What Urbanists Can Learn From Low-Income Neighborhoods

Courtesy of Metropolis Magazine

“For the most part, the way urbanists view black neighborhoods (and other low-income neighborhoods and communities of color) are as problems that need to be fixed. At the heart of what I want to say is what can we as urbanists learn from these neighborhoods?” So asks Sara Zewde, a student at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and this year’s Landscape Architecture Foundation’s Olmsted Scholar, in a fascinating profile on Metropolis Magazine. Read more about Zewde and her work here.

Rare Frank Lloyd Wright Gas Station Brought to Life

Courtesy of Pierce-Arrow Museum

Many architects have portfolios full of projects that were never built, and Frank Lloyd Wright is no exception.  Now, however, the Pierce-Arrow museum in has brought one of Wright’s more imaginative conceptual projects to life. In this article from Metropolis, we are introduced to a gas station designed by Wright for his (also unbuilt) Broadacre City project. 

Lonberg-Holm: The Forgotten Architect, Remembered

Radio Broadcasting Station, Detroit by Knud Lonberg-Holm. Image Courtesy of

In one of his final interviews, Knud Lonberg-Holm quipped, “I’ve always been annoyed by rummaging through the past; the future interests me much more.” Not one to promote himself, the modernist architect all but disappeared after retirement, seemingly taking his contributions to architecture with him. After years of neglect, investigative research has finally unearthed just how influential Lonberg-Holm was. To learn about how he shaped information design (among many other things), continue reading Paul Makovsky’s exclusive article on Metropolis Magazine.

Charles Moore: Going Against the Grain

A portrait of Moore, who was always more interested in how people moved through spaces­—and the resulting fragmentary views—­than a single beauty shot. Image Courtesy of Charles Moore Foundation

“Who threw this tantrum?” This question sums up how Charles Moore’s peers reacted when they saw his Lovejoy Fountain project for the first time. Moore was always a bit unconventional by contemporary standards – he designed what others would not dare, creating a body of work that alludes to everything from Italian baroque forms to Mexican folk art colors to Japanese wood construction. Originally published as Why Charles Moore (Still) Matters on Metropolis Magazine, check out Alexandra Lange’s thoughtful piece on the influential architect after the break.

“Stop work. It looks like a prison.” That was the telegram from the developers in response to Moore Lyndon Turnbull Whitaker’s (MLTW) first for the Sea Ranch, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Architects Charles Moore, Donlyn Lyndon, William Turnbull, and Richard Whitaker, working with landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, had used sugar cubes to model the 24-foot module for each of the condominium’s original ten units. And that boxy choice, combined with the simplest of windows and vertical redwood siding, produced something more penitentiary than vacation (it’s sited on a choice stretch of Sonoma coast).

O+A: In Search of Optimal Office Design

The Giant Pixel Corporation: This software development company in San Francisco occupies three tight floors of largely open-plan space. “We tried to provide different levels of acoustical privacy,” says O+A cofounder Denise Cherry. “The fully enclosed conference room is for confidential conversations, but you also have in-between spaces, like the canopied cabanas, which are connected to the work area—connected to the open plan—but still have some acoustic and even some visual separation.” Conference room ceiling made of recording-studio foam manufactured by Auralex. Image © Jasper Sanidad

Although has dramatically and drastically changed over the course of the 20th century, we aren’t finished yet. San Francisco firm O+A is actively searching for today’s optimal office design, designing work spaces to encourage both concentration and collaboration by merging elements from the cubicle-style office with those popularized by Steve Jobs. In this article, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “Noises Off,” Eva Hagberg takes a look at some of their built works.

In the beginning was the cubicle. And the cubicle was almost everywhere, and the cubicle held almost everyone, and it was good. Then there was the backlash, and the cubicle was destroyed, put aside, swept away in favor of the open plan, the endless span of space, floor, and ceiling—punctuated by the occasional column so that the roof wouldn’t collapse onto the floor plate—and everyone talked about collaboration, togetherness, synergy, randomness and happenstance. Renzo Piano designed a  Times building with open stairways so writers and editors could (would have to) run into one another, and everyone remembered the always-ahead-of-the-curve Steve Jobs who, when he was running Pixar, asked for only two bathrooms in the whole Emeryville building, and insisted they be put on the ground floor lobby so that designers and renderers could (would have to) run into each other, and such was the office culture of the new millennium.

And then there was the backlash to the backlash. Those writers wanted their own offices, and editors wanted privacy, and not everyone wanted to be running into people all the time, because not everyone was actually collaborating, even though their bosses and their bosses’ bosses said that they should, because collaboration, teamwork, and togetherness—these were the new workplace buzzwords. Until they weren’t. Until people realized that they were missing—as architect Ben Jacobson said in a Gensler sponsored panel on the need to create a balance between focus and collaboration—the concept of “parallel play,” i.e. people working next to each other, but not necessarily with each other. Until individuality came back, particularly in San Francisco in the tech scene, and particularly in the iconoclastic start-up tech scene, where people began to want something a little different.

A Mini Marble Manhattan

Courtesy of David Zwirner Gallery

You’ve never seen Manhattan quite like this: Metropolis Magazine‘s Komal Sharma takes a look at “Little Manhattan“, a sculpture by Yutaka Sone which renders the famous island in 2.5 tons of solid marble. The power of the artwork lies in the play with scale: the initial impression of a huge marble block contrasts with the tiny, intricately detailed skyline forming a mere skin on top; the subsequent realization that this skin corresponds to the familiar vertical city brings you to a more complete understanding of ’s scale. You can read the full article here.

Deborah Sussman: Breaking the Boundaries Between Architecture & Graphic Design

© Flickr CC User David Cobb

In this delightful article on Metropolis Magazine, Christopher Hawthorne recounts his meeting with Deborah Sussman, the one-time protégé of Charles and Ray Eames whose work breaks the boundaries between graphic and architecture. From her collaboration with Frank Gehry to her iconic designs for the 1984 LA Olympics, Sussman has come to define a curiously Californian style. You can read the full article here.

INTERIORS: The Monthly Zine Mapping Film’s Fascinating Spaces

Up, Issue 15. Image Courtesy of Interiors Journal

Originally appearing on Metropolis as A Pair of Artists Use Architecture to Study Film, Colin Warren-Hicks profiles “Interiors“, a monthly zine that analyzes important spaces in Films and TV through reconstructed architectural plans – and whose creators also contribute to Archdaily on a monthly basis

Can a good film director be a good architect? That’s the premise behind Interiors, a monthly online zine that critically investigates the link between film and architecture. Each issue breaks down, in architectural notation, a memorable set or scene from a movie or television series. (Lately, the subjects have expanded to include a Justin Timberlake music video and even a stage from Kanye West’s Yeezus tour.) The diagrams are accompanied by a lengthy essay that supplements the spatial analysis.

Read more about “Interiors” – and see a collection of plans produced for the journal – after the break

The Architecture of Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock on the set of Rope, with actors Jimmy Steward, John Dall, and Farley Granger. Image Courtesy of nai010 publishers

Originally appearing in as “Hitchcock and the Architecture of Suspense,” this article by Samuel Medina reviews Steven Jacobs’ book The Wrong House: The Architecture of Alfred Hitchcock, which uses expert analysis and reconstructed floor plans to examine how the master created suspense with his sets.

In the films of Alfred Hitchcock, things happen, but the events that gave rise to them are easily forgotten. You quickly forget how A leads to B or, say, by what elaborate means Roger Thornhill ends up at Mt. Rushmore in North by Northwest. But as the French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard observed, the Hitchcockian cinema compels not with story, but with images—the open-palmed hand reaching for the door, the simulated fall down the staircase, the whorling retreat of the camera from a dead woman’s face. These stark snippets imbue the films with their uncanny allure and imprint themselves in the mind of the spectator much more effectively than any of the master’s convoluted plots.

Read on for more on the role architecture plays in Hitchcock’s films

Photos of Eero Saarinen’s Abandoned Bell Labs

© Rob Dobi

This article by Samuel Medina originally appeared in , titled “Eero Saarinen’s Bell Labs, Now Devoid of Life” and features stunning photos of the abandoned leviathan by Rob Dobi.

At its peak, thousands passed through its massive, light-filled atrium. Today, Bell Labs Holmdel stands empty, all of its 1.9-million-square-feet utterly without life. An iconic example of the now-disparaged office park, the campus in central Jersey, was shuttered in 2007 and vacated soon after. Years later, it remains in an abandoned, if not unkept state. The grounds are cared for, the floors swept clean, and the interior plantings trimmed, however haphazardly. (That’s saying something; in the laboratory’s heyday, plastic shrubbery filled its glorious central hall.)

More about the building’s future, and more photos by Rob Dobi, after the break

Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp, Vandalized

AD Classics: Ronchamp / . Image © Cara Hyde-Basso

Originally posted in Metropolis Magazine, Samuel Medina reports on the irreparable damage caused by vandalism at Le Corbusier’s Chapel of Ronchamp.  

On Friday, a nun gave warning that the Chapel of Ronchamp, considered by many to be one of the key architectural works of the last century, had been vandalized. When police arrived on the scene, they found signs of forced entry: a stained-glass window, one of many executed by Le Corbusier, was broken and a concrete trunk was missing. As Le Monde reports, the intruders had also attempted to gain entry via a door. The overall damage was, according to some, “priceless” because the stained-glass had borne an original illustration by Le Corbusier. An initial assessment from the department of historical monuments found the window to be irreparable.

Norman Foster Talks Meeting Niemeyer

Oscar Niemeyer and Lord in 2011. “He was in wonderful spirits—charming and, notwithstanding his 104 years, his youthful energy and creativity were inspirational.”. Image Courtesy of Foster + Partners

In this interview, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “Q&A: Norman Foster on Niemeyer, Nature and Cities“, Paul Clemence talks with Lord Foster about his respect for Niemeyer, their meeting shortly before the great master’s death, and how Niemeyer’s work has influenced his own.

Last December, in the midst of a hectic schedule of events that have come to define Art Basel/ Miami, I found myself attending a luncheon presentation of the plans for the Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach, by Foster + Partners. While chatting with Lord Foster, I mentioned my Brazilian background and quickly the conversation turned to Oscar Niemeyer. Foster mentioned the talk he and Niemeyer had shortly before the Brazilian’s passing (coincidentally that same week in December marked the first anniversary of Niemeyer’s death). Curious to know more about the meeting and their chat, I asked Foster about that legendary encounter and some of the guiding ideas behind his design for the Norton.

Read on for the interview

Game Changer: Alistair Parvin

Parvin’s WikiHouse team shares a floor in London with 00:/ studio, operating in a space pro- vided by Hub Westminster, a collaborative of creative and social enterprises. Image © Kate Peters via Metropolis Magazine

Metropolis Magazine has unveiled its 4th annual Game Changers – including architects Eric Owen Moss and Alistair Parvin, the co-founder of WikiHouse, an open-sourced platform for architecture. In the following article, Jonathan Glancey profiles Parvin and asks: is WikiHouse a threat to architects? Or “a glimpse into our digital design future”?

I first met WikiHouse cofounder Alastair Parvin—not in the flesh, of course, much less in print—courtesy of YouTube. You can do the same by watching his lecture, “Architecture for the People by the People.” In the video, Parvin explains the WikiHouse concept to the 2013 annual TED conference in Long Beach, California. Looking young and trim in a white shirt and blue jeans, Parvin’s voice is chipper and confident as he delivers his provocative idea to the world.

Given that the 1,600 TED lectures that are currently available online have been viewed more than a billion times, you may have already heard a little about the WikiHouse by now. In case you haven’t, it’s “an open- source construction set,” according to the WikiHouse online collaborative. “The aim is to allow anyone to design, download, and ‘print’ CNC-milled houses and components, which can be assembled with minimal skill or training.”

A-KAMP47 / Stephane Malka

Courtesy of Lauren Garbit, via Metropolis Magazine

In an industrial section of Marseille, climb up a factory wall like a canvas creeper, housing urban campers and the local homeless alike. A-KAMP47Stephane Malka’s newest installation, subtly critiques the French state’s promise for universal housing as well as makes an architectural commentary – Malka cites Le Corbusier‘s Unite D’Habitation as inspiration. Metropolis Magazine’s Samuel Medina takes an in-depth look at the project in “Hiding in Plain Sight.

Raphael Sperry Speaks About His Quest for Humane Prison Design

Deanna Van Buren’s ‘Mediation Womb’ could form part of an alternative to inhumane prison . Image Courtesy of FOURM Studio

In this interview in Metropolis Magazine, Raphael Sperry elaborates on the goal of his organization Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility to ban members of the AIA from designing execution chambers and certain forms of prisons. He explains why the AIA’s existing charter should make this ban a no-brainer as well as highlights the success and support the campaign has received, even in unexpected places. You can read the full article here.

Famous Museums Recreated in Candy

The Guggenheim Museum, realized in icing, gingerbread, cotton candy, candy wrappers, licorice, and sugar. Image Courtesy of Henry Hargreaves

Originally posted in as “Iconic Museums, Rendered In Gingerbread“, Samuel Medina looks into a fun project to realize world-famous buildings in various types of candy.

Had Hansel and Gretel stumbled across one of these sugary structures, they may have taken off in the opposite direction. Dark, gloomy, and foreboding, the confectionary architecture would have made quite the impression on Jack Skellington, however. The project, by food artist Caitlin Levin and photographer Henry Hargreaves, is clearly indebted to the gothic mise-en-scène of the latter’s expressionistic underworld, a dreary, but whimsical land where one might half expect to find a twisted (gumball) doppelganger of the Tate Modern or Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI.

Find out more about the process behind this sweet project after the break

The Fountainhead: Everything That’s Wrong with Architecture

Gary Cooper as Howard Roark in a film adaptation of . Via Courtesy King Vidor, (Warner Brothers, 1949).. Image Courtesy of Metropolis Magazine

Howard Roark, the fictional architect envisioned by Ayn Rand in The Fountainhead, has possibly done more for the profession in the past century than any real architect at all – inspiring hundreds to enter architecture and greatly shaping the public’s perception. And, according to Lance Hosey, Chief Sustainability Officer at RTKL, that couldn’t be more damaging. In his recent article “The Fountainhead All Over Again,” for Metropolis Magazine, he details why it’s such a problem, going so far as to accuse Ayn Rand’s dictatorial protagonist of committing architectural terrorism.

It came out in 1943, exactly 70 years ago this summer. In the movie version a few years later, Gary Cooper played Howard Roark, the character famously modeled after Frank Lloyd Wright. Since then, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, her “hymn in praise of the individual” ( Times), has made legions of young people want to become architects. The late Lebbeus Woods wrote that the story “has had an immense impact on the public perception of architects and architecture, and also on architects themselves, for better and for worse.” I’d say worse. In fact, the Fountainhead remains the perfect representation of everything that’s wrong with the profession.

The Dean of Parsons: Design Education Must Change

via Josh Barndt, Alexandra Castillo Kesper, Braden Crooks, Aubrey Murdock, Joel Stein, and Charles Wirene. This year Parsons formed a partnership with New York City’s Center for Social Innovation to incubate -led social innovation projects by Parsons students and alumni. One of the projects in development is Citysteading, a community-driven process for empowering and engaging marginal-ized communities. Image Courtesy of

Although university is meant to be a place of educational exploration, paths, particularly for architects and designers, tend to be extremely prescribed. In “Notes from the Dean,” originally published in Metropolis Magazine, Executive Dean Joel Towers describes how the Parsons New School for Design is pioneering a new design program that is more reflective of modern design approaches: “The world has changed; the role of design has changed. And the way that designers are taught to engage with the world must change, too.”

Every generation is presented with challenges specific to its time and place. We live in a world changing in ways that were unimaginable at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when design education first began to take shape. Technology (aided and abetted by design), advances in scientific knowledge, and shifts in social and cultural norms shaped design in the twentieth century. Our problems today involve more complex and interconnected systems—climate, cities, resources, networks, flows—and call for a new paradigm. Design in the twenty-first century is of critical importance in both addressing these challenges and transforming them into opportunities to remake the world around us. To do so, design education must change.

Design schools have traditionally adhered to a model that builds programs based on a foundation year, a well-defined and contained introduction to the basics of material, form, and color. And while that foundation is an important cornerstone of design education, it leaves little room for the more exploratory methods of cross-disciplinary and technology-based learning, and for understanding and applying design in the context of the larger world. That old model needs to evolve to reflect design’s enhanced role as a catalyst for innovation and creativity.