Gold is the new black – Architecture edition

Gold is the new black – Architecture edition


Everyone says architects love black, but how true is that? What if the new color for architecture was Golden?
With this post I want to state once and for all that Gold, and more extensively golden, has exceeded the limits of jewellery jumping into every day life’s objects and becoming a very common choice for all kinds of designers in the time to come. To show you the validity of my position I will guide you through some relevant steps of history of gold, by its use in visual arts, design and architecture, in order to show you that the boundaries which used to convict this precious material have now been blurred.

This post is the second one of a series of three and it focuses on architecture, as you might have realized by the cover picture with C3Po – Rem Koolhaas.
What else to say? Ladies and gentleman get ready, as stated in the J’adore perfume commercial, the future is gold!

64-68 A.D. – The Domus Aurea (Latin, “Golden House”) was built as a large landscaped portico villa by the Emperor Nero in the heart of ancient Rome, after the great fire in A.D. 64 had cleared away the aristocratic dwellings on the slopes of the Palatine Hill. Built of brick and concrete, the extensive gold leaf that gave the villa its name was not the only extravagant element of its décor: stuccoed ceilings were faced with semi-precious stones and ivory veneers, while the walls were frescoed, coordinating the decoration into different themes in each major group of rooms. Similar decorations were used in many institutional buildings of the time, such as the Pantheon.

The octagonal dining court, surmounted by a dome with a giant central oculus. It used to be covered in mosaics, gems and golden leaf.

The octagonal dining court, surmounted by a dome with a giant central oculus. It used to be covered in mosaics, gems and golden leaf.

537 – Construction of Hagia Sofia, former Christian patriarchal basilica , later imperial mosque, and now museum in Istanbul, Turkey. Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have “changed the history of architecture”. It remained the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years and the beauty of its interiors made it one of the most iconic buildings of the world. Interior surfaces are sheathed with polychrome marbles, green and white with purple porphyry, and gold mosaics.

Hagia Sofia - Interiors

Hagia Sofia – Interiors

1535 – Captains Anasco and Ampudia were dispatched by Spanish conquistador Sebastian de Belalcazar, one of Francisco Pizarro’s chief lieutenants, to discover the valley of El Dorado, the mythical city of gold. Imagined as a place, went from a city to a kingdom and an empire of this legendary golden king. A location for El Dorado was inferred from rumours, which later inspired several unsuccessful expeditions in the late 1500s in search of a city called Manõa on the shores of Lake Prime. The most famous of these expeditions were led by Sir Walter Raleigh. In pursuit of the legend, Spanish conquistadors and numerous others searched Colombia, Venezuela, and parts of Guyana and northern Brazil for the city and its fabulous king

Gold items used in the old Muisca tradition which became the origin of the El Dorado legend. This Balsa Muisca (Muisca raft) figure is on display in the Gold Museum, Bogotá, Colombia

Gold items used in the old Muisca tradition which became the origin of the El Dorado legend. This Balsa Muisca (Muisca raft) figure is on display in the Gold Museum, Bogotá, Colombia

1604 – Completion of the Harmandir Sahib, also Darbar Sahib, and informally referred to as the “Golden Temple”, the holiest Sikh gurdwara located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. The Harmandir Sahib was designed by the fifth guru,Guru Arjan, who had the cornerstone laid by the Muslim Sufi saint Sai Hazrat Mian Mir on 28 December 1588. Guru Arjan completed the Adi Granth, the holy scripture of Sikhism, in 1604 and installed it in the gurdwara. In the early nineteenth century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh secured the Punjab region from outside attack and covered the upper floors of the gurdwara with gold, which gives it its distinctive appearance and its English name.

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The Harmandir Sahib (The abode of God), known as the Golden Temple

1661 – End of the construction of the church of Sant’Andrea, an important example of Roman Baroque architecture, was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini with Giovanni de’Rossi. Bernini received the commission in 1658 and the church was constructed by 1661, although the interior decoration was not finished until 1670. Inside, the main entrance is located on the short axis of the church and directly faces the high altar. The oval form of the main congregational space of the church is defined by the wall, pilasters and entablature, which frame the side chapels, and the golden dome above.

Sant'andrea al Quirinale by Gianlorenzo Bernini, internal view of the golden dome

Sant’andrea al Quirinale by Gianlorenzo Bernini, internal view of the golden dome

1897-1898 – the Secession building was built in Vienna by design of Joseph Maria Olbrich. Crowned with a dome of golden laurel leaves, the Secession, an Art Nouveau exhibition space, was a statement of intent from a group of radical artists who’d broken away from the Austrian establishment. At the time, its radical geometric design was described as “a cross between a greenhouse and a blast furnace”; today, it’s a popular attraction, and widely regarded as the Jugendstil (“Art nouveau”) movement’s most prominent symbol.

Secession Building by Joseph Maria Olbrich, Vienna

Secession Building by Joseph Maria Olbrich, Vienna

2010 – Robert Stone finishes the construction of the private house “Acido Dorado” in the high desert of southern California. As stated by the architect: Gold is a colour, a material, and an idea. all of these elements fold in on each other conceptually which makes for a certain “unreality” to the place as these associations modify each other continuously”

Acido Dorado by Robert Stone

Acido Dorado by Robert Stone

2012 – International Centre for the Arts Jose de Guimarães by the firm Pitagoras Arquitectos have just completed in Guimarães. The new two-storey structure comprises a series of irregularly stacked volumes that extend out from a refurbished row of existing buildings on the edge of an old market square in the city centre. Rows of rectilinear brass pipes give the centre its ridged golden facade, while mirrors clad the underside of cantilevered rooms on the first floor.

International Centre for the Arts Jose de Guimarães by Pitagoras Arquitectos

International Centre for the Arts Jose de Guimarães by Pitagoras Arquitectos

2013 – Dutch studio Mecanoo completed Europe’s largest public library in Birmingham, England, with a sunken amphitheatre, rooftop gardens and a shimmering facade clad with interlocking metal rings. Mecanoo designed the exterior of the building to reference the city’s jewellery quarter, adding a filigree pattern of metal rings over golden, silver and glass facades.

Mecanoo, Public library in Birmingham

Mecanoo, Public library in Birmingham

2014 – One of the grandest installations created for the Venice biennale 2014 was a grid of seven-metre-high golden columns by German artist Heinz Mack, to showcase the importance of the column in architectural history. The installation was made up of nine identical columns, decorated with over 850,000 shimmering golden mosaic tiles intended to reflect the light of the sun and moon.

 

The Sky over Nine Columns by Heinz Mack, photography byAlessandra Chemollo

The Sky over Nine Columns by Heinz Mack, photography byAlessandra Chemollo

2015 – the Fondazione Prada unveiled its new permanent Milan venue, in Largo Isarco, conceived by architecture firm OMA, directed by Rem Koolhaas‘ firm . OMA and its research arm AMO renovated seven buildings at the complex in Largo Isarco, southern Milan, and designed three new ones to accompany them – a cinema and gallery that are already complete, and a tower that is still under construction. To add emphasis to the older part of the structure, the “Hunted House”, OMA carefully clad the building’s entire exterior in 24-karat gold leaf. Only the glass of the windows was left exposed.

© Bas Princen - Fondazione Prada / OMA

© Bas Princen – Fondazione Prada / OMA