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Thursday, March 31, 2011

April Fool’s Day Architecture

posted in: Strange | posted by: Ian Harrison on April 1, 2010 |

April Fool’s Day is one of those annual traditions that people either follow fervently or ignore with blatant indifference. Sort of like Valentine’s Day or Halloween if you will. Well now that the day is upon us, we thought it rather appropriate to look at some international April Fool’s day festivals, pranks, events and other assorted odds and ends.

But then we thought of a better topic. Why not focus on some crazy, otherworldly architectural marvels that defy description and seem to scream “April Fool’s!”?

So with that in mind, check out some awesome, unorthodox “April Fool’s” architecture.

Eminent British architect Lord Norman Foster has been at the helm of some of the most notable structures of the past century. These include a ridiculous array of skyline classics, such as “The Gherkin” or 30 St Mary Axe in London, London City Hall, Al Faisaliyah Center in Riyadh, Millau Viaduct in France and Hearst Tower in New York City.

One project that stands out in the Foster + Partners roster however, is in Astana. The capital of Kazakhstan is going through a comprehensive renaissance and transformation of late, at the ambitious behest of controversial President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Foster + Partners is already behind three projects in the city of 800,000 people, from the spectacular Palace of Peace and Reconciliation opera house to the Astana Markets supertall skyscraper development.

Foster’s most eccentric and avant-garde contribution to Astana’s new cityscape however, has to be the Khan Shatyry Entertainment Centre. The Foster + Partners corporate website calls the project “a dramatic civic focal point” but to be honest, the term seems to vastly underestimate the multi-purpose facility’s peerless design. Khan Shatyry is basically a massive elliptical tent which spans 100,000 m2. Complete with climate control systems, the development will feature a massive urban park, concert hall, public square, cobblestone promenades and beach resort.

The Sage Gateshead is another April Fool’s-like structure that completely punctuates the River Tyne skyline of Newcastle. The controversial project is another Foster + Partners baby and one that draws scorn and praise from locals. No matter what you think of the bulbous, shiny, metallic “slug” however, you simply can’t ignore the multi-purpose cultural landmark when you visit the fine city of Newcastle.

Architect Jean Nouvel won the Pritzker Prize in 2008. While his name may not resonate with most people, those who visit or live in either Barcelona, Madrid, Cologne or Copenhagen know Nouvel’s works well (whether they realize it or not). The architect is the creative force behind the Torre Agbar, Reina Sofia Museum addition, KölnTurm office tower and Copenhagen Concert Hall.

Nouvel’s Louvre project for the city of Abu Dhabi is going to turn heads. Set to finish in 2013, the branch of the famous museum on the U.A.E. capital’s new leisure and entertainment island of Saadiyat is without precedent. While Louvre Abu Dhabi is cause for controversy within the artistic and “museums are not for sale” community, those who question the institution’s motives can’t fault Nouvel’s unorthodox approach to the development. The museum will certainly not resemble any other on the planet. Louvre Abu Dhabu will also have a formidable competitor on Saadiyat Island in Frank Gehry’s monumental Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.

Another April Fool’s shout-out to Herzog & de Meuron Architekten, the Swiss firm behind such memorable landmarks as the Tate Modern and Laban Dance Centre in London, M.H. de Young Museum in San Francisco and brilliant Allianz Arena football stadium in Munich. The firm’s most unusual creations however, may just be the CaixaForum art gallery in Madrid and Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Lest we forget, Herzog & de Meuron was the brainchild behind Beijing National (Bird’s Nest) Stadium.

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