Basket, by NBBJ

NBBJ - Longaberger Basket (Photographer: Akeisha/Flickr)
The Longaberger Factory (Photographer: Akeisha/Flickr) (click-2-enlarge)

Is this iconography? – Yes
Do you like it? – No

For long I have doubted whether or not I should put this project on Eikongraphia. In a lot of discussions on iconography the Longaberger building is put forward with an argument similar to: ‘Iconography, this is where that leads to.’

That is difficult arguing. A ‘no, that is not true’ after the Longaberger building sounds empty. It’s a building that because it is so literal, so big, and quite well made – let’s be honest about that – makes a very powerful statement. It’s an icon, whether we like it or not.

It turns out that Dave Longaberger always dreamt about a giant version of his ‘apple baskets’, one he could live in. Kind of reminds me of that toilet man in Korea who build a house in the form of a toilet… Every object you can think of you can make into a building. Like an oil-lamp.

The project for me poses the question how buildings like this differ from the architecture that is actually popular by architects. How does a basket differ from for instance the ‘sleeves’ Steven Holl designs?

The answer is not that the one thing is designed by an architect and the other thing is done by somebody really not qualified. The Longaberger building is designed by NBBJ, one of the bigger offices globally and a highly professional one. Yes, architects are whores after all.

I am still thinking about thorough thought through answers, for now I see two viable answers. The first answer is the difference between the abstract and the literal. As Willem-Jan Neutelings also emphasized in the interview I did with him for Archinect, architects favor abstract representations over literal ones. The representation of the Acanthus leaf in the capital of the Greek temple is an abstract representation.

That brings me directly to a second answer: we favor some iconographies over others because they are more ‘architectonic’, they are closer to the means architects use to realize their architecture. The Acanthus leaf in the capital of the column echoes the skewed top of a heavy loaded wooden column. Or: the stone triglyphs in the Greek architecture represent the location where in earlier times the wooden beam ended in the façade.

Brought back to contemporary architecture a similar connection between iconography and architectural means would be the iconography of the bridge, as JHK realized in The Netherlands, and as Richard Rogers  is working on for Queens, New York.

In a sense it’s an iconography that emerged from functional bridge-like structures in architecture. So it was functional before it became representational, before it became ornament.

The giant Longaberger basket came from a totally different idea. First there was a big basket with a height of a couple of meters. Then there was an even bigger one, with apples. And then the masterpiece was realized: a seven-story basket. The only transformation of the image that is applied is scaling.

In a way we already knew that.
N.B. “The two basket handles are attached to the top of the building with copper and wooden rivets replicating those on a Longaberger Basket; the handles, which weigh about 150 tons, are heated to prevent ice from forming,” World Architecture News reports. Yep, there is also a functional or environmentally argument against the big basket. It doesn’t sound very appealing to me though. Architecture and function never were synonymous.

NBBJ - Longaberger Basket (Photographer: tweaker73/Flickr)
The first ‘biggest apple basket of the world’ (Photographer: Tweaker73/Flickr) (click-2-enlarge)


NBBJ - Longaberger Basket (Photographer: Akeisha/Flickr)
The second ‘biggest apple basket of the world’ (Photographer: Akeisha/Flickr) (click-2-enlarge)


NBBJ - Longaberger Basket (Photographer: billwtf/Flickr)
The final ‘biggest apple basket of the world’ (Photographer: billwtf/Flickr) (click-2-enlarge)


NBBJ - Longaberger Basket (Copyright: World Architecture News)
Look at that fence (Copyright: Longaberger) (click-2-enlarge)


NBBJ - Longaberger Basket (Photographer: Errrrrrika/Flickr)
My home is my… basket (Photographer: Errrrrrrika/Flickr) (click-2-enlarge)


NBBJ - Longaberger Basket (Photographer: Akeisha/Flickr)
Thinking not necessary (Photographer: Akeisha/Flickr) (click-2-enlarge)


NBBJ - Longaberger Basket (Photographer: Akeisha/Flickr)
Some facade (Photographer: Akeisha/Flickr) (click-2-enlarge)


NBBJ - Longaberger Basket (Photographer: cthe/Flickr)
The architects’ sketch (Photographer: cthe/Flickr) (click-2-enlarge)


NBBJ - Longaberger Basket (Copyright: World Architecture News)
The courtyard inside (Copyright: Longaberger) (click-2-enlarge)


NBBJ - Longaberger Basket (Photographer: Akeisha/Flickr)
More courtyard (Photographer: Akeisha/Flickr) (click-2-enlarge)


NBBJ - Longaberger Basket (Copyright: World Architecture News)
Lifting the handle (Copyright: Longaberger) (click-2-enlarge)


NBBJ - Longaberger Basket (Copyright: World Architecture News)
No basket without a brand name (Copyright: Longaberger) (click-2-enlarge)


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