The Monthly European Architectural Newsletter
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September/October 2010


Architecture and Museum

In less than two decades, museums have multiplied exponentially worldwide. And their design has of course evolved. Many contemporary buildings have sprung up in cities, sometimes even redefining them, as in the case of the Guggenheim in Bilbao, which transfigures a bleak site thanks to its sculptural volume and titanium scales with a thousand shades. This Bilbao “effect” seems to have favoured the emergence of remarkable architecture, inspiring the ambitious plans of the Centre Pompidou Metz, which opened its doors to the public last Spring (architects Shigeru Ban, Jean de Gastines and Philip Gumuchdjian), or the Louvre Lens under construction (architects SANAA*). Indeed today, a museum is increasingly a showcase identifying a city, or even a region.
Unlike for auditoriums, the economic crisis has forced the United States to freeze the forecasted museum expansion plans, whilst another trend is seeing light and could even spread in the future: architecture which pays attention to sustainable development, such as the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art (architect David Adjaye), which opened in 2007 and is henceforth LEED Gold certified.
Contemporary museography can thus be a part of neutral exhibition space, in a way invisible (the museum gives way to its object), meaning that the museum becomes itself an exhibition object, competing with its own contents. Such is the case in Rome. True thunderbolt, the capital of classical art creates two new institutions inaugurated last May wholly dedicated to contemporary art: the MAXXI, the National Museum of 21st Century Art, and the MACRO Future, the new wing of the Rome Museum of Contemporary Art with its angular volumes. The two museums take on an entirely new dimension thanks to the feats of two lady architects, Zaha Hadid and Odile Decq. A specific case linked to the site and the use, it is clear that a museum can never content itself with ready-made solutions. This gives rise to formal artistic choices which, as strange as they may seem, are all determined by these demands. Even if the buildings are very plastic, they must fully exercise their museum functions organizing permanent and temporary exhibitions. Certain artistic choices may, however, be surprising.
Notice to creative stage designers ready to invent dynamic ways of exhibiting works!

*See Archi-News, May 2010/portrait

The Archi-Europe Team

Portrait of the month

Daniel Libeskind, New York

From the Jewish Museum of Berlin – his first creation - to his work at the site of the Twin Towers in New York, the architect Daniel Libeskind confronts his emotions to invent a new architecture.

Born in Lodz Poland in 1946, in the wake of a war which is ever-present in his work, Daniel Libeskind considers himself a nomad: schooling in Israel, studies at Cooper Union School in New York and then at University of Essex in England (History and Architecture Theory), followed by years of teaching, notably in Italy. In 1989, he devotes himself to the Jewish Museum Berlin built as a shattered Star of David. This museum took thirteen years of his life. Facing some political reticence, he had to fight to impose this folded building, embodying the tragedy of the German Jews and the violent fractures of their history. His manner of practicing architecture necessarily entails an investigation of ideas, a study of the realities – visible or hidden – of a site and a specific programme. It is because he referred to these “hidden” programmes that Daniel Libeskind has had so much influence on students and critics.

Daniel Libeskind has a great experience in museums: the Felix Nussbaum Haus in Osnabrück, Germany, the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester, the Danish Jewish Museum in Copenhagen, the extension to the Denver Art Museum, the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. Others are under construction or in design for Dresden, Dublin and Boston. For each project, he examines its architectonic expression in relation with the environment and its final use.
“I am not interested in fostering new building techniques and high-tech ideas, nor giving a more formal and aesthetic approach to construction techniques, he told us when building the Jewish Museum. My interest is in the spiritual content of a building, in its true meaning. Its life, the life of its components, the culture shown by a public building, like a museum, that’s what is really to be considered.” Today like yesterday, to implement building techniques and materials is seen as a way to reach a human understanding of Space.

The collage technique remains as the basis of his radical attitude, whether for a vast urban project or for a building. Collage includes all types of data: the city’s history, literature, the political past, music, etc. These thoughts lead to a stratification and a density which attempt to transcend the limits of the imagination and appeal to the fascination for chaos. The architect intended to be a musician. Even if he did not make a career in this direction, he considers architecture as one of the most important devices for perceiving the world. “You just stand in the city and listen to it, he says. It’s an art teaching how to communicate, like literature. A building reveals the human soul. It’s not an ideological tool, but an emotional shock caused by a so unexpected building that you feel you’re at the border between something familiar and unknown."

For the design study of the rebuilding of the World Trade Center Site in New York, the architect faces his emotions. By going down into the muddy 8-hectar crater he recalls his childhood when landing in the New World and looking up in the sky towards the Statue of Liberty. His master plan project stems from this reminiscence, erecting five towers placed in ascending order to form a spiral imitating the flame of the statue’s torch. As one of the most ambitious urban and development operations, it should, in principle, be ready in a few years after arduous negotiations. “Work which gives form to space is important because it engages body and spirit, emotion and intellect, memory and imagination.“

1 Daniel Libeskind © Ilan Besor

2 The Jewish Museum Berlin, 1999 © Bitter Bredt

3 Extension to the Denver Art Museum, Frederic C. Hamilton building, 2006 © Bitter Bredt
The extension of the museum designed by Gio Ponti was developed in cooperation with Davis Partnership Architects.

4 Creative Media Centre Hong Kong, 2002-2011 © SDL
Media Centre in cooperation with Leigh & Orange Architects.

5 Fiera Milano City, 2004-2014 © SDL
Master plan at the exposition site in the heart of the city in which were erected the buildings of Zaha Hadid, Arata Isozaki and Pier Paolo Maggiora. The project includes residential, commercial and tertiary units. Daniel Libeskind is also designing a museum, one of the office buildings, the first area of residential housing and parks here.

6 The Villa - Libeskind Signature Series, 2009 © Frank Marburger
A unique, “turnkey” low-energy house marketed by Berlin-based Proportion. It is an asymmetrical construction on two floors which brilliantly illustrates the compatibility between exceptional architecture, the use of natural resources and energy performance.

7 Studio Weil, Majorca, 2003 © Bitter Bredt
Intended for US sculptor Barbara Weil, the building is integrated into its environment, transcending the blend between art and architecture.

8 Royal Ontario Museum Toronto, 2007 © Royal Ontario Museum
The new extension is characterised by its entirely new architecture.

9 Memory Foundations New York, under construction © Silverstein Properties SPI
Studio Daniel Libeskind's design study was selected in February 2003 as the master site plan for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center Site. In addition to the Freedom Tower (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill), and a world-class transportation hub designed (Santiago Calatrava), four more towers (Michael Arad & Peter Walker, Foster and Partners, Maki and Associates, Richard Rogers Partnership), a visitors centre (Snøhetta)  and an awe-inspiring memorial (Davis Brody Bond Aedas) are currently under construction in Lower Manhattan.

Project of the month

Architect: Zaha Hadid

Open to the public in late May 2010, the National Museum of 21st Century Arts features the avant-garde architecture right in the heart of the city.

Admitting that it was “very symbolic for Rome to host a new space for modern art,” the architect designed this building with concrete and steel, full of gentle curves, on the site of the former army barracks north of the city.
This Centre for Contemporary Arts would redefine this popular area on the outskirts of the town through cultural activities. Moreover, it demonstrates the city’s desire not to stay closed into its past. Covering 30,000 m², the complex fits snugly into the urban fabric. This is in no way an attempt at topological pastiche, but instead continues the low-level urban texture set against the higher level blocks on the surrounding sides of the site. The façade plays a mirror effect with the classical buildings around it. Mainly built in the 19th century and painted predominantly in ochre, these buildings are reflected in the overhanging window. The architect “has emphasized a continuous, almost liquid approach to volumes and forms, implying a challenge to the established order from the plan to the wall”.*
Despite the internal connections and intersections between the galleries, the spaces are extremely linear. The indoor course spreads over 10,000 m² of exhibition spaces with plenty of sinuous lines. The space continuity guides the visitor along fluid lanes and large galleries, enhanced by the overhead natural lighting from a glass roof coated with metallic netting. The intersection of volumes and walls is the project’s most impressive element, with an alternance of empty and full spaces, indoor and outdoor. At sunset the skilfully studied galleries lighting makes the sight even more suggestive.

Product of the month

Di Legno®, design parquet made to measure

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Our clients combine colours and patterns, proportions and finishes, not only for the flooring, but also for stairs and any made-to-measure accessories to create a living space that is in perfect harmony with ones personal taste.

For more information:


MUTEC – International Trade Fair for Museum and Exhibition Technology
(18 - 20/11/2010) - Leipzig (DE)
NICHE – Young Belgian Architecture
(> 30/09/2010) - Brussels BE)
(22/09/2010 - 17/01/2011) - Paris (FR)
(28/09 – 2/10/2010) - Valencia (ES)
Bauvisite 138:
(20/11/2010) - Vienna (AT)
10+ Design Forecast
(> 31/10/2010) - Copenhagen (DK)
SAIE 2010
(27 - 30/10/2010) - Bologna (IT)
(5 - 8/10/2010) - Novosibirsk (RU)
>> read more


TECU Architecture Award 2010
Deadline : 15/10/2010
World Habitat Awards
Deadline : 01/11/2010
2011 Skyscraper Competition
Deadline: 11/01/2011
2011 Mock Firms International Skyscraper Challenge
Deadline : 15/01/2011
>> read more


1. Frank Lloyd Wright, Complete Works, Vol.2, 1917-1942
Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer
488 pages | € 150.00
ISBN : 978-3-8365-0926-8

>> read more

2. Human Cities: Celebrating Public Space
Lise Coirier, Barbara Golicnik Marusic, Matej Niksic

160 pages | € 29,90
Stichting kunstboek

ISBN 978-90-5856-345-3
>> read more

3. Barcelone, la ville innovante
Arielle Masboungi
176 pages |
Editions du Moniteur
ISBN 978-2-2811-9453-1

>> read more


Copyright 2010 Archi-Europe Group nv/sa
Responsible Editor : Jacques Allard
Chief Editor : Marie-Claire Regniers
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