Images have been unveiled of BIG and Heatherwick Studio’s design for Google’s Mountain View headquarters. The plan, submitted to city council today, proposes to redevelop and expand the company’s home office with a series of lightweight canopy-like structures organized within a flexible landscape of bicycle paths and commercial opportunities for local companies.
“It’s the first time we’ll design and build offices from scratch and we hope these plans by Bjarke Ingels at BIG and Thomas Heatherwick at Heatherwick Studio will lead to a better way of working,” says Google. “The idea is simple. Instead of constructing immoveable concrete buildings, we’ll create lightweight block-like structures which can be moved around easily as we invest in new product areas… Large translucent canopies will cover each site, controlling the climate inside yet letting in light and air. With trees, landscaping, cafes, and bike paths weaving through these structures, we aim to blur the distinction between our buildings and nature.”
A video about the design and a statement from Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick, after the break.
Yesterday afternoon, I was able to visit the University of Arkansas exhibition “Fay Jones and Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture Comes to Arkansas” – without purchasing a ticket or leaving my apartment. This extensive exhibition on the life and development of these two notable architects was made possible through a collaboration between University of Arkansas Libraries’ Special Collections and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Library and Archives. Exhibitions such as this are part of a broader movement in recent years towards making archived content more easily accessible to the public through web platforms. The concept of the online exhibition, however, is still in its infancy and there remains significant room for innovation.
Being such a recent movement in the international architectural discourse, the reach and significance of post-modernism can sometimes go unnoticed. In this selection, chosen by Adam Nathaniel Furman, the “incredibly rich, extensive and complex ecosystem of projects that have grown out of the initial explosion of postmodernism from the 1960s to the early 1990s” are placed side by side for our delight.
From mosques that imagine an idyllic past, via Walt Disney’s Aladdin from the 1990s, to a theatre in Moscow that turns its façade into a constructivist collage of classical scenes, “there are categories in post-modernism to be discovered, and tactics to be learned.” These projects trace forms of complex stylistic figuration, from the high years of academic postmodernism, to the more popular of its forms that spread like wildfire in the latter part of the 20th century.
As the legacy of the Cold War fades and Western preeminence gradually becomes a thing of the past, population booms in Asia followed by the growth of a vast non-western middle class have seriously challenged the Western perception of the world. The East has become the focal point of the world’s development.
If East Asia is the present focal point of this development, the future indisputably lies in Africa. Long featuring in the Western consciousness only as a land of unending suffering, it is now a place of rapidly falling poverty, increasing investment, and young populations. It seems only fair that Africa’s rich cultures and growing population (predicted to reach 1.4 billion by 2025) finally take the stage, but it’s crucially important that Africa’s future development is done right. Subject to colonialism for centuries, development in the past was characterized by systems that were designed for the benefit of the colonists. Even recently, resource and energy heavy concrete buildings, clothes donations that damage native textile industries, and reforestation programs that plant water hungry and overly flammable trees have all been seen, leaving NGOs open to accusations of well-meaning ignorance.
Fortunately, a growth in native practices and a more sensible, sensitive approach from foreign organizations has led to the rise of architectural groups creating buildings which learn from and improve Africa. Combining local solutions with the most appropriate Western ideas, for the first time these new developments break down the perception of monolithic Africa and have begun engaging with individual cultures; using elements of non-local architecture when they improve a development rather than creating a pastiche of an imagined pan-African culture. The visions these groups articulate are by no means the same – sustainable rural development, high end luxury residences and dignified civic constructions all feature – but they have in common their argument for a bright future across Africa. We’ve collected seven pioneers of Africa’s architectural awakening – read on after the break for the full article and infographic.
In this video from NOWNESS, an excerpt from Yuri Ancarani’s documentary “Il Capo” (The Chief), the filmmaker captures the mesmerizing business of Marble extraction in the hills of Northwest Italy. The prized delicacy of the Carrara stone’s surface is juxtaposed against the dramatic size and weight of the blocks they are removing, which eventually fall with an earth-shattering thud. Similarly the rugged power of the excavators is in marked contrast to the precise, understated gestures of the chief himself, who directs his workers with a complex series of predetermined hand signals.
“Marble quarries are places so unbelievable and striking, they almost feel like they are big theaters or sets,” explains Yuri Ancarani. “I was so taken by the chief, watching him work. How he can move gigantic marble blocks using enormous excavators, but his own movements are light, precise and determined.”
The recent unveiling of the 74 entries to the Nine Elms to Pimlico Bridge competition was undoubtedly intended to cause a media circus, hoping to emulate the furore that surrounded the much larger Helsinki Guggenheim competition when they released all 1,715 of their entries to the web in October of last year. The competition, which asked designers to propose “one of the most expressive and visible landmarks in London,” is the latest in a series of dramatic changes taking place on this stretch of the South Bank of the Thames. This new community, one of London’s most prestigious new neighbourhoods, includes Keiran Timberlake’s new US Embassy and a slew of residential developments, culminating in the highly-touted renovation of Battersea Power Station, complete with accompanying buildings by Foster + Partners and Frank Gehry, and a public space by BIG.
Initial reactions to the competition entries has been mixed at best. The Guardian’s architecture critic Oliver Wainwright took the opportunity to poke light-hearted fun at a selection of designs, using his considerable powers of wordplay to dub entries with titles such as The Greenhouse Funhouse, The Spaffy Tangle, Razorwire Party Bridge, and The Flaming Mouth of Hades. Similarly, City Metric ran the news with an article titled “The 12 Most Ridiculous Designs for the New Battersea Bridge”, sparking a debate on Reddit in which users branded the projects “varying degrees of insane” and “ridiculous doodles.” But beyond all this jovial name-calling, these designs are symptomatic of an unhealthy approach to wealth that London seems unable (or perhaps unwilling) to address.
Five projects have been selected as finalists of the 2015 EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture- Mies van der Rohe Award. The finalists were selected from a shortlist of 40 projects, and over the next couple of months the jury members will visit each of the finalist projects to evaluate the buildings firsthand and gather information from the people who use them. On May 7, the architects will present their projects to the jury. The winner will be announced the following day at a ceremony at Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion.
See the five finalists after the break.
When BIG‘s proposal for Amager Bakke, a waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen, was unveiled in 2011, there was a lot for skeptics to pick apart. Is it really possible to run a publicly accessible ski slope on the roof of an industrial building? Would they really be able to make it blow giant smoke (or rather, steam) rings? The whole idea seemed rather too good to be true. The project’s ground breaking in 2013 may have silenced some critics, but the video above should convince the rest of the design’s feasibility.
The video shows a test from August in which a miniaturized version of the smoke ring-blowing chimney finally demonstrates the concept. According to Danish website Ingeniøren, in the months since, the design has undergone further refinement by Peter Madsen, the artist, aerospace engineer and inventor that BIG brought in to develop the chimney, and is ready for another major test tomorrow at Refshaleøen in Copenhagen.
“The city for the people!” is the familiar rallying cry of the reformist architect – but which people, exactly? That’s the question at the heart of rooftopping, a new and thrill seeking variant of Urban Exploration which has recently captured the attention of the media. Spreading via social media outlets such as Instagram, the stunts draw attention by design, but why has coverage of the form of Urban Exploration climbed to such great heights?
Urban exploration has been at the fringes of the public consciousness since the mid 2000s as a form of punk sub-culture; anarchists poking around in sewer tunnels and proto-pinterest ruin exploration (although unsurprisingly the habit of people breaking into abandoned, closed off or normally inaccessible buildings dates back much, much farther). The way rooftopping has captured the public imagination, though, is as a form of public discourse: how it meshes with social media, the way corporate groups have attempted to market stunts, and the way these groups are interacting with the urban environment.
Minimalism has its challenges and for this seven-year-old sibling of two, it’s not for children. Nominated for Best Animated Short Film at the 87th Academy Awards, Me and My Moulton captures the unconventional life and struggles of three kids with modernist architect parents. Watch the trailer above and see what director Torill Kove believes are five sure signs your parents were architects, after the break.
This past week, Adobe Photoshop turned 25 years old. That’s right: at an age where us mere mortals are often still embarrassingly reliant on our parents, Photoshop is taking the opportunity to look back on how it became one of the world’s most ubiquitous pieces of software, and how in just a quarter-century it has transformed our very conceptions of beauty and even reality itself.
Of course, to the general public Photoshop is probably best-known for the role it has played in the fashion and advertising industries. Serving up heavily processed, idealized images of anatomically dubious models, its effect in our wider culture is well-known, but Photoshop has had its impact on the architecture profession as well. Join us after the break as we look at 25 years of Photoshop in architecture.
In 2013 the former IBM Building in Chicago, Mies van der Rohe’s last completed skyscraper, underwent a significant renovation as a part of the tower was converted into a hotel. In this article, originally published in Blueprint issue #338 as “Lobbying for Mies van der Rohe,” Anthea Gerrie catches up with Dirk Lohan – the Chicago architect who helped his grandfather design the building nearly 50 years ago, and who was called back in to design the new hotel’s entrance lobby.
“It’s not very Mies,” says Dirk Lohan dubiously, in one of the great understatements of the year. We are standing in the double-height reception hall of the Langham Chicago hotel with what looks like dozens of multicoloured glass balloons swimming above us and a mirror-glass frieze adding to a cacophony of glitz and dazzle.
It is indeed the very antithesis of the aesthetic of the architect known for the phrase “less is more”. But then the audacious idea of converting an office building by the most functionalist of architects into a five-star hotel was always going to be problematic.
London’s Design Museum has released 15 shortlisted projects that are being considered for the prestigious “Design of the Year” award. From Wendell Burnette’s Desert Courtyard House to Jean Nouvel’s One Central Park skyscraper, the wide-ranging list spans all scales, showcasing some of the best newly completed projects from across the globe.
The award, now in its eighth year, “celebrates design that promotes or delivers change, enables access, extends design practice or captures the spirit of the year.” 76 nominees over six categories have been selected. The jury, chaired by artist Anish Kapoor and includes architect Farshid Moussavi, will choose category winners on May 4. An overall winner will be revealed June 4.
View all the shortlisted buildings, after the break.
The Andalucian town of Setenil de las Bodegas looks like something from the set of a culturally adventurous fantasy film, but cave dwelling is actually common in Andalucia; being so close to the African continental plate, geological forces threw up mountain ranges and volcanoes that are perfectly suited for habitation. The rocks and caves make for surprisingly easy settlement, and the nearby Cueva de la Pileta shows evidence of a human presence up to 25,000 years ago. After that, though, the inhabitants of the caves here are mostly ignored up until the 12th century, when Setenil’s Moorish castle appears on the historical record.
UNESCO, in collaboration with the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture, have announced the winning proposal for the Bamiyan Cultural Centre. An Argentina-based team, lead by Carlos Nahuel Recabarren alongside Manuel Alberto Martínez Catalán and Franco Morero, were selected from 1,070 design entries from 117 countries. Prepatory work on implementing their scheme, entitled Descriptive Memory: The Eternal Presence of Absence, “will start immediately” close to the boundaries of the Bamiyan World Heritage site.
See the winning entry and the four runners-up after the break.
Federico Babina has released ARCHINOWHERE, a “series of illustrations that represent a parallel universe where past, present and future intertwine” to present a fantastical collection of “realistic yet unreal” architectural visions. The playful graphic, as Babina describes, “maintains a balance between illustrated architecture and an architectonical illustration” to relay imagined stories built on a foundation of contemporary ideals.
Largely overlooked in the development of Modernism, timber architecture is making a comeback in the 21st century with the success of designers such as last year’s Pritzker Prize winner Shigeru Ban, and the push toward timber towers from large influential firms such as SOM. In the following extract, author Joseph Mayo introduces his new book, “Solid Wood: Case Studies in Mass Timber Architecture, Technology and Design,” which examines the rise of mass timber design through historical analysis and contemporary case studies.
Few books have addressed the use of wood in large, non-residential buildings. While light frame construction and residential resources are common, little has been written about the use of wood in taller, urban, commercial and institutional buildings. Solid Wood presents a survey of new timber architecture around the world to reveal this construction type’s unique appeal and potential. Not surprisingly, enthusiasm for solid wood architecture (also known as mass timber architecture) and engineering is now growing rapidly among a new generation of architects and designers.