Rijksmuseum Revisited: The Dutch National Museum One Year On

Atrium, April 2014. Image © James Taylor-Foster

The Rijksmuseum, which reopened last year after a decade of restoration and remodelling, is a museum dedicated to “the Dutchness of Dutchness.” Pierre Cuypers, the building’s original architect, began designing this neogothic cathedral to Dutch art in 1876; it opened in 1885 and has stood guard over Amsterdam’s ever since.

Over the centuries, the building suffered a series of poorly executed ‘improvements’: intricately frescoed walls and ceilings were whitewashed; precious mosaics broken; decorative surfaces plastered over; and false, parasitic ceilings hung from the walls. Speaking in his office overlooking the Rijksmuseum’s monumental south west façade, Director of Collections Taco Dibbits noted how the most appalling damage was incurred during the mid-20th century: “everything had been done to hide the original building […but] Cruz y Ortiz [who won the competition to redesign the Rijks in 2003] embraced the existing architecture by going back to the original volumes of the spaces as much as possible.”

For Seville-based Cruz y Ortiz, choosing what to retain and what to restore, what to remodel and what to ignore were, at times, difficult to balance. Cruz y Ortiz found their answer in the mantra: ‘Continue with Cuypers’. They threw the original elements of the building into relief but did not act as aesthetes for the ‘ruin’. In contrast to David Chipperfield and Julian Harrap’s restoration of Berlin’s Neues Museum, for instance, Cruz y Ortiz rigorously implemented a clean visual approach that favoured clarity over confusion. What is original, what is restored, and what is new mingle together in a melting pot of solid, understated architectural elements. Sometimes this approach contradicted Cuyper’s original intentions; however, more often than not it complements them in a contemporary way.

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AD Classics: New York State Pavillion / Philip Johnson

rSnapshotPhotos / Shutterstock.com

It is rare to find an architectural project whose history makes such strange bedfellows as the State Pavilion: a master architect and millions of exhibition patrons, roller skaters and rock stars, stray cats and Iron Man [1]. For three hours on April 22, in honor of the fifty year anniversary of the 1964-65 World’s Fair, the city of Queens will open the long shuttered gates to ’s most futuristic work.

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AD Classics: Los Manantiales / Felix Candela

via www.rkett.com

With the design for Los Manantiales, ’s experimental form finding gave rise to an efficient, elegant, and enduring work of structural art.  Comprised of four intersecting hypars,  a strikingly thin roof surface creates a dramatic dining space.  Built as Candela was establishing an international reputation as the foremost shell building, he demonstrated to the world his masterful combination of artistry and technical virtuosity.

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The Depreciating Value of Form in the Age of Digital Fabrication

The ICD / ITKE Research Pavilion 2011, demonstrating an example of a Voronoi diagram at work. Image © ICD / ITKE University of Stuttgart

In this article, originally appearing on the Australian Design Review as “Tolerance and Customisation: a Question of Value“, Michael Parsons argues that the complex forms made possible by may soon be victims of their own popularity, losing their intrinsic value as they become more common and the skill required to make them decreases.

The idea of tolerance in architecture has become a popular point of discussion due to the recent mainstreaming of digital fabrication. The improvements in digital fabrication methods are allowing for two major advancements: firstly, the idea of reducing the tolerance required in to a minimum (and ultimately zero) and secondly, mass customisation as a physical reality. Digital fabrication has made the broad-brushstroke approach to fabrication tolerance obsolete and now allows for unique elements and tolerance specific to each element. The accuracy that digital fabrication affords the designer, allows for the creation of more complex forms with greater ease and control. So far, this has had great and far reaching implications for design.

Read on to find out how this ease of form-making could diminish the success of complex forms. 

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The Top Architect-Designed Products of Milan Design Week 2014

Benedetta Tagliabue for Passoni Nature: Sofa ‘BOTAN’

This week marked the 53rd edition of the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan. Hundreds of exhibitors showcased an endless display of the latest international design products and home-furnishings. Among them included a variety of designed items envisioned by some of our favorite architects. Continue after the break to preview some of the most talked about architect-designed products featured this week at the Milan Design Week 2014.

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Infographic: The Bauhaus, Where Form Follows Function

UPDATE: In honor of the 81st anniversary of the day the closed in 1933, we’re re-publishing this popular infographic, which was originally published April 16th, 2012.

From the “starchitect” to “architecture for the 99%,” we are witnessing a shift of focus in the field of architecture. However, it’s in the education system where these ideas really take root and grow. This sea change inspired us to explore past movements, influenced by economic shifts, war and the introduction of new technologies, and take a closer look at the bauhaus movement.

Often associated with being anti-industrial, the Arts and Crafts Movement had dominated the field before the start of the Bauhaus in 1919. The Bauhaus’ focus was to merge design with industry, providing well designed products for the many.

The Bauhaus not only impacted design and architecture on an international level, but also revolutionized the way design schools conceptualize education as a means of imparting an integrated design approach where form follows function.

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The Architecture of Kowloon Walled City: An Excerpt from ‘City of Darkness Revisited’

Courtesy of ‘City of Darkness

In light of the release of a second, revised edition of City of Darkness – the authoritative text on Kowloon Walled City, which you can help Kickstart here — authors Greg Girard and Ian Lambot have shared an excerpt from City of Darkness Revisited

The early phases of the Walled City were characterised by predictable building typologies and the buildings were constructed on the principle of squatters’ rights, with random construction on spots of available land by whoever got there first. Alleyways and passages evolved – unplanned – into the established ‘map’ of the City, which would remain until it came down. A basic electric supply existed, increasingly burdened by illegal connections that frequently overloaded the system, and the few standpipes supplied the only water. As the need to accommodate the ever growing residential and commercial populations forced it to in the 1960s, the building typology of the Walled City made the leap from two- to three-storey residential structures to taller, six- to seven-storey ones. This represented an important threshold, because at these greater heights the buildings unavoidably became more complex and required greater labour to realise, reinforced concrete, more investment, and so on. They also required a different way of living. Water had to be transported up to the higher floors by hand. Likewise the propane gas canisters that furnished fuel to cook or heat water.

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AD Classics: Saltzman House / Richard Meier & Partners Architects

© Ezra Stoller/Esto

One of the earliest built works of Richard Meier, The Saltzman House, completed in 1969, is one of several Meier-designed residences that exhibits his signature style: absolute whiteness, geometric composition, and the prominence of light.  With a heavy early-Modernist influence, the Saltzman House captures the purity of form and space seen in the projects of Le Corbusier.

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In Detail: Chipperfield’s Nobel Centre for Stockholm

View towards Nybrokajen. Image ©

As we announced earlier, David Chipperfield Architects’ modest proposal for the Nobel Center’s new home in has been announced as the winning submission of the Nobel Foundation’s prestigious international competition. Lauded by the jury for its “lightness and openness,” Chipperfield envisioned the glass and stone proposal to “convey dignity” and embody the ideals of the Nobel Prize so it may serve as inspiration for generations to come.

Detailed drawings, images and quotes from the architect, after the break… 

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VIDEO: In Boston, Reclaiming the Craft of Brick

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Our friends at Mecanoo have shared a fascinating mini-documentary exploring the complex brickwork on display in their latest project in Boston’s Dudley Square, the Dudley Municipal Center(nearing completion). Called “Boston Bricks with a Dutch Touch,” this documentary features interviews with everyone involved in the project – from workers to architects – and focuses on the difficulty of using brick in this elaborate manner. Enjoy the video above and check out some fantastic images after the break.

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INTERIORS: True Detective

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.

The first season of Nic Pizzolatto’s , the product of creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Fukunaga, focuses on Detective Rustin Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Detective Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) as they search for clues on a grisly murder case. The series takes place in Louisiana in three distinct time periods; 1995, 2002 and 2012. Each time period has a distinct look, as characters and their surroundings change and evolve over time.

Cary Fukunaga, who comes from feature films such as Sin Nombre (2009) and Jane Eyre (2011), has always employed a distinct visual style in his work. In The Guardian, he discussed his approach to the direction of the show, noting that “one of my priorities as director was to defend craft despite the constraints on my time and budget.” In addition, he notes that he looked for specific moments in which he would treat the visual side of the medium with the same importance as the dialogue.

In the fourth episode, “Who Goes There,” he does just that, as he employs a lengthy, complex shot that brings the audience closer to the characters’ experience. This edition of INTERIORS will spatially break down that shot, revealing just how complex it was.

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AD Interviews: Jeanne Gang / Studio Gang Architects

If you don’t know , here’s the short and impressive bio: she received her Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Illinois and then went on to Harvard’s GSD for her masters degree. After working at OMA (where she participated in projects such as the Maison à Bordeaux), Jeanne founded Studio Gang in 1997. She has since become a MacArthur Fellow and was 2011′s Fast Company Master of Design. So it was particularly exciting to sit down with Jeanne at the 2013 World Architecture Festival in Singapore.

The work of Studio Gang is very broad, from private residences to community facilities, from small pavilions to an 82-story tower. But all of them have follow a clear line: careful attention to the materials, and a constant research leading to innovations in terms of sustainability and fabrication.

Projects such as the recently honored WMS Boathouse add to Studio Gang’s consistent presence in Chicago’s new architecture, which also includes the stunning Aqua Tower and other projects that serve local communities (such as the new venue for the Writers’ Theater and Lincoln Zoo South Pond Pavilion). Yet she also displays a commitment to her city’s heritage, as can be seen in her proposal for Prentice Hospital.

Be sure to watch our interview with Jeanne Gang and check out Studio Gang’s projects on ArchDaily.

VIDEO: Extreme Sustainability in the Congo

MASS has just released the third video in their Beyond the Building series, which examines how architecture and design can positively impact our world, beyond buildings (check out the first video here and the second here). The latest – “Ilima: Beyond Sustainability” – explores MASS’s collaboration with the African Wildlife Foundation as well as local masons to build a primary school in the rural Congolese village of Ilima, where, due to its remote location, practically all must be sourced locally.

For more information on MASS’s work in Congo, follow the project’s manager, Andrew Brose, via the hashtag #AndrewinIlima on Facebook and Twitter, and make sure to add your thoughts to how architecture can go #beyondthebuilding as well.

Foster and Gehry Reveal Designs for Battersea Power Station

“The Skyline” on “The Electric Boulevard” / Foster + Partners. Image Courtesy of

As phase three of ’s Battersea Power Station regeneration, Foster + Partners has collaborated with Gehry Partners to design the 42-acre development’s primary entrance. Together, the duo has envisioned “The Electric Boulevard” – a massive gateway connecting the Northern Line Extension station to the Power Station, which will be formed by an undulating Foster-designed tower known as “The Skyline” and Gehry’s five-building “Prospect Place.”

Housing more than 1,300 homes and over 350,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, the boulevard is expected to become one of London’s most distinguished high streets.

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A Theory of Architecture Part 3: Why Primitive Form Languages Spread

“the architectural establishment continues to ignore indigenous building cultures and the human value of what they represent. For example, traditional building and urban geometry in sub-Saharan Africa is now revealed to be essentially fractal, thus revising our customary (and totally erroneous) conception of those cultures as mathematically under-developed.” Image of El Molo Hut, Lake Turkana, Kenya.. Image Courtesy of shutterstock.com

As you may have seen, ArchDaily has been publishing UNIFIED ARCHITECTURAL THEORY, by the urbanist and controversial theorist Nikos A. Salingaros, in serial form. However, in order to explain certain concepts in greater detail, we have decided to pause this serialization and publish three excerpts from another of Salingaros’  books: A THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE. The first excerpt explained the difference between “Pattern Language” and “Form Language,” while the second established how these languages can combine to form the “Adaptive Design Method.” The following, final, excerpt distinguishes between viable, complex form languages that have evolved over time and primitive, “non-languages” that have come to dominate the 20th century due to their iconic simplicity (and despite their non-adaptive characteristics).  

Independently of their technological achievements, all groups of human beings have developed a richly complex spoken language. Differences arise in specificities, in the breadth of vocabulary for concepts important to that culture, and in their transition to a written language, but those do not affect the general richness of the language. Every language’s internal structure has to obey general principles that are common to all languages. A primitive language or non-language, by contrast, is characterized by the reduction or absence of such internal complexity and structure. The complexity of human thought sets a rather high threshold for the complexity that any language has to be able to express through combinatoric groupings.

Turning now to architecture, a viable form language is also characterized by its high degree of internal complexity. Furthermore, the complexity of different form languages has to be comparable, because each form language shares a commonality with other form languages on a general meta-linguistic level. A primitive form language severely limits architectonic expression to crude or inarticulate statements.

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In Drawings, The Historical Trajectory of Soviet Architecture

Yakov Chernikhov, Factory building, Ca. 1931, Drafting pen, ink and pencil, 298 x 248 mm. Image Courtesy of the Tchoban Foundation

This article by Ross Wolfe, originally posted on Metropolis Magazine as “Cultural Divide: The ‘Paper Architecture’ of the USSR” explores the complexity of various movements through the lens of paper architecture.

In the history of 20th-century Russian architecture, there exists a central struggle. In one corner, the Constructivists, champions of light, airy, and functional buildings that drew their power from the social and aesthetic revolutions of the 1920s; in the other, the Stalinist architects, whose thuggish hybrids and clumsy pastiche became the predominant vernacular throughout the Soviet republics. The latter, as we know, eventually came out on top. 

Things are rather more complicated, of course, as an recent exhibition at Berlin’s Tchoban Foundation argued. Architecture in Cultural Strife: Russian and Soviet Architecture in Drawings, 1900-1953 brings together a total of 79 unique architectural delineations that chart a historical trajectory running from the twilight years of the Romanov dynasty up to Stalin’s death by the midcentury.

Read on for more about the multiple movements that made up the whole of Soviet architecture.

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The BIG U: BIG’s New York City Vision for “Rebuild by Design”

Render for The U, “The Harbor Berm,” an elevated path through the park. Image Courtesy of rebuildbydesign.org

Yesterday BIG, along with 9 other teams including OMA and WXY, unveiled their proposals for “Rebuild by Design,” a competition which tasks teams with improving the resiliency of waterfront communities through locally-responsive, innovative design. Each proposal was required to be “flexible, easily phased, and able to integrate with existing projects in progress.” As Henk Ovink, the Principal of ”” as well as the Senior Advisor to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, stated: “ is not about making a plan, but about changing a culture.” The winners will be announced later this spring.

BIG’s proposal, The BIG U, is rooted in the firm’s signature concepts of social infrastructure and hedonistic sustainability. It envisions a 10-mile protective system that encircles Manhattan, protecting the city from floods and storm water while simultaneously providing public realms specific to the needs of the city’s diverse communities. Bjarke Ingels states: “We asked ourselves: What if we could envision the resilience infrastructure for Lower Manhattan in a way that wouldn’t be like a wall between the city and the water, but rather a string of pearls of social and environmental amenities tailored to their specific neighborhoods, that also happens to shield their various communities from flooding. Social infrastructure understood as a big overall strategy rooted in the local communities.”

More on the BIG U, after the break…

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AD Interviews: Winka Dubbeldam

At last week’s Mextrópoli conference we spoke with about the challenges of architecture education. We also asked her to elaborate on why she thinks architecture should embrace industrial design tools. Watch the short clip to hear Winka’s thoughts on making a more integral part of our built environment.

Winka Dubbeldam, Assoc. AIA, is the founder and principal of Archi-Tectonics, and is Professor and Chair of the Graduate Department of Architecture at PennDesign, Philadelphia.