PRINT January 2001

Herbert Muschamp

NINE OUT OF TEN ARCHITECTURE JOURNALISTS WANT to write about Winka Dubbeldam the moment they hear of her. Admittedly, most are just after an excuse to write her name down for the pure euphonic pleasure. Winka, Winka, Winka Dubbeldam. Sweet and Hot.

You can find both sweet and hot in the work, as well as the person, of this young architect; in fact you can find almost anything—save stupidity. Architecturally, the sweetness comes of Dubbeldam’s receptivity to light, weather, views—not to mention environmental tangibles like zoning restrictions. The heat is in the seductive forms she conjures—and the fact that people are paying attention.

Dubbeldam, who was born in Rotterdam and now lives in New York, belongs to a group of young architects who have adopted the folded plane as a favorite spatial motif. Among the brainier ones, the motif holds ideological as well as formal value. Used to blur the border between, say, wall and roof, the fold makes physical the notion that a worldview is at every moment contingent, made up of a changing set of slices through reality. Sliced one way, the world appears divided, a vast gulf opens between black and white, male and female, north and south; sliced another way, the gulf is barely visible, a hairline crack. A grid is just a facet. Unfold a map, a rent stub falls out, a telephone rings, a cloudless sky; refold until you find a name, a brand, a hard, gemlike flame. Swallow.

Fold a polemic and find decorating tips for a hairdresser’s shop. Dubbeldam has just remodeled the facade and interiors of Aida, a salon on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Bring Adam Phillips’s On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored to read while you’re waiting for your tint job. Dubbeldam conceived the space to relieve tedium. A continuous wrapper folds around the exterior and then inside the tunnel-shaped space, creating pockets for greeting, waiting, shampooing, and cutting. Each fold creates a different angle, a changed light, a fresh perspective, a new look, a chain of connotations—just a trim, or discontent.

It’s taking a while to get Maashaven Towers, a residential project in Rotterdam, off the ground, or rather, out of the water. This three-tower complex, connected to an old grain silo on the shore, will rise from piers jutting into a harbor. The folded axis of each thirty-story tower responds to light conditions and views. Service and circulation functions thicken their middles. Approvals are pending. Why do we not have a row of towers like these on the riverbank of Manhattan?

Construction does begin this winter on a residential tower on Greenwich Street. An eleven-story parabuilding, with a folding facade of metal and glass, wraps around the side and top of an existing brick loft structure just north of Canal Street. Balconies everywhere.

As chief architecture critic at the New York Times, Artforum contributing editor HERBERT MUSCHAMP has been the best friend—and conscience—of architecture in New York City. A passionate advocate and, when necessary, critic of adventurous architects, including Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, and Peter Eisenman, Muschamp has just as actively championed the cause of emerging talent both here and around the world. His writing has garnered numerous honors, including the National Endowment for the Arts’ Art Criticism Award in 1973 and the National Endowment for the Arts’ Design Arts Award in 1986.