Encountering the “Weirdness” in China: A Talk with the Guangzhou Circle Architect Joseph di Pasquale
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.
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 Finland 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.
“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.
The 35-year career of Elizabeth Diller, a founding partner of the New York–based architecture studio Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is a study of contrasts: conceptual and pragmatic, temporary and permanent, iconoclastic and institutional. After graduating from Cooper Union in 1979, Diller started her practice mounting temporary installations with her partner and future husband, Ricardo Scofidio, their interests leaning closer to art and theory than conventional buildings and construction. Today the duo—along with Charles Renfro, who became a partner in 2004—is responsible for some of the most important architectural projects in the country. DS+R counts Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art (completed in 2006) and a makeover of New York’s Lincoln Center (finalized in 2012) among its highest-profile works. Especially influential, at least among architects and academics, has been the firm’s unbuilt Slow House (1991), a proposal for a residence on Long Island, New York, renowned for its examination of how we see in a media-saturated world.
One notices sharp contrasts not just in the firm’s work history but in its public reception as well. Widely lauded for repurposing a dilapidated elevated railway into New York City’s beloved High Line park (the third phase opened in September), DS+R received heavy criticism this year for its involvement in a major expansion proposal for the Museum of Modern Art. The museum’s plans included the demolition of its little-guy neighbor, the American Folk Art Museum; despite efforts to work the idiosyncratic building into the design scheme, Diller’s studio, hired to lead the expansion, ultimately acknowledged that the structure couldn’t be saved.
Surface recently met with Diller at her office in Manhattan to speak about the ensuing controversy, as well as early career experiences that have influenced her firm’s recent commissions for cultural institutions, including the current exhibition “Musings on a Glass Box” at the Cartier Foundation in Paris (through Feb. 25, 2015), a collaboration with composer David Lang and sound designer Jody Elff. Diller, 60, is pensive and surprisingly relaxed for someone whose aides are constantly interrupting her to remind her of meetings she has to attend. She speaks with an erudite inflection befitting her academic credentials and professional accolades (she is, after all, a professor at Princeton and a MacArthur “genius grant” recipient), though she smiles with the ease of an affable neighbor.
During his recent trip to Chile, organized by the Harvard David Rockefeller Center For Latin American Studies, we caught up with the Dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD), Mohsen Mostafavi, to see what challenges he thinks are facing the future of architecture education and to learn more about his work on ecological urbanism.
“[Architecture is] both a singular discipline, but at the same time it needs to be a collaborative discipline. It’s at once focusing on disciplinary knowledge but at the same time trans-disciplinary practicing; therefore it means that architectural education has to find new venues for collaboration,” he said.
“I think the GSD is very well-positioned to address key societal issues today because first, we’re a very multidisciplinary school in the sense that we believe strongly both in the focus of individual disciplines like architecture, but also on the inter-relationship between architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning and urban design. ”
Watch the full interview above to see what else Mostafavi had to say about architecture school, the role of architecture in society and ecological urbanism.
The European: Lord Foster, architects design buildings that will characterize cities for decades or even centuries to come. How difficult is it to design buildings for an unknown future?
Foster: Flexibility is a key consideration. We design with an awareness that circumstances will change – that a building’s context will evolve; it may be used in different ways and will need to incorporate new technologies that we cannot yet predict.
The complete interview, after the break.
“We need a new generation of cities in China” - Siegfried Zhiqiang Wu
As the tide of urbanization sweeps across most of the developing areas in China, the building frenzy has become a Chinese phenomenon. Some people are making money from it, some people are getting power from it, and some people are worrying about it. Recently, a new set of policies and reports have been published by the Chinese central government, and the whole society seems to be boosted by the new talk of a Chinese Dream. But, what is really happening inside China? Can it absorb this enormous growth? And, will urbanization continue in a proper way?
As the chief planner of the 2010 Shanghai Expo, Siegfried Zhiqiang Wu has been deeply involved for years in many of China’s main urbanization projects. It was almost midnight when we met Professor Wu in Shanghai, and although Wu had just gotten off a night flight from Beijing, his passion, frankness and intelligence remained undoubtedly impressive. In the following edited talk with interviewer Juan Yan, Professor Wu discusses China’s dramatic urbanization, its architectural culture and the future of smart cities.
Brian MacKay-Lyons is the founding partner of MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects, a professor at Dalhousie University and the founder of Ghost Lab - the now legendary 2-week summer design/build program that took place on his family farm in Nova Scotia from 1994 to 2011. While relentlessly local, Brian’s work has been recognized internationally with more than 100 awards, 300 publications and 100 exhibitions. In 2012, the American Institute of Architects recognized the collective work and influence of Ghost with an Institute Honor Award for Architecture.
On August 22nd, 2014 Brian hopped off his tractor and wiped the diesel fuel off his hands to discuss architectural education with Keith and Marie Zawistowski, co-founders of the design/buildLAB at Virginia Tech and partners of OnSite Architecture. Here is an excerpt from their conversation, which was originally published on Inform:
Keith Zawistowski: Your contributions to the discipline of architecture have been both in practice and in education. In 1994, you founded Ghost, an international laboratory that influenced all generations of architects with its simplicity and this affirmation of timeless architectural values of place and craft. It was a pretty bold move and it seems for us like it was a direct reaction to your discontentment with academia and the way architects were being educated. Do you still feel that strongly about the state of architecture education and the profession?
Having taught architecture for almost fifty years, Sir Peter Cook has seen generations of architects go from student to high-profile practitioner. In almost half a century, though, architecture education has not particularly moved on: “I don’t see the general situation as being any more progressive than it was when I was a student,” he says.
Cook tells ArchDaily that instead of focusing on curriculum, structure and countless other preoccupations of many schools, “my experience is that doesn’t matter, it depends who’s teaching and how enthusiastic they are and whether they understand people,” adding that “a really good architecture school is like a village,” with tutors who simply don’t go home because they are enjoying it so much (or perhaps for other, less innocent reasons).
In addition, Cook also explains that there is potential for a radical shift in the understanding of architecture education, so that we think of it not only as a route into an architectural career, but rather as a route into a whole host of other jobs. ”I know people who have science degrees but they actually organize railways,” he says. “There’s a role for a wing of architectural education at a certain point to take off and say, ‘that person is never going to design buildings, but a certain form of architectural education can enable them to look at the world in more depth.’”
Xten architecture is a California and Switzerland based practice lead by couple Monika Häfelfinger and Austin Kelly. Recently joining the open source architecture platform Paperhouses with the Box House, Austin Kelly spoke with Paperhouses founder Joana Pacheco about architecture, sustainability, construction and working internationally.
Read on after the break for the interview.
A self-trained American architect residing in Phoenix’s urban desert, Will Bruder, FAIA, has built a reputation for being one of Arizona’s most prized place-makers. For more than 40 years, Bruder has refined his craft with the completion of over 500 commissions ranging from large-scale civic and cultural projects to private residences and multi-family housing.
Trained first as a sculptor with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Bruder pursued the art of building with an architectural apprenticeship under Paolo Soleri and Gunnar Birkerts. In 1974, Bruder opened his first studio in Arizona, Will Bruder Architects, where he still serves as a community-based architect and student mentor, while often participating in a number of visiting chairs and lectures at universities nationwide.
His most notable project is the Burton Barr Central Library; not only has the structure played a significant role in the evolution of downtown Phoenix, but it serves as an exemplar of Bruder’s heightened awareness of movement, materiality and light.
Learn more about Bruder’s design philosophy in the interview above and check out his projects on ArchDaily:
- Sky Arc Residence
- Pond House
- Loloma 5
- Hercules Public Library
- Henkel North American Consumer Products Headquarters
- Jarson Residence
- Agave Library
MAD Architects‘ “Silhouette Shanshui” – which lies somewhere between an installation and a model – is currently on display at the 14th Venice Biennale. The inspiration for the project is the firm’s Nanjing Zendai Himalayas Center, a master plan with an overall area of 560,000 sqm that challenges how modern development is typically thought of in China. According to Ma Yansong, the founder of MAD Architects, the city-scale urban project is already underway with 13 towers under construction.
The European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture - Mies van der Rohe Award is one of the most important and prestigious prizes for architecture within Europe. First established in 1987, the prize is awarded every two years, and a look at the projects over the years offers unique insight into the development of architecture across Europe. To better understand the significance and uniqueness of the award we spoke with two previous award winners – Kjetil Trædal Thorsen and Craig Dykers from Snøhetta and Dominique Perrault from Dominique Perrault Architecture – as well as Peter Cachola Schmal, an architect, critic and the director of DAM, the German Architecture Musuem, and Josep Lluís Mateo of Mateo Arquitectura and a professor of Architecture and Projects at ETH-Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule/ Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich.
“This is the special thing about the Mies jury, that they do visit the top 5 projects, and see first-hand what this piece of architecture is about. And then they vote, which means the jury really knows what they’re voting about,” Peter Cachola Schmal noted.
“It’s a prize for a project, rather than a prize for an architect,” Kjetil Trædal Thorsen added.
Read on after the break for more on the Mies van der Rohe award and to see what the architects had to say about the importance of archives…
At the III Moscow Urban Forum, we had the chance to sit down with Russian architect Yuri Grigoryan, the co-founder of Project Meganom and the director of education at the Strelka Institute. Grigoryan also led the team that prepared the research project, “Archeology of the Periphery,” a key part of the forum that focused on the challenges and strategy for developing Moscow’s metropolitan area.
Sitting above the “Archeology of the Periphery” exhibition, Grigoryan told us what he thinks the role of an architect should be in society, what it’s like to lead a firm and the importance of innovation. “Architects have two very important roles. One is to do the architecture and to be good in architectural design. And the second role is to build the bridge between architecture, research and society,” he told us.
If you enjoy this interview make sure you check out our interview with both Grigoryan and Alexei Komissarov, the Moscow Government Minister and Head of the Department of Science, Industrial Policy and Entrepreneurship of Moscow, on the Forum and “Archeology of the Periphery.”
Over a year ago, we shared a work-in-progress drawing project that captured our imagination with its combination of huge size and meticulously small details. Now, “The Happiness Machine,” Mark Lascelles Thornton‘s 8-foot by 5-foot, three year long drawing project is complete, after over 10,000 hours of painstaking work.
Lascelles Thornton, a self-taught London-based artist who describes himself as “one of those kids that was drawing before I was talking,” created the artwork as a response to the global financial crisis, focusing on themes of socio-economics, consumerism, globalism, resource shortages, urbanism and architecture. We spoke to Lascelles Thornton about his artwork, discussing the themes of the piece and the commitment – or, as he describes it, “emotional engineering” – required for such a colossal undertaking.
For the full interview – and detailed images of the drawing – read on after the break