Sculptural is a term often used to describe architecture which is unusual or out of the ordinary. Statement architecture is another description – it usually refers to the type of building where the aesthetic of the structure is more important than its function. But should a building ever be more important than its contents?
This approach can work in terms of a museum or for putting a city on the map – the Guggenheim Museum (designed by Frank Gehry) certainly put the industrial city of Bilbao on the map in 1997, but I don’t believe it is a good museum. I remember the building completely, but none of the art that was on display (or was that the fault of the art?).
On the other hand, although the Jewish Museum in Berlin (designed by Daniel Libeskind) did not work as a museum in the traditional sense (the exhibits were extremely minimal), it worked in a very different and quite unique way.
Again, I remember none of the exhibits displayed at this museum – yet even now, ten years since my visit, I can still remember how incredibly powerful the experience was. I am surprised that the museum is not better known, this is probably because it is not a curvaceous or attractive as the Guggenheim, yet it is like no other structure I have ever experienced – the building itself manipulated my emotions.
So, sculptural architecture can work for grand statements – but can it work as a home?
The Clip House in Madrid (designed by F. Javier Bernalte and Jose Luis Leon) is such a home. It was apparently short-listed in the European Copper in Architecture Awards 2oo9 (is that a real award!). It is certainly a striking building and definitely has the ‘wow’ factor and I would love to have a really good look around. But is it livable?
Like many other people, I am not qualified to answer this question. I will never have enough money (or a big enough ego) to make such a statement. We can only surmise from pictures what it may be like to experience on a daily basis. This is not as easy as it may seem – photos of interiors are usually bereft of life, they are taken before people move in, everything is perfect and uncluttered by reality. If you can imagine these perfect caves messed up a bit, would they really look as good? Maybe – but if they still feel as lifeless I don’t think they’re really suitable for cosy living. But if a generous person is willing to let me stay in such a building, I am quite willing to be proved wrong…