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If you lived here, you'd be unheimlich now
August 21, 2012 10:42 PM   Subscribe

Computer modeling, along with new materials, has done wonders for contemporary architecture, allowing practitioners to render seemingly organic shapes from inert materials. Mimicking biological shapes could soon cross a threshold: behold Shahira Hammad's proposal for the Westbahnhof train station. Again, before and after.
posted by noway (66 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Seriously?
posted by Kevin Street at 10:52 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I note the proposer is credited as a "designer" as opposed to an "architect." Is there more to this proposal than just some rendered elevations?
posted by contraption at 11:09 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


James Kunstler is going to stroke out when he sees the Hammad proposal (assuming he hasn't already).
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:14 PM on August 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ach du meine Güte!
posted by moonbiter at 11:15 PM on August 21, 2012


Hopefully it will have wifi so you can use the new Macbook while waiting for your connection.
posted by dhens at 11:30 PM on August 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Apparently, she's a newly minted architect. Some WIP pics here.
posted by Gyan at 11:31 PM on August 21, 2012


I hope this is just a "food for thought" design and not a real proposal for something that should actually be built. It makes this crime against decency (which, thankfully, did not go ahead) look subdued and noble.
posted by dhens at 11:38 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is the most genuinely exciting thing I have seen this year.
posted by niccolo at 11:53 PM on August 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


Can't use train, station will devour me.
posted by tykky at 12:00 AM on August 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Oh, why the hell not? It looks like a rococo cathedral that got ripped apart in a magnetic storm -- but hey, compared to brutalist or functionalist 20th century boxes, at least it's ornate.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:22 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


That train station makes me think that architecture has advanced from the post modern to the post apocalyptic phase.
posted by quadog at 12:23 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


According to its designer, Berlin's holocaust memorial was designed "to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason." It's a heap of rectangular concrete blocks (picture). I consider it a failure.

Hammad's building achieves that effect. Orderly, rectilinear rail lines disappear into a looming, twisted monstrosity. It is organic but unnatural, inhuman to the point that it looks like it is defiling the ground it sits on. It should be constructed at Dachau.

I don't mean that to be insulting. Assuming that Hammad intended to create a profoundly disturbing design she succeeded brilliantly.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:36 AM on August 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


That's supposed to be a train station? Strange, I don't recall any trains in Mad Max.

Maybe Ms. Hammad has repurposed a set proposal for a Waterworld sequel?
posted by Skeptic at 12:39 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Needs kekekeke tag.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:50 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


You have to ask yourself, in today's economic climate is that really what you want to be spending your vespene gas on?
posted by jcking77 at 12:59 AM on August 22, 2012 [14 favorites]


The issue with the architectural designs that come from such programs is that they're typically silly expensive to build; curves are awesome, but if you're working with steel, you require lots and lots of specialized pieces that are hard to keep track of and precisely assemble. This is a big part of why geodesic domes weren't able to really take off, and geodesic domes are still relatively simple.
posted by kaibutsu at 1:30 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, I think a lot of the flaw with that is the colour. Choosing a rusty brown makes it look like it's going to eat me, or like it's been on the losing side of a mid-sized nuclear war.

If it were the same design but in a gleaming white or grey with purple lighting accents (like a lot of modern London building) it actually could look really cool... while avoiding the sense of dread and panic that building would induce in me. Currently, it's like something out of half-life.
posted by generichuman at 1:44 AM on August 22, 2012


@justsomebody, I agree that Hammad's building achieves a monstrous effect, but is that really what is desirable for a train station? Maybe it's an ironic proposal. I dunno.

re: the holocaust memorial; I think it does achieve its aims. The faraway view doesn't show what it's like to be there, but actually walking into it is something else. The ground dips lower and the blocks grow up all around you. If you venture in with friends, you find yourself losing them when they pop around a corner for a picture and seemingly disappear. The stones' edges are sharp, and the stones are unyielding.

I know it "works" because when tour groups go through they inevitably develop a kind of hysterical giggle. That strange laughter one makes when one is intensely nervous.

This thing is also terrifying and unsettling, but in a different way.
posted by sixohsix at 2:02 AM on August 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


It feels homey and old timey to me in a deep racial memory sort of way. I can almost see it. My greatn grandfather telling the same old story about how he killed this one big glossotherium with a rock tied to a stick, er, or was it running it off a cliff. Then my greatn grandmother would serve up a hide of steaming mammoth. Then one of the relatives would excuse themselves and on the way the bathroom get devoured by a sabertoothed cat. Ah, those were the days.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:19 AM on August 22, 2012


It's like a cathedral in the next Aliens movie.
posted by Red Loop at 2:19 AM on August 22, 2012


Slightly off-topic, but what really pissed me off when visiting the holocaust memorial was the fact that visitors seemed to think that they could treat it as some sort of urban parkour playground, jumping all over the blocks.
posted by gene_machine at 2:54 AM on August 22, 2012


Ugh. Isn't that what it looked like after it was bombed in the second world war?
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 3:16 AM on August 22, 2012


According to its designer, Berlin's holocaust memorial was designed "to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason." It's a heap of rectangular concrete blocks (picture). I consider it a failure.

In contrast, the Jewish Museum in Berlin (designed by Daniel Libeskind) works quite well, as far as architecture-as-communication goes; the unevenly inclined corridor and not-quite-right angles do induce a sense of unease.
posted by acb at 3:34 AM on August 22, 2012


It's an attempt to reclaim Brutalism by contrasting it with buildings deliberately designed to engender fight-or-flight panic. "Well, yes, the soul-crushing autocratic monoliths are bad... but at least they're not going to try to digest you as you disembark your train."
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:16 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


As an exterior, I think it's really cool, but it's hard to take it seriously when you see the interior shot with the roots/branches/tendrils blocking everything and making the entrance hall unusable. At some point, it still has to function, no?
posted by juv3nal at 4:25 AM on August 22, 2012


Looks to me like an ill-built bonfire waiting to be ignited. Or the semi-exploded stump of a huge tree. Nothing appealing about it. Except it does remind me of some cuckoo clocks I've seen.
posted by Goofyy at 4:28 AM on August 22, 2012


At some point, it still has to function, no?

Philistine!!
posted by bleep at 4:43 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a huge fan of organic structures and mimicry in architecture, especially when they serve structural purpose, like the Water Cube swimming center in Beijing.

This isn't that. A public building really shouldn't be triggering your uncanny valley or arachnophobia glands.

And I'm not even easily creeped out. Giger's biomechanical forms aren't even that creepy. That thing looks like aliens came down and deposited an egg cluster covered in strands of goo, just waiting to entrap passerby for food for giant, wriggling larvae that surely will emerge soon.

That thing is not only disorienting, confusing and therefore bad public architectural design - it's so creepy that just the renderings are making my skin crawl.

Good public architectural design for high traffic places like a train station should really, really not disorient the users. The whole purpose of a building of that genre is to calm traffic, to inform and guide the users to their correct destination and not confuse the fuck out of them.

Much less should it induce panic attacks.
posted by loquacious at 4:47 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's brown and sticky?

The new Westbahnhof train station.
posted by Segundus at 4:56 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think it's fascinating. Although I imagine the upkeep will be even more ruinous than the build price.

Also want to chime in to say that tome, the Holocaust Memorial does exactly what it is meant to do. You walk in. It seems very normal and boring and nondescript. Then suddenly you have lost the people you were with, everything is suddenly taller than you, towering over you, blocking outside sound, and it's all just a bit off in terms of alignment and height and everything, and you realize that this boring, unassuming thing has swallowed you and separated you from your friends and the outside world. And yet, everywhere you look, it is a straightline to the street. I think it's brilliant.
posted by molecicco at 5:02 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just for the record and so nobody else is confused:
designboom has received this project from our 'DIY submissions' feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication.
see more project submissions from our readers here.
posted by carsonb at 5:10 AM on August 22, 2012


REGULAR EXPRESSIONS
posted by indubitable at 5:19 AM on August 22, 2012


Just like that physicist commenting on some crackpot theory... this is not even ugly.
posted by Tom-B at 5:39 AM on August 22, 2012


That's just it's larval stage.
posted by sourwookie at 5:51 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


It looks like the end of Blood Music.
posted by CaseyB at 6:00 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nope.
posted by AwkwardPause at 6:12 AM on August 22, 2012


This is a commentary on how ridiculous the field of brand-name architecture has become, right? How it's gotten so far removed from the real, on-the-ground needs for effective and pleasant use of spaces to instead focus on design-from-far-away, to the extent that it's forgotten that buildings are meant to be used?
posted by parudox at 6:20 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It looks like the handful of leaves and twigs and crap I used to pull out the skimmer when I vacuumed our swimming pool as a kid.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:27 AM on August 22, 2012


Huh, I was expecting vagina.
posted by unknowncommand at 6:35 AM on August 22, 2012


looks like a god took a dump...
posted by incandissonance at 7:04 AM on August 22, 2012


This place is not a place of honor. No highly esteemed deed is commemorated here. Nothing valued is here. The danger is unleashed only if you substantially disturb this place physically. This place is best shunned and left uninhabited.
posted by spitefulcrow at 7:05 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


It looks like Rivendell after an outbreak of tree fungus and a hurricane or two.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:29 AM on August 22, 2012


Interesting. It's a kind of nouveau art nouveau. I've been wondering when art nouveau would get another go-round--it's such a craft-intensive aesthetic that it became cost-prohibitive almost as soon as it appeared, but perhaps we're finally approaching that long predicted and never-arriving moment where machine production can rival artisanal craftsmanship in richness and complexity but at economic scales for large projects.

Art Nouveau (and its various local manifestations--Jugendstil, Secession, Spanish Modernisme etc) has always struck me as unparalleled in being both so hugely influential--one of the first truly "global" styles that wasn't simply historicist in nature--and yet so short-lived. I think it is due some kind of reinvention/revival.
posted by yoink at 7:34 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's so amazingly good that I knew instantly that most people would hate it and it'll never be built. This is what progress in Art looks like.
posted by cmoj at 7:45 AM on August 22, 2012


Zergling nest would be a hit in Seoul or perhaps as a Scientology retreat in Death Valley. I can't see it as part of Vienna's architectural heritage. As an artistic effort it has interest but I have a hard time seeing it as a public building. Gaudi was not warmly embraced in his time but his work is magical today.
posted by pdxpogo at 7:46 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It'll look awesome once all the standard Helvetica wayfinding signage is installed.
posted by Kabanos at 8:13 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's so amazingly good that I knew instantly that most people would hate it and it'll never be built. This is what progress in Art looks like.

Does progress necessarily have to be unfriendly? Like, they could have gone for "grotto" rather than "lair" and still made it organic and progressive and all that.

Now, I'm pretty much a philistine, but I think it would be nicer without spikes everywhere. They read as threatening; as somebody mentioned above, this looks like the Yucca Mountain warning site, which is all about spikes.

You might say, "art isn't supposed to be nice", but I have to wonder whether people need to be challenged every day on their daily commute. Particularly when trains are probably the best transit option, in terms of safety and environmental impact.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:37 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


As a pedant, this has been bothering me for hours, so I'm just going to throw this out there even if it is a bit of a derail (and no disrespect to the original authors):

"Westbahnhof train station" is, when directly translated, "West train station train station."

Also, here is how the Vienna West train station complex currently looks.
posted by moonbiter at 9:01 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does progress necessarily have to be unfriendly?

I'm not saying it should be built... I don't think it should. It's proposals like this that are intriguing, but just way to far out that make the subsequent proposal of the "grotto" seem feasible to the people with the money.

Really, you could probably just change the colors of this design.
posted by cmoj at 9:10 AM on August 22, 2012


I would take that over Penn Station any day.
posted by monospace at 9:46 AM on August 22, 2012


Not that it will ever get built, but if it did it would become a huge tourist draw almost instantly. My guess is that it would fairly quickly become a beloved icon of the city--much in the way that the Eiffel tower was completely reviled as a hideous eyesore when it opened (and for some time after) and then became both locally and internationally beloved. Or, for that matter, the way Gaudi's work in Barcelona was originally seen as weird and ugly and is now the main reason tourists visit Barcelona.
posted by yoink at 9:49 AM on August 22, 2012


I would take that over Penn Station any day.

That might be setting the bar a tad low.
posted by yoink at 9:49 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Westbahnhof train station" is, when directly translated, "West train station train station."

That's the train you take when you want to go see The Los Angeles Angels play baseball.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:10 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


And from your train window, you can see the high Sierra Alta mountains.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:11 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am a huge fan of bizarro fantasy art so I vote for "hope it gets built."

And if she turns out to have what it takes to sell this design to the building committee and get the commission and push it through to completion I predict she will have a huge, huge career.


> "Well, yes, the soul-crushing autocratic monoliths are bad... but at least they're not
> going to try to digest you as you disembark your train."

Digest me! Digest me!
posted by jfuller at 10:25 AM on August 22, 2012


> I think it's fascinating. Although I imagine the upkeep will be even more ruinous than the build price.

We need to move on from "building." Think "continuous secretion."
posted by jfuller at 10:30 AM on August 22, 2012


I keep looking at this and thinking how great it would be both to see it get built and to have something so unexpected become part of your daily commute. It looks like it's crawling all over itself and dangling off of itself at the same time. I quite like it.
posted by postcommunism at 10:43 AM on August 22, 2012


That's the train you take when you want to go see The Los Angeles Angels play baseball.

You mean after your visit to the La Brea Tar Pits?
posted by yoink at 10:58 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying it should be built... I don't think it should. It's proposals like this that are intriguing, but just way to far out that make the subsequent proposal of the "grotto" seem feasible to the people with the money.

Really, you could probably just change the colors of this design.


So like the Overton Window for architecture? I'm okay with this. Particularly if it gives us more bizarre future buildings.

And now that you point it out, the decaying brown is a lot of what makes it creepy. It evokes both rust and bodily secretions. In a different color, it could look like something from the Mirrodin Magic the Gathering cards. Which would still be deeply unsettling, but maybe in a cool way rather than a nauseating way.
posted by vogon_poet at 11:00 AM on August 22, 2012


You mean after your visit to the La Brea Tar Pits?

If you lived in the lovely La Loma Linda Hills, you'd be home by now!
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:09 AM on August 22, 2012


all that effort and they go for bank gothic on the annotations? for shame.
posted by doobiedoo at 11:31 AM on August 22, 2012


Now, I'm pretty much a philistine, but I think it would be nicer without spikes everywhere. They read as threatening; as somebody mentioned above, this looks like the Yucca Mountain warning site, which is all about spikes.

I see leafless tree limbs rather than spikes. Could work well as scaffolding for climbing vines of some sort.
posted by juv3nal at 12:34 PM on August 22, 2012


When you go inside, the background music should be the maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:51 PM on August 22, 2012


Yeah, I looked through the pictures again, in the light of day, and they have an organic undergrowth thing -- roots, twigs, leaf mulch, etc. that I'm beginning to warm up to, really. I think it'd be pretty astounding to see, like an Edward James' Las Posas to the 10th power.

I would also really like to see the look on the builders faces when they're handed the blueprints for the first time.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:52 PM on August 22, 2012


Well, that's interesting. It reminded me of nothing so much as some of Suzanne Wenger's structures in the Osun Gove, Nigeria - clay built on a wooden scaffold. She was originally Austrian, and I suspect the architect here has used her work as a resource.

An obituary here. Can't find that much online about the grove, but a real-world library search would pay dividends for anybody interested enough to follow it up.
posted by glasseyes at 6:19 PM on August 22, 2012


It's a kind of nouveau art nouveau.

Art Nouveau celebrated triumphant nature: spring and summer. If you look at an Art Nouveau building (as I've done quite often: I've lived in Brussels), you'll notice vivid flowers, green leaves and shots all over the place.

This building, on the other hand, reflects organic decay, broken twigs, rotting leaves. It's late autumn and winter, the very opposite of Art Nouveau.
posted by Skeptic at 12:40 AM on August 23, 2012


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