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Video Series: Six Lessons from Six Leading Dutch Designers

There's something special about architecture in The Netherlands. From MVRDV's iconic Markthal in Rotterdam to WAM's whimsically stacked Inntel Hotel in Zaandam, for years Dutch design has questioned accepted architectural norms. The country has long been considered a leader in design, catalyzed in part by The Netherlands' famous architectural trailblazer Rem Koolhaas. Since 1975 Koolhaas' Rotterdam-based firm OMA has realized dozens of unorthodox designs and has been linked with the creation of more than forty major architecture practices worldwide.

In 2000 Bart Lootsma released Superdutch, a bestselling opus on the mythology of Dutch architecture and its thought leaders, which provided a glimpse into the enduring humanist approach to design that has earned global praise for the country's architects. In the book, Lootsma profiled a handful of Dutch firms including UNStudio, West 8 and MVRDV. Fifteen years later, students from Canada's Simon Fraser University formed a collective called Groep Drie to continue the conversation. From Herman Hertzberger to Ben van Berkel, Groep Drie sat down with The Netherlands' most innovative designers to talk urbanism, spiritualism, color, and more.

Read on to find out what The Netherlands' leading architects had to say.

West 8 and Snoeck Win Competition to Redesign Het Zand Square in Bruges

The Bruges City Council has selected West 8 + Snoeck & Partners, in partnership with Atelier Roland-Jéol, as the winners of a competition to design the ‘t Zand, also known as Het Zand Square, in Bruges, Belgium.

The 8,500-square-meter historic square has remained unchanged for the past 30 years, and the Council felt that an update was duly needed. In January, five out of 20 designs were shortlisted, and on June 16, the winner was chosen at a presentation before a jury of City Council representatives and external experts.

OMA Among 5 Shortlisted for Singapore Rail Corridor

MVRDV, OMA and DP Architects are among five shortlisted teams competing to design the Singapore Rail Corridor. Spanning the island south to north, from the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station to the Woodlands Checkpoint, the corridor is the site of Singapore’s previous rail link to Malaysia. With this competition, the Singapore government hopes to develop a feasible plan to transform the 24 kilometer stretch into a public greenway that connects four important urban nodes: Buona Vista, the Bukit Timah Railway Station area, the former Bukit Timah Fire Station, and Kranji. 

“The expanse of the corridor running through the centre of the entire country presents an unprecedented opportunity to develop a new typology of landscape with transformative effects for the country as a whole. This is a project that has the potential to improve quality of life for generations to come," says OMA Partner Michael Kokora. 

64 teams responded to the government's call for ideas, and now only five have been selected to move onto the competition's second stage. These five teams are...

SHoP and West 8 Propose New "Innovation District" for Miami

© SHoP Architects
© SHoP Architects

SHoP Architects and West 8 have teamed up with developer Michael Simkins to propose a new 10-acre "Innovation District" in Miami's Park West neighborhood. If approved, the four-block area would foster the "growth of creative technology industries" within the city and provide "world-class urban amenities" to the surrounding communities. 

"True innovation today requires the very thing that cities, at their best, have always provided: creative proximity. Even as it continues its rapid development, the city of Miami does not currently offer significant urban environments that meet the necessary criteria," said SHoP in a press release.  

Architects And Coding: Why You Should Treat Your Software Like Your Smartphone

In 2014 renowned Dutch politician Neelie Kroes, then a commissioner for the European Union, stated that coding should be taught in elementary school in the Netherlands, arguing that “Coding is the reading and writing of the future” and that if the Dutch didn’t incorporate it into their education system it would fall behind school systems in other countries. The reactions to both Kroes’ statement and Michael Kilkelly's article "5 Reasons Architects Should Learn To Code" were quite similar. Those already capable of writing code agreed; many who have never even seen, let alone written any script responded negatively. Many reactions to Micheal Kilkelly's article covered the same ideas: “There's no time!” “Coding is not designing!” Or just plain, “No!”

KPMB and West 8 Selected to Redesign Toronto Ferry Terminal

KPMB Architects, West 8 and Greenberg Consultants have been announced as winners of a competition to revitalize Toronto's Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and Harbor Square Park. The winning proposal, "Harbour Landing" envisions a terminal embedded within the surrounding park and topped with a lush public green space that expands the waterfront park. 

"The vision for the area will result in a welcoming gateway to the Toronto Islands – one of the City's most unique and cherished parks – with amenities and infrastructure to support the approximately 1.3 million visitors who use the ferry each year," said competition organizers, Waterfront Toronto and the City of Toronto in a press release. 

West 8 Set to Revitalize Colombia's Rio Cali Park

After forty years of social upheaval, Cali, Colombia is refocusing its attention on urban planning and revitalization. A steadily stabilizing economy has led to investment in the renewal of the public realm and transportation systems. Working to promote Cali's natural heritage, West 8 has teamed up with the Municipality of Cali to design the Rio Cali Park as part of an initiative called "A Dream to Cross a River." The project aims to integrate a safe, well-connected public space with a thriving urban center. 

Jardin Jorge Isaacs . Image Courtesy of West 8 Puentos Jardin Jorge Isaacs . Image Courtesy of West 8 Paseo Bolivar. Image Courtesy of West 8 Plazoleta del CAM. Image Courtesy of West 8

Fentress Releases Final Design for Miami Beach Convention Center

Fentress Architects has released plans for the $500 million redesign of the Miami Beach Convention Center. The news follows the City of Miami’s controversial decision to nix plans provided by OMA, who was originally awarded the commission after a high profile competition against BIG. 

Fentress will be working with Arquitectonica and West 8 on a significantly scaled-down masterplan that will include the renovation of the 500,000-square-foot exhibition hall and 200,000-square-feet of existing meeting space, as well as a new 80,000-square-foot ballroom and outdoor event space.

Five Proposals Unveiled for Presidio Parklands in San Francisco

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, OLIN with Olson Kundig ArchitectsSnøhetta 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

PresidiO / West 8. Image © Team West 8 Your Gateway Park / OLIN + Olson Kundig Architects. Image © OLIN Courtesy of the Presidio Trust The Observation Post / CMG Landscape Architecture. Image © CMG Landscape Architecture Courtesy of the Presidio Trust Your Gateway Park / OLIN + Olson Kundig Architects. Image © OLIN Courtesy of the Presidio Trust

Final Design Concepts Unveiled for Arizona’s Mesa City Center

Design by Colwell Shelor + West 8 + Weddle Gilmore. Aerial Context Future Growth. Image Courtesy of West 8
Design by Colwell Shelor + West 8 + Weddle Gilmore. Aerial Context Future Growth. Image Courtesy of West 8

The final design concepts for the redesign of Arizona’s Mesa City Center have been unveiled by the competition's three finalist design teams: Colwell Shelor + West 8 + Weddle Gilmore; Woods Bagot + Surface Design; and Otak + Mayer Reed.

The Mesa City Center redesign project aims to develop an 18 acre site in the city’s downtown and enhance the urbanization of the area. When complete, the city center will be transformed into a public space with both programmed and passive space that can be used for informal gatherings as well as events. “The signature public space will be a key element in the activation of the downtown core and will be a catalyst for high intensity redevelopment surrounding City Center with a variety of uses that activate the public space,” the competition website states.

Read on after the break for descriptions and images from the architects of their design proposals…

Arquitectonica Takes Over Miami Beach Convention Center From OMA

Following the controversial decision to scrap plans by OMA earlier this year, Miami Beach officials have selected Arquitectonica for the redesign of the Miami Beach Convention Center. In a significant scaling-down of OMA's $1 billion masterplan, the new scheme calls for the existing center to be kept and renovated to 'Class A' standards, along with the addition of a new ballroom, meeting space and rooftop parking. The center's existing parking lot will be converted into a 6.5 acre public park, designed by landscape firm West 8.

More on the Convention Center Controversy after the break


Presidio Trust Enlists 5 to Envision New Schemes for Crissy Field

San Francisco’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 Crissy Field, 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...

Shortlist Announced to Design Moscow's First Park in 50 Years

In the 20th century, it was going to be the site of the world's tallest skyscraper, but it became the world's largest hotel. In 2006, the hotel was replaced with a fence, the largest advertising space in all of Europe, enclosing acres of undeveloped, highly valuable land. In 2014, it will become Moscow's first - and most important - park in over 50 years.

Zaryadye Park, located on 13 acres of land just a minute's walk from the Kremlin and the Red Square, will become a gateway to Moscow, one that will "project a new image of Moscow and Russia to the world." Because of the Park's significance, the city of Moscow (with aid from the Strelka Institute for Media Architecture and Design) has decided to host an international competition for its re-design.

The 6 finalists shortlisted for this significant project, after the break...

2013 Douglas C. Allen Lecture: Adriaan Geuze

This year's Douglas C. Allen Lecture, presented by the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Architecture, features Adriaan Geuze, one of the founders of West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture. Founded in 1987, West 8 is an award-winning international office which has established itself as a leading practice within the last 20 years with about 70 architects, urban designers, landscape architects, and industrial engineersThe event takes place Wednesday, March 6th, from 6:00pm-7:30pm in the Reinsch-Pierce Family Auditorium. For more details about the event, please visit here

Governors Island / West 8

© West 8 / Rogers Marvel Architects / Diller Scofidio + Renfro / Mathews Nielsen / Urban Design +
© West 8 / Rogers Marvel Architects / Diller Scofidio + Renfro / Mathews Nielsen / Urban Design +

Despite all of the preconceived notions about New York City being overpopulated, noisy and constantly bustling, there are numerous pockets within the five boroughs that offer respite from the city. This design strives to be one such pocket – or island. Governors Island has a long military history that dates back to 1776. It was controlled by the U.S. Government first for the U.S. Army and later for the Coast Guard. In 2002 the island was “sold” to the people of New York and declared a national monument. In 2010, Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson agreed on the future operations, planning and redevelopment of the island through the Trust for Governors Island. Since then, the island has been open during the summer months for visitors to enjoy the unique seclusion offered by the the old military grounds. But the Trust had bigger plans. Choosing a team of architects, urban planners, designers and landscape architects that include Rogers Marvel Architects, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Mathews Nielsen and led by West 8, plans began to unfold that would reimagine the island as a getaway for New Yorkers. Playing up to its isolation, its abundance of lawns and trees, and the views that it offers, the first phase of the plans have officially broken ground and are scheduled for completion in Fall 2013.

Check out what’s in store for Governors Island after the break.

Six Visions for the Los Angeles Union Station Master Plan

Grimshaw / Gruen Via The Source
Grimshaw / Gruen Via The Source

Metro officials have released six conceptual visions that suggest how the historic Los Angeles Union Station could be transformed by 2050. Preliminary “Vision Boards” were released in a public forum at Union Station last week, and although they are not part of the formal evaluation process, they have ignited an immense amount of public interest in the competition.

In an article posted on The Source, Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa described that this competition is “about preparing for the future.” As plans for the California High-Speed Rail System evolve, it is imperative that Union Station is redeveloped to meet the standards of a 21st century transportation hub.

Continue after the break to view each Vision Board provided by the six well-known practices shortlisted for the competition.

The New Design Museum / John Pawson, OMA, West 8, Arup

© Alex Morris Visualisation
© Alex Morris Visualisation

John Pawson, OMA, West 8 and Arup were all asked to come together to design The New Design Museum in London. Their design will accommodate up to 500,000 visitors per year. Notable for its superb complex hyperbolic paraboloid copper roof intended by the architects to symbolize a tent in the park, it is regarded by English Heritage as the second most important modern building in London, after the Royal Festival Hall. Plans to bring the new design to fruition is scheduled to be completed by 2014. More images and architects’ description after the break.