Buildings by nature seek to dominate space. At the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the experience is wholly different – in this isolated picturesque setting: space dominates building. At first sight, the architecture appears anonymous, sculptural and silent. Lost along the Californian coast, it is situated a stone’s throw away from San Diego in La Jolla. We can imagine it as an untouched gem in a post war scenario: a living ruin, capable of projecting worlds of its own.
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The Pantheon. Of Greatness And Deception
5 October 2014
words: Natalie Donat-Cattin
photos: Jian Yong Khoo
If the essence of architecture – its intrinsic and determining constituent – is empty space, every man has experienced an archetypal feeling when visiting the Pantheon. Confined in an immense space, we can never embrace its entirety. Ignorant but curious, we marvel at how such a great dome can stand. Questions whose answers lie in subtle ploys: secrets buried within the structure and the material.
The fame of the ‘Roman Cyclops’ still lies in its architectural genius, never yet been equalled. Trapped in the narrow streets of Rome, the Pantheon may have lost its power but not its charm and mystery. Legends and taboos together with mathematical and philosophical symbols mingle under the self-supporting concrete dome and beneath the alerted eye.
To receive everlasting fame, a hint of fortune and wit is necessary: qualities that are not lacking in this building. The Pantheon’s almost spontaneous conversion to Catholicism made it receive grace. With a little indulgence, all past sins have been forgiven: a small price to pay to remain intact.
The interior atmosphere of the church-temple strikes us immediately. We oscillate between light and shadow, astonishment and disbelief, illusion and reality. An intangible light descending from unfathomable heights, invades the space and dazzles us. During sunny days, we are led to confusion: the innate generosity of the sky seems to have given the Cyclops the much-desired second eye.
Too narrow sighted to appreciate the dome in its whole, the only option is to sit down, look up and slowly analyse this space.
A space like no other.
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“The mind loves the unknown. It loves images whose meaning is unknown, since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown.” – René Magritte
Parrish Art Museum, designed by Herzog & de Meuron sits in isolation among the meadows – its crisp simple form stands in contrast to the surrounding natural landscape.
Modern, provocative, rebellious. The new entrance of the Musée du Louvre is this and much more. Criticism has built its reputation, making it the most talked about pyramid in the world. Eternal in volume and modern in material, it represents the architecture of two millennia in a single structure: from the pyramids of Giza to new, innovative technologies. From the first, it inherits the proportions and the form. From the second, the lightness and the transparency.
The Convent de la Tourette hovers weightlessly on a hill overlooking the nearby town, uncannily reminiscent of a temple atop the Athenian Acropolis. Visitors willing to make the pilgrimage are initially met with a visual field of low intrinsic interest – but the beauty of the architecture slowly reveals itself the more one looks.