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13 buildings that shout out loud: steel + glass + stone = love

13 January 2011 One Comment

People always have a predilection towards a predominant construction material, when choosing to design public or private structures. The decision to use a certain material was always made after considering three aspects: the period of the construction & its role, the predominant architectural style of the era and the architects’ favorite construction materials & methods.

For centuries, stone was the only choice for buildings that were made to last. But developing new and fast ways of producing and using materials like concrete, metal and glass revolutionized architecture, and with it the designs and their message. Stone represents constancy over time, steel imposes grandeur and induces a massive look for building, while glass gives elegance and clearness for the whole structure.

What happens when these three primary materials are combined? Here are 13 lovely answers:

1. James Farley Post Office, New York City, USA

1. James Farley Post Office, New York City, USA-2

1. James Farley Post Office, New York City, USA -1

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The main post office in New York was developed on a glass and steel structure, displaying a unique Corinthian stone façade. The carefully detailed Corinthian columns represent the longest giant order colonnade of this style in the whole world. Access to the interior is made through an unbroken flight of steps over the colonnade. The columns cover a line of huge steel-framed windows that allow post workers to get enough sunlight every day.

Behind the delivery and receiving offices there was a mail handling room covered by a 206 ft long and 160 ft wide glass ceiling, to allow post officer inspectors from the above level to inspect undergoing work. Steel and other ironworks were used for numerous decorations across the buildings that are still visible today.

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2. Fallingwater, Pittsburgh, USA

2. Fallingwater, Pittsburgh, USA-1

2. Fallingwater, Pittsburgh, USA-2

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Designed by the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater (otherwise known as Kaufmann Residence) is one of the most impressive houses ever built. This amazingly beautiful structure is partly built over a waterfall on Bear Run, in an idyllic forest from Pennsylvania.

The house walls are completely built from stone taken from a nearby quarry. To support the entire weight of the house, the first floor’s structure is made out of reinforced steel.

Wright was influenced by the Japanese architecture in this design, therefore there are many sides of the structure where stone walls are replaced by glass. Moreover, another impressive feature is the lack of the metal frame around the glass. There is a special stonework that works as a frame, giving a feeling of perfect harmony between this architectural wonder and its surroundings.

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3. Barcelona Pavilion, Barcelona, Spain

3. Barcelona Pavilion, Barcelona, Spain-1

3. Barcelona Pavilion, Barcelona, Spain-2

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Designed by Ludwig van der Rohe for the 1929 International Exposition, this building served as Germany’s Pavilion at the exhibition. Combining marble with travertine in this daring and extravagant design made this building famous worldwide. The authenticity of this modernist structure kept the building standing for more than eight decades after closing the exposition.

The actual version was reconstructed in 1986 on the original site and preserved the original features. The Barcelona Pavilion is a magnificent minimal blend of steel, glass and four types of marble. It was designed as a continuous space, blurring inside and outside. This idea created a powerful trend that still continues to influence all the modernist private houses.

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4. Empire State Building, New York City, USA

4. Empire State Building, New York City, USA-1

4. Empire State Building, New York City, USA-2

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This 102-story high skyscraper is probably one of the most famous landmarks in New York City. Often referred to as one of the seven wonders of modern architecture, this amazing tower continues to be the tallest skyscraper in NYC and the third tallest in USA.

The 80 years old structure is currently undergoing a massive $550 million renovation that will transform it in one of the most eco-friendly towers in the States. It displays a superb Art Deco design, with modernistic stainless steel canopies on two of the entries and glass enclosed bridges on the second-floor level.

The surface of the building is covered in limestone panels from Indiana and the top of the building is illuminated at night by different colors, depending on seasonal events.

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5. Galician Centre of Contemporary Art (CGAC), Santiago de Compostela, Spain

5. Galician Centre of Contemporary Art (CGAC), Santiago de Compostela, Spain

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In Santiago’s Old Town, a well-known UNESCO World Heritage Site, lays one building that truly stands apart. It was designed by the Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza Vieria (a Pritzker award winner) and constructing this fabulous structure took five years, from 1988 to 1993. CGAC is located alongside another important museum of Galicia: The Convent of San Domingos de Bonaval.

The CGAC’s building is yet another impressive expression of the modernist movement in architecture, with strong rationalist influences. Some perceive it as an austere building, but it is that kind of soberness that also implies a feeling of serenity. It displays a wonderful balance between the outer and the inner space, with high stone walls and a glass roof that allows the light to flood the long interior axis.

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6. Flatiron Building, New York, USA

6. Flatiron Building, New York, USA

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Flatrion Building (also known as Fuller Building) was one of the first skyscrapers ever built. It was completed in 1902 and rapidly became an icon of New York City, due to its unique triangular shape. This amazing 22-story building displays a Greek-like façade, covered in limestone and glazed terracota.

The whole structure is built on a steel skeleton, a relatively new and cutting-edge method for the beginning of the 20th century. At the vertex, the triangular structure is only 6.5 ft (2 meters) wide, due to the acute angle of only 25 degrees. It displays a wonderful energetic mixture of Gothic and Renaissance styles; one distinctive note of design is represented by the perfectly aligned rows of widows, making it one of the most distinguishable structures in New York.

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7. Grand Central Terminal, New York City

7. Grand Central Terminal, New York City-1

7. Grand Central Terminal, New York City-2

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Often incorrectly referred to as the Grand Central Station, Grand Central Terminal in New York is the biggest train station in the world by the number of platforms: 44 platforms with 67 tracks along. The terminal is built on 48 acres and platforms are placed on two levels, both below ground.

The Grand Central showcases a wonderful Beaux Arts style and with over 400,000 people passing through this marvelous structure each day. The façade displays magnificent huge arches of steel and glass that allow the sunlight to get in the building.

The vaulted ceiling is an elaborate astronomical work completed in 1988, after a 12 year restoration project. The main concourse is 275 ft (83 m) long and 120 ft (36 m) wide, but the underground commercial spaces stretch out beyond the nearby streets.

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8. Grand Palais, Paris, France

8. Grand Palais, Paris, France

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The Grand Palais de Champes-Elysées is a huge exhibition hall and historical site in the capital of France. As one of the most relevant examples of Beaux Arts in the world, this amazing palace is famous worldwide for its unique stone façade.

The Grand Palais is also the place where new techniques were implemented for the first time in history, such as the use of glass vaults and the first light steel frame. The main purpose of Gran Palais was to serve as the republic’s largest monument that will celebrate French art, with amazing details of design. And the outcome truly was amazing.

The 240 meters (787 ft) long exhibition area is covered by an iron, steel and glass barrel-vault roof, while the façade displays a superb combination of the Classical stone style and the Art Nouveau ironwork.

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9. Chicago Board of Trade Building, Chicago, USA

9. Chicago Board of Trade Building, Chicago, USA

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This is definitely one of the most stylish buildings in Chicago and one of the most elegant skyscrapers ever erected in United States. It was completed in 1930 and was the first building in Chicago to be designated as a city landmark.

The Chicago Board of Trade Building is famous for the art deco architecture with large stone carvings, sculpture and large trading floors. And to literally top it all, a three stories statue of Ceres caps the building.

As many other skyscrapers of that time, the Chicago Board of Trade Building is also built on steel frame structural systems and its surface is covered in gray Indiana limestone. A distinctive part of the building is the six story high windows, below the clock facing LaSalle Street.

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10. Baskerville House, Birmingham, United Kingdom

10. Baskerville House, Birmingham, United Kingdom

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The space occupied by the actual building was once the home of John Baskerville, one of 18th century’s England most successful businessmen. This building was funded and developed by the local administration as a civic centre and was completed in 1937. Baskerville House had different roles over time and nowadays serves as an office for a British company.

The building underwent a major refurbishment from 2003 to 2007 that extended it two floors upside. The recently added stories cap the old building and are entirely built of steel and glass. They seem to complete in perfect harmony the stone façade and to adapt the purpose of the structure to our times.

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11. St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria

11. St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria

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St. Stephen’s Cathedral is one of Vienna’s most astonishing churches ever built. Completed in 1147 in a superb Romanesque and Gothic style, this structure stood the test of time for almost a millennium. The Cathedral was built out of limestone, being 107 meters (350 ft) long, 40 meters (131 ft) wide and 136 meters (445 ft) tall. Centuries of pollution and bad weather turned the cathedral black, but through ambitious renovation projects, the original white was restored.

The ornately patterned roof is covered by 230,000 tiles braced originally by a wooden framework. This was destroyed by a fire during World War II and replicating the initial bracing would have required an entire square kilometer of forest. Therefore, the architects used 600 tons of steel bracing, while the initial design of the roof remained unchanged.

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12. Rosenbaum House, Alabama, USA

12. Rosenbaum House, Alabama, USA

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This is one of the best examples of a Usonian house, a term used by the architect of this house to define America’s particular character in designing architecture. Rosenbaum House was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and is one of the 26 pre-World War II Usonian houses ever built. It was erected in 1940 on a 2 acre plot on the north bank of the Tennessee River.

The L-shaped structure is built of natural materials such as cypress wood and features a service core, right in the center of the house. It is built around a huge stone hearth that existed there before the construction. The structure displays large windows on the interior side of the house and multi-level low-rising steel-cantilevered roofs. It contains 1,540 square ft (143 square meters) of usable space and serves today as a public museum.

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13. Jaipur International Airport, Jaipur, India

13. Jaipur International Airport, Jaipur, India

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This is the only international airport in the Indian state of Rajasthan and earned its certification in December 2005. The new terminal of the airport was inaugurated last year and features a series of modern facilities, such as a central heating and air conditioning system, inline x-ray inspection of the luggage, escalators, a flight information system and many more. But the most distinguishable aspect of the new terminal is its exterior aspect. This features glass and steel walls interrupted by parts made by stones from the local quarries.

The most impressive part is the entrance gate, made of sandstone and Dholpur stones painted by the local artists. The construction is a perfect example of how a public structure can encompass elements from the local culture, through processes of smart customization work.

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One Comment »

  • Ramon said:

    Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright is breath-taking.

    Gotta love FLW’s work.

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