Bernard Tschumi is known for his involvement with deconstructivism. This is a style that is related to using unconventional ways to design the structure. His unusual ways are actually what makes his work stand out. However simple or complex the structure may be, Tschumi is the most creative architect throughout history and he does so with a creative hand without any loss of functionality.
With all great architects, it is important to consider their background to better understand what had influenced their life that resulted in such ingenuity and creativity. Bernard was born in a small town, Lausanne, Switzerland. His father, Jean Tschumi, was a well-known architect having studied architecture in Paris. As a result, it only seems natural that his father would be enthusiastic to take him to construction sites on the weekends occasionally. From the other side of his family, his French mother had introduced both literature and film to him. Naturally, one would assume that his father clearly had the greater impact, but Bernard was more interested in philosophy and literature during his early teenage years. Quite the contrary, he had been disinterested in architecture because of his father, simply because he thought there was nothing more to learn. In fact, it was only until he was seventeen when he decided that he wanted to be an architect. After having visited Chicago during the early 1960s, he began to see what a city could become. At the time, rather than individual buildings, the buildings were all twelve stories high so it seemed as if they were all connected as one huge block of rock with some holes to let light in. This is unlike his home country where the building had relatively different heights. It was the different culture behind this city, as he had come from a small Swiss town, that had sparked his curiosity.
Due to family influences, he had a traditional education, attending the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH). This education further emphasized how he wanted to make something different as he started to explore his interests. Graduating in 1969, he proceeded to work in both New York and Paris, often flying in between the two cities every few weeks. Besides being an architect, he has taught at several universities such as the Architectural Association of London, Cooper Union, and Princeton. He was the Dean of the Graduate School of Architecture at Columbia in New York from 1988 to 2003.
One of his most famous work is the Parc de la Villette located in Paris. Parc de la Villette is a one hundred thirty-five acre of land which includes the Canal de l’Ourcq running through it. This plot of land used to house meat markets and slaughterhouses back in the 1860s. Going through city beautification in the 1980s, Paris held an international competition to determine its future designer. They were looking for a design that was based with older times but instead contemplated modern and future issues.
There are three major organization concepts that Tschumi took into account: points, lines, and surfaces; these are non-related systems that defy previous conventions regarding architecture. For grid points, Tschumi designed red, abstract structures known as follies. Each folly started out as a cube and was deconstructed through the following rules of transformations: interruption, distortion, fragmentation, repetition, and superimposition. As a result, they serve as great reference points in the park as visitors stroll through the park exploring and interacting with the environment. Personally, I believe that this is a very unique way of setting up reference points in this enormous park instead of using the surrounding buildings. Since the follies are equally spaced apart, it would be easy for one to end up wandering into one; the interesting shape of each folly would allow the viewer an interesting experience as well as a good point of reference. In fact, recently, some of the follies have been converted into restaurants, information centers, and offices in their weird forms naturally. In regards to lines, Tschumi decided that it was best for them to not have any organization. Instead, the lines intersected with each other, pointing towards different points of interests. This makes a lot of sense because there will be points of interests that will generally be more popular, having more roads leaving and entering would allow the flow of traffic to be much smoother. It is not a surprise that millions of people go and visit Parc de la Villette. Out of one hundred thirty-five acres, eighty-five of them were dedicated to green space where people can relax, explore, and gather with friends and family. Personally, this is a great consideration to make when designing a park. There needs to be plenty of space for people to run around and breathe the fresh air as opposed to being mostly enclosed where most of their daily lives are spent. Through this work, the creative spark of this design points towards an early introduction to both literature and film.
Besides follies as a place for exploration, Tschumi also placed ten themed gardens for activities such as relaxing and playing. Le Jardin des Mirrors (The Garden of Mirrors) includes twenty-eight mirrors placed among maple and pine trees. With the seemingly random placement, cool unique effects such as kaleidoscope, are generated which may end up as a popular destination for a photo shoot among nature. The Garden of Dunes is designed to look like a hilly landscape with windmills which is representative of where one might find these structures This area is a perfect way for kids and adults to run around and feel immersed in the environment; this area gives a feeling as if it is a mini-golf course in disguise. Le Jardin de la Trellises (The Garden of Trellises) contains lots of climbing vines with ninety fountains spread amongst it. Among the scene, there are seven bronze sculptures that are made my Jean-Maw Albert; it is easy to tell that Tschumi was welcome to collaboration to make this a great place for discovery. This presentation seems to resemble a greenhouse tree with a light layer of leaves on top. Le Jardin des Bambous (The Garden of Bamboo) has an interesting layout in comparison to the rest of the park regarding elevation; this garden is situated six meters below the rest of the park. There are several overhead walkways and a trail that runs through this piece of land, giving people unique perspectives of the bamboo forest as one walks through this wondrous scenery. It is complete with a cylindrical water fountain designed by Bernard Leitner. This provides an auditory effect of flowing water as if in a forest, besides the beautiful visual effect. The fourth one on the list is le Jardin des Votiges (The Garden of Movement). Located here is an area where people can play with different kinds of moving structures, increasing the realm of imagination of what is possible.
Continuing on, Le Jardin des Isles (The Garden of Islands) has a distinctive marble path that is a combination of black and white that goes through different trees such as conifers, oak trees, and pines. Le Jardin des Equilibres (The Garden of Balance) contains metallic kites that are used to symbolize huge birds hovering through the vegetation. This view emphasizes the importance of the ecosystem as the interaction of the plants and animals are vital for its survival and how precious nature truly is. Le Jardin des Frayeurs Enfantines (The Garden of Childhood Fears) is just how it sounds like. Through the walkway in the forest of silver birch and blue spruce trees, eerie scary music plays, giving a sense that something is hidden and gives chills as one walks through. One of the more famous gardens is Le Jardin du Dragon (the Garden of the Dragon). An eighty-meter long apparatus that is in the shape of a dragon with a slide that starts at the dragon’s mouth to the ground provides families long times for playtime. This type of structure allows kids to creatively expand their imagination, allowing them to enter their fantasy world. The style of Le Jardin des Ombres (The Garden of Shadows) seems to be the peaceful integration of black and white tiles which serve as a path for exploration.
With a mix of both structure and freedom, it shows that there is beauty in the combination of structure and anti-structure, natural and manmade. Although often criticized as something without structure and meaning, this type of thinking is what makes architecture interesting. Breaking down conventions, questioning previous practices, and reevaluating former methods are some ways Tschumi does to create new and innovative structures.
Another structure that is often noted is Alesia Museum located in Burgundy, France. This building is used to commemorate important France history, more specifically the battle between Julius Caesar and the Gauls back in 52 BC. There are no traces of battle then, but the complex has recreated battle scenes and interpretation of the medieval town that was situated in a valley. The design featured two different but similar buildings separated one kilometer apart. The first one of which is a museum that is located where the Gauls were positioned during the siege. They are located at the top of the hill above the town. The material that was chosen for this structure was stone; this was made to resemble the town buildings. On the interior of this building, there is a circular stairway that follows the perimeter of the building, slowly inclining towards the top. Following the shape of the structure, it maximizes the internal space and gives viewers a sense of immense beauty. The poles that support the structure are also arranged in what seems to be a haphazard way, but chaos also lends itself to beauty. Completed in 2015, the museum focused on artifacts that were found at the site. This sixty thousand square foot behemoth museum gives a more realistic view of what it was like during the time; one is able to learn the most while being immersed in the environment. The second of these structures is a visitor center which is located in the fields below the town. This was located where the Romans were positioned. The seventy thousand square foot structure is made of wood to resemble the Roman fortifications as they lay siege to the French. More specifically, there are several rows of different width that wrap around the building. The rows alternate with wood slanting to the right in one row and wood slanting to the left in the other. This design gives a simple aesthetic feel to it, leaving viewers in shock as soon as the building comes into view. In addition, the roof of the visitor center has a very particular design to it. With a garden of trees and grass, the top of the building is camouflaged into the surrounding areas, which would also resemble how the Romans had to fight in order to gain an advantage over the French. Different from the museum, the visitor center would display the events and aftermath of the Battle of Alesia. Due to delving more into the historical aspect, the displays are intended to attract the attention of a broader audience including the media and different programs.
Besides the difference in materials, both of these buildings are very similar. Both have simple designs: a simple cylindrical figure. Both would also provide a three hundred sixty-degree view, so the audience could see the different perspectives of the historical times. Both buildings are done so that the structure would be able to blend with the natural environment, a juxtaposition of both natural and man-made coexisting peacefully. This allows the attention to be focused on the historic events that took place as well as pay our respects. This building is a paramount example of Bernard’s attention to surroundings without sacrificing functionality. Not wanting to disturb the environment there, he blends the building well into the environment.
As mentioned before, Tschumi doesn’t only have structures standing in France. In Manhattan, New York, a structure called Blue Residential Tower stands out and above the buildings. For the Lower East Side region, this is the first building that has a twenty-four-hour doorman working as well as cold storage for food deliveries coming in. In fact, this is Tschumi’s first residential skyscraper, but that doesn’t make this building any less unique when his work is examined as a whole. At first glance from the outside, this building is very odd. There are different shades of blue glass (4000 individual pieces) haphazardly placed or so it seems. In fact, Tschumi had another view if one looks just a little deeper. Tschumi saw a community’s changing identity. Not too happy about the generic towers that are sprouting about in the community, he draws inspiration from what Lower East Side used to be: old lower-class buildings run-down and rusting infrastructure including bridges. More specifically, the pixelate-like windows represent the diverse communities all coming together as one.
Delving further into the appearance of the building, one is surprised to find that it is impossible for one to look from the top of the building to the bottom using a straight line as most buildings do. The structure seems to bend inwards from top to bottom as if it is forced to confined in a space that it has outgrown. In fact, from certain angles, the building looks as if it would tip over as soon as a shift causes the building to not be balanced anymore all due to the arrangement of blue hues. In my honest opinion, this mosaic of blue is hectic yet soothing in a crowd of standard skyscrapers, sprucing up the general surrounding area of the Lower East Side. In fact, after closer examination, it looks very similar to one of Mondrian’s painting, “Broadway Boogie Woogie”. He also drew inspiration from other sources, getting them not only from museums but also from gutters (art). The blue color of the glass is also reminiscent of the cheap plastic signs that are still found on some of the older East Village stores. This style is very different from the other luxury towers in the area, where the look is more conventional and not unique. Hearing about the strict zoning constraints and business requirements posed by New York only makes his work even that more phenomenal and in awe.
The interior of the thirty-two-apartment complex is no small feat either. They can be divided into two different types of apartment: standard and higher quality. Standard apartments consist of pebble stone floors and bamboo plates. They are fitted with metal cabinets and white stone countertops. Bathrooms are tiled with white tiles. This design is elegant and full yet simple; there is not too much clutter for the eyes. Higher quality apartments have stone and palm floors; bathrooms are tiled with glass. The look that these apartments are more elegant and sturdy. With the design of the building, the apartments each seem to have their own style. As the exterior walls tilt inward or outward, forward or backward, the individual rooms seem squeezed into whatever space is left. The slanted columns located inside the room seem to be bracing against some mysterious, invisible force. The juxtaposition of the walls’ and the columns’ style seems to give reference to the houses designed by Kazuo Shinohara. These concrete houses have a 1970s-era feeling set among them, the small tranquility that is present in the chaos after the war in Tokyo. Public areas have walls made of bamboo panels and floors made of stone. Interestingly enough, the white glass panels are lit from behind. This design choice allows the individual light bulb not to be seen to the public eye in order to give a more appealing lighting. In addition, there would be easier control over the amount of light projected depending on the occasion.
Bernard Tschumi doesn’t just stop there. He continues to maximize the functionality with the space given by using the unused tops of neighboring commercial buildings for gardens. This good use of space allows guests and residents to be able to wander around outside and enjoy the view of the Williamsburg Bridge. All in all, this unique building demonstrates a sense of culture.
The following building hits a little closer to home. The Florida International University (FIU) School of Architecture was designed by Tschumi. The structure ended up being two wing-like structures, made of pre-casted concrete, that surround a central courtyard. The courtyard contains three structures called “generators”. These structures are connected to the wings at different levels, creating a unique effect experience as visitors figure out how to navigate through it when exploring. In addition, the generators are covered with bright tiles to differentiate themselves from the more formal-looking wings. The “Green Generator”, located on one end of the courtyard (middle row between the wings), contains an area filled with palm trees. This space would be a great place for social activities such as hammocking. With the trees placed a certain distance, students could pick up a book or do homework while relaxing in the shade of palm trees, basking in the warmth of the sun or feeling the cool wind as it goes through one’s hair. Rather than staying cooped up in the dormitory or library, students can spend more time outdoors which generally increases the health of the student body.
The “Yellow Generator” has walls that are yellow from one side and slowly blends into an orange color on the other side. It contains walls that don’t seem to follow conventions. The walls are sloped at an angle, which stands out from any point. Despite its appearance, this generator contains some public spaces that students can use. Located near the center of this structure, there is a reading room, a gallery, and some print rooms. Delving further into this structure, one notices the genius of this arrangement. By locating these rooms in this specific place, this helps students find other students that have similar interests. The gallery would broaden the student’s mind and increase their creativity when thinking about what is possible. By providing this place, the university creates lots of opportunities for students to bump into each other and start something amazing. The “Red Generator” is on the other end of the courtyard. Its color scheme is from the shade of orange from the “Yellow Generator” to red. This structure seems to be shaped like a cube with an irregular chunk taken out. This building is used as a lecture hall. In addition, it is a rallying point for students to come together and speak their mind. From protests to space to do projects, students are able to accomplish things together due to the environment.
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