Farshid Moussavi: Current Work

Farshid Moussavi, Farshid Moussavi Architecture
Recorded: April 7, 2014

Farshid Moussavi established London-based Farshid Moussavi Architecture (FMA) in 2011, following 18 years as a co-founder and partner at Foreign Office Architecture (FOA). Research is an integral part of Moussavi’s practice, carried out both in her office and academic positions. Since 2006, she has been a Professor in Practice of Architecture at Harvard University.

Her Current Work lecture is titled “Style Matters,” a reference to her most recent book in the “The Function of…” series that has explored the theory and history of ornament, form, and style. She presents style as process rather than formalism, with decisions about style the “specific agency” of the discipline of architecture. Moussavi gives examples of conventions of form that have become codified, such as the layout of theaters and work arrangements in offices, which have led to “a sense of inevitability about certain activities.” She presents an argument for identifying and then breaking these conventions, allowing for arrangements that inspire new habits of behavior and engagement with form.

Moussavi presents six projects from FOA and FMA, organizing the presentation of each around the convention in form, envelope, or structure that the project seeks to subvert:

  • The Yokohama Port Terminal questions the monumentality and isolation of traditional ports through a form that is integrated with the landscape of the city, “appropriating the terminal” as a public space.
  • Subverting the closed or blank façade of the department store, the John Lewis Department Store in Leicester employs a semi-transparent glazed screen that creates privacy without limiting light and views.
  • The One La Défense building outside of Paris takes advantage of a shallow, irregular site through a slab building divided laterally with five elevator cores, creating light-filled, naturally ventilated apartments in a form normally organized with interior corridors and single-aspect units.
  • With an “assemblage of floors and balconies,” La Folie Divine in Montpellier uses varied floor plates and balcony configurations to create privacy, flexibility, and diversity in a residential tower.
  • The 130 Fenchurch Street office tower in London transforms the standard glass curtain wall with a fluted black glass whose concave pieces “neither mirror its context nor act as a transparent window.”
  • Moussavi’s first project in the US, the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, defies the traditional white cube gallery with flexible, reconfigurable spaces in which art and social activities can cohabitate and deep blue walls that create continuity from exterior to interior.

Just before her Current Work lecture, architect and educator Farshid Moussavi sat down with Elizabeth O’Donnell, Acting Dean of The Cooper Union School of Architecture, to discuss the state of architectural education, the place of research in the discipline, and the contemporary role of the architect. Read that conversation here.

The Current Work series invites significant international figures who powerfully influence contemporary architectural practice and shape the future of the built environment to present their work and ideas to a public audience.