Metropolis Magazine has released their 2016 rankings of the world's most "livable" cities. Acknowledging that what makes a city "livable" can often be subjective, the team at Metropolis emphasizes that in creating the list they "focused on the concerns at Metropolis’ core—housing, transportation, sustainability, and culture." The result of this research was last year's top prize-winner Toronto dropping to the number 9 spot and Copenhagen, which last year took the number 4 spot, jumping to the top. Rounding out the top three are Berlin and Helsinki.
Andy Klemmer has had a front-seat view of the making of some of the most important pieces of architecture of our time. The president and founder of the consulting firm Paratus Group, Klemmer was an essential part of the team that helped develop the iconic Guggenheim Bilbao. Since then, he’s gone on to consult on the California Academy of Science, the Perez Art Museum Miami, the Kimbell Art Museum expansion, working with architects like Renzo Piano, Herzog & de Meuron, and SANAA (to name a few). By liaising between institutions and their chosen architects, he has unique insight into architecture, its practice, and that essential part of the architecture puzzle: the client.
This article was originally published in Metropolis Magazine as "When It Comes to Sustainability, We're Ranking Our Cities Wrong."
A recent article published in Nature makes a bold claim: we're analyzing our cities completely wrong. Professors David Wachsmuth, Aldana Cohen, and Hillary Angelo argue that, for too long, we have defined sustainability too narrowly, only looking at environmental impact on a neighborhood or city scale rather than a regional or global scale. As a result, we have measured our cities in ways that are inherently biased towards wealthy cities, and completely ignored the negative impacts our so-called "sustainable," post-industrial cities have on the rest of the world.Metropolis editor Vanessa Quirk spoke with Professor Wachsmuth to learn more about the unintended knock-on effects of going "green," the importance of consumption-based carbon counting, and why policy-makers should be more attentive to the effects of "environmental gentrification."
It’s rare for an architect to have the opportunity to design a building in which symbolism and form are as important as function, if not more so. But this was the task given to David Adjaye when he won the commission to design the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), which, when it opens in September, will be the final Smithsonian institution to take its place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Adjaye, whose work is marked for its extreme sensitivity to context, found himself challenged in ways he had never been before. On the occasion of the completion of Adjaye’s Eugene McDermott Award residency at MIT, Metropolis editor Vanessa Quirk spoke with the architect about the new institution, its symbolic significance, and the blurry boundary between monument and museum.
As soon as photographer Harlan Erskine discovered the plans to demolish Paul Rudolph's iconic Orange County Government Center in New York, he knew he needed to bear witness to its demise. Beyond admiring the building's dynamic form, the photographer recognized its continued impact on architecture today, particularly noting its influence on Herzog and de Meuron's "Jenga tower."
Visiting on four separate occasions throughout 2015 and 2016, Erskine captured the dismantling of this iconic Brutalist work with stunning severity. See the building's final seasons below.
This article was originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "Good-bye Grand Structures: The Small-Scale Civic Architecture of Today."
The city hall of my current hometown, Scottsdale, Arizona, gives no hint of any sort of civic function to the boulevard on which it sits. You enter it from the parking lot in back. The only reason I have been there was as part of a team presenting our credentials in a design selection process. My other dealings with government have been online, via mail, or at suburban locations where I have gone to handle such matters as smog tests. I vote by mail.
The big push in American local, state, and federal government is to take everything possible online and off-site and to make whatever remains as minimal and anonymous as possible. The actual operations of government have long taken place in back rooms where politicians and bureaucrats have done the real work. Yet they were often encased in grand structures that gave us a sense of identity and pride in our government while also serving as open sites where we could encounter our civic agents and one another. As a result, we live with a heritage of civic monuments that proclaim our investment in deliberation and democracy, but we build very few, if any, such structures today. Instead, we are looking to get rid of whatever relics of such a history of civic architecture we can—the governor of Illinois would like to sell the James R. Thompson Center, designed by Helmut Jahn in 1982–85, and only the specificity of the grand classical edifices that predate that Postmodern monument prevents other politicians from trying the same. Civic buildings cost money to build and maintain, and their formal spaces sit empty most of the time.
It is the relation between the mind, which Bucky so often talked about, and experience or experiencing that I found to be the key that unlocks his work and inspired my own.
As Buckminster Fuller explained in an 1965 interview with Studs Terkel, his relationship with his daughter was very close. Now, in a previously-unpublished essay written in 1995, the daughter of "Bucky" Allegra Fuller Snyder has shared her father’s best lessons with Metropolis Magazine - explaining how she has adopted her father's approach to learning and understanding the world. Both of them engaged in “experiencing” the living environment, “involving one’s whole self, not being present at, or observing, something, but “doing” that thing.”
At any given moment when walking through Roberto Burle Marx: Brazilian Modernist at the Jewish Museum in New York, one may hear a soft rushing of waves, mixed with the murmur of an open-air crowd. A narration in Portuguese, both spoken and sung, will drift breezily in and out. This is the soundscape of Plages, a 2001 video by artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster. Shot from an aerial perspective above Copacabana Beach, the film shows the popular Rio de Janeiro waterfront not in its usual sunlit splendor but in the artificially lit nocturne of New Year’s Eve 2000. Celebrators teem in the space between city and ocean, in the moment between one year and the next, moving in dynamic patterns amid the immense designs laid out by Roberto Burle Marx.
This essay by Jenine Kotob was originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "Why Now, More Than Ever, We Need A New Islamic Architecture."
At a time when Muslims find themselves at the center of the nation’s political stage, the topic of Islamic architecture in the United States is more relevant than ever. The American mosque has become a prominent symbol, within which identities, practices, and cultures converge. More often than not, this convergence results in conflicting goals, further resulting in mosques that fail to identify and serve the needs of their diverse constituents.
In this article, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "Redefining (and Redesigning) The Way WeWork," Anne Quito visits WeWork's offices in New York to discover how the company is using its own headquarters as the test bed for its future product offering.
In a nondescript building in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, the global headquarters of WeWork buzzes with creative energy. In just a little over six years, the start-up at the forefront of the coworking-space rental boom has created a $16 billion operation with 50,000 members in 28 cities, with 96 locations announced for this year.
Spread across two and a half floors, the 50,000-square-foot headquarters is the home base for WeWork’s almost-700-strong New York–based staff and serves as a laboratory for its designers.
Recently the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment published, for the first time, a comprehensive report about the winners from the debut year (1997) through 2015: “Lessons from the Leading Edge.” Its lead author, a current COTE advisory board member, Lance Hosey, set out to review two decades of Top Ten winners as a group to see how performance is changing over time, how the winners size up (scale, cost, type), and more.
The result is a compelling report. It reveals that these high-performing projects skew small. That performance gains and metrics, particularly real-time performance metrics, are improving each year. That the leading projects tend to be expensive. On average, they come in at $537 per square foot. “The cost data shows us that we need more compelling examples of lower-cost, higher performance projects,” Hosey says. Clearly, more exemplars at greater scale, type, and cost variation would be beneficial to both the profession and the market.
This article was originally published on Metropolis Magazine as "Citizen Bridge, NYC's First Floating Bridge, Reaches Kickstarter Goal."
Governors Island is a small, pedestrian-only island to the south of Manhattan and to the west of Brooklyn. It’s just across from Red Hook, the Brooklyn neighborhood known to many a Manhattanite as the home of New York’s only Ikea. To get there, you have to take the East River Ferry—that’s the only option. No subway, no bus, no rail. But it wasn’t always that way.
Nancy Nowacek is a Red Hook-based artist whose vision, since 2012, has been to create an alternative way to reach this backyard of New York City. She has always had a close relationship with the waterfront, but many, she suggests, do not. “It’s really hard to get to the water’s edge from most points inland,” she says. “It’s not a part of the New York that the kids in my building...live in, nor many others who live a few miles away geographically, but experientially are a world away.”
This interview was originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "MIT on the Frontier: An Interview with Hashim Sarkis."
At this year's Biennale, "Reporting from the Front," MIT will have an unusually widespread presence. Ten full-time and visiting faculty, six alumni, and a handful of other MIT-affiliates (many invited by curator Alejandro Aravena himself) will contribute to over 15 installations, including "Rwanda Droneport," a full-scale earthen masonry shell designed by Norman Foster, which will serve as a small airport for drones delivering supplies to inaccessible areas of Rwanda, and "Courtyard House Plug-In," a prefabricated building system designed to be inserted into Beijing's dilapidated courtyard houses. To discuss MIT's significance on the architectural stage today, we spoke with the Dean of MIT's School of Architecture and Planning, Hashim Sarkis, who, it was recently announced, will also serve on the Biennale jury.
Gillespie, Kidd & Coia's celebrated St Peter's Seminary—once voted Scotland's best modern building—has for too long been a victim of fate, left to decay after it was abandoned just 20 years after its completion. Fortunately, plans are well underway to restore the building. This article, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "Ruin Revived," explains how even in its ruined state, the dramatic brutalist structure is already showing its value as a cultural destination.
Modernist architecture, it used to be said, was inadequate because the machined materials of modern buildings wouldn’t lend themselves well to picturesque ruination. What, minus the taut skins of glass and plaster, could these stark, boxlike carcasses possibly communicate to future generations?
St. Peter’s Seminary in Cardross, Scotland, is a forceful rejoinder to that jibe. Built in 1966 and abandoned 20 years later, the seminary has settled into a state of pleasing decrepitude. Glass and plaster are long gone. The concrete remains largely intact but stained, spalled, and spoiled. Entire roofs and staircases have caved in. The only fresh signs of life are the aprons of graffiti draped all over the “interiors.” Yet, the sense of the place lingers, its noble forms still remarkably assertive—jutting forth from the dense surrounding forest—and optimistic.
For the architecture-obsessed reader, it can sometimes be tough to keep up with the publishing world. With architecture-related interests spanning from photography to philosophy, new books are released at an alarming rate and it can be difficult to spot the good from the bad. Fortunately, the good folks at Metropolis Magazine are here to help. In this article, excerpted from their list of 50 Architecture and Design Books to Read This Spring, Metropolis editors select the top architecture titles to come out this year to give you a helping hand in rounding out your reading list.
When Alejandro Aravena was awarded the Pritzker Prize earlier this month, he made a remarkable and significant announcement: he had published the plans of four of his social housing projects on his website, for anyone and everyone to study and use.
Through the work of his firm Elemental, Aravena is known for his interest in incremental, participatory housing design: a common-sense way of working within financial restraints and a cornerstone of Elemental’s studio work. The motto—focus first on what is most difficult to achieve, what cannot be done individually, and what will guarantee the common good in the future—resulted in a “half a house.” First introduced over a decade ago, the model consists of an expandable 40 square-meter (431 square-feet) container with basic infrastructure (partitions, structural and firewalls, bathroom, kitchen, stairs, a roof) built-in and added to over time. It is not only an achievement from a conceptual and project management standpoint, but also an aesthetically open and diverse project. From this one idea stemmed 100 variations.
At the end of 2015, OMA’s first major commission, the Netherlands Dance Theater (NDT) was swiftly demolished. The once-praised building was reduced to dust and debris within a few months, without drawing much attention from the architecture world. Koolhaas had heard rumors about the demolition of the NDT over the last decade, but did not expect the lack of public outcry. “There was almost nothing, almost zero,” he said.
Using the NDT as a case study, Metropolis Magazine takes a look at how the early works of our most lauded architects are treated when they are no longer fit for purpose, and asks how we decide on the role preservation plays in the architectural profession. Is the demolition of the NDT a sign of lack of respect for OMA? Or is it a more general sign of our current era of rapidly changing styles and a need for larger buildings? Read the full story by Metropolis Magazine, here.
"Part of war and conflict has always been the collateral damage. Buildings have fallen in the path of military objectives, but, [...] in this war, buildings aren't destroyed because they're in the way of a target. The buildings are the target." As the narrator of The Destruction of Memory so eloquently explains, the destruction of culture—of buildings, books, and art—is often not an accidental consequence of conflict. As we can see by the actions of ISIS in Iraq and Syria today, the destruction of cultural artifacts is part and parcel of a conscientious strategy to target and destroy the collective memory, history, and identity of a people.