Architectural thinking has a rich tradition of being bound to writing. Be it the vāstu śāstra, the Seven Lamps by Ruskin, or the writings of Thoreau—writing and craft have not only gone hand in hand but are synonymous. Imagination is the moment of architecture and it finds expression in writing as much, if not more, as it does in drawing. Unfortunately, the power of the pen, especially when it comes to architecture-design, remains largely underrated.
Essays: The Latest Architecture and News
The 2016 Berkeley Prize is now open. Open to all undergraduate architecture students, the essay competition "strives to show architects-in-training that the smallest act of building has global implications: that design can and does play a major role in the social, cultural, and psychological life of both the individual and society at large." This year's competition theme is "Sheltering Those in Need: Architects Confront Homelessness." All initial submissions are due November 1, 2015. Essay semifinalists will be given the opportunity to apply for a travel fellowship. All the details, here.
Innovation, rebellion or “the next big thing” – whatever you call it, it seems architects and designers are eternally on the hunt for the idea that will put them on the map: the original thought that is fully and unarguably theirs. In this essay by Isaac Asimov, written in 1959 but only recently published on Technology Review, the scientist and writer poses the question: how do people get new ideas? Though originally written to provoke scientists and engineers working on defense systems, the thoughts and contributions serve as a gentle reminder to all creative classes, of the role of collaboration, play and failure in the design process.
The following is an essay that originally appeared in Australian Design Review as "Beyond the Wall, the Floor." In it, Michael Holt and Marissa Looby describe the evolution of Herzog and de Meuron's work. Using numerous examples of recent projects (such as VitraHaus and 56 Leonard Street), they point out that Herzog and de Meuron have, increasingly, relied on the floor slabs of their buildings to suggest the building’s shape. By removing the façade’s prominence in favor of a more suggestive way of creating mass, they have turned their original design signature on its head.
Simple adjustments, slight alterations, subtle illusions. These are not tagline descriptions of the 1111 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach project, or a synopsis for a body of work. Instead they operate as retroactively projecting the course of professional development in the works of Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. The practice is known, from its earliest built projects, as a firm who produced artistically driven facade treatments where the vertical plane — the ‘nominal façade’ — would define form through the visually stimulating surface or skin. As the practice has evolved, it is argued here, they have crafted a new strategy: the horizontal plane as vertical facade generator.
In its progression the practice has deviated from facade ornamentation and fabrication towards the removal of the facade altogether; allowing for the floor plate — as a visual element — to operate as inadvertent facade and thus doubling its structural and visual importance. The placing of floor plates becomes the force creating the form – the ‘inverted structural skin’. The stripped back architectural form does not remove the facade, but removes the idea of a facade, paradoxically creating a building mass almost by default.