It’s been exactly one year since the world first mourned the passing of a great master of 20th century architecture: Oscar Niemeyer.
After 104 years of life, the renowned architect left a profound legacy. His works - known for their impressive curves, embrace of light, and profound relationship to their surroundings – made him an icon. Not just in Brazil, but the world.
This article by Chris Knapp, the Director of Built-Environment Practice, originally appeared on Australian Design Review as “The End Of Prefabrication”. Knapp calls for the end of prefabrication as a driver for design, pointing out its century-long failure to live up to its promise, as well as newer technology’s ability to “mass produce difference”.
Prefabrication – there is not another word in the current lexicon of architecture that more erroneously asserts positive change. For more than a century now, this industrial strategy of production applied to building has yielded both an unending source of optimism for architecture, and equally, a countless series of disappointments. This is a call for the end of prefabrication.
Read on after the break
In this interesting article for the Financial Times, Edwin Heathcote dissects two Hollywood homes that are infamous as the homes of slick movie bad guys. The Lovell Health House designed by Richard Neutra appeared in LA Confidential as the home of pornographer and pimp Pierce Patchett; the Sheats Goldstein Residence appeared in The Big Lebowski – again as the home of a pornographer – and was designed by none other than “Hollywood’s favourite architect” John Lautner. Heathcote probes the two architects’ design influences and ideas, and of course offers an explanation as to why “”bad guys always seem to get the best houses“. You can read the full article here.
This article, by Michael R. Allen, was originally published on Next City as “Prentice Hospital Could Become Modernism’s ‘Penn Station Moment’“
When the concrete cloverleaf of Prentice Hospital sprouted from the Chicago ground in 1975, its award-winning design met the praise of critics and the admiration of many Chicagoans. Architect Bertrand Goldberg drew from Brutalism, but with a symmetry and grace that distinguished Prentice from more angular works in that style.
This week, as Goldberg’s famous work is pulled apart by wreckers, nothing about its loss seems symmetrical or graceful. Within 40 years, the building transitioned from a proud symbol of civic renewal and design innovation to the victim of old-fashioned Chicago politics. The controversy surrounding the demolition of Prentice, however, injected the preservation movement into an urban design discussion with a presence not seen in a long time.
Charles Edouard Jeanneret-Gris (1887-1965), better known as Le Corbusier, would have turned 126 today.
The Swiss-born architect, urban planner, designer, painter and writer is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of the modernist movement in architecture. Over the course of his five-decade career, he saw work built across Europe, India, and the United States.
The Wall Street Journal recently detailed the complex history of E-1027, the house which Eileen Gray designed with her lover Jean Badovici in Southern France: from the murals which Le Corbusier painted on the walls (without Gray’s permission) to the murder that happened there in 1996 to the restoration that has been going on for over a decade (a supposed “massacre” of the original). You can read the full article here.
In this interview with BD, Richard J Williams discusses his recent book “Sex and Buildings,” which analyses how some places, such as his home town of Edinburgh, ”wear their morality on their sleeve,” while other places. such as Brazil, have an idea that “modernism can be sexy.” He also talks about the US attitudes to sex and modernism, bringing up the ‘Playboy townhouse’ of the 1960s and the TV show Mad Men, as well as architects Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler and John Portman. You can read the full interview here.
A shadow hangs over the hills of Los Angeles, threatening its modernist architecture. In this article on the Daily Beast, Andrew Romano investigates the trend for the ‘McMansions’ which are now popular among LA’s super-rich, and the risk that they pose to the style that “many believe was perfected in Southern California” – the hillside modernist home. But it’s not all bad news: he finds that the Schairer House, designed by Gregory Ain in 1949 is now being restored, and Beverly Hills last year past its first preservation laws. Read the full article here.
This figure was published on April 2013 in the article “How Modernism Got Square” co-authored with Michael Mehaffy. It has been reproduced several times when reprinting the original article, and in essays by other authors who discuss our ideas.
And yet, the above figure subsequently re-appears with a new accompanying caption that completely reverses the facts and switches our original message. Well-meaning editors and authors chose the new caption “From Artisan to Industrial” (first here, and then again on ArchDaily), which conforms to the modernist orthodoxy on the evolution of historical design styles. They are in no way pushing modernism (being interested instead in my criticism of modernist design): it’s simply that the dogma is so pervasive in our civilization that the mislabeling becomes automatic, a conditioned response.
Read more after the break…
Nikos Salingaros is unafraid of a controversial statement. A professor of Mathematics and Urban theory, he has been using his scientific approach to study architecture and urban environments for years, and has come to a conclusion: Modernism is just about the worst thing that happened to architecture.
As Salingaros explains, not only is it impossible to have any “Green” architecture within a modernist framework, but, moreover, Modernism encourages us to deny our biologically-evolved senses and embrace an unnatural, inhuman built world – and why? Because there’s a whole lot of money and power behind those “modernist boxes.” As Salingaros puts it:
“Architectural Education ever since the Bauhaus, and continuing to the present day without interruption, teaches students to interpret built forms according to very peculiar abstract criteria, and not through their own biologically-evolved senses and cognitive intelligence. This is radical training in sensory denial: desensitizing people so that their interpretation of the world can be defined by others with an agenda.”
I interviewed Salingaros to get to the bottom of his theories and understand his anti-Modern crusade. Read it all, including Salingaros’ incendiary takes on Architecture education, sustainability, and urban planning, after the break…
This article, by David Brussat of The Providence Journal’s editorial board, first appeared at providencejournal.com.
In a rating of energy efficiency by the Environmental Protection Administration, New York’s venerable Chrysler Building scored 84 out of 100 points; the Empire State Building, 80; but the modernist 7 World Trade Center scored 74 (below the cutoff of 75 for “high efficiency”); the Pan Am Building, 39; Lever House, 20; the Seagram Building, 3. The New York Times reported this story last Dec. 24 under the headline “City’s Law Tracking Energy Use Yields Some Surprises.”
It was no surprise to Nikos Salingaros and Michael Mehaffy, who have investigated why modern architecture thrives despite its inability to live up to any of its longstanding promises — aesthetic, social or utilitarian.
(Almost) everything you need to know about 20th century design has been synthesized into 6 brightly-colored, easily-digestible videos (all narrated by the sweet Scottish tones of one Ewan MacGregor).
From the Gothic Revival to Post-Modernism, this series of shorts from The Open University’s OpenLearn website just touches the surface of these design movements; however, they act as a great introduction for the un-design-initiated (indeed, The Open University sees them as an intro to their free course on Design Thinking) or, for design-aficionados, a fun refresher.
We’re particular to the video on the Bauhaus (after all, we also tackled the movement in a brilliant infographic) and the Modernist video (after the break) – but you can find all 6 at OpenLearn. Enjoy!
At just a little over 50 years old, the University of California San Diego is one of the younger college campuses in the United States, but despite this it is one of the most architecturally fascinating universities around. In the official UCSD campus guide, Dirk Sutro emphasizes that “UCSD does not have a single example of the historical-revival styles prevalent at other University of California campuses… and at San Diego’s two other major universities”. The history of UCSD architecture is one of ambition, which has made the campus a display case of modernism in all of its forms from the last half a century.
Thanks to photographer Darren Bradley, we can now share this history and a selection of the exciting structures it has produced.
Find out more about the UCSD campus after the break
Merete Ahnfeldt-Mollerup is associate Professor at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. This article originally appeared in GRASP.
Miss Part 1? Find it here.
Architecture is inseparable from planning, and the huge challenge for the current generation is the growth and shrinkage of cities. Some cities, mainly in the Southern Hemisphere, are growing at exponential rates, while former global hubs in the northern are turning into countrysides. In the south, populations are still growing a lot, while populations are dwindling in Europe, Russia and North East Asia. The dream of the Bilbao effect was based on the hope that there might be a quick fix to both of these problems. Well, there is not.
A decade ago, few people even recognized this was a real issue and even today it is hardly ever mentioned in a political context. As a politician, you cannot say out loud that you have given up on a huge part of the electorate, or that it makes sense for the national economy to favor another part. Reclaiming the agricultural part of a nation is a political suicide issue whether you are in Europe or Latin America. And investing in urban development in a few, hand-picked areas while other areas are desolate is equally despised.
Merete Ahnfeldt-Mollerup is associate Professor at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. This article originally appeared on GRASP.
This is where one has to quote William Gibson:”The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”
Within architecture (and design and planning), there are always several simultaneous realities. One very pragmatic reason is that architecture is a very slow form of communication: it may take several decades from the moment a concept arises somewhere to the point where it becomes mainstream knowledge within the industry, and then even more time before it reaches the general public.
Take the “Modern Movement” in architecture. Basically, its theories and formal language were fully developed from 1919 through 1924. And when we read the history books, we get this distorted version that the great modernist pioneers were only stopped by the evil dictatorships in the Soviet Union and Germany. This is as far from the reality of the era as it can possibly be.
Keep reading Ahnfeldt-Mollerup’s crash course to architecture, after the break…
The mid-century modern master, Richard Neutra was well known for his cutting edge modernism. Since Julius Shulman immortalized his houses in his iconic photographs, Neutra’s bright, airy homes have widely been seen as the pinnacle of modernism and desirability. One problem though, they’re in high demand and it’s not exactly like they’re making any more Neutra buildings; in fact, quite the opposite is true and as a result they have become a pretty expensive commodity.
Read more about how to get your very own Neutra home after the break…
As we’ve mentioned before, Irish designer Eileen Gray was undoubtedly one of the most influential, and most overlooked, designers of the 20th century. However, a new Kickstarter campaign aims to put that right once and for all. The campaign is seeking funds to help renovate Gray’s seminal house, E-1027, for the production of a feature film about the architect.