James Wines takes our conventional wisdom about architecture and pulls it apart in a single go. You go to a retail store for your weekly shopping trip and witness families having a picnic in a forest! This is a little quip at the urban life right in its heart. What are you going to do, lounge under a tree or get your shopping cart billed? As your plans get derailed, this anti-formal, rebellious sculptor gets what he wants. You’re asking yourself his favourite question, “What is a building?” And, like a true piece of art, the answer is open to your interpretation.

This inversion of the convention is a trademark of Wines’ architecture, which he fondly calls “De-architecture” Wines breaks apart the process of building, the self-imposed seriousness of the form and asks questions which very few ask, isn’t architecture man’s biggest attempt at creating order in a world that is essentially chaotic and uncertain? His buildings dare to open up a stream of dialogue which had gone missing from present-day urban spaces. With tools like irony, narrative, and embracing the innate entropy of nature, he presents a new outlook towards interrelationship between man, nature and technology.

Let’s look at 15 iconic projects by his multidisciplinary design studio site:

1. BEST STORES

The most iconic of all James Wines Projects, this series of stores were designed for catalogue showroom ‘BEST Product Company.Inc’. Wines used form as a medium to present a visual critique of the bland boxy aesthetic of supermarket culture in the USA. This was mainly achieved by deconstructing the “Big Box” typology.

There were thirteen such stores designed during his two-decade-long collaboration with BEST, each cheeky in its way. The first one had the brick façade being peeled off from the basic box-like skeleton. With time, Wines got more innovative, and the final BEST store at Milwaukee was a live cut-through section, exposing the services and products of the building behind the brick façade.  

Peeling Building, Richmond, Virginia ©www.richmondmagazine.com
Inside-Outside Building, Milwaukee, Wisconsin ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Forest Building, Richmond, Virginia ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Interior- Forest Building, Richmond, Virginia ©www.siteenvirodesign.com

2. HIGHRISE OF HOMES

In this theoretical project, the architect just provides the basic structure, and people are invited to fill in the aesthetic details, the result is a vertical community with terrace gardens where people don’t risk losing their sense of identity in a grid-like high-rise and building embraces the idea of entropy.

Rendering by James Wines ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Courtyard, High-rise of Homes ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Facade Details ©www.siteenvirodesign.com

3. MUSEUM OF ISLAMIC ART

James Wines reinterprets dunes in the form of a roof that has ribbon-like bands. The undulating roof is broken by lateral walls to create a seamless inside-outside experience. Playing with the idea of the formal Islamic garden and converging it with a fluid form, the landscape has curvilinear grid-like pathways.

Model: Museum of Islamic Art ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Landscape: Museum of Islamic Art ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Sand Dunes: Museum of Islamic Art ©www.siteenvirodesign.com

4. GHOST PARKING LOT

Location: Hamden, Connecticut
Year: 1977

With Ghost parking lot, SITE uses the best tool in its arsenal, “irony” With twenty vintage cars buried under asphalt in front of a shopping centre; this is an ambiguous sculpture in an ordinary parking lot. Nevertheless, this seemingly ominous installation creates tension as it mocks the car-culture of Americans.

Overview: Ghost Parking Lot ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Detail: Ghost Parking Lot ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Ghost Parking Lot ©www.siteenvirodesign.com

5. WILLIWEAR’S MEN’S SHOWROOM

Location: New York, USA
Year: 1984

For this project, SITE created a ghosted urban landscape of a street to display Willi’s bright funky apparel. With objects scored from the real streets, Wines takes us back to the backstreets: the root of hip-hop and inspiration behind clothes’ design. The artificial sidewalks act as flexible displays and runways for fashion shows.

The office: Williwear ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Display: Williwear ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Display: Williwear ©www.siteenvirodesign.com

6. SITE BLEEKER STREET OFFICE

Location: New York, USA
Year: 1984

This office situated in an old Louis Sullivan building preserves the traditional floral capitals and cornices of the building but replaces wooden partitions by semi-transparent scrim lattices that double up as display space for drawings and objects. The result is visually-connected working and exhibition spaces.

Exhibition space: Architectural Studio ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Partition wall: Architectural Studio ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Detail: Architectural Studio ©www.siteenvirodesign.com

7. MALLET HOUSE

Location: Greenwich, London
Year: 1985

This house connects the origin of the building and biography of the owner by surrealist sculptures embedded in the wall and finished in monochromatic grey. This opens new windows of perception for the family as they counter the reality.

Mallet House ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Bookshelf: Mallet House ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Patio: Mallet House ©www.siteenvirodesign.com

8. HIGHWAY 86

Location: Vancouver, Canada
Year: 1986

An example of participatory environmental art, this iconic work celebrates all forms of transport by creating monochromatic grey sculptures of vehicles as a part of a procession connecting two viaducts and a harbour.

Overview: Highway-86 ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Detail: Highway-86 ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Detail: Highway-86 ©www.siteenvirodesign.com

9. ISUZU SPACE STATION CHILDREN’S PLAZA

Location: Yokohama, Japan
Year: 1989          

How does one link children, underground transportation and space exploration? What if you turned the world upside down and brought zero gravity to planet earth? For this commission, Wines creates an imaginary walking plane above the ground with sculptures of trees, people and vehicles and makes them all disappear into the ground. This surreal installation opens up gates of imagination for children.

Trees and Vehicles: Isuzu ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Children playing: Isuzu ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
People: Isuzu ©www.siteenvirodesign.com

10. FOUR CONTINENTS BRIDGE

Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Year: 1989

James Wines questioned why aren’t contemporary architects inspired by the imagery of their times? When asked to design a bridge honouring typical arched bridges of Japan, he brought in technology, new-age materials like steel and glass, and weaved a tale of nature meeting technology with life-size terrariums and working river-like basins.

Overview: Four Continents ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Pedestrian Movement: Four Continents ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Terrarium: Four Continents ©www.siteenvirodesign.com

11. ROSS’ LANDING PARK AND PLAZA

Location: Chattanooga, USA
Year: 1992

A simulated microcosm of the region, this urban revitalization project comprises of multiple spaces like seating areas, performance zones, and bridges in form of thirty-five ribbons comprising of vegetation, water and paving, inter-woven three-dimensionally to show the amalgamation of man-made geometry with free-flowing natural forms.

Overview: Ross’ Landing ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Landscape: Ross’ Landing ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Landscape: Ross’ Landing ©www.siteenvirodesign.com

12.HOROSCOPE RING’S CHILDREN’S PARK

Location: Toyama, Japan
Year: 1992

This children’s park takes the symbolism of Zodiac and establishes its relationship with mountains in form of a fragmented blue ring emulating the terrain of mountains. The installation becomes an imaginative playground for children with a large variety of liminal spaces.

Model: Horoscope ring’s ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Landscape: Horoscope ring’s ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Children playing: Horoscope ring’s ©www.siteenvirodesign.com

13. SHAKE SHACK

Location: New York, USA
Year: 2004                        

This upgraded version of a hamburger stand is designed to integrate and reflect the surroundings, be it the park it’s situated in or the ribs emulated from the building nearby. You can identify Shake Shack by the turf on its roof and its bold signage cum menu. This zinc-clad kiosk restaurant, despite being deceivingly simple is highly contextual in its detailing and use of material. 

Aerial View: Shake Shack ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Front View: Shake Shack ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
General View: Shake Shack ©www.siteenvirodesign.com

14. FONDAZIONE PIETRO ROSSINI PAVILION

Location: Fondazione Rossini
Year: 2008

Rossini Pavilion reminds one of architecture turned to ruins, except that it’s carefully crafted. Constructed using locally available material, this 10-hectare visitor centre is deliberately vague. The columns not only support the building but are also sculptural elements.

Site View: Rossini Pavilion ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
Road View: Rossini Pavilion ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
T- Column: Rossini Pavilion ©www.siteenvirodesign.com

15. DENNY’S

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Year: 2013

With bright signage, a building inside a building, and popping neon colours, this revamp of the classic American diner is an ode to strip diner roots of original Denny’s chain. An interlacing aluminium network reminds of the social networking potential of this hospitality chain as it heads into the 21st century.

Flagship Store: Denny’s ©www.azahner.com
Patio: Denny’s ©www.azahner.com
Interior: Denny’s ©www.siteenvirodesign.com
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Pragya Shukla, a young architect, is currently practicing in city of Lucknow. Her interests include reading, hanging out with dogs and cruising the city for a good cup of tea. She aspires to write extensively on socio-cultural aspects of architecture and have a practice based on reasearch and social advocacy.

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