Weekend Travel: Dusseldorf | DE

This is the story of how I ended up unexpectedly in Dusseldorf, Germany this weekend.

Prologue

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..

Ordered repetitive windows.

Ordered repetitive windows.

Organized chaos of instagram pictures with #dusseldorf.

Organized chaos of instagram pictures with #dusseldorf.

Scattered posters and writings.

Scattered posters and writings.

 

Hafen Dock

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.

The Old Town has an area of half a square kilometer (which is less than a quarter of a percent of the whole city) and has 2297 inhabitants (2000), less than half a percent of the population of Düsseldorf.
— https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altstadt_(D%C3%BCsseldorf)
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The Düssel is a small right tributary of the River Rhine in North Rhine Westphalia, Germany. Its source is between Wülfrath and Velbert. It flows westward through the Neander Valley where the fossils of the first Neanderthal man were found in 1856. At Düsseldorf it forms a river delta by splitting into four streams (Nördliche Düssel, Südliche Düssel, Kittelbach, Brückerbach), which all join the Rhine after a few kilometers.

Düsseldorf takes its name from the Düssel: Düsseldorf means “the village of Düssel”. The name Düssel itself probably dates back to the Germanic thusila and means “roar” (Old High German doson).
— https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%C3%BCssel
Architecture playground

Architecture playground

 

In Orbit by Tomas Saraceno

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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! 

Looking up from the lobby of K21

Looking up from the lobby of K21

Study model, notice the sphere as key element to generate the space in between layers of net.

Study model, notice the sphere as key element to generate the space in between layers of net.

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. 

When you try to balance yourself, you look down, you realize you're 40 meters up in the air.

When you try to balance yourself, you look down, you realize you're 40 meters up in the air.

 

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. 

Curated growth of spider webs.

Curated growth of spider webs.

 

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. 

Glorified object inside the field of thread. It is actually hanging on the space through the crisscrossing thread. No additional support.

Glorified object inside the field of thread. It is actually hanging on the space through the crisscrossing thread. No additional support.

Similar approach is being studied in capturing an object in the air. Stunning work!

 

The Stadttor by Overdiek, Petzinka & Partner

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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.  

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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

Bright colored plastic sculptures climb the facade.

Bright colored plastic sculptures climb the facade.

Climber Toy  Available in Amazon

Climber Toy Available in Amazon

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.

Wil Alsop's not-so secret architecture sauce, massive cantilever!

Wil Alsop's not-so secret architecture sauce, massive cantilever!

Inspiration of Zaha's Port House? Or inspired by?

Inspiration of Zaha's Port House? Or inspired by?

Colorium by WIll Alsop

Colorium by WIll Alsop

Super Miesian building with a twist. Interesting double skin facade with external shade (between outer layer and inner layer).

Super Miesian building with a twist. Interesting double skin facade with external shade (between outer layer and inner layer).

 

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. 

Windows dance on plaster

Windows dance on plaster

Windows dance on metal panel

Windows dance on metal panel

Windows dance on brick

Windows dance on brick

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. 

Similar window system on all building. 

Similar window system on all building. 

Notice the 'fin' on one side of the window to allow flexibility to slide in and out relative to its facade surface.

Notice the 'fin' on one side of the window to allow flexibility to slide in and out relative to its facade surface.

 

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. 

Liebeskind's building and its context.

Liebeskind's building and its context.

 

NRW Forum

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. 

Void and grand stairs on NRW Forum.

Void and grand stairs on NRW Forum.

 

Note:

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.

Oh dear...

Weekend Travel: Utrecht | NL

Canal in downtown area.

Canal in downtown area.

For my first weekend in Amsterdam, I visited Utrecht, a small city just 20 minutes east of Amsterdam. Noticed that the city is based out of canal system similar to Amsterdam. 

Canal houses with direct access to the water.

Canal houses with direct access to the water.

... but much smaller in scale and rather established in parallel to the river.

 
Utrecht’s ancient city centre features many buildings and structures several dating as far back as the High Middle Ages. It has been the religious centre of the Netherlands since the 8th century. It lost the status of prince-bishopric but remains the main religious center in the country. Utrecht was the most important city in the Netherlands until the Dutch Golden Age, when it was succeeded by Amsterdam as the country’s cultural centre and most populous city.

Utrecht is host to Utrecht University, the largest university in the Netherlands, as well as several other institutes for higher education. Due to its central position within the country, it is an important transport hub for both rail and road transport. It has the second highest number of cultural events in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam.
— https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utrecht
Typology of downtown area, commercial at ground floor and residential at the upper floor.

Typology of downtown area, commercial at ground floor and residential at the upper floor.

According to wikipedia, the city consists of two major elements, the downtown historical area and the university complex.  

Dom toren, church tower as prominent landmark and structure of the city (also known as the tallest church tower in the Netherlands.

Dom toren, church tower as prominent landmark and structure of the city (also known as the tallest church tower in the Netherlands.

 

Utrecht University Complex

Even though Utrecht University is known for one of the oldest university in the country, the whole complex is proliferated with newly built structures. Walking through the main avenue feels like in the middle of a life-sized architect's playground.

Facade #1: Utrecht Hogeschool by Mecanoo Architects.

Facade #1: Utrecht Hogeschool by Mecanoo Architects.

Steven Holl perception shifts of scale through window grids.

Steven Holl perception shifts of scale through window grids.

The high school building greets the visitor with very colorful and very graphic horizontal facade. The design is rather to be considered as 2 dimensional surface treatment, as a strategy to animate boring utilitarian modernist building massing. Some horizontal elements also running through the windows, breaking the boundary of floor slabs and giving different perception on how many floors the building has. Similar intent as such reminds me of Simmons Hall in Massachusetts by Steven Holl.

Facade #2: University Library Ubu by Wiel Arets Architects

Facade #2: University Library Ubu by Wiel Arets Architects

Utilizing graphic image rasterized onto the glass frit pattern. The whole building mass is wrapped with this typical curtain wall module. This gesture gives the impression of emphasizing the volumetric presence of the building. Pretty interesting experiment on glass facade. However, I was not quite sure with the intention on using image of bamboo (I assume it is) and also obvious repetitive image. I am assuming there is an effort to create etherial facade surface in a simple and affordable way. If so, that is quite smart! :)

Facade #3: Dorm of Utrecht Highschool

Facade #3: Dorm of Utrecht Highschool

Again, patterning on facade. Achieved in a very simple way. Altering between 2 types of facade pattern. In each floor there are up to 3-4 typical wall panel and being played out quite beautifully. Furthermore, the use of different color of curtains on each floor create gradient that adds another layer of complexity, allowing the eyes to stray away from recognizing the repetitive wall pattern. 

Facade #4: Nuclear Magnetic Resonance facility by UNStudio

Facade #4: Nuclear Magnetic Resonance facility by UNStudio

Facade #4: Nuclear Magnetic Resonance facility by UNStudio

Facade #4: Nuclear Magnetic Resonance facility by UNStudio

A little bit tucked away from the main avenue is this small structure by UNStudio done in early 2000. I personally quite fancy the materiality of this project. Interesting clash between glass with printed digital frit pattern and rough cast in-situ exposed concrete. The play of massive and light in the facade is the expression of the building program. Pretty modernist approach. 

 

Facade #5: Johanna Studenthousing by Onix Architects

Facade #5: Johanna Studenthousing by Onix Architects

Very expressive facade, again, similar strategy by super-imposing an image of cloud onto the facade. In order to create excitement on the boring repetitive facade of the modular unit; graphical imagery is introduced by pixel mapping it through porcelain tiles. Variation is achieved through subtle gesture on laying out the tiles in horizontal and vertical fashion, 

Facade #6: Cantilever series #1, dorm of Utrecht Highschool.

Facade #6: Cantilever series #1, dorm of Utrecht Highschool.

I didn't expect to see this protrusion object cantilevered out from a rather straightforward building. This surprise moment adds up with the odd geometry of the object that gets bigger as it protrudes out, giving the impression of defying the law of gravity.

Facade #7: Exposition Pavilion by Stanley Brouwn and Bertus Mulder

Facade #7: Exposition Pavilion by Stanley Brouwn and Bertus Mulder

This project is actually outside the campus complex. However, I am so staggered by the extreme cantilever. The building massing is basically two long identical boxes sitting on top of each other. The top massing is actually cantilevered on both side with only 1/7th of the length touching the podium. Stunning!

 

Street

Biking is common as public transportation in Utrecht as it is throughout the country.

Biking is common as public transportation in Utrecht as it is throughout the country.

I really like the fact of having bicycle as the typical public transportation mode. Apart from being green and environmental friendly, biking in the city is really enjoyable especially in the beautiful setting of downtown Utrecht. There is a certain intimacy of biking where you are always directly interact with your surrounding, experience as such is impossible in driving a car. 

Citroen H Van in downtown plaza

Citroen H Van in downtown plaza

I stumble upon this old Citroen in the downtown plaza and it turns out the car is quite an important artifact in car manufacturing industry. The aesthetic of the exterior is indeed very utilitarian. However, this is one of the aspect that I miss in current car design. Car manufacturing technology has developed to an extent that material and fabrication method is conceived under all the cosmetic aero body panels. Somehow it's relieving to see honesty of material and fabrication was expressed in car design back then.

 
The Citroën H Van, Type H, H-Type or HY is a light truck (or delivery van) produced by the French car maker Citroën between 1947 and 1981. It was developed as a simple front wheel driven van after World War II. Most of them were sold in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. In France, this van is known as “Nez de Cochon”, “Pig Nose”. When used by the police, it was called “panier à salade”, “salad basket”. The distinctive corrugated body work used throughout the period of production was inspired by German Junkers (Aircraft) starting from the First World War until the 1930s. The ribs added strength without adding weight, and required only simple, low cost press tools.
— https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citro%C3%ABn_H_Van
Domtoren, freestanding bell tower in downtown Utrecht 

Domtoren, freestanding bell tower in downtown Utrecht 

Dom Tower with the nave still standing, 1660.

Dom Tower with the nave still standing, 1660.

The tower was part of the Cathedral of Saint Martin, Utrecht, also known as Dom Church, and was built between 1321 and 1382,[1] to a design by John of Hainaut.[3] The cathedral was never fully completed due to lack of money. Since the unfinished nave collapsed in 1674 the Dom tower became a free standing tower.
— https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dom_Tower_of_Utrecht

Dom tower currently becomes a tourist attraction and landmark for the city. Its presence for the downtown urban area is however, insignificant. The unfortunate event in 1674 causing the perception of Dom tower is sort of misplaced. The plaza besides it is where the nave was supposedly there, it is rather undefined. There is though, an underground museum, DOMunder underneath, apart from the collapsible entry, the rest of the space is blank. Maybe there is an opportunity to consider redefining the historic plaza.. Very tricky and sensitive though.

Alleyway in downtown with herring bone pattern brick.

Alleyway in downtown with herring bone pattern brick.