Hula Hoops, by Fuksas

Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith Strasbourg (Photographer: Moreno Maggi)
Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith, Strasbourg (Photographer: Moreno Maggi) (click-2-enlarge)

This month the latest Zenith music hall of France opened in Strasbourg, designed by the Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas. With 14.000 square meters and 12.000 seats it is the biggest Zenith music hall yet.

Since 1984 the state of France is building these big box music theaters throughout the country, to facilitate rock concerts and other big cultural events. OMA already incorporated a Zenith music hall in their Congrexpo building in Lille in the nineties. And Foster + Partners is currently working on one too.

It’s the skin that sets this latest Zenith apart. The material, a textile membrane, makes the building a bit like a tent, but in its materialization it fortunately goes beyond that. The membrane gets its form by five steel bars that go all around the façade. Like five hula-hoops. The bars tension the membrane, so that between the hula-hoops the textile shortens to create four extra folds.

Very like hula-hoops the bars circle the oval concrete box - that contains the actual music hall - differently to each side. To create a ‘front’ the façade cantilevers, to create a ‘back’ the façade straightens. A very basic form-language that gives the technically all-sided object a simple direction and readability.

Hula Hoops (Photographer: otherthings/Flickr)
LED Hula Hoops (Photographer: otherthings/Flickr) (click-2-enlarge)

At daytime the membrane is just very orange, but at night the building lightens up like a big lantern showing the ant-like supporting structure of the façade and will eventually display projected images, video or text of what’s going on inside. Like a huge billboard, the architect writes, or a giant light sculpture.

In the end it is big architecture that enhances its bigness by adding cheap volume. The thin membrane just adds cheap foyer-space: no weight or monumentality, just air.

In contrast to the Bigness Rem Koolhaas has written about in S,M,L,XL, the bigness of shopping malls and massive building complexes in which the façade is too far from the center of the building to be representational, there is a new bigness emerging that is actually representational in the sense that it further enlarges its bigness with extra non-functional space to create a coherent form that is highly visible in the city. This is the bigness of the iconic building. The new monumentality is air.

It starts with a kiosk that adds air and light to be noticed in a courtyard, but continues into the empty tower for the Guggenheim from Frank Gehry, or the empty fish for a restaurant in Kobe, but continues to the Louvre by Jean Nouvel in Abu Dhabi, the industrial derelicts in the Ruhrgebiet, onto this Zenith theatre in Strasbourg.

It isn’t the billboard that has put representation back into architecture, as Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown suggested in Learning from Las Vegas, but simply space. If you feel like you’re important and want to get noticed: just be bigger.

It is the most primitive form of representation available in the set of instruments of the architect, but an equally successful one. These continuously growing icons do propose a challenge in their confrontation with the existing smaller scale fabrics. For the now the only solution that is apparent is the emptying out of the older buildings. Even literally. But mostly more subtle by the enlargement of apartments and the addition of voids to stores. Started out from the idea that space is a luxury, our cities are getting more airy every day. The future is empty.

It won’t be too long before we’ll see architectures proposed that are emptier than we would ever have imagined. The island agglomeration of The World is a good start, as Dubai is. The ‘future city’ is not dense, but thin. It stretches out over land and sea, reaching high into the sky, and eventually into space.

The world will be so small all this empty space will feel claustrophobic. With the North and South Pole inhabited, tourism to space, and every piece on earth inhabited, there is no more last frontier, except for time and our own mortality.

Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith Strasbourg (Photographer: Moreno Maggi)
Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith, Strasbourg (Photographer: Moreno Maggi)

 

Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith Strasbourg (Copyright Archivio Fuksas)
Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith, Strasbourg (Copyright Fuksas) (click-2-enlarge)

 

Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith Strasbourg (Copyright Archivio Fuksas)
Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith, Strasbourg (Copyright Fuksas) (click-2-enlarge)

 

Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith Strasbourg (Copyright Archivio Fuksas)
Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith, Strasbourg (Copyright Fuksas) (click-2-enlarge)

 

Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith Strasbourg (Copyright Archivio Fuksas)
Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith, Strasbourg (Copyright Fuksas)

 

Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith Strasbourg (Copyright Archivio Fuksas)
Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith, Strasbourg (Copyright Fuksas)

 

Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith Strasbourg (Copyright Archivio Fuksas)
Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith, Strasbourg (Copyright Fuksas)

 

Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith Strasbourg (Photographer: Moreno Maggi)
Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith, Strasbourg (Photographer: Moreno Maggi)

 

Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith, Strasbourg (Copyright Archivio Fuksas)
Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith, Strasbourg (Copyright Fuksas) (click-2-enlarge)

 

Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith Strasbourg (Copyright Archivio Fuksas)
Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith, Strasbourg (Copyright Fuksas) (click-2-enlarge)

 

Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith Strasbourg (Photographer: Moreno Maggi)
Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith, Strasbourg (Photographer: Moreno Maggi)

 

Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith Strasbourg (Photographer: Moreno Maggi)
Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith, Strasbourg (Photographer: Moreno Maggi)

 

Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith Strasbourg (Photographer: Moreno Maggi)
Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith, Strasbourg (Photographer: Moreno Maggi) (click-2-enlarge)

 

Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith Strasbourg (Copyright Fuksas)
Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith, Strasbourg (Copyright Fuksas) (click-2-enlarge)

 

Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith Strasbourg (Copyright Fuksas)
Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith, Strasbourg (Copyright Fuksas) (click-2-enlarge)

 

Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith Strasbourg (Copyright Fuksas)
Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith, Strasbourg (Copyright Fuksas) (click-2-enlarge)

 

Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith Strasbourg (Copyright Fuksas)
Massimiliano Fuksas - Zenith, Strasbourg (Copyright Fuksas) (click-2-enlarge)

The project is added to the Architects and Representation pages.

Related Fuksas: Cloud, by Fuksas 


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