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Critical Round-Up: Did Aravena's 2016 Venice Biennale Achieve its Lofty Goals?

10:30 - 27 June, 2016
Critical Round-Up: Did Aravena's 2016 Venice Biennale Achieve its Lofty Goals?, The "Reporting the Front" exhibition/ curated by Alejandro Aravena at the 2016 Venice Biennale. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
The "Reporting the Front" exhibition/ curated by Alejandro Aravena at the 2016 Venice Biennale. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

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 Architectswho 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.

The "Reporting the Front" exhibition/ curated by Alejandro Aravena at the 2016 Venice Biennale. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu Gabinete de Arquitectura at the 2016 Venice Biennale. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu NLÉ's Makoko Floating School at the 2016 Venice Biennale. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu "OUR AMAZON FRONTLINE" / curated by Sandra Barclay and Jean Pierre Crousse. Peruvian Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Biennale. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu +6

Critical Round-Up: Herzog & de Meuron's Tate Modern Switch House

11:20 - 24 June, 2016
Critical Round-Up: Herzog & de Meuron's Tate Modern Switch House,  Tate Modern Switch House / Herzog & de Meuron . Image © Iwan Baan
Tate Modern Switch House / Herzog & de Meuron . Image © Iwan Baan

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.

 Tate Modern Switch House / Herzog & de Meuron . Image © Iwan Baan  Tate Modern Switch House / Herzog & de Meuron . Image © Iwan Baan  Tate Modern Switch House / Herzog & de Meuron . Image © Iwan Baan  Tate Modern Switch House / Herzog & de Meuron . Image © Iwan Baan +8

On OMA's Designs for 'The Factory': "an Enigmatic Tent Bulging With Programming"

04:00 - 1 December, 2015
On OMA's Designs for 'The Factory': "an Enigmatic Tent Bulging With Programming", OMA's proposal for 'The Factory'. Image © OMA
OMA's proposal for 'The Factory'. Image © OMA

In an article for the Financial 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.

Synthesized Ornament and the Emerging Role of Minimalist Decoration

14:00 - 28 November, 2015
Synthesized Ornament and the Emerging Role of Minimalist Decoration , A House For Essex / Grayson Perry + FAT Architecture. Image © FAT/ Living Architecture
A House For Essex / Grayson Perry + FAT Architecture. Image © FAT/ Living Architecture

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."

Critical Round-Up: AHMM's Stirling Prize Success

09:30 - 20 October, 2015
Critical Round-Up: AHMM's Stirling Prize Success, © Rob Parrish
© Rob Parrish

Another year, another RIBA Stirling Prize winner that seemingly nobody expected. In spite of being the unanimous favorite of the RIBA's Stirling Prize jury, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM)'s Burntwood School won out over the BBC people's choice, MUMA's Whitworth Gallery and ArchDaily readers' own favorite, Heneghan Peng Architects' Greenwich University (although AHMM came in second place with 21% of the vote), as well as Reiach and Hall's Maggie's Lanarkshire, Níall McLaughlin's Darbishire Place, and RSH+P's NEO Bankside.

But despite the apparent surprise, was AHMM's Burntwood School a suitable winner of British architecture's highest award? Read on to find out what the critics thought.

Kickstarter Campaign Launches to Fund the Forthcoming 'Real Review'

11:25 - 29 September, 2015

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.

The Real Review will be "a printed object of exceptional quality, featuring engaging texts by leading international commentators," alongside providing "a highly visible platform for emerging writers." Confirmed authors at this time include, among others, Assemble, Pier Vittorio Aureli (Dogma, AA), Reinier de Graaf (OMA), Sam Jacob (Sam Jacob Studio), and a rostra of journalists including the Financial Times' architecture critic Edwin Heathcote.

Critical Round Up: OMA's Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

09:30 - 18 June, 2015
Critical Round Up: OMA's Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Timur Shabaev. Image © OMA
Timur Shabaev. Image © OMA

Founded in 2008 and named after the constructivist bus shelter that was its first, temporary home, the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art is Russia's first private, non-profit art foundation. Relocating from a semi-industrial neighborhood on the northern edge of Moscow to Gorky Park, the Garage Museum's conversion of a Soviet era canteen and social club into Museum of Contemporary Art by OMA has so far been overshadowed by its more glamorous OMA counterpart which opened last month, the Milanese distillery conversion for Prada. Nevertheless, since opening last Friday the Garage Museum has attracted attention for Rem Koolhaas' shift towards preservation, something that has startled the critics. Find out more about what they thought after the break.

Yuri Palmin. Image © Garage Museum of Contemporary Art Yuri Palmin. Image © Garage Museum of Contemporary Art Yuri Palmin. Image © Garage Museum of Contemporary Art David X Prutting. Image © BFA.com +6

Is The Design Museum Dying?

00:00 - 30 September, 2014
Is The Design Museum Dying?, Oct Design Museum (Shenzhen) / Studio Pei-Zhu. Image Courtesy of Studio Pei-Zhu
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.

Heathcote Examines The Architecture Of Scottish Independence

00:00 - 19 September, 2014
Heathcote Examines The Architecture Of Scottish Independence, Enric Miralles' Scottish Parliament Building. Image Courtesy of University of Edinburgh
Enric Miralles' Scottish Parliament Building. Image Courtesy of University of Edinburgh

Scotland have voted against independence.

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.

Have We Reached the "End of Architecture"?

00:00 - 2 June, 2014
Have We Reached the "End of Architecture"?, Venice Biennale 2014 / Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014 . Image © Rem Koolhaas. Image Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia
Venice Biennale 2014 / Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014 . Image © Rem Koolhaas. Image Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia

This year's Venice Biennale, curated by OMA's Rem 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.

Reconstructing Space, Reconstructing Community in Japan

00:00 - 8 December, 2013
Reconstructing Space, Reconstructing Community in Japan, The Japan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale showed some of the disaster reconstruction work. . Image © Nico Saieh
The Japan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale showed some of the disaster reconstruction work. . Image © Nico Saieh

Still rebuilding after the catastrophic tsunami of 2011, Toyo Ito, Kazuyo Sejima, and other notable Japanese architects, have teamed up on the "Home for All" project to provide community-focused housing to disaster-stricken communities. While the architect-driven initiative seems to be a success, Edwin Heathcote of the Financial Times asks in this exquisitely well-written article: are a set of "starchitects" the right team for the job? (Spoiler: Yes)