Inequality and Informality in New York: SITU Studio’s Proposal for MoMA’s Uneven Growth Exhibition

© SITU Studio

When it comes to discussing informal housing, it’s usually cities in developing nations that take the spotlight – however, as revealed by SITU Studio’s contribution to ’s Uneven Growth exhibition, issues of informal housing are indeed present in cities across the spectrum of development. In this interview, originally posted on Arup Connect as “Inequality and informality in New York,” Sarah Wesseler speaks to SITU Studio principle Bradley Samuels about their unconventional proposal to address an issue that is frequently overlooked in New York city policy.

Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities, a newly opened exhibit at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, focuses on the complex relationship between and inequality. Over the 14-month period leading up to the launch, six interdisciplinary teams explored how these issues are playing out in different parts of the world, each developing an architectural response for a specific city.

Architecture firm SITU Studio (together with Cohabitation Strategies [CohStra]) was tasked with studying its home city, New York. (Arup transport planner Michael Amabile also consulted with the team.) We spoke with SITU principal Bradley Samuels about the project.

(more…)

Archiculture Interviews: David Byrne

YouTube Preview Image

“Architecture affects how we see ourselves fitting into a city, and how we relate to one another.” In this latest video from Arbuckle Industries following its release of Archiculture, David Byrne, known for his music, writing, and art, provides his perspective on some of the issues facing architecture today. In the interview, he addresses the need to rethink design practice as an all-encompassing approach, and advocates the tailoring of designs for their specific purposes. Byrne also discusses the problem of the “starchitect” phenomenon, the relationship of people with the built environment, and the resulting atmospheric effects that spatial and acoustic qualities can impart.

Light Matters: UN Celebrates The International Year of Light 2015

Armani Fifth Avenue, New York. Architect: Fuksas Architects. Lighting design: Speirs + Major. Photo: Allan Toft. Image © Speirs + Major

Light is all around us, and it increasingly affects our daily lives. For example, we have started to carry personal light sources around with our smartphones, and in our homes many electrical machines now utilize light to display information and simply to appear more attractive. In a larger context, architecture and cities have also developed a new dimension with the advent of electrical lighting for work and entertainment.

Inspired by the central role of light for our culture and , the United Nations has proclaimed 2015 as the “International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies” (IYL2015). With IYL2015 the UN wants to raise the awareness of the importance of light and optical technologies in our lives, our future and the development of society.

Read on after the break for more enlightenment around IYL2015.

(more…)

Why Putin Likes Columns: 21st Century Russia Through the Lens of Architecture

Rendering of the proposed Lakhta Center in St Petersburg. Image Courtesy of www.proektvlahte.ru

In August 1932, , holidaying in Sochi, sent a memo containing his thoughts on the entries for the competition to design the Palace of the Soviets, the never-to-be-built monument to Lenin and center of government. In this memo he selected his preferred design, the colossal wedding cake of a tower topped with a 260-foot (79-meter) high statue of Lenin, designed by Boris Iofan. Just over 80 years later, Sochi again hosted the architectural whims of a powerful Russian leader for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. An oversimplification? Probably. But it’s got nice symmetry to it.

(more…)

Through the Lens: The Social Implications of Green Roofs in Film

“Hobbiton,” the home of the virtuous Hobbits. Image © www.bonvoyadventuretravel.com

Film often makes a mockery of architectural features. Glass facades are obliterated by gunfire, grisly murders are set against a white modernist palette, deconstructed stairs are the cause of nasty accidents or ludicrous slapstick, and you just know a tensile fabric roof will be shredded by the time 007 is finished with it.

There is one architectural feature however that has benefited from very complimentary treatment by the film industry, and surprisingly it is a sustainable one. Green roofs and other “architectural” green spaces have been popping up regularly in mainstream movies over the past decade: blockbusters including The Vow (2012) and Source Code (2011) utilized the greenscape outside Gehry‘s Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park; last year the Vancouver Convention Centre was featured in both Godzilla and Robocop; and Kaspar Schroder’s 2009 uber cool documentary My Playground, about the sport of parkour (the art of bouncing off buildings made famous by the opening scenes of Casino Royale), features BIG’s Mountain Dwellings in Copenhagen. And we cannot forget two of the biggest film franchises in history: both of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit franchises feature green roofs in their portrayal of Hobbiton – home of the virtuous and incorruptible Hobbits.

(more…)

ARCHISHAPE: “Architecture Shapes in Minimalist Clothing”

Courtesy of

Working in reverse, Italian architect Federico Babina’s latest set of deconstructs the stylistic forms of 25 famous architects into a series of abstract compositions that embody the essence of each architect’s style. This “process,” as Babina says, aims to reveal the “ideal connection between architecture itself as a form of representation and the representation used in its design.”

“The architecture is a set of shapes that draw volumes and voids which sequence generates functions and meanings. These illustrations are one of the possible ways to watch, observe and describe architecture… In these pictures you can read architectural references or simply let your mind get lost between the lines and colors for more imaginative interpretations.”

View all 25 illustrations, after the break.

(more…)

Architecture Doesn’t Need Rebuilding, It Needs More Thoughtful Critics

In the last few weeks, a number of reactionary architectural commentators have come out of the woodwork to denounce what they see as the currently negative direction of contemporary architecture. They claim that architecture needs to be “rebuilt” or that it is “imploding.” From their indications, architecture is on life-support, taking its last breath. The critique they offer is that contemporary architecture has become (or always was?) insensitive to users, to site conditions, to history—hardly a novel view. Every few years, this kind of frontal assault on the value of contemporary architecture is launched, but the criticisms this time seem especially shallow and misplaced. Surveying the contemporary global architecture scene, I actually feel that we’re in a surprisingly healthy place, if you look beyond the obvious showpieces. We’ve escaped from the overt dogmas of the past, we’ve renewed our focus on issues of the environment and social agency, we’re more concerned than ever with tectonics and how to build with quality. But the perennial critics of contemporary architecture appear not to have examined that deeply, nor that thoughtfully either. And unfortunately the various rebuttals to their critiques, ostensibly in support of modern and experimental architecture, have been ham-handed and poorly argued.

(more…)

AR Issues: The Problem With Memorials and Memory

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 December 2014 issue, AR Editor Catherine Slessor ruminates on the contemporary approach to memorials, arguing that “as architecture can rarely truly grasp the notion of absence, memorial culture lapses into comforting banality.

Always uneasy bedfellows, this year the relationship between building and memory has had a particularly charged resonance. The centenary of the outbreak of the First World War has been framed by the familiar narratives of slaughter and sacrifice, while the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall marked the moment when Communism in Europe finally faltered and collapsed. No doubt that these are profound, epoch-defining events, but how they are memorialised in built form is frequently problematic.

(more…)

Videos: Bjarke Ingels on His Europa City Project for Paris

In 2013, Bjarke Ingels Group came first in Paris‘ Europa City competition, an 800,000 square meter cultural and recreational facility on the far North-Eastern outskirts of the city. In an attempt to explain the design of this huge project, filmmakers Squint/Opera have enlisted the help of Bjarke Ingels and a green screen to describe the project - Minority Report style – with a combination of live action and futuristic video effects. In a second video, a detailed walkthrough of the building enlists both 2D and 3D graphics “to capture the excitement and energy of this unique centre.” Read on after the break for both videos.

(more…)

Bjarke Ingels’ Advice for the Young: “It’s Important to Care”

The latest in a series of from Louisiana Channel sees Danish architect Bjarke Ingels of BIG dispensing wisdom for a new generation of architects. Speaking with characteristic zeal, Ingels advises young architects “to care, because if you don’t care, it doesn’t matter.” “We’re not here to build for other architects,” Ingels says, describing architecture as “fundamentally the art and science of accommodating life.”

Urging architects to understand the “dreams and desires and priorities” of the people for whom they are designing, Ingels discusses everything from Nietzsche’s hammer to the notion of the anthropocene, citing his time working for Rem Koolhaas and OMA as an “eye-opening” experience leading him to recognize that “architecture [isn't] like an autonomous art form happening just within its own terms, but [is] actually in direct dialogue with things going on in society.” Reflecting a playfulness idiosyncratic to Ingels and the work of , the architect encourages “professional serial monogamy,” recommending that students “fall in love with the work of an architect and dive really deep into that.”

Defining a More Purposeful Architecture: A Guide to Current Architectural Trends

The current state of architectural design incorporates many contemporary ideas of what defines unique geometry. With the advent of strong computer software at the early 21st century, an expected level of experimentation has overtaken our profession and our academic realms to explore purposeful architecture through various techniques, delivering meaningful buildings that each exhibit a message of cultural relevancy.

These new movements are not distinct stylistic trends, but modes of approaching concept design. They often combine with each other, or with stylistic movements, to create complete designs. Outlined within this essay are five movements, each with varying degrees of success creating purposeful buildings: Diagramism, Neo-, Revitism, Scriptism, and Subdivisionism.

(more…)

Making Complex Systems Visible: “Between Geometry and Geography” Carefully Uncovers the Layers of Mexico City

Courtesy of Felipe Correa and Carlos Garciavelez Alfaro

I always book a window seat when flying into Mexico City. It guarantees exposing the traveler to the exhilarating immensity of the city and the valley that barely contains it: a blunt encounter of geometry and geography indeed. Braving traffic I arrive to my hotel in the historic center and the first morning, over breakfast and with those aerial images still fresh in my mind, I invariably marvel at the fact that I have just had a hot shower and that I am enjoying, as usual, excellent huevos rancheros. “How did these eggs get here?” I wonder. The thoughts quickly dissipate as one is engulfed by the many renowned attractions of .

Felipe Correa and Carlos Garciavelez Alfaro have chosen not to be distracted. Their book, “Between Geometry and Geography: Mexico City”, is an ambitious portrait of City that avoids reading the city through the singularities of its monuments. They have produced instead a stunning graphic biography of the metropolis, focusing on the infrastructures that have shaped the city and make it function today and speculating on opportunities for future multifunctional infrastructures.

(more…)

AD Interviews: Moshe Safdie / Safdie Architects

During this year’s World Architecture Festival (WAF) held in Singapore, we had the chance to talk with keynote speaker Moshe Safdie. Standing inside the Marina Bay Sands, a massive mixed-use project by Safdie Architects and an example of the firm’s ongoing research on density, Safdie talked to us about ’s urban environment and the challenges of working there. As the world’s growth is happening in dense areas, this subject is utterly important, and Safdie has proven that these kind of mega-urbanism projects can be functionally integrated into the city. “Working in at the intensity and scale that we do has been a paradigm shift for our practice because much of our work in the United States and Israel and elsewhere in recent years has been focused on institutions – on libraries, museums, airports – here we are involved with urban place, mixed-use mostly, extremely dense, working for the private sector, and having to reconcile the market forces with the architectural environmental demands, which is no mean task,” he said.

(more…)

AD Classics: United States Embassy in Havana / Harrison & Abramovitz

The United States’ diplomatic presence in Cuba is housed in a severe, early-1950s office building perched on the shoreline over Bay. Walled off from the city and pulled back from the street, the building has the uneasy presence of a haunted castle – shunned and maligned by its neighbors, but subjected to the unending scrutiny of suspicious eyes and intrigued gossip of the locals. With its regimented orthogonalities and the unmistakably foreign imprint of modernist efficiencies, both the embassy’s architecture and the optimistic political spirit it embodies seem to belong to another era, a cooperative past no longer conceivable in the wake of a half century of underhanded diplomacy, calumnious propaganda, and failed attempts to restore relations between the embattled countries.

(more…)

AD Interviews: Uma Adusumilli

With more than half of the world’s population living in cities today, a process that will only accelerate in the near future, the dynamics of large metropolitan areas –especially in the emerging world have– have become an object of study and urban experimentation. India is one of the regions where this process is happening at a fast pace. With a current urbanization rate of 32%, it is expected to grow up to 40% in the next 15 years.

India’s fast-growing economy and accompanying rural-urban migration has led to many environmental issues caused by the explosive growth of slums in metropolitan areas such as Mumbai. Currently the largest human settlement in India, a population of 21 million people makes it one of the top ten most populated urban agglomerations in the world.

During the Moscow Urban Forum we had the chance to talk with Uma Adusumilli, the chief of planning at the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), to understand the problems that Indian cities are facing due to this rapid , and how architecture –even at the smallest scale–can play a crucial role in improving quality of life.

Faith & Form’s 2014 Religious Art & Architecture Award Rewards Diversity in Religious Design

St. Gregory’s Church Agrigento, Italy Pellitteri & Associati Studio. Image © Alessia Riccobono

Originally published by The Huffington Post as “These Religious Architecture Award Winners Evoke The Sacred In Unconventional Ways,” this article reveals the winners in the 2014 Religious Art & Architecture Award run by Faith & Form, an organization dedicated to promoting the architecture of worship.

What makes a space sacred?

If the winners of Faith & Form’s 2014 Religious Art & Architecture award are any indication, it may be something different every time. A high ceiling, curved walls, stained glass windows or lush landscaping — no two winners are alike, and yet each offers viewers a fresh way of interacting with the divine.

Take a look at some of Faith & Form’s 2014 award and honor award winners for after the break

(more…)

Audi Urban Future Award 2014: Team Berlin’s “Flywheel” Could Revolutionize Personal Mobility

© Audi Urban Future Initiative

One of three runners-up in the 2014 Audi Urban Future Award, the Berlin Team of Max Schwitalla, Paul Friedli and Arndt Pechstein proposed a futuristic and innovative concept for an entirely new type of personal transport. Drawing inspiration from sources as diverse as elevator and biomimicry, their designs offer a thought-provoking alternative to our existing transportation systems that could revolutionize the city as we know it.

Though their proposal ultimately lost out to Jose Castillo’s Team Mexico City, the work of the Berlin team correlates closely with the aims of Audi’s Urban Future Initiative, offering a compromise between the convenience and status of personal transport and the civic benefits of public transport. Read on to find out how this was achieved.

(more…)

AD Classics: Expo’98 Portuguese National Pavilion / Álvaro Siza

© flickr user Dacian Groza

At the Expo ’98 Portuguese National Pavilion, structure and architectural form work in graceful harmony. Situated at the mouth of the Tagus River in , Portugal, the heart of the design is an enormous and impossibly thin concrete canopy, draped effortlessly between two mighty porticoes and framing a commanding view of the water. The simple, gestural move is both weightless and mighty, a bold architectural solution to the common problem of the covered public plaza. Under the graceful touch of Álvaro Siza Vieira, physics and physical form theatrically engage one another, and simplicity and clarity elevate the pavilion to the height of modern sophistication.

(more…)