Rem Koolhaas and Neil Barrett Envision the Future

August 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

The highlights from Neil Barrett’s S/S 12 menswear show took form in a series of looks printed with a black and white herringbone pattern. The prints had a surreal quality, leading viewers to think the items were constructed from a herringbone twill weave when in fact they were merely white lines inked onto black cotton. The herringbone effect also evoked a dreaminess in the way the herringbone pattern unraveled. As your eyes moved toward the hems, the disciplined lines of the faux weave became long and wayward, crisscrossing and bouncing around like strings from a web spun by a drunken spider.

Barrett’s unraveling herringbone print recalls the exterior of Rem Koolhass and Ole Sheeren’s recently completed CCTV building in Beijing, the headquarters for China Central Television. Long, intersecting beams glide across the surface of the structure, exposing how much support it needs and where. Unlike the aggressive filters in Chinese media, these beams evoke honesty in how they reveal the skeleton of the building like an x-ray. The beams also create an interesting visual texture, recalling a new take on monochrome plaid or a distorted version of Burberry’s signature check.

For the last decade, China has served as the world’s central incubator for experimental architecture. The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics alone produced a handful of iconic works, most notably Swiss duo Herzog & de Meuron’s monumental Beijing National Stadium, which recalls a giant rubber band ball or sculptural bird’s nest. In Guangzhou, Iraq-born architect Zaha Hadid recently completed construction on a new opera house with rigid angles and an ultra white exterior that recall a melting glacier. But amidst the hullabaloo around architecture in China up to this point, the CCTV building has drawn the most fanfare. In a jubilant review in the The New York Times, architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff hailed the CCTV building as possibly “the greatest work of architecture built in this century” and went further to say that it positions Beijing as “the city of the future.”

The CCTV building gives China a new identity of power and innovation to project to the rest of the world. And in a similar vein, Barrett’s surrealist herringbone bone pattern gives a new aesthetic identity to the brand. Like China, Barrett has positioned himself as a force to watch.

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