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Living Anatomy: an Exhibition about Housing at Harvard Graduate School of Design

On Monday, August 24, the Harvard Graduate School of Design opened its main Fall 2015 exhibition Living Anatomy: An Exhibition About Housing. Focusing on the past 50 years, the mixed-media exhibition features both built and academic work and showcases innovative approaches and solutions to housing in contexts around the world.

Unified Architectural Theory, Chapter 13

We will be publishing Nikos Salingaros’ book, Unified Architectural Theory, in a series of installments, making it digitally, freely available for students and architects around the world. In Chapter 13, Salingaros begins to conclude his argument by discussing its counterpart, explaining how post-modern theorists such as Peter Eisenman came to eclipse the ideas of Christopher Alexander – and why Eisenman’s theoretical hegemony is not based upon sound architectural thinking. If you missed them, make sure to read the previous installments here.

Natural and Unnatural Form Languages

The concept of living structure, and the support for the theory offered by both direct experience and science, offers a basis for designing and understanding architecture. This platform is a sensible way of approaching design and building, because it is beholden neither to ideology, nor to individual agendas. Moreover, it should be contrasted to the irrationality of other schemes that currently appear in and seem to drive architectural discourse.

The Top 100 Universities in the World for Architecture

QS has released its annual World University Rankings for 2015, covering 36 individual subjects and sorting based on "academic reputation, employer reputation and research impact." The company, which claims to explore the top 800 universities in the world, began publishing academic rankings in 2011. Read on to see the list of top universities for architecture, and be sure to see the full, sortable list at QS's site

Lacaton & Vassal's Lesson in Building Modestly

The French duo of Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal are known for their delicate interventions, repurposing neglected structures with apparent effortlessness. Originally published on the Harvard Gazette website entitled "They Build, But Modestly," this article recounts the lessons which they offered students in a recent lecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Around 1980, two young architects finished their training in Bordeaux, France, and moved to Nigeria. In that African nation’s remote regions, they were inspired by the simple structures they saw amid the stark, stunning desert landscapes. The houses were open to the air, had utilitarian thatched roofs, and were made with bits of local wood. Modesty prevailed in structures that also invited beauty.

The lessons of building in Africa stayed with Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal in their Paris-based practice, Lacaton & Vassal: use what is there, stay simple, embrace open air, and honor light, freedom, and grace. They practice social architecture based on economy, modesty, and the found beauty of environments.

Palais de Tokyo Expansion / Lacaton & Vassal. Image © 11h45 Nantes School of Architecture / Lacaton & Vassal. Image © Philippe Ruault Palais de Tokyo Expansion / Lacaton & Vassal. Image © 11h45 23 Semi-collective Housing Units / Lacaton & Vassal. Image © Philippe Ruault

Richard Rogers Donates His Parents' Home To Harvard GSD

Richard Rogers has announced that the home he built for his parents in Wimbledon, London, will be gifted to Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) for the training of doctorates in the field of architecture. The home, which will be donated by his charity, the Richard Rogers Charitable Settlement, was completed between 1967 and 1968 by Richard and his then wife Su Rogers. Originally designed for his parents, Dr. William Nino and Dada Rogers, the Grade II* listed pre-fabrictated single storey dwelling was later adapted for Rogers' son Ab and his family, before being put on the market in 2013 for £3.2million ($4.8million).

Harvard's Material Processes and Systems Group Investigates Structural Ceramics

With "Protoceramics," the Material Processes and Systems Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (MaP+S) sought to investigate the architectural possibilities of a material that might often be overlooked: thin, large-format ceramic tiles designed to act as interior finishes or exterior cladding. Instead of accepting the tiles' designation as a surface finish, the team investigated three ways to use them as a self-supporting structural component as part of their ongoing experiment to produce "novel material formations with a special interest in tectonic performance." The three techniques employed focused on the acts of cutting, folding and bending.

© Martin Bechthold © Martin Bechthold © Martin Bechthold © Martin Bechthold

Harvard GSD To Host Exhibition Exploring 'Dualisms' In Architecture

A new exhibition at the Harvard Graduate School of Design by Iñaki Ábalos and Renata Sentkiewicz (Ábalos+Sentkiewicz) will explore Dualisms in architecture: the notion that most historic architecture takes its "composite tension from two theoretically incompatible morphological organisations that correspond to different disciplines or languages." Suggesting that these organisations can possess elements of "compatibility and incompatibility" simultaneously, the appearance of "a kind of hybrid 'Frankenstein's monster'" is characterized by dualism in architecture. For the curators, Dualisms act not only performatively, but also in a creative and composite way. "They are, at once, constraints and formative opportunities."

© Justin Knight © Justin Knight © Justin Knight © Justin Knight

Harvard GSD To Host Exhibition Exploring The Architecture And Symbolism Of National Libraries

National libraries, often monumental in scale and "dominated by nationalistic ambitions and overwhelming architectural details," will be the subject of a new exhibition opening later this month at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). Icons of Knowledge: Architecture and Symbolism in National Libraries seeks to examine why national libraries are amongst the most symbolic icons of modern day countries. In the global milieu of the "rapid digitisation of print," this exhibition aims to shed light on why nations are "vehemently investing resources in the construction of buildings that will project their cultural legacy and house the most precious treasures of their written history."

Salvaged Stadium: Harvard GSD Student Yaohua Wang's Proposal for Post-Olympic Adaptation

Olympic host cities around the world are increasingly facing issues of post-event sustainability, with many stadiums and arenas falling into disuse and dilapidation mere months after the games. The soaring costs associated with constructing Olympic facilities have plagued organizers for decades, resulting in an all-time low number of bids from host cities for the 2022 Winter Olympics, according to the International Olympic Committee. Yaohua Wang is a recent architecture graduate of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and a native of China - where facilities constructed for the 2008 Beijing Olympics are slowly being converted to new post-Olympic uses, typified by the transformation of the Watercube into the city's newest waterpark. Wang's thesis project, Salvaged Stadium, delves into the afterlife of Olympic facilities, providing a solution for arena reuse with potential for application worldwide. 

Find out how Wang re-evaluated the Olympic development problem after the break

© Yaohua Wang © Yaohua Wang © Yaohua Wang © Yaohua Wang

Reflections on the 2014 Venice Biennale

Fundamentals, the title of the 2014 Venice Biennale, will close its doors in a matter of days (on the 23rd November). From the moment Rem Koolhaas revealed the title for this year’s Biennale in January 2013, asking national curators to respond directly to the theme of ‘Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014’, there was an inkling that this Biennale would be in some way special. Having rejected offers to direct the Biennale in the past, the fact that Koolhaas chose to act not only as curator but also thematic co-ordinator of the complete international effort, was significant. This announcement led Peter Eisenman (one of Koolhaas' earliest tutors and advocates) to state in one interview that “[Rem is] stating his end: the end of [his] career, the end of [his] hegemony, the end of [his] mythology, the end of everything, the end of architecture.”

And the Best US Architecture Schools for 2015 Are…

DesignIntelligence has released their 2015 rankings of the Best US Architecture Schools for both undergraduate and graduate programs. Over 1,400 professional practice organizations were surveyed and asked to respond to the question: “In your firm’s hiring experience in the past five years, which of the following schools are best preparing students for success in the profession?” In addition, more than 3,800 architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, and industrial design students were also surveyed about their education, in data presented separately from the rankings.

However, perhaps more enlightening than the ranking itself are the firms' responses to several additional issues raised in the report.  For example, 54.6% of the firms surveyed selected sustainability and climate change as the professions’ biggest concern, while maintaining design quality was a close second.  Firms also provided insights on the most important qualities of new graduates entering the workplace, with an overwhelming 70.1% selecting attitude/personality as the most important attribute. 

Read on after the break for the Top 10 undergraduate and graduate programs.

Rem Koolhaas' Current Fascinations: On Identity, Asia, the Biennale, & More

In this interview, originally published in The Architectural Review, Andrew Mackenzie sits down with OMA founder Rem Koolhaas to discuss the Venice Biennale, the extinction of national identities, his fascination with Asia, the link between De Rotterdam and Delirious New York, and the future of the profession.

Your proposition for this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale asks whether national identity has been, as you say, ‘sacrificed to modernity’. Some might view this as a project of reclamation, not unlike Frampton’s regionalism. How would you differentiate your proposition from Frampton’s?

Well, Kenneth Frampton is a smart guy, but the problem is that he looked at regionalism as an antidote to cosmopolitan development. In so doing he perverted the cause of regionalism, because suddenly regionalism was mobilised as a private cause that it couldn’t sustain. However, the question of national identity is an open one. For instance, at first sight the Netherlands is a very internationalist country, but looking closely you can see an enormous return of, not vernacular, but quasi-vernacular architecture and quasi-old fortresses that are newly built with a national flavour. Look at Zaandam, and that huge assemblage of so-called vernacular buildings.

Open Letters / Harvard Graduate School of Design

Launched in September 2013 by students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Open Letters is a print experiment that tests the epistolary form as a device for generating conversations about architecture and design. The project stems from an earnest curiosity about what people have to say to each other about architecture, landscapes, cities, ideas, history, practice, experience and learning. 

New issues are released every other Friday, each presenting one open letter, i.e. a letter addressed to a particular party, but intended for publication, about any topic relating to the design disciplines. Past correspondents have written to mentors, chairs, trees, mystical creatures, those in need of advice and to NCARB. All issues can be read online.

A Radical New Approach to Prison Design

A recent topic that has been receiving attention among architects is the issue of designing prisons. The increased awareness of the problem has been spearheaded by Raphael Sperry, founder of Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility, who has been campaigning to have the AIA forbid members from designing execution chambers or solitary confinement units. At the other end of the scale, Deanna VanBuren, a principle of FOURM Design Studio and a member of ADPSR herself, has championed 'restorative justice', an approach to the justice system which emphasizes rehabilitation and reconciliation in order to prevent people from re-offending.

Now Glen Santayana, a student at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, has used his thesis project to add to this debate, designing PriSchool - a prison which both integrates with a school of criminology and is embedded within the community. Could this radical approach to prison design really be an answer to the stretched prison system in the US (and elsewhere)? Read on after the break to find out more.

© Glen Santayana Model. Image © Glen Santayana Model. Image © Glen Santayana Cross Section. Image © Glen Santayana

AD Interviews: Ben van Berkel, UNStudio on London's Canaletto Tower

Ben van Berkel. Image © Inga Powilleit
Ben van Berkel. Image © Inga Powilleit

ArchDaily recently spoke to Ben van Berkel, co-founder and principal architect at UNStudio, an international network of specialists in architecture, urban development and infrastructure based in the Netherlands. The office, which was founded in 1988, has completed projects around the world ranging from Rotterdam’s Erasmus Bridge to the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. With over 81 built projects, and 54 currently in progress (including Raffles City in Hangzhou and Scotts Tower in Singapore), London’s Canaletto Tower (which is due to be completed in 2015) marks the practice’s first major project in the UK.

Are Ivy League Schools Really Offering the Best Architectural Education?

In Design Intelligence's annual rankings of US Architecture Schools, released earlier this month, there is certainly a lot to talk about. Of course, plenty will be said about what is shown immediately by the statistics, and rightly so - but just as interesting is what is revealed between the lines of this report, about the schools themselves and the culture they exist within. By taking the opinions of professional architects, teachers and students, the Design Intelligence report exposes a complex network which, when examined closely enough, reveals what some might see as a worrying trend within architectural education.

For Architects Only? How Kanye Exposed Architecture's Bias

© Noam Dvir, Instagram User dvirnm
© Noam Dvir, Instagram User dvirnm

When Kanye West spoke with students at my alma mater on Sunday evening, he said “I really do believe that the world can be saved through design, and everything needs to actually be ‘architected.’” In the social media frenzy that followed, a recurring response that I saw on architecture-centric sites was to snicker at West’s use of the word “architect” as a verb. For many, this was symbolic of West’s ignorance and hubris as he presumed to talk about something without knowing anything.

Except, of course, that “architect” is well recognized as a verb. Dictionaries say so, architects say so, and academics say so. If you’re architect Doug Patt and call yourself howtoarchitect on YouTube, you get a contract from MIT Press to write a book—called How to Architect. If you are the French philosopher Louis Marin, you can suggest that “the castle and gardens of Versailles ‘architect’ the Prince to make him not only the absolute of political power, but the center of the cosmos in its entirety,” and you will be counted among the most eminent semioticians of the twentieth century. If you are Harvard architecture theorist K. Michael Hays, you might stand up at an academic conference and say, “There are only certain things that can be done at this moment. Not just anything can be architected at this moment, right? There are limits.” When you do, people will nod and applaud.

But if you are Kanye West and you suggest that “everything needs to actually be ‘architected,’” it disqualifies you to speak about architecture. 

Kanye West Drops In on Harvard's GSD

UPDATE: The Harvard GSD AASU has released a statement on Kanye West's invitation and visit, which you can find at the end of the post. Dean Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean of the GSD, has also commented on the visit. 

Kanye West surprised students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) last night by dropping in un-announced before his Sunday night concert at the TD Garden in Boston. He gave a short motivational speech to the crowd that quickly formed in the GSD’s signature “trays.” West told the students

I just wanted to tell you guys: I really do believe that the world can be saved through design, and everything needs to actually be “architected.” [...] I believe that utopia is actually possible—but we’re led by the least noble, the least dignified, the least tasteful, the dumbest, and the most political. So in no way am I a politician—I’m usually at my best politically incorrect and very direct. I really appreciate you guys’ willingness to learn and hone your craft, and not be lazy about creation.

GSD student Sekou Cooke, writer of "Keep Talking Kanye: An Architect's Defense of Kanye West," confirmed to an ArchDaily editor that West had in fact seen his post defending West's right to speak-up about architectural issues and act as a role model for young potential architects of color. Although his visit with the student body was unexpected, West had been invited by Harvard GSD's African American Student Union (AASU). Following a meeting with the AASU’s core group of leaders—during which West led a conversation regarding under-represented minorities in the design disciplines—the star was inspired to briefly address the rest of the students. West also gifted 300 tickets to his show to the GSD. In fact, in an uncharacteristic moment of insecurity, West told the crowd of students:

Tonight, this show, if you come see it—um, I’m a bit self conscious because I’m showing it to architects. So the stage does have flaws in it. It’s an expression of emotion so give me a pass on that. 

See images and video of West's GSD visit, after the break...