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.”
[In Berlin] there is still an idea of the public realm. We have given that up in London. We have declared the public realm dead; the question is how to get stuff out of the private sector. We are unbelievably sophisticated at that.
The people behind Frank Gehry’s Fondation Louis Vuitton (FLV) in Paris, which is set to officially open on the 27th October 2014, recently invited a band of architecture critics to take a look around and pen their thoughts. Gehry’s bold approach to architectural form, most evident in buildings like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, matches the foundation’s aim to “promote and support contemporary and artistic creation” in France. According to their website, they in particular embody “a passion for artistic freedom.” How, then, has the enormous sailed structure, challenged by local opposition from the outset, settled into its Parisian parkland surroundings?
See what The Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright, The Observer’s Rowan Moore, Vanity Fair’s Paul Goldberger, The LA Times’ Christopher Hawthorne, as well as the Architectural Digests’ Mayer Rus, had to say about Gehry’s latest completed building after the break.
The USA’s tallest building shoulders one of the nation’s greatest challenges: paying tribute to lives lost in one of the country’s greatest tragedies. One World Trade Center in lower Manhattan has yet to be completed and yet has still recently been condemned by a number of critics, who cite the former “Freedom Tower” as an inspirational failure. Thirteen years after the attacks, the wider site at ground zero also remains plagued by red tape and bureaucratic delays, unfinished and as-yet-unbuilt World Trade Centers, Calatrava’s $5B transit hub, and an absence of reverence, according to critics. Read some of the most potent reviews of the new World Trade Center site from the press in our compilation after the break.
The highly anticipated 3D film series Cathedrals of Culture has now opened around the world. Directed by Wim Wenders and a team of five other acclaimed directors (Robert Redford, Michael Glawogger, Michael Madsen, Margreth Olin and Karim Aïnouz), the collection – according to The Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright - “feels more like a series of vapid promotional videos.” Arguing that in most of the films (with the exception of Michael Madsen’s) the narrative is lost in favour of cinematic shots, “Cathedrals of Culture presents a limited and internalised view of what architecture is, a fault perhaps driven by the obsession with the 3D camera. [...] It has a self-satisfied, sometimes cultish, air that makes you feel like you’re taking part in some collective brainwashing exercise.” Wainwright concludes that Living Architectures is the best place to go. See some of their films featured in ArchDaily’s 40 Architecture Docs to Watch in 2014.
Alongside a number of recent articles that explore the rise of the urban property developer and the subsequent “threat” to the built environment, Oliver Wainwright of The Guardian explores at length how developers are “exploiting planning authorities and ruining our cities.” In discussion with Peter Rees, former Chief Planning Officer for the City of London and responsible for the financial district’s monuments of today, Wainwright discusses the lack of accountability of the vast majority of urban developers. While local councils attempt to secure the next iconic development for their area many planners, authorities and developers are locked in a battle over the built fabric of our cities. Read the article in full here.
Who says that playing is just for kids? Bristol, in the United Kingdom, is just one of the many cities around the world experimenting with urban play, creating opportunities to eliminate urban solitude in favour of having fun. In a recent article in The Guardian, Julian Baggini dives head first into Bristol’s playful new initiatives including a 300-foot water slide on the city’s high street, post boxes that converse using text messaging, and city-wide zombie chases. Bristol is leading the way with urban play worldwide, hosting a conference this month entitled Making the City Playable, an opportunity for planners to convene with the creative minds behind the new form of entertainment. Find out more about urban play and the benefits it brings to cities here.
Looking for your dream home? Picket fence, driveway (sedan included), basketball net, and terracotta pots complete with flowers in bloom, available now in the quiet neighbourhood of Rancho Santa Fe in Shanghai, China. According to this article in The Guardian, ”The Chinese Dream” is currently sweeping the People’s Republic, with Western planning models replicated with identical ineffective results. The article offers an intimate insight into the role of American architectural fetishism in modern China, and how the government is now fighting to curb the trend. Read the complete article here.
In a short film for The Guardian Lead Architect and Partner of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, Graham Stirk, tours Robert Booth around the almost-complete Leadenhall Building. The building is referred to as a relative of it’s neighbour, Lloyds of London, which was completed by Richard Rogers‘s practice in 1986. Leadenhall, dubbed the “Cheesegrater” due to its angled façade, is twice the height of Lloyds and is considered to be the physical manifestation of the evolution of Rogers’ architectural and tectonic language. Although less “structurally showy” than its counterpart, the building is still unconventionally bold when it comes to structural expression.
In an interview with Rowan Moore for The Observer, British born architect David Adjaye discusses his work, personality and ambitions as head of the one of the fastest growing internationally operating practices. With Moore’s immersive descriptions and expertly written narrative, the “breadth of Adjaye’s vision” becomes apparent. Featuring precise descriptions of some his upcoming projects, including the designs for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and a number of smaller buildings in London, Moore’s discussion ultimately explores Adjaye’s early (and successful) steps into the African architectural market. You can read the interview in full here.
In an article for The Guardian Richard Rogers questions why, with space still left in urban areas, we should build in the countryside? Lord Rogers, no stranger to political activism, chaired the UK’s Urban Task Force in the 1990s, culminating in his report Towards an Urban Renaissance. Now, over fifteen years later, his plea for denser, better designed urban environments has been rekindled as he argues that: “We can’t go on like this. The housing shortage threatens both the economy and our quality of life.” Laying out a clear argument reinforced by his forty years of experience as an architect, you can read his article in full here.
The Guardian’s Jonathan Meades has named the “incredible hulks” of Brutalism with a thought provoking A-Z list that ranges from Hans Asplund, who coined the term “nybrutalism,” to California’s fascination with Zapotec-like adornments in the 1960s. Read the list in full and discover why Quebec City, Yugoslavia’s Janko Konstantinov, and Danish architect Jørn Utzon are all considered incredible hulks here.
Earlier this week, the Guardian launched its new Cities website, which – as discussed by Oliver Wainwright in his opening article will be “an open platform for critical discussion and debate about the issues facing the world’s metropolitan centres”. In this introduction, Wainwright offers a fast-paced rundown of some of the major challenges facing cities, from technology to transport, housing to high streets, and economic to environmental disasters. You can read his full article here.
Tensions mounted between modernist and traditionalist camps earlier last month when Paul Finch, UK Chairman for the Commission for Architecture and the Build Environment, praised the fact that modernists had won bids to design buildings for the 2012 Olympics. In response, Robert Adam, member of the Traditional Architecture Group, and Michael Taylor, senior partner at Hopkins, the firm that designed the Olympic velodrome, met for a discussion on hegemony, timeliness, and pastiche moderated by Guardian staffer Lanre Bakare.
The conversation is lively and aggressive. Ironically, the ‘progressive’ Taylor comes off as complaisant (“Let’s agree vast parts of our cities are covered in very bland modern buildings with too much glass and steel.” “There are some buildings where there will be common ground – for example, the works of Brunel, or Crystal Palace.”), and opinionated (“Anyone would recognise the problems with modernism and see values in traditionalism which they like, but the problem is traditionalism is fixed and isn’t something that people think is moving forward.”) and Adams, a bit of a snob, (“MT: People are benefiting from cars, aeroplanes and other modern technology, and so to take the appearance and facades of your architecture as one separate element which should make a very clear and literal quotation back to history seems to be inconsistent. And I think people struggle with that. / RA: I think only architects struggle with that. Most people don’t have a problem with a Ferrari in the drive and a Georgian house behind it.) proves to be keenly aware of traditionalism’s place in contemporary Britain (“The prejudice towards traditionalists is rather like sexism. It’s just in the culture. If you’re in the profession, that’s just what you do. When you’re delivering the prejudice you don’t really notice it, but if you’re on the receiving end of it, then it’s a problem”). More an exhibition of conflicting ideologies than a conversation about contemporary viewpoints, the discussion is a fascinating look into how two feuding camps see themselves and their place in the world at large.