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Sometimes you stick out

February 2, 2006

Sir Norman Foster (a knighted architect) has been standing out for some time. This is Swiss Re Headquarters in London. I promise I will not go into archinerd mode if you will stay with me a minute. This was/is London’s first ecologically tall building. As you can guess it sticks out on the skyline. Foster has been creating buildings that do their best to not harm the environment for some time now. Yet I would argue that as “strange” as this is it is also beautiful.

Sometimes doing the right thing causes you to stand out.

Doing the right thing is often hard and comes at much effort and with a cost. Sometimes you look different. Sometimes you are misunderstood. Sometimes people wonder why you can’t just fit in.

There can be much beauty in fitting in. In very fine details you can fit into a context and bring a beautiful refinement to that system. But sometimes a new understanding gives way to a vision that is different.

Swiss Re stands next to NeoClassical neighbors and looks different. But it does so for a reason. It serves people.

+Warning Archinerd talk ahead (skip the italized text our be sucked into nerd speak)

Environmentally, its profile reduces the amount of wind deflected to the ground compared with a rectilinear tower of similar size, helping to maintain pedestrian comfort at street level, and creates external pressure differentials that are exploited to drive a unique system of natural ventilation.

Conceptually the tower develops ideas explored in the Commerzbank and before that in the Climatroffice, a theoretical project with Buckminster Fuller that suggested a new rapport between nature and the workplace, its energy-conscious enclosure resolving walls and roof into a continuous triangulated skin. Here, the tower’’s diagonally braced structural envelope allows column-free floor space and a fully glazed facade, which opens up the building to light and views. Atria between the radiating fingers of each floor link together vertically to form a series of informal break-out spaces that spiral up the building. These spaces are a natural social focus “– places for refreshment points and meeting areas – and function as the building’’s “‘lungs”’, distributing fresh air drawn in through opening panels in the fasade. This system reduces the tower’’s reliance on air conditioning and together with other sustainable measures, means that the building is expected to use up to half the energy consumed by air-conditioned office towers.

Ok I am back, being in our Post Modern age maybe you care about Architecture. The point is that Foster doesn’t really have a “style” he makes uniquely beautiful works that respond to needs. They don’t ever fit into the context. At least not in the way most people understand context.

I admire him.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 2, 2006 1:39 pm

    You should design something like that for the next addition to the church there on campus.

  2. February 2, 2006 2:24 pm

    Sometimes I wonder if I stand-out or am just being a sore thumb….

  3. February 2, 2006 10:37 pm

    I think that’s neat. Different, but I think I like it. I even understand your “archii-nerd” speak. How about that? Although, I doubt that Mississippi is ready for it, you think?

    In the meantime, you need to show us some of YOUR original creations here, hunh?

    We’ll have to talk about it this weekend.–>

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