‘Over an old Flemish house there stands the mystical inscription: “there is more within me”.’ So wrote Georg Simmel in 1904, referring to the way that fashion allows us to simultaneously express and mask our individuality. He incidentally makes a connection between fashion and the facade, one which, though suppressed in architectural discourse, always lies very close to the surface, as Mark Wigley has shown. The facade hides the interior, but also expresses something about the building. When the purpose of the building is display, however, this relation should be more straightforward – unless of course you are in a conservation area, in which case historical facades are retained at all costs, even if the rest of the building is demolished. In their shop for Chanel in Amsterdam, MVRDV has proposed a radical alternative: why not remake a historical facade in an unprecedented material, glass for instance? In order to do so they had to develop new technologies of casting and bonding glass bricks, the transparency of which renders the Simmelian inscription redundant.
Crystal house drawings