Positioning Practice, Building with Communities

As one of the runners for the design and curatorial aspects of a pavilion during the past Venice , I was very intrigued on how each country will address the theme proposed by Betsky, as “Architecture Beyond Building” is such a powerful call, specially in times when architecture is being able to address problems beyond its traditional scope, after being apart for quite some time.

But sadly, most of the exhibitions were the total opposite. After seeing the pavilions, but most important, what was being exhibited at the pavilions, I think that the answers went on the opposite direction. On the -pessimistic- words of Amanda Baillieu “The Venice Biennale has become reflection of the state architecture is in”… a biennale by architects and for architects, with 0 relation to our society.

But among this panorama, there were a few exhibitions that were up to “architecture beyond building”. One of them was Into the Open: Positioning Practice, the US exhibition curated by William Menking, Aaron Levy, and Andrew Sturm. They selected 16 practices which are working very close to communities, creating new work in response to contemporary social conditions, expanding the conception of architectural practice. People who are answering the question we always ask on our interviews (“What is -or should be- the role of the architect in contemporary society?”) from a unique perspective.

And after this, the curators successfully raise the question: need the end product be a building? More importantly, they ask: need the end be a product?

This questions try to be answered on a video produced by SMAC, highlighting the work of Teddy Cruz, Laura Kurgen, and Rural Studio:

Cruz’s project, Radicalizing the Local: 60 Linear Miles of Transborder Urban Conflict maps the collision between wealth and poverty, the formal and informal city and many other disparities apparent along the 60 miles north and south of the Mexican border at Tijuana and San Diego. Kurgan organizes city data on poverty, infrastructure, criminal activity and prison displacement to ask: what if more resources were spent on investment in housing and infrastructure rather than sending people to prison? Rural Studio’s Animal Shelter is a project carried out by students earning their degrees by assisting the structural development of Hale County, Alabama.

Currently, the New School for Design is hosting the exhibition Into the Open: Positioning Practice until May 1st. You can see more info about that on our previous feature.

Peter Zumthor Works

Brother Klaus Field Chapel (2007), Photo by Walter Mair

Gallery with photos and videos of 2009 Pritzker Laureate, .

All after the break:

Peter Zumthor, Pritzker 2009 Laureate

The , nobel-equivalent for architecture, laureate for 2009 has just been announced, and it seems that our readers got it right this time as you can see on our poll.

This year the prize goes to Swiss architect (1943). A real “master”, Zumthor has always been a craftsman on architecture, focusing on the atmosphere and details of his  works, taking all the time he needs  (often several years) at the Swiss mountains to deliver  timeless buildings: Brother Klaus Field Chapel, Kolumba Art Museum, Swiss Pavillion Expo Hannover, Therm Vals, and more.

“I believe that architecture today needs to reflect on the tasks and possibilities which are inherently its own. Architecture is not a vehicle or a symbol for things that do not belong to its essence. In a society that celebrates the inessential, architecture can put up a resistance, counteract the waste of forms and meanings, and speak its own language. I believe that the language of architecture is not a question of a specific style. Every building is built for a specific use in a specific place and for a specific society. My buildings try to answer the questions that emerge from these simple facts as precisely and critically as they can.”

Peter Zumthor – Thinking Architecture

The ceremony will take place on May 29th in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

In a few moments we will feature some of his works in a separate article.

12 Reasons to refuse to Render!

Marc Joseph, from Young Architect, has written a post about one of those tasks you should try to avoid at all cost in order to make your life easier: 3D Rendering.

He wrote down 12 reasons why you should avoid rendering in your office:

1. You Will Lose Track of Time
You can really get lost in your modelling. A whole work day can go by without you even realizing it. Worst of all, you can spend hours on a task that you expected to take a half an hour. In the end, you will find yourself staying later into the night while your coworkers punch out at 6.

Seen at Young Architect. More reasons after the break. (more…)

The best of Postopolis! L.A.

Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee Interview

! LA has come to an end (at least for 2009). ! was discussion, debate and reflection around Architecture and a great variety of related topics: Art, City, Technology, Geography, Visualization, etc., which merged into a multidisciplinary conversation broadcasted live by seven different blogs. It’s impossible to resume in a couple of paragraphs what this days in LA were without thinking we suffered a big overdose of information that we need to take the proper time to digest.

Trying to sort out some ideas, I think at least five topics defined these days for us.

The event for itself, that concentrated expositions and discussions about some very interesting and diverse topics. From talks about the city and security with people from the LA Police Department to understand how some cities are reformulating the relation between cities and their citizens through technology, thanks to Ben Cerveny’s exposition. Complete list of everyone who participated can be found here.

In these five days we had the opportunity to interview some of the best exposers of Contemporary Architecture based in LA. Yo-Ichiro Hakomori (wHY Architecture), Dwayne Oyler & Jenny Wu (Oyler Wu Collaborative), Whitney Sander (Sander Architects), Sarah Johnston & Mark Lee (Johnston MarkLee) and Austin Kelly (XTEN Architecture), Eric Oweb Moss (Eric Owen Moss Architects), and some others we will introduce soon.

Of course, being in LA, we were forced to travel through the city and it’s renowned highways. We realized how hard it is to move without owning a vehicle. But we also got to know a friendly side of the city, with many interesting and different central places to visit.

Finally, a special mention for the place where Postopolis! was carried out: The Standard Hotel in Downtown LA, a great renovation of a 13 floor building by Konig Eizenberg Architecture, where it seems that everything was specially design for the hotel which has one of the most interesting rooftops of LA.

At the same time, Postopolis! was part of the LA Art Week, organized by the For Your Art foundation, so we were immersed in a great cultural environment. Finally, our most sincere thanks to everyone who made Postopolis! possible, specially to everyone who works at The Storefront for Art and Architecture (Joseph, Gaia, Cesar, José, Faris), For Your Art (Bettina, Devin, Julia, Melissa), to the folks at the Standard Hotel, each one of the curators: BLDGBLOG (Geoff), City of Sound (Dan), SubTopia (Bryan), Mudd Up! (Jayce a.k.a. dj/Rupture), We Make Money Not Art (Regina) and of course, every guest who gave life to the event. Thanks to all!

Images that try to resume these 5 days in LA, after the break. (more…)

Icon Magazine reveals the 20/20

For the June issue of Icon, they invited an international panel of experts to help them pick the people who are making the future. The result is the Icon 20/20, a list of the 20 architects and 20 designers who are already changing the way we work and think. You can vote for your favorite on Icon’s website.

Full list of architects and designers after the break. (more…)

Why are there so few women architects?

Clearly, women represent a smaller percentage in architecture firms when compared to men. I think that there are lots of factors for that. But the answer given on this video by Robert Stern, Yale architecture dean, is very particular.

What do you think?

Seen at Javierest.

CV08, the suburb-eating robot

Peak oil is approaching. In the next future, most of the oil-dependent in which we live now will be abandoned and decay, turning into ruins, inhabited only by the few ones who where too fat and too car-dependent to escape back to the city. Little by little, nature will take over , but this process will be extremely slowly.

In order to give Mother Nature a hand, Andrew Maynard Architects have designed CV08, the suburb-eating robot.


Unemployed Architects

photo via Seattle PI

A few days ago I was googling “unemployed architect” to see what are they up to after being laid off during current crisis, and found 2 good examples.

The first one was the blog Unemployed Architect, ran by a women from Boston (who i´m pretty sure reads ArchDaily because of some of her video posts) who got laid off recently. On her blog she writes about how she spends her days, her new free time, waking up at 11AM, rediscovering the city, hanging out at Starbucks… but that took my attention was that she was applying to grad schools, as a way to evade the crisis. I recently spoke with some young architects with a very active practice, and both partners were considering pursuing another masters degree, using the crisis as an excuse to slow down in the practice and focus on studies.

This reminded me that during the previous crisis, there were very good architects teaching at my school, now i see why.

But there was another news that took my attention.  John Morefield (27), an architect from Seattle, had a very good idea after being laid off twice in a year: he setup a booth at a local fair, answering home remodeling questions for 5¢. On the first day he earned 35¢. But that wasn´t his real earn, but the 7 conversations he started, with 7 potential clients he meet.

This way he started to build a network, also pairing these new clients with contractors he recommended. This resulted in Architecture 5¢, an office were “no project is too small for big ideas”.

A very good use of something that every architect goes by, when friends or relatives ask questions on remodeling, used as a way to overturn the crisis.

So, Brad Pitt wants to be an architect?

Yesterday we posted about the influence in architecture of famous actor Brad Pitt. To continue with this Pitt/Architecture debate, listen to  this podcast made by Ted Wells, who talks about the popularity of architects thanks to Brad, among other things.

You can listen to the podcast, here.
Thanks to Jason Hebert for sharing the information.

Architecture and Influence: Brad Pitt

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It’s no mystery that you don´t need to graduate from architecture school at university to become an architect – just ask Le Corbusier, Mies or Frank Lloyd Wright.

Clearly Brad Pitt didn´t go to school either, but trust me that I wouldn´t be too surprised to see him receiving an architect award or the honorary title from a renowned US university. Who´s more “architect”? The one that went to school and never built, o the one who didn´t went to school and builds?

Despite the fact that he states that “whilst acting is my career, architecture is my passion”,  not only he has more work that most of the architects i know.  As if announcing a 800 room sustainable hotel in Dubai wasn´t enough, he spent his visit to Washington DC meeting senators and congressmen -such as Nancy Pelosi, as pictured above-  to gather support for this project/foundation Make It Right, aiming to develop housing prototypes for the reconstruction of New Orleans.

This project works with practices such as MVRDV, Shigeru Ban and Morphosis, who developed 13 prototypes for the first stage to consolidate a 150-house neighborhood, having 90 financed so far thanks to donations to his foundation.

On previous news about Brad Pitt and his passion for architecture, several people commented that this was just an actor´s caprice… I would take this more seriously.  The fact of studying at an architecture school or not  seems very irrelevant to me, compared to the smart way on using his fame and exposition to develop and finance architectural projects, such as his house, a multi million dollar hotel, restaurants and interiors with Frank Ghery or a foundation to rebuild New Orleans, getting goverment´s attention and raising dozens of millions of dollars, something that lots of architects would really like to.

I´ve heard of very succesful architects coming from totallly unrelated backgrounds, such as finances… it seems that Hollywood and architecture don´t work bad either.

But beyond the anecdotal aspect, I think that what´s remarkable on this is how an “outsider” to the architecture world is able to give us a good teaching on how to origin, develop and finance an interesting project such as MIR making a good use of his available resources, such as public image and influence on this .

Half of small architecture firms are short of work

We just saw this link on VariousArchitect´s Twitter, and thought it might interest you. Small architectural practices are bearing the brunt of the recession with 47% saying they do not have enough work, new research reveals.

The first set of results from the RIBA’s new Future Trends Survey – carried out in January – showed a marked difference between the fortunes of small and large practices with only 17% of the latter reporting they are under-employed.

More information on the original article, here.

(Photo via brewbooks Flickr)

CASE featured on Archinect

Our dear friends over at CASE have been featured on Archinect´s Working out of the Box, a a series of features presenting architects who have applied their architecture backgrounds to alternative career paths. Personally, I don´t agree with this as I don´t feel that what they do is an “alternative” path, but something that should be into the core of any practice.

On : CASE Design is a design technology consultancy based in NYC. CASE provides strategic advising to AEC firms seeking to transform their practices through technological innovation. We help our clients identify and implement technologies that enable more effective coordination, communication, collaboration and information exchange.

We featured an interview with SHoP a while ago, with Federico Negro from CASE. Also, we featured the construction progress of the 290 Mulberry St project, which was run by Federico while still at .

Read the complete article here.

Victoria Acebo (Acebo X Alonso) interview by Studio Banana

Studio Banana TV is an internet-based creativity-focused tv platform. It contains an edited selection of high profile videos from different disciplines (from advertising and fashion to visual arts) as well as SBTV’s own productions: interviews, documentaries and reportages of art, design, fashion, music, culture and general creativity.

They also cover architecture, interviewing with some of the most innovating young architects from , with a great edition (wish I could edit our interviews like that), subbed in english and available in HD.

Here you can see an interview with Victoria Acebo, partner at Acebo X Alonso, discussing his academic approach with students and the story behind their building for the Arts Center in La Coruña, which changed its destiny to National Science & Technology Museum, a change possible thanks to the flexibility of the original building.

(Thanks Ramiro @ SB.TV!)

Obama wanted to be an architect (thanks he didn´t)

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Did you know that wanted to be an architect? Thank god he didn´t, otherwise he wouldn´t be assuming as the US President tomorrow.

(seen on AMNP)

Economical Crisis and the Bilbao Effect

Guggenheim Bilbao, photo by envisionpublicidad

During the last few months we have been constantly featuring amazing works in ArchDaily, which show the good state of some economies, at least until the started to hit.

With the  announced tallest tower in the world now on hold, and while big firms in the US are laying off a large amount of their staff (I´ve seen a lot of coleagues with a lot of free time lately….), the inmediate future doesn´t sound promising. This crisis puts and end to an era of mega developments started by the Bilbao Guggenheim by Frank O Ghery, that brought a bonanza that created the stararchitects and put Dubai on the spotlight.

Will the projects that are now on the developer´s desk be put in motion after the crisis is over?

Robert Campbell wrote an interesting article on this on the Boston Globe that i recommend checking out.

What do you think?

Nothing is higher than an architect (according to George Constanza)

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GEORGE: Besides, Steven Koren has the highest of aspirations. He wants to be… an architect!

WYCK: Is that right?

STEVEN: Actually, maybe I could set my sights a little bit higher.

GEORGE: Steven, nothing is higher than an architect.

STEVEN: I think I’d really like to be a city planner. Why limit myself to just one building, when I can design a whole city?

WYCK: Well, that’s a good point.

GEORGE: No, it’s not.

STEVEN: Well, isn’t an architect just an art school drop-out with a tilty desk, and a big ruler?

GEORGE: It’s called a T-square.

WYCK: You know, the stupidest guy in my fraternity became an architect – after he flunked out of dental school! Congratulations, young man.

(seen on mirage.studio.7)

A new jury for the Pritzker

The Pritzker Prize is the Nobel equivalent for Architecture. It honors “a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture”.

Past laureates include Herzog & de Meuron, Frank Ghery, Zaha Hadid, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Thom Mayne, Jean Nouvel, Rem Koolhaas, Norman Foster, Alvaro Siza… and a long list of prominent architects that you might already know.

But also, we find a selected group of architects in the jury during the past: Shigeru Ban, Renzo Piano, Carlos Jiménez, Charles Correa, Jorge Silvetti, among others.

As of 2008, the jury was: Lord Peter Palumbo (Chair, 2005-present), Shigeru Ban (2006-present), Rolf Fehlbaum (2004-present), Carlos Jimenez (2001-present), Victoria Newhouse (2005-present), Renzo Piano (2006-present), Karen Stein (2004-present), Martha Thorne (Executive Director,  2005-present).

And now, we just got the news that (previously featured on ArchDaily) was appointed as jury of the Pritzker Prize. I think that the inclusion of a young architect that is very into the social aspect of architecture can open the scope of this important award.

We´ll have to wait until March, 2009 to see the next awarded architect. Any bets?