A competition for the Center for the Promotion of Science and the development of what is known as "Block 39" in Belgrade has been won by Architect Wolfgang Tschapeller. The competition involved the development of a whole block, but at the periphery is the Science Center rendered above, which serves the purpose of bringing science to the public through exhibitions in its large hall, here located well above ground, as is the building itself.
The intent is that of classic modernism, that the ground plane may be freed for circulation and plantings, and indeed the approach to this building anticipates just that, dominated as it is by ramps, stairs, and a cafe to provide for a "slow" procession to the building entrance above.
The idea of lifting a building up in the air isn't new; one could consider the Villa Savoie to be lifted above the ground plane, but it is more phenomenally lifted, as one does arrive at a ground floor, and the circulation path takes one through the house to the sky, so that the house ends up mediating between earth and sky. i also thought about Will Alsop's Sharp Center at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, which is the only example i know of a building so completely separated from the earth that its underside may be considered to be it's facade. The difference is that whereas Alsop's building is treated as a graphic object of sorts, with all sides treated equally, Tschapeller's design makes clear a facade that is the face of the building one approaches and the one given prominence above all others.
Sharp Center, Will Alsop
This all seems very new to me, and unprecedented. i'm sure there have been proposals that have elevated buildings above the ground plane, but i don't know of any that have been so clear about the space opened up by doing so. This is really a new space, one that has only recently become possible, and one that rethinks our relationship to the earth and space making in the city. The brilliance of the Tschapeller proposal is the deliberateness of the approach, one fully considered and choreographed as a procession rather than a shaft that launches one into the underside of the building as the Sharp Center does. The Science Center proposal is just as considerate of the plane below as it is to the surface of its underside, just as any well considered facade should be to its context and approach. The facade proposes a mirror finish, which here acts to reflect the earth in the sky, as if to remind of our true foundation even as we leave its territory, substituting one element for another but showing that we are, in the end, grounded.
That the space between is celebrated by a sheltered slow climb allows for a new consideration of the city itself; a 3-dimensionallity that we have yet to experience in our day to day movement through the city. We are used to moving about past the walls and down the corridors of our cities until we find our destination, but never have we been able to truly experience moving vertically through the same city. We take elevators, of course, but for the most part the vertical movement we experience takes place in a shaft under controlled circumstances. When the Eiffel Tower was completed in Paris at the end of the 19th century it was the first time people could experience this type of movement in the open air, but there it was in the service of entertainment, whereas the Tschapeller proposal envisions a whole city block created this way, with each entrance one that adopts a slow vertical rise into our occupied space, one accompanied by a gaze out to the city proper.