Triggering Reality: New Conditions for Art and Architecture in the Netherlands
Centro per l’arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato, Italy
Curated by Giampiero Sanguigni with the collaboration of Marco Brizzi
The economic crisis may be a global phenomenon, but in the Netherlands it has shown its effects in full swing. During the ’80s and ’90s, Dutch architects and artists benefited from generous public funding supporting architecture and the arts. Nowadays, they face the same shortages as their European counterparts. Yet, history teaches that in the face of a recession, architecture shrinks; it hides by borrowing from other disciplines: sculpture, decorative, and performative arts.
Triggering Reality displays the work of young (and not-so-young) professionals, whose works range from decorative pieces of urban sculpture like Atelier Van Lieshout’s made-from-recycled-material cow, to small and ephemeral vanishing pieces of architecture like Dus Architects’ bubble building.
History also teaches that crisis can sharpen a person’s wits, and architects sometimes grow their works within existing structures. The work by Krijn De Koning, for example, consists of small reinventions of interiors. Overall an example of how even now, with less money, the Netherlands can build architectural examples to reflect upon.
Norman Foster has hoisted a slender sheet of mirror-polished stainless steel above a plaza on the edge of Marseille’s historic harbor, creating a new pavilion that reflects the activity of the bustling public space overhead. Foster + Partners’ “Vieux Port” pavilion officially opened over the weekend in the French city. The pavilion roof measures 150 feet by 72 feet, tapering at its perimeter to create the illusion of impossible thinness and is is supported by eight thin stainless steel columns inset from the pavilion’s edge.
On the other side of the pond, Building Design reports that Will Alsop didn’t hold back in a recent public conversation at the V&A with perennial pot-stirrer Stephen Bayley. “Society has decided in this age of austerity that what we need is more David Chipperfield. We don’t need that. It’s depressing,” bemoaned Alsop, known for his irreverent approach to the mother of the arts. “We need more fun, wit, and humor. It’s part of the human condition, and if you don’t have it, you are left with David Chipperfield and a number of others. He is a very good architect, and there’s plenty of room for him, but not everywhere, and not poor imitations.” Sounds like Alsop could use a long weekend in Vegas.
Against all odds, BIG-founder Bjarke Ingels is actually building a mountain-slash-ski-slope-slash-waste-to-energy-power-plant in his hometown of Copenhagen. Announced in 2011, the project nearly stalled during the approval process, but officials in the Danish capital broke ground on the facility on Monday. Called the Amager Bakke Waste-to-Energy Plant, the structure represents Ingels’ concept of Hedonistic Sustainability, the notion that a sustainable building shouldn’t only be green, but should also be fun.
In a recent interview with the London newspaper The Observer, architect Zaha Hadid made the point that female architects are typecast. “It is thought they [women] understand interior shapes, and I am sure they do understand them better than men actually, but the idea is that they will prefer to deal with a single client, rather than with corporations and developers,” said Hadid, noting that women practitioners often ended up with residential or leisure-related projects rather than large-scale commercial work. Hadid spoke out following publication of a research report by the Architects’ Journal on gender issues in British architecture. The report, deploying a rather Shakespearian tone, claims to have uncovered a “sinister and rotten kernel of inequality.” Women “need to be encouraged and to have their confidence built up,” said Hadid, a notoriously tough boss herself. We’d like to see Hadid team up with Facebook COO turned working-woman activist Sheryl Sandberg for a road show.
Intrigued by parametric architecture but don’t know where to begin? Meet Mode Lab, an online network connecting creatives to everything architectural and design related including courses, talks, and workshops that help teach how to use advanced systems like Data Trees, Grasshopper, and Kangaroo. Other courses offer lessons in Organic Modeling to Parametric Pleating to Algorithmic Design. The group just launched their new website, with several upgrades that make taking courses even easier. Courses are now easily sortable by format, subject, or software; a growing community of instructors have joined the Mode Lab team; payment has been streamlines; and work by Mode Lab members is now featured on the site. Mode Lab’s growing online destination is transforming the way designers and architects interact, share, and gain the skills and knowledge to develop innovative ideas.
Here in New York, we’re excited to see CODA’s massive Party Wall installation made of scrap from skateboard manufacturing rise at MoMA PS1 for this year’s Young Architects Program (YAP). But the annual YAP, which recognizes emerging architects and invites them to design and build a temporary installation, has gone global. MoMA has announced the third installment of YAP at Rome’s MAXXI museum designed by bam! bottega di architettura metropolitan and has launched a new program in Istanbul won by SO? Architecture and Ideas.
Described as “crime scene photos,” stark images of Spain’s housing bubble landscapes depict a grim reality. But instead of a somber discourse on the evils of political corruption and real estate speculation, the Architectural League’s symposium this past Friday, The City That Never Was, looked forward and, as Iñaki Abalos aptly asked, wondered if we, “can turn shit into gold.”
Building on their research and design studios at the University of Pennsylvania, Chris Marcinkoski and Javier Arpa, the moderators, explored the future of urbanism through the lens of Spain’s economic crisis and its resulting desolate urban form. Framing the historical context of boom and bust cycles, they reveal that the Spanish situation is only unique in scale and intensity. It exists as part of a larger commodification of urbanism all over the world resulting in similar conditions in an ever simplified placeless urbanism.
Notes from The Innovative Metropolis: Fostering Economic Competitiveness Through Sustainable Urban Design
Covering ground from Sao Paulo to Copenhagen, a set of multi-disciplinary discussions were convened in Washington, DC yesterday by the Brookings Institution and the Sam Fox School at Washington University in St. Louis, to explore the synergies between urban design, policy, and finance required to realize innovation in the way we construct our environment. The discussions focused on global case studies relative to urban mobility, technology, and environmental adaptation, against the backdrop of global urbanization and climate change.
While lessons were gleamed, it was clear that what was needed was “not one urbanism,” as Dean Moshen Mostafavi of the Harvard GSD put it, but “Urbanisms,” tuned to the “logic” of a given geography, climate, and culture. While existing within larger ecologies that, as Valente Souza of Mexico City asserted, may contain “their own solutions,” cites are, as Amy Liu of the Brookings Institution emphasized “complex economic systems” and any sustainable initiatives must address consumer demands. As Alex Washburn, Chief Urban designer for New York City summarized, “all change is driven by desire.”
Watch videos of the proceedings of “The Innovative Metropolis” on the Brookings Institution website.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) College of Fellows announced today that it will award the 2013 Latrobe Prize of $100,000 to the proposal, “The City of 7 Billion.” This ambitious research study will explore how population growth and resource consumption, on a global scale, affects the built and natural environment looking “at the world as a single urban entity.”