Posts filed under "Travelogue"

A Symphony of Steel and Stone : The Getty Center

March 4, 2012

(As seen in Urban Monologues, Business Mirror Newspaper, 2008) Text and Photos by Jason Buensalido

It is hard to miss the Getty Center in Los Angeles, California. I remember when I was driving along the San Diego hi-way to see it for the first time – the moment I saw a cluster of stark, white buildings on top of a hill, I knew that was it. Even though its dominant color is not close to any earth tone, the complex still appears as I it grew out of the site. The buildings are organized and massed in such a way that they almost follow the natural contours of the hillside that it is perched on. From a centralized parking area, I was taken to the top of the hill by a computer-operated tram. At the central arrival plaza, the whole symphony of Meier’s travertine and aluminum buildings could be better appreciated while enjoying breath-taking panoramic views of the city.

The Getty Center is comprised of the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Education Institute for the Arts, the Getty Grant Program, the Getty Information Institute, the J. Paul Getty Trust, the Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities, the J. Paul Getty Museum, an auditorium, central garden, and several cafes and restaurants. All these buildings are organized along a natural ridge on the hilltop and around a series of courtyards and terraces. The vicinity is surrounded by high-end subdivisions with powerful people living in them. They requested that all the structures in the complex be no more than two stories high so the buildings won’t appear as if they were towering over their residences. The need for space was answered by extending the buildings underground and linking them with subterranean corridors that facilitate the moving of artwork and other materials.

The buildings are organized by a perfectly oriented north-south grid with a 3ft by 3 ft module, which clearly expresses the cubist beliefs of Meier. The museum is divided into five galleries or buildings, called pavilions, are North, East, South, West and the Changing Exhibit pavilion. These pavilions are clustered around a central courtyard. Though these five galleries are all connected by glass-covered bridges which make the transition from gallery to gallery easier, the visitor still has the option of coming out into the courtyard to skip a gallery and move on to his preferred one. The visitor therefore has freedom to move about the galleries in whatever sequence he wishes, unlike most museums, where people are required to take the prescribed flow.

 

The characters and shapes of the different buildings of the Getty Center.

The artwork is displayed throughout the pavilions chronologically: the North houses the oldest art while the West houses the newest. The first floor galleries house light-sensitive art, such as illuminated manuscripts, furniture or photography. Computer-controlled skylights on the second floor galleries allow paintings to be displayed in natural light.

To the west of the Central Garden is the Getty Research Institute (GRI). This circular building is used primarily by Getty scholars, staff, and visiting researchers. The library evokes the introspective nature of scholarly research, with book stacks and reading areas wrapping around a central courtyard. A ramp creates concentric paths, promoting interaction among the scholars and staff. A skylight pulls light through to the subterranean reading room. At the plaza level, a small exhibition gallery displays objects in the GRI’s collection for visitors.

To the north and east of the Arrival Plaza are the Getty Grant Program, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the J. Paul Getty Trust administration offices. Intimate sunken gardens, terraces, glass walls, and open floor plans provide fluid movement between indoor and outdoor space, and views of Los Angeles for Getty staff.

One of the most remarkable elements of the complex is the travertine stone that was used to clad most of the buildings. 16,000 tons of stone were quarried from Tivoli, Italy, 15 miles east of Rome. They claim that this is the same kind of stone the Romans used to build the Coliseum. To make the complex different, Meier and his staff worked for a year with the quarries to invent a process using guillotine to produce a unique finish.

TRAVERTINE STONE CLADDING - 16,000 tons of stone were quarried from Tivoli, Italy, 15 miles east of Rome. They claim that this is the same kind of stone the Romans used to build the Coliseum. To make the complex different, Meier and his staff worked for a year with the quarries to invent a process using guillotine to produce a unique finish.

Meier has also been known for his expert use of natural light. The many exterior walls of glass allow sunshine to illuminate the interiors. A computer-assisted system of louvers and shades adjusts the light indoors. The galleries of paintings on the Museum’s upper level are all naturally lit, with special filters to prevent damage to the artworks.

USE OF NATURAL LIGHT - exterior walls of glass allow sunshine to illuminate the interiors. A computer-assisted system of louvers and shades adjusts the light indoors.

To me, The Getty is certainly one of the best designed museums in the world with its interior ambience that is perfect for appreciation of art, its lay-out which allows an efficient flow of visitors, and the placement of buildings which creates exterior public spaces that blend seamlessly with the landscape.

You may e-mail the author at design@buensalidoarchitects.com and visit his website at www.buensalidoarchitects.com

 

Shanghai World Expo 2010

March 3, 2012

(As seen in Urban Monologues, Business Mirror Newspaper; Text and Photos by Jason Buensalido)

In 2005, I went to Shanghai under the First Philippine – China Youth Ambassador Program. During that time, I was made aware of the plans of China for the future. We were brought to the Urban Planning Exhibits of both Shanghai and Beijing where we saw how they were planning to announce to the world through urban design and architecture, how they have become the new super power.

Part of that plan was to host the coming World Exposition in 2010, so when I realized that it was nearing completion early this year, I told myself that I had to see the built form of the drawings and plans that were shown to me 5 years ago.

The World Expo 2010 is currently being held on opposite banks of the Huangpu River in the city of Shanghai, China, and will run only until October 31, 2010. The theme of the exposition is “Better City – Better Life”, signifying Shanghai’s new status in the 21st century as the “next great world city“. This is also the reason why I was so attracted to go – its because the theme of the whole expo is geared towards architecture and urban design.

People say that “everything in China is big”, and the stats of the expo simply reinforce this fact. It is the most expensive Expo in the history of the world’s fairs, and the largest as well, occupying a vast land of 5.28 square kilometers. It is the also the expo that is widely participated, with over 190 countries and 50 international pavilions present. More than 70–100 million visitors are expected to visit the expo, which would again, make it the most visited in history. After winning the bid to host the Expo in 2002, Shanghai began an enormous undertaking to reshape the city. More than AU$48billion was spent for the preparation, more than the cost of cleaning up Beijing for the 2008 Olympics. Shanghai was able to clear up 2.6 square kilometers along the Huangpu River; causing that involved moving 18,000 families and 270 factories, and 10,000 workers to be move elsewhere. Six new subway lines have opened between 2008 and 2010. Four thousand brand new taxis have been added in the month preceding Expo2010 opening. The city night lights have been once again improved, using energy-saving LED technology – all the structures on all of the main roads leading to the Expo are all beautifully lit, enhancing the anticipation of the Expo experience.

At the center of the entire expo site is the main building. Called the “Expo Axis“, it has world’s largest membrane construction and was built by SBA architects and Knippers Helbig. The building consists of columnar steel and glass funnels with a 1,000 m long membrane construction.

There are different pavilions scattered throughout the expo. First is the Theme Pavillions, exploring and showcasing different possibilities of sustainable urban development. They are called Urban Footprints, Urban Planet, Urban Dwellers, Urban Beings, and Urban Dreams.

There are also the Corporate Pavillions, which are different companies that sponsored and would also want to announce their sustainable practices. These include Broad Pavilion, China Railway, China State Shipbuilding Corporation Pavilion, Coca-Cola Pavilion, Cisco Pavilion, Information and Communication Pavilion, Oil Pavilion, Japanese Industry, PICC, Private Enterprises Joint Pavilion, Republic of Korea Business, SAIC-GM Pavilion, Shanghai Corporate Joint Pavilion, Space Pavilion, Space Home Pavilion, State Grid, and Vanke Pavilion

What caught my interest though, are the national pavilions. Each participating country designed and constructed their own pavilions, highlighting their own culture and own urban proposals. As I mentioned earlier, there were about an abundant number of international pavilions, which was almost like going around the world within a few square kilometers. I wasn’t able to go inside all as one would have to fall in line for as much as 4 hours just to get inside the famous ones. But fortunately, with the help of my able body and passion for design, I was able to walk the entire site and see them all, even from the exterior. It was a such a wonder to see the latest design trends all over the world all in one place. The challenge for most of the designers for the pavilions was how to come up with a forward-looking architecture that would represent the principles of urban design, modernism, and sustainability, while keeping in mind that the structure is a temporary one, to be torn down after six months. What I noticed is that most of the pavilions were able to do this by the usage of “skins” – an architectural covering that is detached from the main structure of the pavilion. By doing this, the exterior nature of the pavilions can be designed to be so complicated, while the structural components can be kept straightforward.

One of the biggest one I saw was the 6,000-square-meter Canada Pavilion, among the biggest at the site, will feature an exhibition themed “The Living City: Inclusive, Sustainable, Creative.” The pavilion wraps around an open public plaza which doubles as a performing area, where visitors can watch the performances of Cirque du Soleil while in line to go inside. Its structure is wrapped with a slatted wooden skin, arranged in a facetted manner.

canada pavillion

The Vietnam Pavilion could very well be mistaken as the Philippine Pavilion. From afar, it has a very simple box-like profile, but upon close inspection, it is actually covered with interwoven bamboo poles that achieve a very expressive cultural character.

vietnam pavillion

The concept for the Korea Pavilion is an amalgamation of ‘sign’ (symbol) and ‘space’: Signs become spaces, and simultaneously, spaces become signs. The exterior surfaces of the Korea Pavilion are clad in 2 types of pixels: Han-geul Pixels and Art Pixels. Han-geul Pixels are white panels with a relief of letters in four different sizes whose combination forms the majority of the exterior, mainly the peripheral surfaces. Most of the non-peripheral surfaces are composed of Art Pixels, which are 45cm x 45cm aluminum panels created by a Korean artist, Ik-Joong Kang. About 40,000 of these panels texturize the façade, contributing a bright palette of colors, hope, and unity throughout the Korea Pavilion. The surfaces will project different atmospheres during the day and night, with light and shadows creating different textures. Sequential lighting is installed behind the Hangeul Pixels to highlight the individual letters on the exterior façade at night, further animating the pavilion as a sign (like a text message) on a larger scale.

korean pavillion

Foster + partners designed the UAE Pavilion based on the shape of sand dunes in reference to the symbolic feature of the desert landscape shared by all seven emirates. The peak rises to 20 meters in height and it is entered via a glazed lip at the pavilions base. light penetrates the building’s business center and VIP area through glazed vertical strips which illuminate the pavilion from  within by night. Its exterior is clad with a tessellated triangular panels that seem like gold, symbolizing the surge of wealth that the UAE has experienced.

United Arab Emirates Pavillion by Norman Foster

The Spanish pavillion is one of the most surreal pavillions present. From afar, it seems to take the shape of the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, but instead of being clad in titanium panels, this one is clad with hand woven layers of wicker, each with a different pattern.

Spanish Pavillion

The UK Pavilion’s required the involvement of the Kew Gardens ’ Millennium Seedbank whose mission is to collect the seeds of 25% of the world’s plant species by 2020.
 The design process evolved to produce two interlinked and experiential elements: an architecturally iconic Seed Cathedral, and a multi-layered landscape treatment of the 6,000m2 site. The Seed Cathedral sits in the centre of the UK Pavilion’s site. It is about 20meters high and is formed from 60,000 slender transparent fiber optic rods, each 7.5 meters long and each encasing one or more seeds at its tip. During the day, they draw daylight inward, illuminating the interior of the space. At night, light sources inside each rod allow the whole structure to glow. These rods are also tectonic, gently moving as the wind blows, creating a dynamic effect.

UK Pavillion by Thomas Heatherwick

My favorite pavilion is the Denmark Pavilion by B.I.G. Architects. For me it is the pavilion that exudes the least effort to be beautiful. Basically, the pavilion is a double helix ramp, a big loop on which visitors ride around on one of the 1,500 bikes available at the entrance, a chance to experience the Danish urban way. At the center of the pavilion there’s a big pool with fresh water from Copenhagen’s harbor, on which visitors can even swim. At the center of the pool you will find The Little Mermaid, a statue that has become a symbol for Denmark (pretty much how Rizal in Luneta is to us). And this time, it will be moved temporarily to China. In Bjarke Ingels’ (the architect) words “it is considerably more resource efficient moving The Little Mermaid to China, than moving 1.3 billion Chinese to Copenhagen”.

Danish Pavillion by B.I.G. (Bjark Ingels Group)

The pavilions are simply too many to be mentioned in this article. For me, it was an architectural smorgasbord that allowed me to see the trends that are happening all over the world. The experience of the expo would be different for each person. There are simply too many reasons not to go and see the Expo. I personally doubt that an exposition of this magnitude will be repeated in the near future so I personally advice everyone to go the Shangahi and take a trip around the world in 5.28 square kilometers.

You may e-mail the author at design@buensalidoarchitects.com and visit his website at www.buensalidoarchitects.com

THE BIRD’S NEST: Beijing’s National Stadium

March 3, 2012

(As seen in Urban Monologues, Business Mirror Newspaper. Text and Photos by Jason Buensalido)

In the book “The Alchemist”, the author talks about personal legends which are essentially a major goal of foremost significance that one wishes to achieve in his or her lifetime. For me, my standard answer whenever asked that question would be “To design a piece of architecture that would represent today’s civilization.” Just like how the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids of Egypt, or even as simple as the Parthenon in Greece, all these structures have been significant in understanding of world’s past as lessons about culture, social beliefs, religion, and even technology are learned from them. I hope that one day, I would be able to make the same mark in our country. I dream of building something that would help people in the future understand who we are as a country today, very much like how the Bird’s Nest in Beijing represents the status of its nation now.

The Bird’s Nest, or the National Stadium, was the main venue for the 29th Olympic Games held in Beijing, China. It is a structure of utmost significance not only because all eyes all over the world were on it during the Olympics, but because it projected an image of such advanced development, willpower, and confidence for China. Personally, seeing it was very momentous as it is one of the most contemporary pieces of built architecture in the world and was a source of education and inspiration for me as I am a modernist myself.

NEST-LIKE APEARANCE - The roof is suported by twenty-four trussed columns that is camouflaged by seemingly random steel lattice-work , forming the over-all esthetic of the “nest”. A common misconception is that the placement of the steel frames of the nest is random and has no purpose, when in reality, each half of the stadium is nearly identical and each steel frame in the nest helps the other structural elements support each other. Due to the stadium's resultant appearance, it was nicknamed "The Bird's Nest".

I have been reading about this structure as early as 2003 before the Olympic Games made marketing noise. After being awarded the right o host the Olympic Games in 2001, Beijing knew that it would take a lot of time, efforts, and processes to build a world-class stadium. That is why they started with a bidding process right away for the design of the structure, with multiple parameters such as a retractable roof, low maintenance costs, and flexibility for post-Olympic use. Thirteen Entire were short-listed, and out of this thirteen, the consortium of Architects Herzog and De Meuron, China Architecture  Design and Research Group (CADG), and artist Ai Weiwei, emerged as the winning entry.

close-up shot of the NEST

The concept of the stadium originates from Chinese ceramics which had very parallel characteristics with how they wanted the building to be –  a “porous” stadium and “a collective building or a public vessel”. This led the team to a “nest scheme”. The stadium consists of two independent structures – a red concrete seating bowl and the outer steel frame around it. They stand about 50 feet apart from each other, forming an interstitial space that serves as the perimeter circulation space.

The interstitial spaces between the red bowl for seating and the secondary steel nest serve as the circulation spaces.

Much of the character of the stadium comes from the secondary steel nest that encapsulates the inner red bowl. As one of the requirements for the design was to have a retractable roof, the designers’ solution was twenty-four trussed columns that each weighed 1,000 tons. To camouflage these steel supports for the retractable roof, the team developed the seemingly random steel lattice-work to blend the supports into the rest of the stadium, forming the over-all esthetic of the “nest”. A common misconception is that the placement of the steel frames of the nest is random and has no purpose, when in reality, each half of the stadium is nearly identical and each steel frame in the nest helps the other structural elements support each other. Due to the stadium’s resultant appearance, it was nicknamed “The Bird’s Nest”.

But just like any other construction job, misfortunes happen. During the construction of the stadium, a portion of the roof of  the Charles de Gaulle International Airport collapsed. Its designer, French architect Paul Andreu, was also designing the National Theatre nearby, which led Beijing to review all major projects. They decided to eliminate the retractable roof, the original inspiration for the “nest” design, as well as 9,000 seats from the stadium, for safety and budgetary reasons.

view of the stadium interiors, without the retractable roof

 

In line with the theme “Green Olympics”, the stadium also has eco-friendly features. A  rainwater harvesting system was integrated near the stadium which essentially collects rainwater and is used for non-potable purposes throughout the stadium after a purification process. For thermal insulation, the designers placed pipes under the playing surface that gather heat in the winter to warm the stadium and coldness in the summer to cool the stadium.

The stadium’s design originally called for a capacity of 100,000 people; however 9,000 were removed during a simplification of the design. The new total of 91,000 would be shaved further when 11,000 temporary seats were removed after the 2008 Olympics; bringing the stadium’s capacity to 80,0000. The farthest seat is 460 feet (140 meters) from center field.

One measure of how well an Olympic structure is designed is how it is going to be used after the Olympics. As for the case of Bird’s Nest, it will continue to be a host to a multitude of events after the games. Immediately after the main Olympics, it hosted the opening and closing ceremonies and athletic events of the 2008 Summer Paralympics in September 2008. In 2009, the stadium will host the It alian Super Cup finals – the traditional curtain raiser to the Italian soccer league season. Though designed for track & field events of the Olympics, the stadium will continue to host sporting events, such as football, afterwards. A shopping mall and a hotel, with rooms overlooking the field, are planned to help increase use after the Olympics. The designers envision this structure to be the most important public space in Beijing.

I was lucky enough to get a seat in a sports bar in Makati to witness the opening ceremonies of the Olympics live. I was able to watch the full coverage of all the grandiose and magnificence of the ceremonies. The Chinese grabbed this opportunity to show off how talented they are in the fields of dance, song, use of technology, and fireworks. The show was so moving and extravagant that even London already admitted as early as now that they will not be able to parallel the Chinese’s show of talent. In the midst of all of these, the Bird’s Nest was the backdrop. I was imagining at that point that all eyes all over the world were on the structure, appreciating and marveling about how significant the structure is and what it represented. I wish that one day; I will be given the same opportunity to design such a structure, ultimately achieving my personal legend.

close-up at night