By Joan Ockman
I think any client could be creative, even visionary. It's a question of engaging them./Rafael Viñoly
This is the first monograph on the extensive list of projects by Rafael Viñoly.
Originating in Uruguay, Viñoly heads an architectural office with an impressive list of projects in the areas of architecture, urban planning and interior design. The book documents a large number of Viñoly's most significant buildings and projects, including the Tokyo International Forum, the Princeton University Stadium, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts as well as early projects in Argentina.
Viñoly founded his first office in Buenos Aires in 1969; influenced by the ideas and concepts of the 1960s reflected in the work of Buckminster Fuller, Archigram and the Smithsons.
Encompassing 500 square meters on three floors of steel, glass blocks, aluminum cladding, and large plate-glass windows and skylights, the building - now significantly altered - achieved a tower-like character despite its modest size and footprint.
Set on the bank on a small tributary of the Rio de la Plata just north of Buenos Aires the house was articulated in a vocabulary that reflected Viñoly's fascination with sailing and the the location. Two towers rise from a wide living area, half a floor below grade, with bridges and decks connecting the towers at different levels.
The design avoids the regular and rigid distribution of space typical of rectangular office towers by cutting away or pushing back the facade wherever the floor area of the roughly rectangular plan exceeds the programmatic requirements.
"The harsh conditions of the site, including extremes of temperature and a steady wind that can reach 120 kilometers per hour, inspired an inward facing array of buildings that turn their back to the wind to create a sheltered common core. Based on a 40-unit module, each module groups two visually distinct three-story sub-units in front of four five-story sub-units, the taller structures act as shields for the given module as a whole".
Due to the political situation he emigrated and opened an office in New York in 1982. Despite the difficulties involved in starting over again in a new country, where in the meantime postmodernism had become prevalent, Viñoly stayed true to his style of architecture, feeling bound to the ethical considerations of modernism, yet constantly questioning it, adapting it to the changing conditions.
Rafael Viñoly gained world wide recognition as the architect of the Tokyo International Forum (1989-1996).
The Tokyo Forum turned out to have a very important quality; one I can't claim to have foreseen. The building is severe and grand and at the same time homey, and it has turned out to be a social as well as a culture and transportation hub; it's the capital of cruising in Japan. It's absolutely full of people looking for other people./Rafael Viñoly
As a conceptual exercise, the Tent/Beach House was meant to demonstrate the feasibility of constructing a small, foundation less summer beach pavilion that could easily be erected or taken down for storage.
Both of the volumes that constitute the house mirror the curved boundary. A clerestory created by the gap between the two volumes floods the main space with natural light that is filtered by the plants in the roof garden atop the lower structure.
The horseshoe shaped wall, that constitutes the stadium's outer enclosure, is approximately 490 meters long. Within the wall enclosure a continuous bowl constructed of cast-in-place concrete with aluminun bench seating, surround the classically shaped football field, sunken below grade.
The design preserved the site's existing contour and tree line by locating the building below the crest of the hill. The single story structure, averaging 4.6 meters in height, is set back from the property line and concealed from view by trees on three sides.
This cancer research facility, set into a steep hill at the edge of the town center, evokes the rapids of the nearby Grand River with its three segmented convex roof glass roofs, descending in a stylized cascade along the eastern facade of a narrow concrete slab building.
"First, we worked out the two big spaces the program called for; a concert hall for the Philadelphia Orchestra and a multipurpose recital theater. Then, to create the sense that the traditional lobby has been replaced by a new kind of civic space, we enclosed the two buildings within a glass-and-brick parameter and gave them a glass barrel-vault roof. This unified public space fosters a sense of community among visitors to the Kimmel Center. You can't avoid seeing other people; there are no barriers".
A "warped" glass facade is wrapped around the shifting floor plates. This curved facade, while avoiding the visual repetition typical of office towers, also redirects a significant portion of the wind loads on the building, allowing the use of a more cost-effective structural system.
The book also includes articles by Rafael Viñoly about his career that has been marked by the difficult political situation in Argentina and the cultural exchange between South America, Europe and the USA.
Joan Ockman is one of the best-known architecture theoreticians in the USA. She teaches at Columbia University and has published widely on 20"' century architecture.
Last updated: December 19, 2013
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