Not Your Grandmother's Lace / by Michelle Linden

I've been noticing a recurrence of lacy designs both on my own blog, as well as others'. Clearly, advances in technology are enabling architects to design lighter skins, with more delicate detailing... and this seems to be frequently put into use in simple boxy forms with light lacy exteriors. You could almost say that many of these designs seems to be cut from the same cloth...

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The United Arab Emirates Shanghai Expo Pavilion by Foster and Partners is yet another simple box with a lacy exterior skin. The Arabesques create a semi-transparent screen that envelope the octagon inspired building. The ideas of Islamic art and design are reiterated over and over...

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While still possessing lace-like qualities, this project is a bit more organic than many of the others. Airspace Tokyo by Beige Architecture and Proces2 attempts to create a layering system that blends the artificial with the natural, while maintaining a response the programmatic requirements of the inhabitants.

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The O-14 Commercial Tower in Dubai by Reiser + Umemoto is a less classic use of lace in design, but its still certainly retains the same qualities of some of the other more delicate lace designs. The various sizes of openings remind me of a handmade piece of lace and its imperfections.

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The first few projects that I saw using this idea of a lace screen were very intriguing to me. I was particular interested in the use of arabesques by western designers. However, its now starting to worry me, that perhaps these lacy skins are a bit of a cop out... While I recognize the excitement in using new technology and old imagery to create a new building form, I'm concerned that its becoming the easy solution, particularly in the case of western architects designing in the middle east. If you look at the projects above, several of the projects are located in the middle east, or are designed for middle eastern clients, and these are the projects that are most similar to each other. While I have always loved Islamic art and architecture, I wonder if these western interpretations of Islamic design have received the time and attention in the design process that they deserve... I have to wonder what force in the architectural community is driving this new prominence of lacy skins and arabesques. And I have to ask, if this solution of decorating a box is becoming too easy.

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