Edward James, one of the most eccentric and interesting twentieth-century collectors of surrealist art, arrived in Xilitla, Mexico at the end of the 1940's. The British writer was captivated by the splendor of the landscape of "Las Pozas" (The Wells), where he created a fantastic home, which includes a unique sculptural space unlike any other in the world.
Surrealism, whose sources of creation are found in dreams and the subconscious, in theory, could never be used to build things in real life. Edward James - described by Salvador Dalí as "crazier than all the Surrealists together" - designed a sculpture garden that defies any architectural label and allows a glimpse of something new, moving between fantasy and reality.
Columns with capitals that look like giant flowers, gothic arches, dramatic gates, pavilions with undetermined levels and spiral staircases that end abruptly in mid-air, as if they were an invitation to the horizon. In short, Edward James made concrete flourish along the lush flora and fauna of Xilitla, making surrealist architecture possible.
In this article, written by Christian Dimmer and illustrated with photographs by Max Creasy, the post-earthquake and tsunami coastal architectural landscape of the Japanese Prefectures of Aomori, Iwate and Miyagi are presented and studied.
Few disasters were as complex and their implications as hard to grasp as the compound calamity of earthquake, tsunami, nuclear meltdown that hit the North-East of Japan on March 11, 2011. While over 500 kilometers of coastline were devastated, the disaster unfolded in each of the hundreds of towns affected differently depending on local topographies, urban morphologies, existing landscape formations, collective memory of past disasters and preparedness, and the social ties within the communities.
The XV International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale opened its doors last month. Under the directorship of Chilean Pritzker Prize-winner Alejandro Aravena, “Reporting the front” asked architects to go beyond “business as usual” and investigate concealed built environments – conflict zones and urban slums, as well as locations suffering from housing shortage, migrations and environmental disasters. Clearly, the aim of this Biennale is to open the profession to new fields of engagement and share knowledge on how to improve people’s quality of life.
This stance that has been highly criticized by Patrik Schumacher, director of Zaha Hadid Architects, who believes that architects “are not equipped to [address these issues]. It’s not the best value for our expertise.” But is this a view shared by the rest of the design world and its critics? What are the limits and benefits of this “humanitarian architecture”? Read on to find out critics’ comments.
Through their pioneering theory and provocative built work, husband and wife duo Robert Venturi (born June 25, 1925) and Denise Scott Brown (born October 3, 1931) were at the forefront of the postmodern movement, leading the charge in one of the most significant shifts in architecture of the 20th century by publishing seminal books such as Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (authored by Robert Venturi alone) and Learning from Las Vegas(co-authored by Venturi, Scott Brown and Steven Izenour).
These days, BIM is becoming standard practice. Most people involved in the construction sector—from the architects and engineers who use BIM to the governments that are implementing mandates for BIM in certain project types—are well and truly sold on the benefits it brings, including efficiency, collaboration, cost-savings, and improved communication. As a result, many practices these days that haven’t yet switched to BIM give the same reason: the dreaded transitional period.
Of course, these fears of transition are not entirely unfounded, as new software, staff training and teething problems are an inevitable part of upending your existing workflow. These initial costs create a barrier for many busy practices who simply can’t afford the time or money right now that would enable them to unlock BIM’s benefits down the line. The key to solving this conundrum of course is to minimize the initial costs—and one way of doing this that many experts recommend is to start your firm’s transition to BIM with a single pilot project, in which you will be able to establish a workflow and define standards that suit your practice, and transfer these lessons onto later projects.
But what is the best way to select this pilot project? Should you work on a large or small building? A complex work or a simple one? Here, three early adopters of BIM share what they learned from their own pilot projects, each with very different characteristics.
http://www.archdaily.com/790251/how-to-adopt-bim-3-ways-to-approach-your-firms-pilot-projectAD Editorial Team
London's Tate Modern just got bigger. Last week, the well-known modern art museum opened its new extension to the public. The so-called “Switch House” was designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, the same firm that designed the successful rehabilitation of the original Giles Gilbert Scott’s Bankside Power Station in 2000.
The museum could not be more satisfied: “It’s a dream,” says Tate Modern’s new director Frances Morris, “We’ve never had such an open space before. The possibilities are endless.” While critics generally approved of the design, they expressed mixed feelings for the addition’s materiality and urban character. Read on to find out more about the views of Frieze Magazine’s Douglas Murphy, The Evening Standard’s Robert Bevan, The Guardian’s Rowan Moore, and The Financial Times’ Edwin Heathcote.
The biggest surprise in this Archilogic model is the spectrum of color. Anyone who has visited the Case Study House 26 in San Rafael, California during the last 40 years would be familiar with the building’s classic all-white steel frame look, but the architect, Beverley David Thorne, had originally picked a very different color scheme: “Dull Gold” for the steel, saffron and other more vivid colors for the interiors. “The choice of exterior colors,” wrote Thorne in Arts & Architecture magazine, “was dictated by the climate and the character of the surrounding landscape.” This Archilogic model recreates the original 1963 conditions, down to the bedroom wall and tile colors.
http://www.archdaily.com/790103/a-virtual-look-into-beverley-david-thornes-case-study-house-number-26Madlaina Kalunder and Cord Struckmann, Archilogic
Update: On June 24, 2016, 52% of eligible voters in the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. This article was published prior to the referendum announcement.
In 2003 George Steiner—a Paris-born, American, UK-based literary critic, philosopher and essayist—gave a lecture in Tilburg, a small Dutch city on the Belgian border. His talk, which he titled “The Idea of Europe,” made some waves in certain circles but, ultimately, wasn't widely discussed. Years later I found a copy of the transcript in Amsterdam’s Athenaeum, who had tucked it in the corner of a sunken room on a shelf devoted to "Brexit." I read it the following day while on a train to Brussels.
As I trundled across the Flemish hinterland Steiner’s words, delivered with judicious insight and a reassuring cautionary edge, served as a reminder of one irrevocable fact: that Europe is a continent “of linguistic, cultural, [and] social diversity;” a “mosaic” of communities that have never been united with the same scale and ambition as that of the European Union. But before the contemporary Euro-project, came European café culture.
Wife and husband pair Alison (22 June 1928 – 16 August 1993) and Peter Smithson (18 September 1923 – 3 March 2003) formed a partnership that led British Brutalism through the latter half of the twentieth century. Beginning with a vocabulary of stripped down modernism, the pair were among the first to question and challenge modernist approaches to design and urban planning. Instead, they helped evolve the style into what became Brutalism, becoming proponents of the "streets in the sky" approach to housing.
Religious architecture in Russia, arguably, remains backward-looking. With the Soviet Union’s anti-religious stance in the 20th century, religious architecture found little opportunity to grow. Russian architect, Philip Yakubchuk argues that only recently has religious Russian architecture begun “learning to walk again” as it discovers its once-rich history. Quadratura Circuli, a trio of young Russian designers Daniil Makarov, Ivan Zemlyakov, and Yakubchuk, are eager to move beyond the image of St Basil’s Cathedral—seeking to revitalize and create a new image of Russian religious architecture for the 21st century.
The group’s Latin name translates to “Squaring the Circle” which is a metaphor used to describe a task that is believed to be impossible—a striking name for a group dedicated entirely to “designing temples for the people of today.” However, with their proposal for a Russian Orthodox Cultural Center in Reykjavik, Iceland, Cuadratura Circuli demonstrates that it is not impossible to link the art of the past and the culture of the present.
As founder of the “Do Tank” firm ELEMENTAL, Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena (born on June 22, 1967) is perhaps the most socially engaged architect to receive the Pritzker Prize. Far from the usual aesthetic-driven approach, Aravena explains that “We don’t think of ourselves as artists. Architects like to build things that are unique. But if something is unique it can’t be repeated, so in terms of it serving many people in many places, the value is close to zero.”  For Aravena, the architect’s primary goal is to improve people's way of life by assessing both social needs and human desires, as well as political, economic and environmental issues.
Developed early on in the Soviet era, and fully subordinate to Soviet ideology, the Constructivist movement was intended to form the foundations of a brave new world. The introduction of the Five-Year Plans coincided with the time when Constructivism was adopted as the official architectural style in the USSR. These circumstances allowed many architects to implement daring projects across the entire Soviet Union, and the Urals became one of the biggest magnets.
In this article—written by Sasha Zagryazhsky, translated by Philipp Kachalin and with photographs by Fyodor Telkov—you can take a virtual tour of fourteen of Yekaterinburg's most significant Soviet Constructivist buildings.
“We believe that architecture makes sense when it’s anchored in the locales where it’s built, and the people who are going to use it. That’s why I’m not so occupied with the zeitgeist of architecture.”
In this interview from Louisiana Channel, Oslo-based architect Reiulf Ramstad discusses how the Scandinavian landscape is at the core of his design concepts. In a context of globalization, increased mobility, and communication medias, Ramstad believes “the depth of the locale becomes shallow.” His architecture contrasts this mainstream approach by offering designs specifically tailored to Norwegian cultural heritage and the landscape of its remote areas.
Mainly known outside of his home country for his design of the 2014 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, architect Smiljan Radić (born June 21, 1965) is one of today’s most prominent figures in Chilean architecture. With a distinctive approach to form, materials, and natural settings, Radić builds small- to medium-sized projects that flirt with the notion of fragility.
The following interview with Reinier De Graaf was first published by Volume Magazine in their 48th issue, The Research Turn. You can read the Editorial of this issue, Research Horizons, here.
Architectural practice requires a degree of intimacy and insight into complex sets of forces. While building is architecture’s bread and butter, it’s not always the best format to make a statement. It’s sometimes not even the most appropriate language to respond to a brief. Volume spoke with Reinier de Graaf of OMA/AMO about how research and media can become a vessel for political agendas.
http://www.archdaily.com/789832/ulterior-motives-oma-amos-reinier-de-graaf-on-research-europe-and-the-2014-venice-biennaleReinier de Graaf
For architects, if I may generalize an entire professional community, there are few novelists as cultishly beloved as J.G. Ballard. Borges or Calvino have their fair share of admirers, but to borrow an adjective more frequently applied to buildings, Ballard is the most iconic of literary figures—especially for readers of a concrete-expansion-joint persuasion. Witnessing war as a child, training in medicine, and thereafter writing from a rather bloodless middle-class patch of suburbia, Ballard spun tales of urban life that continue to be uncomfortably visceral.
In this series, entitled Stacked, photographer Malte Brandenburg takes a closer look at the architectural merits of Berlin’s post-war housing estates. Captured against a flat blue sky, the images seek to strip away the historical and social burdens carried by the buildings, presenting them instead as pieces of pure architecture.
When I used to teach graduate students in furniture design, I would assign them an abstract problem that required them to sit in the studio and draw through free association over a long period of time without getting up from their seats. After about 45 minutes, most students would start to squirm and get uncomfortable. If they hadn’t been in my class they would likely have stood up, checked their e-mail, gone online, or found other distractions. But I encouraged them to push through the discomfort because, after many years of running the same exercise, I had learned that right after the “squiggly” stage, something incredible happens. Often, a whole new direction for their work would emerge—something completely unfamiliar and unexpected.
What was it about those uncomfortable moments that unleashed their creativity? Was it something magical or mysterious? Hardly. I believe it was boredom, pure and simple—something all of us (and artists and designers in particular) need more of in our lives.
To many, it might seem that the goals of Alejandro Aravena's 2016 Venice Biennale—as he describes it, "to understand what design tools are needed to subvert the forces that privilege the individual gain over the collective benefit"—are beyond reproach. In spite of these aims, a number of commentators nevertheless have emerged, perhaps led most vocally by Patrik Schumacher, criticizing the biennale. In this article, originally published on The Architecture Foundation's website as "Holier than thou," Phineas Harper responds to those criticisms.
The most surprising turn of the 2016 Venice Biennale was not the exhibition itself, but the reaction of its critics. Within hours of kick-off, the internet was filling up with derogatory mutterings of the show being '"worthy," "moralizing," "holier than thou," "earnest," "virtue-signaling" and "right on" (which apparently is an insult). The architectural Twitterati, it seemed, were unimpressed.
But what exactly were they hating on? The biennale principally exhibited practices which saw some form of suffering in the world and, through their work, in way or another, were trying to lessen it. How did such a compassionate brief generate such a miserly push-back?
A year ago today, on June 16th 2015, the architectural community lost Charles Correa (b.1930) – a man often referred to as “India’s Greatest Architect” and a person whose impact on the built environment extended far beyond his own native country. Rooted in India, Correa’s work blended Modernity and traditional vernacular styles to form architecture with a universal appeal. Over the course of his career, this work earned him—among many others—awards including the 1984 RIBA Royal Gold Medal (UK), the 1994 Praemium Imperiale (Japan), and the 2006 Padma Vibhushan (India’s second highest civilian honor).
Through his buildings we, as both architects and people who experience space, have learnt about the lyrical qualities of light and shade, the beauty that can be found in humble materials, the power of color, and the joy of woven narratives in space. Perhaps more than anything else, however, it was his belief in the notion that architecture can shape society which ensures the continued relevance of his work. “At it’s most vital, architecture is an agent of change,” Correa once wrote. “To invent tomorrow – that is its finest function.”
ArchDaily is continuing our partnership with The Architectural Review, bringing you short introductions to the themes of the magazine’s monthly editions. In this introduction to the June 2016 issue on what the AR has provocatively named "Notopia," Editor Christine Murray outlines the defining characteristics of this "selfish city," the "pandemic of generic buildings have no connection to each other" - stating that their issue-long tirade against Notopia "is less a warning than a prophecy of doom."
If what is called the development of our cities is allowed to multiply at the present rate, then by the end of the century our world will consist of isolated oases of glassy monuments surrounded by a limbo of shacks and beige constructions, and we will be unable to distinguish any one global city from another.
This pandemic of generic buildings have no connection to each other, let alone to the climate and culture of their location.
With apologies to our forebear Ian Nairn, upon this scourge The Architectural Review bestows a name in the hope that it will stick – NOTOPIA. Its symptom (which one can observe without even leaving London) is that the edge of Mumbai will look like the beginning of Shenzhen, and the center of Singapore will look like downtown Dallas.
As director of the 2016 Venice Biennale, Alejandro Aravena has sought to shift the very grounds of architecture. Rather than an inward-looking interrogation of the profession's shortcomings, as Rem Koolhaas undertook in 2014, the Chilean Pritzker Prize-winner asks us to gaze in the opposite direction—to the vast swathes of the built horizon that traditionally lay beyond the profession's purview: urban slums, denatured megacities, conflict zones, environmentally compromised ports, rural villages far off the grid.