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7 Leading Architects Defend the World's Most Hated Buildings

From Paris' most abhorred tower to New York's controversial government center, seven renowned architects have stepped up in defense of the world's most hated buildings in a newly published article on T Magazine. As told to Alexandra Lange, the article presents direct quotes from Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, Norman Foster and four others regarding controversial architecture whose importance goes beyond aesthetics.

See what hated building Norman Foster believes to be a "heroic" structure, after the break. 

CatalyticAction's Playground Puts Children at the Center of Relief Efforts for Syria

The international response to the Syrian War has often struggled to deal with the sheer scale of the disaster; huge numbers of refugees find it difficult even to source the barest essentials for life in the enormous refugee camps that have sprung up in Jordan, Lebanon, and elsewhere. Alongside the overwhelming need for basics, longer term care for displaced Syrian citizens is also proving difficult, but CatalyticAction, a not-for-profit design studio who are in their own words "a group of young graduates who believe that small changes can realize a big impact," believe that this long-term provision is equally important, especially for children.

Providing a sense of normal life for children in the refugee camps is absolutely essential to helping them, and their families, to recover and cope with life as refugees, which this why CatalyticAction have begun crowdfunding the construction of a playground - designed with the help of refugee children - in the Lebanese town of Bar Elias. The playground would allow children to learn through play, provide a sense of normality and, importantly, should create a space that they feel safe in.

A child poses with his plan for a safe playground. Image © CatalyticAction A drawing of the proposed playground. Image © CatalyticAction © CatalyticAction A diagram of the planning process for this project. Image © CatalyticAction

Video: Renzo Piano Reveals the Story Behind the Whitney Museum on Charlie Rose

Said to be the most long-awaited museum of the 21st century, the new Whitney Museum of American Art by Renzo Piano officially opened its doors in New York this May after a 30 year endeavor to expand its capacity. An unusual scenario, Charlie Rose sat down with Piano and the museum's director Adam Weinberg to discuss the "remarkable story" behind the expansion and how its design incorporates, what Piano believes to be, seven elements that represent the essence of architecture: social life, urbanity, invention, construction, technology, poetry and light.

We've provided a clip of the talk above. Watch the full 30-minute discussion, after the break. 

From Tokyo to Milwaukee: Sou Fujimoto and His Impact on Students at the University of Wisconsin

With the award of the $100,000 Marcus Prize to Sou Fujimoto in 2013, graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Architecture were offered the rare opportunity to learn from one of Japan's most respected architectural practitioners. Through a semester-long connection to the studio - which he led alongside University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Associate Professor Mo Zell - Fujimoto and his students have realized a small architectural installation on an unused lot in Milwaukee's East side entitled faBRICK.

In this interview conducted in Tokyo last year, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student Robert Guertin speaks with Fujimoto about the ideas and themes of his work. In an attempt to shed light on the influence he had in the design of faBRICK, his answers are presented alongside images of the resulting installation.

Construction of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee's faBRICK Pavilion. Image © Courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture Construction of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee's faBRICK Pavilion. Image © Courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture The University of Wisconsin Milwaukee's faBRICK Pavilion. Image © Courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture Assembly method of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee's faBRICK Pavilion. Image © Courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture

Material Masters: The Traditional Tiles of Wang Shu & Lu Wenyu

Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu of Amateur Architecture Studio are known for their distinctly contextual attitudes towards design which prize tradition and timelessness above anything else. In many cases, their use of materials is governed by local availability of salvaged building elements. Tiles, in particular, represent a material used repeatedly by Amateur Architecture studio and for Wang Shu, who won the 2012 Pritzker Prize, they offer a political as well as an architectural message.

Why I Created a Database to Document African Vernacular Architecture

Architecture is a unique component of a country's culture just as much as its language, music, art, literature or food. Architecture is also the most visual of those cultural components; the pyramids in Egypt, skyscrapers in New York, a temple in Japan, and onion domes in Russia all convey a unique image. This is called “genius loci,” the “spirit of a place”. Every country has its own genius loci, its own uniqueness. Vernacular architecture is composed of local materials and derived from local customs, techniques that have been passed on from generation to generation. But vernacular architecture in most (if not all) African countries is disappearing, being abandoned for western materials and techniques.

Rwanda - Kings Hut interior. Image © Larsen Payá Ethiopia - chicken coop constructed with woven reeds. Image © Abby Morris Benin - a Tata Somba. Image © Lafia Yarou Zambia - thatch stored in bundles being applied to roof. Image © Jon Sojkowski via Zambia Architecture

Norman Foster: Striving for Simplicity

“Quality is an attitude of mind.” 

New Site Revealed for BIG and Heatherwick-Designed Google HQ Expansion

Google has found another way to realize its futuristic Mountain View headquarter's expansion. As the San Jose Mercury News reports, the search engine giant revealed plans to utilize a vacant site just east of their existing Googleplex that was approved by the city almost a decade ago to host nearly 600,000 square-feet of office and commercial space. The approval occurred prior to the city implementing strict legislation that restricts office expansions in the North Bayshore district, therefore Google's entitlement is essentially "grandfathered in."

How to Drastically Improve Your Architectural Renderings

These days, the production of architectural renderings is something of a digital arms race, as the more sophisticated visualization becomes, the more of a disservice you do to your designs if you're not able to present clients with increasingly photo-realistic imagery. In this post, originally published by ArchSmarter as the first in their "Pro Smarts" series which features tips and tricks from seasoned professionals, Jonn Kutyla from PiXate Creative describes his seven-step process for creating more realistic renders.

Creating photo-realistic architectural renderings requires careful planning and attention to detail. Adding minor details to your renderings can be time consuming, but it is certainly worthwhile. Some of the smallest details have the greatest impact on the realism of the rendering. Today we’re going to focus on the site around your building. This isn’t going to be a tutorial for specific software, but rather a guide to using nature to make your renderings more believable.

10 Highlights from Guardian Cities' "History of Cities in 50 Buildings"

All good things must come to an end, and Guardian Cities' excellent "History of Cities in 50 Buildings" series is sadly no exception, with only a few more left to be published before they hit 50. The whole series is definitely worth the read, bringing in the best of academic and architectural writing from guest authors and the Guardian's own Cities team, but if you're strapped for time - and if you're an architect, it's fairly likely that's true - we've rounded up 10 highlights from the list to get you started.

Amazonas Theatre, Manaus. Image © Wikimedia user Leaderfo Narkomfin Building, Moscow. Image © Wikimedia user NVO Ponte Tower, Johannesburg. Image © Flickr user fiverlocker Byker Wall Estate, Newcastle. Image © Flickr user George Rex

Can We Make New Office Buildings As Cool As Warehouses?

We are rapidly running out of old warehouse buildings to renovate, and selling space in the glassy towers of the central business district is difficult as corporate buildings become less and less attractive. We need a new building that is attractive to companies who cut their teeth in co-working incubators before seeking their own digs.

We are a society obsessed with the new. We want to look eternally young, drive the latest car, wear runway-fresh clothes and have up-to-the-minute technology at our fingertips. We do not care if the battery in our phones cannot be changed, because we are happy to simply get a newer phone. The American pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness is a glittering glare of polish and gloss, all sparkling and new.

That is, unless we’re talking architecture.

Cannon Design's own St Louis Offices are located in a power house built in 1928. Image © Architectural Imageworks, LLC Ansarada / Those Architects. Image © Brett Boardman Donmar Dryden Street / Haworth Tompkins. Image © Philip Vile Cannon Design Regional Offices (St Louis) / Cannon Design. Converted industrial buildings "are big spaces vertically as well, trading the standard 9-foot (3-meter) ceiling in most office towers for soaring rafters". Image © Architectural Imageworks, LLC

Jean Nouvel on Architectural Eroticism and His Battles to Complete Buildings Correctly

Recently, Pritzker Prize winner Jean Nouvel has been in the news for all the wrong reasons; after his Philharmonie de Paris opened ahead of schedule in January this year, he has been involved in a very public battle to have his name removed from the project to distance himself from the "aberrational decisions" of the client. In this interview, originally published by the Huffington Post as "Interview With Jean Nouvel," Elena Cué sits down with Nouvel in his Paris Studio to talk about his inspirations, the phenomenon of architectural eroticism, and why he is often disappointed with his completed works.

Elena Cué: The anti-Le Corbusier architect Claude Parent was your mentor when you were starting out at the age of 21. Please tell me about what meeting him meant for your career. You were actively involved in May 68 with a radical stance against the educational model of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. What were the things you demanded?

Jean Nouvel: I felt that his studio was one of the most creative at that time. He and his partner, Paul Virilio, created a space where a new approach to architecture could evolve. Paul became a very well-known philosopher and thinker of the time. I joined the intellectual rebellion of "May 68" and it certainly impacted my architectural style in terms of its criticism of the way in which French cities have traditionally been constructed. Later on, I joined with them to create the "March 1976 Movement," which demanded that the design of French cities no longer follow the same traditional model. Soon after, the architecture trade union was formed. It was a time of intellectual excitement.

The Torre Agbar. Image © Flickr CC user Juanedc The Fondation Cartier. Image © Flickr CC user Rory Hyde The Museo Reina Sofía. Image © Flickr CC user Manu (mscosgalla) The Philharmonie de Paris. Image © Flickr CC user Marko Erman

#LoFab: MASS Design Group's Campaign For Local Building

"If I get a contract, so does the entire neighborhood."

Bamboom: Elora Hardy's TED Talk on Bamboo's Exploding Popularity

Perhaps the most surprising thing about bamboo - besides being an entirely natural, sustainable material with the tensile strength of steel that can grow up to 900 millimeters (3 feet) in just 24 hours - is that it's not more widely recognized as a fantastic construction material. Like many traditional building materials, bamboo no longer has the architectural currency that it once did across Asia and the pacific, but the efforts of Elora Hardy may help put it back into the vernacular. Heading up Ibuku, a design firm that uses bamboo almost exclusively, Hardy's recent TED Talk is an excellent run through of bamboo's graces and virtues in construction, showing off sinuous private homes and handbuilt school buildings.

Karawitz's open shell of bamboo. Image Courtesy of Karawitz Architects The Green School in Bali. Image Courtesy of PT Bambu One of Elora Hardy's bamboo bridges. Image Courtesy of PT Bambu The Green School in Bali. Image Courtesy of PT Bambu

The Transnational Urbanism of Paris: An Interview With Assistant Mayor Jean-Louis Missika

In the past century, the rise of globalism, of relatively cheap international transport, and above all, of the "world city" has fundamentally changed the way we think about citizenship and the nation state. To accommodate that change, we have also had to invent a new kind of "Transnational Urbanism": at the more esoteric end of this scale are ideas such as JG Ballard's "city of the 21st century," a geographically scattered "city" made up of the interconnected no-man's-land of international airports, which was recently exemplified by Eduardo Cassina and Liva Dudareva's hypothetical proposal for Moscow's Central Business district. At the other end of the scale are pragmatic choices that must be made by cities such as New York, London and Hong Kong that truly affect the lives of people not just living in the city, but around the world.

To probe this topic, MONU Magazine has dedicated their latest issue to the topic of Transnational Urbanism. In this extract from the magazine, MONU's Bernd Upmeyer and Beatriz Ramo interview French sociologist and Assistant Mayor of Paris Jean-Louis Missika to discover how the city is positioning itself as a 21st century global city, and how it is absorbing and adopting change in everything from the creative class to smart cities and 3D Printing.

Map of Paris with Montreuil in the east and Saint-Denis in the north. Image © City of Paris Aerial view of Ivry Bercy. Image © City of Paris Interior of the incubator in Halle Freyssinet in the 13th arrondissement in Paris. Image © City of Paris Aerial view of Ivry Choisy. Image © City of Paris

An Interview With Zhang Bin, Atelier Z+

"It’s really easy to build a building. From the very beginning to the realization; it’s very easy! You just give it an interesting form and you get approved. But the real issues are how to make it user-friendly and to enhance the quality of the life of the people trying to escape the influence of the “system”. That’s the challenge. In my experience […] I’ve learned that for architects, both Chinese and foreign, the use of form to create an object is easy but how to do the right thing is very challenging."
- Zhang Bin, Shanghai, Sept 2013

Anting culture and sports activity centre. Image Courtesy of Atelier Z+ Library of Tongji Zhejiang college. Image © Su Shengliang Building C, College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Tongji University. Image © Zhang Siye Anting culture and sports activity centre. Image Courtesy of Atelier Z+

Lonely Houses: Sejkko’s Surreal Photos of Traditional Portuguese Homes

The son of Portuguese immigrants in Venezuela, Manuel Pita, also known as “Sejkko,” is a scientist and photographer who expresses his creativity on Instagram. In his latest series, “Lonely Houses,” Sejkko’s surreal photos capture the traditional houses of Portugal, edited to “bring them as close as possible to the way my eyes see them,” he explains. 

Courtesy of Sejkko Courtesy of Sejkko Courtesy of Sejkko Courtesy of Sejkko

Seeming Inevitability: Reconsidering Renzo Piano’s Addition To Louis Kahn’s Kimbell

South view. Image © Robert LaPrelle
South view. Image © Robert LaPrelle

When Renzo Piano’s addition to the Kimbell opened in late 2013, critical responses ranged from “both architects at the top of their games” (Witold Rybczynski) to “generous to a fault” (Mark Lamster) to “distant defacement” (Thomas de Monchaux). In this excerpt from a special issue of Cite: The Architecture + Design Review of Houston, Ronnie Self gives a deeply considered assessment of the two buildings after a full turn of the seasons. The special issue also includes a review by Christopher Hawthorne of Johnston Marklee's plans for the Menil Drawing Institute, a review by David Heymann of Steven Holl’s expansion of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and an essay by Walter Hood and Carmen Taylor about Project Row Houses. Also featured are interviews of the directors of all four museums and their architects (Piano, Holl, Johnston Marklee, David Chipperfield, and Rice Building Workshop), making for a very comprehensive issue.

Piano’s main task was to respond appropriately to Kahn’s building which he achieved through alignments in plan and elevation and by dividing his project into two major bodies: a concrete walled, glass roofed pavilion facing Kahn and a separate, sod-roofed structure behind that should integrate a significant portion of the project with the landscape and thereby lessen its overall impact. Still, the loss of the open lawn that existed in front of the Kimbell where Piano’s building now stands is regrettable. Kahn’s Kimbell was conceived as a large house or a villa in a park, and unlike much of the abundant open and green space in the Fort Worth Cultural District, that park was actually used. Piano’s new outdoor space is more like a courtyard – more contained and more formal. It is more urban in its design, yet less public in its use.

Aside from lamenting the loss of the open lawn, how might we judge the addition?

View of the double staircase leading to the lower level. Image © Robert Polidori View from the southwest. Image © Robert LaPrelle Lobby view, looking south. Image © Nic Lehoux Detail of roof and beam system. Image © Robert LaPrelle