Matthew Robert Rauch
Rana Plaza Memorial City
Factory and Housing Complex in Dhaka, Bangladesh
The city of Dhaka, Bangladesh, is not a traditional city with a defined core and periphery, but rather a collection of centers consisting of large-scale institutional and manufacturing districts. The typical factory complex in Dhaka is poorly planned, colliding with the informal settlements that grow around it and leaving no room for public life. Because of the large number of factories that make up the fabric of the city, the factory is an ideal type to introduce a new sense of monumentality and civic identity. This proposal is located in the garment-producing suburb of Savar, at the site of the tragic Rana Plaza factory collapse that occurred in April 2013 and claimed over 1200 lives. The excavated foundations of the collapsed building are repurposed as a sunken memorial space, and a grand civic axis connects this memorial site to an existing temple complex to the east.
Another missed opportunity from Herzog and de Meuron
Located on the Vitra campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany, the VitraHaus is yet another architectural one-liner from Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron. One of the most recent additions to the furniture company’s rich architectural campus, the building contains showrooms for Vitra’s home collection as well as a café, conference room, and museum shop. The basic idea of the building was to create a showroom that reflected the domestic nature of the collection rather than the “neutral environment of a convention hall or museum.” What started as a conceptually strong idea was executed with a surprisingly childish simplicity and lack of rigor, a missed opportunity that can be found in the building’s form and treatment of context.
At first glance, the most prominent feature of the building is its iconic appearance of stacked house volumes, a result of the architects’ shallow interpretation of the building’s function. The architects justify their formal decisions by saying that the building’s exterior reflects the processes of “stacking, extruding, and pressing” often used in industrial production. According to them, by extruding the archetypal form of a pitched roof house and stacking the resulting volumes, the architects are referencing the industrial nature of the Vitra campus. But is this thin, primarily visual analogy justified relative to the resulting functioning, cost, and overall impact of the building? The nature and scale of architectural construction is vastly different from industrial production, and the analogy is not productive in creating any added meaning for the building.
Emerald Harbor Amsterdam
Despite the Marine Etablissement’s historic importance and prominent location within the city of Amsterdam, the site has remained isolated because of its use as an active naval base. In addition to this programmatic isolation, a series of boundaries have further separated it from the rest of the city, including the railroad tracks to the north, the historic wall to the east, and the Nemo Museum and IJ Tunnel to the southwest. As a result of these large-scale infrastructural and spatial structures, the entire central harbor district of Amsterdam has the character of a leftover space, lacking a fully developed public realm.
This masterplan for the Marine Etablissement opens new connections in all directions from the given site, but also includes the entire central harbor district in its scope. A network of pocket parks and pathways lining the harbor links the historic city with newer developments to the north and east, and makes the Marine Etablissement an integral part of the center of Amsterdam. The historic site is used as a conference center, residential neighborhood, and a public park, becoming both a local and international destination for the city.