Since the beginning of the Modernist era a century ago, concrete has been appreciated by architects for its strength, versatility and sculptural potential. For many countries, concrete played a key role in their recovery from the Second World War, and in their continued modernization during the second half of the 20th century. But in recent years – while it is still as widely-used as ever - concrete has fallen on something of an image problem, with criticisms of its environmental impact and its aesthetic appearance becoming commonplace.
That hasn’t stopped some companies continuing to innovate with concrete. Among these companies is TAKTL, a facade panel designer and manufacturer that works exclusively with Ultra High Performance Concrete (UHPC). To find out what UHPC can offer to architecture, ArchDaily spoke to TAKTL about the potential of this material, and the future of concrete construction.
“Every couple of years a new manifesto appears, but how long can it last? We need more people doing instead of talking. [At Amateur Architecture Studio] we spend an enormous amount of time experimenting, trying to resurrect the craftsmanship that is almost lost. We use a method that is passed on, hand-to-hand, to re-establish tradition instead of talking about abstract but empty concepts.”
- Lu Wenyu, Hangzhou, 2013
Pier Alessio Rizzardi: “A house instead of a building” is a really famous phrase of Amateur Architecture Studio. What is the meaning behind this concept?
Lu Wenyu: Once, Wang Shu said: “we only make houses, we don’t make architecture.” The house and architecture here have their own meanings. Making a house means making it for the people, making it more tranquil, or closer to nature, more humanized. Instead, architecture is an abstract concept, so many designs nowadays are actually architecture. So this sentence, from almost 20 years ago, “making houses, not architecture”, is about not making that abstract concept, but to make something really concrete and tangible, something that you can touch or that is made with your own hands… so when you see this house, you feel differently.
Founded nearly 50 years ago in Rome, it is difficult to pin down an overarching theme in the work of Studio Fuksas: their designs have been built in North America, Asia and across Europe (with another design planned for Australia); they regularly operate at varying scales, from a colossal trade fair center and an international airport down to a small parish church; and their buildings all demonstrate huge stylistic variety. In this interview from Indian Architect and Builder‘s April 2015 issue, Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas discuss the process behind their work, and the role of variation, context and concept in their designs.
Indian Architect & Builder: Did you always want to be an architect? Can you share with us your journey while discovering your commitment towards this field?
Massimiliano Fuksas: No, I never thought I’d want to be an architect. My early aspirations were to become a poet. The beauty of language, various forms of expression and prose always intrigued me. This ambition then evolved in to the desire of being an artist. Architecture was really my last choice. The thought of being an architect occurred to me only when I was around twenty. I was in university when I realized that architecture is probably the easiest and simplest interpretation of art and culture. As I continued my journey in the University of Rome, I began to develop a passion for this multifaceted field of knowledge. It was in my third year of university when I found my fervor for architecture and saw myself as an individual in the practice of architecture; a field that in one or more ways satisfied my earlier ambitions of being a poet and an artist.
Architecture professor and photographer Henry Plummer has heightened the transformative power of daylight with his cameras and published several remarkable books about light and architecture. His deep interest in light, and his lyrical writing perspective, were formed through his contact with the designer and art theorist György Kepes while studying at MIT. Within his numerous photo journeys Plummer has documented the various facets of daylight in Japan and the Nordic Countries, and of masters like Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn. As a Professor Emeritus of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Plummer also still has ambitious plans for future book projects. In the second part of this interview, Plummer reveals how changing technologies have affected his photography, and discusses his thoughts on phenomenology and developing a poetic language of light.
If you missed it, you can read part one of this interview here.
“We use two aspects to express architecture: Qing [emotion], Jing [pattern]. Jing is the architectural pattern that we apply, to certify the living and working style, to consider what our architecture can bring. Another thing is the relationship between architecture and the site, the city and nature. Ancient Chinese dwellings are usually enclosed by walls, creating an introverted space. This is the second aspect Qing, more related to traditional customs, aesthetics, and our attitude towards the environment and nature. The enclosed space originates from our interpretation of Qing. What we have captured about the ancient spirit of aesthetics is a kind of uncertainty, a kind of blurry and ambiguous feeling.”
- Chen Yifeng, Shanghai, 2013
Architecture professor and photographer Henry Plummer has heightened the transformative power of daylight with his cameras and published several remarkable books about light and architecture. His deep interest in light, and his lyrical writing perspective, were formed through his contact with the designer and art theorist György Kepes while studying at MIT. Within his numerous photo journeys Plummer has documented the various facets of daylight in Japan and the Nordic Countries, and of masters like Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn. As a Professor Emeritus of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Plummer also still has ambitious plans for future book projects. In the first part of this interview, Plummer shares a variety of insights about understanding light and approaching buildings for photography.
On display until May 31st, the Vitra Design Museum’s “Architecture of Independence – African Modernism” exhibition displays a cross-section of Africa’s experimental architecture from the post-colonial years of the 1960s. Covering more than 80 projects in Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and Senegal, the exhibition aims to shed light on this little-known period of architecture history, and challenge Western notions of African countries. In this interview, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “Q&A: Curator Manuel Herz on Africa’s ‘Grandiose’ Modern Architecture,” Curator Manuel Herz reveals the origins of the exhibition and shares his thoughts light on some of the buildings which the exhibition highlights.
Clare Dowdy: What triggered your interest in the post-colonial architecture of Central and Sub-Saharan Africa?
Manuel Herz: I was in Nairobi a couple of times around 2007 and noticed the architecture of that period was of outstanding quality but virtually unknown outside Kenya. This triggered an interest to research the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa. I found that the political urgency that existed at the time of the independence process is embodied in the architecture.
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 China’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.
“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, Beijing, 2013
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. 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.
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 technology 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.
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 Bangkok, Angkasa 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 glass “bricks,” again a reference to the materials 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.
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.
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 SOM one of the most recognizable practices in the US. He was also, at the age of just 34, responsible for one of SOM’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.
“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.
“A Message to Everybody”: The Red Square Pavilion Winners on Encouraging Tolerance with Architecture
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 Russia. 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. Strelka Magazine 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.
“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, Nanjing, 2013