Radical Cities, Radical Solutions: Justin McGuirk’s Book Finds Opportunities In Unexpected Places

Elemental’s Quinta Monroy houses in Chile have become a poster-image for Latin America’s activist architecture. Image © Cristóbal Palma

Justin McGuirk‘s book Radical Cities: Across Latin America in Search of a New Architecture is fast becoming a seminal text in the architecture world. Coming off the back of his Golden-Lion-winning entry to the 2012 Venice Biennale, created with Urban Think Tank and Iwan Baan, McGuirk’s work has become a touchstone for the architecture world’s recent interest in both low-cost housing solutions and in Latin America. This review of Radical Cities by Joshua K Leon was originally published by Metropolis Magazine as ”Finding Radical Alternatives in Slums, Exurbs, and Enclaves.”

’s Radical Cities: Across Latin America in Search of a New Architecture should be required reading for anyone looking for ways out of the bleak social inequality we’re stuck in. There were 40 million more slum dwellers worldwide in 2012 than there were in 2010, according to the UN. Private markets clearly can’t provide universal housing in any way approaching efficiency, and governments are often hostile to the poor. The only alternative is collective action at the grassroots level, and I’ve never read more vivid reporting on the subject.

Renzo Piano’s First US Residential Tower to Rise in New York

Renzo Piano’s recently completed Whitney Museum in City. Image © Paul Clemence

According to the New York Post, Renzo Piano has been commissioned by Michael Shvo and Bizzi & Partners to design his first US residential tower. Planned to rise in the southern Manhattan district of Soho at 100 Varick Street, the Piano-designed tower will include up to 280,000 square-feet of  and reach nearly 300 feet. Featured amenities include a “gated private driveway” and “automated parking.” Stay tuned for more details.

Piano recently completed the highly discussed Whitney Museum in city’s Meatpacking District. See what the critics have to say about the project, here.

Wilkinson Eyre Architects to Bring New Life to King’s Cross Gasholders

Courtesy of

London-based Wilkinson Eyre Architects have revealed plans for a major refurbishment of three ‘Siamese’ gasholders in King’s Cross. The development will see the historic structures restored and repurposed for multi-residential use, and create over 140 apartments. Dismantled in 2001 to allow construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the Grade II-listed structures are currently undergoing refurbishment by Shepley Engineers in South Yorkshire, after which they will be relocated from their original site as part of a larger masterplan for King’s Cross.

Eileen Gray’s Restored E1027 Opens to the Public

E1027, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin by . Image © Julian Lennon 2014

The controversial renovation of Eileen Gray‘s E1027 on the Côte d’Azur is complete. Once a “lost legend of 20th-century architecture,” the quaint holiday home has been brought back to life and is now open to the public. Announcing the news, The Guardian author Rowan Moore has recounted the cliffside project’s turbulent past, reciting its significance as Gray’s first architectural project.

Although much of the home’s original essence has been restored, some botches remain, including unauthorized murals (now protected artworks) by Le Corbusier who declared Gray copied his style. You can read Moore’s article about E1027 and the renovation, here. Visiting information can be found here.

AIA Names 10 Most Impressive Houses of 2015

La Casa Permanent Supportive Housing / Studio Twenty Seven Architecture + Leo A Daly

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) have announced the recipients of the 2015 Housing Awards. Currently in its 15th year, the are designed to “recognize the best in US 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.” This year, the jury awarded ten designs in three categories. See them all, after the break.

Robert A.M. Stern to Build Britian’s Most Expensive Flats

Rendering. Image © RAMSA

If approved, Robert A.M. Stern will build London’s most expensive flats. Aiming to replace a 1960s car park and a number of other buildings in city’s Mayfair district, the £2 billion “Audley Square House” apartment block is being commissioned by Phones4U billionaire John Caudwell.

As BD Online reports, Caudwell abandoned an already approved £300 million Foster + Partners scheme in favor of Stern’s neo-classical design, saying he chose the -based architect for his “ability to design high-quality buildings that do not stand apart from their surroundings but rather fit in comfortably amongst their neighbors.”

SHoP’s 626 First Avenue Coming Soon to NYC’s East River

©

Construction is underway on SHoP Architects‘ newest addition to the New York skyline – 626 First Avenue. The conjoined towers, slated for completion in early 2016, aims to stimulate development on the city’s East River. Once complete, they will add 800 units to the area connected via a sky bridge. Featured amenities will include an indoor lap pool, communal lounge areas, rooftop deck, fitness center, and film screening room. In addition to the cooper structures, SHoP will also design all the buildings’ interiors and furniture, making the development a true gesamtkunstwerk.

Read on for more images of the project and a fly-through around the structure. 

Is Housing at the Root of Inequality?

The Metabolists developed some of the most radical solutions of the past century, aiming to make dwellings that were not only affordable, but on demand. Would similar ideas help to reduce inequality today?. Image © Arcspace

Ever since last year, in response to the publication of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the hot topic in the field of economics has been inequality. Piketty’s book, which argues that if left unchecked wealth will be increasingly concentrated into the already wealthy end of society, many saw the book as evidence for progressive taxes on the wealthiest members of a society. However, according to The Economist a new critique of Piketty’s work is making waves among economists. A paper by MIT graduate student Matthew Rognlie argues that, since the 1970s, the only form of capital that has demonstrably increased the wealth of the wealthy is housing. With this in mind, The Economist suggests that, instead of focusing on taxation, ”-makers should deal with the planning regulations and NIMBYism that inhibit housebuilding.” Read more about Rognlie’s paper at The Economist, or (for the more adventurous) read the paper for yourself here.

Images Released of Tadao Ando’s First NYC Building

© Noë & Associates and The Boundary

Tadao Ando has unveiled his first New York building. An “ultra-luxury” project known as 152 Elizabeth Street, the 32,000-square-foot building will replace an existing parking lot with a concrete structure comprised of seven residences – all of which will be “treated as custom homes” and “individually configured.”

“Part concrete, part jewel box, the building makes a strong yet quiet statement with a façade comprised of voluminous glass, galvanized steel and flanked by poured in-place concrete and a living green wall that rises the height of the building,” says the architects. The green wall, measuring 55-feet-high and 99-feet-wide and spanning the entire southern façade, is expected to be one of the largest in New York and will be designed by landscaping firm M. Paul Friedberg and Partners.

Fresh Bid To Save Robin Hood Gardens From Demolition

© Steve Cadman

It has been reported that London’s Robin Hood Gardens housing estate, which was thought to be finally condemned in March 2012, has re-entered a state of flux due to governmental indecision. The former Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, gave the housing scheme an immunity from listing certificate in 2009, meaning that no concerned party could bid for it to gain protected status under British law. This certificate, designed to ensure that the buildings would be swiftly demolished, has now expired. This has led the Twentieth Century Society (C20) to launch a new bid for the estate to be both saved and protected.

Your Home by Mail: The Rise and Fall of Catalogue Housing

Gordon-Van tine’s ready-cut homes (1918). Image Courtesy of Openlibrary.org

is one of the most persistent challenges faced by the construction industry, and over the course of decades certain trends rise and fall, as entrepreneurial providers carve out new niches to provide for expanding populations and changing demographics. Originally published by BuzzBuzzHome as “The Rise and Fall of The Mail-Order House,” this article explores the craze of so-called “catalogue homes” – flat-packed houses that were delivered by mail – which became popular in North America in the first decades of the 20th century.

The testimonials make it sound effortless: building your own house is no sweat.

In the front pages of a 1921 Sears Roebuck catalogue for mail-order homes, a resident of Traverse City, Michigan identified only by the pseudonym “I Did Not Hire Any Help” wrote to the company: “I am very well pleased with my Already Cut House bought off you. All the material went together nicely. In fact, I wish I had another house to put up this summer. I really enjoyed working on such a building, and I do not follow the carpenter trade either.” It’s estimated that more than 100,000 mail-order homes were built in the United States between 1908 and 1940. It was the IKEA of housing, but instead of spending an afternoon putting together a bookshelf, buyers would take on the formidable task of building a house. Or, more commonly, get a contractor to do it. Homebuyers would pick a design of their choice out of a mail-order catalogue and the materials – from the lumber frame boards to the paint to the nails and screws – would be shipped out to the closest railway station for pickup and construction.

Kjellander + Sjöberg’s Swedish Urban Block to Increase “Civic Dialogue”

Courtesy of Kjellander + Sjöberg

Kiruna, Sweden’s northernmost town, made international headlines last year when it was announced that the entire town would be relocated two miles to the east due to mining operations by the state-controlled company. Now, the first phase of the Kiruna square redevelopment is set to commence with a design by Stockholm-based Kjellander + Sjöberg for an urban block of units around the town’s central square.

Kjellander + Sjöberg, along with development group Skanska, won a competition held by Kiruna Municipality for the square’s regeneration. Under the moniker Fjällbäcken, the urban block responds to the idiosyncratic subarctic climate in a manner the architects describe as “sustainable in the long term.” When realized, the 2000m2 housing development will have 90 apartments and feature a host of sustainable solutions. Onsite rainwater management facilities are incorporated into the project’s planning, alongside provisions for green space and ecofriendly heating and cooling systems.

Learn more about the project and view selected images after the break.

New York to Complete First Prefabricated “Micro-Apartments” this Year

With floor areas clocking in at as little as 260 square feet, My Micro NY housing units by nARCHITECTS are the latest singles-oriented housing option to enter the New York rental market. The modular units will be fabricated at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for stacking in Kips Bay this spring, and are projected to welcome their first inhabitants by the end of 2015.

Current city zoning and density rules set a minimum apartment floor area of 400 square feet, yet this regulation was waived for My Micro NY in the interests of creating more affordable housing. An inflated rental market has long posed issues for those seeking housing in the city, particularly singles and with tight budgets. My Micro NY will create 9 stories and 55 individual apartments, whose features include 9 and 10 foot ceiling heights, Juliette balconies, and concealed storage space.

A look inside, after the break. 

Student Housing from República Portátil to Foster Stronger Community Ties

Courtesy of

Chilean architects República Portátil have revealed their proposal for temporary multi-residential housing in Concepción, Chile.  Responding to sites left vacant in the wake of the 2010 Chile Earthquake, the Vertical Student Housing project would accommodate and members of the general public alike.

Driven by a desire to “promote interaction and relationships among strangers,” República Portátil frame the housing project as a counterpoint to “standardized real estate projects” which, in their view, encourage “social segregation of the city.”

Learn more about the project and view selected images after the break.

Creating A ‘Domesday Book’ Of Post-War Tower Blocks

Hulme Crescents, Manchester (c.1971)

The Edinburgh College of Art have announced that they will be creating a ‘Domesday Book’ catalogue of every multistory post-war project in the UK. The project – called Tower Blocks – Our Blocks! - will contain over 3,500 publicly accessible photographs from the 1980s, documented “at a time when post-1945 high-rise housing is continuously under threat threat across the [UK].” All images will be made searchable in a digital archive.

According to Colin McLean, Head of the Lottery Fund in Scotland, “as the high rise towers that have dominated many towns’ and city’s skylines begin to disappear, it is important for us to capture this and give voice to the experiences of those who live in these flats and communities. The Lottery Fund is delighted to be able to help make this happen.”

The project is set to be completed by 2017.

Story via AJ

Pei Cobb Freed Breaks Ground on Boston’s Tallest Residential Tower

© Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, Cambridge Seven Associates

Construction has commenced on Pei Cobb Freed & Partners’ 61-story tower in Boston’s historic Back Bay. The $700 million development will be the tallest residential building in the city, and the tallest tower to rise since the 1976 John Hancock Tower, also designed by Pei Cobb Freed.

“The project allows us to consider once again how a tall building, together with the open space it frames, can respond creatively to the need for growth while showing appropriate respect for its historic urban setting,” says Henry Cobb of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.

RSHP Reveals Plans for the “Ladywell Pop-Up Village” in Lewisham

Courtesy of

Addressing increasing housing demands in the London Borough of Lewisham, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) has unveiled their plans for the “Ladywell Pop-Up Village,” which is to become one of the UK’s first temporary housing villages.

The short term housing will provide accommodation for 24 families, alongside community and commercial spaces at street level. Drawing its name from the site of the former Ladywell Leisure Centre upon which it is to be located, the Ladywell Pop-Up Village is fully demountable, thanks to its volumetric construction technology. It is envisioned that the housing units will remain at the Ladywell site for up to four years, after which point they can be relocated throughout the Borough as needed.

UK Housing Review Panel “Needs To Be More Balanced,” Admits Terry Farrell

© Agnese Sanvito, via Farrells Facebook Page

Last week the UK Government appointed a new design panel, intended to “ensure that new homes are not only lower-cost but also high-quality and well-designed.” The panel will be led by Terry Farrell, classical architect Quinlan Terry and aesthetics philosopher Roger Scruton, as well as representatives from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), the UK Design Council and lobby group Create Streets. However, the profession was quick to criticize the selection of the three lead members of the panel.