The architecture of Jacques Herzog (born 1950) and Pierre de Meuron (born 1950) combines the artistry of an age-old profession with the fresh approach of a new century’s technical capabilities. Both architects’ roots in European tradition are combined with current technology in extraordinarily inventive architectural solutions to their clients’ needs that range from a modest switching station for trains to an entirely new approach to the design of a winery.
HIGHLIGHT: HERZOG & DE MEURON
They founded their Swiss architecture firm – Herzog & de Meuron Architekten – in 1978, headquartered in Basel, Switzerland. Their careers closely paralleled one another, with both attending the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich. They are perhaps best known for their conversion of the giant Bankside Power Station in London to the new home of the Tate Museum of Modern Art (2000) and the 2016 extension Tate Modern Switch House. Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron have been visiting professors at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design since 1994 and professors at ETH Zürich since 1999.
The beginnings of most architects’ practices consists by necessity of small projects with budgets to match. It is these early buildings with great constraints that test an architect’s talent for original solutions to often ordinary and utilitarian commissions. In the case of Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, the railroad signal box was such a project. They transformed a nondescript structure in a railroad yard into a dramatic and artistic work of industrial architecture, captivating both by day and night. The Signal Box (1994) was the project that pleased the jury to award the 2001 Pritzker Architecture Prize to them for advancing the art of architecture, a significant contribution to furthering the definition of architecture as one of the premier art forms in this new century and millennium.
These two architects, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, with their intensity and passion for using the enduring palette of brick, stone, glass and steel to express new solutions in new forms as in the Laban Dance Centre (2003) or the Museu Blau (2012) in Barcelona, which is remarkable for its sensitive use of materials. Designed to showcase the silhouettes of dancers without compromising their privacy, the Trinity Laban Dance Centre’s 13 dance studios are arranged around the perimeter of the building and clad with translucent polycarbonate in an exciting variety of colours.
The catalogue of their work reflects this diversity of interest and accomplishment. Through their houses, municipal and business structures, museums and master planning, they display a sure command of their design talent that has resulted in a distinguished body of completed projects. We mention here one of Herzog and de Meuron’s latest projects (2017); a daringly formed skyscraper in New York. Named “56 Leonard” after its address, the skyscraper’s unique, Jenga-esque form, sets it apart from the city’s many rectangular towers. The 60-storey skyscraper comprises of a series of stacked blocks that are increasingly offset from one another as the tower rises.
For the 1111 Lincoln Road that includes the transformation of the massive Suntrust Bank building from the 1970s into a publicly accessible place, Jacques Herzog stated that this building will reinterpret the essence of Tropical Modernism. It somehow reminds of the modern movement in Brazil, with raw structures providing shade, while containing smaller enclosing sub-elements. The slabs stand over a set of irregular columns, giving a sense of a precarious equilibrium.
This kind of ingenuity and imagination continues to characterize their work, whether it is a series of stacked pitched-roof boxed VitraHaus (2009) – simply shaped houses that become complex configurations in space, where outside and inside merge or early industrial age reminiscences transformed as an urban magnet attraction, the CaixaForum arts centre (2008).
Students of architecture with keen antennae discovered this duo long before the rest of the world. Both of the principals have been internationally sought after as lecturers at prestigious universities where they have followed the tradition in architecture of passing the experience of one generation on to another. They refine the traditions of modernism to elemental simplicity, while transforming materials and surfaces through the exploration of new treatments and techniques. As one of the most admired architecture firms in the world, the architects works are awarded with many prizes, such as the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg (2016), an unreal glacial edifice of frozen music. One of the largest and acoustically most advanced concert halls in the world, the building marries well with its context by echoing the vocabulary of the city’s historical façades.
Source: herzogdemeuron.com; pritzkerprize.com