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Metropolis Magazine: The Latest Architecture and News

A Pandemic-Conscious Blueprint for Architecture

In this week's reprint from Metropolis Magazine, authors Madeline Burke-Vigeland, FAIA, LEED AP, a principal at Gensler, and Benjamin A. Miko, MD, assistant professor of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center explore how uniform standards applied across the built environment can protect our communities from COVID-19 and future pandemics.

How the Pandemic Has Jump-Started Creativity

WeTransfer recently released its 2020 Ideas Report, which showcases the effects COVID-19 has had on creativity. At a time when the economy, employment rates, and overall morale were down, the report found a reason for hope—nearly half (45.3 percent) of the 35,000 creatives polled claimed that they experienced more creative ideas during the pandemic than before.

Which begs the question: How do we replicate the good that has come out of the pandemic and keep it going for the industry over the long term? ThinkLab sat down with business leaders within—and outside—the interiors industry to understand the shifts companies made to remain relevant in these changing times.

Addressing the Intersecting Challenges of Climate Crisis, Housing, and Social Equity

Recent sessions of the RBA/Northeastern University Myra Kraft Open Classroom Inspiring Design: Creating Beautiful, Just, and Inspiring Places in America series featured speakers from Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York City. They described how inclusive design can help build social infrastructure and capital, enabling communities to tackle big challenges such as climate change, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and homelessness. Their comments reinforced the value of visionary leadership, engaging and empowering people, and design thinking—all key themes from previous sessions on Planning Equity, Engaging Communities via Food and Education, and Building Equity with Housing and Parks.

The Fantastic Architecture of Niki de Saint Phalle

Tarot is often described as a mirror of the soul. Much like the spaces we inhabit, we can look at the symbols housed within the 72-card deck and see reflections of ourselves and our belief systems. The object and practice itself contain many architectural associations: It’s not uncommon for words like “structures,” “foundations,” and “home” to come up in a tarot reading. Traditional cards depict towers, castles, and churches. Sometimes the cards are described as keys, sometimes as gateways.  

Workforce, not Workplace, Is the Key to Innovation and Success

“Change drives innovation. We must continually evolve into what a successful workplace looks like,” said Nicole Senior, director of workplace experience, Tinder. Change, innovation and human connection were topics of prominence in a December 17 Think Tank, hosted by Rapt Studio, and titled “Looking Back, Looking Forward: Workforce Lessons for 2021.”

Has the Pandemic Changed the Experience of Encountering Art in Public?

Public art is an innate cultural privilege for New Yorkers. Top-notch art can be found across the city’s boroughs everywhere from parks, squares, alleys, and rooftops—sometimes to the jaded disdain of passerby. While permanent staples, such as Robert Indiana’s Love on 6th Avenue or George Segal’s Gay Liberation at the Stonewall National Monument are ingrained in the urban texture, others are more ephemeral. Public art has the power to swiftly take over Instagram feeds but also has a history of sparking polarizing interpretations at town hall hearings.

Why Landscapes Designed to Flood Are Environmentally Sound

A “floodscape” could be seen as a contradiction in terms: Flood spreads wherever gravity leads it, covering the familiar topography with a dark, gray, and uniform blanket. In that regard, flood is amorphous, as it can distort and temporarily erase forms and features from the visible landscape—nothing that could be described as a “scape” in the sense of articulated and meaningful scenery.

But when the boundaries of a flood are not just defined by the quantity or the velocity of water but also by landforms and structures carefully designed and placed to influence and shape the “disaster,” the result can be considered as a landscape, physically and culturally defined by flood.

Perkins + Will on the Strategic Elements of Post-Pandemic Workplace Design

Whether you’re in a back bedroom in suburban Milwaukee or a carved-out office nook in a posh New York loft, you will see signs of successful remote work. Between video conference calls, moms and dads are checking in on their remote-working students, marketing managers are squeezing in a video yoga class, and designers are throwing in a quick load of laundry. And while tending to these household responsibilities, we’re also designing new products and spaces, completing financial audits, and making video sales pitches. On the surface, remote work is, well, working.

How Recycling Existing Buildings Could Solve the Urban Housing Crisis in the United States

Newly built houses, with their sizable carbon footprints, don’t just contribute to climate change. For many Americans, they’re also too expensive—a bitter irony in cities rife with vacant buildings and record evictions.

Given the urgency of both issues, projects that retrofit livable housing into existing low-carbon shells (the initial embodied carbon was spent long ago) might be worth a closer look. We searched for them and came across a handful that promise a cure for housing insecurity and excessive greenhouse gas emissions.

The First Mass Timber Hotel in North America Has Opened in Austin

Hotel Magdalena, the latest from Bunkhouse Group, a Texas-based hospitality company known for the highly Instagrammed El Cosmico in Marfa, Texas, is an 89-room hotel that plays on Austin‘s music culture and love for lakeside living. Named after Mary Magdalene, the hotel is part of the group’s hotels that are named after Saints, neighboring the popular Hotel Saint Cecilia and Saint Cecilia Residences, which are currently under construction.

Balancing Preservation and Resiliency in Miami Beach

During the 20th century, Miami Beach reinvented itself several times, from Gilded Age mecca to Art Deco capital, to glamorous 1950s destination, only to become a faded has-been resort by the 1970s. The preservation movement that began in the 1970s and 1980s became its saving grace. By the 1990s Miami Beach, especially its South Beach neighborhood, was one of the hippest communities in the United States, drawing notable European residents like Gianni Versace.

The Getty and USC Launch Talks Shedding Light on the Impact of Architect Paul R. Williams

Paul Revere Williams, the late architect who was the first black member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), has recently been receiving some long-overdue recognition. The AIA awarded him a posthumous gold medal in 2017; a PBS documentary “Hollywood’s Architect: The Paul R. Williams Story” aired in February, and a book titled “Regarding Paul R. Williams: A Photographer’s View” was published in September.

Designing Dance: New Exhibition Traces the Origins and Legacy of Club Culture

Remember nightclubs? That mask-less, gloveless world where you’d melt into a gyrating, strobe-tinged crowd of hundreds while losing yourself to the ecstatic soul-shuddering beat of electronic dance music (EDM)? Nightclubs and their requisite soundscapes may feel like a distant and potentially panic-inducing memory today, but they have long served as vital spaces of innovation and countercultural resistance. In their fusion of creative cultures, technological innovation, and political protest, clubs are spaces where utopian dreams are born and come to life—at least for the night.

From Podcast to Print, Roman Mars Discusses The 99% Invisible City

Over the last ten years, the podcast 99% Invisible has been captivating listeners throughout the world by exposing the overlooked and seemingly mundane aspects of architecture and design. While the show had modest beginnings in creator Roman Mars’s bedroom, it has now grown to more than 400 episodes generating over 400 million downloads.

This week, fans can also hold the show’s stories in their hands in the form of a new book titled The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design, which Mars co-wrote with digital director and producer Kurt Kohlstedt. Composed of research and reporting from the podcast as well as brand new stories, the book (illustrated by Patrick Vale) highlights design considerations that often go unnoticed.

Decoration Deserves to Be Celebrated for What It Is, Rather Than Dismissed for What It Isn’t

Beginning with the moral indignation expressed in Adolf Loos’s 1910 lecture “Ornament and Crime” and Le Corbusier’s 1925 The Decorative Art of Today, decoration has been attacked from every possible angle. Driven by the heroic male architect, Modernist dictates of good design—functionalism, truth to materials, purity of form—quickly took over and continue to be the dominant ideology today in the way architecture and interiors are taught and practiced. If Modern architecture was rational, masculine, and structural, then decoration was considered emotional, feminine, and shallow. Or, according to Loos, it was flat-out degenerate.

Design Before Air Conditioning: A New Book Surveys Early Experiments in Climate Control

It’s easy to think of Modernism as inseparable from air conditioning, simply because we are surrounded by so much of it that is. A valuable reminder that this wasn’t always the case is provided in University of Pennsylvania architecture professor Daniel A. Barber’s Modern Architecture and Climate: Design Before Air Conditioning (Princeton University Press), which outlines the story of the febrile, flexible, and often-forgotten early experiments in climate control.

The Winding Saga of the Restoration of the Narkomfin, an Icon of Soviet Constructivism

If you wandered down Novinsky Boulevard in central Moscow five years ago looking for the Narkomfin building, you’d have been greeted by a sorry sight. The Narkomfin, the poster child for Constructivist architecture designed by Moisey Ginzburg and Ignaty Milinis in 1928, had been slowly falling into a state of dereliction after being left unloved for 45 years. Paint peeling, concrete crumbling, and windows broken—not to mention the numerous, muddling alterations made to the block of flats, including a completely new ground floor.

The apartment block is raised on pilotis, a hallmark of High Modernism. An indoor bridge connects this main structure to an ancillary building, which was originally designed to contain communal spaces. Image © Ivan MuraenkoOne of the 44 apartments in the building. Private kitchens were gradually added since the building’s opening in 1930–32. Image © Ivan MuraenkoA common area in the ancillary structure, whose curved, glazed facade contrasts with the residential block’s curvilinearity. Image © Ivan MuraenkoA view from the roof, looking north, with the Stalin-era Kudrinskaya Square Building in the left background. Image © Ivan Muraenko+ 5

Architects and Designers Urge Action on Healthier Policy Priorities

In the wake of the pandemic, designers and architects are rethinking and inventing innovative solutions for nearly every sector of design from hospitality, restaurants, workplace experience, and landscape architecture. According to the World Health Organization, 19 percent of factors that affect our health and well-being are directly related to the built environment, making architects and designers key to protecting public health.