Farming Cuba: Urban Agriculture from the Ground Up

Courtesy of Russel Fernandez/ Princeton Architectural Press

The following is an excerpt from Carey Clouse’s Farming Cuba: Urban Agriculture from the Ground Up, which explores ’s impromptu agricultural development after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the challenges that development poses for modern day architects and urban planners.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Cuba found itself solely responsible for feeding a nation that had grown dependent on imports and trade subsidies. With fuel, fertilizers, and pesticides disappearing overnight, citizens began growing their own organic produce anywhere they could find space, on rooftops, balconies, vacant lots, and even school playgrounds. By 1998 there were more than 8,000 urban farms in Havana producing nearly half of the country’s vegetables. What began as a grassroots initiative had, in less than a decade, grown into the largest sustainable agriculture initiative ever undertaken, making Cuba the world leader in urban farming. Featuring a wealth of rarely seen material and intimate portraits of the environment, Farming Cuba details the innovative strategies and explores the social, political, and environmental factors that helped shape this pioneering urban farming program.

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Justin McGuirk’s Radical Cities: Across Latin America in Search of a New Architecture

Elemental’s houses in Quinta Monroy, Iquique. © Cristóbal Palma

In Radical Cities, Justin McGuirk travels across in search of the people and ideas shaping the way cities are evolving: “after decades of social and political failure, a new generation has revitalised architecture and urban design in order to address persistent poverty and inequality. Together, these activists, pragmatists and social idealists are performing bold experiments that the rest of the world may learn from.” The following is an excerpt from Radical Cities on PREVI – the great, but all-but-forgotten experimental housing project in Lima that counted James Stirling and Aldo van Eyck among its contributors.

In a northern suburb of Lima is a housing estate that might have changed the face of cities in the developing world. Its residents go about their lives feeling lucky that they live where they do, but oblivious to the fact that they occupy the last great experiment in social housing. If you drove past it today, you might not even notice it. And yet the Proyecto Experimental de Vivienda – PREVI for short – has a radical pedigree. Some of the best architects of the day slaved over it. Now it is largely forgotten.

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The Draftery: Dispelling the Belief That Architectural Drawing is Dead

Fig. 03. Image Courtesy of The Draftery

The Draftery, a printed platform to “discuss the role of architectural today”, brings together a fascinating collection of images and words in a publication on three distinct platforms. Figures, Captions and Archive facilitate a multi-disciplinary conversation about how drawings are made and their role in the built environment. Now approaching their third anniversary, how far have they come and where is the project headed?

January 2013 saw the re-launch of The Draftery and the total reconstruction of the project. Their crisp publications now have a strong editorial thread which compliments the carefully curated collections of architectural drawings. Seeking to “demonstrate that drawing, more than mere representation, is a method of acting in the world”, good drawings provide a moment of visual solice in a fast paced profession. 

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BI’s First Print Edition Released – FREE: Architecture on the Loose

Courtesy of

BI is a publication focused on the exchanges between architecture and its wider cultural context; it consists of short extemporaneous texts with longer studied pieces from a multitude of perspectives. The following is an excerpt from its latest (and first print) edition, FREE, written by the editors-in-chief E. Sean Bailey and Erandi de Silva.

There is implicit conflict in the word ‘free’. While culturally we celebrate the infinite opportunities afforded by the ‘freedom to’, the term also alludes to emancipation, a break from a captive state, or a ‘freedom from’. ‘Free’ is, at its core, an architectural concept. Architecture is a discipline directly engaged with shaping enclosure, of erecting and toppling barriers or—more explicitly—of extending and limiting ‘freedoms’.

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The Architecture of Pompidou Metz: An Excerpt from “The Architecture of Art Museums – A Decade of Design: 2000 – 2010″

© Didier Boy De La Tour

In honor of International Museum Day, we’re taking a look back at the 21st century’s most exciting museums. The following is an excerpt from the recently released book, The Architecture of Art Museums – A Decade of Design: 2000 – 2010 (Routledge) by Ronnie Self, a Houston-based architect. Each chapter of the book provides technical, comprehensive coverage of a particular influential art museum. In total, eighteen of the most important art museums of the early twenty-first century - including works from Tadao Ando, Herzog & de Meuron, SANAA, Steven Holl, and many other high-profile architects - are explored. The following is a condensed version of the chapter detailing Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines’ 2010 classic, Centre Pompidou-Metz.

The Pompidou Center – Metz was a first experiment in French cultural decentralization. In the late 1990’s, with the prospect of closing Piano and Roger’s building in Paris for renovations, the question arose of how to maintain some of the 60,000 works in the collection of the National Museum of Modern Art available for public viewing. A concept of “hors les murs” or “beyond the walls” was developed to exhibit works in other French . The temporary closing of the Pompidou Center – Paris spurred reflections on ways to present the national collection to a wider audience in general. Eventually a second Pompidou Center in another French city was imagined.

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A+U 524: New Landscapes of Wooden Architecture

From the publisher. May 2014 issue of a+u is focused on wooden architecture from around the world that creates new landscapes.

In addition to nine built works, the issue features two competitions foreseeing the timber-nization of and three essays. The essays discuss different aspects of wood technology: adaptive timber structure of ultra-light shell by University of Stuttgart, harmonizing the joints of prefabricated wooden elements by collaboration of Finland’s timber industry, university and government, and tall wood building technology in Canada and other countries. When these technologies become practical and realized as architecture, we will witness a completely new landscape.

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JA 93: KAZUO SHINOHARA – Complete Works in Original Publications

From the publisher. JA93 Spring 2014 issue features 55 works by Kazuo Shinohara, one of the most influential architects in the generation after the Metabolists. The issue consists of photographs and drawings which appeared in the original issues of Shinkenchiku and original descriptive texts by the architect.

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Minha Casa, Nossa Cidade: Brazil’s Social Housing Policy & The Failures of the Private-Public System

Courtesy of Ruby Press

In 2009, the Brazilian government launched the social housing program “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” (“My House, My Life”), which aims to build 3.4 million housing units by the end of 2014. Minha Casa—Nossa Cidade (Ruby Press, 2014), produced by the MAS Urban Design program at the ETH Zurich, examines the project at a critical time and presents ways to improve its and implementation. Divided into three chapters, the book reviews the history, guidelines, and construction of the “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” program (MCMV) through long-form essays, opinion pieces, interviews, diagrams, and photographic image material. The following excerpt, written by Sandra Becker, proposes an answer to the question of why the program – despite its aims to meet the huge demand for housing for low-income families - has thus far failed to provide the Brazilian people the “quality [they] desire.” 

From the Publisher. In June 2013, Brazil saw a wave of protests unprecedented in the country’s history. Millions of people filled the streets demanding better education, public transportation, and healthcare. While the rage driving the protests was directed at politicians, it is unlikely that the problem can be reduced to the failure of the political system. Instead, shouldn’t the protests point out the inequalities caused by the neoliberal policies that dominate the global economy?

In the first quarter of 2009, responding to the global financial crisis that had begun the previous year, the Brazilian government launched an ambitious social housing program to encourage the economy’s construction sector. The program, “Minha Casa, Minha Vida,” was initially developed to build one million houses. In September 2011, the program launched its second phase with a goal of providing another 2.4 million housing units. The program aims to confront a historical deficiency in housing, a shortage of approximately 5.8 million dwellings.

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A Manifesto For Icons and Architecture Infatuated By Form

The following is an excerpt from WAI Architecture Think Tank‘s book Pure Hardcore Icons. This manifesto explores architecture’s recurrent obsession with pure geometric form. Pure Hardcore Icons aims to raise awareness about the dialectic of pure form and architecture, hoping that its potential and limitations could be fully grasped either in practice, in the academia, or as a cultural and intellectual exercise. 

Never before has the combination of technology and mass media enhanced such a prolific production and diffusion of monuments to “signature” architecture. Design school desks, computer screens, and magazine pages around the globe have been flooded with torrents of buildings in pure shapes. Redundant forms —either as poured concrete or as virtual bytes— pop-up with the speed it takes to wire-cut Styrofoam or master 3d modeling software. Paradoxically, this abrupt surge of iconographic architectural paraphernalia has overshadowed the demise of the manifesto, one of architecture’s most powerful and straightforward tools to declare its intentions.

Ever since Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966) was hailed as the last great architectural narrative, architectural theory has been unsuccessfully trying to rationalize the often similar icons either as the by-products of the unpredictability of the contemporary city or as the result of suspiciously momentary (and opportunistic) trends that oscillate from the so-called green design to the supposed technology-aided revolution of parametricism. [1]

But, are vague explanations of conditions external to architecture enough to elucidate the formal similarities between so many iconic buildings? Are the CCTV tower and the Max Reinhardt Haus similar just by coincidence? Or, is there an underlying relationship between Foster and Partners’ Palace of Peace and Reconciliation , Buckminster Fuller’s Tetrahedron City and Giza’s Pyramids? How to explain the disappearance of any attempt to give theoretical coherence to these buildings, at the moment when formal consistence seems to suggest the possibility of a new architectural ontology? What about understanding architecture’s concealed plot about form?

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A+U 523: Juliaan Lampens

From the publisher. April 2014 issue of A+U is a monograph of Belgium architect .

Featured works include: House Juliaan Lampens – Van Hove, House Vandenhaute – Kiebooms, and Kerselare Chapel. A+U visited Lampens in Eke, not far from Ghent, last year to interview him. Two essays, one by his former staff and the other by architecture researchers, depict the architect who, throughout his career, often avoided press exposer.

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Christoph Gielen’s “Ciphers”: Aerial Views of American Sprawl

Courtesy of Jovis Verlag

From the Publisher. Christoph Gielen’s aerial views offer a look at America’s most aberrant and unusual sprawl forms in ways we usually don’t get to see them: from far above the ground—a vantage point that reveals both the intricate geometry as well as the idiosyncratic allure of these developments. Here, encountering sprawl becomes an aesthetic experience that at the same time leaves us with a sense of foreboding, of seeing the “writing on the wall”. At once fascinating and profoundly unsettling, these photographs detail the potential ramifications of unchecked urbanization. When these settlements were developed, neither distance from work place nor gasoline prices much mattered in determining the locations of new constructions. These places are relics from an era that was entirely defined by a belief in unlimited growth, of bigger is better. The startling extent of those practices, and their inherent wastefulness, come to light in Gielen’s pictures—as if looking at a microcosm of non-sustainability through a giant magnifier.

Contributing essays by Johann Frederik Hartle, Galina Tachieva, Srdjan Jovanic Weiss, Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris contextualize Gielen’s work by focusing on a range of aspects, from aesthetics to climate change and futurology. They also examine why taking a closer look at these places is particularly crucial at this juncture, when we are faced with a new wave of building booms in developing nations such as in China.

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The Air from Other Planets, A Brief History of Architecture

Courtesy of Lars Müller Publishers

The following is an excerpt from Sean Lally’s The Air from Other Planets, A Brief History of Architecture to Come. The book introduces the reader to an architecture produced by designing the energy within our environment (electromagnetic, thermodynamic, acoustic, and chemical)– an architecture that exchanges walls and shells for a range of material energies that develop its own shapes, aesthetics, organizational systems, and social experiences. Energy becomes its own enterprise for innovation; it becomes the architecture itself.

One of architecture’s primary acts is to define the spatial boundaries that organize and hold specified activities within them. The behavioral properties of the materials used to make that boundary not only influence the physical characteristics of that space (maximum height, span, aperture sizes), but also determine how the human body perceives and senses those boundary changes (opacity, transparency, acoustics), which then informs the behaviors and movements of the individuals using the space.  This definition of boundaries is one that architects have continually tested and subverted as new materials, construction methods, and social trends have emerged over the centuries.  It follows that if energy could be controlled and deployed as physical boundaries that define and organize spaces that the human body can detect and recognize, wouldn’t that be architecture? These new building materials would only need to demonstrate that they could absorb the “responsibilities” of boundaries—able to determine spatial hierarchies, provide security, hold aesthetic value, etc.—for them to be called architecture. Current trends just on the periphery of the discipline that could make this a possibility only need to be integrated through the lens of the architect to see their potential.

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The Architectural Review’s Latest Issue: Architecture and Our War-Torn Cities

Courtesy of The Architectural Review

ArchDaily is happy to announce a new development in our partnership with The Architectural Review. Each month, AR’s editor, Catherine Slessor, will weigh in with a thematic introduction to the subjects addressed in their current issue. Up now: war and architecture. While our war-torn can be rebuilt, their fraught social linkages will never be the same.

At the height of the Cold War, the US developed the neutron bomb, an extreme and more ‘advanced’ type of nuclear weapon that could kill people but theoretically leave buildings intact. Described by both the Russians and Americans as the ‘capitalist bomb’, it was eventually sidelined but became emblematic of the crazed Dr Strangelove ingenuity that underscored the time.

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A+U 522: Supermodels – Photographed by Hisao Suzuki

From the publisher. March 2014 issue of a+u is focused on photographs of architectural models by Spain-based photographer Hisao Suzuki.

Based on the essence of architects’ thinking expressed in the images, 70 photographs of models by 25 architects are categorized into “Inception”, “Organization”, “Blooming” and “Experiential”. We also asked six architects – Arata Isozaki, Christian Kerez, Ryue Nishizawa, Kazuyo Sejima, Fabian Asunción (former architect at EMBT), Bijoy Jain – to talk about what models mean to their ways of creating architecture. Each photo is accompanied by photographer’s story from the photo shoot.

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Unpublished / CLOG

Courtesy of

Each edition of CLOG poses a particular challenge to the reader: by showcasing such a variety of distinct view points, teasing out the central, connective themes is far from an easy task. It requires analysis, thought, and most of all time – which is, of course, entirely the point. CLOG seeks to “slow things down” so that the greater issues of architectural discourse are mulled over and explored.

The latest CLOG, however, Unpublished, has two central points that quickly, easily emerge. Pick up CLOG: Unpublished if you want to learn two things: (1) about how and why certain choose the architecture they publish (ArchDaily included); or (2) about works that have, for their geographical location or problematic nature, been forgotten from the “idealized narratives” of architecture

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Architectural Review’s Latest Issue: “Is This The End of Public Space?”

Courtesy of

ArchDaily is happy to announce a new development in our partnership with The Architectural Review. Each month, AR’s editor, Catherine Slessor, will weigh in with a thematic introduction to the subjects addressed in their current issue. Up now: public space. Is it on the brink of extinction? And, if so, how can we reclaim it?

Just over 20 years ago, Mike Davis and Michael Sorkin predicted the end of public space as we knew it. ‘America’s are being rapidly transformed by a sinister and homogeneous design’, they wrote at the time. ‘A new kind of urbanism – manipulative, dispersed, and hostile to traditional public space – is emerging both at the heart and at the edge of town in megamalls, corporate enclaves, gentrified zones, and pseudo-historic marketplaces.It marked the beginning of the realisation that public space was being stealthily privatised and commodified; the historic freedoms of the agora and the piazza replaced by the patrolled and proscribed confine of the theme park and shopping mall.

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The Unpublishables: Showcasing Writing From Young Architects & Designers

Issue 2. Image Courtesy of The Unpublishables

The Unpublishables, an independent architectural fanzine based in the , seeks to offer a platform for young architects – as well as designers and makers – to publish their own writing. About to launch their second edition, the zine has provided an outlet for ideas of young people who have the commitment and vision to develop their own design philosophies, polemics and research outside of full-time education or employment.

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A+U 521: Revitalization of Modernization Heritage

From the publisher. The development of industry and culture in the modern period has created architecture suited for the particular system. As the industry declines, followed by the population shift, the original purpose of these buildings has been lost. Instead of demolishing them and rebuilding from scratch, many have been renovated to serve as the bases for revitalizing the regions.

February 2014 issue of a+u introduces 10 works that take advantage of the architectural system derived from their original function and are enabled to assume new roles in the society.

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