For those in the northern hemisphere, the last full week in January last week kicks off with Blue Monday - the day claimed to be the most depressing of the year. Weather is bleak, sunsets are early, resolutions are broken, and there’s only the vaguest glimpse of a holiday on the horizon. It’s perhaps this miserable context that is making the field seem extra productive, with a spate of new projects, toppings out and, completions announced this week.
The week of 21 January 2019 in review, after the break:
Diller, Scofidio + Renfro Dominate
New York practice Diller Scofidio + Renfro dominated early-week headlines, after announcing both their new design for the London Centre for Music and the completion of their Hudson Yards skyscraper (with Rockwell Group as Lead Interior Architect) in New York. The proposed Centre for Music sits amongst prime central London real estate, ensconced within the Barbican (itself a cultural hub) and within spitting distance of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Millennium Bridge, and the Tate Modern - perhaps a point of inspiration.
Across the pond, the office’s Hudson Yards skyscraper has reached completion (also a collaboration with Rockwell Group as Lead Interior Architect), topping out at 88 stories and boasting panoramic views across the city. The scheme is just a small part of the mega-development however, which also includes towers from KPF and Foster + Partners) and 21st-century follies from Heatherwick Studio and (surprise!) Diller, Scofidio, + Renfro.
As many of the development’s individual works near completion, expect to see more from Hudson Yards.
Such Great Heights
New York’s West Side may boast an unusually dense agglomeration of new skyscrapers, but height records are being broken in Midtown. Gensler announced details this week of their proposed Tower Fifth, to be located in Midtown adjacent to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. If realized, the 1556-foot-tall scheme would be the second tallest building in the Western Hemisphere (second only to the patriotically height-ed One World Trade at 1776 feet.)
According to Gensler, the tower will create “...a new paradigm for how a supertall structure meets the street and interacts with its neighbors.” It’s encouraging to hear of the practice’s commitment to its beloved and iconic neighbor (not to mention the active street level of Midtown), as the superlative nature of skyscrapers drowns out their surroundings more often than not.
The history of skyscrapers is one more entwined with wealth and ego than with design or human scale. These buildings are objects, and nowhere does this become more clear than in our obsession with heights and superlatives. The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) released their list of the World’s 25 Tallest Buildings this week, drawing from their proprietary system that measures from the “level of the lowest, significant, open-air, pedestrian entrance to the architectural top of the building, including spires, but not including antennae, signage, flag poles or other functional-technical equipment.” Towers range include the mega-famous Burj Khalifa and Taipei 101 and the perhaps less known Lotte World Tower, Viacom Landmark 81.
With superlatives on the mind, it’s natural to think of architecture's greatest professional superlative: the Pritzker Prize. After years of fairly predictable laureates, the Pritzker Prize today has become less of a sure thing. Shigeru Ban’s selection in 2014 took many by surprise - a reaction happily repeated nearly every year since.
In our own poll to guess at the next laureate (a nearly pointless task, as established above), readers seemed to skew toward the conventional choices of previous decades: Bjarke Ingels, David Chipperfield, Steven Holl topped the list. And while their works are no doubt worthy of the recognition, should they be the winners? The Pritzker Prize of today is one that recognizes not just excellence in architecture, but sensitivity in craft, scale, context, and approach. It’s more interesting to look at the deserving names not yet in lights: Juha Leiviskä, Lacaton Vassal, Bijoy Jain, Tatiana Bilbao, selgascano, TEd’A. If we’re lucky, it will go to someone the mainstream hardly knows at all.
Use + Reuse
Each year we cite the incontrovertible evidence of the building industry’s negative environmental impact, saying that this will be the year we finally turn things around. But until we get comfortable with the notion that this means not just doing more with less, but doing less altogether, we’re not likely to make much headway.
Mecanoo and Braaksma + Roos' recent LocHal Library project, a renovation of a former locomotive shed in Tilburg sets a promising tone - not just for reusing an existing space, but for doing so in a way that fits its context. In “Why Reusing Buildings Should - and Must - be the Next Big Thing” (originally published by CommonEdge) Mark Alan Hewitt argued that the sustainability standards set by organizations like COTE fail us in their box-ticking inflexibility and focus on technology as the primary problem solver. But wasn’t this the approach that got us in this mess in the first place?
Stories you Shouldn’t Miss:
“Andrea Bruno’s thoughtful work at the Castello di Rivoli tells not just the story of a building, but of the shifting tides of sovereignty and power. It may not be obviously or conventionally stylish, but it is profoundly meaningful.”
“Today’s hand drawings make the same impact renderings did twenty years ago; they are fresh and new. It’s time to think again about how we communicate with our clients; we need to help them understand what we do, not sell them a fairy tale.”
“UNESCO has named Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as the World Capital of Architecture for 2020. In keeping with UNESCO’s recent partnership agreement with the UIA, UNESCO designates the World Capital of Architecture, which also hosts the UIA’s World Congress.”
“Microsoft has unveiled plans to commit $500 million to advance affordable housing solutions across the city of Seattle, Washington. The money, to be distributed as loans and grants, will kick-start new solutions to the city’s housing crisis, where income increases have lagged behind rising housing prices.”