The other day, after I accidentally surfed into a 2012 Art Nouveau building in Amsterdam, I figured it would be interesting to have a discussion about whether today’s architects are able to accurately design Art Nouveau objects.
The facade of Haarlemmerdijk 140 looks, if you move your head real fast, like a genuine Art Nouveau building. But keeping your head still reveals that it is not authentic. The tile panels, for one thing, are actually painted on wood. But also the flowers on those painted ’tiles’ are not delicate enough to be the real thing. And the wood is, I don’t know, not the right color? And there’s something just not right with the proportions of all that wood.
Same story when we look at the 2007 Art Nouveau facade I discovered earlier in Harderwijk. It is too heavy to be the real thing.
So I decided to do a little investigating…
I searched and searched… and found there are only a few examples of modern Art Nouveau in The Netherlands.
These two are Leiden townhouses designed by 24h Architecture. They don’t actually call them Art Nouveau houses themselves, but other people do (here, here & here)! And I see how this has flowing lines and looks organic.
But to me, this is NOT Art Nouveau.
Not even close!
Then I went searching outside The Netherlands, all the way down to Moscow. Above two pictures show an interior design by Daria Grigorieva. Do you see what I mean when I say the proportions are not right?
Latvian Yuri Moshan’s website shows designs that are getting closer, but unfortunatley, he’s not consistent. He’s the first designer who’s got the whiplash right though…
All examples were basically the same and I was just about to conclude that today’s architects and designers don’t have ‘it’ anymore…
And then there was Oleg Karlson.
Karlson (born 2 April 1956) and his design team worked on this Moscow estate from 2003 till 2009. They accepted the commission as a kind of professional challenge and began the project by studying books about Art Nouveau. They toured Europe, studying Art Nouveau architecture, at the same time taking a great interest in collecting and restoring furniture of this time.
As the estate was to be built in Zhukovka (a wealthy Moscow suburb), right between two houses of prize-winning architect Ilya Utkin, the bar was set extremely high. Karlson and his architects needed to get inside the heads of well-known Art Nouveau masterminds and crack the design principles of Art Nouveau in order to pull this one of! And boy, did they get it right!!!
Conclusion: There are architects who still have what it takes. Oleg Karlson is living proof.
But why then, do we not see more high quality modern Art Nouveau? Is Karlson the only brilliantly talented architect in the world? Or is it, besides extreme talent, also a matter of budget?
About Oleg Karlson
Èpital – Epoxy Materials
Moscow Art Nouveau Apartment
Orin – Polyresin Ornaments
Russian Architects: Oleg Karlson
The Autumn Salon – Natural Elegance
Website Oleg Karlson
Yuri Moshan’s Art Studio