AD Classics: Bibliotheca Alexandrina / Snøhetta

Courtesy of Snøhetta

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina on Egypt’s Mediterranean Coast is a spectacular, state-of-the-art facility with an unresolved architectural identity. Commissioned in 1989 as a contemporary resurrection of the fabled Library at Alexandria once venerated throughout the ancient world, the present building was intended to serve as a city’s connection to history and heritage. But its stark modernity and technological innovations make it decidedly more forward-looking than historically referential, a cosmopolitan exploration of form and engineering perhaps longing for a stronger sense of regional belonging.

To some critics, the library has political overtones that obfuscate its architectural message, at worst acting as a monument to political posturing whose utility and conceptual integrity is only of secondary concern. And while critical scrutiny of the project necessitates its political and socio-historical contextualization, the building’s architecture—the competition-winning design submitted by Norwegian firm Snøhetta—is worth appreciating and evaluating as an autonomous object and as a precedent for contemporary library design.

Snøhetta Chosen to Design Le Monde Headquarters in Paris

© Snøhetta

French media company Group has chosen Snøhetta to design their new headquarters in Paris. Clad with a pixelated matrix of glass that offers varying degrees of transparency, the building’s distinct facade will be embedded with clusters of LEDs that project “abstracted levels of data,” symbolically representing the group’s continuous “flow of information.”

“The intention is that the façade gives the building a homogenous character when viewed from distance, but at the same time reveals a greater level of complexity as the view approaches – like headlines and detailed content in a news story,” says Snøhetta. “The façade patterns are intended to represent the building as a complete volume, while the distorted pixel map creates a rich tapestry from inside and out.”

Foster + Partners Remain World’s “Most Admired Architect”

and FR-EE – Fernando Romero EnterprisE’s winning scheme for the Mexico City Airport expansion (click to learn more). Image Courtesy of DBOX for

A global survey conducted by BD has deemed Foster + Partners to be world’s “most admired architect” for the ninth consecutive year. The London-based practice, led by Norman Foster, is the 16th largest practice in the world. Foster + Partners’ ranking was undeniable, as the survey revealed a significant seven percent lead over runner-up contender, Herzog & de Meuron.

“To be voted most admired practice by our peers is a great honor,” said Norman Foster. “It is a huge tribute to our talented and hard-working teams with their myriad skills and disciplines, both in our many studios around the world and our base in London, all working towards the common goal of bringing innovative design solutions to create a better built environment.”

See who else topped the list as the world’s “most admired,” after the break.

Snøhetta’s Illustrated Travel Guide for Oslo

Illustration by Jorunn Sannes via Vogue.com

Sleek, contemporary, and unapologetically eclectic, the work of Norwegian firm Snøhetta is as diverse as it is synonymous with modern Scandinavian design. Spanning everything from architecture and master planning to installation art and product and packaging design, Snøhetta’s projects are characterized by the marriage of efficiency, quirky charm, and an eye for beauty. Offering a broad selection of suggestions for visitors to , Snøhetta’s guide to the nation’s capital is no different. Reflecting the favorite attractions of architects, artists, and brand designers from within the firm, the guide includes a windowless barjazz-punk band, and the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, even encompassing the work of Oslo-based design contemporary, Element Arkitekter, in Lærernes hus. Read the rest of the seven travel selections here.

Romanian Entry Wins “Unbelievable Challenge” with Santa Claus Logistic Center

First Prize: “Nothing is impossible” / Alexandru Oprita, Romania and Laurentiu Constantin. Image Courtesy of

A “magical” logistics center fit for the season’s most hardworking man has been awarded first prize for it’s innovation and feasibility in the “Unbelievable Challenge” architectural ideas competition. Submitted by Alexandru Oprita and Laurentiu Constantin of Romania, “Nothing is impossible” was selected from 243 entries spanning 59 countries and five other deserving projects that have been highlighted as runner-ups.

A closer look at Santa Claus’ proposed logistics center, after the break.

Invisible Cities and the Curtain Wall: The Last Remnant of Modernism

The National September 11 Memorial entry pavilion appears camouflaged against the backdrop of neighbouring glass curtain walls. Image © Joe Woolhead

Few of the architectural principles developed in the 20th century have been as widely accepted as the curtain wall, with the technology going from an implied feature of Le Corbusier’s Five Points of Architecture to the go-to facade treatment of architects worldwide. In this article, originally published on Australian Design Review as “Invisible Cities – The Last Remnant of Modernism,” Annabel Koeck argues that the curtain wall, initially prized for its glassy transparency, is now making buildings and even entire invisible thanks to its sheer ubiquity – at the expense of architectural expression.

Norwegian architects Snøhetta, based between Oslo and New York, designed the glass structure for the The National September 11 Memorial entry pavilion, which appears camouflaged against the backdrop of neighbouring glass curtain walls that define the New York skyline. Admittedly, Snøhetta’s pavilion was conceived by a very different brief, one defined by timidity and subtlety; yet paradoxically it was the curtain wall that facilitated this. Looking over the South Pool towards an array of glazed elevations that dominate the skyline it is ironic that a Modernist technique – the curtain wall – could now spell the end for architectural diversity in cities.

Snøhetta Designs New Banknotes for Norway

© Snøhetta

Snøhetta’s pixilated concept for the Norwegian banknote has been selected by the Central Bank of to serve as the “foundation” for the backside of the new kroner notes. This news, announced yesterday in Oslo, also confirmed that the notes’ front will be based off The Metric System’s more “traditional” design featuring a images of sailing vessels.

Both Snøhetta and The Metric System were among seven designers invited to submit ideas under the nautical theme “The Sea,” in which Snøhetta chose to commemorate Norway’s coastal landmarks with a “visual language” of brightly colored, cubical patterns.

More on Snøhetta’s winning concept, after the break.

Snøhetta Unveils Final Design for Calgary’s New Central Library

© MIR and Snøhetta

Following two years of community engagement, Snøhetta and DIALOG have released the final design for their competition-winning New Central Library in . Planned for a vibrant intersection between Downtown and the East Village, the new library aims to fulfill the city’s vision for a “technologically advanced public space for innovation, research and collaboration.”

Five Proposals Unveiled for Presidio Parklands in San Francisco

The Observation Post / CMG Landscape Architecture. Image © CMG Landscape Architecture Courtesy of the Presidio Trust

Last week, the five teams competing for the Presidio Parkland project in San Francisco unveiled their proposals in a public meeting at the project site. The parkland, made possible by the replacement of an elevated highway by a new tunnel, will command stunning views of the San Francisco bay, including views of the Golden Gate bridge.

“This is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to create and design new parklands,” Executive Director of the Presidio Trust Craig said. “We are extremely pleased with the caliber of the work of the five design teams and look forward to hearing the public’s feedback on these early concepts.”

Competing for the prestigious project are James Corner Field Operations,  with Snøhetta with Hood Design StudioWest 8, and CMG Landscape Architecture. A winner will be announced in January.

Read on after the break to see all five proposals

AD Interviews: European Architects on the Mies van der Rohe Award

The European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture - Mies van der Rohe Award is one of the most important and prestigious prizes for architecture within Europe. First established in 1987, the prize is awarded every two years, and a look at the projects over the years offers unique insight into the development of architecture across Europe. To better understand the significance and uniqueness of the award we spoke with two previous award winners – Kjetil Trædal Thorsen and Craig Dykers from Snøhetta and Dominique Perrault from Dominique Perrault Architecture – as well as Peter Cachola Schmal, an architect, critic and the director of DAM, the German Architecture Musuem, and Josep Lluís Mateo of Mateo Arquitectura and a professor of Architecture and Projects at ETH-Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule/ Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich.

“This is the special thing about the Mies jury, that they do visit the top 5 projects, and see first-hand what this piece of architecture is about. And then they vote, which means the jury really knows what they’re voting about,” Peter Cachola Schmal noted.

“It’s a prize for a project, rather than a prize for an architect,” Kjetil Trædal Thorsen added.

Read on after the break for more on the and to see what the architects had to say about the importance of archives…

3 of The New Yorker’s Best Architecture Reads

The National September 11 Memorial Museum by Snøhetta in . Image © Joe Woolhead

If you like magazines, then you’ll love this: the New Yorker, celebrating their recent redesign, have made their archive free for a limited period only. And, making up for their hiatus as they wait for a redesign of their own, Places Journal has gone to the effort of rounding up the best architecture reads from the last few years. Here are our top three:

Critical Round-Up: The September 11 Memorial Museum

Two salvaged columns from the towers, placed inside Snøhetta’s entrance building. Image © Jeff Goldberg / ESTO

Set to open to the public on Wednesday after a highly controversial and contested journey from idea to reality, the September 11 Memorial Museum has inevitably been a talking point among critics this week. The museum by Davis Brody Bond occupies the space between the Memorial Plaza at ground level and the bedrock below, with an angular glass pavilion by Snøhetta providing an entrance from above. A long ramp, designed to recall the access ramp with which tons of twisted metal was excavated from the site, descends to the exhibits which sit within the perimeter boundaries of the twin towers’ foundations, underneath the suspended volumes of Michael Arad‘s memorial fountains.

The content of the museum is obviously fraught with painful memories, and the entrance pavilion occupies a privileged position as the only surface level structure ground zero, in opposition to the great voids of the memorial itself. The discussion at the opening of the museum was therefore always going to center on whether the design of the museum – both its built form and the exhibitions contained – were sensitive and appropriate enough for this challenging brief. Read the critics’ takes on the results after the break.

National September 11 Memorial Museum Celebrates Opening

© Jeff Goldberg / ESTO

Today marked the ceremonially opening of the National September 11 Memorial Museum. Set to officially open to the public next Wednesday (May 21), the subterranean museum has already made headlines for its emotional 70 foot decent to the bedrock of the Towers.

Prior to entering the museum’s interior, visitors must first walk past the footprints of the Twin Towers, commemorated by Handel Architects’ cascading granite voids, before entering a Snøhetta-designed stainless steel and glass pavilion that is the museum’s entrance.

As Snøhetta’s founding partner, Craig Dyker describes, the pavilion’s main purpose is to serve as the “threshold between the everyday life of the city and the uniquely spiritual quality of the Memorial.”

More about the pavilion from the architects, after the break…

Presidio Trust Enlists 5 to Envision New Schemes for Crissy Field

Presidio From Southeast. Image © Robert Campbell

’s Presidio Trust isn’t giving up. After rejecting three shortlisted schemes earlier this year that envisioned a “cultural institution of distinction” for the underdeveloped , the Trust has now invited five new teams to envision “kid-friendly” plans for a 13 acre portion of the site.

The five teams, which include James Corner Field Operations, Olson Kundig Architects and Snøhetta, are expected to present their ideas publicly in just three months. A winner will not be selected, though each team will receive $25,000 for their efforts. However, the Trust will be inclined to work with one of the teams should their concepts “dazzle” the audience.

A complete list of the five teams and more project information, after the break…

BIG, SHoP, Snøhetta Among Shortlist for Melbourne Office Complex

Pre-existing structures permitted for ‘part demolition and refurbishment’. Image Courtesy of Future Melbourn (Planning) Committee

Australian developer CBUS Property has invited four pairs of Australian and internationally-renowned architectural practices to compete to design an office complex at a 6,000 square meter site in downtown MelbourneAustralia where the National Mutual Plaza currently stands.

See the full shortlist after the break.

Snohetta Makes Times Square Permanently Pedestrian

Courtesy of Snøhetta

’s Times Square has concluded the first redevelopment phase of a permanent pedestrian plaza just in time for last week’s New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Snøhetta’s $55 million redesign — bounded by Broadway and 7th Avenue between 42nd and 47th streets — creates an uninterrupted and cohesive surface, reinforcing the square’s iconic role as an outdoor stage for entertainment, culture and urban life.

Learn more after the break…

Material Inspiration: 10 Projects Inspired by Wood

To celebrate the launch of ArchDaily Materials, our new product catalog, we’ve rounded up 10 awesome projects from around the world that were inspired by one material: . Check out the projects after the break…

Which Architects Are Most Admired By Other Architects?

Foster + Partner’s Apple Campus II. Image © City of Cupertino

As part of their annual research for the World Architecture Top 100, Building Design (BD) has compiled a list of which architects are most admired by their colleagues from across the globe. Last year’s results were somewhat predictable, with Foster + Partners leading and Renzo Piano’s Building Workshop and Herzog + de Meuron close behind. According to BD, “this year saw a trend towards more commercial names.”

This year’s “most admired” list includes: