Beyond Buildings


Logic, Memory, and MVRDV

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Image credit: MVRDV

Poor MVRDV. Here they thought they had come up with an alternative to the snaky version of bundled towers that are all the rage, one that preserved the logic of mutually supporting towers while doing away with the blobbist aesthetics. They proposed it for a new development in South Korea--called the Yongsan Dream Hub--and proudly set out a press release (I can't link to it, as the images have been replaced by the firm's apology). Their efforts produced a pretty cool building they called the Cloud. Now they have found themselves caught in a storm because the renderings remind some people of the photographs of the Twin Towers after they had been hit, with smoke pouring out the middle. I have a feeling the design will need some major revisions.

If you had asked me, I would have said--and I mean this in a positive manner--that the towers look cancerous, as if what had been well behaved and repetitive office floors had suddenly metastasized into a cloud of blocks. It just so happens that this growth increases the amount of square footage, provides more corner offices, sunlight, and variety, and helps the towers strengthen each other. Beyond that, the notion that a bureaucratic entity is cancerous, and that you transform that nature into a positive image, is fantastic.Now, however, it will be impossible to look at the current design without recalling the attacks on the World Trade towers.


Image credit: MVRDV

You could theorize that it was intentional. Sensationalist Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad first publicized the comparison. It doesn’t help that the master planner for the development of which the design is part is none other than Daniel Libeskind, the nominal master planner of Gound Zero. You could see the design as the transformation of the disaster’s memory, however intended, into something positive, in the same manner that the wild growth of form is actually positive in its structural and functional aspects. Yet, that would open you up to all kinds of charges of cynicism and appropriation, let alone questions about why this memorialization and transmutation should take place in South Korea.

It is especially interesting that MVRDV has made pushing logic to extremes part of their standard operating method, and they have played with the extreme social and environomental--not to say moral--implications of such tactics before, as when they designed the Pig City for the Dutch coast. I am sure they were only trying to push the notion and nature of office towers to the extreme in this case.

So MVRDV is stuck, as are their developers. Should they have realized the resonance of the image they were creating? Perhaps, but it is not something I thought of when I first received the announcement, which only made me think they were continuing to push and pull on normal building types (other sites also published reports without noting any similarity). I am sure few people saw the image–until it became obvious. Because let’s face it: it's out there now, and you can’t escape it. Some buildings become memes, as I have pointed out in the past. Some evoke painful memories, and therefore do not work. Back to the drawing board, MVRDV.


Comments (3 Total)

  • Posted by: a0507705 | Time: 10:20 PM Thursday, December 15, 2011

    a0507705Mike Wells said he had spotted a Canada goose being pulled below the surface of the River Lea in east London, which "disappeared so fast it didn't make a sound". There were reports of a goose being dragged under the surface back in 2005. British Waterways, which is responsible for the upkeep of the river, asked people to report any further sightings. Mr Wells, who estimated the weight of the goose to be about 7kg, said: "I was sitting on the back deck of my boat with a friend having a cup of coffee. "And suddenly this goose about 30 metres away disappeared - it was extraordinary. "We just saw the Canada Goose Jackets Monster Headphones goose go vertically down - in the space of half a second it had gone." Continue reading the main story “Start Christian Louboutin Quote We don't Beats by Dr Dre Earphones believe there is a crocodile in the river” British Waterways spokeswoman He continued: "It was pretty surprising the speed with which it disappeared - and it didn't come back up. "There was no sign of the creature Beats by Dr Dre Headset Canada Goose outlet Canada Goose that took it." In 2005 boat trippers on the River Lea watched as a Canada goose vanished "almost instantaneously", apparently dragged Canada Goose Sale beneath Monster Beats the water by a mystery beast. Mark Gallant of the Lea Rivers Trust, who was on the boat, said at the time of the 2005 incident: "Whatever that thing was, it had to be big." A British Waterways spokeswoman said of the latest incident: "We don't believe there is a crocodile in the river. "Things that have been suggested are a big pike or a mink, which Beats by Dr Dre Headphone can prey on ducks. Continue reading the main story London view Sport, news and more 2012 information BBC London 2012 "But geese might be a bit big for them." She continued: "In some areas you get terrapins which get dumped and have taken to the conditions well - they can get to the size of dinner plates. "But geese might be too big for them to take as well. "No-one has reported anything to British Waterways, but we would encourage people to get in touch if they have seen anything.

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  • Posted by: Jeff P | Time: 6:16 PM Wednesday, December 14, 2011

    Actually these design choices have a very practical effect, as the author points out. And the overall design is quite tame and reserved, compared to many of the other skyscraper designs to surface recently, whether parametric or otherwise. This is not merely formal play, and if it is egotecture (which I disagree with) it is because this world-renowned firm was hired to provide a bold design for this new development. The fact that they were able to design a bold move while actually satisfying programmatic requirements, increasing the livability of the spaces, and providing a publicly-accessible urban space in the sky and connecting it to the ground, is commendable. And of course they're only strengthened in one direction by the Cloud - there are only two towers, there would need to be at least three to have multi-directional support. I feel that the design community has better things to fuss about than a slim, unintentional resemblance to towers on fire. Look at Eisenmann's proposal for the WTC site if you want to get worked up about something.

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 4:16 PM Wednesday, December 14, 2011

    Egotecture, again - rather, still. The towers are only strengthened significantly in one direction, Betsky's "cancer" metaphor is apt, and the association with WTT 9/11 is actually fortunate if it causes the metastasis go terminal. This sort of excess has nothing whatever to do with better urban design choices; it is nothing more than gimickology.

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About the Blogger

Aaron Betsky

thumbnail image Aaron Betsky is the director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, and in 2008 he was director of the 11th Venice International Architecture Biennale. Trained as an architect at Yale, he has published more than a dozen books on art, architecture, and design and teaches and lectures about design around the world. Aaron worked for Frank O. Gehry and Associates and Hodgetts & Fung Design Associates as a designer, taught for many years at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, and between 1995 and 2001 was curator of architecture and design at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. From 2001 to 2006 he was director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.