Spotlight South Africa: Three Designs Instilling Dignity & Defeating Stigma

Mamelodi Pod, a home and temporary soccer club with solar electricity and rain water harvesting. Image Courtesy of

How do you undo centuries of inequality? How do you overturn an inequality so ingrained in a culture that it manifests itself physically - in the architecture of its homes and in the misshapen nature of its cities? 

This is the question post-apartheid South Africa has been struggling to answer for the past twenty years. And while the government has made many concerted efforts, for far too many the situation has remained largely the same. 

However, there are currents of change afoot. Many who have been marginalized are now working to defeat the stigma and legitimize their communities, and they are enlisting architects to the fray. From an organization in Capetown that aims to transform the role of the South African designer, to another in Johannesburg that uses design to legitimize informal architecture, to a project in one of the most violent townships in that has transformed a community, the following three projects are making a difference for the users who have the most to gain from their designs and design-thinking. All three represent not only the power of design to defeat stigma and instill dignity, but also the power of communities to incite these projects, make them their own, and enable them to thrive.

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AIA Names its 2014 Small Projects Awards Winners

Small House / Cooper Joseph Studio. Image © Elliot Kaufman

The American Institute of Architects () has selected ten recipients for their 2014 Small Projects Awards, which recognizes design excellence in projects with a budget of up to $1.5 million and with a floor area less than 5,000 square feet. The award “strives to raise public awareness of the value and design excellence that architects bring to all project types, including renovations and additions, no matter the limits of size and budget.”

This year’s include 5 houses, 2 pavilions, 2 installations and a cafe. See all 10 awarded projects after the break.

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3 Architects Appointed to Oversee £100 Million Cycling Infrastructure In London

Though the schemes are not exactly as dramatic as Foster + Partners’ Skycycle (pictured), they are part of a real commitment to make more cycle-friendly. Image © Foster + Partners

Roger Hawkins (Hawkins\Brown), Sunand Prasad (Penoyre & Prasad) and Peter Murray (New London Architecture) have all been appointed by the Mayor of London to oversee the implementation of £100 million worth of cycling infrastructure in the city.

The scheme will focus on three London Boroughs: Kingston, Enfield and Waltham Forest, each of which were awarded “mini-Holland” status – a reference to the cycling haven of the Netherlands which these areas of London will be modeled on. Each borough will nominate their own principal designers, but the three appointed architects, who all sit on the Mayor’s design advisory panel, will be acting as consultant and client for a different borough.

Read on after the break for a rundown of the proposed changes

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Inside Homeland, Portugal’s Pavilion at the US Biennale

© Nico Saieh

The Portuguese Pavilion at the 14th edition of the Venice Biennale has created a newspaper, “Homeland, News from Portugal,” which covers the last 100 years of architectural, social and economic news from Portugal.

“Homeland, News from Portugal” has the objective of addressing the issues raised by for Fundamentals – : 1914-2014 through a critical and purposeful reflection on housing – a field par excellence for modern experiments – as an essential element of urban and rural environments and a social and cultural reflection of inhabitants.

The newspaper will publish the progress of ongoing projects of 6 groups of architects working in 6 Portuguese cities on 6 different types of housing (temporary, informal, collective, improvement, isolated, rural), and will be distributed during the 6 months of the Venice Biennale.

Brazilian Artist Builds Labyrinth of Wooden Roots

Screenshot from video

Given a cavernous gallery space at the Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade in São Paulo, artist Henrique Oliveira has created Transarquitetônica, a breathtaking installation from , which fills the room with twisted tree roots large enough for gallery visitors to walk inside.

Read on after the break for more images of the , including photos of its construction

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Your Virtual Tour of the National Pavilions at the Venice Biennale 2014

Bahrain Pavilion. Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia

Your virtual tour of the Venice Biennale has arrived! Check out each of the national pavilions currently on display for ‘ chosen theme – , 1914-2014. 

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2014 Los Angeles Architectural Awards Announced

Red Building © Jeff Goldberg/Esto

Hosted by the  Business Council, the 44th Annual Los Angeles Architectural Awards has recognized three dozen of the year’s best architecture and design projects in Greater Los Angeles. From Morphosis’ Emerson College to the Los Angeles River project, each recipient has been awarded for their excellence in design, sustainability and community impact.

The 2013 Los Angeles Architectural Award Winners are…

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What Can We Learn from Lloyd’s?

© Flickr CC User Mark Kent

Following the news that Lloyd’s of London is planning to leave it’s Grade-I listed headquarters designed by Richard Rogers, Edwin Heathcote has written an interesting article asking whether the Lloyd’s Building - along with some other more spectacular failures of ‘iconic’ commercial architecture – can teach us anything about how we ought to design buildings. He argues that while high-profile design serves developers well, tenants seem to prefer bland yet functional corporate buildings, leading Heathcote to ask: shouldn’t we be seeking something in between? You can read the article in full here.

Venice Biennale 2014: Israel’s Tabula Rasa

© Nico Saieh

is a country that was built with modernism as its guide. It flourished in a particular way and resulted in a unique architectural landscape, not only in terms of singular buildings, but also in the way in which the territory itself was planned. Anti-urban in essence, the Sharon Plan from 1951 gave birth to more than 400 new towns scattered across the territory.

This new landscape -a tabula rasa- evolved into a variety of patterns and forms, a landscape that is neither Urban nor Suburban.

“Urburb” is the title of the Israeli exhibit at the 2014 Venice Biennale. Within the pavilion, a constant robotic performance traces the patterns that resulted from the Sharon plan in the sand, only to erase them after a few minutes and then draw them again. It is a performance that makes one think about the future of new settlements and the possibilities of robotic construction.

The exhibition is curated by Ori Scialom, Dr. Roy Brand, Keren Yeala Golan and Edith Kofsky.

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Iñaki Ábalos’ Spanish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale: “Interior”

© Nico Saieh

By focusing on the architecture of interiors, Inaki Ábalos, the curator of this year’s Spanish Pavilion, highlights the spaces within 12 Spanish buildings. These projects, mostly completed within the past three years, serve as specifically important instances of refurbishment and regeneration of ’s built heritage. The exhibition is a study not only of the architecture itself, but of the cultural material that gave rise to the specific forms. Through large-scale photographs and sections of each of the presented spaces, Interior seeks “the place where life unfolds, the central theme of architecture.” Read on to find the rest of the curator’s statement.

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Steven Holl Reflects on the Majesty of the Mackintosh

Following the devastating news that the Mackintosh School of Art’s iconic library was recently destroyed, Steven Holl - designer of the adjacent Seona Reid Building that opened earlier this year – reflects on the “magic” of what has been lost in an article for the Architectural Record. The Charles Rennie Mackintosh building, for Holl, “embodies a refreshingly direct conviction”, the sudden loss of which brought on a “deep sadness.” Placing it within a canon of architectural masterpieces, Holl gives insight to his emotional connections with this Glaswegian masterpiece: “the School of Art has an inner worth and a dignity beyond all measurable value.” Read the article in full here.

Venice Biennale 2014: Pedro Gadanho Explains Why Portugal’s Pavilion Has No Buildings At All

Courtesy of ‘, News from Portugal’

The following text by Pedro Gadanho was originally published in Portuguese in Portugal’s Diário Expresso.

The most awaited event in the architecture world begins this week: the opening of the Venice Biennale. Thousands of participants, journalists, and invited guests will flood the fantastical Italian city to take the pulse of the discipline -the nations’ representations, the novelties, the state of the art. For this, the 14th edition of the Biennale, the artistic direction of Rem Koolhaas has raised great expectations: the architect behind Casa da Música is, after all, the ultimate provocateur of an architectural stardom that’s ever more predictable.

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First Look Inside OFFICEUS, the US Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale

© Nico Saieh

To kick off our coverage of the Venice Biennale, we’re bringing you photos of OfficeUS — the ’ contribution to the national exhibitions organized under the theme of “.” The pavilion houses both a repository of information about the history of architectural firms in the US (with a focus on the US’s role in exporting architecture) and serves as the base of operations for a new architectural firm that was created solely for this year’s biennale. The research, collected into booklets, lines the walls of the space. While visitors mill around the pavilion, the members of OfficeUS work at specially designed tables. The output and deliverables of the office will be determined as the Biennale progresses. We also got the chance to speak to the organizers, so stayed tuned for video interviews with the curators and designers of the US Pavilion (coming soon!). For now, however, read on to the see the curator’s statement on the exhibit.

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ArchDaily at the 2014 Venice Biennale

Rem Koolhaas at the preview of the Elements exhibit © ArchDaily

ArchDaily is excited to announce that we are now in Venice to cover this year’s highly anticipated Biennale. Curated by the influential Rem Koolhaas, this edition of the biennale delves into the past to inform current architectural production.

For this year, Koolhaas proposed “” as the main theme for the Biennale. Rather than focusing on contemporary production (as the Biennale traditionally has), “” is divided into three large exhibits that look into the past, present and future of architecture: 1924-2014 (National Pavilions), Elements (Central Pavilion), and Monditalia (Arsenale). You can learn more about these exhibits in our previous coverage.

So far, we’ve seen a tremendous effort in the content of the exhibitions. In “Absorbing Modernity,” 65 countries from every continent (even Antartica) show how modernity was manifested in their respective national contexts, bringing to light comprehensive archives and demonstrations of modernism’s storied and complex past. This retrospective looks into one of the most powerful movements in history, a time when architects aligned with the needs of society and set the foundations for an ideal future. The consequences of modernism -whether good or bad- have shaped our cities and highly influenced how we live. And now, Koolhaas hopes to help us understand why it should be thought of as a fundamental part of architectural education.

Stay tuned for more reports from Venice in our dedicated Venice Biennale 2014 section. For updates in real time, check out our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

This complete coverage is brought to you thanks to our partners at CEMEX.

Coffey Architects Design New Research Center for London’s Science Museum

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Coffey Architects has won a competition to design a new research centre for the Science Museum in South Kensington, London. Designed to enable a “new level of integration between exhibitions and research,” the new centre will act as a portal for over 500,000 items contained within the Wroughton Library.

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Renzo Piano Returns to Bay Area, Designs “Plaza District” for City Center

© RPBW

Renzo Piano has been commissioned to return to the Bay Area, this time to design a 350,000 square foot “Plaza District” for a mixed-used City Center development in . Similar to his prized California Academy of Sciences building in ’s Golden Gate Park, the new multi-use district will feature expansive glass walls and a lush living roof.

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Morpholio’s Latest App Turns Photos Into Sketches, Mosaics, and More

The Morpholio Project’s latest iPhone application, Morpholio Frame, “is like having a DJ booth for your photos.” The application allows users to merge, crop, and filter photographs before posting them to social media outlets like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Sounds typical, right? Not so fast.

The application gives users more control than most thanks to an interactive matrix approach. Users can select up to three filters and three related masks, creating an image with one of 64 million unique filter combinations. One of the most interesting filters for architecture fans is “sketch” – as seen in the image after the break.

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Does London’s Planning System Lack Civic Representation?

London’s skyline is set to be dramatically altered by tall buildings in the near future. Image Courtesy of CPAT / Hayes Davidson / Jason Hawkes

A debate organized by New London Architecture (NLA) has revealed a strong need for civic societies in London which protect the interests of the public in planning decisions, offering New York as a potential model. The debate, which was one of the headline events at the London Festival of Architecture, was organized in response to a study which showed over 200 tall buildings were currently in the pipeline for the UK’s capital, which sparked fears that the current planning system was not fit for the purpose of controlling development in the city.

More on the debate after the break

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