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Florence's Museum of the Opera del Duomo set to Reopen to the Public

The 'Pietà' Room. Image © Antonio Quattrone
The 'Pietà' Room. Image © Antonio Quattrone

The new Florentine museum of the Opera del Duomo, affiliated to the city's cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, is set to reopen its doors to the public next week following years of restoration and reconstruction. 6000 square metres of exhibition space, designed by Adolfo Natalini and Guicciardini & Magni architetti, will house the largest collection of Florentine medieval and Renaissance sculpture in the world, including pieces by Donatello, Michelangelo (the Florentine Pietà), Andrea Pisano, Lorenzo Ghiberti (Gates of Paradise), and Luca della Robbia. It will also exhibit fifteen 14th century statues and almost seventy fragments from the cathedral's original medieval façade.

Read Monsignor Timothy Verdon's, Director of the Opera, narrative of the new spaces after the break.

SHoP's Vishaan Chakrabarti Launches New Practice Dedicated to Cities

Former SHoP partner, scholar, author and urbanist Vishaan Chakrabarti has announced the creation of Partnership for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU), a new practice focused on the "advancement of cities through cosmopolitan architecture and strategically innovative urban planning." As founder and CEO, Chakrabarti will lead the New York City-based firm with a mission "to create an ecological network of empowered citizens, generous buildings, discursive public space, strong infrastructure and a thriving urban environment."

PAU's first client will be Sidewalk Labs, a new urban innovation company funded by Google that seeks to solve urban issues through the application of technology.

Researchers Develop Smart Window Coating That Controls Light and Heat Transmission Independently

In an era when both environmental comfort and sustainability are key concerns in architecture, the tendency to cover buildings entirely in glass is among the most criticized and controversial traits of contemporary architecture, as all-glass buildings often guzzle energy thanks to their demanding cooling and heating requirements. Over the years, a number of fixes for this problem have been attempted, including smart glass solutions that allow users to modify the transparency of the window. The problem with this solution, however, is that smart glass is unable to block infrared (heat) transmission without ruining the very thing that makes glass attractive in the first place: its transparency to visible light. That conundrum may soon be a thing of the past, though. As reported by, a team of researchers at the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a new smart window technology that allows users to selectively control the transmission of light and heat to suit their requirements.

Renzo Piano Designs New Skyscraper for London

Plans have been unveiled for a "skinny Shard" in London's Paddington area. Designed by Renzo Piano, the 65-story skyscraper is the focus of a £1 billion plan aimed at revitalizing the "soulless" district.

"At the moment you only go to Paddington for two reasons - to catch a train or to see someone in hospital. It is soulless and has no life and yet it is only five minutes from Hyde Park and seven or eight minutes from Marble Arch," Sellar Property Group chairman Irvine Sellar told Evening Standard. "It is a fantastic location but it is stuck in a Fifties time-warp. We intend to create a place for people to go, where they will want to live, work, eat and shop."

September ABI Returns to Positive Territory

After a slight contraction in August, the September Architecture Billings Index (ABI) has returned to positive territory. As the American Institute of Architects (AIA) reports, the September ABI score was 53.7, up from a mark of 49.1. The new projects inquiry index was 61.0, down from a reading of 61.8 the previous month.

“Aside from uneven demand for design services in the Northeast, all regions are project sectors are in good shape,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “Areas of concern are shifting to supply issues for the industry, including volatility in building materials costs, a lack of a deep enough talent pool to keep up with demand, as well as a lack of contractors to execute design work.”

A breakdown of regional highlights, after the break. 

These Children's Playhouses Mimic Contemporary Japanese Architecture

Barcelona-based designer David Lamolla of SmartPlayhouse creates children’s playhouses based on contemporary architecture styles, aiming to create fun spaces for children that are also sculptural elements for the garden. His Kyoto playhouse series is inspired by minimalist Japanese architecture, taking on a form reminiscent of Toyo Ito’s Mikimoto Ginza 2 building. 

Stevens' Hurricane-Resilient SU+RE House Wins Solar Decathlon 2015

A student-led team from Stevens Institute of Technology (SIT) in New Jersey has won the 2015 Solar Decathlon with a “Coastal Home of the Future" - the SU+RE House. Affordable, net-zero, and entirely solar-powered, the home was inspired by the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. It hopes to serve as a prototype for coastal homes.

"SU+RE HOUSE powers itself with clean solar power, and uses 90 percent less energy than its conventional cousins," says the winning team. "In the aftermath of a storm, SU+RE HOUSE can become a hub of emergency power for surrounding neighborhoods."

Wilkinson Eyre Selected to Design Australia's Second Tallest Tower

Wilkinson Eyre Architects has won an international competition to design Australia's second tallest tower. The proposed Queensbridge Hotel Tower, planned for Melbourne’s Southbank area, will be comprised of a 388-room luxury hotel and 680 apartments, as well as ground floor retail and rooftop garden terrace. As BDOnline reports, the winning scheme will rise 317-meters - just five meters shy of the country's tallest building: Q1 on the Gold Coast. Pending approval, it is scheduled for completion in 2020. 

Daniel Libeskind Discusses "Building Memory"

In this edition of Section DMonocle 24's weekly review of design, architecture and craft, David Plaisant speaks to Daniel Libeskind about the art and architecture of memory, with particular focus on his designs for his Ground Zero Masterplan and memorial in New York City. The show also discusses plans to transform John F. Kennedy airport's iconic TWA Terminal, and head to Singapore to meet the team at Ministry of Design.

WOHA and Liminal Architecture to Design Performing Arts Building in Tasmania

Liminal Architecture is partnering with WOHA and Arup Acoustics and Theatre on a new cultural and performance development for the University of Tasmania. Planned for the corner of Campbell and Collins Streets in Hobart, the building will envelope the existing Theater Royal and create a backdrop to the historic Hedberg Garage.

So far only one image of the schematic design has been released, revealing a porous structure that will, as the architect's describe, "evoke a sense of the activities happening within."

Breaking Ground: Steven Holl Architects Celebrates 8 Projects Currently Under Construction

It is no secret that, in the last 10 years, a majority of the big budget construction projects have been centered in newly emerging world markets like China. But now, the markets may be turning. Steven Holl Architects is a strong example of this trend: with the groundbreaking of the Glassell School of Art in Houston on the 15th, the firm now has 8 projects under construction in the western world - 7 in the United States, and one in the United Kingdom. Owing to the steady strengthening of the US dollar over recent years, clients seem to be investing in high ticket architecture once again. After completing projects abroad such as the Sliced Porosity Block in Chengdu, and Nanjing’s Sifang Art Museum, Holl will now be working in cities like Richmond, Iowa City, New York and London.

Holl’s recent work also reflects a change in design scale. In projects such as the Linked Hybrid in Beijing and the Vanke Center/Horizontal Skyscraper in Shenzhen, design began at the urban level, resulting in inward-looking superstructures. In the firm’s return to the west, projects are usually designed as an object or extension of an existing environment, such as in their expansion project for the Kennedy Center. The reduced sense of scale is also evident in the square-footage in some of their recent designs, including a residence to be built at under 1000 square feet.

Visual Arts Building, University of Iowa. Image © Chris McVoy Maggie's Centre. Image © Steven Holl Architects Model of Hunter's Point Community Library. Image © Steven Holl Architects Hunter's Point Community Library. Exterior Concrete Mockup. Image © Steven Holl Architects

"It's Just the Beginning" — 'Real Review' Kickstarter Campaign Hits Milestone

A Kickstarter campaign recently launched by Jack Self and Shumi Bose of the Real Estate Architecture Laboratory (REAL) has reached its funding target in only twenty days. Produced by an independent team of editors and designers, this bi-monthly magazine intends to "revive the review as a writing form" to a general readership within the architectural sphere and its orbital subjects, with a particular focus on politics and economics. Their campaign has so far seen considerable support from the architectural community and beyond — testament to their 'no-ads policy' and dedication to paying their contributors.

In a statement to those who have pledged so far, the editors have said that "the Real Review will happen, and it is directly and completely due to your commitment, your vision and your generosity. We can’t thank you enough for getting us here!" They are now looking to surpass this crowdfunded milestone, with Kickstarter remaining the only way to subscribe.

2015 Leading Culture Destinations Awards Announced

The winners of the 2015 Leading Culture Destinations Awards have been announced at a ceremony in London. The Awards recognize the success of “museums, art organizations, and cultural destinations from around the world [that] are investing in iconic architecture, cross-sector collaborations, [and] audacious programming […] to diversify the experiences offered to visitors and establish their global reputations.”

This year’s Awards honored the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as the leading cultural destination of the year.

The winners of the 2015 Leading Culture Destinations Awards are:

Knight Foundation Offers $5 Million to Realize Ideas to Improve Cities Across the US

The Knight Foundation has announced their second Knight Cities Challenge – a grant with a pool of $5 million to be awarded for city-improving ideas. Applications can be submitted by anyone, professional, student or amateur. Projects must take place in, or benefit one or more of the 26 knight communities across the United States, and focus on one or all of three key drivers of city success: attracting and retaining talent, expanding economic opportunity, and creating a culture of robust civic engagement.

9 Aesop Stores that Revitalize Architectural Simplicity

Australia-based cosmetics company Aesop is clearly dedicated to design. Over the years, the company has worked with architects such as Snøhetta, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Torafu, and Ilse Crawford to create unique stores around the world. 

To pay "tribute to the creative processes, materials and features" that characterize each of its store designs, Aesop has a launched a new website called Taxonomy of Design. Inspired by the compendium, we’ve rounded up some of the best Aesop store designs, each of which is distinctly developed, largely by local designers who are inspired by the location of the store. Read on for nine Aesop shops that revitalize architectural simplicity.

Spotlight: Alejandro Zaera-Polo

Alejandro Zaera-Polo (born October 17th 1963) is an internationally recognized architect and scholar and founder of LondonZurich and Princeton based firm Alejandro Zaera-Polo & Maider Llaguno Architecture (AZPML). First rising to prominence in the 1980s with his writings for publications such as El Croquis, Zaera-Polo has had a prolific career in both the academic and professional realms of architecture.

"A Folly For London" Pokes Serious Fun at London's Architectural Troubles

London is in the throes of an architectural identity crisis, compounded by a severe shortage of housing. While politicians and public figures debate various solutions to the city's design dilemmas, a London-based artist has conceived of a "satirical competition for architecture of the absurd." Known as A Folly for London, the free open-call for solutions to London's architectural conundrums was created in response to Arup and Heatherwick Studio's proposal for the yet to be built, and highly controversial, Garden Bridge

Unlike traditional architectural competitions, A Folly for London sought to ignite debate on the current state of architecture in London. Presented with a distinctly British sense of humour, the competition received more than fifty entries. Winning proposals include the systematic burning of London's forests, construction of a massive inhabitable light bulb and the creation of a catacomb of submerged signature double-decker buses at the centre of the River Thames.

See the winners of "A Folly for London" after the break

The Bulb. Image Courtesy of A Folly for London The Green Fire of London. Image Courtesy of A Folly for London The Bulb. Image Courtesy of A Folly for London Floating Tidal Exploded Bus Maze. Image Courtesy of A Folly for London

TFP Farrells Selected to Design New Financial Center in Xiamen

TFP Farrells have been selected by Winland Group in an international competition to design "the pioneer project of an emerging financial district," the Xiamen Cross Strait Financial Center. Located on the eastern coast of Xiamen Island, the 500,000 square meter project will comprise four high-rise towers containing office buildings, a serviced apartment tower, a 5-star hotel and retail space.

Courtesy of TFP Farrells Courtesy of TFP Farrells Courtesy of TFP Farrells Courtesy of TFP Farrells