Saturday, August 12, 2017

Beautiful in a will-not-take-your-breath-away kind of way

I have been visiting the United Nations Building by Joseph Allen Stien for a while now.  And I am always struck by the studied expression of the central fenestrations that hold the building together. It to me is a simple expression of the buildings relation to the ground and how it seeks lightness as it moves upwards. An expression made by a very  careful manipulation of  three materials,  and a triumph of proportions! 

I am at once reminded of the intricate wood lattice work facades of the fortresses and temples of the Tibetan tradition of building that one sees in the architecture of Bhutan, Tibet and Ladhak. Where a desire for lightness and seismic stability yield a façade of a somewhat similar ordering as we move from the ground to the air.  Of course the effect is markedly different in the case of the UN building, where it is one façade of  narrower entry block, as compared to that of  Dzong or Lakhang (temple) but the similarities are so apparent.

Do I find it beautiful and meaningful because I have encountered it before and it is familiar and I am able relate to it as well as recognize it from my past? Or is it beautiful because it has meaning and expresses a relationship with the site / ground it sits on and the sky and acknowledges these elements in different ways, and also explores the possibility of a different inside-to-outside relationship at  the different floor levels?

(There is no tour-de-force of  architectural gymnastics or herculean structural achievement,  that seems so much the requirement for being considered architecture in this day)

It is beautiful, in a quiet, will-not-take-your-breath-away kind of way. 

Is it beautiful because of nostalgia? Or is it the poetic expression?

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