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.”
Justin McGuirk’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.
On display until May 31st, the Vitra Design Museum’s “Architecture of Independence – African Modernism” exhibition displays a cross-section of Africa’s experimental architecture from the post-colonial years of the 1960s. Covering more than 80 projects in Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and Senegal, the exhibition aims to shed light on this little-known period of architecture history, and challenge Western notions of African countries. In this interview, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “Q&A: Curator Manuel Herz on Africa’s ‘Grandiose’ Modern Architecture,” Curator Manuel Herz reveals the origins of the exhibition and shares his thoughts light on some of the buildings which the exhibition highlights.
Clare Dowdy: What triggered your interest in the post-colonial architecture of Central and Sub-Saharan Africa?
Manuel Herz: I was in Nairobi a couple of times around 2007 and noticed the architecture of that period was of outstanding quality but virtually unknown outside Kenya. This triggered an interest to research the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa. I found that the political urgency that existed at the time of the independence process is embodied in the architecture.
In their fifth annual “Game Changers” survey, Metropolis Magazine sought to uncover the visionaries who have the potential to make waves in design and architecture. Profiling six of design’s ”foremost forward-looking talents,” the list includes Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine, the filmmaking duo whose “Living Architectures” series takes a sideways glance at some of the world’s most celebrated buildings; Amy Mielke and Caitlin Gucker-Kanter Taylor, whose work as Water Pore Partnership topped BIG and The Living for Holcim’s North America Award; and finally Aggregate, a collaborative of architecture historians who are rethinking the way we do architecture theory. For the full list and profiles of all those featured on it, head on over to Metropolis Magazine.
New York City is home to a plethora of Postmodernist designs — from the impressive Sony Tower to the diminuative Central Park Ballplayers’ House — but most remain unprotected by traditional heritage registries. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission is at the threshold of its 50th anniversary but has yet to recognize the architectural successes of 1970 up to the most recent eligible year for landmarking, 1984. The commission has been unnecessarily slow to recognize Postmodernist structures in New York City, say Paul Makovsky and Michael Gotkin writing for Metropolis Magazine, who argue that the absence of historical recognition for Postmodernism has come at a high cost, citing the recladding of Takashimaya Building on Fifth Avenue as a “wake-up call” for the Commission.
The USA’s tallest building shoulders one of the nation’s greatest challenges: paying tribute to lives lost in one of the country’s greatest tragedies. One World Trade Center in lower Manhattan has yet to be completed and yet has still recently been condemned by a number of critics, who cite the former “Freedom Tower” as an inspirational failure. Thirteen years after the attacks, the wider site at ground zero also remains plagued by red tape and bureaucratic delays, unfinished and as-yet-unbuilt World Trade Centers, Calatrava’s $5B transit hub, and an absence of reverence, according to critics. Read some of the most potent reviews of the new World Trade Center site from the press in our compilation after the break.
“Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014 is an invitation to the national pavilions to show, each in their own way, the process of the erasure of national characteristics in architecture in favor of the almost universal adoption of a single modern language and a single repertoire of typologies.” In this article, originally published on Metropolis Magazine as “Whose Modernity?“, Avinash Rajagopal investigates the conflict this mandated theme at the 2014 Venice Biennale unintentionally created between the Northern and Southern pavilions - with Northern pavilions tending to declare sole ownership over Modernism and many Southern pavilions denying that their countries were passive recipients of the North’s globalization. For more on how the Southern pavilions challenged the typical conveyance of architectural history, continue reading after the break.
With summer quickly coming to a close, time is running out to squeeze in one last good book. If you’re open to suggestions, Metropolis Magazine recently rallied its staff members and a slew of notable architects, designers, and curators to round up an impressive list of summer reads. Amongst the architectural contributors are Mason White of Lateral Office, Donald Chong of Williamson Chong Architects, and Drew Seskunas of The Principals.
The list contains something for everyone — there are works of fiction, biographies, atlases, and collections of essays, projects, poems, and short stories. The majority of the books are contemporary, but some date back much further. One of Chong’s picks is Jun’ichiro Tanaka’s In Praise of Shadows, which was written in 1933 on the subject of traditional Japanese aesthetics. The book contains 16 essays in which the author timelessly implores his countrymen not to “lose touch with the honesty of well-made things and spaces… already been surrounding them.”
One of Seskunas’ picks, E.H. Gombrick’s A Little History of the World, also deals with the importance of context. For Seskunas, “knowing the history of our planet is a great way to begin thinking about its future. This book puts it all in perspective, moving from local to global scale and magically weaving seemingly disparate parts into a common history of the human race that is both horrifying and inspiring.” To check out the full list, click here to head to Metropolis Magazine.
Originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “Playing in Traffic“, this article by Jack Hockenberry delves into the relationship between man and vehicle, illustrating the complex dynamic created in New York – a city with over 2.1 Million registered vehicles. Contrary to the car-centric schemes of New York’s infamous former Master Planner Robert Moses, Hockenberry argues that the city is the “negative space” while vehicles are obscured by our unconscious.
It is a curiosity of modern urban life that the more cars crowd into cities, the more they become invisible. It’s a great feature that comes standard on any model these days. Unfortunately we can’t control it from the driver’s seat—however much we would like to wave our hands and watch through our windshields as gridlocked cars disappear, liberating us from traffic imprisonment. The invisibility I am speaking about only works if you’re a pedestrian or bicyclist. The number of motorized vehicles parked or driving at any given moment on the streets of New York City is astounding. An estimated 2.1 million are registered in the city, according to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Yet we never fully register them visually when we’re walking on the streets. The city is the negative space and that is how our eyes increasingly navigate urban landscapes. Everything around the cars and trucks gets knitted together by the eye and, even though the vehicles are present, we have gradually learned to ignore them unless we’re standing in the direct line of moving traffic.
“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 landscape architecture 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.
Many architects have portfolios full of projects that were never built, and Frank Lloyd Wright is no exception. Now, however, the Buffalo Pierce-Arrow museum in New York 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.
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.
“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 design 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).
Although office design 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 New York 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.
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 Manhattan’s scale. You can read the full article here.
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 design 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.
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
Originally appearing in Metropolis Magazine 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
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