Vassar Quarterly - Spring 2018 - 19
"There is a craft element that
has re-entered architecture."
-Karen Van Lengen '73, UVA
There have always been buildings that scream
"look at me," wowing onlookers with their bold
designs. Now, with more cutting-edge innovations
in building technologies, architects are able to
express their creativity like never before. Even in
New York City, where boxy skyscrapers that use up
every precious square foot of their footprint are the
norm, building designers have been increasingly
expressing their individuality. "There is a trend
toward being more daring," says Benjamin Prosky
'99, Executive Director of the American Institute of
Architects, New York Chapter (AIANY).
As an example, he points to Columbia University
Medical Center's new Roy and Diana Vagelos
Education Center, designed by Diller Scofidio +
Renfro, a 14-story glass tower accented by geometrical concrete forms that tumble down an exposed
staircase along one side of the building. "It's an
incredibly expressive building," he says. "It wants
to show itself off on the outside with a flourish. It
isn't contained in a box." The building employs a
number of innovative technologies, including glassfiber reinforced concrete to help support its unusual
forms and specially coated glass to minimize sunlight
glare and maximize energy-all uniquely shaped
to fit into place.
"There is a craft element that has re-entered
architecture," says Van Lengen. With new technologies such as computer modeling, 3-D printing, and
fabrication labs, architects investigate new
materials and collaborate with engineers throughout the design of a project.
These new technologies are allowing architects
to create new forms that would have been impossible without sophisticated computer algorithms.
Yair Keshet '03 has worked as a designer with
architect Preston Scott Cohen on several museum
projects based on a form known as a hyperbolic
paraboloid, which is curved on two planes at once,
like a saddle or a Pringles potato chip. The buildings have a luscious sculptural quality; they are
made up of hundreds of interlocking concrete
panels that together create an undulating shape.
VA S S A r Q U A r T E r LY