AD Classics: Riola Parish Church / Alvar Aalto

© Franco Di Capua

Designed by Finnish architect, Alvar Aalto, Riola Parrish Church is a stunning concrete form which mimics and modulates with the contours of its Italian landscape. The magnificent baptistery, completed in 1978, is located eight kilometers south of Bologna in the small town of Riola. Aalto’s evocative modernist architecture captures the spirit of this mountain setting; it is a spiritual structure which, inside and out, unassumingly expresses sanctity of faith and place.

More on Church after the break.

Video: Physicist Geoffrey West on Cities

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In this July 2011 TEDGlobal talk, physicist Geoffrey West argues that mathematical laws of networks and scalability govern the properties of . West demonstrates how wealth, crime rate, walking speed, and other aspects of a city can be predicted  based on a city’s population–universally, and with startling accuracy.

West’s presentation is constructed through a comparison of cities’ statistical similarities with the mathematical laws of biology. Both are dominated by economies of scale, but while the pace of life decreases as biological organisms scale upwards, the pace of life in cities increases. For example, doubling the size of a city systematically increases income, wealth, number of patents, number of colleges, number of creative people, the number of police, crime rate, number of aids and flu cases, and waste by 15% per capita.

Although some might find West’s fervent empiricism tiresome, his model of urban scientific inquiry holds massive potential both as data and methodological model for theoretical inquiry autonomous from practice. As a scientist, West is free from our field’s predilection towards theory as model for practice–he can speak of his observations, but lets them remain as such. Any practical suggestion would limit the versatility of the information he and his team have produced, forever linking that new body of knowledge with a delimited body of interpretations. By way of example: West’s argument is reminiscent of Christopher Alexander’s classic essay, “A City is Not a Tree,” in which Alexander argues that cities are fundamentally social networks, and that those lattice like-networks are in opposition to the synthetic tree-like networks designed by Modernists from Tange to Hilbershimer. Alexander’s essay, organized categorically and grounded in anecdotal models, is too oppositional to have easy currency outside of its use with respect to the projects it references and criticizes. Given that, it is not surprising that Alexander’s later work in A Pattern Language is more often identified as a political statement against modern planning ideals than as the dictionary of design strategies it purported assumed itself to be. West’s argument, organized systematically rather than categorically and grounded in data rather than anecdote, operates in an epistemological universe resistant to the political and able to be understood and applied in a wide variety of contexts for numerous related and unrelated causes.

The 9 April Garden / aspa

© FG + SG

Architect: aspa
Location: , Portugal
Project Team: José Maria Cumbre + Nuno Sousa Caetano
Collaboration: Carolina Castro Freire
Foundations and Structures: PRPC Engenheiros – João Paulo Cardoso
Electrical and Telecommunications: Energia Técnica – João Mira
Security Installations: Energia Técnica – João Mira
HVAC systems: Energia Técnica – Luís Loureiro
Facilities Water and Sewerage: Energia Técnica – João Paulo Branco / Pereira Monteiro
Facilities Gas: Energia Técnica – João Paulo Branco / Pereira Monteiro
Measurements and Budget: Deolinda Cancela
Project Area: 308.80 sqm
Project Year: 2008-2010
Photographs: FG + SG

Regional Library and Knowledge Center / Török és Balázs Építészeti Kft.

© Tamás Bujnovszky

Location: Pécs,
Project Year: 2010
Project Area: 13,180 sqm
Photographs: Tamás Bujnovszky

Practice 2.0: BIM Myths and Building Truths

Construction Coordination Model / Louisiana State Museum and Sports Hall of Fame / Trahan Architects / Image courtesy of CASE

By Steve Sanderson

My inbox was hit recently by a couple of posts painting a bleak picture of the impact of BIM on the AECO industry. Thoughtful and objective criticism of BIM is helpful and necessary to counter vendor marketing overreach and fanboy zealotry. Unfortunately the criticisms I read are neither thoughtful nor objective. Instead they rely on sensationalist titles, sources outside of the building industry, and nonexistent relationships between cause-and-effect.

The first, A Cautionary Digital Tale of Virtual Design and Construction published in Engineering News-Record (ENR), describes the construction of an undisclosed building at an undisclosed university that resulted in an undisclosed contractor suing the undisclosed owner, who then sued an undisclosed architect, who brought an undisclosed MEP engineer into the mix. The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount by an insurance company. Tellingly, a VP at the insurance company is the only source for the article. The point seems to be that if you use BIM you could be sued.

Essence of the Desert House / AU Design Studio

© Amit Upadhye

Architect: AU Design Studio, LLC – Amit Upadhye
Project Team: Amit Upadhye, Trevor Pentecost, Jeremy Smith, Ryu Ikegai
Location: ,
Project Year: 2008
Project Area: 6,000SqFt
Structural Engineer: A.E. & Associates
Mechanical & Plumbing Engineer: Otterbein Engineering
Electrical Engineer: Tuly Engineering
Contractor: First Choice
Photography: Amit Upadhye


Hotchkiss Residence / Scott | Edwards Architects

© Peter Eckert

Location: Vancouver, , USA
Project Team: Rick Berry, Kelly Edwards, Jason Wesolowski
Landscape Architect: Shapiro Didway
Contractor: Hammer &Hand
Project Area: 1,988 sqf
Project Year: 2010
Photographs: Peter Eckert

Steelcase, Ecotextiles, and the Evolution of Green Business

Illustration by Tien-Min Liao, from

Growing demand for green products, new standards, and continuing economic shifts are transforming business practices at Steelcase, O Excotextile, and others reports Tristan Roberts in the Greensource feature “Green Manufacturers Examine Their Impacts.”

House in Beauvallon / Raphaëlle Segond Architecte

© Philippe Ruault

Architect : Raphaëlle Segond Architecte
Location: Domaine de Beauvallon, , France
Project Team: Jonhattan Inzerillo, Project Manager
Concrete & masonry : Paul Ciotta & Fils, maçons
Windows crafters : Maria Aluminium
Electrician : Nicolas Espitalier électricité
Project Area: 250 sqm
Project Year: 2011
Photographs: Philippe Ruault

Medellin’s Architectural Renaissance

© Flickr / David Peña

A renaissance through architecture has been unfolding throughout the past several years in Colombia’s second largest city – Medellin. Home to 3.5 million inhabitants it was plagued by violence in the 1980’s and 1990’s. However, through an ambitious plan headed by former mayor Sergio Fajardo, the cityscape has undergone a dramatic shift since his election in 2003. One of the defining principles of this initiative that invested millions into civic architecture and public infrastructure was to build in some of the roughest districts of the city.  More details after the break.

Orchard House / Nacházel Architekti

© Jakub Vlček

Architect: Nacházel Architekti
Location: ,
Construction Company: SKALA
Sculptures: Jakub Flejšar
Project Year: 2011
Photographs: Jakub Vlček

The Bank of America Tower / Cook + Fox

There is a lot of attention being paid to the skyline these days – and rightly so, as the Freedom Tower rises about 1 story a week.  Yet, a little farther up the Island, an elegant faceted tower has caught our attention since its completion in 2008.   Designed by -based Cook + Fox,  the conceptualization behind the sleek volume, which rises gracefully from its base at One Bryant Park, is rooted in ideas of biophilia – the innate relationship between nature and man.   Constructed to respectively take its spot as the second tallest building in NYC [soon to be the third after the Freedom Tower and the Empire State Building], the sustainable tower marks the first LEED Platinum commercial skyscraper in the world.   Check out this short click featuring Principal Richard Cook as he offers a deeper explaination of how biophilia informed not only the formal attitude of the architecture, but also shaped the experiences and atmosphere of this 2,200,000 sqf skyscraper.

Courtesy of LETH & GORI

Gulating Museum Proposal / LETH & GORI

The Gulating Museum proposal by LETH & GORI… is a design for a new museum building for the historic Viking thingstead Gulating in Norway. The museum building is situated in the middle of the grandiose mountainous landscape as a natural portal

Lake Residence / Architekton

© Bill Timmerman, , CameraWerks

Architect: Architekton
Location: Tempe,
Project Year: 2008
Contractor: 180 Degrees
Structural Engineer: Brickey Design Associates
Mechanical Engineer: Applied Engineering
Electrical Engineer: ASF Consulting
Lighting Design: Darryl Gregg
Landscape Architect: Debra Burnette
Photography: Bill TimmermanArchitekton, CameraWerks


Campo Baeza: The Creation Tree Exhibition

Courtesy of MAXXI

A large tree, whose leaves are drawings, a pond from which photos of projects arise, a large installation which recreates the mental landscape of Alberto Campo Baeza: this is CAMPO BAEZA. THE CREATION TREE, the third of the monographic exhibitions of NATURE, the series of four monographic installations in which MAXXI Architectura explores different interpretations of contemporary architectural investigation.

Co-produced by MAXXI Architectura and Acción Cultural Española (AC/E) with the special collaboration of TOTO GALLERY MA of Tokyo, the show, dedicated to the work of one of the masters of Spanish architecture, is curated and designed by Manuel Blanco. More information on the event after the break.

Forest Pavilion / nArchitects

© Iwan Baan

On May 22nd, 2011, framed by green bamboo vaults, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou stood at a podium inside Forest Pavilion to inaugurate the Masadi Art Festival. Facing a crowd of celebrators, designers, and protesters, President Ma delivered his administration’s vision for a low carbon future.

nARCHITECTS’ Forest Pavilion - completed in May 2011 – serves as a shaded meeting and performance space for visitors to the Da Nong Da Fu Forest and Eco-park in Hualien province, Taiwan. The project was conceived within the context of an art festival curated by Huichen Wu of Artfield, Taipei for Taiwan’s Forestry Bureau with the object of raising public awareness of a new growth forest that is being threatened by development. The pavilion is comprised of eleven vaults built with freshly cut green bamboo, a material first used by in the internationally acclaimed 2004 Canopy for MoMA P.S.1. As an extension of techniques developed in 2004’s Canopy for MoMA/P.S.1, the 60’ diameter and 22’ tall pavilion is built with green bamboo. Forest Pavilion was chosen to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the art festival, becoming a focal point for the park.

Motopia: A New Age of Modular Construction / USC School of Architecture

Motopia: A New Age of Modular Construction / USC School of Architecture

Motopia: A New Age of Modular Construction, an event put on by USC’s School of Architecture, will bring together today’s most creative designers of mobile architecture and examine solutions to current economic, social and environmental concerns in the housing industry;…

Butaro Hospital / MASS Design Group

© Iwan Baan


Architects: MASS Design Group
Location: Burera District,
Client: Rwandan Ministry of Health; Partners In Health / Inshuti Mu Buzima
Sewage Plant Engineering: EcoProtection
Landscape Design: Sierra Bainbridge and Maura Rockcastle
Design Team: Michael Murphy, Alan Ricks, Sierra Bainbridge, Marika Clark, Ryan Leidner, Garret Gantner, Cody Birkey, Ebbe Strathairn, Maura Rockcastle, Dave Saladik, Alda Ly, Robert Harris, Commode Dushimimana, Nicolas Rutikanga
Structural Engineering: ICON
Project Year: 2011
Project Area: 6,040 sqm
Photographs: Iwan Baan,