Disintegrating Spaceship, by Mayne

Morphosis - NOAA (Photograph: Dan Winters/Wired) Morphosis - NOAA (Photograph: Dan Winters/Wired) 2

Piece of the Space Shuttle Challenger at Cocoa Beach, 1996

Concerning representation in architecture two interesting articles have been published the last two weeks:

1. In Wired Andrew Blum shows how Thom Mayne designed a sattelite operations facility called NOAA near Washington that is totally determined by its representation. The biggest chunk of the program, the offices, are put underground (!), to be able to lift an enclosed box with the control rooms off the ground (!), and finish the building with a crown of sattelite dishes. The irony of putting the offices with windows half underground, and to lift the box without windows above the ground is striking. The design features the well-known elements of Morphosis, but this time his design language has also an unwanted and unfavorable meaning that nobody seems to notice: The seemingly disintegrating building point to the disintegrating Space Shuttles - the vessels that put the sattelites up in space that are here operated.

View of radar image of fireball track from Shuttle Columbia, southwest of Shreveport, Louisiana. Credit: National Weather Service

Fireball Space Shuttle Columbia, 2003 

It is hilarious that nobody sees that irony, and that critics like Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG instead focus on the fantasy metaphors of the building - it looks also like a space ship - and the awe of the technology - the sattelite dishes are isolated from any vibration, and the control room looks ‘cool’. Dream on.

The approach of Thom Mayne at this project - stacking - made me think of the design of Rem Koolhaas for Lille. At that project OMA stacks office-slabs on top of the railwaystation, to symbolize the relation of the offices to the TGV train network. As a diagram the stacking refers back to the vertical schisma of the skyscraper as described in ‘Delirious New York’ by Rem Koolhaas. So in the end it is a bit of Manhattanism in Washington.

Zaha Hadid - Musee du Louvre 1

Zaha Hadid - Musee du Louvre 2

2. On Artforum Hal Foster explores the work of Zaha Hadid in relation to Suprematism, Constructivism, Expressionism and Futurism. Hal Foster points at the obvious and right directions, but in the end fails to grasp what Zaha Hadid is really about, but does anybody really know that?

More images of this design of Zaha Hadid for the Department of Islamic Art of the Musee du Louvre in Paris can be found here.

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