In Russia, hundreds upon hundreds of buildings are endangered. The work of making sure they don’t become extinct? That’s in the hands of a tireless few.
One of these crusaders is Natalia Melikova, the author of The Constructivist Project, an on-line web site that seeks to preserve the memory – and hopefully inspire the protection of – Russia’s avant-garde architecture. Although it began as her thesis project, it’s steadily become one of her life passions. In Melikova’s words, “By sharing photographs (my own and others), articles, events, exhibitions, and other resources on the topic of the avant-garde, The Constructivist Project unites common interest and appreciation of Russian art and history and makes it accessible to an international English-speaking audience. This is a way to initiate discussion not only of the perilous situation of Russian avant-garde architecture but also of cultural preservation and urban development in general.”
See 10 of Melikova’s images, snapshots into a part of Russian history quickly being forgotten, with her descriptions, after the break.
Russia has madly, passionately (and not a little blindly) fallen in love. And, as with any love affair worth its salt, this one will have its fair share of consequences when the honeymoon ends.
The object of Russia’s affection? The good, old-fashioned automobile.
It started fast and has only gotten faster. In 2005, Russia’s auto industry grew 14%; in 2006, 36%; and, in 2007, a whopping 67% – an exponential growth that attracted foreign investors, particularly after 2009, when the country welcomed companies like GM & Ford with open arms. Today, the ninth largest economy in the world is the seventh-largest car market, positioned to surpass Germany as the largest in Europe by 2014.
Nowhere is this love affair more evident, more woven into the city itself, than in Moscow. The city has a reputation (perhaps rivaled only by Beijing’s) for traffic, pollution, and downright hostility to pedestrians. And, ironically, because of its epic congestion, the city continues to expand its highways and parking spaces.
We’ve heard that story before, and we know how it ends – for that matter, so does Moscow. But passion, by nature, is blind – and stopping a love affair in its tracks is far from easy.
Sharing a birthday with I.M. Pei, Peter Zumthor (April 26, 1943) turns 70 years old today. Known for his sensuous materiality and attention to place, the 2009 Pritzker Laureate is one the most revered architects of the 20th century.
Although Zumthor has completed far fewer projects than architects of comparable renown, his work has had a resounding impact on the world of architecture. His buildings are mysterious and enticing, but show no signs of style or formal preconceptions. His concern is with context, experience and materiality, not aesthetic. Perhaps this is his most significant contribution to architecture: a truly meaningful architecture of place and experience.
We invite you to explore Zumthor’s work, both past and present, after the break…
A decade before Kickstarter made “crowdfunding” a buzzword (particularly in architecture circles), a similar concept – going by a far more poetic name – was already alive and well in the streets of Buenos Aires.
Fideicomiso is a system of development which gained popularity in Argentina after the financial crisis of 2001; banks crashed, the public grew wary of developers, and a more democratic system of development gained prevalence. Under fideicomiso, the architect himself takes on the risk of development; residents collect their assets and provide them to the architect, who buys the land, funds the project and oversees the design/construction.
Now, Elias Redstone, a researcher who took part in Venice Takeaway (Britain’s Pavilion at last year’s Venice Biennale) and spent time investigating this model in Argentina, has returned to his home country – and is anxious to see if this system could be applied in Recession-struck Britain.
Read more about this revolutionary model of development, after the break…
UPDATE: Since we first reported on this story, the Architectural League of New York has written an open letter to the MoMA, calling for “a compelling justification for the cultural and environmental waste of destroying this much-admired, highly distinctive twelve-year-old building.” Signatories include Steven Holl, Thoma Mayne, Richard Meier, and Robert A. M. Stern. You can find the letter here.
As we reported
yesterday, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has announced their plans to demolish the 12-year old American Folk Art Museum, designed by Tod Williams & Bille Tsien. The MoMA, which has planned a new expansion on either side of Williams & Tsien’s building, claims that the building will prevent the floors from lining up and thus must be demolished. Moreover, officials claim that the building’s opaque facade isn’t in keeping with the MOMA’s glass aesthetic.
Designers and architects, outraged by the MoMA’s decision to destroy such a young and architecturally important part of New York’s urban fabric, are now challenging the validity of the MoMA’s claim. Not only has a petition been started to prevent the demolition, but many are pleading with MoMa to consider how the Folk Art Museum could be integrated into the new expansion. In fact, a Tumblr – crowdsourcing ideas for potential re-designs - has even been set-up.
See more designers’ reactions & suggestions on how to save the American Folk Art Museum, after the break…
As we reported in December of last year, the Melnikov’s house 83-year old foundations have weakened considerably since the onset of neighboring construction. Unfortunately, the situation has only worsened “significantly” over the last few months.
Read more about the state of the Melnikov House, and what architects are doing to try and prevent its deterioration, after the break…
From the prevalence of unpaid internships to the power of the C-suite, architecture is, according to writer Ann Lui, an “unlevel playing field.” Of the many obstacles facing young designers, one (that you may not have considered) is the prohibitive costs of design software for architects trying to start their own firms.
As Lui points out in her article for Archinect, the times have changed since Maya Lin won the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial competition “with a blurry, hand-rendered sketch of a thick black line in the haze.” Today, “the winning entries of recent widely-published architectural competitions, like eVolo, are thick with unearthly renderings. Recently issued RFPs and many contract docs, even for small projects, include BIM deliverables. LEED certification — or other more holistic methods of “sustainable design” — require energy modeling; and new advances in thermal calculations and daylighting rely on digital building data. Whether or not we continue analog methods for design and how they are integrated in an architectural process is besides the point: to be competitive, cutting-edge digital design programs are integrally necessary. [...]
Yet when it comes to purchasing software, the costs of programs like Autocad and Rhino could be resulting in a self-selecting pool of designers who are able to compete, at least initially, at a higher level.”
Do you think Software is a significant barrier to entry in architecture? Should software be more accessible to all? How could we alter the profession to be more inclusive? Let us know in the comments below.
Read Lui’s article in full at Archinect
The architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava has once again made the headlines of Spanish papers – and, once again, for less than favorable reasons.
Calatrava’s latest controversy is a lawsuit filed against him by the famous Bodegas Domecq winery, property of the Ysios Laguardia in Rioja, Spain. Both the Valencian architect as well as those involved in the winery’s construction are being asked to pay two million euros to the winery, a sum that should help cover a renovation as well as the costs the winery has incurred over the last two years fixing the structure’s leaky roof. The owner claims that the leaks have been creating a damp atmosphere (in a building where moisture control is critical for the quality of the wine) and thus damaging his business.
Just as designers have reacted to the death sentence of Ted Williams and Billie Tsien’s American Folk Art Museum building, forming petitions and a tumblr (#FolkMoMA), architecture critics have also been wielding their weapon – words – and entering the fray.
Most critics have responded with outrage (it’s “nothing less than cultural vandalism” says Martin Filler), denouncing MoMA’s prioritization of corporate needs over cultural value. However, a few are actually defending MoMA’s decision, saying the building was never ideal for displaying art anyway. See a round-up of all the opinions – from Davidson to Goldberger – after the break…
While other architecture students spend their summers strolling the streets, seeing the sights, and contently sketching, you could be getting your hands dirty, turning your designs into reality, and making a difference in a community that needs you.
Every summer, Global Architecture Brigades (GAB) activates student volunteers to work with a community in Honduras, helping them alleviate needs in health and education. The program isn’t a lesson in a charity; it’s a hands-on experience of the community-entrenched work of a designer of the 21st century.
Read more about Global Architecture Brigade’s work in Honduras, and how you can get involved, after the break…
Among the many ironies of the MoMA’s decision to demolish Ted Williams and Billie Tsien’s 12-year old building for the American Folk Art Museum, is the most obvious: as a cultural institution, the MoMA is meant to value and protect, not demolish, architecture.
Critics such as Justin Davidson and Martin Filler have pointed out that the irony is particularly acute considering the MoMA’s “distinguished” and “revivified” department of architecture and design, curated by Barry Bergdoll. They note that Bergdoll, who they both praise highly as “visionary”, has remained conspicuously silent on the decision. Davidson even claims that the MoMA can only appreciate such innovative “individuality [such as Bergdoll's] under glass.”
In “How (Not) to Host the Olympics,” I suggest that, when it comes to Olympic Planning, there is one Golden Rule: “The best thing to do if you’re bidding for the Olympics, Is to Not Get the Olympics.”
However, a recent article from The Atlantic Cities’ Emily Badger takes that claim to question.
Badger follows up in Chicago, a city that bid – hard – for the 2016 Olympics (which will take place in Rio de Janeiro). As she puts it: “We often ask what Olympic cities really get in return for all the money, energy, and construction chaos invested in hosting the world’s largest sporting event. But the story of cities that vie for but never win the Games raises a different question.
‘What does putting together a bid that is unsuccessful leave you?’”
Across the globe, architecture programs are cutting resources and raising fees in an effort to stay afloat. Meanwhile, architecture students feel powerless to demand more – to demand quality, to protest fees, to suggest how curricula could better serve them for the future (a poignant concern in this troubled economy, where even a competitive degree doesn’t guarantee post-grad employment any more).
In this Catch-22 of a situation, what can students do? Well, as any good architect-in-training, they can use their craft to form a solution.
Which is exactly what, on the 9th of April, 20 architecture undergrads from the University of Sydney did.
More on the University of Sydney students’ architectural protest, after the break…
With the United States Senate opening up the debate on legislation for increased gun control, we felt it was time to revisit a question we’ve asked ourselves in the past: what can design do to prevent gun violence?
Read more about the recent debate about the potential of design for gun violence, after the break…
As his website reveals, Hancock “panics that he may not be able to draw everything in the world… at least once.” Since Kindergarten, he’s been obsessed with drawing in meticulous detail (or, as he tells the Atlantic Cities, with a mix of “technicality and whimsy”), a characteristic this native Australian brought with him when he moved to Brooklyn, New York.
What began as a blog, All The Buildings In New York, to keep track of his many sketches of New York’s architecture (particularly the brownstones), is now a book (All The Buildings in New York: That I’ve Drawn So Far - which includes about 500 drawings). Organized by neighborhoods, it features New York architectural icons from the past and present, including the Chrysler Building, the Flatiron, Apple’s 5th Avenue store, as well as the everyday buildings that make up New York’s unique cityscape.
See more images from All the Buildings in New York, after the break…
“There are of course the personal feelings — your buildings are like your children, and this is a particular, for us, beloved small child. But there is also the feeling that it’s a kind of loss for architecture, because it’s a special building, a kind of small building that’s crafted, that’s particular and thoughtful at a time when so many buildings are about bigness.” – Billie Tsien, quoted in The New York Times
After only 12 years, the Tod Williams & Billie Tsien-designed American Folk Art Museum is slated to be demolished. Despite the acclaim it has received from critics, including high praise from the likes of Paul Goldberger and Herbert Muschamp, and the importance it has been given in New York’s architectural landscape, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA, which bought the building in 2011) reports that it must tear down the building to make way for an imminent expansion.
At the time of its construction, the building was of the first new museums built in New York in over thirty years. Unfortunately, the building will more likely be remembered for its short life, taking, in the words of The New York Times reporter Robin Pogrebin, “a dubious place in history as having had one of the shortest lives of an architecturally ambitious project in Manhattan.”
Read more about the American Folk Art Museum’s imminent demolition, after the break…
Since June, we’ve been reporting on the Design Corps and SEED (Social Economic Environmental Design)‘s, SEEDocs, a series of mini-documentaries that highlight the stories of award-winning public interest design projects. As each mini-doc has been an excellent, inspiring exploration of the challenges and benefits of community-oriented design, we are pleased (and not a little sad!) to announce that the final seed-doc has just been released.
This month’s mini-doc, probably the series’ best, focuses on the Nyanza Maternity Hospital, designed by MASS Design Group. MASS of course garnered much attention for their Butaro Hospital, also in Rwanda (for an interesting inside-look at the construction of Butaro, read this excellent article by MASS co-founder Marika Shiori-Clark). Should this hospital be funded and realized, it will no doubt make more headlines for the innovative public-interest design firm.
Read more about MASS Design Group’s lastest project in Rwanda, after the break…
When we see another Eiffel Tower, idyllic English village, or, most recently, a Zaha Hadid shopping mall, copied in China, our first reaction is to scoff. Heartily. To suggest that it is – once again – evidence of China’s knock-off culture, its disregard for uniqueness, its staggering lack of innovation. Even I, reporting on the Chinese copy of the Austrian town of Halstatt, fell into the rhetorical trap: “The Chinese are well-known for their penchant for knock-offs, be it brand-name handbags or high-tech gadgets, but this time, they’ve taken it to a whole other level.” Moreover, as Guy Horton has noted, we are keen to describe designers in the West as “emulating,” “imitating,” and “borrowing”; those in the East are almost always “pirating.” However, when we allow ourselves, even unconsciously, to settle into the role of superior scoffer, we do not just do the Chinese, but ourselves, a disservice: first, we fail to recognize the fascinating complexity that lies behind China’s built experimentation with Western ideals; and, what’s more, we fail to look in the mirror at ourselves, and trouble our own unquestioned values and supposed superiority. In the next few paragraphs, I’d like to do both.
It’s not everyday that Peter Goldberger, former New York Times architecture critic, says an architect’s work stands out for its “clarity, simplicity, and grace.”
And it’s even rarer that Goldberger would choose those words – not for a new museum, chapel, or university building – but for a small pre-fabricated house. However, the pre-fab homes of Rocio Romero are lightyears away from the Sears catalog homes of yore, and more than deserving of the high praise they’ve garnered.
Romero has been making headlines ever since she introduced the LV house, her line of affordable, modern pre-fabricated homes, over ten years ago. With pre-fab becoming everyday more mainstream, we decided to sit down with Romero to find out what inspired her to enter in the world of pre-fab, what sets her designs apart (and why they have garnered such a fervent following), and what she sees as the future of pre-fabricated design.
Read the interview with Rocio Romero, after the break…
When one thinks of the stereotypical “American” life, images of Suburbia, of small homes with white picket fences, immediately come to mind. But beyond the stereotype is the lived experience of millions of Americans, who have grown up in cities across the country, and indeed, the world.
If you are one of these millions, and have lived at least some of your life in a high-rise building, then you can be of use to the New York Times‘ new Op-Docs series. This summer they will create four short documentaries, directed by the filmmaker Katerina Cizek, exploring “the history and future of high-rise buildings and their relationship to issues of equity, segregation and social responsibility in cities around the world.” The fourth film will consist entirely of images sent by you, the public.
If you have an image (digital or a scanned still) that tells a story about your experience living in or around vertical housing, you can submit it to The New York Times here - just make sure to do it before April 15th.
Story via The New York Times
What do the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, the Kremlin, and the Burj Khalifa have in common?
Elevators from the Otis Elevator Company. The company, which is celebrating its 160th anniversary today, has an interesting history: it was founded in 1853, the year Elisha Otis invented the elevator safety brake. Before Otis’ invention, buildings rarely reached seven stories (elevators were considered just too dangerous to implement).
But it was Otis’ elevator that would allow for the creation, and proliferation of, the skyscraper – an explosion that would for ever alter the 20th and 21st century skylines.
Read more about the Otis Elevators influence on skyscraper design (and how Otis performed a death-defying feat to increase the invention’s popularity), after the break…