Japan is famous for its radical residential architecture. But as Tokyo architect Alastair Townsend explains, its penchant for avant garde housing may be driven by the country’s bizarre real estate economics, as much as its designers’ creativity.
Here on ArchDaily, we see a steady stream of radical Japanese houses. These homes, mostly designed by young architects, often elicit readers’ bewilderment. It can seem that in Japan, anything is permissible: stairs and balconies without handrails, rooms flagrantly cast open to their surroundings, or homes with no windows at all.
These whimsical, ironic, or otherwise extreme living propositions arrest readers’ attention, baiting us to ask: WTF Japan? The photos travel the blogosphere and social networks under their own momentum, garnering global exposure and international validation for Japan’s outwardly shy, yet media-savvy architects. Afterall, in Japan – the country with the most registered architects per capita – standing out from the crowd is the key to getting ahead for young designers. But what motivates their clients, who opt for such eccentric expressions of lifestyle?
By now, we have all heard the mantra. In twenty years time, the world’s cities will have grown from three to five billion people, forty percent of these urban dwellers will be living at or below the poverty line facing the constant threat of homelessness – scary statistics and even scarier implications.
ECOnnect, a Holland-based design firm, envisions a solution for these future housing shortages, one that could build a one-million-inhabitant city per week for the next twenty years for $10,000 per family. Peter Stoutjesdijk, architect at ECOnnect, created the concept after widespread devastation in Haiti caused by a massive earthquake left of hundreds of thousands of people homeless depending on tents for temporary relief.
In recent weeks both the national papers and the London Evening Standard have been reporting dramatic increases in the price of houses in the capital. Up 8% in a year they say. This isn’t great. Rents are also rising sharply. Soon, many, particularly young, Londoners will be trapped, unable to rent or buy. No doubt this is increasingly the case in many big cities. But England is still arguably in a recession, the worst for nearly a century.
In an attempt to find affordable homes people move further away from their work, especially those on low wages, and spend too much of their salary and their time commuting. The cost of housing affects what we eat, whether we exercise and how much spare time we have. It affects our quality of life.
So, this is not about business or property. It’s more important. This is about home. Home is a refuge. It’s our emotional harbour. In fact it is a human right. As the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states: it is ‘the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate … housing’.
Can architects help? Yes. As architects, we need to ask what home actually is, and, how it fits into the city. Indeed, the answer is as much anthropological as it is architectural, as it lies in re-thinking the house itself, in creating – not housing – but homes.
The term ‘green’ is notoriously difficult to define, and even more so when it comes to architecture. An often overused and fashionable way of describing (or selling) new projects, ‘green’ design seems to have permeated into every strand of the design and construction industries. Kaid Benfield (The Atlantic City) has put together a fascinating case study of a 1,700 dwelling housing estate near San Diego, challenging what is meant by a ‘green’ development in an attempt to understand the importance of location and transport (among other factors) in making a project truly environmentally sustainable. In a similar vein, Philip Nobel (The New York Times) explores how ‘green’ architecture is less about isolated structures and far more about “the larger systems in which they function”. Read the full article from Kaid Benfield here, and Philip Nobel’s full article here.
In the wake of two heinous designs for student housing dominating the conversation in the Carbuncle Cup, The Guardian’s Olly Wainwright explores the causes of such poor standards in the field of student accommodation. He explains how the economics and planning regulations surrounding student housing in the UK make it a hugely profitable area of the construction industry, while also making it susceptible to low standards which would be seen as unacceptable in any other housing sector. By contrast, in another article he lists the world’s best designed student accommodation. You can read the full article investigating poor standards here, and his top 10 list here.
Responding to rising sea level predictions and elevated threats of coasting flooding, Perkins + Will design principle Brian Healy has proposed a replicable, floating residential community for Boston’s harbor: Floatyard. In this TEDx, Healy argues that not only would this radical proposal protect coastal housing investments, it could reengage Charlestown’s industrial harbor. In addition to this, Floatyard’s architecture would incorporate solar energy and rainwater harvesting on its roof, as well as capitalize tidal energy from the mooring columns which anchor it.
Foster + Partners have released new images of the luxurious, 18-story Faena House currently being constructed in Miami. Argentinean developer Alan Faena, who is best known for transforming Buenos Aires’ abandoned Puerto Madero neighborhood into the city’s most vital culture center, commissioned the project, which will mark the first phase of the anticipated Faena District in Miami Beach. Once complete, the district will include a five-star hotel, a large and versatile Arts Center, an OMA-designed parking complex, a luxury retail complex, and a marina.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has selected the six recipients of the 2013 Housing Awards. The AIA’s Housing Awards Program, now in its 13th year, was established to recognize the best in housing design and promote the importance of good housing as a necessity of life, a sanctuary for the human spirit and a valuable national resource. All the winners, after the break.
On Tuesday, a sea of green and blue flooded the Fort Lauderdale City Commission chamber to either support or oppose a BIG, $250 million multi-use development planned to infill an industrial gap on the waterfront of Downtown Fort Lauderdale. Although the majority of the crowd seemed to be in favor of the “impressive, innovative and even daring” project, concerns arose regarding the Marina Lofts’ density, height and traffic impact – many of which were appeased by developer Asi Cymbal’s decision to reduce the two 36-story towers to 28, which cut nearly 100 housing units from the project.
Other last ditch opposition efforts regarded the controversial plan to move a giant rain tree that wasn’t within the purview of the board’s review. Despite this, following an hour-long presentation by Cymbal and his staff, the Planning & Zoning board unanimously voted 9-0 in favor of the project.
More after the break…
In preparation for a ministerial review of housing standards by the UK government, the RIBA has launched their “Without Space + Light” campaign aimed at advocating minimum requirements for total space and natural lighting in order to improve quality in new built homes.
The campaign, supported by a survey titled “Housing Standards and Satisfaction: What the Public Wants“, aims to combat the recent trend towards ‘shoe-box homes’, highlighting the dissatisfaction among owners of new homes when it comes to living standards and the fact that new homes are an average of 10% smaller than they used to be.
Not only are the space standards in UK homes poor compared to past housing, they also lag behind standards set by other European countries: in Ireland, new homes are on average 15% larger, in the Netherlands they are 53% larger, and most strikingly in Denmark they are a full 80% larger.
Read more about the campaign after the break…
This unconventional stack of shifting floor plates forms what will soon be a new, 36-unit apartment block in French city of Montpellier. City officials released the news this week, naming Farshid Moussavi Architecture as winner of the Jardins de la Lironde competition.
The 11-story tower’s unique shape will offer residents expansive balconies with coastal views and a ground level restaurant. Construction is expected to begin in 2014, marking the first phase of a master plan to construct 12 new buildings in the Port Marianne district.
More images and plans of the Jardins de la Lironde tower after the break…
When we see another Eiffel Tower, idyllic English village, or, most recently, a Zaha Hadid shopping mall, copied in China, our first reaction is to scoff. Heartily. To suggest that it is – once again – evidence of China’s knock-off culture, its disregard for uniqueness, its staggering lack of innovation. Even I, reporting on the Chinese copy of the Austrian town of Halstatt, fell into the rhetorical trap: “The Chinese are well-known for their penchant for knock-offs, be it brand-name handbags or high-tech gadgets, but this time, they’ve taken it to a whole other level.”
Moreover, as Guy Horton has noted, we are keen to describe designers in the West as “emulating,” “imitating,” and “borrowing”; those in the East are almost always “pirating.” However, when we allow ourselves, even unconsciously, to settle into the role of superior scoffer, we do not just do the Chinese, but ourselves, a disservice: first, we fail to recognize the fascinating complexity that lies behind China’s built experimentation with Western ideals; and, what’s more, we fail to look in the mirror at ourselves, and trouble our own unquestioned values and supposed superiority. In the next few paragraphs, I’d like to do both.
Despite NYC’s recent bout with nature, Mayor Bloomberg is undeterred from developing housing along NYC’s long stretch of waterfront, taking into account that proper measures are taken for storm and flooding mitigation. The latest in large scale developments comes to Hunter’s Point South in the neighborhood of Long Island City in Queens. The first of such a scale since the 1970s development of Co-Op City in the Bronx, plans will include two phases of design and construction. The first phase, designed by SHoP Architects with Ismael Leyva Architects will bring two residential towers with 925 permanently affordable apartments, 17,000 square feet of retail space, infrastructural installations, a five-acre waterfront park, and a 1,100-seat school.
Join us after the break for more on this large scale development in Long Island City.
CityLife Milano is an ambitious commercial and residential development on Milan’s historic former trade fair grounds: the Fiera Milano. On the surface, over half of CityLife Milano will be covered with upwards of 168,000 square meters of landscaped parkland dedicated to pedestrians and bicycles. This lush, pedestrianized space will be centered around a grand new piazza - named ‘piazza delle tre torri’ - shaped by a trio of towers and surrounded by a cluster of residences, all designed by three world-renowned architects. As previously mentioned, Arata Isozaki and Andrea Maffei has contributed the Isozaki Tower, which is planned to become the tallest skyscraper in Italy at 202 meters and will be built alongside the curved, 150 meter Libeskind Tower by – you guess it – Daniel Libeskind. To complete the triad, Zaha Hadid has designed a twisting, glazed tower, which will rise 170 meters into the skyline.
More on the Hadid Tower and surrounding development after the break…
Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture will present “COLD war COOL digital,” an exhibition of 20 scaled prototypes of modernist, pre-fabricated, and globally-distributed Cold War era housing systems that were created using contemporary 3D printing technologies (opening reception 2/18 at 6:15, details below). The exhibition will investigate architectural modernism and its global influence and will connect with contemporary prototype pre-fabrication methods and digital research in housing and skyscraper design. A symposium that explores the technical, aesthetic, and political aspects of prototyping and pre-construction in architecture will be held tonight in conjunction with the exhibition.
Continue reading for more details…
After an “arduous” public review and a heated debate over affordable housing, New York’s City Council has unanimously awarded final approval to BIG’s tetrahedral-shaped West 57th apartment building in Manhattan. As reported by Crain’s New York Business, a compromise has been made to include 173 affordable housing units within the 32-story, 750-unit residential building and the neighboring industrial building that will be converted into 100 additional rental apartments. As you may recall, the community board and Councilwoman Gail Brewer initially threatened to “torpedo the project” if the apartments were only made affordable for a 35 year period. However, Durst apparently won them over by contributing one million dollars into an affordable housing fund.
“The good news, which is the mantra of my office and community board No. 4, is there will be, yes, by law, 35 years of income-restricted affordable housing,” stated City Councilwoman Brewer, who represents the area.