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David Douglass-Jaimes


Spotlight: Clorindo Testa

Bank of London and South America. Image © Federico Cairoli
Bank of London and South America. Image © Federico Cairoli

Relatively unknown outside his home country, Clorindo Testa (December 10, 1923 – April 11, 2013) was one of Argentina’s most important 20th-century architects. Consistently defying categorization, Testa had a hand in two of Buenos Aires’ most iconic buildings, the Bank of London and South America, and the National Library, as well as many others throughout his long career. Characteristically enigmatic, Testa would only ever acknowledge Le Corbusier as an influence, saying, “I never paid attention to other architects.” As a former colleague Juan Fontana described, Testa spoke the language of brutalism with an Argentine accent.

Spotlight: Minoru Yamasaki

World Trade Center / Minoru Yamasaki Associates + Emery Roth & Sons. Image <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Twin_Towers-NYC.jpg'>via Wikimedia</a>. Part of the Carol M Highsmith Archive donated to the Library of Congress and placed in the public domain
World Trade Center / Minoru Yamasaki Associates + Emery Roth & Sons. Image via Wikimedia. Part of the Carol M Highsmith Archive donated to the Library of Congress and placed in the public domain

Minoru Yamasaki (December 1, 1912 – February 7, 1986) has the uncommon distinction of being most well known for how his buildings were destroyed. His twin towers at the World Trade Center in New York collapsed in the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, and his Pruitt-Igoe complex in St. Louis, Missouri, demolished less than 20 years after its completion, came to symbolize the failure of public housing and urban renewal in the United States. But beyond those infamous cases, Yamasaki enjoyed a long and prolific career, and was considered one of the masters of “New Formalism,” infusing modern buildings with classical proportions and sumptuous materials.

AD Classics: Bank of London and South America / Clorindo Testa + SEPRA

This article was originally published on October 19, 2015. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.

The Bank of London and South America (Banco de Londres y América del Sud, or BLAS) in Buenos Aires defies convention and categorization, much like the architect primarily credited with its design, Clorindo Testa. A unique client relationship, guided by the bank’s staff architect Gerald Wakeham, and a supportive collaboration with the firm Sánchez Elía, Peralta Ramos and Agostini (SEPRA) resulted in a building that continues to evoke surprise and fascination.

AD Classics: New German Parliament, Reichstag / Foster + Partners

This article was originally published on November 2, 2015. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.

As Norman Foster describes in his firm’s monograph, Foster 40, “Our transformation of the Reichstag is rooted in four related issues: the Bundestag’s significance as a democratic forum, an understanding of history, a commitment to public accessibility and a vigorous environmental agenda.”[1] Foster’s description sounds straightforward enough, but the process of creating the New German Parliament at the Reichstag was only the latest entry in the long, complex, and contentious history of the building.

AD Classics: Angkor Wat

This article was originally published on November 9, 2015. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.

Angkor Wat is just one of dozens of extant Khmer temples in the Angkor area of present-day Cambodia, but it represents the apex of a building tradition that spanned five centuries, and the height of Khmer power and influence in the region. It is the largest temple complex at Angkor, and intricate bas-relief sculptures line the sandstone structures exemplify the apex of Khmer artistry. Although it has been in continuous use since its construction in the twelfth century, aspects of its history remain unknown. As archaeologist and anthropologist Charles Higham explains, “Curiously, there are no direct references to it in the epigraphic record, so we do not know its original name and controversy remains over its function and aspects of its symbolic status.”[1] Originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, the complex was later converted to Buddhist use (the word “wat” typically refers to Buddhist monasteries[2]), and continues to be a site of religious pilgrimage today.

AD Classics: Azadi Tower / Hossein Amanat

This article was originally published on 26 October, 2015. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.

Commissioned to celebrate the 2500th anniversary of the Persian Empire, the Azadi Tower has been a site of celebration, unrest, and revolution. Despite its association with the deposed Shah, the tower has been embraced as a national symbol of Iran, playing host to both pro- and anti-government demonstrations, following the controversial 2009 Presidential elections.

Video: The Six Towers that will Crown the Sagrada Família

The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, more commonly known simply as the Sagrada Família, has been under construction in Barcelona since 1882, but now completion of the church is finally in sight. As this video from the Basilica’s YouTube page illustrates, the six final towers are set to be completed by 2026, timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the death of Antoni Gaudí, the Catalan architect who devoted much of his life to the design and construction of the building. These six towers, representing the Virgin Mary, the four evangelists, and Jesus Christ, will be the last and tallest of 18 spires on the church, and will make the Sagrada Família the tallest church building in the world.

How Slovakian Firm GutGut Transformed Cold War Housing into a Sleek Modern Structure

The former Czechoslovakia is home to more Cold War-era prefabricated housing blocks, locally referred to as “panelaks,” than anywhere else in the former Soviet bloc. After the fall of communism, many called for the demolition of the panelaks, seen as unwanted reminders of a difficult history. In Bratislava alone, 130,000 people live in panelaks; destroying and replacing that much housing would have been prohibitively expensive, but Slovakian architecture firm GutGut had a different idea.

As this video shows, GutGut instead renovated and reconfigured a dilapidated tower block, updating the appearance, inserting communal spaces on the ground floor, providing a variety of apartment types, and adding balconies for many of the new apartments. The rehabilitated building removes the stigma of a previously undesirable building, and provides more varied housing options for residents. But more than just bringing the style of the building up to date, GutGut shows that even the most difficult outdated structures can be updated to meet modern needs.

Form Follows Fiction: Ole Scheeren’s TED Talk on Why Architecture Should Tell a Story

In his TED Talk filmed at TEDGlobal London in September 2015, Ole Scheeren eschews what he describes as the “detrimental straightjacket” of the modernist mantra “form follows function” in favor a phrase he attributes to Bernard Tschumi, “form follows fiction.” While Tschumi was referencing how cultural artifacts, such as literature, impact architecture, Scheeren reinterprets the phrase, imagining the stories of building users in order to inform the design process. Scheeren recounts, for example, how the daily activities of CCTV employees, the lifestyles of residents of a Singapore housing block, or the traditional tools of Thai fishermen have informed his various designs for OMA and Büro Ole Scheeren.

Of course, this “fiction” that Scheeren describes, these stories, are not really fictions at all, but the real experiences of the people who live or work in his buildings. In that sense, the fiction that drives his forms is really just another type of function, albeit a more human approach to function. Nevertheless, for Scheeren the stories of these designs goes beyond just the users, also encompassing the stories of the hundreds of people it takes to make such buildings a reality, and even how architecture can become a character in the narratives of our own lives.

Immerse Yourself in 3D Models Online With Sketchfab's New Virtual Reality Feature

Sketchfab, the browser-based platform for sharing and viewing 3D models, has announced a new feature on their software that turns any of their models into a virtual reality experience when viewed on a smartphone and combined with a simple headset like Google Cardboard. Sketchfab allows users to upload a wide variety of 3D model file types that could then be shared and viewed in any web browser, or embedded on websites or social media, without the need for any additional software or plug-ins. As a result, over the past few years they've built up a huge database of over half a million 3D models, and this new VR feature allows viewers to experience those models in a whole new way.

How Driverless Cars Could, Should - and Shouldn't - Reshape Our Cities

In the race to bring driverless cars from a futuristic fantasy to a present-day reality, developers have touted a plethora of advantages, from reduced traffic congestion on roads to improved safety thanks to the elimination of human error. But the potential widespread implementation of driverless cars could also have profound impacts on the form of our urban environments, fundamentally reshaping infrastructure and land use. As recently as a year ago, this new technology was seen as decades away; however, recently Elon Musk, CEO of electric car maker Tesla, predicted that driverless cars will be capable of making cross-country treks within about two years, and a pilot program in the United Kingdom city of Milton Keynes plans to launch a fleet of driverless pod-taxis by 2018, matching Musk’s timeline.

The driverless car future could be just around the corner, and the normally slow-changing infrastructure of cities could be forced to apply quick fixes to adapt. At the same time, the full potential of driverless cars cannot be realized without implementing significant changes to the urban fabric. So how will driverless cars change how our cities work, and how will our cities adapt to accommodate them?

The Living's 3D Printed Airplane Partition is Designed to Mimic Bone Structure

You’ve probably never given much thought to the seemingly basic interior partitions of an airplane, but building codes are a walk in the park compared to the exacting standards of aviation design. Those thin panels that separate the seats from the plane's galley must also be capable of supporting the weight of flight attendant jumpseats and providing a removable section to accommodate emergency stretchers - not to mention the rigorous safety standards and crash testing that aviation components must satisfy. With all of these challenges in mind, The Living, an Autodesk Studio, in collaboration with Airbus and APWorks, have developed the Bionic Partition Project, which harnesses generative design and 3D printing to maximize the structural efficiency of the panel, reducing the weight of an aircraft, and saving fuel. And while this particular application is specific to a single aircraft type, the technological advances could have far-reaching implications.

© The Living© The Living© The Living© The Living+ 11

These Are the Best Architecture Images from the NYPL’s New Public Domain Collection

Last week the New York Public Library made over 180,000 images from their digital archives available in the public domain, and free for high-resolution download. Not only are the images available for download, but since they are in the public domain and free of any copyright restrictions, users have the freedom to get creative and alter, modify, and reuse the images in any manner they see fit. Featuring a wide variety of images including drawings, engravings, photographs, maps, postcards, and in some cases, digitized copies of entire books, the collection has been noted for fascinating historical artifacts such as a set of color drawings of Egyptian gods and goddesses, and a digitized book from the 18th century containing over 400 color plates depicting various current and historical fashion trends.

Of course, the archive also includes a significant assortment of captivating architectural images that range from everyday scenes to historic treasures. We've trawled the database to find some of the most unusual and insightful examples - read on to see a selection of the most interesting architectural images from NYPL’s digital archives.

Design Development of the Chrysler Building. Image via The New York Public LibraryThe Bund, Shanghai in the early 1900s. Image via The New York Public LibraryWorld's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. Image via The New York Public Libraryvia The New York Public Library+ 36

This Conceptual Design Reinvents Power Plants as Mixed-Use Megastructures

What if a power plant could also be a home, an office, or even a park? That is the question behind Cypher CO2ling Plant, a conceptual design developed by Kawan Golmohamadi, Shilan Golmohamadi, and Soad Moarefi. Power plants are a ubiquitous and inevitable byproduct of modern lifestyles, but they are typically located in remote areas, far from where the power is actually needed, due to their unsightly appearance and the emissions associated with combustion-fueled energy generation. Cypher CO2ling Plant proposes an alternative scenario that utilizes the infrastructure of the power plant’s cooling towers to support mixed-use development, while also mitigating the less desirable aspects of energy generation.

© Kawan Golmohamadi, Shilan Golmohamadi, and Soad Moarefi© Kawan Golmohamadi, Shilan Golmohamadi, and Soad Moarefi© Kawan Golmohamadi, Shilan Golmohamadi, and Soad Moarefi© Kawan Golmohamadi, Shilan Golmohamadi, and Soad Moarefi+ 12

AD Classics: Nomadic Museum / Shigeru Ban Architects

Nomadic Museum, Santa Monica. Image © flickr user paolomazzoleni, licensed under CC BY 2.0
Nomadic Museum, Santa Monica. Image © flickr user paolomazzoleni, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Shigeru Ban, the 2014 Pritzker Prize winner, is an architect often celebrated for his humanitarian and disaster relief structures, constructed out of recycled or recyclable materials. On the other end of spectrum, he is well-known for his meticulously constructed residential and museum projects, more often than not for high-end wealthy clients. The Nomadic Museum, however, combines both of these facets of his practice, using shipping containers and paper tubes to craft a bespoke mobile gallery for Gregory Colbert’s traveling exhibition of photography entitled Ashes and Snow.

© flickr user paolomazzoleni, licensed under CC BY 2.0Nomadic Museum, New York. Image © flickr user informedmindstravel, licensed under CC BY-NC-NDNomadic Museum, Santa Monica. Image © flickr user paolomazzoleni, licensed under CC BY 2.0Section, Santa Monica+ 10

Frank Gehry is “a Robert Moses With the Soul of a Jane Jacobs” in This Long-Read on the Los Angeles River

A river is not usually the province of an architect. Cities grow around rivers, and buildings are built near rivers, but rarely is the river itself the subject of a design problem. Ever since news broke that Frank Gehry is leading a master plan effort for the Los Angeles River, there has been a marked increase in discussion of the river, though rarely with much historical background. Joseph Giovannini tries to correct this omission with his recent piece in the Los Angeles Review of Books, laying the groundwork from when the Army Corps of Engineers decided to line the river in concrete in the late 1930s to prevent flooding, and introducing all of the major players who have been working more recently to return the river to a more natural state.

The 2015 Religious Architecture Awards Celebrate Changing Trends in Worship

Religious buildings make up many of the highlights of architectural history, and the Religious Architecture Awards from Faith & Form magazine and the Interfaith Forum for Religion, Art, and Architecture celebrate the latest entries in this category. As trends in religious practices and the buildings that house them have changed, this year’s awards celebrate a wide variety of structures, including a growing number of renovation and restoration projects, as well as the first-ever award for a building in the “megachurch” category. From a total of 44 entries, 16 projects received awards in one of five categories: New Facilities, Renovation, Restoration, Adaptive Reuse/Repurpose, and Liturgical/Interior Design.

Read on to see all the winners of the Religious Architecture Awards.

Mission San Juan Capistrano/Ford, Powell & Carson Architects & Planners, Inc.. Image © Mark MenjivarThe Memorial Church, Harvard University/Finegold Alexander Architects. Image © Blind DogImmanuel Chapel/Robert A.M. Stern Architects. Image © Peter Aaron/OTTOSt. Monica Catholic Church/Fisher Heck Architects. Image © DVDesign+ 41

Michael Kimmelman and The NYT Release Multimedia Presentation on Why "Sound Matters"

"During the Middle Ages, smell was the unspoken plague of cities," writes New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman. "Today it is sound." In his latest article, entitled "Dear Architects: Sound Matters," Kimmelman breaks down an often-overlooked element of architectural design, explaining how space shapes sound, and how sound shapes our experience of a space - and imploring architects to put more thought into the sonic environments created by their designs.