Glimpses of New York and Amsterdam in 2040 at the Center for Architecture (through September 10) is a clarion call for designers to redefine sustainability in architecture. Though it didn’t start with this intention, the visions of 10 young architecture firms imagining future landscapes of New York and Amsterdam raise questions about what changes are imminent for urban development and what part architects can play. The projects suggest both practical and fantastical interventions to improve the prospect of urban growth in the face of ecological, geographic, and demographic shifts.
This year’s Serpentine pavilion by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor opens on Friday, July 1. The first images reveal not just a simple structure of humble materials but also a new type of collaboration for the Serpentine series. Zumthor invited the Dutch planting designer Piet Oudolf to join the project, and although Zumthor retains top billing, his design gives Oudolf center stage. Oudolf recently shared a plan with us of his vibrant garden scheme that forms the heart of the timber-frame structure.
In his own words, Dutch artist Theo Jansen is “creating new forms of life.” His mechanical creatures, the Strandbeests, are comprised of hundreds of yellow plastic tubes forming a skeletal structure that is able to walk along the beach with only the help of the wind. According to Jansen’s web site, he is looking “to put these animals out in herds on the beaches so they will live their own lives.” He has given his latest creations “stomachs” able to store the wind using a series of bicycle pumps powered by sails or wings on the Strandbeests. The air is compressed into plastic bottles that can power the machine when the wind dies down.
We got to see one of our favorite new architectural documentaries on Sunday, called Unfinished Spaces: Cuba’s Architecture of Revolution, by Alysa Nahmias and Ben Murray. The film documents the creation, and subsequent scuttling, of Cuba’s National Arts Schools. Designed by architects Ricardo Porro, Roberto Gottardi and Vittorio Garatti, the highly expressive Modernist schools, built mostly of Terra Cotta, were an example of visionary architecture and idealistic arts education for all, from dance to visual arts. But after the Castro government wearied of creative expression and embraced Soviet-style building, they changed their minds, shutting down construction, although classes later continued in the schools’ ruins. Now the country has once again done an about-face and is hoping to save them, despite a lack of government funding. Look at our next issue for a full review. And if you’re in LA, check out more screenings of the film on June 24 and June 25. Read More
Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) shared a few images of their newly complete Tour FIRST tower in Paris, France, now the city’s tallest building. Standing 760 feet tall in the city’s La Défense district, the glass tower isn’t completely new. It’s actually a major addition on top of a 1970s structure designed by Pierre Dufau—a move the firm said makes the building more sustainable than new construction. New windows were punctured in the old structure’s concrete skin and the building was opened up to surrounding public space. With Tour FIRST, New York-based KPF continues its skyscraper spree, having designed what are currently the tallest buildings in Hong Kong and London.
The conservation group Blue Ventures won the Buckminster Fuller Challenge in a ceremony at the CUNY Graduate Center on Friday night. The group took home the $100,000 prize, edging out FrontlineSMS, Rainforest Foundation UK, and TARA Ashkar+. The project caught the attention of the judges for its work with impoverished communities along the coast of Madagascar. To solve the problem of overfishing and biodiversity, the group delved into the root causes on land, such as overpopulation and a lack of birth control (an increase in population exacerbates overfishing). The strategy was to stabilize the population and shift toward alternative economic resources. Conservation in the water depends heavily on human behavior on land.
A sidewalk in France adds a bounce to your step. Atelier Raum Architects recently released their streetscape intervention La Ville Molle in Bourges, France, part of the city’s 5th annual Biennale of Contemporary Art. During their 2010 artist residency at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Art de Bourges (ENSA), the architecture firm developed the urban design project in conjunction with La Box, the ENSA student gallery, and the FRAC Centre (Fonds Regional d’Art Contemporain).
Situated in a medieval town square, the raised patch of cobblestone vacillates under spectators’ shifting weight. The installation is intended to alter the pedestrians’ urban experience and sense of gravity while the buoyant surface juxtaposes the apparent strength of a cobblestone plaza with the instability of walking on a balloon. Thus, the design demands contemplation on whether the traditional French city should embrace contemporary design as its modernization. (Via noquedanblogs.)
French automaker Renault has launched a new line of electric cars, their Z.E. line, and as part of its marketing promotions asks why we’re still using gas to power autos if we don’t for other everyday objects. Imagine a world where all your electric gadgets released a steady stream of exhaust. The result is surreal and at times hilarious. Take a look for yourself after the jump. (Via PSFK.)