At ArchDaily, we take great pride in bringing our readers the best selection of architectural projects and news stories around, but another big part of our editorial mission also involves giving architects access to the knowledge that will help them improve the lives of future urban dwellers. As the year draws to a close, each of the editors at ArchDaily has personally selected their favorite articles from the past year which complement this editorial mission. These articles may not be the ones that garnered the most attention or views, but we think they are vital nonetheless.
Our top 14 of 2014 includes coverage of crucial events, like the attention-grabbing competition that broke almost every record going, and an architectural model that redefined the idea of political protest; it features profiles of people who are redefining the profession, including both one of the world's most famous architects who had one of his greatest years yet, and a woman who spends most of her time working with sewage; and it includes insightful histories, such as how communist architecture developed in the mid-twentieth century, and how that period is now defining architecture in a modern-day communist superpower. Read on to find out which articles made our list as the best of the past year.
The last article former-Managing Editor Vanessa Quirk wrote for ArchDaily, “Introducing ‘Potty-Girl,’ The Architect of the Future?” is an interview with Julia King, the AJ’s Emerging Woman Architect of the Year. The interview looks at King’s work in the slums of India, implementing sewage systems. While her work is not “what is traditionally considered ‘architecture,’” King uses her architectural background to design what is most needed by the community, demonstrating the positive social impact that architecture can have on a community and the importance of designing for the 99%. – Chosen by Katie Watkins
Western media has a tendency to treat China as the world’s cultural punching-bag, often denouncing the supposed inhuman nature of their urban development, lack of respect for their own heritage, and propensity toward copying the designs of others. Jacob Dreyer’s article provides a refreshing antidote to this “typically patronising myopia,” placing Chinese urbanism in the wider political context of Communist urbanism and Stalinist economic principles - and if we were to judge success on those principles, we would find that China is doing pretty well after all. – Chosen by Rory Stott
Since its announcement earlier this year, the Guggenheim’s plan to build a new museum in the Finnish city of Helsinki has generated as much excitement as it has criticism. In the largest architectural competition ever conducted, architects from over 70 countries submitted 1715 proposals. In the wake of the announcement of the finalists, the ArchDaily editors issued a call to the 1709 non-finalist entrants since we wanted to recognize the tremendous effort that went into this uniquely enormous design endeavor. Though we received only 10% of the total entries, we spent days sifting through them in order to bring you a shortlist of the most exciting proposals, before handing them off to our very own Connor Walker, who did an excellent job of describing each of the projects on the ArchDaily “shortlist.” – Chosen by Becky Quintal
Every year the question of architectural copyright reemerges. It was a conundrum faced this year by US Federal District Court Judge James Lawrence King when he was presented with the Sieger Suarez / Arquitectonica case (Miami, USA). Although the individual elements of architecture (doors, windows, floors etc.) can be categorized and ‘copyrighted’, protecting the sum total of these parts in the form of a building from intellectual theft is more complex. Mitch Tuchman explores the difference between an ‘idea’ and the ‘expression of an idea’ in detail, recounting the case in question with clarity. His conclusions reveal that we are still quite far away from reaching a national, let alone global, consensus on the issue of ‘idea theft’ in architecture. – Chosen by James Taylor-Foster
Though architects are often well-versed in matters of politics and culture, it’s rare that they weigh-in with insightful, incisive commentary. We welcome the inclusion of voices from the architectural world in these important dialogues, and Reinier de Graaf, partner at OMA and director of AMO, hit the mark with his argument against the emerging popular view that a world governed by mayoral rule might prove more advantageous than the current system. Giving credit to the fact that the majority of the global population lives in cities, de Graaf stresses that mayors’ ability to focus on smaller, city-level problems is precisely what has enabled them to successfully effect big changes (while simultaneously garnering high levels of public acceptance). But how scalable is this success? Not very, argues de Graaf as he takes a closer look at climate change, migration, and what a “Global Parliament of Mayors” might actually look like. – Chosen by Becky Quintal
Rem Koolhaas’ Current Fascinations: On Identity, Asia, the Biennale, & More by Andrew Mackenzie
Throughout 2014, all eyes were on Rem Koolhaas. As the director of the year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, Koolhaas inspired the entire profession to reconsider the “fundamentals” of modernity. Honoring this historic moment, the Architectural Review’s Andrew Mackenzie scribes Koolhaas’ current thoughts on the extinction of national identities, his fascination with Asia and rapid evolution of our industry. – Chosen by Karissa Rosenfield
Architecture media has changed drastically with the rise of online media, but also with the habits of a new generation of architects who consume and share architectural knowledge in a different way. This clash has led to many critiques of online media; critiques that are sometimes correct, as online publications are still developing, and some wrong, by not understanding the underlying logic of new media. With the internet we have the possibility to make architectural knowledge available to every architect (and every passionate enthusiast) in the world, instead of only the few who can have direct access to it, breaking the topocratic model of architectural knowledge. In this article, Rory explains some of the underlying aspects of ArchDaily, opening the debate about our focus, mission, and responsibility in this age. – Chosen by David Basulto
Once again Rem Koolhaas goes a step further in the discussion of contemporary issues. This time he takes on the smart city, a trend where architects, again, arrived late to the party. Koolhaas goes deep into how technology can really be a part of the city, and why. Could this be part of an ongoing research for a project in Silicon Valley? Time will tell. Chosen by David Basulto
Laura Amaya’s article offers an interesting comparison of the effects of mass urbanization on three cities on opposite sides of the world: Bogotá, Rio de Janeiro and Bombay. All three metropolises are comprised of “villagers on the road to urbanization,” with informal and constantly adapting housing emerging as a result. Amaya argues that much can be learned from the “nature of progressive development in cities like Bogotá and Bombay,” offering insight into how our cities might develop in the future. – Chosen by Katie Watkins
What Gentrification Really Is, and How We Can Avoid It by Annalee Newitz
“Gentrification is a form of immigration, though almost nobody calls it that.” With this opening gambit, Annalee Newitz sets out to almost completely reframe the controversy surrounding gentrification. She discusses the current conflicts in cities such as San Francisco and Istanbul as simply the latest trend in the ever evolving process of influx and displacement that characterizes urban neighborhoods - driven by capital instead of the violence or coercion that was more common in the past. With the debate thus re-evaluated, she clearly shows how in some cases efforts to curb gentrification can be as damaging as encouraging it, offering a critical opportunity for cities to re-think their current policies. – Chosen by Rory Stott
How much is €19 billion? A number so large most can hardly fathom, €19 billion was the cost of Austria’s recent bailout of Hypo-Alpe-Adria - one Europe’s largest financial scandals in recent history. Using architecture as a new form of protest, a group of students at the Technical University of Vienna set out to help the public visualize just how much €19 billion is - enough to construct an idealistic city, with ample renewable energy and free public education, for over 100,000 people. In his article, ArchDaily’s Evan Rawn recounts this fascinating story, revealing how students used architecture as a powerful source of political activism. – Chosen by Karissa Rosenfield
The High Line’s Final Chapter is Complete; But Don’t Close the Book Just Yet by Anthony Paletta
Responding to Metropolis Magazine’s question “What is the State of Design Criticism?” earlier this year, Alexandra Lange lamented the fact that “the building review is starting to disappear,” meaning that “critics promote better discourse but not necessarily better buildings.” The final completion of the epoch-defining high-line demanded an exception to this trend, and Anthony Paletta delivers excellently, in a fashion that steers carefully between pragmatism and wistfulness. – Chosen by Rory Stott
Libraries, as a program, have been an example of architectural development through the ages. Today, this program is facing a tremendous challenge as the digital formats take over, posing the question of how existing libraries should evolve. An innovative answer comes from Moscow, where a strong cultural past left more than 450 libraries ready for a contemporary experiment by SVESMI. – Chosen by David Basulto
For many, there is a strange fascination with the architecture of the Soviet era. Ross Wolfe’s illustrated essay charts the central struggle that permeated through the political atmosphere of twentieth century Russia, which was fundamentally divided in two camps: the Constructivists and the Stalinists (alongside a short spell of Art Nouveau). The first, “champions of light, airy, and functional buildings”, and the second, an architecture of “thuggish hybrids and clumsy pastiche,” were both of enormous significance in the trajectory of early modern architecture. Taking the reader on a journey through some of the herculean monuments of Soviet triumphalism - some of which can be visited today - to magnificent unbuilt piles of “gothic, baroque, and neoclassical elements in almost equal measure,” Wolfe’s words remind us of an architecture that was as intimidating as it was spectacular. – Chosen by James Taylor-Foster
- David Basulto is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ArchDaily. Follow him on Twitter @dbasulto
- Becky Quintal is the Executive Editor of ArchDaily.
- Rory Stott is the Managing Editor for ArchDaily. You can follow him on Twitter @StottR
- Karissa Rosenfield is the US Editor for ArchDaily.
- Katie Watkins is an Editor for ArchDaily.
- James Taylor-Foster is a Contributing Editor for ArchDaily. You can follow him on Twitter at @J_Taylor_Foster