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Government: The Latest Architecture and News

BDP Selected to Restore London's Iconic Palace of Westminster

Following a two year-long bidding process, British-based international practice BDP (Building Design Partnership) have been chosen to restore and safeguard the future of the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the United Kingdom's parliament. Outbidding Foster + Partners, Allies and Morrison, and HOK the project is expected to run into billions of pounds and could see the two chambers—the House of Commons and the House of Lords, plus all ancillary support staff—move out of the iconic building for to a decade.

Morphosis Architects' U.S. Embassy in Beirut Gets 2023 Completion Date

The U.S. State Department is moving forward with plans for a new Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. After awarding the commission to California architects Morphosis in 2013, the government has now granted the construction contract to to B.L. Harbert of Birmingham, Alabama, willing allow the project to get underway.

Eero Saarinen-Designed US Embassy in Oslo to Be Preserved After Sale by Government

The Eero Saarinen-designed US Embassy in Oslo is set to be placed under historic preservation orders following the building’s sale by the US government.

The US embassy to Norway since 1959, the building will change hands once staff are moved into the new US embassy building at Huseby, which is expected to complete in early 2017.

In Wake of Revolution, Francis Kéré Envisions a Transparent New Architecture for the Burkina Faso Parliament Building

On October 30, 2014, as Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré was preparing to make an amendment to the country’s constitution that would eliminate presidential term limits and allow him to extend his 27 year rule, tens of thousands of Burkinabé citizens in the capital city of Ouagadougou broke through police lines to set fire to several government buildings, including city hall, the ruling party headquarters, and the National Assembly Building. The following day, Compaoré stepped down, ushering in a new era of democratic rule and resulting in the country’s first ever pluralistic and competitive Presidential election in 2015.

But the revolution left the former government complex in tatters and in need of a clear direction forward both culturally and architecturally. A former French colony, Burkina Faso is home to 19 million people, 50 different ethnicities and more than 60 languages. The country would require a new Parliament that could serve as a common ground for these diverse groups, while providing the technology and education necessary to create opportunities and a better quality of life for all Burkinabés.

To find this solution, last year, the new head of Parliament approached architect and Burkina Faso native Francis Kéré to develop a building and masterplan for the Assembly Building. The new building, in the architect’s words, would need to be one that could “not only address the core democratic values of transparency, openness and equality, but could also become a catalyst for growth and development for the capital city of Ouagadougou as a whole.”

Courtesy of Kéré Architecture Courtesy of Kéré Architecture Courtesy of Kéré Architecture Image of the capital city of Ouagadougou. Image © Francis Kéré + 19

AD Classics: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building / Kenzō Tange

The career of Japanese architect Kenzō Tange features a curious anomaly: he received the same commission twice. In 1952, during the early stages of his career, Tange designed an administrative building in Yūrakuchō, Tokyo, for the city's metropolitan government. Over thirty years later, when the government relocated to Shinjuku, Tokyo, he again won the commission to design its administrative building. Completed in 1991, this would be one of his last, and most ambitious, projects. The second incarnation now dominates the city’s skyline, its highly distinctive design guaranteeing it landmark status. Nicknamed Tochō (an abbreviation of its Japanese name Tōkyō-to Chōsha), its architectural references to both tradition and modernity act as a visual metaphor for the eclectic city over which its inhabitants govern.

No.1 Building No.2 Building Elevation of No.1 Building (Public Domain) Plan of the Complex (Public Domain) + 12

Town Hall Uppsala / Henning Larsen

Henning Larsen Architects, in collaboration with SLA and Tyréns, has won a competition for the design of a new city hall in Uppsala, Sweden, beating out proposals from Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects, White Arkitekter, Ahrbom & Partners, and 3XN Architects.

The project will include a refurbishment and addition to the existing city hall building, which was built in 1957 and only partially completed in accordance with the original drawings. Henning Larsen Architects’ design will close off the L-shaped building, connecting the old and the new with a glass-roofed courtyard to create a new public gathering place for residents of Sweden’s 4th largest city.

Courtesy of Henning Larsen Architects Courtesy of Henning Larsen Architects Courtesy of Henning Larsen Architects Courtesy of Henning Larsen Architects + 15

SADAR + VUGA Selected to Design Supreme Court of Albania

SADAR + VUGA and local partner PRG°B R Architektur have been awarded first prize in a competition for the new Headquarters for the Supreme Court and School of Magistrates in Tirana, Albania. The winning proposal, selected from a pool of over 30 international firms and from a shortlist of 5 finalists, renovates an existing 3,000 square meter Italian Rationalist structure while adding four light-filled courtrooms and a new educational block.

Courtesy of SADAR + VUGA Courtesy of SADAR + VUGA Courtesy of SADAR + VUGA Courtesy of SADAR + VUGA + 14

Government and Housing in a Time of Crisis: Policy, Planning, Design and Delivery

The role of government in ensuring social and affordable housing is complex. With budget cuts and shifts in political priorities changing the terrain constantly what the governments of our cities need are new long term ideas. This event seeks to propose new design, planning and collaborative approaches to design led by bringing together people from across all sectors and countries. 

AD Classics: Palace of Westminster / Charles Barry & Augustus Pugin

At 6:20pm on the evening of October 16, 1834, a fire began in the old Palace of Westminster in London – the foremost seat of parliamentary governance for both the United Kingdom and the British Empire across the seas. The inferno, which burned until the early hours of the morning, destroyed so much of the medieval complex that neither restoration nor preservation were considered viable options – a new palace would have to rise from the ashes to surround the largely undamaged Westminster Hall.[1] The fire gave the United Kingdom a chance not only to replace what was considered as an outdated, patchwork of government buildings, but to erect a Gothic Revival landmark to spiritually embody the pre-eminence of the United Kingdom across the world, and the roots of modern democracy.

Elevation. Image Courtesy of Merrell Publishers Limited Drawing of the 'Estimates' design for the House of Lords by Pugin. ImageCourtesy of Yale University Press The original, unsatisfactory design for the House of Commons. ImageCourtesy of Yale University Press Plan. Image Courtesy of Yale University Press, Ltd. + 13

Competition Proposal by Preliminary Research Office Thinks “Outside the Box”

Preliminary Research Office has revealed their entry to a competition to design the new civic center for the city of Ryde, Australia. The project uses a series of boxes at different scales to inform the organization of both the building and the public spaces. Following a competition of 175 entries from 49 countries, the project did not make the shortlist. However, its approach addresses the fundamental needs of a civic center to be dynamic, flexible and human-scale.

Aerial Rendered View. Image Courtesy of Preliminary Research Office Exterior Rendered View. Image Courtesy of Preliminary Research Office Exterior Rendered View. Image Courtesy of Preliminary Research Office Aerial Rendered View. Image Courtesy of Preliminary Research Office + 15

Fela Memorial Force HQ: The Architecture of a Leftist Police Force

This architecture exhibition deconstructs the traditional Police Station in Nigeria from an autocratic building into a leftist social infrastructure that allows symbiotic relationship between People and Police. Triggered by political events, the building is named after human rights campaigner and musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and hosts protests, concerts, fora and fitness walks. Because of the social infrastructure that it is, Fela Memorial becomes a vehicle to transform the nodal Obalende, Lagos into a smart, accessible district.

6 Proposals Revealed for Oslo's New Government Quarter

Nearly 100 architects, designers, and consultants have been developing designs for a competition for the new government quarter in Oslo. Drawing an initial 24 entries, the intent of the competition was to generate viable solutions for the future relocation of all government ministries (excluding the defense ministry), emphasizing an urban atmosphere and public elements. In the six shortlisted proposals from both local and international firms, including BIG, Snøhetta, and MVRDV, the themes of building tall and introducing green space emerged.

Now a ten-member committee of industry professionals will assist Statsbygg, the public construction advisers collaborating on the government's behalf, with the evaluation of each design. Take a look at the six proposals after the break.

Courtesy of Asplan Viak Courtesy of Snøhetta Courtesy of White Courtesy of LPO + 24

Does Devolution Hold The Key To Greater Investment In The Built Environment?

The British city of Manchester, often seen as the UK's second city alongside Birmingham, will become the first metropolis outside of London to be given greater local autonomy over budgets and city planning. The devolution deal, which will also see the city receive the right to directly elect a Mayor (in line with large cities in the US, for example), will furnish the city with "a new housing investment fund worth up to £300million." As it is understood that the first Mayor of Greater Manchester will be elected in 2017, there's time to discuss how this new political environment in the UK might help boost building in what has described as a "Northern Powerhouse."

4 Lessons the UK Should Take from Denmark

Last week the UK's Culture Minister Ed Vaizey announced that he was commissioning a review of the country's architecture policy, to be led by Sir Terry Farrell along with a number of high profile advisors, including Thomas Heatherwick, Alison Brooks and Alain de Botton. According to Vaizey, the review, expected to be complete by the end of the year, "will be a rallying point for the profession."

In his article in The Guardian, Olly Wainwright rather hopefully questioned: "might this year-long study result in an innovative new piece of legislative guidance – perhaps along the lines of Denmark's architecture policy, introduced in 2007?" While Wainwright somewhat flatly concludes, "somehow, that seems unlikely," there's no doubt that the UK could only stand to gain from learning from Denmark's innovative policy.

So what lessons could the UK (and the world) learn from the Danes? Read on after the break...

VIDEO: Federal Architecture

Democratic By Design is a short film, produced by the General Services Administration and narrated by Luke Russert, that tackles the issue of federal architecture. Buildings designed for the government typically have a familiar aesthetic. Washington, DC, is dominated by Neoclassical Architecture, building on the connotations of ancient Greek and Roman fora and temples as a symbol of democracy. But they perpetuate a sense of dominance and formality. Most of these buildings – city halls, courthouses, agency headquarters – were built in the 18th and 19th century, yet they leave behind a legacy and association in the architecture of the federal government.

US Census Bureau Headquarters / SOM
US Census Bureau Headquarters / SOM

On the contrary, government buildings built in the mid to late 20th century, specifically after 1962, have a more varied vernacular. This can be credited to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, aide to President John F. Kennedy. His one page document outlined guidelines for public architecture – an effort to contextualize and modernism government buildings. This video brings his words to life via well-known architects who have have designed federal buildings.

Join us after the break for a look at some of these buildings.