the world's most visited architecture website
All
Projects
Products
Events
Competitions
  1. ArchDaily
  2. common-edge

Common Edge

Architecture without Architects: The Cut-Paste Typology Taking Over America

09:30 - 11 December, 2018
Architecture without Architects: The Cut-Paste Typology Taking Over America, Tejon 35 / Meridian 105 Architecture. Image © Raul Garcia
Tejon 35 / Meridian 105 Architecture. Image © Raul Garcia

This article was originally published on CommonEdge as "When Buildings Are Shaped More by Code than by Architects."

Architects are often driven by forces which are stronger than aesthetics or even client whims and desires. To some extent we’re captive to the tools and materials we use, and the legal limitations placed on us as architects. Today a new code definition has changed one type of building in all of the ways architects usually control.

How to Judge a Building: Does it Make you Feel More, Or Less Alive?

09:30 - 7 December, 2018
How to Judge a Building: Does it Make you Feel More, Or Less Alive? , via Wikimedia. ImageSelgas Cano's Pavilion at the 2018 Brugge Triennale
via Wikimedia. ImageSelgas Cano's Pavilion at the 2018 Brugge Triennale

This extract was originally published on Common Edge as "The Legacy of Christopher Alexander: Criteria for an Intelligent Architecture."

In his monumental four-volume book, The Nature of Order, Christopher Alexander talks about an intelligent architecture, responsive to human needs and sensibilities through adaptation to existing buildings and nature. This is a new way of viewing the world—a way of connecting to it, and to ourselves—yet it is very much the same as the most ancient ways of connecting.

Design Criticism Ignores the Places that it Could Help the Most

09:30 - 27 November, 2018
Design Criticism Ignores the Places that it Could Help the Most, Growing economies- and the inspiration of Western style architectural wealth - has led to the development of areas such as these across the world. This example, in Ordos, Mongolia, was built for a prospective population that never quite came.. Image © Raphael Olivier
Growing economies- and the inspiration of Western style architectural wealth - has led to the development of areas such as these across the world. This example, in Ordos, Mongolia, was built for a prospective population that never quite came.. Image © Raphael Olivier

This article was originally published on CommonEdge as "The Design Media Needs to Examine its Own Privilege."

Kate Wagner grew up in rural North Carolina. As a kid, her mom, who never went to college, worked in a grocery store deli and later in childcare. Her dad had a steady government job with a pension, and his time in the military meant he had the resources and benefits needed to get a college degree. Wagner describes her economic background as “one foot in the working class and one foot in the middle class, and it was always a negotiation between those two classes.” They were, she says, “just normal-ass American people.”

Modernism: The International Style that Wasn't

09:30 - 20 November, 2018
Modernism: The International Style that Wasn't, Farnsworth House / Mies van der Rohe. Image
Farnsworth House / Mies van der Rohe. Image

This article was originally published on CommonEdge as "Was Modernism Really International? A New History Says No."

I taught architectural history in two schools of architecture during the 1980s and 1990s. Back then it was common for students to get a full three-semester course that began with Antiquity and ended with Modernism, with a nod to later twentieth-century architecture. My text for the middle section was Spiro Kostof’s magisterial History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals. With many centuries to cover, he spent very little effort in dealing with the twentieth century. In the last third of the course, students read texts such as Towards a New Architecture by Le Corbusier and Reyner Banham’s Theory and Design in the First Machine Age. My colleagues and I felt that we offered students a pluralistic and comprehensive review of key developments in the history of the built environment.

Villa Tugendhat / Mies van der Rohe. Image © Iwan Baan © Iwan Baan © Thomas Lewandovski + 15

Philip Johnson: A Complicated, Reprehensible History

07:00 - 8 November, 2018
Philip Johnson: A Complicated, Reprehensible History, © Richard Barnes
© Richard Barnes

This interview was originally published on Common Edge as "Mark Lamster on His New Biography of Philip Johnson."

Philip Johnson lived a long and extraordinarily eventful life. He was an architect, a museum curator, a tastemaker, a kingmaker, a schemer, an exceptionally vivid cultural presence. Mark Lamster, architecture critic of the Dallas Morning News and Harvard Loeb Fellowship recipient, has now written a thoroughly engaging biography of him entitled, Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century: The Man in the Glass House. I talked to Lamster two weeks ago about the book and the bundle of contradictions that was Philip Johnson.

© Flickr user Amir Nejad © David Shankbone Courtesy of American Seating .jpg Cross Section of the Crystal Cathedral + 11

How a Daily Sketch Improves Architecture

09:30 - 25 October, 2018
© Frank Harmon
© Frank Harmon

This article was originally published on Common Edge as "How the Quick Daily Drawing Puts Humanity Back Into Architecture."

Architect Frank Harmon has a discipline: he tries to do a freehand drawing every day. He doesn’t spend much time on them. About five minutes. These short spurts of depiction have the effect of catching lightning in a bottle or, as Virginia Woolf once said about the importance of writing every day, “to clap the net over the butterfly of moment.” To capture these moments you must be fast. The minute moves. Harmon’s drawings feel loose, fuzzy at the edges. You sense their five-minute duration.

Frank Harmon Frank Harmon Frank Harmon © Frank Harmon + 25

How Architectural Theory Distances People from Design

07:00 - 17 October, 2018
How Architectural Theory Distances People from Design, © Ross Brady, via CommonEdge
© Ross Brady, via CommonEdge

This article was originally published on Common Edge as "How Architectural 'Theory' Disconnects the Profession from the Public."

Whatever the form—personal, theoretical, scholarly—architects frequently veer into the philosophical terrain when defending otherwise subjective design decisions. Personally, this may be justifiable. But professionally, this reliance on quasi-philosophical spin is one of the fundamental ways architecture differs from other practical pillars of society, such as law, finance or medicine. Those disciplines are based on structures of knowledge (precedent or code, economics, and science, respectively) that mediate between professional decisions and subjective judgement.

Words on the Street: Art, Architecture, and the Public Protest

09:30 - 1 October, 2018
Words on the Street: Art, Architecture, and the Public Protest, Barricades in the streets of Bordeaux during the May 1968 protests in France. ImageCourtesy of Wikimedia
Barricades in the streets of Bordeaux during the May 1968 protests in France. ImageCourtesy of Wikimedia

This article was originally published as "What Marchers Today Can Learn from the May 1968 Protests in Paris" on CommonEdge in May 2018. In the 50 years since the historic and worldwide protests of 1968, much has changed. But today's political climate seems equally volatile, with seismic changes threatening social and political establishments across the globe. Lessons from the past are, to borrow the phrase of the moment, more relevant than ever.

American friends recently sent an email: “What’s going on with the French political system? Why all the strikes? What about the endless protest marches? We’d like to visit you in Paris, but we’re a little wary.”

"I Don't Really See AI as A Threat": Imdat As on Artificial Intelligence in Architecture

09:30 - 30 September, 2018
"I Don't Really See AI as A Threat": Imdat As on Artificial Intelligence in Architecture, Joris Laarman for MX3D
Joris Laarman for MX3D

Is Artificial Intelligence (AI) the doom of the architecture profession and design services (as some warn) or a way to improve the overall design quality of the built environment, expanding and extending design services in ways yet to be explored? I sat down with my University of Hartford colleague Imdat As. Dr. As is an architect with an expertise in digital design who is an assistant professor of architecture and the co-founder of Arcbazar.com, a crowd-sourced design site. His current research on AI and its impact on architectural design and practice is funded by the US Department of Defense. Recently we sat down and talked about how this emerging technology might change design and practice as we now know it—and if so, would that be such a bad thing?

This article was originally published as "Doom or Bloom: What Will Artificial Intelligence Mean for Architecture?" on CommonEdge. It has been slightly abridged for publication on this platform; the full interview can be read on CommonEdge here.

Forget the Critics: Traditional Architecture Can Still Make a Contemporary Place

09:30 - 26 September, 2018
Forget the Critics: Traditional Architecture Can Still Make a Contemporary Place, Historical building and Yale university campus in downtown New Haven CT, USA / via Shutterstock.com
Historical building and Yale university campus in downtown New Haven CT, USA / via Shutterstock.com

This article was originally published on Common Edge as "Contrary to Architecture's Critical Establishment, Robert A.M. Stern's Yale Colleges Are a Triumph of Placemaking."

In late January I attended a moving memorial service at Yale’s Battell Chapel for Vincent Scully, the man who led me to architecture as a career, and who continues to inspire me as a writer and historian. While there I took the opportunity to tour Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray Colleges, Yale’s first new residential colleges in half a century. I came away marveling at the quality of the architecture, and thanking my alma mater for its vision and commitment to enhancing the city and the campus.

Urbanism that Forgot the Urban: John Portman's Legacy in Detroit

09:30 - 12 September, 2018
Urbanism that Forgot the Urban: John Portman's Legacy in Detroit, John Portman's Renaissance Centre in Detroit. Image via Wikimedia
John Portman's Renaissance Centre in Detroit. Image via Wikimedia

This article was originally published on Common Edge as "Will Detroit ever Fully Recover from John Portman's Renaissance Center?"

Last week I wrote about the anti-urban legacy of architect and developer John Portman. I think it’s worth going into a bit more detail about these projects, since we seem to have learned so little from their failures.

Let’s start with Detroit. The Renaissance Center was one of his largest and most celebrated projects. But this sprawling complex of seven-interconnected skyscrapers poses some difficult questions for urban planners today: can downtown Detroit ever fully recover from this mammoth and ill considered development? And, more importantly, why haven’t other cities learned from its clear and stark lessons?

Architecture and Criticism: By the People, for the People?

09:30 - 4 September, 2018
Architecture and Criticism: By the People, for the People? , Frank Gehry flips off a reporter who challenged him of practicing "showy architecture. . Image© EFE
Frank Gehry flips off a reporter who challenged him of practicing "showy architecture. . Image© EFE

This article was originally published on Common Edge as "Architectural Criticism that's Not Just for Architects."

In case you hadn’t noticed the world is going from paper to pixels. You’re reading this, here. Everything is changing, and that includes how we talk and think and write about architecture.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer: "To Understand a Building, Go There, Open your Eyes, and Look!"

09:30 - 8 August, 2018
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer: "To Understand a Building, Go There, Open your Eyes, and Look!" , © Nina Vidic, via ELEMENTAL. ImageUC Innovation Center / ELEMENTAL
© Nina Vidic, via ELEMENTAL. ImageUC Innovation Center / ELEMENTAL

Six years ago Susan Szenasy and I had the honor of interviewing Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer for Metropolis magazine. While he was a federal appeals judge in Boston, Breyer played a key role in shepherding the design and construction of the John Joseph Moakley United State Courthouse, designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. In 2011 Justice Breyer joined the jury of the Pritzker Prize. Given his long involvement with architecture, I thought it would be fun to catch up with him. So, on the final day of court before breaking for the summer recess, I talked to Justice Breyer about his experience as a design client, how to create good government buildings, and why public architecture matters.

Will Architecture in the Future Be a Luxury Service?

09:30 - 2 August, 2018
Will Architecture in the Future Be a Luxury Service?, Oculus / Santiago Calatrava. Image © Photo by gdtography from Pexels
Oculus / Santiago Calatrava. Image © Photo by gdtography from Pexels

This article was originally published by Common Edge as "In the Era of Artificial Intelligence, Will Architecture Become Artisanal?"

Like food and clothing, buildings are essential. Every building, even the most rudimentary, needs a design to be constructed. Architecture is as central to building as farming is to food, and in this era of rapidly advancing technological change farming may offer us valuable lessons.

At last census count there were 233,000 architects in the United States; the 113,000 who are currently licensed represent a 3% increase from last year. In addition there’s a record number of designers who qualify for licensure: more than 5,000 this year, almost the same number as graduates with professional degrees. There is now 1-architect-for-every-2,900 people in the US. A bumper crop, right?

The Failed Mexican Earthquake Memorial That Shows Protest Can Still Shape the Urban Environment

09:30 - 25 July, 2018
The proposed memorial to earthquake victims in Mexico City met with fierce resistance from residents who felt authorities had not done enough for the people left homeless by the tragedy. Image via Common Edge
The proposed memorial to earthquake victims in Mexico City met with fierce resistance from residents who felt authorities had not done enough for the people left homeless by the tragedy. Image via Common Edge

This article was originally published by Common Edge as "Letter From Mexico City: An Insidious Memorial to a Still-Unfolding Tragedy."

You wouldn’t think it looking at Mexico City today—a densely populated metropolis, where empty space is hard to come by—but decades earlier, following a devastating earthquake on September 19, 1985, more than 400 buildings collapsed, leaving a collection of open wounds spread over the cityscape.

Exactly thirty-two years later, the anniversary of that disaster was ominously commemorated with an emergency evacuation drill. Then, in one of those odd occurrences in which reality proves to be stranger than fiction, a sudden jolt scarcely two hours after the drill led to what would be yet another of the deadliest earthquakes in the city’s history. Buildings once again collapsed, leaving a rising-by-the-hour death toll that eventually reached 361, as well as swarms of bewildered citizens wandering the streets, frantically attempting to reach their loved ones through the weakened cell phone reception. “We’d just evacuated for the drill,” people said, like a collective mantra. “How could this happen again?”

Opinion: The Chilean Pavilion Offers the 2018 Venice Biennale's Most Powerful Architectural Statement

09:30 - 24 June, 2018
Opinion: The Chilean Pavilion Offers the 2018 Venice Biennale's Most Powerful Architectural Statement, © Laurian Ghinitoiu
© Laurian Ghinitoiu

This article was originally published by Common Edge as "STADIUM: the Venice Biennale’s Most Powerful Architectural Statement."

The opening of the Venice Biennale has about it a general sense of raucousness and aesthetic cacophony. The entire scene is lush, almost overwhelmingly rich. There are thousands of places for eyes to land. There are outfits: the salty, wet Venice air manages to get at least a few architects to ditch the all-black outfit for its all-white summer counterpart, often cut through with brightly colored, geometric jewelry. There are events: at any given moment, at any point throughout the weekend, there’s a dozen or so architects gathered on a panel to talk about a topic relevant to a pavilion theme, or the edition theme, or to architecture generally. There are parties, picnics along canals, Aperol spritzes that glow bright orange, and designed-to-death tote bags that run out so quickly just carrying them is a sign that you were there, part of the early crowd, in the mix.

It’s all swirling and chaotic and bright and somehow you have to manage to pay attention to serious ideas about architecture while attempting to figure out how it’s possible that you’re still sweating even though it’s 4PM.

How Can We Fix the Architecture Crit? First, Ask for Evidence

09:30 - 18 June, 2018
How Can We Fix the Architecture Crit? First, Ask for Evidence, © Andrea Vasquez
© Andrea Vasquez

This article was originally published by Common Edge as "To Fix Architecture, Fix the Design Crit."

In architecture, the act of formally critiquing design is ubiquitous. The crit, as its called, is almost a rite of passage. And while the format of this practice is universal, its objective, goals and ultimate purpose are unfixed, beyond a broad and often vague imperative to make a given design better. This is a problem, because it leaves a foundation of the profession to take the form of whatever discussion happens to arise between a designer and a critic. If the expectation of empirical evidence for design decisions were introduced as the basis of a design crit, the cumulative effects of this change could improve the credibility of the entire discipline.

The "Four Pillars" of B.V. Doshi: Why All Architects Can Learn From the 2018 Pritzker Laureate

09:30 - 16 May, 2018
The "Four Pillars" of B.V. Doshi: Why All Architects Can Learn From the 2018 Pritzker Laureate, CEPT. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
CEPT. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

This article was originally published by Common Edge as "The Genius, Heart and Humility of Indian Architect B.V. Doshi."

I’m sitting in a busy suburban coffee-and-donut shop with the quiet, grandfatherly Indian architect, Jitendra Vaidya. When I started my life as an architecture intern in the late 90s, Jitendra was one of the most experienced technical designers I knew. Equally comfortable weighing the relative merits of various flashing details as he is discussing abstract design concepts, Jitendra is an old-school, universal architect. After more than half a century in a profession famous for grinding deadlines, Jitendra still maintains a joyful twinkle in his eye when he talks about architecture. So it’s no surprise that Jitendra is visibly animated today as he tells me about his teacher, the man who was just recognized as one of the world’s greatest living architects, B.V. Doshi.

For the Pritzker Prize—the profession’s highest honor—to be awarded to a 90-year-old academic urbanist who spent his long career primarily teaching architecture students and serving poor communities in India is a stunning development. To be fair, the caricature of Pritzker winners as arrogant, scarf- wrapped, Euro-American, Starchitects, is overblown and outdated. Recent winners such as Alejandro Aravena, Wang Shu, and Shigeru Ban, are connected in their mutual dedication to serving poor and displaced communities through innovative, culturally authentic designs. But even accepting this nuance, Doshi is fundamentally different from recent winners.