All of us, at some point in our lives, have come across some weird-looking,
sort-of distorted, and nearly-impossible-to-comprehend buildings that actually make us wonder how anyone could have possibly designed, let alone actually built them! Known for producing some of the most unique art and visually striking structures, deconstructivism is defined and characterised by the use of fragmentation, manipulation and redefinition of shape and forms. In other words, deconstructivism focusses more on the freedom of form, rather than just its functional concerns.
Deconstructivism began developing from the period of Post Modernism, which began in the late 1980s. This unique, fragmented style of architecture gained attention in 1982, at the Parc de la Villette architectural competition. Bernard Tschumi, one the leading names in the field of deconstructivism, won the competition with his innovative entry. Later, in 1988, a show titled Deconstructivist Architecture was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In this show, prominent names of the styles were featured. Bernard Tschumi, Frank Gehry, Peter Eisenman, Zaha Hadid, and many others were the pioneering people of this historic, groundbreaking movement.
Design at its visionary best is both engaging and inspiring. At first glance, these buildings can have a primary visual effect of being chaotic or unorthodox and mind-bending; but they’re actually planned and executed with utmost precision and calculation. This unique form of architecture aims to perplex its visitors by making their visit or stay in that space an experience to be remembered for a lifetime.
According to critics, the main goal of deconstructivism was ‘removing the essence of architecture’. And indeed, deconstructivism was a huge step away from the most basic elements of architecture.
Even today, most architects design and build homes that ‘fit in’, while others like to stand out and make a mark, creating a statement. While architecture remains one of the most underrated forms of art even today, here’s celebrating some of the most unique forms of ‘Deconstructivist Architecture’ from across the globe!
Experience Musiac Project Museum, Seattle
Designed by Frank Gehry, this mind-bending structure, located on the campus of Seattle Center, is the perfect amalgamation of various media, technology, exhibits, and hands-on activities, which are held in this very attractive venue. What’s unique about this museum is that it combines the interpretive aspects of a traditional museum with the educational role of a school, and the state-of-the-art research facilities of a specialized library. At the EMP Museum, creativity and innovation are celebrated via a variety of practices.
The unique clusters of colourful curving elements are embroidered using a variety of materials. The entire concept of this building and its fragmented forms are inspired by the image of a shattered Fender Stratocaster. This building was built in part to commemorate one of America’s most creative and influential artists – Jimi Hendrix. The roof is made up of 21,000 panels of stainless steel, and their shades range from purple, gold, and silver, to aluminum red and blue. Each panel is of a unique shape and size. Further, each panel is cut and warped specifically to fit its precise placement.
Earlier known as the Experience Music Project Museum (EMP Museum) and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame (SFM), it’s now known as the Museum of Pop Culture or the MoPOP. It is a non-profit museum, fully dedicated to contemporary popular culture. Founded in 2000 by Microsoft’s co-founder Paul Allen, this museum has organised more than a dozen exhibits, many of which have toured the entire country, and also internationally. The museum has also founded many public programs including Sound Off! – an annual 21-and-under battle-of-the-bands. The Pop Conference is another programme hosted by the museum, which is an annual gathering of academics, critics, music buffs, and musicians.
Parc de la Villette, Paris
Known as one of the most daring architects of his time, Bernard Tschumi, a French man of Swiss origin, openly rejected the traditionalist mentality in the field of architecture and very enthusiastically pioneered the deconstructivism movement. He focussed more on the pleasures of designing and stressed the uselessness of architecture. He mostly aimed at including irrationality and perversion into his work.
This uniquely designed park is the most unprecedented in that it is based on culture, rather than on nature. Built from 1984 to 1987 in partnership with Coil Fournier, this park is filled with areas that are created for interaction, relaxation, play, gatherings, and is a part of an urban redevelopment project. During the summers, this park becomes an open-air cinema. Parc de la Villette is often criticised for being too large and for not being built with the consideration for the scale of human needs. It comes through as a conceptual approach to the way people feel with in a larger urban setting, where everything is cramped and overcrowded. And then, all of a sudden, the vast open space is at hand!
The design of Parc de la Villette is organised into a series of lines, points, and surfaces. This spatial relation and formulation is used in Bernard Tschumi’s design, to act as a way of deconstructing the otherwise traditional views of how a park is conventionally meant to be. Ever since its completion in 1987, this park has always been a popular spot among the residents of Paris, and is famous among international travellers. An estimated 10 million people visit Parc de la Villette each year, to take part in various cultural activities. It remains an award-winning project, and one of the most recognisable works of deconstructivism.
The Dancing House, Prague
Located in Prague, Czech Republic, the Dancing House or the Fred and Ginger is the nickname given to the Nationale-Nederlanden building on the Rašín Embankment. The property on which the Dancing House is built also holds a lot of historic significance. The house that was originally built on this plot was destroyed by the US bombing of Prague in 1945. The plot remained as is until 1960. The Dancing House was designed in 1992 by Vlado Milunić – a Croatian-Czech architect, in cooperation with the Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, and was completed four years later.
This unique, non-traditional design was very controversial at the time, because the house stands out among the Art Nouveau, Baroque, and Gothic buildings – for which Prague is very famous. However, the then-Czech President – Václav Havel (who happened to live next to the site for decades) avidly supported the project, somehow hoping that the building would become a centre for future cultural activities. The Dancing House was originally named Fred and Ginger – after the famous dancers – Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It is remarkable how much the house resembles a pair of dancers. The one-of-a-kind structure is a striking modern contrast to the city’s infrastructure.
Nine floors tall, with two floors underground, the Dancing House resembles the shape of a man and a woman dancing together, with their hands showing, and her skirt swaying to the music. The unique curvature design of the glass actually does resemble a skirt-wearing figure, as it embraces its partner. There are 99 concrete panels in total – each with a different dimension and shape that perfectly contribute to the shape of the building. The top of the Dancing House features a large twisted structure made out of metal that is nicknamed Mary. British architect Eva Jiřičná did the interior of this house.
The Keret House, Poland
Located in Warsaw, Poland, the Keret House is a structure and art installation (art installation because it does not meet the Polish building codes) that was designed by Jakub Szczęsny, an architect via Centrala, an architectural firm. The two-story art installation is named after its first tenant – Etgar Keret, an Israeli writer and moviemaker. Etgar Keret said that this house is like a memorial to his parents, who died in World War II when Nazi Germany occupied Poland. This one-of-a-kind house has been described as the narrowest house in the whole world! At its thinnest point, the Keret House measures 3.02 feet (92 centimetres) and, at its widest, it measures 4.99 feet (152 centimetres). The Warsaw Town Hall and the Polish Modern Art Foundation supported the construction of this unique house.
This iron art structure has two floors, one bedroom, a bathroom, a small kitchen, and a tiny living area. The entry to the Keret House is via the retractable stairs that convert into the living area when closed. A ladder connects one floor to the other. It also has two windows (which cannot be opened, but allows sunlight to enter via its translucent glass panels). The entire house is painted white. The electricity is obtained from a neighbouring building. With a special custom water and sewage technology attached to it, the structure is not connected to the city-provided water system. In 2019, the Keret House was named one of the most iconic houses in the world. It has also appeared on the list of international projects, which were honoured by Iconic House, a famous architectural portal.
UFA – Cinema Center, Dresden
Designed by Coop Himmelblau, the UFA Cinema Center is a modernist deconstructivist structure that has risen from the ashes of the firebomb-ravaged city of Dresden in Germany. This structure confronts the issue of public space, which is currently endangered in many European cities. The UFA has an urban functionality to it and disintegrates the single-purposed notions of the other buildings.
The design of the UFA Cinema Center is characterised by two inter-connected building units, namely the Cinema Block and the Crystal. The cinema block opens up towards the street. There are eight cinemas that are located in the first block, and can house upto 2,600 guests. The Crystal is a glass shell, which was earlier a functional entry hall to the cinemas, and now mostly serves as a foyer and as a public square. The bridges, ramps, and stairs to the cinemas are an urban expression of this unique architectural style. It allows the views of the movement of the people on multiple levels. This unfolds the urban space into three dimensions. The Skybar – the ‘floating’ double-cone that is inside the foyer is accessible. The insides of the building are very much visible to the city, just as much as the city is visible from the building. The deconstructivist style of architecture is an inside-out building, which sustains a dialogue with the city.
Beijing National Stadium
Famously known as the Bird’s Nest, Beijing National Stadium was a joint design venture between two architects: Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. The stadium was specifically designed for the 2008 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. After a bidding process that included 13 final submissions, the design of this stadium was finally given for submission in April 2003 from Herzog & de Meuron – a famous Swiss architectural firm. The stadium cost a whopping $428 million, and was officially opened on June 28 2008.
The unique design of this stadium originated from the study of Chinese ceramics (leading Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was the project’s artistic consultant). It suggested the implementation of steel beams in order to hide the supports of the retractable roof. This unique feature gave the stadium the appearance of a bird’s nest. However, the retractable roof was removed from the main design, after inspiring the stadium’s most important aspect. The stadium is made up of two individual structures that stand 50 feet apart. 24-trussed columns encase the inner bowl, and each one weighs 1,000 tonnes. The stadium has a seating capacity of 91,000 people!
The Beijing National Stadium will once again be used during the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.