Asymmetrical buildings: beyond dynamism
Asymmetrical architecture is not a trend in architecture per se, but rather a sub-typology or practically a resource that is present in a large part of the constructions that have set trends over the last twenty years.
This resource is really motivated by the great spirit of innovation in form, content and materials that the digital revolution has brought about. Its absolute belief in R&D processes and their continuous implementation has forced the integration of concepts such as fluid, hybrid and modular into buildings. These ideas are no longer only part of the conceptualisation of asymmetrical architecture but also of deconstructivist architecture and to some extent have become cultural and functional requirements for all other current architectural styles.
This super-dynamic essence of asymmetrical buildings is still making waves among the advocates of functional architecture and more rationalist styles. For centuries symmetry has been one of the unalterable principles in the worlds of art, design and architecture, where any project started from an axis in which the generation of regular and symmetrical planes sought at all times the functional and often spiritual harmony of the buildings.
So we ask ourselves, does asymmetrical architecture have a soul? To solve this mystery we want to explore its characteristics and some of its most outstanding works. Stay tuned!
Characteristics of asymmetrical architecture
Asymmetrical architecture is based on 7 basic concepts that are integrated into buildings as resources.
It includes differentiation as the essence of the architectural project.
This type of architecture was born with the desire to mark a practically unique milestone in the field of architecture. If you look closely, you will see that architects such as Zaha Hadid use this idea as the main premise of their projects.
It seeks dynamism and energy.
As a response to the static sense of rationalism and functionalism, asymmetrical buildings seeks to integrate energy into designs through fluid planes. This usually involves the rejection of classical structures with pillars and vertical walls in favour of angles, curvilinear walls and walls with textured materials of the latest technology. In this way, buildings gain vitality and movement.
It has a higher degree of complexity.
Asymmetrical architecture poses far greater technical challenges than other types of architectural styles. From the creation of their structures to the development of their cladding, asymmetrical buildings are a real challenge for the operators. Very often, they also integrate new solutions in terms of materials, room layouts, lighting, etc.
Reformulates the concept of architectural balance.
This is one of its constants and is particularly applied to the different proportions of the elements that make up the buildings. Asymmetrical architecture breaks with the classic concept of the grid. Instead it plays at reintegrating and articulating disproportions to end up creating truly surprising and balanced buildings that have many focal points.
He seeks contrast and fusion of forms and materials.
This is his great method of surprising and differentiating himself from other styles. New materials allow for new structures and almost impossible shapes that seem to hang in the air without pillars and supporting structures. Likewise, the fusion of materials of the latest technology in this architecture allows to differentiate its parts, creating contrasts that seek a richer enjoyment and dialogue with its inhabitants. In short, asymmetrical architecture seeks to challenge previous ways of perceiving and feeling architecture.
It isolates elements and creates fragments in architecture.
Many architects who design asymmetrical buildings break with the traditional concept of the whole or single work by isolating its elements and fragmenting them. In addition, this type of architectural work modifies the standard size of the elements, plays with creating several vanishing points, generates different senses in its interior route and modifies the logic of the visual elements that integrate it. In doing so, they once again integrate surprise into architecture.
Integrates the concept of negative space.
If you notice, practically until well into the 80s of the 20th century most buildings were like heavy, tremendous blocks that were very sophisticated but robust. By contrast, asymmetrical architecture includes uncertainty, voids and negative space in its buildings in a very skilful way. If we were to simplify this difference as much as possible with two basic shapes, traditional architecture would be a rectangle that is not accessible, while asymmetrical architecture would be a circle that is not quite complete and that you can enter and explore its entire surface.
10 essential buildings of asymmetrical architecture
1.Guggenheim Museum (Bilbao, Spain)
Designed by Frank O. Gehry in 1997, it has become an icon of the city itself. The covering of the building generating numerous curved and dynamic planes combining materials such as glass, titanium and limestone is one of the best examples of asymmetrical buildings.
2. Galleria Shopping Mall (Gwanggyo, South Korea)
Impressive commercial building designed by Chris Van Duijn and the architectural agency OMA in 2020. A super-organic building that stands out for its striking tiled façade with a serpentine glass façade.
3. Maison Bulle (Nice, France)
Designed by the Hungarian architect Antti Lovag, it was a futuristic proposal created in 1975 but completed 14 years later. Its modular bubble-shaped construction covers a gigantic house of more than 1000 square metres. Today it is owned by the designer Pierre Cardin.
4. Renovation of the Port Authority Headquarters (Antwerp, Belgium)
Designed in 2016 by the sadly departed Zaha Hadid, this is one of the most striking buildings of the past decade. A polygonal structure in steel and glass in the shape of a diamond that honours the city’s past as an exporter of these precious stones.
5. Taubman Museum of Art (Roanoke, U.S.A.)
Designed by Randall Stout in 2002, this building was erected to house extensions to the museum. The architect’s apprenticeship with Frank O. Gehry has led to many comparisons with the Guggenheim, especially the overlapping of non-specifically geometric planes combining materials such as glass and metal.
6. Central Library (Seattle, U.S.A )
Designed in 1999 by the architect Rem Koolhaas, this building of more than 30,000 square metres stands out for its particular façade, which is like a geometric distortion of several polygons. Its four-storey structure seems to be hidden within the particular composition of steel and glass planes.
7. Sydney Opera House (Australia)
Created over 15 years by architect Jørn Utzon, this is possibly the best known building on this list of asymmetrical architecture. A building that floats on the sea thanks to its more than 500 pillars and is often compared to a ship. Inside, the spectacular theatre hall is made up of more than 2,000 prefabricated ribs.
8. The terracotta house (Villa de Leyva- Colombia)
A much more humble proposal by Colombian architect Octavio Mendoza Morales. A fully organic sustainable house built with adobe that is perhaps the largest ceramic in the world. It is now a house museum and a space dedicated to architectural and artistic experimentation.
9. Opus ME Hotel (Dubai-United Arab Emirates)
Also designed by Zaha Hadid but completed after her death in 2020, this hotel is perhaps the best example of asymmetrical buildings. A play of planes that integrates the void at the centre of the concept of two buildings connected in a liquid and fluid way by a corridor. Depending on the plan we have of the building, we will see a perforated cube or two 100-metre-high towers made of glass.
10. ARCAM Building (Amsterdam-Netherlands)
Designed by René van Zuuk in 2003, this building in the Amsterdam Architecture Centre celebrates its own art in a very asymmetrical style. Its 477 square metres are arranged on a trapezoid-shaped base that reuses part of the previous building. While its sculptural façade combines Kal-zip aluminium skin and glass to give a spectacular welcome to its visitors.