Oculus - Summer 2013 - (Page 55)

last words R H E T O R I C A L LY S P E A K I N G Isn’t It Iconic? ©Kristen Richards If you try to be an icon, then the icon becomes you. —from “Icon” in the album Manhay, Daan Stuyven, 2009 ©Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park ©New York City Center ©Al-Jazera Consultants de Kerret and Bell at the iconic New York Yacht Club. 2013 AIANY Design Awards n semiology as in architecture, an icon is a sign or construction whose form directly reflects the thing it signifies. The word icon, from the Greek εἰκών, generally means likeness or image. But iconic architecture has taken on a somewhat more provocative sense, referencing buildings that are described as timeless or as targets, of overarching importance, and as creators of civic context. The iconographic potential of extraordinary structures can often be recognized through logotypes seen as maquettes or miniatures, models of the project. An iconic building can be, in Charles Baudelaire’s words from “Correspondances” in Les Fleurs du Mal (written in 1857, the year the AIA was founded), “a temple in which living pillars sometimes let slip indistinct words – into a shadowy and profound whole” or “infinite things – that sing of the transports of the spirit and the senses.” (Translation by Cat Nilan, 2004.) This year 12 distinguished jurors picked 42 award-winning buildings, interiors, projects, and sites, some of which will prove, over time, to be iconic. Many of these award winners symbolize durability, convenience, and delight. These Vitruvian principles can also be considered as criteria for evaluating the visual identity of their graphic representation. The Al Hamra Tower in Kuwait City, by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, has a logotype whose shape recalls the 1,354-foot-tall swoop of the built form. It was inspired by the name of the tower when written in Arabic. The logo’s designers say they “mirrored the tower in so many ways, combining ancient and new characteristics that reflect the harmony between mass and space.” By shape and color, the graphic symbol is meant to reflect and evoke attributes of the building, including “strength, power, defiance, and steadfastness.” The height, poetry, and pro forma of Al Hamra may determine its long-term importance. But its logo, betting on that success, emphasizes its ambition. Closer to home is the $75-million renovation by Ennead Architects of the famed New York City Center on West 55th Street. This landmark performing arts space hosted the Mayor’s Awards for I Arts and Culture earlier this year. FutureBrand, the graphic designers of the theater’s logo, wrote that “a bold visual identity was created to bring New York City Center’s story to life” – one that evokes the architecture of the building itself and calls to mind the shape of the stage and façade, using “patterns and colors found in the facility to speak to its beauty and diversity.” There is an inheritance from the past and a glance toward the future – movement and change are glimmering in both the logo and the building. Looking at these award-winning places and others, such as Louis I. Kahn’s Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island, we ask: Is each place an object or a sign? At the FDR park, the rectilinear stones, paralleled in the logo, embody each of the Four Freedoms (of speech, of religion, from want, and from fear) in a shape that conjures up durability and evokes a succession of megaliths or menhirs. In these diverse typologies – an office tower in the desert, a renovated concert hall in Manhattan, and a long-delayed memorial on a previously quarantined urban island – the notion of “icon” is ambivalent. It is simultaneously what announces but also grounds each building. These structures are first and foremost functional shells housing public uses that become a visible index of a culture of place. But, as exuberant expressions of the moment and the future, these award winners are a large part of what an architectural enthusiast comes to visit and value. The architecture becomes the most important part of the visual experience. And the logo representing each structure becomes the miniaturized symbol – the architectural cameo – of the project as both commodity and community. In John Ruskin’s words, “When we build, let us think that we build forever.” Ditto for the graphics. Rick Bell, FAIA Executive Director, AIA New York Chapter Gwenaëlle de Kerret Semiotician – Qualitative Research Director Harris Interactive, Paris Summer 2013 Oculus 55 http://www.naylornetwork.com/arc-nxt/

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Summer 2013

First Words Letter from the President
Center for Architecture
Urban Design
Rhetorically Speaking
Index to Advertisers

Oculus - Summer 2013