Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Favorite Architecture of the '00s

As far back as I can remember, I have loved beautiful buildings, from soaring skyscrapers to unique single-family homes. I love the classical design that beautifies places like Venice and the French Quarter, and can still be awestruck by some of the terra cotta carvings that adorn older buildings around Chicago (take a look up and around next time you're on Lasalle St.).

In terms of modern architecture, I greatly admire the imagination with which gifted designers tackle everything from subway stations to baseball stadiums. I still remember my awe years ago upon first seeing a photograph of the Sydney Opera House and then again years later upon seeing a photo of Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

During this decade, I have been fortunate enough to see both those buildings in person, as well as several newer structures that either replicate the concept of sculptural buildings--which seems to be the current trend, inspired and continued by Gehry, Santiago Calatrava, Daniel Liebskind and others--or otherwise combine elegance with plenty of imagination.

Limiting my list to new buildings and structures that I saw in person--some while still under construction--here are My Favorite Architectural Works of the '00s, complete with photographs (mostly not my own):

1. Quadracci Pavilion, Milwaukee Art Museum - Santiago Calatrava
Ever since Gehry's Guggenheim made Bilbao a destination following its completion in 1997, art museums worldwide have featured bold re-designs or daring new expansions. Calatrava's addition to the formerly bland MAM was the best I saw, most notably for its brise soleil, the wing-like structure that opens and closes.

2. Peter B. Lewis Building, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland - Frank Gehry
After the Guggenheim, Gehry's been in great demand well into his 70s, but with general marching orders to repeat himself. So he has been forced to be Gehryesque, but in new ways. Most responses to his work are either "Wow!" or "WTF?" but given the several buildings on this list, you can see where I side. I like the way this lesser-know college building combines a brick structure with the flowing metal forms.

3. Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA - Frank Gehry
I haven't been inside, but I hear the acoustics are outstanding.

4. Aqua Tower, Chicago - Jeanne Gang
I'm not sure the finished building is quite as enthralling as the original renderings, but nonetheless, the cascading balconies giving the illusion of liquidity represents something entirely fresh in hi-rise residential architecture.

5. BOK Center, Tulsa - Cesar Pelli
I took a road trip to Tulsa in 2009 for a Paul McCartney concert and was amazed at how beautiful their new arena was. It reminded me of what the Soldier Field redesign could have been, if it wasn't stupidly shoehorned in the old colonades.

6. Hearst Tower, New York - Norman Foster
Showing that old and new can be effectively merged, I like how the soaring new skyscraper bursts out of the Hearst Building's classical facade.

7. Denver Public Library Addition - Michael Graves
While I believe Daniel Liebskind's nearby expansion of the Denver Art Museum has garnered more attention (see further below), I like what Graves did with the library a bit better.

8. New Terminal, Bilbao Airport - Santiago Calatrava
After the Guggenheim, they've been building like crazy in this old city at the north of Spain. I was there in 2005 and enjoyed Calatrava's soaring airport addition, inside and out.

9. AT&T Park, San Francisco - Populous (formerly known as HOK Sport)
PNC Park, Pittsburgh - Polulous and L.D. Astorino & Associates
I attended games at every new ballpark that opened during the '00s except for New Yankee Stadium, and while almost all of the new parks offered good comfort & sightlines with some local quirks, these two stood out primarily due how well they adapted to their waterfront locations.

10. One Museum Park, Chicago - Pappageorge Haymes, Ltd.
While Chicago's Trump Tower garnered much more attention and isn't a complete eyesore, I believe this new building down near the museum campus is a much more elegant skyscraper.

Honorable Mention:

Frederic C. Hamilton Building, Denver Art Center - Studio Daniel Liebskind & Brit Propst

IAC Building, New York - Frank Gehry

Wynn Las Vegas - Marnell Corrao Associates

Time Warner Center, New York - David Childs

Modern Wing, Art Institute of Chicago - Renzo Piano

Pritzker Pavilion, Millenium Park, Chicago - Frank Gehry

Lucas Oil Stadium (football), Indianapolis - HKS, Inc.

Hyatt Center, Chicago - Pei, Cobb, Fried & Partners

Guthrie Theatre Complex, Minneapolis - Jean Nouvel and Architectural Alliance

Experience Music Project, Seattle - Frank Gehry

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