Our lives in urban centers have been completely upended over the last 16 months. As we look into the near future, some of us begin to experience the call back into our workplaces and experience the awakening of a long slumber of cities, it’s without a doubt that life as we knew it will never be the same. While some on the extreme end have been asking “will we even need cities?” (to which the answer is a very definite yes), how will cities change if we continue to move forward in this digital era of work and life that was accelerated by the pandemic?
Suburbs: The Latest Architecture and News
In theory and practice, in the modern era, the idea of spatial separation between home and work was related to the traditional sexual division of men and women, and of their role in life. Going back to the earliest feminist thinking in architecture, in western industrialized communities, we are elaborating in this article on women’s changing role in the 20th century and its impact on the space we experience today.
The Corviale housing complex, located in the south-western periphery of Rome, was designed in the 1970s as a solution to the growing number of dormitory districts in the Roman suburbs, caused by the significant population increase between the 1950s and 1970s - when the population grew from approximately 1.6 million to 2.7 million inhabitants - followed by suburban sprawl.
The project, also known as Serpentone because of its huge proportions, was developed by a team of architects under the leadership of Mario Fiorentino between 1972 and 1974. Construction took place between 1973 and 1982, but the original plan to use the fourth floor of the main building for commercial uses, services, and common areas, was dropped because the contractor went bankrupt. The floor was eventually taken over by informal settlements, and this event is considered to be the root of the problems with this emblematic project in the history of housing in Italy.
This article was originally published on Common Edge.
I attended graduate school, in geography, in Tucson, Arizona, United States, in the late 1990s. Tucson draws fame from a number of things, including its Mexican-American heritage, its chimichangas, its sky islands, and its abundant population of saguaro cacti.
A single family house may often have been considered as a very small pixel within any urban context, but the fact is, on average more than fifty percent of the urban fabric is being shaped by these tiny small pixels. It is well said by Tadao Ando: “The house is the building type that can change society.” Thus, this is how a client, a developer, a builder, an architect, or a designer could or should be responsible and willingly participate in a collective effort to shape a better urban context.
Architecture is often seen as something which provides a place-marker in history, reflecting the zeitgeist of an era. But how do we design architecture in a world that is changing faster than ever before, where entire types of buildings disappear seemingly in a flash? Here, we round up six types of buildings that came into existence in modern times and are fading as fast as they appeared. Mostly banal and previously ubiquitous, the nostalgia associated with the disappearance of these buildings taps into something emotional, rather than intellectual admiration.
Memory and architecture are closely linked, with Juhani Pallasmaa in his book The Eyes of the Skin describing how “the body knows and remembers. Architectural meaning derives from archaic responses and reactions remembered by the body and the senses.” Some of the structures below have become obsolete within half a lifespan—an interesting point to consider in a discipline that has historically valued permanence above all. If structures no longer serve a social function, will they be remembered?
This article was originally published by Common Edge as "The Work of Architecture in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction."
I attended graduate school, in geography, in Tucson, Arizona, in the late 1990s. Tucson draws fame from a number of things, including its Mexican-American heritage, its chimichangas, its sky islands, and its abundant population of saguaro cacti.
Plenty of things about Tucson, though, are perfectly, achingly ordinary.
Perhaps the most ordinary thing about Tucson led me to develop something halfway between a hobby and an academic pursuit. On occasion, whether for sport or research, friends and I used to go “sprawl-watching.” We were not exactly, say, Walter Benjamin strolling through the arcades, embracing the human pageantry of Paris. But we did our best to plumb Tucson’s depths.
In the heart of a suburb just east of London stands an incongruous red brick villa. With its pointed arched window frames and towering chimneys, the house was designed to appear like a relic of the Middle Ages. In reality, its vintage dates to the 1860’s. This is Red House, the Arts and Crafts home of artist William Morris and his family. Built as a rebuttal to an increasingly industrialized age, Red House’s message has been both diminished by the passage of time and, over the course of the centuries, been cast in greater relief against its context.
This article was originally published by The Architect's Newspaper as "The American suburbs are the next fertile ground for architectural and urban experimentation."
The last twenty-odd years may have seen the remarkable comeback of cities, but the next twenty might actually be more about the suburbs, as many cities have become victims of their own success. The housing crisis—a product of a complex range of factors from underbuilding to downzoning—has made some cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, a playground for the ultra-wealthy, pushing out long-time residents and making the city unaffordable for the artists, creatives, and small businesses who make vibrant places.
In the classic film The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and friends manage to obtain a visit with the great and powerful wizard, who appears to them as an enormous, grotesque head, surrounded by smoke and flames, with a booming voice and a hostile demeanor. But when Toto pulls back the curtain, the wizard’s true nature is revealed, and it is only then that he is able to help the gang get the help for which they journeyed many miles down the yellow brick road. In architecture today, suburban houses share many of the characteristics of the wizard’s illusion: large, stand-offish and intimidating. But what if there is a more benevolent architecture hidden behind the smoke and flames? This is the thesis of Australian firm Otherothers' Offset House, on display now at the Chicago Architecture Biennale.
Looking for your dream home? Picket fence, driveway (sedan included), basketball net, and terracotta pots complete with flowers in bloom, available now in the quiet neighbourhood of Rancho Santa Fe in Shanghai, China. According to this article in The Guardian, "The Chinese Dream" is currently sweeping the People's Republic, with Western planning models replicated with identical ineffective results. The article offers an intimate insight into the role of American architectural fetishism in modern China, and how the government is now fighting to curb the trend. Read the complete article here.
A new report from Christopher Leinberger and Patrick Lynch at The George Washington University School of Business has unexpectedly named Washington D.C. the most walkable city in the U.S., trumping expected favorites like New York, which ranked second.
Respectively rounding out the top five were Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago. Although a mere 2.8 percent of the population is estimated to walk to work, the report's authors believe the results are indicative of urban development moving away from automobile dependency and sprawl - an event they consider as significant as Frederick Jackson Turner declaring the "closing of the frontier" in 1893.
From the Publisher. Christoph Gielen’s aerial views offer a look at America’s most aberrant and unusual sprawl forms in ways we usually don’t get to see them: from far above the ground—a vantage point that reveals both the intricate geometry as well as the idiosyncratic allure of these developments. Here, encountering sprawl becomes an aesthetic experience that at the same time leaves us with a sense of foreboding, of seeing the “writing on the wall”. At once fascinating and profoundly unsettling, these photographs detail the potential ramifications of unchecked urbanization. When these settlements were developed, neither distance from work place nor gasoline prices much mattered in determining the locations of new constructions. These places are relics from an era that was entirely defined by a belief in unlimited growth, of bigger is better. The startling extent of those practices, and their inherent wastefulness, come to light in Gielen’s pictures—as if looking at a microcosm of non-sustainability through a giant magnifier.
Contributing essays by Johann Frederik Hartle, Galina Tachieva, Srdjan Jovanic Weiss, Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris contextualize Gielen’s work by focusing on a range of aspects, from aesthetics to climate change and futurology. They also examine why taking a closer look at these places is particularly crucial at this juncture, when we are faced with a new wave of building booms in developing nations such as in China.
In this interview, originally published in Metropolis Magazine as "The Charms of Suburbia", Martin Pedersen interviews Robert A.M. Stern about his new book, "Paradise Planned: The Garden Suburb and the Modern City". Pedersen's interview delves into the history behind the Garden Suburb - a typology that is distinct from the stereotype of suburban sprawl.
Robert A.M. Stern is nothing if not counterintuitive. How else do you explain—in an increasingly digital and urban-centric world—his recently released book, a 1,072-page tome, containing more than 3,000 images, on the history of the garden suburb? Paradise Planned: The Garden Suburb and the Modern City (the Monacelli Press, 2013) was written with longtime, in-house collaborators David Fishman and Jacob Tilove, who also worked with Stern on the ﬁfth volume of the architect’s epic New York series.
Paradise Planned is similarly expansive. “The book grew like Topsy,” Stern says. “We’d think we had all the examples down, and a new one would pop up. So it just got bigger and bigger. And I thought: if we’re going to do this book, we really ought to do it as the deﬁnitive text. Now, it’s not forever text. People will always be adding things. But this is a pretty comprehensive view.” I recently talked to Stern about his new book, the folly of “landscape urbanism,” and the lessons learned from the garden suburb.
Read on for the rest of the interview
After the Wolfson Economics Prize announced a challenge to deliver new garden cities in the UK for the 21st Century, Feargus O'Sullivan of Atlantic Cities responds, calling the attempt to bring back garden cities "misguided". His article gives a comprehensive rundown of why garden cities were popular during the 20th century, why they are becoming popular again and, ultimately, why they are a bad idea that will not succeed this time around - finishing with some ideas from The Netherlands and Sweden that would be much more appropriate. You can read the full article here.
The challenge of converting a sea of parking lots, that so often riddles auto-dependent suburbs, is in densification. Architects are introducing compact urban living models to small towns all across the country, retrofitting single-use zoning into more walkable, diverse and connected communities. Perhaps nowhere is this evolution more evident than Seattle’s Northgate neighborhood, home to the country’s oldest shopping malls. Learn how the town became denser and greener, transitioning to a transit-oriented development, “Gray, Green, and Blue: Seattle’s Northgate.”