Bella Sky Hotel, Copenhagen Denmark

3XN designed the AC Hotel Bella Sky in Ørestad Copenhagen, completed in 2011. The two geometric towers are 76m tall and tilt out 15 degrees to achieve significant views of the city and surrounding grassy meadows. They slip past each other to get views of either side. The hotel has 814 rooms and 30 conference rooms, and a covered bridge connects the towers 70m above the ground.

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Symbolic Meaning Of The Louvre Pyramid

I.M. Pei's bold Louvre pyramid connects the vast wings of the museum to one central location. Most of the space is buried underground, keeping the visual attention on the historic palace.

Was Napoleon's monument to freedom Elephant of the Bastille a factor in the design? Did astrology form the shapes and arrangement? Johann Kepler charted horoscopes using this same form, and related it to profound scientific laws. Gender is also seen by many in the upright and inverse pyramids.

The Louvre in the heart of Paris fixes all the problems with Modernism. The shocking form seems to fit because it was derived by careful study and with thoughtful purpose.

Procession To Democracy

Golden Mean

Pei's concept sketches show two axis. The first runs through the park to the Arc de Triumph du Carrousel. Here it meets another tilted axis, which continues on into the Louvre. This Axe Historique is the strongest site axis in the world, extending through central Paris to the city's modern quarter.

This tilting of spaces at the Arc de Triumph and the pyramid keeps the composition unified yet unexpected.

In 1833, a column stood where the pyramid now stands. A third axis tilts slightly as it extends from this point on to the east. This third axis extended to the Place de la Bastille where a similar column was constructed in 1835 to commemorate the revolution against King Charles X.

The July column at the Place de la Bastille replaced the Elephant of the Bastille, which gives insight into the meaning of the Louvre pyramid. The Elephant was a large structure atop a fountain, which people could enter through a staircase and walk around inside, as with today's Louvre pyramid. It was cast in bronze from the guns captured by Napoleon in his conquests. In Victor Hugo's Les Miserable, it housed the homeless children of the Revolution. Run-down and despondant, it symbolized the humility and determination of democracy:

"There it stood in its corner, melancholy, sick, crumbling, surrounded by a rotten palisade, soiled continually by drunken coachmen; cracks meandered athwart its belly, a lath projected from its tail, tall grass flourished between its legs; and, as the level of the place had been rising all around it for a space of thirty years, by that slow and continuous movement which insensibly elevates the soil of large towns, it stood in a hollow, and it looked as though the ground were giving way beneath it. It was unclean, despised, repulsive, and superb, ugly in the eyes of the bourgeois, melancholy in the eyes of the thinker." -Victor Hugo

The Statue of Liberty in New York is a modern descendant from the Elephant. Visitors walk into and climb a stairway up the Statue, much like in the Elephant. The Louvre Pyramid achieves the same kind of procession, and directly links to its axis in the city. It therefore could assume the symbol of the poor and humble class. The poor gain access to the wealth of the world in the museum. History and art liberates the people.


By 1850, the column in the courtyard was replaced by two circles. Pei's early sketches start to resemble these two circles. Yet while the inverted pyramid keep a circular outline, the large pyramid is decidedly rectangular. Pei took a square and fit another square inside it. How did Pei get this geometric form?

Astronomer Tycho Brahe built the Uraniborg observatory based on the classic chart of the four terrestrial elements. He applied the four states of the four elements (earth, fire, water, air) to the celestial sphere for the first time, asserting a new idea that stars are subject to change like anything else.

Tycho's assistant, Johann Kepler applied this building form to astrology. His rectangular horoscope used tilted concentric squares that look very similar to Pei's form at the Loure. If you lay the classic zodiac over the louvre pyramid, you can see how it fits.

Did Pei look at Kepler's horoscope for the pyramid entrance to the Louvre?

A 90 degree triangle approaches the pyramid from the left side. This T-square aspect pattern forms a trine, which is considered in astrology to be "a source of artistic and creative talent." This is therefore an appropriate entrance to an art museum. The Louvre's entrance forms a trine. The 120 degree trine in the musical scale indicates a perfect fifth step, which is the strongest relationship of notes in music. The sun moves almost exactly 120 degrees on the summer solstice in Paris.

Kepler fit platonic solids inside each other. The tetrahedron was surrounded by the cube. More complex platonic shapes fit inside the tetrahedron, until finally they formed a sphere. This could be the background for Pei's pyramid inside the Kepler square. The inverse pyramid fits inside a circle and the large pyramid inside a square.

Pei said he used a pyramid because it was "the most structurally stable of forms."1 The pyramid is glass so that it is only barely seen, an intellectual suggestion.

The large pyramid touches a line between the top of the historic palace and the inverse pyramid. Looking at it in plan view, the edge of the large pyramid touches lines between the ends of the palace and the center of the inverse pyramid. These lines of sight suggest calculus that is used to derive perfect solids. They are an intellectual manifestation of perfect forms.

The pyramid and square could be based on Keppler's laws of planetary motion. Kepler described the harmony of planets, music, poetry, etc. with proportions. Kepler's third law, that the period of a planet's orbit squared is proportional to the distance of the orbit cubed, describes the harmony of motion and distance. The pyramid volume is proportional to a line squared, and the cube volume is proportional to a line cubed.

The inverse pyramid's proportion to its outer circle is the same as the earth's proportion to the moon (27%). The large pyramid is likewise exactly 27% the width of the courtyard. The front entrance is half that distance from the front of the courtyard. Both pyramids thus relate the size of the moon to the size of the sun.

Kepler applied the mathematics of the perfect platonic solids to the epicycles of planets. Rejecting Ptolemic astronomy, Kepler declared that the earth revolves around the sun, and that the moon revolves around the earth, in elliptical orbits. He related these proportions to various things, such as the structure of the human eye. Indeed, if you overlay Kepler's drawing of the eyeball over the Louvre, you see that the proportions line up. The Arc de Triumph aligns with the front of the cornea, the inverse pyramid with the lens, and the large pyramid with the front of the optic nerve. The hedges in the park even look like light rays approaching the eye from the left. This is because the harmonic proportions of the Louvre universally describe naturally occurring systems.

Golden Mean

The pyramid proportionally relates a system of objects, so it is no surprise that the golden mean is a basis for the pyramid's size. The golden mean determines form and distance. The golden mean determines the pyramid's size between the front and back, and the left and right of the courtyard. The statue of King Louis XIV, which is the endpoint of the park axis, aligns with this proportion. The golden mean also relates the inverse pyramid to the fountain edge.

The Louvre pyramid has the same slope as the Great Pyramid in Giza, at 51 degrees. The significance of the golden proportion in the Great Pyramid thus applies to the Louvre. It uses the golden proportion to achieve its form. The procession into the front, descending down into underground also follows the Great Pyramid in Giza.

The summer solstice sun crosses just inside the Arc de Triumph along the Axe Historique as it sets. The sun therefore is of vital importance in this site axis. The setting summer sun establishes a line of site between the statue of King Louis XIV with the inverse pyramid:


The circle is traditionally female and the square male. The inverse pyramid thus appears female while the larger pyramid is male. This is strengthened by the popular notion that the Louvre is a metaphor for the chalice and blade. The chalice is the female aspect of creating life and is represented by an inverse pyramid. The blade is the male aspect of death and is represented by an upright pyramid. This metaphor is strengthened when you consider that the inverse pyramid is surrounding by living grass and the upright pyramid by fluid water. The Egyptians believed the waters of chaos must be crossed in the afterlife, and this is why they placed their funeral upright pyramids near the river Nile. Male/female relate to life/death and circle/square. The entrance procession continues this gender language, as the left side swirls in a circular motion and the right side descends in strict right angles. The Louvre's free-standing staircase is a structural marvel, and its unrestrained circular motion was not easily achieved.

I think this gender symbolism is the most significant thing about the Louvre pyramid. Modernism seems intent on destroying all gender in our architectural language, yet here is a stark example of Modernism pushing ancient gender language. Its subtle power is the stuff of mystery novels, yet it is not really understood.

Life and death are investigated as the pyramid plays with the idea of above-ground and underground. The water fountains reflect the blue sky on the ground. The clear pyramid alls light to fill the subterranean space. At the inverse pyramid, everything flips upside down. The blue fountains take the form of blue sky and the transparent pyramid fills into the building. Rather than the building against a sky, it is the sky against the building. It touches a solid form, a small pyramid, a polar opposite to the unsubstantial sky. This forces the visitor to investigate nature's opposites. From Keppler's investigation of natural systems, to perfect proportions, and natural opposite relationships, the Louvre makes the museum visitor investigate natural law.

Massimiliano Fuksas borrowed Pei's concept of glazed sky intruding into building space. His MyZeil mall in Frankfurt swirls glazing around the public space.


^ I.M. PEI'S PYRAMID: A PROVATIVE PLAN FOR THE LOUVRE, New York Times, November 24, 1985


National Kaohsiung Stadium, Taiwan

Toyo Ito designed the National Stadium in Kaohsiung, Tiawan for the 2009 World Games. It seats 55,000 people and is usually used for football games.

Ito derived the stadium's shape from the skeleton of a winding dragon. The structure gestures to the entrance and then coils around the field. The surrounding park is lush and green, and the entrance vast and vague. The repetitive ribs influence the core structure, as Ito bends over chunks of concrete and repeats them below the seating. The concrete seems to sag under the weight of all the people. This stark difference in material but similarity in design speaks of the spectators' relationship to the athletes. The architecture is all about the event.

The roof is covered with 8,844 solar panels, and this is the first stadium to generate all of its electricity. It is also remarkable that it incorporates the solar panels into the general aesthetic, and pulls it off quite well. It could generate up to 1.14 gwh of electricity per year.

The 2009 World Olympics were an alternative to China's 2008 Olympics, and I am happy to promote it because my blog is censored in China.

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Jaume Fuster Library, Barelona Spain

Josep Llinás Carmona designed the Biblioteca Jaume Fuster in Barcelona, completed in 2005. The building settles down into the built landscape to give prominence to the historical buildings around it. The Gracia district of the city was a scene of bloodshed in the Spanish Civil War in 1936. It also contains rich architecture such as Gaudí's Park Güell. The library uses this setting as a backdrop, like stained glass windows of a church, with a low profile and a deconstructionist language. Bustling traffic transitions to quiet residential units.

A canopied front transitions between interior building and exterior plaza. The Lesseps plaza effacing the building rises up, and folds and crackles as it meets the city. The building channels a "green corridor." It emphasizes a weird topography and blends natural imagery with that of the city. The programming of space is intermingled and chaotic, continuing the unexpected and organic site. Crystal is used in the exterior facade material, an interesting local aesthetic.

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Architecture Innovations Of Ancient Rome

Ancient Rome pushed engineering to great heights with the innovations of new technologies. They introduced unprecedented cities, culture, and design. These innovations were lost from the world for over a thousand years when Rome fell. But they were rediscovered, and today we continue to build on their ideas.


Domes had been around a long time before Rome. There were two kinds. The Tholos was an underground domed tomb with stacked concentric slabs of stone. The Tumulus mound was a rough construction of stones. The Romes vastly increased the size of domes. The Pantheon is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world.

Rome likewise vastly increased the scale of the barrel vault, which had been used in Sumeria and Egypt
for many years. Romans increased the height of structures by placing arches atop columns. They also strengthened their structures by using groin vaults at the intersection of two barrel vaults.

War Machines

Rome greatly expanded its empire through the use of engineering. The praefectus fabrum were in charge of war machines and war structures, such as Hadrian's Wall which crossed the whole of Britain.

Roman engineers invented or developed a variety of siege machines: Tormenta, ballistae, testudo, gallery, onager, scorpios, battering ram, siege tower, mine. A large portion of Vitrivius' Ten Books on Architecture is devoted to engineering in offensive and defensive positions.

Concrete was developed around 250 B.C. based on ancient Mesopotamian recipes. After the burning of Rome in 64 AD, concrete is used extensively in reconstruction of the city structures. Its versatility and structural properties made concrete a good material for the area. Many structures that may appear to be stone are actually concrete.

The recipe for pozzolan cement was lost in 476 AD after Rome fell.

Roads & Bridges

Key to Rome's success was their system of roads and bridges across the land. They allowed quick troop movement, trade, and communication. Major roads connected cities and were stone-paved, curved for drainage, and flanked by sidewalks and ditches. Survey teams engineered these roads to be comfortably level through mountains and marshes.

As part of this network, Romans built great bridges. Concrete and
arch technology allowed them to build robust bridges larger than ever before.


Health was a major consideration for Roman design. Vitrivius discussed the drainage of wetlands and testing of site conditions as the first step in building a city.

Rome established a system of drainage, as it was originally a marshland. The Etruscans were among the first to drain rainwater to avoid erosion. These drain paths eventually served to dispose of human waste, and these channels were covered to form a sewer. Water from the public baths were reused at public latrines, and upper-class home connected
directly to the sewer. Knowledge of the sewer was lost when Rome fell.


As part of their emphasis on health, Romans constructed public bath utilities. The thermae were devoted to bodily and mental health, with libraries, classrooms, and exercise gymnasiums included.

The hypocaust system was an efficient heating system that pumped heated air under floors. Floors were raised and rooms arranged to make optimal use of the heated air. This system is the basis of some heating strategies today.

Engineers went to great lengths to pump water to their cities. Though many ancient nations achieved incredible aqueducts, the Roman aqueducts are noteworthy because of their precision. The chorobate was used to keep the water channel's slope very slight. Reservoirs were created to feed the aqueducts, though standing water was avoided due to the health affects.

The stacked Roman arch made it possible to cross rivers and wide valleys. Careful design went into
the material, shape, and scale of these aqueducts for optimal construction.

Social Projects

The government of ancient Rome subsidized basic costs for the general population such as education and food. Perhaps the most important social projects were structures, however. The forum, the circus, the coliseum, baths, etc. were public venues that used architecture's unique role in social relations.

Vitruvius spoke of architecture in terms of social responsibility, terms that are rarely heard today. We may talk about environmental concerns and community, but social responsibility may be the one innovation we haven't truly gotten back.