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Architecture History: The Latest Architecture and News

How the Renaissance Influenced Architecture

After a prolonged period known as the Middle-Ages, a growing desire to both study and mimic nature itself began to emerge, with an inclination to discover and explore the world. Between 1400-1600 A.D. Europe was to witness a significant revival of the fine arts, painting, sculpture, and Architecture. The ‘Renaissance’, meaning ‘rebirth’ in French typically refers to this period of European history, although most closely associated with Italy, countries including England and France went through many of the same cultural changes at varying timescales.

Prior to the dawn of the Renaissance, Europe was dominated by ornate and asymmetrical Gothic Architecture. Devoured by the plague, the continent lost approximately a third of its population, vastly changing society in terms of economic, social and religious effect. Contributing to Europe’s emergence into the Renaissance, the period ushered in a new era of architecture after a phase of Gothic art, with the rise of notions of ‘Humanism’. The idea of attaching much importance to the essence of individualism. The effect of Humanism included the emergence of the individual figure, greater realism and attention to detail, especially in depictions in art.

Wooden Model of Brunelleschis Dome . Image © Antonio QuattroneSanta Maria Novella, Florence . Image Courtesy of Commonists / WikiCommons CC BY-SA 4.0Royal Summer Palace, Prague / Paolo della Stella. Image Courtesy of Øyvind Holmstad / WikiCommons CC BY-SA 3.0Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican / Principally Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini . Image Courtesy of Alvesgaspar / WikiCommons CC BY-SA 4.0+ 12

How Robert A.M. Stern Resurrected Architectural History

Stern, at the Yale School of Architecture, via Dan’s Hampton. Image Courtesy of Common Edge
Stern, at the Yale School of Architecture, via Dan’s Hampton. Image Courtesy of Common Edge

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, I was lucky enough to get a summer job with Robert A.M. Stern while I was in graduate school. Stern’s new memoir, Between Memory and Invention: My Journey in Architecture (MonacelliPress, 2022), has prompted my own mini-memoir, with some relevant details not included in the book.

I arrived at the office in the early summer, not long after the dissolution of Stern & Hagmann and then Bob’s divorce. I found two young architects-to-be, a sweet but disorganized secretary-receptionist-bookkeeper, and Bob. The office grew during the summer and beyond—and today there are over 200 in the office, including 16 partners in Robert A.M. Stern Architects (aka RAMSA).

Courtesy of Common EdgeCourtesy of Common EdgeCourtesy of Common EdgeCourtesy of Common Edge+ 5

Correcting the Record: The Women Who Changed Architecture

Photo by Kate Joyce. Courtesy of Ross Barney Architects and Princeton Architectural Press . ImageChicago Riverwalk, Ross Barney Architects, 2016
Photo by Kate Joyce. Courtesy of Ross Barney Architects and Princeton Architectural Press . ImageChicago Riverwalk, Ross Barney Architects, 2016

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

There’s a famous quote—it’s usually attributed to Winston Churchill—that goes, “History is written by the victors.” This cynical and largely erroneous belief could only be true if history was fixed, settled, static. It never is, and that’s precisely why we have historians. It might be more accurately said that history’s first draft is written by the victors. But first drafts, as any writer will tell you, are famously unreliable. So it is with architectural history. Women have played significant roles in the field since the start of the profession, but that is not how history has recorded it. A new book, The Women Who Changed Architecture (Princeton Architectural Press), a collection of more than 100 mini-biographies of important women architects, covering more than a century, hopes to take a step toward correcting that oversight. Recently, I spoke to Jan Cigliano Hartman, the editor of the volume, about creating the book, important and overlooked figures, and why this isn’t a definitive list.

The History of Kitchens: From the Great Banquets to the Built-in Furniture

The discovery of fire was one of the great events that changed the social organization of human agglomerations, which gradually passed from nomadic to sedentary lifestyle. Fire, which in that context served to keep people warm and protect the group, was also being explored as a source for cooking food, which not only changed human eating habits, but also made it possible to conserve food, changing the social organization of communities. The preparation and meals were collective acts, which brought people together to feed, warm up and protect themselves. It is from this habit that we inherited the practice of large banquets and the appreciation of food and meal times. Food preparation, on the other hand, was gradually marginalized.

While the Egyptians, Assyrians, Phoenicians, Persians, Greeks and Romans shared the habit of holding large banquets, the preparation gained less and less prestige, losing its collective social dimension until it was physically segregated in a specific room: the kitchen.

Cozinha em Frankfurt, Alemanha. Autoria desconhecida. Imagem em Domínio Público [PD-old]. Image via Wikimedia CommonsApartamento Faria Lima / Pietro Terlizzi Arquitetura. Image © Guilherme PucciHomens colhendo uvas, desenhadas no estilo do antigo Egito, 1878. Fonte original: Ebers, Georg. "Egypt: Descriptive, Historical, and Picturesque." Volume 1. Cassell & Company, Limited: New York, 1878. p 060. Imagem sob licença Creative Commons [CC-BY-SA-2.5]. Image via Wikimedia CommonsAve assada no espeto. Disponível em Ilustração de uma edição de “The Decameron”, Flandres, 1432. Paris, Biblioteca Nacional, Arsenal, manuscrito 5070. Imagem em Domínio Público [PD Old]. Image via Wikimedia Commons+ 8

The Graphic Novel as Architectural Narrative: Berlin and Aya

The comic strip, la bande dessinée, the graphic novel. These are all part of a medium with an intrinsic connection to architectural storytelling. It’s a medium that has long been used to fantasise and speculate on possible architectural futures, or in a less spectacular context, used as a device to simply show the perspectival journey through an architectural project. When the comic strip meshes fiction with architectural imagination, however, it’s not only the speculation on future architectural scenarios that takes place. It’s also the recording and the critiquing of the urban conditions of either our contemporary cities or the cities of the past.

From Berlin by Jason Lutes. Image Courtesy of Drawn & QuarterlyFrom Berlin by Jason Lutes. Image Courtesy of Drawn & QuarterlyFrom Berlin by Jason Lutes. Image Courtesy of Drawn & QuarterlyFrom Aya: Life in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie, translated by Helge Dasche. Image Courtesy of Drawn & Quarterly+ 14

Mapping Improvisation: The Role of Call and Response in Urban Planning

Congo Square, E.W. Kemble. Image
Congo Square, E.W. Kemble. Image

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

New Orleans was designed by its early settlers in 1721 as a Cartesian grid. You know it as the famous French Quarter or Vieux Carré. Such grids are named for the Cartesian coordinate system we learned to use in algebra or geometry class, perpendicular X and Y axes, used to measure units of distance on a plane. The invention of René Descartes (1596–1650), these grids reflect his rationalism, the view that reason, not embodied or empirical experience, is the only source and certain test of knowledge. William Penn used a similar grid in 1682 in selling Philadelphia as an urban paradise where industry would thrive in the newly settled wilderness. And just as the massive buildings of Italian Rationalist (i.e., Fascist) architecture express authoritarian control, so, too, Cartesian grids implicitly say: Someone is in charge here. We’ve got this. Trust us.

Exploring the History of the Ideal Renaissance Cities

The concept of an “ideal city” is something that is often talked about today, as we look towards the future and think about what aspects of urban life we feel are most important for residents to thrive in a healthy community. However, ideal cities were conceived during the Italian Renaissance, as planners and architects prioritized rationale in their designs focusing on human values, urban capacities, and the recursive waves of cultural and artistic revolutions that influenced large-scale planning schemes.

Germane Barnes Wins 2021 Wheelwright Prize

Germane Barnes has won the 2021 Wheelwright Prize from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. The $100,000 prize will fund two years of travel and research for Barnes’s proposal Anatomical Transformations in Classical Architecture, an examination of classical Roman and Italian architecture through the lens of non-white constructors. Barnes will study how spaces have been transformed through the material contributions of the African Diaspora while creating new possibilities within investigations of Blackness.

Courtesy of Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Studio BarnesCourtesy of Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Studio BarnesCourtesy of Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Studio BarnesCourtesy of Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Studio Barnes+ 10

Chilometro Verde: Five Women Architects Revitalizing the Corviale, a Giant Public-Housing Project in Rome

This article was originally published on Common Edge as "Five Women Architects Revitalize a Giant Public-Housing Project in Rome."

Corviale is one of Italy’s biggest postwar public housing projects and, arguably, one of the most controversial. Both revered and abhorred, the complex remains a pilgrimage site for architectural schools from around the world. Il Serpentone (The Big Snake), as it is affectionately called, stretches nearly a kilometer in a straight line, a monolithic, brutalist building that hovers over the countryside on the outskirts of Rome. But there is nothing sinuous about a construction made up of 750,000 square meters of reinforced concrete condensed into 60 hectares. This hulking horizontal skyscraper is formed by twin structures, each 30 meters high, connected through labyrinths of elongated hallways, external corridors, and inner courtyards. Divided into five housing units, each with its own entrance and staircase, it contains 1,200 apartments and houses up to 6,000 people.

MIT Launches New Open Access Collection of 34 Classical Architecture and Urban Studies E-books

Funded by Andrew W. Mellon and the National Endowment for the Humanities foundations as part of the Open Book Program, a collection of classic books, published between 1964 and 1998 are now available online as open access e-books through the MIT Press Open Architecture and Urban Studies book collection.

Potential Demise of Chicago’s Thompson Center Inches Closer With Proposed Zoning Change

It would seem that the ongoing saga of the James R. Thompson Center, Chicago’s beloved but neglected governmental office building-slash-postmodernist mecca, might be reaching its final act.

Yesterday, Brendan Reilly, alderman of the city’s 42nd ward, announced a proposed rezoning ordinance that could kick the sale of the prized 3-acre site (12,140 m2) at 100 West Randolph Street into high-gear. The cash-strapped State of Illinois has been considering/trying to offload the property as early as 2003.