Behind the Living Wall: An Interview with Birgit Siber

© Richard Johnson

Material Minds, presented by ArchDaily Materials, is our new series of short interviews with architects, designers, scientists, and others who use architectural materials in innovative ways. Enjoy!

Green, or living, walls have begun popping up and growing across commercial interiors everywhere over the last decade. To understand how a living wall functions, and how to design one, we went straight to a pioneer in the profession: Ms. Birgit Siber of Diamond Schmitt Architects in . The synthesis of natural systems and building systems had been in her mind since her days as a student, but the major break came in 2000, when her team constructed a massive living wall for The University of Guelph-Humbar. To understand how architects are closing the gap between interior and exterior via the living wall, read the full interview after the break.

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Emerging Practices in India: mayaPRAXIS

Power of idea - lightening - House in Barren land . Image Courtesy of

Indian Architect & Builder, through a two-part series titled ‘’ (Volumes I and II) delves deeper into contemporary Indian practices that have carved a unique identity and place for themselves in the country today. This article, part of the first volume of the series, takes a closer look at ‘mayaPRAXIS’, a Bengaluru-based architectural firm.

While anchoring each work in its specific site and circumstance, mayaPRAXIS is a synthesis of Vijay Narnapatti and Dimple Mittal’s sensibilities, which endeavor to obtain a deeper experience of time, space, light and materials. A continuum of specific situations enables works of distinct individuality and stylistic variety from project to project. Every project has a realm of details where the essential qualities are crystallised and catalysed at multiple scales.

Indian Architect & Builder’s interview with the founders, after the break…

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Federico Babina’s Latest Archi-Illustrations: Classic National Architecture (With A Twist)

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Our very talented friend Federico Babina has been responsible for some of ArchDaily’s most popular posts lately. The creativity behind his ARCHISET, ARCHIMACHINE, ARCHIPORTRAIT, ARCHIST, ARCHIBET and ARCHICINE have garnered thousands of shares on social media. Since we loved Babina’s serialized architectural illustrations, we were thrilled when he saw his latest set: the ArchDaily logo imagined in and around the world’s classic architecture. Read on for our interview with the architect and graphic designer. 

ArchDaily: Can you introduce yourself?
Federico Babina: My name is Federico Babina. I am an Italian architect and graphic designer (since 1994) that lives and works in Barcelona (since 2007). But mostly I’ve been a curious person (since forever).

AD: What’s an interesting fact about you?
FB: Every day I try to rediscover a way to observe the world through the eyes of a child. Children are able to have a vision of things totally uninhibited and without the conditioning of the experience. Children’s drawings are always amazing and beautiful in their spontaneous simplicity and clarity. I like trying to explain the world I see through different techniques of expression. I like the richness of the language and the diversity of its forms. I do not want to confine me in a prison of a style or shape.

AD: In what ways does your training as an architect affect your style as an illustrator?
FB: Any architect has to explain his projects through illustration and drawing. Design is the first way to give shape and body to a project. In this sense every architect should be a graphic designer. I was born with illustration. It’s been part of my life since I was a child. I started with book stories, I passed through the comics and then I arrived to architecture. Drawing and illustration and making architectural projects are, for me, one of the ways to recount and capture thoughts, feelings and emotions. Every project has a story and every project is a witness of a story. I ‘m fascinated by the idea of being able to blend the world of architecture and illustration: transform the architecture in an illustration and illustrations in an architecture.

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Crafting Urban Life in Three Dimensions: An Interview with Adam Snow Frampton by James Schrader

Footbridge in Central, Hong Kong. Image by Adam Frampton

The following are excerpts from one of 41 interviews that student researchers at the Strelka Institute are publishing as part of the Future Urbanism Project. In this interview, James Schrader speaks with Adam Snow Frampton, the co-author of Cities Without Ground and the Principal of Only If, a New York City-based practice for architecture and urbanism. They discuss his work with OMA, the difference between Western and Asian cities, his experiences opening a new firm in New York, and the future of design on an urban scale.

James Schrader: Before we get to future urbanism, I thought it would be interesting to look a bit into your past. Could you tell me about where your interest in cities came from? Were there any formative moments that led to your fascination with cities?

Adam Snow Frampton: I was always interested in cities, but not necessarily exposed to much planning at school. When I went to work at OMA Rotterdam, I was engaged in a lot of large-scale projects, mostly in the Middle East and increasingly in Asia, where there was an opportunity to plan cities at a bigger scale. In the Netherlands, there’s not necessarily more construction than in the US, but there is a tradition of thinking big and a tendency to plan. For instance, many Dutch design offices like OMA, West 8, and MVRDV have done master plans for the whole country.

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Emerging Practices in India: Hundredhands

Alila Hotel and Residences. Image © Nathan Willock

Indian Architect & Builder, through a two-part series titled ‘’ (Volumes I and II) delves deeper into contemporary Indian practices that have carved a unique identity and place for themselves in the country today. This article, part of the first volume of the series, takes a closer look at ‘Hundredhands’, a Bengaluru-based architectural firm. 

Patient and purposeful, the work of Hundredhands responds to fundamental concerns of form and space, material integrity, economy and efficiency with a strong efficacy with respect to function and relevance. With a team of architects and architecture trainees directed by Bijoy Ramachandran and Sunitha Kondur, Hundredhands has a significant investment in the conceptual development of their work and architectural discourse as an extension. 

Pragmatic and grounded in ‘doing’, the built work of Hundredhands is developed through an analytical process of drawing, physical and virtual model-making, detailing and a control on the process of building. Their buildings have a sense of clarity that comes through methodical process and elimination of the unnecessary. They use contemporary building technology and materials responsibly and with due regard to available skill. Their architecture is enriched through selection and restraint.  

Indian Architect & Builder’s interview with the founders, after the break…

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When Biology Inspires Architecture: An Interview with Doris Kim Sung

Much of dO|Su Studio Architecture’s work is with Thermal-Bimetals, a laminated sheet metal material that can expand and contract at different temperatures. Image © Brandon Shigeta

, presented by ArchDaily Materials, is our new series of short interviews with architects, designers, scientists, and others who use architectural in innovative ways. Enjoy!

Before attending Columbia University for her Masters in Architecture, Los Angeles-based architect Doris Kim Sung took a fairly non-traditional approach to becoming an architect: she was a biologist. Naturally then, Sung’s architectural work tends to take inspiration from the biological world, particularly in the way she experiments and innovates with materials. Much of her work involves thermal bimetals, a material that expands and contracts with temperature swings; it can even act as a sun shade and ventilation system, without the need for electricity.

So where does a biologist-turned-architect draw inspiration from? We interviewed Ms. Sung to find out for ourselves — the responses, like her work at dO|Su Architecture, are simply fascinating.

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AD Interviews: Jesús Robles / DUST

We were excited to have the chance to speak with DUST when we lectured at U of Arizona a few months ago. The project for a villa in Tucson that shared with ArchDaily in 2009 gained a lot of attention before it was even built–particularly for its use of a traditional construction system (rammed earth) and a bold material palette. The large walls act as thermal masses but are, most importantly, part of a system that is deeply connected to the site.

We wanted to talk with principal Jesús Robles (who founded DUST with Cade Hayes) to find out more about DUST’s latest work, especially since they know how to design and build with a very low impact, allowing them to be hands-on and innovative in terms of . For the interview, DUST brought us to the remote stretch of land in the San Rafael valley where they have been working on their latest project, Casa Caldera. You can see the progress of this house made of scoria here.

From the Desert to the City: An Interview with Wendell Burnette

© Bill Timmerman

Since childhood, growing up on a farm outside of Nashville, Wendell Burnette has been inspired by nature; indeed, the amplification of the natural site has highlighted his body of work. In the following question and answer by Guy Horton of Metropolis Magazine, the Pheonix-based architect speaks about memories, inspiration and experience. 

Wendell Burnette’s journey through architecture has taken him from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, where he has designed a type of architecture that resonates with the power of natural surroundings. It has also taken him to one of the world’s fastest growing , Phoenix, Arizona, where his practice, Wendell Burnette Architects, is based and where he calls home. More recently it has brought him to Los Angeles where he is the current Nancy M. & Edward D. Fox Urban Design Critic at the USC School of Architecture. He is also Professor of Practice at The Design School at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts.

I spoke with Burnette about his approach to architecture, the importance of direct experience, and the meaning behind his current USC studio, “Earth Curvature”.

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Architectural Photographers: José Campos

House in Monção by Joao Paulo Loureiro. Image ©

Architectural photographer, José Campos had the privilege of being born in an architectural paradise: Porto, Portugal. Having trained as an architect as well as a graphic designer, Campos brings a mature architectural eye and a keen attention to detail, light and color to his shots. His work has been published in dozens of well-known national and international books and publications. ArchDaily interviewed Campos to learn more about his start and artistic process. Read the entire interview, and check out his amazing images, after the break.

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Architectural Photographers: Allan Crow

MAXXI Museum / Zaha Hadid Architects. Image ©

Allan Crow may be, as he humbly puts it, just one of “two blokes that take photos.” But Hufton+Crow, the studio founded by him and Nick Hufton ten years ago, has reached far more than humble success. The duo have shot some of the most talked-about architectural works of the last few years -from Zaha Hadid‘s Galaxy Soho to Steven Holl‘s Sliced Porosity Block to BIG‘s Danish Maritime Museum - and have been published in renowned websites and magazines around the world. Learn more about how Crow began his career as well as his favorite architecture, after the break.

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Rodrigo Nino: In Defense of Crowdsourcing and Crowdfunding

The 17John Building in . Image Courtesy of Prodigy Network

As both crowdsourcing and crowdfunding gather momentum in the architecture world, they also gather criticism. The design website Arcbazar, for example, has recently attracted critics who label it as “the worst thing to happen to architecture since the internet started.” A few months ago, I myself strongly criticized the 17John apartment-hotel in New York for stretching the definition of “crowdfunding” to the point where it lost validity, essentially becoming a meaningless buzzword.

In response to this criticism, I spoke to Rodrigo Nino, the founder of Prodigy Network, the company behind 17 John, who offered to counter my argument. Read on after the break for his take on the benefits of tapping into the ‘wisdom of crowds.’

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When Buildings React: An Interview with MIT Media Lab’s Joseph Paradiso

Responsive Environment lab “Chain mail” project (“a flexible, high-density sensor network”). Image Courtesy of

Not so far in the future, smartphones and laptops will go the way of the beeper and fax machine, fading into obsolescence. Soon, according to MIT Media Lab’s Joseph Paradiso, we will interface with the physical world via wearable technologies that continually exchange information with sensors embedded all around us.

Paradiso has been at the forefront of these developments for decades, exploring new applications for in everything from music (he will lead a presentation of the lab’s musical innovations later this month at Moogfest) to baseball. In recent years, his group’s research has focused increasingly on smart buildings. I spoke with him about the implications of his work for the future of architecture and the built environment.

You run the Responsive Environments group at the Media Lab. Can you describe some of your work in the building realm?

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AD Interviews: Arthur Andersson / Andersson-Wise

We caught up with Arthur Andersson of Andersson-Wise during last year’s AIA convention, where he received status. As the firm’s design director, Andersson shepherds their work through the various phases of the design process with a particular attention to the client’s role.

The work of Andersson-Wise can be defined as authentically local, with a strong emphasis on and details. The Texas-based architects use passive energy approaches in their large projects that appear as if they have been extrapolated from their detailed, smaller scale projects. The W Austin, the only mixed-use LEED Silver building in Texas, has design features that strategically reduce energy usage and heat gain. Sustainability in architecture is at the core of their approach–deeply rooted in the spirit and materiality of the buildings.

Their versatility is evident in their successful completion of projects of different scales. They place a premium on the practice of drawing by hand and, as a result, their projects achieve a certain level of sustainability that doesn’t detract from Andersson-Wise’s portfolio of  timeless work.

Check out Andersson-Wise’s projects on ArchDaily:

AD Interviews: Jeanne Gang / Studio Gang Architects

If you don’t know , here’s the short and impressive bio: she received her Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Illinois and then went on to Harvard’s GSD for her masters degree. After working at OMA (where she participated in projects such as the Maison à Bordeaux), Jeanne founded Studio Gang in 1997. She has since become a MacArthur Fellow and was 2011′s Fast Company Master of Design. So it was particularly exciting to sit down with Jeanne at the 2013 World Architecture Festival in Singapore.

The work of Studio Gang is very broad, from private residences to community facilities, from small pavilions to an 82-story tower. But all of them have follow a clear line: careful attention to the , and a constant research leading to innovations in terms of sustainability and fabrication.

Projects such as the recently honored WMS Boathouse add to Studio Gang’s consistent presence in Chicago’s new architecture, which also includes the stunning Aqua Tower and other projects that serve local communities (such as the new venue for the Writers’ Theater and Lincoln Zoo South Pond Pavilion). Yet she also displays a commitment to her city’s heritage, as can be seen in her proposal for Prentice Hospital.

Be sure to watch our interview with Jeanne Gang and check out Studio Gang’s projects on ArchDaily.

AD Interviews: Winka Dubbeldam

At last week’s Mextrópoli conference we spoke with Winka Dubbeldam about the challenges of architecture education. We also asked her to elaborate on why she thinks architecture should embrace industrial design tools. Watch the short clip to hear Winka’s thoughts on making technology a more integral part of our built environment.

Winka Dubbeldam, Assoc. AIA, is the founder and principal of Archi-Tectonics, and is Professor and Chair of the Graduate Department of Architecture at PennDesign, Philadelphia. 

An Interview with MAD Architects’ Ma Yansong: Constructing Icons, Identity & China’s Future Cities

, MAD Architects. Image © Edoardo Giancola

I look into myself, trying to express myself. I think sometimes maybe you have an idea from a dream. It sounds ridiculous but you draw something out of your dream. Where does this dream come from? It must somehow relate to some situation. So what I’m interested in is to keep discovering what is really inside of me. I’m not a genius that from the first moment I already know what I want. - Ma Yansong -

Beixinqiao district, in Beijing, is changing fast: the ancient urban tissue is being demolished as new high-rises are growing.Located in this environment, Ma Yansong’s office sits within an old and anonymous construction. In contrast to its exterior, the inside is characterized by wood, white walls and plants that transform the place into a sophisticated environment.International young architects are busy modeling new organic-shaped buildings on the other side of the world; meanwhile a golden fish swims in the eternal loop of the “fish tank” in the centre of the room.

In the following interview, Ma Yansong explains contemporary cities as environments that are out-of-scale with nature. He believes a new approach must be used, one that breaks the monotonous “chessboard” of contemporary Urban and re-establishes the balance between human beings and the natural world.

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AD Interviews: Brendan MacFarlane / Jakob + MacFarlane

Paris-based architect Brendan MacFarlane, of the firm Jakob + MacFarlane, spoke to us during our visit to the FRAC Centre in Orléans for the ArchiLab 2013 exhibition and conference. MacFarlane, who studied at Sci-Arc in the 80s and later received a degree from Harvard’s GSD, successfully combines theory and form, placing him among the few architects that have been able to harmonize this balance.

’s special and precise handling of the grids generates projects that, while outwardly complex, are actually deceivingly so. Based not on strong computational muscle but actually a more simple deformation of grids, their projects can appear nearly impossible or too complex to realize. Yet they are able to make these buildings a reality.

Along with his partner Dominique Jakob, the duo’s consistent methodology doesn’t rely on constant innovation. MacFarlane posits that “sometimes it’s about doing something simple that’s kind of obvious.“ This has yielded a stylistic variety that evades singular typecasting.

They are not afraid to combine existing structures with their proposals–in fact, they welcome it. What they do is strategic: a kind of rational deformation of otherwise uniform and uncomplicated geometry, with the computer acting as a tool (but not a generative one).

Be sure to check out the interview, as well as Jakob + MacFarlane‘s projects on ArchDaily.

Fernando Guerra On Photography In The Internet Age

Aires Mateus Arquitectos / House in Alcobaça, Portugal. Image ©

In this interview, originally published by Paperhouses as “Decisive Moment: Conversation With Fernando Guerra“, the Portuguese photographer details his career in architectural photography, and how he approaches the art of photographing buildings. As an advocate of free sharing and online publicity, and one of a new breed of photographers who – shock horror – likes to include people in his shots of buildings, Guerra is well placed to explain how the world of has changed over the past decade.

I do not want to call it an interview—it was a fabulous discussion that Fernando Guerra led as a loose narrative with notes on work that he practices with hedonism and filled with life. They are all stories dedicated to the great beauty of doing what one loves and letting it grow.

Read on after the break for the interview

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