In an interesting article for the Architects’ Newspaper, Marshall Brown explains why competitions are bad for architecture (both the business and design) and challenges his fellow architects to kick the habit. While competitions used to drive architectural innovation, he says they have become little more than “fantastic and relatively affordable publicity” for the developers who commission them, with competition masters such as BIG driving “an arms race of gigantic object-scape.” You can read the full article here.
Over a decade ago on a cycling trip across Europe, photographer Christopher Herwig stumbled upon a curious phenomenon that would become his obsession for years: bus stops. Curiously for a regime usually associated – both architecturally and otherwise – with uniformity and with sameness, the bus stops built by the Soviet Republic display remarkable diversity and creativity. Herwig made it his mission to photograph as many of these remarkable structures as possible, travelling through Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Russia; Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan; Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Abkhazia.
Now complete, Herwig has launched a Kickstarter to turn this remarkable collection of photographs into a limited edition book, which he describes as “the most mind-blowing collection of creative bus stop design from the Soviet era ever assembled.” Check out some of the images after the break.
Originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “Big Data, Big Questions“, this article by Alex Marshall examines what is arguably the most important aspect of smart city design: not how they will be created, but who will create them. He finds that, though an apparently new phenomenon, smart cities are just like their forebears in that they are built primarily by political will, not microprocessors.
Not long ago, I bought a beetle-shaped piece of silicone and metal that slips into my pocket and keeps track of how much I walk. Called a Fitbit One, it’s essentially a gloriﬁed pedometer. The device’s shell is jammed with hard- and software that lets it talk to my computer and iPhone. It sends me attaboys! on its tiny screen and, most importantly, the gadget talks with my spouse’s Fitbit, which allows us to compete with each other.
The Fitbit is not on anyone’s list of smart-city phenomena, but I would argue for including it, because it’s changing my relationship with the streets I walk in New York City. It also illustrates the pervasiveness of smart technology, and its limitations. For all its coolness—and it is cool—my device is doing something digitally that had already been done well mechanically, and at a lower price. A lot of the smart-cities technology is like this—it’s changing how we do things, but often not what we do.
Read on for more about the changes brought about – or not brought about – by smart cities after the break
In a public interview, director Mary McGuckian speaks with Shane O’Toole of DoCoMoMo Ireland about her soon-to-be-released film, “The Price of Desire,” a biopic about the influential Irish modernist Eileen Gray – narrated from the perspective of Le Corbusier, no less. McGuckian explains how the film and the extensive research behind it went far beyond the usual remit of a biopic. Indeed, not only did it spawn an accompanying documentary (“Gray Matters“, directed by Marco Orsini) and book, it even played a pivotal role in the restoration of E1027, Gray’s seminal house design, to a point where it was possible to film on location.
McGuckian explains how the film deals with “the universal female experience, particularly for creative women… the lifetime experience of Eileen Gray was a combination of the time she lived in, the personality she was, and for want of a better expression, insidious chauvinism.” The film casts Le Corbusier as Gray’s rival, who defaced E1027 with his infamous murals, but also uses a little cinematic license to present him as the admirer who tells “the story, from his point of view, of how Eileen Gray came to be the most important, inspirational and innovative architect of their generation, and gives her back the right to be recognized for that work.”
In his talk at TEDx Vilnius, Koen Olthuis compares the cities of today with those at the turn of the 20th century: ”cities are not full, we just have to search for new space… they made elevators and built a vertical city. We have to do exactly the same, but our generation has to look at water.” With that in mind he looks at the top 10 reasons that floating cities are becoming a more popular idea, including: they provide solutions for topical issues such as flooding and sustainability; they can be used as ‘plug in’ travelling global amenities, useful for things like Olympic Stadiums; or could even allow us to rearrange urban areas.
Originally published by The Huffington Post as “The Problem With Architecture Today (and the Solution)“, Monica Gray documents the work of Travis Price, an architect and professor who works with his students to produce singular works all over the world which fight against the soulless architecture of our age.
According to Travis Price, an award-winning architect and philosopher whose work is rooted in ecology and mythology, most architecture today is just plain soulless. “You go into malls and they float all kinds of Roman columns and fake images. It’s Disney. It’s superficial. It’s mass produced. It’s empty.”
Price, a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, focuses on restoring the “spirit of place” to modern design by providing an alternative to the “sprawl, mall and tall” trend of generic suburban architecture today, or, as he puts it, “a slow moving Pompeii blanketing us with the pursuit of loneliness and homogeneity.”
Read on after the break to find out how Price is in his own way combating this problem
In Brazil, the offshore oil mining industry is expanding. Unfortunately for oil companies though, it’s expanding away from the coast, as new oil deposits are found further and further from land – so far, in fact, that they’re outside the range of the helicopters that usually transport workers to and from the rigs. That’s why Rice University students took on the challenge of designing “Drift & Drive,” a floating community where workers and their families could stay for extended periods of time, eliminating the inconvenience of the usual “two weeks on, two weeks off” cycle.
Read on after the break for more about how the project functions
In this Financial Times article, Will Hunter reacts to another FT article which brands architects as “cling-ons”: “middle class but only by the skin of our teeth”. Hunter’s article looks at the reasons why our profession has suffered so badly, as doctors’ and bankers’ fortunes have improved dramatically. You can read the full article here.
The IceHotel, a hotel in Jukkasjärvi in Northern Sweden that melts back into the Torne River and is rebuilt each year, is currently in the design phase for next winter. But there’s a new twist: next year guests are able to collaborate with artists to design a suite that is bespoke to their individual tastes. The price tag is admittedly rather steep, and those going for this option can expect “one of the most expensive hotel rooms in the world”, according to the press release.
Is it worth it? Why don’t you decide for yourself – images from this winter’s hotel are after the break!
This article on the Orange County Register tackles the sensitive issue of the design crowdsourcing website, Arcbazar, a site described as “the worst thing to happen to architecture since the Internet started.” On the one hand, Arcbazar seems to be driving down the earnings of talented designers, and could produce some rather suspect designs. On the other, it offers clients with low budgets access to an international group of designers, when they previously couldn’t afford one at all. So, is Arcbazar good or bad for architecture? Read the full article hereto make your own decision.
In this tongue-in-cheek “Dictator’s Guide to Urban Planning“, the Atlantic explores the various ways that public spaces, and cities as a whole, have been used to suppress uprisings and bolster the control of authoritarian governments. Covering everything from Baron Haussmann‘s 19th Century Paris to the recent revolution in the Ukraine, the article reveals the fundamental relationship between public space and democracy. You can read the full article here.
“In an era of incompetent nation states and predatory transnationals, we must ratchet up local self-reliance, and the most logical increment of organisation (and resistance) is the city.” This is how Michael Sorkin, writing in Aeon Magazine, explains his hypothetical plan to radically change the landscape of New York City, bringing a green landscape and urban farming into the former concrete jungle. The plan, called “New York City (Steady) State”, produced over six years by Sorkin’s Terreform, is not designed simply for aesthetic pleasure; it’s not even an attempt to make the city more sustainable (although sustainability is the key motivation behind the project). The project is in fact a “thought-experiment” to design a version of New York that is completely self reliant, creating its own food, energy and everything else within its own borders. Read on after the break to find out how New York could achieve self-reliance
Building off of the success of their crowdfunded BD Bacatá building in Colombia, the real estate group Prodigy Network has announced a plan to bring this same funding method to New York, with an apartment hotel in Manhattan named 17 John.
The project, a glassy rooftop extension to the existing art deco building at 17 John Street, has much in common with Prodigy Network’s past projects: the same funding method as their skyscraper in Bogotá as well as the same designer, Winka Dubbeldam, head of the New York practice Archi-Techtonics. Dubbeldam also previously helped them to crowdsource ideas for the future development of Bogotá in the “My Ideal City” project.
However, when applied to the USA, this funding paradigm – which is so promising in Colombia – becomes twisted beyond recognition. Upon close inspection, 17 John more resembles the standard developer’s model than anything else – and the claims of ethical superiority begin to melt away.
Johnny Lee, a project leader in the Advanced Technology and Projects group at Google, wants our phones to experience the world more like we do: “we are physical beings that live in a 3D world, yet mobile devices today assume that the physical world ends at the boundaries of the screen”, he says – which is why his team has been working on Project Tango, a mobile phone which uses movement and depth sensors to build a 3D model of the space around it.
Project Tango brings a whole new dimension (the third one) to what we could potentially do with our phones: imagine creating a 30 second model to take away from a site visit, for example, or using augmented reality to show a design or an installation in situ, navigable in real time. Currently, Google is in the process of distributing 200 prototypes to app developers, who will hopefully help it realize this tremendous potential.
The social life of cities is complex. Where once the networks which operated within cities could be understood – to an extent – through their physical infrastructure, in the internet age much of the network that supports city life is hidden, existing only through intangible data.
Invisible Cities is an app which makes this network tangible, using geocoded data from Twitter and Instagram to morph the landscape, displaying where the most activity is occurring. These hills of activity can then be linked by lines representing keywords, showing underlying affinities between different geographical areas.
In October Phineas Harper, assistant editor of The Architectural Review, published an article about the state of architectural publishing, in which he addressed the crisis facing traditional architectural publishers and heavily criticized online platforms, particularly ArchDaily, that have “little time for critique, turning instead to reworking press releases and biased descriptions from the architects.”
Allow me to introduce myself: I am a critic and creator of original content for ArchDaily, and I would like to refute these allegations.
There are many forms of architectural representation – from sketches to construction drawings to photographs – but they all privilege vision over any of the other senses. This problem has perhaps only been exacerbated by the internet, which has made it easier to ‘experience’ buildings from afar, to the detriment of four of the five senses.
Now though, Karen Van Lengen, the Kenan Professor of Architecture at the University of Virginia, has created Soundscape Architecture, a website that aims to redress this imbalance. In collaboration with artist James Welty and musician Troy Rogers, Van Lengen has used sound recordings of iconic architectural spaces to create synaesthetic animations and musical compositions of the ambient noise there.
Read on after the break for more about Soundscape Architecture
In this Metropolis Magazine post on MoMA‘s planned demolition of the American Folk Art Museum, Karrie Jacobs asks a strangely unasked question: How has the Nouvel Tower – in its day the most controversial of MoMA’s expansion plans - not been brought into the debate? The Jean Nouvel-designed tower was predicated up a circulation plan that, by necessity, ignored the (then occupied) Folk Art Museum entirely. Why is this plan no longer possible? Read the fascinating argument here.