A Practical Study in the Discipline of Architectural Modelmaking

Courtesy of Laurence King Publishers

Why do we make models? From sketch maquettes and detail tests to diagrammatic and presentation models, the discipline of physically crafting ideas to scale is fundamental to the architect’s process. For architect and educator Nick Dunn, architectural models ultimately ”enable the designer to investigate, revise and further refine ideas in increasing detail until such a point that the project’s design is sufficiently consolidated to be constructed.” In Dunn’s second edition of his practical guide and homage to the architectural model, the significance and versatility of this medium is expertly visualised and analysed in a collection of images, explanations, and case studies.

Is The Design Museum Dying?

Oct Design Museum (Shenzhen) / Studio Pei-Zhu. Image Courtesy of Studio Pei-Zhu

In an article for the Financial Times, Edwin Heathcote asks “what are design museums actually for?” Noting that we are living through a “boom time” for the typology, Heathcote argues that when we are overwhelmed by design in our day to day lives, what will fill these spaces? London’s Victoria & Albert Museum sprouted from the legacy of the 1850 Great Exhibition, where the concept of a design museum originated, as an attempt to “display the fruits of Britain’s industrial revolution.” Ironically in the very same museum in 2013, curator Kieran Long acquired a print of the world’s first 3D printed gun for the permanent collection. Will the ubiquity of ‘design’ soon negate the need for dedicated spaces? Read Heathcote’s conclusions in full here.

Zaha Hadid on Russian Artist Kazimir Malevich

Zaha Hadid RA, The Peak Blue Slabs, 1982-83. Image © Zaha Hadid / Royal Academy of Arts

In an article for London’s Royal Academy of Arts Magazine entitled Plane Sailing, Zaha Hadid discusses the influence of Russian Suprematist painter Kazimir Malevich on her own work. In Hadid’s early work, such as The Peak Blue Slabs (1982/83), the visual connections to Malevich’s strict, regular shapes and lines are evident.

PlanGrid Launches Educational Offering

Courtesy of

PlanGrid, touted as “the fastest blueprint viewer” available, is one of the most mature apps for viewing, amending and discussing construction drawings on a collaborative cloud-based platform. This week they launched PlanGrid for Education, allowing students full and uninhibited access to every feature of the app free of charge. According to the company, they currently have “40,000 blueprints being uploaded to PlanGrid daily and over 9 million blueprints stored digitally”, making the platform one of the fastest growing in its market.

Happy Birthday Charles Eames

Ray and . Image Courtesy of Eames Office

Today Charles Eames – the taller half of modernism’s greatest power couple, Charles & Ray Eames - would have turned 107. Although perhaps best known for their furniture design (particularly the Eames Lounge & Shell Chairs), the couple is well known in architectural circles for the home they designed in 1945 and subsequently lived in: the Eames House (or Case Study House No. 8, as it was part of the Arts & Architecture magazine’s “Case Study” program).

In honor of Charles Eames’ birthday, we’ve rounded up some fantastic videos: produced by the Eames themselves, HOUSE (a tour of their home) and Powers of Ten (their 1977 exploration of the universe’s magnitudes), this 1956 clip of the pair’s first TV appearance, a video of the construction of the Shell Chair and, at the Vitra Campus, the Eames Loungethe TED Talk delivered by the pair’s grandson, and the trailer to The Architect & The Painter (the must-watch documentary on the pair’s lives). See all the videos after the break!

The Draftery: Dispelling the Belief That Architectural Drawing is Dead

Fig. 03. Image Courtesy of The Draftery

The Draftery, a printed platform to “discuss the role of architectural today”, brings together a fascinating collection of images and words in a publication on three distinct platforms. Figures, Captions and Archive facilitate a multi-disciplinary conversation about how drawings are made and their role in the built environment. Now approaching their third anniversary, how far have they come and where is the project headed?

January 2013 saw the re-launch of The Draftery and the total reconstruction of the project. Their crisp publications now have a strong editorial thread which compliments the carefully curated collections of architectural drawings. Seeking to “demonstrate that drawing, more than mere representation, is a method of acting in the world”, good drawings provide a moment of visual solice in a fast paced profession. 

Architects: Leave Fashion to the Experts

Zaha Hadid has recently launched a new line of for Viviona. Image Courtesy of Viviona

Le Corbusier donned signature glasses; Frank Gehry designed footwear; early twentieth-century architect Adolf Loos even wrote “Why A Man Should Be Well-Dressed.” Now Zaha Hadid is making her way into swimwear. But are the nuances of fashion too much for architects to dip their feet into? Read the full article at the Telegraph.

VIDEO: Raising the Bar in Desk Design

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It seems to be part of the architect’s daily life: hunching over drawing or model making, uncomfortably crouching to try get that perfect shot through your 1:100 model. Javier Cuñado, designer at Actiu, has tackled these perennial problems with Mobility, a desk that ascends or descends according to your needs. Available in an architect’s range of colours – black, white or with an aluminium finish – this stylish desk is an investment your back will thank you for. Learn more in the video above and check out images after the break.

Janet Echelman’s Largest Aerial Sculpture To Premiere in Vancouver

© Ema Peter / Studio Echelman

American Artist Janet Echelman is to premiere her latest, and largest, sculpture in Vancouver. Widely known for her artistic ability to reshape urban airspace, Echelman’s sophisticated mixture of ancient craft and modern technology has led to collaborations with aeronautical and mechanical engineers, architects, lighting designers, landscape architects, and fabricators to “transform urban environments world wide with her net sculptures.” Using a light weight fibre to elevate her monumental “breathing” forms above the streets of urban centres, Echelman’s new sculpture will be of a size and scale never before attempted.

Peter Marino and Marc Jacobs Chat about Design, Architecture, and Fashion

Fashion visionaries Tom Ford, Gianfranco Ferre, and Gianni Versace all began their design education in architecture. In the words of Coco Chanel, “fashion is architecture.” It was likely with this in mind that the Architecture Foundation hosted it’s annual John Edwards Lecture. The event, which was held at the Tate Modern’s Starr Auditorium, was a discussion between designer Marc Jacobs and architect Peter Marino, who have frequently collaborated together on retail design.

The conversation, led by Penny Martin (editor of The Gentlewoman) covered a range of topics but focused especially on the intersection of the two participants’ fields – fields whose borders seem to be dissolving more and more every year (also see Frank Gehry or ’s foray into shoe design or the 3D printed dress that wowed the world earlier this year).

Kickstarter Campaign: The Blindspot Initiative

The Blinspot Initiative: “Beyond competition, towards collaboration”. Image Courtesy of Blindspot Initiative

Like many in , the Blindspot Initiative has grown tired of ”the exclusive, winner takes all mentality of competitions.” Instead, they value collaboration and open access to ideas, and so are renting a studio in East LA for an exhibition that will display the work of 10 fringe (blindspot) designers, “presenting work on a neutral ground to encourage conversations and practice which lives outside the conventions of typical outputs and practices.” Visit their kickstarter project to learn more and contribute to their cause (and check out their video, after the break).

App Review: ‘Concept’ – An Idea Calculator

Interface on iOS. Image Courtesy of

Getting instantaneous, accurate structural dimensions in the early stages of the design process, or even when exploring the feasibility of a project, can often be challenging. In response to this, Vancouver-based structural engineering firm Fast + Epp have developed a new mobile application called Concept, a depth calculator which uses typical span-to-depth ratios for common steel, concrete and wood members to give you a quick overview of what dimensions a certain structural idea will require. In addition to this, the app also includes project photos to give users an idea of how certain materials will be expressed in built form.

Gensler, LOT-EK to Design Google’s Showroom of Floating Shipping Containers

© James Martin/CNET

UPDATE: The SF Gate reports that the architects of the Google Barge have now been revealed to be San Francisco-based firm Gensler and New York-based LOT-EK, a firm with experience adapting shipping containers for retail design. 

A mysterious construction project in the San Francisco Bay has been making waves for the past couple of weeks. Moored off Treasure Island, locals apparently refer to it as ‘the secret project’ – and, until now, that’s about as much as was known about it.

Despite months of rumors and complete radio silence from Google, spokespeople have finally released a statement on the project, stating: “Google Barge … A floating data center? A wild party boat? A barge housing the last remaining dinosaur? Sadly, none of the above. Although it’s still early days and things may change, we’re exploring using the barge as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology.”

While it’s a shame about the dinosaur, Google’s expansion into technology retail is possibly even more intriguing, as it’s entirely new turf for the company: retail .

More info and an artist’s rendering of what the barge could look like, after the break…

Kickstarter: DIY Concrete House Ring

Courtesy of Linda Bennett, via archi-ninja

Dream of one day making your own home? Well, here’s a fun mini alternative in the meantime. The “DIY Concrete House Ring” is a high quality silver and concrete ring that lets users experience the process of ‘making’. The ring itself is made from a DIY compact kit, and comes in two familiar architectural silhouettes – gable roof or saltbox roof – and in either light or dark concrete. The project was developed by Linda Bennett, author of “10 Things They Don’t Teach You in Architecture School” and “Searching for a Job in Architecture? 10 Things You Need to Know…” via her blog, archi-ninjaCheck out the project’s debut on kickstarter (which offers fantastic perks for backers) for more information. 

The Dean of Parsons: Design Education Must Change

via Josh Barndt, Alexandra Castillo Kesper, Braden Crooks, Aubrey Murdock, Joel Stein, and Charles Wirene. This year formed a partnership with New York City’s Center for Social Innovation to incubate design-led social innovation projects by students and alumni. One of the projects in development is Citysteading, a community-driven process for empowering and engaging marginal-ized communities. Image Courtesy of Metropolis Magazine

Although university is meant to be a place of educational exploration, paths, particularly for architects and designers, tend to be extremely prescribed. In “Notes from the Dean,” originally published in Metropolis Magazine, Executive Dean Joel Towers describes how the Parsons New School for Design is pioneering a new design program that is more reflective of modern design approaches: “The world has changed; the role of design has changed. And the way that designers are taught to engage with the world must change, too.”

Every generation is presented with challenges specific to its time and place. We live in a world changing in ways that were unimaginable at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when design first began to take shape. Technology (aided and abetted by design), advances in scientific knowledge, and shifts in social and cultural norms shaped design in the twentieth century. Our problems today involve more complex and interconnected systems—climate, cities, resources, networks, flows—and call for a new paradigm. Design in the twenty-first century is of critical importance in both addressing these challenges and transforming them into opportunities to remake the world around us. To do so, design must change.

Design schools have traditionally adhered to a model that builds programs based on a foundation year, a well-defined and contained introduction to the basics of material, form, and color. And while that foundation is an important cornerstone of design education, it leaves little room for the more exploratory methods of cross-disciplinary and technology-based learning, and for understanding and applying design in the context of the larger world. That old model needs to evolve to reflect design’s enhanced role as a catalyst for innovation and creativity.

Between the Buildings of Historic Amsterdam, An Urban Intervention

’s famous canal district celebrated its 400th birthday this year. And though the district has grown and evolved throughout the centuries, now, more than ever before, this UNESCO World Heritage site is struggling with how to ensure the past doesn’t hold a vice-like grip on its future.

For Jarrik Ouburg, an Amsterdam architect, the problem was more specific: in such a historic district, how do you keep urban transformations from slowing to a stop? This question eventually led him to his ongoing project, “Tussen-ruimte.”  Tussen-ruimte (Dutch for ‘between space’) installs pieces of contemporary art and in the hidden alleys and courtyards that have formed over years of building in the canal district.

Weston Williamson Wins Brasilia Stadium Competition with Responsive Arena

Courtesy of bdonline, via Weston Williamson

London-based studio Weston Williamson has been announced the winner of the Brasilia Athletics Stadium competition. The international competition, associated with the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, called for designers to envision a 70,000 seat stadium in the nation’s capital.

A House Made of Windows

Courtesy of Colossal, thisiscolossal.com

A year ago, Nick Olson and Lilah Horwitz quit their jobs to build a cabin in the West Virginia mountains. Today, that gamble seems to have paid off: their cabin sits in the exact spot where they first discussed building it. However, while the interior of the cabin is like almost any other, a mix of old wooden and more modern decorations, the front facade - is anything but.

The west-facing facade is made entirely of window pieces, stitched together; Olson and Horwitz wanted to be able to capture every inch of the sunset, without having to limit their view to the confines of a single window.

See more images and a video of this house made of windows, after the break…