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.
Architecture begins with ideas—and, for Will Alsop, sometimes with a painting. This interview is the first in a series of conversations with internationally prominent architects conducted by Sanam Samanian and Alex Bozikovic. The British iconoclast gives an overview of his creative process: why he’s bored by the details of building; why we shouldn’t think of architecture as a “profession”; and why we should think of architecture as a way to make life more joyous.
Read the captivating interview with Will Alsop, after the break…
WNYC has just released a candid interview they recorded with Wright in 1957, two years before his death, in his Plaza Hotel apartment (where he’d moved to oversee construction of the Guggenheim, which he’d been working on for 14 years). The conversation covers a wide range of topics – from Wright’s quirky personal views on American culture to the significance of architecture for mankind. Some gems from the interview include:
On the Guggenheim and its critics: “You’re going to be awakened to the beauty of that thing [a picture, a painting] from a new point of view. And it’s going to be so enlivening and refreshing, that it will make some of these painters quite ashamed of the protest that they issued against it.”
More quotes from Frank Lloyd Wright, after the break…
In conjunction with our recent coverage of the Xi’an International Horticultural Expo, we would like to share Aidan Flaherty’s interview with Holger Kehne, co-principle of Plasma Studio and GroundLab. Plasma Studio, GroundLab and LAUR Studio worked together to win this international competition with a 37-hectare master plan for the International Horticultural Expo, a 5,000SM Exhibition Hall, a 4,000SM Greenhouse, and a 3,500SM Gate Building. The project initiated the re-development of a large area between the airport and the center of the ancient city of Xi’an – known as the home of the Terracotta Army of the Qin Dynasty.
The Expo opened in the spring of 2011 and welcomed more than 16 million visitors before it closed in the fall of 2011. The Expo park will remain as a new contemporary addition to the Xi’an region. The particularities of this legacy plan are currently underway. Holger Kehne discusses his firms’ unique design methodologies and multidisciplinary approach while working on this large-scale project. Read the interview after the break.
Richard Meier recently discussed his perspective on creating public spaces. He expands on his experiences of designing numerous buildings across the globe and their importance in relation to public spaces. He discourses how the Getty Center in LA fosters a special environment for all activities, whether it be viewing the entire city or participating in cultural activities – the surroundings of the building are just as important as the structure itself. He also comments on the significance of the square that is encompassed on one side by his Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, and its destination as a mecca for teenage skateboarders and the seniors that come to watch the youths. Interestingly enough, his talk emphasizes the places that surround the architecture, the idea that the intent is not about making a building or monument, it is about creating a place and making a statement. This in turn makes for a much more exciting architectural experience – because it is the spaces that objects make that we inhabit.