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Herzog & de Meuron: Progress Update

When the Walker hired Herzog & de Meuron to design the expansion in 2000, the Swiss architectural firm wasn’t exactly anonymous. Having just finished the masterful Tate Modern makeover, they were then promptly awarded the Pritzker Prize, the highest honor in architecture. Several high profile projects followed, but on August 8, 2008, their highest profile […]

When the Walker hired Herzog & de Meuron to design the expansion in 2000, the Swiss architectural firm wasn’t exactly anonymous. Having just finished the masterful Tate Modern makeover, they were then promptly awarded the Pritzker Prize, the highest honor in architecture. Several high profile projects followed, but on August 8, 2008, their highest profile building was unveiled to over 30 million people and introduced as…the Bird’s Nest.

It’s official name is, of course, the Beijing National Stadium and it is Beijing’s newest crown jewel. Site of the most stunning Olympic opening ceremony anybody I’ve talked to can remember, the stadium has been warmly embraced by China.

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Very warmly.

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But then again, so was the Walker.

allianz.jpgRight about the same time Herzog & de Meuron were in the thick of working on the Walker project, they were also working on the Allianz Arena in Munich, a precursor of sorts to the Beijing stadium. It is a distinctive building whose flashiest features even serve an awesome function. As a stadium for two German soccer teams, Bayern Munich and TSV 1860, the exterior of the entire arena glows a different color depending on which team is playing: red for Bayern Munich, blue for TSV 1860, and when the German national team is there, it glows white. Like the Beijing stadium, locals love it, and it has been nicknamed The Rubber Dinghy. Also flashy: a hydraulic pitch entrance that lifts up to reveal players emerging from Batman’s lair onto the playing field.

Several months after the grand re-opening of the Walker, the de Young Museum in San Francisco re-opened, albeit with much more controversy than any of their stadiums. Selected from a pool of applicants in June of 1999, Herzog & de Meuron submitted a design, complete with a purely tourist-centric tower, with a very similar aesthetic to that of the Walker, a project that began only a year later. Both buildings are covered in industrial materials that reveal themselves to be more intricate the closer up a viewer is. The de Young is covered in copper panels with a green patina which Herzog & de Meuron hope will evolve with its Golden Gate Park surroundings. Also friendly to its surroundings? Its carbon footprint, enormously reduced from the museum’s former building that had been irrevocably damaged in the 1989 earthquake. Although the de Young is meant to blend in with its natural surroundings and California palm trees, it has been called a “copper iceberg,” interesting because of the Walker’s certainly more icebergian building in ice-producing Minneapolis:

And while the two buildings have things in common, notably ambiguous metal skins that use patterns of perforation for subtly decorative effect, Herzog, who certainly has no fear of controversy, characterises the Walker as a feminine building and the de Young as an essentially masculine project.

These are dangerous words for an architect to use, especially since Herzog seems to be suggesting that the Walker’s deferential presence and internal prettiness are feminine qualities while the self-confidence of the de Young, a copper iceberg, is a masculine attribute. – The Guardian

Enter the period of the even more environmentally aware. In two projects currently in development, Herzog & de Meuron have designed buildings that seriously improve energy efficiency. For the Miami Art Museum, slated to open in 2011, they were inspired by tropical rainforests, the climate of Miami, and the nearby Biscayne Bay. Situated in a park, they wanted to create a seamless passageway from the green space into the museum. How to do that? Bring in the trees. Not strangers to incorporating plants as a major design component, as in the case of the CaxiaForum in Madrid (opened earlier this year, below), they have created a canopy topped off with standard building materials, but enhanced with hanging plants, a la Babylon.

Also in progress is the expansion to the Tate Modern. Although it opened fairly recently in 2000, its popularity and accommodation needs has already apparently exceeded its space – which is huge. We are talking about old power station huge. The new building will be 11 stories high and really fancy. Using heat from an already existing switch house, the new building will somehow capture raw elements that usually go wasted. They will be expanding the gallery space, and adding new education and interactive areas, as well as galleries devoted especially to photography, children, and rotational video and new media screenings. Floors 8 to 11 are the designated “Tate Social” areas – a members lounge, terrace, and restaurant – with the best views of the city saved for wining and dining. While the current Tate Modern is a rather squat, horizontally-favoring building, the expansion will be stacked vertically, with shapes and materials not dissimilar to the tower at the de Young, yet decidedly more functional.

This concludes the 2008 Herzog & de Meuron Progress Update. Score their progress in the comment box below!