As we progress further into the 21st century, so does the structure of our society; quite literally in fact. The demand for unique, creative, and contemporary buildings is more prevalent now than ever before, and that begs the question; is it art or is it architecture?
Architecture is one of the oldest professions known to man. From the Neolithic period came Göbekli Tepe, also known as the World’s first temple, which is a formation of stacked stones that dates back almost twelve thousand years. From Ancient Mesopotamia came ziggurats, giant monoliths that incorporated a long staircase leading to a terraced roof. From the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids of Giza, to the Persian Persepolis, to India’s Taj Mahal, architecture is a prominent and historic part of every culture. And although we classify them as aesthetically pleasing relics now, they were initially built with practicality in mind, rather than style.
Although artistic architecture has become widely accepted as hip and exclusive in today’s day and age, so much that the two almost seem to be synonymous, that was not necessarily the case in the early 20th century. Expressionist Architecture was seen as a protest movement surrounding the activities of World War I with the intention of opening the doors to a futuristic and Utopian society. Many of these Expressionists came from the central European avant guarde, and pioneered the use of new building materials such as steel, concrete, glass, and fabric, as well as experimented with distortion of space and curvature in their designs to reflect the emotion and mood of that period. Some examples include the Grundtvig’s Church in Copenhagen, Denmark completed in 1940, the famously known Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia completed in 1973, and Frei Otto’s fabric tension coverings on the Tuwaiq Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia completed in 1985.
Since the turn of the century, almost anything goes when considering a design, and that includes the adoption of fabric structures like Otto’s. Within the boundaries of construction codes, buildings can be as big or as strange as your heart desires, further blurring the line between art and architecture. Take, for example, artist Do Ho Suh’s exhibit at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Gwacheon, South Korea titled Home within Home within Home within Home within Home. This whimsical masterpiece is made up of a thin wire frame that is tightly and delicately wrapped in deep blue silk fabric, and replicates Suh’s different residencies: one of his childhood home in Korea and the other of his first apartment in the United States. Another example of artistic architecture, or architectural art, is Peter Steinhauer’s photographic series titled Cocoons 1 and Cocoons 2. These vibrantly colorful and intricate pictures capture bamboo framework covered in dyed silk fabric that envelops buildings under construction in Hong Kong, China, and are a true testament to the symbiotic relationship of art and architecture.
Even here at Rubb, Inc., we consider both functionality and presentation when designing our fabric buildings. One of our most noted structures was a temporary facility to house the Powell Library at the University of California, Los Angeles, which was featured on the cover of Architectural Record Magazine in March 1993. And over twenty years later, we are still committed to the same ideals in regards to art in architecture. Designed to inspire – Engineered to impress.