As the most ambitious architecture exhibition hosted by the Royal Academy of Arts in a generation, Sensing Spaces was inevitably going to be under a lot of scrutiny from architecture and art critics. According to the Academy’s Chief Executive Charles Saumarez-Smith, the momentous exhibition “represents a shift away from postwar modern architecture where it was about problem solving, to thinking about architecture in terms of experience, material, light and space.”
Fortunately the exhibition seems to have struck a chord with critics, who have almost universally praised the exhibition’s premise and have, to varying extents, been highly complementary about the individual exhibits.
Read on after the break for a round-up of the critics’ opinions
In this powerful interview, Jean Nouvel explains his relationship to Arabic architecture. Discussing his various projects in Arabic countries – such as his office tower in Doha or the Louvre Abu Dhabi - Nouvel discusses how he is influenced by and integrates the abstraction and geometry of traditional Islamic architecture into his modern designs. He also espouses a strong opinion on the understanding of context in architecture, saying: “I’m a contextual architect, but for me the context isn’t only the site. It’s above all a wider historical context – a cultural context… each time, building is trying to continue a history, and to take part in this history.” His architecture, he says, is about listening: “The architect is not meant to impose his own values or his own sensitivities on such general plans.” Video via Louisiana.
“We prepared carefully and picked an appropriate date, the Chinese New Year day. At that time the security was less watchful, workers were on vacations, and cranes did not work. We got to the crane at around midnight. [...] The result you can see in our new video.”
Those are the rather unassuming words of Vitaliy Raskalov, a Ukrainian “roof-hacker, urban-explorer, blogger” who has just pulled off an extraordinary, jaw-dropping stunt (way more incredible than his humble words would suggest).
Raskalov and Russian photographer Vadim Mahora broke into and climbed the Gensler-designed Shanghai Tower, soon to be China’s tallest and the world’s second tallest skyscraper at 632 meters (2,074 feet) high. Although the tower will eventually boast the world’s fastest elevators (reaching 40mph), the pair had to climb the 120 flights of stairs by foot (taking them about two hours); they then spent another 18 hours sleeping and waiting for the weather to clear. The staggering resulting images show not just the dizzying heights, but also fantastic views of the adjacent Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai World Financial Center (together, the trio of buildings that are re-defining the Shanghai skyline).
Check out the incredible images, after the break.
In order to generate a debate on the future of housing, Danish designers Tejlgaard & Jepsen are in the process of permanently reconstructing the People’s Meeting Dome as a gift from BL (Denmark’s Public Housing) and Lokale & Anlægsfonden to the Island of Bornholm and the city of Allinge. Having previously been erected twice as a temporary event space, this final incarnation of the dome will be inaugurated at the next Folkemøde (an annual gathering of Danish politicians), with the intention of becoming a community and event centre for the city.
Preliminary designs have been released by three shortlisted teams competing to renovate Mies van der Rohe’s historic Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington D.C. – the only library and D.C. building ever designed by the legendary architect. Preview each proposal and learn how you can submit your feedback to the D.C. Public Library before they make their decision, after the break.
Though it has been confirmed that Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Museum of Modern Art expansion will result in the demise of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien Architects’ American Folk Art Museum, the New York Times has confirmed that the beloved copper-bronze facade will be preserved.
“We will take the facade down, piece by piece, and we will store it,” Glenn D. Lowry, the director of the Museum of Modern Art, said in an interview. “We have made no decision about what happens subsequently, other than the fact that we’ll have it and it will be preserved.”
The Guggenheim is planning a new museum in Helsinki. The site is in the heart of the city, next door to the late 19th Century market hall and open-air market place, two minutes from Helsinki Cathedral. The project, therefore, has great landmark potential for the city. And many Finns are lured by this very potential, wanting to increase tourism and put their capital city more evidently on the world map. There has also been discussion in the country’s main newspaper Helsingin Sanomat about how Finns should welcome a more joyous and fun architecture.
Destination-creation and architecture as entertainment are certainly strong themes of our times. They were treated with great artistry by Frank Gehry with the Bilbao Guggenheim, opened in 1997. However, it’s important to remember that the Bilbao Guggenheim might best be considered a spectacular one-off. Mayors, politicians and world leaders have since sought, in perhaps too facile a way, to rebrand their cities and countries with iconic landmarks. There has been much talk of making cities “world class” through such architectural gestures, and yet much of this marketer’s fodder is wholly out of touch with what makes great architecture great.
As an accompaniment to their ongoing Sensing Spaces Exhibition in London, the Royal Academy of Arts has produced six wonderful films interviewing the architects involved in the exhibition, unearthing what motivates and inspires them as architects, and what the primary themes of their exhibition projects are.
The above video features both Álvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura, who both designed their Sensing Spaces exhibits with the other in mind. Siza explains his preoccupation with the joints between the natural and the man-made through his Leça Swimming Pool complex, and the way the rock formations informed his interventions. He also introduces his one-time protégé Souto de Moura’s Braga stadium as expressing the same understanding of the natural and man-made.
See videos from the 5 other Sensing Spaces participants after the break
During the Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture, we had the opportunity to speak with David Gianotten, partner-in-charge of OMA’s Hong Kong office. Gianotten launched the Dutch firm’s Asian headquarters in 2009, where he supervises major projects such as the Shenzhen Stock Exchange and the Taipei Performing Arts Centre.
Standing outside of the recently completed Stock Exchange headquarters, he answered our questions about urbanization, innovation and the intricacies of running an office in an environment with such rapid urban growth. Shenzhen has proven an experiment of economic openness and is a vivid example of China’s recent growth. The city’s skyline is practically a physical graph of an upward-trending economy, with buildings designed by nearly every internationally renowned architecture firm. But OMA’s Shenzhen Stock Exchange building stands apart from the rest not only because of its impeccable construction (a rarity in the fast-paced building booms of Chinese cities), but also because it houses the institution that lists China’s biggest companies.
The 254 meter tower is an elegant structure that combines pure volumes with an exoskeleton grid clad in translucent glass. It represents a characteristic OMA-approach to innovative architectural solutions, made possible by extensive programmatic and technical research.
Read the full interview (which includes Gianotten’s insights on the study of architecture, the role of architects, and the importance of simplicity when communicating complex innovation) after the break.
Recently the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne pledged £30 million towards Thomas Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge over the Thames. It was an easy offer to make towards a conspicuous piece of design by the author of the 2012 Olympic flame. Contrast this with the Education Secretary Michael Gove’s remarks about the contribution that our profession might make to schools: “We won’t be getting Richard Rogers to design your school. We won’t be getting any award-winning architects to design it, because no one in this room is here to make architects richer.”
Together, these events indicate that our government does not understand our profession. Genius minds may be called upon to make exceptional contributions to a built environment that otherwise need not be exposed to such frivolity and impracticality. And yet, every day architects make practical decisions that lead to great buildings. It’s about time the politicians here in the UK and abroad listened to a very ‘practical’ profession.
With all the controversy surrounding Diller Scofidio +Renfro (DSR) and MoMA’s decision to demolish the American Folk Art Museum to make way for expansion, DS+R has increasingly come under fire (indeed, even DS+R’s democratizing move to make the MoMA’s sculpture garden accessible to the public has provoked considerable ire). In the following article, which originally appeared on Metropolis as “Damage Control,” critic and author Martin Pedersen questions: why didn’t DS+R just walk away?
A few weeks ago, in the wake of MoMA’s decision to raze the Folk Art Museum, the estimable Christopher Hawthorne of the Los Angeles Times asked ; why Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DSR) didn’t simply resign the commission, rather than recommend the demolition of a building designed by their (former?) friends. At the time, I was skeptical of the suggestion. But with the onslaught of negative publicity—which will continue up until the demolition of the building and perhaps well beyond—I’m beginning to think Hawthorne was right. And right not just from a moral, ethical and historic perspective.
Inspired by the woods of Vermont, a US biotechnology startup have developed a system for using agricultural byproducts with fungal mycelium (a natural, self-assembling binder) to grow high performance insulation. Ecovative Mushroom® Insulation is seen as a viable competitor to plastic foams that can be found in both in packaging and building insulation, for which the project recently won second place in the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Challenge.
Raimund Abraham’s last project, a “stunning” design for a building atop an unused NATO missile base in Hombroich, has been realized four years after the architect’s death. At the time of his passing, Abraham was working on this project as part of a unique outdoor art complex close to Düsseldorf, Germany. A competition has now been announced to determine the future for the space which has become an “an integral part of Hombroich’s cultural sphere.”
The Architectural League of New York has announced the winners of their 32nd annual Emerging Voices awards. The coveted recognition program spotlights eight emerging practitioners in North America whose “distinct design voices” have shown the potential to influence the disciplines of architecture, landscape design, and urbanism.
“The work of each Emerging Voice represents the best of its kind, and addresses larger issues within architecture, landscape, and the built environment,” described the League. “This year, in particular, saw firms entrepreneurial in spirit, pursuing alternate forms of practice, often writing their own programs or serving as their own clients.”
This year’s eight Emerging Voices are…
As part of the Shenzhen Architecture Biennale, Finnish practice Lassila Hirvilammi Architects entered into a collaboration with Chinese architect Gigi Leung to explore the themes of copying, authenticity and knowledge transfer between cultures. Working with master craftsmen, they created two versions of the same space (each influenced by their respective cultures), intentionally blurring the line between copying and taking inspiration.
Read on for more on this lesson in sharing differing architectural understandings
The RIBA‘s recent report “City Health Check: How Design Can Save Lives and Money” looks at the relationship between city planning and public health, surveying the UK‘s 9 largest cities in a bid to improve public health and thereby save money for the National Health Service. The report includes useful information for city planners, such as the idea that in general, it is quality and not quantity of public space that is the biggest factor when it comes to encouraging people to walk instead of taking transport.
Read on for more of the results of the report – and analysis of these results – after the break