Unsurprisingly 5468796 Architecture, who disagreed with much of the article's conclusions, wrote a response to the editor of Guardian Cities in the hope that their "letter to the editor" would provide some balance to the story. After The Guardian declined to publish the letter, the firm reached out to ArchDaily to ensure that their side of the debate was heard. Here is that letter in full.
We are writing to you in response to the Guardian article concerning Centre Village and many of the comments and re-posts over the last week. We believe the story that was published was inaccurate and provide the following for your information:
In his essay "Figures, Doors and Passages", the architectural historian Robin Evans described how "it is difficult to see in the conventional layout of a contemporary house anything but the crystallization of cold reason. Because of this," he asserted, "we are easily led into thinking that a commodity so transparently unexceptional must have been wrought directly from the stuff of basic human needs." His words, which highlight the passive approach of designers, developers and dwellers when it comes to the vast majority of British housing being built today, were first published in 1978 – two years before the Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher introduced the 1980 Housing Act.
The challenges of designing social housing are complex. As Martha Thornerecently told the Guardian, "It’s not enough to make community space and say, ‘People are going to see each other’... Architects really have to understand the context from the client – the cultural context, to the bigger context, to the economics, to the future of the residents who’ll live there.” Speaking about Winnipeg's well intentioned Centre Village project designed by 5468796 Architecture, Thorne believes many of these challenges are new to architects.
Just five years old, Center Village was designed as a community-oriented micro village for 25 families in one of Canada's poorest urban areas. Since its establishment, the complex has become a hot bed for crime; courtyards are being used by vagrants as shelter from police, while large families try to make a life within the cramp quarters of each home.
The Guardian's latest, Oliver Wainwright and Monica Ulmanu discuss London's controversial skyline and the forces that shape it. "Perhaps the tortured heap of towers that seem to be the future of London’s skyline (some thrilling, some monstrous, all very large) is inevitable," says Wainwright. "It is a vertical expression of the Square Mile’s medieval street pattern, forced skywards by global finance and massaged by reactive planning – the chaotic cocktail of invisible forces shaping the city." Read the whole article, here.
"A spectre," writes Kevin McKenna for The Guardian, "thought happily to have been exorcised from the heart of beautiful Edinburgh, is stalking the city’s old wynds and crevices once more." To put it more bluntly, the "formal recognition of [the Scottish capital] as one of the world’s most beautiful cities is under threat, amid a battle for the soul of its most historic quarter." As the UNESCO inspectorate moves in to determine whether the city's World Heritage Status should be renewed McKenna laments, through a series of case studies, the potentially bleak built future of one of Britain's most loved urban centres.
Last week, the Chicago Architecture Biennial opened to over 31,000 visitors and much fanfare, and for good reason - it is the largest architecture event on the continent since the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, featuring over one hundred exhibitors from over thirty countries. With a theme as ambiguous as "The State of the Art of Architecture," and with the hope of making the biennial, according to directors Joseph Grima and Sarah Herda, "a space for debate, dialog and the production of new ideas," the event was sure to generate equally wide-ranging opinions. Read on to find out what the critics had to say about the Biennial.
As part of an ongoing series of articles for Guardian Cities, architect Finn Williams uses the Cities: Skyline Simulator to ask whether "the game’s growth-driven model proves incompatible with a post-growth strategy" — ultimately narrating its response to this challenge in the form of a "resounding no." The game, which is designed to "realise the thrill and hardships of creating and maintaining a real city," allows for players to deal with infrastructure issues, housing problems, and budgetary matters on a large urban scale.
"London is on the verge of being ruined for all future generations," says Alain de Botton – a Swiss philosopher, notable author and founder of The School of Life and Living Architecture. "With a whopping 260 towers in the pipeline no area is safe, as planners, property developers and the mayor's office commit crimes against beauty to create fun buildings." In a film for The Guardian De Botton explains why he believes we're right to be nervous – and how we can stop this "clear desecration" of the UK's capital city.
The UK is in the midst of a housing crisis, the intricacies of which were detailed by Rowan Moore earlier this year. For decades the typical British housing stock has been of relatively poor quality, proliferated by developer-led consortiums and characterised by ruthless cost-efficiency for maximum profit. From this formula comes nothing but a monotony of off-the-shelf constructions which have, over time, become a national benchmark. These houses – often built of brick, boxy in form, and using as little space in the facade for openings – are commonly dark, spatially inadequate, and far below the standards that should be being aimed for. It’s like living in a well-appointed cave.
In an article for The Guardian, Turner Prize winning ceramic artist Grayson Perry has written for the first time about his "plans for a Taj Mahal in Essex." The designs for the House for Essex, which have been realised over the last three years by FAT and led by Charles Holland, are of a "secular chapel" in the heart of the southern English countryside. The building was commissioned by the Living Architecture Project, which is headed by Alain de Botton and are the proprietors of property designed by the likes of Peter Zumthor, MVRDV, and David Kohn. This, their fifth foray into experimental collaborative architecture between architects and artists, is set to open its doors for holiday letting this year.
The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), named after the Queen and Her Consort, has its foundations in the Great Exhibition of 1851 amidst the wealth, innovation and squalor of the Industrial Revolution. Britain was flooded by prosperity which allowed for the development of major new institutions to collect and exhibit objects of cultural significance or artistic value. The institute’s first director, Henry Cole, declared that it should be “a schoolroom for everyone,” and a democratic approach to its relationship with public life has remained the cornerstone of the V&A. Not only has it always been free of charge but it was also the first to open late hours (made possible by gas lighting), allowing a more comprehensive demographic of visitor.
Their latest exhibition, which opens today, seeks to realign the museum’s vast collection and palatial exhibition spaces in South Kensington with these founding concepts. The interventions of All of This Belongs to You attempt to push the V&A’s position as an extension of London’s civic and cultural built environment to the fore, testing the museum’s ability to act as a 21st century public institution. To do this in London, a city where the notion of public and private is increasingly blurred, has resulted in a sequence of compelling installations which are tied together through their relevance either in subject matter, technique, or topicality.
A compilation of all posts in the "Urbanist's Guide to..." series from Guardian Cities, "The Urbanist's Guide to the World" takes readers to cities across the globe. Penned by local bloggers in cities from Manila to Sao Paulo, Tehran to New Orleans, the vignettes are supported by The Rockefeller Foundation and cover everything from "best" and "worst buildings" to cleanliness, soundscapes, and "the best place for a conversation." You can view the interactive guide here.
In an article for The Guardian, Rowan Moore explores the state and future of the Grade A listed BrutalistSeminary of St. Peter, "where the influence of Le Corbusier’s monastery of La Tourette combines with [...] Scottish inspirations." Although the building is often seen as wholly unique in the canon of religious buildings, it is still comprised of traditional elements - "cloister, chapel, refectory, cells - but rearranged over multiple levels in unexpected ways, alternately enclosing and opening up to its surroundings."
In the UK, urban issues are starting to see something of a renaissance, with problems such as the nation's housing shortage increasingly being subjected to scrutiny in ever more public arenas - in fact earlier this year housing overtook transport as the biggest concern among London voters. All of this means that 2015 will be "a golden opportunity to fix some of the worst city problems," according to the Guardian Cities, who have asked their architecture critic Oliver Wainwright to offer up a wishlist of positive changes that could benefit the nation's urban centres. From councils building more council housing to a tax on empty homes, Wainwright's four-point list offers straightforward policy advice that could truly transform the lives of British urbanites - and perhaps most promisingly, in three of these cases he explains how there are nascent movements already being made to bring his recommendations to fruition. You can read the full article here.
Guardian Citieshave put together "the best of baked architecture" in a countdown of their favourite confectionary constructions. See London's Tate Modern rendered in precisely cut slabs of gingerbread alongside the curved shapes of New York City's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Alongside these, food artists have been more inventive by building Paris's Louvre from translucent crystallised sugar glass and Mexico City’s Museo Soumaya from hundreds of spherical treats.
In an article for The Guardian, Oliver Wainwright steps "inside Beijing's apocalypse": the poisonous, polluted atmosphere that often clings to the Chinese capital. He explores ways in which those who live in this metropolis have started to redefine the spaces they frequent and the ways in which they live. Schools, he notes, are now building inflatable domes over play areas in order to "simulate a normal environment." The dangers were made clear when "this year’s Beijing marathon [...] saw many drop out when their face-mask filters turned a shade of grey after just a few kilometres." Now, in an attempt to improve the living conditions in the city, ecologists and environmental scientists are proposing new methods to filter the air en masse. Read about some of the methods here.
In an article for The Guardian, Maryam Omidi explores Moscow's Door19, a place where "Damien Hirst and David LaChapelle artworks adorn the raw concrete walls," "flair bartenders serve up gem-coloured cocktails," and "a rotation of Michelin-starred chefs flown in from around the world curate new menus each week." It is indicative, she argues, of what Kuba Snopek (a lecturer at the Strelka Institute) describes as "hipster Stalinism" - a surge of redevelopment in certain parts of Moscow that cater to the 'oligarchs', wealthy creatives and Muscovite 'hipsters'. At Door19, for example, apartments sell for between $15,000 and $20,000 per square metre.
Speaking to The Guardian, David Chipperfield has stated that he regards the hold of private investment over new architecture in London as an "absolutely terrible" means of building a city. He argues that Berlin - where he spends considerable amounts of time and runs a large office - "is a much more reflective society than ours" because the UK has sunk into "a success-based culture."