AD Interviews: Nanne de Ru / Powerhouse

At the ARKIMEET event in Istanbul, , we had the chance to catch up with Nanne de Ru, a co-founder of Powerhouse Company and the current director at The Berlage Center for Advanced Studies in Architecture.

“I think architectural thinking is quite often about how to manage complexity,  how to manage the complexity of different stakeholders — an architect is a mediator between those different demands.  And politics operates quite often in similar ways,” he said on the connection between architecture and politics. “I think what politics and architecture have in common is the need for strategy and for thinking and to design strategies.”

Check out some of ’s designs below and watch the full video above to see what else de Ru has to say about politics, empathy and education in architecture.

Gehry’s Eisenhower Memorial Gets a Break

Courtesy of Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission

The National Capital Planning Commission has granted preliminary approval to a modified version of ’s controversial Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial design, which removed two of the stainless steel tapestries to clear views towards the Capitol. The project, which has remained stagnant since 2011, has been shawled in turmoil largely due to criticism regarding its “grandiose” design and focus on Eisenhower as a boy. The vote will now advance Gehry’s design to the Commission of Fine Arts for approval.

More images of the revised design, after the break.

Labour Minister Endorses UK-Wide Architecture Festival and More Competitions

Helen Goodman MP proposed a -wide festival of architecture instead of another festival in London, which already hosts a number of architecture and design festivals annually including the Camden Create Festival which began just this year. Image © KSR Architects

The UK‘s Shadow Culture Minister Helen Goodman has outlined a number of ideas that she would like to put into practice should her party win the next general election, reports the Architects’ Journal. The proposals, made at last week’s Labour Party Conference in Manchester, include increasing the number of open architecture competitions held in the UK and holding a major UK-wide annual festival of architecture. Read on after the break for more on Goodman’s proposals.

Reinier de Graaf: Mayors Should Not Rule The World

London City Hall, centre of operations for Mayor Boris Johnson. Image © Flickr CC User alh1

This weekend, the first planning session of the Global Parliament of Mayors took place in Amsterdam: a platform for from across the world, triggered by Benjamin Barber’s book: If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities.

In this book the current political system and its leaders is dismissed as dysfunctional. Defined by borders and with an inevitable focus on national interests, they are not an effective vehicle to govern a world defined by interdependence. Mayors, presiding over with their more open, networked structure and cosmopolitan demographics, so the book argues, could do it better.

It is of no surprise that this book has been welcomed by the same political class as the one it praises: mayors. As was apparent during the first planning session of the GPM: a conference about mayors, for mayors, attended by mayors, moderated by mayors and hosted by a mayor, all triggered by a book about mayors.

I recognize many of the book’s observations. Many mayors are impressive figures and time appears to be on their side. Nation states (particularly the large ones) have an increasingly hard time and, in the context of a process of globalization, cities, and particularly small city-states, increasingly emerge victorious. Cities have first-hand experience with many of the things that occur in globalization’s wake, such as immigration and cultural and religious diversity, and are generally less dogmatic and more practical in dealing with them.

So far so good.

Los Angeles Rids Itself of Helipad Requirement, Opens City to “Bolder” Skyline

Los Angeles, . Image © Wikimedia Commons / Pintaric

Helicopter landing pads will no longer be required atop new buildings in Los Angeles, California. The rule’s elimination, which was announced yesterday by the city’s mayor and fire chief, allows architects the freedom to break away from LA’s “boxy” skyline. “I want to see innovative design,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “I want to see good design, but we’re going to take the handcuffs off of you when we ask you to do that. I want neighborhoods to look good, and I want our buildings to look iconic.” You can read more about the change, here.

Alcohol and Urbanism, a Case Study: Breaking New York City’s Open Container Law

Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Image © Rennie Jones

If there is one thing to be learned from the unsuccessful prohibition period of the 1920s, it is that we, the people, will go to great lengths to exercise our right to drink alcohol in the company of others. Our determined forefathers could have simply enjoyed a small-batch bathtub brew in the comfort of their own homes, but instead they established a system of secret places to congregate and consume collectively, even under threat of federal prosecution. Though it is no longer a felony to consume alcohol, New Yorkers are still pushing the legal limits of drinking with others, challenging the open container laws that prohibit public drinking.

Drinking is a recreational activity. It is a means of stepping beyond the realm of normal perception and seeing things differently, in the metaphorical sense (though sometimes a literal one). It is an act of recreation and repose, the parallel of peering at passerby from a park bench. In , as in most of the , it is illegal for any person to possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage in any public place, “except at a block party, feast or similar function for which a permit has been obtained.” Rarely do individuals have the resources for a block party or occasion for a full-scale public feast. More likely, they simply seek to crack open a can with neighbors on their front steps or with friends in Central Park, thereby enjoying a beverage in one of the country’s most vibrant and diverse public spheres for a mere penance. Unfortunately, that is not a legal option. Even the outdoor space we own is not completely open to our discretionary use: a resident cannot drink on his own stoop because it is “a place to which the public or a substantial group of persons has access.”

Toyo Ito and Fumihiko Maki Petition Against Zaha Hadid’s Tokyo Olympic Stadium

© ZHA

Though it seemed a compromise was met last October, when Japan’s minister of education, Hakubun Shimomura announced plans to reduce the cost and scale of the Zaha Hadid-designed Olympic Stadium, the debate rages on.  

Pritzker laureates Toyo Ito and Fumihiko Maki have launched an online petition to “defend the ginko tree-lined landscape of blue sky and Jingu Outer Gardens” from the construction of Hadid’s “oversized” stadium. 

The petition (now with more than 13,000 signatures) urges the Sports Council, who hand selected Hadid’s winning design alongside Tadao Ando, to reconsider upgrading the existing Meiji Jingo Gaien Stadium and the gardens surrounding it. This solution, they believe, is a more affordable and sustainable alternative that would prevent the relocation of nearby residents. 

Take a tour though Zaha Hadid’s 2020 Olympic Stadium and share your thoughts about the design (and petition), after the break…

Foster + Partners’ Unfinished Vegas Tower Approved for Demolition

Harmon Hotel via Wikimedia Commons

A court approved ruling has sealed the fate of Foster + Partners’ half-built Harmon Hotel in . Unfinished due to structural defects, the 27-story glass tower was once envisioned to be the staple of the $8.5 billion CityCenter entertainment complex. However, since problems arose in 2008, the stunted hotel and casino has instead served as a glorified billboard.

Though it has yet to be determined who will be blamed for the faulty construction, owner MGM Resorts International has been granted permission to dismantle the blue glass building floor-by-floor at a cost of $11.5 million.

Chipperfield’s Stockholm Nobel Centre Faces Harsh Opposition

View towards Nybrokajen. Image ©

Within days of David Chipperfield being appointed to design the Nobel Foundation’s new home in Stockholm, heritage protesters began to assemble a campaign to prevent the project from fruition.

Declaring they are “opposed to star-architects constructing their angular spectacles of glass and steel right in the middle of the protected historic environment, as monuments to themselves, at our expense and the city’s,” as stated in an online petition, the protesters are particularly upset that the project would require the demolition of multiple historic structures. Thousands have even joined a Facebook group to voice disapproval.

However, despite the backlash, the Nobel Foundation refuses to bow down and believes the protest will not succeed

More on the protest, and structures slated for demolition, after the break…

AIA, AIAS Urges Congress to Support National Design Services Act

Image via "5 Things to Keep in Mind After Graduation by Nicholas Kreitler" (Click image to read). Image © Caro Wallis

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the American Institute of Architecture Students () have committed themselves to pushing a bill that would provide U.S. architecture graduates student loan relief in exchange for community service, an offer already granted to lawyers and doctors. The bipartisan , known as the National Design Services Act (NDSA), was introduced today in an effort to free young professionals from the crushing cost of education (architecture being one of the disciplines with the highest loan balances) and aspire them to contribute their design service to the betterment of their communities. Learn more, here, and sign the petition in support of NDSA

Who Will Design Our Smart Cities? (Hint: Not Architects)

The New City of Songdo in South Korea. Image Courtesy of Cisco

Originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “Big Data, Big Questions“, this article by Alex Marshall examines what is arguably the most important aspect of smart city design: not how they will be created, but who will create them. He finds that, though an apparently new phenomenon, are just like their forebears in that they are built primarily by political will, not microprocessors.

Not long ago, I bought a beetle-shaped piece of silicone and metal that slips into my pocket and keeps track of how much I walk. Called a Fitbit One, it’s essentially a glorified pedometer. The device’s shell is jammed with hard- and software that lets it talk to my computer and iPhone. It sends me attaboys! on its tiny screen and, most importantly, the gadget talks with my spouse’s Fitbit, which allows us to compete with each other.

The Fitbit is not on anyone’s list of smart-city phenomena, but I would argue for including it, because it’s changing my relationship with the streets I walk in New York City. It also illustrates the pervasiveness of smart technology, and its limitations. For all its coolness—and it is cool—my device is doing something digitally that had already been done well mechanically, and at a lower price. A lot of the smart-cities technology is like this—it’s changing how we do things, but often not what we do.

Read on for more about the changes brought about – or not brought about – by smart cities after the break

Sign the Petition: Award All US Federal Projects via Open Competition

The White House. Image © Karissa Rosenfield

A public that the design of new Federal building projects be awarded by open architectural competition has been submitted to the White House’s “We The People” website for consideration by the Administration. The appeal proposes to give young architects greater access to the building market and needs 100,000 votes by March 24th to qualify for a response from the Oval Office. Sign the petition here

How to Design Out Democracy from Your City (A Dictator’s Guide)

Tahrir Square during the Egyptian revolution of 2011. Image

In this tongue-in-cheek “Dictator’s Guide to Urban Planning“, the Atlantic explores the various ways that public spaces, and cities as a whole, have been used to suppress uprisings and bolster the control of authoritarian governments. Covering everything from Baron Haussmann‘s 19th Century Paris to the recent revolution in the Ukraine, the article reveals the fundamental relationship between public space and democracy. You can read the full article here.

Congress Aids the Impending Doom of Gehry’s Eisenhower Memorial

©

Congress budget cuts have officially stalled Frank Gehry’s controversial Eisenhower Memorial, according to a recent report, rejecting $49 million in construction funds and cutting the Eisenhower Memorial Commission’s annual budget in half. Unless the commission is able to raise a substantial amount of private funds, as well as win support from the Eisenhower family (which is doubtful), Gehry’s “grandiose” memorial is unlikely to ever break ground. Despite this, the commission’s director is optimistic, stating that the FDR Memorial took nearly 45 years to get built. You can read more about the controversy here.

Ariel Sharon, Architecture and Occupation

© Rianne Van Doevern via Flickr CC User The Advocacy Project

In response to the death of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last week, has written an interesting investigation into how the controversial politician used architecture and urban planning as a tool in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, deploying settlements like military tactics rather than simply as housing strategy. The piece is an insightful examination of how power and even violence can be manifest in design, as evidenced by Sharon’s “architecture of occupation”. You can read the full article here.

Turks Paint Public Walkways in Protest

Courtesy of Twitter User durmusbeyin

In June we covered some of the anti-government protests that were taking Turkey by storm – but the Turks are still making headlines! Last week, one resident decided to paint a derelict public stair only to find it hastily covered up by government workers. In an act of “guerilla beautification” and silent protest, people across Turkey have once again taken to the streets to paint their stairs and public walkways in rainbow colors. For the full story, check out this article on The Lede by Robert Mackey.

Renzo Piano Becomes Italian Senator

Courtesy of Architectural Review

Pritzker Prize winning architect Renzo Piano has been named a senator for life by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, giving him the right to vote in the Parliament’s Upper House. Napolitano also appointed three others to the position, including Claudio Abbado (an accomplished conductor), Elena Cattaneo (a biologist specializing in stem cell research), and Carlo Rubbia (a Nobel Prize winning particle physicist). 

In a statement, the president said that he is sure that all four ‘”will make a special contribution to their extremely significant fields,” noting that the positions were allocated “in absolute independence of any party political considerations” in wake of the Senate’s current tension surrounding former President Silvio Berlusconi.

Interview: William Hunter Discusses Contested Urbanism in Dharavi

Dharavi Slum, Mumbai, India; © Gynna Millan; Courtesy of Flickr User Development Planning Unit University College London

Dharavi – Asia’s largest slum of one million with an average density of 18,000 residents per acre – is amidst a heated debate between its people, the government and private investors as it sits on some of India’s hottest real estate in Mumbai. While the government is grappling for solutions on how to successfully dismantle the low-rise slum and relocate its residents to a high-rise podium style typology, the investor’s profit-driven approach has placed residents on the defense, “rendering Dharavi a perfect storm of contested urbanism,” as architect, urban designer and author William Hunter describes. 

In light of this, we would like to direct you to an interview by Andrew Wade of Polis in which discusses Dharavi’s dire situation and the motivation behind Hunter’s new book, Contested Urbanism in Dharavi: Writings and Projects for the Resilient City. Read the interview in its entirety here and read a recap on Dharavi’s situation here.