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Mirrors in Architecture: unfailing impact

Posted by
on March 17, 2015 at 03:55 PM

‘Through the Looking Glass’ is where Alice discovered wonderland. It was the mirror on the wall that provoked the jealous step mother to spell Snow White’s doom. A mirror is the outlet for vanity, as also the reflection of the ugly truth. A thousand reflections of the beautiful Noor Jahaan defied Akbar’s authoritarian objections to his son’s love for her in his own sheesh mahal. Allauddin Khilji was smitten by the beauty of Rani Padmini of Chittor after having seen her reflection in a mirror, leading to war over Chittor. Through all our fairy tales and fantasies, history and mythology, this reflecting surface has been the centre point of great drama. Throughout the ages, mirrors never seem to fail to create an impact. Be it a thap or wall mural using mirrors in Rajasthan, a beautiful choli worn by a Gujarati woman embroidered with intricate mirror work, floor length mirrors adorning the walls of a socialite’s salon or the expansive reflective surfaces of glass and steel skyscrapers, mirrors are the deliverers of drama, the bearers of bling! So, we take a moment away from the humdrum, to look at some contemporary structures that use the unfailing mirror on a minimalist route to achieve dramatic impact. The Future Of Design observes these impactful structures that project the drama of the mirror into the future.

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Copenhagen Mirror House by MLRP Architects: images 1,2,3,4

Amazing impact, considering it is a public funded project for public consumption. Innovative medium of design, compared to the regular colours-and-plastics routine applied to children’s play areas. This mirror house in a Copenhagen park is essentially a minimalist renovation and restoration of an existing, old and depressing gabled structure. MLRP Architects have dramatically transformed this into an inviting, attractive, fun place for kids and adults, using the simple mirror. The huge mirror polished stainless steel on the gabled ends reflects the verdant park surrounds making the structure visually merge into the landscape. The roof and facade, clad in heat-modified wood, have shutters which open up during the day to reveal different bent fun mirrors which entertain kids by creating funny reflections. A real fun spot for kids who play at the park, attend classes or use restrooms inside the Mirror House. A wonderfully attractive public space for the city.

Events Pavilion in Marseille's harbour, France by Foster + Partners: images 5,6,7,8

“A reflection of the surroundings....through minimal intervention” are some words used by the project architects to describe their masterpiece. That really sums up what is required of a heritage conservation project, doesn’t it? And it is done using a simple mirror!  The brief was to open up the Vieux Port, the waterfront in Marseilles, to all the citizens by creating an events space to commemorate the city’s celebration of its position as the ‘capital of European culture’. The solution by the UK based architects, in collaboration with landscape architect Michel Desvigne and Tangram Architects, was a visually paper thin sheet of mirror polished steel supported on eight slender columns. The pavilion is wonderfully inviting, people enjoy looking up at this massive reflection of them and their surroundings. From afar, it looks like just a silver lining in the horizon. A simple mirror creating an impactful drama.

Tree hotel, Harads, Sweden by Tham + Videgard Hansson Arkitekter: images 9,10,11,12,13

A mirror clad, luxury Machaan! What’s more, it’s difficult to spot among the trees in the forest! The tree hotel designed by Tham + Videgard Hannson Arkitekter in the forest near Harads, in northern Sweden makes the perfect environ sensitive, minimal yet impactful design statement. Each unit is a lightweight aluminium structure suspended around a tree trunk, clad in mirrors on all surfaces. Approached by rope ladders and rope bridges, it offers a living room, double bed, bath, kitchenette and terrace in terms of accommodation. Windows offer 360 degree views from the inside and the exterior is a simple mirror clad cube, camouflaged by the reflected forest. 

The magical mirror remains simple to use, impactful and appealing from the past to the present. As an instrument of harnessing renewable solar energy, it enjoys refreshing applications today and in the future. It surely finds a prominent place in the list of materials in the future of design

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