Are Playable Cities the Future of Urbanism?

Park and Slide in . Image © Flickr CC User Paul Townsend

Who says that playing is just for kids? Bristol, in the United Kingdom, is just one of the many cities around the world experimenting with , creating opportunities to eliminate urban solitude in favour of having fun. In a recent article in The Guardian, Julian Baggini dives head first into Bristol’s playful new initiatives including a 300-foot water slide on the city’s high street, post boxes that converse using text messaging, and city-wide zombie chases. Bristol is leading the way with urban play worldwide, hosting a conference this month entitled Making the City Playable, an opportunity for planners to convene with the creative minds behind the new form of entertainment. Find out more about urban play and the benefits it brings to cities here.

Watch “Zaha Hadid on Kazimir Malevich” Today

Malevich’s Tektonik. Image © Architects

Zaha Hadid has been featured in a 30-minute BBC Secret Knowledge film based on Kazimir Malevich: The Russian Revolutionary: Zaha Hadid on Kazimir Malevich. One of Hadid’s greatest influencers, the Russian painter and theoretician inspired the Dame’s AA graduation thesis which transformed Malevich’s 1923 Arkitekton model into a 14-story hotel that stretched across ’s Hungerford Bridge. You can watch the film online (here) through September 16.

Competition: Re-Imagining The Athenaeum of Philadelphia

Imagine: After three years of careful dismantling, moving,  painstakingly re-assembling and most importantly, restoring, John Notman’s historic Athenæum building has finally arrived at its new location in Fairmount Park, where it will serve as the headquarters of  the newly formed chapter of the Friends of Brownstone (PhilaFOB). Flush with government funding from lottery and fracking  revenue, PhilaFOB made the Athenæum Board of Directors an offer it  couldn’t refuse.  So now, for the first time since 1845, the lot at 6th & St. James Streets  is vacant, and the Athenæum, still a vital independent lending and  research library, with growing architectural and design collections,  must re-imagine itself without its historic building. Given its  location and its corporate purposes, what might a mid-21st century  Athenæum look like?

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OMA Announces Addition of Four New Partners

OMA has announced the addition of four new equity partners, all promoted from Associate level, to take its total number of partners to ten. The move is a reflection of ’s increasing workload in both architectural projects, and also the increasing involvement of AMO, the company’s research offshoot. With two of the new partners based in their overseas offices, it also represents a move to strengthen their work in markets outside of their European base. Read on after the break for details of all four new partners.

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Spotlight: Andrés Duany

© Flickr CC User Michigan Municipal League

Andrés Duany, a founding partner of Miami firms Arquitectonica and Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company and a co-founder of the Congress for New Urbanism, turns 65 today. As an advocate of , since the 1980s Duany has been instrumental creating renewed focus on walkable, mixed use neighborhoods, in reaction against the sprawling, car-centric modernist urbanism of the previous decades. More about Duany and after the break.

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Beyond Starchitects: An Architectural Revolution at the 2014 Venice Biennale

Bahrain’s analysis of in the Arabic nations is arguably contrary to the theme of ‘’. Image © Nico Saieh

“The Biennale reveals that modernism was never a style. It was a cultural, political, and social practice,” says Sarah Williams Goldhagen in her recent article for New Republic, The Great Architect Rebellion of 2014. This year, the Venice Biennale dissects the notion of modernism by providing a hefty cross-section of architectural history in the central pavilion. However contrary to Koolhaas‘ prescriptive brief, the 65 national pavilions show modernism was not just a movement, but a socially-driven, culturally attuned reaction to the “exigencies of life in a rapidly changing and developing world.” Unexpected moments define the 2014 Venice Biennale: from Niemeyer‘s desire to launch Brazil into the first world through architectural creation, to South Korea‘s unveiling of a deep modernist tradition with influence across the nation. This Biennale proved to be truly rebellious – read Goldhagen’s article from New Republic here to find out why.

Brutalism: Back in Vogue?

The Barbican in London. Image © Flickr CC User Rene Passet

Are Brutalist buildings, once deemed cruel and ugly, making a comeback? Reyner Banham‘s witty play on the French term for raw concrete, beton brut, was popularized by a movement of hip, young architects counteracting what they perceived as the bourgeois and fanciful Modernism of the 1930s. Though the use of raw concrete in the hands of such artist-architects as Le Corbusier seems beautiful beneath the lush Mediterranean sun, under the overcast skies of northern Europe Brutalist architecture earned a much less flattering reputation. Since the 1990s, however, architects, designers, and artists have celebrated formerly denounced buildings, developing a fashionably artistic following around buildings like Erno Goldfinger‘s Trellick Tower, “even if long-term residents held far more ambivalent views of this forceful high-rise housing block.” To learn more about this controversial history and to read Jonathan Glancey‘s speculation for its future, read the full article on here.

Michael Graves 50 Year Retrospective to Open in October

Denver Library, South Elevation, 1994, pencil and colored pencil on yellow tracing paper, 14 x 26 inches. Image Courtesy of Michael Graves & Associates, photo: Ken Ek

An celebrating one of North America’s foremost postmodern architects will open this October, marking 50 years of Michael Graves‘ practice. Past as Prologue maps the evolution of Graves’ work in architecture and product design through an array of media including sculpture, painting, furniture, drawings and models. The comprehensive exhibition will begin with Graves’ work from 1964 and conclude with works currently in progress. The exhibition will be hosted by Grounds for Sculpture with a mission to provide insight into the five-decade progression of Graves’ unique design process. More on the exhibition after the break.

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Spotlight: Fumihiko Maki

Fumihiko Maki at MIT Media Lab, 2010

Fumihiko Maki, the Pritzker Prize laureate and 67th AIA Gold Medalist, turns 86 today. Widely considered to be one of Japan’s most distinguished living architects, Maki practices a unique style of that reflects his Japanese origin. Toshiko Mori has praised Maki’s ability to create “ineffable atmospheres” using a simple palette of various types of metal, concrete, and glass. His consistent integration and adoption of new methods of construction as part of his design language contribute to his personal quest to create “unforgettable scenes.”

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“Mouthful of Meetings”: The Collision of North and South at the Venice Biennale

Courtesy of South of North

”Mouthful of meetings” is a moderated conversation taking place at the 2014 Venice Biennale with a focus on socioeconomic sustainability and current projects in developing countries around the world. The event is organized by South of North, a collaboration between Nordic architects working in the non-profit sector in developing environments. Contributors will include contemporary Nordic and African practices with an emphasis on recent works of socially committed architecture. Read on after the break for more details of the event.

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It’s “Time For Strategic Architecture”

Bolling Municipal Center – Roxbury, Boston (MA). Image Courtesy of / Sasaki Associates

In an article for the New York Times, Alexandra Lange discusses a number of US projects which are “transforming, but not disrupting,” their respective communities. In this vein, she cites Mecanoo and Sasaki Associates’ new Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Roxbury, Boston, as a prime example of a new kind of architecture which “comes from understanding of past civic hopes, redesigning them to meet the future.” Examining some of the key concepts that make for successfully integrated community buildings, such as the creation of spaces that actively forge personal connections, Lange concludes that perhaps it is now “time for strategic architecture.”

The idea that urban planning could build upon citizen action, rather than consisting of imposed boulevards or housing blocks (as with the urban renewal that originally gutted Roxbury) is gaining traction.

Read the article in full here.

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VIDEO: In Boston, Reclaiming the Craft of Brick

Frank Gehry’s Design for Ground Zero Arts Center Shelved

Original Proposal. Image Courtesy of Gehry Partners

Frank Gehry’s design for the performing arts center at ground zero in New York has been shelved and the planning board will instead select a design from three other finalist architects, the New York Times has reported. This follows on reports from February that ’s original design was being revised and his plans for an initial 1,000 seat center were being abandoned. “We’re in the process of selecting a new architect,” said John E. Zuccotti, the real estate developer who is the chairman of the arts center’s board. “Three architectural firms are being considered.” Gehry, however, has said that he’s heard “zero at ground zero” and hasn’t been informed of the board’s decision. To learn more about the plans for the performing arts center see the full article from the New York Times.

Spotlight: Daniel Burnham

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The impact Daniel H. Burnham had on urban planning and the American city is still felt today, many years after his death, on what would have been his 168th birthday. Over the course of his lucrative career, Burnham pioneered some of the world’s first skyscrapers, inspired the City Beautiful Movement with his vision for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and created urban plans for numerous cities before urban planning even existed as a profession. Burnham said of his unusual large scale thinking, “Make no little plans, they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”

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Spotlight: Kenzo Tange

Courtesy of Wikimedia Common

Kenzo Tange (4 September 1913-22 March 2005), the Pritzker-Prize Winning Japanese architect who helped define Japan’s post-WWII emergence into Modernism, would have turned 101 today. Inspired by Le CorbusierTange decided to study architecture at the University of in 1935. He worked as an urban planner, helping to rebuild Hiroshima after World War II, and gained international attention in 1949, when his design for the Hiroshima Peace Center and Memorial Park was selected. Tange continued to work in and theorize about Urban Planning throughout the 50s; his “Plan for Tokyo 1960″ re-thought urban structures and heavily influenced the Metabolist movement.

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Spotlight: Louis Sullivan

circa 1895

Louis Sullivan, Chicago‘s “Father of Skyscrapers” who foreshadowed modernism with his famous phrase “form follows function,” would have turned 158 today. Sullivan was an architectural prodigy even as a young man, graduating high school and beginning his studies at MIT when he was just 16. After just a year of study he dropped out of MIT, and by the time he was just 24 he had joined forces with Dankmar Adler as a full partner of Adler and Sullivan.

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Maarten Hajer Appointed as Chief Curator of 2016 Rotterdam Biennale

© Bob Bronshoff

The International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR) has announced Maarte Hajer as the Chief Curator of IABR-2016-. Hajer, a professor of Public Policy at the University of Amsterdam and Director General of the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, was selected for his proposed theme, “The Next Economy.” More on Hajer’s appointment after the break.

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RIBA Future Trends Survey Reveals Decrease in Workload & Staffing Levels

Courtesy of RIBA

The results of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBAFuture Trends Survey for July 2014 show that the Workload Index among  practices fell back to +28 (from +34 in June) with confidence levels among RIBA practices about the level of future workloads remaining “very strong in practices of all sizes across the whole of the .” Whereas last month’s survey saw Scotland top the index with a balance figure of +50, London showed the greatest strength in July with a balance figure of +38. Practices located in Wales and the West were the most cautious about prospects for future workloads, returning a balance figure of just +12. The survey shows that actual workloads have been growing for four consecutive quarters and the overall value of work in progress last month was 10% higher than this time last year.

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UIA World Congress Reveals Architecture’s Other Side

Rahul Mehrotra’s designs for an office building in Hyderabad exemplify the social agenda of architecture which dominated discussions at this year’s World Congress. Image © Carlos Chen

With the International Union of Architects (UIA)’s World Congress taking place last month, the eyes of the architecture world were on South Africa where – according to Phineas Harper of the Architectural Review - the conference was full of architects of all backgrounds with “irrepressible energy,” sharing ideas on how architecture can be used for social good with an urgency that is somewhat unfamiliar in the Western world. ”Whoever said architecture was stale, male and pale should have been in ,” says Harper. You can read the full review of the event here.

Harper’s review also singles out the “electrifying” keynote speech of Rahul Mehrotra, who explained how he used his architecture to bridge social and cultural gaps while still serving his clients’ needs, in projects such as his Hyderabad offices. You can see him discuss these ideas in our interview with Mehrotra here:

AD Interviews: Rahul Mehrotra / RMA Architects