We’re starting a new series on dwell.com this week called Three Buildings. In it we ask people from all corners of the design world two simple questions: Which are your three favorite buildings, and why? So far their selections have ranged all over the globe, addressed all sorts of structures and provided surprising insight into what keeps them in love with design. We’ll post their answers in an on-going series, but let me start with my top three.
Jewish Museum Berlin, Berlin, Germany by Daniel Libeskind
I was 22 the first and only time I visited this museum. It was a cold, rainy, February day and both the shelter and challenge it provided were a revelation. Though I had always been interested in design, wandering around this museum and its grounds was the first moment I recognized the difference between a building a piece of architecture. It was the first time architecture struck me in such a profound way, the real Eureka moment in my continuing design education.
Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC, USA, by Henry BaconWhat I love about the Lincoln Memorial is its bigness. It understands that the legacy and the mythology of Lincoln is outsized—from his physical stature to his moral rectitude to his reshaping of America’s course—and only a monument that dealt quite directly with size would convey the 16th president’s place in history. Yet this bigness works on a human scale. The Lincoln Memorial isn’t massive by comparison to other buildings in DC, or even other buildings on the Mall, it’s massive in comparison to you, the pedestrian, the person. It takes you as an individual on foot, the only way to really see the thing, and simply destroys you with the import of the man.
Community Center Theater, Sacramento, CA, USA
It’s not a great building by any means, just the sort of bland, 60s or 70s concrete civic building that gets a bad rap all over the country. But as a kid growing up in and around Sacramento, trips to the Community Center Theater to see a musical, a concert or the annual production of The Nutcracker always stood out as high points of the year. Not only was the brutalist building a gateway to the kind of entertainment I rarely got as a child, but it suggested a sophistication I perpetually pined for. I most remember touching the exposed concrete exterior near the stage door, feeling the actual heat the building retained. I couldn’t understand, physically, why in a rainy Sacramento December the structure should feel so warm to the touch, but it was perfect, the reciprocation of all I felt, and still feel, for it.
Photo of the Jewish Museum courtesy of ArtinBerlin