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Evan Pavka

Toronto-based writer and reader.

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The Politics of Vacancy: The History, and Future, of Toronto's Condo Euphoria

07:00 - 6 November, 2018
The Politics of Vacancy: The History, and Future, of Toronto's Condo Euphoria, © Manuel Alvarez Diestro
© Manuel Alvarez Diestro

This article was originally published on ArchDaily on 13 February 2018. 

The City of Toronto has a long, fraught relationship with development and vacancy. The map of the initial Toronto Purchase of 1787 between the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation and the British Crown, which would later establish the colonial territory that became Toronto, conceives of the landscape as a single, clearly defined vacant lot anxious for development. Or, as artist Luis Jacob better described it, “signifying nothing but an empty page waiting to be inscribed at will.” Over two-hundred years later, as housing availability, prices, and rental shortages drive vertical condominium developments in the city, the politics of the vacant lot have never felt so palpable.

© Manuel Alvarez Diestro © Manuel Alvarez Diestro © Manuel Alvarez Diestro © Manuel Alvarez Diestro + 24

How Surrealism Has Shaped Contemporary Architecture

09:30 - 6 June, 2018
1974 installation of <em>Mae West’s Face which May be Used as a Surrealist Apartment</em> by Salvador Dali. Image © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/alextorrenegra/4991542223'>Flickr user Torrenega</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/'>CC BY 2.0</a>
1974 installation of Mae West’s Face which May be Used as a Surrealist Apartment by Salvador Dali. Image © Flickr user Torrenega licensed under CC BY 2.0

In 1924 writer André Breton penned the Surrealist Manifesto, which called to destabilize the divides between dreams and reality, between objectivity and subjectivity. For many architects who had been—and continue to be—interested in the fundamental role of the built environment, Breton’s surrealist thinking provided a rich resource to examine the role architecture plays in forming reality. Since then, from Salvador Dali and Frederick Kiesler to Frank Gehry, Surrealism has profoundly shaped architecture in the 20th century.

10 Exuberant Will Alsop Works

08:00 - 26 May, 2018
Courtesy of aLL Design
Courtesy of aLL Design

The late British architect Will Alsop was noted for his exuberant and irreverent attitude that took material form in his expressive, painterly portfolio of educational, civic, and residential works. At the ripe age of 23, he was awarded second place in the 1971 Centre Georges Pompidou. From there, he went on to work for the ever humorous Cedric Price before establishing his practice with John Lyall, and eventually many others, in the early 1980s. With a career spanning almost fifty years, here are ten iconic works from an architect who never missed an opportunity to play.

© <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ontario_College_of_Art_and_Design.png'>Wikimedia user April Hickox</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/'>CC BY 2.0</a> Courtesy of aLL Design Courtesy of aLL Design Courtesy of aLL Design + 13

Love in Las Vegas: 99% Invisible Illuminates Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s Postmodern Romance

08:00 - 24 May, 2018
Love in Las Vegas: 99% Invisible Illuminates Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s Postmodern Romance, © <a href='https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=223416&picture=las-vegas-at-night'>Public Domain user Jean Beaufort</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/'>CC0 Public Domain</a>
© Public Domain user Jean Beaufort licensed under CC0 Public Domain

Which building is better, the duck or the ornamented shed? More importantly, what kind of architecture does the average American prefer? In their landmark 1972 publication Learning From Las Vegas, Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi probed these questions by turning their back on paternalistic modernism in favor of the glowing, overtly kitsch, and symbolic Mecca of the Las Vegas strip. From a chance encounter during a meeting in the Library of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania and shared trips to the strip to critically shaping a new generation of architects, discover the hidden details of the romance and city that defined postmodernism in this latest episode from 99% Invisible.

This Instagram Account Uses Paper Cut-Outs to Turn Architecture Into Surreal Scenes

08:00 - 1 May, 2018

Have you ever thought a building looked suspiciously similar to a futuristic tank? Or, perhaps a gothic spire was eerily reminiscent of a matchstick? You’re not alone. Rich McCor, aka paperboy, has been traveling the world since 2015 filling his Instagram account with whimsical photographs of black paper cut-outs that transform often serious works of architecture into playful cartoon-like images.

Taking Christoph Niemann’s surreal account abstractsunday as a starting point, McCor was inspired to disrupt the norms of architecture and embellish the everyday. Though the account originally began while McCor was exploring the UK “it's taken me way beyond London to corners of the world I never thought I'd see,” he says. It’s easy to see why his humorous images of golf ball domes, beach-side creatures, and a pyramid-turned-magic trick have garnered McCor over 350k followers.

AD Classics: French Communist Party Headquarters / Oscar Niemeyer

09:30 - 23 April, 2018
© Denis Esakov
© Denis Esakov

In March 1972, an article in The Architectural Review proclaimed that this structure was “probably the best building in Paris since Le Corbusier’s Cité de Refuge for the Salvation Army.”[1] The article was, of course, referring to Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer’s first project in Europe: the French Communist Party Headquarters in Paris, France, built between 1967 and 1980. Having worked with Le Corbusier on the 1952 United Nations Building in New York and recently finished the National Congress as well as additional iconic government buildings in Brasilia, Niemeyer was no stranger to the intimate relationship between architecture and political power.[2]

© Denis Esakov © Denis Esakov © Denis Esakov © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/o_0/29118795843/'>Flickr user Guilhem Vellut</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/'>CC BY 2.0</a> + 37

AD Classics: Arts United Center / Louis Kahn

06:00 - 16 April, 2018
© Jeffery Johnson
© Jeffery Johnson

In 1961, the architect Louis I. Kahn was commissioned by the Fine Arts Foundation to design and develop a large arts complex in central Fort Wayne, Indiana. The ambitious Fine Art Center, now known as the Arts United Center, would cater to the community of 180,000 by providing space for an orchestra, theatre, school, gallery, and much more. As a Lincoln Center in miniature, the developers had hoped to update and upgrade the city through new civic architecture. However, due to budget constraints, only a fraction of the overall scheme was completed. It is one of Kahn’s lesser-known projects that spanned over a decade, and his only building in the Midwest.

Somali Architecture Students Digitally Preserve Their Country's Heritage—Before It's Too Late

09:30 - 14 April, 2018
via Somali Architecture
via Somali Architecture

Since the start of civil war in 1991, the political and architectural landscapes of the East African country of Somalia have been unstable. While the country’s urban centers, such as the capital city Mogadishu, boast a diverse fabric of historic mosques, citadels, and monuments alongside modernist civic structures, the decades of conflict have resulted in the destruction of many important structures. And, while the fighting has substantially subsided in recent years, the future of the country's architectural heritage is still far from secure.

In response, Somali architecture students from across the UK, Italy, and the United States have banded together to form Somali Architecture, an ongoing research project archiving and digitally "rebuilding" iconic structures through 3D models. Their goal is “to preserve the identity and authenticity” of Somalia through its architecture—both existing and destroyed. “We want each iconic building of the past to be reinterpreted for a more coherent future,” they say.

See below for a selection of the structures Somali Architecture has uncovered and re-constructed so far.

Why Are Architects So Obsessed With Piet Mondrian?

09:30 - 1 April, 2018

In the 1920s, Dutch-born artist Piet Mondrian began painting his iconic black grids populated with shifting planes of primary colors. By moving beyond references to the world around him, his simplified language of lines and rectangles known as Neo Plasticism explored the dynamics of movement through color and form alone. Though his red, yellow and blue color-blocked canvases were important elements of the De Stijl movement in the early 1900s, almost a century later Mondrian’s abstractions still inspire architects across the globe.

But, what is it about these spatial explorations that have captivated artists and designers for so long?

City of Los Angeles Appoints Inaugural Chief Design Officer

16:00 - 24 March, 2018
© <a href=‘https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Att_building_LA.jpg'>Wikimedia user KennethHan</a>  licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/'>CC BY-NC-ND 2.0</a>
© Wikimedia user KennethHan licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Recently, long-standing architecture critic for the LA Times Christopher Hawthorne announced that he was stepping down to take up the position of chief design officer for the City of Los Angeles in Mayor Eric Garcetti’s administration. According to Hawthorne, the role will involve raising “the quality of public architecture and urban design across the city — and the level of civic conversation about those subjects.” This dramatic shift from the question: what is the role of the critic and architecture criticism in shaping civic architecture?

Moshe Safdie Discusses His Unbuilt Work and Timeless Meaning In Architecture

14:00 - 24 March, 2018

While Moshe Safdie may be more well known for the bold forms defining his portfolio of built projects—ranging from the National Gallery of Canada and the horizontal Raffles City Chongqing to the iconic Habitat 67—the architect considers his unbuilt works as important, if not more. Safdie ponders the role of these projects and more in PLANE-SITE’s latest addition to the series Time-Space-Existence.

Modular Installation Provides Temporary Housing For Refugees Beneath Paris Bridge

12:00 - 24 March, 2018
Courtesy of 1week1project
Courtesy of 1week1project

As hundreds of refugees continue to arrive in Paris, France, the city faces an ongoing struggle to find safe and suitable housing for the influx of migrants. As a result, many end up sleeping in underused urban spaces or on the side of the road with almost no access to water, sanitation, and food.

In response, Paris- and Santiago-based firm 1week1project in collaboration with Sophie Picoty unveil their design for a speculative public park titled “Illuminate Paris!” beneath an elevated railway bridge to provide additional support for organizations handling the influx of refugees. This modular “field of experiences” features a series of lantern-like environments forming a canopy along the underside of the bridge that allows for much-need space for migrants who are currently forced to sleep in encampments under similar infrastructure and in parks.

Courtesy of 1week1project Courtesy of 1week1project Courtesy of 1week1project Courtesy of 1week1project + 11

This Instagram Account Collects Hilarious Construction Fails and Home Improvement Disasters

08:00 - 23 March, 2018

We’ve all seen them: cringeworthy designs and abysmal construction fails. For architects and designers, it's difficult not to hone in on the details of every space we encounter. And, it’s even harder not to laugh at doors incapable of opening, plaster jobs that could have been completed by a 4-year old, and an overly liberal use of caulking to solve any construction mishap. 

Inspired by this guilty pleasure, the Instagram account of “Certified Caulk Installer” Trevor Lahey aka greaseball1987 has collected the best of the worst home improvement disasters for your viewing pleasure. See more of Lahey's plethora of hilarious tragedies below.

Amanda Levete Architects Unveil Oxford University Addition

06:00 - 14 March, 2018
Amanda Levete Architects Unveil Oxford University Addition, Courtesy of AL_A Architects
Courtesy of AL_A Architects

London-based AL_A, spearheaded by Amanda Levete, have revealed their design for two new buildings at the Wadham College site of the historic Oxford University in England. The Dr. Lee Shau Kee Building and William Doo Undergraduate Centre will provide much-needed space for undergraduate services to support the University's access programs as well as new gathering places for the student body. The firm has been developing the expansion since securing the project after an invited design competition in the summer of 2016.

99% Invisible Investigates the Utopian and Dystopian Histories of the Bijlmermeer

14:00 - 10 March, 2018
99% Invisible Investigates the Utopian and Dystopian Histories of the Bijlmermeer, © <a href=‘https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Janericloebe'>Wikimedia user Janericloebe</a>licensed under<a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en/'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>
© Wikimedia user Janericloebelicensed underCC BY-SA 3.0

How can we plan a better city? The answer has confounded architects and urban planners since the birth of the industrial city. One attempt at answering came in the form of a spectacular modernist proposal outside of Amsterdam called the Bijlmermeer. And, as a new two-part episode by 99% Invisible reveals, it failed miserably. But, like all histories, the story is not as simple as it first appears.

Sou Fujimoto and Coldefy & Associés Propose a Sweeping Canopy for French Court House

12:00 - 10 March, 2018
Sou Fujimoto and Coldefy & Associés Propose a Sweeping Canopy for French Court House, Courtesy of MIR
Courtesy of MIR

Sou Fujimoto and Coldefy & Associés Architects Urban Planners’ proposal for a pale sweeping canopy enclosing a stacked glazed volume was among the four finalists for the new Palais de justice in Lille, France organized by the Public Agency for Justice’s Real Estate (APIJ). Though the competition drew 139 international proposals, from which OMA was ultimately selected, Fujimoto and Coldefy & Associés' graceful structure was designed to house the high and district courts as well as public spaces within a facility in dialogue with its natural surroundings.

See the full proposal below.

Courtesy of MIR Courtesy of MIR Courtesy of MIR Courtesy of MIR + 17

Aedas Unveil Design for an Undulating Office Complex in Central China

08:00 - 7 March, 2018
Aedas Unveil Design for an Undulating Office Complex in Central China, Courtesy of Aedas
Courtesy of Aedas

The internationally recognized architecture firm Aedas has unveiled their design for the Zhenghong Property Air Harbour Office Project. The sprawling and interconnected 196 foot-tall three-tower complex is proposed for the city of Zhengzhou, the capital of the Henan Province in central China—one of the regions' largest transportation hubs. Occupying a relatively narrow site, the towers are woven together by a rhythmic glass facade inspired by the formal qualities of the winding Yellow River.

Courtesy of Aedas Courtesy of Aedas Courtesy of Aedas Courtesy of Aedas + 7

UAE Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Biennale to Explore Human-scale Landscapes and Social Spaces

06:00 - 2 March, 2018
UAE Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Biennale to Explore Human-scale Landscapes and Social Spaces, Children playing soccer on sandy street outside the boundaries of bigness. Image Courtesy of National Pavilion UAE - la Biennale di Venezia
Children playing soccer on sandy street outside the boundaries of bigness. Image Courtesy of National Pavilion UAE - la Biennale di Venezia

As part of our 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale coverage we present the proposal for the UAE Pavilion. Below, the participants describe their contribution in their own words.

The National Pavilion UAE will present “Lifescapes Beyond Bigness,” an exhibition exploring human-scale architectural landscapes, at the 2018 Venice Biennale. The exhibition aims to highlight the role of architecture and urban design in forming the choreography of people’s daily routines. It particularly investigates the role of ‘quotidian’ (every day) landscapes in accommodating, enhancing, and facilitating social activities across different places in the UAE.