by Arif Javed
As I asserted in my previous blog post, the primary nature of an architect’s job is to shape space through the use of the architectural form. It doesn’t matter whether the space that is being shaped is a landscape or a building; the theory remains the same. However, in certain situations the most powerful experiential quality of an architectural work might not be the form but the lack thereof. It seems that oftentimes the way architects make a statement is through openly revealing how their design shapes space, but in my opinion an almost more powerful statement is made when the architect lets the form of the design be completely amalgamated into the landscape. Two such projects that use what I would term the invisible form are the Moses Bridge by RO&AD architects and the Blur building by Dilller Scofidio + Renfro.
I always consider architectural bridge designs, especially pedestrian ones, to be fascinating because in these designs the experience is quite literally dominated by the path. I believe that a successful bridge design causes the destination to fade in importance as the journey becomes something to enjoy by itself. This quality is absolutely achieved by the Moses bridge, a pedestrian structure by RO&AD architects in the Netherlands that spans the moat of a Dutch fort that has been repurposed into a recreational structure. The form of the bridge is almost completely invisible; it is sunken, like a trench, into the water. This means that the water comes up almost to the edge of the bridge causing the bridge to completely fade into the landscape. The way I interpret this use of almost nonexistent form is that the architects wanted to take emphasis off of the fabricated structure while emphasizing the impact of the surrounding landscape. I think this work beautifully exhibits the importance of the architectural idea of shaping a procession through a space; due to the way the RO&AD minimized the form of their design they managed to not only emphasize the landscape but also add a new layer of harmony and communion with the natural elements by placing the occupants of the space within the moat.
The Blur Building was designed and built in 2002 for the Swiss expo; thus it can essentially be considered as more of a temporary pavilion than an actual building. As this was the nature of the project this means that the project had basically no program but it is still an interesting work that functions somewhere along the line between installation, art, and architecture. The Blur was conceptually a building with no form; it consisted of two long ramps that took occupants out across the water towards a platform shrouded by a fabricated cloud. I think that this design challenged the idea of architectural form by creating a structure that has close to no form. However, though the project lacked a definitive form Diller Scofidio + Renfro absolutely used architecture to create an experience and sculpt the space. Similar to the Moses bridge, the experience of the project was largely defined by the procession that the architects defined. To reach this enigmatic floating cloud one would have had to walk out over the water until they arrive at a space and are enclosed by the “blur” and a wall of white noise. I would think that this work embodies a similar idea to the Moses Bridge in that while the visitors walk across the ramp they increasingly become immersed in the landscape until they reach the cloud which shrouds and isolates them while simultaneously unifying them with the nature of the site.
After considering how these two projects function as architectural works while simultaneously challenging my conception about the function of architectural form I think I would like to amend the assertion that I referenced at the beginning of this post. I would now state that in my opinion the primary nature of the job of the architect is to shape space in order to create a significant experience. Usually this is most successfully done through an architectural form, but as the Blur building and the Moses bridge show it can be done equally as well by cloaking, getting rid of, or generally minimizing the use of form in order to maximize the impact of the landscape or site.
|View of Moses Bridge from|