Critical Round-Up: ‘Sensing Spaces’ Strikes a Chord With Critics

© , London, 2014. Photography: James Harris

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

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VIDEO: Jean Nouvel on Arabic Architecture, Context and Culture

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.

VIDEO: Watch Two Men Scale the World’s 2nd Tallest Tower

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“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 skyline).

Check out the incredible images, after the break.

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Tejlgaard & Jepsen Transform a Temporary Geodesic Dome Into a Permanent Structure

Courtesy of Tejlgaard & Jepsen

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 (’s Public Housing) and Lokale & Anlægsfonden to the Island of Bornholm and the city of . 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

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AD Classics: 2 Columbus Circle / Edward Durell Stone & Associates

North Facade. Image © Ezra Stoller/Esto

Located on a small and irregular shaped island at Columbus Circle, one of the busiest intersections in Manhattan, lies 2 Columbus Circle, formerly known as the Gallery of Modern Art. Famously described as a “die-cut Venetian palazzo on lollipops” by Ada Louise Huxtable, the Times architecture critic at the time, the 10-story poured concrete structure has been a source of consistent controversy and public response since the 1960s.  Designed by Edward Durell Stone, an early proponent of American modern architecture, 2 Columbus Circle represents a turning point in his career.  Uncharacteristic of Stone’s prior work, his use of ornament on an otherwise modern structure can be seen as an important precedent of the development of the soon-to-emerge Postmodern movement.

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Shortlisted Concepts Unveiled for MLK Jr. Memorial Library Renovation

© STUDIOS Architecture with The Freelon Group

Preliminary designs have been released by three shortlisted teams competing to renovate ’s historic Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in – 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.

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MoMA to Preserve Folk Art Facade

© Flickr CC User Dan Nguyen

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 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.”

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What the Guggenheim Should Consider Before Building in Helsinki

The Museum Bilbao / Frank Gehry. Image © Flickr User: Iker Merodio

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 and countries with iconic landmarks. There has been much talk of making “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.

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Siza, Souto de Moura, Kuma Reflect on Their ‘Sensing Spaces’ Exhibitions

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

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AD Interviews: David Gianotten / OMA

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.

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London Calling: The ‘Practical’ Architect

Thomas Heatherwick and Arup’s plans for a new, 367-meter long ‘Garden Bridge’ that will span the river from Temple to the Southbank (more renderings at http://www.archdaily.com/389848/thomas-heatherwick-designs-garden-bridge-in-london/). Image Courtesy of Arup

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 and abroad listened to a very ‘practical’ profession.

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OPINION: DS+R Should Have Resigned from the MoMA Commission

© Flickr CC User Dan Nguyen

With all the controversy surrounding Diller Scofidio +Renfro (DSR) and ’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 (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.

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Insulation Grown From Fungi

Courtesy of Ecovative

Inspired by the woods of Vermont, a US 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  Product Innovation Challenge.

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Raimund Abraham’s Last Project Realized at Former NATO Missile Base

© Tomas Riehle / Arturimages

Raimund Abraham’s last project, a “stunning” design for a building atop an unused NATO missile base in , 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.”

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Finnish/Chinese Architects Explore Copying and Collaboration at the Shenzhen Biennale

© Tuomo Tammenpää

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

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Reviewing RIBA’s City Health Report: Could Le Corbusier Have Been Right?

London’s Olympic Park came replete with plenty of green public space. Image © Anthony Charlton

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 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

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Behind the Magic of Media Installations

At LAX, it was important to create “a positive experience after the stress of the departure experience,” says Melissa Weigel. Image Courtesy of

In this interview, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “Q&A: Melissa Weigel of Moment Factory“, Leslie Gallery-Dilworth talks with Weigel about the challenges of devising multimedia installations for public spaces, as in their recent installation for the Bradley International Terminal at LAX.

Montreal’s Moment Factory, a new media and entertainment studio, is best known for creating and producing multimedia environments that combine video, , architecture, sound, and special effects. You may have seen their work at Cirque du Soleil, Madonna’s 2012 Superbowl Half Time Show, Disney’s E3 booth, or Jay Z’s Carnegie Hall debut. Perhaps you were there when they lit up the facade of the Sagrada Familia or Montreal’s Quartier des Spectacles district. Or maybe you saw that they were included in Apple’s recently launched 30th anniversary timeline.

Moment Factory was the main content provider for the interior concept and media features in the newly opened Bradley International Terminal at LAX, designed by Fentress Architects. It was a large collaboration consisting of several partners, including Mike Rubin with MRA International, Marcela Sardi of Sardi Design, Smart Monkey, Digital Kitchen, and Electrosonic with installation by Daktronics and Planar.

Reaction from passengers and the airport management at LAX has been, to put it most effectively, “WOW!” So was mine. That’s why I asked them to present the project at Dynamic Digital Environments-Master Class on Feb 11, at the Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas. I produce this annual pre-conference education workshop and roundtable with architects and designers in mind. To preview our master class, I asked Moment Factory’s Melissa Weigel, senior multimedia director on Bradley International Terminal at LAX a few questions about the project.

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Sir Terry Farrell on UK Architecture & the “Urbi-Cultural Revolution”

Beijing South Station / . Image © Fu Xing

In this intriguing and often insightful two-part interview with Section D, Monocle‘s weekly design radio show, Sir Terry Farrell discusses at length the findings of his review into UK architecture as well as his views on the current state of architecture in the UK and the world. Looking to the future of the profession, Farrell says he sees architects as one of the key contributors to the world’s social future: ”We live in what we’ve built, we’re an urban-building creature… I call it the urbi-cultural revolution.”

Read more about the interview, and listen to both parts of the interview, after the break

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