Building the very difficult

Brian Wait

Human civilizations have an irrational yet endearing tendency to push the design of certain buildings far beyond functional requirements to the point that they test the limits of the possible. The envelope-pushing imperative, as alive today as ever, drives us to develop ever more sophisticated tools that allow us to build ever more sophisticated things.

Computers, the most powerful tools ever invented, have ushered in an anything-is-possible age for architecture where virtual reality, physical models and buildings have become part of a data continuum whose products differ only in scale.
Or do they? In the act of building, the anything-is-possible world collides with the world of gravity, wind, fire codes and cost control. What happens at the collision point between the virtual and the real? Why do we choose to build the very difficult? Brian Wait is an architect at Atelier Jean Nouvel, Paris.