building as ornament looks at iconography in contemporary architecture
walter tower in prague, czech republic / image by BIG
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building as ornament: iconography in contemporary architecture
author: michiel van raaij
design: joseph plateau
format: 135 x 210 mm
features: color illustrated / paperback / 240 pages
designboom rating: (excellent, recommended)
‘characteristic images from outside architecture that are used in architecture to explain the nature of the building. in a nutshell, that is what the use of iconography in contemporary architecture is about. that is the building as ornament.’
since emerging in the early 1990s, the appetite for iconic architecture has grown exponentially. powered by advancements in technology and increased exposure, buildings from frank gehry’s guggenheim in bilbao to OMA’s CCTV headquarters in beijing are in demand across the globe.
in ‘building as ornament’, author michiel van raaij argues that this style of designing offers architects a greater freedom, with the opportunity to complete more eloquent and individually crafted structures. however, he also stresses that this practice is restricted by certain rules, with a successful ornament representing an intrinsic integrity that explains its function and context.
the iceberg, aarhus – SeARCH, JDS, CEBRA and louis paillard / photo by mikkel frost
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the full-color book includes interviews with leading architects such as bjarke ingels, steven holl of their eponymous studios, and ben van berkel of UNStudio, who offer their views on the topic. each designer presents their own version of ‘ornament’ with michiel riedijk of neutelings riedijk architects considering the subject at a small scale, while winy maas of MVRDV sees the potential of ornament in architecture on a larger built scale. from the various interviews, van raaij discovers a range of opinions defined by three distinct points: iconographic detail, layered iconography and singular iconography.
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‘besides the function of the building, its context is often used as a theme as well. a park in the capital may refer to an important landscape elsewhere in the country. a library built on a rocky background can take the shape of enlarged boulders. a hotel that is built in the water can tell nautical stories with a shape that refers to a wind-filled sail’.
over 120 buildings are presented across 240 illustrated pages, including copenhagen’s ‘blue planet’ by 3XN and herzog & de meuron’s ‘elbphilharmonie’ in hamburg. this documentation and investigation – alongside other contemporary references – charts the changing nature of the urban realm up to the present day.
the blue planet in copenhagen, denmark – 3XN / photo by patricia parinejad
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the book is not intended as a scientific study of architectural, but rather a starting point designed to stimulate debate that leads to further research on the topic. with a whole new generation of architects regarding ‘ornament’ as an ingrained facet of their practice, this important publication shines a light on their work and presents an intriguing vision of where iconographic designs may lead in the future. as van raaij surmises, ‘ornament is back, but now on the scale of the building as a whole.’
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the BE buildings in brussels, belgium – JDS / photo by JDS
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water play island utrecht – mariske pemmelaar-groot / photo by de jong luchtfotografie
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‘building as ornament’ front cover / copyright nai010, 2014