It is surprising then to find the man or his eponymous firm Foster + Partners absent from a list like Fast Company’s “The World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Architecture,” organized into superlatives: MMA Architects, “for thinking outside the big box,” Heatherwick Studio, “for reimagining green space,” or C.F. Møller Architects, “for rethinking high-rise living.” This is not to say that Foster or his firm should be substituted for any of these deserved accolades, but rather that for five decades Foster and his firm have ceaselessly worked to enhance and expand on the human experience with architectural solutions that are both inventive and practical - a fact that is perhaps lost as a result of his position within the architectural establishment.
With that in mind, we thought it was worth highlighting the many occasions over the decades where Foster + Partners has shown themselves to be among the world's most innovative practices. Read on for more.
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.
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.
“Students who enter schools of architecture today are entering it at a very young age, perhaps when their total world experience and awareness is relatively narrow, and they’re making the decision to become a practicing architect, and putting aside those studies—general ed., liberal arts studies—that might actually, in the end, make them more contributing architects. […] Fewer and fewer people are having that basic liberal arts, general ed. knowledge in the profession. And it’s a serious problem.”
"The building should be about the journey of learning," Mecanoo's founding partner and creative director Francine Houben told the New York Times. "Maybe you come in for a book but also take lessons in English."
Images of Moshe Safdie's first New York project has been released. Planned to rise on a Manhattan site at West 30th Street, between Broadway and 5th Avenue, the 64-story mixed-use tower will feature a limestone base that compliments and serves its historic neighbor: the Marble Collegiate Church, one of the Collegiate Churches’ five ministries.
The building "will be distinguished by its vertical massing, which breaks down the scale of the tower into a series of three-story-high, offset projections," says Safdie Architects. "The offset projections also provide energy efficiency by self-shading the tower’s facade, further enhanced by additional sun shading at the south facade."
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.
BIG’s first foray into North America, the West 57th Street (W57) Building in New York is approaching completion. After initial releases of renderings, and photographs taken two months after topping out, a new video has surfaced, exhibiting the gradual realization of the firm’s vision. This 32-story tower with 709 apartment units combines a courtyard block and a skyscraper, affectionately dubbed a “courtscraper” by its designer. Reacting to an unorthodox, thin plot of land, the building generates its geometry from a combination of providing natural light, views to the Hudson River and maximizing living space for residents. From one angle, its almost pyramidal structure is clear, and from another, it appears to be glass spire. See the most recent developments in this new video.
Danish architect and urban planning expert Jan Gehl has weighed in on New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's threat to remove Times Square as a"kneejerk reaction" to aggressive panhandling. Recounting beloved square's evolution, Gehl argues that public spaces need more than just to exist: "Civic culture needs cultivating and curating... Public spaces like Times Square are the great equalizer in cities: Improvements in the public realm benefit everyone. The city should view the challenge of Times Square’s pedestrian plaza not as a reason for retreat, but as a call to create a diverse, dense, intense experience of public life that we can all enjoy." Read Gehl's remarks, here.
Robert Moses, the planner-politician-architect who infamously built overpasses too low for buses to bring New York’s urban poor to his beaches, is the subject of a new graphic novel by Pierre Christin and Olivier Balez titled Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City. Admirable for its candid rawness, their profile of perhaps the most polarizing and important figure in American planning history is no lionizing eulogy. The impressive triumphs of Moses’ tenure are juxtaposed with unsparing accounts of his regrettable social policies and the often-shortsighted consequences of his public infrastructure. For each groundbreaking feat of structural engineering and political mobilization, there is another story told of his callous social engineering, the consequences of which reshaped the lives of New Yorkers as much as his architecture.
New York-based SO-IL has unveiled plans for a new Brooklyn art gallery, dubbed Artes Amant. The 1,320-square-meter building will house the production, display and storage of art in a four-story "concrete mass" that is "spatially marked by its industrial past."
"This arts’ building is an exploration in soft form, where a cluster of shells acts to diffuse an exterior presence and shape the building’s interior," says SO-IL.
Sounds of rushing water have been reported behind the walls of the lower concourses of the World Trade Center site. As DNAinfo reports, rumors say officials have found an underground leak within the newly built complex and fear that it may be coming from the 3,200-foot-long slurry wall that separates the site from the Hudson River.
With the construction of their High Line-adjacent residential building 520 West 28th Street, Zaha Hadid Architects have constructed a temporary construction shelter to protect pedestrians in the event of any falling construction materials. However, as is often the case with Zaha Hadid designs, this is a construction shelter unlike any other, serving as a protective shelter but also as an artistic installation.
Named Allongé, the installation is "is inspired by the connectivity and dynamism of movement along the High Line," allowing visitors to the High Line to move through 34 meters (112 feet) of sweeping metallic fabric supported by a curvilinear steel frame, offering a spatial experience that foreshadows the presence of Hadid's building at the site.
A variety of project designs, such as public elementary and high schools, charter schools, and higher education facilities, were submitted to the Committee, many of which incorporated “informal and flexible spaces for collaboration and social interaction adjacent to teaching spaces,” as well as staircases with amphitheater or forum designs.
Find out which projects received awards, after the break.
One of the most fascinating things about vernacular architecture is that, while outsiders may find a certain city fascinating, local residents might be barely aware of the quirks of their own surroundings. In this photographic study from Issue 4 of Satellite Magazine, originally titled "The Telescope Houses of Buffalo, New York," David Schalliol investigates the unusual extended dwellings of New York State's second-largest city.
The first time I visited Buffalo, New York, I was there to photograph the great buildings of the city’s late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century expansion for the Society of Architectural Historians: monumental buildings designed by Louis Sullivan, Fellheimer & Wagner, and, later, Frank Lloyd Wright. Many of these architects were the period’s leading designers, outsiders from Chicago and New York City hired to announce the arrival of this forward-looking city at the connection of Lake Erie and the Erie Canal.
These remarkable buildings, and the grain elevators that made them possible, have been thoroughly documented and praised, but they are also a far cry from the vernacular architecture I typically study. When I returned to Buffalo for the second, third, and—now—sixth times, I became fascinated by another building type: the Buffalo telescope house.
Toronto-based architectural photographer Michael Muraz has shared with us some of the first images seen inside Santiago Calatrava's nearly complete World Trade Center Transportation Hub. Set to open this year, the "glorious" birdlike structure boasts a 355-foot-long operable "Oculus" - a "slice of the New York sky - that floods the hub's interior with natural light, all the way down 60-feet below street level to the PATH train platform.
Though its been shamed for being years overdue and $2 billion over budget (making it the world's most expensive transit hub), the completed project is turning heads. Take a look for yourself after the break.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has unveiled a $4 billion plan to redevelop New York's outdated LaGuardia Airport. Originally built in 1939, LaGuardia has been running inefficiently and overcapacity for decades.
The redesign, envisioned by HOK and Parsons Brinckerhoff, will unify the airport's fragmented terminals with a single roof, while providing expanded transportation access, elite passenger amenities and increased taxiway space. Terminal B will be replaced with a larger structure that will (eventually) connect to the renovated Terminals C and D.