The Grace Farms building, designed by SANAA nestles itself nicely into its context, offering various programmes for the community- all playfully placed under a long sinous roof.
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The British Museum. Never The Same
8 July 2014
words: Natalie Donat-Cattin
photos: Jian Yong Khoo
Walk up the steps, cross the pronaos, rush through the first room, enter the main courtyard and look up: you will be rendered speechless. The modern roof designed by Fosters and Partners hovers above you. 3312 glazing panels – none of which are the same – frame 3312 triangular slices of sky.
This is the heart of the British Museum. The metaphor of all the different civilizations, whose relics are conserved in the museum. Like those different cultures, the panels interact, collide, work together. The result is a strong and stable structure.
Visitors come from every region of the world to see the wonders preserved in the museum. Sculptures, objects, books that – even if stolen – do not belong to us. Uprooted from their place of origin, they mingle among the crowd, in rooms where the frenetic movement of the visitors clashes with the stillness of the stone and marble. It is this contrast that shapes the building and makes it unique.
A building that is never experienced in the same way, because the people who walk through it are all different. Each individual with a distinct history, similar to the statues and the artifacts, not unlike the glazing panels.
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The Rolex Learning Centre sprawls itself across a vast expanse of the EPFL campus, its striking undulations reminiscent of the nearby alps. The interior is a visual delight where artificial hills and valleys replace traditional partitions – prompting different kinds of occupation and spatial interactions.
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.
A cultural oddity, the sense of mysticism surrounding Japan has captivated us for generations; and in it we seek to decipher this elusive quality, of which is believed to somehow offer profound ‘answers’ to life’s toughest questions. This fascination is curiously unusual: with the ever-expanding wealth of knowledge available in the virtual environment, a culture so distant is instantaneously made accessible. The relentless flow of images and anecdotal accounts on mainstream media allows one to transport one’s self into a culture thousands of miles away. A fleeting immersion, which no doubt sows the seeds for preconceived notions and judgments.
Progressing through the maze of columns, towards the centre of Bernini’s eclipse, we find ourselves in front of an imposing white wall, the Dover’s cliff of Rome: Saint Peter’s Basilica. Decorated to the last detail, it can only be compared to the English steep rock face for its whiteness and grandeur. In all other aspects, we can say that the craft of man has equaled if not surpassed the force of nature.