Excerpt: Edwin Abbott’s ‘Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions’

Published in London in 1884, Edwin Abbot’s amusing short novel Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions is a biting critique of Victorian social hierarchies and a canonical work of scientific and theological commentary. It is also a remarkable spatial allegory, challenging conceptions of visual reality and postulating on the existence of unfamiliar dimensions that are obscured by the learned limits of our own knowledge. The book’s narrator, A Square, lives in a two-dimensional planar world inhabited by geometric shapes that are stratified into social classes based on the number of their sides. Polygons constitute the highest classes, while the laboring isosceles triangles exist only above the women, straight lines condemned to tirelessly wiggle back and forth to make themselves visible. One day, A Square receives a strange visitor—a Sphere—from a three-dimensional place called Spaceland, who reveals to him the limits of his conceived reality. Posing enduring questions of knowledge, reason, and faith, this deeply architectural novel is simultaneously among the most entertaining articulations of a phenomenological approach to our sensory understanding of space.

The first three sections of the book are excerpted below.

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Material Masters: Glass is More with Mies van der Rohe

To celebrate the first anniversary of our US Materials Catalog, this week ArchDaily is presenting a three-part series on “Material Masters,” showing how certain have helped to inspire some of the world’s greatest architects.

Mies van der Rohe, famous for his saying “less is more,” was one of the preeminent modernist architects, well known for pioneering the extensive use of glass in buildings. His works introduced a new level of simplicity and transparency, and his buildings were often referred to as “skin-and-bones” architecture for their emphasis on steel structure and glass enclosure. In addition to Mies van der Rohe, glass was a major influence for many architects of the modernist movement and reshaped the way we think about and define space. Today, glass has become one of the most used building materials, but its early architectural expression is perhaps best exemplified in the works of Mies.

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Infographic: The Bauhaus Movement and the School that Started it All

Courtesy of Aram

Bauhaus, the school of design established by Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919, has arguably been the most influential of any institution in shaping the trajectory of modern architecture. Out of this single school came an entire movement that would have lasting effects on architectural pedagogy and the design of everything from buildings to road signs. Born out of a larger cultural movement following Germany’s defeat in World War I which left the country ripe for regrowth without the previous constraints imposed by censorship, the core of Bauhaus philosophy were the principles of craftsmanship and mass production, which allowed for the movement’s rapid proliferation and a production model that would later inform contemporary design companies such as Ikea. Check out the infographic from Aram below to learn more about the movement, tracking the school from its origins in , via its canonical Gropius-designed home in Dessau, to its continuing legacy today.

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Infographic: The Five Structural Technologies that Shaped the History of Bridges

Courtesy of Ohio University’s Online Masters in Civil Engineering program

With everything from beams, to trusses, to arches and more, bridge technology has informed advanced structural systems used in architecture for centuries. This produced by Ohio University’s Online Masters in Civil Engineering program examines five historic and contemporary examples of bridge technology, concisely revealing how different structural techniques for bridges have achieved radically different aesthetics – from stone slabs first laid over water in the middle ages to modern-day suspension bridges. To learn more about ten key examples of the five major bridge types, each with additional information on their origins and history, see the full infographic after the break.

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Are Postmodern Buildings Worth Saving?

New York City is home to a plethora of Postmodernist designs — from the impressive Sony Tower to the diminuative Central Park Ballplayers’ House — but most remain unprotected by traditional heritage registries. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission is at the threshold of its 50th anniversary but has yet to recognize the architectural successes of 1970 up to the most recent eligible year for landmarking, 1984. The commission has been unnecessarily slow to recognize Postmodernist structures in New York City, say Paul Makovsky and Michael Gotkin writing for Metropolis Magazine, who argue that the absence of historical recognition for Postmodernism has come at a high cost, citing the recladding of Takashimaya Building on Fifth Avenue as a “wake-up call” for the Commission. 

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Patterning Iconic Architecture: Andre Chiote Illustrates Surfaces and Textures

© Andre Chiote

Portuguese architect Andre Chiote has shared with us his latest illustration series, this time exploring the graphic potential of surface’s patterns from some of architecture’s most iconic .

“Each building holds an aesthetic essence by which it stands recognizable. Some stand out for its volumetric expression while others remain in our memory because of their skin, the texture which builds its surface,” describes Chiote. “The universe of those textures is extremely rich and plays with different elements which alone or combined create expressive compositions. Colors, materials of diverse nature, light and shadow set in a random way or organized according to geometric rules, form patterns with such a visual impact that allows them to stand as icons themselves.”

The complete collection, after the break.

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What Should Obama’s Presidential Library Look Like?

Columbia University: open space, throughout the community. Image © Alfonso Medina/T38 Studio via the Guardian

Barack Obama still has two years left in his presidency, but speculative planning for his Presidential Library has already begun for each of the four possible final locations. Just as the election of President Obama broke down historical precedents for who could hold office, could the design of his dedication library represent an architectural shift from previous libraries? This article by Lilah Raptopoulos from The Guardian presents four unofficial visions for the design of the new library, each of them from award-winning architects. Their bold design sketches expand our perceptions of what a presidential library could be, and explore new ways in which these libraries could serve their communities. See all four designs and read the full article from The Guardian entitled, “Obama’s presidential library: four radical visions of the future from top architects.”

What is Evidence Based Design Journal?

Courtesy of EBD

Performative spaces must now be designed to evolve as rapidly as the needs of those that occupy them. This new publication provides detailed design strategies, case studies and the latest advances in the use of new technologies to illustrate the ways in which evidence can be integrated into the design process. 

Driven by enormous advances in ICT, the world is experiencing a period of unprecedented social change—one that has placed extraordinary demands on our built environments, and on our understanding about how they work for the people that actively occupy them. The impact of social interaction on our health and sense of wellbeing is now also recognised as a significant driver in the design of new environments and the need for ongoing research.

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Rem’s Kit of Parts: Exhaustive and Exhausting, Mad and Maddening

Courtesy of OMA

In “Elements,” an exhibition and accompanying book for the 2014 Venice Architecture BiennaleRem Koolhaas seeks to explore the omnipresent components of buildings that have never been intentionally articulated by architectural theory. Breaking down the history of architecture into its fundamental components, the text is divided into 15 volumes and functions as “a technophilic treatise on the state of architectural thinking in the twenty-first century.” Despite providing lessons in architectural history, does the book deliver a compelling synthesis of all its parts? In his full review of the book for Metropolis Magazine, Samuel Medina argues that Koolhaas “fails to unpack the language of his argument,” resulting in a book that is “ambitious, overreaching, maddening” – much like the exhibition itself. Read the full review here.

Can You Imagine a City Without Air Conditioners?

Helsinki is pioneering an underground cooling system that could cut 80% of carbon emissions compared to conventional air conditioning. Image © Flickr CC User Justin Swan

Despite Finland’s relatively cool temperatures, climate changes have made heat waves more common in Northern Europe, and the demand for cooling buildings in summer is increasing. Instead of installing air conditioners for individual buildings, Helsinki is pioneering a vast network of underground that pumps cold water from lakes and seas into local buildings. Beneath an unassuming park in downtown Helsinki sits a reservoir containing nearly 9 million gallons of water that is recycled and cooled by waste energy after it is used for cooling, replacing the need for air conditioning in the city and cutting carbon pollution by 80%. Read more about this undertaking in this article from Fast Co. Exist.

90 of Mankind’s Greatest Architectural Achievements

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Hagia Sophia, Guggenheim Bilbao, and Burj Khalifa are amongst 90 structural feats in which Pop Chart Lab has deemed to be “mankind’s greatest architectural achievements since prehistory.” Each are hand-drafted and presented on this blueprint-style infographic to commemorate great architecture.

Do you agree with their selection? Let us know what you consider to be mankind’s greatest architectural achievement in the comment section after the break.

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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Minga Valpo: Architects and Sustainable Reconstruction in Valparaíso, Chile

Courtesy of Minga Valpo

After the fire this past April in Valparaíso, Chile, a group of young architects went to the port city to develop a reconstruction project based on energy efficiency, recycled materials, and adaptability to Valparaíso’s topographic context. The Minga Valpo project has not only achieved these objectives, but it has also allowed families to help build their own houses. In a mere three months, Minga Valpo has already built three houses.

Take a look at photographs of the project and read the architects’ description after the break. 

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Frank Gehry’s “Haute Couture” Art Gallery for the Fondation Louis Vuitton

The Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Boulogne is set to open this fall. Image © victortsu via Flickr

Because of – rather than in spite of - Frank Gehry‘s seeming inability to design something rectilinear, CEO of Louis Vuitton Bernard Arnault specifically sought him out to design the Fondation Louis Vuitton, a private art gallery in Paris. Arnault asked Gehry to create something worthy of the foundation’s first artistic act; “a haute couture building.” The resulting glass palace is immediately recognizable as a Frank Gehry design, with a form that conjures images of sailboats and fish. In this article for Vanity Fair, Critic Paul Goldberger considers the building within the prestigious history of museums, and within Gehry’s larger body of work. Click here to read the story.

Dive Into ArchDaily Materials, Our Latest Tool

Dear Readers,

In December of last year, we announced the launch of our latest innovation: ArchDaily Materials, our new US product catalog.

Materials will make more useful for you. When you come to our site to browse our projects, and come across certain facades, lighting, or any other kind of detail you admire, Materials allows you to instantly access the makers of those architectural products, so you can incorporate them into your own projects. It’s Inspiration, Materialized.

We wanted to update you now and let you know how Materials has grown over the last five months. Since launching, we’ve added 31 categories that let you easily explore our 286 products. We’ve added a useful link from the product page to the project page – allowing you to see the material applied in all its glory. Following your feedback, we’ve even added construction details and specs to project pages. And we’ve partnered with some amazing manufacturers, including: Hunter Douglas, Equitone, Sherwin Williams, Alucobond, VMZinc, and Big Ass Fans.

Today, we’re happy to report 466,000 pageviews and counting! However, we know we’re still in the early stages yet. Take a moment to explore this inspirational resource by clicking on Materials at the top of the page (between Articles & Interviews), share it with your friends, and let us know how it can be more useful to you!

Sincerely,

The ArchDaily Team

Cities Need Big Changes to Become Bike Friendly

A bicyclist in Vancouver, Canada. Image © Flickr CC User Paul Krueger

A new study has found that cities need to make big infrastructural changes, rather than small ones, in order to become more bike friendly. As this article from Fast Company explains, small increases in bicycle usage lead to more accidents, which in turn makes others afraid to make the switch from driving to riding. However, the study found that heavy investment in cycling brings an economic benefit to cities in the long run, largely thanks to savings from reduced healthcare costs. To learn about the long-term benefits of big biking investments, click here.

Spotlight: Jean Nouvel

© Artribune

“My interest has always been in an architecture which reflects the modernity of our epoch as opposed to the rethinking of historical references. My work deals with what is happening now—our techniques and materials, what we are capable of doing today.”

Today is the 69th birthday of the great French architect and designer, Jean NouvelThe winner of the Wolf Prize in 2005 and the Pritzker of 2008, Nouvel has attempted to design each of his projects without any preconceived notions, resulting in a variety of projects that – while strikingly different – always demonstrate an interesting use of light and shadow as well as a harmonious balance with their surroundings. More on the Pritzker-winning architect, after the break.

His variety of work can be seen in such acclaimed works as the Institut du Monde Arabe and the Fondation Cartier and. Nouvel also has a series of notable projects currently in the works, such as the New Louvre in Abu Dhabi and the National Art Museum of China.

In honor of his birthday, take a moment to revisit Nouvel’s previous works on .

KPF’s Lotte World Tower Jeopardized by Mysterious Sinkholes

Courtesy of DBOX Branding & Creative for KPF

Construction is well underway for KPF’s Lotte World Tower in Seoul, however the mysterious appearance of sinkholes in the surrounding area – as reported by CNN - has brought on a slew of safety concerns. Authorities have been unable to determine the cause of the sinkholes which have appeared in a number of locations around ’s Songpa District, although they have ruled out sewerage as a possibility. To learn more about the bizarre phenomenon putting the 123-story tower under scrutiny, click here.