With little knowledge of Brigitte Shim’s work, apart from the early-1990s publication of a compact house on a tight site in The Architectural Review, it was with some interest that I waited for her to speak, hoping to gain a better understanding of her design process and seeing more of her portfolio. The design of that compact dwelling – the Laneway House as it is known – was very tidy in plan and section, and it was obvious that the architects had deeply considered the program, site and construction detailing.
Brigitte Shim, one half of the respected Canadian firm, Shim-Sutcliffe Architects hailing from Toronto, introduced her keynote by outlining the three organising themes; The Constructed Landscape, The Canadian Shield and The Toronto Ravine. She continued that all her projects are guided by the maxim “specific, particular and local” and that they establish a “dialogue with the context”.
From the moment Chris Wilkinson walked on stage and then (unusually) proceeded to sit down on a lounge for his keynote address, I thought he would be an interesting speaker. It turned out, however, the reason he was sitting down was his bad back but it suited his laid-back yet confident delivery nonetheless. Established over 25 years ago in London, the firm of Wilkinson Eyre are probably best known for their iconic Gateshead Millennium Bridge but there is a greater breadth to the practice “striving for the beautiful idea” as Wilkinson presented.
Wilkinson said he strives for “aesthetics, atmosphere and meaning” in projects where there is an ambiguity between art and science. And as Wilkinson noted, in order to make the art, you have to understand the science.
A series of evocative, slightly abstract images marked the start of Billie Tsien’s keynote address at CV08. Described by Tsien as “objects of beauty and use” in the folk art tradition, these images set the tone for the address that touched on six Tod Williams/Billie Tsien (TWBTA) projects focussing on her particular approach to each architectural problem.
Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, as partners in work and love, have created a truly enviable architectural practice. Tsien spoke about their 16th floor Carnegie Hall apartment of over 30 years – apparently at the urging of Williams – is a compact, light-filled space, characterised by traditional art collected over the years. By revealing this personal space upfront, she set the tone for the projects that followed.
American Folk Art Museum (2001)
Part of New York’s famous Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) family, the American Folk Art Museum is a compact, vertical building, characterised by large stair that winds a path through the building. Tsien affectionately called it the “jewel in the belly button of MOMA”. As an infill building, the verticality of the form was generated in response to the context and site plan constraints, where the site is only 12 x 30 metres and accommodates a 2,800m2 program.