Maybe it's a result of long studio hours, the fact that architectural thinking tends to seep into every aspect of life, or a combination of other factors—but it's certain that architects have a culture all their own. Weird obsessions feel so commonplace in our closed social circles that it's easy to forget how bizarre some of our little quirks can appear to people on the outside. If you're an architect with a friend whose architectural knowledge pretty much stops at the Franks (Gehry and Lloyd Wright), here are some secret thoughts about you that they might be harboring.
Outside of our familiar feeds, social or otherwise, the Internet can be a daunting place. While information and interaction have never been easier, developing ways to get a handle on the quantity and pace of this crowded, if not valuable, world can often be difficult – it’s all too easy to find your digital life unintentionally isolated. In the architectural sphere, shared knowledge and a broad understanding of history and contemporary practice are all-important; discourse and conversation even more so. Are.na, a platform for collaborative and independent research, provides a new lens when surfing, capturing and contextualizing the content of the Internet.
So much has already been written about Hamburg’s undeniably excellent Elbphilharmonie, which formally opened in January but has been publicly accessible, in part, since November. The chatter has mostly revolved around the same two talking points—the building’s on-the-tip-of-your-tongue shape and its fantastic price tag. In addressing the former, critics have called attention to the hall’s resemblance to an iceberg, an outcrop, a ship, circus tents, or the Sydney Opera House. And as for the costs, totaling $900 million, they point out how the project hemorrhaged cash, even if they have inadvertently exaggerated the figures. Having momentarily lost control of the narrative, the city felt compelled to set the record straight in time for the inaugural performance: The building cost just three—not ten!—times the initial budget.
The architectural legacy of the Rockefeller family in Manhattan is well-known, most obviously demonstrated in the slab-like Art Deco towers of the Rockefeller Center and the ever-expanding campus of the MoMA. But in a city that is filled with landmarks and historic buildings, it's easy for even the most remarkable projects to go unrecognized. Philip Johnson's Rockefeller Guest House in Manhattan was completed in 1950, just one year after the construction of his better known Glass House in New Canaan. The Glass House is an obvious cousin to the later guest house: both feature largely empty glass and steel boxlike forms, where structural work is exposed and celebrated.
This article was originally published on Atlas Obscura as "Five Architectural Easter Eggs Hiding on Gothic Cathedrals."
The modern use of the term “easter egg”—not the holiday treat but rather a hidden joke or surprise item inserted in a piece of media—originated with Atari in 1979, when a developer snuck his name into a game hoping to get some recognition as the creator. But these surprise treats, hidden to all but those who look closely enough, aren’t only lurking in the digital world. Some of the best easter eggs are snuck into the physical architecture around us.
The excellent thing about architectural easter eggs, be they tongue-in-cheek, carved out of spite, or simply placed as a fun treat awaiting an observant eye, is that they endure in the landscape around us, becoming a sneaky and often confusing part of history. Here are five hidden carvings that dot historic structures with a bit of human nature.
In this fourth episode of GSAPP Conversations, third-year GSAPP Master of Architecture student Ayesha Ghosh speaks with Swiss architect Christian Kerez, who delivered the opening lecture of the school's Spring 2017 Semester. Kerez's recent projects include Incidental Space at the Swiss Pavillion of the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, an amorphous structure which raised questions of the limits of imagination and technical feasibility in architecture today.
Until April 30th, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark is exhibiting the work of Wang Shu. The first in a new series of monographic exhibitions collectively titled "The Architect's Studio," this show of the work of the 2012 Pritzker Prize winner features an exhibition catalog that includes essays from Kenneth Frampton, Ole Bouman, Yiping Dong and Aric Chen. The following excerpt from the exhibition catalog, written by Kenneth Frampton, is republished here with the permission of the author and publisher.
The work of the Amateur Architecture Studio has come into being in categorical opposition to the recent, rapacious development that has engulfed large tracts of the Chinese continent, and which was first set in motion by Deng Xiaoping’s 1983 decision to open up the People’s Republic of China to foreign trade, first with special economic zones and later with regard to the entire country. Based in Hangzhou, Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu have witnessed firsthand the juggernaut of maximizing Chinese modernization from its impact on their own city. Three decades ago, Hangzhou had been expressly chosen by them as a desirable place in which to live and work, largely because of its venerable artistic traditions and its harmonious report with nature, symbolized for them by the virtually sacred West Lake, set in the very heart of the city and traversed, then as now, by the flat-bottomed boats plying across its surface. Wang Shu’s unique sensibility takes as its point of departure the equally panoramic tranquility of traditional Chinese painting. As Wang Shu has written:
“I am always amazed by these paintings when I see that the trees, the buildings and mountains are not just placed haphazardly... every building is laid out in a certain way in relation to the landscape and the trees, the direction it faces depending on the light and the features of the location, which make it suitable for human habitation.”
"False Binaries": Why the Battle Between Art and Business in Architecture Education Doesn't Make Sense
This article was originally published by The Architect's Newspaper as "Phil Bernstein pens inaugural column on technology, value, and architects’ evolving role."
This is the inaugural column “Practice Values,” a new bi-monthly series by architect and technologist Phil Bernstein. The column will focus on the evolving role of the architect at the intersection of design and construction, including subjects such as alternative delivery systems and value generation. Bernstein was formerly vice president at Autodesk and now teaches at the Yale School of Architecture.
This semester, I’m teaching a course called “Exploring New Value Propositions for Practice” that’s based on the premise that the changing role of architects in the building industry requires us to think critically about our value as designers in that system. After studying the structure and dynamics of practice business models, the supply chain, and other examples of innovative design enterprises, they’ll be asked to create a business plan for a “next generation” architectural practice. I’m agnostic as to what this practice does per se, as long as it operates somewhere in the constellation of things that architects can do, but there is one constraint—your proposed firm can’t be paid fixed or hourly rate fees. It has to create value (and profit) through some other strategy.
Once every two years architecture schools around the world are invited to submit their single, finest graduation project to the Archiprix International competition and exhibition. Since its inception in 2001 (born out of the Dutch Archiprix), an ever increasing number of schools choose to participate. This year, Archiprix International selected Ahmedabad, in India, to exhibit the results. Arjen Oosterman, Editor-in-Chief of Volume, spoke to Archiprix Director and "Mister Archiprix" Henk van der Veen.
One of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer’s final designs, a 12-meter-diameter glass and concrete sphere perched on the corner of a factory building, is set to be completed in Leipzig, Germany, reports Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (Central German Broadcasting, MDR).
This article was originally published by Autodesk's Redshift publication as "Life on Mars? Architects Lead the Way to Designing for Mars With Virtual Reality."
If an architecture firm is lucky, it can hit two birds with one stone on a single project—for example, prioritizing both historic preservation and energy efficiency. But a team at KieranTimberlake, based in Philadelphia, is aiming for four ambitious goals with its pro bono project, the Mars City Facility Ops Challenge.
Architects Fátima Olivieri, Efrie Friedlander, and Rolando Lopez teamed up with National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), NASA, and the Total Learning Research Institute (TLRI) to create a virtual working city on Mars—one that might reap multiple rewards.
We're all used to seeing buildings in urban settings, surrounded by glass high-rises and tidy green parks. Yet around the world, there are many buildings in much more extraordinary spaces. Some have made it to the news because of their unusual locations, while others remain relatively hidden or even abandoned. Whether historic or brand new, protected or restored, grand or humble, flooded or floating, the following 13 buildings have one thing in common: their less-than-normal locations.
Utopia Arkitekter wants to start a discussion in Stockholm: how do we manage and develop our public spaces? The definition of the word public, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is something “open to or shared by all the people of an area or country.” However, as commercialism continues to rise, Utopia Arkitekter has a problem with our new applications of indoor “public” spaces. As architecture critic Rowan Moore writes in Why We Build, “Identity, desire and stimulation become things you have to buy, as clothes, restaurant meals of calculated diversity, and rides on the ski slope or up the Burj Khalifa.” The problem is that as our inner cities adopt more commercial indoor
The problem is that as our inner cities adopt more commercial indoor public spaces such as shopping malls, cafés or restaurants, the “public” is no longer represented by “all the people of an area,” simply due to economic restrictions. In a city like Stockholm, where darkness and temperatures below 10 degrees celsius prevail for 6 months of the year, the economic boundaries set up around indoor public spaces mean reduced opportunities for people to socialize outside of the home. Utopia Arkitekter’s proposal in response to this conundrum? An indoor park.
Go to any medieval European city and you will see what streets looked like before the advent of the car: lovely, small narrow lanes, intimate, and undisputedly human-scale. We have very few cities in the US where you can find streets like this. For the most part what you see is streets that have been designed with the car in mind—at a large scale for a fast speed. In my native San Francisco, we are making the streets safer for walking and biking by widening sidewalks, turning car lanes into bike lanes, and slowing down the cars. We are working with the streets we have; a typical San Francisco street is anywhere from 60 to 80 feet (18 to 24 meters) wide, as compared with a medieval, pre-car street which is more like 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6 meters) wide.
As an urban designer, I work on lots of projects where we take large parcels of land and subdivide them into blocks by introducing new streets. These new streets are a rare opportunity to take a fresh look at the kinds of car-oriented roads that we are used to, and instead try to design streets that prioritize the safety and comfort of pedestrians. These projects give us a chance to design streets that are just for people. Imagine that we made these people-only streets into narrow, medieval-style lanes that are intimate and human-scaled. But even as we try to design streets that might not ever see a single car, we find that the modern street design has become so much more than just places for walking or driving. There are therefore a number of things for socially-minded designers to consider, beyond the commonly talked about pedestrian-car dichotomy.
#donotsettle is an online video project created by Wahyu Pratomo and Kris Provoost about architecture and the way it is perceived by its users. Having published a number of videos on ArchDaily over the past two years, Pramoto and Provoost are now launching an exclusive column, “#donotsettle extra,” which will accompany some of their #donotsettle videos with in-depth textual analysis of the buildings they visit.
In our first installment we are taking you to Doha, the capital of Qatar, where we visited the Museum of Islamic Art. For some years, this museum was the only architecture fix you could find in Doha, but recently this has changed, with projects almost completed by Jean Nouvel and Rem Koolhaas, and will continue to change leading up to the 2022 World Cup. The building was designed by IM Pei who, when the building was constructed in the mid-2000s, was retired but was persuaded to commit his time to design this prominent museum. And prominent it for sure is. Mister Pei, you know how to make your building stand out. Standing off the mainland, a solid natural stone structure rises out of the water.
Singapore’s first Housing and Development Board (HDB) housing blocks were erected in November of 1960, in response to a severe lack of adequate housing for the country's 1.6 million citizens. Fast forward to 2017, and over 80% of the Singaporean population live in HDBs, with over 90% of them owning the home they live in. Often painted in vibrant colors, HDBs have a focus on community social spaces, more often than not maintaining the ground floor of the apartment blocks as open public space, exclusively for public meeting areas. These can include hawker centers, benches, tables, grills and pavilions where residents can socialize under cover from the hot Singaporean sun.
“The circle . . . is the synthesis of the greatest oppositions. [It] combines the concentric and the excentric in a single form, and in equilibrium. Of the three primary forms [triangle, square, circle], it points most clearly to the fourth dimension.”
This quote, spoken by artist and Bauhaus professor Wassily Kandinsky, helps to explain the obsession architects, from Palladians to Modernists, have long held with pure geometrical forms – chief among them the circle.
Inspired by this obsession, one Instagram account titled “Circular Spaces” has collected many of the best examples of circles found in architecture. The account tracks the geometries at all scales, from the planet-sized plan of the Death Star to the familiar intimacy of a round dining table. Check out a selection from “Circular Spaces” below.
As the dust settled following the Second World War much of Europe was left with a crippling shortage of housing. In Milan, a series of plans were drafted in response to the crisis, laying out satellite communities for the northern Italian city which would each house between 50,000 to 130,000 people. Construction the first of these communities began in 1946, one year after the end of the conflict; ten years later in 1956, the adoption of Il Piano Regolatore Generale—a new master plan—set the stage for the development of the second, known as 'Gallaratese'. The site of the new community was split into parts 1 and 2, the latter of which was owned by the Monte Amiata Società Mineraria per Azioni. When the plan allowed for private development of Gallaratese 2 in late 1967, the commission for the project was given to Studio Ayde and, in particular, its partner Carlo Aymonino. Two months later Aymonino would invite Aldo Rossi to design a building for the complex and the two Italians set about realizing their respective visions for the ideal microcosmic community.