A Seductive Abstraction: Architecture & Photography’s Tacit Pact

Courtesy of The Architectural Review

ArchDaily has partnered with The Architectural Review to bring you short thematic introductions to the magazine’s monthly editions.  Up now: AR’s April 2014 issue, which examines the complexities of architecture photography. Editor Catherine Slessor asks “what happens when controlled views of buildings are redefined by and adapted to new technologies?”

Roland Barthes once observed that there is no such thing as a photograph. ‘Whatever it grants to vision and whatever its manner, a photograph is always invisible, it is not it that we see’, he wrote in Camera Lucida. What we do see is the scrutinising gaze of the photographer, which can beguile or unsettle, but should always evoke some kind of response.

As a scientific and ‘truthful’ medium, photography has served architecture well, especially in the Modernist era when the evolving medium synthesised perfectly with a new approach to design. Yet the relationship between architecture and photography is an inherently compromised one. Unlike art practice, lends itself less to searching critical enquiry, being essentially an unspoken pact between architect, photographer and publisher to render buildings in a way that discreetly flatters architectural ambition and sells copies of or magazines.

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AIA Names Top 10 Most Sustainable Projects in U.S.

Sustainability Treehouse; Glen Jean, West Virginia / Mithun with BNIM © Joe Fletcher

In honor of Earth Day, we have complied a preview of the top ten most sustainable exemplars of U.S. architecture selected by the American Institute of Architects () and its Committee on the Environment (). Each project featured will be honored with a Top Ten Award for “sustainable design excellence” at the 2014 National Convention in Chicago. View them all, after the break…

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App Review: Archisketch – “Sketch and Doodle to Scale”

Although tablets have opened up a whole new range of possibilities for architects and designers, using them for drawing and doodling is often a clumsy experience. In many cases there’s far too little accuracy and far too much complexity when it comes to working simple operations. Archisketch, which was formerly known as Archipad, seeks to streamline this experience with a smooth, cleanly designed for that not only allows you to import drawings and doodle over them, but also draw to scale.

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Mental Health in Architecture School: Can the Culture Change?

Courtesy of

The Graduate Architecture, Landscape, and Design Student Union (GALDSU) at the University of Toronto recently published the results of its first mental health survey, which asked students to reflect on their experience at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. Many past and present students have met the findings, which paint a blatantly bleak picture of the architecture student experience, with little to no surprise. The report brings the issue of poor mental and physical health in architecture schools to the forefront of our consciousness; however, the cool response it has elicited undercuts the initiative and raises important questions. If we were already aware of the problem, why hasn’t change already been initiated? Will this always be the accepted, brutal reality of architecture ?

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What Makes a Copy-Cat a Copy-Cat? The Complex Case of Architectural Copyright

Courtesy of Mitch Tuchman

When an eminent jurist asks, “What does a of an architectural work truly protect?” you may be certain the question is not rhetorical. The U.S. Act does provide protection from infringement for architectural works, but it does so in terms so ambiguous that a judge might wonder, as did federal district court judge James Lawrence King in a case he decided earlier this year, whether broadly applicable standards for determining infringement even exist. Finding “the usual analysis … too vague and the language misleading,” King blazed a trail of his own in Sieger Suarez Architectural Partnership v. Arquitectonica International Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19140, proposing detailed guideposts for future courts to follow.

Sieger Suarez involved two Miami architectural firms and a 43-story condominium tower nearing completion in suburban Sunny Isles. The Sieger Suarez firm was engaged in 2000 by the project’s first owner. When the project, now known as Regalia, changed hands, the new owners dropped Sieger Suarez and engaged Arquitectonica in 2006. This is a scenario made familiar in scores of disputes involving allegations of infringement of architectural works.

Befitting a beachfront property with floor-through units starting at $7 million,  both designs present dramatic, undulating exteriors. “When facing any of the buildings’ four sides,” King wrote in his opinion, “the façades create the impression of a wave rippling horizontally across the sides of the buildings.” Further, in cross-section, both buildings reveal what King described as a “flower shape,” “a stylized rectangle, with gently rounded corners and an outward bulge more-or-less in the center of each of the four sides.” Should this flower shape, combined with the wavelike exteriors, have been enough to sustain Sieger Suarez’s claim of infringement against its competitor and the property’s owners?

The results of this Court Case, and what they could mean for architectural copyright in general, after the break…

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Divine Inspiration: 15 Spiritual Spaces

Kamppi Chapel of Silence / K2S Architects

In honor of those celebrating Easter Sunday, we’ve compiled a list of the most breathtaking places of worship from our Religious Architecture Pinterest board. From vast, open halls, to intimate places of prayer and contemplation, these works are sure to spark your appreciation for divine architecture. See them in all their glory, after the break…

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After the Wildfires: How Will Chile Rebuild Its Informal Communities?

For those unfamiliar with Valparaíso, allow me to inform you: this city is a treasure. The UNESCO World Heritage site and cultural capital of is defined by its winding paths, happily graffitied streets, antiquated funiculars, and – above all – its colorful, tightly-packed hills. And because of its precarious density, the city was brought to its knees by vicious forest fires this past weekend, fires which quickly spread and consumed 2,500 acres, displacing over 12,500 people whose homes were destroyed.

The hills where the fires hit hardest are similar to Brazilian favelas – inhabited by informal residents who have little to no access to infrastructure and who constructed their homes themselves, illegally, and – as the fires have proven – rather perilously.

The response of the Chilean government so far has been to suggest bulldozing and building again in “a more orderly manner.” To do so, the government has intimated that it will expropriate land and relocate citizens to safer sites.

However, residents have already begun resisting this potential outcome. As ArchDaily correspondent Nicolás Valencia reported from Cerro Ramaditas (one of the hillside communities most devastated by the fire), many have refused to leave for fear that their land be taken from them; those that have gone, have left markers “cordoning off what they consider theirs with pieces of wood or metal cans.”

It’s a troubling dilemma: evict victims from the only home they’ve ever known or relegate them to lives at risk of future catastrophe. But could there be another way?

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Mies, the Modernist Man of Letters

Mies van der Rohe with smoke, 1957; photographed for Life magazine. Image Courtesy of Frank Scherschel/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

This review of Detlef Mertins’ book “Mies” – by Thomas de Monchaux - originally appeared in Metropolis Magazine as “Mies Reconsidered“. According to de Monchaux, Mertins reveals the modernist master as a voracious reader who interpreted a wide variety of influences to arrive at his stripped-down style.

The quintessential page of the 528 that make up Detlef Mertins’s monumental new monograph on Ludwig Mies van der Rohe—entitled simply Mies (Phaidon, 2014)—is 155. There, you will find a reproduction, a page within a page, of page 64 of Romano Guardini’s 1927 book Letters from Lake Como—a book about modernity and human subjectivity—with Mies’s own annotations penciled in the margins, in a surprisingly ornate and delicate hand. 

And there, you will find Mertins’s notes on Mies’s notes on Guardini: “Of all the books in Mies’s library, Guardini’s Letters is the most heavily marked. Mies highlighted passage after passage with bold and rapid margin strokes and wrote key words diagonally and in large script across the first pages of many of the chapters: Haltung (stance), Erkenntnis (knowledge), Macht (power).” Mertins’s vivid marginality, his attention to the divine details along edges, recalls the experience of reading the Talmud, that commentary on Jewish law and scripture in which, by marking and emending earlier readers’ marks and emendations, generations of rabbis enacted an intimate conversation across time and space. 

Read on for more insight into Mies’ influences.

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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 digital fabrication 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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Infographic: The Bauhaus, Where Form Follows Function

UPDATE: In honor of the 81st anniversary of the day the Bauhaus 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 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 Revisited’

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 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 Jeanne Gang, 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 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.