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Architecture History: The Latest Architecture and News

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.

Roberta Brandes Gratz: "Joan Davidson Showed How Little It Sometimes Took To Get Big Things Started"

This article was originally published on Common Edge as "Joan K. Davidson and the Fight for New York."

As income inequality has widened in recent years, the role of philanthropy has been called into question. Is charitable giving by wealthy individuals and powerful corporations always a positive force, or is that connection to wealth and power an inevitable compromise? Whose agenda does philanthropic giving really benefit, the grantees or the granters? These are complicated questions. But truly enlightened giving is a transformative force. It can not only fund worthy causes but if properly timed can sow the seeds of social change.

The Miasma Theory Was Wrong but Led to Smart Sanitation

American 19th-century sanitation engineer George E. Waring, Jr. was a miasmaist. He believed in the miasma theory, which holds that toxic vapors traveled through damp soil, rotted vegetation, and pools of standing water. These toxic vapors were understood to emanate from the Earth and interact with the atmosphere and cause disease in American cities.

According to Catherine Seavitt Nordenson, ASLA, a professor of landscape architecture at the Bernard & Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York, Waring was a “marginal figure,” but he had interesting ideas about how to “modify the climate to improve health.” In a virtual lecture hosted by the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Seavitt Nordenson said Waring was incorrect about the mechanisms for spreading disease —he didn’t understand the concept of vectors, like mosquitoes— but his drainage and sanitation solutions were “surprisingly successful.” A year into the coronavirus pandemic, it’s worth revisiting Waring’s ideas about the connections between the Earth, atmosphere, disease — and the maintenance of public spaces.

The Chase Residence: The History Behind One of Texas' Most Radical Houses

The following text is excerpted from John S. Chase — The Chase Residence (Tower Books, 2020) by architect and University of Texas professor David Heymann and historian and Rice University lecturer Stephen Fox. Richly illustrated with archival materials and new drawings, the book is the first devoted to Chase, who was the first Black licensed architect in Texas. The study is divided into two parts, with Heymann examining the personal, social, and architectural significance of Chase’s own Houston house and Fox describing Chase’s architectural career.

This excerpt draws on Heymann’s analysis and highlights the first incarnation of the Chase Residence (Chase substantially altered its architecture in 1968). It places great emphasis on the house’s remarkable courtyard, a modernist innovation, and a singular statement about domestic living at the time. New section, elevation, and perspective drawings prepared for the book help illustrate the ingenuity of the house’s configuration. Finally, the excerpt was selected in part to honor Drucie (Rucker) Chase, who passed away in January of 2021.

8 Initiatives that Empower Women in the Architectural and Urban Fields

While in a lot of countries around the world, the construction, architecture, engineering, and urban planning sectors, are still reserved for men, initiatives that empower women in these fields are surfacing everywhere around the globe. Playing a huge role in the integration of female power into these disciplines, these movements take on many forms such as organizations, websites, platforms, etc. working with professionals, artisans, and workers.

From providing skills, connecting outstanding females, ensuring exposure, and promoting the works of pioneers, these initiatives have the common purpose of encouraging women to have an impact on their built environment.

From Ancient Rome to Contemporary Singapore: The Evolution of Conservatories

According to Pliny, Roman Emperor Tiberius’s doctors instructed their charge to consume a fruit of the Cucurbits family each day. To grow these melon and cucumber fruits year-round on his home island of Capri, Tiberius directed construction of specularia: “[He] had raised beds made in frames upon wheels, by means of which the Cucumis were moved and exposed to the full heat of the sun; while, in winter, they were withdrawn, and placed under the protection of frames glazed with mirror-stone.”

The Thompson Center: A Building Facing Demolition Threat in Chicago

Every city has its odd building. Paris has Centre Pompidou. London –Lloyd’s of London. New York –the Guggenheim. Naturally, Chicago, the architectural capital of the world, has one too. Here it is –James R. Thompson Center, named so in honor of four-term Illinois Republican Governor (1977-91) who was brave enough to get it built in 1985. Home to offices of the Illinois state government the building is unlike anything you have ever seen before.

The Getty and USC Launch Talks Shedding Light on the Impact of Architect Paul R. Williams

Paul Revere Williams, the late architect who was the first black member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), has recently been receiving some long-overdue recognition. The AIA awarded him a posthumous gold medal in 2017; a PBS documentary “Hollywood’s Architect: The Paul R. Williams Story” aired in February, and a book titled “Regarding Paul R. Williams: A Photographer’s View” was published in September.

A Planned Reprint of a Popular Book on Louis Kahn Brings His Drawings within Reach

There are plenty of books about the buildings of late American architect Louis I. Kahn, including those he authored. But his drawings hold a special fascination for his peers and fans, which explains why the blog Designers and Books is launching a Kickstarter to fund the reissue of one 1962 compilation of his sketches, which has been out of print for decades.

Public Protests and the Urban Legacies of Colonialism and Military Dictatorship in Nigeria

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

For the past two weeks, cities across Nigeria were hit by protests against the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a police unit setup in 1992 to fight armed robberies. The anti-SARS protesters are calling for the unit’s disbandment, due to its high-handedness, extra-judicial killings, extortion, and numerous human rights abuses.

Tragically, the protests came to a brutal climax on October 20, with the shooting of protesters at the Lekki Tollgate by gunmen believed to be agents of the Nigerian state. This led to casualties, which are currently a subject of controversy: the Lagos State government concedes that two persons lost their lives; groups like Amnesty International insist the figures are much higher.

'Shofuso and Modernism' Revisits a Major Mid-Century East-West Cultural Exchange

In June 1954, an article published in House & Home magazine read, “The Japanese had some of our best ideas—300 years ago.” The piece highlighted three main attributes of Kyoto’s Katsura Imperial Villa, built in the 1620s: the open post-and-beam plan, the use of verandas for climate control, and its modularity based on tatami mats and shoji screens.