Architecture And Nature Essay

Zaha Hadid born in Baghdad (Iraq) in 1950 has given a radically new approach to architecture by creating buildings such as the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, with multiple perspective points and fragmented geometry to evoke the chaos of modern life. Her buildings seem to gather energy and fluid gestures from the surrounding, thus making them even more extraordinary. Her work is like the wings on the flight of poetry. She uses basic shapes in her architecture and creates a totally different form.

Only some are inspired by nature and when this inspiration is translated into creativity it is admired extraordinarily. As Bill Lacy, architect puts it, “Only rarely does an architect emerge with a philosophy and approach to the art from that influences the direction of the entire field. Such an architect is Zaha Hadid” [1]

The images of the Marsh Arabs in Iraq fascinated and inspired Zaha. She visited the places around the ancient architectural marvels of Sumeria. The breathtaking beauty of the landscape had a deep impression on her heart. “Deconstructivism” an entirely new form of architectural design is the name given to this found expression in her work. As Zaha explains, “I am trying to discover- invent I suppose an architecture, and forms of urban planning that do something in a contemporary way. I started out trying to create buildings that would sparkle like isolated jewels, now I want them to connect, to form a new kind of Landscape, to flow together with contemporary cities and the lives of their peoples.”[2] Her work is in agreement with the dynamics of city life.

Transparency is also her modus operandi. She made “x-ray drawings”, composite drawings composed of a series of transparent layers that showed everything simultaneously, by drawing each component separately before combining them into a single drawing.

Lexically TRANSPERANCY can be defined as “something that is clearly evident and present in its absolute visual entirety.” The literal definition of TRANSPARENCY is “the physical quality of a substance or a phenomenon like that seen in the quality of organization.”

The two kinds of transparency are:

PHYSICAL TRANSPARENCY: Attained through materials.

PHENOMENAL TRANSPARENCY: Attained when two forms or figures merge or interpenetrate without losing line sight to each other that is without an optical destruction of each other. We notice an ambiguity when spatial dimensions are disrupted by overlapping figures.

Hence here we introduce transparency not only as a property of the transparent materials i.e. beyond the realm of physical transparency.

The two sources of physical transparency are the cubist painting and “Machine aesthetic.” The transparency described by the cubist paintings and the transparency described in architecture are essentially different. The transparency in case of two dimensional painting by cubist artist is limited to pictorial representation and implication of three dimensions where as architecture deals with reality.

Literal transparency can easily be given a physical shape and is a physical fact whereas phenomenal transparency is difficult to achieve as it goes beyond the physical fact.

Some examples of Zaha Hadid’s works on transparency:

King Abdullah II House of Culture & Art is an example of Generous transparency provided by meandering glazing wrapping horizontally around one corner from ground level to the top of the building.

“The public lobby, where everyone enters, is downtown and central to the city so people who are just walking around can go in and have a coffee downstairs or hang around the lobby or go upstairs to quickly see a show. It is a very accessible building.

It’s not a compact building and there is a degree of transparency on the ground and above. So it’s not only how we use it, but also how we pass through it. Every time you confront the space you have a different experience”. [3] says Zaha Hadid

In the Zaha Hadid lounge of Wolfsburg, she has made architecture very visible through animations, models, drawings and paintings. Since the exhibition space itself blends with the architectural presentation, the special dimension is enhanced. The lower museum level has the main lounge, a gallery with its own direct access, enhancing the transparency.

It is an all new perspective of open office landscape. Its all about connectivity, transparency and functionality. This is a remarkable example of aesthetics in Industrial architecture. The design is in consonance with BMW’s requirement of office space. The central building that is the hub of activity within the factory complex is the point of convergence and also branching out. The spatial system is dynamic and encompasses the whole northern front of the factory and articulates. The central building as a point of essence of her work.

The designs of 2007 from Serralunga in Milan by Zaha combine more traditional forms with interesting layering and transparency to create some very chic but challenging product.

Le Corburier’s palace of the League of Nations is described as the “Essence of that phenomenal transparency which has been noticed as a characteristic of the central post- cubist attainable when two forms or figures merge or interpenetrate without losing line sight to each other that is without an optical destruction of each other.tradition”.

Transparency is greatly influenced by spatial organization, where a semi-pervious entity, like the body of trees in the heart of Le Corburiers’ “palace of the league of Nations”, act to obstract the line of sight leading to the palace entrance quay, only to re-emphasize it when the visitor has finished crossing the trees. Here we need to be clear in our concept of spatial distinctions which are used in the organization of the entire building to emphasize and frame a visitor’s line of sight. This framing effect can be understood as a form of transparency. Phenomenal transparency is all about spatial organization of a building.Transparency is basically the way to repesent how can any work any can be represented in the way that it can be understood by any one . I also understood that both the transparency are the same thing but can be represented in all aspects and in many aspects.

Although Transparency is understood, more in its physical aspect but it is more than an optical characteristic. It means a broader spatial order. “It is a simultaneous perception of different spatial location”. It is interesting that space not only recedes but fluctuates in a continuous activity. Therefore transparency no longer remains perfectly clear but becomes ambiguous. It is here that we can understand say that Zaha Hadid’s work incorporates the element of Transparency.

Zaha Hadid in an interview with Ossian Ward-

“The distinction between street and structure is often blurred in a Zaha Hadid work: a transparent glass sheet is sometimes all that prevents interior spilling into exterior and the other way round.”[4]

As architect and critic, Joseph Giovannini puts it, “Air is Hadid’s element. She floats buildings that reside aloft. At a time when architect were concerned about manifesting the path of gravity through buildings. Hadid invented a new gravitational visual physics. She suspended weight in the same way dramatists suspended disbelief.” [5]

Elements in Zaha Hadid’s work that I would like to integrate in my work-

I am especially inspired by the smooth structures that emerge from fluid geometry like that in the Landesgartenschau- Weil – am Rhein and the MIND ZONE millennium DOME that incorporates both architectural and curatorial aspects. I would definitely keep in mind Zaha’s uniqueness lies in Out of the Box architecture that is largely utilitarian.

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” Gary Snyder

There is a very important and necessary shift happening in the world of architecture and design. We are awakening to the reality that we are part of the larger ecosystem of the earth and that our creations can both injure and heal the bodies and landscapes that we call home.

We have been so enthralled with the powers of human ingenuity that we’ve made things just because we can, like adolescents testing every possibility, and just as a child grows to become a member of a greater family, the human community is growing towards a state of wisdom which considers not just what it can make but why.

Nowhere is this shift more important than in our architecture. The age old need for shelter is the most basic impetus for the human drive to build, but our structures have become so much more than shelter as humanity has evolved. Our buildings express volumes about our culture, our selves, our beliefs and what we value, individually and collectively. They have become statements of status and taste, repositories of wealth and symbols of security. This accumulation of meaning has come to obscure the simple fact that buildings exist to shelter and nurture human beings and human beings live in physical bodies that arise from the ground of nature.

In the modern age, with all its technological advances, we have sought domination and escape from the vicissitudes of nature through the development of ever more sophisticated techniques and materials. The primary goal has been protection from the elements that threaten us. The result of this, while positive in some ways (few people in “developed” countries die of exposure anymore), has been to separate us from nature to such a degree that we spend most of our time surrounded by synthetic environments that offer little to “the soft animal of your body” as poet Mary Oliver puts it.

We long to connect with the textures, colors, and patterns of the natural world because it is where we come from. The nature calendar above our desk at the office and the view out the car window on our drive home is about all the connection that many of us get these days, and yet still the longing is there. We try to meet this primal need for nature by going on vacations once or twice a year, but this is not nearly enough. As Gary Snyder reminds us, nature is our home, not just a place to visit once in awhile. It’s no wonder that we often feel disconnected in our everyday environments.

Beyond the effect of all this on our bodies and minds, the effect on the earth itself has been catastrophic. The growth of our cities often resembles that of cancer cells that are destroying the life of their host. We use massive amounts of energy constructing and conditioning our buildings and then bury the scrap in ever expanding landfills. For most of the last century our building methods have not been integrated into the cycles of decay and renewal that are so essential to the health of the ecosystem. Thus, we have created a continual stream of waste for which the other species of the earth have no use. No system that is losing energy or mass from its cycle can survive for long as we all learned in high school physics. This cannot continue.

So what is to be done? Build with nature instead of over and against it. Let its ways inform our technologies. This is not a call to suppress our creativity but to make it beautiful. We can begin by considering the relationship of the parts to the whole and the ways in which our buildings can nourish the people within them and the earth upon which they stand.

The growing field of Biomimicry is a promising sign for the future of the human race. The basic premise is that we can learn from and “mimic” structures, materials, and systems that we observe in nature to solve design problems. It would make sense that there is deep wisdom embedded in these things that have developed over millions of years, in the way that a beetle’s shell collects water and a termite mound’s structure creates a cooling effect.

Using the principles of Biomimicry, a building can be thought of as a living cell among other living cells that, all together, create a larger community. Let’s start with the cellular membrane: just as a living cell needs a boundary to contain and protect the life happening within it, a house needs walls. Our modern building systems have forgotten the other aspect of a cell wall that is equally important. Cell walls are semi-permeable membranes unlike the walls of most of our houses which are “shrink wrapped” with paint and stucco. The life energy of a cell dissipates without a cellular membrane, likewise, it will die if its cell wall doesn’t allow for selective interaction with its environment. You may point out that we have windows and doors for this but the fact is that we usually keep them closed and when we do open them they are not selective and allow in any pollutants that happen to be floating on the breeze.

If we use the wisdom of semi-permeable cellular membranes to construct our houses we might consider the importance of wall systems that interact with the elements by allowing the transfer of water vapor into and out of our buildings. This mitigates the possibility of mold growth within the wall structure and improves the livability of the interior spaces by regulating humidity. Wall systems that incorporate natural plaster materials such as clay and limestone are a simple, time proven way to create this effect. The adobe houses of the American Southwest are known for their ability to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. This is due to both their thermal mass, which retains and releases the energy of the earth and sun, and the semi-permeable nature of the earthen wall materials that maintains a consistent interior humidity. Houses that trap humidity (rather than regulate it) usually stay hot on hot days and cold on cold days. Try wearing a plastic rain suit on a hot (or cold) day to prove this point.

We might also consider that living cells are dependent upon the greater organism of which they are a part just as our homes and work places are dependent upon the water, air, and soil around them. Cells that do harm to the tissue in which they live will not thrive or survive for long. This is the predicament in which we find ourselves today. Cut off from the health and beauty of our natural home by the very houses that we have built for ourselves, we are sickened and starving for some contact with deep beauty and the mystery that sustains us.

A simple, yet profound solution to this sorry state of affairs is to surround ourselves once again with nature, not just on vacation, but in our very homes and offices. This doesn’t only mean hanging pretty pictures on the walls or putting a bouquet on the table but creating architecture whose very materials and forms illicit the same response in us as that mountain stream we sat by last summer or the meadows of our childhood that hummed with life and good energy. Let’s invest in ways to make natural building efficient, safe, and cost effective. Let’s turn our ingenuity and powers of imagination towards a global community that values simplicity and health.

There are many who are already giving their lives to this vision, but it’s going to require all of us to make it reality. It’s the birthright of every human being to live in communion with nature. Let’s start building.

Filed Under: Modern Design, Traditional design


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