Housing is one of the most persistent challenges faced by the construction industry, and over the course of decades certain trends rise and fall, as entrepreneurial housing providers carve out new niches to provide for expanding populations and changing demographics. Originally published by BuzzBuzzHome as "The Rise and Fall of The Mail-Order House," this article explores the craze of so-called "catalogue homes" - flat-packed houses that were delivered by mail - which became popular in North America in the first decades of the 20th century.
The testimonials make it sound effortless: building your own house is no sweat.
In the front pages of a 1921 Sears Roebuck catalogue for mail-order homes, a resident of Traverse City, Michigan identified only by the pseudonym “I Did Not Hire Any Help” wrote to the company: “I am very well pleased with my Already Cut House bought off you. All the material went together nicely. In fact, I wish I had another house to put up this summer. I really enjoyed working on such a building, and I do not follow the carpenter trade either.” It’s estimated that more than 100,000 mail-order homes were built in the United States between 1908 and 1940. It was the IKEA of housing, but instead of spending an afternoon putting together a bookshelf, buyers would take on the formidable task of building a house. Or, more commonly, get a contractor to do it. Homebuyers would pick a design of their choice out of a mail-order catalogue and the materials – from the lumber frame boards to the paint to the nails and screws – would be shipped out to the closest railway station for pickup and construction.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has tapped British architect David Chipperfield to design its new Southwest Wing for modern and contemporary art. The commission, a result of an international competition, aims to increase gallery space, double the size of the museum’s popular roof garden, and establish accessible on-site storage. “The new design will also enhance gallery configuration and visitor navigation throughout the Southwest Wing, and support a more open dialogue between the Museum and Central Park,” says the architects.
The 44-year-old brutalist landmark has been the center of a preservation debate for years; lawmakers argue that the building is “not easy to love” and expensive to maintain, while preservationists declare the building is an important piece of modern history and blame its state of disrepair on neglect. The council vetoed an offer last summer to allow a New York architect to purchase the property and transform it into artist studios. More on the decision, and more of Matthew Carbone's images for Architect Magazine, after the break.
To honor what would have been Netsch's 95th birthday, SOM recently republished an interview between Netsch and architecture theorist and writer Detlef Mertins, which had originally been published in 2001 in SOM Journal 1. In the following extract from this interview, Netsch discusses the story of how he developed the design, and what it was like to participate in one of America's most influential practices among a host of strong characters.
Despite his status, Le Corbusier never had the opportunity to build in New York - in fact he only had one chance to build in the United States at all, completing Harvard's Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts in Cambridge in 1963. But this doesn't mean his influence isn't visible all over the Big Apple. Originally published on 6sqft as "Towers in the Park: Le Corbusier's Influence in NYC," this article takes a look at three examples where Le Corbusier's "Radiant City" ideals were transplanted to New York.
Even before taking his first trip to New York in 1935, Le Corbusier described the city as “utterly devoid of harmony.” After seeing it in person, his feelings didn’t soften. He wasn’t impressed by the tall towers, rather stating that they were the product of an inferiority complex, and he thought the city’s leaders were too timid to hire him. He wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times saying that “American skyscrapers have not attained the rank of architecture; rather, they are merely small objects such as statuettes or knick-knacks, magnified to titanic proportions.” He thought the city would benefit from buildings that “don’t try to outdo each other but are all identical.”
Daydreaming about a trip to Copenhagen? Now is your chance to go. As part of BIG’s HOT TO COLD exhibition on view at the National Building Museum, Visit Denmark is hosting a sweepstakes for two to see the architectural and cultural sights of Denmark’s capital. All you need to do is watch the video above, find out which seaside museum Bjarke Ingels believes to be one of the world’s greatest (hint: take a look after the break), and enter your answer here (click "Win a trip to Copenhagen!"). Only US residents are eligible.
After nine consecutive months of growth, January’s Architecture Billing Index (ABI) reported a “softening” in US design activity. According to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the January ABI score was 49.9, down from a mark of 52.7 in December. This score reflects a “very modest decrease” in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 58.7, down from the reading of 59.1 the previous month.
“This easing in demand for design services is a bit of a surprise given the overall strength of the market over the past nine months,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “Likely some of this can be attributed to severe weather conditions in January. We will have a better sense if there is a reason for more serious concern over the next couple of months.”
A breakdown of regional highlights, after the break.
Make It Right, the organization formed by Brad Pitt that builds affordable and sustainable houses for people in need, has released a series of new single-family home designs by local architects to expand their efforts in Kansas City, Missouri. The new homes will become part of Make it Right's established work in Manheim Park, complementing the affordable housing and community complex opened by the organization in 2013.
President’s day marks a moment of reflection in the United States, where citizens acknowledge the contributions of US presidents to the politics and culture of the nation. While some of these men are still with us, the majority are represented only by the monuments and buildings they left to posterity. Indeed, the legacy of a United States President has come to be embodied in a very specific type of building—a library. The last 13 presidents have commissioned national libraries to be built in their name, marking the end of their service. Libraries have also been posthumously dedicated to presidents who did not erect such monuments during their own lifetimes. In either case, recording the lives and legacies of these great men has made for some fantastic architecture. See some of our favorites, after the break!
"The beauty of [architecture] is the payoff. That building has created a better place for people to live and a better lifestyle for people." A mixed use building that brings together craft beer, street tacos and modern housing, California developer Jonathan Segal's "The Northparker" has helped transform the once blighted area Northpark into one of San Diego's most up-and-coming neighborhoods. Breadtruck Films shares just how a single building created community and changed a city in the video above.
Inspiring designs across the United States, the winning entries aimed to envision a library that could both recognize the President by displaying a collection of mementos from his life and provide the basis for community programs. Contestants were asked to consider the building's context within the city of Chicago to generate a speculative proposal that not only fosters learning and exploration, but also inspires public discussion. To further encourage creativity, the library's program was unspecified, allowing participants to decide how to incorporate these civic and educational elements in their designs.
Ultimately, a distinguished panel selected two winners and three honorable mentions emerged from the competition. The winning proposals and honorable mentions are as follows:
“Just like the island of Manhattan that started this series, Vegas is an "Island of Light" in the middle of nothingness… A sea of black with an amazing source of light emanating from Vegas and its infamous strip… You can almost see the electricity running through it.”
A collection of "Sin City" images, after the break.
Jon Jerde, FAIA, founder of The Jerde Partnership, has died at 75. The California-based American architect has left his mark in more than 100 urban places worldwide, many of which embody Jerde’s signature ideas of the multi-level mall. Placing high priority on outdoor walking and gathering areas, Jerde’s reimagining of the shopping mall experience in the 1970s put him on the map. "He blew open the shopping mall and transformed it into a lively urban environment which attracts people, lots of people," Richard Weinstein, the former dean of UCLA's school architecture and urban planning, once said.
Since the construction of the first high-rise, it seems architectural merit has been weighed most heavily by a building's height. However, Kriston Capps of CityLab notes in his article "For the Best U.S. Architecture Per Square Mile, Head to Dallas" that the concentration of buildings by award-winning and internationally-renowned architects can also put cities on the architectural map. Although Chicago and New York may have taller skylines, he argues, in terms of stellar design density, Dallas can't be beat. Read the full article, here.
A recent nomination by the United States seeks to elevate ten celebrated buildings characteristic of influential architect Frank Lloyd Wright's style to UNESCO World Heritage Sites. If the nomination is fulfilled, the collection of buildings will join the 1,007 designated sites currently on the UNESCO World Heritage List, including some of the most recognizable buildings in the world like the Taj Mahal and Sydney Opera House. These structures are recognized for their extraordinary cultural significance and "outstanding universal values." See the ten nominated buildings, after the break.
This week, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) released the results of its first Consensus Construction Forecast of the year. The forecast is compiled based on predictions of the industry's leading forecasters and is conducted bi-annually to anticipate shifting business conditions in the construction industry. The dominant trend in this forecast (projected for 2015 and 2016) is an overall increase in spending in the construction sector.