“[…] Sorry for the interruption! […]”

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As much as we wanted to, due to work-overload in the last months, we didn’t have time to write on our architecture blog. We’re resuming our little project now – investing all the free time and energy we have at our disposal – so that we will hopefully complete our first project series on the Glentleiten museum right on, and then move on to telling the story of two new projects. Our column-section will also be expanded, continuing the Good architecture is like good wine series, and introducing some new materials and ideas as well. We’ll keep you posted.

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Good architecture is like good wine – The Darwin College Study Centre (1994, Cambridge, UK)

darwin college study centre

INTRODUCTION

Whenever one is working on influencing, modifying or radically changing the built environment, no matter what the scale of said intervention is, one is dealing with people. As obvious as it may sound, the users, their needs and wishes, are what lays at the very heart of any project of architecture: this is why any shift of focus from them to rather obscure goals such as “formal coherence”, “balance of the composition” et similia, should always be regarded with a little suspicion. Of course, by saying this, we don’t mean at all that any work of architecture carried out with attention to the balance of the built volumes – to the shape, just to say it plainly – is to be discarded or has any flaw whatsoever, quite the opposite! These are the instruments, the tools an architect is provided with: working on them and with them is our daily bread, and possibly the only way we can actually “do our job”. All that we meant is that whenever the boundary between end and means seems to be getting a little blurry, one should always remember why and for whom one is designing.

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#INTERMISSION: The entrance building to the Glentleiten open-air museum (Glentleiten, Germany)

The Madeleine / Paris 2011 © Franck Bohbot

The Madeleine / Paris 2011 © Franck Bohbot

We’ve reached a point, in our tale of the project for the Glentleiten open-air museum competition, when it’s necessary to briefly sum up what we’ve told so far, and to introduce what we’re going to tell next.

We know that such an unconventionally long and detailed description of a work of architecture, may be – to say the least – a little bit disorienting. We also know that it is very hard for any of you to keep the interest alive in a story made up of so many episodes, so very tightly intertwined with one another. So, if you were about to give up, or had already given up, it’s more than understandable: let us explain, though, why we’re not planning on stopping halfway.

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Good architecture is like good wine – introduction to the column

good architecture is like good wine

Any work of architecture is bound to age.

This may happen because of the natural deterioration of the construction materials– the weathering as Mohsen Mostafavi and David Leatherbarrow called this phenomenon in their 1993 book “On Weathering: the Life of Buildings in Time” –, it may happen because the building, or at least the function it was designed for, is not useful anymore to the general public, and is therefore left empty or unused, or it may happen because the building in question was, quite frankly, not good enough for anybody to have any wish of maintaining and preserving it.

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#3 – The entrance building to the Glentleiten open-air museum (Glentleiten, Germany): Design competition, the building site

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Slowly but relentlessly we’re closing down on the project. As of now, we’ve tried to give you an idea of what the general context of the site of our project was, the open-air museum in Glentleiten, Germany; then we’ve looked into the functional program (with probably more detail than one is used to when reading a short article on architecture, but we still hope you can forgive us for this rather tedious – although needed – description). Now, we come to the most “immediate” context of the future building, the plot of land onto which it had to be erected, and its closest surroundings.

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#2 – The entrance building to the Glentleiten open-air museum (Glentleiten, Germany): Design competition, the functional program or “the event that changed everything”

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If it is true, as many say, that a good work of architecture is the intellectual son (or daughter, for what it’s worth) of not only a good architect but of a good client too, the care and attention that transpired from every page of the documents attached to the competition for the new entrance building of the Glentleiten open-air museum, were the signal of an already very promising start. In fact, one could say, if the architect is the mother, the one that bears the child for a long time, experiencing pain, anger, depression, and then the greatest joy after birth (also a certain kind of “fear” to see something that used to be part of oneself now being something else entirely, with its own life), then the client is by all means the father, the principio motore (or “[…]something which is kinetic and productive although it does not actually move or produce[…]”), that spark that ignites the first thoughts and ideas on a design, and the one looking after the child while it moves its first steps into the world. Well, as we mentioned before, the father here was very interested in the child-to-come, and seemed to have very clear ideas on what this child should have to become, when growing up.

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#1 – The entrance building to the Glentleiten open-air museum (Glentleiten, Germany): Preamble and context

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As it is true for any respectable story, the tale of the inception of a building should be written explaining  at first how everything was before, then go on to present the “event” or fact that changed it all, how this event happened to be overcome, and eventually how everything was changed, the afterwards. There can’t be any story without a before and, up to a certain extent, the value of that before becomes clear only when it is told through a story.

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