Message - A Small peice I just wrote about lebiskind and tadoas latest mancunian works

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Posted by  Akegata on April 03, 2003 at 03:35:13:

Small essay for uni, figured a few people would like to read it, all critisicm welcom

Describe one example of a landscape design project introduced as an urban intervention into a particular city, and one example of the introduction of landscape design in the space around a new building.
How do such developments engage successfully in harmonising the built architecture involved with the surrounding space?

The two schemes I have chosen to look at are schemes that are local to me and were heavily publicised by the council as representing the new modern look Manchester is trying to promote itself as having. The urban intervention site that I choose is Manchester’s Piccadilly gardens and the incorporated design is the Imperial War Museum north on the outskirts of Manchester. Piccadilly gardens is possible the most urban location you could ever hope to get located centrally in Manchester with a main road on one side and the main tram and bus interchange on the other. Piccadilly gardens has always been a meeting place for people ever since it was made public land in 1700 and the council decided that the gardens needed a new image in preparation for the commonwealth games in 2002. Tadao Ando was the architect chosen; the council hoped his scheme would install a sense of calm and serenity that people could escape into from the hustle and bustle of the city. The Imperial War Museum is a large museum (6,500 m2) designed by Daniel Libeskind and built on the edge of the Manchester ship canal. the form is meant to represent a shattered globe and looks very similar to the Guggenheim Bilbao, from the outset a special importance was placed on the landscaping with the space surrounding the museum being a continuation of the interior space. The overall scheme intent was to “deal with the conflicts that have shaped the Twentieth century and those which will continue to shape the future” in a way that challenges and disorientates you.

Both of these schemes are similar in that they both suffered drastic budget cutbacks after the concept designs had been made public. Both schemes were designed by architects not familiar with the area and in Tadao Andos case he never even visited Manchester.

Piccadilly gardens.

As with all Tadao’s schemes Piccadilly Gardens is a contemporary minimalist design, considering the surrounding cityscape dates back as far as the 18th century Tadao was creating problems in just how the scheme would resolve itself with its surroundings. Each side of the site contains differing styles of architecture and design rationale, the justification behind such a modern landscape strategy is that Stanley towers, a large multi storey building dominating the site is currently undergoing a contemporary facelift. The other sound argument is that the site is only 200 meters from the site of the 1992 IRA bomb blast, an area that has been redeveloped with numerous modern and contemporary buildings and landscape schemes working very well (URBIS, Marks and Spencer, the Printworks and the Corn Exchange). However the plain unadorned lawns lack edging strips, flower beds there are not even any daisy with which to break up the uniform carpet of green. This uniform minimalist style looks somewhat out of place especially when you consider historically there was a plethora of flower beds on the site. But even though it looks out of place it works, I think this is due to the complexity of the surroundings and if Tadao had tried to incorporate and merge the scheme in it could have become a confusion of ideas, the simplicity suits every building around it, and Manchester certainly needs some green in its centre. Tadao tried to make historic references, there are subtle references to the 18th and 19th century in the plan and detailing, i.e. the way the flower troughs sit either side of the statues, and the detailing of the aged wood that the benches are constructed of, personally these are things that are best ignored and accepted at face value.

With the original aim to provide a sheltered garden somehow the bus and tram station needed to be separated from the gardens, Tadao chose to place a large curving concrete wall that wraps around two sides of the site that not only removes the visual excitement the traffic creates but it also eliminates the majority of the noise. This strong element works well with its surroundings, it allows the pedestrian traffic from each of the eight roads converging on the site to flow around the site, it also makes navigating the centre of Manchester easier in that when you approach this busy pedestrian hub you are not overwhelmed with eight possible exits but you flow around the space, almost like going around a roundabout in a car. The blank featureless wall incorporates a pavilion and two shops that open up onto the gardens provide a stark contrast to the surrounding buildings and the result is one that works quite well. The significance of the barrier and entering the space is extended around the periphery with the rest of the gardens having natural stone walls one meter tall filled with small shrubs and plants, whilst these do not block your view they do provide enough of a barrier to make the garden a separate place, a secret garden of sorts

Like many contemporary schemes the layout makes perfect sense when viewed from above, although when on the ground it can often appear disorganised and utterly random. However each of the three paths that criss-cross across the grass makes sense when you are on it, each path is the continuation of a route from a main street. The main axis for the site is the continuation of Oldham street, this line has the main route through the scheme and as such it is slightly elevated above the gardens, as if it is something altogether different from the gardens, the paving itself is a continuation of the same material that makes up the street. The doorway through the wall is along this axis providing a clear view down the street to the bus station so people can always see just were it is they are trying to get to, this main axis of travel allows the gardens to sit directly in the middle of a main pedestrian route without interrupting the flow of humans in the area. This is the main point that made the scheme, it is located in such a heavily trafficked area that had the pedestrians been made to take a long way to get anywhere before long people would just cut across the grass creating a disorganised field no-one ones to sit in. Since the traffic flows so smoothly around and though the site the places where people can sat down such as the grass and benches are calm serene spaces with the minimum of bustle.

In conclusion the scheme is a heavily modern and contemporary scheme that could have stood at odds with its surroundings, but the use of a large wall, and selective planting of trees has managed to make it merge in as something that is viewed on its own and never directly contrasted against its background buildings. The places where intervention with the surroundings streets was needed Tadao kept things very simple and just extended the streets in a straight line across the site so as not to interrupt or impede the flow of traffic around the site.

International War Museum

The International War Museum by Daniel Libeskind was built on a budget of 28.5 million, a quarter of the budget that had been originally planed, all the plans and drawings I had seen for this building had been on this original more expensive scheme. When I arrived at the IWM I was at first very disappointed and at a first glance the landscaping seemed to consist of a large empty tarmac car park. It was only when I started chatting to a curator and he took me up to the top of the building to provide a bird’s eye view I started to realise that Libeskind had incorporated his original ideas they were just diluted down and you had to really look for them. The original plans had involved exhibits surrounding the building and the recurring theme was disorientation of the senses through visual trickery.

The location of the site is a heavily built up industrial area, there are warehouses and a biscuit factory along the entrance road and it really is not a nice approach road. The main approach the IWM is not meant to be by car though; there are very good transport links (tram and bus) from the centre of Manchester to the Lowry Centre (theatre and shopping complex) directly opposite the IWM. The journey from the Lowry is a far better approach. The Lowry is a curved metal clad building as well so when viewed from the river side the two buildings complement each other. The idea of an external journey starts the moment you have cross the river on the footbridge. The walk from the bridge towards the building terminates with three solitary flag staffs, from which a gateway and sign indicate you are about to enter the museum. It is only now you notice the first visual play, non of the elements in the fence are vertical, they all are skewed, and not only do they skew but when you stand and look at the building the fence posts pick up lines in the building creating a false vertical force that distorts all the surrounding buildings. The main external landscaping feature is a walk way around the scheme. The concept for the building is that of a shattered globe with three large fragments creating the three zones within the museum (air, land, water) and the rest of the fragments have been scattered around the building, this was the basis of the landscape strategy. In the early sketches each fragment was to be a small exhibit about a conflict that has happened throughout the globe, this was a little over the top for my liking and what has emerged is a series of broken angular fragments filled in with lilac shale. Running all around the site is a narrow walkway made out of white flags that stand out against a lilac and black of the floor that seems to randomly jerk from one point to another. It was only when viewed from above that I could see just how considered it was. When walking around the building if you walk the route prescribed by the flags it takes you on a journey, you find yourself being made aware of objects in the surroundings you were never aware of, it also controls the speed with which you walk, the main entrance of the building where the biscuit factory imposes itself is not a nice area, so the walkway is very straight going taking the quickest route. Then as you progress around the building the walkway becomes more torturous forcing you to slow down and realise that a rough industrial quay on the outskirts of Manchester has some very interesting things going on.

Dotted all around the site are small white bollards designed to stop ram raids, instead of being round they are decidedly angular and stubby, when viewed the remind you of the memorial cemeteries with rows of small white crosses. The level of detailing is continued to the seating around the building. In key locations around the site there are places to sit and reflect, the benches them selves are skewed adding to the sense of confusion the building imparts. These are just two of the very subtle tricks that Libeskind plays through out the landscaping. At no stage does it appear as if the building is trying to harmonise the site into the landscape, due to the visual trickery it appears as of the landscape is trying to conform to Libeskind’s convoluted master plan.

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