There’s a place for deconstructivism – the architecture movement concocted in the last century in rebellion against traditional form. I’m thinking of the fragmented Imperial War Museum in Manchester designed by Daniel Libeskind to convey what war does to the built environment. The War Museum lies on its side like a sinking ship. A war museum warrants a building that looks like that,
And while many parts of the world still war, Libeskind’s deconstructivist style seems out of place at Belgium’s new convention center – the International Congress Xpeirence building. A convention center doesn’t seem the place for rebellion – even despite the terrorism now developing through Belgium. It’s a place for meeting of minds. Libeskind’s design is an assemblage of disorder. Sharp- cornered and acutely angled, spiking the surrounding air, the International Congress Xpeirence building gives the impression of a projectile.
Granted, deconstructive form isn’t supposed to follow function. But then why use the style at a building with such a decided function?
A statement from Libeskind Studio explains that the 41,010-square-foot, single-story conference center “is an expression of contrasting geometric forms.”
Spoken like your regulation deconstructivist – as if there were no agenda for a building other than the architect’s yen for abstraction. Libeskind’s statement about “contrasting geometric forms” is an understatement. This thing is a poke in the eye.
And it’s not that Libeskind work with traditional forms. After all, he shaped One WTC, which looks a bit like the four-sided pillar of the Washington Monument tapering as it rises – svelte and smooth..
In contrast, his convention center for Belgium is so visually off-putting, so aggressively anti-post-modern that one longs for something bygone, like the neo-classical Beaux Arts style of the Ansonia on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Saul Bellow’s description in his ‘50s novel “Seize the Day” makes clear how bedecked it is:
“It looks like a Baroque palace from Prague or Munich enlarged a hundred times, with towers, domes, huge swells and bubbles of metal gone green from exposure, iron fretwork and festoons.”
Because Libeskind’s version of a convention center is such a rat’s nest of forbidding forms, Ansonia’s “festoons” – clearly overdesigned and long out of style – look downright enchanting.
CLARIFICATION: My reference to Libeskind’s work on the WTC should read Freedom Tower, the original name for the project when Libeskind was the architect. My comparing it to the Washington Monument stands.