LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Rockwell Creates a Scene


Rockwell's sumptuous settings and dramatic built forms take architecture to a new realm.

Architect David Rockwell sets the scene for exciting interiors and architecture of bold scale.

Drama is a fundamental element of good architecture, but to imbue a structure or space with theatricality is an art form that David Rockwell has mastered. Hailing from a vaudeville background, Rockwell creates an architecture that has an element of magic and the ability to touch even the most stoic, as he proved recently at this year's 11th Venice Biennale of Architecture.

Taking up the challenge of Director Aaron Betsky to look at architecture outside the realm of bricks and mortar, Rockwell's interactive installation of images and soundscapes is a truly dazzling work of art. Using state-of-the-art technology, created specifically, it dazzles visitors with a kaleidoscopic display of movie scenes projected onto large-scale screens, as giant fractured tableaux. "We thought that this notion of film, with film being the basic building block, that would be deformed and re-formed around you, which suggests that film is more and more how people imagine the future and look at the past. If you think of the traditional, the heroic role of the architect, who had plaster cast and models in the studio as inspiration, now it is also films, which are a big part of our inspiration." After graduating from Syracuse University, David Rockwell set up his own studio in New York in the early 1980s. From the outset, theatricality has been the defining element that extends throughout all his projects, from the bold audacity of the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles and the Mohegan Sun Casino & Resort in Connecticut to the imposing elegance of Nobu's celebrated style. Staged environments have always held a fascination for Rockwell. In 2004 he applied his architectural skills to scenic backdrops of Trey Parker's 2004 marionette movie Team America: World Police, and has applied his scenographic skills to many Broadway musicals, from Hairspray to The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

David Rockwell's larger-than-life settings extend beyond the stage, as his successful track record creating some of the world's favorite restaurants attests. From Ducasse to Ramsay, Rockwelll is well-versed, and has indeed mastered the art of creating public spaces where "you have experiences that last hours, but create lifelong memories," says the architect. "I like working with Alain Ducasse and with Nobu Matsuhisa. I just finished working with Gray Kunz – who was amazing – Jeffrey Zacharian, Bobby Flay and Gordon Ramsay, who's also fantastic. I'm lucky, I get to do exactly what I like. I've been doing restaurants for 25 years, and what I realize excites me is the relationship with the food, the design and the service. When those integrate, you get something special."

His work has always been about appealing to our emotional side, creating an experience that draws the audience in. While many of today's architects are accused of creating projects that do not live up to their grand renderings, Rockwell's renderings cannot compete with the vivacious, magical energy that has become the calling card of all of his projects. As Reed Kroloff of Jones Kroloff, with whom Rockwell collaborated on the biennale installation, notes, "David is a jewel. He's very rare in architecture. He's kind, thoughtful, sincerely interested in everything, and Casey and I have loved him for years. His work inspires great devotion."

David Rockwell's definition of luxury:

Regaining time (Luxury used to be a 4.5 hour meal, now it's only 1.5 hours, so I regain that time spending it with my kids, or doing something else).

If luxury were...

A moment
The end of the day, when you're getting outside your ritual and you're able to reconnect.

A place

An object
Really soft sheets.

A person
Having dinner with my wife and two kids. Lola's six and Sam is eight.

The 11th International Architecture Exhibition runs in Venice from September 14 to November 23, 2008.

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