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Christmas Wars: The Fight to Hold the World Record for the Most Christmas Lights

In the ongoing battle to hold the Guinness World Record for the Most Lights on a Residential Property (aka the house-with-the-most-Christmas lights), the Gay family in LaGrangeville, New York has once again reclaimed their title. This year the family used 601,736 lights, spanning two acres and set to more than 200 songs. RITZ Crackers, part of Mondelēz International, helped the family top the record, providing 200,000 lights. The Gay family and the Richards family in Canberra, Australia, have been fighting for the title over the past three years. But not to be outdone, the Richards family took home the Guinness World Record for the Largest Image Made of LED lights for their Christmas light installation this year. The installation in Canberra used 1,194,380 lights to make a 3D image of three Christmas gifts spanning 3,865 square meters and raised money for the charity SIDS and Kids ACT.  See more pictures and read more about the ongoing lights competition at City Lab and Guinness World Records

M-Rad Proposes Live-Work Towers to Revitalize Downtown Las Vegas

The idea of mixed-use residential buildings is rapidly gaining popularity in urban America. The concept of being able to work within walking distance of where you live is both convenient and economical. Matthew Rosenberg, design director of M-Rad Studio, recognizes this, and has proposed a dramatic live/work design for the Downtown Project of Las Vegas, Nevada. Titled Inter-Act Residence, the building (or, potentially, series of buildings) would incorporate modular offices and apartments, strategically arranged for interaction between residents.

Sebastian Irarrazaval Proposes Urban Solution to Political Turmoil with Trans-Border African Cities

As the continent with the fastest growing population in the world, African frontiers will soon become attractive areas for urban settlements and the potential for conflicts arising from colonial borders may inhibit necessary economic growth. Colonialism’s legacy continues to spark conflict revolving around arbitrary borders established by Europeans in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with no regard for ethnic, linguistic, and religious disparities across the continent. These decisions resulted in the separation of cultural communities within each nation and the creation of political boundaries that often did not reflect shared civil interests. Consequently sub-Saharan Africa has experienced sustained conflicts in the years following independence, resulting in diminished potential for further economic development in many regions. Today, border disputes have led to a rise in separatist movements in numerous countries, but African governments are hesitant to abandon the colonial borders to avoid further disruptive conflicts.

As political approaches to this issue continue to be extremely contentious, an architectural intervention at the urban scale proposed by Sebastian Irarrazaval Arquitectos may be the key to a prosperous cultural and economic future for Africa. In their concept for an ideal African city, Sebastian Irarrázaval and his team have conceptualized their solution as a network of trans-border cities. This set of “bi-national urban entities” will serve to erase the old colonial borders and "will reintegrate the continent as it was prior to European domination when cultural and economic exchange flourished."

Find out how the proposal aims to address some of Africa’s longest-standing social and political problems after the break

© Sebastian Irarrazaval Arquitectos © Sebastian Irarrazaval Arquitectos © Sebastian Irarrazaval Arquitectos © Sebastian Irarrazaval Arquitectos

US Architecture Schools Express Interest in Conferring Licensure to Graduates

Becoming licensed is no easy feat for the recently graduated architecture student. The combination of required internship hours and exam scores proves a daunting obstacle for most, often taking years of work after college to surpass. Now, however, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) is testing the waters for an alternative system that could grant licensure to students immediately upon graduation.

Sou Fujimoto Chosen to Design Liget Budapest's House of Hungarian Music

Sou Fujimoto Architects has been announced as one of three practices chosen to design buildings for the Liget Budapest project, one of Europe’s largest museum developments. Selected through an anonymous competition process, the Japanese firm will realize an undulating House of Hungarian Music that was “inspired by sound waves.” Its distinctive perforated “smart roof” will float on top an airy glass-walled interior illuminated by the canopy’s lightwells. 

French practice Vallet de Martinis DIID Architectes was also chosen to construct a striated Museum of Ethnography, while Hungarian firm Középülettervező Zrt will realize the cuboidal PhotoMuseum Budapest and Museum of Hungarian Architecture

All three projects will be built in Városliget, the city’s largest park, by 2018. Continue after break to view images of each. 

© Sou Fujimoto Architects, Courtesy of Liget Budapest © Sou Fujimoto Architects, Courtesy of Liget Budapest © Középülettervező Zrt., Courtesy of Liget Budapest © Vallet de Martinis DIID Architectes, Courtesy of Liget Budapest

Frank Gehry Tells the Story Behind Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

In just three short years, Frank Gehry’s 450,000-square-foot Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will open. More than 12 times the size of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim New York, the expansive $800 million museum will showcase 1960s art from around the world within an asymmetrical mountain of plaster blocks and self-cooling translucent cones. Anticipating its completion, the New York Times sat down with Gehry to hear the story behind the building’s design. Watch the full interview with Gehry, here

UK Housing Review Panel "Needs To Be More Balanced," Admits Terry Farrell

Last week the UK Government appointed a new housing design panel, intended to "ensure that new homes are not only lower-cost but also high-quality and well-designed." The panel will be led by Terry Farrell, classical architect Quinlan Terry and aesthetics philosopher Roger Scruton, as well as representatives from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), the UK Design Council and lobby group Create Streets. However, the profession was quick to criticize the selection of the three lead members of the panel.

TailorCrete Seeks to Revolutionize Concrete Fabrication

Concrete construction has been an important part of architectural practice since the Roman Empire. Extremely malleable, fluid concrete is capable of being poured into almost any conceivable form. In theory, this makes it an ideal building material. In practice, however, creating complex forms out of concrete is extremely inefficient. Pouring on sight requires formwork that is painstakingly made by hand, and precast concrete is usually limited by orthogonal molds. Concrete has become restricted to a few simple forms that are easy and cheap to produce when, in many cases, a building would benefit from concrete casting that is optimized for its structural and economical needs. How do we make such optimization feasible? This is the question that the EU sponsored TailorCrete has attempted to answer. A research consortium lasting for four years, TailorCrete is exploring new technologies that could make non-standard concrete structures commonplace.

Four Presidential Libraries for Obama to Consider

Of the four locations that are under consideration to host the future Barack Obama presidential library, two have released visions of what could be if their sites were selected - the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and the University of Hawaii at Honolulu (UH). UH, who’s offering a stunning oceanside site on Waikiki Beach, paired Snøhetta, MOS, and Allied Works Architecture with local architects to draw up proposals, all of which share a deep connection to nature. UIC, on the other hand, has proposed an idea that reinterprets the library as a systemized network of public infrastructure focused on revitalization. 

View all four proposals, after the break.

University of Illinois at Chicago. Image Courtesy of UIC Snøhetta and WCIT Architecture at UH. Image Courtesy of UIC Allied Works Architecture at UH. Image Courtesy of UIC MOS and Workshop-HI at UH. Image Courtesy of UIC

Samsung Commissions Choon-Soo Ryu to Design Vietnamese Community Center

Samsung Electronics is spearheading a village development project in ThuyHoa, Vietnam, as part of a new social contribution program named “the Nanum Village.” The Nanum Village is a project where the local government cooperates with residents of a village who are willing to develop their neighborhood, improving the public infrastructure and supporting local people’s initiatives for sustainable development of the village. This new community center by Korean architect Choon-Soo Ryu will be built in 2015 as a result of that initiative.

Grimshaw Receives Planning Approval for Phase Two of Belfast's City Quays Masterplan

Grimshaw Architects have received full planning approval for City Quays 2, the second building planned as part of their City Quays masterplan for Belfast Harbour’s Clarendon Dock. To be built on a former ferry terminal site, City Quays 2 will stretch nine stories high and provide over 95,000 square feet of flexible work space.

RIBA To Open Chapter In India

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) have announced that they will open a chapter in India in 2015 in order to offer "enhanced membership support, networking opportunities and a forum for local activities and CPD." It will also allow the RIBA to work "collaboratively with the Indian Institute for Architects (IIA) for the enhancement of the profession." The launch of this branch of the institute follows the opening of chapters in the USA, Hong Kong and the Gulf in recent years. According to Chloe Sadler, RIBA Head of International Chapters, the RIBA currently has "just under 100 members in India who are working tirelessly to uphold the principles of the [institute] and share the importance of good design." "This new Chapter will cement the RIBA’s commitment to support our members in India through knowledge exchange and the celebration of architecture."

INABA Frames Empire State Building with Animated "New York Light" Installation

This holiday season, wedged between two New York City icons - the Flatiron and Empire State building - stands the #NewYorkLight public art installation by Brooklyn-based INABA. A magnificent place to experience the Manhattan grid, the installation frames a unique and uninterrupted view of the skyline due to the clearing of Madison Square Park. 

© Naho Kubota © Zhonghan Huang © Naho Kubota © Naho Kubota

Iwan Baan: No Filter

Fondation Louis Vuitton, Frank Gehry. Image © Iwan Baan
Fondation Louis Vuitton, Frank Gehry. Image © Iwan Baan

Cultured, one of the leading art, architecture and design magazines, has shared with us part of the 16-page photo essay “No Filter” by Iwan Baan that is being featured in its Winter Issue, on stands now. Enjoy! 

If you pore endlessly over images of architecture the way we do, chances are you’ve been drooling over work captured by Iwan Baan. Though he’s adamant that he not be referred to as an “architectural photographer,” Baan has probably captured more buildings, pavilions, residences and just about every other structure in between than any other single lensman. Yet it is Baan’s background in documentary photography that most influences his work. “I choose my projects not so much for the architecture, but for its relationship with the city around it and how people respond to it,” says Baan. “I’m trying to tell the story of the built environment—the places where we live.” Here, Baan tells the story behind 11 projects completed this year, and two others that he has a personal connection to.

“I love great architecture that is very specific for its site and client, it’s for an architect always a dance between him, a site and a client. Here, Gehry was given complete freedom to design every detail, every nook and cranny of a building for Bernard Arnault to house his art collection.”

Read on for more quotes and images by the renowned Iwan Baan. 

In Defense of Santiago Calatrava

In recent years, few architects have had a tougher time in the media than Santiago Calatrava. Whether it's his repeated legal battles over leaking roofs and peeling facades, the unceremonious death of his Chicago Spire project, or the media firestorm over his New York Transportation Hub that is $2 billion over budget, Calatrava has become a poster boy for those who criticize the supposed arrogance of today's architects. However, in an engaging article for FastCo Design, Karrie Jacobs responds to what seems to be "a concerted effort to shore up his reputation," coming to the defense of this "unreconstructed aesthete." Read the article in full here.

Winning Proposals of "Looking Forward" Visualize the Future Athenaeum of Philadelphia

The Athenaeum has just announced the winning proposals of the "Looking Forward: Re-imagining the Athenaeum of Philadelphia" competition. In celebration of its 200th anniversary, the independent library and museum issued a challenge to architects, designers, and artists to illustrate their visions for the "Athenaeum of the Future."

The competition's entries included 46 professional and 42 student proposals from 17 different countries, 15 US States, and 10 schools. Read on after the break to explore the award-winning designs.

Stay on the Ground 2. Image Courtesy of The Athenaeum of Philadelphia Athenaeum 2050. Image Courtesy of The Athenaeum of Philadelphia Athenaeum 2050. Image Courtesy of The Athenaeum of Philadelphia Philadelphia Grotesque Revisited 2. Image Courtesy of The Athenaeum of Philadelphia

Interior Renders of Robert AM Stern's 520 Park Avenue, NYC's Most Expensive Apartment Building

This news article was originally published by 6sqft.

Robert A.M. Stern‘s 520 Park Avenue has already been called “the next 15 Central Park West,” and like its Stern predecessor, 520 is an ultra-luxury development with a stately façade wrapped in stone. Set to be completed in 2016, it will rise 51 stories high, but contain just 31 units, one of which is the $130 million penthouse, the city’s most expensive apartment. And though most of the attention has been on “the greatest apartment on the Upper East Side,” the fanfare has now shifted to the first batch of interior renderings for the building.

520 Park’s full website is now live, and not surprisingly, the residences have classic layouts, impressive Central Park views, and a host of high-end amenities.

© 2014 Zeckendorf Development LLC via © 2014 Zeckendorf Development LLC via © 2014 Zeckendorf Development LLC via © 2014 Zeckendorf Development LLC via

BAG Transforms Wooden Pallets into Temporary Space Observatory

Rome-based firm Beyond Architecture Group (BAG) has designed “experimental furniture” - dubbed Looking (C)up - for the Frammenti Music Festival at the Archaeological Park in Tusculum, Italy. The firm, known for building houses with bales of straw, chose to craft an astronomical observatory with wooden pallets.