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Ariana Zilliacus


Spotlight: Ma Yansong

Founder of the innovative architecture firm MAD Architects, Ma Yansong (born 26 November 1975) has helped to give China a name in the international architecture scene. The first Chinese architect to receive a RIBA fellowship, Ma explores contemporary architecture in relation to traditional eastern values of nature, resulting in buildings that are complex and contextually aware, but sometimes even surreal.

Harbin Opera House. Image © Iwan BaanAbsolute Towers. Image © Iwan BaanCourtesy of MAD ArchitectsHarbin Opera House. Image © Hufton+Crow+ 13

Spotlight: SANAA

Founded in 1995 by architects Kazuyo Sejima (born 29 October 1956) and Ryue Nishizawa (born 7 February 1966), SANAA is world-renowned for its white, light buildings grounded in the architects’ Japanese cultural origins. Despite the white exteriors, their architecture is far from modernist; the constant incorporation of ambiguity and doubt in SANAA’s buildings is refreshing and playful, taking the reflective properties of glass and brightness of white to a new level.

Grace Farms / SANAA. Image © Dean KaufmanLouvre Lens / SANAA. Image © Julien LanooGlass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art / SANAA. Image © Iwan BaanNew Museum / SANAA. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu+ 12

13 Changes to Your Work Space That Could Improve Your Productivity (And Your Life)

There’s no doubt that architects spend a lot of time in front of a desktop, be it virtual or three-dimensional. In fact, although this statistic is not exclusive to architects, the average time a person now spends sitting down per day is 7.7 hours; in the United States the average is an unbelievable 13 hours. Of course this includes time spent on the train, watching a movie on the sofa, or a whole range of other seated activities, but the vast proportion of this time is likely to be spent working by a desk or laptop.

How can you improve the quality of that time, so it’s both well spent and, ideally, minimized? To have a more efficient, productive—and most importantly, more pleasant—time at work, here are 13 ways to improve your physical and digital workspace.

11 Ways to Become a Better Architect (Without Doing Architecture)

Architects are often noted for having bad work-life balance, a lot of stress and little free time. How can you take time off while still improving your skills as an architect? Can that time off even give you an extra edge? Compared to other fields, architecture stands out as a field in which you need to “know a little bit about everything." Thus, in order to live up to our name we must also do a little bit of everything, and as they say, a little goes a long way. So with that in mind, here are 11 activities which, while not obviously architectural, just might make you a better architect.

Sin City Embellishment: Expressive or Kitsch?

Though the Las Vegas Strip may be garish to some, with its borderline intrusive décor and “pseudo-historical” architecture, some professional architects, most notably Robert Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown, have become captivated by the “ornamental-symbolic elements” the buildings present. The two architects developed the curious design distinction between a “duck” and a “decorated shed”, depending on the building’s decorative form. In his essay for 99% Invisible, Lessons from Sin City: The Architecture of “Ducks” versus “Decorated Sheds”, Kurt Kohlstedt explores how the architects implemented their knowledge of ornamentation in their own works and began an architectural debate still ongoing today.

Vanna Venturi House by Robert Venturi featuring playful and non-structural ornamentation. Image via 99 Percent Invisible Longaberger Basket Building image by Barry Haynes (CC BY-SA 3.0). Image via 99 Percent Invisible Guild House by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates. Image via 99 Percent Invisible “Duck” versus “decorated shed, with Big Duck in Long Island (upper right). Image via 99 Percent Invisible + 5

Iranian Case Study: Can We Build For The Future Without Forgetting About The Past?

Taking a taxi from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport into the city, one cannot help but look at the seemingly random distribution of buildings along the road; an array of mismatched concrete blocks, worlds away from the images of Sheik Lotfollah Mosque that typically adorn the covers of Iran travel guides. “My observations about architecture in Iran are like that of many other countries that have changed in terms of architectural characteristics; Iran has changed too,” says Tehran-based architect, M. Reza Karfar. “Now we are in a time where everything is mass produced and we are just using and using, but not making memories with anything. That sense of belonging will, of course, go away. You see a 50 or 60, or 200-year-old house that just gets demolished and replaced by a 4 or 5-story building, and in 5 years they will demolish that 4 to 5-story building too.”

Not to say that Iran should be an exhibit for tourists, only consisting of beautiful tiled buildings, but this fear of memories fading in disappearing public spaces is one that, despite the numerous historical sites preserved around the country, is noticeable in Iran’s big cities. And while the subject is particularly pertinent in Iran, as Karfar points out this phenomenon is not unique to just one country. As a result, Iran might offer something of a case study for other countries around the world.

Art or Architecture? 13 Projects That Blur The Boundary

Whether architecture is a form of art or not has often been a controversial topic of conversation within the architecture world. If one goes by the general definition of the word "art," architecture could potentially fit within the umbrella term: "the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power." As anyone involved in the architectural discipline probably knows, there is an abundance of varying definitions of the word "architecture," so whether its primary purpose is to achieve beauty or to organize space is evidently up for discussion.

Ask Jay A. Pritzker, founder of the Pritzker Prize, and he may say that "architecture is intended to transcend the simple need for shelter and security by becoming an expression of artistry." Ask The Guardian's Jonathan Jones and he may tell you that "architecture is the art we all encounter most often, most intimately, yet precisely because it is functional and necessary to life, it's hard to be clear about where the 'art' in a building begins." But this ambiguity is part of what makes the field of architecture challenging and exciting. To celebrate this complicated aspect of architecture, below we have collected a list of just some of the works that could be seen as art, architecture or both, depending on who’s looking, to provide some context to those blurry boundaries.

© James Dow© Florian HolzherrCourtesy of Studio Olafur Eliasson© Anders Sune Berg+ 14

Immerse Yourself in Architectural Spaces Worldwide With the NYT's Daily 360

With 360 camera technology, the ability to transport people into a space through film has become all the more immersive. Viewers are able to turn the viewport in every direction to see the whole scene, or even to put on a headset for a more natural way of viewing a scene. Of course, this has important implications for viewing architecture, which many believe has become too image based, and therefore two-dimensional. 360 videos leave no corners conveniently hidden, as a traditional video or image would, perhaps providing a fuller picture of a place - could this perhaps open up a more human-scale understanding of space?

The New York Times have treated their Facebook followers to some great architectural insights through their Daily 360, getting more than their money’s worth out of their 360 camera equipment. Some of these must-see videos include a dance rehearsal taking place in the Guggenheim Museum’s rotunda, as well as an aerial view of La Paz, Bolivia. Read on to take a peek into the richness of earth’s urban spaces:

A Young Architect's Chance Encounter With Living Legend I.M. Pei

Imagine having a world famous architect be the first inhabitant of your debut solo architecture project - and not just any architect, but I.M. Pei, who turns an incredible 100 years today. This unlikely turn of events actually happened to Costa Rican architect David Konwiser 7 years ago when Pei rented out Konwiser’s Villa Punto de Vista for New Years, although the unbelievable chance encounter almost didn’t become a reality. Just two and a half months prior to Pei’s arrival, the villa was more construction site than materialized building. Understandably, those two and a half months were, in Konwiser's own words, "the most difficult... of my career - and likely my life," as the architect writes in an article for the Architectural Digest. Despite that immense pressure, or perhaps because of it, the villa was ready for its first, and arguably its most important, visitor.

How to Pronounce the Names of 22 Notable Architects

There’s no doubt that one of the best things about architecture is its universality. Wherever you come from, whatever you do, however you speak, architecture has somehow touched your life. However, when one unexpectedly has to pronounce a foreign architect’s name... things can get a little tricky. This is especially the case when mispronunciation could end up making you look less knowledgeable than you really are. (If you're really unlucky, it could end up making you look stupid in front of your children and the whole world.)

To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of 22 architects with names that are a little difficult to pronounce, and paired them with a recording in which their names are said impeccably. Listen and repeat as many times as it takes to get it right, and you’ll be prepared for any intellectual architectural conversation that comes your way. 

How a Return to Vernacular Architecture Can Benefit the People of Mali's Dogon Region

In our article in February, "11 Vernacular Building Techniques That Are Disappearing," we discussed vernacular techniques that, through the introduction of modern building and the waning prevalence of traditional lifestyles, were slowly becoming lost forms of knowledge. What we didn't discuss, though, was that few of the techniques were disappearing without some form of resistance. After the article was published we were contacted by Dutch architecture firm LEVS Architecten, who highlighted their efforts work in the Dogon region of Mali, where they work with local communities to continue--and improve--the vernacular Dogon tradition.

Despite the fact that LEVS Architecten has worked extensively within this tradition, they still consider themselves modern architects who are simply looking for responsible, alternative solutions, and have even found opportunities to utilize this knowledge for architecture projects back in the Netherlands. As Jurriaan van Stigt, partner at LEVS Architecten and chairman of Partners Pays-Dogon, explained in an interview with ArchDaily, vernacular architecture is “in the undercurrent of our thinking and approach to the tasks that lay behind every project.”

Primary School Tanouan Ibi. Image Courtesy of LEVS ArchitectenPrimary School Tanouan Ibi. Image Courtesy of LEVS ArchitectenCourtesy of LEVS ArchitectenPractical Training College in Sangha. Image Courtesy of LEVS Architecten+ 18

"Wasteland" Provides a Tactile Insight into the World of Upcycling in Architecture

© Rasmus Hjortshøj
© Rasmus Hjortshøj

A thorough architectural response towards the growing problems of population, climate, and urban migration is currently on display at the Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen, in the form of the upcycled Wasteland exhibition. Curated by Danish architecture firm Lendager Group, the exhibits shown in Wasteland are filled with raw materials, processes, experiments and methods, backed up with a long list of shocking facts about our effects on planet Earth: over 2 million tons of CO2 have been emitted globally this year; over 3.3 billion tons of resources have been extracted from the earth globally this year; over 127 million tons of waste have been dumped globally this year—all totalling a cost of over $14 trillion USD resulting from our failure to act on climate change. These are the live statistics (as shown at the time of ArchDaily’s visit last Friday) which confront visitors in the first room of the exhibition space. They provide context for what is to follow.

© Rasmus Hjortshøj© Rasmus Hjortshøj© Rasmus Hjortshøj© Rasmus Hjortshøj+ 39

5 Stages of Creativity That Architects Experience With Every Project

As creators, we all go through stages of creativity. Some phases are more severe than others, but getting emotionally involved is, in most cases, unavoidable. In many cases, the emotional intensity of design can be so intense, it begins to resemble another well-known emotional process—one that generally includes the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Design may not literally be as difficult as losing a loved one, but it's little coincidence that in the architecture profession, one's best concepts are often referred to as their "babies," and any design process will involve a fair amount of letting them go.

To paraphrase the existing psychological literature, "as long as there is creativity, there is hope. As long as there is hope, there is creativity." So join us as we explain the architect's path through the five stages of griefcreativity experienced in any design process.

13 Buildings in Bizarre Spaces

We're all used to seeing buildings in urban settings, surrounded by glass high-rises and tidy green parks. Yet around the world, there are many buildings in much more extraordinary spaces. Some have made it to the news because of their unusual locations, while others remain relatively hidden or even abandoned. Whether historic or brand new, protected or restored, grand or humble, flooded or floating, the following 13 buildings have one thing in common: their less-than-normal locations.

13 Buildings in Bizarre Spaces© <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vieux_Pont_de_Vernon.png'>Wikimedia Commons user Pablo altes</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>© <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Building_penetrated_by_an_expressway_001_OSAKA_JPN.jpg'>Wikimedia Commons user Ignis</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en'>CC NY-SA 3.0</a>© <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/azwegers/9713805222'>Flickr user Arian Zwegers</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/'>CC BY 2.0</a>+ 13

Utopia Arkitekter Proposes Public Park in Stockholm Shrouded in Glass

Utopia Arkitekter wants to start a discussion in Stockholm: how do we manage and develop our public spaces? The definition of the word public, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is something “open to or shared by all the people of an area or country.” However, as commercialism continues to rise, Utopia Arkitekter has a problem with our new applications of indoor “public” spaces. As architecture critic Rowan Moore writes in Why We Build, “Identity, desire and stimulation become things you have to buy, as clothes, restaurant meals of calculated diversity, and rides on the ski slope or up the Burj Khalifa.” The problem is that as our inner cities adopt more commercial indoor

The problem is that as our inner cities adopt more commercial indoor public spaces such as shopping malls, cafés or restaurants, the “public” is no longer represented by “all the people of an area,” simply due to economic restrictions. In a city like Stockholm, where darkness and temperatures below 10 degrees celsius prevail for 6 months of the year, the economic boundaries set up around indoor public spaces mean reduced opportunities for people to socialize outside of the home. Utopia Arkitekter’s proposal in response to this conundrum? An indoor park.

Courtesy of Utopia ArkitekterCourtesy of Utopia ArkitekterCourtesy of Utopia ArkitekterCourtesy of Utopia Arkitekter+ 14

"Corridors of Diversity": Showcasing the Secret of Singapore's Public Housing Success

Singapore’s first Housing and Development Board (HDB) housing blocks were erected in November of 1960, in response to a severe lack of adequate housing for the country's 1.6 million citizens. Fast forward to 2017, and over 80% of the Singaporean population live in HDBs, with over 90% of them owning the home they live in. Often painted in vibrant colors, HDBs have a focus on community social spaces, more often than not maintaining the ground floor of the apartment blocks as open public space, exclusively for public meeting areas. These can include hawker centers, benches, tables, grills and pavilions where residents can socialize under cover from the hot Singaporean sun.

Diversity in Connection. Image © Kevin SiyuanDiversity in Common. Image © Kevin SiyuanDiversity in Transit. Image © Kevin SiyuanDiversity in Beliefs. Image © Kevin Siyuan+ 11

9 Everyday Activities to Increase Your Spatial Intelligence

Architects design and organize spaces; without space, there is no architecture. So it goes without saying, therefore, that spatial intelligence is of high importance to architects. Luckily for us, spatial intelligence is not something you’re inherently gifted at or just “born with,” it’s something that can be trained and improved through practice. More practice means more advancement, so why not make it enjoyable and easy—easy enough even to do in your everyday life? From drawing to speaking to engaging in play, here are 9 everyday activities to improve your spatial intelligence.