A concept is an idea or process that inspires and drives a design. Most renowned architects develop a certain design strategy or ideology which are common in all their designs. The development and execution of the concept is the most important part of the design process rather than the ideation of the concept itself. Sometimes, the literal translation of a concept can hinder the functionality and practicality of the design. However, a concept must not be an obstacle to the users’ needs and requirements. Misinterpretation of design often results in public outcry or controversies. Other instances include structures which expire, due to their inability to withstand the test of time and changing world scenarios.
1. Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City:
Put forth by Ebenezer Howard in 1898, the ideal Garden City, would be an agricultural land with a small fraction of built land. The primary focus of this circular urban plan was farming and sustaining a means of livelihood from the land. The concentric ringed city layout would have entertainment and retail at its core, followed by industrial and commercial areas, then housing and lastly agricultural lands. This green buffer between multiple suburbs would facilitate self-reliance and promote ecological diversity. Letchworth and Welwyn were the only successful Garden Cities built. However, post the 1940s, exponential population growth and the rising cost of real estate in urban areas lead to the decline of its self-sustainability.
2. Dancing House:
Located in downtown Prague, Czech Republic the Nationale-Nederlanden Building was built in 1996 by Frank Gehry. It is inspired by the famed dancing duo, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Due to its asymmetrical, haphazard form, it is also referred to as Drunk House. The hotel has no fixed layout and has oddly shaped rooms, each different from the next. The columns extend outwards onto the sidewalk, hindering pedestrian movement. The building is devoid of context and stands out in the otherwise traditional neighborhood.
3. Guggenheim Museum, New York:
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright broke millennia-long architectural stereotypes. The structure is a continuous ramp spiraling to form a cylindrical form. An inclusive, disabled-friendly public building, it destroys the conventional image of a multi-storeyed structure. The concave walls, though aesthetically pleasing, are non-functional. They make it difficult to display non-curvilinear works of art on the walls. The slanted floor disorients art connoisseurs as they view the paintings. The floors along with the walls slanting outwards alienate visitors from reality and the outside world. This defeats the main objective of an art gallery.
4. WTC Hub:
Also known as the Oculus, the transport hub was opened on 3rd March 2016 and was designed by Santiago Calatrava. The railway terminal in New York also acts as a memorial to over 3000 lives lost, due to the terror attacks on 9/11. Inspired by an image of a child releasing a dove into the air, the wings are made of structural ribs. The arches span 106 meters on either side symbolizing freedom and peace. A long, narrow skylight runs along the spine at the apex of the structure. It was initially designed as a naturally ventilated structure. However, due to structural loading concerns, the skylight only provides light and opens very rarely. This creates a greenhouse effect with trapped hot air and a stifling atmosphere, despite the large volume of the station. This limits the openness and freedom of the terminal.
5. Farnsworth House:
It was built for Dr. Farnsworth by Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, in 1951. Located in a rural Plano in Illinois, it is a one-bedroom weekend retreat. A pioneer of the International Style, the house is raised 1.5 meters above ground on stilts. This has not prevented the rising water levels on the floodplains and is slowly damaging the structure. The building aims to reconnect users with nature and provides 360° views of the surroundings. The open floor plan allows spaces to flow seamlessly into one another. This gives no sense of privacy and makes the user feel as though in a glass cage on display to the world. Except for the bathroom, all the walls are made of fixed glass, thereby restricting natural ventilation.
6. AT & T building, Tribeca:
The AT & T building was built in 1999, on 33 Thomas Street in New York City, by John Carl Warnecke. Often referred to as the largest blank wall in the world, it no longer houses the telecommunications company. The building served as a giant telephone switchboard and has no windows on its plain façade. The only openings on the entire structure are a series of rectangular vents halfway up the length and at the topmost floor of the building. The impenetrable fortress was built to protect against a nuclear attack. However, this scenario has a very low probability and has rendered the unique form inefficient. The absence of openings creates a dull working environment devoid of natural light and ventilation. In a city with a skyline like New York, there are no views for inhabitants. This creates bleak, lonely interiors.
7. LaGuardia Airport:
The existing terminal in Queens, New York was known as the Glenn H. Curtiss Airport. Built-in 1929, it conformed to the art deco style of architecture. Converted from the Gala Amusement Park, it comprises a series of buildings categorized according to the purpose. The main terminal, however, is too small to accommodate the large population of travelers moving through the airport each day.
The revamped design, on the other hand, is a series of haphazard branches emerging from the main connecting terminal block. The boarding gates are akin to praying mantis, with its multi-jointed appendages. It is designed by SHoP, Dattner Architects, and PRESENT Architecture and will be completed by 2022.
8. Royal National Theatre, London:
Designed by Denys Lasdun, the National Theatre in London was completed in 1976. The layout of the structure is extremely confusing with no definition of the entry. The internal spaces originally received subtle, diffused light due to extended balconies along the periphery. Recent renovations have moved walls outwards to increase the inner floor area, thereby increasing the amount of direct sunlight received. The Brutalist nature of the structure appeals to a few people. The dull, blank facade facing the river prevents panoramic views as well as interaction with nature in the common spaces.
9. Burj Al Babas:
A township located in Turkey, the Burj Al Babas was built in 2014 by the Sarot Group. It was designed for a clientele of rich expatriates. All the villas in the town are identical, and the entire region is desolate and deserted. The homes are of the mini French Chateaux style with their bluish-grey steeple roofs. The site has over 732 villas, each with a plot area of 324 square meters. The cookie-cutter design prevents any form of originality or personalization, as per the client’s needs. Construction of the township has been halted, due to depleting funds and the fall of the Turkish economy.
10. The Cloud:
A concept stage design in Seoul, Korea, The Cloud was designed by Rotterdam based architects MVRDV in 2011. The twin residential towers will be joined at the hip by a pixelated bridge formed of landscaped terraces. The various cubic volumes are interconnected by external staircases and balconies. The two highrises stand 260 and 300 meters tall with the bridge spanning across ten floors (from the 27th to the 37th storey). However, the design has received much flak for being reminiscent of the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Centre towers in New York City. The cloud is akin to the explosion that occurred when the plane crashed into the buildings.