Iran’s geography consists largely of a central desert plateau, surrounded by mountain ranges. Due to the country being mostly covered by earth, sand, and rock, Iranian architecture makes fantastic use of brick or adobe elements. Most of the buildings seen in larger cities such as Tehran and Isfahan are constructed using similar brick-laying methods as can been seen in other parts of the world, but certain constructions, usually ones that date further back, contain incredible geometrical treasures. And it doesn’t stop there - old Iranian architecture often contains a layer of tiles over the brick constructions that can create just as mesmerizing geometrical wonders. The art of creating complexity by using many incredibly simple elements is one that has been mastered in Iran. In an architectural world where construction has become hidden by layers of plaster and plywood, we could learn a lot from the beauty of Iran’s structural geometry, where skin and structure are (almost always) one and the same.
In this article, Dirk van den Heuvel links (Dutch) Structuralism to current day developments – more specifically in the digital realm. The following essay was first published by Volume in their 50th issue, Beyond Beyond, the editorial of which is available to read here.
Throughout his life the Dutch architect Jaap Bakema (1914-1981) sought to convey to his students and colleagues the notion of what he called 'total space', 'total life', and 'total urbanization'. In his view, architectural design had to help in making people aware of the larger environment to which they belong and in which they operate. Architecture could not be uncoupled from urbanism, it was related to the deeper structure of society. His conceptualization of architecture was programme and process based and it put social and visual relationships at the centre, which betrays his adherence to Structuralism as voiced in the Dutch journal Forum of which he was an editor together with Van Eyck and Hertzberger, and to the Team 10 discourse, of which he himself was one of the leading voices. At the same time, Bakema would expand on the legacy of the Dutch De Stijl movement and Dutch Functionalism. In particular his concept of space and spatial continuity is derived from De Stijl. His diagrammatic approach to architectural design and programmatic organization, as well as the elementary architectural language of his projects were elaborations of the Dutch Functionalist tradition.
Biomimicry with Steel Sheets: Designing "DNA" Into Materials Can Create Architecture that Shapes Itself
This article was originally published by Autodesk's Redshift publication as "Haresh Lalvani on Biomimicry and Architecture That Designs Itself."
It’s the holy grail for any biomimicry design futurist: buildings and structures that use generative geometry to assemble and repair themselves, grow, and evolve all on their own. Buildings that grow like trees, assembling their matter through something like genomic instructions encoded in the material itself.
To get there, architecture alone won’t cut it. And as such, one designer, Haresh Lalvani, is among the most successful at researching this fundamental revision of architecture and fabrication. (Or is it “creation and evolution”?) He employs a wildly interdisciplinary range of tools to further this inquiry: biology; mathematics; computer science; and, most notably, art.
"The Cloud" by Studio Fuksas Brings a Touch of Modern Baroque to Rome's Rationalist EUR Neighborhood
This article was originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "Studio Fuksas' Controversial (Yet Striking) Convention Center Opens At Last."
Despite its evocatively fluffy name, “The Cloud” (Nuvola in Italian) has been one of the most seriously discussed and debated architectural projects in Italy in the last decade. Even after its opening in October 2016, the building continues to generate controversy over its cost (an estimated €353 million, or $390 million) and the delays its construction incurred.
The EUR Convention Center, as it’s officially known, is the largest new building to be built in Rome in more than 50 years—a flicker in time for the Eternal City, perhaps, but not an inconsiderable span either. The design was hatched by Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas in 1998, but it languished on the drawing boards for nearly two decades after that. In that time the city elected five different mayors and had three temporary commissioners. It also weathered a number of corruption scandals.
As a young architecture student looking for a way to take his mind off schoolwork, architect/artist Tristán began drawing comics that drew inspiration from what he knew best: architecture school. Settling on the protagonist of the architecture student, he created a full series of comic strips focusing on the day to day routine of architecture students and teachers.
The comics take on moments from the life of architecture school, from the stresses of pulling all-nighters to the realities of dealing with clients in the professional world. By creating these strips, Tristán aims to shed some light on the complexities of being an architecture student – not forgetting that humor can sometimes be the best medicine for what ails you.
This article by Gabu Heindl, an Austrian architect and urbanist, was first published by Volume in their 50th issue, Beyond Beyond, the editorial of which is available to read here. Here, Heindl introduces the concept of "powerfully (precariously) positioned planning propositions" (PPPP) based on the Donaukanal project in Vienna.
In a certain sense, looking at the beyond is something that we cannot do today, other than from the vantage point of a beyond the ‘beyond’. Looking at the connections between progressive political movements and planning/building practices in modernity and their ways of departing into ever new ‘beyonds’, beyond the boundaries of historically given urban and social formations – today, we are certainly beyond these dynamics. And it is not so much postmodernism that needs to be invoked here, but rather two reflections on politics, planning/building related and otherwise, that are bound for the beyond. One reflection concerns how progressive, modernist, avant-garde politics, even at their height, were compromised by, or even complicit in, affinities with paternalistic, top-down governance (Red Vienna) or even with totalitarian rule (fascism). The second reflection, more pertinent to our present moment, concerns the extent to which the dynamics of going beyond have, since the late 1970s, shifted to a regime of (self-)government and accumulation which is addressed and theorized under labels such as neoliberalism, Post-Fordism or new spirit of capitalism.
This article was originally published on Metropolis Magazine as "New Retrospective Glimpses the Man Behind the Maison de Verre."
Pierre Chareau was an architect whose buildings have almost all been demolished; an interior designer whose designs have all been remodeled; and a film set designer whose films you cannot see. These are not the most auspicious circumstances on which to mount a retrospective, but an ongoing exhibition at the Jewish Museum, imaginatively designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), attempts it nonetheless.
Chareau, who is best known for his one surviving building, the Maison de Verre in Paris, defies neat classification. Without any sort of architectural training, he worked briefly as a furniture designer for a British firm then struck out on his own, creating an idiosyncratic corpus of furniture, interior designs for life and cinema, and even several homes.
As the remnants of an empire that once covered almost the entire area from Greece to China, Iran is full of historic wonders. Due to the country's current political situation, it is not exactly a top tourist destination and as such many of these wonders are kept a secret from the rest of the world. As with any historical building, the ten sites listed below each contain a rich history within their spaces. However, Iran’s history is exceptionally complex, layered with dynasties and rulers whose influence extended way beyond modern-day Iran. These sites, therefore, are physical memories of the rich culture that underpins Iranian people today, despite the radical change in the country’s political sphere after the 1979 Revolution. Sacred sites for the Zoroastrians, for example, are still visited and remembered, despite the restrictions placed upon them by the Iranian government. The essences of these sites provide opportunities to learn about and empathize with the history of Iran, beyond what we hear in the news.
It is difficult to understand and quantify the importance of design in our lives. However, when we take a closer look at the pieces that inspire and transform our daily life, innovative furniture brings us new ways of seeing the world, further enhancing the meaning of simple concepts like beauty, comfort, and quality.
5 Techniques to Incorporate Solar Panels into Your Architecture Beautifully (Not as an Ugly Afterthought)
This article was originally published by Autodesk's Redshift publication as "5 Ways to Design Solar Architecture Beautifully—Not as an Ugly Afterthought."
No one puts solar panels on their house because they’re sexy—at least, not yet.
Jon Gardzelewski, an architect and associate lecturer at the University of Wyoming in the Building Energy Research Group (UW-BERG), wants to change that. He believes the fact that solar panels are usually an afterthought to the design of a building is a big barrier to integrating them into a critical mass of houses and buildings.
"Rethink the City; New Approaches to Global and Local Urban Challenges" is a free online course given by Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, starting on March 28, 2017.
The course aims to address urban challenges in emerging countries to provide a new perspective in understanding and analyzing the southern hemisphere. For this reason, the content is structured in the following three thematic axes: "Spatial Justice," "Housing Provision and Management," and "Urban Resilience".
Enrollment is now open through the Edx.org online education platform. The course has a duration of six weeks between 3 to 4 hours per week and is aimed especially at undergraduate students, especially those in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, according to the course content.
To most people, Facebook is simple. They use it as a survival tool during never-ending university lectures. They use it to distract themselves during arguments at the family dinner table. They use it to ‘research’ that new person in the office. But when the architect signs in, everything changes. To us, Facebook is an ‘archi-forum’. Every passionate, powerful sketch of ours is uploaded. Every deep, reflective, opinion of ours is posted. Every non-architectural event is advertised with the intensity of an adventure to Narnia. Happily, we know our audience – other architects...
Our modern day, image-obsessed culture has got us consuming a large quantity of architecture through photographs, as opposed to physical, spatial experiences. The advantages of architectural photography are great; it allows people to obtain a visual understanding of buildings they may never get the opportunity to visit in their lifetime, creating a valuable resource that allows us to expand our architectural vocabulary. However, one must stay critical towards the disadvantages of photography when it comes to architecture. Jeremy Till, author of “Architecture Depends,” summarizes this in his chapter “Out Of Time”: “The photograph allows us to forget what has come before (the pain of extended labor to achieve the delivery of the fully formed building) and what is to come after (the affront of time as dirt, users, change, and weather move in). It freezes time or, rather, freezes out time. Architectural photography ‘lifts the building out of time, out of breath,’ and in this provides solace for architects who can dream for a moment that architecture is a stable power existing over and above the tides of time.”
The following tips aim to not only improve the visual strength of your architectural photography, but also the stories that they can tell—going beyond the individual images in order to communicate buildings’ relationships with their contexts, space and time.
In the 1960s James Stirling asked Ludwig Mies van der Rohe why he didn’t design utopian visions for new societies, like those of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City or Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse. Mies replied that he wasn’t interested in fantasies, but only in “making the existing city beautiful.” When Stirling recounted the conversation several decades later it was to the audience of a public enquiry convened in London – he was desperately trying to save Mies’ only UK design from being rejected in planning.
It couldn’t be done: the scheme went unbuilt; the drawings were buried in a private archive. Now, for the first time in more than thirty years, Mies’ Mansion House Square will be presented to the public in both a forthcoming exhibition at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)—Mies van der Rohe and James Stirling: Circling the Square—and, if it is successful, a book currently being funded through Kickstarter by the REAL foundation.
The Faculty of architecture at KU Leuven, which last year featured on QS's Top 100 Universities in the World for Architecture, is Belgium's largest and most established university. The following essay, by Dag Boutsen—Dean of the School—and Kris Scheerlinck, examines cyclical learning in architectural education. It was first published by Volume in their 50th issue, Beyond Beyond, the editorial of which is available to read here.
I meet architect and educator Ralph Knowles on an unseasonably warm autumn day, even for Southern California. He greets me in shirtsleeves (his shirt is a tropical pattern of vines and branches) and leads me to a seat on the balcony of his condo. The building—a retirement community—is fairly new, but mature oak trees line the quiet street. As we talk about his career, the California oaks form a poignant backdrop. For more than five decades, Knowles, 88, has argued for an architecture that hews closely to nature’s forces and rhythms.
Flagship stores excite both fashion shoppers and designers alike due to their role as visionary laboratories for the latest trends and stimulating retail experiences. Architects have developed various ways to dress haute couture stores, from distinctive icons in the day to seductive night-time images. The images accompanying this article, created by the Portuguese architect and illustrator André Chiote, help to explore the graphic potential of famous brands like Dior, Prada and Tod's. The illustrations clearly reveal the various techniques of playing with diaphanous layers, intimate views inside or the contrast of light and shadow.
Vernacular architecture refers to designs which find their primary influence in local conditions: in climate, in materials, and in tradition. In a country as diverse as China, with 55 state-recognized ethnic minority groups and widely varying climates and topographies, many different vernacular dwelling styles have evolved as pragmatic solutions that accommodate the unique needs and limitations of their sites.
Rapid urbanization in China has favored high-rise apartment towers over traditional housing because of their ease of construction and the population density they enable, making vernacular dwellings increasingly rare throughout the country. Some firms, like MVRDV and Ben Wood’s Studio Shanghai, have taken note of the many benefits that vernacular dwellings provide, and have created projects that attempt to reconcile tradition with urbanization. Even if you aren't planning on building in China any time soon, the following housing styles have much to teach about what it means to live in a particular time and place. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does encompass the main types of vernacular dwellings seen throughout China.
If you’re a true Simpsons fan, you know there is a Golden Age in which every single episode does not only parody our society, but is filled with film tributes and sexual innuendos that we remember to this day.
From a faith-versus-science conflict (Lisa the Skeptic, 09x08) to the impact of online fake news (The Computer Wore Menace Shoes, 12x06); from Populism in Urban Policy (Marge vs the Monorail, 04x12) to its well-known predictions like the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States (Bart to the Future, 11x17), the show has a knack for providing the social commentary we didn't know we needed.
We had yet to notice, however, just how beautiful some of the visual compositions delivered by the show’s best episodes truly are: Springfield’s ever-changing skyline; the axonometric views that reflect the loneliness experienced by the characters; or the point-perfect generic recreational facilities that every city has.
How did we discover this? Through an Instagram account, Scenic Simpsons, which is dedicated to “showcasing the most beautiful scenes, colors, sets and abstract compositions from Springfield.” We've pulled some of our favorite images to check out below. Can you recognize which episode these scenes are from?
A Capsule of "Almost-Forgotten History": Surface Magazine Visits Peter Zumthor's Allmannajuvet Zinc Mine Museum
Below is an excerpt of the cover story of this month’s Surface magazine: an in-depth look at Peter Zumthor’s recently completed Allmannajuvet Zinc Mine Museum, featuring exclusive quotes from the architect himself.
The first thing you notice when you arrive at the new Allmannajuvet Zinc Mine Museum outside Sauda, Norway, is that it looks nothing like a museum—or at least, what we think of as a museum. On a steep site framed by elegantly rugged walls of dry stone, three black, shed-like and zinc-roofed structures look far too small to house exhibits, much less hordes of visitors. But this isn’t a museum in the conventional sense. Consisting of a service building with restrooms, a café, and a gallery—all perched on tall timber supports—it’s more a memorial to those who toiled in the zinc mine that operated on the site from 1881 to 1899 in the spectacularly beautiful Allmannajuvet Ravine. The mine and its accompanying trail were long ago abandoned, the original buildings a distant memory.
If you’ve heard of Second Life, the 2000s-era web-based online world with millions of loyal “residents” who populated it with personal avatars, you’re likely to think it has become irrelevant or obsolete. But at the peak of its popularity, the site received a lot of attention for providing users with a potentially dangerous escape from reality—one so powerful that it was not unheard of to leave real jobs, friends, and families for those found within the site.
Second Life is the ultimate democratizer in space making. The vast web of locations in the site's virtual world, called sims, are almost completely user-generated. For as little as $75 a month, anyone with an internet connection and basic CAD skills can create, upload, and maintain whatever place they dream up. Sure, sometimes this “great equalizer” spits out such venues as SeDucTions and Sinners Burlesque, but more often than not, builders have responded to the complex opportunities and challenges presented by their unique situation with innovative design solutions.
One place to observe this is in the site’s many spiritual sims, in which religious architecture often responds to the displacement of religious authority in the digital world, since a lack of official (sanctioned) ties to tradition offers a designer more agency than in the real world. Read on to discover four cases that carve out a space for spirituality in Second Life and reveal some of what works—and doesn’t—in today's virtual sacred architecture.
This essay by Alan Hess about the iconic Capitol Records building in Los Angeles was originally published as "The Architecture of the Capitol Records Tower." It is part of the book 75 Years of Capitol Records, published by TASCHEN, which is scheduled for release in February.
The president of Capitol Records was certain that a serious company could not operate out of a building that looked like the stack of records in a jukebox. So when Welton Becket, the new headquarters’ architect, showed him a model of the multistoried circular tower, Wallichs was annoyed. It would look like an advertising gimmick, Wallichs said, in a city where hot dogs were sold out of buildings shaped like hot dogs. Becket countered that the circular floor plan was more cost-efficient for the amount of usable space than a standard rectangular office building. Unimpressed, Wallichs told Becket to go back and design a conventional building.
The myth that a stack of records inspired the Tower has never died, though. As soon as the building opened, Hollywood columnist Bob Thomas wrote about it as “a monstrous stack of records.” Wallichs went on a public offensive from the start: “There was no intentional relationship between the shape of phonograph records and the circular design of the Tower” he insisted to the Chicago Tribune.
SCI-Arc, one of the few remaining schools whose undergraduate program culminates in a thesis project, asks students to locate their position within the discipline, theorize a problem around that position, create a project that tests their theory, and ultimately to present and defend that position to an audience of future peers and professionals. It’s a cathartic endeavor that is to some degree fraught with anxiety, as defining a position and speculating on the future of the discipline can be a rather daunting endeavor.
Once again, thanks to our collaboration with Sketchfab, here we have a selection of 9 virtual experiences through churches and chapels from Europe, Africa and the Americas. Each small building has its own special story, either geographical, political or structural—from one building that has experienced its own mini tour of Europe, to another which contains some rather unusual building materials. The diverse sites each seem to hold secrets, all of which can now be explored through 3D scanning technology. The fascinating variation in structural forms is also apparent, showcasing how even humble architecture has the potential to create a rich list of virtual spaces.
For a more immersive experience, all of these models can be viewed on a virtual reality headset such as Google Cardboard.