Cultured Magazine

Fall 2014

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Page 127 of 215

they are outshining the art." Yantrasast's first freestanding museum—the Grand Rapids Art Museum in Michigan—may be the single project that helped him get to his current level of status. Built in 2007, it was the first museum ever to be awarded the LEED Gold certification for environmental status. Intended as a "front porch" for the city, the building has a massive concrete overhang in front that's supported by three concrete slabs. In some hands, that could form a cold embrace, but Yantrasast rendered it warmly, having learned how to use high-quality concrete from his mentor, Ando. Ample but well-controlled natural sunshine floods the space, particularly in the beloved "lantern galleries" on the third floor, which is topped by a huge light well. That helped lead to one of his biggest projects, a $55 million addition to the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, the oldest and biggest art museum in the state. Two buildings are forthcoming from wHY to combine with the stately, formidable original structure; the first is a shimmering glass box that signals openness and a friendly attitude. "They loved our thoughts about 'acupuncture architecture,'" says Yantrasast, who coined this witty concept (another metaphor) and loves the comparison to Eastern medicine. "To clear the energy, you have to add some spaces around it—but the adding alone is not going to solve it. It's about the flow and the energy moving around." His Asian roots have informed but never dominated his work. After college in Bangkok, Yantrasast attended the University of Tokyo for a master's and Ph.D. before going to work for Ando, who is based in Osaka; a six-month gig turned into seven years of traveling and being a vital team member on projects like The Clark. Though clearly an influence, Ando's work is more "controlling" in the Japanese style, says Yantrasast, while his own has a larger "sense of openness," which is more inspired by traditional Thai architecture. The new Pomona College Studio Art Hall, which is making huge strides in green design, epitomizes this approach. "The faculty really challenged us to create a space that is indoor-outdoor and doesn't use much electricity," Yantrasast says. "So, maximizing the natural light and the ventilation, we formed this art village around a courtyard." The peaked roof form takes its cues from the mountains in the distance. The way Yantrasast worked with the Pomona staff is also a testament to his core belief in another metaphor: that architecture's role in society is most similar not to art, but to fine food and dining—both are functional art forms that bring people together by their very nature. "Look at how fast-food culture has changed in 20 years," says Yantrasast, who doesn't cook but loves to entertain in the house he built for himself. "People are now so informed and clear about what they are eating. I would love architecture to get to that place—where people don't go for the stereotype, they want complexity and to know the philosophy behind it… where the chef comes from, what he's thinking." Whatever Yantrasast cooks up next, people will be lining up to sample it. 126 CULTURED "I would love architecture to get to that place where people don't go for the stereotype, they want complexity and to know the philosophy behind it." This fall will see the debut of the galleries reconceived by Yantrasast at the Renzo Piano-designed Harvard Art Museum.

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