August Kekulé discovered the structure of the benzene ring after having a daydream of the Ouroboros, a famous mythological snake depicted as biting its own tail. Francis Crick figured out the complimentary replication system of DNA when he remembered the process of replicating a sculpture by making an impression of it in plaster, and using it as a mold to make copies. Johannes Keppler attributes his laws of planetary motion to an inspiration from religion: the sun, the stars, and the dark space around them represent the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost respectively.
What’s the point? According to Arthur Koestler, “all decisive events in the history of scientific thought can be described in terms of mental cross-fertilization between different disciplines.” Great discoveries arise not from the isolated hermit working without interference, but from tireless work enlightened by unintentional collisions with an unfamiliar subject. For Kekulé, it was ancient mythology, for Crick, sculpture, and for Keppler, religion.
Creativity and innovation, then, thrive where disciplines collide. And this is true not only for science, but for all subjects. We all have something to learn from one another, and what better place to encourage this cross-fertilization than school?
Keep reading to find out more about how interdisciplinary architecture can foster creativity and collaboration in schools…
In Russia, hundreds upon hundreds of buildings are endangered. The work of making sure they don’t become extinct? That’s in the hands of a tireless few.
One of these crusaders is Natalia Melikova, the author of The Constructivist Project, an on-line web site that seeks to preserve the memory – and hopefully inspire the protection of – Russia’s avant-garde architecture. Although it began as her thesis project, it’s steadily become one of her life passions. In Melikova’s words, “By sharing photographs (my own and others), articles, events, exhibitions, and other resources on the topic of the avant-garde, The Constructivist Project unites common interest and appreciation of Russian art and history and makes it accessible to an international English-speaking audience. This is a way to initiate discussion not only of the perilous situation of Russian avant-garde architecture but also of cultural preservation and urban development in general.”
See 10 of Melikova’s images, snapshots into a part of Russian history quickly being forgotten, with her descriptions, after the break.
Young entrepreneurs gravitate to places where they can become the founders of a revitalized culture; where land is cheap and available, and innovation is uninhibited by a status quo. Detroit, Michigan has become one of those places. The media gives us a portrayal of a wasteland, a post apocalyptic landscape of dilapidated homes and infrastructure, but there is plenty opportunity for start-ups to redefine Detroit’s future. That it why young innovators and risk-takers are needed to bring new energy and awaken new markets within the city. A recent article by Chuck Salter for Fast Company identifies six entrepreneurs who have started businesses in Detroit. They vary from grassroots campaigns to inform people of opportunities within the city to small scale enterprises that bring retail and infrastructure to the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods.
More after the break.
In the early years of the New York City subway system, natural light played a dominant role in the illumination of subterranean spaces. The architecture emphasized a connection to the sky, often through skylights planted in the median of city avenues above — lenses in the concrete sidewalks.
However, it proved extremely difficult to keep the skylights clean, and light eventually stopped passing through. Subway authorities moved toward an almost exclusive reliance on electric lighting. While this allowed for greater flexibility in station design, permitting construction at any location and depth, it also created a sense of disorientation and alienation for some passengers.
Read more about this “enlightening” subway station, after the break…
Russia has madly, passionately (and not a little blindly) fallen in love. And, as with any love affair worth its salt, this one will have its fair share of consequences when the honeymoon ends.
The object of Russia’s affection? The good, old-fashioned automobile.
It started fast and has only gotten faster. In 2005, Russia’s auto industry grew 14%; in 2006, 36%; and, in 2007, a whopping 67% – an exponential growth that attracted foreign investors, particularly after 2009, when the country welcomed companies like GM & Ford with open arms. Today, the ninth largest economy in the world is the seventh-largest car market, positioned to surpass Germany as the largest in Europe by 2014.
Nowhere is this love affair more evident, more woven into the city itself, than in Moscow. The city has a reputation (perhaps rivaled only by Beijing’s) for traffic, pollution, and downright hostility to pedestrians. And, ironically, because of its epic congestion, the city continues to expand its highways and parking spaces.
We’ve heard that story before, and we know how it ends – for that matter, so does Moscow. But passion, by nature, is blind – and stopping a love affair in its tracks is far from easy.
Since the emergence of the modern multi-storey building in the late 19th century, screenwriters and art directors have embraced the high-rise building as both backdrop and prop in the drama of feature films. It’s easy to understand the fascination. The precarious nature of a skyscraper – their height, their reliance on competent engineering and emergency systems, and their all-controlling security – provide abundant opportunities for action and disaster. And all with a built-in view.
But while Hollywood loves a high rise, it hasn’t treated them well. Plot lines usually tap into a general scepticism about the kind of engineering feats which make them possible and often carry some underlying moral message about the dangers of technology and advancement.
Jane Jacobs revered the West Village. It was a bustling neighborhood enlivened by its social, spatial, and functional diversity. It had different building types and functions, which meant that people were always in places for different purposes; it had short blocks, which have the greatest variety of foot traffic. It had plenty of old buildings with low rent which “permit individualized and creative uses;” and, most importantly, it had all different kinds of people. As a result, West Villagers could establish casual and informal relationships with people that they might not have had the opportunity to otherwise.
Without these necessary characteristics, Jacobs felt “there is no public acquaintanceship, no foundation of public trust, no cross-connections with the necessary people – and no practice or ease in applying the most ordinary techniques of city public life at lowly levels.”
By simply changing a few words, it’s not hard to imagine Jacobs’ writing describing offices instead of cities. Buildings are different internal spaces, like individual offices or gathering spaces; desks are homes; sidewalks are hallways or circulation space; etc.
If the office is a small microcosmic city, then suburbia is the cubicle-strewn office, and Google might be the West Village. And ‘people analytics,’ the statistical and spatial analysis of interpersonal interaction, is the office’s urban planning.
To find out what creative work environments can learn from the composition of cities, keep reading after the break…
As cities become more conscious of their environmental and social impact, smart growth has become a ubiquitous umbrella term for a slew of principles to which designers and planners are encouraged to adhere. NewUrbanism.org has distributed 10 points that serve as guides to development that are similar to both AIA’s Local Leaders: Healthier Communities through Design and New York City’s Active Design Guidelines: Promoting Physical Activity and Health in Design. Planners all appear to be on the same page in regards to the nature of future development. But as Brittany Leigh Foster of Renew Lehigh Valley points out, these points tend to be vague; they tell us “what” but they do not tell us “how”. 10 Rules for Smarter Smart Growth by Bill Adams of UrbDeZine San Diego enumerates how to achieve the various design goals and principles that these various guides encourage.
Merete Ahnfeldt-Mollerup is associate Professor at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. This article originally appeared in GRASP.
Miss Part 1? Find it here.
Architecture is inseparable from planning, and the huge challenge for the current generation is the growth and shrinkage of cities. Some cities, mainly in the Southern Hemisphere, are growing at exponential rates, while former global hubs in the northern are turning into countrysides. In the south, populations are still growing a lot, while populations are dwindling in Europe, Russia and North East Asia. The dream of the Bilbao effect was based on the hope that there might be a quick fix to both of these problems. Well, there is not.
A decade ago, few people even recognized this was a real issue and even today it is hardly ever mentioned in a political context. As a politician, you cannot say out loud that you have given up on a huge part of the electorate, or that it makes sense for the national economy to favor another part. Reclaiming the agricultural part of a nation is a political suicide issue whether you are in Europe or Latin America. And investing in urban development in a few, hand-picked areas while other areas are desolate is equally despised.
This Chinese movie by the acclaimed director Jia Zhangke cannot be considered documentary by having actors performing most of the scenes. However, it represents an attempt to show the dissociation between the rapid urban development and social behaviour of a population that seems to be a “victim” of globalisation.
The film is focused on a complex designed and deployed by the government with militar purposes, as a factory for producing and repairing mechanical elements for the army. This whole area became a city in itself where three generations grew up. Nowadays the future of this space will be to accomodate hundreds of luxury apartments, for what not only some modifications are going to take place, but the entire site will be demolished.
What do you think about this issue between physical environment and the social framework that constitutes a city? How should we consider this kind of mono-functional cities and what could be its future?
What has the internationally awarded Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) to do with Friederich Nietzsche and Charles Darwin? Quite a lot, according to founder Bjarke Ingels, who has created a powerful mixture of Nietzsche and Darwin as the philosophical foundation of BIG’s architecture.
Read Anders Møller’s fascinating article on BIG’s unusual philosophy, after the break…
Despite the romantic notion about cities that develop organically have a rich diversity of form and function, we cannot overlook the deadly side effects of negligent city planning. As Christopher Hume of the Toronto Star points out, last month’s tragic fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas is a grim reminder that planning has a time and place and its ultimate utility resides in the initiative to protect residents and make for healthier communities. The tangle of bureaucracy associated with planning, zoning and land use regulations can give any architect or developer a massive headache. In some cases, the laws are so restricting that diverging from bulk regulations becomes very limiting.
This blog was written by Doug Wingall, the President of HDR Architecture, for the AIA Blog Off on the theme “What does architect as leader mean to you?” It was originally published on HDR Architecture‘s blog BLiNK.
Architects and designers are trained in school to be creative and critical thinkers. We are shaped and molded into being the purveyors of ideas that can have a positive influence not only on the built environment, but society in general. By the very skills and talents which architects and designers possess, we are inherent problem solvers.
In fact, one of our country’s greatest politicians, Thomas Jefferson, believed that architecture embodied the soul of his new country–a building was a metaphor for American ideology, the process of construction equal to the task of building a nation.
So why aren’t there more architects and designers working on the national and global stage to solve pressing social, environmental and economic challenges? Currently, lawyers comprise 37 percent of all U.S. senators and nearly 24 percent of all U.S. congressmen. Banking and business occupations account for 20 percent of the Senate and 22 percent of the House. According to the AIA, in the last 50 years, only one architect has served in a national capacity: U.S. Congressman Richard Swett, who represented New Hampshire from 1990 to 1994.
Why aren’t there more architects on a national or global leadership level influencing the policy that ensures positive change?
The Pritzker Prize had idealistic beginnings: recognising achievement within architecture, a profession that had long lost its status in public opinion. Pritzker ‘seamed’ this fragmentation, celebrated the architect and broadcast this stellar contribution to society, as a creative, a singular author whose uniqueness set him/her apart from a field of practitioners.
The Prize has since assumed a role of gatekeeper to the ‘starchitect’ it once helped define. While it is inspiring that architecture as a profession has reaffirmed its status and cultural significance, The Pritzker places itself on an archi-centric proscenium, running the risk of being consumed by a synthetic reality within the profession. If Pritzker and other similar models of recognition are to evolve, they must illuminate widespread transformations in practice and emphasise the changing of the guard within the profession.
Firstly, Denise Scott Brown should be recognised retrospectively. Opinion does not change facts.
Read more about the (d)evolution of the Pritzker Prize, after the break…
London is engrossed in a vigorous debate over recently unveiled plans for the South Bank Centre, the cluster of Brutalist concrete buildings on the River Thames including the Queen Elizabeth Hall (QEH) and Hayward Gallery.
Today, the Centre has as its neighbour one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions – The London Eye – and this, with the addition of retail and other leisure-led developments in and around the South Bank, has refocused both commercial and cultural attention on the complex.
Last month, British architects Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios (FCBS) unveiled their vision for a “Festival Wing” on the site, focussing on the QEH and the Hayward Gallery. It isn’t the first time an architect has been asked to look at these buildings in recent decades. However, it is the most likely to come to fruition.
Read more about the Southbank Centre and its future development, after the break…
Each year, the Department of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley bestows the Berkeley Prize(s) in order to promote the investigation of architecture as a social art. This year’s theme was “The Architect and the Accessible City.” The following essay, “A day in the life of a wheelchair user: navigating Lincoln,” written by Sophia Bannert of the University of Lincoln, took first prize.
Architectural discourse has gradually become incoherent with the social and ethical needs of the contemporary city. With the relationship between theory and practice strained, lack of social relevance in design is ubiquitous. Practising architects frequently regard theory as esoteric and non-transferable, whilst many theorists do not manifest their ideas into reality and build. With the connection gripping the precipice by its fingers, this paper is conceived; written to persuade, motivate and encourage that there is real value in instigating ideas put forth in this paper. Concepts proposed are not only applicable to the city of Lincoln but are relevant and adaptable to all cities. Inspired by the architecture which has not yet manifested, it hopes to ignite the spirit needed to eradicate social inequities in urban design.
As Albert Einstein said: “If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts”. In order to palpably grasp an understanding of what it is truly like to be physically disabled in Lincoln, I rented a wheelchair for one day to see for myself whether the facts fitted the theory.
Read more of Sophia Bannert’s prize-winning story, after the break…
Imminent domain has a new justification and it’s called the Olympic Games. Once again, the anticipation of the Olympics brings to light the slew of human rights violations that are permitted by countries as they prepare to host the games. So what is the real cost of hosting the Olympic Games? We posed this question on ArchDaily last year in regards to Rio de Janeiro’s pick for hosting the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Summer Games. And here we are again, looking at the controversies that surround building the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, which has been preparing for the games for six years now since it won its bid in 2007. If Brazil’s practices with the favelas struck a nerve with human rights groups, Sochi’s is sure to spark more controversy.
More after the break.
Inspiration is a funny thing: when you need it is nowhere to be seen, and just when you’re not expecting it, it can blindside you in the least convenient of places. Here’s ten inspirational TED talks for architects (in no particular order) from people with broad and unique views on architecture. Some might enlighten, educate or even enrage you – at the very least they should get those creative juices flowing a little better.
Take-in these ten TED talks after the break…
Most parking is free – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a high cost. A recent podcast from Freakonomics Radio (which you can listen to at the end of this article) examined parking in US cities, investigating the “cost of parking not paid for by drivers” – a cost paid not just by the government, but by the environment – due to congestion and pollution caused by people searching for kerbside parking. For example, in a 15 block area of Los Angeles the distance traveled by drivers looking for parking is equivalent to one trip across the USA per day.
One potential solution which they discuss is a San Francisco project called SF Park, which makes use of sensor technology to measure the demand for parking in certain areas of the city and adjust price according to demand. In theory, this would create a small number of empty spaces on each block and dramatically reduce the time that many drivers spend cruising for parking spaces.
Though the idea is certainly an intelligent approach to the problem of kerbside parking, unsurprisingly all this talk of supply, demand and pricing sounds very much like an economist’s answer to a problem. But what can designers do to help the situation?
Perhaps, from the designer’s point of view, the real problem with kerbside parking and surface lots is that they are always seen as a provision “coupled with” a building or area of the city. There have been a number of attempts by architects – some successful and some tragically flawed – to make parking spaces less of a rupture in a city’s fabric and more of a destination in themselves. Could these point to another way?
Read about 3 examples of parking’s past, and one of its potential future, after the break…
Steve Mouzon, a principal of Studio Sky and Mouzon Design, is an architect, urbanist, author, and photographer from Miami. He founded the New Urban Guild, which hosts Project:SmartDwelling and helped foster the Katrina Cottages movement; its non-profit affiliate is the Guild Foundation, which hosts the Original Green initiative.
Architecture has changed irreparably in the past decade, but those who know how to adapt just might find themselves in a far better place in a few years. It has now been 8 years since construction peaked in 2005, nearly 6 years since the subprime meltdown, and close to 5 years since the big meltdown that really kicked off the Great Recession.
Today, it appears that construction is finally beginning to pick back up, but it’s too late for architecture as we knew it. Here are seven reasons why…