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Civic Architecture: The Latest Architecture and News

The Democratic Monument: Adam Nathaniel Furman's Manifesto for a New Type of Civic Center

Civic buildings are, as a rule, both austere and intimidating. They are often designed to represent authority above all, taking cues from Classical architectural language to construct an image of power, dominance, and civic unity. Adam Nathaniel Furman, a London-based architect and thinker, has at once eschewed and reengaged this typology in order to propose an entirely new type of civic center ("Town Hall") for British cities. The proposal, which was commissioned by the 2017 Scottish Architectural Fringe as part of a New Typologies exhibition in which architects are imagining "how our shared civic infrastructure will exist in the future, if at all", is currently on display in Glasgow.

By "re-grouping various civic functions into one visually symbolic composition of architectural forms," references and types of ornament and allusions have been configured "depending on the metropolitan area within which it is situated in and embodies." In short, Furman states, the Democratic Monument "is an expression of urban pride, chromatic joy, and architectural complexity" which has universal symbolism but remains a beacon to its vicinity.

© Adam Nathaniel Furman© Adam Nathaniel Furman© Adam Nathaniel Furman© Adam Nathaniel Furman+ 20

New Mixed-Use Complex Expresses Past, Present, and Future of Chinese Culture

Novotown is China’s latest cultural and creative incubator, designed by Aedas as an iconic destination on Hengqin Island in Zhuhai, China. Located just five minutes from Macau, the 120,000-square meter cultural and entertainment complex aims to straddle the roles of tourist destination and local icon.

© Aedas© Aedas© Aedas© Aedas+ 5

Why the Future of Civic Architecture Lies in Small-Scale Structures

This article was originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "Good-bye Grand Structures: The Small-Scale Civic Architecture of Today."

The city hall of my current hometown, Scottsdale, Arizona, gives no hint of any sort of civic function to the boulevard on which it sits. You enter it from the parking lot in back. The only reason I have been there was as part of a team presenting our credentials in a design selection process. My other dealings with government have been online, via mail, or at suburban locations where I have gone to handle such matters as smog tests. I vote by mail.

The big push in American local, state, and federal government is to take everything possible online and off-site and to make whatever remains as minimal and anonymous as possible. The actual operations of government have long taken place in back rooms where politicians and bureaucrats have done the real work. Yet they were often encased in grand structures that gave us a sense of identity and pride in our government while also serving as open sites where we could encounter our civic agents and one another. As a result, we live with a heritage of civic monuments that proclaim our investment in deliberation and democracy, but we build very few, if any, such structures today. Instead, we are looking to get rid of whatever relics of such a history of civic architecture we can—the governor of Illinois would like to sell the James R. Thompson Center, designed by Helmut Jahn in 1982–85, and only the specificity of the grand classical edifices that predate that Postmodern monument prevents other politicians from trying the same. Civic buildings cost money to build and maintain, and their formal spaces sit empty most of the time.

AD Classics: Palazzo dei Congressi / Louis Kahn

The city of Venice has been caught in a tug of war between progress and traditionalism for many years, and particularly since the construction of a railroad viaduct in 1846 linked the island city to the Italian mainland for the first time in its history.[1] Over a century later, the Venetian government commissioned Louis Kahn to design a new Palazzo dei Congressi for the city; his proposal, while paying respect to the histories of both the Republic of Venice and a unified Italy, could not escape similar controversy.

Has Technology Diminished Our Understanding Of Public Space?

In an article for the Washington Post, Philip Kennicott argues that "technology has scrambled the lines between public and private." He questions whether, in an age of "radical individualism" spurred on by our fascination with solitary communication, our collective understanding and appreciation for the public, civic space has been diminished. Kennitott foreshadows that "one thing is certain: We will live in more crowded spaces, and we will increasingly live indoors, cocooned in climate-controlled zones with a few billion of our closest friends" as rapid urbanisation merges with the changing climate.

Review: 'All Of This Belongs To You' - Civic Urbanism At London's Victoria & Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), named after the Queen and Her Consort, has its foundations in the Great Exhibition of 1851 amidst the wealth, innovation and squalor of the Industrial Revolution. Britain was flooded by prosperity which allowed for the development of major new institutions to collect and exhibit objects of cultural significance or artistic value. The institute’s first director, Henry Cole, declared that it should be “a schoolroom for everyone,” and a democratic approach to its relationship with public life has remained the cornerstone of the V&A. Not only has it always been free of charge but it was also the first to open late hours (made possible by gas lighting), allowing a more comprehensive demographic of visitor.

Their latest exhibition, which opens today, seeks to realign the museum’s vast collection and palatial exhibition spaces in South Kensington with these founding concepts. The interventions of All of This Belongs to You attempt to push the V&A’s position as an extension of London’s civic and cultural built environment to the fore, testing the museum’s ability to act as a 21st century public institution. To do this in London, a city where the notion of public and private is increasingly blurred, has resulted in a sequence of compelling installations which are tied together through their relevance either in subject matter, technique, or topicality.

The Ethics of Dust: Trajan’s Column by Jorge Oteros-Pailos. Image © Peter Kelleher / Victoria & Albert Museum‘AgBags’ installed on the V&A’s stone façade as part of a work by Natalie Jermijenko. Image © Peter Kelleher / Victoria & Albert MuseumSpike studs by Kent Stainless Ltd. that are intended 
to discourage people from occupying various spaces in the city. Image © Peter Kelleher / Victoria & Albert MuseumMacBook Air casing and components from a computer used by journalists to write editorial about the data leaked to The Guardian newspaper by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor. Image © The Guardian/ Victoria & Albert Museum+ 9