Dutch firm Mecanoo’s latest civic building represents a new era in library design. The new Library of Birmingham in the UK replaces the former James Hardin–designed central library, a brutalist concrete structure. The new library is a sleek expression of the evolving nature of education and learning in the 21st century. The modern, metal-clad structure houses a variety of services, including a multimedia center, two cafés, a music library, a performance space, green outdoor terraces, a shop and a gallery. The design vision is that the space will offer culture and entertainment, as well as learning and information.
The 2013 Lisbon Architecture Triennale‘s emphasis on active workshops, networking and “research” projects rather than architectural set pieces often plays as live performative tableaus. The public focus of the exhibition is indeed an elevated stage in the city’s Praca da Figueira (Square of the Fig Tree) where architects are performing plays, encouraging civic engagement with public performances, and programming research workshops. Performance is also the operative scheme in another triennial initiative, The Institute Effect, that takes place the city’s Museum of Design.
I wrote in my first post from the Lisbon Architecture Triennale Close, Closer that it’s the first international exhibition that does not need or even want outside visitors. The exhibition’s organizer and head curator, Beatrice Galilee, downplays installations and object-making in favor of active workshops, networking, and “research” projects aimed primarily at residents of the Portuguese capital.
The rise of 3D printing, the design and creation of objects using a material printer, is currently hindered by accessibility. Few own personal printers or know where to go to use one. However, according to Lara Piras of PSFK, commercially viable 3D printing is now a possibility with Netherlands-based 3D Hubs. The online company allows at-home designers to connect with locals who own 3D printers, arrange for payment for the printing of their creations, and then receive their material products, ideally without leaving their community.
The Lisbon Triennale, Close, Closer, is the first architecture exhibition that does not need, nor even want outside visitors. In recent years, the relevance of the international exposition in a defined physical boundary has been questioned, given the energy and expense (particularly in Venice) involved in putting the event together and the ubiquity of digital display and information dissemination. Why not, many people argue, just do the whole thing on line and open it up to the whole world rather than forcing visitors to trek to expensive cities and countries? Lisbon’s Close, Closer will have a tremendous online presence, but, more to the point, the curators of the exhibition, under the overall guidance of British curator Beatrice Galilee, have downplayed expensive formal installations in favor of workshop, networking, and research projects.
Chicago-based architect Jimenez Lai, principal of Bureau Spectacular, has been awarded the first BPC Debut Award for architects under 35. Lai is known for his bold, formally-inventive work, which he describes as “cartoon narratives” that “swerve into the physical world through architectural installations models, and small buildings.” He is the author of Citizen of No Place and an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Selected from a pool of more than 180 entrants, Lai’s work was recognized for its “original design thinking and pursuit of critical ideas.” The prize comes with a modest monetary award of 5,000 euros.
Australia has developed a tantalizing approach to curb humankind’s carbon footprint. Since the country signed the Kyoto Protocol in 2007, it has been actively fighting to moderate air pollution and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent below 2000 levels by 2020. Australia continues to adopt mainstream tactics such as cutting down on deforestation and land clearing, and has recently revealed a new technology that promises to turn carbon emissions into green building materials.
Coop Himmelb(l)au recently won a competition to design the Deep Pit Ice and Snow World in the Dawang Mountain Resort area near the city of Changsha. The quarry project, which also featured proposals from Gensler and Asymptote, is the second of its kind in China, following the Songjiang Shimao Hotel outside of Shanghai. It is one of many new schemes for Changsha from international architects such as Zaha Hadid. The 394,000 square foot project is positioned directly on top of a historic cement mining quarry pit and lake, and consists of an Entertainment Ice World, Indoor Ski Slope, Water Park and restaurant and shopping facilities. The design emphasizes the existing quarry pit and the 560 foot spanning sculpted shell of the Snow and Ice World.
From an Islamic cemetery in Austria to a 330-meter bridge in North Africa, the five recipients of the 2013 Aga Khan Award for Architecture each address a concern within their culture to improve quality of life. Awarded every three years since its 1977 initiation, the competition grants a collective $1 million to a number of projects that exist in areas with a significant Muslim population. Each project must be culturally receptive and increased merit is given to those that use local resources in ways that may motivate analogous ventures in the future.
That old saw about how you can’t take public space with you is bound for the trash heap. Landscape architect John Bela, co-founder of San Francisco–based Rebar, and artist Tim Wolfer of N55 have developed Parkcycle Swarm, a green space initiative that puts people and green space together—on wheels. The basic Parkcycle module is a mobile green space made of an aluminum frame, plywood, standard bicycle parts, and astroturf. Each one measures 2.6 feet tall, 4 feet wide, and 7.4 feet long. Parkcycles offer instant open space to neighborhoods. All users have to do is park the Parkcycle and sprawl out on the turf to enjoy a bottle of beaujolais or play some hackie sack. Four of the small mobile parks are currently making the rounds at the Participate public arts festival in Baku, Azerbaijan.