This past Monday brought with it not just a new week, but the start of the lunar new year. The start of the lunar new year brings with it another chance to review what's past and start afresh - a welcome opportunity for those of us already suffering a bit of new year blues.
Looking back to move forward seemed to be a bit of a theme this week, with the announcement of a number of memorials and renovations on historic sites. While the spate of new projects this week is certainly a coincidence, the recent proliferation of reuse and memorial projects, in general, shouldn't come as a surprise. As the age of the icon-producing starchitect stutters to a close, the long-gestating movements in reuse and preservation will likely come to the fore as a major movement in contemporary architecture. While major works such as the LocHal Library and the Battersea Arts Centre are banner examples, this is a movement that will celebrate the small-scale and local.
For those in the northern hemisphere, the last full week in January last week kicks off with Blue Monday - the day claimed to be the most depressing of the year. Weather is bleak, sunsets are early, resolutions are broken, and there’s only the vaguest glimpse of a holiday on the horizon. It’s perhaps this miserable context that is making the field seem extra productive, with a spate of new projects, toppings out and, completions announced this week.
The week of 21 January 2019 in review, after the break:
It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the massive production of architecture today. Scroll through ArchDaily for more than a minute and even we'd forgive you for losing track of it all. But what seems like an endless scroll of architectural production doesn't quite fit with the popular movements surrounding resource sharing and community.
Hidden among the mass production that has defined architecture in the last century is a germ - one that seems to be marching to the forefront of practice today. More and more designers seem to be taking on locally-focused and/or adaptive reuse works. Award shortlists today highlight not icons by recognizable names, but sensitive international works that are notable for their process as much as their product.
The common image of the architect may be of one obsessed with ego and newness, but practice today doesn't bear that out as much as it used to. This week's news touched on issues of reduction, reuse, and a radical rethink what architecture is in the 21st century.
JP Morgan Chase announced this week that they had hired Foster + Partners to design their new global headquarters in New York. The project, located in midtown Manhattan, will replace the existing 1960s SOM design for the US investment bank.
This is not the first time Foster + Partners have been called in to handle a corporate headquarters project: the office is also responsible for the designs of the nearby Hearst Tower, Apple’s Campus in Silicon Valley, and the Stirling Prize-winning Bloomberg HQ in London.
Kanye West is, according to Kanye West, a reformed man. After months of making headlines over his bizarre political views, he stated on Wednesday that, “my eyes are now wide open and now realize I’ve been used to spread messages I don’t believe in. I am distancing myself from politics and completely focusing on being creative !!!”
While this most likely means a return to his music career, this statement could also indicate a renewed interest in his design projects. The rapper’s interest in architecture is more than just a passing one; he’s collaborated with noted architects such as Jacques Herzog and Rem Koolhaas and has declared on multiple occasions his desire for everything to be “architected.”
It’s easy to feel jaded about modernism. What started as a radically rational and analytical approach to design - one not beholden to the architectural traditions of place or history - has become a smokescreen behind which designers and developers alike can hide. The language of logic (genuine or not) is a shield against criticism and satisfies questions about the bottom line. The border between minimalism and a value-engineered bare minimum has been blurred to the point of invisibility.
Architecture is a profession deeply dependent on the visual. It’s imagined, sold, critiqued and consumed almost entirely on the strength (or lack thereof) of drawings. We pick and prod at images presented at angles we’ll never be able to see, admiring the architectonic qualities of elements we’ll never actually experience.
It’s well understood that a sense of place is an essential value for people, architecture, and cities. Everyone from designers to planners to city governments speak breathlessly of the power of places to transform cities for the better - but it’s not clear what placemaking really means.
Robert Venturi - and the postmodernist movement he helped to form - was occasionally a divisive figure. For hardcore modernists, the referencing of prior styles was an affront to the future-facing architecture they had tried to promote. For traditionalists, the ebullient and kitschy take on classicism was an insult to the elegance of the past.
Try as we might to inure ourselves to the opinions of others, recognition is a powerful thing. It brings with it a captive (and expectant) audience, not just of admirers but of kingmakers - or, cynically, those who see an opportunity to capitalize. For architects, this can be both a blessing and a curse. Many practices start with the motivation to pursue an idea or concept; as recognition becomes diluted to labels it becomes harder to understand what was distinguishing in the first place. This week saw the announcements of a numerous significant awards - and an interview with a practice determined to shake off the labels that come with recognition. Read on for this week’s review.
Working life as an architect is notoriously difficult. Unreasonable demands from clients, be they about budget, deadlines, or design (not to mention uncompromising personal standards) make the job tough, particularly as architecture continues to be seen as a product. And while it's no reason to accept low (or unequal) pay, troubling mental health, or any of the myriad issues architecture seems beset with, architects anywhere will tell you: you do it because you love it.
As August draws to a close and our holidays - be they from work or school - already start to feel like distant memories, perhaps it's a good moment to reflect on our faith in what we do. Sometimes design affords us the ability to oversee massive and exciting change. Sometimes projects don't work out, despite our best efforts. And sometimes, design isn't as capable of making change as we believe it to be. This week's stories touched on our faith in design in a range of ways, from the literal (such as the bright churches of Kerala) to the more abstract (how much good taste in fast food design actually equates to good tastes.) Read on for this week's review.