Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jungle Fever: Nouvel Hotel in Barcelona

Silkscreen glass encloses bath. All photos by DC
The June issue of Architectural Record includes my report from Jean Nouvel's Renaissance Barcelona Fira Hotel. You can read it in full here.

Seldom have I had to work on a report from a poolside rooftop deck over a shot of tequila (with the charming Mexican architect Patricia Meneses, of whom I wrote about in Record's Design Vanguard in 2010; finally we met). Seldom have I worked up my notes over a candlelight dinner on a 14th floor greenhouse restaurant (with the voluble and entertaining collaborating architect, Josep Ribas, and Nouvel's man on the scene, the charming and well-informed Damien Rinchon - with a midnight phone call from Nouvel himself to inflate me even further). And seldom have I been able to study the custom details and sleek Nouvel-designed furnishings from the comfort of a queen-size bed (for which Record picked up the tab, to insure my critical independence).  I tell you, it's tough out there.

More on Nouvel's high-rise jungle, or what he calls an oasis:
"The literal oasis is a central open-air garden that runs vertically through the hotel's 26 floors, filling every level with palm trees and other vegetation. This vertiginous, north-facing void, animated by zigzagging fire stairs, rises between two solid volumes containing guest rooms. ... As project leader Damien Renchon points out, 'It's really a vertical motel.' "

"On the figurative side, Nouvel carries the oasis concept into a branding theme for the facades. Inside every guest room, he cuts a window out of the structural precast-concrete wall in the shape of the jagged crown of a palm tree. Outside, these openings are visible behind a continuous curtain wall of milk-white glass, silkscreened with palms at different scales, that blurs the reading of floor lines.... The result, both inside and out, is unexpected, campy, and fun."
 Urban Oasis
Renaissance Barcelona Fira Hotel
By Jean Nouvel
Architectural Record, June 2013, pages 242 - 244.

Palm frond window opening or artillery hit?

With view of Toyo Ito's Porta Fira Hotel

Those windows from outside...

The gardens drop down on the right

From the rooftop bar and pool...

...through 26 floors...
Gallery in this "Vertical Motel"

Effects of light and reflection in the lobby
Breakfast on the 14th floor
It's time to get horizontal....

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Donald Judd: The Birth of the Loft

Dining table. © Joshua White / Judd Foundation

One of the formative experiences of my student years or shortly thereafter was a visit to this building when Judd was still around (though mostly in Marfa then), thanks to Ron Bentley and Sal LaRosa and their friend and teacher, the late Lauretta Vinciarelli. (Sal introduced us to everything about downtown New York in those years). There was the cargo lift, and every floor was an open space dedicated to a single use, from the bedroom on top down to the living room and the country-style kitchen, organized around an enormous oak table.

Each floor was so down to nothing that the stereo and speakers were on the floor, with cables snaking about, and the bed too, on a low platform. The ground floor was a dusty private gallery that you could gawk at from the street. Every floor was about that run of windows on one side, leading you from the back, where the stairs and elevator were, into the space.

There was a memorable New Yorker cover with a drawing of the building in those years, which I saved. It caught the spirit of the building then better than the exterior shots I've seen recently:

The New Yorker, October 13, 1980

Read about the restoration of Judd's building here:

 Alice Rawsthorne
"Donald Judd and the Art of Living"
The New York Times, June 2, 2013

James S. Russell
"Donald Judd’s SoHo Loft Opens After $23 Million Makeover"
Bloomberg, June 1, 2013

Cifflord A. Pearson
"Judd Home and Studio"
Architectural Record, May 2013

Alexandra Lange
"Donald Judd's House"
The New Yorker Culture Desk, May 13. 2013

New Yorker cover courtesy  

The Judd Foundation 

See my blog entry of July 28th for my own story on the building published in El País, Minimalismo al máximo.