The following are excerpts from one of 41 interviews that student researchers at the Strelka Institute are publishing as part of the Future Urbanism Project. In this interview, James Schrader speaks with Adam Snow Frampton, the co-author of Cities Without Ground and the Principal of Only If, a New York City-based practice for architecture and urbanism. They discuss his work with OMA, the difference between Western and Asian cities, his experiences opening a new firm in New York, and the future of design on an urban scale.
James Schrader: Before we get to future urbanism, I thought it would be interesting to look a bit into your past. Could you tell me about where your interest in cities came from? Were there any formative moments that led to your fascination with cities?
Adam Snow Frampton: I was always interested in cities, but not necessarily exposed to much planning at school. When I went to work at OMA Rotterdam, I was engaged in a lot of large-scale projects, mostly in the Middle East and increasingly in Asia, where there was an opportunity to plan cities at a bigger scale. In the Netherlands, there’s not necessarily more construction than in the US, but there is a tradition of thinking big and a tendency to plan. For instance, many Dutch design offices like OMA, West 8, and MVRDV have done master plans for the whole country.
The culmination of an international competition for Kinmen County has resulted in five winning and honorable mention schemes that promise to use architecture as a means of elevating the county’s national identify as a maritime gateway. Responding to the need for expansion and the desire to establish the port as a tourism and recreation destination, the Kinmen Harbor Bureau challenged architects to a two-stage competition for an energy-smart, low-carbon, and possibly expandable port that could host a variety of passenger services.
Preview the winning results, after the break…
Repurposing antiquated buildings is on the rise in China, and this proposal by Tianhua Architecture Design Company serves as a prime example. Planned for a site in the Hexi district of Tianjin, the Shanghai-based practice will soon transform a 1917 textile mill into a contemporary art gallery and private museum.
The architects, who have adapted their design to emphasize the gridded layout and high ceilings of the existing structure, plan to insert a garden courtyard deep into the building’s core. This will not only counterpoint the structure’s industrialized aesthetic, but will provide natural light deep into the interior while preserving the exiting cruciform layout.
schmidt hammer lassen architects has unveiled a new cultural hub for Ningbo’s Labour Union. Planned to serve both the city and the union’s nearly three million members, the “Home of Staff” will unite two stepped complexes of support, health, education, culture and leisure facilities with a half a kilometer long central park.
Twenty years ago, one of the world’s most unusual and unexpected pieces of architecture was razed to the ground: Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City, the most densely populated area on earth. Squalid, dark, and labyrinthine, the informal city was not only a hotbed for organized crime, but also a vibrant community of commerce and hope. Now, the Wall Street Journal has released this short documentary, bringing the city back to life and revealing why it holds a special place in world culture today.
Construction has commenced on MAD’s Chaoyang Park Plaza within one of Beijing’s largest public parks and central business district. A continuation of Ma Yansong’s “Shan-Shui City” concept, which aims reintroduce nature into the urban realm, the mixed-use complex reinterprets natural formations illustrated in traditional Chinese paintings as contemporary “city landscapes.”
“Like the tall mountain cliffs and river landscapes of China, a pair of asymmetrical towers creates a dramatic skyline in front of the park,” described MAD. “Ridges and valleys define the shape of the exterior glass facade, as if the natural forces of erosion wore down the tower into a few thin lines.”
The fertile Anqiu region of China’s Shangdong Province is known locally as the land of “cultivation, stone hills, and creeks.” Thus, Little Diversified Architectural Consulting’s (LITTLE) design for Anqiu’s new cultural campus and fitness center is based upon these very elements.
The campus will host five buildings raised on a plinth: a multi-functional citizen’s center, a 10,000 square meter performing arts building, a central public library, and two museums devoted to Anqiu’s history and urban development. Each of these buildings will be clad in a thin veneer of local stone, transforming them into rocky outcrops that reference the local hills.
Winsun New Materials, a construction firm based in Suzhou, China, has successfully built ten small-scale houses using a massive 3-D printer. The 22 foot tall machine uses glass fibers and cement to produce building elements, such as walls, in successive layers. Winsun estimates that their printing process is approximately half as costly as traditional construction methods. Acknowledging China’s strict environmental policies, the company also has plans to use scrapped construction materials to print future buildings. You can read more about this ongoing project in this article from the Wall Street Journal.