Why Budapest’s Contemporary Architects had to Go Underground to Find Success

Gellert Station / sporaarchitects. Image © Tamás Bujnovszky

This article by ArchDaily’s former managing editor Vanessa Quirk first appeared on ArtsCultureBeat, the web magazine of Arts & Culture concentration at Columbia Journalism School’s MA program, titled “The Secret Life of Hungarian Contemporary Architecture.”

This time last year, Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán stood at a podium in a pristine new subway station. Raw concrete beams criss-crossed above him; state-of-the art, driverless trains stood silently beside him. It was the opening ceremony for Line 4, a subway line that due to delays, corruption, and disputes had been 40 years in the making.

“The people of began to accept the thought that only their grandchildren would use Budapest’s new Metro line, or not even them.” Orbán told the crowd. He recounted an old joke that embodied the cynicism that once surrounded the project: Chuck Norris had been on Metro Line 4.

Orbán credited the line’s completion, which occurred only a few weeks before the 2014 parliamentary elections, to “the solidarity and unity that was established in 2010 [when Orbán’s government took power] and has since been maintained.” He didn’t mention how, under his first government (1998 to 2002), he had withheld funds from the project, contributing significantly to its delay. Nor did he mention that his party had fought against the idea that the line, an expensive infrastructural project, needed architecture at all.

Today, though, the line’s stunning architecture is its most noticeable feature. Line 4 is not just a watershed achievement in ’s history, but also a symbol of what it takes to make contemporary architecture in today. Both literally and figuratively, contemporary architecture had to go underground.

London Underline: Gensler Envisions Subterranean Transportation Network for London

Bicycle Tunnel. Image Courtesy of Gensler

Last night, international design firm Gensler received the Planning Award for Best Conceptual Project for its latest vision: Underline. The proposal explores the potential of an underground bicycle and pedestrian park beneath the streets of London. Not only does this public interest design utilize existing abandoned space, but also generates the electricity to support itself simply by being used. 

City ID and Billings Jackson’s Maps Hope to Make Moscow More Legible

© Ivan Anisimov

Any system is only as good as its weakest link. A public transport system can have all manner of souped up trains, glamorous transport hubs and turbo-buses, but this can all be for nothing if one station has a confusing layout that unintentionally directs passengers onto the wrong route. For something as interconnected as a transport network, continuous and steady passenger flow is absolutely crucial. With this is mind, the Moscow Department of Transport and Road Infrastructure Development, commissioned City ID - a firm known for their wayfinding solutions in cities such as Bristol and New York - and their frequent collaborator Billings Jackson Design to develop a new system of smart signage for the city.

California Breaks Ground on America’s First High Speed Rail

Proposed Statewide Alignment Map. Image Courtesy of Rail LA

California has broke ground on America’s first line in Fresno, six years after voters first approved an almost $10 billion bond act to fund the project. However, along with celebrations comes skepticism; according to an NPR report, fears of the project’s failure have risen due to the rail line only having a fifth of its funding and that its nearly three-hour journey will still take longer than a flight connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco. Despite this, supporters are optimistic that the line will be up and running by 2030. The state will be relying on private investment and revenue from the state’s greenhouse-gas fees to secure the remaining $55 billion needed to complete the $68 billion project.

Audi Urban Future Award 2014: Team Berlin’s “Flywheel” Could Revolutionize Personal Mobility

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One of three runners-up in the 2014 Audi Urban Future Award, the Berlin Team of Max Schwitalla, Paul Friedli and Arndt Pechstein proposed a futuristic and innovative concept for an entirely new type of personal transport. Drawing inspiration from sources as diverse as elevator and biomimicry, their designs offer a thought-provoking alternative to our existing transportation systems that could revolutionize the city as we know it.

Though their proposal ultimately lost out to Jose Castillo’s Team Mexico City, the work of the Berlin team correlates closely with the aims of Audi’s Urban Future Initiative, offering a compromise between the convenience and status of personal transport and the civic benefits of public transport. Read on to find out how this was achieved.

Video: Why Should Architects be Concerned About Mobility?

With the rising success of electric and the highly anticipated introduction of self-driving , it is beginning to look like the ‘end of the automobile age’ which many predicted just a few years ago may never come. This was the sentiment presented by Audi CEO Rupert Stadler at the presentation of the Audi Urban Future Award last night: “The car has to be seen once again as a desirable object of progress,” he demanded. “To achieve this, we have to tear down the walls between infrastructure, public and individual traffic.” Audi’s New Urban Agenda therefore sets its sights on “solutions in which individual transportation makes a positive contribution in an overall system of different forms of mobility.”

The award, which saw Team Mexico City win with their proposal to crowd source up-to-the-minute traffic data which informs traffic planning decisions, highlights the relationship between cars, urban planning and ultimately architecture. “We have left mobility to the transportation experts for too many decades,” says Jose Castillo, a Harvard Professor and leader of Team Mexico City. “Nowadays thinking about urban space and infrastructure, this is something that architects have a lot to say about.”

Check out our video from the event above, where we asked participants from each of the four teams to outline in their view “why should architects be concerned about mobility?”

“A New Online Marketplace for Mobility” Wins 2014 Audi Urban Future Award

“A New Online Marketplace for ,” an innovative proposal by city planner Philip Parsons and mobility expert Federico Parolotto that aims to optimize mobility in megacities, has been named the first participant in the Urban Future Award 2014. Selected from a shortlist of three, the winners will now assemble a team of urban designers in order to pursue their visionary idea. Read more about their winning proposal, here.

Washington DC Metro Awarded AIA 25 Year Award

© Flickr CC User Sergio Feria

The AIA has given the 25 year award - for architectural projects which have stood the test of time – to the Washington DC Metro System. Designed by Harry Weese and opened in 1976, the metro system has been praised for its application of a sense of civic dignity to the function of transportation, as well as the consistency of the design across its 86 stations. You can read an accompanying article about the design of the Metro System here.

AD Interviews Eduardo Souto de Moura On His Latest Prize

Prtizker laureate accepts the Veronica Rudge Green Prize in Urban Design at a ceremony held at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in September. Image © Yusuke Suzuki for Harvard GSD Events

ArchDaily got the chance to briefly speak with Pritzker-prize winning Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura when he (along with the Metro Authority) received the Veronica Rudge Green Prize in Urban Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design earlier this month. His design for the Metro system in Porto, Portugal garnered high praise from the jury, with member Rahul Mehrotra explaining that the project “shows generosity to the public realm unusual for contemporary infrastructure projects.” Upon receipt of the award, the head of the Porto Metro, João Velez Carvalho, thanked Souto de Moura for his efforts in this “urban revolution” and touted Porto as a destination in which people actively and enthusiastically seek out the architecture of Souto de Moura and fellow Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza. 

Souto de Moura spent a few moments with us to describe both the challenges and rewards of working on a project that saw the completion of 60 new stations constructed in 10 years within the sensitive fabric of the city of Porto—a UNESCO World Heritage site.

ArchDaily: What is your opinion of architecture prizes?

Eduardo Souto de Moura: I won’t be modest, I like describing my opinion about them because the profession is so tough and difficult that is it complicated to achieve a high level of quality. So when you’re awarded a prize it’s like a confirmation of your effort. But the other thing is that a project is not the act of an individual, it’s a collective act. When there’s a prize, the press and the people, the “anonymous people,” go see the project and talk about it, critique it. That’s what gives me the motivation to continue in the profession. And every time it gets more difficult.

Details Unveiled for Elon Musk’s California, Solar-Powered “Hyperloop”

Courtesy of

Imagine driving your car into a sizable aluminum pod and being shot 800 miles per hour through an elevated, shotgun-like barrel to arrive at a city 400 miles away within 30 minutes. According to Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and co-founder of Tesla Motors, Californians will be doing this within the next decade. 

Nearly a year after mentioning the possibility of a hyper-speed transit system and voicing discontent over the state’s “expensive, slow and impractical” high-speed rail proposal, Musk has unveiled a detailed synopsis of his solar- and wind-powered “Hyperloop.” The idea, originally inspired by the vacuum tubes used to transport checks at bank drive-throughs, has the potential to revolutionize mass transit.

Höweler + Yoon Architecture and Audi to Develop Pilot Project for BosWash: Shareway 2030

© Höweler+Yoon Architecture

Last year interdisciplinary architecture firm was announced the winners of the Urban Future Award for the project Boswash:Shareway 2030.  The City Dossier in Boston, held this May, was organized as a series of workshops between Höweler + Yoon Architecture and experts in developing steps to realize aspects of the Boswash: Shareway vision.  Part research project, part feasibility study, part road map to the future of mobility – the focus of the workshops is to propose a pilot project that can be tested in the proposed region of Boston – Washington.

We featured the project last year as it highlights how the landscape of urban development has changed.  The focus of “Shareway” is the string of high-density metropolitan areas, their suburbs and ex-urbs along I-95 between Boston, MA and Washington, DC.  The I-95 corridor caters to some fifty million inhabitants, many of whom commute into metropolitan areas for work.  Mobility and transportation are critical to the economic vitality of these urban areas; “Shareway” proposes an intentionally re-engineered “highly orchestrated and deliberately produced platform from which we might imagine alternate paths, different trajectories, or new cultural dreams” whereby imagining an “alternate life for the road” is imagining a new American Dream.

Read on for more on the progress of this project after the break.

The Bike-Sharing Takeover

Bike-Share in St. Paul, Minnesota; © Flickr User Taestall; Licensed via Creative Commons

Bike sharing has become a staple for urban commuting in city’s all over the world.  Since its reintroduction into urban culture in the 1990s, it has taken on many forms.  Today it is being optimized to serve dense to help alleviate traffic congestion, provide people with more options, and to encourage a healthy way of commuting.  An article by the Earth Policy Institute by Janet Larsen marks the exponential progress of bike-sharing programs, noting innovative solutions in cities across the world that make the programs safer, more accessible and more streamlined.

Join us after the break for more.

Businessman Offers to Save Brutalist Landmark From Demolition

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Divisive concrete behemoth Preston Bus Station may yet be saved from its planned demolition. On the heels of a well co-ordinated campaign to save the brutalist monument, local businessman Simon Rigby has stepped in and offered to relieve the council of the building planning refurbish and operate the bus station himself.

Read more about the controversy and Rigby’s plan after the break…

Urban Development in the Bloomberg Years

High Line Aerial View, from West 30th Street, looking West toward the Empire State Building. © Iwan Baan

is delicately intertwined with government.  As much as architects and designers try to avoid the overwrought laws and codes and prescriptive government policies that guide the construction and development of the urban landscape, they are very much a shaping force in such as New York.  Ask any architect working in a such as NYC and they will likely describe the bureaucratic hassles of working with outdated zoning regulations and restrictive building codes.  In this NPR segment Leonard Lopate interviews New York Magazine’s architecture critic Justin Davidson to discusses the impact of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s planning policies on New York City’s urban development.

Join us after the break for the link.

The London ‘LidoLine’ – Swim to Work on Y/N Studio’s Proposal

Courtesy of
[Y/N] studio has an exciting new proposition for you if you happen to live in London, , near the Regents Canal called LidoLine.  If you are tired of public transportation or bored of walking or cycling to work, [Y/N] studio suggests swimming to work along one of London’s canals. The ambitious project, runner-up in the 2012 Landscape Institute Ideas Competition of London, has many unresolved considerations, but the fundamental desire to reinvigorate and address the potential of public space along London’s canals is certainly admirable.  Being a bit far-fetched, the design has rallied a few criticisms, but let’s consider what the project really addresses.

Join us after the break for more.

Forget High-Speed, the Next Transportation Will Be Hyper-Speed

A concept rendering for Aeromovel, a system cites as similar to his Hyperloop. Photo via Dvice.

Only hours have passed since Governor Jerry Brown signed the controversial bill providing initial funding for California’s $68 billion High-Speed Rail project, which will connect Sacramento to San Francisco to , but already another plan has emerged that could blow all of California’s efforts out of the water.

Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and the co-founder of both PayPal and Tesla Motors, isn’t content with his plans to get astronauts to the International Space Station or put humans on Mars. He recently shared with PandoDaily his desire to patent a 5th mode of transportation, which he coins the “Hyperloop,” that would cheaply get passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles – in just 30 minutes. What’s more, Musk claims the “Hyperloop” will never crash, be immune to weather, go twice as fast as an aeroplane, four times as fast as a bullet train, and – to top it off – run completely on solar power.

So, what would it look like? Although Musk likened the idea to Aeromovel (shown above) as well as a “Jetsons-tunnel” that “whisks you away,” no one really has any idea. Musk’s open sourcing the implementation  to “anyone who can make a credible case that they can do it.” So whether the next frontier of transportation is pod-like, tube-like, or just a glorified train, we’ll have to wait at least a few weeks more before Musk’s willing to give up any more details…

Story via The Atlantic, Inhabitat, Business Insiderand Dvice.