In this interview, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “Q&A: Norman Foster on Niemeyer, Nature and Cities“, Paul Clemence talks with Lord Foster about his respect for Niemeyer, their meeting shortly before the great master’s death, and how Niemeyer’s work has influenced his own.
Last December, in the midst of a hectic schedule of events that have come to define Art Basel/Design Miami, I found myself attending a luncheon presentation of the plans for the Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach, by Foster + Partners. While chatting with Lord Foster, I mentioned my Brazilian background and quickly the conversation turned to Oscar Niemeyer. Foster mentioned the talk he and Niemeyer had shortly before the Brazilian’s passing (coincidentally that same week in December marked the first anniversary of Niemeyer’s death). Curious to know more about the meeting and their chat, I asked Foster about that legendary encounter and some of the guiding ideas behind his design for the Norton.
Read on for the interview
by: Daniel Davis & David Fano of CASE
This year marks Smartgeometry’s tenth anniversary. For architects it’s been a decade of breathless innovation and listless stagnation. In this article we look back at the success of SmartGeometry and ask why the building industry isn’t keeping up.
The original instigators of Smartgeometry – Lars Hesselgren, J Parrish, and Hugh Whitehead – worked together at YRM (now part of RMJM) in the late 1980s. Together they helped shepherd parametric modeling and associative geometry into the field of architecture, and witnessed how early-stage three-dimensional structural analysis and late-stage clash detection might change practice. Yet in 2003 they found themselves disillusioned and asking, “Why is it that ten years have passed, and we still cannot even get close to the kind of capability that we had then?” . In other words, why is the building industry failing to keep up, or worse, falling behind. It was a question that would inspire the first Smartgeometry conference, and it is a question that still lingers a decade later.
Architecture is quickly adopting the popular technology of robots. Although it is slightly hard to define what “robot” really means, for architecture, it tends to refer to anything from robot arms to CNC mills to 3D printers. Basically, they are programmable, mechanical, and automated instruments that assist in processes of digital fabrication.
So, what might robots mean for architecture? A more precise architecture which could contribute to a more sustainable building life cycle? More innovative design derived from algorithmic processes? A more efficient prefabrication process that could reduce the time and cost of construction?
Probably a mix of all three. But more importantly, what might robots mean for humans? Robotic replacement for the construction worker? Loss of local craftsmanship and construction knowledge? Maybe. But I might reformulate the question. Asking what robots mean for humans implies passivity.
What I ask, then, is what can robots do for humans?
In his 2008 book, The Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Botton argues that architecture has an extraordinary power when it comes to influencing who we are. In giving shape to our living environments, it plugs into our emotional existence. I would take it a step further and say that as we reside in architecture we so reside within ourselves, emplacing ourselves in both physical and psychological worlds.
But this is by no means a new argument. As de Botton explains in his most recent collection of essays, Religion for Atheists, the Catholics and Protestants have been elaborating on this theme for centuries. The world around us has a profound impact on how we think, feel, and perceive. Without this underlying logic there could be no architecture.
For many young architects the biggest complaint of 2012 has been insufficient pay in exchange for hard work and long hours under the guise of an internship. As if graduating with a degree in architecture is not grueling enough, NCARB, the US architectural licensing board also requires three years (amounting to thousands of hours) of training under a licensed architect, followed by a seven-part exam. Becoming an architect takes an exceptional amount of commitment, time and money. College graduates are already shaking under the weight of student loans and a stunted economy and job market; but what makes matters worse is that architecture as a profession has gained a reputation for exploiting recent graduates by hiring them as interns with little or no compensation.
2013 can be the year to turn this trend around. Is the architectural profession willing to make this resolution?
Follow us after the break for more. (more…)
Never is the value of architecture so poignant, as when it becomes a tool to facilitate learning, development and exploration. Inspired by this video, which presents three new schools in Concord, New Hampshire that physically embody the educational philosophies of independence, collaboration, and creativity, we spoke with HMFH Architects to delve further into this vital question: how can architecture help children develop the early skills, creativity and inquisitiveness needed to become the independent and inspired adults of future generations? Find out after the break.
Rio de Janeiro-based writer Robert Landon has shared with us his experience exploring Zaha Hadid’s newly completed Eli and Edythe Broad Museum in Michigan.
As you approach Zaha Hadid’s new Eli and Edythe Broad Museum in East Lansing, Michigan, it is the complex, light-catching carapace that first reels in the eye — a fine shock after the brick, neo-Gothic buildings that define the rest of the Michigan State University campus. Draw closer and its undulating fins, opening and closing in rhythmic asymmetries, begin to seduce the mind. In some places scrunched up into sharp angles and in others allowed to breathe for longer stretches across the low-slung facade, the fins seem to be the expression of some higher, grid-bending equation.
In a half-conscious attempt to solve the math, you begin to circle the building. At certain points, the fins spread wide enough for generous glimpses inside, but as you move keep moving, the inner secrets vanish again behind the metal lattice. In the same way, the relentlessly kinetic carapace tantalizes with, but ultimately eludes, any logical or definitive summing up. What is certain, though, is that, by the time you’ve come full circle, you’ll have grown quite curious to see what is going on inside.
More after the break…
By Andrew Hawkins
As an architect I am interested (and have always been) in the way in which buildings are put together. To me, at times, the actual process in which a building is constructed is more interesting than the final product. Not to say the final product is not interesting to me, after all that is the intent of my design, but I find much enjoyment in the process that follows the end of my designing and brings my creation into the physical world. At certain stages of the construction, the completed portion of work produces very visually appealing imagery. (At least to this architect)
With that in mind I also enjoy the opposite process: the deconstruction of buildings. And this main fascination stems from the photo above. My obsession really revolves around the slow decay and atrophy of buildings over time due to lack of care. Also the way in which nature can destroy a building over time or in an instant is a study of architecture itself.
More examples of #ArchitectureDecay, after the break…
When the Twin Towers came down 11 years ago (almost to the day), the world was struck numb. Even New Yorkers, who felt the trauma rumble through their veins, couldn’t get past the initial disbelief: how can this be happening? How can something so big, so invincible, actually be so vulnerable?
Hundreds of comments have been hurled at Renzo Piano’s “Shard,” the massive, reflective skyscraper that hulks over the London skyline – it’s big, no, huge; it’s out of the context of its Victorian neighborhood; its exclusive price tag could only be footed by Qatar royalty (as it is) – but few, beyond writing off the tower as a symbol of arrogance or hubris, have stopped to consider its impetus.
For that, we must look at the Shard in the context of 9/11. Only then can the Shard be understood for what it is: the amplification and perfection of the glass tower Piano began in post-9/11 New York, a utopian vision that stands defiantly in defense of the city itself.
Yesterday, Michael Kimmelman, the architecture critic for The New York Times, unleashed his anticipated take on this year’s Biennale. Usually, we find ourselves almost perfectly aligned with Kimmelman’s socially-oriented perspective (in fact, we lauded his approach in “The Architect Critic is Dead“); this time, however, we found ourselves almost entirely at his opposite.
In our Editorial, “The Most Political Biennale Yet,” we contend that “Common Ground” represented a stepping stone in the Biennale’s evolution: it revealed an unprecedented engagement with reality and reflected, for the first time in any substantial way, architecture’s movement away from “starchitecture” and towards urbanist solutions. Was it perfect? No. But it was engaged.
However, Kimmelman’s take suggests that all that progress simply wasn’t enough. In fact, the exhibits we cite as evidence of the Biennale’s progress, Kimmelman cites as exceptions in a festival still overly obsessed with architecture’s big names.
What do you think? Was this Biennale very political, or not political enough? Was Kimmelman too harsh? Were we too forgiving? Or are we both off-base? Read on for a few select quotes from our Op-Eds, and give us your opinion in the comments below.
Of all the critiques of this year’s Biennale, there was one that was particularly hard to miss: “This event is an expensive danse macabre. [...] In truth it is all hollow, arduous, exhausting, bleak and boring. It is no longer about lively discussion and criticism of topics in contemporary architecture, but rather about empty, conservative [...shells] charged with feigned meaning.”
Coop Himmelb(l)au’s Wolf D. Prix came under fire for this attack (especially when it was realized he didn’t even set foot at this year’s Biennale). And yet, had he written this critique for any other Biennale, he wouldn’t have been so far off. The Biennale is, after all, an expensive affair of prosecco-filled parties and, often, inaccessibly esoteric exhibits.
Prix hedged his bets that this Biennale, with its fluffy-sounding name, “Common Ground,” would be just like its precedents. Unluckily for Prix, it wasn’t. In fact, it was probably the most politically-engaged Biennale yet. But its Gold Lion winners, including an informal settlement and post-Tsunami shelters, have made some architects ponder what has never been pondered of a Biennale before:
Was this year’s Biennale too political, after all?
The Recession’s ripples have reached far. We, in the midst of a veritable architecture meltdown, can attest to that. But even our situation can’t compare to Spain’s, a country where “the mother of all housing bubbles” meant the Recession didn’t just land – it tsunami-ed onto her shores.
The metaphor may seem overblown, but it’s not so far off. Spain, a country that once stuffed its cities with show-stopping cultural centers, airports, and municipal buildings, has been shocked still.The new Spain is populated with empty high-rises, half-finished “starchitecture,” and plans gathering dust. A quarter of its architects are out of work and about one half of its studios have closed their doors.
Spain, once a beacon for architects across the globe, has hit a standstill. For the first time in decades, thousands of architects are fleeing its shores. So what does this mean for architecture in Spain – and the world? Has the Recession signified the end of an era? Has the torch of architectural innovation been passed?
In a word? Yes.
Exclusive insight from some of Spain and Portugal’s acclaimed architects, after the break…
For over a century, the Venice Biennale (La Biennale di Venezia) has been one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world. The avant-garde institution has remained at the forefront in the research and promotion of new artistic trends, while leading international events in the field of contemporary arts that are amongst the most important of their kind. Over the past thirty years, the Biennale has given growing importance to the Architecture Exhibition, which is still a young component of the Biennale considering that its first exhibition was held in 1975. Today, the Venice Biennale captures a multitude of interest from around the globe and attracts over 370,000 international visitors.
Before the festivities of the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale begin tomorrow, read up on the origin of this highly acclaimed international exhibition.
A timeline history of the Venice Architecture Biennale:
Let’s look at these examples after the break. (more…)
There is no other comic saga more influenced by architecture than Batman. Gotham, and the fictional architects that built the city, have been main characters since the first plots. Writer and architect Jimmy Stamp describes in these essay the fascinating architectural references and metaphors that have filled Batman stories for the last 60 years.
Batman, Gotham City, and an Overzealous Architecture Historian With a Working Knowledge of Explosives
By Jimmy Stamp
New York, Dubai, Tokyo, Moscow, Gotham. Every city in every atlas—real and fictional— has a unique character shaped by history and geography. More than a mere sense of place derived from architecture and planning, cities have a feeling that pervades the consciousness of those who live there until themselves become a a piece of the urban fabric, a fractional embodiment of the city itself. Perhaps more than any other person—real or fictional—Batman is integrally linked to his city, the city he has sworn to protect. In every sense of the word, he is a true avatar of Gotham. And Gotham City itself is an avatar, not only of the dreams of its fictional architects, but of our collective urban paranoia.
Read the full post after the break
Welcome back and congratulations for having made it to the final installation of the Olympic City Guide.
So far, in parts I and II, we’ve learned how to design for your post-Games legacy (No White Elephants please) and to revitalize -not demolish- your city’s most deprived “eye-sores” (Don’t Hate, Rejuvenate).
So what’s left? Well, in this post-Recession era of austerity, a huge part of your Olympic Strategy will be justifying the spending – the colossal spending – to your more than skeptical constituents. As I said in the last post, a good starting point is targeting urban renewal and being as transparent as possible, but another big element is how you market the Games – not just to the International Olympics Committee (IOC), but to your own city-dwellers.
So how can you get them both on your side? Simple - Go Green.
If you remember nothing else from Part I of our Olympic City Guide, Your Very Own Guide to Successfully Hosting the Olympic Games, make it the GOLDEN RULE: “The best thing to do if you’re bidding for the Olympics, Is to Not Get the Olympics.”
As we explained in Part I, this take-it-or-leave-it mentality is key to Olympic success. See the Olympics as the Games, and, come autumn, you’ll find your city littered with resource-guzzling, empty stadiums. See the Olympics as an excuse to get your plans for Urban Renewal into hyper-drive, and you’ll get the gold: a publicity-hogging, urban makeover that will continue to make you profit years after the Olympic circus has packed up and gone home.
But Olympic legacy doesn’t just come down to dollars and cents. It often means making a very real socio-cultural impact. Which leads us to our second set of Dos and Donts, starting with DON’T: Be Shady. And yes, we’re looking at you Beijing…
Keep reading for the Dos and Donts of Olympic Hostdom, after the break…
So – you want to be an Olympic City do you? Well let’s hope you’re going for gold.
First of all, the Olympic bid is no child’s play. You can spend millions just to prove (often unsuccessfully) your worthiness. And, if you do get the bid, who’s to say that your Olympic Dreams won’t be dashed by elephantine debts, colossal inefficiencies, and your own citizenry’s open animosity?
Everyone may think the Olympics is all guts and glory, but frankly, the truth is far more complex. Which is why we’ve come up with a User’s Guide – the Do’s and Dont’s to Hosting Your Very Own Olympics.
We’ll begin with the GOLDEN RULE: “The best thing to do if you’re bidding for the Olympics, Is to Not Get the Olympics.”
Want to know the Cardinal Sins of Olympic Hostdom? Keep reading after the break…