The XV International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale opened its doors last month. Under the directorship of Chilean Pritzker Prize-winner Alejandro Aravena, “Reporting the front” asked architects to go beyond “business as usual” and investigate concealed built environments – conflict zones and urban slums, as well as locations suffering from housing shortage, migrations and environmental disasters. Clearly, the aim of this Biennale is to open the profession to new fields of engagement and share knowledge on how to improve people’s quality of life.
This stance that has been highly criticized by Patrik Schumacher, director of Zaha Hadid Architects, who believes that architects “are not equipped to [address these issues]. It’s not the best value for our expertise.” But is this a view shared by the rest of the design world and its critics? What are the limits and benefits of this “humanitarian architecture”? Read on to find out critics’ comments.
London's Tate Modern just got bigger. Last week, the well-known modern art museum opened its new extension to the public. The so-called “Switch House” was designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, the same firm that designed the successful rehabilitation of the original Giles Gilbert Scott’s Bankside Power Station in 2000.
The museum could not be more satisfied: “It’s a dream,” says Tate Modern’s new director Frances Morris, “We’ve never had such an open space before. The possibilities are endless.” While critics generally approved of the design, they expressed mixed feelings for the addition’s materiality and urban character. Read on to find out more about the views of Frieze Magazine’s Douglas Murphy, The Evening Standard’s Robert Bevan, The Guardian’s Rowan Moore, and The Financial Times’ Edwin Heathcote.
In an article for theFinancial Times, Edwin Heathcote responds to the recent news that OMA, based in Rotterdam, have won the competition to design the British city of Manchester's new "ultra-flexible" arts venue. The Factory, so-named because of city's rich musical heritage, will be one of the largest cultural projects of its kind. Having gained and maintained financial support from Westminster, the building—which must be able to transform from a 2,200-seat theatre into an open 5,000-capacity space—is a flagship project for the British government.
Is ornament seeing a resurgence in architectural design? Writing for The Financial Times, Edwin Heathcote examines the rising phenomenon of decoration as a growing element of contemporary architectural design. Describing FAT and Grayson Perry's recently completed 'kitsch' abode 'A House for Essex' Heathcote justifies the assimilation of decoration into the central design philosophy, thus creating an entirely new aesthetic category. "The building sits somewhere between outsider art, high culture and the most sophisticated postmodernism," Heathcote explains, adding that its decoration "is not just applied as a layer but subsumed into the architecture."
The Real Estate Architecture Laboratory (REAL) have today announced a Kickstarter campaign in preparation for the launch of their flagship publication, the Real Review. Produced by an independent team of editors and designers, this bi-monthly magazine intends to "revive the review as a writing form" to a general readership within the architectural sphere and its orbital subjects.
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.
Arguably there are only two architects in history that have become almost completely synonymous with one particular city - Charles Rennie Mackintosh for Glasgow and Antoní Gaudi for Barcelona. Indeed, a Catalonian architect, Enric Miralles, designed the Scottish Parliament Building in Holyrood, Edinburgh. The fact that both of these cities are part of large enclaves who are seeking, or have sought, independence is perhaps just a coincidence. Architecture, often used as a symbol for the identity of nationhood, will certainly be part of a wider dialogue about the Union of the United Kingdom following yesterday's referendum.
This year's Venice Biennale, curated by OMA'sRem Koolhaas, is "interested in the banal". In an article in the Financial Times', Edwin Heathcote discusses the paradox between exploring generic modernism at an event which celebrates the individual. Heathcote raises interesting questions about the extent to which world architecture has developed in modernity, ultimately arguing that, "in a way, architecture is over." You can read the article, which neatly investigates the curatorial rationale behind this year's Biennale, in full here.