What Makes a City a City?

The presence of a cathedral meant St David’s in Pembrokeshire had city status with a population of around 2,000. Image Courtesy of Alamy

You probably use the word ‘city’ on a daily basis, but if put on the spot – could you give it a concise definition? Under the rule of Henry VIII, the title of city was given to virtually any settlement in the United Kingdom with a diocesan cathedral. Obviously, times have changed. For Robert Bevan’s thoughts on the title’s past and present meaning, read his article on The Guardian here.

Competing Utopias: An Experimental Installation of Cold War Modern Design from East and West in One Context

Poster Design: David Hartwell, 2014

Competing Utopias is a design collision that should never happen. But somehow, in , in 2014, twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it will.

This installation is a ‘mash-up’ in the most provocative sense of that word. Its force comes from the collision of two design cultures that have been kept apart but have been visually connected in ways yet unexamined. What’s proposed is an experimental installation that presents Cold War modern design from East and West in one context.

Competing Utopias is organized by two Los Angeles institutions: the Neutra VDL Studio and Residences and the Wende Museum and Archive of the Cold War, each a different type of museum. The Neutra House is an iconic Los Angeles mid-century modern house museum, designed by Austrian born American architect Richard Neutra. The Wende Museum is the largest archive of Cold War artifacts in the world. Both ‘institutions’ originated in German speaking Europe, both subsequently landed in Los Angeles. Their collections embody two forks of a Cold War history.

Title: Competing Utopias: An Experimental Installation of Cold War Modern Design from East and West in One Context
Website: http://neutra-vdl.org/site/competing_utopias.asp?514201404423
From: Fri, 11 Jul 2014 
Until: Sun, 14 Sep 2014
Venue: Neutra VDL Research House
Address: 2300 Silver Lake Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039,

Sydney Pushes First-Ever Policy to Promote Culture

© Flickr - User: Jong Soo (Peter) Lee

The City of has requested that 1.6 million square meters of empty commercial and residential space be made available to artists for “creative activities.” The proposed cultural offers over 120 ideas in which the space can be used to enhance ’s reputation as a world renowned creative city. “The City is proud to spend more than $34 million each year to support the arts, culture and creative activity in – but we know it is equally important to create an environment where ideas and imagination can flourish.” More information on the new policy can be found here

RIBA Norman Foster Travelling Scholarship Awarded to Student Investigating Climate Change

Buffer Landscapes 2060. Image © Joe Paxton; Courtesy of Foster + Partners

Joe Paxton of the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, was awarded the 2014 for his proposal “Buffer Landscapes 2060.” The £6,000 travel grant will enable him to study the impact of in a number of locations, ultimately to propose some measures that might mitigate the threat of floods, droughts, melting glaciers and rising temperatures. A comment from Foster, after the break…

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HR Giger, Swiss Architect & Visual Mind Behind “Alien,” Dies

MUSEUM HR GIGER BAR in Château St. Germain, Gruyères, Switzerland. Image © Richard McMullen / flickr user johnleespider

HR Giger, the Swiss artist and designer who inspired and helped craft the visuals for the Ridley Scott film Alien, has died at the age of 74, The Guardian reports. Although he studied architecture and industrial design in Zurich, Giger never entered the profession, but used his spatial know-how to help design dark in both the real and cinematic worlds.

Giger was even hired by Alexandar Jodorowsky in 1975 to design the world for an (unrealized) adaptation of the novel Dune. In Giger’s words: ”My planet was ruled by evil, a place where black magic was practiced, aggressions were let loose, and intemperance and perversion were the order of the day. Just the place for me, in fact.” More about Giger’s life and work at The Guardian.

Baumgartner+Uriu “Apertures” at SCI-Arc Gallery

Apertures reflect a current architectural discourse of digital ecologies, emphasizing the relationship between the natural world and advances in digital technology, which leads to a new type of interactive, organic buildings. The installation focuses on a symbiotic relationship between nature, building morphologies, and material expression.

Rooted in Baumgartner+Uriu’s work and ongoing research, Apertures challenges the notion of an architectural opening as a static object. Moreover, it aims to redefine the DNA of a window both in terms of its appearance and materiality, as well as its nature as an object in continuous flux, responding to its environment through movement or sound. The pavilion and its apertures are designed to physically engage the visitor with the architectural work through sensors and sound feedback loops creating an immersive spatial environment in which the visitor can experience their own biorhythms.  

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Lost Opportunity? Norman Foster’s New York Public Library Renovation

Not gonna happen. Image Courtesy of dbox/Foster + Partners

As we mentioned a few days ago, Norman Foster’s controversial New York Public Library renovation was axed before the most current proposal was even revealed. While book worms rejoice over the victory, others are disappointed about the lost opportunity. To read about what could have been, head on over to Magazine and read Justin Davidson’s thoughts here.

Plans Underway for “Russian Tate Modern”

Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage via Wikimedia Commons

Rumor has it that Constructivist architect Konstantin Melnikov’s Bakhmetevsky bus garage may soon be transformed into Moscow’s prime modern art gallery. An “equivalent to London’s Tate Modern,” as the Calvert Journal describes, the historic 1927 structure has been said to be the most likely location for the new museum, dubbed “.”

Toomath’s Legacy: Defining Modern New Zealand Architecture

Toomath House, view of the Oriental Bay. Image Courtesy of Simon Devitt

“What makes us New Zealanders different from, say, Australians?” , the late modernist architect, asked himself this question at the onset of his career. In this article published by the Australian Design Review, Jack Davies takes a look at Toomath’s work and how he helped define New Zealand architecture. To keep reading, click here.

“Every Building is a Social Critique” – Polshek Describes His Oeuvre in Latest Book

Polshek’s memorable design for the Rose Center for Earth and Space (2000) at the American Museum of Natural History in . Image Courtesy of Timothy Hursley

While architects don’t always see the connection between politics, social constructs, and architecture, James Stewart Polshek considers the three indivisible. In an on Metropolis Magazine about his newly released book Build, Memory, he describes how this belief launched his career 65 years ago. To learn more about Polshek’s approach to architecture and the publication, click here.

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“Design Mind” Witold Rybczynski Discusses His Latest Work

Photo by Michael Cooper

While most of the profession looks forward, author Witold Rybczynski is focused on the past. Named 2014′s “Design Mind” by the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum earlier this month, Rybczynski writes about historical buildings to give a better understanding of modern architecture. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Rybczynski talks about his latest book “How Architecture Works: A Humanist’s Toolkit,” the dangers of “celebrity” architecture, and his favorite non-designer chair. Check out the full interview here.

Deadline Approaching: Submit Your Interior Design for an INSIDE Award

Do you think your project has what it takes to win an INSIDE award? The deadline (May 30th) is fast approaching, so make sure to submit your projects soon! Divided into 12 categories — which include Residential, Retail, Transport, Office and more — entries will be judged by distinguished designers (judges confirmed for 2014 include Fabio Novembre, Matteo Thun, Jaya Ibrahim, David Kohn, Joyce Wang, Voon Wong and Chris Lee). In October, architects and interior designers will meet in for the INSIDE Festival, which is held alongside the World Architecture Festival. During the festival, the category winners will compete for the ultimate prize: World Interior of the Year.

To find out more and submit your entry, click here!

Boris Johnson Enlists 3 Practices to Envisage the Future of Heathrow

Richard Rogers’ Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Image © Flickr CC User NewbieRunner

London Mayor Boris Johnson has enlisted the help of three architects, Hawkins\Brown, Rick Mather Architects and Maccreanor Lavington Architects to design a new town on the site of Heathrow Airport. The move is designed to encourage support for Johnson’s plan to build a new airport in the Thames Estuary, jokingly dubbed ‘Boris Island’ by some. If the Estuary Airport were to go ahead it could mean closing Heathrow, currently one of the world’s busiest airports, freeing the land up for the new development. You can read more on the story at the Architects’ Journal.

Jacobs and Moses’ Famous Feud to Be Dramatized in Opera

Courtesy of Fast Co-Design

Yes, you read right – the 1960s urban planning battle between Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses will be the central story line for a new opera. Although the premiere is a long way off, its creators promise to bring City and the drama to life through song and an elaborate, animated, three-dimensional set. To find out more about the developing project, head on over to Fast Co-Design.

De Blasio Sets 10-Year Affordable Housing Plan for NYC

ODA Chosen to Design Largest Affordable Housing Project in . Image © ODA

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has addressed the “crisis of affordability” by implementing a five-borough, ten-year plan that will build and preserve 200,000 affordable units over the coming decade. Believing affordable housing to be part of “the bedrock of what makes work,” Blasio hopes the plan will make New York, once again, “a place where our most vulnerable, our working people and our middle class can all thrive.” Review the plan in detail and check out one of the largest affordable housing projects planned for the city, here

Remembering Ron Thom’s Subtle Mark on the Canadian Landscape

Trent University in Peterborough, . Image © Alexi Hobbs

“You don’t need big and flashy starchitecture to make a statement; the most powerful architecture is often that which blends into the landscape and reveals itself slowly.” In this article on Monocle, written by Nelly Gocheva, the late Canadian architect is remembered for just this reason. To learn more about Thom’s architectural approach and works, including his masterplan for Trent University, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, read the article here.

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Liverpool Becomes Latest City With High Line Plans

The Churchill Flyover in Liverpool. Image © Flickr CC User Arthur John Picton

Thanks to a group called Friends of the Flyover, Liverpool has become the latest city with aspirations to build its own High Line-style elevated parkway. The group have raised over £40,000 on the civic website Spacehive to conduct a feasibility study on the elevated Churchill Flyover, with the aim of creating a park, events space and cycle route. Liverpool Council currently has plans to demolish the flyover at a cost of £4 million – however they are said to be open to the proposal by Friends of the Flyover, who hope to show that they can deliver a better solution for around half the cost. You can read the full story on the Independent.

From “Cube Farm” to Fun: The Five Office Designs of the 20th Century

Google’s Super HQ Office in . Image Courtesy of PENSON

From being isolated in a cubicle to having a ping pong table at your disposal, the way we approach work and office design has drastically evolved over the past decade. The Wall Street Journal has identified five office designs that have defined the 20th century, going over the pros and cons of each one – including the collaborative typology that exists in the offices of Google. To learn more, continue reading here.