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Prada Tokyo Prada Tokyo
[ Posted DECEMBER 10, 2004 ]

I was enchanted by this building the moment I saw it. The building's glass facade set on a diamond-grid reminds me a little of my other favorite building I saw this year: Koolhaas' Seattle Public Library. Speaking of whom, I wonder how jealous Koolhaas is that neither of his Prada "epicenter" designs is remotely as successful as this one by Herzog & de Meuron.

I love the way the random mix of convex, concave and flat glass panels generate a constantly changing perspective of the products and the shoppers inside. It's as if each panel is another page in a live-action Prada catalog.

Taniguchi's Gallery of Horyuji Treasures Taniguchi's Gallery of Horyuji Treasures
[ Posted OCTOBER 19, 2004 ]

For those of you not familiar with the new MoMA's architect, Yoshio Taniguchi, here are a few shots of a gallery he designed a few years ago for the Tokyo National Museum. You can see some of the same elements he's using in the new MoMA.

Stata Center Gehry's Stata Center
[ Posted SEPTEMBER 17, 2004 ]

I've been sitting on these photos for almost a month now. I think partly because I just wasn't that excited by the building. It's a bit cluttered when you try to take the whole complex in at once. But examined up close, it has its moments.

Before you jump to the gallery, I want to leave you with a quote that I read last year by Hugh Pearman that neatly sums up my feelings about Gehry:

Gehry has his detractors, usually people who are suspicious of the idea of architecture as sculpture. There does not at first seem to be a lot of form-follows-function about his work. My own doubts about Gehry tend to build up over time in this way—and then I go to see one of his buildings, and come away charmed. Gehry, who for the first half of his career had an utterly pragmatic grounding in reality working for big commercial firms of architects, has never lost that practical touch. Inside, his buildings work. They are not haphazard. Every space is thought through.

The Prairies: Straight. Flat. Open. Western Canada
[ Posted JUNE 14, 2004 ]

This is the final update from last month's Pacific Northwest trip.

Ah Canada. Or should I say Oh Canada. Anyway, despite the close proximity to the U.S., I have not seen much of Canada until this trip. I've traveled extensively in the States, but never went anywhere north of the border other than Vancouver. (Then again, I've never been south of the border either. Every time I think about it, I've really never been anywhere.) I have finally taken a small, and long overdue, step towards exploring Canada.

Crabs for sale at Pike's Market Seattle
[ Posted JUNE 10, 2004 ]

I didn't spend a whole lot of time in Seattle. And most of the time I was there I spent in the new library (I must've spent over 7 hours wandering in and around the building).

Here are a few shots from around downtown.

The Chapel of St. Ignatius The Chapel of St. Ignatius
[ Posted JUNE 8, 2004 ]

Truth be told, this church didn't do anything for me (unlike Holl's Simmons Hall which thrilled me to no end). But eh, I was there and I have these photos so here you go...

For an atheist I sure have been to a lot of churches and cathedrals.

Seattle Public Library Seattle Public Library
[ Posted JUNE 4, 2004 ]


I hate to say this, but Koolhaas has impressed the hell out of me. From the renderings and drawings of the building, I was not prepared for the impact it would make on me in person (despite having read Muschamp's glowing review in the New York Times where he went on and on about how great it is, but he says that about everything, so who knew?). This thing is huge, first of all. Yet, it manages to hold your attention from every angle. The only other time I've been so turned on by such a large building was Bilbao (small houses and churches excluded). And like Bilbao, this building needs to be seen in person to fully appreciate its brilliance. On paper and in photographs, it doesn't look like much. Looks unreal, even—kind of like a rendering. But in person... wow. Sounds cheesy, but it literally is a jewel in the middle of the city.

I thought Koolhaas' CCTV design looked awful (very "dalu" if you know what I'm saying), but now I can't wait to see it when it's completed in Beijing.

*  *  *

After my sojourn in Dallas last month, I spent the rest of May in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Watch for updates in the coming days of photographs from the region.

Kimbell Art Museum Dallas
[ Posted MAY 13, 2004 ]

Spent a few days last week in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Kahn and Ando were of course the highlights, but there were other unexpected goodies. The rodeo was interesting. Philip Johnson's little Chapel of Thanksgiving was a pleasant surprise. And just wandering the outskirts of Dallas was much fun.

Along the Rhine Valley Germany
[ Posted APRIL 27, 2004 ]

Here at last are the photos from Germany. Some notes before you delve in:

It's not possible to know less German than I do. It's just my arrogance that I can just waltz into a foreign country not knowing a single phrase in the local tongue and expect to get by. But you know, I got along perfectly fine. Most Germans I ran across spoke excellent English. There were a couple of old ladies who only spoke German, but otherwise, it was very smooth communication-wise. The Germans are a very warm and friendly bunch.

As you'll see from the many, many new entries under the Architecture section of the website, there are many great modern architecture to see in Germany. And I barely scratched the surface.

If I can re-do the trip, I would spend more time exploring the countryside. It's just beautiful. I'm not sure if it's the climate, the time of year or the geography, but the Rhine Valley was so... green. It provided a nice contrast to the cities.

Jewish Museum Berlin Jewish Museum Berlin
[ Posted APRIL 15, 2004 ]

I was never a fan of Libeskind. Having only seen his work on paper, I thought he was too heavy-handed in dishing out symbolisms. Looking at his master plan for WTC, I couldn't stand all the cheesy ideas he came up with: Wedge of Light, Park of Heros, 1776 feet high tower, etc, etc. It's like he's pounding you over the head with his architecture, as if we needed him to spell everything out verbally and spatially.

But standing in the Jewish Museum in Berlin, all my complaints melted away as I felt the full power of his architecture. I could literally feel the pain and suffering as I strolled through the building. Just as in the WTC master plan, I could do without the cheesy names—Memory Void and Garden of Exile—because, really, the spaces speak for themselves. If there's one other criticism I could level (and I wouldn't even call it a criticism, it's more of an observation), it would be that the building is so abstract that it could be a memorial for anything. If you plopped the building down on Ground Zero, it would be perfectly appropriate there, as well. There's nothing fundamentally "Jewish" about it. I know he says the shape of the building is a deconstructed Star of David, but you could interprete the shape any other way. Though to be fair, works of art are always open to interpretation. The building is about pain and suffering and that much is clear. So ultimately I think it's very successful.

The Chapel at Ronchamp Le Corbusier's Ronchamp Chapel
[ Posted APRIL 14, 2004 ]

Just returned home to New York from Germany—that travelogue will be posted in the coming weeks as I sort through the photos from the trip. But first, something from a spur-of-the-moment detour into France:

As we drove into Neustadt on the Deutsche Weinstrasse (German Wine Road) early one evening, we looked at the road map and... what do you know?! Ronchamp is only a couple of hours away!!! My geography stinks and even though I drove to Ronchamp just three years ago (in an aborted attempt to see the chapel), I didn't realize that it's that close to the German border.

My heart started racing. Should we detour from our planned itinerary and go? We only had one day left and there wasn't any room for error. The last time we went to Ronchamp on a lark things went extremely poorly. I don't think I've ever felt more dejected than on that fateful day three years ago as we stood there at the just-closed gate (we got there as it closed for the day—it literally closed in our faces), staring at the tip of the chapel behind the fence. We couldn't even see anything else, just the tip. We had just given up our last three days in Greece to make the trip to Paris, just to see it, essentially. And since our flight home was early next morning (which we ended up missing anyway, due to more misfortune which I won't get into here), there was no way we could stay to see it the next day. All we could do was turn around and drive back to Paris. That was one sad drive. Ever since then I've had that nagging feeling of having this unaccomplished item on my checklist.

Anyway, we decided to try it again, careful planning be damned. Who knows when we'll be this close to Ronchamp again? If this worked out, we won't have to plan an entire trip in the future around visiting this place.

Well, everything worked out this time. Even the otherwise rainy, overcast weather those few days cleared up for a few hours while we were there. The sky was brilliant and the sun lit up the chapel perfectly. It was as if Corbu himself was smiling on us for making the difficult pilgrimage twice.

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All images and text copyright © Liao Yusheng. He can be reached at liao@yusheng.ca.