Is Bigger Better? HOK’s Acquisition of 360 Architecture and How Mergers Have Changed the Business of Design

World Expo 2020 Master Plan. Image Courtesy of HOK

International design, architecture, engineering and planning firm HOK has recently announced its plan to acquire 360 Architecture, a firm specializing in sports facility design. With HOK’s global influence and ’s expertise, the acquisition could bring about significant advances in sports facility design and expand the market reach for each firm. When it comes to the business of architecture, acquisitions such as this often enable large corporate firms to take on a wider variety of projects, giving them a competitive edge against famous designer names in the industry. But what else can we learn from the growth of the world’s largest firms?

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Invisible Solar Harvesting Technology Becomes Reality

Solar power with a view: MSU doctoral student Yimu Zhao holds up a transparent luminescent solar concentrator module. Image © Yimu Zhao

Solar harvesting systems don’t need to be glaringly obvious. In fact, now they can even be invisible, thanks to researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) who have developed a transparent luminescent solar concentrator (LSC) that can be applied to windows or anything else with a clear surface.

LSC technology is nothing new, but the transparent aspect is. Previous attempts yielded inefficient results with brightly colored materials, and as researcher Richard Lunt, an assistant professor of chemical engineering and science at MSU, puts it, “No one wants to sit behind colored glass.” To learn how Lunt and the rest of the research team achieved transparency, keep reading after the break.

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What Gentrification Really Is, and How We Can Avoid It

Photo of Noe Valley, a low-density, high-income neighborhood, by Allan Ferguson

is seen as a rising menace in many cities. The process whereby rich “gentrifiers” move into neighborhoods, driving up property prices and thus driving out those unable to afford those prices, has drawn criticism from activists and planners for years. However, this article by writer Annalee Newitz, first published by io9 as “This is What Gentrification Really Is“, tells us that the issue is not quite the struggle between good and evil that it first appears to be. Gentrification is a process dependent on economy, political climate, and the mercurial nature of urban development itself – and sometimes fighting against it only serves to exacerbate the problem. Find out what we can do in the face of gentrification after the break.

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Rem Koolhaas Sheds Light on Lagos

In this interview conducted by the Brigtje van der Haak maker of the documentary Lagos Wide & Close, Rem Koolhaas discusses his research on the urbanization of Nigeria‘s largest city, . While this research is as yet unpublished, Koolhaas discusses external influences on the city’s , how his visits have affected his view of the profession, and Lagos’ future potential. The documentary by van der Haak, released on DVD in 2004, is an interactive exploration of Lagos from a multitude of scales. Now, it has been adapted for the web, and can be viewed in its entirety here!

Wicker Man: An Interview with Salvador Gilabert of EMBT

The Spanish Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo

As one of EMBT‘s Directors, Salvador Gilabert has helped guide the realization of some of the practice’s biggest projects in recent years – including as project director of Spain’s 2010 Shanghai Expo Pavilion and the recently completed Barajas Social Housing Block.

Last month, he took a week out of his schedule to lead a project at Hello Wood, where – with an and intensity that was almost out of place in the relaxing surroundings of the Hungarian countryside – he led a group of students to construct an ambitious, screw-free elevated platform that emerged from a cluster of trees and offered views of the setting sun. ArchDaily caught up with Salvador Gilabert during the week to find out more about his work.

Read on after the break for the full interview

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NBBJ Creates High Tech Shading System for Buildings

Courtesy of

International architecture firm NBBJ has created Sunbreak, a new prototype for user-controlled sunshades that will not only lower energy costs, but also give buildings a dynamic appearance throughout the day.

Technology currently exists for automatically regulating solar gains in buildings, but the downside to these systems is that they often lack manual controls, and one of the most common complaints heard from workers in modern office buildings is that they do not have enough control over their environment. Automatic sunshades go up or down based on the time of day but if it happens to be cloudy outside or if users want natural light in a room when the shades are down there may be nothing they can do.

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Excavating the Sky: Syria’s Contemporary Landscape at Monditalia

Courtesy of Khaled Malas

From August 12-15, architects, filmmakers and activists from Syria and the Arab World gathered in the Arsenale at the 2014 Venice Biennale for “excavating the sky,” a four-day event focusing on Syria and the production of its contemporary landscape from before WWI until today. The event took place in the context of the Monditalia exhibition and one of its key components was a “displaced pavilion” in Syria – a recently dug well providing water for a community of 15,000 people.

“As you know, Syria is currently undergoing a profound, and often violent, transformation, much of which is difficult to fully comprehend. It is my belief that does play a role in this conflict, and that architects, with their disciplinary tools, must act more meaningfully and creatively in these struggles in/of space,” Khaled Malas, a Syrian architect and organizer of “excavating the sky,” told ArchDaily. “The ‘displaced pavilion’, in the form of a water-well, is an active embodiment of these struggles and our responsible participation as a discipline amongst those who have suffered years of neglect followed by war.”

To represent the “displaced pavilion” at , a banner with a drawing of the well was hung in the Aresenale.

Read on after the break to learn more about the other key components of the event and the significance behind its name…

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Studio CTC Imagines Terraced Twin Skyscrapers in Hong Kong

©

Skyscrapers have developed a typical form language over the past century—many of them are large, rectangular, and sheathed in glass, but Studio CACHOUA TORRES CAMILLETTI is changing that. Working with the notion that even superstructures should be as varied as the cities they’re built in, the Mexican design firm has created a spectacular vision for a skyscraper in Hong Kong. With two curvilinear towers that support rice paddies on their terraces, the proposal includes cultural context in the very structure of the building.

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Interview with Qi Xin of Qi Xin Architects and Engineers

Olympic Park Siheyuan / . Image © Pier Alessio Rizzardi

is not important. You can make a microclimate or situation, but you cannot have more influence about life or the urban situation, it’s just a very small operation you are working on, and you cannot control the situation of the city.. But even if you are just working on a single object here, you can always try to have more or less a positive influence on the city, you can always contribute in your way to the city, to the citizens. But in a larger view it’s not that important; it’s you or somebody else. The people are happy or not, their happiness is not relying on your .” – Qi Xin, Beijing, 2013

Shedding light on topics from China‘s rapid urbanization to the issue of copycat architecture, this interview of Chinese architect Qi Xin conducted by Pier Alessio Rizzardi questions the role of architecture in Chinese society, and reveals the mindset of the modern Chinese architect. Qi Xin’s answers challenge many of the myths surrounding Chinese architecture, often through one-line gems such as “what is permanent for Chinese people is the spirit, not material,” and “the most important thing is that we don’t know where we are going… we are making the future cities.”

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A City Without Cars: New York’s Recovery from Automobile Dominance

© Flickr CC User Healey McFabulous

Originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “Playing in Traffic“, this article by Jack Hockenberry delves into the relationship between man and vehicle, illustrating the complex dynamic created in New York – a city with over 2.1 Million registered vehicles. Contrary to the car-centric schemes of New York’s infamous former Master Planner Robert Moses, Hockenberry argues that the city is the “negative space” while vehicles are obscured by our unconscious. 

It is a curiosity of modern urban life that the more cars crowd into cities, the more they become invisible. It’s a great feature that comes standard on any model these days. Unfortunately we can’t control it from the driver’s seat—however much we would like to wave our hands and watch through our windshields as gridlocked cars disappear, liberating us from traffic imprisonment. The invisibility I am speaking about only works if you’re a pedestrian or bicyclist. The number of motorized vehicles parked or driving at any given moment on the streets of New York City is astounding. An estimated 2.1 million are registered in the city, according to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Yet we never fully register them visually when we’re walking on the streets. The city is the negative space and that is how our eyes increasingly navigate urban landscapes. Everything around the cars and trucks gets knitted together by the eye and, even though the vehicles are present, we have gradually learned to ignore them unless we’re standing in the direct line of moving traffic.

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Bjarke Ingels Lays Foundation Brick at LEGO House

BIG‘s LEGO House is now under construction, following a one of a kind foundation laying ceremony featuring – what else – supersized  bricks. Bjarke Ingels himself was in attendance to lay one of the foundation bricks. Constructed in LEGO‘s hometown of Billund, Denmark, the LEGO House will be a 12,000 square metre “hands-on minds-on experience centre.”

More on the LEGO House, and the foundation laying ceremony, after the break

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A New Architectural Style for the Age of the Individual

MVRDV’s Silodam in Amsterdam. Image © Flickr CC User pnwbot

As modernist architects broke free from vernacular and developed a homogenized international style, many created sterile spaces and places out of touch with the decorative warmth of historical forms of human inhabitation. Negative reactions to the brutality of Modernist spaces encouraged architectural movements such as post-modernism and deconstructivism, but these never managed to usurp the rational modernist box as a dominant architectural paradigm.

However, the intended machine-like precision of these buildings has often become unintentionally humanized over time, through the addition of curtains, coloring, or even through accidental breakage and imperfect repairs or alterations. I believe that building on the successes and failures of has spawned a new and previously unclassified architectural style: Pixelism. Find out what this new phenomenon is after the break.

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State of Exception: Spacelab’s Weekend Monditalia Special

Courtesy of Spacelab

From August 23-24, Italian firm Spacelab’s State of Exception curatorial project will be featured at the Monditalia section of the 2014 Venice Biennale. State of Exception will involve 12 intellectuals, designers and bloggers in a two-day round table discussion on the themes of the project: conservation and the state of exception, looking both within and outside Italy. The innovative event also seeks to generate involvement and discussion beyond the walls of the Arsenale, and will feature an open call for images representing the event’s core themes via Instagram and Twitter.

As one of the countries with the most significant historic and natural heritage in the world, Italy implemented bodies and strict regulations for its over a century ago. “But conservation for conservation spawned two paradoxes: on the one hand the unruly entropic drift for anything that is not covered by the rules of . On the other hand, autistic immobility within the enclaves of conservation, which don’t allow the freshness and openness to the differences that have always marked the history of Italian architecture,” Spacelab writes in a project description. Through State of Exception, Spacelab seeks “to promote ‘ad absurdum’ arguments regarding Italy’s problematic relationship with its context and its historical legacy,” bringing attention to these issues both inside and outside Italy.

For more details on State of Exception and to find out how you can contribute images, read on after the break…

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25 Free Architecture Books You Can Read Online

If you don’t have access to an library (and even if you do), sifting through shelves can take hours. Buying books can be even more painful — for your wallet, at least. Instead, why not browse this list of 25 books that are all free and easily accessible online? Some are well-known classics of , but we hope you find a few surprises as well.

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34 Football Fields of Museums: Rem Koolhaas Talks at the Galeries Lafayette

“I feel a misfit in my own time,” says Rem Koolhaas, setting the tone. Seated in soon-to-be renovated Galeries Lafayette in Paris, Koolhaas bares all intellectually through the course of his lecture. As founder of Rotterdam-based OMA with a worldwide practice, candid conversations with Koolhaas are rare. The discussion provides a glimpse into the creative process of one of the world’s leading architects and current Curator of the Venice Biennale of Architecture. Koolhaas confides in the audience from the outset, admitting his discomfort with current architecture. “From the inside of my current condition, I feel profoundly out of step with the contemporary situation,” says Koolhaas, adding ”I’m very annoyed by the contemporary belief in comfort as the ultimate virtue.”

Read on after the break for more summary of the fascinating lecture

Koolhaas stands at the intersection of art and architecture, deliberating on the evolution of museum design. Using the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern by Herzog & de Meuron as an example, Koolhaas states: “In order to fill spaces like this, artists are forced into an apocalyptic mode as only very strong emotions register – this is not a space you can fill with delicacy.” Koolhaas’ solution to the apocalyptic problem can be found in his recent design for the renovation of Galeries Lafayette, a heritage protected building in Paris with zero tolerance for structural modification. The design calls for movable floors installed in a steel-framed courtyard – the only intervention available in the listed building. “The beauty of is that it begins with acknowledging that another architecture is worth keeping,” concludes Koolhaas.

China’s “City-Making Process”: Investors’ Power in the People’s Republic

Real estate in Shanghai. Image © Pier Alessio Rizzardi

The world is looking at the urban machine of Chinese cities, at the newly founded theme-cities and at the new urban economic investment areas around the cities. The buildings are repetitive, the areas are sometimes uninhabited, but the thing that leaves urban planners, architects and the public amazed is that these buildings are often completely sold out even before they are completed.

To buy these freshly constructed residences takes money, and over the last three decades the Chinese economic miracle served precisely to grow the per capita income. The reform of the economic system in 1978 was the driving force that triggered the mechanism of capital production. The reform led to millions of people migrating to the cities from the underdeveloped west of the country in search of higher salaries and a well-founded hope of revolutionizing their economic existence.

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Beyond Ruin Porn: What’s Behind Our Obsession with Decay?

Historic mill city in downtown Minneapolis. Image Courtesy of Flickr CC License / Joey Lax-Salinas

Lately, architects are sharing an increasing captivation with ruins. As our technologies for envisioning the buildings of the future become ever-more accurate – enabling us not only to walk through, hover over, and inhabit walls, but also to calculate exact quantities of , structural load capacities and costs – our fascination for ruin, a process that is governed by laws of nature and time in a manner that is spatially unpredictable and rarely uniform, has also seen a rise in popularity.

Blogs such as Ruin Porn, Abandoned America and Architecture of Doom draw from a recent sub-genre of photography, identified as ‘ruins photography’ or ‘ruin porn’. While buildings can go into decay for many reasons, these images tend to focus on urban decay, especially in cities such as Detroit, Chicago and Berlin, which saw a surge of industrialization in the last century that has since dwindled.

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Video: The Elevated London That Almost Was

Inspired by an article written by Michael Hebbert in 1993, Chris Bevan Lee’s forty minute documentary explores the elevated post-war infrastructural redevelopment of the City of , fragments of which still stand across the square mile today. The Pedway: Elevating London examines London planners’ attempt to build an ambitious network of elevated walkways through the city that largely never saw completion. In a carefully produced film those ’pedways’ that remain are photographed and discussed as symbols of a utopia that almost was.

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