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Creating the Scene with V-Ray for 3ds Max

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Artist Jiří Matys used V-Ray for 3ds Max to transform a day scene into a dramatic rainy night.

Zaha Hadid to Develop Plans for New London Airport

As pressure mounts to solve the UK’s aviation crisis, the Mayor of London has appointed Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) alongside a world-class team of aviation experts to develop plans for a new major airport in southeast England. The team is expected to resolve the debate on how and where the capital’s next multi-runway airport hub should be constructed, a decision that will play a critical role in the future of the British economy.

Zaha Hadid said: "This work is essential to deliver the most integrated transport solutions for London and the UK. It will enable London to maintain its position as one of the world's most important economic, commercial and cultural centers; outlining the city's future growth and development which has always been founded on global connectivity."

See who made the list after the break...

PechaKucha Celebrates 10 Years!

After coming to the realization that architects tend to talk way too much, Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture devised a lecture format that ended up revolutionizing the way we present. For the past 10 years, PechaKucha 20x20 has inspired creatives from 600 cities to informally gather in dimly lit spaces around the globe and conduct 400-second presentations to their friends and colleagues. The beauty of PechaKucha Night is that anyone can participate - as long as they stick to the 20 image, 20 second format - thus providing ample amounts of stimulating information, ideas and inspiration in just a short, booze-filled night. Who wouldn’t like that?

San Francisco's Zero Waste Successes

The "Pit" in San Francisco © Walter Parenteau
The "Pit" in San Francisco © Walter Parenteau

Approaching zero-waste is a matter of changing the way our culture thinks about use and reuse.  It's not an impossible task, and San Francisco is leading the march to establish a feasible means of enacting public policy, structuring programs and educating the public on what it means to be "zero-waste".  With a goal set for 2020, SF hopes to keep 100% of its waste out of landfills.  Mayor Ed Lee estimates that the leading waste management company "Recology" is diverting nearly 80% of trash from landfills to be recycled or turned into compost.  This begins with a public policy that sets a standard and gains traction as citizens embrace the goals of the city.  Support programs reinforce these guidelines that eventually become habits and a cultural response to treating our environment.

Read on after the break for more on San Francisco's road to "zero-waste".

Refurbishing America's Shopping Mall

One thing about a recession is that it accelerates the demise of dying trends and struggling establishments. In this case, it is America’s beloved shopping malls, which have been slowly in decline since its peak popularity in 1990. Now, in the wake of the 2008 economic catastrophe, American cities are riddled with these abandoned shopping meccas, from the mall to big box stores and shopping strips, whose oversize parking lots are equally as useless as the spaces themselves. The question is, how can we effectively repurpose these spaces?

A perfect example after the break...

Gensler Designs New Silicon Valley Headquarters for Nvidia

Silicon Valley visual-computing pioneer Nvidia has joined the expanding list of tech moguls seeking to transform their work environment into the physical manifestation of their innovative business model. Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang has released the first schematic renderings - designed by Gensler’s San Francisco office - that depict a pair of 250,000 square foot triangular motherships centered around collaboration - a complete contrast to the typical, dated office building commonly found throughout Silicon Valley’s “oddly banal” landscape.

More after the break...

3D Printing Pen Turns Sketches Into Reality In Seconds

The 3Doodler isn't just a small pen-like device that's "the most affordable way to 3D print" - it's also a Kickstarter smash. The pen reached its $30,000 goal in just a few hours, and, at the time of publication, has earned $555,301.

We've mentioned 3D Printing before for its exciting potential for architecture in the long-term; however, this little doodler shows how quickly the technology is progressing (and how cheap it's becoming). Plus, it's easy to imagine the 3Doodler becoming an integral part of any architect's life, as the device lets you trace your drawings and then pop them to life. It's not a 2D plan, it's not a 3D visualization, but something - awesomely - in between.

Learn more about this 3-D Printing Kickstarter success, after the break...

Why Pitting the Sexes Against Each Other Won't Close the Gender Gap

An article published in The Telegraph last week has been getting a lot of negative attention for its headline: “For safer, prettier cities pick a woman to build them.”

Oh dear. It’s certainly hard to get past that third word - prettier. The Globe and Mail lamented the word’s “sexist twinge.” A blogger for bricksandclicks suggested that the unflattering adjective “would never have headlined in an article about male architects.” And as Kristen Richards, the Editor-in-Chief of ArchNewsNow.com perfectly put it in her Newsletter: “‘prettier’?!!? this headline wins our groaner-of-the-year award.”

But, groan-worthiness aside, it seems rather unproductive to spend time poking at “pretty,” when the central thesis of the article is so darned sexist in itself - for women and men architects alike. 

Which Bold Idea Should Win Bloomberg's Mayors Challenge?

During a time of paralizing political turmoil, local leaders are stepping up to fulfill their role as pragmatic problem-solvers and combating the tough challenges - such as economic growth, environmental protection, public safety and poverty - facing our cities today. This empowering phenomenon is highlighted by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, a competition designed to further inspire America’s mayors and local leaders to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life.

Over 300 cities across the nation took the challenge and 20 finalists were selected in November. Now, it is your turn to vote on the idea you believe to have the greatest potential for impact. Five bold ideas will be selected in the coming weeks, each receiving national and local recognition. In addition, the winning city will receive a $5,000,000 grand prize and four other cities will receive $1,000,000 to help implement their ideas.

The proposals after the break...

Robert A. M. Stern Architects announces the RAMSA Travel Fellowship

The RAMSA Travel Fellowship is a $10,000 prize awarded yearly by Robert A. M. Stern Architects for the purpose of travel and research. More specifically, the RAMSA Travel Fellowship seeks to promote investigations on the perpetuation of tradition through invention - key to the firm’s own work. The prize is intended to nurture emerging talent and is awarded every year to an individual who has proven insight and interest in the profession and its future, as well as the ability to carry forth in-depth research.

ABI Reports Six Consecutive Month of Growth and Best Conditions Since 2007

Reflecting the strongest growth since November 2007, the January Architecture Billings Index (ABI) surged to a score of 54.2 - a sharp and welcomed increase from December’s 51.2* mark. Released by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the ABI is a leading economic indicator of construction activity that reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. By remaining above 50, January’s score illustrates the six consecutive month of growth for the United State's design and construction industry. This trend doesn't seem to be going away any time soon, as the new projects inquiry index accelerated beyond last month's reading of 57.9 and reached a score of 63.2.

“We have been pointing in this direction for the last several months, but this is the strongest indication that there will be an upturn in construction activity in the coming months,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “But as we continue to hear about overall improving economic conditions and that there are more inquiries for new design projects in the marketplace, a continued reservation by lending institutions to supply financing for construction projects is preventing a more widespread recovery in the industry.”

Review the ABI Highlights in greater detail, after the break...

The Countries Where Demand for Architects Outstrips Supply

While The WA100, Building Design’s annual ranking of the world’s largest architecture firms, isn’t perfect (see our controversial article here), it does reveal a lot about the state of architecture today. And for 2013, the ranking shows that there are finally brighter days ahead for architects - just not at home.

BD’s research reveals that China remains the world’s largest construction market (a title it’s held since 2010); that the Asia-Pacific Market is expected to be the largest by 2020 (with projected value of $4.6 trillion dollars); and that China, India, and Brazil offer the best growth potential for architectural services. Not surprisingly, the survey’s top three ranking firms - Aecom, Gensler, and IBI Group - all have a significant presence in these markets.  

However, are these mega-firms really the best models to aspire to? With the economic crisis making it everyday more evident that there are more opportunities abroad than at home, where is a firm to go? China? India? Brazil? 

Almost certainly not. 

Find out whether/where you should go abroad, after the break... 

Films & Architecture: "North by Northwest"

Our latest movie in our Films & Architecture series is another ’60s classic, this time by the master filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. In North by Northwest we see a New York in the heyday of its architectural glory, with one scene taking place at a newly constructed United Nations building. In fact, the last scene takes place in a “house” that, under Hitchcock’s instructions, was meant to seem designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (in reality, the house was just another set design). The film shows a variety of urban spaces, and puts special emphasis on the contrast between the densities of urban and rural realms.

As always, enjoy and comment!

How to Design Safer Cities

Copenhagen, Superkilen
Copenhagen, Superkilen

Can a good public space influence social behavior and make a city more secure?

In 1969, Philip Zimbardo, professor at the University of Stanford, performed a social psychological experiment. He placed an unlicensed car with a lifted hood in a neglected street in The Bronx, New York, and another similar car in a wealthy neighborhood of Palo Alto, California. The car in The Bronx was attacked in less than ten minutes, its apparent state of abandonment enabling the looting. The car in Palo Alto, however, remained untouched for more than a week.

Zimbardo then took his experiment one step further and broke a window of the car in Palo Alto. Almost immediately, passersby began to take things out of the car and within a few hours, the car had been completely dismantled. In both cases, many of the looters did not appear to be dangerous people. This experiment lead Harvard Professors George Kelling and James Wilson to develop the Broken Windows Theory in 1982: “If a broken window is left without repair, people will come to the conclusion that no one cares about it and that there is no one watching it. Then more windows will be broken and the lack of control will spread from the buildings to the streets, sending a signal that anything goes and that there is no authority.”

Read more about designing safer cities after the break...

Video: Diller Scofidio + Renfro talk Hirshhorn "Bubble" on The Creators Project

The Creators Project released two new documentaries this week which feature the brightest new minds in design and architecture. The first piece investigates the work of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and interdisciplinary design firm behind NYC’s High Line and Lincoln Center, and more. The second piece introduces us to the digital deviants OKFocus behind their new alpha-channel video experience for Tanlines’ “Not The Same.” The first video is above and the second video can be viewed after the break.

Arup Envisions the Skyscrapers of 2050

It is estimated that by 2050, 75 percent of the worlds - then 9 billion strong - population will live in cities. Urban Sprawl is already problematic and planners are faced with new challenges as they aim to build towards the sky rather than the horizon. In addition, cities are increasingly faced with climate change, resource scarcity, rising energy costs, and the possibility of future natural or man-made disasters. In response to these issues, Arup has proposed their vision of an urban building and city of the future.

In their proposal, titled “It’s Alive!”, they imagine an urban ecosystem of connected ‘living’ buildings, that not only create space, but also craft the environment. According to Arup, buildings of the future will not only produce energy and food, but will also provide its occupants with clean air and water.

More info on Arup's vision after the break...

The Indicator: Craft in the Digital Age

A few weeks ago there was a flurry of debate about one of Zaha Hadid’s designs being copied, or at least copied in terms of its outer form. Very soon after this I discovered an interesting article in the most recent issue of MIT’s Leonardo: Journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology.The article, "Hybrid Reassemblage: An Exploration of Craft, Digital Fabrication and Artifact Uniqueness” by Amit Zoran and Leah Buechley, raises some interesting points about the nature of originality, the subjective experience of making original things, and the potential for digital technology to impute this subjectivity to new and repeatable objects. In essence, the authors are discussing the position of craft, the hand-made, the personal, subjective act of making something that is singular and based on a personal process, the negotiation of decisions and risks with tools, materials, and design intentions.

Four Renowned Practices Battle it Out to Design Sydney's Next "Masterpiece"

Four of architecture’s finest has been shortlisted to design what Australian businessman James Packer hopes to be the most iconic building in Sydney since the Opera House. Italian Pritzker Prize-laureate Renzo Piano will compete against Chicago-based Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, New York-based Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates and London-based Wilkinson Eyre Architects to design a $1 billion, six-star Crown Sydney resort on a 6000 square meter site in the inner-city waterfront precinct of Barangaroo.

"Sydney deserves one of the world's best hotels and with these amazing architects I'm confident we will see the most iconic building constructed here since the Opera House," Packer told The Daily Telegraph. "I want this hotel resort to be instantly recognizable around the world and feature on postcards and memorabilia promoting Sydney. That's how you attract international tourists, create jobs and put Sydney on the map."

More after the break...

The 5 Best Architectural Partners of 2012

While Building Design's WA 100 is far better known for its ranking of the 100 largest architecture firms, the publication (which you can find here) also includes a lot of other rankings/information - like this gem. Architects' favorite professional associates in five categories - from building contractors to structural engineers.

While some familiar names grace the list (Arup comes in at number 1 for Service Engineers), we felt the list was a great way to spotlight many companies whose work seldom goes acknowledged (and without whom, the architecture we love would never come into being).

Check out the best architectural partners of 2012, after the break...

Estonian Young Architect Award 2012: Veronika Valk

Back in January, I had the opportunity to be part of the jury for the Young Architect Award in Estonia, which was officially announced by the President of Estonia, Mr. Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the past Thursday Feb 14th in Tallinn, at the annual meeting of the Union of Estonian Architects .

The objective of the award is to encourage innovative and creative thinking by young minds, and it gives the winner the chance to travel anywhere in the world, giving the opportunity to expand their vision and contribute back to the development of the country.

 During the process I had the chance to learn more about the new generation of Estonian architecture after reviewing the works and trajectory of the 8 shortlisted young architects, a generation with very diverse backgrounds and projects, but with one thing in common: a commitment to open up architecture and make it part of the larger public.

This year the ward went to Veronika Valk, who was recognized for her built work and her efforts to raise awareness around architecture (organizing international lectures, workshops, writing articles, and more). More about Veronika and the award after the break: 

Aurinkokivi School Awarded Proposal / Rudanko+Kankkunen

Courtesy of Rudanko+Kankkunen
Courtesy of Rudanko+Kankkunen

The design proposal for the Aurinkokivi School competition in Vantaa, Finland by Rudanko + Kankkunen was recently awarded a purchase prize for its inspiring architecture and child-friendly spaces. The concept is simple yet fresh: traditional gabled building wings meet and form a surprising composition at the heart of the building. The building is mostly on one level and can be realized with repeating construction elements. It is designed to be inexpensive to build, yet highly fresh and inviting. More images and architects’ description after the break.

Event: Buell Center at Columbia University presents “Comments on Comments”

Courtesy of The Buell Center
Courtesy of The Buell Center

How do we talk about architecture? Housing? Cities? Culture? Politics? And, equally important, how don’t we talk about them? Comments on Foreclosed, a forthcoming book and online archive of public reactions to Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream, a 2012 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York that was co-curated by the Buell Center, has been produced to document just this kind of public discussion and the various platforms that shape it.

On February 18th, The Buell Center will mark the completion of the book and website, www.commentsonforeclosed.com, with a public event, “Comments on Comments”. A performance of excerpts from the archive will open a multimedia panel discussion and Q&A. In so doing, certain gaps in the public conversation on American housing and urbanism will be identified, and systemic deficiencies called out.

Winy Maas to Deliver Lecture on “What’s Next?” at NSAD

DNB Bank Headquarters by MVRDV / © Jiri Havran
DNB Bank Headquarters by MVRDV / © Jiri Havran

Taking place this coming Wednesday, February 20th, Winy Maas, a Netherlands-based architect, urbanist and co-founder of the internationally-recognized firm MVRDV, is scheduled to speak at NewSchool of Architecture and Design (NSAD) at 9:00am PST on the topic of “What’s Next?”. The free lecture includes a discussion on the recent works of MVRDV and the research institute The Why Factory, a think tank directed by Maas in collaboration with Delft University of Technology that develops scenarios and models of the city of the future. For more information, please visit here.

100 Norfolk Street / ODA

Courtesy of ODA
Courtesy of ODA

Designed by ODA, 100 Norfolk Street expresses the unlimited potential and ambition hidden in the New York Block as it stands significantly taller than its neighbors. Located within the Lower east side Manhattan, the design creates a rather unusual condition, a mid-block – freestanding building overlooking the area, offering strong light exposure for the interior residential spaces and direct views of Downtown, Midtown and the Williamsburg Bridge. More images and architects’ description after the break.

Art Stage Singapore Installation & Exhibition / WY-TO Architects

© Frank Pinckers
© Frank Pinckers

Inspired by the textile industry of Southeast Asia, Yann Follain, co-founder of WY-TO Architects, has designed a Floating Skeleton at Art Stage Singapore to greet the fair’s visitors. The wire-framed floating structure will act as a gateway to Asia’s global art fair. The over-sized loom theme follows through into the new VIP area – The Whirl. Follain has deliberately used lines (representing thread), color, light and textures to represent the diverse and differentiating cultural influences on the established textile industry of Southeast Asia. More images and architects’ description after the break.

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