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Álvaro Siza and Others Imagine Possible Scenarios for a Reconstructed Syria

07:00 - 23 August, 2017

Sketch for Syria, a project initiated by by Marco Ballarin and Jacopo Galli at IUAV, Venice, has brought together 150 architects from 26 nations in a large-scale effort to "imagine, trace and share possible scenarios" for Syria, following the recent devastation of the lives of its citizens and a significant amount of its architectural heritage.

In response to the United Nations' (UN-ESCWA) drafting of an agenda on July 14th, 2016 to consider ways of reconstructing the country, this drawing project has attracted contributions from the likes of Álvaro Siza, Philippe Rahm, Peter Wilson, and Francisco Aires Mateus.

Marco Ferrari / Italy. Image © Sketch for Syria Sean Godsell / Australia. Image © Sketch for Syria Philippe Rahm / France. Image © Sketch for Syria Ahmed Al Sahli / Syria. Image © Sketch for Syria + 19

How the Layout of Urban "Cells" Affects The Function and Success of Neighborhoods

09:30 - 22 August, 2017
How the Layout of Urban "Cells" Affects The Function and Success of Neighborhoods, Courtesy of Robin Renner
Courtesy of Robin Renner

As urban areas develop, each city forms a unique structural logic. With this structure usually conceived on an ad-hoc basis, political terms such as “metropolitan area” and “neighborhood” are not always useful when analyzing and comparing the performance of cities. In a quest for new analytical tools, Robin Renner has devised an anatomically-based classification system in his new book Urban Being: Anatomy & Identity of the City. Through a thoughtful investigation of existing urban areas from around the globe using satellite images and personal experiences, Urban Being offers an insight into how transportation networks and streetscapes can be best organized to promote a healthy metropolitan environment.

Renner’s analysis ranges from macro-regions that can even cross country borders to the defined spaces between arterial roads in cities, which he calls "urban cells." As the neighborhoods and units in which inhabitants reside, urban cells are important when examining the identity and efficiency of a city. They are defined by both their physical properties and the actions that take place inside of them. Below is a small sample of how Renner analyzes urban cells from the book.

Courtesy of Robin Renner Courtesy of Robin Renner Courtesy of Robin Renner Courtesy of Robin Renner + 6

Hidden Studio Beneath a Busy Bridge Provides Creative Solitude for Its Designer

12:00 - 21 August, 2017
Hidden Studio Beneath a Busy Bridge Provides Creative Solitude for Its Designer, © Jose Manuel Pedrajas
© Jose Manuel Pedrajas

As urban environments become denser, more expensive and, on occasion, less desirable, creative minds are creating novel ways to escape the hustle, bustle, and tumult of the city. Fernando Abellanas, a designer based in Valencia, has gone to new extremes in his search for solitude. Positioned beneath a traffic bridge somewhere in the Spanish city, a hidden studio comprises a shelf, a chair, and a small desk – all anchored to the concrete undercarriage of the bridge by means of rails and rollers. Movable, the "room" becomes both impenetrable and isolated by the turn of a hand crank.

© Jose Manuel Pedrajas © Jose Manuel Pedrajas © Jose Manuel Pedrajas © Jose Manuel Pedrajas + 16

8 Annoying Things All Architects Do

09:30 - 21 August, 2017
8 Annoying Things All Architects Do

Contrary to how Hollywood movies portray the quintessential architect—creative, sensitive, and virtually flawless—architects are a diverse bunch of fallible people. This stems from the fact that the study and practice of architecture are wrought with several “perils.” Architecture school is a beast, if not the profession at large, and it essentially reinvents the psyche of its students by simultaneously breaking them down and building them up—say hello to unresolved issues!

While this process produces bright intellectuals with a deep understanding of architecture’s place in society, it can also end up shaping architects into pretentious snobs. Young architects invariably graduate with a distinct outlook on life. Pair that with a largely thankless job and architects soon discover that they can only relate to other architects. Rare friends who bravely stand by an architect through thick and thin deserve a strong pat on the back because architects, despite their innumerable charms, exhibit several incredibly annoying traits. The following is a compilation of eight complaints that non-architect friends and partners have against their architect counterparts:

Step Into a Movie Dreamworld With "Accidental Wes Anderson" on Reddit

09:30 - 20 August, 2017
Lighthouse in Húsavík, Iceland. Image <a href='https://www.reddit.com/r/AccidentalWesAnderson/comments/6lg9c1/i_took_this_picture_of_a_lighthouse_in_h%C3%BAsav%C3%ADk/'>via Reddit user Milonade</a>
Lighthouse in Húsavík, Iceland. Image via Reddit user Milonade

If you ever have those moments where you take a step back from your life and feel like you’ve suddenly fallen into a scene from a movie, you may appreciate the subreddit /r/AccidentalWesAnderson. Director, producer, screenwriter, and actor Wes Anderson is well known for creating scenes in his films that blur the lines between the real and the unreal. His extreme symmetry and restricted color palettes can often give the impression of a surreal, self-contained world. The purpose of the Accidental Wes Anderson subreddit is for users to post photos of real-world architecture and scenes they’ve stumbled upon that look like they could be stills from one of Anderson’s movies, with Redditors finding Anderson-esque scenes around the globe in everything from bathrooms to staircases to city streets. Even a viewer unfamiliar with Anderson’s films can browse the collection of photos and easily understand his aesthetic. Below is just a small selection of some of the most evocative photos to be found on the subreddit.

Inside a tower in Pisa, Italy. Image <a href='http://i.imgur.com/m2b3P4d.jpg'>via Reddit user LaTalpa123</a> Homes in Vietnam. Image <a href='https://www.reddit.com/r/AccidentalWesAnderson/comments/6lqh6q/homes_in_vietnam/'>via Reddit user temporality</a> Tin Mal Mosque, Morocco. Image <a href='https://i.imgur.com/BeNYBsu.jpg'>via Reddit user that-there</a> Swimming Hall in Gotha, Germany. Image <a href='https://www.reddit.com/r/AccidentalWesAnderson/comments/6sswkz/swimminghall_in_gotha_germany/'>via Reddit user Teillu</a> + 12

Why Henning Larsen Architects Believe that VR Is "a Gift for the Future of Architecture"

09:30 - 19 August, 2017

Currently, virtual reality and 360-degree video are somewhat niche tools, but they are rapidly gaining in popularity. These immersive technologies give architects a means to better decipher a client’s expectations—everything from a building’s natural lighting to the choice of tile backsplash can be actively assessed at any point in the design and construction process. This transformative technology has already been fully incorporated into some practices. ArchDaily interviewed Henning Larsen’s Chief Engineer of Sustainability Jakob Strømann-Andersen to better understand the current and future applications of virtual immersion in architecture.

Architects Urgently Need to Leave Their Desks to Work More on Site, According to Our Readers

09:30 - 18 August, 2017
Architects Urgently Need to Leave Their Desks to Work More on Site, According to Our Readers, © José Tomás Franco
© José Tomás Franco

Do Architects Learn Enough About Construction and Materials? We asked this question to spark a discussion among our readers, and the number of responses on our sites in English and Spanish was overwhelming.

Having read and collected all these comments, it is clear that most of our readers agree that what is currently taught about materials and building processes is not enough. The vast majority of them admit that they have acquired this knowledge through fieldwork, years after having graduated. So once again we ask: if material knowledge is so important for the development of our profession, why is it not a fundamental part of the programs in universities around the world?

However, some of our readers contest this view, stating that architects don't have to know everything, and that we can't sacrifice good design to the constraints that impact the construction process. They base their arguments on the presence of specialists, to whom we should go whenever necessary, in a cohesive and collaborative process between the different disciplines.

Review the best comments received and join the discussion below.

How Terrol Dew Johnson and Aranda\Lasch Are Reinventing Basket-Weaving Traditions to Sustain Native Culture and Community

18:00 - 17 August, 2017
How Terrol Dew Johnson and Aranda\Lasch Are Reinventing Basket-Weaving Traditions to Sustain Native Culture and Community, Courtesy of Aranda\Lasch
Courtesy of Aranda\Lasch

This article was originally published on the blog of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the largest platform for contemporary architecture in North America. The 2017 Biennial, entitled Make New History, will be free and open to the public between September 16, 2017 and January 6, 2018.

Form follows function—that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.

Frank Lloyd Wright may have famously said these words in 1908, but he was by no means the first to embody them. In fact, the deeper sense of unity that Wright sought in Modern architecture had existed centuries before his time as a guiding principle for Native peoples all over the world.

Grass Coil by Terrol Dew Johnson and Aranda\Lasch, 2016. Image Courtesy of Aranda\Lasch Wood Basket by Terrol Dew Johnson and Aranda\Lasch, 2016. Image Courtesy of Aranda\Lasch Model of a design for a desert bandshell by Terrol Dew Johnson and Aranda\Lasch, 2016. Image Courtesy of Aranda\Lasch Horsehair Basket by Terrol Dew Johnson and Aranda\Lasch, 2016. Image Courtesy of Aranda\Lasch + 12

How One Concrete Manufacturer Helps Architects Reduce Project Costs With An In-House Design Team

09:30 - 17 August, 2017
How One Concrete Manufacturer Helps Architects Reduce Project Costs With An In-House Design Team, Courtesy of Gate Precast
Courtesy of Gate Precast

This article was originally published by Autodesk's Redshift publication as "Realizing Architectural Dreams Through Design-Assist and Precast Concrete."

Ancient Romans mixed lime and volcanic rock to form a mortar, a precursor to modern reinforced concrete. This made engineering marvels like Rome’s Colosseum possible—still standing more than 2,000 years after its construction.

Today, this versatile material is evolving further: Precast concrete, which is formed and cured in factories before being installed onsite, is bringing about a new wave of architecture that streamlines the building process while reaching toward big, complex ideas.

Behind India's Ambitious Plan to Create the World's Longest River

09:30 - 16 August, 2017
Behind India's Ambitious Plan to Create the World's Longest River, The town of Orchha on the banks of the Betwa River, India. Image © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/azwegers/6309463151'>Flickr user Arian Zwegers</a> licensed under <a href=' https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/'> CC BY 2.0</a>
The town of Orchha on the banks of the Betwa River, India. Image © Flickr user Arian Zwegers licensed under CC BY 2.0

Against the backdrop of an ever-increasing number of its farmers committing suicides, and its cities crumbling under intensifying pressure on their water resources—owing to their rapidly growing populations—India has revived its incredibly ambitious Interlinking of Rivers (ILR) project which aims to create a nation-wide water-grid twice the length of the Nile. The $168 billion project, first envisioned almost four decades ago, entails the linkage of thirty-seven of the country’s rivers through the construction of thirty canals and three-thousand water reservoirs. The chief objective is to address India’s regional inequity in water availability174 billion cubic meters of water is proposed to be transported across river basins, from potentially water-surplus to water-deficit areas.

The project is presented by the Indian government as the only realistic means to increase the country’s irrigation potential and per-capita water storage capacity. However, it raises ecological concerns of gargantuan proportions: 104,000 hectares of forest land will be affected, leading to the desecration of natural ecosystems. Experts in hydrology also question the scientific basis of treating rivers as “mere conduits of water.” Furthermore, the fear of large-scale involuntary human displacement—an estimated 1.5 million people—likely to be caused by the formation of water reservoirs is starting to materialize into a popular uprising.

This Unique New Technology Hopes to Turn Your City’s Streets Into Your News Homepage

09:30 - 15 August, 2017

The people of Manchester, UK, recently gained access to an entirely new way to access local news and engage with their city: OtherWorld, a pilot news experiment from startup studio Like No Other and Google’s Digital News Initiative. OtherWorld uses Bluetooth and cutting-edge beacon technology to deliver geo-located news directly to your smartphone for free, without installing an app. Referred to on the OtherWorld website as “living media,” as users walk around the city and pass by story locations, a silent notification will pop up on their phones, disappearing again as they walk out of range. Because the news you see on OtherWorld is directly related to the space you’re currently occupying, the system ensures that the news you’ll see is relevant to you. This unobtrusive method allows users to choose whether and how they will engage as well as adding an evanescent, elusive quality to the stories; you could walk right by and miss one if you aren’t paying attention.

In this way, OtherWorld illustrates the layers of our cities that are often invisible to us, bringing them into focus and allowing a deeper level of exploration into even a familiar city neighborhood. Focusing on stories that involve a real-world experience, users could become aware of an event nearby, a volunteer opportunity, a public meeting, or any number of other possibilities—thereby involving themselves in the public space and public realm in a way they would not have otherwise been able to.

9 of the World's Most Intrusive Buildings

09:30 - 14 August, 2017
9 of the World's Most Intrusive Buildings, © EMP|SFM <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aerial_view_of_EMPSFM.jpg'>via Wikimedia</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>
© EMP|SFM via Wikimedia licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

In 2017, many of the world's cities have become potpourri time capsules of architecture. We live in an eclectic era in which a 19th-century industrial loft, post-war townhouse, and brand new high rise condominium are all comparably desirable properties. This increasingly varied urban landscape—and the appetite for variety of the people who live there—makes it more difficult than ever for new architecture to grab the public's attention.

To combat this, architects often attempt to produce an "iconic" work: a building whose design is so so striking that it attracts even a layperson's focus. Sometimes this ambition pays off as timeless, and sometimes it irreversibly pock-marks the skyline. What follows is a collection of attention grabbing structures. Will they be remembered as eccentric landmarks or glaring eyesores? You decide.

AD Classics: The Entenza House (Case Study #9) / Charles & Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen & Associates

04:00 - 14 August, 2017
AD Classics: The Entenza House (Case Study #9) / Charles & Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen & Associates, Case Study House No. 9. (1950) / Julius Shulman Photography Archive. Image © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10)
Case Study House No. 9. (1950) / Julius Shulman Photography Archive. Image © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10)

Nestled in the verdant seaside hills of the Pacific Palisades in southern California, the Entenza House is the ninth of the famous Case Study Houses built between 1945 and 1962. With a vast, open-plan living room that connects to the backyard through floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors, the house brings its natural surroundings into a metal Modernist box, allowing the two to coexist as one harmonious space.

Like its peers in the Case Study Program, the house was designed not only to serve as a comfortable and functional residence, but to showcase how modular steel construction could be used to create low-cost housing for a society still recovering from the the Second World War. The man responsible for initiating the program was John Entenza, Editor of the magazine Arts and Architecture. The result was a series of minimalist homes that employed  steel frames and open plans to reflect the more casual and independent way of life that had arisen in the automotive age.[1]

Case Study House No. 9. (1950) / Julius Shulman Photography Archive. Image © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10) Case Study House No. 9. (1950) / Julius Shulman Photography Archive. Image © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10) Case Study House No. 9. (1950) / Julius Shulman Photography Archive. Image © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10) Case Study House No. 9. (1950) / Julius Shulman Photography Archive. Image © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10) + 28

This New App Wants to Answer All Your Building Code Questions

09:30 - 13 August, 2017
This New App Wants to Answer All Your Building Code Questions, © UpCodes
© UpCodes

Perhaps nothing can kill a project budget or give an owner heartburn quite like costly code fixes during (or in the worst case, after) construction. As architects, we do our best to navigate construction codes during design, but there’s no denying their complexity. Projects have to comply with multiple different codes at both the federal and local levels; different codes sometimes even contradict one another, leading to headaches for the design team.

However, a new website and mobile app hopes to make understanding and complying with building codes easier for architects and designers. “The solution we provide is a search engine tailored for architecture,” explains Scott Reynolds, co-founder of UpCodes. With his background in architecture, Reynolds has partnered with his brother Garrett Reynolds—who has a PhD in machine learning—and through UpCodes, the pair to ease some of that building code-driven frustration.

The Real Reason For the Resurgence of Streetcars in America (Spoiler: It's Not for Transport)

09:30 - 12 August, 2017

In this six-minute-long video, Vox makes the argument that the primary reason behind the recent resurgence of streetcar systems—or proposals for streetcars, at least—in the USA is not because of their contributions to urban mobility, but instead because of the fact that they drive and sustain economic development. As it uncovers the causes for the popular failure of the streetcar systems in cities such as Washington DC, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City (low speed and limited connectivity, mostly) it asks why an increasing number of American city governments are pushing for streetcars in spite of their dismal record at improving transit. Is it solely due to their positively modern aesthetic? Are streetcars destined to function as mere “attractions” in a city’s urban landscape? Or is the real objective something more complex?

Alberto Kalach: “Imagine if All Rooftops in Our City Were Green!”

09:30 - 11 August, 2017
Alberto Kalach: “Imagine if All Rooftops in Our City Were Green!”, Reforma 27. Image © Yoshihiro Koitani
Reforma 27. Image © Yoshihiro Koitani

Last month I went on an enlightening trip to Mexico City, during which I had a chance to meet with half a dozen leading Mexican architects and critics. Those meetings included insightful conversations with Miquel Adrià, Tatiana Bilbao, Victor Legorreta, Mauricio Rocha, and Michel Rojkind among others (many of which will also feature in future installments of City of Ideas). I asked them many different questions, but two were consistent: “who would you name as Mexico’s best architect at this moment?” and “what one building built in the capital over the last decade is your favorite?” All of my interviewees pointed to Alberto Kalach (born 1960) and his Vasconcelos Library (2007). My Conversation with Kalach took place the next day after visiting the library on the rooftop of another one of his iconic buildings, Tower 41 overlooking Bosque de Chapultepec, Mexico City’s Central Park. We spoke about books, libraries, and his idea of buildings as inventions.

Vasconcelos Library. Image © Yoshihiro Koitani Galería Kurimanzutto. Image © Pedro Rosenbleuth Tower 41. Image © Yoshihiro Koitani Tower 41. Image © Yoshihiro Koitani + 95

Peter Zumthor's Kolumba Museum Through the Lens of Rasmus Hjortshøj

09:30 - 10 August, 2017
© Rasmus Hjortshøj
© Rasmus Hjortshøj

In this series of images, photographer Rasmus Hjortshøj has captured the Kolumba Museum by renowned architect Peter Zumthor in Cologne, Germany. The museum, constructed atop the ruins of a Gothic church destroyed during World War II, was a response to a competition that aimed to protect the remains of the Gothic work and create a space to house the art collection of the archbishopric of Cologne. In his winning design, Zumthor fused the existing ruins with modern architecture ideal for religious art in an elegant and minimalist way.

With his photographs, Rasmus Hjortshøj offers a tour of Zumthor's design, portraying the building within its urban context, while examining the architect's dedication to detail.

© Rasmus Hjortshøj © Rasmus Hjortshøj © Rasmus Hjortshøj © Rasmus Hjortshøj + 29

The One Redeeming Feature That Brings Humanity to the Sameness of Suburban Sprawl

09:30 - 9 August, 2017
The One Redeeming Feature That Brings Humanity to the Sameness of Suburban Sprawl, Scottsdale, Arizona. Image <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Scottsdale_cityscape4.jpg'>via Wikimedia</a> in public domain
Scottsdale, Arizona. Image via Wikimedia in public domain

This article was originally published by Common Edge as "The Work of Architecture in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction."

I attended graduate school, in geography, in Tucson, Arizona, in the late 1990s. Tucson draws fame from a number of things, including its Mexican-American heritage, its chimichangas, its sky islands, and its abundant population of saguaro cacti.

Plenty of things about Tucson, though, are perfectly, achingly ordinary.

Perhaps the most ordinary thing about Tucson led me to develop something halfway between a hobby and an academic pursuit. On occasion, whether for sport or research, friends and I used to go “sprawl-watching.” We were not exactly, say, Walter Benjamin strolling through the arcades, embracing the human pageantry of Paris. But we did our best to plumb Tucson’s depths.