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Alternative Realities: 7 Radical Buildings That Could-Have-Been

In It’s A Wonderful Life the film’s protagonist George Bailey, facing a crisis of faith, is visited by his guardian angel, and shown an alternate reality where he doesn’t exist. The experience gives meaning to George’s life, showing him his own importance to others. With the increasing scale of design competitions these days, architectural “could-have-beens” are piling up in record numbers, and just as George Bailey's sense of self was restored by seeing his alternate reality, hypothesizing about alternative outcomes in architecture is a chance to reflect on our current architectural moment.

Today marks the one-year-anniversary of the opening of Phase 3 of the High Line. While New Yorkers and urbanists the world over have lauded the success of this industrial-utility-turned-urban-oasis, the park and the slew of other urban improvements it has inspired almost happened very differently. Although we have come to know and love the High Line of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and James Corner Field Operations, in the original ideas competition four finalists were chosen and the alternatives show stark contrasts in how things might have shaped up.

On this key date for one of the most crucial designs of this generation, we decided to look back at some of the most important competitions of the last century to see how things might have been different.

Joseph Marzella's second-place design for the Sydney Opera House. Image via The Daily Mail Designs for the Chicago Tribune Tower by Adolf Loos (left) and Bruno Taut, Walter Gunther, and Kurz Schutz (right). Image via Design for the High Line by Zaha Hadid Architects with Balmori Associates, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP and studio MDA. Image via University of Adelaide on Cargo Collective Moshe Safdie's design for the Centre Pompidou. Image Courtesy of Safdie Architects

MoMA Mines Its Unparalleled Holdings for Its "Endless House" Exhibition

There is perhaps no better display of modern architecture’s historical victory than Jacque Tati’s film Playtime. In it, a futuristic Paris has left-for-dead the grand boulevards of Haussmann, in favor of endless grids of International Style offices. The old city is reduced to longing reflections of Sacré-Cœur and the Eiffel Tower in the glass of these shiny new monoliths. But the irony central to the film is that this construction is created through mere surface treatments, and as the narrative unfolds, cheap mass-production withers in a world where the veneer has triumphed over craftsmanship and polish. In short, Modernism hasn’t always been all it's cracked up to be.

In the Museum of Modern Art’s new exhibition, "Endless House: Intersections of Art and Architecture," the simplicities of mass-market modern homes are abolished by artists and architects who, in examples from the 1940s to the present, have chosen to use the dwelling as a platform for universal messages and as an arena for architectural experimentation. In the same way that photography freed painting from the terrestrial concerns of realism, the simplicity of modernism liberated artists and architects to subvert extant conventions of buildings.

Model of Asymptote Architecture's Wing House, Helsinki (2011). Image © 2015 Asymptote Architecture Model of Frederick Kiesler's Endless House (1950–60). Image © The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Department of Architecture and Design Study Center. Photographer: George Barrows Haus-Rucker-Co's Stück Natur (Piece of Nature) (1973). Image © 2015 Haus-Rucker-Co Model of Emilio Ambasz's Casa de Retiro Espiritual, Córdoba, Spain (1976–79). Image © 2015 Emilio Ambasz

Help Recreate and Replace Frank Lloyd Wright's San Francisco Call Building Model at Taliesin

After a sale of the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives in 2013, Frank Lloyd Wright's model of The San Francisco Call Building, originally residing at Taliesin and later, Hillside Home School, was moved to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). The Organic Architecture and Design Archives, Inc. (OAD) believes that this model - a striking 8-foot tall replica built originally for the 1940 MoMA Exhibition - was "an integral part of the design of Taliesin."

Pedro Gadanho Leaves MoMA to Direct MAAT in Lisbon

After serving as curator for the past three years at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, Portuguese architect Pedro Gadanho will be leaving his position to become the first artist director of the new Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) in Lisbon. Scheduled to open in the fall of 2016, the new MAAT museum will be responsible for the EDP Foundation's cultural program. 

"Pedro Gadanho’s profile and international experience are essential to our ambitions for MAAT, making it a distinctive space of contemporary culture in Portugal", says António Mexia, CEO of EDP. Pedro Gadanho adds that "MAAT will be a cultural institution of the quality and breadth seen in major European cities, offering an exciting contemporary program at the intersection of art, architecture and technology."

MoMA's Barry Bergdoll On "The Politics And Poetics Of Developmentalism" In Latin American Architecture

On display until July 19th, MoMA's exhibition "Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980" is an attempt to bring the architecture of this global region, and this time period, to a greater audience after decades of neglect by the architectural establishment. Curated by Barry Bergdoll, the exhibition effectively follows on from MoMA's last engagement with the topic of Latin American architecture, way back in 1955 with Henry-Russell Hitchcock's exhibition "Latin American Architecture Since 1945." In an intriguing interview, Bergdoll sits down with Metropolis Magazine to talk about why he is revisiting the topic after so many years (or, indeed, why MoMA took so long to do so), and explains his ambitions to elevate the featured works and to frame Latin America itself as "not simply as a place where the pupils of Le Corbusier went to build, but a place of origins of ideas." Read the full interview here.

Share Your Tactical Urbanism Ideas with MoMA

Along with rapid urban expansion comes uneven growth - one of the largest threats that face our society. Determined to combat this issue, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) sparked an international debate with the opening of Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities. The exhibition, a culmination of a 14-month initiative, highlights emergent modes of tactical urbanism from around the globe that offer ideas on how to mitigate inequality and preserve livability within an increasingly-expanding world. 

How MoMA PS1 Yap Winner Andrés Jaque Plans to Politicize Water

In the grand tradition of MoMA PS1's Young Architects Program winners, Andrés Jaque's plan for "COSMO" addresses an ecological need through installation architecture. While 2014's "Hy-Fi" by the living explored organic bricks and 2012's "Wendy" by HWKN addressed airborne pollution, Jaque has set his targets on something that is apparently much more political: water. This article, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "The Politics of Water: Andrés Jaque on His 2015 MoMA PS1 YAP Winning Design," examines how Jaque hopes to turn his installation into a political talking point.

At first glance, Bill Gates’s robotic Janicki Omniprocessor and Andrés Jaque’s winning proposal for the 2015 MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program (YAP) share a similar goal—they each tackle the problem of global water scarcity, which has become exacerbated by climate change, political strife, and a host of other factors. But while the Omniprocessor looks like a cement factory in miniature, Jaque’s project melds its profoundly social objective—to change the way we understand contemporary water infrastructure—to an almost psychedelic aesthetic.  

Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980

In 1955 the Museum of Modern Art staged Latin American Architecture since 1945, a landmark survey of modern architecture in Latin America. On the 60th anniversary of that important show, the Museum returns to the region to offer a complex overview of the positions, debates, and architectural creativity from Mexico and Cuba to the Southern Cone between 1955 and the early 1980s.

More about Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980, opening at MoMA on March 29th, after the break. 

 Miguel Rodrigo Mazuré (Peruvian, 1926–2014). (Peruvian, 1926–2014). Hotel in Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu (Project). 1969. Perspective. © Archivo Miguel Rodrigo Mazuré  Lúcio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer. Plaza of the three powers, Brasilia, Brazil, 1958-1960. Photograph: Leonardo Finotti © Leonardo Finotti  National School of Plastic Arts, Havana, Cuba, Ricardo Porro, 1961-1965. © Archivo Vittorio Garatti Brasilia under construction, 1957. Geofoto. Arquivo Publico do Distrito Federal

Andrés Jaque Named 2015 MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program (YAP) Winner

Andrés Jaque / Office for Political Innovation’s project COSMO has been selected by the Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 as winner of Young Architects Program’s (YAP) 16th edition in New York. Scheduled to open in late June, just in time for MoMA PS1’s 2015 Warm Up summer music, COSMO will serve as a “moveable artifact” with a mission to provide clean water for the world’s population. 

“This year’s proposal takes one of the Young Architects Program’s essential requirements - providing a water feature for leisure and fun - and highlights water itself as a scarce resource,” said Pedro Gadanho, Curator in MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design. “Relying on off-the-shelf components from agro-industrial origin, an exuberant mobile architecture celebrates water-purification processes and turns their intricate visualization into an unusual backdrop for the Warm Up sessions.”

MOMA Partners with Instagram for Largest-Ever Latin American Architecture Exhibition

MoMA's largest-ever Latin American architecture exhibition will feature an official partnership with Instagram. The project invites the Instagram community to share their photos of buildings as part of the Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955–1980 exhibition.

One of the year's most awaited exhibitions,  Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955–1980 will display key architectural works for understanding modernism in Latin America, featuring remarkable buildings from all over the continent, designed by prominent architects like Oscar Niemeyer, Clorindo Testa, Luis Barragán, Vilanova Artigas and Eladio Dieste.

Inequality and Informality in New York: SITU Studio's Proposal for MoMA's Uneven Growth Exhibition

When it comes to discussing informal housing, it's usually cities in developing nations that take the spotlight - however, as revealed by SITU Studio's contribution to MoMA's Uneven Growth exhibition, issues of informal housing are indeed present in cities across the spectrum of development. In this interview, originally posted on Arup Connect as "Inequality and informality in New York," Sarah Wesseler speaks to SITU Studio principle Bradley Samuels about their unconventional proposal to address an issue that is frequently overlooked in New York city policy.

Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities, a newly opened exhibit at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, focuses on the complex relationship between urbanization and inequality. Over the 14-month period leading up to the launch, six interdisciplinary teams explored how these issues are playing out in different parts of the world, each developing an architectural response for a specific city.

Architecture firm SITU Studio (together with Cohabitation Strategies [CohStra]) was tasked with studying its home city, New York. (Arup transport planner Michael Amabile also consulted with the team.) We spoke with SITU principal Bradley Samuels about the project.

SITU documentation of shared housing in East New York, Brooklyn. Image © Jeyhoun Allebaugh SITU documentation of Jackson Heights apartment shared by nine people. Image © Jeyhoun Allebaugh Heat map of illegal conversions. Image © New York City Department of Buildings Drawing showing proposal for implementation of incremental community-driven growth. Image © SITU Studio

2015 YAP Istanbul Modern Shortlist

Istanbul Modern has announced five finalists to compete in the 2015 Young Architects Program (). Now in it’s 2nd edition, the competition will challenge a group of emerging architects to design a temporary installation within the confines of Istanbul Modern's courtyard that will host a series of events and visitors throughout the summer of 2015.

Six Teams Studying Uneven Growth to Exhibit Proposals for Expanding Megacities at MoMA

As the culmination of a 14-month initiative to examine new architectural possibilities for rapid growth in six megalopolises - Hong Kong, Istanbul, Lagos, Mumbai, New York, and Rio de Janeiro - the Museum of Modern Art is preparing to open Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities on November 22. The exhibition will present mappings of emergent modes of tactical urbanism from around the globe alongside proposals for a bottom-up approach to urban growth in the highlighted cities by six interdisciplinary teams made up of local practitioners and international architecture and urbanism experts.

Curator Pedro Gadanho, in collaboration with the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts (MAK), states: 

“The exhibition features design scenarios for future developments that simultaneously raise awareness of the prevailing inequalities in specific urban areas and confront the changing roles of architects vis-à-vis ever-increasing urbanization. Each team in the exhibition was asked to consider how emergent forms of tactical urbanism can respond to alterations in the nature of public space, housing, mobility, spatial justice, environmental conditions, and other major issues in near-future urban contexts.” 

A synopsis of each team’s work, after the break.

Jean Nouvel's Tower Verre Finally Ready to Break Ground

Jean Nouvel's long-awaited 53 West 53rd Street, also known as the Tower Verre or the MoMA Tower, may finally be ready to move ahead with construction after the project's developer Hines purchased $85.3 million worth of air rights from its neighbors MoMA and the St Thomas Episcopal Church and arranged the $860 million construction loan required for the project.

Originally proposed in 2007, the design has been plagued by problems, including significant delays due to the financial crisis and a difficult approval process which resulted in the building's height being slashed from 1,250 feet to its current planned height of 1,050 feet. However, according to a statement from Hines groundbreaking on the project is now "imminent."

Spatial Relations Take Centre Stage in MoMA's Newest Architectural Exhibition

What influence do art and space have on the contemporary architectural design process? MoMA's most recent exhibition on architecture and design Conceptions of Space strives to answer this question. Themed under the umbrella of spatial relations, Curator Pedro Gadanho ruminates on the subject in a broad and philosophical sense. The exhibition delves into the topic using an interdisciplinary approach, incorporating research from French philosopher Michel Foucault on the subject of the expanded field. The exhibition aims to explore the relationship between the development of space and its deep-seated roots in the creative arts. 

MOMA Announces Barry Bergdoll's Successor for Chief Curator of Architecture & Design

Martino Stierli, a Swiss architecture and art history professor interested in "how architecture is represented in the media and intersects with art," has been named Barry Bergdoll's successor as the chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). 

Hy-Fi, The Organic Mushroom-Brick Tower Opens At MoMA's PS1 Courtyard

Last night, the organic brick structure known as 'Hy-Fi' opened in the courtyard of MoMA's PS1 space in New York. Designed by David Benjamin of New York architects The Living, the tower was designed as part of MoMA's Young Architects Program, and its construction centers around the use of an innovative building material: organic, biodegradable bricks consisting of no more than farm waste and a culture of fungus that is grown to fit a brick-shaped mold.

Acting as the centerpiece for MoMA's Warm Up music festival on Saturdays throughout the Summer, the temporary structure will provide shade, seating and water until September 7th. Read on after the break for more on the design.

Exhibition / Conceptions of Space: Recent Acquisitions in Contemporary Architecture

Focusing on recent acquisitions in MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design, Conceptions of Space addresses how contemporary architects continue to embrace spatial creation as a fundamental focus of their work. The exhibition reveals how, beyond formal traits and functional needs, the conception and articulation of architectural space still defines architecture as an artistic endeavor, and a response to wider cultural issues.