Microsoft is undertaking an ambitious overhaul of its 800 offices around the world and uncovering great insights about the intersections of technology and workplace design in the process. The technology giant’s global director of workplace strategies, Riku Pentikäinen, speaks to Metropolis’s Avinash Rajagopal about the company’s new workplaces, collaborating with designers and furniture manufacturers, and how his team takes a data-driven approach to office design.
When the Makoko Floating School was completed in March 2013, it received wildly enthusiastic critical acclaim from the international news media. The simple A-frame structure, buoyed by recycled plastic barrels in a lagoon in Lagos, Nigeria, was designed by NLÉ, a Lagos- and Amsterdam-based studio founded by the architect Kunlé Adeyemi. The project, intended as a model for how Lagos’s floating community could build simple, sustainable structures for themselves, subsequently faced a few challenges. One of the biggest was winning over local officials, who simply did not know what to make of such a building.
“Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014 is an invitation to the national pavilions to show, each in their own way, the process of the erasure of national characteristics in architecture in favor of the almost universal adoption of a single modern language and a single repertoire of typologies.” In this article, originally published on Metropolis Magazine as "Whose Modernity?", Avinash Rajagopal investigates the conflict this mandated theme at the 2014 Venice Biennale unintentionally created between the Northern and Southern pavilions - with Northern pavilions tending to declare sole ownership over Modernism and many Southern pavilions denying that their countries were passive recipients of the North's globalization. For more on how the Southern pavilions challenged the typical conveyance of architectural history, continue reading after the break.
Newsreel archives are a goldmine for design buffs—and when you have an archive of the size and scope of British Pathé's, there's hours of compulsive watching in store. The famous film and production company recently put up 85,000 of their videos on Youtube, in high definition, for free viewing.
The Parisian Pathé Brothers pretty much invented the newsreel format at the turn of the century, and established their London base in 1902. From 1910 to 1970 they produced thousands of films on events and trends around the world, including, of course, subjects of significance for architecture and design. It's an unparalleled opportunity to see some great classics in their context—with people using them, reacting to them, commenting on them.
Some videos, like a round-up of skyscraper-inspired hats from the 1930s, might not stand the test of time, but others, like a tour of Le Corbusier's Couvent de la Tourette, are priceless. The latter video seems even more precious because it is marked "unused material"—footage that Pathé shot, but never edited into one of their newsreels—meaning that very few people have had a chance to see it before you do now, on your screen.
More outstanding videos to get you started on your newsreel binge, after the break...
"It all starts on local farms with waste corn stalks," says Sam Harrington of Ecovative, who will help build this year’s winning entry for the MoMA PS1 Young Architect’s Program. Hy-Fi, designed by the New York-based firm The Living, will be made of bricks that are entirely organic and ultimately, compostable. A good chunk of that material is corn stalks, stained clay-red with an organic dye from Shabd Simon-Alexander and Audrey Louisere . The rest is mycelium—mushroom roots to you and me—that will hold the corn stalks together as they cohere into a molded shape. The technology, developed by Ecovative in 2007, has so far been used as a packaging material. "But we love the chance to try something bold, and that’s what PS1 is all about," Harrington says.
Read more about the bricks behind Hy-Fi after the break
This article by Avinash Rajagopal, originally published in Metropolis Magazine as 'The Little Prince' and Le Corbusier investigates the link between Le Corbusier and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, writer of The Little Prince.
On October 22, 1929, a French architect got on the inaugural flight of the Aeroposta Argentina, a pioneering airline service that flew from Buenos Aires to Asuncion del Paraguay, flown by a French co-pilot. The act of flying would deeply influence the creative output of both passenger and pilot.
The former, of course, was Le Corbusier. The latter was Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, later to be famous as the creator of The Little Prince (1943), the well-beloved tale of a planet-hopping, fox-befriending, flower-loving space child.
This Article by Avinash Rajagopal originally appeared in Metropolis Magazine as "Five Compelling Works of Architecture Fiction". Rajagopal argues in favor of the often dismissed genre of 'architecture fiction', giving five recent examples of the best the field has to offer.
As far as we know, the writer Bruce Sterling coined the term “architecture fiction,” in 2006. He was referring, of course, to speculative projects in which architects use ideas for the built environment to express themselves in a way that’s analogous to how storytellers use words. It’s a longstanding architectural tradition. Sterling cites the polemic work of the 1960s British group Archigram; the canon includes Lebbeus Woods’s drawings from the two decades that followed and Greg Lynn’s digital imaginings (one of which accompanied a short story by Sterling, in Metropolis’s 2003 Fiction Issue).
In the last few years, we have seen a groundswell in the genre. The usual reason given to explain the profusion of these fictitious works is that the recession made it hard for young architects to find “real” work, but there are probably other factors at play. Ethical concerns are back in the zeitgeist for a contradictory generation that’s equally into Occupy Wall Street, iPhones, and hipster shops selling single-source coffee. Their utopias and dystopias are more easily imagined with 3DS Max and Photoshop, and far more quickly disseminated online. All of this has made for some pretty rich storytelling.
Commenters on blogs still rail about the “uselessness” of architecture fiction. To answer them would be akin to mounting a defense of the short story—one surely could, but it would be a self-defeating exercise. The very nature of fiction is to be less bothered with usefulness than with possibility. In that spirit, here are five recent projects that I found compelling, in both imagery and the stories they attempt to tell.
Many would consider Greg Lynn the leader of computer-aided design in architecture - but Lynn himself begs to differ. He and the Canadian Centre for Architecture recently collaborated on "Archaeology of the Digital," the first in a series of exhibitions that will showcase the work of the earliest adopters of digital techniques in architecture. The exhibit, which opened on May 7, focuses on work by Frank Gehry, Peter Eisenman, Chuck Hoberman, and Shoei Yoh. In this interview, originally published in Metropolis Magazine as "Computer Control," Avinash Rajagopal speaks with Greg Lynn about some of the projects and the inspiration behind the exhibit itself.