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.
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.
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.
4. GHOST PARKING LOT
Location: Hamden, Connecticut
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.
5. WILLIWEAR’S MEN’S SHOWROOM
Location: New York, USA
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.
6. SITE BLEEKER STREET OFFICE
Location: New York, USA
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.
7. MALLET HOUSE
Location: Greenwich, London
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.
8. HIGHWAY 86
Location: Vancouver, Canada
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.
9. ISUZU SPACE STATION CHILDREN’S PLAZA
Location: Yokohama, Japan
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.
10. FOUR CONTINENTS BRIDGE
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
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.
11. ROSS’ LANDING PARK AND PLAZA
Location: Chattanooga, USA
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.
12.HOROSCOPE RING’S CHILDREN’S PARK
Location: Toyama, Japan
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.
13. SHAKE SHACK
Location: New York, USA
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.
14. FONDAZIONE PIETRO ROSSINI PAVILION
Location: Fondazione Rossini
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.
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
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.