Architecture, Book November 6, 2012 By Nalina Moses

Garden and house, Tokyo, Japan, 2011. Office of Ryue Nishizawa.

Garden and house, Tokyo, Japan, 2011. Office of Ryue Nishizawa.

skysheader The Skys the Limit
If there’s any rule at all governing architecture today, it’s that anything goes. Advanced computer-assisted modeling and fabrication techniques make it possible to build highly complex shapes. Emerging economies and burgeoning cities demand super-sized structures. And there’s no lingua franca for architects working around the world: just about anything each one of them draws can be built. A new book, The Sky’s the Limit: Applying Radical Architecture, takes a closer look at some prominent avant-garde buildings from around the world and tries to puts a finger on what’s really going on. It’s no easy task.

This book classifies buildings according to their physical character: organic, sharp-edged, pixellated, interior, and outward-looking. While radially different from one another, each of these approaches can be understood as a form of resistance to the generic, commercial glass-box buildings that have come to populate our cities. There’s a movement towards gently swollen and rounded forms, expressed in a language similar to Zaha Hadid’s Acquatics Center for the 2012 London Olympics. There’s also a movement for modulated structures that have been broken into an array of smaller parts, like Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Both these types of buildings reflect a yearning for more varied, surprising and sensual forms. In that sense they’re opposed to orthodox twentieth-century modernism.