Against Sprawl, Mall, & Tall: Soulful Architecture in A Soulless Age

Doonamoe, County Mayo Ireland. Town of Belmullet. The Thin Places are Irish places where time past, present, and future converge. This project envelops a 100 ft deep blowhole by the Atlantic Ocean. The waves are thrusting up over a 100 ft into the air and the thin place walk is aligned to the equinox. Image

Originally published by The Huffington Post as “The Problem With Architecture Today (and the Solution)“, Monica Gray documents the work of Travis Price, an architect and professor who works with his students to produce singular works all over the world which fight against the soulless architecture of our age.

According to Travis Price, an award-winning architect and philosopher whose work is rooted in ecology and mythology, most architecture today is just plain soulless. “You go into malls and they float all kinds of Roman columns and fake images. It’s Disney. It’s superficial. It’s mass produced. It’s empty.” 

Price, a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, focuses on restoring the “spirit of place” to modern design by providing an alternative to the “sprawl, mall and tall” trend of generic suburban architecture today, or, as he puts it, “a slow moving Pompeii blanketing us with the pursuit of loneliness and homogeneity.”

Read on after the break to find out how Price is in his own way combating this problem

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Six Essential Materials & The Architects That Love Them

In case you missed it, we’re re-publishing this popular post for your material pleasure. Enjoy!

To celebrate the recent launch of our US product catalog, ArchDaily Materials, we’ve coupled six iconic architects with what we deem to be their favourite or most frequently used material. From Oscar Neimeyer’s sinuous use of to Kengo Kuma‘s innovative use of , which materials define some of the world’s best known architects?

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A Brief History of the Windowless House

The Vertical Glass House (2013), built at the West Bund Biennale of Architecture and Contemporary Art, Shanghai. Image Courtesy of Atelier FCJZ

In this article, originally published by Metropolis as “Houses Without Windows: Meditative Respites or Architectural Straightjackets?“, Komal Sharma looks into the architectural oddity that is the completely enclosed house. While many would shudder at the idea, there is a rich history of houses which, in exceptional circumstances and with exceptional clients, make sense without windows.

The Vertical Glass House by Chinese architects Atelier FCJZ is disingenuous to say the least. Its name suggests a vertical derivative of Philip Johnson‘s canonical house, and in fact its architects describe it as a 90-degree rotation of the typical modernist glass house. Instead, what welcomes visitors at Shanghai‘s Xuhui waterfront is a four-story house without any windows. Where is all that promised glass, you might ask? 

The answer is inside. The house’s textured concrete walls give it the appearance of a bunker, but the interiors are actually light-filled. The architects accomplish this through an inverted sense of space. Where one expects walls of glass, yielding a platonic prism that brazenly exposes inhabitants to the outside world, the house instead delivers a surprising twist: the 7-cm-thick floor slabs are completely transparent, endowing users with a Superman-like sense of see-through vision. The experience of looking up through all of the house’s spaces, even the most private spaces like the bathroom, is breathtakingly novel.

Read on for more about the phenomenon of -less houses

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Why ‘Confluence’ Isn’t The Way Forward for Architecture Education in France

Courtesy of Studio Odile DECQ architectes urbanistes

On February 19th, 2014, Odile Decq, the world-renowned French architect, announced the launch of a new private university - the Confluence Institute for Innovation and Creative Strategies in Architecture – to be built in Lyon this year. Decq has promised that the school will break from France’s “strict institutional system of education ill-adapted to change” and thus offer an fit for the 21st century.

In France, however, public opinion on the new school has been far from unanimous. The Union of Architecture (Le Syndicat de l’Architecture) even went so far as to respond with an open letter to the Minister of Culture and Communication, expressing concern over the project’s “openly mercantile and elitist purpose.”

France possesses a free and public model that sets it apart from the rest of the world. Out of twenty-two schools of architecture, only one is private: l’Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris (where Decq was once Director). And, while certainly not perfect, the quality of architecture education is, across the board, of a particularly high standard — the Agency of the Evaluation of Research & Higher Education (AERES) has given a rating of ‘A’ to twenty of the schools and ‘B’ to the other two. This means that regardless of a student’s economic background, he or she has the opportunity to receive an excellent architectural education.

So, no matter how radical or forward-thinking Confluence may be, is it really a good idea for France to start emulating the model of expensive, private architecture schools we see across the rest of the world?

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Hadid’s Response to Worker Deaths: Tone-Deaf But True

Courtesy of ZHA

This article, by Martin Pedersen, originally appeared on Metropolis Magazine as “Governments, Not Architects, Should Shoulder Responsibility for Worker Deaths, Says Hadid.”

set off a mini-shitstorm [the other day] when she declared that architects have “nothing to do with the workers” who have died on construction sites in Qatar, site of the World Cup in 2022. The Guardian had reported that nearly 900 workers had died in the past two years building the infrastructure required for the massive event. One of the projects under construction is Hadid’s Al-Wakrah stadium (above), a swoopy, curvilinear 40,000 seat facility that some critics likened to a vagina when the scheme was unveiled to the public. “It’s not my duty as an architect to look at it,” Hadid said, on the worker deaths. “I cannot do anything about it because I have no power to do anything about it. I think it’s a problem anywhere in the world. But, as I said, I think there are discrepancies all over the world.”

Her tone-deaf comments elicited a firestorm of predictable outrage, but I’d contend they had a near-truth about them. As I see it, Hadid had four possible courses of action, all of them limited in scope.

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Inside the Homes of Eight Famous Architects

Shigeru Ban’s Tokyo house. Image © Hiroyuki Hirai

Originally published in Metropolis Magazine as “Inside the Homes and Workspaces of 8 Great Architects“, this article shows the spaces occupied by some of the best-known architects in the world. Documented for an that will be featured at the Milan Design Week 2014, the images give a glimpse inside the private worlds of some of our favorite designers.

It’s a cliche that architects have messy workspaces. From chaos comes creation, so the phrase goes. But an upcoming exhibition at this year’s Salone del Mobile intends to dispel the myth. Where Architects Live will present glimpses into the personal spaces of eight significant architects: Shigeru Ban, Mario Bellini, David Chipperfield, Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas, Zaha Hadid, Marcio Kogan, Daniel Libeskind and Bijoy Jain of Studio Mumbai.

Curator Francesca Molteni interviewed each of the designers in their private homes and came away with one finding: architects are actually quite tidy. The studios are all pristinely ordered; books are neatly stowed away, figurines and objets astutely displayed, and table tops swept clean. The photographs below are part of the exhibition materials, produced with the help of scenographer Davide Pizzigoni, which faithfully document the physical environments in images, video, and audio. These will be used to recreate the architects’ “rooms” at Salone del Mobile in April.

Where Architects Live is not limited to satisfying our curiosity about what these architects’ homes look like. Richard Rogers’ affirmation that “a room is the beginning of a city” resonates with the project’s aim in trying to articulate its subjects’ personal tastes and obsessions, and how those are reflected in their architectural work.

Read on to see more images of the inside of architects’ homes and studios

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Doctors in the Studio: The Right Medicine for Healthcare Architecture?

Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, designed by a joint venture between HDR + Corgan. HOK is responsible for the hospital’s furnishings and equipment, and has also been executing a study of the role of furnishings and artwork in inpatient care. Image Courtesy of HDR + Corgan

This article, written by Kim A. O’Connell, and first published on the AIA website as “Is there a Doctor in the Firm? (Or a Nurse in the Studio?)” discusses the growing overlap between architects and healthcare professionals, who collaborate or even learn both disciplines to design more effective – relying on research more rigorously than ever before.

Since it opened last fall, a cardiac hospital in Bulgaria is already operating at full capacity and is among the most technologically advanced of its kind in Europe. Project delivery for the City Clinic in Sofia was remarkably fast—only a year from the time Dallas-based HKS Architects was hired until doctors began seeing patients. A former car dealership was renovated to create the 38,000-square-foot, 55-bed facility, helping to expedite matters.

The other major contributing factor may have been that, from its earliest beginnings, a physician played a leading role—from landing the project to identifying specific medical needs and seeing the design through to completion. It’s a model that seems to be taking hold in architecture. More and more, architecture firms are bringing health professionals into their design studios to help them create the next generation of healthcare architecture.

Read on after the break to find out how this shift is producing better buildings for healthcare

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For Flood Prevention, We Need to Raise Our Game (And Flatten Our Roofs)

Courtesy of Arup

This article by Jonathan Ward, originally published on Arup Thoughts as “A Top-Down Approach to Flood Prevention” discusses a cheap, simple, but effective method of easing the load on drainage after a storm: temporary storage of water on flat roofs, which can not only help to prevent floods, but also provide unexpected benefits as well.

Gravity offers a simple and cheap way to attenuate stormwater flows – by storing water temporarily on a flat roof. All sorts of causes are being blamed for the current flooding in the UK; lack of dredging, poor management of catchment areas, construction on flood plains and paving over front gardens are all being mentioned in the press.

One thing is for sure – we will be paying a lot more attention to the topic given the current experience, and the fact that wetter winters are predicted in our changing climate, with a certainty of more extreme events.

Read on for an explanation of why this counter-intuitive measure actually makes perfect sense

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The Indicator: The Slum Exotic and the Persistence of Hong Kong’s Walled City

© Greg Girard and Ian Lambot

Whenever I see sensational exposes on the supposedly sublime spatial intensity of Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City (demolished in 1994), they strike me as nothing more than colonial fantasies that have little to do with the reality of living in the midst of one of the world’s cruelest slums. You see the Walled City pop up constantly like it’s still a valid or even interesting subject. This informal settlement has been diagramed, photographed, and written about for decades from an aesthetic point of view, rendering its victimized and oppressed inhabitants all but invisible. Not to say that this wasn’t home to a lot of people and that no “fond memories” were formed there, but still, like all slums, it was a tough place to live, fraught with contradictions in the haze of hope for a better life.

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Five Fantastic Façades

In case you missed it, we’re re-publishing this popular post for your material pleasure. Enjoy!

To celebrate the recent launch of ArchDaily Materials we’ve brought together five projects with fantastic façades, from Viñoly’s Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building in San Francisco to Holzer Kobler’s PALÄON in Schöningen, Germany. A building’s envelope is often people’s first impression and, in recent years, have been one of the focuses of innovation in the design and construction industry. The projects we’ve collated show a glimpse at what’s possible with façades and wall finishings.

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INTERIORS: Her

Courtesy of

Interiors is an online film and architecture journal published by Mehruss Jon Ahi and Armen KaraoghlanianInteriors runs an exclusive column for ArchDaily that analyzes and diagrams films in terms of space. Their Official Store will carry exclusive prints from these posts.

Spike Jonze’s fourth feature film, and his fourth feature film collaboration with production designer K.K. Barrett, creates a future world that is both intimate and immersive.

Her (2013), which was filmed in Los Angeles and Shanghai, uses the architecture of both to construct a world of its own. Jonze and Barrett, however, chose not to approach the film from a design or architectural perspective; rather, they were interested in reflecting the emotional qualities of their protagonist Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) through the production design. Barrett points out that although the future feels distant and foreign for us, “The future is also someone’s present, our character’s present.” Thus, science fiction elements are grounded in reality, and the future world of Her was designed with those ideas in mind.

In an exclusive interview with Interiors, K.K. Barrett discussed his approach as an artist to both the medium of cinema in general and Her in particular. Learn more after the break.

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Grade A Architecture: The World’s Most Spectacular University Buildings

Lecture halls at dizzying heights, libraries with glass-domed roofs or crooked seminar rooms with slanting walls – it is not just in the field of learning that universities have plenty to offer, but on an architectural level, too. From the historic Universiteitsbibliotheek KU Leuven of 1928 to the enormous glass sphere of the Philologische Bibliothek in Berlin to the brand-new, tent-like Campus Luigi Einaudi in Turin: Emporis, the international provider of building data, has compiled a selection of the most spectacular university buildings from around the world. 

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A Case for the Democratization of Architectural Media

In October Phineas Harper, assistant editor of The Architectural Review, published an article about the state of architectural publishing, in which he addressed the crisis facing traditional architectural publishers and heavily criticized online platforms, particularly ArchDaily, that have “little time for critique, turning instead to reworking press releases and biased descriptions from the architects.”

Allow me to introduce myself: I am a critic and creator of original content for ArchDaily, and I would like to refute these allegations.

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The Fear Sustaining Sustainable Urbanism

‘Habitat of Homo Economicus’, a piece for ‘The Competitive Hypothesis’, Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York, 2013. Image Courtesy of Ross Exo Adams and Ivonne Santoyo-Orozco

In this article, originally published on the Australian Design Review as “Longing For a Greener Present“, Ross Exo-Adams examines the fear that lies behind the trend toward sustainable urbanism, and finds that the crisis we find ourselves in might not only be confined to an ecological one.

Over the past decade, architects have found themselves increasingly commissioned to design districts, neighbourhoods, economic free zones and even entire new cities: a phenomenon that has been accompanied by a commitment to ‘sustainability’, which now seem inseparable from urban design itself. While ‘’ remains a vague concept at best, it nonetheless presents itself with a sense of urgency similar to that which galvanised many of the great movements of modern architecture vis-a-vis the city. Underlying such urgency is a rhetorical reference to a collective fear of some palpable sort, whether it be fear of revolution (Le Corbusier), fear of cultural tabula rasa (Jane Jacobs, Team X) or our new fear: ecological collapse. It is obvious that the myriad ‘eco’ projects that have popped up all around the world would not be viable if not for the fact that they appear against a background of imminent catastrophe – a condition of terrifying proportions. Yet the essence of this fear is far from clear. Indeed, in light of ecological catastrophe and amidst any fetish for windmills or vegetation, architects have cultivated what seems to be a curious nostalgia for the present – a pragmatism whose lack of patience for the past seeks a kind of reconstitution of the present in imagining any future. So if not for climate mayhem, what is the true nature of fear that lies at the core of today’s urban project, ‘ecological urbanism’?

Find out after the break

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How Should We Implement Smart Cities?

Tokyo. Image © Clry2

In this article, originally published by Arup Connect as “Anthony Townsend on Smart Cities“, Townsend discusses his book “Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia” and explains how, in his view, the push towards smart is being led by the wrong people – namely technology companies with short term goals; the architects, planners and scientists who should be leading this change, however, often struggle to share their knowledge.

Your book argues that there’s a need for grassroots action rather than top-down, corporate-led implementation of smart cities. How do you see architects and engineers fitting into this picture?

Architects and engineers for the most part have to serve the interests of their clients. There’s a balance that has to be struck, almost on a project-by-project basis, about how much they can push back in saying a piece of technology related to the business model for the project, or even a placemaking strategy, has unintended consequences, or that there may be a more democratic or innovative approach.

A lot of the vision of has been shaped by IT engineers and marketers. The problem there is not just that it’s sort of a naïve vision being pushed by companies with very short-term sales goals. It just doesn’t appreciate the complexity of good urbanism, and the role that both communications and information play in creating good places that people want to buy, work, live in.

Read more about the challenges facing smart cities after the break

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Robert A.M. Stern on His Latest Publication: The “Definitive Text” on Suburbia

Jardim América, 1911–29, Brazil. Developed on 260 acres of land on São Paulo’s southern and western outskirts, the neighborhood remains highly desirable. Image Courtesy of Monacelli Press/ Architects

In this interview, originally published in Metropolis Magazine as “The Charms of Suburbia“, Martin Pedersen interviews Robert A.M. Stern about his new book, “Paradise Planned: The Garden Suburb and the Modern City“. Pedersen’s interview delves into the history behind the Garden Suburb – a typology that is distinct from the stereotype of suburban sprawl.

Robert A.M. Stern is nothing if not counterintuitive. How else do you explain—in an increasingly digital and urban-centric world—his recently released book, a 1,072-page tome, containing more than 3,000 images, on the history of the garden suburb? Paradise Planned: The Garden Suburb and the Modern City (the Monacelli Press, 2013) was written with longtime, in-house collaborators David Fishman and Jacob Tilove, who also worked with Stern on the fifth volume of  the architect’s epic New York series. 

Paradise Planned is similarly expansive. “The book grew like Topsy,” Stern says. “We’d think we had all the examples down, and a new one would pop up. So it just got bigger and bigger. And I thought: if we’re going to do this book, we really ought to do it as the definitive text. Now, it’s not forever text. People will always be adding things. But this is a pretty comprehensive view.” I recently talked to Stern about his new book, the folly of “landscape urbanism,” and the lessons learned from the garden suburb.

Read on for the rest of the interview

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Kikutake’s Sky House: Where Metabolism & Le Corbusier Meet

Sky House, Tokyo, 1958. Image © Kawashima Architecture Photograph Office

In this article, first published in the Australian Design Review as “The Meeting of East and West: Kikutake and Le Corbusier“, Michael Holt outlines the cross-fertilization of ideas that helped spawn the Japanese Metabolist movement, focusing on how Le Corbusier’s ideals were key in the design of one of the movement’s most enigmatic projects, ’s Sky House.

Japanese architect Kiyonori Kikutake’s Sky House (1958) remains an exemplary project that defines the Metabolist agenda but, more significantly, underscores the notion that a single-family dwelling can be ideologically recursive and strategic. Kikutake, however, was not without a somewhat unlikely precedent in the renowned Le Corbusier.

Both architects established an order and method of working via their smallest designs – Kikutake in Sky House and Le Corbusier at Villa Savoye (1929) – and developed their notions through written accounts (Kikutake’s Metabolist Manifesto, 1960 and Le Corbusier’s Purist Manifesto, predating the built work, in 1918). Finally, each scales up their ideas to the level of the urban through Kikutake’s Tower-Shaped Community Project (1959) and Le Corbusier’s Urbanisme at Chandigarh, India (1953). To locate the origin of the influence, it is necessary to first examine Le Corbusier’s position as the figurehead of Congrès International d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM).

Read on for more about this unlikely chain of influence

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Behind “Hy-Fi”: The Organic, Compostable Tower That Won MoMA PS1′s Young Architects Program 2014

The Living’s Hy-Fi, winning design of the 2014 Young Architects Program. The Museum of Modern Art and MoMAPS1. Image © The Living

This article, published by Metropolis Magazine as “Behind the Living’s “100% Organic” Pavilion for MoMA PS1“, goes behind the plans for this year’s PS1 Young Architects Program’s winning design, “Hy-Fi” – looking at the compostable eco-bricks which make the design possible.

“It all starts on local farms with waste corn stalks,” says Sam Harrington of Ecovative, who will help build this year’s winning entry for the MoMA PS1 Young Architect’s Program. Hy-Fi, designed by the -based firm The Living, will be made of bricks that are entirely organic and ultimately, compostable. A good chunk of that material is corn stalks, stained clay-red with an organic dye from Shabd Simon-Alexander and Audrey Louisere . The rest is mycelium—mushroom roots to you and me—that will hold the corn stalks together as they cohere into a molded shape. The technology, developed by Ecovative in 2007, has so far been used as a packaging material. “But we love the chance to try something bold, and that’s what PS1 is all about,” Harrington says.

Read more about the bricks behind Hy-Fi after the break

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