Friday, June 5, 2009

My Top 10 Picks from Architectural Digest's 100

For those wanting to see who's hot in the world of architecture these days, Architectural Digest has produced their Top 100 List, along with a short bio of each architect or firm. After having gone through all 100 of their picks, I've narrowed down my favorites to these ten, in no particular order, along with the reasons for my choices. Please forgive any incorrect uses of jargon, as I am still very much a newbie to this field, and must judge from the heart in ignorance, rather than from the mind in knowledge.

Marc Appleton - Classical Style

As a Texan, I have a soft spot for this classic style of architecture, but Appleton takes it to a whole new level. There is not a single element out of place. Where most would have been tempted to adorn the walls with cheap facades, or deliberately contrasting colors for nothing more than the sake of contrast, Appleton seems to have an intrinsic understanding of how to make one's back yard both beautiful and relaxing. Even the pool blends with a quiet, mellow unobtrusiveness that is as inviting as it is pleasant to look at. I see a blended combination of landscaping and architecture that I could just as easily stare at for hours as I could to simply drift off to sleep. Exactly what a home should be.

Peter Bohlin - Natural Style

Bohlin's command of the natural elements is expertly calculated. The generous use of sunlight, placement and balance of the wood and stone, turns what might otherwise be a darker, more somber home, into something that is warm, airy, and bold. This is the upstairs I would want to Saint Dizier's downstairs (see below).

Savin Couëlle - Cavelike Sculpture
I have never seen a more tempting glimpse of the interior of a house. I feel less like I am looking into a house, and more like I am looking into a cross between a natural cave and a sculpture. The smooth flow, meandering curves, irregular shapes, and uniformity of texture gives much the same idea of the ruins of Petra, that most of the structure was already present by the gift of mother nature, and only a few areas needed to be cut away to make it a home. It looks comfortable, livable, and even more natural than the expertly balanced elemental style of Bohlin. Couëlle is absolutley a master at at making a house seem like it was never built, but rather found.

Wallace E. Cunningham - Sleek Art Deco Modernist
If I ever wish to design an evil lair from which hatch devious schemes, I can think of no better architect than Cunningham. The sleek, streamlined curves combined with the almost sterile spartanism, use of metal, stone, and water, almost makes this the grand villain of architecture. The sort of villain one would cheer on in the movie, because the actor playing the part does such a good job that the hero is all but forgotten. The building is deliciously forbidding. I half expect James bond to vault over that wall at any moment.

Eddie Jones - Desert Natural
When I look at Jones's architecture, I am for some reason reminded of the works of Sherman J Alexie. It is not beautiful in the same sense of a supermodel, but rather in the sense of a favorite grandmother with stories of an older time and food you cannot possibly find anywhere else on the planet. Jones's houses are as unassuming as they are unique, and feel like they an extension of the landscape, as opposed to the master of it.

Legoretta + Legoretta - Epically Integrated Landscaping
I'm almost at a loss for words when I consider the incredible amount of work that went into the landscaping on this. Though I have attempted to limit my selections to basing my choices upon the structural architecture as opposed to the landscaping architecture, the point where the structure ends and the landscaping begins is somehow blurred beyond definition, despite the crisp edges and white on green contrast. Legoretta + Legoretta seem more inclined to the epic than the individual, and it seems like any office or university would be lucky to be designed by them. Or more specifically, the employees or students who used the structure and walked the grounds.

Moore Ruble Yudell - Irregular, Eye-Catching Compartments
In this work, Yudell appears to have captured the beach itself and raised it upward towards the sky. The soft, natural tone to the beachfront property is a refreshing and desperately needed change from the alien pastels that so often infect otherwise scenic shores. These walls will look natural in any season, and more to the point, would not have to be repainted every few months. The irregular, eye-catching shapes make it practical to fit an irregularly shaped hillside, as well as providing an interesting point of conversation. Bravo to the beachouse that dares to be different for practical, rather than showy reasons. And speaking of which...

Bart Prince - Oddly Unique
I am, at least in this stage of my schooling, not a big fan of "different for the sake of being different." I believe that form should follow function, and that if the house takes the needs of its inhabitants and addresses the beauty and problems the local environment poses, then the practical result will be far more elegant than the contrived one. Yet here, clear as day, is the exception to the rule. Prince's entire philosophy seems centered around different for the sake of different, yet the form, function, and needs of the inhabitants are all met in a house unlike any other on the planet.

Jacques Saint Dizier - Lovely Mastery of Environment
The downstairs to Bohlin's upstairs. Saint Dizier has managed to turn the very environment itself into a wall... or perhaps more accurately, removed the very need for a wall. As relaxing as Appleton's backyard appears, the interior of this room looks as peaceful and relaxing as I could possibly hope for on a quiet Saturday morning with my cup of coffe and a good book. And if I were feeling particularly industrious that morning, I could sit down on the patio chair and fish right off the deck.

Diego Villaseñor - Oldworld Crossover
Words fail me. Villaseñor is my new favorite. This is not merely great architecture: this is art at its finest. I want to frame this scene and put it up on my wall. I hope it is not presumptuous to refer to him as "The Mexican Frank Lloyd Wright," for I mean it in the highest of praise, as Frank Lloyd Wright is my architectural hero. I will be studying Diego Villaseñor's works for the rest of my life, and have been given new reason to return to the beautiful state of Jalisco, Mexico.

So there it is, a sampling of Architectural Digest's Top 100 and my own personal tastes to boot. I look forward to researching the works of all of these architects and firms, and I have little doubt I will run into their works time and time again as the pinnacle of their field. Perhaps, one day, I shall have the honor of joining their ranks.

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