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Spotlight: Paulo Mendes da Rocha

"All space must be attached to a value, to a public dimension. There is no private space. The only private space that you can imagine is the human mind." - Paulo Mendes da Rocha, May 26, 2004

Paulo Mendes da Rocha is one of Brazil's greatest architects and urbanists. Born in Vitória, Espírito Santo in 1928, Mendes da Rocha won the 2006 Pritzker Prize, and is one of the most representative architects of the Brazilian Paulista School, also known as "Paulista Brutalism" that utilizes more geometric lines, rougher finishes and bulkier massing than other Brazilian Modernists such as Oscar Niemeyer.

Gallery: SANAA's Grace Farms aka "The River" Photographed by Paul Clemence

Photographer Paul Clemence of ARCHI-PHOTO has shared with us images of SANAA's latest completed work, Grace Farms in New Canaan, Connecticut. Known as "The River" for the way it flows through the site across a level change of almost 44 feet (13.4 meters), the building was conceived to "become part of the landscape without drawing attention to itself, or even feeling like a building" in order to give visitors a greater appreciation of the surrounding natural space that will be preserved by the Grace Farms Foundation. The building itself, meanwhile, will be made available to Grace Community Church and other nonprofit and community groups for a wide range of community and cultural events. Read on for Paul Clemence's full photoset.

© Paul Clemence from ARCHI-PHOTO © Paul Clemence from ARCHI-PHOTO © Paul Clemence from ARCHI-PHOTO © Paul Clemence from ARCHI-PHOTO

The Power of Photography: How Images Continue to Shape the Built Environment

In a culture dominated by smartphones and Instagram, with estimates that over one trillion photographs will be taken this year alone, it might seem impossible for photographs to make and shape issues in the ways they once did. Despite this, images still steer debates with shocking resiliency and, with luck, become iconic in their own right. As architecture is synonymous with placemaking and cultural memory, it is only logical that images of the built environment can have lasting effects on the issues of architecture and urbanism. It's never been easier for photographs to gain exposure than they can today, and with social media and civilian journalism, debates have never started more quickly.

Spotlight: Jean Nouvel

The winner of the Wolf Prize in 2005 and the Pritzker of 2008, French architect Jean Nouvel has attempted to design each of his projects without any preconceived notions. The result is a variety of projects that, while strikingly different, always demonstrate a delicate play with light and shadow as well as a harmonious balance with their surroundings. It was this diverse approach that led the Pritzker Prize Jury in their citation to characterize Nouvel as primarily "courageous" in his "pursuit of new ideas and his challenge of accepted norms in order to stretch the boundaries of the field."

Construction Well Underway on Santiago Calatrava’s Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro

Construction of Santiago Calatrava’s Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow) in Rio de Janeiro is underway and on-track to be completed in the second half of 2015. Located on the Pier Mauá, the museum will encompass a 15,000m2 built area and include gardens, leisure areas, bike paths, and a reflective pool, totaling over 30,000m2. The ground floor of the museum will include a store, auditorium, temporary exhibit rooms, a restaurant, administrative offices and space for research and educational activities. The upper floor, connected to the ground floor with ramps, will include long-term exhibits, a café and a panoramic lookout. 

© Paul Clemence © Paul Clemence © Paul Clemence © Paul Clemence

Renzo Piano Designs New Handbag Inspired by the Whitney Museum

Renzo Piano has designed a limited-edition handbag for the Italian fashion brand Max Mara to match his newly completed Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The leather, top-handle bag, inspired by the "pure design and sophisticated materials" of the Whitney, features distinct ribbing inspired by the museum's facade.

"Our aim was to apply one of the most characteristic elements of the museum project - the facade - to the bag: hence the idea of the modular strips enveloping the exterior," said Piano in an interview with Max Mara. "We tried to maintain a simple, pure design, working only on the details by applying a creative use of technology and placing the accent on respect for the materials."

Renzo Piano's First US Residential Tower to Rise in New York

According to the New York Post, Renzo Piano has been commissioned by Michael Shvo and Bizzi & Partners to design his first US residential tower. Planned to rise in the southern Manhattan district of Soho at 100 Varick Street, the Piano-designed tower will include up to 280,000 square-feet of housing and reach nearly 300 feet. Featured amenities include a "gated private driveway" and "automated parking." Stay tuned for more details. 

Critical Round-Up: Renzo Piano's Whitney Museum

Depending on how you measure it, Renzo Piano's new building for the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (designed in collaboration with New York practice Cooper Robertson) could be the most long-awaited museum of the 21st century. At just a fraction under seven years since the first designs of the building were released, the incubation period has been long enough on its own - but in fact the project has its roots in a scrapped 1981 design by Michael Graves, when the Whitney was instead planning an extension to their previous home in Marcel Breuer's 1966 masterpiece on Madison Avenue. With such a highly anticipated building, the Whitney could hardly have a better man for the job; Piano is one of the most prodigious museum builders of our time. Yet despite this, since construction began in 2011 the design has been beset by criticism for its ungainly external appearance.

Ahead of the Whitney's grand opening on May 1st, this past Sunday saw a slew of reviews from New York's many reputable art and architecture critics, who attempted to make sense of the institution's long-overdue move from their idiosyncratic but endearing former home. We've rounded up some of the best of them, after the break.

© Flickr CC user Payton Chung © Flickr CC user Steven Severinghaus © Flickr CC user Steven Severinghaus © Flickr CC user Bill Benzon

Renzo Piano Explains How To Design the Perfect Museum

In the following article, originally published on Metropolis Magazine as "Q&A: Renzo Piano", Paul Clemence talks with the Italian master of museum design about the design process and philosophies that have brought him such tremendous success in the field - from sketching, to behaving with civility, to buildings that 'fly', Piano explains what makes the perfect museum.

There's a reason why Renzo Piano is known as the master of museum design. The architect has designed 25 of them, 14 in the US alone. Few architects understand as well as Piano—along with his practice, the Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW)—what board directors, curators, and even the visiting public needs and wants in a cultural institution like a museum. When I spoke with Donna de Salvo, chief curator of the Whitney Museum of American Art, whose new downtown digs were authored by RPBW she remarked on the how the curators' input was often incorporated into the final building design. “Our curators and the architects had an ongoing dialogue throughout the design of this building," de Salvo says. "The physical needs of the art were a priority for Renzo and his team, down to the most seemingly minute detail. Our curatorial voice was central to the discussion and has given us a terrifically dynamic building, a uniquely responsive array of spaces for art.”

But what often goes unmentioned is how well Piano's buildings, particularly his museums, connect to their surroundings. The buildings not only perform well, but they integrate themselves into the life of the city, as if they have always been there. From Beaubourg to The New York Times Building, they fully embrace the space and energy of their urban contexts. Now, as two of his newest and very high-profile museum projects near completion—the renovation and expansion of the Harvard Art Museums (due to open this Fall) and the Whitney Museum of Art (expected to be in use by Spring 2015)—I had a chance to meet with Piano at his Meatpacking District office to talk about the creative process, criticisms, contemporary architecture, and “flying” buildings.

Daniel Libeskind on Italy, Design, & the State of Architecture Today

Rendering of the CHAU 43 residential project in Berlin, whose facade will be clad in Libeskind's titanium ceramic porcelain tile.. Image Courtesy of Studio Daniel Libeskind
Rendering of the CHAU 43 residential project in Berlin, whose facade will be clad in Libeskind's titanium ceramic porcelain tile.. Image Courtesy of Studio Daniel Libeskind

In this interview with Daniel Libeskindoriginally featured on Metropolis as Q&A: Daniel Libeskind on Italy, Product Design, and the State of Architecture Today, Paul Clemence talks to Libeskind about his perspective on Italian culture, its influence on his career, and his most recent foray into product design.

When you talk to Daniel Libeskind, no single question has a simple answer. From his days as a young musical prodigy (he played the accordion) to his directorship at Cranbrook Academy, not to mention his voracious passion for literature, the fascinating episodes of his life all come together, informing his approach to design and architecture. His career path is an unusual one. And while that is true for many architects, his is particularly interesting, where each twist and turn, no matter how ostensibly disconnected, seem to have always prepared him for his next step. Take his two highest profile jobs, the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the master plan for Ground Zero. The two are intrinsically linked—the museum’s official opening to the public in 2001 was originally scheduled on September 11. The project had taken 13 years of political maneuvering to realize. Similarly, Libeskind's World Trade Center site master plan was marred by a decade of delays and alterations, which threatened to blot out his original design intentions. One monumental task after the other, eerily similar in challenging circumstances, both offering the architect a rare opportunity to helm projects richly entrenched in emotion, symbolism, and historical significance.

Now as his career moves beyond these two important projects, the architect's connection to Italy is beginning to play a pivotal role in his work. He moved there after his time at Cranbrook, when he was looking for new career challenges. Libeskind has been back in America since he was commissioned the Ground Zero project, but he recently opened up a studio in Milan, where he, his wife, and son oversee the firm's forays in product design.

I caught up with Libeskind at his Lower Manhattan office overlooking Ground Zero to talk about Italy and his involvement in upcoming design fairs there, Milan Design Week and the Venice Architecture Biennale.

Non-Stick PAMM

Rio de Janeiro-based writer Robert Landon has shared with us his experience exploring Herzog and de Meuron's Perez Art Museum Miami.

I am standing with Christine Binswanger, senior partner of Herzog & de Meuron, a few hours before the Perez Art Museum Miami opens it doors to the public for the first time. All around us, construction workers are making last minute adjustments, while troublesome clusters of VIPs take their first peak into the museum's airy, austere galleries. The excitement is palpable.

And yet I can't unpeel my eyes from the huge, hurricane-proof window before us. They offer enormous views of resplendent Biscayne Bay and the six-lane, 5.6km Macarthur Causeway that crosses it. Throbbing with traffic, the causeway is the kind of thing that, I imagine, people come to museums to forget. So I ask Binswanger, the museum's project architect, how her team approached this design problem.

"Problem? What problem?" says Binswanger. "That is what Miami is about. Anyway, I find it beautiful. Don't you?"

Suddenly I do. Or at least I find beautiful the building's wide-open embrace of Miami, causeways and all. And I suspect that this visual (and programmatic) permeability to the city's realities—natural and manmade—will define PAMM's institutional success.

Norman Foster on Meeting Niemeyer

In this interview, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "Q&A: Norman Foster on Niemeyer, Nature and Cities", Paul Clemence talks with Lord Foster about his respect for Niemeyer, their meeting shortly before the great master's death, and how Niemeyer's work has influenced his own.

Last December, in the midst of a hectic schedule of events that have come to define Art Basel/Design Miami, I found myself attending a luncheon presentation of the plans for the Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach, by Foster + Partners. While chatting with Lord Foster, I mentioned my Brazilian background and quickly the conversation turned to Oscar Niemeyer. Foster mentioned the talk he and Niemeyer had shortly before the Brazilian’s passing (coincidentally that same week in December marked the first anniversary of Niemeyer’s death). Curious to know more about the meeting and their chat, I asked Foster about that legendary encounter and some of the guiding ideas behind his design for the Norton.

Read on for the interview

Peter Zumthor: Seven Personal Observations on Presence In Architecture

Known for his superior design and unparalleled craftsmanship, the 2009 Pritzker Laureate and 2013 RIBA Gold Medal Award winner, Peter Zumthor, was recently invited to speak at the School of Architecture in Tel Aviv University. In a lecture titled “Presence in Architecture - Seven Personal Observations,” Zumthor shared some of the inspirations behind his greatest projects, giving us insight into his poetic, intelligent, (and some might say) “nearly divine” mind.

Zumthor’s Seven Points on “Presence,” after the break...

Saint Benedict Chapel. Image Courtesy of Felipe Camus Image Courtesy of Felipe Camus Brauder Klaus Field Chapel. Image © Samuel Ludwig © Jose Fernando Vazquez

Piano Takes on Kahn at Kimbell Museum Expansion

For architects, Louis Kahn's Kimbell Museum has long been hallowed ground. For Renzo Piano, who designed the museum's first major expansion, it was also an enormous difficulty to overcome. His addition to the museum could be neither too close to Kahn's building, nor too far. It had to solve a parking problem, yet respect Kahn's distaste for cars. It had to respond to Kahn's stately progression of spaces—and that silvery natural light that make architects' knees go wobbly. And yet it could not merely borrow from Kahn's revolutionary bag of tricks. 

Museu Brasileiro de Escultura (MuBE) / Paulo Mendes da Rocha

Keep an eye out, or you might miss the Museu Brasileiro de Escultura (a.k.a. MuBE, pronounced MOO-bee). Widely considered the masterpiece of Pritzker Prize-winner Paulo Mendes da Rocha, the building was in fact born out of the desire to have no building at all. When in the 1980s an empty lot in Sao Paulo's mansion-laden Jardins district was slated to become a shopping mall, wealthy residents successfully lobbied to create a public square instead. To sweeten the deal and ensure the land stayed commercial-free, they hired Mendes de Rocha to create MuBE. Completed in 1995, the 7000-sq-meter museum hunkers down beneath ground level, thus preserving what in Sao Paulo is that rarest of luxuries: a public green space.

Peter Zumthor to Serve as Rolex Arts Initiative Architecture Mentor

Swiss architect Peter Zumthor has been selected as the next architecture mentor for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. He will be the second architect to participate in the program, following Kazuyo Sejima’s inauguration in 2012. After choosing a protégé early in 2014, Zumthor will spend a year offering his expertise to support, guide, and collaborate with the young talent. 

Expressing his desire to learn from the mentorship, Peter Zumthor stated: “I agreed to be a mentor because I believe in the professional exchange of people of different backgrounds, talents, skills and age. I highly appreciate the fact that Rolex offers funding for this professional artistic exchange and research outside of everyday economics.” 

Parrish Art Museum / Herzog & de Meuron by Paul Clemence

The Herzog & de Meuron designed Parrish Art Museum in Long Island, NY is captured here by brazilian photographer Paul Clemence from This photo gallery very elegantly emphasizes the building's delicate placement on the landscape as well as its natural surrounding beauty of which the architects took their inspiration. Clemence also captures the project's moment of outdoor shelter that surrounds the building to  emphasize the importance of the site and its interaction with the art within.The full photo gallery can be viewed after the break.

The Complete Works of Oscar Niemeyer

Niemeyer Center in Spain. Photo © Iñigo Bujedo-Aguirre
Niemeyer Center in Spain. Photo © Iñigo Bujedo-Aguirre

With his incredibly prolific portfolio of architecture, sculpture, furniture and design, the late Oscar Niemeyer truly left his mark on Brazil, and the world, over his 104 years. The Brazilian great is proof that quantity needn't destroy quality.

Check out the extensive list of Niemeyer's major works, after the break...

Church in Pampulha. Photo © Paul Clemence House at Canoas. Photo courtesy of ETSAM Matarazzo Pavilion. Photo © Flickr User ArtExplorer Cathedral in Brazilia. Image © Flickr User el_floz