If Lord Foster—perhaps one of the greatest architects of our time—feels as though he has "no power as an architect, none whatsoever," people tend to take notice. His support, thoughts and opinions, he tells The Observer's Rowan Moore, are his most influential tools: "advocacy, he says, is the only power an architect ever has." Their conversation, held ahead of the Urban Age Global Debates which are currently taking place in London, also touches upon the importance of infrastructure, the social role of the architect, and the growing—if not undervalued—urgency to readdress sustainability within the profession.
The Observer: The Latest Architecture and News
In a recent article for The Observer, Rowan Moore discusses what he describes as the "quiet revolution in British housing." In compiling a list of practices and collectives from the recent past and present, he has created a compendium of people and organisations who he believes are creating exemplary dwellings in the UK. Noting that the British housing stock is not necessarily in the best shape (a symptom of the 1970s), Moore ultimately offers an optimistic message tinged with words of caution.
With the Charles Rennie Mackintosh retrospective opening today at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London Rowan Moore, writing for The Guardian, asks "which architect could restore Mackintosh's masterpiece [in Glasgow]?" The Glasgow School of Art, parts of which were devastated by fire in May of last year, is in the process of selecting a restoration architect from a shortlist of five. Yet for Moore "there are examples of clumsiness and stodginess in some of the past projects of those included that should be allowed nowhere near the School of Art."
In an article for The Observer, Rowan Moore visits Manchester's Whitworth Art Gallery (1908), a compact museum which has now undergone a comprehensive restoration and extension by MUMA (McInnes Usher McKnight). The practice, who won the job against 130 other bids for the project, worked with a budget of £15million in order to realise an ambitious brief. Their interventions and innovations, many of which are modest and unseen, have not only reconnected the building with its surrounding parkland but also elevated the interior rooms into world-class exhibition spaces. For Moore, their work is striking but muted: "the virtues of the new Whitworth – sustainable, accessible, sensitive, thoughtful – could all be synonyms for 'dull' or at least 'worthy'. But, thanks to its pleasures of light and material, it is not. It is a job very well done."
In an article for The Observer Rowan Moore examines 'Second Home', a newly opened "creative hub" in London designed by Spanish practice SelgasCano, who were recently announced as the designers of the 2015 Serpentine Pavilion. For Moore the project, which is the practice's first building in the UK, offers a "lightness and grace as well as invention, and an awareness of when to stop." The building is designed to be fluid, allowing start-up creative businesses to move in and move out as and when their business model dictates. Heavy tables can emerge from the floor, and 'roaming zones' facilitate creative thought. According to Moore's review, there "are no water-coolers, no kitchenettes, [and] no microwaves."
After a fortnight of highs and lows for Thomas Heatherwick and British celebrity Joanna Lumley's campaign for a garden bridge stretching across London's River Thames, Rowan Moore of The Observer has meticulously described the project as "nothing but a wasteful blight." Although he acknowledges that support for the bridge "has been overwhelming," he argues that Heatherwick - though an "inventive and talented product designer" - has a past record in large scale design which "raises reasonable doubts about whether his bridge will be everything now promised."
The people behind Frank Gehry's Fondation Louis Vuitton (FLV) in Paris, which is set to officially open on the 27th October 2014, recently invited a band of architecture critics to take a look around and pen their thoughts. Gehry's bold approach to architectural form, most evident in buildings like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, matches the foundation's aim to "promote and support contemporary and artistic creation" in France. According to their website, they in particular embody "a passion for artistic freedom." How, then, has the enormous sailed structure, challenged by local opposition from the outset, settled into its Parisian parkland surroundings?
See what The Guardian's Oliver Wainwright, The Observer's Rowan Moore, Vanity Fair's Paul Goldberger, The LA Times' Christopher Hawthorne, as well as the Architectural Digests' Mayer Rus, had to say about Gehry's latest completed building after the break.
In an interview with Rowan Moore for The Observer, British born architect David Adjaye discusses his work, personality and ambitions as head of the one of the fastest growing internationally operating practices. With Moore's immersive descriptions and expertly written narrative, the "breadth of Adjaye's vision" becomes apparent. Featuring precise descriptions of some his upcoming projects, including the designs for the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture and a number of smaller buildings in London, Moore's discussion ultimately explores Adjaye's early (and successful) steps into the African architectural market. You can read the interview in full here.