Rafael Viñoly

Rafael-Viñoly.jpgRafael Viñoly. Image courtesy Rafael Viñoly Architects

Bright designs. Rafael Viñoly's best works merges architecture and engineering.Viñoly'scareer started according to the American dream: born in Uruguay, he opened his architecture office in New York in 1983. Today he is a household name and ranks among the greatest living architects. Recently however, his star status has been a little burnt by glass exteriors unintentionally setting the surroundings on fire!

While architects usually appreciate all-glass facades and thus don't mind their buildings to be glistening in the sun, in the case of architect Rafael Viñoly, two of his buildings are unintentionally taking this glare a step too far: The buildings, one in Las Vegas and one in London, experienced massive reflectivity due to their concave glass exteriors acting as mirrors for the bright sun. Light reflected off the "Vdara's" building in Las Vegas melted nearby plastic cups and shopping bags while in London, the new 20 Fenchurch Street building reflects sunlight so much that it has melted parts of a car and scorched the carpet of a nearby barber shop.

The floor plans of this office tower grow wider on higher floors giving the building its distinctive, unusual shape, nicknamed 'the walkie-talkie'. This anecdotal information highlights a key aspect of Viñoly's architectural design: Convex and concave shapes can be found throughout his work. It is most notable in one of Viñoly's best designs: The Tokyo International Forum in Japan, which was his first big hit and greatest success so far.

Viñoly's career started according to the America dream: Rafael Viñoly was born in Uruguay, but opened his architecture office in New York in 1983. Six years later he won the competition to design the Tokyo International Forum: A giant conference and convention center in the heart of the Japanese capital with an elegantly curved glass hall as its centerpiece.

Recently, Viñoly's office has expanded, opening branches in both London and Abu Dhabi. One of the keys to his success may be that Viñoly views architecture as a "major social intervention", whose responsibility it is "to elevate the public realm". While this may sound like empty architecture lingo, in Viñoly's case it is actually true. The Tokyo Forum for example, succeeds in creating a beautiful public space that is popular and magnetic - unlike most other convention centers around the world. The attractiveness of the design stems from its amazing structure: Covered with giant fish-belly trusses made of steel and painted pure white, the forum is a prime example of what Viñoly calls "the synthesis of engineering with architectural form" making "architecture the most unique form of artistic endeavor".

Each of his projects receive a unique interpretation rather than a standard reply in established architectural vocabulary. While his firm has mainly designed academic, research and cultural buildings along the East Coast of the United States, such as the  Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Brooklyn Children's MuseumCarl Icahn Laboratory and Nasher Museum of Art.

But their work also includes the striking Jongno Tower in Seoul (South Korea), and more recently projects in the Netherlands, England and the Middle East. Only late in his career did Viñoly return to his native Latin America for some work - when he was asked to design the Fortabat Museum in Bueno Aires and the Carrasco International Airport in his hometown Montevideo.

For more on Viñoly's back catalogue, check out our bookcase on the first Rafael Viñoly monograph.

Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building (UCSF) by Rafael Viñoly in San Francisco, California, USA. Exterior view. Photo: © Bruce Damonte/Courtesy Rafael Viñoly Architects
April 11, 2011 /

Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building (UCSF)
Rafael Viñoly
San Francisco, California, USA

A beautifully sinuous, serpentine building that makes use of every foot of available space.

Carrasco International Airport by Rafael Viñoly in Montevideo, Uruguay. Exterior by night
Photo courtesy Rafael Viñoly Architects
December 14, 2009 /

Carrasco International Airport
Rafael Viñoly
Montevideo, Uruguay

The new terminal at Carrasco International Airport, which serves Uruguay's capital city of Montevideo, was created to expand capacity and spur commercial growth and tourism in the surrounding region.

Brooklyn Children’s Museum by Rafael Viñoly in Brooklyn, New York, USA. Exterior 
Photo: Chuck Choi
September 27, 2008 /

Brooklyn Children’s Museum
Rafael Viñoly
Brooklyn, New York, USA

With its glittering envelope of 8.1 million yellow ceramic tiles the new building is a landmark attraction in the ethnically diverse residential neighborhood of Crown Heights.

NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) by Rafael Viñoly in Los Angeles, California, USA. Exterior 
Photo: arcspace
May 19, 2008 /

NanoSystems Institute (CNSI)
Rafael Viñoly
Los Angeles, California, USA

The site UCLA selected for its California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), a narrow, steep lot adjacent to a parking structure on its dense South Campus, tendered a number of physical challenges.

HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus by Rafael Viñoly in Ashburn, Virginia, USA. Exterior 
Photo courtesy Rafael Viñoly Architects PC
September 18, 2006 /

HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus
Rafael Viñoly
Ashburn, Virginia, USA

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), located in Ashburn, Virginia along the Potomac River, will officially open the doors of its first research campus, the Janelia Farm Research Campus, on October 5, 2006.

Nasher Museum of Art by Rafael Viñoly in Durham, North Carolina, USA.  Pavillion
Photo: Brad Feinknopf
November 28, 2005 /

Nasher Museum of Art
Rafael Viñoly
Durham, North Carolina, USA

The museum is composed as a series of five pavilions, each containing a specific component of the building program.

Tokyo International Forum by Rafael Viñoly in Tokyo, Japan. Exterior landscape
Photo: arcspace
June 02, 2004 /

Tokyo International Forum
Rafael Viñoly
Tokyo, Japan

The Tokyo International Forum, Japan's largest congress center, is situated on the boundary between Marunouchi, Tokyo's central business area and the Ginza shopping and entertainment district.

The Carl Icahn Laboratory by Rafael Viñoly in Princeton, New Jersey, USA. Interior
Photo: arcspace
January 07, 2003 /

Carl Icahn Laboratory
Rafael Viñoly
Princeton, New Jersey, USA

The atrium has clear uninterrupted panoramic views into the playing field through a lattice-like screen of louvers.

The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts by Rafael Viñoly Architects in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
Photo: Jeff Goldberg
December 10, 2001 /

Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
Rafael Viñoly
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

The Kimmel Center, home to the Philadelphia Orchestra and five other performing arts companies, occupies a full city block in downtown Philadelphia in the transitional zone between the high-rise towers of Center City to the north and the residential neighborhoods of South Philadelphia.

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