AD Classics: Bibliotheca Alexandrina / Snøhetta

Courtesy of Snøhetta

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina on Egypt’s Mediterranean Coast is a spectacular, state-of-the-art facility with an unresolved architectural identity. Commissioned in 1989 as a contemporary resurrection of the fabled Library at Alexandria once venerated throughout the ancient world, the present building was intended to serve as a city’s connection to history and heritage. But its stark modernity and technological innovations make it decidedly more forward-looking than historically referential, a cosmopolitan exploration of form and engineering perhaps longing for a stronger sense of regional belonging.

To some critics, the library has political overtones that obfuscate its architectural message, at worst acting as a monument to political posturing whose utility and conceptual integrity is only of secondary concern. And while critical scrutiny of the project necessitates its political and socio-historical contextualization, the building’s architecture—the competition-winning design submitted by Norwegian firm Snøhetta—is worth appreciating and evaluating as an autonomous object and as a precedent for contemporary library design.

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Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Victims Honored with “Memorial in the Sky”

First Place: William Smith, Hiroshi Kaneko (US, Team 749421). Image Courtesy of matterbetter

The winners of matterbetter’s international Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) Memorial and Park ideas competition have been announced. Attracting 293 submissions worldwide, the competition hoped to inspire a new memorial park and public space, free from the political overtone, at the Marine Establissement site in the center of Amsterdam that could be used as a place for remembrance, ceremonies, recreation, and private gatherings in honor of ’s victims.

MH17 was a scheduled international passenger flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur that was shot down near the Ukraine–Russia border on July 17, 2014, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew members on board. You can view all 10 winning proposals, after the break.

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Architecture Criticism By the People, For the People: The Films of Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine

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Selected as one of Metropolis Magazine’s Game Changers for 2015, Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine are altering the face of architectural criticism thanks to one simple premise: you don’t need to be an expert to have an opinion on the buildings you live with every day. In the following profile, originally published by Metropolis as “Game Changers 2015: Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine,” Veronique Vienne uncovers what it takes to instil such a simple idea with both subtle poignancy and razor-sharp wit.

If walls could talk, what stories would they tell, not only about our intimate selves but also about our cultural assumptions, our social interactions, and the values we cherish most? Short of getting the inside story directly from walls, filmmakers Ila Bêka, 45, and Louise Lemoine, 33, strike up conversations with that other silent cast: the people who sweep the rooms, wash the windows, fix the leaks, and change the light bulbs.

“Our goal is to democratize the highbrow language of architectural criticism,” says Bêka, an architect and filmmaker trained in Italy and France. “Free speech on the topic of architecture is not the exclusive property of experts.”

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Surface As Sculpture: Henry Moore’s Brick Reliefs In Rotterdam

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In 1954 British sculptor Henry Moore was commissioned to design and install a large wall relief into Joost Boks’ new bouwcentrum (Construction Centre) in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. The project, pieced together with approximately 16,000 hand-carved Dutch bricks, stands as the sculptor’s only work completed in the humble material. In a short documentary film produced by ARTtube, architectural historian Wouter Vanstiphout narrates the fascinating story behind Wall Relief No.1.

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Democratizing Design: Michael Graves’ Legacy On Display in the “Past as Prologue” Exhibition

Often Graves’s tableware takes on the proportions of a building. In turn, buildings are often simplified to the level of tableware. Above: Denver Central Library, South Facade (1993). Image Courtesy of Michael Graves & Associates

On show until April 5th at the Grounds for in New Jersey, Michael Graves: Past as Prologue celebrates the fifty-year career of one of the United States’ best-known and prolific architects. Graves is known for his unapologetic postmodernism which often divides opinion the profession. However in this review of the exhibition, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “Shape Shifter,” Samuel Medina finds that while it is easy to criticize in Graves’ design style, it is hard to find fault with the noble intentions underlying his work.

“It’s been fifty years of more is more,” says Karen Nichols, a principal of Michael Graves & Associates, reiterating an aphorism Graves has taken a liking to in recent years. She is standing in front of an exhibition board in the retrospective, Michael Graves: Past as Prologue, which is currently on show at the in New Jersey. Nichols joined the firm in 1977, precisely the time when her employer made the fateful and rather lucrative pivot towards Postmodernism. The text on the exhibition wall behind her pinpoints The Big Break to the same year, depicting it with two like-minded projects. The first is the built Plocek House (1977), which originated the hide-the-keystone game Graves has been playing ever since. The other, the unrealized scheme for the Fargo-Moorhead Cultural Center Bridge (1977–1978), intended to enlighten the twin midwestern communities with a dose of the Enlightenment architect Claude Nicolas Ledoux’s architecture parlante.

To hear Nichols (and Graves) tell it now, it’s as if Graves were always more Venturian than Venturi, from his earliest neo-Corbusian villas, up through the pedimented temple he built for Disney in 1988. The truth is, Graves—the Cubist, the classicist, and the caricaturist—has always had a hard time saying “No.”

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Video: Tour Through Mons International Congress Xperience with Daniel Libeskind

In light of the recent opening of Mons International Congress Xperience (MICX), Daniel Libeskind hosted a private tour through the conference center, explaining his thinking behind the building’s expressive form. The experience was captured on this short film by Spirit of Space with the intention to open the discussion up to a larger audience.

The building, an important new landmark in the Belgium city of Mons, is described by Libeskind as “an expression of contrasting geometric forms.” Aside form providing function and “lively” spaces for auditoria and conference use, the building aims to be “a hinge between the old city and the new.”

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Architecture vs. PR: The Media Motivations of the Guggenheim Helsinki

One of the finalists in the Guggenheim competition. Image Courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultants

More than ever, the media shapes architecture. The controversial Helsinki Guggenheim competition is as much about the use and exploitation of contemporary media as it is about design. The competition organisers are hugely proud to have over 1,700 entries to tweet about, but informed critics are less impressed. Has quantity ever guaranteed quality?

The competition has certainly created an impact. Some celebrate this, while others feel it has been detrimental to the profession, with so much unpaid time invested resulting in a low-level contribution to museum design.

Meanwhile, the spectre of Frank Gehry’s Bilbao Guggenheim, an “iconic” building that gave the American foundation so much positive publicity when it opened in 1997, haunts the Helsinki project. Finnish politicians hope for a similar success, a Sydney Opera postcard effect in this remote corner of the earth.

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MVRDV and Interior Urbanism: An Interview With Winy Maas

Markthal . Image © Daria Scagliola+Stijn Brakkee

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, one of the major changes within cities around the world has been the rise of so-called “privately-owned public space,” a development which has attracted the attention of many urbanists and is still being widely debated. However, for MONU Magazine, the increasing prevalence (and arguably, acceptance) of such privately owned spaces for public use gives us an opportunity to discuss another aspect of public space: interior urbanism. With the rise of the shopping mall and the increasingly diverse functions required by buildings such as libraries, interior spaces now resemble exterior public spaces more and more.

The following interview is an excerpt from the 21st issue of MONU Magazine, in which MONU’s Bernd Upmeyer and Beatriz Ramo interview MVRDV founder Winy Maas, discussing the concept of interior urbanism in the work of MVRDV, in particular in their Rotterdam Markthal, Glass Farm and Book Mountain projects.

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2015 ArchDaily Building of the Year Awards: The Finalists

After an exciting week of nominations, ArchDaily’s readers have evaluated over 3,000 projects and selected 5 finalists in each category of the Award.

Similar to last year, over 18,000 architects and enthusiasts participated in the nomination process, expressing what architecture means to them by highlighting the buildings that have inspired them the most.

This year’s finalists represent a diverse group of projects, coming from all corners of the globe and from firms of different sizes and trajectories. Yet they all capture architecture’s capacity to improve people’s lives.

Remember that the firm behind the overall most voted project will receive an HP T520 Designjet T520 ePrinter, and the second and third most voted practices will receive an HP T120 Designjet ePrinter.

The winners of the two iPads from the nomination stage are: Linda Hinderdael (iPad Mini) and Sylvia Robert (iPad Air). We’re also going to give away two more iPads to our readers during the final voting stage so be sure to vote!

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Augmented Reality App “Lego X” Simplifies 3D Modeling

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Imagine forgoing time-intensive 3D modeling programs to instead create 3D printable models by playfully stacking sensored LEGO bricks. This reality isn’t far from fruition, as the London-based studio Gravity has released plans for an augmented reality app that uses location-mapping and gyroscopic sensors to generate digital (and scalable) models of your creation in realtime. The program, “” uses an algorithm to intuitively smooth out edges and join corners, allowing for easy modifying and seamless 3D printing.

See the program in action, after the break. 

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2015 Wood Design Award Winners Announced

Burr Burton Academy Mountain Campus / Bensonwood + Annette Dey, PE  © Marvin Windows

The 2015 winners of the Wood Design Awards have been announced at the Bay Area Solutions Fair in Oakland, California. Presented by WoodWorks, an initiative of the Wood Products Council, the seek to “recognize extraordinary buildings that exemplify not only wood’s beauty, but the versatility and structural performance attributes that make it such an interesting material to architects and engineers.”

The Wood Design Awards celebrate excellence in nine categories at both regional and national levels. See the winning designs for 2015 after the break.

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Michael Sorkin On The Guggenheim, Museum Culture, and “The Next Helsinki” Competition

Finalist: GH-121371443. Image Courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultants

Aside from attracting a huge level of media interest, the record-breaking competition to design the Museum’s planned outpost in Helsinki also generated a significant level of criticism – not least from Michael Sorkin and his collaborators, who launched a counter-competition seeking alternative suggestions for how the site could be used. In this article, originally published on Metropolis Magazine as “‘We Mean to Be Provocateurs’: Michael Sorkin on the Next Helsinki Competition,” Zachary Edelson interviews Sorkin on his reaction to the Guggenheim’s shortlist, his hopes for his own competition, and the critical role that museums play in the worlds of both art and architecture.

The reverberations of the Bilbao Effect, where a prize museum infuses a region with prosperity and global cache, have concentrated on an unlikely city: the Finnish capital of Helsinki.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is famous for its Fifth Avenue museum, but its 1997 Frank Gehry-designed Bilbao outpost famously catapulted its small Basque host city to new levels of international renown. The city’s tourism revenue quickly helped recoup the museum’s extensive costs: $100 million for design and construction, subsidies towards a $12 million annual budget, $50 million for an acquisitions fund, and $20 million to the Guggenheim for its name, curatorial services, and the use of parts of its collection. Within three years, visitors’ spending had garnered $110 million and by 2013 more than 1 million had entered the gleaming metallic structure. Many have tried to replicate Bilbao’s success but opposition against such massive expenditures always looms. In this case, it has manifested in a rival competition led by New York-based architect and writer Michael Sorkin and titled The Next Helsinki.

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Aaron Betsky Appointed New Dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture

The School of Architecture’s Main Campus at Taliesin West. Image © Flickr User: lumierefl

Critic, curator and educator has been announced the new dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Betsky will assume his role immediately, taking over responsibilities regarding the School’s academic programs, personnel, students, finances, and character, as well as relations with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s broader programs.

“I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to continue the work that for so long made Taliesin into a workshop for reinventing American architecture,” said Betsky. “I look forward to continuing its traditions and making the School into the best experimental school of architecture in the country.”

Betsky’s appointment comes at a critical time, as Taliesin is at risk of losing its accreditation should the school fail to raise two million by the end of 2015. Read on to learn more.

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Chinese Company Constructs the World’s Tallest 3D Printed Building

Image via australiandesignreview.com

Once again, Chinese company WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co has expanded the capabilities of 3D printing. After constructing ten houses in under twenty-four hours last year, now they are back with both the world’s tallest 3D printed building – a five-story apartment block – and a 1,100 square meter mansion with internal and external decoration to boot.

On display in Suzhou Industrial Park in Jiangsu province, the two buildings represent new frontiers for 3D printed construction, finally demonstrating its potential for creating more traditional building typologies and therefore its suitability for use by mainstream developers.

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AR Issues: A Primer From the Prince

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 January 2015 issue, AR Editor Catherine Slessor reflects on The Prince of Wales’ ten principles for sustainable urban growth, which sparked widespread debate when they were published online near the end of December, arguing that the Prince’s views are not just “some rose-tinted view of the past as the answer to the problems of modern life.”

Some 25 years ago, the AR produced a special issue entitled “A Primer for the Prince”. It recognised that in Britain, The Prince of Wales had come to exert a considerable influence on architecture, greatly increasing public awareness of the built environment and encouraging debate about the character of buildings and cities.

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From Formalism to Weak Form: The Architecture and Philosophy of Peter Eisenman

Courtesy of Stefano Corbo

Despite his significant impact on architecture through both built and theoretical works, most studies of Peter Eisenman‘s career focus on either one aspect or the other. In “From Formalism to Weak Form: The Architecture and Philosophy of ,” Stefano Corbo attempts to redress this balance, connecting themes in the design and the theory of the influential architect across the many stages of his 50-year career. The following is an excerpt from the book’s introduction, giving a brief overview of the chronology of Eisenman’s career and the ideas that have influenced him over time.

All of the different moments characterizing Eisenman’s trajectory imply different phases, different projects, different programmatic manifestos and, above all, an evolving notion of form. To approach the complexity of his discourse means dealing with form in all its declinations: formalism, de-composition, deconstruction, and weak form. Each of them has constituted the mutant epidermis of Eisenman’s theoretical corpus, based on philosophical references and provocative statements.

Thanks to his ability to connect with the cultural tendencies of the time, Eisenman has explored different territories: first, structuralism and Chomsky’s linguistic theory; successively, Derrida and Delueze’s post-structuralism, passing through the influence of Colin Rowe’s formalism, and his recent interest in the return to autonomy as theorized by Pier Vittorio Aureli. At the same time Eisenman has always played a central role in influencing and manipulating the American architectural debate, due to his propagandistic activity, first with the IAUs (Institute for Architecture and Urban studies), and then with the magazine Oppositions.

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Archiculture Interviews: James Kunstler

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“Suburbia has… several destinies.” Author and social critic James Kunstler is one of several contributing speakers in Arbuckle Industries‘ groundbreaking Archiculture. In the latest extra from the film, Kunstler provides his perspective on the modern housing sector and the shift from city life to suburbia, specifically examining the decline of the city as a result of political upheaval. Additionally, he postulates how architecture will evolve in the future and offers his ideas for overcoming America’s suburbia-centric ways by drawing inspiration from the past, advocating that young designers focus on tectonics to shift back to a smarter built environment.

Design Like You Give a Damn: The Legacy of Architecture for Humanity

Collège Mixte Le Bon Berger. Image Courtesy of

In the introduction to Architecture for Humanity’s 2006 book Design Like You Give a Damn, founder Cameron Sinclair recounts a story from the early days of the organization. Half-joking yet deadly serious, he describes the day when, while still running Architecture for Humanity from a single cell phone around his day job at Gensler, he was contacted by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees who told him that Architecture for Humanity was on a list of organizations that might be able to help a potential refugee crisis in Afghanistan should the US retaliate in the wake of September 11.

“I hope it’s a long list,” says Sinclair. “No,” comes the answer.

“We’d like to think it was because we had already become a voice for humanitarian design – an unexpected touchstone in the movement for socially conscious architecture,” writes Sinclair of the incident. “The sad truth is that until 1999, when our fledgling organization got started along with a handful of others, there was no easily identifiable design resource for shelter after disaster.”

Now, after their sudden and rather unceremonious demise, Architecture for Humanity has left architecture a very different world from the one it entered almost sixteen years ago.

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