Tim Franco Captures the Overscaled Urbanization of Chongqing

© Tim Franco

These days, many of China‘s largest urban areas are easily recognizable to people from all over the world, with the skylines of coastal mega-cities such as Shanghai and Beijing taking their place in the global consciousness. Far less known though is the inland city of Chongqing - another of ’s five top-tier “National Central Cities” – where in 2010 the Chinese government embarked on a plan to urbanize a further 10 million of the region’s rural population, with around 1,300 people now moving into the city every day.

Since his first visit to the city in 2009 photographer Tim Franco has been on a mission to document the rapid change in what he believes is “maybe the most widely unknown megacity in the world.” The result is Metamorpolis, a forthcoming photographic book by Franco with text by British journalist Richard Macauley, which documents the colossal scale of development juxtaposed against the people of Chongqing – many of whom still live an incongruous rural lifestyle among the concrete sprawl. Read on after the break for more images from the book and an interview with Franco about the experience of documenting one of the world’s fastest-growing cities.

(more…)

An Interview with Zhu Pei, Pei-Zhu Studio

OCT Design Museum / Pei-Zhu Studio. Image © Pier Alessio Rizzardi

“If we look at architecture from a cultural point of view, we see we are in a special moment where we are trying to figure out our identity. I think we are too focused on how to transform old Chinese architecture into contemporary architecture; but in no way can you transform it, you can see it with your own eyes. For instance you cannot transform a Roman building into today’s buildings! Sometimes you have to forget about history to create contemporary and unique architecture.”
- Zhu Pei, Shenzhen, 2013

(more…)

AD Interviews: Richard Francis-Jones / FJMT

At the World Architecture Festival (WAF) in Singapore we had the chance to speak with Richard Francis-Jones, the Design Director of Australian-based practice FJMT. has a strong focus on public buildings and community work, and their Aukland Art Gallery was selected as WAF’s 2013 World Building of the Year, after winning the Culture Category. “The role of the architect in society is an evolving question. I think in a way we reflect and represent the values of a society, the values of the culture that we’re part of,” he told us. “I think what an architect should do is perform that reflection in a very thoughtful and potentially critical way so that in a sense we’re mirroring the society, its values and its challenges, but at the same time providing a kind of potential insight into the way things could go, a kind of a promise of how things could evolve.”

FJMT’s Darling Quarter was also the winner of WAF’s Office Category in 2012 and as was their Liberty Place project in 2014. Watch the full interview above to see what else Francis-Jones has to say about the role of the architect in society, what it’s like to run your own practice and their Aukland Art Gallery design. And find out how to participate in this year’s WAF awards here.

Material Minds: Digital Ceramic Printing in MVRDV’s Glass Farm

© Persbureau van Eijndhoven

If you search the web for information on MVRDV’s Glass Farm, you’ll find plenty of people writing about the project’s 33-year history, and about its context in the small town of Schijndel. You’ll even find plenty of people theorizing on the nature of those glass walls, and the relationships between image and authenticity and between modern and modest tradition. But strangely, you’ll find almost no information on how the project made use of Digital Ceramic Printing, a relatively new process which was able to handle the many colors, variable transparency and fine tolerances required to display an entire farmhouse facade across a thousand glass panels.

In this new installment of our Material Minds series, presented by ArchDaily Materials, we spoke to MVRDV‘s project leader on the Glass Farm Gijs Rikken, and to Niv Raz, an Architect at Dip-Tech – the company who produces the printers, ink, software and support required for the process.

(more…)

Interview: Büro Ole Scheeren Unveils Designs for Guardian Art Center in Beijing

Guardian Art Center by Büro Ole Scheeren. Image Courtesy of Büro Ole Scheeren

When he opened his practice in 2010, Ole Scheeren had the luxury of already being a rising star in the architecture world. The former partner of OMA made his name as partner-in-charge on landmark projects such as Beijing’s CCTV Headquarters and the Interlace in Singapore, and has since made headlines with striking forms such as those in the MahaNakhon skyscraper in BangkokAngkasa Raya in Kuala Lumpur and DUO, again in Singapore. The unveiling of his latest design, the Guardian Art Center, is likely to get a lot of attention too – but for very different reasons to his previous projects.

The Guardian Art Center features none of the dramatic cantilevers and futuristic formal experimentation of Büro Ole Scheeren‘s other works. Instead the “hybrid art space” – located in the heart of Beijing, just a stone’s throw from the Forbidden City – references the scale and materiality of the adjacent traditional buildings. The lower floors, containing an auction house and a museum with a 1,700 square meter exhibition-events space, comprise an aggregation of small “pixelated” blocks, clad in stone with a pattern of perforations derived from a 700-year-old Chinese landscape painting. Though the upper portion of the building, containing a 120-room hotel and a restaurant, is larger in scale, it is broken down by a facade of oversized “bricks,” again a reference to the of the hutong next door and a “humble and non-elitist symbol in Chinese culture,” according to the press release.

To find out more about this intriguing building, we spoke to Ole Scheeren, who assured us that in spite of its appearance, the Guardian Art Center is just as radical as his previous works. Read on after the break for the full interview.

(more…)

Architectural Photographers: Montse Zamorano

Sotogrande’s Sailing School, Cádiz, . Héctor F. Elorza+Carlos G. Fernández. . Image ©

 

This week in our Architectural Photographers series, we look at Spanish architect Montse Zamorano, who after living in Shanghai for a year decided to photograph architecture. She is currently based in New York, where she is studying for a Masters in Branding at SVA as a Fulbright student. Montse works internationally as a freelance photographer and videographer for studios such as Foster and Partners, Álvaro Siza and Héctor Fernández Elorza.

(more…)

Walter Netsch: The “Radical Mind” That Designed SOM’s Air Force Academy Chapel

© Hedrich Blessing

Having joined Skidmore, Owings & Merrill after World War Two at the age of 27, Walter Netsch was promoted to become a partner at the age of 31. Netsch entered the firm during what was arguably its defining era, when the reputation of Gordon Bunshaft and the image of a corporate-driven, teamwork-minded made one of the most recognizable practices in the US. He was also, at the age of just 34, responsible for one of ’s most recognizable projects of the decade, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and its striking geometric chapel.

To honor what would have been Netsch’s 95th birthday, SOM recently republished an interview between Netsch and architecture theorist and writer Detlef Mertins, which had originally been published in 2001 in SOM Journal 1. In the following extract from this interview, Netsch discusses the story of how he developed the design, and what it was like to participate in one of America’s most influential practices among a host of strong characters.

(more…)

AD Interviews: Xiaodu Liu / URBANUS

At the end of 2014, we had the opportunity to catch up with Xiaodu Liu, one of the three founding partners of Chinese firm URBANUS. Telling us about the role of architects in today’s society – especially in – he discusses how the creativity which URBANUS is known for plays a part in the business of their practice: “Innovation is actually everything for URBANUS, because the firm is doing projects for very challenging jobs. That’s the only way we do marketing; we have to do something creative, otherwise we don’t have any marketing tools to get something more conventional… we push ourselves to the limit.”

Connected to this, he sees intellectual exchange as the foundation of their success, a mechanism that has allowed them to eschew more traditional marketing: “We have some people similar to us, that are well connected, people understand our work and support our work and they like us. Then we have that network and people refer to us and they actually bring jobs to us… networking is more like in the academic level – a more intellectual exchange.”

Watch the full interview above and check out our past coverage of URBANUS below.

(more…)

An Interview with Liu Xiaodu, Urbanus

Nanshan Wedding Center/ Partner in charge: Meng Yan. Image © Meng Yan & Wu Qiwei

“If you don’t know or really didn’t study the local culture, do universal design. That’ll keep the quality. If you want to do something that you don’t know, there is a big chance that it’s going to fail and have a bad impact on the city and the people here. Do it in your own way. If you do something good and beautiful back home, you should do exactly the same type and put it here. That’s also a good contribution because you show good architecture quality… Do something universal!” – Liu Xiaodu, Shenzhen, 2013

Founded in 1999, Urbanus is led by its trio of partners Meng Yan, Wang Hui and Liu Xiaodu, all of whom studied first in China and then abroad in the USA before returning to their native country at the very beginning of its construction boom. In this interview Liu Xiaodu discusses the changing realities of Chinese architecture education, the beginnings of their firm and the positive side to the “chaos” of the country’s current urban expansion.

(more…)

“A Message to Everybody”: The Red Square Pavilion Winners on Encouraging Tolerance with Architecture

Courtesy of HMMD

Announced in the summer of 2014 the Red Square Tolerance Pavilion, an international ideas competition organized by HMMD, was a deliberately provocative proposal before any teams had even entered - a statement planned in an envronment where tolerance is an increasingly urgent topic, for people both inside and outside . In this interview, originally published by Strelka Magazine, the Italian winners of the competition discuss their proposal and its response to this charged context.

This January the winners of the ‘Red Square Tolerance Pavilion’ competition that was organised by international organisation HMMD were announced. The first prize was given to a team of architects from Italy. Their bold and daring project proposed to build the pavilion right against the Kremlin wall. caught up with Kiana Jalali, Marco Merigo, Alessandro Vitale and Matteo Pagani to discuss fluidity of space, the symbolism behind their design and the media image of Russia.

(more…)

An Interview with Zhang Lei, AZL Architects

Nanjing Wanjing Garden Chapel / AZL Architects. Image © Yao Li

“We have to try to work with scale and memory. I think in the last twenty years the main problem is that we lost the 归宿感 [sense of belonging]. The people here have been moving from house to house for a long time, the result is that we don’t have a feeling of home… even if you are staying in a nice house or villa you don’t consider it as an ideal or permanent home where you could stay. This might be considered the problem. More than ten years ago we used to have that feeling, the sense to belong to a specific space. We used to live in neighbourhoods where we had a social background, a community, now you don’t have any community, you don’t see the neighbors any more. Now Chinese people are becoming lonely, they are losing that feeling and becoming ‘homeless’.” - Zhang Lei, , 2013

(more…)

A Matchmaker For People and Art: Kulapat Yantrasast

at an exhibition design meeting. Image Courtesy of wHY

Last month we spoke with Kulapat Yantrasast, Co-Founder and Creative Director of the LA-based design firm wHY. On the heels of the opening of Harvard Art Museums - for which Yantrasast collaborated on the designs of the exhibition spaces – we wanted to learn more about his approach to designing the galleries for Harvard. “One of the things that I’m super sensitive about is the identify of the experience. Harvard, in particular, is a university museum.  So first and foremost it’s a place for students and faculty to spend time looking at things closely. Because of that, we want to make sure that a group of 15 people can sit or stand around an art object and could really have a discussion,” Yantrasast explained.

wHY has carried out a wide range of museum and gallery projects, including the Grand Rapids Art Museum, the Royal/T project and the renovation of the galleries at the Art Institute of Chicago. Read the full interview with Yantrasast below to learn more about the challenges of gallery design and how technology is affecting museums exhibitions.

(more…)

MVRDV and Interior Urbanism: An Interview With Winy Maas

Markthal Rotterdam. 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 , 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.

(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 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 urbanization, and how architecture –even at the smallest scale–can play a crucial role in improving quality of life.

Encountering the “Weirdness” in China: A Talk with the Guangzhou Circle Architect Joseph di Pasquale

Courtesy of

Recently, lots of controversial “Jumbos” have been erected on mainland China, leading most of their creators, architects from Western countries, to be placed at the centre of public discussion. Furthermore, China’s President Xi Jinping’s recent comment about “no more weird buildings” has led the Chinese central government into this whirlpool. What can western landmark makers learn from all of this?

We met Joseph di Pasquale, architect of the Guangzhou Circle, in Milan some days after “weirdness” became the most used word in Chinese architecture. In the following edited talk with interviewer Yifan Zhang, the architect of the latest landmark in South China’s largest city discusses his new project, the real circumstances in China, and the future for foreign architects.

(more…)

AD Interviews: Juulia Kauste / Museum of Finnish Architecture (MFA)

On her recent trip to Chile for the Finland-Chile Architecture Marathon lecture series we had the chance to chat with Juulie Kauste, the director of the Museum of Finnish Architecture (MFA) in Helsinki. “[MFA] has always had the dual mission of focusing on collecting the heritage of architecture in as well as focusing on contemporary architecture both in Finland and internationally,” Kauste explained.

One of the oldest architecture-focused museums in the world, MFA is unusual in that not only do they archive the work of every Finnish architect, but they also play an active role in promoting Finnish architecture and participating in the global architectural community. At both the Shenzhen Biennale and the 2014 Venice Biennale, MFA hosted “Re-Creation,” an installation that used both traditional Finnish and Chinese construction techniques to explore the concepts of “copying” and “reinterpretation.”

“The key part of the role of the museum is to provide a platform for a discussion and debate around architecture and around the ways in which architecture matters to society,” Kauste said. “It’s very much about this idea of sharing information about architecture, making information about architecture available, but also understandable.”

See what else Kauste has to say about what the role of architecture museums should be, how the digital age is affecting museums and the benefits of cross-cultural collaboration in the full video interview above and check out some of our past coverage on MFA below.

(more…)

AD Interviews: Kunlé Adeyemi / NLÉ

“The architects of the future will begin to be seen more as agents of change,” Kunlé Adeyemi told us outside the 2014 Pritzker Prize Award ceremony in Amsterdam. One of the five international jury members for the 2014 Venice Biennale, Adeyemi is the founder of NLÉ, an architecture and urbanism practice focused on developing cities and known for projects like the Makoko Floating School in Lagos, Nigeria.

“There are many lessons learned from the floating school project, starting from engagement with the community…,” Adeyemi said. “The innovation of Makoko Floating School came not only from us, but largely from the community itself. We were simply agents to compose those ideas into a new form or an improvement of what’s already existing.”

Adeyemi was born and raised in Nigeria where he studied architecture at the University of Lagos.  In 2002 he joined OMA where he worked closely with Rem Koolhaas for nearly a decade, playing an important role in OMA’s research on the urbanization of Lagos.

See what else Adeyemi had to say about the Makoko Floating School, what it’s like to lead an architecture firm and the role of architects in society in the full video above.

(more…)