Saturday, June 07, 2014


This is part 4 of a 4-post series. See the previous posts here: 1, 2, 3

    Daniel Libeskind's installation of his New York home stood out amongst the lot. Red walls, cut off spaces, recessed screens showing caricatures, images and videos of his memories and the cultural idioms that made him. Of his installation, he writes: “For me, to 'live' is living in the cross-section of thememory of places”. But what does home mean to him? "Home is more than just an abstraction, it's the streets, the neighbourhood, the people," he says. "Architecture contributes to making people feel happy or depressed... There is nothing banal in our lives, not even those gestures that seem unconscious."

When I walked into Mario Bellini's installation of his 19th century Milan house, I was accosted by impossible scale. Built within the little area was a massive shelving system that supported a staircase. Atop the stairs, you looked down onto images of the elements that made his world - from his books and music, to the surroundings and things Milanese. It said a lot in 30 seconds. Bellini's house is designed around a vertical staircase that is nine metres and crosses three floors. "My house is a huge, soaring bookshelf", he says. And "stairs are not something the leads you up or down, they are a central element to which other parts connect". He says that he has a desire to "inhabit a neutral, White cube" because he feels the need to scale down and focus attention on "what has now become the essence of things, the emotional crux of our living space".

The last installation was that of British-born David Chipperfield's Berlin home. "The Neues Museum sucked me back into this city", he admits in the video that plays on the deepest wall of the space, blocked off by a large wall of Green felt. On either side are images of disparate buildings that show the fractured, static nature of Berlin. Many visitors had finger-written their names on it. Listening to him speak, I realised that the felt wall stood for something profound. Each visitor to the installation was invited to leave their mark just as each day of each inhabitant leaves his/her mark on the city. "I think architecture is part of a dilemma; it both protects you and at the same time, it throws you back out again and re-presents the world to you... When we constructed the campus, we became our own clients, and this implied a useful change in perspective." 

Friday, June 06, 2014


This is part 3 of a -post series. See previous posts here: 1, 2

The space of Shigeru Ban, Pritzker Prize recipient, was a Zen-nature experience concealed in geometry and minimalism. I turned around a large wall and found myself in an open space with vivid metaphors. Ban lives in the quiet, wooded Hanegi Forest complex of Tokyo. Oval platforms, filled with moving images from his surroundings, the complex and life in the city, played seamlessly on them. Above each was a cutout in the same shape and size, reflecting the complex's oval centre - with trees and open-to-sky aspect. "Like all my architecture projects its origins lie in its location, and it's based on ad hoc solutions that couldn't be used elsewhere", he says. "The key issue was not to cut down trees".
At the end of the space is a curved room, with a video of his manifesto. Ban's style of architecture, which preserves rather than modifies or eliminates, is presented by his self-awarness and passion towards simplicity: "I do what makes me feel free, what comes naturally, nothing more".

I then strolled into Marcio Kogan's space. Kogan lives in Sao Paulo. His installation was all about the big city and the little things inside his home. Blue-sky balconies looking down onto the "ugly, violent, polluted" yet "mysterious, full of energy" city; wide windows with louvres that reveal a private link to the outside world; memorabilia from all over that reflect the tastes and affinities of a man who sees everyday contrasts as integral to his work.
This is part 3 of a 4-post series. See the next post here.

Thursday, June 05, 2014


This is part 2 of a 4-post series. See the previous post here.

Bijoy Jain's (or Studio Mumbai's) Mumbai was particularly important for me, understandably. Not often is an Indian architect put alongside such revered company. As I walked up the entrance stairs, I wondered what version of India we would see here. The familiar busy sounds of our 'maximum city' reached me first, and I could see two enclosures in the middle of a rectangular room.
One was swathed in White netting and the other ran videos reflecting the true nature of Mumbai. Stretched across the long parallel walls were images of trees, most notably a banyan tree, and slender pools of water ran alongside on the floor. This last element recurs in much of Jain's design work, and he says, "My relationship with water is absolute".
A video plays on one wall, capturing his connection to nature, his special association with a stonemason, and the essence of his surroundings - a mix of old buildings, new spaces and a tropical environment. "What matters (of a house)", he says, "is not ownership, but the ability to live with care, the ethics of living." The White central enclosure had two pairs of earphones. Calming, almost spiritual music shut me off from the sounds of the city.
This is post 2 of a 4-post series. See the next post here.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014


This was the most significant event at the Milan Furniture Fair this year. Called 'Where Architects Live', this   extraordinary exhibition, brought to life by Francesca Molteni and Davide Pizzigoni, provided an intriguing insight into the private sanctums of eight outstanding architects of this era. It reflected the sensations that envelope their daily lives at home, the immediate environment around them, the mental makeup of the city that they chose to live in and the nuances that make them who they really are. 
Walking through this exhibition was a privilege of sorts for me, after all, it isn't often that one gets to peek into the homes of such luminaries. Set in Hall 9, I found the eight enclosures arranged around an open courtyard. In the centre were scale models of the layouts. Many people, of various ages and nationalities - standing, sitting on chairs, some even sitting on the floor - absorbed the videos that played on hanging big screens. It was, quite simply, a shrine.
Given the different geographical and cultural backgrounds, and the eight diverse cities, I reasoned that each installation was obviously going to be as unique as the work they are each known for. Sound, video and light were all heavily used, so that the visitor did not just experience the space, but felt the architect’s world in a moment. 

Zaha Hadid's space simply had to be the one I walked into first. This acclaimed and critiqued architect, a disruptor of convention, lives in London. Her installation was built around spatial and visual fluidity. Light, motion and seamlessness. Long white walls had incessant streams of red and yellow light, that seemed to follow the sounds of the piano and Hadid's resonating voice. It came from the screen in the centre of the room, juxtaposed against a folded opening, the horizontal surface of which held images from her home, each flowing into the next. Hadid's
Middle Eastern roots and her professional western orientation are evident. She comments that while she is very fond of her house in Baghdad, she likes being in cosmopolitan London. "I have become a gypsy" she says. "I think the right time for an architect to design your own home is either at the beginning of your career - like a sort of manifesto for your ideas - or when you are about to retire. And I'm not ready to retire yet.”

Middle Eastern roots and her professional western orientation are evident. She comments that while she is very fond of her house in Baghdad, she likes being in cosmopolitan London. "I have become a gypsy" she says. "I think the right time for an architect to design your own home is either at the beginning of your career - like a sort of manifesto for your ideas - or when you are about to retire. And I'm not ready to retire yet.”
Across the aisle was the Parisian house of the irrepressible duo of Massimiliano & Doriana Fuksas. Six tall backlit boxes, of Dogon art sculptures from Mali, traditional guardians of homes, but also representing the comfortable marriage of the organic and the contemporary, met you at the entrance. Through the arch was a room with a long table, overlooking tall windows with a view of a beautiful part of this magical city, near the Place des Vosges. The sensation was of a simple country house, steeped in history and values, rooted within a global city.
This is part 1 in a 4-post series. See the next post here