Plovdiv, a city in the south of Bulgaria with its 7 hills, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe. The Thracians, Romans, and Ottomans all employed its strategic location, and today it is Bulgaria’s second largest city. The title of cultural capital is well deserved, and perhaps even well overdue. With its arrival, there was hope that major parts of the city's history lying in disrepair may finally have a standing chance, and then this… another building, gone.
Everybody's heart is heavy. They are in disbelief. The questions are the same as the ones that have been asked many times before: “How did this happen?” “Who did this?”
Italy and UNESCO have signed an agreement to create a special Italian task force to protect art, cultural sites, and ancient artifacts that are located in areas of war or conflict around the world. They will also form a center in Turin to train cultural heritage experts. The agreement arose from a proposal presented by Italy last October that was backed by 53 countries and the UN Security Council.
This architecture exhibition deconstructs the traditional Police Station in Nigeria from an autocratic building into a leftist social infrastructure that allows symbiotic relationship between People and Police. Triggered by political events, the building is named after human rights campaigner and musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and hosts protests, concerts, fora and fitness walks. Because of the social infrastructure that it is, Fela Memorial becomes a vehicle to transform the nodal Obalende, Lagos into a smart, accessible district.
Protestors have prompted developer Sellar Property Group to pull plans on the Renzo Piano-designed skyscraper sited in London's Paddington area. The 72-story "skinny Shard" has been harshly criticized by locals and Historic England for "blighting views" of the capital and being out-of-place, hence its popular nickname - the "Paddington Pole."
“London’s skyline is unique, iconic and loved. It has to be managed sensitively and with proper planning,” Historic England chief executive Duncan Wilson told The Guardian. “Tall buildings can be exciting and useful, but if they are poorly designed, or in the wrong place, they can really harm our cities. We trust that the revised plans for Paddington Place will take the area’s unique character into account.”
"Cities face a choice of building up or building out," says Renzo Piano, according to a recent article on the Daily Mail. Responding to backlash led by the Skyline Campaign, a campaign spearheaded by architect Barbara Weiss that "aims to stop the devastation of London by badly designed and poorly placed tall buildings," Piano is defending London's controversial skyscraper boom by saying it's giving the one thing the city needs most: "space on the ground."
Frustrated with the congestion of panhandlers, Mayor Bill de Blasio has shocked New York City dwellers by threatening to remove their beloved Times Square. As New York Times' architecture critic Michael Kimmelman reports, this comes at a time when dwellers fear that quality of life is declining in the city: "Entertaining the demolition of the plazas, the mayor sends a message that New York can’t support the sort of great pedestrian hubs that thrive in competing cities around the globe." Blasio said he will look into the "pros and cons" of returning Times Square to traffic. Read Kimmelman's full report on Blasio's threats, here.
In a recent article for The New York TimesAntanas Mockus, the former Mayor of Bogotá who served two terms in office between 1995 and 2003, discusses what he learnt to be "the art of changing a city." Mockus, a professor of philosophy by vocation, was at times pressured to wear a bullet-proof vest — which he wore with a heart-shaped hole cut over his chest as a "symbol of confidence, or defiance, for nine months." His article discusses how his government tackled Bogotá's "chaotic and dangerous" traffic through a thumbs-up, thumbs-down card system performed by mimes, how they dealt with water shortages, and how they persuaded 63,000 households to voluntarily pay 10% more tax.
For the latest edition of The Urbanist, Monocle 24's weekly "guide to making better cities," the team travel to Moscow, Portugal and Hong Kong to examine how "architecture has always been the unfortunate sidekick of any dictatorial regime." In the process they ask what these buildings actually stand for, and explore the legacy of the architecture of Fascist, Imperial and Brutalist regimes from around the world today. From the Seven Sisters in Moscow to António de Oliveira Salazar's Ministry of Internal Affairs in Lisbon, this episode asks how colonial, dictatorial and power-obsessed architecture has shaped our cities.
Now, British architect Richard Rogers, who served on the jury that selected ZHA's stadium design, has joined the conversation claiming Japan has "lost their nerve" and warning that their decision to "start over from zero" will harm Japan's "reputation as a promoter of world-class architectural design."
For this edition of The Urbanist, Monocle 24's weekly "guide to making better cities," the team investigate politics in global "power cities." Visiting Brussels, capital of Belgium and administrative capital of the European Union, they explore how politics have changed the city over the last four decades. Further south, they travel to Vienna which, "diplomatically remains very important and wields power." Yet even though the UN have an outpost there, is the Austrian capital still a stage for international diplomacy? The episode also makes a quick stop at Embassy Row in Washington D.C. to examine the architecture of diplomatic design.
"The resulting Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial design satisfies the goals of the seven design principles established for this site in 2006 by the NCPC to preserve and enhance the unique character of this site and establish a new green space within the context of L’Enfant’s plan for Washington D.C.," said the NCPC in their final report. You can read the report in full, here.
Despite harsh criticism for being too large and costly, Tokyo's 2020Zaha Hadid-designed National Stadium will be realized. As USA Today reports, the Japanese government has announced its decision to move forward with the design, saying any major modifications would lead to construction delays.
Shocking allegations have surfaced in two new books that claim Le Corbusier was a “militant fascist.” Although the architect’s connections with a collaborationist regime in France have been known for some time, the authors claim new evidence reveals the depths of his sympathy toward Nazi activity.
China's rapid growth has led to some unusual situations; shocking images of so-called "nail houses" continue to circle the internet, depicting defiant homeowners refusing to give up their homes for low compensation in the name of "progress." Standalone homes, and even some graves, are being surrounded by high-rise development and roadways, as land disputes play out in court. The Atlantic has just published a fascinating round-up of these peculiar situations. You can view them all, here.
The poor quality and laying of stone flooring in Milan's newly completed Museum of Culture has led its architect, David Chipperfield to dissociate himself with the building. Blasting officials for skimping on materials, the British architect is demanding his name be removed from the project, claiming the building is now a "museum of horrors" and a "pathetic end to 15 years of work" due to the low quality flooring.
On the contrary, Milan's council says the material decision was made in the "interests of the taxpayers," further claiming that, according to councillor Filippo del Corno, Chipperfield has been "unreasonable and impossible to please."
Stockholm’s City Museum (Stadsmuseet) has spoke out against David Chipperfield’s competition-winning Nobel Center, saying the design is good but not at its proposed location. The museum, whose mission is to “preserve the city’s cultural heritage,” does not believe the new center should be build along the city’s Blasieholmen, as its site is “one of the few parts of the city that still allows close interaction with the old port.”
Furthermore, the City Museum strongly urged against the Nobel Foundation's plans to demolish the site’s three historic structures - an 1876 Axel Fredrik Nystrom-designed Customs House and the city’s last two remaining wooden harbor warehouses built in the early 1900s. Agreeing, the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) has also spoke up, saying the proposal is “too big” and does not take “sufficient” consideration of the cultural environment and cultural heritage.
Claiming the rumors to be “demonstrably false,” Zaera-Polo has issued a “clarifying statement” outlining the purpose of his Biennale text to be polemic, and nonacademic, therefore it did not breach “any moral, ethical, or other applicable standards.” An email in support of Zaera-Polo sent by Rem Koolhaas to Eisgruber three days before the resignation has also released, denouncing any wrongdoing from Koolhaas’ perspective as the Biennale’s director.
Read Koolhaas' email, Zaera-Polo's clarification statement and a response from Princeton in full, after the break.
In an effort to combat the economic conditions that have plunged one-fourth of its population into poverty, Egypt's ambitious development plan for a massive new capital city is soon to be underway. Roughly the size of New Cairo, the privately-funded city hopes to become the new administrative center, as well as a bustling metropolis of shopping, housing, and tourist destinations to generate economic activity. Plans were solidified at a foreign investment conference where the official project details were unveiled on March 13 in Sharm el-Sheikh.
Read on after the break for more on the $45 billion plan.