The surface is the medium: disappearance and withdrawal of the contemporary building.


The surface is the medium: disappearance and withdrawal of the contemporary building. By: Gonzalo Carrasco Purull + Pedro Livni.

Things fall.
On April 12, the false ceiling that covered the pool of Westside Leisure and Shopping Center in the Swiss city of Bern collapsed. The building, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind gave way, bringing down unos100 square feet of gypsum board and insulation from a height of 10 meters. The accident happened while the pool was in operation, injuring two people. An event that adds to what happened in 2008, when the newly inaugurated building the food court ceiling fell off, injuring two children.

The Westside Leisure and Shopping Center, with 150,000 square meters, is the first shopping center designed by the office of Daniel Libeskind Architects. Conceived as the center of a medieval city, the project is located near the A1 road, a point with direct access to the city of Bern. With a program designed as a mix of uses, the Westside Leisure and Shopping Center provides a program of great complexity, which will include among other things: a theme park, pool, a fitness center, more than 60 shops, a center convention, multi-screen cinema, a hotel and even a section on housing for seniors. A project in the words of Daniel Libeskind, is “an exciting twenty-first century community that dramatically reinvents the concept of shopping, entertainment, wellness and life.”

Foundations started in April 2006, the Westside Leisure and Shopping Center of Bern used a number between 400 and 500 workers for construction, only if you count those who were daily on the job site. For your edification, it took more than 80,000 cubic meters of concrete, 120,000 cubic meters of aggregates, 11,000 tons of steel, 5,000 square meters of glass, 3,500 cubic meters, 350 kilometers of cables and 200 kilometers of pipes. In a project according to Libeskind, “creates a unique integration of architecture, landscape and a sophisticated urban spirit.”

However, the silence has been the only answer I have given Daniel Libeskind Architects from last accident. While experts do not submit their final reports, representatives of the office have declined to deliver an official statement.

Leaks (DAM (N!)
This silence – from one of the architects of the media in recent years – was also the answer given to the problems presented in the waterproofing of the roof of the extension of the Denver Art Museum (DAM). Which – despite being open to the public on October 7, 2006 – had to keep the scaffolding in the work, to carry out repairs on the roof. Repairs attempted to eliminate the leaks that appeared after a heavy snowfall, where the housing complex designed by Daniel Libeskind angles, began to show signs of moisture. The leaks that appeared in the Denver Art Museum, as its repair could only be executed during the summer months – was forced to continue with the repairs over the next three years, making for an almost permanent scaffolding for visitors to museum.

The extension of the Denver Art Museum (DAM) – named after Frederick C. Building Hamilton – was conceived as an extension of the original building designed in 1971 by architect Gio Ponti. The study by Daniel Libeskind was selected from more than 40 entries in a competition jury in August 2000.

With an area of ​​195.000 square meters, almost twice the size of the original building – and a budget of $ 46 million, the DAM extension is presented as a volume of 28 faces connected to the Ponti museum through a covered bridge 30.5 meters in length.
The design of the building structure was in charge of the engineering firm Ove Arup, a design for which it was necessary more than 2,700 tons of steel y5.660 cubic meters of concrete. Three of the steel beams of greater length – weighing 750 kilos per meter and 20 meters long – had to be manufactured in Belgium, the only place where they were able to build them. Moreover, M.A. Mortensen Company – the construction company in charge – needed the support of 3D programs were able to map each of the connections of steel structure designed by Ove Arup. A structure – and that despite the economic and technological effort required to put in place – ending hiding behind a coating of titanium, which in total amounted to 21,400 square meters.

Broken glass (ROM)
But the leaks reappear in another building designed by Daniel Libeskind study, as was the extension to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), better known as the Lee-Chin Crystal. This project – a total area of ​​12,300 square meters and a total cost of $ 250 million – failed to successfully pass their first Canadian winter. Opened on June 1, 2007, the Lee-Chin Crystal was their first leaks in October of that year. This despite the implementation of a multi-layered lining, designed precisely to prevent the formation of dangerous snow and leaks. Repair work of the housing, continued for two months.
Designed to serve the main entrance to the Royal Ontario Museum, the Lee-Chin Crystal comprises five coated prisms in a ratio of 25% and 75% glass in anodized aluminum. An enclosure that is supported by a steel structure with similar characteristics to that used in the DAM.

he complexity of the surfaces designed by Daniel Libeskind insisted that the manufacture and assembly of the enclosure is manufactured by the German company Josef Gartner, only able to carry it out. A company familiar with projects of complex geometries, as was his collaboration for the manufacture and assembly of coated titanium for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, architect Frank Gehry.
The complexity of the geometry applied to the building – especially in regard to the coating – resulting in a series of delays in the time estimated for the construction of the Lee-Chin Crystal. A delay that generated significant cost overruns, which raised the initial budget in a range of around U.S. $ 50 million, producing a wave of protests in the community of Toronto.

A ceiling that does not dry (clouds in the house).
But such problems are not exclusive of the study of Daniel Libeskind, but has affected other members of the group architects known as “star-system”, as in the case of Frank Gehry.
And is that Gehry – who achieved worldwide celebrity from the Guggenheim Bilbao – if they had to fight something, it has been against moisture. The leaks have not given respite, accompanied as well as his fascination with complex surfaces and the preference for the use of metallic coatings and bright.

Even before completing the construction of its two art galleries in the city of Ontario – and following a very cold winter and a poor ventilation conditions of the building – is that leaks began to appear throughout the building. As a result of the condensation within the building surfaces, leaks were so intense that required the installation of buckets and plastic film in order to protect the interior. Using these emergency items in a kind of “facilities” that shared place with the artwork that had been installed inside the gallery. A scandal that added to similar problems in other projects of Gehry, such as the MIT Stata Center ($ 300 million) and the Fisher Campus Bard Performing Arts Center ($ 62 million).

Construction: what the stars are silent.
One of the most fascinating aspects that brings the contemporary architectural scene – especially the scene of architects belonging to the so-called “star-system” or “star” architects “- is the deep disconnect between ends and means. An alterity or “other reality” that has helped redefine the role played by the architect in building architecture.
While the facilities – gas, sewer, air conditioning, electricity and telecommunications – were the mechanisms responsible for the operation of modern buildings and therefore some form of life “modern” architecture. These over time, and recorded as Reyner Banham – ended hiding behind shafts, and cabinets. This “hiding” the withdrawal of the means which enable the architecture over time has absorbed a major part of the building – and very important for the definition of modern architecture – as is the structure.

While modern architecture was designed from a building that worked from the search for a static display of the building – and thus from an expression of applied physics at work – for contemporary architecture of the building – understood as a logic of the parties – is over disappearing behind a coating of titanium, aluminum or plasterboard. Disappearance and retreat that not only realizes the value of the structure in the contemporary architectural design, but also overwrites the place of the architect – and architecture – in contemporary construction.
When reviewing the photographs of the various stages of construction of buildings like the Westside Leisure and Shopping Center, the Denver Art Museum or the Lee-Chin Crystal, what stands out is the deep dissociation – almost schizophrenic – from a structure that adopts the strange shapes and positions, and a few smooth surfaces where the board has almost disappeared. Construction – if we can still call it that – where the processes do not leave evidence or traces of their articulation. A concept of construction, which approaches the more contemporary architecture to the manufacture of a stage that the construction of a building. Where construction and does not follow a logic of parts and where the structure is to serve the production of certain “effects” or the development of a certain “image.” Full ownership of the eye, where photography and rendering are the means by which the architecture is consumed. A retreat that not only relocated to the construction of a spectator apprehends only by a single organ – the eye – but also relocate both the parts that make up the building such as this with its immediate context.

And here perhaps is that it is necessary that this withdrawal is not that good or bad, but especially aware of a change of state. That perhaps the problem lies not in more or less complex than a surface – a matter of taste and opinions – but, and what appears to be more fascinating, is that maybe the problems and imbalances of these works lies in we insist on calling them “architectures.” Perhaps we are to others, other devices for other purposes, which are obtained by other means. But then, if not architecture, given that new state of the construction we are facing?

That’s why the construction works of the “star” architects “can be meaningful if they are analyzed in light of temporary works and highly media such as the works of architect Mark Fisher. Who through his office Stufish ( has been responsible for the assembly of the main mass shows of recent times. Scenery such as those used by U2 for their Zoo TV tour (2000), PopMart (1997) and the recent 360 ° (2009), and the opening ceremony for the Olympic Games in China (2008) and works of the Canadian company Cirque du Solei, are some of the productions by Stufish.
The surface is the medium.
In the projects developed by Mark Fisher Construction is the service of entertainment, an area where the surface is the means. A scenery whose construction leads to the event in the performance. An architecture of pure possibility, of pure visibility. Which is supported by a whole array technology, which does not skimp on the means to achieve the desired effect. Constructions where the structure is folded behind “screen” and coatings, sharing place with those other tecnolofías as is the equipment. Some technologies – that once the show starts – disappear, providing a support for lights, dry ice, lasers and fireworks.

This Architectural Association graduate architect, understand their own projects after 3 innings or dimensions: concept, design and reality. To clarify and communicate the concept, Mark Fisher uses – like many “star” architects “- the sketch. Fast line drawings, usually done in ink, seeking to set a certain “image” of the show. These temporary images that convey the initial sketches, are then specified through the use of illustrations made from 3D models and renderings, which are used to determine the qualities of surfaces, colors and especially the lighting of the show. This is part of the second dimension of the project, which is the design. Which is divided into illustration, construction and testing.
For construction, Mark Fisher usually employs prefabricated parts, many of which are built especially for this installation. The construction, therefore, it is rather as a carpenter, where marriages are made in dry, as scaffolds. On the other hand, “reality,” Mark Fisher understands the opening day, or “event.” That is ultimately where you measure the effectiveness of the project. It is in the reality of the event where nothing can go wrong, where nothing can be found out. One dimension of the project where they disappear processes made it possible. In the event – and during the show – there is no condition rise, or rather, the condition of locality is re-oriented storytelling entertainment service. What makes spaces designed by Mark Fischer a momentary suspension of perception and its reorientation toward determining a “total artwork”, a fiction built to be followed, to be read.
And this is how Mark Fisher shows are mostly “fiction” or “stories” that create a “language.” One dimension of the project is also related to the works of the “star” architects “for those who – like Daniel Libeskind and Peter Eisenman – architecture is basically the construction of a pure sign. By building this dimension which folds behind the scenes, in the dark behind a coating of aluminum or titanium – in the best-and most commonly behind the seamless surface of a gypsum plate cardboard.Un status of architecture for which other tools are necessary, other means to make it possible. VKPK.