Constellation, by Gensler

Gensler - Concept Design Middle East Bank, Qatar (Copyright Gensler)
Gensler - Concept Design Middle East Bank, Qatar (Copyright Gensler)

The London-office of Gensler today send me these images of a recent project they did for Qatar, an Emirate sited on a peninsula in the Persian Gulf in the vicinity of the United Arab Emirates, but not part of it though.

A good friend of me defined just yesterday art as something basically meant to broadcast a message defined by the author and exterior to the object itself. Architecture on the other hand, she said, is what it is. It looks like a building, functions like one. I am not sure about that distinction, because where to draw the line?

Take for instance this superinteresting project of Gensler. Its symbolic architecture is actually twice the size of its programmed architecture. Snaking over the ground and reaching up until 150 meters, according to Skyscrapernews, the rest of the 500 meters high design is just… symbolic. Are we here still talking about architecture, or is it sculpture?

As a conceptual design (that is not about to be built) for a bank it shows, like the concept cars do on motorshows, very very good where (iconographic) architecture is heading; towards art, and more precisely to land art and sculpture.

The form of the project is derived from a mash-up of a constellation and an Arab pattern. Transformed into 3-d one might get a form like this. It has a bit of bla-bla, sure, but the exact form I think doesn’t really matter. It is a snaky form that ends up like a spire, that’s it, and that’s something.

And it is not about being ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ (thank god!), but about being beautiful, cultural, contextual, meaningful. At times decadence is the way to go.

It is suggested that the highlighted points of the design could be illuminated by super-LED’s, making it into a live constellation. I don’t think there’s architecture yet quite like that. Even more speculatively some historians argue that the layout of the pyramids at Giza echo the layout of the stars in the sky. This design by Gensler would be then a 90 degrees turned version of that idea - now also sparkling back to the stars.

BBC - Solar Observatory (Photographer: I. Ghezzi, BBC)
BBC - Solar Observatory, Peru (Photographer: I. Ghezzi/BBC) 

On a more abstract level the design can be linked to ancient architectures celebrating the cosmos by aligning its architecture to certain positions of the stars, planets or the sun. Mighty Geoff pointed at newly discovered architecture like that reported by the BBC.

About the Great Pyramid of Giza we read:

“The King’s Chamber contains two “air shafts” that ascend out of the Pyramid and point directly to the star Thuban, and the star Alnitak, in the Orion constellation. The “Queen’s” chamber has two air shafts which align to stars as well. These air shafts were supposedly used for ventilation, but given the fact all four were found to be closed off at both ends and only discovered by accident, this idea was eventually abandoned leaving Egyptologists to now conclude they were instead used for ceremonial purposes allowing the Pharaoh’s spirit to rise up and out into the stars. Each of these air shafts are about 13 cm in diameter.”

I have been told that the length of these chamfers would make it possible to see these stars at daytime, were it not that the sky had turned a little bit in time, misaligning the chamfers and pointing them now into the big nothing.

Gensler - Concept Design Middle East Bank, Qatar (Copyright Gensler)
Gensler - Concept Design Middle East Bank, Qatar (Copyright Gensler)

Gensler - Concept Design Middle East Bank, Qatar (Copyright Gensler)
Gensler - Concept Design Middle East Bank, Qatar (Copyright Gensler)

The project is added to the Architects, Representation and Top 10 pages.


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