Five Building Designers Who Are Redefining Modern Architecture

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I'm Steve Ember. And I'm Barbara Klein with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we tell about five important building designers widely considered some of the top architects at work today. They are Robert Venturi, Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando, Zaha Hadid, and Daniel Libeskind. They have all created important examples of modern architecture in very different ways.  You can see their energizing and imaginative contributions to modern design in buildings around the world.

The writings and buildings of American architect Robert Venturi have helped redefine the path of modern architecture since the nineteen sixties. The Vanna Venturi house in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was one of his first important projects. Venturi designed the house for his mother in nineteen sixty-two. He has said that the house is complex and full of contradictions. For example, the house is small, but it has large details that make it seem big. And, the house is modern while also containing details from traditional architecture.

In his buildings and writings, Robert Venturi calls for a kind of modern architecture that shows the influences of history while also including popular culture. He rejected the kind of modern design that was pure and simple in favor of a modern look that was a mixture of styles and influences. His writings helped begin what is often called the post-modern movement.

Examples of his buildings include the addition to the National Gallery in London, England. Venturi designed this large building on Trafalgar Square as a more modern version of the museum's nineteenth century main building. His other museum projects include the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, California and the Seattle Museum of Art in Washington. Venturi also designed buildings at many American colleges, including Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Frank Gehry grew up in Canada. In his free time as a child, he would make small versions of buildings out of pieces of wood. In nineteen forty-seven, his family moved to the United States, where Gehry began his university studies in architecture.

Frank Gehry believes that architecture is art. He has said that in some ways he has been more influenced by artists and sculptors than by architects. This may be why his buildings often look like energetic sculptures made from bold geometric forms.

Famous examples of his designs include the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, finished in nineteen-eighty nine. His "Dancing House" is in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. This playful building, finished in nineteen ninety-six, looks like two dancers.

Gehry's most famous building is the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao in Spain which was completed in nineteen ninety-seven. Most of the curving building is covered in titanium. It looks like a dancing metal wave sitting on the edge of a river. The curved surfaces of this building and others by Gehry are so complex to build that they require computer programs.

More recently, Frank Gehry designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California. This huge metal covered building was designed to look like the sails of a boat. Frank Gehry's buildings are so popular that some people say they create a "Gehry effect." This term is used for a building that attracts visitors because of the famous architect who designed it.

We have described some famous buildings around the world that are architectural wonders.  You might not think that a parking area near a tram station would be a project of one of the most famous names in modern architecture. But the car park and terminus in Strasbourg, France are a good example of the skill and creativity of Zaha Hadid. This parking area for seven hundred cars is a play of energetic lines. Nearby, the futuristic tram station is made up of sharp angles and geometric shapes.

Zaha Hadid has designed other striking buildings such as the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Arts in Cincinnati, Ohio. For this boldly boxy design, she created an entry walkway area that slowly curves and becomes a wall inside the building. Hadid is known for designing and completing structures that seem almost impossible on paper. She says that architecture is clearly about shelter, but it must also bring pleasure.

Born in Iraq, Zaha Hadid completed her architectural studies in Britain, where she now lives.  In two thousand four, Hadid became the first woman to win the important Pritzker Prize for architecture. Thomas Pritzker presented the award. He said that her work organizes land, space, structure, and person so that each is inseparable from the other, and each calls to the other.

Current projects of Hadid and her architects include the Glasgow Transport Museum in Scotland and the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University.

Tadao Ando is a Japanese architect who has mainly worked in and around his city of Osaka. Ando never studied for a degree in architecture. Instead, he taught himself about modern architecture by visiting buildings and reading books.

Tadao Ando's first projects were houses. In nineteen ninety-three he won Japan's Culture Design Prize for the Rokko housing project. These simple but striking concrete houses are built along the side of a hill overlooking Osaka Bay.

Ando is known for using unfinished reinforced concrete as a building material. And he is known for making buildings with simple designs that are closely connected to the natural environment.

Tadao Ando says that when you create a building, you cannot simply put something new in a place. He says you have to understand what you see around you, what is on the land. He says you must use that knowledge along with modern thinking to plan a building design.

Ando also built the Church of Light. This religious building in Osaka is very simple in its design, but very beautiful. The main room is made of concrete. There is nothing on the walls except an opening in the concrete. The opening creates two bars of light in the form of a cross.

In two thousand two, his Modern Art Museum opened in Fort Worth, Texas. The building is so striking that you have to remind yourself to also look at the art. The concrete and glass museum is built next to a body of water, so it almost seems to float. The glass walls let natural light into the space while also allowing visitors to look out across the water to see the city.

Daniel Libeskind was born in Poland, but grew up in the United States. He began his career as a teacher of building design. Libeskind's first project was the new building of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany, which opened to the public in two thousand one. It is a zinc-covered building made up of bold bending lines and sharp angles. Many areas of the building were designed to represent different parts of Jewish history and culture. Libeskind has said that architecture is about communicating. He says that he built this museum to tell a complex story in many different ways.

His extension to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada opened in June of last year.  The sharp angles of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal building make it look like a large glass and aluminum gem. The five interlocking spaces of this building required very complex engineering skills to create.

Daniel Libeskind also has many projects in the United States. The tall extensions of the Denver Art Museum in Colorado are covered in silver-colored titanium metal. Libeskind says the building was influenced by the light and environment of the nearby Rocky Mountains.

Libeskind and his team of architects are currently working on an apartment building in Covington, Kentucky and a shopping center in Las Vegas, Nevada. His Creative Media Centre at the City University of Hong Kong in China is expected to be finished in two thousand ten.

We did not have time to talk about all the other imaginative architects at work today. But the designs of Robert Venturi, Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando, Zaha Hadid, and Daniel Libeskind are a good start for learning about the exciting world of modern building design.

This program was written and produced by Dana Demange.  I'm Barbara Klein. And I'm Steve Ember. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.  Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Voice of America Special English

Source: Five Building Designers Who Are Redefining Modern Architecture
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