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Finn MacLeod

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"A Folly For London" Pokes Serious Fun at London's Architectural Troubles

London is in the throes of an architectural identity crisis, compounded by a severe shortage of housing. While politicians and public figures debate various solutions to the city's design dilemmas, a London-based artist has conceived of a "satirical competition for architecture of the absurd." Known as A Folly for London, the free open-call for solutions to London's architectural conundrums was created in response to Arup and Heatherwick Studio's proposal for the yet to be built, and highly controversial, Garden Bridge.

Unlike traditional architectural competitions, A Folly for London sought to ignite debate on the current state of architecture in London. Presented with a distinctly British sense of humour, the competition received more than fifty entries. Winning proposals include the systematic burning of London's forests, construction of a massive inhabitable light bulb and the creation of a catacomb of submerged signature double-decker buses at the centre of the River Thames.

See the winners of "A Folly for London" after the break

The Bulb. Image Courtesy of A Folly for LondonThe Green Fire of London. Image Courtesy of A Folly for LondonThe Bulb. Image Courtesy of A Folly for LondonFloating Tidal Exploded Bus Maze. Image Courtesy of A Folly for London+ 7

Vogue Architects Selected to Design Engineers Union Building in Kurdistan

Located in the autonomous Iraqi state of Kurdistan, Vogue Architects have won a competition to construct a new building for the Kurdistan Engineers Union in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. The mixed-use concrete and glass tower will serve as the new hub for the Engineers Union and will become home to several engineering firms, administrative offices, a fitness centre and public space. Designed to pay homage to the land, the tower was created on principles of holiness, honesty and respect for nature.

Courtesy of Vogue ArchitectsCourtesy of Vogue ArchitectsCourtesy of Vogue ArchitectsCourtesy of Vogue Architects+ 25

Puddle-Free Parking: New Absorbent Surface Swallows Water Instantly

Perhaps the only material on the architectural market known for its "thirst," ultra-porous concrete is being hailed as the future of urban water runoff management for warm climates. The emerging material reached mainstream popularity in recent weeks thanks to a viral video depicting an apparently ordinary car park absorbing an inordinate amount of water; 1.2 million views later, the video has ignited debate on viability and possible uses for water-absorbent concrete.

Ultra-porous concrete is gaining a foothold thanks to extensive research being conducted by architects and engineers around the world. Known for its rainy climate, daring use of innovative materials and unorthodox architecture, it comes as no surprise that the Dutch city of Rotterdam has embraced water-absorbent concrete for testing.

Courtesy of RainawayCourtesy of RainawayCourtesy of RainawayCourtesy of Rainaway+ 10

Do You Know About the Secret Apartment at the Top of the Eiffel Tower?

Since opening in 1889, over 250 million people have visited the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris. A rare experience for most, a trip to the Eiffel Tower includes long queues, beautiful views, and...a visit to Gustave Eiffel's private apartment? Unbeknownst to most 19th century Parisians (save for a privileged few), the tower's celebrated designer built himself a humble little abode 285 meters (935 feet) up the tower. Closed for decades, in recent years the management of the Eiffel Tower have opened Eiffel's apartment to the public, grand piano and all.

Enter Gustave Eiffel's secret apartment after the break

Video Series: Six Lessons from Six Leading Dutch Designers

There's something special about architecture in The Netherlands. From MVRDV's iconic Markthal in Rotterdam to WAM's whimsically stacked Inntel Hotel in Zaandam, for years Dutch design has questioned accepted architectural norms. The country has long been considered a leader in design, catalyzed in part by The Netherlands' famous architectural trailblazer Rem Koolhaas. Since 1975 Koolhaas' Rotterdam-based firm OMA has realized dozens of unorthodox designs and has been linked with the creation of more than forty major architecture practices worldwide.

In 2000 Bart Lootsma released Superdutch, a bestselling opus on the mythology of Dutch architecture and its thought leaders, which provided a glimpse into the enduring humanist approach to design that has earned global praise for the country's architects. In the book, Lootsma profiled a handful of Dutch firms including UNStudio, West 8 and MVRDV. Fifteen years later, students from Canada's Simon Fraser University formed a collective called Groep Drie to continue the conversation. From Herman Hertzberger to Ben van Berkel, Groep Drie sat down with The Netherlands' most innovative designers to talk urbanism, spiritualism, color, and more.

Read on to find out what The Netherlands' leading architects had to say.

Elia Zenghelis and Steven Holl Share Lessons Learned from a Life in Architecture

In the latest video on architecture and urbanism from 32BNY, Steven Holl and his associate Dimitra Tsachrelia sit down with Elia Zenghelis, a founding partner at OMA and former lecturer at the Architectural Association in London. After forty-five years in architecture, Zenghelis has come to a series of conclusions, including a long-standing belief that men obstruct the design potential of their female colleagues, creating an imbalance in the professional landscape. "Women are much better architects than men," proclaims Zenghelis, former professor to Steven Holl, Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid (as well as a former collaborator of the latter two). Sitting in Holl's New York office, Zenghelis argues that women have a certain intuition that proves essential to the creation of great design. "It's men that dominate the scene - something has to happen," he says.

Read on for more on the contents of the video.

University of Michigan Researchers Improve Solar Panels Using the Ancient Japanese Art of Kirigami

Solar energy is considered by many to be the future of electricity worldwide. Cities from Houston to Mumbai are embracing massive rooftop and rural solar infrastructure, a largely standardized system of fixed panels positioned to optimize sun intake at peak times. Only the most sophisticated adjustable panels which track the sun, however, are capable of absorbing the maximum amount of daylight allowed by the technology, meaning that the average immovable panel loses a significant amount of available energy.

Researchers at the University of Michigan sought to develop a solar energy system that could absorb the most daylight possible while reducing the carbon footprint from production of the panels themselves. The results are surprisingly beautiful: through the application of the ancient Japanese art of Kirigami, a variation of Origami, the researchers were able to capture up to 40 percent more sunlight than traditional panels.

Video: Enter the Ethereal Spaces of Los Angeles' Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

A soaring contemporary space for the divine, The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels opened to the public in 2002. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, the Roman Catholic cathedral is a monument to the successes of postmodernism deep in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. The cathedral features modernist decoration, from angular wooden pews to steel chandeliers complete with blown glass orbs, and can host up to 3,000 visitors in its sunlight spaces with ample outdoor space in the adjacent gardens and plaza.

The Tranquility of Louis Kahn's Salk Institute

Watching the sunrise over Louis Kahn's Salk Institute for Biological Sciences is arguably one of architecture's most transformative experiences. The famous building has become an emblem of tranquility in architecture thanks to its tremendous location in San Diego, California, a quality enhanced by the carefully planned symmetrical vistas overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Built in 1962 and declared a national historic landmark in 1991, Kahn designed the complex to express an underlying sense of spiritualism, fusing influences from both the International Style and Brutalism anchored by a gently flowing river through the center of the design. Filmmaker-photographer Chang Kim explored the Salk Institute as a part of his series on influential Californian architecture, providing an opportunity to virtually experience the iconic institute.

Winners of "The Rust Belt" Contest Offer Ideas for a 107-Acre Former Factory Site

Across industrial North America, many small working class cities are faced with a plethora of abandoned property due to the downfall of the automotive industry. The prolific ruins of the largest abandoned factory in North America, Detroit's Packard Motor Plant, have served as an emblem for dozens of similar plants dotting the landscapes of cities across the continent. In 2010, shortly after the beginning of the global economic crisis, Chrysler closed a sprawling engine factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The factory has since been demolished and is now at the beginning of a five-year cleanup. Located adjacent to a densely populated suburban development, the 107-acre property begs the question: what can be done with such a massive piece of land?

In response to Kenosha's Chrysler problem, a team of urbanists, architects and researchers known as Urban Design for Everyone (UD4U) launched a global competition to reinvigorate the former industrial property. Proposals had to take the adjacent neighborhoods into consideration, with the ultimate goal of bridging gaps between disparate communities at opposite ends of the property. The winning proposals range widely from a stylized village of housing, to the creation of enormous urban farms, to the construction of an innovation park featuring a series of vast artificial lakes. After receiving 43 entries from 17 countries, a jury of local architects selected three exceptional proposals and five honorable mentions. Find out what the teams proposed after the break.

5 Takeaways From The RIBA's Report on the Architect-Client Relationship

Building projects are inherently complex: as projects progress, architects are joined by contractors, engineers, and myriad consultants. Architects, according to a recent report by RIBA, are considered the "spiritual leaders" of a building project. Cemented in this perception by a monopoly on design, architects continue to sit precariously atop project hierarchies despite a shifting landscape in building production. This begs the question: how can architects leverage this spiritual responsibility to translate into the best results for clients?

In their latest report Client & Architect: Developing the Essential Relationship, RIBA delves into the nuanced problem of connecting architecture to its owners, emphasizing the importance of a strong, functional and mutually educational relationship. Currently, architects have a tremendous opportunity to learn, improve and capitalize on understanding of clients, regardless of firm size, portfolio and established skills.

Read on to discover RIBA's findings from two years of client analysis

5 Things Architecture Can Learn from the Tiny House Movement

As the global economy grows uncertain, homeowners are getting more creative in order to afford essential residential spaces. The tiny house movement has gained a foothold worldwide, encouraging the construction of homes as small as 150 square feet (14 square meters), with many smaller housing models cropping up on a daily basis. Home to residents of all ages, tiny houses have evolved far beyond the cramped quarters of Airstream trailers of decades past and, though they were once considered an architectural farce, tiny houses are becoming an increasingly popular solution to weather the economic storm and increasingly relevant to the field of architecture.

With their increasing respectability - and their popularity increasingly exposing the drawbacks of other housing types - we take a look at some lessons that while key to the tiny house movement, are still applicable in the larger architectural arena. Read on to find out what tiny houses can contribute to the race for better space.

Infographic: The History and Future of Solar Energy in the US

Texas and clean energy are hardly considered synonymous. However, as uncovered by a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Texas has emerged as an unexpected leader in solar power, with $1 billion now being invested in solar energy infrastructure with an aim to produce up to 12,500 megawatts of solar electricity by 2029. To mark this important moment in US energy production, the New Jersey Institute of Technology has produced this infographic revealing the benefits (and drawbacks) of solar energy for the average American consumer, including everything from the history of solar energy to incentives available for solar systems nationwide. Read on to view the infographic in full.

Geometric Paradise: Explore the Realms of Wild Tiling

A photo posted by Fireclay Tile (@fireclaytile) on

What do mathematics and your kitchen backsplash have in common? More than you might think: according to recent findings published in The Guardian, mathematicians have had a breakthrough in the world of pentagons, resulting in a new class of mathematically tiling shape. This newly discovered iteration is capable of continuously tiling a surface without gaps, unlike the majority of its similarly five-sided cousins. Known in mathematics as the most elusive tile shape due to its seemingly endless angular possibilities, the pentagon has been the focus of serious scrutiny for over a century.

With the discovery of the fifteenth type of pentagon last month at the University of Washington Bothell, we've decided to compile a list of the most eccentric and intriguing tiles currently available. Dive into the world of wild backsplashes and unorthodox ceramics after the break.

Enter Russia's Tiny Mud-Clad Museum for Rural Labour

Standing tall in the expansive landscape of Western Russia, the monolithic Museum for Rural Labor is an architectural beacon for the Kaluga Oblast region. Built of local straw and clay, the eight meter tower is comprised of one round sunlit room adorned with the instruments of manual labor. Jarring, unexpected and mysterious, the museum was conceived by Russian architects Sergei Tchoban and Agniya Sterligova to pay homage to the region's deep agricultural history. Defined by a stark and unorthodox form, the tower disrupts the Russian landscape while simultaneously serving as a wayfinding device for residents from the nearby village of Zvizzhi.

Enter the rudimentary world of the Museum for Rural Labour after the break.

© Dmitry Chebanenko© Dmitry Chebanenko© Dmitry Chebanenko© Dmitry Chebanenko+ 28

How Walter Segal's 1970s DIY Community Could Help Solve Today's Housing Crisis

In recent years, DIY approaches to building houses have become increasingly popular, as increasing cost and decreasing availability have caused some prospective house-buyers to embrace simple methods of fabrication and the sweat of their own brow, as discussed in this recent article. However, this trend has much earlier precedents: in 1979, self-build pioneer Walter Segal had already embraced these progressive concepts in a development known as "Walter's Way," an enclave of self-built social housing in southeast London. According to Dave Dayes, a Walter's Way resident and an original builder on the project, Segal believed that "anybody can build a house. All you need to do is cut a straight line and drill a straight hole." The houses were built entirely of standard wood units assembled onsite in Lewisham.

In this video, London based non-profit The Architecture Foundation steps into the utopia of Walter's Way, a micro-neighborhood founded on principals of communal living for people of all backgrounds. The film has been released in connection with Doughnut: The Outer London Festival taking place September 5th, which will bring together writers, historians, architects and economists for "an adventurous celebration of all things Outer London and a critical reflection on the rapid transformation that the city's periphery is currently experiencing." The Architecture Foundation aims to introduce central Londoners (and the world) to the radically functional housing concepts in practice at Walter's way.

Own a Pied-à-Terre in the Heart of Middle Earth with the "Realise Minas Tirith" Campaign

Are you looking for the perfect walled city to lay down your roots? Look no further than Minas Tirith, J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional capital of Gondor, located in mountainous and remote Middle Earth. Except, if an ambitious group of British architects get their way, it might not be fictional for much longer. With their plans to construct a replica of Minas Tirith in the non-fictional hills of southern England, the Lord of the Rings-inspired community promises to be a bustling center of activity occupied by the most diehard Middle Earth supporters. This is only possible, of course, if the founders of Realise Minas Tirith are able to fundraise £1.85 Billion ($2.86bn USD) within 60 days on Indiegogo.

Steven Holl, Tod Williams and More Reflect on the Importance of the Emerging Voices Award

Every year, the Architectural League of New York honors the rising stars of architecture with the Emerging Voices Award, a title offered only to the most promising professionals. Long known as a predictor of long-term career success, the award has been given to architects who have later become some of the best in the world, including Steven Holl, Toshiko Mori, and Tod Williams. For a recent article entitled 10 Emerging Voices Winners on the Program's Lasting Influence, Metropolis Magazine asked some of the award's most illustrious winners to discuss how their trajectories were changed by the award, and how they changed architecture.