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10 Fires That Changed Architecture Forever

With no casualties, last week's fire at the Glasgow School of Art, which caused significant damage to parts of the building and gutted Charles Rennie Mackintosh's canonical library room, will be remembered as a tragic event that robbed us of one of the best examples of Art Nouveau of its time. The intention of the Glasgow School of Art is to restore the building in the hope that in generations to come, the fire will be all but forgotten, a strategy which has been largely well received by the profession. 

However, in the case of other fires things have not gone so smoothly: for millennia, fire has played a big role in determining the course of architectural history - by destroying precious artifacts, but often also by allowing something new to rise from the ashes. Read on after the break as we count down the top 10 fires that changed the course of architectural history.

10 Fires That Changed Architecture Forever The Hagia Sophia. Image © Flickr CC User Collin Key The Reichstag. Image © Flickr CC User Sebastian Niedlich Chicago. Image © Flickr CC User Brad Wilke

The Humanitarian Works of Shigeru Ban

Cardboard Cathedral. Image © Stephen Goodenough
Cardboard Cathedral. Image © Stephen Goodenough

Pritzker Laureate Shigeru Ban may be as well known for his innovative use of materials as for his compassionate approach to design. For a little over three decades, Ban, the founder of the Voluntary Architects Network, has applied his extensive knowledge of recyclable materials, particularly paper and cardboard, to constructing high-quality, low-cost shelters for victims of disaster across the world - from Rwanda, to Haiti, to Turkey, Japan, and more. We've rounded up images of Ban's humanitarian work - get inspired after the break. 

Paper Log House India. Image © Kartikeya Shodhan Hualin Temporary Elementary School. Image © Li Jun Onagawa Container Temporary Housing. Image © Hiroyuki Hirai Cardboard Cathedral. Image © Stephen Goodenough

AD Editorial Round Up: Women in Architecture

There are few topics that stir up more controversy on ArchDaily than that of women in architecture. From those of you who vociferously advocate for women in the field to those who steadfastly purport that gender has no place in architecture at all, you, our readers, represent a wide spectrum of viewpoints and opinions on the subject. 

And so, in honor of International Women's Day, we've decided to take a look back at some of our past comment-stirring articles (even more after the break): 

  • Infographic: Women in Architecture by Megan Jett
  • The 10 Most Overlooked Women in Architecture History by Nicky Rackard
  • Why Do Women Really Leave Architecture" Is the Wrong Question by Vanessa Quirk
  • "When Will Architects Speak Up for Women's Rights?" by Carla Soto
  • Why 2013 was Denise Scott Brown's Year by Guy Horton
  • 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

    Practice 2.0: 10 Years of Smart Geometry

    by: Daniel Davis & David Fano of CASE

    This year marks Smartgeometry’s tenth anniversary. For architects it’s been a decade of breathless innovation and listless stagnation. In this article we look back at the success of SmartGeometry and ask why the building industry isn’t keeping up.

    The original instigators of Smartgeometry – Lars Hesselgren, J Parrish, and Hugh Whitehead – worked together at YRM (now part of RMJM) in the late 1980s. Together they helped shepherd parametric modeling and associative geometry into the field of architecture, and witnessed how early-stage three-dimensional structural analysis and late-stage clash detection might change practice. Yet in 2003 they found themselves disillusioned and asking, “Why is it that ten years have passed, and we still cannot even get close to the kind of capability that we had then?” [1]. In other words, why is the building industry failing to keep up, or worse, falling behind. It was a question that would inspire the first Smartgeometry conference, and it is a question that still lingers a decade later.

    Without Architects, Smart Cities Just Aren't Smart

    Arguably the biggest buzzword in urbanism right now is the 'Smart City'. The idea, although certainly inclusive of eco-friendly practices, has even replaced “sustainability” as the major intent of cities planning for positive future development. Smart City thinking has been used successfully in countries as diverse as Brazil, the US, the UAE, South Korea, and Scotland (Glasgow just won a £24million grant to pioneer new schemes throughout the city).

    But what exactly are Smart Cities? What benefit do they bring us? And, more importantly, how can we best implement them to secure our future?

    The answer, in my opinion, lies in the hands of architects.

    More on the potential of Smart Cities after the break...

    Architecture by Robots, For Humanity

    Architecture is quickly adopting the popular technology of robots. Although it is slightly hard to define what “robot” really means, for architecture, it tends to refer to anything from robot arms to CNC mills to 3D printers. Basically, they are programmable, mechanical, and automated instruments that assist in processes of digital fabrication.

    So, what might robots mean for architecture? A more precise architecture which could contribute to a more sustainable building life cycle? More innovative design derived from algorithmic processes? A more efficient prefabrication process that could reduce the time and cost of construction?

    Probably a mix of all three. But more importantly, what might robots mean for humans? Robotic replacement for the construction worker? Loss of local craftsmanship and construction knowledge? Maybe. But I might reformulate the question. Asking what robots mean for humans implies passivity.  

    What I ask, then, is what can robots do for humans?

    On Zombies and The Immortality of the Shopping Mall

    Image via Flickr User CC Gilderic Photography
    Image via Flickr User CC Gilderic Photography

    This article, which originally appeared on Bullett Media, is by writer Matthew Newton. Newton has written for The Atlantic, Esquire, Forbes, and Guernica, and is currently at work on No Place for Disgrace, a collection of nonfiction stories based on the faded promise of the American suburbs. You can follow him on Twitter @newtonmatthew.

    In November of 1977, filmmaker George A. Romero arrived with cast and crew at Monroeville Mall, a sprawling indoor shopping center located in the suburbs east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The young director, who by that time had established himself as a pioneer in the horror genre, was set to start production on his latest film, Dawn of the Dead, a sequel to his 1968 cult classic Night of the Living Dead. Once again Romero’s slow-shuffling ghouls — starved as always for brains and entrails, meaty thigh bones and plump jugulars — would be unleashed on bumbling humans ill-prepared for a world gone rotten.

    This time around, however, Romero, who in Night of the Living Dead touched on issues of race in the civil-rights era, had plans to skewer a new social dilemma: the rise of the American consumer. And to properly lampoon the nation’s burgeoning shop-till-you-drop culture, Romero needed the ideal backdrop.

    Read more of Matthew Newton's take on the immortality of the shopping mall, after the break...

    Non-Design: Architecture's (Counter-Intuitive) Future

    Quinta Monroy development after occupation. © Cristobal Palma
    Quinta Monroy development after occupation. © Cristobal Palma

    Global architecture underwent a seismic shift in the 20th Century. Governments, keen to mitigate the impoverishing effects of rapid urbanization and two world wars embarked on ambitious social housing programs, pairing with modernists who promised that design could be the solution to social inequality and poverty. Today, the problems inherent in these mid-century tower blocks are well documented and well known, and these modernist solutions to poverty are often seen as ill-conceived failures.

    If the 20th century was all about designing to solve social problems, then the 21st century has been about the exact opposite – not designing to solve social problems. These days, it is much more common to see architects praising the social order and even aesthetic of illegal slums, which in many cases provide their residents with a stronger community and higher quality of life than did many formal social housing projects of the past. The task of architects (both today's and tomorrow's) is to develop this construction logic: to use design and, rather counter-intuitively, non-design to lift these urban residents out of their impoverished conditions.

    More on the social potential of non-design after the break...

    The Indicator: The Responsibility of Beauty

    ©  “Beauty is nothing other than the promise of happiness.” –Stendhal. Steilneset Memorial by Peter Zumthor and Louise Bourgeos. Photograph by Andrew Meredith.
    © “Beauty is nothing other than the promise of happiness.” –Stendhal. Steilneset Memorial by Peter Zumthor and Louise Bourgeos. Photograph by Andrew Meredith.

    In his 2008 book, The Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Botton argues that architecture has an extraordinary power when it comes to influencing who we are. In giving shape to our living environments, it plugs into our emotional existence. I would take it a step further and say that as we reside in architecture we so reside within ourselves, emplacing ourselves in both physical and psychological worlds. 

    But this is by no means a new argument. As de Botton explains in his most recent collection of essays, Religion for Atheists, the Catholics and Protestants have been elaborating on this theme for centuries. The world around us has a profound impact on how we think, feel, and perceive. Without this underlying logic there could be no architecture. 

    Rendering / CLOG

    Every month, the publication CLOG takes on “a single subject particularly relevant to architecture now.” It’s not a quick look at something trendy, but rather an in-depth look, from multiple perspectives, at the issues that are affecting - and will continue to affect (and even alter) - architecture as we know it today.

    CLOG: Rendering is, in my opinion, the best issue yet. Through dozens of fascinating, concise articles and a handful of illustrative, quirky images, it takes on an enormous question often over-looked in the architectural world: what is a rendering? An alluring device to win over a jury or public? A realistic depiction? Or perhaps it’s an entity unto itself...

    Rendering examines how the rendering has become a means of deception - not just for the public, but for ourselves - becoming an aesthetic end-product rather than the representation of an idea in-progress. But at the same time, the rendering is our best tool for entering into the “real” world, for communicating what we do to the public at large. 

    Is there a way to marry these opposing characteristics? What should the future of rendering be? CLOG takes these questions head-on. More after the break...

    The Dynamism of Zaha's Eli and Edythe Broad Museum

    © Paul Warchol
    © Paul Warchol

    Rio de Janeiro-based writer Robert Landon has shared with us his experience exploring Zaha Hadid’s newly completed Eli and Edythe Broad Museum in Michigan.

    As you approach Zaha Hadid’s new Eli and Edythe Broad Museum in East Lansing, Michigan, it is the complex, light-catching carapace that first reels in the eye — a fine shock after the brick, neo-Gothic buildings that define the rest of the Michigan State University campus. Draw closer and its undulating fins, opening and closing in rhythmic asymmetries, begin to seduce the mind. In some places scrunched up into sharp angles and in others allowed to breathe for longer stretches across the low-slung facade, the fins seem to be the expression of some higher, grid-bending equation.

    In a half-conscious attempt to solve the math, you begin to circle the building. At certain points, the fins spread wide enough for generous glimpses inside, but as you move keep moving, the inner secrets vanish again behind the metal lattice. In the same way, the relentlessly kinetic carapace tantalizes with, but ultimately eludes, any logical or definitive summing up. What is certain, though, is that, by the time you’ve come full circle, you’ll have grown quite curious to see what is going on inside.

    More after the break…

    A History of the Venice Architecture Biennale

    The Corderie at the Arsenale © ArchDaily
    The Corderie at the Arsenale © ArchDaily

    For over a century, the Venice Biennale (La Biennale di Venezia) has been one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world. The avant-garde institution has remained at the forefront in the research and promotion of new artistic trends, while leading international events in the field of contemporary arts that are amongst the most important of their kind. Over the past thirty years, the Biennale has given growing importance to the Architecture Exhibition, which is still a young component of the Biennale considering that its first exhibition was held in 1975. Today, the Venice Biennale captures a multitude of interest from around the globe and attracts over 370,000 international visitors.

    Before the festivities of the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale begin tomorrow, read up on the origin of this highly acclaimed international exhibition.

    A timeline history of the Venice Architecture Biennale:

    The Limits of Density

    New York City © kaysha
    New York City © kaysha

    In an article published by The Wall Street Journal called For Creative Cities, the Sky Has Its LimitRichard Florida discusses the development of urban environments and their relative successes.  As human migrations are trending towards big cities, the design and appropriation of space within these cities is increasingly important.  Florida cites that trends indicate that by 2050 cities will make up 70% of the global population.  With so many people, elevate density within cities will be unavoidable, but what Florida emphasizes is that it isn’t just density that makes a vibrant and thriving city.  Citing Shanghai and New York City as examples of dense urban environments, Florida explains the differences in their relative architectural and urban developments and the prosperity that follows. The fundamental difference? The prevalence of mixed-use neighborhoods in New York City that overpower the innovation of strictly financial districts of either New York or Shanghai.

    Let’s look at these examples after the break.

    Batman & Architecture: The Dark Knight Rises and Gotham’s Buildings Fall

    There is no other comic saga more influenced by architecture than Batman. Gotham, and the fictional architects that built the city, have been main characters since the first plots. Writer and architect Jimmy Stamp describes in these essay the fascinating architectural references and metaphors that have filled Batman stories for the last 60 years.

    Batman, Gotham City, and an Overzealous Architecture Historian With a Working Knowledge of Explosives

    By Jimmy Stamp

    New York, Dubai, Tokyo, Moscow, Gotham. Every city in every atlas—real and fictional— has a unique character shaped by history and geography. More than a mere sense of place derived from architecture and planning, cities have a feeling that pervades the consciousness of those who live there until themselves become a a piece of the urban fabric, a fractional embodiment of the city itself. Perhaps more than any other person—real or fictional—Batman is integrally linked to his city, the city he has sworn to protect. In every sense of the word, he is a true avatar of Gotham. And Gotham City itself is an avatar, not only of the dreams of its fictional architects, but of our collective urban paranoia.

    Read the full post after the break

    How (Not) to Host The Olympics (Part III)

    The Olympic Agora, designed by Santiago Calatrava, in Athens. Photo via Flickr User CC John & Mel Kots.
    The Olympic Agora, designed by Santiago Calatrava, in Athens. Photo via Flickr User CC John & Mel Kots.

    Welcome back and congratulations for having made it to the final installation of the Olympic City Guide.

    So far, in parts I and II, we’ve learned how to design for your post-Games legacy (No White Elephants please) and to revitalize -not demolish- your city’s most deprived “eye-sores” (Don’t Hate, Rejuvenate).

    So what’s left? Well, in this post-Recession era of austerity, a huge part of your Olympic Strategy will be justifying the spending – the colossal spending – to your more than skeptical constituents. As I said in the last post, a good starting point is targeting urban renewal and being as transparent as possible, but another big element is how you market the Games – not just to the International Olympics Committee (IOC), but to your own city-dwellers.

    So how can you get them both on your side? Simple - Go Green.

    Parlour: Women, Equity, Architecture

    © 2012 Parlour
    © 2012 Parlour

    Through research, discussions and essays from a variety of resources, Parlour: Women, Equity, Architecture is a platform, a coach, and an inspiration that is available to women worldwide in an effort to bridge the gender gap that exist in the historically male dominant profession of architecture.  Launched by a team of scholars led by Dr. Naomi Stead from The University of Queensland and developed and edited by Justine Clark from The University of Melbourne, this website is relevant to all members of the profession, women and men, in all parts of the world. It highlights the reasons why gender gaps are felt as in “implicit bias” whether in pay scale or upward mobility, even though discrimination and prejudices may not be explicit.  In this regard, the website and its collection of resources, aims to create a forum for a dialogue about the actual and perceived barriers that empowers women to challenge the social structure that fosters this proven under-representation, whether it is due to professional practices and “gendered behavioral practices” or pressures that women feel to leave the profession at a much higher rate than men.

    More after the break.

    How 3D Printing Will Change Our World

    The MakerBot Repliactor, a personal 3D Printer. Photo via MakerBot.
    The MakerBot Repliactor, a personal 3D Printer. Photo via MakerBot.

    When the kids at NOTLabs first got their hands on a MakerBot Replicator, the ingenious 3D printer that can make just about anything you want, they quickly got down to business – making LEGO and Kinex connectors, that is. As inconsequential as their decision may seem, it got us thinking: today, building blocks, but tomorrow? Buildings themselves.

    The future isn’t as far as you may think. In the next two articles, I’ll introduce you to three visionaries who are already applying 3D printing technology to revolutionary effect: an engineer hoping to improve the human condition, a robotics expert with the goal of completing the Sagrada Familia (or at least putting a structure on the moon), and an architect at MIT using nature-inspired materials to turn the design world on its head.

    If these three examples are anything to go by, 3D Printing will revolutionize the world as we know it. But it begs the question: at what price? Will it offer architects the freedom to design without the pesky limitations of built reality? Or, like the scribes made redundant by Gutenberg’s printing press, will 3D printing make the architect go extinct?