Embracing time in architecture means
embracing change. Every building on this planet, even the ones that have lasted
over the centuries and decades, the ones that have been affected by unavoidable
decay of the materials and everyday use, and the ones that have outlived their
usefulness, are not fixed.
They are not just objects that were
rooted to a single moment in time, they are bound to change – they are mutable.
Many buildings have more than one
beginning and not necessarily a single or even definitive end. Our history forms basis for the future generation.
Architecturally traditional spaces are still striving due to the successful,
continuous pressure of integrity of the old, while using contemporary designs
within. There are no reason why new meanings cannot become integrated into new
forms that merge into a shifting urban space.
“I recognize a shape, a space, an organization because
I’ve seen it before. It’s in my repertoire, my history or part of a collective
recollection. Alternately, a space or shape is unrecognizable. I haven’t seen
it. It’s new to me. It’s outside the collective memory. A dialect exists
between what is previously recognized, and the intention to redefine the
boundaries of the recognizable. In other words, how does what is not yet
history become history or how is not yet history become history or how is the
conception of form re-formed? “(E.O. Moss ‘Buildings and Projects 3’, Rizzoli,
New York 2002, p.11)
In the wonderfully
rule-free world of interior design and architecture, where designers and
architects strive to transition any boundaries and create original and unique
spaces, where concept holds a valuable place, spaces are redesigned with new
forms, masking what was and giving them a brand new purpose.
connect us directly with time and the past: the layering of styles and the
juxtaposition of different uses and activities – commonplace and ceremonial,
utilitarian and symbolic – place us comfortably in the continuum of lives
Signs and traces of age,
use and wear strengthen this experience; an ancient paved street, polished to a
clear shine by centuries of walking; stone steps carved by millions of feet; or
a patented bronze door pull, polished by thousands of hands, turning it into a
warm gesture of welcome.
architecture of our time creates settings for the eye that seem to originate in
a single moment and give rise to an experience of temporality and leaving the
root of it far behind. Forgetting about the true beauty these walls and ceiling
behold. Some may say old buildings are a burden to our beautiful mother Earth.
On the contrary, buildings have moods and personalities, they play important
social roles in their surroundings, which all can be altered and adapted
through time to its new purpose, but the value it holds may never be forgotten.
We tend to desire experiences that mark and measure the course of time and
convince us of its availability.
Old or historic buildings
are not obstacles, they are foundation for the continuous action, they are a
head start to the future’s architectural generation, that can be turned and
transformed into creative possibilities of preservation. In the variety of
materials and forms, there exists freedom in which things get to discover their
own identity and purpose.
Through this written
thesis I will intend to explore possible reconfigurations of history’s
artifacts, leading themselves to a dialogue between the past and present as
applied to conceptual palimpsest. I will explore how designs can me manifested
through juxtaposed simplistic forms and elaborated by detail drenched with
meaning. I will be comparing and emphasizing the aspects that can add dynamics
to a space through the analysis of chosen case studies: Carlo Scarpa,
What is juxtaposition?
The definition of the word juxtaposition is simply two
things being placed together in order to achieve a contrasting effect,
specifically in ways that make each stand out more.
We can juxtapose almost
everything: art, film, photography but most importantly architecture, and this
is going to be my main focus for the project.
juxtaposition means combining elements that naturally would never occur in
order to create a strong visual impact to the surrounding area and public eye. Juxtaposition
can be used in many different ways; it can be used to mix conflicting designs
in the same room or space, or on a much bigger scale to respectfully modernize
a historic building, without losing its true value.
In my opinion
juxtaposition in architecture is a more successful way of designing complex
spaces that use form and contradiction. There are many ways to create
juxtaposition in architecture, but most of them rely on simultaneous
manipulation of different elements such as materials, textures, shapes and
forms all depending on what kind of result are you trying to achieve.
literature is purely a device used by writers to help them portray their
characters or subjects they choose to talk about in great detail to create
suspense and achieve a rhetorical effect. As human-beings, we comprehend one
thing easier by comparing it to the other.
The comparison drawn adds more colour and vividness, controlling the
pace of the writing, providing a logical connection between the two.
Juxtaposition insists on
Case Study I
Carlo Scarpa, Castelvecchio, Italy
“Anything and everything is available for conversion – there is no
building that is priori unfit for conversion. The future in planning and
designing lies above all in the area of the existing mass product.” (Graeme
Brooker and Sally Stone, Readings Interior Architecture and Principles of
Remodeling existing buildings, London, RIBA Enterprise, 2004, p. 102)
Carlo Scarpa is an Italian
architect, designer and sculptor (1906-19780) who had a vision of a deliberate juxtaposition
of the past set against the backdrop of the present. He understands that
the past is still not dead and in fact, we must engage and intertwine with it
more in this present day.
Castelvecchio is a
medieval fortress. One of the most interesting museums in Europe, known not
just for interesting exhibitions, but also for the historical and architectural
value of the building. In 1957 Carlo Scarpa started the great renovation that later
on attracted people from all around the world. Students travel thousands of
miles from across the world to analyze and study this beautiful masterpiece,
and learn about architectural solutions applied by Carlo Scarpa.
‘The architect uses
methods of juxtaposition and interpretation to regulate interior-exterior
relationships and to articulate transitions as inside-outside, man-nature,
private-public, element-context.’ 2He also mixes traditional
materials and forms with contemporary ones.
Scarpa’s work was influenced by Frank
Lloyd Wright and the traditional Japan’s architecture, however his forms owed
much to the abstraction of contemporary art and the artisan techniques of
craftsmen with whom he’s done a collaboration.
The Castelvecchio project went far
beyond the norm for the period. Carlo Scarpa refused to have any limitations to
the certain point. His idea was to expose the historical strata of the complex,
to show different stages and periods of the buildings, as well as structural alterations.
‘Scarpa was more interested in historical transparency than in the theory of
restoration;’ 3 The
variety and richness in the design that he created was significant, however the
refurbishment of the existing structure placed restrains on his inventive and
ingenious imagination. As a consequence, this is where Scarpa turned his
imagination towards a playful, yet creative juxtaposition of old and new; of
what was and what’s there yet to be. He created an architectural language,
instead of pursuing the exoticism of his preferred forms, he revealed both: the
process of construction and the historical layering of the original structure.
Scarpa developed his own technique of
displaying furniture, plinths and other objects, by taking notice of wall openings,
old and new surfaces and reconstructed areas, and related it all to the
existing context of the museum.
He also introduced a vocabulary,
which was reused in series of intervention across the great fortress of
Castelvecchio in Verona, between 1957 and 1974. One of Carlos Scarpa’s methods
was to reveal the acquisition of materials, by revealing the layers of the past
and making it conceptually present.
In a larger order of architectural
and urban expression, The Castelvecchio fortress, now a museum, with Scarpa’s
innovative ideas attempts nothing less than the revelation of a structure of a
historic phenomenon – peeling back the onion-skin like layers one by one. In
this way, he reveals the inherent discontinuity of time of Verona’s past.
Carlos Scarpa uses juxtaposition to
set up dialectical relationships between distinct and evidently unassociated
elements as seen previously in his work.
Each and every element in his project
is outbalanced by the presence of something that contradicts it in every
possible way. With confidence and assertive gesture, he reveals and unveils
context of the exquisite historical fragments without denying the contemporary
Scarpa re-establishes value and
importance of historical continuity and he shows that it is inevitable for the
past itself to play a fundamental role in todays’ architecture, since the
artifacts aimed at the future had been proven to be unsuccessful. Carlos Scarpa
had a precious skill in articulation of detail. His work stands out for being
expressionate of its elements, commanding visitors’ of the museum attention. Scarpa
provides a specific method of rearticulating the existing space to provide a
critical route for the visitors. The arrangement and grouping of exhibits and
lighting assert this path. Moreover, he allowed the components of the original
building to activate the sequence of spaces. Carlo Scarpa’s idea was to create
new forms in a way that brought attention to the existing structure, without
impinging on its historic and artistic value. His desire was for the old
fragment to maintain its own identity and its own history – in this way tension
between the new and old is increased.
Scarpas’ aim for this project was to create a
memorable experience from the juxtaposition of past and present, without resort
to historicism, while respecting the legacy and integrity of the building,
other spaces as well as the objects that were being exhibited for many years. He
balances three approaches in re-designing the Castelvecchio: his interpretation
of the history of the castle, highlighting the architectural value of its original
components, and satisfying the new requirements of the museum.
Castelvecchio is the greatest example
of how Scarpa’s architecture is purely based on juxtaposition. Scarpa has
proven many times, that such an intervention of abandoned form is not only worthy
but also attainable and this entices me to elaborate more on another not only
interesting but very relevant topic: adaptive reuse.
Chipperfield, Neues Museum, Berlin
“We shape our buildings; thereafter, our buildings
shape us.” (Winston
The astonishing Neues Museum was
built in 1843 and 1855, was closed at the beginning of World War II in 1939 and
was terribly damaged during the bombing of Berlin. Neues Museum was designed by
the famous English architect David Chipperfield, who have gone way beyond
anyone’s’ expectations. This museum plays a very important role in the history
of construction and technology including great iron structures. It is one of
the very first museum when in the process of construction steam engine was
used. The museum was the first three – storey museum ever built.
The Neues Museum is the last existing
example of interior layout of this period in Germany.
Utterly ‘incriminating’ project,
powerfully controlled, entirely jaw-dropping, incorporating the most staggering
and moving project ever – the Neues Museum is a great example of distinction
between old and new, where the two have merged together in a rather dominant
and vibrant manner. David Chipperfield gives context and meaning to every
little fragment of the museum. The biggest issue the architect had to face was
what would such combination of historicism and contemporary mean to the public
and how will it be perceived. The Neues Museum was a case of a compromise between
historic and contemporary.
Many parts of the museum were significantly
damaged: intricate plaster, distressed but recognizable classical columns,
fresco and other decorations that simply could not be replicated. Some parts of
the museum have suffered more than the others – where they had to be completely
reconstructed – the central stairwell, which was the heart of building, also known
as the ‘Egyptian Courtyard’, got completely ruined after the attack, however
not everything got completely destroyed. 1850’s was known for its’ over the top
high colour interiors. Moreover, after the bombing and the erosion over the
years caused by climate changes, these colours in the Neues Museum have never
looked truer than today. Essentially they’ve become rather more acceptable to
After the bombing, the most
richly-decorated spaces in the museum have been completely destroyed, leaving
raw surfaces of brickwork and other materials left unadorned.
David Chipperfield, through this
project re-established form and figure, only by using plainer forms juxtaposing
them to the existing ones. He refurbishes space by space, room by room and
surface by surface accordingly to the different conditions and damages it was
affected by. Chipperfield had to think carefully and make drastic decisions
when and where the new work/design should announce its newest and when to merge
history with presents and future. In certain areas, where exhibits are placed
and play the most important part, and are the center of the attention, the
backdrop – architecture – becomes less dominant.
Today, all these disfigurements which
were left behind World War II, have turned into perfectly harmonious
architecture with the great help of David Chipperfiel. His aim was to maintain
the spirit of the museum’s ruins. The restoration of the museum was driven by
the idea of existing spatial context and materiality being emphasized, where
the contemporary reflects the lost, without imitating it. Greatest example is as mentioned previously
‘the heart of the building’ – the stairwell, was formed using the same concrete
elements, repeating the original idea, without replicating it now sits
beautifully within the majestic hall. The whole process can be described as
multidisciplinary cooperation between repairing, converting, restoring and
recreating all of its elements. To preserve the character of decay in such
fixed environment that museum was demanding, was almost seemingly absurd. There
rooms in the museum where you can
unashamedly notice the raw brickwork that was only covered with a very think
skin – like layer of slurry, harmonizing the colour palette of the different
materials. Every gap in the building was filled in without interfering or
competing with the existing structure in terms of brightness, lighting and the
different surfaces. Against the raw
structures, now sit new architectural interventions: stairways, pillars,
railings and the list goes on. There is a clear juxtaposition, bold and cold,
with no historical reference to the original building. The incorporation of
nearly all available damaged material, with the simple addition of contemporary
elements – a single continuous structure became the preferred path of
Chipperfield’s concept. These interventions sit beautifully within the space,
almost making you wonder what was there before and making question as you
transition from one space to another.
Chipperfield’s work here in the Neues
Museum has a significant emotional impact –allowing the building express its
truest colours of the worst times in its history, revealing vulnerability and
susceptibility, thus the museum still standing tall, proud and stature – acknowledging
the past and only looking forward.
The Neues Museum had gained more
architectural value and potential to it after being bombed by the allies, than
firstly being built in 1843. Museum’s history is revealed through several
different layers of its own, where ‘parts have been repaired, others replaced
with copies, and new ones invented, always remaining faithful to the aesthetic
unity of the building.’ 4 David Chipperfield
exquisitely exposes factors by which the museum was affected throughout
centuries: the subsequent usage, bombing, erosion and decay and celebrates it
with its brand new revival. Through this project he reveals the beauty and
fluidity of the damaged Neues Museum.
David Chipperfield perfectly masters
the layering of both the past and the contemporary, that makes all the visitors
aware of its history, and that first of all, it is always a reinterpretation
through contemporary eyes, inflicted by current agendas. The traces of the past
and new elements that have been merged within, are constant reminders, that
bringing the past closer, makes the visitors of the museum become the active
participants. In the Neues Museum history has never been stilled or buried,
it’s been revived and now is more alive than ever.
Grand Louvre, Paris
The site of the Louvre was a dungeon and
fortress, which was later on transformed into a palace. In 1793, Louis XVI
turned Louvre into a museum.
In 1981, after the election of the
new French president, F. Mitterand, he launched a campaign to renovate all the
cultural institutions in France and one of the most important and biggest
projects was the renovation of the Grand Louvre. The great honor went to
Chinese American Architect I. M. Pei. The aim for the project was to alleviate
the congestion of the daily visitors, and increase museum’s capacity. Architect
proposed something that was very unusual and rare for that time – a glass
pyramid made of hundreds of individual panels. Yet again, we have one of the
greatest examples of juxtaposition – clear distinct between historical and
Due to enormous amounts of visitors,
the museum started to face a series of problems. The capacity of the entrances
to the museum could not keep up with the numbers of the visitors on everyday
basis, requiring a brand new grand entrance to the museum. The pyramid itself
suggests a futuristic character. Transparency of the glass panels allows
natural lighting, through the panels directly into the lobby. At first, many
people felt like I.M. Pei’s design would be misunderstood by the visitors and
would clash with the original French Renaissance architecture. The critics have
referred to it as an ‘alien’ form. However, as the years went by, Pei’s design
had modernized and eventually became a big part of Paris.
The convenience of the main entrance
provides not only that, but also separates central lobby space from the
galleries. Architects’ design also features a brand new underground system for
the museum and the galleries that has storage, preservation laboratories and also
is a connecting threshold between the wings of the museum. Moreover, Pei not
only juxtaposes the exterior of the pyramid but also the interior, and forms he
produces within the lobby area. As you enter the pyramid there are two different
types of stair: left one – swirly, shaped in a very flowy form, and the right
one straight and heavy looking.
This project had allowed the museum
expand on its exhibitions and bring new collections to the visitors from all
around the world. For the architect, this wasn’t just another project, thus the
pyramid had a symbolic, historical and figural meaning and to him.
The reason for chosen materials was
that, the architect wanted the pyramid to blend within its surroundings and
become part of it. The glass itself was clear, so when you looked through it,
the glass wouldn’t alter the viewers’ perceptions of the outside or the
The glass pyramid is a structurally
stable form, constructed from a steel frame and glass panels it represents a
breakthrough in the architectural traditions, looking towards the future.
The large scale of Grand Louvre, and
the juxtaposition of it historical nature, the French Renaissance architecture,
in the comparison to the modern structure, creates a respectful and
complimentary effect, enhancing the beauty of historic and modern. This kind of
architecture is the entire opposite to the one already existing, it stands out and
to some seem distant, unapproachable and remote.
The pyramid is made of glass panels
in the shape of diamonds and triangles. The geometrical forms used by the
architect, create an appearance of cut jewels. ‘It is a kind of architecture
that exists on a different plane entirely from the varied and complex wings of
the Louvre that would surround it, and it stands aloof from these buildings.’ 5
France is one of the architecturally
richest countries in the world. Having to design a contemporary structure in a
contextually rich environment, that would strive is challenging, but I. M. Pei
had achieved great success through this project. He has made a clear point that
‘modern architecture had nothing to offer to the architecture of the past – that
is has no desire to engage itself in a dialogue with the architecture of
different times.’ 6 Having
to blend two different architectures is a big challenge to any architect. There
are many factors and elements that must be considered before taking any actions;
cultural, personal, and ceremonial, and that’s only very few important ones.