Los Angeles: The River City?

The industrial corridor of the Los Angeles River at the Seventh Street bridge in downtown L.A., as photographed by Lane Barden for his Linear City Portfolio. Image Courtesy of Lane Barden

Did you know a 51-mile river runs through the city of Los Angeles? It might not be immediately recognizable as a river, but it’s there. In a drastic attempt to prevent flooding in the early 1900s, the Army Corps of Engineers essentially turned the entire river into a giant drainage channel by encasing it in concrete. This article, originally posted on Metropolis Magazine, investigates landscape architect ’s vision to remedy the situation by transforming the desolate space into a public greenway, and a celebrated feature of Los Angeles.

From the offices of Los Angeles–based landscape architect Mia Lehrer, located near the western edge of Koreatown, you might not even know that Los Angeles has a river. It’s not visible from here — instead we can see other things L.A. is known for: the Hollywood sign, traffic, billboards, a dense urban grid that runs forever. In fact, unless you are right up against it, you may not see the river at all. In its current form, it sits as the abandoned, Brutalist evidence of the city’s past battles with seasonal flooding, an expedient way to move water quickly to the sea. To many, it’s more like an urban-design crime scene of missed opportunities and missteps, begging to be corrected. If Lehrer has her way, it will be corrected so that Los Angeles, the city with the huge drainage channel, becomes Los Angeles, river city.

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Inside SeARCH’s Utopian Hobbit Hole at the Architecture Biennale Rotterdam

Courtesy of Ronald Tilleman

Windowless, sparse, and connected to nature — this is how architecture and urban design firm SeARCH envisions the home of the future. In their new project “Yourtopia,” they challenge stereotypical ideas about what a home should be and demonstrate an awareness about our relationship with our environment. This article originally published on Metropolis Magazine investigates the home’s minimal design and construction process.

Our homes shield us from distractions so that we may cultivate our own interests and, in the process, sense of selves. Dutch architecture firm SeARCH has taken this idea to the extreme with “Yourtopia”, a temporary refuge that radically reconsiders what a home can be.

More on Yourtopia’s radical living environment after the break

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Robert A.M. Stern Remembers Charles Moore

Moore House, Orinda, California, 1962. Image Courtesy of Morley Baer

Robert A.M. Stern, founder of his eponymous firm and dean of the Yale School of Architecture, remembers his colleague and friend Charles Moore in this article originally published by Metropolis Magazine. Stern writes about the details most would never know — including what it was like to be a guest in Moore’s home and his eating habits. Read on to learn about and their relationship over the years and Stern’s admiration for Moore.

As an architecture student at Yale editing Perspecta 9/10, I first met Charles Moore by telephone and through correspondence. I had come across his amazing early projects in the Italian magazine Casabella, and was intrigued by what I read about him and his partners — especially in a provocative essay by Donlyn Lyndon. I got in touch with Charles and he volunteered that he was interested in writing about Disneyland for the journal, leading to the publication of his justifiably famous article, “You Have to Pay for the Public Life,” as well as a portfolio of projects by his firm Moore, Lyndon, Turnbull, Whitaker.

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When Architects Try Their Hand at Industrial Design

Getting locals involved helped Workshop to engender a sense of community in Tacloban as well as solve their practical problems. Image © Nelson Petilla

From Frank Lloyd Wright to Mies van der Rohe, many architects have dabbled in designing smaller-scale items. While some argue that industrial design is not an architect’s place, many would beg to differ. The following article, originally published on Design Curial, describes various architects involved with industrial design today.

Architects who take a break from the built environment and turn their attention to designing smaller items are most often driven – initially at least – by what they see as necessity. They struggle to find the right furniture, signage or lighting for their interiors, and convince their client that they are the perfect people to design them.

Those architects quickly get a taste for the smaller scale then hunt down opportunities to design other items, in the hope that some may go into mass production. This is further fueled by those ‘big names’ who are approached by manufacturers to use their signature to brand the product. While there is a logic to this sequence of events, it still begs the question: why would anyone who can get commissioned to design a building bother with anything smaller?

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5 Pros of Working Abroad in China

© Florian Delale

Have you ever considered working abroad in ? The thought may be daunting, but there are plenty of reasons why you should take that thought and turn it into a reality. Originally published on Arch-Shortcuts, here are five reasons to take the leap — as written by Arch-Shortcuts founder Chen Tang, an architect currently working in Hong Kong.

1. Bigger Projects

© Florian Delale

Forget about doing houses and deck extensions! Projects in China consist mainly of large schemes and developments – a small/medium sized project in China would be considered a significant project in other countries. You will be more focused on the overall image and conceptual design as opposed to intricate details – due to the short timelines of a project, which leads to our next point.

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(Re)Made in China: The Soviet-Era Planning Projects Shaping China’s Cities

Victoria Peak, Hong Kong. Image © Owen Lin under a CC licence

The following article, written by Jacob Dreyer and originally published in The Calvert Journal as “Maximum city: the vast urban planning projects of Soviet-era Russia are being reborn in modern ,” analyzes a fascinating phenomenon: the exportation of Soviet urbanism — or rather Stalinist urbanism  shaping Chinese cities today. 

As I cycled to work on 20 May this year, the Yan’an Expressway — Shanghai’s crosstown artery, named after the utopian socialist city that was Mao Zedong’s 1940s stronghold — was eerily silent, cordoned off for a visit by President Vladimir Putin. We discovered the next day that the upshot of his visit was the signing a $400bn contract with China for the export of gas and petroleum. As President Barack Obama had once promised he would, Putin made a pivot to Asia, albeit on a slightly different axis. From Shanghai, the terms of the deal — which was immensely advantageous to China — made it seem as if Russia was voluntarily becoming a vassal-state of the People’s Republic, making a reality of both the predictions of Vladimir Sorokin’s dystopian fantasy novel Day of the Oprichnik and of Russian scare stories about Chinese immigrants flooding into Siberia.

The irony is that models of society imported from Russia during the Soviet period — as realised in popular culture, legal apparatuses and, of particular interest to the cyclist, in architecture and urban planning — are as influential as ever in China. If, as Chinese philosopher Wang Hui observed in his book The End of Revolution, Socialism was the door through which China passed on its voyage into modernity, then it was Russia that opened that door, by exporting models and expertise that laid the foundation for much of what constitutes modern China.

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Unified Architectural Theory: Chapter 6

Bagsværd Church, by Jørn Utzon, is commonly cited as an example of “Critical Regionalism.” However, according to Salilngaros’ Unified Architectural Theory, “Critical Regionalism” does not go far enough in removing architecture from the influence of Modernist principles. Image © Flickr User seier + seier – http://www.flickr.com/photos/seier/

We will be publishing ’ book, Unified Architectural Theory, in a series of installments, making it digitally, freely available for students and architects around the world. The following chapter discusses the extent to which architecture can be considered successful, i.e. adaptive to its specific locality. Although recognizing the merits of “Critical Regionalism,” Salingaros here explains why that framework is not enough to analyze architecture in terms of its environmental, cultural and emotional impact. If you missed them, make sure to read the previous installments here.

Suppose that we have successfully documented and catalogued all form languages, including those from vernacular traditions, past times, and contemporary practice. A scientific approach requires the next step, which comprises both analysis and classification. A catalogue is a useful store of information, but it is only the beginning of a systematic study.

What do some form languages have in common, and on what qualities do some of them differ? One measure is their degree of complexity, as documented by the length of description of the form language. Another is adaptation to locality. How far does a form language justify itself as being regional? Here, regional is the opposite of universal.

It is therefore useful to classify form languages by how much they adapt to a certain locality. If it does adapt, each language will, of course, adapt to its own specific locality: what we measure is how good that adaptation is. Success of adaptation is measured if buildings are energy efficient in the low-tech sense, so that the majority population can profit from them. By contrast, high-tech energy efficiency may be very useful, but it usually relies upon imported technology and , and is thus global, not regional.

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A Prize for Promise: GAGA’s Hunt for the New Hadid

Post-Graduate Runner-up, GAGA 2013. Rob Taylor – Golden Temple of Trash

A few years ago London’s Architectural Association held an exhibition called First Works: Emerging Architectural Experimentation in the 1960s & 1970s, which wonderfully gathered together early projects from a host of the most famous names in architecture. In both Zaha Hadid’s gorgeously animated plan/perspectives of the Taoiseach’s Residence and Daniel Libeskind’s intensely unstable drawings of Micromegas, you can already sense a lifetime of formal exploration ahead for the pair; and yet who would ever guess the unique tectonic language to come from the anonymously mundane drawings of the Sequoyah Educational Research Centre by ?

When I set up the Global Architecture Graduate Awards (GAGAs) at The Architectural Review in 2012, it was with the insight that, at its best, the work produced at the start of a career can be its most daring and projective. At that fertile threshold between the academy and practice, uncertain graduates can be years ahead of more assured and mature colleagues in the creative risks they are willing to take.

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Introducing “Potty-Girl,” The Architect of the Future?

“I look for inspiration (or opportunities) from people and places rather than looking for people and places to host my ideas.” — Julia King

Regardless of whether or not Shigeru Ban deserved to be awarded the profession’s highest prize this year (there are vociferous opinions on both sides of the issue), there is one thing that is certain: architecture is going through some serious growing pains. And perhaps no one encapsulates architecture’s shifting direction better than Julia King, AJ’s Emerging Woman Architect of the Year.

Pursuing a PhD-by-practice via the Architecture for Rapid Change and Scarce Resources (ARCSR) in the slums of India, Ms. King realized very quickly that the last thing these communities needed was architecture – or rather, what is traditionally considered “architecture.” After all, community-members were already experts in constructing homes and buildings all on their own. Instead, she put her architectural know-how towards designing and implementing what was truly needed: sewage systems. And so – quite by accident, she assured me - the title “Potty-Girl” was born.

In the following interview, conducted via email, I chatted with Ms. King about her fascinating work, the new paradigm it represents for  architecture, the need to forego dividing the “urban and rural” (she prefers ”connected and disconnected”), the serious limitations of architecture education, and the future of architecture itself. Read more, after the break.

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Designing Invisible Architecture: Bird Hides by Biotope

Steilnes Bird Hide. Image Courtesy of Biotope

Biotope, a three-strong Norwegian practice based in the Arctic town of Varanger, have designed since 2009. For them, architecture is “a tool to protect and promote birds, wildlife and nature” – an approach reflected in their carefully crafted, environmentally integrated fragments of the ‘invisible’: small shelters that must blend into and be absorbed by their surroundings. Their diligent work has seen become established as one of the best birding destinations in Northern Europe and their unique design solutions are now being sought across Scandinavia.

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Urban Think Tank Responds to the Forced Eviction of Torre David Residents

Torre David. Image © Iwan Baan

Following yesterday’s news story about the forced eviction of the thousands of inhabitants living in ’s Torre de David (Tower of David), the world’s tallest vertical slum, Urban-Think Tank has issued a statement. The group, which spent two years researching the remarkable urban space for their Golden Lion-winning Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2012, has spoken with residents and hopes to provoke the architectural/design communities by adding their voice to the debate. Read the full statement, after the break. 

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Light Matters: The Missing Element At the Venice Biennale

Toilets, at “Elements of Architecture” at the Venice Biennale. Image © Nico Saieh

“Elements of Architecture,” the -curated exhibition at the 2014 Venice Biennale, delved into several remarkable structural as well as technical components of architecture, including floors, walls, doors, stairs and toilets. But why was missing?

My manifesto for the inclusion of light as a fundamental element of architecture — after the break.

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How Chinese Urbanism Is Transforming African Cities

The Great Wall Apartments, a Chinese style compound in Nairobi, Kenya. Image Courtesy of Go West Project

This article from Metropolis delves into China’s urban development of many African cities, and the effect this has had on the architectural quality of those cities. Chinese contractors and architects are able to propel a city’s growth at lower cost and on schedule, but in doing so, they out-compete local companies and ignore cultural context. Is this an acceptable trade-off? Read the full article and decide for yourself.

The factory of the world has a new export: urbanism. More and more Chinese-made buildings, infrastructure, and urban districts are sprouting up across Africa, and this development is changing the face of the continent’s cities.

Or so says Dutch research studio Go West Project , who have been tracking this phenomenon for their on-going project about the export of the Chinese urban model to Africa. Since 2012, the group, made up of Shanghai-based architect Daan Roggeveen and Amsterdam-based journalist Michiel Hulshof, have visited six African cities to do research. Roggeveen and Hulshof recently released their preliminary report in an issue of Urban Chinaa magazine focusing on Chinese urban development.

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5 Reasons Why Architects Should Volunteer to Build Abroad

Rose Lee House / Auburn University Rural Studio. Image © Timothy Hursley

Patrick McLoughlin is one of the two founders of Build Abroad, a volunteer organization that offers architectural and construction services to developing nations. In this article, originally published on Archi-Ninja, McLoughlin shares five reasons why architects should get involved with organizations like his own. 

Many architecture firms collaborate with non-government organisations to help in developing nations. A.gor.a Architects for example, are currently designing and building a new health clinic to provide free healthcare to Burmese refugees and migrants. Auburn University Rural Studio works with architects and students to build homes in rural communities while instigating community-action, collaboration, and .

A number of organisations also facilitate construction volunteering. Architecture for Humanity provides architecture, planning and project management services for disaster reconstruction. Architects without Borders is a global operation to provide ecologically sensitive and culturally appropriate design assistance to communities in need.

Over the past decade, volunteering abroad has become an increasingly popular and important part of the architecture and construction industry. Volunteering abroad offers short to long term opportunities to experience a new culture while giving back to the community. Construction volunteering offers the potential for a lasting impact on the affected community. Patrick McLoughlin, co-counder of Build Abroad describes the following benefits and how you can help to make a difference:

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Rare Frank Lloyd Wright Gas Station Brought to Life

Courtesy of Pierce-Arrow Museum

Many architects have portfolios full of projects that were never built, and Frank Lloyd Wright is no exception.  Now, however, the Pierce-Arrow museum in New York has brought one of Wright’s more imaginative conceptual projects to life. In this article from , we are introduced to a gas station designed by Wright for his (also unbuilt) Broadacre City project. 

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Why 3D Printing Is Not As Sustainable As Its Defenders Say

Yacht designed by . Could 3D Printing “someday make Hadid-like forms so cheap to execute that they become mundane”?. Image © Unique Circle Yachts / Architects for Bloom+Voss Shipyards

 is a column, penned by Christopher Brenny and presented by ArchDaily Materials, which investigates the innovative applications of  in architecture.

On a purely aesthetic level, 3D printing holds great potential for buildings – all the possibilities of sculpted concrete without the bulky and expensive formwork. Taken to an extreme, it could someday make Hadid-like forms so cheap to execute that they become mundane (even for a non-architect) – maybe even causing the profession to re-evaluate what qualifies as high design. 

However, the more important advantage of 3D printing, what could spur its acceptance as a viable means of construction, is its supposed sustainability. Among its oft-cited advantages are a use of “green” materials and a reduction in construction waste. However, is 3D Printing really as sustainable as its defenders contend?  

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750 Cubic Meters of Extracted Concrete Turned This Nazi Bunker Into a Gallery & Home

In a cultural capital like , where ‘pop-up’ stores appear in abandoned warehouses, local brands emerge from stores over-run with squatters, and nightclubs rave in power plants,  it is only appropriate that an art gallery would find its home in a nearly indestructible concrete vessel. Such is the case with the “ ” in the heart of the fashionable “Mitte” district.

Monolithic and symmetrical, decorated only by thin strips of vertical windows on its four identical facades, this former Nazi air-raid shelter stands as a relic of Germany’s past.  Yet a closer look beyond its sharp-edged cornice reveals something unexpected: luscious green gardens and a luxurious penthouse, completed in 2007. This is the home of Christian Boros, the art collector whose private collection is stored and exhibited in the depths of the fortified bunker below.

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The Power of Paint: Three Case Studies on Colour in Architecture

Based at the Architectural Association school of Architecture and linked to the Phd research program at UIAV, Saturated Space takes a comprehensive look at the “grammar” and history of colour in architecture, the perceptual and phenomenological principles of colour in relation to the human subject, and the socio-political aspects of colour as a culturally active agent. This article, written by architect and CLOG editor Jacob Reidel, originally appeared as “Powerful Colours” on Saturated Space‘s website, a forum for the sharing, exploration, and celebration of colour in Architecture.

Let’s admit it, architects are suspicious—if not a little scared—of colour. How else to explain the default contemporary architect’s preference for exposed finishes such as concrete, brick, COR-TEN steel, stone, and wood? Perhaps this is because an architect’s choice of applied colour may often seem one of the most subjective—and hence least defensible—decisions to be made over the course of a project.* Indeed, applied colour seldom performs from a technical standpoint, and it is the architect’s taste, pure and simple, which is often on the line whenever a specific colour is proposed to the client. Or perhaps architects’ mistrust of applied colour owes something to the profession’s well-known controlling tendencies and the fact that colour is one of the most mutable aspects of a building; better, we architects are instructed, to focus on “important” and “architectural” decisions such as form, space, materials, program, and organization. Indeed, it is far easier for a future owner to repaint a wall than it is to move it.

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