For the future; look up
Whereas Geoff of bldgblog has suddenly turned into a condo-expert ever since he started working for Dwell, here at Eikongraphia we continue to discuss the cool architecture, the orgasmic, and even the monstrous.
The just released design by Asymptote for Malaysia for me is both supercool and a bit awkward. Let’s start with the sweet, before we come to the bitter. The two sixty-story (180 meters high?) towers are absolutely fabulous! The combination of continuous, flowing, double-curved perforated surface with a flickering, crystalline, transparent single-curved surface that is triangulated on an enormous scale, is just… well, this is a sneak preview of the architecture of the future. It is! And there is no iconography I can think of. What a relief.
Personally I have always been a fan of the work of Asymptote, but their early work for me was a bit too blobby, too round, too Teletubbies. But with their Photoshop Scape-studies (see their website) Hani Rashid and Lise Anne Couture already showed something about what they were thinking about for the future – subtle, flowing forms with a sensible, transforming texture and materiality. We, as public, basically just had to wait until they had figured out how to build these ideas. If they would ever find a way. And I don’t know about you, but I think they are getting there.
What worries me though is the plinth-building. It beautifully stages the forms on top of them, a decoding platform before the recoding sculpture, but it is actually stuffed full of program. It looks like a nondescript box full of program that – in the eyes of developers – doesn’t need any daylight. Details about the project haven’t yet been unveiled, so I don’t know yet, but it looks like a horrible box. Just look how one enters on ground level. There is hole, and that’s it.
It seems like the architects have considered the first roof-level like the virtual ground floor, ‘draping’ the snaking towers on top of it. But there also seems a hesitation: why not connecting this plaza directly to the hill behind the project, why not letting the tram stop on top of the plaza. It’s commercial logic: seven floors of retail and leisure, putting an attractor up (roof, condo’s), in the middle (tram), and down (ground level, parking garage). It’s a sponge that needs an even hydration all over.
But why not make something more open to the adjacent city and ‘the weather’, something more transparent? A sort of city-fabric, if you like. This isolated consumer paradise just seems so autistic to its context. I am hesitating to use the word ‘sustainable’ as it is misused too much (Just reed Inhabitat to see what I mean). I am thinking more towards something like ‘sensible’. It is just a pity that the architecture stops where the bulk of the program starts.
At least we have these magnificent towers. Let’s try to forget about the rest.
Post Script: The program noted in the press release:
- The main components of the program include:
- Retail Complex: 400,000 sq. m.
- Convention Center: 100,000 sq. m.
- Penang Performing Arts Center (PenPAC): 75,000 sq. m.
- Condominiums: 70,000 sq. m.
- Hotel and Service Apartments: 50,000 sq. m.
- Offices: 25,000 sq. m.
- Observatory: 1,500 sq. m.
- Parking: 190,000 sq. m.
The project is added to the Architects page.
Update 21 September 2007
The suggestion of Casper, two seals:
Two seals (Photographer: Bombhead)