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|Alma mater||Harvard University
Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London
|Practice||Farshid Moussavi Architecture
Previously Foreign Office Architects
|Buildings||Ōsanbashi, International Passenger Terminal, Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
John Lewis complex, Leicester, UK
Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, Ohio
Victoria Beckham Flagship Store, London, UK
|Projects||The Function of Ornament
The Function of Form
The Function of Style
Farshid Moussavi RA RIBA is an Iranian-born British architect, founder of Farshid Moussavi Architecture (FMA) and Professor in Practice of Architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. She was co-founder and co-principal of Foreign Office Architects (FOA) until June 2011.
Moussavi was born in 1965 in Iran and immigrated to London in 1979. She trained in architecture at the Dundee School of Architecture, University of Dundee, The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London and graduated with a Masters in Architecture (MArch II) from the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University. Moussavi first came to prominence with FOA, the practice she co-founded in 1995. Previously, she had worked at the Renzo Piano Building Workshop and the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) before moving back to London to teach at the Architectural Association and start her own practice, Foreign Office Architects (FOA). At FOA, Moussavi co-authored the design for the award-winning Yokohama International Ferry Terminal in Japan (which was subject to an international design competition in 1995) and was part of the United Architects team who were finalists in the Ground Zero competition. She also completed a wide range of international projects including the John Lewis complex in Leicester, England and the Meydan retail complex in Istanbul, Turkey.
In June 2011, Farshid Moussavi announced the opening of her new practice, Farshid Moussavi Architecture (FMA), based in London. In October 2012, FMA's first museum and first building in America, the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, opened to the public. In August 2012, its installation titled ‘Architecture and Affects’ featured at the 13th edition of Venice Architecture Biennale in Italy. FMA has also designed Victoria Beckham’s flagship store in London, which opened in September 2014. The practice is currently working on a number of international projects including residential complexes in Montpellier and La Défense district of Paris, France, as well as an office tower in London, UK. The practice was a finalist for the Museum and Educational Centre of the Polytechnic Museum and Lomonosov Moscow State University competition and joint winner of the international competition for the new headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne.
Farshid Moussavi has served on numerous design committees including the Mayor of London’s Design for London Advisory Group and LDA International Design Committee, the RIBA Gold and Presidents Medals, the Stirling Prize and the Venice Architecture Biennale. She was Chair of the Master Jury of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004, and a member of the Award’s Steering Committee between 2005-2015. She was an external examiner for the Royal College of Art in London from 2010-2013 and for the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design from 2014-2016, and has been a columnist for the Architectural Review. She is currently an external examiner for The Architectural Association in London and serves on the academic court of The London School of Architecture. She is also a trustee of the Whitechapel Gallery as well as the Architecture Foundation in London, a role she has maintained since 2009.
Alongside her professional practice, Moussavi has held a longstanding commitment to research across the academic and professional field of architecture. Since 2005, she has been Professor in Practice at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Previously, Moussavi taught at the Architectural Association in London for eight years (1993–2000), and was subsequently appointed as Head of the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna (2002–2005). She has been a visiting professor of architecture at the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam, the Hoger Architectuur Instituut Sint-Lucas in Gent, and in the USA, at UCLA, Columbia University and Princeton University.
Moussavi’s research, which began while teaching at the Architectural Association in the early 90s, has aimed to identify the instruments that allow architectural design to embed built forms with intelligence and creative possibilities. Instead of importing external theoretical models from other fields, Moussavi has focused on those that are specifically architectural, exploring the potentials of the diagram, information technology, landscape, iconography, new construction technologies, blank envelopes and tessellation as tools that could be used to develop alternative theoretical models for the practice of architecture.
Since 2004, Moussavi’s research has focused predominantly on how architecture involves the intellectual assembly of matter, providing each built form with inherent affects and sensations. Her work in aesthetics is influenced by a range of philosophers, notably Spinoza, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Following from Gilles Deleuze’s work on affect, she proposes that built forms’ affects play a critical role in the daily experiences of individuals and the cultures which develop from them. Like active forces, they affect patterns of thinking and behaving. Moussavi argues that, in order for culture to evolve, architects need to produce novel affects. It is not what built forms represent but how they function affectively that makes architecture a critical cultural practice.
Moussavi has published three books: The Function of Ornament, The Function of Form and The Function of Style in conjunction with her teaching at Harvard, all of which investigate the role of affect in contemporary architecture.
The Function of Ornament
In The Function of Ornament (2006), Moussavi proposes that ornament has always carried a function, and that function is an aesthetic and cultural production. In this book, she argues against definitions of ornament as a being symbolic and functioning through the representation of something else rather than through its own actuality. She proposes that in order for built forms to contribute to how culture evolves, its ornament should not be seen as a set of superficial and decorative elements which are introduced to a building to associate it to an existing artistic and cultural realm, but should be conceptualized as the sum of those elements of any built form which define its inherent aesthetic and artistic contributions. Ornament is that which makes the actuality of one form distinct from another, a distinction which is the result of the architect’s activity, rather than something imported from an ‘external’ artistic or cultural realm.
Redefined as such, ornament is integral to each built form and can engage a variety of depths depending on the way in which the architect assembles the form’s particular set of concerns or materials. Ornament may perform through the entire form of a building, the depth of its external envelope or the superficial face of its external envelope in the form of colour, texture or pattern.
Rather than functioning through symbol and meaning, this notion of ornament functions by transmitting novel affects and sensations. The non-representational nature of these affects allows built forms to be perceived differently by different individuals, generating in them different types of affections such as moods, feelings, meanings or thoughts. Unlike symbolic definitions of ornament, which are rooted in a homogeneous concept of society, Moussavi’s definition of ornament argues that in a contemporary plural society – which lacks a common cultural memory – built forms can connect with different individuals in different ways through their affects, thereby producing different subjectivities. This allows the built environment, like movies, music and art, to be imagined as a social fabric, and thus highlights a contemporary cultural role for ornament.
The Function of Form
In The Function of Form (2009), Moussavi further explores non-representational forms. Where the ornament research proposed the function of ornament beyond the symbolic, her form research proposes a new theory of form away from the limitations of representation (symbolism), towards repetition and differentiation in order to nurture multiplicity within culture.
Fundamental to Moussavi’s proposal is that, due to the speed at which technology, the environment and culture are changing, the rate of change in contemporary architecture has shifted from a process of overhaul and replacement to a mode of continuous and incremental change. This rapid rate of change is the consequence of multiple intersecting causes which are rooted in human (social, subjective, sensorial) as well as nonhuman (natural, objective, technical) spheres. In order to be compatible with these mutant and diverse values, architecture cannot be limited to the representation of a-priori concepts or singular causes and must evolve through constantly producing, enriching and reinventing its environment.
Moussavi posits that, by working with affect, architecture achieves this capacity to evolve and reinvent the environment. She revisits the relationship between function and form and proposes that – rather than being read simply as the outcome of epochal movements – the history of form contains a continuous thread in which historical ideas have been evolved and transformed to produce novel forms. By decomposing forms into their affects, The Function of Form shows how physical structures which used to be synonymous with specific concepts can be freed from their attendant cultural and other significances. Particularised and differentiated in this way, these physical structures become mutable and can be re-appropriated and transformed without prejudice, to produce singular affects. These affects are processed by individuals into different types of subjectivity which encourage the environment to evolve as a multiplicity.
The Function of Style
The third volume in Moussavi's Function series, The Function of Style (2015) interrogates what the function of style is today. If the 1970s were defined by Postmodernism and the 1980s by Deconstruction, how do we characterize the architecture of the 1990s to the present? Some built forms transmit affects of curvilinearity, others of crystallinity; some transmit multiplicity, others unity; some transmit cellularity, others openness; some transmit dematerialization, others weight. Does this immense diversity reflect a lack of common purpose?
Moussavi argues that the diversity of contemporary architecture should not be mistaken for an eclecticism that is driven by external forces. The Function of Style presents the architectural landscape as an intricate web in which individual buildings are the product of ideas which have been appropriated from other buildings designed for the different activities of everyday life, ideas which are varied to produce singular buildings that are related to one another, but also different. Moussavi argues that by embracing everyday life as a raw material, architects can change the conventions of how buildings are assembled, to ground style, and the aesthetic experience of buildings, in the micro-politics of the everyday.
Farshid Moussavi Architecture
- Victoria Beckham Flagship Store, London, UK (2014)
- 130 Fenchurch Street Office Complex, London, UK (2013-)
- Les Jardins de la Lironde Residential Complex, Montpellier, France (2013-)
- Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, Ohio (2012)
- La Défense Residential Complex, Paris (2011-)
- Installation for Common Ground at 13th Architecture Biennale in Venice (2012)
Foreign Office Architects
- Osanbashi Yokohama International Passenger Terminal, Japan (1995–2002)
- Bluemoon Hotel, Groningen, the Netherlands (1999–2000)
- Police headquarters, La Villajoyosa (2000-3)
- Coastal park with outdoor auditoriums, Barcelona (2000-4)
- Headquarters for Dulnyouk Publishers, Paju (2000-5)
- Municipal Theatre, Torrevieja (2000-6)
- John Lewis department store and Cineplex and pedestrian bridges, Leicester (2000-8)
- British Pavilion at the International Architectural Biennial, Venice (2002)
- Olympics 2012 & Lower Lea Valley Regeneration Masterplan, London (2003)
- La Rioja Technology Transfer Centre, Logrono (2003-7)
- Trinity EC3 office complex, City of London (2003-)
- Spanish Pavilion at the 2005 International Expo, Aichi (2004-5)
- Social housing in Carabanchel, Madrid (2004-7)
- Villa in Pedralbes, Barcelona (2004-8)
- D-38 Office Complex, Barcelona (2004–10)
- Meydan Retail Complex and Multiplex, Istanbul (2005-7)
- Ravensbourne college on the Greenwich Peninsula, London (2005–10)
- World Business Centre, Busan (2006-)
- KL Central Plot D Residential Towers, Kuala Lumpur (2006-)
- Sevenstone Quarter mixed-use complex, Sheffield (2007-)
- Euston Station, London (2008-)
- Mixed-use extension of West Quay II retail centre, Southampton (2008-)
- New Street Station, Birmingham (2008 -)
- Enric Miralles Prize for Architecture (2003)
- Kanagawa Prize for Architecture in Japan (2003)
- RIBA International Award (2004)
- Lion Award for Topography at the 9th Venice Architecture Biennale (2004)
- Charles Jencks Award for Architecture (2005)
- RIBA International Award (2005)
- RIBA International Award (2006)
- RIBA European Award (2008)
- European Business Award for the Environment (2008)
- Urban Land Institute Award for Excellence (2008)
- RIBA Award (2009)
- Civic Trust Award (2010)
- International Council of Shopping Centres Award (2010)
- International Architecture Award (2010)
- RIBA Award for Ravensbourne (2011)
Books and articles
- "Style and Substance: Interview with Farshid Moussavi" in The Architectural Review, June 2014 issue, UK
- "Planning is an art form" in The Architectural Review, Dec 2013 issue, UK
- "Creative leaps in the arena of architectural competitions" in The Architectural Review, January 2013 issue, UK
- "30 St Mary Axe" in Harvard Design Magazine 2012, number 35
- "An Archaeological Approach" in Instigations: Engaging Architecture, Landscape, and the City (2012)
- “School buildings produce culture” in The Architectural Review, September 2012 issue, UK
- “Agenda bender: the case for the abolition of female role models” in The Architectural Review, May 2012 issue, UK
- “Architecture and activism should be as closely linked as the problems we need to solve” in The Architectural Review, December 2011 issue, UK
- "Parametric software is no substitute for parametric thinking" in The Architectural Review, September 2011 issue, UK
- Phylogenesis: foa’s ark, Actar, Barcelona, Spain, 2003
- Foreign Office Architects, El Croquis, # 115/116, Madrid, Spain, 2003
- The Yokohama Project, Actar, Barcelona, Spain, 2002
- Foreign Office Architects, 2G # 16: A monograph on the designers of the Yokohama Port Terminal and other interesting projects], (English/Spanish) Gustavo Gili, Barcelona, Spain, 2001
- Article on FMA's Museum of Contemporary Art in Wallpaper Magazine
- L’Architecture D’Aujourd'hui Special Issue on Farshid Moussavi
- Article on Farshid Moussavi in W magazine
- FMA's Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland in Architectural Review
- MOCA in The Plan
- MOCA reviewed in Can Journal, Cleveland
- MOCA and other recent museums reviewed in the Wall Street Journal
- Ciro Najle interviews Farshid Moussavi in The Plot
- New York Times article on FMA's installation at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale
- Farshid Moussavi Book List
- Farshid Moussavi at IACC Lecture Series 2010/2011
- Farshid Moussavi lecture at the Pavillon de l'Arsenal, 12 November 2007
- Farshid Moussavi in conversation with Nader Tehrani
- Function of Form (Turkish)
- Woodman, Ellis (3 May 2008), "Foreign Office Architects: No, it's not a Guggenheim - it's a John Lewis"
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