Healing the Future _ Andrew Tang
In the course of the last decade, the way in which hospitals and the medical sector operate has gone through a dramatic change. In many countries, especially in Europe, hospitals that were traditionally state-funded have become more competitive and are more specialized as privatization slowly takes place. For many, the treatment of the patient is no longer the only focus, but the (spatial) experience of the customer is becoming just as important. For other hospitals, it is to their interest of having an efficient space and procedures for a more rapid “turn-over”, keeping the patient’s treatment and experience smooth but period of stay, and costs, down. In other places, it is the medical interest of having a “well-being environment” that has changed the hospital’s attitude in re-organizing their spaces as patients appreciate more and more the human approach that heals and reduces anxiety. In addition, almost all new hospital designs adopt the global responsibility and strategies of reducing carbon emissions and long-term sustainability. All of these reasons not only influence the architecture in hospitals itself but also the design for its surrounding context in landscape and the public realm. Architecture responds to all of these new tendencies in the medical world as designers rediscover in new hospitals the old Latin essence: hospitalis: being hospitable, friendly and welcoming.
Neo Civic _ Simone Corda
Among the components of the contemporary city, the buildings that can be classified under the public safety category embody an interesting conceptual ambiguity.
Although the community represents the beneficiary of their construction, the general public often plays a secondary role into the definition of their brief, because visitors are usually allowed in few specific areas only.
Through the analysis of seven projects across Europe, it can be shown how this subject is more complex than it appears, indeed, the relationship between these constructions and the local population still exists and it is mainly external. In particular, these buildings engage the viewers thanks to the images of the powerful shapes they project towards the surroundings. If we consider this scenic composition of the urban area and the type of the constructions, the connection object-addressees it is very similar to that one experienced by people in the picturesque sequences of nature and civic neo-classical buildings during the 18th century. Following this perspective, their presence into the landscape as ‘civic’ structures refers to old models, renewed by fresh shapes and materials.
At the same time, into these fascinating envelops is frequently hidden a cutting edge interior design and spaces that create a contemporary workplace.
A New Contextualism on Steven Holl’s Recent Museums _ Human Wu
The world is flat. Globalization has turned it into a level playing field where people enjoy more equal opportunity and their geographic locations become less relevant. The side effect, unfortunately, is that our built environment appears to be more and more equalized and repetitive. Rem Koolhaas’ intense experience in airports and hotel rooms brings the generic to our attention. On the other end of the spectrum, some architects try too hard to mimic local culture and their work becomes inevitably literal and kitschy.
In this global struggle of identity, American architect Steven Holl is one of the few who can still remain in balance between the “Fuck-Context” camp and the “Cheesy-Copycat” operations. He does not have a definite “style” per se but he has repeatedly answered the question of “context” skillfully with his distinct forms and narratives, especially in his museum projects. In Helsinki, the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art embraces the city’s architectural legacy and natural landscape, resulting in interesting intertwining shapes and spaces. In Kansas City, five interconnected glass volumes co-exist with the old masonry building of Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in complementary contrast. The poetic play with geometry and light gives the galleries different qualities and creates neutral yet dynamic spaces for contemporary art. The Knut Hamsun Center in Norway adopts the Hejdukian concept of “building as a body” and applies local materials and building traditions such as stained black wood and long grass sod roofs.
In two recently completed museums – the City of Ocean and Surf in Biarritz, France and Sifang Art Museum in Nanjing, China, Holl demonstrates once again his unique sensibility of context and ability to reinforce the locale of the projects while injecting new characters into the place.