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Lamenting the Loss of Hotel Okura, One of Tokyo's Modernist Gems

The news last year that the Hotel Okura, often described as one of Tokyo´s "Modernist gems," was to be demolished was met with widespread disappointment across the board. Built in 1962 under the design direction of Yoshiro Taniguchi, Hideo Kosaka, Shiko Munakata, and Kenkichi Tomimoto, the hotel has long been considered a significant architectural landmark in the Japanese capital. With only a week to go until the hotel checks out its last guest, Monocle—having been granted exclusive access—have shared with us a film to capture "the gracious ways of this much-loved building."

Watershed Materials Hopes to Make Cement-Free Concrete Blocks a Reality

Concrete blocks. Ever since manufacturers developed techniques to make them cheaper than traditional clay-fired bricks, concrete blocks have been one of our most ubiquitous construction materials. However, this ubiquity comes at a price: worldwide, the production of concrete accounts for around 5% of all man-made carbon dioxide emissions, and concrete blocks (as opposed to in-situ concrete or concrete panels) contributes a significant portion of these emissions.

To curb these runaway carbon emissions, a California-based company called Watershed Materials is developing alternatives to the traditional concrete block which uses less cement, dramatically reducing the amount of carbon dioxide produced; they even have a product in the works which they hope will offer a widely applicable concrete block alternative which uses no cement at all.

Sustainable private residence by Arkin Tilt Architects. Image © Ed Caldwell A design using Watershed Blocks by Atelier Hsu. Image © Mark Luthringer A design using Watershed Blocks by Atelier Hsu. Image © Mark Luthringer A sustainable residence by Arkin Tilt Architects using Watershed Blocks. Image © Ed Caldwell

World Trade Center River Wall May Be Leaking

Sounds of rushing water have been reported behind the walls of the lower concourses of the World Trade Center site. As DNAinfo reports, rumors say officials have found an underground leak within the newly built complex and fear that it may be coming from the 3,200-foot-long slurry wall that separates the site from the Hudson River. 

New York City Mayor Threatens to Remove Times Square

Frustrated with the congestion of panhandlers, Mayor Bill de Blasio has shocked New York City dwellers by threatening to remove their beloved Times Square. As New York Times' architecture critic Michael Kimmelman reports, this comes at a time when dwellers fear that quality of life is declining in the city: "Entertaining the demolition of the plazas, the mayor sends a message that New York can’t support the sort of great pedestrian hubs that thrive in competing cities around the globe." Blasio said he will look into the "pros and cons" of returning Times Square to traffic. Read Kimmelman's full report on Blasio's threats, here

Images Revealed of Frank Gehry's “Gateway to Sunset Strip”

Gehry Partners, alongside Townscape Partners, has unveiled plans to redefine the "gateway" to California's Sunset Strip. A cluster of five distinct, Gehry-esque structures, the mixed-use proposal is one of several design alternatives that have been proposed by Townscape for the site. If built, it would include two residential buildings, featuring a mix of rental and for-sale apartments, along with retail, entertainment programs, and public gathering spaces.

Zaha Hadid Architects Release Video Presentation and Report on New National Stadium in Tokyo

In mid-July, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe declared that ZHA's design for a New National stadium would not be completed and that plans for the Tokyo Olympics-Paralympics stadium would "start from zero." In response Zaha Hadid Architects has just issued a press release and a link to a 23-minute video presentation. The video, ZHA explains, "outline[s] in detail the unique design for the New National Stadium which has been developed over two years to be the most compact and efficient stadium for this very special location in Tokyo. Zaha Hadid Architects welcomes a new contractor bidding process for the New National Stadium to reduce costs and ensure value for money in terms of quality, durability and long-term sustainability."

Watch the video - or if you haven't got 23 minutes, read our synopsis - after the break.

© Zaha Hadid Architects. Image by Methanoia © Zaha Hadid Architects. Image by Methanoia © Zaha Hadid Architects. Image by Methanoia © Zaha Hadid Architects. Image by Methanoia

Network and Expand Your Knowledge at WAF 2015

In addition to hosting the world’s largest architectural awards program, the World Architecture Festival (WAF) also features three days of conferences, architect-led city tours, documentary screenings, live crit presentations and networking opportunities. To be held at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, WAF will take place from November 4-6.

A major component of WAF is the opportunity to learn and expand one’s knowledge of current issues facing architecture and urbanism. Inspired by Singapore’s upcoming 50th anniversary as an independent country, the theme of this year’s conference series is 50:50, looking back on how architecture and urbanism have changed during the last 50 years, as well as forward on what may change or stay the same in the next 50 years to come. The conference will center around three key topics: Designing for Tomorrow; Imagining the Future; and Cities and Urbanism, featuring talks by Michael Sorkin, Peter Cook and Manuelle Gautrand, among many others.

Rahul Mahrotra Discusses the "Flawed" Notion of 'Smart Cities'

In an interview with The Indian Express, Rahul Mehrotra—conservationist, architect and author of Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral MEGACITY—talks to Shiny Varghese about his belief that the current notion of a 'smart city' is about "blanket replication, [which] will result in gated communities and flattening of the city, driven by infrastructure and investment." He argues that this approach "will create a form of exclusion."

Foster Teams with Nissan to Envision Fuel Station of the Future

By 2020, almost one million electric vehicles are expected on the road. "It seems to be clear," says David Nelson, head of design at Foster + Partners, "that electric vehicles will be a major feature of the urban landscape." Thus, Foster + Partners has teamed up with Nissan to develop the Fuel Station of the Future.

Imagining how zero emissions technology will influence our cities, the innovative brands are centering their design on the understanding that "connected communities, autonomous drive and the Internet of things" are drastically changing our infrastructure models. Their concept is expected to showcase the benefits of a "smart electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem," harnessing the potential of battery storage and vehicle-to-grid systems.

Santiago Calatrava Tops Out on Dallas' Margaret McDermott Bridge

Santiago Calatrava has topped out on his second Dallas bridge - the Margaret McDermott Bridge - two years after completing the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. The steel arch, reaching a height of 275 feet, is the first of two that will support the 1311-foot-long bridge that is intended to provide access to pedestrians, bicyclists and cars over the Trinity River. The $113 million bridge is part of the massive $798 million Dallas Horseshoe Project that aims to alleviate traffic and enhance accessibility downtown. It is scheduled to complete by the summer of 2017. 

Leong Leong to Design New Mixed-Use Campus for Los Angeles LGBT Center

Leong Leong has been chosen over four others to masterplan and design the Los Angeles LGBT Center's new mixed-use site in Hollywood, California. The Los Angeles-based practice will design a new 183,700-square-foot building that, together with the Center's existing facility across the street, will form a block-wide campus that will include a unique mix of 140 affordable housing units, 100 beds for homeless youth, a new senior center and a center for homeless youth, as well as a new administrative headquarters and cultural arts center. 

Marine Urbanism: How China is Building Artificial Islands in the South China Sea

For a recent article in The New York Times, Derek Watkins examines "what China has been building in the South China Sea." Employing high resolution satellite imagery and diagrams, his article investigates why—and how—China have been dredging and dumping sand in a bid to construct inhabitable artificial islands. Political and diplomatic concerns aside, the article also touches upon the technical requirements necessary to reclaim land from the oceans. 

Lino Russo's "Skymetric" Series Highlights the Architecture of Milan Expo

© Lino Russo
© Lino Russo

Mid-way through the 2015 Milan Expo, Italian photographer Lino Russo is offering the world a fresh look at the exposition with a series of abstract images that backdrops parts of the colorful pavilions with the sky.

"The subject highlights the decontextualization of places and architectural spaces in order to alter the natural structure," says Russo, referring to these images as his second "Skymetric" series. "These places considered have in common the fact to be all completely square, regular and schematic, so achieving geometric shots in a minimalist context, where the simplicity and cleanliness reign supreme." 

© Lino Russo © Lino Russo © Lino Russo © Lino Russo

Crowdfunding Campaign Begins for Homeless Shelter Pods

After winning the 6th annual Space for New Visions competition by FAKRO last month, James Furzer of Spatial Design Architects has begun a crowdfunding campaign on Indigogo for his project, “Homes for the Homeless”. The project proposes a series of modular pods which attach to existing buildings, providing a safe space for a night’s rest for the homeless. Extending beyond mere habitation, James Furzer hopes to change the way that the public sees the homeless – of which there are over 750 on any given night in London alone.

Brad Pitt: "I Get This Well of Pride" Over Make It Right's New Orleans Work

The Float House / Morphosis, Make It Right. Image © Iwan Baan
The Float House / Morphosis, Make It Right. Image © Iwan Baan

Ten years ago this month, Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf coast of the US, hitting New Orleans the hardest. Two years after the wake of this destruction, after seeing the city's lack of rebuilding progress firsthand, Hollywood star and architecture enthusiast Brad Pitt launched Make It Right, a project set to build 150 houses designed by 20 internationally renowned architects.

Over the past eight years, Make It Right has not only helped to rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans—the area struck the hardest by the disaster—but has also began to spread its work to Missouri, Montana, and New Jersey, with more projects coming soon. While the non-profit organization has had success in its endeavors, it has simultaneously faced a great deal of criticism.

In a recent interview with NOLA, Pitt discusses some of these criticisms, reflecting on the growth of the organization, and the changes it has made. Find out about Pitt’s evolving perspective, after the break.

Frank Gehry-designed duplex. Image © Chad Chenier Photography / Make It Right Duplex house. Image Courtesy of Atelier Hitoshi Abe Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans. Image © Irina Vinnitskaya Flow House. Image Courtesy of William McDonough + Partners

Monocle 24 Visits Some of the World's 'Second Cities'

For this week's edition of The Urbanist, Monocle's weekly "guide to making better cities," the team explore why being 'number two' is not always a bad thing in an episode about second cities and the ways in which they step out of their capital's shadow. From Milan to Melbourne, the team examine how and why some cities are carving their own niche in the international business and tourism markets. They also interview the Mayor of Aarhus about the challenges – and advantages – of governing Denmark’s second city.

Fire Consumes Pier Luigi Nervi's Palazzo del Lavoro

Pier Luigi Nervi's Palazzo del Lavoro (Palace of Labour) in Turin has been devastated by fire. The unoccupied exhibition hall, originally built for Italia'61, had been undergoing renovations. As La Stampa Turin reports, the fire started on the second floor and is most likely the result of arson. A similar incident happened a few months ago, but was quickly extinguished. 

The glass encased Palace of Labour is internally divided by 16 structurally independent steel roofed compartments, each supported by radial branches stemming from 65-foot-tall concrete columns.

Launch of Google Sunroof Brings Valuable Solar Power Data to the Mainstream

Google is in the unique position to truly understand what people want. As millions key in their questions, the search giant is actively working to provide better answers. When it comes to questions about solar energy, Google wondered, “If people are lost trying to get answers about solar, why don’t we give them a map?” And so, the tech company announced the beta launch of Project Sunroof: a tool “to make installing solar panels easy and understandable for anyone.”

In a post on Google’s Green Blog, engineer Carl Elkin addressed common misconceptions about the viability of solar energy for the average owner by saying “many of them are missing out on a chance to save money and be green.” Sunroof hopes to be the answer that gives people clear, easy to understand answers.