Unified Architectural Theory: Chapter 6

Bagsværd Church, by Jørn Utzon, is commonly cited as an example of “Critical Regionalism.” However, according to Salilngaros’ , “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 materials, 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 Morphosis?

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 bird hides 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 .

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

. Image © Iwan Baan

Following yesterday’s news story about the forced eviction of the thousands of inhabitants living in Venezuela’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 “” at the Venice Biennale. Image © Nico Saieh

“Elements of Architecture,” the Rem Koolhaas-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 light 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 residential compound in Nairobi, Kenya. Image Courtesy of Go West Project

This article from 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 , 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 sustainability.

A number of organisations also facilitate construction 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 Zaha Hadid. Could “someday make Hadid-like forms so cheap to execute that they become mundane”?. Image © Unique Circle Yachts / Zaha Hadid 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 . 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 “ Bunker” 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, , , 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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Miniature Spaces Carved From Stone

Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence. Image © Matthew Simmonds

Matthew Simmonds, an art historian and architectural stone carver based in Italy, has created a collection of exceptionally beautiful miniature spaces carved from stone. Having worked on a number of restoration projects in the – from Westminster Abbey to Ely Cathedral - his skills have been transferred into work of a much smaller, if not more intricate, scale. Hewn from large stone blocks (some of marble), the level of intricacy Simmonds has achieved in the architectural detailing is almost incredible. Capitals, vaults and surfaces all distort and reflect in a very beguiling way.

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Modern Masters Of Materiality: An Interview With Australia’s Tonkin Zulaikha Greer

The Cloudy Bay Winery in New Zealand conveys TZG’s love for timeless . Image © Mike Rolfe

With conscious material choices, Australian architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer are known for their ability to integrate buildings into a city’s existing fabric. Michael Holt, editor of the Australian Design Review, caught up with partner Tim Greer, for the following interview, picking his brain on materiality, site, history and more. 

Since the practice’s inception in 1988, Tonkin Zulaikha Greer (TZG) has become expert in the reuse of existing built fabric and how best to reintroduce the past into the contemporary. Through projects such as the restoration of Hyde Park Barracks, the National Arboretum Canberra (featured in AR131–Present), Carriageworks, and Paddington Reservoir Gardens, certain design characteristics are notable: volumetric boxes, a shifting in typology, an overarching and encompassing ceiling or roof plane, a restricted material palette, and working-off the existing while simultaneously revealing the existing.

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Top 10 Technical Apps for Architects

Arrette Scale: perspective. Image Courtesy of Arrette Scale

Building upon our Top 10 Apps for Architects, this collection brings together some of the best quality and most valued technical apps for designing, sketching, calculating and collaborating. Although the majority of those featured here are designed solely for the iOS platform, every time we collate lists such as these it’s clear that more and more high quality apps for the Android and Windows platforms are being developed. From condensed versions of large scale software packages that architects and designers use every day, to blank canvases to scratch ideas down onto, you might just find an app that could improve the way you work.

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The Paris Debate: Must Preservation Inhibit Urban Renewal?

La Samaritaine was once ’ most famous department store. Image © Wikipedia

What is the preservationist’s role in our modernizing world? According to Michael Allen of Next City, preservationists exist to ensure that redevelopment meets both cultural heritage and economic demands. Read his entire article, originally published on Next City, below.

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Light Matters: Creating Walls of Light

Uniform wallwashing at 171 Collins Street, Melbourne. Architects: Bates Smart Architects. Lighting design: Electrolight, www.electrolight.com.au. Image © Dean Bradley

Modernism induced a shift in lighting away from luminaires and towards invisible sources that render spaces in a purer (forgive the pun) . For the first time, lit walls were used to define rooms and to structure architecture. Today I’d like to explore early prototypes – including Philip Johnson’s Brick House and the Seagram Building – and discuss how their lighting techniques continue to influence architecture today. 

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The 10 Tallest Buildings Ever Demolished

Savoy-Plaza Hotel, City. Image © Wikimedia

The following list of the ten tallest buildings ever demolished, by Michael Aynsley, was originally published on BuzzBuzzHome.

Before we get to the countdown, a caveat: this list only considers buildings that were demolished on purpose by their owners. If it included all tall structures that are no longer standing, number one, two and four would be occupied by the three World Trade Center buildings tragically destroyed on September 11th, 2001.

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