Humanity has become obsessed with breaking its limits, creating new records only to break them again and again. In fact, our cities’ skylines have always been defined by those in power during every period in history. At one point churches left their mark, followed by public institutions and in the last few decades, it's commercial skyscrapers that continue to stretch taller and taller.
But when it comes to defining which buildings are the tallest it can get complicated. Do antennas and other gadgets on top of the building count as extra meters? What happens if the last floor is uninhabitable? The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) has developed their own system for classifying tall buildings, measuring from the “level of the lowest, significant, open-air, pedestrian entrance to the architectural top of the building, including spires, but not including antennae, signage, flag poles or other functional-technical equipment.” Using this system more than 3,400 buildings have been categorized as over 150 meters tall.
In this day and age, innovation is occurring at a faster rate than ever before. And while a majority of ideas may make a small impact before fading away, some inventions are able to slip through the cracks and become a real game changer in their field. Our field, of course, is architecture, and this year there have been no shortage of inventions that may change the way we live and work forever. In TIME magazine’s annual release of inventions of the year, at least 6 may have an impact on the world of architecture, encompassing inventions within the field of architecture itself and developments that could change how we design and experience space. Read on for those projects and what they might mean for our future.
Apple's new Foster + Partners-designed flagship store in Chicago is said to have been inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie Style Homes outside the city. Unveiled first by the Chicago Tribune, the store will feature a 14-foot entry pavilion that will usher visitors from Michigan Avenue down into the sales floor backdropped with views of the Chicago River. A "grand flight of stairs" will offer pedestrians an alternative route to the riverside walkway that flanks the bank.
As Norman Foster describes in his firm’s monograph, Foster 40, “Our transformation of the Reichstag is rooted in four related issues: the Bundestag’s significance as a democratic forum, an understanding of history, a commitment to public accessibility and a vigorous environmental agenda.” Foster’s description sounds straightforward enough, but the process of creating the New German Parliament at the Reichstag was only the latest entry in the long, complex, and contentious history of the building.
Foster + Partners has been shortlisted among 30 other finalists in the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge organized by America Makes and NASA. The proposal calls for a 3D printed settlement built by pre-programmed, semi-autonomous robots who use regolith found on Mars' surface to construct dwellings that can house up to four astronauts each.
"The proposal considers multiple aspects of the project from delivery and deployment to construction and operations," says Foster. "The habitat will be delivered in two stages prior to the arrival of the astronauts."
It is surprising then to find the man or his eponymous firm Foster + Partners absent from a list like Fast Company’s “The World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Architecture,” organized into superlatives: MMA Architects, “for thinking outside the big box,” Heatherwick Studio, “for reimagining green space,” or C.F. Møller Architects, “for rethinking high-rise living.” This is not to say that Foster or his firm should be substituted for any of these deserved accolades, but rather that for five decades Foster and his firm have ceaselessly worked to enhance and expand on the human experience with architectural solutions that are both inventive and practical - a fact that is perhaps lost as a result of his position within the architectural establishment.
With that in mind, we thought it was worth highlighting the many occasions over the decades where Foster + Partners has shown themselves to be among the world's most innovative practices. Read on for more.
"The building should be about the journey of learning," Mecanoo's founding partner and creative director Francine Houben told the New York Times. "Maybe you come in for a book but also take lessons in English."
Foster + Partners has unveiled designs for a droneport in Rwanda, proposed in an attempt to bring more efficient medical care and commercial delivery services to communities in Africa where there is a lack of infrastructure required to meet the population's needs.
"Just a third of Africans live within two kilometres of an all-season road," explains the press release. "It would require unprecedented levels of investment in roads and railways to catch up with the exponential growth in Africa’s population, which is set to double to 2.2 billion by 2050." Foster + Partners instead proposes to leap that development hurdle by making use of 21st century technology - namely drones.
Overlapped with commentary by the late Steve Jobs, a new video update by drone pilot Duncan Sinfield has captured Apple Campus 2 taking shape. According to the report on MacRumors, work is still being done on the main building's multi-level underground parking structure, while the west campus parking structure is nearly complete. The auditorium now has interior walls and progress is being made on the Tantau development housing research facilities.
By 2020, almost one million electric vehicles are expected on the road. "It seems to be clear," says David Nelson, head of design at Foster + Partners, "that electric vehicles will be a major feature of the urban landscape." Thus, Foster + Partners has teamed up with Nissan to develop the Fuel Station of the Future.
Imagining how zero emissions technology will influence our cities, the innovative brands are centering their design on the understanding that "connected communities, autonomous drive and the Internet of things" are drastically changing our infrastructure models. Their concept is expected to showcase the benefits of a "smart electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem," harnessing the potential of battery storage and vehicle-to-grid systems.
Norman Foster, Jean Nouvel and Rem Koolhaas are competing to design the new Western Australian Museum (WA Museum) in the Perth Cultural Center. As The West Australian reports, the leading architects are part of three shortlisted consortiums being considered to develop the new $428 million project. Each team is currently working with the government on their proposals. A team is expected to be announced later this year. The museum is slated to open in 2020.
The complete list of the shortlisted teams include...
Foster + Partners has won planning permission to realize the new Yuexiu International Financial City in Wuhan. Sited near Jingwu Road, once famous for its street vendors, the 147,000 square-meter masterplan aims regenerate the city's core by becoming a "walkable, highly permeable" new district that is seamlessly integrated into the surrounding context.
“Our aim has been to create a new urban model for Wuhan – a unique and exciting new destination, with a sustainable mixture of commercial and residential uses, but which feels familiar and of its place. Rather than create an enclosed ‘city within a city’, we have stitched this new quarter into the surrounding streets. It will have a distinctive new identity, but one that is inspired by local architecture, history and culture,” says Luke Fox, Senior Executive Partner, Studio Head of Foster + Partners.
The Architects' Journal (AJ) have revealed the results of their fourth AJ120 award, an annual survey which ranks the largest and wealthiest practices based in the UK. Partially calculated on the number of ARB-registered (or equivalent) fully qualified architects in employment, the AJ have announced that London based Foster + Partners have topped the 2015 table. Describing the 48 year old practice as an "international powerhouse," employing 312 architects (out of their 1,066 employees worldwide), the survey also shows that "the £185million fees billed by the practice’s architects – up a huge £45 million from last year – made up 38% of the combined total of all of the companies in the Top 10." The survey saw BDP ranked second, while AHMM came in third.