Opinion: It Doesn’t Matter Who Owns Public Plazas

The dramatic entrance to the Richard Rogers-designed Leadenhall Building in London ostensibly invites pedestrians walking on the ground-level public plaza upwards. The building, however, is not so easily accessed. Image © Flickr CC User Matt Brown

When it comes to , many assume that while truly is always good, “privately owned ” is always bad. However, in this article originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “A Plaza is No Guarantee of Democracy,” NBBJ’s Carl Yost argues that the distinction is not so binary. As architects, it’s our job to smooth over the difference between the two, while we’re at work – but most importantly while we’re not.

The past few months have seen the opening of high-profile projects with contested public space. The Leadenhall Building, London’s “Cheesegrater,” rises above a public plaza that the Financial Times called “problematic,” with “an astonishing array of defensive measures to make it clear that while it may be open to the public, it is still ours” (that is, the landlord’s). In New York, the World Trade Center plaza has taken fire from critics, both domestic and international, who chafe at restrictions on visitors’ behavior.

It evokes the debate over “privately owned public space,” or POPS, that arose during Occupy Wall Street, when protesters camped out in Zuccotti Park, a Lower Manhattan plaza that is privately owned by Brookfield Office Properties yet must remain open to the public. Many rightly pointed out the restrictions that POPS pose to free speech and assembly, when owners can evict people they consider unwelcome.

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A+U Interviews Co-Founders of Google[x] Startup, Flux

A+u magazine was recently granted an exclusive interview with the co-founders of Flux, the [x] startup whose mission is to harness data to automate architectural and urban design. The discussion is one of 14 essays and interviews from leading urban technologists in the current November issue, Data-Driven Cities.

“We began our exploration with the premise that buildings and the sustainability of our modern lifestyle are deeply intertwined. In addition, buildings – more specifically, housing – is an issue of human dignity. We wanted to find ways to apply Google-scale thinking to tackle these important issues,” says co-founder Nicholas Chim in the interview.

Read on after the break for a+u magazine’s full interview with Flux co-founders, Nicholas Chim and Michelle Kaufmann. And check out the November issue of a+u magazine, available in digital and print editions, which features new essays by Carlo Ratti (MIT), Dan Hill (City of Sound), Alastair Parvin (Wikihouse) and more.

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Audi Urban Future Award 2014: Transforming Urban Mobility Through “Data Donors”

© Audi Urban Future Iniative

Every two years Audi hosts the Audi Urban Future Award (AUFA), which challenges cities from different parts of the world to investigate future mobility trends and come up with innovative solutions. This year AUFA selected Mexico City, Boston, Berlin and Seoul to participate in the challenge and respond to the question: how will data shape mobility in the megacities of the future? These four groups were asked to create a vision for how their city could use data in a strategic way, taking into consideration innovative energy solutions, sustainability, feasibility and the potential for their ideas to be implemented in other cities.

Mexico City’s team took home first place with their “operative system for urban mobility,” which centered around a data platform that cities can use to structure their urban traffic planning. Their system was also based around the idea that citizens themselves can become “data donors” and use the system to make informed decisions on how they move about the city. The team was comprised of architect and urbanist José Castillo, researcher and the city government’s experimental lab “.”

Learn more about the winning project after the break.

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Surface Mag Interviews Liz Diller on Architecture, Art, and Early “Aha” Moments

© Ungano + Agriodima

Below is an excerpt of the cover story of this month’s Surface magazine: an in-depth interview with Elizabeth Diller, published online for the first time here on ArchDaily.

The 35-year career of Elizabeth Diller, a founding partner of the New York–based architecture studio Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is a study of contrasts: conceptual and pragmatic, temporary and permanent, iconoclastic and institutional. After graduating from Cooper Union in 1979, Diller started her practice mounting temporary installations with her partner and future husband, Ricardo Scofidio, their interests leaning closer to art and theory than conventional buildings and construction. Today the duo—along with Charles Renfro, who became a partner in 2004—is responsible for some of the most important architectural projects in the country. DS+R counts Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art (completed in 2006) and a makeover of New York’s Lincoln Center (finalized in 2012) among its highest-profile works. Especially influential, at least among architects and academics, has been the firm’s unbuilt Slow House (1991), a proposal for a residence on Long Island, New York, renowned for its examination of how we see in a media-saturated world.

One notices sharp contrasts not just in the firm’s work history but in its public reception as well. Widely lauded for repurposing a dilapidated elevated railway into New York City’s beloved High Line park (the third phase opened in September), DS+R received heavy criticism this year for its involvement in a major expansion proposal for the Museum of Modern Art. The museum’s plans included the demolition of its little-guy neighbor, the American Folk Art Museum; despite efforts to work the idiosyncratic building into the design scheme, Diller’s studio, hired to lead the expansion, ultimately acknowledged that the structure couldn’t be saved.

Surface recently met with Diller at her office in Manhattan to speak about the ensuing controversy, as well as early career experiences that have influenced her firm’s recent commissions for cultural institutions, including the current exhibition “Musings on a Glass Box” at the Cartier Foundation in Paris (through Feb. 25, 2015), a collaboration with composer David Lang and sound designer Jody Elff. Diller, 60, is pensive and surprisingly relaxed for someone whose aides are constantly interrupting her to remind her of meetings she has to attend. She speaks with an erudite inflection befitting her academic credentials and professional accolades (she is, after all, a professor at Princeton and a MacArthur “genius grant” recipient), though she smiles with the ease of an affable neighbor.

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AD Classics: Kuwait National Assembly Building / Jørn Utzon

Covered plaza. Image © Jeffrey van der Wees

No single building typology reveals as much about a nation’s political culture as the seat of its government. Parliamentary or palatial structures can tell stories of bureaucratic sprawl, autocratic excess, democratic openness, and anything in between. Kuwait’s National Assembly Building, the home of its popularly elected legislature, is no exception. Much like the nominally-democratic, effectively-oligarchic government it hosts, the building projects conflicting messages of accessibility and regionalist modernity, referencing traditions that don’t necessarily exist in the country and sometimes ending up in direct contradiction with itself. As an emblem of political culture, the building is thus perhaps too accurate in its reading of the Kuwaiti story, yielding a revealing insight into the complex political fabric of the country through its own eclectic bricolage of ideas.

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Video: Ole Scheeren on Height and Density

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In this interview, conducted by the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, Ole Scheeren discusses the ideal height for sustainable buildings. Drawing reference from two of his projects, MahaNakhon and The Interlace, he speaks to the difference between height and density, and how those two interplay when creating livable spaces in urban areas. He goes on to talk about how large buildings such as skyscrapers can be made more open to the surrounding city, both visually through programming. Watch the full clip above!

How Serendipity Helped Make 22-Year-Old Pedro E Guerrero FLW’s Favorite Photographer

Robert Llewellyn Wright House. Image © 2014 Archives

What does it take for a 22-year-old art school drop-out to start a lifelong professional relationship with “the greatest American architect of all time”? Originally published by Curbed as “How a 22-Year-Old Became Wright’s Trusted Photographer,” this article reveals that for Pedro E. Guerrero, it took some guts and a lot of luck – but once they were working together this unlikely pairing was a perfect match.

When Frank Lloyd Wright hired Pedro E. Guerrero to photograph Taliesin West in 1939, neither knew it would lead to one of the most important relationships in architectural history. Wright was 72 and had already been on the cover of Time for Fallingwater. Guerrero was a 22-year-old art school drop-out. Their first meeting was prompted by Guerrero’s father, a sign painter who vaguely knew Wright from the neighborhood and hoped the architect would offer his son a job. Any job.

Young Guerrero had the chutzpah to introduce himself to the famous architect as a “photographer.” In truth, he hadn’t earned a nickel. “I had the world’s worst portfolio, including a shot of a dead pelican,” Guerrero said later. “But I also had nudes taken on the beach in Malibu. This seemed to capture Wright’s interest.”

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Reflections on the 2014 Venice Biennale

Fundamentals (Central Pavilion): Ceiling. Image © David Levene

Fundamentals, the title of the 2014 Venice Biennale, will close its doors in a matter of days (on the 23rd November). From the moment revealed the title for this year’s Biennale in January 2013, asking national curators to respond directly to the theme of ‘Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014’, there was an inkling that this Biennale would be in some way special. Having rejected offers to direct the Biennale in the past, the fact that Koolhaas chose to act not only as curator but also thematic co-ordinator of the complete international effort, was significant. This announcement led Peter Eisenman (one of Koolhaas’ earliest tutors and advocates) to state in one interview that “[Rem is] stating his end: the end of [his] career, the end of [his] hegemony, the end of [his] mythology, the end of everything, the end of architecture.”

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“Hypotopia”: Architecture as a Vehicle for Political Action

© Armin Walcher

In the wake of the global financial crisis, banking scandals and government bailouts have made countless news headlines around the world. With such large sums of taxpayer money being funneled to the troubled financial sector, ordinary individuals are left to wonder how it will affect their own lives. But how can an entire country rise up and make their voices heard when it is nearly impossible to understand the magnitude of such an injustice? In Austria, a group of innovative students from the Technical University of Vienna set out to answer this question and have taken to a new form of in order to make the consequences of one Europe’s largest financial scandals in recent history a tangible reality.

To demonstrate the €19 billion price tag of ’s recent bailout of Hypo-Alpe-Adria, students designed and built a scale model of a fictional city called “Hypotopia,” a portmanteau of the bank’s name and “utopia.” According to Lukas Zeilbauer, “while utopia stands for an ideal fictitious world, ‘hypo’ is a Greek word meaning under, beneath or bellow – so a change coming from the bottom, from the folk.” Embodying an idealistic society with plentiful renewable resources and public education for people of all ages, the model city would theoretically contain 102,574 inhabitants, making it the sixth largest city in Austria.

Read on after the break to find out how an architecture model has drawn international attention and propelled an entire country to take action.

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TED Talk: How MASS Design Group Gave the Word “Architecture” a Meaning in Rwanda

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In one of the eight talks that make up the TED Prize-winning City2.0, MASS Design Group Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Alan Ricks explains how MASS designed and built the Butaro Hospital in Rwanda, in 2008 when ”there wasn’t even a word for ‘architect’” in Kinyarwanda, the national language. Now thanks in part to their work, and the commitment of the many MASS Design Fellows in the area, Rwanda has a more formalized market for architectural services and even a new architecture program at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology.

Through anecdotes and testimonials from others involved (including everyone from the hospital gardener to Rwanda’s Minister for Health), Ricks demonstrates that no matter what the context, architecture can and should find opportunities in the local environment that bring not only health benefits but also economic benefits, jobs and even dignity.

13 Projects Win Regional Holcim Awards 2014 for Asia Pacific

GOLD: “Protective Wing” Bird Sanctuary . Image © Holcim Foundation

Teams from Thailand and New York have received top honors in the 2014 regional Holcim Awards for Asia Pacific, an award which recognizes the most innovative and advanced sustainable construction designs. Among the top three winners are the “Protective Wing” bird sanctuary and a locally-adapted orphanage and library in Nepal.

The 13 recognized projects will share over $300,000 in prize money, with the top three projects overall going on to be considered for the global , to be selected in 2015.

The full list of Asia Pacific winners, after the break…

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The World’s 10 Tallest New Buildings of 2015

The following list, originally published on BuzzBuzzHome, is based on data from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the recognized authority on skyscraper height. 

With the number of officially “tall” buildings — at least 656 feet (200 meters) — doubling over the next ten years, and the number of “megatall” buildings — at least 1,969 feet (600 meters) — expected to jump from two to 10 by 2020, building construction around the world is literally reaching new heights.

Indeed, next year alone 10 new  of at least 1,110 feet (338 meters) will be completed. They are 2015′s tallest buildings…

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AD Interviews: Mohsen Mostafavi / Harvard GSD

During his recent trip to Chile, organized by the Harvard David Rockefeller Center For Latin American Studies, we caught up with the Dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD), Mohsen Mostafavi, to see what challenges he thinks are facing the future of architecture education and to learn more about his work on ecological urbanism.

“[Architecture is] both a singular discipline, but at the same time it needs to be a collaborative discipline. It’s at once focusing on disciplinary knowledge but at the same time trans-disciplinary practicing; therefore it means that architectural education has to find new venues for collaboration,” he said.

“I think the GSD is very well-positioned to address key societal issues today because first, we’re a very multidisciplinary school in the sense that we believe strongly both in the focus of individual disciplines like architecture, but also on the inter-relationship between architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning and urban design. ”

Watch the full interview above to see what else Mostafavi had to say about architecture school, the role of architecture in society and ecological urbanism.

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100 Resilient Cities: How the Rockefeller Foundation is Addressing Resiliency on a Global Scale

’s proposed Hoboken Waterfront for the “Rebuild by Design” competition, which focused on resilience, sustainability and livability. Image Courtesy of

Resiliency has become a keyword when it comes to city planning and development, so much so that former AIA president, Clark Manus, declared last year that “resilience is the new Green.” To address resiliency on a global level and help cities around the world become more resilient to social, economic and physical challenges, The Rockefeller Foundation kicked off its 100 Resilient Cities Challenge in 2013. Under the initiative,100 cities will be selected to be part of the challenge, where they will receive help and funding to hire a Chief Resilience Officer and assistance in developing and implementing a resilience strategy.

So far 33 cities have been selected and last week the first-ever Chief Resilience Officer summit was held in New Orleans. To learn more about the summit in New Orleans, the overall initiative, and how cities can become more resilient, we spoke with President of 100 Resilient Cities, Michael Berkowitz, who said: “When you think about what makes a resilient city, you have to think in holistic terms. The reality is that resilience building is a multi-sector, multi-level kind of enterprise.”

Read the full interview with Berkowitz after the break

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Get to Grips with Guggenheim Helsinki’s Record-Breaking Competition with this Infographic Video

By now, when the design competition for the Guggenheim Helsinki is mentioned, one number probably comes to mind: 1,715, the record-breaking number of submissions which the competition received. But how can this number be put into perspective? Why, with more numbers of course. Take 5,769 for example, which is the total height in meters of all the A1 presentation boards arranged vertically. Or take 18,336,780, the estimated value in Euros of all the work submitted.

Check out this great video from Taller de Casquería, which gives a rundown of all of the mind-blowing statistics generated by the competition, and concludes with this strong message to the Guggenheim itself: “These are incredible figures that show the impact that the Foundation has throughout the world…  should document this to recognize their success in helping to shape a global community, dedicated to visual culture.”

AD Classics: Geisel Library / William L. Pereira & Associates

© Darren Bradley

The alien form of the Geisel Library at the University of California, seems befitting of a backdrop from a science fiction movie. The building occupies a fascinating nexus between brutalism and futurism that its architect, William Pereira, intrepidly pursued throughout his career. With its strong concrete piers and hovering glassy enclosures, the library beautifully occupies an ambiguous state between massiveness and levitation, as if the upper stories have only just been set into their base and can be lifted back out at any moment. The tension between these two conditions gives the library an otherworldly appearance and provides a startling statement about the generative and imaginative power of the architect.

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AR Issues: Architecture Has Nothing in Common with Luxury Goods

Courtesy of The Architectural Review

ArchDaily is continuing our partnership with The Architectural Review, bringing you short introductions to the themes of the magazine’s monthly editions. In this editorial from AR’s November 2014 issue, AR Editor Catherine Slessor uses the opening of Frank Gehry’s Fondation Louis Vuitton as occasion to examine the split that has developed within the architectural profession, musing “On how architecture can be either manifestation of vanity or source of social transformation.”

One of the most depressing illustrations of how far architecture has lost its grip on reality is Frank Gehry’s new handbag. Along with other selected ‘iconoclasts’ from the world of fashion, art and design, Gehry was tasked by French luxury goods purveyor Louis Vuitton to design a bespoke limited edition ‘piece’. Gehry’s new Fondation Louis Vuitton has just opened in Paris and he is the man of the hour, so it seems obvious that after designing a monumental repository for contemporary art, he should turn his hand to the trifling matter of a fashion accessory. The handbag is yours for £2490. The art museum is yours for around £100 million, though some speculate that it cost much, much more.

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ARCHILIFE: Hollywood Stars Chill Out in Modernist Masterpieces

Courtesy of

Federico Babina is back, this time bringing some cinematic life to the world’s most well known modernist interiors with ARCHILIFE. ”I have never liked the lack of life in the architectural representations that are often aseptic, clean and neutral,” explains Babina. “I often enjoy imagining what life would be like in these static images.”

The images show history’s most famous film stars living out their daily routines in some of our favorite homes, bringing “the banality of everyday life” to these myths of both Architecture and Cinema. “We are used to perceiving and reading architecture as a set of almost metaphysical spaces. In a similar way we see the actors as characters and not as people,” he says. “I wanted to try to reverse these patterns: to transform the interior into ‘houses’ and the actors into ‘people’.”

From Marilyn and Mies to Caine and Kahn, the stars get a home to match their temperament, in which to relax, watch TV, meditate – and yes, to clean and tidy too.

See the full set of 17 ARCHILIFE images after the break – and just in case you missed them, check out Federico Babina‘s other popular illustration sets: ARCHIWINDOWARTISTECTARCHISET, ARCHIMACHINE, ARCHIPORTRAITARCHISTARCHIBET and ARCHICINE.

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