On his recent visit to Santiago, Chile we caught up with Rahul Mehrotra, founder of Mumbai-based RMA Architects and a professor of Urban Design and Planning at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Mehrotra is known for his advocacy work in Mumbai and has carried out projects on a myriad of scales including interior design, architecture, urban design, conservation and planning. His projects include everything from a house on a tea plantation to a campus for NGO Magic Bus, the KMC Corporate Office in Hyderabad and housing for mahouts and their elephants. Mehrotra has also written and lectured extensively on architecture, conservation and urban planning in Mumbai and India.
“I think that the most important issue facing architects and architecture–generally, around the world–is the question of inequity,” Mehrotra told us. “I think architecture is a deadly instrument in hardening the boundaries between the communities in society. It hardens thresholds very easily; we don’t realize it.” In the full interview, Mehrotra speaks more on inequity, what architecture means to him and how his practice and teaching inform each other.
In the following article, originally published on Metropolis Magazine as “Q&A: Renzo Piano“, Paul Clemence talks with the Italian master of museum design about the design process and philosophies that have brought him such tremendous success in the field – from sketching, to behaving with civility, to buildings that ‘fly’, Piano explains what makes the perfect museum.
There’s a reason why Renzo Piano is known as the master of museum design. The architect has designed 25 of them, 14 in the US alone. Few architects understand as well as Piano—along with his practice, the Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW)—what board directors, curators, and even the visiting public needs and wants in a cultural institution like a museum. When I spoke with Donna de Salvo, chief curator of the Whitney Museum of American Art, whose new downtown digs were authored by RPBW she remarked on the how the curators’ input was often incorporated into the final building design. “Our curators and the architects had an ongoing dialogue throughout the design of this building,” de Salvo says. “The physical needs of the art were a priority for Renzo and his team, down to the most seemingly minute detail. Our curatorial voice was central to the discussion and has given us a terrifically dynamic building, a uniquely responsive array of spaces for art.”
But what often goes unmentioned is how well Piano’s buildings, particularly his museums, connect to their surroundings. The buildings not only perform well, but they integrate themselves into the life of the city, as if they have always been there. From Beaubourg to The New York Times Building, they fully embrace the space and energy of their urban contexts. Now, as two of his newest and very high-profile museum projects near completion—the renovation and expansion of the Harvard Art Museums (due to open this Fall) and the Whitney Museum of Art (expected to be in use by Spring 2015)—I had a chance to meet with Piano at his Meatpacking District office to talk about the creative process, criticisms, contemporary architecture, and “flying” buildings.
We had the chance to sit down with Pedro Alonso, one of the curators of the Chilean pavilion “Monolith Controversies,” at the 2014 Venice Biennale, to learn more about the concept and inspiration behind the Silver Lion-winning pavilion. “We were interested in demonstrating that architects didn’t absorb modernity, but rather, they supplied it. The ones who absorbed it were the workers and the people,” Alonso told us, outside of a replica of a Chilean apartment – the entrance to the Pavilion. “The absorption of modernity has to do with the pieces we are exhibiting. For example, this apartment, the apartment of Mrs. Silvia Gutiérrez in Viña del Mar, which is an exact replica – object by object- of the 518 things that make up her living room.”
Enter Gutiérrez’s apartment and the rest of the Chilean pavilion in the full interview with Alonso. And don’t forget to check out additional pictures and text from the curators in our coverage of the pavilion here.
Following the recent announcement of Aedas’ demerger into two separate companies - one retaining the Aedas name and the other now known as AHR - we spoke to Keith Griffiths, Chairman of Aedas’ global board and a practicing architect for close to three decades. The company, which was recently ranked by the Architects’ Journal as the 5th largest and most influential practice in the world, have now moved their head office to London’s Chandos Place and are championing a new approach to urban regeneration in the UK’s capital. Alongside discussing how an international practice of Aedas’ scale successfully operates, Griffiths offered his insight into how the future looks for European cities based on a tried and tested Asian model of densification.
To find out how Aedas approach sustainability in flourishing Asian markets, as well as the significance of the ‘urban hub’ typology for London’s metropolitan future, read the interview in full after the break.
“In the ancient culture identity is a touch of spatiality. Our use of space is psychological, you line up sequences of courtyards and buildings in order of importance so it prepares your mood, they get a sense of anticipation. We could reuse this spatially in today’s different types of buildings to achieve different purposes, but it originates from the past — that makes it Chinese.” – Rocco S. K. Yim, Hong Kong, 2013
On the 38th floor of the AIA Tower, Rocco Yim’s office faces the bay, from which you see the quintessential view of the city: the Hong Kong skyline. Rocco Yim is the founder of Rocco Design Architects Limited (founded in 1982) and responsible for the design of iconic buildings like the International Finance Centre in Hong Kong. In this conversation he talks about the importance of the density created and supported by the urban flow in China, and his unique point of view on iconic architecture in relation to ancient culture.
On the morning that France accepted a Special Mention for its exhibition “Modernity: Promise or Menace?” at the Venice Biennale, Curator Jean-Louis Cohen spoke to us about the questions raised within, on, and around the walls of the French Pavilion. Standing in front of a model of the farcical Villa Arpel from Jacques Tati’s famous film “Mon Oncle,” Cohen explained that France didn’t just absorb modernity (as Rem Koolhaas proposed) but that France inspired modernity, providing different expectations, promises and, as the title suggests, menaces.
For more images and curatorial texts check out our coverage of the pavilion here.
Helene, who also serves as the Executive Director at The Virginia Museum of Architecture & Design, is the third female president in the history of the AIA. We discussed the challenges currently facing the organization, particularly the issue of diversity in the profession, and Dreiling’s ambitions to lead a cultural sea-change to improve the way the profession is perceived in the US.
Wood. The United States is the largest producer of the natural resource in the world. But yet we rarely see it in commercial, high-rise construction. So we asked a wood expert – Rebecca Holt at Perkins+Will, an analyst for reThink Wood‘s recent Tall Wood Survey – to tell us about its potential benefits.
AD: Why is wood a material architects should use in taller buildings?
There are lots of reasons to consider wood – first it has a lower environmental impact than other traditional choices like concrete and steel. Wood is the only major building material that is made the by sun and is completely renewable.
Indian Architect & Builder, through a two-part series titled ‘Practices of Consequence’ (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 ‘Abin Design Studio’, a Kolkata-based architectural firm.
In a city that, though culturally rich, has remained fairly neglectful of contemporary architectural developments, Abin Design Studio’s dynamic philosophy attempts to trigger a ‘think revolution’ by challenging the conventional and recreating the city-scape of Kolkata. Abin Design Studio was founded in October 2005 by Abin Chaudhuri, who partnered with Jui Mallick in 2006. What started off as a small three-person firm is now a frontline organisation rendering complete design solutions from conceptualisation to realisation of space, object and visual.
The projects have a strong spatial quality which fuse lessons from past traditions with aspirations of the present in a sparkling coup of energy. Their passion to transform and nerve to challenge is almost incomparable. Indian Architect & Builder’s interview with the founders, after the break…
Arthur Andersson of Andersson-Wise Architects wants to build ruins. He wants things to be timeless – to look good now and 2000 years from now. He wants buildings to fit within a place and time. To do that he has a various set of philosophies, processes and some great influences. Read our full in-depth interview with Mr. Andersson, another revolutionary ”Material Mind,” after the break.
Indian Architect & Builder, through a two-part series titled ‘Practices of Consequence’ (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 interview, part of the first volume of the series, takes a closer look at ‘Indigo Architects’, an Ahmedabad-based architectural firm.
IAB: Please describe your work.
Uday + Mausami Andhare: We have positioned our efforts in the field of architecture in the context of our time, which is ridden with great contrasts. On one hand, rapid and haphazard development in the cities is putting the existing infrastructure under a severe strain and on the other, smaller towns and villages continues to suffer age-old neglect in the area of planned growth and quality of construction. With fast-depleting resources, the onus of a sensitive approach to these realities is a dire need…And architecture has the power to effect change, of course. The question is about being effective in various contexts. Urban, rural, big, or small, private or public, it is imperative to give utmost care and dignity to the smallest of efforts. Perhaps, this may be a model that allows well-meaning practices to carry on with their tasks with an integral focus, in any profession.
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 Toronto. 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.