This interview first appeared in Assembly, a new magazine that ArchDaily contributor Sarah Wesseler is working on.
According to the United Nations, 1 billion people currently live in slums. Over the next two decades, this figure is expected to double. In recent years, slums (also known, more neutrally, as informal settlements) have increasingly attracted positive attention from academics and design professionals impressed by their efficient deployment of scarce resources, community-based orientation, and entrepreneurial vitality. Architect Rem Koolhaas celebrated the slums of Nigeria in his 2008 book Lagos: How It Works, while Teddy Cruz has become well known for his work with shantytowns on the U.S.-Mexico border. And no less a traditionalist than design enthusiast Prince Charles, prone to harsh public attacks on contemporary architecture, has championed Dharavi, the Mumbai neighborhood portrayed in Slumdog Millionaire, praising its “underlying, intuitive ‘grammar of design’” in a 2009 speech.
Detractors claim that these and similar attempts to examine the slums through the lens of design romanticize poverty and ignore the sociopolitical forces responsible for their creation and proliferation. However, although some projects involving informal design are doubtless better conceived than others, in general there can be no real question that it is appropriate for architects and planners to concern themselves with a phenomenon fundamentally tied to design-related issues such as land use, infrastructure, and materials. And given the failure of so many top-down modernist schemes for housing the poor over the past century, it is logical for the profession to turn its attention to a housing model which continues to mushroom organically around the globe: the shantytown.
An ongoing research project being carried out by 26’10 South Architects, a young South African firm headed by husband-and-wife architects Thorsten Deckler and Anne Graupner, provides an interesting look into this type of work. The couple have spent the past year and a half studying the spatial dynamics of Diepsloot, a Johannesburg suburb created in 1994 to house the poor. Today, approximately three-quarters of Diepsloot’s residents live in slums.
The interview after the break. (more…)
In the Dutch architectural scene, beside the famous offices and well known practices, there is a list of young architects which catch the attention of the critics because of their outstanding conceptual approach and realized works. Maurice Nio is one of the most interesting architects of his generation. During an interview with him, we analyzed some of his works, regarding conceptual meaning, architectural aspects, and realized results.
His interest in cinema, writings and “contemporary sub-culture” have been evident since his final project at TU Delft – a house for Michael Jackson. Mixing up and recalling other fields than architecture is a constant mark in his works. Not only in naming the projects. The Cyclops.
Over the past decade, sustainable design has been transformed from a fringe movement to big business. However, given the sheer scale of the environmental damage caused by the built environment, it’s clear that far more must be done. To prevent future catastrophes, the industry must both scale up its green initiatives and increase their effectiveness.
On the quantity front, the entity most responsible for the explosion of green building is LEED. Developed in 2000 by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), the voluntary project rating system has won over the industry by providing both a convenient set of guidelines for sustainable practices and a clear marketing incentive for designers and firms to go green (or at least appear to).
While in Croatia, I took the time for a short trip to Slovenia to meet SADAR + VUGA, one of the practices from eastern Europe that have been on my mind since I saw a low rise residential building (Condominium Trnvoski Pristan) published back in 2004.
On ArchDaily we have seen some of their projects (and expect more in the next days) such as Villa Beli Kriz (awarded with the Golden Pencilby the Chamber of Architecture and Spatial Planning of Slovenia ) or a large scale sports park in Ljubljana currently under construction.
Something that took my attention when visiting their office was the work methodology, with a very clear structure. Several models around the office are proof of a constant research, testing a series of formulas on different programs as you can see on their website.
While in Croatia, I took some time to visit Ljubljana, Slovenia, and interview OFIS Arhitekti. The practice was founded in 1998 by partners Rok Oman and Spela Videcnik, both graduates from the Ljubljana architecture school and the Architectural Association.
OFIS has produced a high amount of buildings in the last years, with very good examples in housing: Izola Social Housing, Shopping Roof Apartments, Tetris Apartments, Lace Apartments, Student apartment studios and the Backbone Village Houses.
But the firm has also being involved in retail (Mercator), religious architecture (Farewell Chapel), and some houses such as the Alpine Hut and Villa Old Oaks (full list of OFIS projects previously featured at ArchDaily). Clearly, dealing with different types of clients (individuals, state, real state) is not a problem for this young office.
What I liked about the interview was to see how responsible this young firm feels as a generation in terms of building the image of Slovenia, a new nation that has been trough many changes in the last years, specially in terms of opening to the rest of the world.
My first encounter with the new breed of Croatian architects was with 3LHD, a young firm ran by Sasa Begovic, Marko Dabrovic, Tanja Grozdanic and Silvije Novak. The partners got together while still students at the Zagreb Architecture School in 1994, and thanks to the croatian competition system they were able to do their first public works, starting with the Memorial Bridge in Rijeka (1997). After that, the firm has been involved in several public works such as a stone Sports Hall in Bale, the Spaladium Center in Lora, and their latest realizations: Zamet Center in Rijeka and the Dance Center in Zagreb. In these projects, 3LHD has been able to develop new shapes that relate to a young nation.
I really enjoyed my visit to this practice, and was very glad to see how a young practice (partners born between 1969-1971) can establish a collaborative working environment with a clear organization, that allows them to effectively manage a large team to work in different scales.
I have been following CEBRA for a while, and when I noticed that Mikkel Frost (one of the partners) was going to lecture at CIP Talks, I finally saw an opportunity to interview him to understand more about the “CEBRA style”. His presentation was a blast. Mikkel was so passionate about their work, always looking for new formulas on each project but still maintaining a unique touch…. as a cebra: always the same, but always different.
Two of the projects (that I will feature here later) that took my attention were the Iceberg (), a residential development done with JDS, SeARCH and Louis Paillard, on which market rules dictated a way different kind of project, but that the architects were smart enough to twist and come up with good solutions: an optimal orientation, securing views over the sea even for the buildings in the back row, different units size to bring a mix of different people to live together on the development… a win win project for both the client, the market and the end users. The other project that took my attention was the Design Kindergarten, a sustainable school on which the architects got very involved, and instead of doing a project according to some fixed requirements, they had the chance to propose several things that would have an impact on the children’s education.
But back to CEBRA: The firm was founded in 2001 by Mikkel Frost, Carsten Primdahl and Kolja Nielsen, all graduates from the Aarhus School of Architecture. For the past nine years the practice has produced a high numbers of projects for a young office, as you can see on our previous features and on their website. In 2006, CEBRA received the the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale with their project Co-evolution (link to flash file), which was later exhibited in Sao Paulo, Beijing, Manchester and Copenhagen. In 2008 CEBRA also participated in the Biennale, but curating the Danish Pavilion. Also in 2008, the firm received the most important architecture award in Scandinavia, the Nykredits Architecture Award.
Architecture is a profession of passion, and those who are able to transmit it through their projects and speeches are getting it right, as I feel CEBRA is doing. And I´m very sure that we are going to see more and more projects coming from this danish firm.
During the 2009 AIA Convention I had the chance to attend a lecture by Nader Tehrani, after which I conducted this interview. He is one of the founders of the Boston based practice Office dA, with Monica Ponce de Leon.
Nader, who is also a professor at the MIT School of Architecture + Planning, has done an interesting research on the logic of materials, producing contemporary forms that are the result of new interpretations and building techniques, rather than just simple formal explorations.
I really like the “thinking” behind Office dA, which has allowed them to move from furniture up to the urban scale, resolving the specific issues of each scale with a similar logic.
From what I saw on Nader’s presentation, it looks like we are going to see more from Office dA in the near future.
Interview available in High Definition at Vimeo.
During my visit to Croatia for CIP Talks, everyone kept recommending me to meet Hrvoje Njiric. Partner of njiric+ arhitekti, his recent works are very good examples on residential and educational architecture. He won -among other awards- the 2006 Zagreb Salon Grand Prix, which resulted on the Zagreb 09 Pavilion we featured last week.
In parallel to his remarkable architectural production, Hrvoje is also very related to architectural education, being a visiting critic at the HAB Weimar, the ETSAB Barcelona, the TU Wien, the AA School of Architecture London, the ETH Zuerich, the Strathclyde University of Glasgow, Politecnico di Milano and the Southeast University of Nanjing, ETSAM Madrid and the William Lyon Somerville Visiting Lectureship at the University of Calgary. He has alsodirected international workshops in Zagreb, Merano, Maribor, Gorizia, Barcelona, Brescia, Unije, Santiago de Chile, La Coruna, Aarhus, Trieste, Kriva Palanka, Rijeka and Calgary.
I had the chance to briefly meet him on a sunny day in Zagreb, and we talked under his pavilion about the usual things we ask. But I feel that the interview doesn´t reflect his passion for architecture, and also for teaching, something you could feel just by talking with him.
On the next days we are bringing more projects and built works by him, so stay tuned.
Interview available in High Definition at Vimeo.
During my trip to Croatia to participate in CIP Talks 2009, I had the chance to meet an interesting group of young architects with very good built works, which we have been featuring on ArchDaily during this days. I also interviewed some of them, and I will be presenting these interview in the following days along with their works.
One of the US practices I’ve been looking forward to meet has been Trahan Architects. Based in Louisiana, the firm has been very involved in institutional projects for the local community (such as the Holy Rosary Church Complex and the Baton Rouge Library), universities and also in Make It Right.
I find that their involvement with the community, the embracement of new technologies in architecture result in what I feel that “american architecture” is (or should be).
But since traveling to Louisiana wasn´t on my plans, at least in the near future, I had no chance to personally meet Victor “Trey” Trahan (FAIA), principal at Trahan Architects. But thanks to some coincidences, I was able to meet him briefly between connecting flights and do this interview.
Hope you like it as much as I did.
As usual, find the HD version of the interview at Vimeo.
The influential figure of Eric Owen Moss doesn´t require introduction… what an interesting conversation we had, Bob Dylan included. A bit long, but worth it.
On a side note, when I came by his office I saw a gigantic book called “Eric Owen Moss Construction Manual”… which I thought was like an internal book for new employees, but is actually a monograph covering design, engineering, fabrication, and construction of 40 projects over the past 20 years. Impressive. See a video after the break.
A few months ago I had the chance to interview Ila Berman, director of the Architecture program at the California College of the Arts. She holds a doctorate in architectural history, theory, and criticism from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.
Dr Berman created New Orleans: Urban Mappings for a Future City, an exhibition in the U.S. Pavilion at the 2006 International Architectural Biennale in Venice.
I visited the school by the end of the semester, and had the chance to see the final projects by the students and an exhibition on building technologies that was currently being assembled on the main hall. I really liked the atmosphere of the school, the students were very into it. I also meet a group of young teachers who are doing interesting work professionally, such as Douglas Burnham (envelope A+D), Mona El Khafif ( CCA URBANlab, IG Architecture), Craig Scott (Iwamoto Scott) and David Gissen.
My architect friends from San Francisco are always mentioning the lectures at CCA, as they have done a very good work inviting some of the best architects around the world to their lecture series: Alejandro Zaera Polo (FOA), Paul Lewis (LTL Architects), Bernard Tschumi, Winy Maas, Toyo Ito, etc (you can download some at iTunes U).
A school to keep an eye on…
Marvin is also the dean for the North Carolina State University College of Design, and has received the Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education in 2003. His position as a highly recognized educator, and the voice of the industry as the AIA President was the reason we choose Marvin for this interview, specially during a time when the profession was heavily affected by the financial crisis.
The sound has a few glitches due to Bluetooth interference, not a big issue anyway.
The SYNTHe project is a 3,000sqf structure located on the top of The Flat, a mid rise residential building in downtown Los Angeles, and its the first green garden approved by city official. The idea of this “green blanket” over at the top of the building is to reduce the building heat gain, reduce storm water waste (80% is captured and used for irrigation) and to establish a sustainable plant ecosystem that collaborated with air pollutants filtering. It also reclaims the rooftop area from HVAC, ventilation and fire control systems, giving a new terrace for the users of the building.
Inside this blanket, 1,500sqf are dedicated to the production of edible plant species, and we had the chance to taste them at the restaurant during lunch, very good. The species planted include:
Another interview conducted live at the rooftop of The Standard during Postopolis! LA.
We invited Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee (principals at Johnston MarkLee), mostly because I wanted to know more about the practice behind some interesting projects we featured prior to the event: The Hill House, the Sale House, the Mameg + Maison Martin Margiela store and their Ordos 100 villa, along with the View House in Argentina we featured earlier today.
We asked the usual set of questions, while the sun was going down in LA, and Sharon/Mark answers turned into a interesting conversation. I like Mark’s answer to “What should be the role of architects in contemporary society”: “Architects should be superstars – and solve all problems of the world“. Part of the talk on Social Networking was about Ordos 100 and the network behind this “architectural orgy”.
Mark Lee will be a speaker at CIP Talks 2009.
Feedback and comments are welcome.
While working toward a PhD in sociology at the University of Chicago, David Schalliol has spent several years examining the built environment of his adopted city both as an academic and an artist. In photographic studies such as his Isolated Building Series, Schalliol highlights the relationships between architecture, history, and policy, focusing in particular on the city’s historically underprivileged South Side neighborhoods.
After the break, you can read an interview we made to David a few days ago.
During Postopolis! LA we invited a group of architects from Los Angeles to be interviewed by us, in front of a live audience. This turned out to be very interesting, as the attendants got the chance to do their own questions.
One of these architects was Whitney Sander, principal at Sander Architects. Why did I choose him? Well, just take a look at his projects recently featured at AD: Residence for a Briard, Residence for a Sculptor and the Tree House. These projects have one thing in common besides being good projects (personally, I love the Tree House), and that is the use of prefab components.
A big part of the conversation revolved around his Hybrid Houses “Part prefab, all custom™”, on which Whitney has proved that prefab is not just a fad, but a very good business… specially when clients see the final costs.
And remember, you need to know how to hold a Martini.
As usual, my words tend to stretch this… just go an watch the interview.
Soon, more interviews!
(HD version available at Vimeo)
Anyone who has taken an Architecture History class already knows SOM: Skidmore & Owings & Merrill. This practice played a key role during the so-called “International Style”, in a time where the modernism was being consolidated around the world. The practice, which opened in 1936, is behind the centers of the most important cities of the USA and now the rest of the world. One day I was walking by San Francisco´s Downtown with a friend, and he was pointing buildings: “SOM, SOM, SOM, SOM… and that one I think is also by SOM”.
Currently the practice has become one of the largest AEC firms in the world, with over 10,000 projects dealing with architecture, engineering and design. They have offices in Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., London, Brussels, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.
But what is interesting is how the firm grew over the years, becoming one of the largest AEC practices in the world with over 10,000 projects. But don´t think about this practice as a building generating machine… what is interesting is how they have managed to keep innovating over the years. A hard task, specially when becoming a large corporate practice with a complex structure. But SOM has been up to the challenge. The Burj Dubai will soon become a case study in terms of structural engineering, the Cathedral of Christ The Light in Oakland has an innovative design, materialized using digital tools to fasten the design/building process, and their award winning detailed model of San Francisco has become a strategic tool to work within the city. And that’s just to name a few.
Recently, Fast Company named SOM among the 50 Most Innovative Companies, and Architect Magazine recently awarded five SOM projects with their R+D Award: The San Francisco Digital Model, the Oasis Generator, the Pine-Fuse Joint system, the Active Phytoremediation Wall System, and the Sustainable Form-Inclusion System. After these projects you can see that SOM is not a typical corporate practice, always researching and pushing architecture forward.
And well, we wanted to know more about the ideas and the process behind a corporate practice always innovating, and we had the chance to sat down with Craig Hartman (FAIA), Design Partner at SOM working at the San Francisco office.
Craig has been behind the award winning Treasure Island Master Plan, the Cathedral of Christ the Light (where the interview was conducted), the SFO International Terminal… and more projects.
I hope you like this interview, specially the young architects that are starting their own firms.
During the past AIA Convention we sat down with John Bacus from Google Sketchup to discuss how this tool can help architects on their workflows, with a tool that is easy to use, fast and extensible.
We also had the chance to talk with Phil Bernstein, faculty at Yale and currently the Vice President of AEC Industry and Relations for Autodesk. Given his background and current position, I immediately scheduled an interview with him as I wanted an architect on the industry to tell us more on how BIM is helping out architects in several ways.
Phil was very clear and precise on this, and the idea of this interview is to help our readers to make a decision on adopting BIM solutions, and also to help architecture students to see how learning to use a BIM software can help them in their future job seek.
As an example on the importance of BIM, I asked early this morning on Twitter what our readers think on adopting BIM and if arch students feel like they need to learn this before graduating. Here are some answers:
- eclosson @archdaily ; ive used REVIT 4 3yrs…valuable tool 4 small firms, wrkn on athletic complex in Romania w/ team of 6-8, only possible w/BIM
- roddimo @archdaily BIM is inevitable and you better get on the wagon if u want the next job. Clients are now asking for it
- cvandevere @archdaily BIM is a process. There are a number of tools/programs that can assist in that process and it’s implementation. #bim #revit
- ryansinger @archdaily I use it and like it. For simple projects line drawing works and you can use your hand instead of CAD
- berntstenberg @archdaily Re: BIM–not yet. Perhaps it’ll be standard someday, but I think only for big projects. We do res. remodels–still draw faste …
- archop @archdaily @ my firm economy put halt on moving to BIM, but it is inevitable. Also the community College I teach at will begin offering i
- DanielCon @archdaily I have never worked on a project where BIM made the process easier or smoother. I’m sure everyone will have to learn it but why?
- Numaru @archdaily I’m an architecture student in Korea. Even thought my class mates don’t know BIM well, we feel pressure of BIM.
- Winter_Street @archdaily we bite the bullet – here’s our recent blog post on the investment and rewards [of BIM] http://bit.ly/13u9NA