Architecture Documentaries To Watch In 2015

Microtopia (2013) / Jesper Wachtmeister

Following our top 40 Architecture Docs to Watch in 2014 and our favourite 30 Architecture Docs to Watch in 2013, 2015 is no exception! Our latest round up continues to feature a fantastic range of films and telling the tales of unsung architectural heroes and unheard urban narratives from around the world. This entirely fresh selection looks past the panoply of stars to bring you more of the best architectural  which will provoke, intrigue and beguile.

From a film which explores one man’s dream to build a cathedral (#4) and a simultaneous history of and vision of ’s future (#7), to a tour of the world’s last surviving squatter town in Copenhagen (#14) and A Short History of Abandoned Sets in Morocco (#16), we present – in no particular order – thirty freshly picked documentaries for you to watch in 2015.

“Ai Weiwei: According to What?”

Ai Weiwei, Cube Light, 2008. Photo: Cathy Carver.

“Cube Light” has made it’s debut in at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum, along with collection of Ai Weiwei most famous works in the retrospective “Ai Weiwei: According to What?”. Although one of China’s most prolific and provocative contemporary artists, Weiwei is best known in the world of architecture for his work with Herzog & de Meuron on Beijing’s famous “Bird’s Nest” and, most recently, the 2012 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion.

More images and information after the break…

One Week Left of the Serpentine Pavilion!

© Julien Lanoo

The summer months have come and gone, which means one thing: the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion is winding to an end (on October 14th, to be exact)!

This year’s underground pavilion was designed by Herzog & de Meuron and  as a kind of archaeological discovery of pavilions past. As they explain: “Like a team of archaeologists, we identify [the] physical fragments as remains of the eleven Pavilions built between 2000 and 2011. […] These remains testify to the existence of the former Pavilions and their greater or lesser intervention in the natural environment of the park.”

Although most of the public events that made up the Park Nights programme have already occurred (including a showing of the incredible documentary on Ai Weiwei and a talk by Herzog & de Meuron), you can still catch the culminating event of the Pavilion, the Memory Marathon (October 12-14), which kicks off with Lebanese sound artist Tarek Atoui performing La Suite. The three-day, multi-disciplinary festival will feature over 60 participants, including former REM vocalist Michael Stipe, filmmaker David Lynch (who will present a new film), and the Pavilion architects, Herzog and de Meuron themselves.

For more info, check out our past coverage on the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

As we published yesterday, iconic Chinese artist, designer, and dissident, Ai Weiwei has just had his architecture design firm shutdown by the Chinese government. But this scuffle is only the latest of Weiwei’s many brushes with Chinese law. Seemingly since birth (“I was born radical“), Weiwei has been mixing art and to speak out against censorship in his country. Which is why he is the subject of a fascinating new feature-length documentary by Alison Klayman: ”Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.”

As the documentary description explains: “Against a backdrop of strict censorship and an unresponsive legal system, Ai expresses himself and organizes people through art and social media. In response, Chinese authorities have shut down his blog, beat him up, bulldozed his newly built studio, and held him in secret detention.”

While working as a journalist in , the director, Klayman, gained unprecedented access to Ai while filming. Since being released, the documentary has gained many accolades, including the Sundance 2012 Special Jury Award for Spirit of Defiance.

You can find out more about the documentary, including if it’s playing at a theater near you at its website. And you can keep updated on Weiwei’s struggle at the Never Sorry Facebook page and on Twitter, @AWWNeverSorry

Screenshots from the trailer of “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” after the break…

Chinese Government Shuts Down Ai Weiwei’s Design Firm

Ai Weiwei. Photo via REUTERS © David Gray.

After 81 days of detention without cause, a year-long travel ban extended for claims of internet “pornography,” and a $2.4 million dollar fine imposed for supposed tax evasion, Ai Weiwei has now been accused by the Chinese government of failing to re-register his architecture design firm, Fake Cultural Development Ltd.

According to Weiwei, the accusation, which will result in the company’s shutdown, is unfounded: because the government confiscated the documents necessary for registration during his tax evasion investigation, he couldn’t possibly have re-registered the firm.

Weiwei, who you may know for his work on the Bird’s Nest and on this year’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, has openly spoken out against the Chinese government’s censorship (even publicizing the number of schoolchildren killed during the 2008 earthquake due to shoddy, corruption-fueled construction). It’s these kinds of dissident acts that have led to a “campaign of persecution to silence his activism.

Despite the escalating action taken against him, and imminent threat of arrest, Weiwei has vowed not to pay the fine that has been imposed on him. As he told Reuters: “If they shut down the company, then entities to pay any fine will not exist. I feel this waives any penalties for the company.”

Story via the BBC, the WSJ, IOL News, and Reuters

Guesthouse / HHF architects + Ai Weiwei

© Iwan Baan

Architects: HHF architects + Ai Weiwei
Location: , New York, USA
Design Team: Mio Tsunemaya, Madeleine Kessler, Jeff Mansfield
Project Year: 2011
Photographs: Iwan Baan

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 / Photos by Danica O. Kus

© Danica O. Kus

Danica O. Kus shared with us her photographic work for the 2012. Designed by Herzog & De Meuron and Ai Weiwei, these photos give you a great insight into the overall feel and spatial qualities to the design. The half sunken in and water-covered structure starts to become a part of the landscape, as Kus is able to take the viewer inside and around the pavilion. You can check out more images after the break.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 / Photos by Julien Lanoo

© Julien Lanoo

Last week we presented the first images of the recently open Serpentine Gallery Pavilion designed by Ai Weiwei & Herzog & de Meuron in London, showing the half sunk and water-covered structure and its beautiful blending into the landscape. Today, Julien Lanoo shared with us these great images giving a better understanding of the spaces and its surroundings.

You can check some more images after the break.

Video: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion

Ahead of the opening of this summer’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, gets an exclusive look at the specially commissioned structure designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron in collaboration with Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. The dream design team responsible for the Beijing National Stadium come together again to create the team’s first collaborative edifice in the UK. Here, Pierre de Meuron talks about the joys of working with , while the infamous artist makes a special cameo to share his interest in combining art, design and architecture to introduce new possibilities and social change.

First images of Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012

© Daniel Portilla

Starting tomorrow, the 12th version of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion will be open at the in . As we announced some months ago, the design was commissioned to Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei. The final proposal was published just at the beginning of this month, showing an interesting ground work. This year’s pavilion is half sunk into the landscape, as if it were carved in the terrain and covered with a liquid layer, reflecting the the surrounding light and landscape.

More info and images after the break

Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion design revealed

Pavilion 2012 Designed by Herzog & de Meuron & Ai Weiwei © 2012, by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei

As we announced back in February, Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron and their Chinese collaborator Ai Weiwei will design this year’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion at in London, a special edition that will be part of the  London 2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad. This will be the trio’s first collaborative built structure in the UK.

Back then, it was announced that their design will explore the  hidden history of the previous installations (see all the previous pavilions in our infographic), with eleven columns under the lawn of the Serpentine, representing the past pavilions and a twelfth column supporting a floating platform roof 1.4 metres above ground, which looks like a reflecting water-like surface in the renderings. The plan of the pavilion is based on a mix of the 11 previous pavilions’ layouts, pavilions that are represented as excavated foundations from which a new cork cladded landscape appears, as an archeological operation.

Diagram © 2012, by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei

Grey Brick Galleries, Red Brick Galleries, Three Shadows Photographic Centre by Ai Weiwei at Cao Chang Di, Beijing

Red Brick Galleries

Architect: Fake Design, Ai Weiwei
Location: Cao Chang Di,
Photographs: Li Shi Xing, Andrea Giannotti

Beijing urban expansion _
The fast and enormous urban development of Beijing has transformed the city into a metropolis made of suburban residential compounds, abandoned industrial plants, community housing blocks from the 70s-80s and popular self-grown villages. A mix of high rise residential areas, business districts, impressive infrastructures enclosing spontaneous house areas surviving the demolition and renovation dictated by the construction market. The population has grown from 1 to 18 millions in 60 years, and the size of the city has reached 5 times the ancient capital within the walls – the 2nd Ring Road.

The urban expansion, mostly based on imported urban models and low quality constructions, has been exploding in the past 30 years, and it is rooted with political and economical decisions, as well as local culture and history. Briefly, Beijing is a stunning showcase of urban consequences happening in the world’s first growing economy, during an explosive industrial revolution.

Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei to design Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012

, and Pierre de Meuron © Courtesy of Serpentine Gallery

Today, the Serpentine Gallery announced the team that will design the twelfth edition of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, a special edition that will be part of the  London 2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad.

Every year the gallery invites a renowned international architects who has not built yet in the UK, to design a temporary pavilion that hosts public activities in at the Gallery’s lawn, in London’s Hyde Park between June and October 2012. The list of architects for the past editions includes several Pritzker laureates. More info of this program at our Serpentine Gallery Pavilion infographic.

This years teams includes Pritzker laureate architects Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, and Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (runner up of TIME’s 2011 Person of the Year). The trio has worked together in projects such as ORDOS 100 in the Mongolian desert and the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games. As a trio they don’t have any built projects in the UK, but Herzog & de Meuron have been involved in several, including the Tate Modern renovation and its current expansion.

Their design will explore the  hidden history of the previous installations (more info), with eleven columns under the lawn of the Serpentine, representing the past pavilions and a twelfth column supporting a floating platform roof 1.5 metres above ground. Taking an archaeological approach, the architects have created a design that will inspire visitors to look beneath the surface of the park as well as back in time across the ghosts of the earlier structures.

Ai Weiwei as TIME Person of the Year: Runner-Up

via Wikipedia

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was selected as one of the runner-up candidates for TIMES 2011 Person of the Year Award. Ai Weiwei is known in the architecture world for his collaboration with Herzog & de Meuron, serving as the artistic consultant for the Beijing National Stadium, otherwise known as the Bird’s Nest stadium.

Ai Weiwei is well-known for his political activism, being openly critical of the Chinese government’s stance on democracy and human rights. Following his arrest in earlier this year, Weiwei was detained and interrogated for over two months without any official charges. He was then fined $2.4 million for back taxes and penalties, which he believes to have been politically motivated.

When TIME journalists Hannah Beech and Austin Ramzy asked Weiwei about what motivated him to merge the Internet with political activism, he credited his involvement with architecture.

“I got involved with architecture. To work in architecture you are so much involved with society, with , with bureaucrats. It’s a very complicated process to do large projects. You start to see the society, how it functions, how it works. Then you have a lot of criticism about how it works.”

Read the entire TIME article and full interview with Ai Weiwei here.

Video: Ai Weiwei: Art / Architecture at Kunsthaus Bregenz

YouTube Preview Image

The work of Ai Weiwei was recently showcased at the Kunsthaus by Peter Zumthor in Bregenz, Austria. His collaborative work within the architectural arena was the main focus, filling all 3 floors with various projects. More after the break.

The first floor of the exhibition starts  with a very grounded presentation of architectural projects with displays ranging from architectural models, plans, photos, and video documentation of his various collaborative efforts – most notably the Bird’s Nest with renowned architects Herzog and de Meuron. The 2nd floor features the works of the 2011 Ordos 100 projects, followed by the 3rd floor exhibition with abstract and minimal architectural works such as the Moon Chest.

Ai Weiwei is free at last. Plus photos of his architecture work in Beijing

Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

“You’re not going to find any of Ai Weiwei’s work being shown in Beijing”, said each Beijing gallery representative. That’s because the artist and agent provocateur has been detained for 80 days now was released today, from what the government is saying was based on “economic charges”. The name “Ai Weiwei” has joined a long list of sensitive words in this country, and associating yourself with the artist has become tantamount to asking for trouble. Just ask the Chinese curator who was questioned by authorities after putting Ai Weiwei’s name under a blank wall in Beijing’s Incident Art Festival.

While Beijing’s lively art scene might currently be scrubbed clean of Ai Weiwei’s work, there’s one thing that’s a little difficult to “harmonize” away, as it’s known here. In 1999, Ai Weiwei began moving into the world of architecture, establishing his own architecture studio called four years later. So Ai Weiwei’s artistic vision continues to stand in the form of buildings across the nation’s capital. The most concentrated of these is the artist district of Caochangdi, a few kilometres north of the more commercial art district called 798. It’s also the location of the artist’s studio and where he headed straight to after his release.

More after the break.

Tsai residence / HHF Architects + Ai Weiwei

Architects: HHF Architects + Ai WeiWei
Location: , , USA
Design Team: HERLACH HARTMANN FROMMENWILER & AI WEIWEI with Bhavana Hameed, Tom Strub, Fumiko Takahama, Magnus Zwyssig
Structural Engineering: Crawford & Associates, Hudson, NY
Construction Management: Crawford & Associates, Hudson, NY
General Contractor: Robert Reed Construction, Germantown, NY
Design year: 2005-2006
Construction year: 2006-2008
Client: Private
Constructed Area: 375 sqm
Photographs: Iwan Baan, Nikolas Koenig

Artfarm / HHF Architects + Ai Weiwei

Architects: HHF Architects + Ai WeiWei
Location: Salt Point, , USA
Design Team: HERLACH HARTMANN FROMMENWILER & with Tom Strub, Fumiko Takahama
Structural Engineering: Crawford & Associates, Hudson, NY
Construction Management: Crawford & Associates, Hudson, NY
Design year: 2006-2007
Construction year: 2007-2008
Client: Christophe W. Mao / Chambers Fine Art
Budget: US $321,700
Constructed Area: 373 sqm
Photographs: Iwan Baan