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Metropolis: The Latest Architecture and News

A Great Carbon Reckoning Comes to Architecture

Practitioners have finally begun taking a more nuanced approach to the carbon emitted by new buildings. Are they too late?

I’ve started calling them come-to-carbon moments—the inner alarm bells that sound as you begin to register the devastating ecological costs of every man-made surface around you. Every sidewalk you’ve ever walked on, every building you’ve ever walked into, and every material inside those buildings, too. It’s the kind of thing you can’t un-see once you’ve started looking, the kind of knowledge that can transform a worldview, or a practice.

Mass plywood panels at the Freres Lumber Co. plant in Lyons, Oregon. Courtesy George Barberis Rammed earth is used for the house’s walls, which are built using formwork and pneumatic tamping techniques. “The earth is the wall, but also the skin, veneer, and insulation. It’s the entire package inside and out,” says Harris. Courtesy Kyle Melgaard/Pilgrim Building Company Rammed earth appealed to Lake|Flato principal Bob Harris because it suited the conditions of the site: “There’s a lot of adobe in the area. The labor force there is not great with steel frame....It’s really all about cement block and the masonry trades there.” Courtesy Kyle Melgaard/Pilgrim Building Company The architecture community is beginning to take account of embodied carbon, which denotes the expenditure of the element in the manufacturing of a building’s materials. In response, firms are looking to source alternatives to carbon-intensive steel and concrete, including mass plywood. Pictured: a display of CNC-milled mass plywood panels designed by LEVER Architecture. Courtesy George Barberis + 13

Architecture Became Increasingly Obsessed with the Health of Bodies

© Creative Commons
© Creative Commons

In some theoretical books, architecture and the human body are more or less the same, each depending on one another. Oftentimes, however, it is the body that undergoes detrimental adjustments to adapt to the architecture, not the other way around. 

In the newly released book X-Ray Architecture, architectural historian Beatriz Colomina argues that health facilities inspired modern architecture's most dominant formal signatures. 

Why Landing on Mars Has Become a Design Project

Mars has been notable for capturing humans' interest, intriguing business moguls such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to go on a "billionaire space race" and settle on the planet. But does humanity have the right to colonize another planet? If so, who does this sky-high ambition serve? 

How Can Architects Combat Anxiety with Interior Spaces

People often find themselves physically and emotionally comfortable in specific public places. Whether one's reading a book on the terrace of a coffee shop, sitting on a cozy sofa at a hair salon, or waiting for the train at train station, some spaces tend to initiate a feeling identical to being in the comfort of one's home. 

The field of environmental psychology has helped find the factors that achieve "human comfort", and now, architects and designers are working alongside the field's specialists to develop comfortable spaces.

Postcard Pittsburgh: An Urban Renewal of an Underrated American City

The public has often condemned urban renewal, but for the Pennsylvanian city of Pittsburgh, its revival earned a status of "renaissance". In their latest volume of Imagining the Modern: Architecture and Urbanism of Pittsburgh Renaissance, editors Chris Grimley, Michael Kubo, and Rami el Samahy explore the reasons behind the city's congratulatory rebirth.

The Top 10 Design Cities of 2019

Design trends are often the result of foreign cultural influences, avant-garde creations, and innovative solutions for people's ever-evolving needs. Although the design world seems like one big mood board, some cities have managed to outshine the rest with their recent projects.

As part of their annual Design Cities Listing, Metropolis Magazine has highlighted 10 cities across 5 continents with intriguing projects that have harmonized contemporary urbanism with traditional and faraway influences.

Planning For (In)Justice: Toni Griffin’s Mission to Foster Equitable Cities

Griffin founded the consultancy Urban Planning for the American City, which she complements with her pedagogical work at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.

Since its emergence with the cultural turn in the 1970s and ’80s, spatial justice has become a rallying cry among activists, planners, and plugged-in architects. But as with many concepts with academic origins, its precepts often remain elusive and uninterrogated. Though some of this has changed with the advent of city- and place-making discourse, few are doing as much to lend articulation, nuance, and malleability to spatial justice as Toni Griffin. A Chicago native, Griffin practiced architecture at SOM for nearly a decade before leaving the city to work as a planner in Newark and Washington, D.C., among other municipalities. In 2009, she founded the consultancy Urban Planning for the American City, which she complements with her pedagogical work at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. There, she runs the Just City Lab, which, through research and a host of programs, aims to develop, disseminate, and evaluate tools for enhancing justice—and remediating chronic, systematized injustice—in America’s cities. But what form could justice take in the U.S. context, and how can architects and designers help? Metropolis spoke with Griffin about how focusing on inclusivity and embracing interdependence and complexity are parts of the answer.

Documentary Film Explores How Architects Can Help Reform the Criminal Justice System

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Set to screen at the ADFF:NOLA festival, Frank Gehry: Building Justice showcases how Gehry-led student architecture studios developed proposals for more humane prisons.

Thanks to initiatives like the Art for Justice Fund, Open Society Foundations, and a slew of insightful reporting, the American criminal justice system has been under great scrutiny and pressure to reform. Some of these changes have been quite prominent—such as the increasingly-widespread decriminalization of pot and pending major federal legislation—and have faced opposition from the powerful lobbying of the private prison corporations. However, despite the depth and breadth of criminal justice reform, one critically important element has remained mostly overlooked: the design of correctional facilities.

New Plan Aims to Revamp Midtown Detroit, the City’s Cultural Hub

© Agence Ter, Akoaki, rootoftwo, and Harley Etienne © Agence Ter, Akoaki, rootoftwo, and Harley Etienne © Agence Ter, Akoaki, rootoftwo, and Harley Etienne © Agence Ter, Akoaki, rootoftwo, and Harley Etienne + 12

A team composed of international and local studios and individuals—Agence Ter, rootoftwo, Akoaki, and Harley Etienne—was recently chosen to revitalize the 83-acre area.

Over the course of the 20th century, across a series of administrations and economic contexts, Midtown Detroit grew into one of America’s largest (or densest) cultural districts, with over 12 major institutions, such as the Detroit Institute for the Arts (DIA) and the College for Creative Studies. But you wouldn’t know it, even if you were there—the nine-block, 83-acre area is a mish-mash of styles spanning Beaux Arts, Modernism, and Brutalism, and has a certain sense of placelessness. The area feels architecturally disjointed, illegible, and fails to translate the vibrancy of each institution into the broader public space.

How Herman Miller's GreenHouse Inspired the Construction of Sustainable Buildings in the US

While the United Statesgreen-building industry was still relatively slow in the early 1990’s, Herman Miller, who are known for their architectural experimentation, decided to construct a new facility for Simple, Quick, Affordable (SQA), a company that bought used office furniture to refurbish them and sell them to smaller businesses. To do so, they chose to build sustainably, a design approach that was not yet utilized in the region.

Designed by New York architect William McDonough, the 295,000 sq ft building (approx. 90,000 sqm) was built in Holland, Michigan in 1995. The facility’s design qualities, such as storm-water management, air-filtering systems, and 66 skylights, helped set the standards for the U.S. Green Building Council LEED Certification.

How Two Getty Initiatives Are Saving Global Modernist Heritage

This Article was originally published on

The Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative (CMAI) and Keeping It Modern grant are dedicated to supporting new methods and technologies for the conservation of Modernist buildings.

The Good Metropolis: From Urban Formlessness to Metropolitan Architecture

From the Publisher:
The book presents the first historical analysis of the productive tension between the city and the architectural form. It introduces 20th-century theories to construct a historical context from which a new architecture-city relationship emerged. The book provides a conceptual framework to understand this relationship and comes to the conclusion that urbanization may be filled with potential, i.e. be a Good Metropolis.

The Impact of the "Happiness Industry" on Architecture

Although The Architecture of Happiness did not gain momentum after its publication in the mid-2000s, the ideology of architecture and well-being has remained a topic of intrigue until today. To further explore this ideology, the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), with the curation of Francesco Garutti, have put together an exhibition that explores how the “happiness industry” has controlled every aspect of contemporary life after the 2008 financial crash.

Our Happy Life, Architecture and Well-being in the Age of Emotional Capitalism is a non-archival show that exhibits work from architects, artists, and photographers. Metropolis’ Samuel Medina spoke to Garutti to discuss the notion behind the exhibition, social media, and architecture’s new spaces of meaning.