2006 Annual Design Review Environments Design Distinction

Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
The jurors exuded an air of skepticism as they first considered the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh addition by Koning Eizenberg Architecture. Was it just a box? Did it link together two other existing buildings in a compelling way? They were intrigued by the building’s exterior, designed in collaboration with sculptor Ned Kahn and composed of thousands of 5-inch translucent acrylic panels (what the architects call a “lantern”) enshrouding the structure like a sequined veil. But it was difficult through photographs to ascertain precisely how this kinetic skin looked. Then someone popped in the DVD, and three jaws collectively dropped. The footage showed the building’s cladding rippling and fluttering in a strong wind, sending spellbinding patterns across its face. “Oh, it’s beautiful!” exclaimed Roy. “Wow, that’s stunning—they did it,” said Diller. “It reminds me of the beaded curtains in the Four Seasons,” Arad added. Roy surmised that the effect from the inside would be equally dramatic, as the panels, acting as a dynamic brise-soleil, shifted to allow varying amounts of light. Diller appreciated that “it’s a real piece of architecture; it’s not temporary,” which led to a debate over exactly what was being celebrated. “It’s not great architecture, it’s a great screen,” countered Arad. “It’s transformative, making for a dynamic and fun kids’ museum.” Diller suggested a compromise: “Let’s not call it a piece of architecture. Let’s call it a wonderful environmental sculpture.”

DESIGN Koning Eizenberg Architecture (Santa Monica, CA): Hank Koning, Julie Eizenberg, principal architects; Roderick Villafranca, project manager. Perkins Eastman Architects (Los Angeles): Richard Northway, Jr., principal architect of record. Ned Kahn (Sebastopol, CA), environmental artist. Pentagram Design (New York): Paula Scher, graphic/environmental design
CLIENT Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
MATERIALS Steel, glass, translucent acrylic, wind
SOFTWARE PowerCAD

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