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.
At any given moment when walking through Roberto Burle Marx: Brazilian Modernistat 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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
In recent years, it's been no secret that Dubai has been attempting to diversify its industries, as the city moves on from being an oil-based economy. In this article, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "Dubai: Making a Creative Capital from Scratch," Ali Morris investigates how the city is building its own design district to rival London or New York - and doing so despite starting from almost nothing.
In cities where a faded industrial area exists, a creative community often follows. It’s a well-established cycle of urban regeneration that has played out in Berlin, London, and New York. Attracted by cheap rent and large, empty spaces, the creatives come, building up areas with independent cafés and stores before inevitably being priced out of the market by the very gentrification they helped to bring about.
So what happens in a city so young that it doesn’t have a dilapidated area for the creatives to occupy? When the city in question is Dubai, which was still just a desert fishing settlement until around the 1960s, you build it from scratch, of course. With the second part of a three-phase build unveiled last year, Dubai Design District (known as d3) is a sprawling 15.5-million-square-foot (1.4 million square meter) development located in a desert plot on the eastern edge of the city. Circled by multilane highways and located between downtown Dubai and a wildlife reserve, d3 has been masterminded as a framework from which to grow and sustain a new design ecosystem.
In May last year, the Rolex Mentors & Protégés initiative announced a surprising partnership in its name: Paraguayan architect Gloria Gabral was to spend a year working alongside the famously elusive Swiss master Peter Zumthor. The differences between the two architects - from the languages they spoke to the age of their respective careers - were obvious from the outset. But as explored in this article by Paul Clemence, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "Intuitive Connection," over the past year they've been discovering that the things that they have in common run far deeper.
It was an unlikely pair. He is a well-established architect with a long career, working out of a small town tucked deep in the mountainous Graubünden canton in Switzerland; she is at the beginning of a promising career in Asunción, Paraguay’s capital and largest city. They did not even share a common language, yet they connected through something more binding than the spoken word: an intuitive sense of space—and their work ethic.
After he achieved celebrity status at the turn of the millennium, in recent years the conversation around Frank Gehry has switched tones, going from near-universal admiration to widespread controversy. Yet according to Paul Goldberger, whose biography of Gehry was released in September, both adoration and critique of the architect might engender an overly simplistic interpretation of his long and storied career. In this interview originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "Q&A: Paul Goldberger on Frank Gehry's Life and Work," Goldberger delves into the many ways Gehry has been misunderstood over the years, and how his work, his psyche, and the interplay between the two have made him one of the most conversation-worthy architects of a generation.
Frank Gehry isn’t just the world’s foremost architect; he is, by all public standards, also one of our greatest living artists. Paul Goldberger’s new biography (his first), Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry, acknowledges the architect’s celebrity status but doesn’t acquiesce in it. Rather, Goldberger interrogates the peculiar psyche and restless contradictions of the man to shed light on the motivations behind the architecture. Metropolis editor Samuel Medina speaks to the newly minted biographer about defying genre conventions, unpacking the ambiguities of Gehry’s work, and giving reporters the finger.