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Light Matters: A Flash Back to the Glittering Age of Las Vegas at the Neon Museum

Thanks to the increasing availability of giant LED screens, the Golden Age of Neon has quietly faded in Las Vegas. For decades casinos defined their visual identity with colorful neon signs and competed for the most innovative signage. But with casinos closing, being refurbished and the arrival of new lighting technology a lot of neon signs were replaced, and for many years the Young Electric Sign Company kept the old neon signs in their "boneyard" for storage and recycling. Fortunately historic preservation groups rescued these signs. With support of the arts council The Neon Museum was born to save neon treasures and to educate the public.

Read on to explore Las Vegas' luminous landmarks and The Neon Museum.

Neon Museum featuring more than 150 unrestored signs, Las Vegas. Image © Neon Museum, www.neonmuseum.org Front exterior of the Mint Hotel, Las Vegas / Nevada, circa 1957. Image © University of Nevada, Las Vegas University Libraries. Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) Collection. Colour-changing neon sign on the façade of the Stardust Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, 1969. Image © University of Nevada, Las Vegas University Libraries. Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) Collection. La Concha Motel lobby building, designed in 1961, was rescued from demolition and moved to its current location in 2007 to serve as the Neon Museum’s visitors’ center. Architect: Paul Williams. Las Vegas. Image © Neon Museum, www.neonmuseum.org

The Best Software Tutorials on the Web (According to ArchDaily Readers)

In a world where architects can use computers to produce representations of designs with new levels of accuracy and artistry, software fluency is becoming increasingly necessary. With that in mind, last month we asked our readers to help us develop a comprehensive list of tutorials. After studying the comments and scouring the internet for more sources, we have developed this improved list, which we hope will help you to discover new work techniques and better ways to apply different programs.

Of course, it's unlikely that any list of internet resources will ever be complete, so we're hoping to continually update this list with the web's best learning resources. If there are any tutorials sites we've missed which you found helpful, let us know in the comments!

Spotlight: Alison and Peter Smithson

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.

Opinion: Why Michael Graves Should Have Won the Pritzker

In March of this year, two of the world’s great architects died in the same week. The coincidence was unusual not because of the similarities between these two men - the advanced stage of their careers, their age and relative success - but because of the marked differences. In the few days between their mutual passing, one of the two was awarded architecture’s highest medal, the Pritzker Prize. This year’s winner, Frei Otto, had been notified of his triumph in the months prior to his death. Someone you might call his alter ego – stylistically that is – the late, great Michael Graves, died shortly after the prize was awarded to Otto.

Otto was a leading light of a particular strain of European modernism, whose most lauded works were mainly completed in his youth; on the other side of the pond, Michael Graves ran a busy commercial practice with more than 350 completed buildings, but was reviled by some for his revisionist, classical style.

Michael Graves' Denver Central Library. Image © Michael Graves Michael Graves' St. Coletta School. Image © Michael Graves Michael Graves' Dolphin Resort at Walt Disney World. Image © James Cornetet - critiquethis.us Michael Graves' Portland Building. Image © Flickr user camknows

Through Bankruptcy and Boom: What's Really Happening in Detroit?

After exiting bankruptcy at the end of last year, Detroit has suddenly become something of a boomtown in the eyes of the media. Discourse now talks about Detroit Rising, the "Post-Post-Apocalyptic Detroit". Rents are rising, private investment is flowing into the city, and institutions that left the city for the affluent suburbs are now relocating back into Detroit proper. Too long used only as a cautionary tale, the new focus on the reality of Detroit and free flowing money opens the door for architects and urban planners, not to mention the wider community, to begin thinking about how they want to rebuild Detroit, and who they want to rebuild it for.

It’s the perfect opportunity to formulate plans that will genuinely aid Detroit, involve the community and create a revival that really achieves something. But as it stands, the "revival" forming in Detroit, aided and abetted by media coverage, will not improve conditions for the vast majority of Detroiters and will not create a sustainable platform for future growth, instead benefiting only the private investors and those rich enough to benefit from what is currently classic, by-the-book gentrification.

Renaissance Centre, a previous attempt to revitalise Detroit. Image © Flickr user paul bica An abandoned Detroit house. Image © Wikimedia user Notorious4life Detroit's Brush Park neighbourhood in Midtown. Image ©  Flickr user Stephen Harlan Detroit's ExpressTram. Image © Wikimedia user Danleo

Spotlight: Charles and Ray Eames

Charles (June 17, 1907 - August 21, 1978) and Ray Eames (December 15, 1912 - August 21, 1988) are best known for their personal and artistic collaboration, and their innovative designs that shaped the course of modernism. Their firm worked on a diverse array of projects, with designs for exhibitions, furniture, houses, monuments, and toys. Together they developed manufacturing processes to take advantage of new materials and technology, aiming to produce high quality everyday objects at a reasonable cost. Many of their furniture designs are considered contemporary classics, particularly the Eames Lounge & Shell Chairs, while the Eames House is a seminal work of architectural modernism.

Design Needs a Social Conscience

In recent years, the architecture world has seen a significant surge of interest in socially-conscious design; from sustainability to social housing, and from public space to disaster relief, architecture is beginning to take on some of the biggest humanitarian challenges of our era. But despite its popularity, public-interest design is still only a fringe activity in architecture, either bolted on to existing design or only practiced by a select group of people. In this short article originally published by Metropolis Magazine, Metropolis Editor-in-Chief Susan Szenasy makes the case that rather than working on the periphery, "the drive to improve living conditions for all life should be at the center of contemporary architecture and design."

On a bright April weekend, a group of committed, passionate, accomplished designers and their collaborators from the Americas and elsewhere gathered in downtown Detroit to speak about socially responsible design. It was the 15th annual Structures for Inclusion conference. The convener, Bryan Bell, is the architect behind the nonprofit organization Design Corps, and the spirit behind the SEED (Social Economic Environmental Design) rating program.

The Architectural Monograph is Here to Stay

The monograph is a popular platform for dissemination and debate in the art and design world, yet architectural monographs are often treated with suspicion – viewed more as a self-serving PR exercise. But do monographs actually have a more substantive role within the practice of architecture? This was the backdrop for a discussion entitled ‘Why a Monograph?’ held at Waterstones Piccadilly as part of this year’s London Festival of Architecture. The participants included Jay Merrick, architecture correspondent of The Independent; Simon Henley of Henley Halebrown Rorrison (HHbR); David Grandorge, architectural photographer and Senior Lecturer at London’s CASS; and Ros Diamond of Diamond Architects. The session was chaired by ArchDaily Editor James Taylor-Foster.

Nevena Katalina Remembers Yugoslav Memorials Through Posters

The act of remembering looms large in national cultures. Shared national memories act as a foundation for national identity, a unifying collective interpretation of history that can define what it means to belong in a certain place. Monuments loom even larger - define a national memory in concrete and stone, and you can help define your vision of the nation. That's why Nevena Katalina, a graphic design masters student at the University of Novi Sad in Serbia, has taken the famous abstract war memorials in the former Yugoslavia and translated them into posters, attempting to reconcile the imposing concrete forms with the impact they've had on culture and memory in countries around the former Yugoslavia.

Jasenovac Monument. Image © Nevena Katalina Kosmaj Monument. Image © Nevena Katalina Ilirska Bistrica Monument. Image © Nevena Katalina Ulcinj Monument. Image © Nevena Katalina

Unified Architectural Theory, Chapter 14

We have been publishing Nikos Salingaros’ book, Unified Architectural Theory, in a series of installments, making it digitally, freely available for students and architects around the world. In Chapter 14, the final chapter of the online version of the book, Salingaros concludes by recounting the effect that the teachings included in his book had on students in a class he taught at the University of Texas at San Antonio, during the Fall Semester of 2012. If you missed them, make sure to read the previous installments here.

Conclusion

At the conclusion of this course, the students told me that they had learned a great many things that are crucial to an understanding of architecture, but which are hardly ever taught in other architecture courses. To be precise, students had previously been told about the importance of various factors to the success of a design—site, surrounding architecture, regional adaptation, ornament (or rather excluding it), the relationship among distinct structural scales, proportions, trees and green areas—but were never taught exactly how to manage them. Now, those factors were taken into account by learning why they arise out of our own biology and natural processes.

10 Revealing Time-Lapse Videos that Explore Architecture's Impact in Construction

Designers are trained to consider the context for a finished building, but often neglect to consider the construction phase. When architecture is primarily judged based on the impacts it has on their surroundings once they are built, what can be learned from the process of building? The time-lapse is a method that can help architects to do just that, as it can capture years of complex development in a matter of minutes. This can uncover patterns of impact on social and economic levels, as months to years are played back over several minutes.

What is shown by time-lapse videos, though, can be as disturbing as it is interesting; when uncovered, the construction process is a revealing process, and the ramifications in regard to energy consumption can be as monumental as the buildings themselves. The time-lapse allows the viewer to get a better understanding of the types and amounts of materials being put into the construction of buildings, and the impact construction has on its immediate surroundings. By comparing time-lapse videos of different projects, what insight can we gain about how the physically generative process of architecture affects people and place?

The Psychology of Skyscrapers: Is Bigger Always Better?

Nothing is more iconic of progress than the skyscraper - but as developers continue to build up, it begs the question: what effect does higher living have on our mental health? Taking opinions from authors, architects, engineers and residences of high-rise apartments, Fast Company reports on the pros and cons of the vertical obsession of the 21st century. Comparing the liberation offered by the Hancock building and the failure of the Pruitt-Igoe project, the article looks at how living at high altitudes may change the way that we socialize and perceive space. Read the full article, “The Psychology of Skyscrapers,” and decide for yourself whether this trend of growing buildings is a good or bad thing.

Margot Krasojevic Turns Snow Cave Shelters into Practical, Impossible Art

The question "what is the point of all this?" has dogged architecture for as long as anyone cares to look, but since the millenniumthe purely theoretical yet theoretically possible designs of Margot Krasojevic have taken this question as a challenge. Her latest proposal, a mesh shelter that takes the concept of snow caves and applies it to an artificial structure, is built for an eminently practical purpose: a built emergency shelter for climbers and others caught in extreme conditions. Yet the elaborate, high tech and naturally contoured structure is as much a thought experiment as it is a serious architectural proposal.

© Margot Krasojevic © Margot Krasojevic © Margot Krasojevic © Margot Krasojevic

Spotlight: Charles Rennie Mackintosh

As one of the leading minds of art-nouveau in the UK, Charles Rennie Mackintosh (7 June 1868 – 10 December 1928) left a lasting impression in art and architecture. With a surprisingly brief architectural career, Mackintosh managed to stand out at the international level in art and design with his personal style coined known as the "Mackintosh Rose" motif. Born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1868, Mackintosh is known for his play between hard angles and soft curves, heavy material and sculpted light. Though he was most well-known for the Mackintosh Building at the Glasgow School of Art, Charles Rennie Mackintosh left a legacy of architecture-as-art that transcends the Glasgow school and exemplifies trans-disciplinary architecture.

"The Fort" by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Image © Wikimedia CC user Cactus.man "The Wassail" by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Image © Flickr CC user Jean-Pierre Dalbéra Glasgow School of Art. Image © Flickr CC user Steve Cadman Windy Hill, perspective drawing in ink, 1900, by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Image © Glasgow School of Art

CatalyticAction's Playground Puts Children at the Center of Relief Efforts for Syria

The international response to the Syrian War has often struggled to deal with the sheer scale of the disaster; huge numbers of refugees find it difficult even to source the barest essentials for life in the enormous refugee camps that have sprung up in Jordan, Lebanon, and elsewhere. Alongside the overwhelming need for basics, longer term care for displaced Syrian citizens is also proving difficult, but CatalyticAction, a not-for-profit design studio who are in their own words "a group of young graduates who believe that small changes can realize a big impact," believe that this long-term provision is equally important, especially for children.

Providing a sense of normal life for children in the refugee camps is absolutely essential to helping them, and their families, to recover and cope with life as refugees, which this why CatalyticAction have begun crowdfunding the construction of a playground - designed with the help of refugee children - in the Lebanese town of Bar Elias. The playground would allow children to learn through play, provide a sense of normality and, importantly, should create a space that they feel safe in.

A child poses with his plan for a safe playground. Image © CatalyticAction A drawing of the proposed playground. Image © CatalyticAction © CatalyticAction A diagram of the planning process for this project. Image © CatalyticAction

Why I Created a Database to Document African Vernacular Architecture

Architecture is a unique component of a country's culture just as much as its language, music, art, literature or food. Architecture is also the most visual of those cultural components; the pyramids in Egypt, skyscrapers in New York, a temple in Japan, and onion domes in Russia all convey a unique image. This is called “genius loci,” the “spirit of a place”. Every country has its own genius loci, its own uniqueness. Vernacular architecture is composed of local materials and derived from local customs, techniques that have been passed on from generation to generation. But vernacular architecture in most (if not all) African countries is disappearing, being abandoned for western materials and techniques.

Rwanda - Kings Hut interior. Image © Larsen Payá Ethiopia - chicken coop constructed with woven reeds. Image © Abby Morris Benin - a Tata Somba. Image © Lafia Yarou Zambia - thatch stored in bundles being applied to roof. Image © Jon Sojkowski via Zambia Architecture

5 Architectural Secrets of the Badjao: 21st Century Sea People

Thousands of years ago, a small civilization of hunter gatherers migrated to the coastal regions of Southeast Asia. These people progressed into a widespread tribe of travelling sea dwellers. To this day, they remain a stateless people with no nationality and no consistent infrastructure, sometimes living miles away from land. Yet these people are one of the few civilizations whose collective life practices have survived so long through human history. They are called the Badjao, and they have a surprising amount to teach us about architecture.

Badjao community off the coast of Sabah, Malaysia. Image © Dolly MJ via Shutterstock Badjao woman rowing boat. Image © Dolly MJ via Shutterstock Temporary construction in Southeast Asian ocean. Image © asnida via Shutterstock Badjao child rowing near coast. Image © idome via Shutterstock

How to Drastically Improve Your Architectural Renderings

These days, the production of architectural renderings is something of a digital arms race, as the more sophisticated visualization becomes, the more of a disservice you do to your designs if you're not able to present clients with increasingly photo-realistic imagery. In this post, originally published by ArchSmarter as the first in their "Pro Smarts" series which features tips and tricks from seasoned professionals, Jonn Kutyla from PiXate Creative describes his seven-step process for creating more realistic renders.

Creating photo-realistic architectural renderings requires careful planning and attention to detail. Adding minor details to your renderings can be time consuming, but it is certainly worthwhile. Some of the smallest details have the greatest impact on the realism of the rendering. Today we’re going to focus on the site around your building. This isn’t going to be a tutorial for specific software, but rather a guide to using nature to make your renderings more believable.