building is no longer to be seen as static but a dynamic physical infrastructure. Even though I see minimum effort to dress the building, the Christmas tree is strategically position to blend. Thus, the gesture really carries out the spirit of its era.
Dutch Embassy - OMA
Carved Out Mass
The Dutch Embassy building is such a bold statement of Koolhaas on criticizing modern architecture. The building's unusual circulation path indicates his disagreement on a rigid and efficient form follow function approach. The christmas decoration here is rather unusual as well, instead of focusing to one, it has three trees, the bigger one in the orange washed lobby, two in outdoor terrace above the parking on the left hand side. Seems like this gesture is to question the idea of having single christmas tree as a glorified object but rather to have some placed in the same level as it merges to the same skyline with existing trees along the promenade in front of the building.
Marie Elisabeth Luders - Stephan Braunfels
This building is essentially one very long indoor avenue with 7 stories building blocks on both sides. Very strong definition of central circulation in with organized sub node arranged in linear fashion . Pretty strict and systematic sub-system which can be propagated to create a larger whole. However, the system is interrupted by the crossing of the river that creates public plaza and public program adjacent to it. The Christmas tree is placed in the middle of the avenue along with the axis as a focal point. Its presence then provide resting point for the eyes to focus and breaks the endless continuity of the linear system. Therefore, the Christmas tree without putting much effort, perform as an object to complete the design.
Bundestag and Reichstag - Foster Partners
Bundestag, the parliament building used to be a medieval architecture piece design with strict symmetry in mind. The Reichstag, the transparent dome addition by British architect Norman Foster extent the idea of governmental transparency by letting people access the dome and witness the court process underneath. The addition follows the concurrent symmetrical rigor throughout the building. Seems like they take a chance in Christmas time to break the symmetry, a single giant Christmas tree is placed on the left side of the front façade.
There was not many Christmas tree around the city, it's pretty strange considering Porto is known as a very religious city, I was expecting to see more Christmas tree placed here rather than in Berlin actually. However, there is this very big one in front of the city hall. It was pretty cool until I found out it is a standardized Christmas tree that is propagated to all over the cities in Portugal. Booring..
Museu Serralves - Alvaro Siza Viera
Museu Serralves doesn't have a proper Christmas tree around. However, the idea of having a reserved space for a huge tree is very beautiful! Siza has played it out to make the tree as part of the essence of design. At a glance, it performs as an entry courtyard to the main museum building and theatre. Other than that, Siza has constructed a sequence of spatial experience to entering the museum. At first, you arrived at a large lawn, and as you follow the straight and narrow path, you walk besides a rather humble building mass which is the museum's theatre, reaching the back and revealing a small inner court where the tree sits. This is the tipping point between void and solid as you enter the museum building and the whole experience becomes indoor with specific view relation towards the outside.
Casa de Musica - OMA
Object in an Object
The winning concept of Casa de Musica is an object that embodied another object inside. However, the Christmas tree in here is yet another object laying around in the in between object space. Cluttered. In the other hand, it is really hard to complement such a bold conceptual design developed by OMA. The space and the interweave between programs are super interesting, this building is definitely one of my favorite of all time!
Paula Rego Gallery - Souto de Moura
This is one of the latest project by Souto de Moura, the Pritzker winner 2011. Again, this is another project without an actual Christmas tree around. Of course the two pyramids are the most noticeable feature of this building, it also signifies the entry to the building, and this is when it gets really interesting. The architect preserve the existing landscape and trees, and integrate it into the design of the building. The same design strategy of integrating landscape to the building design and yet, the result is almost totally the opposite of Museu Serralves in Porto. Paula Rego Gallaery has one of the most ceremonial entry, Museu Serralves has very humble yet offer different spatial experience.
Gare do Oriente - Santiago Calatrava
Underwhelming, The Christmas tree is tucked in the lowest level of the station below all the circulation pathways that criss crosses above it. I guess the station is already too busy to receive another attention-grabbing object.
Aftermath After All
At last, having gone through those amazing architecture projects, I will sum up my journey this time with the following conclusion.
As architecture evolve throughout time to define what we call civilization; still, we always look back and mesmerized about the beauty of the old, the ancient. And we look up, it's the nature what provides the ultimate beauty, the form-follow function, the system.