Looking towards the uppermost floors of the new Whitney Museum of American Art, thick clouds roll diagonally across the sky behind. Reflected in the ample window of the museum’s main gallery they dash in a different direction, while the building’s white facade flashes light and dark in response to the changing light conditions. Superimposed over this scene, bold all-caps lettering pronounces the title of an article: the simple but dramatic “A New Whitney.”
This is the sight that greeted readers of Michael Kimmelman’s review of the Whitney in The New York Times last Sunday. Scroll down just a little, and the first thing you encounter is a list of credits: Jeremy Ashkenas and Alicia Desantis produced the article; graphics were contributed by Mika Gröndahl, Yuliya Parshina-Kottas and Graham Roberts; and videos by Damon Winter (the editor behind the entire endeavor, Mary Suh, is not mentioned).
Before even reading the article’s opening words, one thing is clear: this is not your average building review. As a matter of fact, it might even be the most important article in recent architectural memory.
We will be publishing Nikos Salingaros’ book, Unified Architectural Theory, in a series of installments, making it digitally, freely available for students and architects around the world. In this chapter, Salingaros moves his discussion towards our physiological and psychological reactions to the built environment, and the science of healing spaces. If you missed them, make sure to read the previous installments here.
Biophilia: Our Evolved Kinship To Biological Forms
The organized complexity in artifacts and buildings, as I have described it, leads to a positive response from users. This is the perception of “life” which we sense in certain structures and places in the built environment. The physical structure of the world has a massive effect on human beings. A crucial task of architectural theory is to explain and predict the impact that living structure — or its absence — has on us.
Known for his sensuous materiality and attention to place, 2009 Pritzker Laureate Peter Zumthor (born April 26, 1943) is one the most revered architects of the 21st century. Shooting to fame on the back of The Therme Vals and Kunsthaus Bregenz, completed just a year apart in 1996 and 1997, his work privileges the experiential qualities of individual buildings over the technological, cultural and theoretical focus often favored by his contemporaries.
In 2014 renowned Dutch politician Neelie Kroes, then a commissioner for the European Union, stated that coding should be taught in elementary school in the Netherlands, arguing that “Coding is the reading and writing of the future” and that if the Dutch didn’t incorporate it into their education system it would fall behind school systems in other countries. The reactions to both Kroes’ statement and Michael Kilkelly’s article “5 Reasons Architects Should Learn To Code” were quite similar. Those already capable of writing code agreed; many who have never even seen, let alone written any script responded negatively. Many reactions to Micheal Kilkelly’s article covered the same ideas: “There’s no time!” “Coding is not designing!” Or just plain, “No!”
There are few mediums that the Grimm Brother’s Fairy Tales haven’t been adapted into. Bowdlerized stories and films for children have since given way to revisionist tales that embrace the gruesome coloring of the originals, but something about the Grimm Brothers’ gothic folklore still holds sway over popular imagination around the world. No matter what kind of adaptation is created – musical, childlike or modernized – the essential Grimmness of the tales still glowers through. FleaFolly’s Grimm City is just such a creation.
What have these three projects got in common? They will never be published in a reputable architecture magazine. This news is no surprise: only a few projects in all the world deserve the right to be published. Editors set trends, put focus on hot topics, give visibility to emerging firms and confirm architectural stars.
A printed magazine has limited space and therefore has to engage in a very strict decision-making process; only the very few are shown. In this Darwinian selection some worthy and brilliant architects perish. On the other hand, an internet site has the possibility to widen the projects range. The web has virtually unlimited space – but still, this space is not to be wasted. Very few would benefit from a site that published every architecture project on earth.
Depending on how you measure it, Renzo Piano‘s new building for the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (designed in collaboration with New York practice Cooper Robertson) could be the most long-awaited museum of the 21st century. At just a fraction under seven years since the first designs of the building were released, the incubation period has been long enough on its own – but in fact the project has its roots in a scrapped 1981 design by Michael Graves, when the Whitney was instead planning an extension to their previous home in Marcel Breuer’s 1966 masterpiece on Madison Avenue. With such a highly anticipated building, the Whitney could hardly have a better man for the job; Piano is one of the most prodigious museum builders of our time. Yet despite this, since construction began in 2011 the design has been beset by criticism for its ungainly external appearance.
Ahead of the Whitney’s grand opening on May 1st, this past Sunday saw a slew of reviews from New York‘s many reputable art and architecture critics, who attempted to make sense of the institution’s long-overdue move from their idiosyncratic but endearing former home. We’ve rounded up some of the best of them, after the break.
The French duo of Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal are known for their delicate interventions, repurposing neglected structures with apparent effortlessness. Originally published on the Harvard Gazette website entitled “They Build, But Modestly,” this article recounts the lessons which they offered students in a recent lecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Around 1980, two young architects finished their training in Bordeaux, France, and moved to Nigeria. In that African nation’s remote regions, they were inspired by the simple structures they saw amid the stark, stunning desert landscapes. The houses were open to the air, had utilitarian thatched roofs, and were made with bits of local wood. Modesty prevailed in structures that also invited beauty.
The lessons of building in Africa stayed with Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal in their Paris-based practice, Lacaton & Vassal: use what is there, stay simple, embrace open air, and honor light, freedom, and grace. They practice social architecture based on economy, modesty, and the found beauty of environments.
Historically, the ability to draw by hand – both to create precise technical drawings and expressive sketches – has been central to the architecture profession. But, with the release and subsequent popularization of Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs since the early 1980s, the prestige of hand drawing has been under siege. Today, with increasingly sophisticated design and presentation software, from Revit to Rhinoceros, gaining in popularity, the importance of hand drawing has become a topic of heated discussion. Even so, when we published the short article “Hand vs. Computer Drawing: A Student’s Opinion” last week, the number of people offering their thoughts in the comments was far beyond what we expected.
For the best part of a century, architectural discussion has been dominated by modernism and other related forms of futurism and functionalism. For some, this constant invocation of the radically new has begun to look quite tired. In the 1980s looking backwards for inspiration famously brought us the adaptive and populist postmodernists, but also emerging at this time was New Classical architecture, which completely rejected any continuity with modernism and returned instead to traditional rules. In the years since, New Classical architecture has evolved into a resurgence of pre-modern forms, with the term also incorporating designs that would never have been considered “classical” in the first place – including Gothic and non-western historicist styles. We’ve rounded up some of the most surprising, interesting - even high-tech – examples of New Classical architecture after the break.
With Lisbon now bouncing back from the 2008 recession, its estimated 12,000 buildings in decay offer plenty of opportunities to bring the city’s buildings more in line with its new economic structure. In this article, originally published by Curbed as “What Could Be Next for a Noted Lisbon Modernist Relic?” Lisbon’s Subvert Studio presents a speculative proposal for one of the city’s most notable – and visible – modernist ruins.
Views from the balcony of what was once the Panoramic Restaurant of Monsanto show a band of green treetops, a stretch of white cityscape that spans Lisbon‘s old and new quarters, and a glimmering slice of the Tagus river beyond, mouthing toward the Atlantic. Bracketing the view is blue: a blue sky above, and below, a blue smash of broken glass, reflecting and refracting the sky’s color. Wherever there is a vista at the Panoramic Restaurant of Monsanto, wherever there are windows—and the view is the focal point of the space—there is broken glass.
Last used as a club at the top of a 2,400-acre city park, the modernist structure has slipped ever further into riotous abandon since the mid-1990s. Windows have collapsed, graffiti long ago joined the reliefs by Portuguese ceramic muralist Querubim Lapa on the walls and the stained glass sculpture at the entry, chunks of ceiling have tumbled to the ground. And in recent months, a discussion has emerged: what to do with this city-owned modernist relic, which some estimate will require 20 million Euros to fix?
Last week Patrik Schumacher, director at Zaha Hadid Architects and the practice’s frontman in the field of architectural theory, took once again to Facebook to disseminate his ideas – this time arguing that “the denunciation of architectural icons and stars is superficial and ignorant.” In the post, Schumacher lamented the default position of the architectural media which he believes sees success and reputation as “a red cloth and occasion to knock down icons,” going on to outline his beliefs on why stars and icons are useful and even inevitable mechanisms of architectural culture.
Schumacher has made headlines via Facebook before, with a post last year in which he argued for an end to the “moralizing political correctness” that has led to the popularity of socially-conscious design – a post which attracted almost universal outrage from architects, critics and social media users of all stripes. However this latest post had a very different feel; many people, myself included, seemed to find themselves at least partially agreeing with Schumacher. After all, at the most basic level he was asking for designs to each be judged on their individual merits – what’s not to like?
The Eames Case Study House #8, usually known simply as Eames’ House, is usually presented as a kind of kaleidoscope of details. It remains one of the most exuberantly performative homes in the history of architecture, with its resident designers, Charles and Ray Eames, as the chief actors. They enacted the day-to-day as an ongoing celebration, documenting the daily rituals of work, play, and hospitality with photography and film. What this theatre of life conceals is that the Eames’ house was itself, structurally, a kind of theatre. Examining the house as an interactive Archilogic 3D model holds, for this reason, some revelations even for those for whom the house looks as familiar as an old friend.
ArchDaily is continuing our partnership with The Architectural Review, bringing you short introductions to the themes of the magazine’s monthly editions. In this editorial from AR’s March 2015 issue, AR Editor Catherine Slessor discusses the phenomenon of ”architects and magazines pursuing content rather than style,” arguing both that architects should be raising the bar and also that the media, by nurturing their critical stance, should be a part of the solution, not the problem.
In what style shall we – or indeed, should we – build? Historically, architecture’s relationship with “style” is complicated and vexed. We can easily identify the formal attributes and origins of specific styles that attest to why Gothic cathedrals or Victorian train sheds look the way they do. But beyond the constraints of such historical determinism, Postmodernist and Parametricist multiplicities have allowed a hundred flowers to bloom, and their aroma began to stink the place out long ago.
Ask a random person in the street about their favorite hobbies, and it’s unlikely that they’ll say “urban planning and traffic management” – yet when video games began to take off in the late 1980s city-building was one of the first breakout hits, in the form of Maxis’ SimCity series. The huge success of the “Sim” series in general drove conversations about the value of simulation, as part of the general 1990s optimism about virtual worlds being the future. Sim games became the subject of academic critiques of their philosophy of the world, while city builders became a lot more than a game: in 2002, SimCity 3000 was used as a semi-serious test for mayoral candidates in Warsaw.
After a slump caused by a difficult transition to 3D graphics, city builders are back in vogue. Following what is widely considered as a disappointing SimCity reboot in 2013, Finland’s Colossal Order recently released Cities: Skylines to critical and financial success. But simulations require assumptions; they are, after all, written by people who have their own conscious and unconscious views on how and why cities work. The limitations around designing a video game – the fact that each asset must be modeled and textured, and that each transport option requires a huge amount of work to simulate – mean that Cities: Skylines is as stripped down and streamlined an articulation of urban philosophy as Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse or the New Urbanists’ models, and just as interesting. We investigate 10 things this game tells us about 21st century urbanism, after the break.
In his articles for ArchSmarter, Michael Kilkelly often praises the value of computers and automation, a sometimes controversial viewpoint with plenty of supporters on either side. In particular, his previous post on ArchDaily, “5 Reasons Architects Should Learn to Code” provoked a significant discussion. But what is the value of this automation? In this post originally published on ArchSmarter, he expands on his view of what computers can be useful for – and more importantly, what they can’t.
I write a lot about digital technology and automation here on ArchSmarter, but deep down inside, I have a soft spot for all things analog. I still build physical models. I carry a Moleskine notebook with me everywhere. I also recently bought a Crosley record player.
I can listen to any kind of music I want through Spotify. The music world is literally at my finger tips. Playing records hasn’t changed what I listen to but it has changed how I listen to music. There’s more friction involved with records. I have to physically own the record and I have to manually put it on the turntable. It’s a deliberate act that requires a lot more effort than just selecting a playlist on Spotify. And it’s a lot more fun.
The “Bilbao effect“ was once viewed as the savior of the other cities; a way for post-industrial cities in the 1990s and 2000s to not only replace their economic reliance on failing industry with tourism, but to reinvent themselves as capitals of High Culture, enriching both body and soul. This has long since ceased to be the case, and many now see it instead as an ironic monument to hubris. But while architecture in the west is attempting to find a viable successor, rapidly expanding economies in Asia and South East Asia seem poised to embark on a new wave of architectural and cultural flourishes designed to attract tourists and Thai Baht.
In the debate about how architects – both present and future – represent our ideas, it is easy to find a lot of articles supporting both sides. One can read as many arguments as they want and find valid points supporting both hand-drawing and computer production. One could argue that there is nothing prettier than a well done hand-rendering of a project. Another could say that, although hand-drawing is something that catches the eye, it is not practical at all, takes longer than doing it on the computer and does not allow architects to easily modify it.
There is however another facet that does not come up as frequently as it maybe should: how does this discussion affect students? I believe we lie in a cross-fire, between the idea of what architects do and what they actually do.