We’ve built you a better ArchDaily. Learn more and let us know what you think. Send us your feedback »

This New Brick by MIT-Researchers Uses Little Energy and Helps Deplete Landfills

Traditional Red Bricks. Image Courtesy of MIT Tata Center
Traditional Red Bricks. Image Courtesy of MIT Tata Center

India has one of the fastest growing populations in the world and to accommodate it, a better building material is needed. Currently over 200 billion of the country’s traditional clay fired bricks are manufactured every year, resulting in numerous pollution and environmental problems. To address these issues, a team from MIT –- composed of students Michael Laracy and Thomas Poinot, along with professors Elsa Olivetti, Hamlin Jennings and John Ochsendorf -- has developed Eco-BLAC bricks: an alternative to traditional bricks that reuses industrial waste and is low-cost and low energy. 

Sex and Real Estate, Reconsidered: What Was the True Story Behind Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House?

Unidentified woman, perhaps Edith Farnsworth, at Farnsworth House. Undated.  [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois.
Unidentified woman, perhaps Edith Farnsworth, at Farnsworth House. Undated. [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois.

In 1951, Mies van der Rohe completed a house in Plano, Illinois that was the epitome of his modernist ideals; with a steel structure surrounded entirely by glass walls the building perfectly connected the user with its idyllic natural setting, and it was - and is - venerated as a masterwork. A lesser-known story about the work is how its owner Dr Edith Farnsworth attempted to sue her architect, in a story of bitterness and unrequited love - but even less well-known, argues Nora Wendl, is the story of what really happened. In this excerpt from her essay "Uncompromising Reasons for Going West: A Story of Sex and Real Estate, Reconsidered," published in Thresholds issue 43: "Scandalous," Wendl examines the overblown and dubious assertions made about Farnsworth's intentions, finding that the truth may be much more simple: perhaps the Farnsworth House is just not a pleasant place to live.

“I have decided to speak up.”

Such is the threshold between a private affair and a public scandal: one person speaks. These are also the opening lines to “The Threat to the Next America,” which appears in the April 1953 issue of House Beautiful. Penned by editor Elizabeth Gordon, the article describes an unnamed, but “highly intelligent, now disillusioned, woman who spent more than $70,000 building a 1-room house that is nothing but a glass cage on stilts.”[1] Gordon warns readers of a design movement sweeping the nation:

Something is rotten in the state of design—and it is spoiling some of our best efforts in modern living. After watching it for several years, after meeting it with silence, House Beautiful has decided to speak out and appeal to your common sense, because it is common sense that is mostly under attack. Two ways of life stretch before us. One leads to the richness of variety, to comfort and beauty. The other, the one we want fully to expose to you, retreats to poverty and unlivability. Worst of all, it contains the threat of cultural dictatorship.[2]

Farnsworth House, south façade and terrace. Undated.  [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois. Farnsworth House, interior. Undated.  [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois. Farnsworth House, looking northwest from the interior of screened-in porch, furnished by Farnsworth. Undated.  [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois. Farnsworth House, exterior, view of south façade and east end of terrace with Farnsworth’s sculptures. Undated.  [BACK] Gorman’s Child Photography. Courtesy and copyright of Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois.

Light Matters: Heightening The Perception Of Daylight With Henry Plummer (Part 2)

Architecture professor and photographer Henry Plummer has heightened the transformative power of daylight with his cameras and published several remarkable books about light and architecture. His deep interest in light, and his lyrical writing perspective, were formed through his contact with the designer and art theorist György Kepes while studying at MIT. Within his numerous photo journeys Plummer has documented the various facets of daylight in Japan and the Nordic Countries, and of masters like Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn. As a Professor Emeritus of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Plummer also still has ambitious plans for future book projects. In the second part of this interview, Plummer reveals how changing technologies have affected his photography, and discusses his thoughts on phenomenology and developing a poetic language of light.

If you missed it, you can read part one of this interview here.

Galician Center of Contemporary Art, Santiago de Compostela by Álvaro Siza. Image © Henry Plummer 2002 Guerrero House, Zahora, Spain by Alberto Campo Baeza. Image © Henry Plummer 2005 Männistö Church, Kuopio, Finland by Juha Leiviskä. Image © Henry Plummer 1995 Nanzenji Temple, Kyoto. Image © Henry Plummer 2013

Light Matters: Heightening The Perception Of Daylight With Henry Plummer (Part 1)

Architecture professor and photographer Henry Plummer has heightened the transformative power of daylight with his cameras and published several remarkable books about light and architecture. His deep interest in light, and his lyrical writing perspective, were formed through his contact with the designer and art theorist György Kepes while studying at MIT. Within his numerous photo journeys Plummer has documented the various facets of daylight in Japan and the Nordic Countries, and of masters like Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn. As a Professor Emeritus of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Plummer also still has ambitious plans for future book projects. In the first part of this interview, Plummer shares a variety of insights about understanding light and approaching buildings for photography.

San Francisco de Asís, Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico. Image © Henry Plummer 2012 Center Family Dwelling House, Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. Image © Henry Plummer 2006 The Redentore, Venice by Palladio. Image © Henry Plummer 2012 Avila Chapel, Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome by Antonio Gherardi. Image © Henry Plummer 2012

The Top 100 Universities in the World for Architecture

QS has released its annual World University Rankings for 2015, covering 36 individual subjects and sorting based on "academic reputation, employer reputation and research impact." The company, which claims to explore the top 800 universities in the world, began publishing academic rankings in 2011. Read on to see the list of top universities for architecture, and be sure to see the full, sortable list at QS's site

Free Online Architecture and Design Courses

Thanks to the increasing popularity of massive open online courses -- or MOOCs as they’re commonly referred to -- learning has never been easier (or more convenient). Sites like Coursera and edX offer free classes online from accredited and well-known universities across the globe, including Harvard, MIT and the University of Hong Kong. While some classes are more structured and include a set lesson plan, homework assignments, quizzes and the option to receive a certificate at the end, others can be set at your own pace and approached more independently.

Following our wildly popular article on Four Ways to Learn About Architecture for Free, we’ve compiled a list of upcoming online classes related to architecture, engineering, urbanism and design. So whether you’re looking to embark on a new topic or dive deeper into an already familiar subject, take a look at these free online courses after the break. 

Cristina Parreño Investigates the Tectonics of Transparency With Glass Wall Prototype

Architect and MIT Lecturer Cristina Parreño has created this new prototype for a self-supporting glass facade, entitled "The Wall." The design is the first in Parreño's "Tectonics of Transparency," a series of planned prototypes that will "explore the relationship between formal design, spatial perception, structural efficiency and systems of fabrication."

More details about Parreño's prototype after the break

© John Horner © John Horner © Jane Messinger © John Horner

Hashim Sarkis Named MIT’s New Dean of Architecture and Planning

Hashim Sarkis - a prominent scholar of architecture and urbanism, a practicing architect whose works have been built in the United States and the Middle East, and a leading expert on design in the Middle East - has been named the new dean of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P), effective in January. Sarkis is currently the Aga Khan Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism in Muslim Societies at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (GSD). He has been on the Harvard faculty since 1998, and has been a full professor since 2002.

Light Matters: Smart Flying Pixels Create a Floating Glow

Imagine luminaires that could fly and visualise new buildings or individually guide you through space. What would happen if you could even interact with these flying pixels? These concepts could be realised in the near future as the first prototypes and experiments are being introduced. Software-driven LED pixels combined with drone swarm technology provide extraordinary possibilities for inducing new forms of spatial experience. These luminous pixel clouds emerge as digital patterns, but at the same time they emanate a romantic quality with their unique star formations twinkling in the night sky. The first projects have shared a playful note, but laboratories such as MIT's SENSEable City Lab, ARES Lab and Ars Electronica Futurelab have shown an intriguing future in urban design for guidance systems or envisioning real estate developments, as advances in battery technology and wireless control have opened new perspectives for a life with smart flying pixels.

Beyond "Things That Flicker": The Next Step for Media Architecture

From November 19-22 in Aarhus, the Media Architecture Biennale 2014 held in will feature the world premier of "Mapping the Senseable City," an exhibition of the now ten-year-old MIT Senseable Cities Lab's collected works. The following essay was written by Matthew Claudel, a researcher at the Senseable Cities Lab, In response to this collection, exploring what the future holds for media architecture, and imploring it to explore ideas beyond "TV screens for living in."

The Actuated Cathedral

Media architecture is emphatically ambiguous. The phrase has been pasted wholesale onto a dizzying array of projects and products. But beyond imprecision, media architecture is vexed by an inherent tension: media are networked, immediate, dynamic communication systems that reach people broadly, while architecture is sited, singular, and persistent in time. Reconciling the two evokes clumsy associations with Times Square, screens, integrated LEDs, paparazzi, or more generally things that flicker.

Institut du Monde Arabe / Jean Nouvel. Image © Flickr b00nj / www.flickr.com/b00nj "We simply do not know how humans respond to a variety of environmental stimuli. Artists like Olafur Eliasson have an uncanny sense of it – a sense that lends their projects a visceral power." Above, Eliasson's "Your Rainbow Panorama". Image © Lars Aarö Map of the internet. Image via http://mountpeaks.wordpress.com/ Galleria Centercity / UNStudio. Image © UNStudio. Photographed by Kim Jong-Kwan

Three Self-Healing Materials That Could Change the Future of Construction

Buildings, regrettably, don't last forever. Until recently, the only way to increase a building's lifespan was ongoing maintenance, which can be expensive, time-consuming and in the case of infrastructure such as bridges or roads, inconvenient. Beyond that, periodic replacement of the entire structure was an option, however this is clearly not a sustainable solution, especially considering the amount of CO2-releasing concrete used in modern construction.

But in the 21st century, another alternative is emerging. This article on CityLab uncovers three self-healing materials that could significantly extend the lifespan of a construction, including Erik Schlangen's asphalt that re-sets itself with a dose of induction heating, concrete developed at TU Delft (and elsewhere) that patches up cracks with the help of its living bacterial aggregate, and a recent discovery by MIT scientists that some metals have self-healing properties.

Read the article in full here, or carry on after the break for our own coverage of Erik Schlangen and TU Delft's work in self-healing materials.

Four Ways to Learn About Architecture for Free

Learning doesn't necessarily need to be formal – or expensive for that matter. Thanks to the Internet and some generous benefactors, you can further your education for free from the comfort of your own home. Top schools such as MIT and Harvard University are affiliated with free online learning resources, allowing people from all over the globe to connect and audit courses at their own pace. In some cases, these services even provide self-educators with proof for having completed courses. Keep reading after the break to check out our round-up of four free online learning resources.

MIT Develops Self-Assembling, Easy-Bake Robots

Six "Miracle" Materials That Will Change Their Industries

The following six "miracle" materials could be headed straight into your home, office, car and more. Dina Spector at Business Insider recently rounded up the six most promising materials. As of now, their potential applications have just scratched the surface, but the possibilities are endless. Presented by AD Materials.

Scientists are constantly on the look out for lighter, stronger, and more energy-efficient materials. Here's a glance at some materials that will change the way we build things in the future.

MIT's Thresholds Launches New Website

In time with the release of the 42nd issue, Human, Thresholds Journal — MIT’s peer-reviewed journal of art, architecture and culture — has launched a new website. The new ThresholdsJournal.com has been redesigned with more content, spanning the past two decades of the journal’s publication. Other features include online purchasing of past issues, enhanced search capabilities for past contributors, and social media interactivity. The new website will feature news on upcoming issues and related events, submission calls, as well as the broad range of voices that Thresholds has featured since 1992. 

Call for Submissions: Thresholds 43

Gasp! What provokes this reflex that leaves one short of breath? More than just a sudden turn of events, for discourse to move from gossip to scandal there have to be stakes. Reputations, profits, and history-by-the-winners are on the line. 

Spectrum Magazine Spotlights MIT's Cross-Disciplinary Research into Cities

Spectrum Magazine, an annual publication by MIT to highlight the work of a cross-section of their professors and alumni, has recently released its 2014 edition. This year, the focus is on cities, with a great selection of architecture, planning and technology based contributions. You can download a pdf of the magazine here - or read on after the break for links to some articles of note. 

Joi Ito Explains His Theories of Organic City Design

As part of their coverage of the Global Agenda Council on Design and Innovation, Grasp Magazine interviewed Joi Ito, director of MIT's Media Lab. He voices his opinion that current strategies for masterplanning do not work, as designers struggle to reliably "predict and cause a future to occur" (a better approach is to enable and empower innovation on a grass-roots level); that designers need to find the right balance between intuition and data; and that new technologies should not just improve existing systems, but preferably overhaul them entirely. You can read the full article here.