Bamboo: A Viable Alternative to Steel Reinforcement?

bamboo reinforcement. Image © Professorship of Architecture and Con- struction Dirk E. Hebel, ETH 3) Zürich / FCL Singapore

Developing countries have the highest demand for steel-reinforced concrete, but often do not have the means to produce the to meet that demand.  Rather than put themselves at the mercy of a global market dominated by developed countries, Singapore’s Future Cities Laboratory suggests an alternative to this manufactured rarity: bamboo.  Abundant, sustainable, and extremely resilient, bamboo has potential in the future to become an ideal replacement in places where steel cannot easily be produced.

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How Safe Are Glass Skyscrapers Really?

The Willis Tower’s Balcony. Image Courtesy of Jared Newman, DesignCrave.com

Imagine standing on a glass platform with Chicago 1300 feet directly below. Suddenly, the glass holding you begins to crack. This actually happened to Alejandro Garibay at the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) just last week. Luckily, Garibay wasn’t hurt, but the occurrence begs the question: how safe is glass - the most common material used in skyscrapers nowadays - really? Karrie Jacobs At Fast Company – Design, asked  experts to find out “The Truth Behind Building With Glass.”

Venice Biennale 2014 Winners: Korea, Chile, Russia, France, Canada

© ArchDaily

The awards ceremony for the 14th  International Architecture Exhibition have just wrapped and the results are in! 

Rem Koolhaas, the director of the Biennale, Paolo Baratta, president of the Biennale, and the jury presented the awards for Lifetime Achievement and International Participations. The jury recognized that the Biennale was a tremendous opportunity to produce and share knowledge about modernity — especially praising its role in uncovering and dissecting new areas of influence in the architecture world. 

The Golden Lion for Best National Participation went to Korea for “Crow’s Eye View: The Korean Peninsula” The jury cited Korea’s “extraordinary achievement of presenting a new and rich body of knowledge of architecture and urbanism in a highly charged political situation.”

Chile received the Silver Lion for a National Participation for “Monolith Controversies”. The jury said, “Focusing on one essential element of modern architecture – a prefabricated wall- it critically highlights the role of elements of architecture in different ideological and political contexts.” 

The Silver Lion for best research project in the  section went to Andrés Jaque/Office for Political Innovation for “Sales Oddity. Milano 2 and the Politics of Direct-to-home TV Urbanism.”

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Venice Biennale 2014: “Towards A New Avant-Garde” Explores the Emergence of a New Generation of Radical Italian Design

© Philippe Declerck /

Writing about radical architects from the 1960s and 70s, the acerbic American critic Michael Sorkin wrote: “Some chose the resistance of advocacy planning and community defense, carrying on the identification with the oppressed. Many took to the woods, back to nature, to study communitarianism and to live a life of virtuous simplicity. Others wondered about the architectural equivalent of rock and roll.” Replace communitarianism with open source, or rock and roll with science fiction, and he could just as well be describing a group of young Italian architects working today. The practitioners of the 1970’s, especially in Italy, transformed their profession but ultimately failed to realize their utopias. What might this new generation achieve?

Towards a New Avant-Garde, an and series of discussions at the opening weekend of the Venice Architecture Biennale, will confront the work and approaches of past masters like Superstudio, Archizoom, and the Global Tools group with new, speculative, and politically-charged projects by groups like Itinerant Office, IRA-C, and Snark.

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VCU Breaks Ground on Steven Holl’s Institute of Contemporary Art

View of the ICA from the corner of Broad and Belvidere Streets. Image Courtesy of Architects

Virginia Commonwealth University has officially broken ground this week on the Markel Center, the building that will house ’s Institute for Contemporary Art. Designed by Steven Holl Architects, the Institute is sited at a busy intersection at the edge of the Richmond campus, and will serve as a gateway between city and university. Inspired by the metaphysical idea of multiple timelines occurring simultaneously, the building will have four galleries which can host individual exhibitions at the same time, or link up to host a single, unified show.

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Arup Develops 3D Printing Technique for Structural Steel

© David de Jong

A team lead by Arup has developed a method of designing and 3D Printing  joints which will significantly reduce the time and cost needed to make complex nodes in tensile structures. Their research is being touted as “a whole new direction for the use of additive manufacturing” which provides a way of taking 3D printing “firmly into the realm of real-world, hard hat construction.”

Aside from creating more elegant components which express the forces within each individual joint - as you can see in the above photo – the innovation could potentially reduce costs, cut waste and slash the carbon footprint of the construction sector.

Read on for more on this breakthrough

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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 Architecture for a Change

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 South 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 awards 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 London 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 “-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 Rem Koolhaas 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 installation, 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 Glasgow 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 ‘Homeland, 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 . 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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