Ten

This year I’m kinda mentally skipping straight to 2010. I hope everyone is having a lovely Christmas today, but I’m not really in the mood for traditions and trimmings right now—I need some future in my life.

So in that spirit, here’s a list. Not a list of the best (or worst) of the past as is fashionable at times like this, but ten things I’d like to visit in the next ten years. Architecture (and landscape architecture, urban design, etc.) is tricky because in general it won’t come to you—you have to go to it. (One notable exception—which I worked on a bit—was Shigeru Ban’s Nomadic Museum. I remember in particular drawing those damn Jersey barriers.) Lazy, broke, and busy, us architecturalists sometimes rely too much on the glossy spreads in books and magazines to satisfy the architecture jones. But a thousand pictures (and even a thousand words) won’t convey the actual experience of being there.

When I was in Barcelona I made a pilgrimage to see the reconstruction (we can talk about issues of authenticity some other time) of Mies’ Barcelona Pavilion (which of course has a different name there—the German Pavilion), which I’d seen a million times in photos, in drawings, in diagrams. When I finally made my way to it via subway, funicular (have I mentioned that’s just about my favorite way to travel?), and a long hike through the brush, I just broke out laughing. It’s so disconcerting and, well, amusing to see something that real, something you can touch, something people are crawling all over, something with a context, when you’d just seen it as a kind of imaginary vision, always cropped, always well lit, always the same angle. It’s kind of like when you get the two different pictures in the View-Master to line up correctly and suddenly there’s depth there. Weird!

And so, ten things I’d like to see, hear, touch, smell—maybe not taste—in no particular order:

1. Lafayette Park
Detroit, Michigan (Mies van der Rohe)
I’ve always loved Mies, though I think I’ve only seen 2 buildings of his in person. This is an entire neighborhood of housing, including townhouses and high-rises. Mies can be a bit much sometimes—too severe, too dogmatic—but his geometries are entrancing.

2. Samuel Mockbee/Rural Studio projects
Hale County, Alabama
I’d like to see as many projects of theirs as I can. The chapel, the baseball field, the student dorms—any and everything. (I know many of the projects are private homes, so even if I could just see the public buildings that would be fantastic.) I wouldn’t be an architect today if it weren’t for the inspiration of Rural Studio.

3. Eames House
Pacific Palisades, California
I have had a crush on the Eameses for a long time. What a cool couple. And their house—designed for the Case Study project—is fascinating. Pre-fab, colorful, and so Californian.

4. Falling Water
Mill Run, Pennsylvania
Frank Lloyd Wright was quite a character. I’m pretty sure I would have hated him if I’d met him in person, but I admire his flowing, organic style. No question—I have to see this house.

5. The Glass House
Paris, France
No, not that Glass House—I saw that one! And not that other one either (Mies already got a slot above). No, this one’s in Paris, and is more properly known as the Maison de Verre (designed by Pierre Chareau with Bernard Bijvoet). I fell in love with this house when I came across a tiny French book (no English in it as I recall) about it in school. So beautiful.

6. Thermal Baths
Vals, Switzerland
Peter Zumthor’s works look magical on paper, but I’ve never seen any of them in person. I studied the thermal baths quite a lot in school (especially after my trip to Istanbul when I became fascinated by the design of public baths). The careful manipulation of texture and light seems amazing. How much more amazing it must be in person to experience the flow of spaces and their changing temperature and tactility.

7. Lucy the Elephant
Margate, New Jersey
Why haven’t I seen this yet? It’s just down the Jersey coast a spell. I love humor in architecture—a good antidote to the obsessions and maniacal control that can sometimes get a girl down.

8. Dominus Winery
Napa Valley, California
Herzog and De Meuron are masters of material manipulation (an afterthought for too many architects), and also of connecting ideas to materials. I love the use of gabions (wire cages full of rocks more regularly seen in embankments preventing erosion) and the way they let dappled light through. Though I’ve heard the snakes are fond of them, too.

9. Levittown
Nassau County, New York
One of the two kinds of architecture I’m most interested in is home (the other is great-good places.) Part of the story of American homes is the story of suburbia, and one of the places that story starts is in Levittown on Long Island, one of the first suburbs. I’d like to see these houses, miniscule by today’s suburban standards, both to try and imagine what they looked like to their first owners, and also to see how they’ve been adapted and adjusted to the needs of today.

10. Tie: Spiral Jetty and The Lightning Field
Robert Smithson/Great Salt Lake, Utah
Walter De Maria/New Mexico
Yes, I know—technically speaking, neither of these is architecture. But my landscape architectural leanings are in the direction of land art, and I’d love to see one or both of these masterpieces.

So there you go— the tip of the iceberg. 10 things I’m aiming to see (I’m sure I could list 100 without too much effort) before the impending decade is done.

 

 

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