Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Rem's Dallas Theater

On a studio trip to Paris, DYWSC? had the pleasure of visiting an alum now working in Dominique Perrault’s office. The quick tour ended with a presentation of his current project, a competition entry, which had advanced to the final round against OMA and others. This friend was excited to continue working on such a high profile project, but had already conceded defeat to Rem Koolhaas. With a hint of awe, this junior architect explained that before Perrault’s presentation, Rem swept the jury, onlookers, and competitors retreating into their imaginations with the following (crudely paraphrased) introduction…
'To be honest, what interests me about this project is it's inherent contradictions. We all have drives that in some way contradict each other. For example we may personally want to be rich enough to not have to work, but we also recognize that to be happy we must make full use of our powers along lines of competitive excellence. We stand confident of our ideas but eager for the approval of others. Similar architectural contradictions exist. All buildings strive to be as contextual as reasonable yet to be unique enough to stand apart as truly great. Buildings want to be simple, yet richly complex; lavish but inexpensive; historical but fresh. Life, like architecture, is full of these contradictions. My architecture strives to winnow such contradictions out, to admire them, to embrace them, and to display them.'
Savy readers will recognize that recorded here is an old memory of hearsay and not the exact words of the Pritzker Prize winner. Nevertheless, to present one’s work as a play, investigation, or illustration of contradictions is wonderful. It literally is full of wonder because it is less vague than "capturing a zeitgeist" or simply "creating an image" yet the direction leaves ample room for individual interpretation. This paraphrased description can even be expanded to a working definition of the architectural practice. Admittedly, it teeters on the diagnosis of schizophrenia, and this could be insulting to unplayful jurors. But hey, he’s an architect, not a doctor – luckily architects diagnose, but rarely prescribe.

When DYWSC? saw this recent design for the Dee and Charles Wyly Theater in Dallas Texas, the search was naturally for embodied contradictions. In the lack of good media coverage, a viewer is forced to credit Rem with contradictions interpreted by oneself. In the typical American landscape of Dallas, could this building be designed to be both urban and suburban? Knowing the arts are losing patronage in this country, is it more than just playful to suggest this building’s uniqueness is both aggressively advertising and starkly blank? Who knows if it is beautiful, there's an irony to taking a side, but is that something Rem/OMA sought out to accomplish? Is that gaping ramp the bed of a pick-up truck?

Greg Lynn said on a recent Peter Eisenman Studio jury, "In studio it is critical to point out what your ambitions were so you can figure out what the failures were." In the spirit of trying to pin-point Rem's failures, DYWSC? researched Wyly Theater opinions for this post and was lucky to hear from smart friends in the San Antonio and Dallas areas. The score of reactions to the theater design was as varied as could be. Is this spectrum of reactions within the profession the trademark of a design successfully juggling contradictions? How else could one know if Rem succeeded? It’s like reasoning (not painting) yourself into a corner.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

J -

How do you know Koolhaas meant all these things? Heck, you don't even really know if he said them? Isn't it irresponsible to blog about heresay, as you call it?

2:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

blite -
I disagree. J clearly distances himself from the paraphrasing. This type of discussion raises good questions about a definition of architecture and what it should set out to do. Personally, this is still a bit open ended isn't it? To reveal contradictions? which ones? how many? I've heard the "how do you know when you've acheived what you set out to do" crit before, and J's right, how do we evaluate it here>?


3:02 AM  
Blogger Norman Blogster said...

I think the most important thing is to be interesting and thought provoking:
Is this architecture beautiful? Who knows!? Eye of beholder and all that. Is it interesting? Definitely! Viva King Koolhaas!
Similarly for this blog. It may or may not be entirely accurate, but it's interesting and provocative. That's enough for me to come back for dessert. Viva contradiction!

7:55 AM  
Blogger J said...

Blite, Frank, & Norman,

Thank you for your comments.

I would have to agree with some of the sentiments here: despite our abilities if we keep asking questions and keep the discussion on target, we're contributing in a positive way.

I’m sorry to offend, Blite. In the spirit of trying to present roughly good ideas, I don’t think this post did anything wrong. If I had omitted notes like “…Savy readers will recognize that recorded here is an old memory of hearsay and not the exact words of the Pritzker Prize winner….” I believe I would owe everyone else an apology. I didn’t though.

I have wondered if not keeping to the one-post-a-day schedule would raise the quality of the observations here. However, this post was almost three weeks in the making. There’s just too many good ideas floating around out there to post once every few weeks. I, with fellow architecture bloggers, continue to make the value judgment that presenting the ideas on their schedule is more important than presenting professionally edited impeccably written observations. If this is what some readers demand, it should be suggested that blogging is a medium that will only bring frustration. The editors can recommend some good books though.


10:27 AM  
Blogger corbusier said...

I'm glad you noticed Rem's project in Dallas. I work a few blocks away from the proposed site, and it will be interesting to see how Rem's design will interact with its neighbor, the Meyersohn Symphony Hall. The latter is one of I.M. Pei's best designs. Also next to it will be the new opera house designed by Norman Foster. The first few renderings of the project have been quite disappointing, which makes me wonder how he deserves the title o the 'Mozart of Modernism'. And just down the street is Renzo Piano's sculpture museum which looks similar to his Beyeler Museum in Switzerland. And the city has just broken ground for the construction of the first of three planned Calatrava bridges over the Trinity River. Yes, 'Big D'is getting its fill of 'Starchitecture'.

I liked your post and I have just featured it on the blog carnival I'm hosting. Keep up the interesting posts!

12:24 AM  
Blogger J said...

Many thanks to both Corbusier and Tropolism for their kind remarks, and links to this blog. I try and catch both blogs every day.

1:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anybody could make this arguement about any of the Fine Arts. Architects can be so "wonderfully" myopic sometimes.

12:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to corb...

Where you talking about Foster's renderings, or Koolhaas'? I haven't heard this "mozart of modernism" business so I have no idea.

I must say I quite liked Foster's rendering from a Visualization standpoint, I can even make out the exit signs on Woodall Rogers

Also just in general,

having walked around both sites on my way to the DMA the other night, I'd say Foster's Opera house will far overshadow Koolhaas' building.

It may be nice to have a group of outstanding "starchitecture" within walking distance...or better yet stretched down a single block. But is it too dense? Is it too much to take in so quickly? I guess time will tell.

I must say there's something bothersome to me about this arrangement thus far.

-the one who wanders

11:00 PM  
Anonymous Elliott Broidy said...

It's stunning

12:35 PM  
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1:27 PM  

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