Those weird-looking, distorted, almost impossible-to-comprehend buildings that make you wonder how anyone could design, let alone build such a construct, are actually part of a very specific, non-rectilinear approach to design, called – Deconstructivism. Often described as one of the most visually striking and perplexing types of art ever developed, Deconstructivism is characterized by the use of fragmentation, manipulation of ideas of a structure’s surface or skin, redefinition of shapes and forms, and radical manifestation of complexity in a building.
Focusing more on the freedom of form, rather than functional concerns, Deconstructivist architecture aims to perplex the visitor, making the stay in their space an experience worth remembering, and the interior is as much as mesmerizing as the exterior in most cases, even more wondrous in some. Take a look at our top ten list of extraordinary museum constructions. At first glance, the primary visual effect of Deconstructivism architectural style displays a chaotic, unorthodox, mind-bending and almost impossible shape of an edifice, but these unusual projects are actually planned out and executed with utter precision and calculation. The fragmented parts of objects, distorted walls, bending roofs, swirling passages and oddly shaped interiors in deconstructivism architecture are even meant to create a feeling of discomfort or confusion. The concept of controlled chaos is not something people are usually used to seeing in the history of architecture.
This fragmented style is believed to have developed from Postmodernism, which began in the late 1980s. However, it actually came to public attention with the 1982 Parc de la Villette architectural competition, where Bernard Tschumi, one of the leading names of Deconstructivism, won with his innovative entry. In 1988, a show entitled Deconstructivist Architecture was held in Museum of Modern Art, New York, where some of the most prominent names of the style were featured. Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid, Bernard Tschumi, Peter Eisenman, and others were the pioneering figures of the ground-breaking Deconstructivism movement. “Removing the essence of architecture” was the summarized goal of Deconstructivism according to some critics. It was, indeed, a huge step-away from the basic elements of architecture and an utterly audacious move towards the extraordinary and innovative. While some of the projects don’t seem to have any visual logic or coherence, other examples exude harmony and a natural flow. Deconstructivist ideas were borrowed from the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, who stated that the term itself is closer to the meaning of analysis, rather than destruction. Based on this, the practitioners of Deconstructivism attempted to view the architecture in bits and pieces, dismantling it into the most basic elements, and rearranging them in a completely unprecedented way. The dominance of the right angle and the cube were destroyed, replaced with the use of diagonal line, the traditional framework was disregarded as bold new features were taken on. Often border-lining with the minimalist notions of conceptual art, Deconstructivism pursued the idea of living structures, bringing huge constructs to life with irrational, unpredictable shapes and designs.
Editors’ Tip: Deconstructivist Architecture
If you’re interested in Deconstructivist Architecture, this book is just for you. Written by Philip Johnson and Mark Wigley, This book presents a radical architecture, exemplified by the recent work of seven architects. Illustrated are projects for Santa Monica, Berlin, Rotterdam, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Paris, Hamburg, and Vienna, by Frank O. Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Rem Koolhaas, Peter Eisenman, Zaha M. Hadid, Bernard Tschumi, and the firm of Coop Himmelblau. 104 pages, 153 illustrations. The designs represent the independent efforts of radically different architects who are creating provocative, sometimes disquieting, works by exploiting the hidden potentials and dilemmas within modern architecture. The volume is published by the Museum of Modern Art and Little Brown and Company.
One of the prime examples of Deconstructivism, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao represents a fusion of complex, swirling forms and captivating materiality. Frank Gehry not only revolutionized the way architects and people think about museums, but he also inadvertently boosted Bilbao’s economy considering the astounding success of the museum. Over a hundred exhibitions and more than ten million visitors have gone through this mind-boggling building. The captivating design of the construction actually influenced the entire city’s transformation, and this phenomenon came to be known as the “Bilbao Effect”. This term describes the idea that attracting a world-class cultural institution, such as the Guggenheim, would put the city on the map, and result with more investment, brands, tourism and cultural energy. And the Guggenheim’s branch in Bilbao has definitely become a major landmark for the city, and the world architecture. With more than 1 million people annually visiting the museum, the project of making such a unique edifice definitely paid off.
Product of a co-operation between the Croatian-Czech architect, Vlado Milunić, and the Canadian-American architect, Frank Gehry, the Dancing House, or Tančící dům in Czech Republic, is located on a riverfront plot in Prague. A dancing house is not something people would usually associate with Prague, it would most likely be old buildings, prime examples of pre-war architecture and historic attractions. Which is why the Dancing House is such a strikingly modern contrast to the city’s infrastructure. Also called Ginger & Fred, as an homage to Ginger Rogers and Fred Astair – the legendary dance duo, the house actually does look like it has been caught in a middle of a dance move. People often describe the unusual shape of the building as a woman and a man dancing together, with even their hands showing and a skirt swaying to the music. The curvature of the glass does indeed resemble a skirt-wearing figure as it is embracing its partner, you can almost anticipate the next move. Anyway, this piece of deconstructivist architecture definitely stands out among the Neo-Baroque, Neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings that Prague is famous for. 99 concrete panels, each having a different shape and dimension, are supporting the “dancing” shape.
Aiming to capture the history of Berlin, the enormous intellectual, economic and cultural contribution made by the Jewish citizens, and to acknowledge the tragic erasure and void of Jewish life in Berlin, architect Daniel Libeskind designed the astonishing Jewish Museum in Berlin. The project took form of an abstracted Jewish Star of David that would stretch around the site and its context, resulting in a “zig-zag” building form. The interior spaces are extremely complex, Libeskind’s formulated promenade takes people through galleries, empty spaces and even leads to some dead ends. The void of windows adds a unique atmosphere to the building, so does the difference in materiality. The reinforced concrete composes the grey interior of empty spaces, with only a thin ray of silvery light entering the space. The symbolic gesture was meant to remind the visitors of the experience the Jewish people had during WWII, signifying that in even the darkest of moments where escape seems impossible, a small trace of light could restore hope.
Bernard Tschumi is known as one of the world’s most daring architects who openly rejected the traditionalist mentality and pioneered the Deconstructivism movement. He focused on the pleasures in designing, stressing out the uselessness of architecture and aimed to include irrational and perversion in his work. His award-winning project, Parc de la Villette in Paris, is one of the most recognizable works of Deconstructivism. The park has become known as an unprecedented type of park, based on “culture” rather than “nature.” It was designed as a place where natural and artificial are forced together, creating a state of constant reconfiguration and discovery. The space is filled with areas created for interaction, play, relaxation and gathering. In the summer, the open space becomes a large open air cinema. Even though it is often criticized as being too large and not built with consideration for the scale of human needs, it ultimately presents almost a conceptual approach to the way people feel within a larger urban setting where everything is crowded and cramped, and then all of a sudden, vast open space is at hand.
Designed by Coop Himmelblau, UFA Cinema Center is a modernist structure risen from the ashes from the fire-bomb ravaged city of Dresden. It confronts the issue of public space, which is currently endangered in European cities, it has an urban functionality to it and disintegrates single-purposed notions of buildings. The design is characterized by two interconnected building units: The Cinema Block and the Crystal. Eight cinemas located in the first block can hold 2600 guests, and the Crystal is a glass shell serving mostly as a foyer and as a public square. The interweaving of public squares, passageways and public interiors present an energizing way of characterizing the new center of Dresden.
The linear, layered series of walls that make up Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein, Germany, are the work of Zaha Hadid. The concrete planes of the building bend, tilt and break according to the conceptual dynamic forces that were harnessed to connect the landscape and the architecture. The construction appears to be frozen in motion, a suspended state of tension creates a sense of instability even. When looked at from a certain angle, the sense of instability intensifies as horizontal planes slip over one another. The interiors can only be sensed from a perpendicular viewpoint, with partitions minimized, the space seems to be ready to explode into action at any time. The fire house has been converted into a museum that showcases Vitra’s chair designs, but the construct remains as one of the most perplexing designs in architecture.
Another work by the amazing Frank Gehry, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles is known as an internationally recognized architectural landmark. Aside from being visually stunning, the venue is actually one of the most acoustically sophisticated concert halls in the world. The unusual shape was meant to symbolize musical movement and motion of sound, and it was primarily built with the goal of producing the best sound conducting space in the world. Located in Los Angeles, WDCH was made from polished stainless steel. The elegant curves and bends actually became quite problematic eventually. The reflective quality of the surface, combined with the concave sections, caused the reflected sunlight to concentrate on the nearby buildings and rooms, making some of them unbearably warm. Hot spots were made also on the adjacent sidewalks with as much as 140 °F (60 °C) in a single space, and there was also increased risk of traffic accidents due to the blinding reflection of sunlight. To mitigate the issues, Gehry Partners sanded the panels to eliminate the unwanted glare. So, it is not unusual for projects of this magnitude and audacious design to encounter at least some problems when it comes to realization and functionality.
One more of Frank Gehry’s mind-bending structures made our list. This time it’s an exciting blend of exhibits, media, technology and hands-on activities that are held in this attractive venue. The Experience Music Complex in Seattle combines the interpretive aspects of a traditional museum with the educational role of a school and state-of-the-art research facilities of a specialized library, thus forming a unique location where creativity and innovation are celebrated through a variety of practices. And the best suited building for such a venue is one designed by none other than Frank Gehry. The cluster of colorful curving elements is embroidered with a variety of materials used. The entire concept and the fragmented forms are inspired by the image of a shattered Fender Stratocaster, since it was built as a sort of a commemoration to one of the America’s most creative, innovative and influential artists – Jimi Hendrix. Twenty-one thousand panels of stainless steel make up the roof, their shades range from purple, silver and gold, to aluminum red and blue, and each panel is of a unique shape and size, cut and warped specifically to fit the precise placement.
After museums, former fire stations, parks and concert halls, comes a building with a somewhat unusual purpose, and with an even more unusual appearance. Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, as the name suggests, is a medical center focused on brain health and research. The iconic landmark situated in Las Vegas is realized by Frank Gehry in his recognizable style. The unique design and cozy atmosphere are a tribute to patients, families and staff who attend the center. Gehry wanted to create a building that people would remember, speak about and enjoy, and he has definitely done so with this project. The building wavers around, appearing as if though it was melting, a certain impression of fluidity is overwhelming. 199 windows, none of which are alike, 18,000 stainless steel shingles, each cut to unique measurements, 65,000 hours of engineering and voila, one of the most perplexing constructs to date is done.
Considered to be the world’s largest enclosed space, the Beijing national stadium has a gross volume of three million cubic meters. It is also the world’s largest steel structure, banking in 26 kilometers of unwrapped steel used. Nicknamed the “Bird’s nest” the innovative structure was designed by Herzog & De Meuron Architekten, Arup Sport and the China Architecture Design and Research Group. The majestic stadium was built for the Olympic venue and it can receive 91,000 visitors. Combining the Chinese tradition and modern influence, the circular shape of the construct represents heaven, but is also described as the bird’s nest, with patterns inspired by Chinese-style crazed pottery. After all the requirements and regulations imposed by the National Stadium Company, the designers also had to keep in mind the potential earthquake threat. The twisting steel sections forming the roof provide stability to the structure and give it the appearance of a bird’s nest actually. With billions of dollars spent on the building, the project received much criticism centered on the fact that the space didn’t seem to consider the impact of the Olympics on a long-term scale. There are plans to incorporate different facilities and make use of the stadium’s space, but overall, the conception and execution of the stadium are undeniably brilliant, making the construct a sight to be witnessed.
All images used for illustrative purposes only.