This Week in Architecture: More than Visual

© Beat Widmer. ImageCourtesy of Diller, Scofidio + Renfro © Beat Widmer. ImageCourtesy of Diller, Scofidio + Renfro

Architecture is a profession deeply dependent on the visual. It’s imagined, sold, critiqued and consumed almost entirely on the strength (or lack thereof) of drawings. We pick and prod at images presented at angles we’ll never be able see, admiring the architectonic qualities of elements we’ll never actually experience.

And yet, when it comes to the experience of architecture (which, lest we forget, is what it’s all about) the visual plays only a small part. What stays with us is how a building facilitates its purpose and affects our quality of life. Is it easy to navigate? Is the floor always slippery after it rains? Does light reach into the deepest layer of offices? Are the materials responsible for the headache that simply won’t go away?

Architecture is about more than just the visual. But perhaps the visual can also be elevated to meet architecture. This week’s stories touched on issues of branding, drawing, and the sense.

Eyes off Design

© 2008 Estate of Madeline Gins, Reproduced with permission of the estate of Madeline Gins. ImageCourtesy of Metropolis Magazine © 2008 Estate of Madeline Gins, Reproduced with permission of the estate of Madeline Gins. ImageCourtesy of Metropolis Magazine

The term “sensory design” is, more often than not, wielded to contextualise things a bit wacky: a conspicuously unusable fork, a light that adapts to “mood”, a chair that makes you sit up a bit straighter. But it can, of course, be so much more - Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Blur Building or Philippe Rahm’s Taichung Central Park, for example. In her article originally published on Metropolis, Alice Bucknell walks us through the history design, from the funky early days to the tech-drive approach of today. We may not be able to overthrow the “tyranny of vision”, but we can certainly think about it differently.

Taichung Central Park / Philippe Rahm. Image Courtesy of Philippe Rahm Taichung Central Park / Philippe Rahm. Image Courtesy of Philippe Rahm

To the Drawing Board

© Li Han, via World Architecture Festival © Li Han, via World Architecture Festival

But that’s not to say that visuals can’t be elevated to something more than the two dimensions on which it’s presented . This year’s winner of the World Architecture Drawing Prize, organised in collaboration with Make Architects and Sir John Soane’s Museum, illustrated a city changing over time, compressing dramatically different phases of development in a single image. Said jury member Narinder Sagoo of the work by Li Han, "...it tells hundreds of stories over nine years in which architecture, cities and people's lives change. It's important for all architects to consider the life of buildings over the course of time... It's a modern day Archigram drawing but also a step into the future..."

Kaohsiung Performing Arts Center / Mecanoo. Image © Iwan Baan Kaohsiung Performing Arts Center / Mecanoo. Image © Iwan Baan

The future seemed to step a bit closer this week with the completion of Mecanoo’s Kaohsiung Performing Arts Center. The building, reported to be the world’s largest performing arts center under one roof, welcomed thousands of visitors in its opening day alone - an auspicious sign for the future.

One for the Weekend

Frida Escobedo's 2018 Serpentine Pavilion. Image © Laurian Ghintoiu Frida Escobedo's 2018 Serpentine Pavilion. Image © Laurian Ghintoiu

Summer is over and the Serpentine pavilion is gone - but not gone forever. Frida Escobedo’s 2018 pavilion was recently bought by spa operator Therme Group, prompting Therme Vals 2.0 visions for architects around the world. Nearly all of the pavilions have gone on to new lives after their time in the park, including new uses as party venues, concert halls, and coworking spaces. It's proof that it's never too late for a career change.