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The Best Architects in the World

Frank Gehry

Where did he come from? Frank O. Gehry (born Owen Goldberg in 1929) grew up in Toronto, Canada, and later in Ontario, USA, with Polish-Jewish parents who owned a modest hardware store. Gehry studied architecture in Los Angeles, before setting up his agency there in 1962, at the age of 33. He still lives and works there.

His masterpieces? With its sculptural look and dancing forms, defying all laws of construction, its Guggenheim Museum, inaugurated in 1997, in Bilbao saved the capital of the Spanish Basque Country in full economic slump. With him, Gehry proved to the world that architecture could be a dramatic gesture and an economic lever. Since then, everyone has been chasing the Bilbao effect.

His stroke of genius? The very special way he twisted the material (sheet metal, steel, glass) and contorted the shapes to make them vibrate better. He makes all his models by hand with paper or cardboard, before computer modeling them. Even if he possesses a perfect mastery of technology, he never loses sight of the humanity of his buildings.

Is it news? After years of work and administrative brawls, Gehry has managed to realize a new architectural madness: a cloud dream posed in a French garden. For the Louis Vuitton Foundation, which has just opened in the Bois de Boulogne, he imagined a large ship made up of 12 glass veils and housing a dozen exhibition rooms. We come here to discover the collections of Contemporary Art of the luxury group or to listen to a concert in the auditorium, but also to admire the masterpiece in 3 D of the American.

The scandals, Gehry is known to be expensive, even very expensive. An exceptionally irritating critic, he says that he spends his time defending the interests of his clients and fighting against the dictatorship of the promoters. There will be no figures on the Vuitton Foundation, but it is known that budgets have steadily increased as work and patents have been filed. One thing’s for sure, at 85, Gehry’s not ready to remake his dreams. Accustomed to confusing with his complex and ambitious projects (the American Center, the Vuitton Foundation), he comes at the end of several years of battles to lay the first stone of the Luma Foundation, the baby of Maja Hoffmann, which is expected to be born in Arles in 2018.

Zaha Hadid

Where did she come from? Zaha Hadid was born in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1950. She grew up in a bourgeois and intellectual liberal environment, attended the best schools and completed her studies in London at the very famous Architectural Association (AA). She discovers the deconstructivism and Rem Koolhaas who teaches there and offers to join her agency in Rotterdam. She opened her office in London two years later.

His masterpieces? Even if its constructions are now plethoric, its first realizations remain the most striking: the Fire Station of Vitra in 1993, ultra-concentrated in its shape and angles, is almost a piece of land art, inspired by Russian Constructivism. The Phaeno Science Centre, built in Wolfsburg, Germany in 2006, is its first spacecraft.

His stroke of genius? His optimistic deconstructivism consists of erasing the right angles and shaping a fluid and dynamic architecture dominated by an uninterrupted curve. Zaha Hadid does not discriminate between any scale or area of intervention. From the vase to the tower, it can shape everything in the light of its futuristic aesthetic.

Is it news? Among a plethora of projects, his London office is currently working on the Grand Théâtre in Rabat, Morocco, the National Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, a gigantic international cultural and artistic center in Changsha, China, and the Abu Dhabi Performing Arts Center, which is expected to house several theatres and concert halls.

The scandals … the architect lodged a complaint this summer against the journalist of an American magazine who accused him of being “indifferent” to the deaths of hundreds of immigrant workers on the construction sites at Qatar, launched in preparation for the 2022 World Cup, for which she designed a football stadium (the Al-Wakrah Stadium). The images of this project had, themselves previously triggered controversy. Some netizens, seeing it as a sexual reference, had dubbed it The “Vagina Stadium.” Hadid, the first woman architect to receive the Pritzker Prize, said she found this reference ridiculous and macho.

Zaha Hadid © Brigitte Lacombe / Phaeno Science Center © Klemens Ortmeyer/ Abu Dhabi Performing Arts © Zaha Hadid architects / Changsha Meixihu International Culture & Art Centre © Zaha Hadid Architects

Herzog & de Meuron

Where did they come from? Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron were both born in Basel, Switzerland, in 1950. These two intellectuals, as prolific as they are discreet, founded their agency in 1978 in Basel, after studying together in Zurich. They are now five senior architects associated in their eponymous agency and want to get the collective to talk about them.

Their masterpieces? The Modern Tate in London: an old Power Station on the banks of the Thames, which they turned into a museum of Modern art in 2001. And the Beijing National Stadium in 2008 with its concrete interweaving. Nicknamed ” the bird’s nest,” it became a national monument.

Their stroke of genius? Exacerbating the materiality of things. Allow the nature of the site, building or materials to be expressed.

Their topicality? Erbphilarmonia, under construction, in the Port of Hamburg, Germany. With this project, the agency works as for the Tate Modern on the transformation of an existing building, here a warehouse that they raise. In New York, the Swiss also plan on two luxury residential buildings, one in Tribeca (56 Leonard st), the other Downtown (215 Chrystie Downtown) developed by developer Jan Shrager.

The controversies … in Paris, the Triangle tower, planned in place of the Exhibition Park of the Porte de Versailles for 2017, is the subject of several legal actions. Its height of 180 meters is questioned, as well as its impact on the environment due to the shadow that this office building would cause to neighboring buildings and the density of population it will accommodate (5000 people). The controversy could end on November 17 with a vote by the Paris Council on the decommissioning of the plot of land that is to accommodate the Triangle Tower. In the absence of a majority, the project, supported by the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, would then be suspended.

 

Portrait Basel, Switzerland, Senior Partners of Herzog & de Meuron, left to right: Christine Binswanger, Ascan Mergenthaler, Stefan Marbach, Pierre de Meuron and Jacques Herzog © Tobias Madörin / VitraHaus Weil am Rhein, Germany Herzog & de Meuron’s VitraHaus Architecture © Herzog & de Meuron-Photography / National Stadium, The Main Stadium for the 2008 Olympic Beijing China Herzog & de Meuron © Iwan Baan / New Stadium of Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France, Herzog & de Meuron © Herzog & de Meuron