I have been incredibly fortunate to be staying in Esbjerg, Denmark with family friends while waiting to start my summer program in Copenhagen. I am constantly impressed and refreshed with the quality of life here in Denmark, from the abundance of bikers, to the weather and the food…It has been the perfect setting for a little relaxation and a chance to reflect on the all of the traveling and documenting I have been doing these past two weeks.
I have been compiling and editing photos and drawings for a short publication that I will try and get up on ISSUU in the coming weeks, while I deliver the explorations in pieces here on my blog.
I wanted to start by sharing this sweet little Jan and Jorn Utzon project here in Esbjerg that the Carlsens brought to my attention: the Musikhuset Esbjerg. It is one of the Utzon’s lesser known projects, critiqued pretty harshly for its plainness in furnishings and materials, which was due largely to the lack of funding.
The mushroom columns and Sydney Opera house tiles make it feel older than it is (completed in ’97), and the foyer especially is a lesson in structuralism. The design of components (in this case: the octagonal mushroom column) arrayed across a field of significant points, i.e. a 1000 sq.m. cafe, or 2000 sq. m. foyer, is a way to create an underlying order that permeates through the ‘building’, making it feel more loosely contained formally (the architects likened it to a forest), that allows for a changing of program and interpretation throughout the buildings lifetime.
“Structuralism deals with the difference of a structure with a long life-cycle and infills with shorter life-cycles.” I quite like this quote about Structuralism by Dutch architect Herman Hertzberger, and the next: “The fact that we put ‘form’ in a central position with respect to such notions as ‘space’ or ‘architecture’, means in itself no more than a shifting of accent. What we are talking about is in fact another notion of form than that, which premises a formal and unchanging relationship between object and viewer, and maintains this. It is not an outward form wrapped around the object that matters to us, but form in the sense of inbuilt capacity and potential vehicle of significance. Form can be filled-in with significance, but can also be deprived of it again, depending on the use that’s made of it, through the values we attach to, or add to it, or which we even deprive it of, – all this dependent on the way in which the users and the form react to, and play on each other. The case we want to put is, that it is this capacity to absorb, carry and convey significance that defines what form can bring about in the users – and conversely – what the users can bring about in the form. What matters is the interaction of form and users, what they convey to each other and bring about in each other, and how they mutually take possession of each other. What we have to aim for, is, to form the material (of the things we make) in such a way that – as well as answering to the function in the narrower sense – it will be suitable for more purposes. And thus, it will be able to play as many roles as possible in the service of the various, individual users, – so that everyone will then be able to react to it for himself, interpreting it in his own way, annexing it to his familiar environment, to which it will then make a contribution.”
Pretty cool that such a unique piece is quick bike ride from where I live…and from a type of building that I have always been attracted to, but never have seen in person (I brought many examples of structuralism to by teammates in our Roma Tre Workshop Proposal, notice the field of canopies). This type of space that accommodates free movement and interpretation while still being charged with dramatic lighting, contextual sensitivity, and interesting tectonics is hugely inspiring (as opposed to Mies’ ‘free plan’, which takes a sort of cold indifference to…well, everything).