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Metropolis: The Latest Architecture and News

Melbourne’s NGV Triennial Ponders the Distant Past and a Post-Pandemic Future

What might be called the Art Fair Industrial Complex has been an ambivalent force on both art markets and art itself in recent years: in one view, fairs offer their attendees chances to see international work they wouldn’t otherwise have access to; in another, the vast mall of it all dulls context into commerce.

Carlos García Vázquez: "The Modern Urbanism Has Rediscovered Traditional Cities"

Three years ago, in the wake of the release of his book Theories and History of the Modern City ("Teorías e Historia de la Ciudad Contemporánea", 2016, Editorial Gustavo Gili), we sat down with the author, Carlos García Vázquez, to discuss this complex and "uncertain creature' that is the modern city, focusing on the three categories that define cities today: Metropolis, Megalopolis, and Metapolis.

Based on an analysis of those "who have traditionally led the way in the planning of spaces" (sociologists, historians, and architects), the book illustrates the social, economic, and political forces that, in service to their own agendas, drive the planning, transformation, exploitation, and development of cities. In 120 years, urban centers have transformed from places where "people died from the city" to bastions of personal development and economic prosperity; however, the question remains —have cities really triumphed?

"Yes", says García Vásquez, "but we have paid dearly for it."

Night Life in Nueva York. Image © Joana FrançaHong Kong in the 90s, when it was still a British colony, but undergoing rapid economic development. Image © Wonderlane [Flickr], under CC BY 2.0 licenseBrasilia. Image © Joana FrançaCarlos García Vázquez. Image © María Carrascal+ 11

Long-Term Plans: To Build for Resilience, We’ll Need to Design With—Not Against—Nature

Moving away from its early exclusive focus on natural disasters, resilient architecture and design tackles the much tougher challenge of helping ecosystems regenerate.

Thirty years ago, as a high school student at the Cranbrook boarding school in suburban Detroit, I wrote a research-based investigative report on the environmental crisis for the student newspaper. I had been encouraged to do so by a faculty adviser, David Watson, who lived a double life as a radical environmentalist writing under the pseudonym George Bradford for the anarchist tabloid Fifth Estate. His diatribe How Deep Is Deep Ecology? questioned a recurring bit of cant from the radical environmental movement: Leaders of groups like Earth First! frequently disparaged the value of human life in favor of protecting nature.

The American-Inspired Russian Architecture

Boris Iofan’s winning proposal for Palace of the Soviets. Image Courtesy of Arkadi Mordvinov, Vyacheslav K. Oltarzhevsky/Tchoban Foundation
Boris Iofan’s winning proposal for Palace of the Soviets. Image Courtesy of Arkadi Mordvinov, Vyacheslav K. Oltarzhevsky/Tchoban Foundation

From the famous Kitchen Debate between Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon to the popularity of Henry Ford within the USSR, the hundreds of factories designed by Detroit engineer Albert Kahn for Soviet Russia, and skyscrapers erected in Moscow, the Cold War had a peculiar side to it, that is the Russian fascination with American culture and technology.

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 BarberisRammed 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 CompanyRammed 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 CompanyThe 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

This article was originally published in Metropolismag.com.

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.