Caroline Baumann

Caroline Baumann

By Aaron Britt
For the next installment of Three Buildings I spoke with Acting Director of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Caroline Baumann. I met Caroline touring around Switzerland earlier this year and, as you might expect from one with so impressive and demanding a job, she is smart, charming, inquisitive and elegant. Amidst the maddening task of narrowing down her favorite buildings to just three, Caroline lobbied for an Honorable Mentions list down below. Who was I to say no?

The German Pavilion at the Barcelona Expo 1929 by Mies Van der Rohe is one of the most important buildings in the flowering of modernism.

The Swiss Embassy Residence in Washington, DC. Photo by William Lebovich.

The Pantheon in Rome, Italy

Fitting for a temple to all the gods of ancient Rome!  Extraordinary that it is the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome, at 2,000
years old.  Walking in, looking up at the oculus, just overwhelms me...the timelessness of the building, its monumentality and clean geometry.

The Barcelona Pavilion in Barcelona, Spain, by Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe

I keep an image of the Pavilion in my office as inspiration.  German National Pavilion for 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition. Glass, steel and 3 different kinds of marble.  The rigour of the geometry, the precision, the simplicity, the elegance of the marble and travertine juxtaposed with the reflections of the water-I'm spellbound each time I go there.

The Residence at the Swiss Embassy in Washington, DC, USA by Steven Holl in collaboration with Rüssli Architekten
As a Swiss national, I am particularly proud that the Swiss Embassy in the nation's capital is a masterful example of architecture, combining private life and official reception spaces seamlessly.  The overlapping spaces unite beautifully, allowing the visitor to see diagonally through the building to the terrace and the Washington Monument.  Love that the charcoal color concrete and glass planks were inspired by black rocks and white snow of Swiss Alps!  Also it's impressive that Steven Holl Architects created the building according to Minergie Standards, [a comparable system to the US Council for Green Building's LEED standards] to keep energy consumption as low as possible-there's a green roof for water retention, external sunshades that are digitally controlled to respond to heat/solar gain on inside, solar use on the south side, and more!   I'm proud to be the emcee at this year's "Annual Soiree Suisse" on September 23rd where I'll enjoy seeing the spaces populated and celebrated!

Honorable Mentions

- Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, by Louis Kahn

- Conference Pavilion at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rheinl, Germany, by Tadao Ando

- Antonio Galvez house in San Angel, Mexico, by Luis Barragan (Design purity, color, mid century mood.)

- The Glass House in Paris, France, by Pierre Chareau (The Maison de Verre is the example of early modernism: steel, glass and glass block facade. If I could live anywhere, this would be it!  Its translucency, its mystery.)

- MIT Chapel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, by Eero Saarinen (Love the surprise: from the outside, the Chapel is simple with a nicely textured brick cylinder.  On the inside the oculus is completely unexpected, and the Bertoia sculpture hanging down makes it all the more otherworldly and magical.)

- New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, New York, by Sanaa (Best piece of contemporary architecture in NYC in a long has completely transformed the Bowery, adding a sizzle and energy)

Image of the Pantheon courtesy of BatintheRain, image of the Barcelona Pavilion courtesy of DegreeZero2000


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