Architectural Precedents

For the AIAS chapter at RISD, a series of blogposts exposed students’ experience visiting interesting architecture sites or working in different architecture offices. In the post below, a friend described her experience visiting Zumthor’s pavilion. Looking back at the post, I realize that i might have been subconsciously inspired by the simple, mysterious and dark allure of this project- which I remember liking upon reading her entry.

When approaching this year Serpentine Pavillion by Swiss Architect Peter Zumthor, I could not help but compare its modest appearance to last year’s luminous red social hub, designed by Jean Nouvel. Zumthor’s black box in comparison is more somber and mysterious, and gently invites people to venture inside.

Four entryways on opposing sides of the pavilion allow visitors into a dark slender enclosed corridor, with another four openings to a garden within. A rectangular bed of grasses and flowers designed by Piet Oudolf sits at the center of the inner space, mirrored directly above by an opening to the sky. The roof’s moderate pitch that ends at this open slit allows light to pour into the structure.

As I sat with other visitors to the pavilion, lining the edge of this courtyard, I felt like this stretched space with darks walls, and single opening to the sky, made us all very hypersensitive to the nature within.  Interestingly, I felt as if the structure allowed me to appreciate nature far more than I had when I was completely surrounded by it in Hyde Park moments earlier.

Melanie Wavamunno, RISD B.Arch 12

Wang Shu came to visit RISD during the Fall of 2011 and made a speech about his practice in China. At the time I knew very little about Mr Shu but developed an interest in his approach to architecture. His lecture in the Fall consisted for the most part of the way traditional Chinese paintings inspired his work. This made me think about my interest for the “naive paintings” in Haiti as I approached my thesis back in the Summer of 2011. In the progression of my thesis, I decided to work on the Manoir Alexandra, and also focused on designing spaces of exhibition for the classical painting “Oath of the Ancestors”. The traditional Haitian art (mostly renown through Haitian painter Ismael Saincilus) took the back-burner. Upon critiquing my work, a teacher who had spent a year at the China Academy of Art praised Wang Shu’s campus for the many performance spaces it allowed. She encouraged me to go back to the Haitian “Naïve” paintings, two-dimensional pieces of work that reveal layers of depth. She also encouraged me to watch the movie Piña for inspiration because in designing the dance spaces of the Manoir, I always dealt with dance and movement through space.

Below are some pictures of the China Academy of Art selected via a google search. Most recently Wang Shu has been written about in this NYTimes article: An Architect’s Vision: Bare Elegance in China

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Just prior to the building of the house or as it was being built, Brown is supposed to bhabe been brought in to consult on plans for the garden. Brown was brought back after the completion of the house and submitted plans for the groudns in 1772. The house was placed on an eminence as the main perspective from which to survey the surrounding coutryside. Further emphasizing the elevated house as the focal point for views from the namigational paths cut round and through the estate, a large hill behind the mansion convering some forty acres was leveled (on specific instructions from Lascelles), the natural valley was deepend, and the riverStankbeck rerouted to fill the valley forming the great lake. […] Traveling from the house and its direct referrence to the Indies, the garden visitor would then turn round and look back at the house from the other side, the highly prized view represented in a commissioned watercolor by J.M.W.Turner (1798)

Sowing Empire, Landscape and Colonization, Jill H. Casid