14th June 2010
Architecture and Art in modern urban landscapes – can a building be a work of art?
A building is functional. It provides shelter, control and instruction (press here for lift, move this way…). A building is a home, a haven and retreat. A building can demonstrate dominion over a lesser-sized architectural structure. It can house civilizations’ most treasured objects. But in 1964 (when, let’s face it, ‘‘architecture as art’’ hit a bit of a low point) the New York Times declared that “Architecture is the art of how to waste space.” Yet by 2007, modern philosopher Alain de Botton declared that architecture could lead to happiness. How so, and does that make a celebrated building a work of art? Two architects that say ‘‘yes’’ to this age-old question include Zaha Hadid and Jean Nouvel.
Zaha Hadid believes that ‘‘architectural buildings are all about the creation of pleasant and stimulating settings’’ and as such, they mimic the responses evoked when looking at a painting or sculpture. Art and architecture ‘‘both evolve with the patterns of life.’’ They take the same inspiration and context whether it is in art, architecture or fashion. An art critic praising say, a Picasso painting, may allude to the painter’s bold use of figurative lines and luscious curves whilst employing the same description for Hadid’s (and other) architectural structures. This interplay is fully explored when ‘‘Starchitects’’ are commissioned to create art galleries and museums. These ‘‘contemporary art containers’’ house celebrated historic and contemporary art, jewels and momentums, and commissioned architects will often hope to reflect this. One of Hadid’s projects: the MAXXI, National Museum of XXI Century Arts in Rome, is a case in point.
Likewise, The Serpentine Gallery is a similarly noted commission. In 2010, the ‘‘10th Serpentine Gallery Pavilion’’ is being designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel. He has chosen to construct his pavilion in vivid red and out of geometric forms. Like a renaissance man of old “a key part of Nouvel’s process is his embrace of other disciplines, including music, literature and the moving image.” For Nouvel, “everything is image; architecture itself is image”. From 2D to 3D, architecture is art in physical form and ought to enforce the view that the material world can indeed be moulded to graceful ends.