The Indicator: Thank You, Patrik Schumacher

“Architects are in charge of the FORM of the built environment, not its content. We need to grasp this and run with this despite all the (ultimately conservative) moralizing political correctness that is trying to paralyse us with bad conscience and arrest our explorations…” – Patrik Schumacher. Above, the MAXXI Museum by Zaha Hadid Architects. Image © Iwan Baan

First off, I would like to thank Patrik Schumacher for taking to Facebook on March 17 at 9:45pm to let off steam — thus starting a meaningful discussion on the role of the architect in society and culture. We could deconstruct it line by line, but I don’t think that will yield much in the way of enlightenment. What I take from it is that architecture creates form and should be free to do so without being restricted by ethical or moral imperatives to be social or political. But, as Benjamin Bratton remarked in reply to Schumacher, “To set the political to one side and at the same time make grandiose claims for how architectural form can in fact ‘remake civilization’, is a self-defeating program.”

Perceptions on the role of architecture in society can easily fall along class, race, and national lines. Coming from a place of privilege, it is easy to assume an apolitical, form-making agenda for the profession. The argument that architecture has nothing to do with the social domain, or the “content” as Schumacher calls it, is an argument for political conservatism, a hands-off, sink or swim argument for social Darwinism, that limits the range and impact of high architecture. Why can’t the best and most challenging forms of architecture penetrate through all social strata? Why shouldn’t it serve the poor? And why shouldn’t this be one criteria among others for judging the value of architecture?

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Material Substance: When Material and Mechanism are One

The following is the first article of , a column, penned by Christopher Brenny and presented by AD Materials, which investigates the innovative applications of in architecture.

A material is nothing without a process. The characteristics of plastic, for example, vary dramatically depending on where and how the raw material is applied during the forming process. The same material can be used to create a bag, a solid container, or a woven textile. The difference between a disposable water bottle and carpeting is so distinct that one could not make the material connection without some foreknowledge of the manufacturing process of each.

The result of this material ecosystem is a scenario in which design and manufacturing must inform one another. This connection often moves so slowly in the building industry that it is difficult to perceive and very slow to adapt. Shape memory alloys such as nitinol (muscle wire), for example, are gradually moving into public nomenclature. While the novelty of such materials is ripe for exploration, application has proven difficult as the cost of such materials is quite prohibitive. Shape memory alloys, unless they are developed using more abundant metals such as aluminum, will likely remain a niche product developed for very specific applications.

Memory plastics, while less developed and responsive, have significant potential to become a familiar fixture in our daily lives. Combining this technology with the lightweight, structural capabilities of foamed materials, our preconceptions of the portable and flat packed may soon transform from disposable and insubstantial into something much more beautiful and valuable.

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A Theory of Architecture Part 2: The Adaptive Design Method

Image of Torre David in Venezuela, an unfinished skyscraper that has become a (modified/adapted) slum settlement. “The human need to make a building adapt through form, surface, and ornament is innate. Everyday people who own and build their own homes definitely apply a pattern language (albeit unknowingly) because they want their dwellings to be as comfortable as possible. Here we have an adaptive design method, which, were it not for the miserable conditions of life represented by the overcrowded slums of the world, is an excellent example for architecture schools to study”. Image © Iwan Baan

As you may have seen, ArchDaily has been publishing UNIFIED ARCHITECTURAL THEORY, by the urbanist and controversial theorist Nikos A. Salingaros, in serial form. However, in order to explain certain concepts in greater detail, we have decided to pause this serialization and publish three excerpts from another of Salingaros’  books: A THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE. The previous excerpt explained the difference between “Pattern Language” and “Form Language.” The following excerpt will establish how these languages can combine to form the “Adaptive Design Method.”

Proposition: An adaptive design method arises out of a complementary pair consisting of a pattern language and a form language.

I have indicated very briefly what a pattern language and a form language are we still need to understand what an adaptive design method refers to. Out of many contemporary approaches to design, there are very few that result in structures and environments that are adapted both to physical human use, as well as to human sensibilities. In the past, the opposite was true. Human use is straightforward to understand: the physical dimensions and geometry have to accommodate the human body and its movement.

By accommodating human sensibilities, I mean that environments should make human beings feel at ease; make them feel psychologically comfortable so that persons can carry out whatever functions they have to unselfconsciously, without being disturbed by the built environment in any way. This imposes a strong constraint on the design process to adapt to the many factors (both known and unknown) that will influence the user on many levels, including emotion. An adaptive design method should accommodate all these criteria, and this Chapter shows how this may be accomplished.

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Why Africa’s Cities Need African Planning

Design concept for Eko Atlantic City. Image Courtesy of archinect.com

In this article, originally posted on Future Cape Town as “Designing African Cities: Urban Planning Education in Nigeria“, Professors Vanessa Watson and Babatunde Agbola discuss a paradigm shift occurring in Nigerian Planning Schools: from the American and European planning theories that have so far been applied in to new theories more suited to dealing with the unique challenges presented by African cities.

In June 2011, the Governor of Osun State inaugurated a 10 man Committee for the state Urban Renewal Programme. The Committee of which I was the Chairman was to prepare an Urban Renewal Master Plan for each of the 9 selected cities in the state. At the inauguration, the Governor emphasized and re-emphasized that the type of plans he anticipated for each of these cities are not the types and models of New York, Washington, London or any other Euro-American cities. The plans were to reflect African cities’ realities and thus have relevance for the lives of the residents of these cities.

These observations of the Governor point to the widespread belief of Nigerians that there is an observable disconnect between what the planners learn and know and what they put into practice for the general welfare and liveability of the populace. Admittedly, theory feeds and inform practice but when theories of other climes are transplanted for practice in another, the result cannot but be disastrous. Such is the effect of received contemporary planning and knowledge on the morphology of Nigerian towns and cities.

Read on to find out what is being done about this education conundrum

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Light Matters: Sacred Spaces

Chapel in Villeaceron, Spain. Architect: Sancho-Madridejos Architecture Office. Image © Hisao Suzuki

The use of light can lead to very diverse feelings: a ray of sunlight calls attention; glare overpowers; the nocturnal sky fascinates, while a dense dark forest arouses fear. Religions have made use of these experiences to convey the mystic aspects of their respective deities — accordingly, so too do their erected buildings.

After the break, an exploration of the different approaches for using light as a vehicle of symbolic meaning and spiritual experience in religious spaces.

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Ban vs. Schumacher: Should Architects Assume Social Responsibility?

Guangzhou Opera House, Zaha Hadid Architects. Image © Iwan Baan

Last week, Patrik Schumacher, Zaha Hadid’s right-hand man, attempted to mandate the boundaries of Architecture in a social media post worthy of a Millennial. The tone was prescriptive and characterized by a liberal application of caps lock. In an ideal world, it might have been collectively ignored, but the discussion sprawled across multiple Facebook threads and inspired a broad media response (not to mention this one). I offer you a very reductive abstract: Architecture’s contribution to society is form, not political correctness and not art, which lacks a function beyond itself. A fair bit of the ensuing banter on Schumacher’s Facebook wall draws, then erases, then rehashes the distinction between art and architecture. With more than a hint of indignation, he specifically denounces the winners of the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale. He was not on the roster. Injured dignities aside, the commentary allowed a pervasive and omnipresent question within our discipline to resurface in the digital forum: What do architects offer that no one else can?

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The Indicator: Will We Stay Silent? The Human Cost of Qatar’s World Cup

Development of new skyscrapers in Doha, Qatar. Image © Sophie James / Shutterstock.com

Qatar says the World Cup projects are “on track,” but the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which has been investigating worker deaths in the Gulf Emirate for the last two years, vehemently disagrees. To date there have been 1200 worker deaths associated with the on-going World Cup projects. A scathing report, issued by the ITUC on March 16, claims that unless significant improvements are made to working conditions on World Cup-related sites at least 4000 more migrant construction workers could lose their lives. This would mean that those construction sites are “on track” to kill 600 workers per year, or at least 12 per week until the ribbons are cut and the fireworks are set off.

At a FIFA executive committee meeting held in Zurich on March 20, FIFA president Sepp Blatter stated, “We have some responsibility but we cannot interfere in the rights of workers.” Likewise, local FIFA organizing committee in Qatar says workers are not their responsibility. Zaha Hadid said the same.

However, given the increasing chorus of headlines along the lines of “The Qatar World Cup is a Total Disaster” they may have to say something stronger on the issue at some point — or have the image of their architecture tarnished. Of course we all know that what they mean is that legally it is not their responsibility. But does that mean they should be sitting back, not even attempting to influence change?

Get all the facts on the situation of the Qatar construction workers, after the break…

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The Pritzker Prize: Making Architects “Starchitects” Since 1979 (But at What Cost?)

Architecture’s Highest Honor. Top Left to Right: Rafael Moneo (1996) Image © Lee Salem; PeterZumthor (2009); Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron (2001) Image © Rex Stucky; Rem Koolhaas (2000) Image © Zoog.

The coveted title “ Laureate” is more or less synonymous today with the label “star-architect,” a term I loathe and that most of those described as such will probably find irritating and embarrassing. And for good reason. Stardom in the sense of celebrity does not help the cause of architecture. Wang Shu’s wife, Lu Wenyu, said as much when she asked not to be named as co-laureate with her husband. In an interview with El Pais, she remarked, “I’m happy to be able to do architecture that I believe helps our towns and cities to be better. I’m convinced that to talk about this awakens interest in others – not being famous.”

Of course the Pritzker Prize does not set out to create a school of architects famous for being famous, but to recognise, celebrate and support talent, persistence and perhaps a unique contribution to the cause of architecture. The prize winners each deserve that recognition whether we agree or not with the choice of an individual recipient.

The fame culture is generated not so much by altruistic cultural institutions, but largely by a star-struck media wanting to create a cast of famous characters to write about. There is, of course, pressure from editors to do so, too, fearing perhaps that anything else might lose readers hungry for celebrity culture. Of course, the critic gains a kind of minor celebrity status, too, through association with this “star” culture.

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Pritzker Juror Alejandro Aravena on Shigeru Ban: Virtuousity in Service of Our Most Urgent Challenges

The following is ’s response to the Shigeru Ban’s Pritzker winAravena is the executive director of the firm ELEMENTAL S.A and a member of the Pritzker Jury who selected Ban as this year’s Pritzker Laureate.

has expanded the field of architecture in unexpected ways. He has proved that the inspired artist and the skilled designer is not inevitably condemned to work for a privileged elite, but that innovation can take place while working for the majority, particularly those historically underserved, forgotten or neglected. In order to do that, he redefined the approach to deal with difficult, urgent and relevant challenges, replacing professional charity by professional quality. Ban has shown that no matter how tough the circumstances or scarce the means, good design far from being an extra cost carries the added value of sharp efficiency, power of synthesis and an uplifting feeling.

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15 Things You Didn’t Know About Shigeru Ban

Left, Image of © Flickr User VisiOkrOniK. Right, from top to bottom, Ban’s Temporary Paper Studio (© Didier Boy de la Tour), the Pavilion for the Hanover Exhibition 2000 (© Hiroyuki Hirai), and his design for “Architecture for Dogs” (© Hiroshi Yoda).

You probably know by now that Shigeru Ban has won this year’s Pritzker Prize, but did you know he almost went to university to play rugby? Or that he constructed his home without pulling down a single tree? These and many more fun facts on the 38th Pritzker laureate, after the break.

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A Theory of Architecture Part 1: Pattern Language vs. Form Language

Galleria di Diana in Venaria Royal Palace, an example of Classical architecture. The Classical Language is an example of an “extremely successful form language”. Image Courtesy of shutterstock.com

As you may have seen, ArchDaily has been publishing UNIFIED ARCHITECTURAL THEORY, by the urbanist and controversial theorist Nikos A. Salingaros, in serial form. However, in order to explain certain concepts in greater detail, we have decided to pause this serialization and publish three excerpts from another of Salingaros’  books: A THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE. The following excerpt, the first, explains the terms “Pattern Language” (as well as“antipatterns”) and “Form Language.”

Design in architecture and urbanism is guided by two distinct complementary languages: a pattern language, and a form language.

The pattern language contains rules for how human beings interact with built forms — a pattern language codifies practical solutions developed over millennia, which are appropriate to local customs, society, and climate.

A form language, on the other hand, consists of geometrical rules for putting matter together. It is visual and tectonic, traditionally arising from available and their human uses rather than from images. Different form languages correspond to different architectural traditions, or styles. The problem is that not all form languages are adaptive to human sensibilities. Those that are not adaptive can never connect to a pattern language. Every adaptive design method combines a pattern language with a viable form language, otherwise it inevitably creates alien environments.

Architectural design is a highly complex undertaking. Heretofore, the processes at its base have not been made clear. There have been many attempts to clarify the design process, yet we still don’t have a design method that can be used by students and novices to achieve practical, meaningful, nourishing, human results.

In the absence of a design method and accompanying criteria for judging a design, things have become very subjective, and therefore what is built today appears to be influenced largely by fashion, forced tastes, and an individual’s desire to garner attention through novel and sometimes shocking expressions.

This Chapter puts forward a theory of architecture and urbanism based on two distinct languages: the pattern language, and the form language.

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Non-Stick PAMM

/ Herzog and de Meuron. Image © Paul Clemence

Rio de Janeiro-based writer Robert Landon has shared with us his experience exploring Herzog and de Meuron’s Perez Art Museum Miami.

I am standing with Christine Binswanger, senior partner of Herzog & de Meuron, a few hours before the Perez Art Museum Miami opens it doors to the public for the first time. All around us, construction workers are making last minute adjustments, while troublesome clusters of VIPs take their first peak into the museum’s airy, austere galleries. The excitement is palpable.

And yet I can’t unpeel my eyes from the huge, hurricane-proof window before us. They offer enormous views of resplendent Biscayne Bay and the six-lane, 5.6km Macarthur Causeway that crosses it. Throbbing with traffic, the causeway is the kind of thing that, I imagine, people come to museums to forget. So I ask Binswanger, the museum’s project architect, how her team approached this design problem.

“Problem? What problem?” says Binswanger. “That is what Miami is about. Anyway, I find it beautiful. Don’t you?”

Suddenly I do. Or at least I find beautiful the building’s wide-open embrace of Miami, causeways and all. And I suspect that this visual (and programmatic) permeability to the city’s realities—natural and manmade—will define PAMM’s institutional success.

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25 Instagram Feeds to Follow Now (Part II)

Last June, we published our first list of must-see Instagram feeds to follow, but we knew it was only the tip of the iceberg. Once again we’ve scoured the web (and followed your excellent suggestions) to track down the 25 Instagrammers who will be sure to inspire – including dare-devil adventurer raskalov, up-and-coming architecture photographer nicanorgarciaand our very own editor-in-chief.

See the 25 awesome architecture instagrammers, after the break…

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The Indicator: Could Architecture Offices Abolish Hierarchy?

Zappos is one of the biggest companies to function as a ‘holocracy’ (without a fixed staff hierarchy). Their Las Vegas headquarters utilizes communal furniture to increase team-based collaboration (according to Business Insider, ‘desks are linked but can be easily disconnected or moved, the walls are movable as well. So if a team needs to work a different way, or a new product team is formed, the space can be changed, and changed again until it works’). Image Courtesy of Zappos, via OfficeSnapshots.com

What can architecture learn from Zappos? Yes, we’ve all heard about vegan cafés, yoga rooms, playing commando games indoors, and wearing Crocs in the office, but – more importantly – Zappos is transforming office culture in a meaningful, far-reaching way: it’s put an end to staff hierarchy.

According to The Washington Post, Zappos is the largest company to have adopted the Holocracy principle, the brainchild of software entrepreneur-turned-management-guru Brian Roberston. Guru would be the right word because, at first glance, and maybe second or third glance, Holocracy does come off as somewhat of a cult, albeit a business management cult. It creeps me out just a little bit, but having pushed through their website, I feel a little better now, not in the least like I’ve been L. Ron Hubbarded.

In a Holocracy, authority and responsibility are distributed across an organization in a way that is more goal-centered. As they say, “Everyone becomes a leader of their roles and a follower of others.” Still not making any sense? Old hierarchies that rely on “leaders” at the top, “followers” at the bottom, and “managers” in the middle are done away with completely. So, no more “bosses.” No more “staff.” No more “junior designer” or “senior designer.”

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Rem Koolhaas’ Current Fascinations: On Identity, Asia, the Biennale, & More

Courtesy of Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture, and Design, via Flickr

In this interview, originally published in The Architectural Review, Andrew Mackenzie sits down with founder Rem Koolhaas to discuss the Venice Biennale, the extinction of national identities, his fascination with Asia, the link between De Rotterdam and Delirious New York, and the future of the profession.

Your proposition for this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale asks whether national identity has been, as you say, ‘sacrificed to modernity’. Some might view this as a project of reclamation, not unlike Frampton’s regionalism. How would you differentiate your proposition from Frampton’s?

Well, Kenneth Frampton is a smart guy, but the problem is that he looked at regionalism as an antidote to cosmopolitan development. In so doing he perverted the cause of regionalism, because suddenly regionalism was mobilised as a private cause that it couldn’t sustain. However, the question of national identity is an open one. For instance, at first sight the Netherlands is a very internationalist country, but looking closely you can see an enormous return of, not vernacular, but quasi-vernacular architecture and quasi-old fortresses that are newly built with a national flavour. Look at Zaandam, and that huge assemblage of so-called vernacular buildings.

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Unpublished / CLOG

Courtesy of

Each edition of CLOG poses a particular challenge to the reader: by showcasing such a variety of distinct view points, teasing out the central, connective themes is far from an easy task. It requires analysis, thought, and most of all time – which is, of course, entirely the point. CLOG seeks to “slow things down” so that the greater issues of architectural discourse are mulled over and explored.

The latest CLOG, however, Unpublished, has two central points that quickly, easily emerge. Pick up CLOG: Unpublished if you want to learn two things: (1) about how and why certain publications choose the architecture they publish (ArchDaily included); or (2) about works that have, for their geographical location or problematic nature, been forgotten from the “idealized narratives” of architecture

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Learning from Cairo: What Informal Settlements Can (and Should) Teach Us

Courtesy of Learning from

The following essay, written by Magda Mostafa, is an excerpt from the book “Learning from Cairo: Global Perspectives and Future Visions,” a collection of reflections from a three-day symposium of the same name. Here, Mostafa focuses on the need to accept informal communities as a reality, not an exception, and argues that conventional architecture practice and education must begin equipping architects to “address the potentials and problems of such parallel modes of existence in our built environment.”

It would be a disservice if the debate spurred at the “Learning from Cairo” symposium were to remain confined to the hypothetical. It is our responsibility to extend it to both the professional realm as well as the academic. The purpose of this discussion is just that.

How can architectural academia respond to this shifting climate? A climate where the majority of the built environment is conceived and implemented outside of the construct of conventional practice? Where the majority of the architectural product in our city exists without architects? How can we further propagate a singular top-down mode of practice in our teaching when it’s malfunctioning at best and corrupt or absent at its worst? When this conventional mode is only viable in neatly packaged projects with clear financing, educated clients and formal frameworks? How can we continue to teach our students, the architects of the future generation, to only be equipped to operate within a small portion of the built environment- ignoring the massive built environment and user groups often represented on maps as solid black “informal areas”.

This phenomena can no longer be blacked-out, and it is time for academia to begin educating its architects-to-be at least to be minimally aware, if not proficiently trained, to address the potentials and problems of such parallel modes of existence in our built environment.

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Why The Blueprint of the 21st Century Should Be Open Source

Frank Gehyr’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Rendered/Modeled in Rhino by Neguin. Image Courtesy of rhino3d.com

It used to be that when an architect needed a physical facsimile of his/her project, a draftsman would individually draw the schematics by hand. Blueprints were revolutionary in that they streamlined reproduction through technology, yet they were based on a publishing model that was repetitive  — not iterative. Computer Aided Design software, or CAD, streamlined the process even further; however, unlike blueprints, CAD was not based on publishing models, but rather on “technological science.” As such it evolved in a very different way. CAD technology that was initially developed in the 1960s as a proprietary tool for heavy industries—aerospace, automotive and super-computer processing centers— became consumer-oriented in the 1980s when it met the UNIX open platform. The key in its rapid development, dissemination and democratization was exactly this: open technology.

Today, we have 3D modeling software that can pack an exponential cache of information, render designs visible with incredible fidelity, and make those designs easier to adapt. BIM technology (building information modeling) has entered the workplace, too, improving coordination and productivity of all trades involved in project construction, effectively revolutionizing the manufacturing sector. This is technology that, like CAD, has undeniably been pushed forward via the open development and integration of components.

And yet, architects continue to depend on closed distribution models in the face of so much technology that makes design shareable and easy to manipulate. 3D modeling software has evolved and created a competitive market with ever more accessible, cross-border, cross-disciplinary design software. While the blueprint, a “published” medium, came with requisite copyright issues that appealed to the architect-as-artist, today, as a “technological” layer, blueprints cannot afford to stay locked in.

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