If you happen to be a fan of Kurt Anderson’s wonderful radio show Studio 360, perhaps you tuned in this weekend for the trip to Japan, a fascinating account of a place that seems at once otherworldly and yet so much like our own. If not, dare we suggest you tune in for the whole hour. Or, at the very least, consider the wonderful segment on Japanese design. In it, Anderson interviews architectural master Shigeru Ban and the up-and-coming couple behind Atelier Bow-Wow, as well as a fashion designer and a poet. At issue is that undeniable “Japanese-ness” that undergirds their work and that of their country, how it is shaped by their tiny, overcrowded island and, more recently and perhaps importantly, the economic collapse of the 1990s.
The Burj Dubai Khalifa opened on Monday, breaking a slew of records, but this video showcases one we never expected: a record-breaking base jump. Leaping from a window-washing crane on the 160th floor, two local experts plummeted 2,205 feet to earth, a feat few, if any, will ever replicate, though no doubt they’ll keep trying, as what’s even crazier is a British man attempted the same jump before the building was even completed, though he was caught in the act and promptly incarcerated, as the video after the, uh, jump shows. If that’s not enough, the Daily Mail‘s got some good photos. Read More
Today marks the official inauguration of the world’s tallest building, the Burj in Dubai. While the opening comes at a rocky time for the emirate and for the global real estate market, it was greeted with great fanfare, including, cannily, renaming the building the Burj Khalifa, after the president of neighboring Abu Dhabi, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The move signaled both Dubai’s gratitude for Abu Dhabi’s recent bailout and the unity of the emirates through the financial crisis.
The documentary Between the Folds is a brisk study of the intersection of intelligence and aesthetics in origami. The film, by the first time writer and director Vanessa Gould, gives an overview of the field, looks into the methods of folding, and interviews some of the big paper players of the past 50 years. Even with the film’s minor faults, Gould deserves enormous credit for producing a film that will fascinate everyone from precocious kids to high-minded architects. The film, the first on the subject in English, explores the combination of art, mathematics, diagrams, computational power, inspiration, and raw desire to create held within a simple piece of paper. Read More
The feature that I wrote for issue 20 is about personal rapid transit. PRT, as it is called, is a mass transportation concept that swaps high-capacity trains for small “pod cars.” These individualized vehicles run on dedicated tracks from origin to destination, bypassing all other stations along the way. Such a system is currently being installed at London’s Heathrow Airport and Foster + Partners is developing a PRT solution for its Masdar City project, but the idea has been around at least since the 1950s. In the late 60s and 70s several prototypes were developed and tested for possible urban application, but—aside from a semi-PRT system installed in Morgantown, West Virginia—none of them were ever realized. The one that came the closest was Cabinentaxi, which was to be rolled out in Hamburg, Germany. A recession in 1980 sank the project, but luckily they made this lovely film before falling into the dustbin of history. Enjoy.
First the cracks, and now this? Sure, Peter Eisenman’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin has seen its fair share of controversies over the years, but it doesn’t get much worse than a fashion shoot for an in-flight magazine. According to the New Statesman‘s scoop, easyJet had no idea the Holocaust memorial had been used as the backdrop for a bunch of models because its magazine is produced by an outside company. That company has yet to speak up about the matter, so it remains unclear whether the fine folks at INK publishing are ignorant or just stupid. Looks like Hannah Arendt is right once again. Read More
The president of the Venice Biennale, Paola Barrata, announced this morning that the director of the 12th International Architecture Exhibition will be Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima of SANAA Architects. Last week, we reported rumors that the next director was going to be a woman—a first for this most important of international contemporary architecture expositions. The names most frequently bandied about for this major job were Sejima and Liz Diller. Read More
I just finished my day of judging the Civic and Community session of the WAF in Barcelona. The festival competition is divided into sixteen categories, with each session winner going into a final round to determine the Building of the Year. My session’s jurors included the Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto and the Canadian (now living in London) Renato Benedetti, and we spent the day working our way through 14 entries, including the new British Embassy in Algiers by John McAslan + Partners, and a fine Mexican church and community center by Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos. Read More
This week, the second World Architecture Festival is taking place in one of the most design-conscious cities in the world: Barcelona. Sadly, the festival is located in the Diagonal Mar district on the city’s waterfront, along with the hotel that WAF sponsor emap provided to jurors (I am here serving on the jury for the festival’s Civic and Community award). At first glance, this entirely new district of the city seems to have more in common with Grand Rapids than the Catalonian capital. I mentioned this to a British colleague, who replied, “Are American cities this nice?” He’s right: We can’t even do modern urbanism better than the Europeans. Read More
Shortly after the dramatic fire consumed much of the TVCC tower in Beijing earlier this year, we speculated on the building’s fate. Well, it’s taken eight months, but Archinect directed us to an AP story in which OMA’s Ole Scheeren finally addresses the rampant concerns that have been plaguing the burned out building, and the prognosis is good. Scheeren said that the building is indeed intact and will be replaced—at what cost, who knows, though this being state-run television, does it even really matter? The AP adds that construction scaffolding is already up on the site, and Scheeren goes to great lengths to dispel apparently rampant and, as far as we can understand, ridiculous rumors that were the TVCC building to be dismantled, it would drag down the better known CCTV building because the two shared a structural system. Read More
We’ve noted recently the preponderance of architectural documentaries, particularly those concerns the fields “greats”—from Gehry to Mockbee, Kahn to Shulman. Well, now you can add Rem Koolhaas to the list, as Archinect points us to this trailer for a new documentary in the works entitled Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect. The film got a nice little write-up in—where else—the Seattle Times, which explains that the documentary is as much about Koolhaas’ arrival at architecture as the architecture itself. Though that often seems to be the case, especially with Rem. How else could such a famous architect declare: “One of the exciting things about architecture is it gives you so many reasons to be modest. Because there are so many levels on which you can fail.” But at least we get all those cool visuals produced by OMA and AMO of buildings melding and morphing, as though there were a firm better suited to the big screen. After all, he’s a multimedia star, having already conquered music and typography. Read More
This innovative British firm is on the shortlist for the 2010 Stirling Prize. The building they’re brainstorming is the firm’s first U.S. commission. The site is somewhere on Cooper Square. Morphosis is the architect of record.
Their work is the focus of a new book, Feasibility: The New Polemic (The Too Little Too Late Press, 2009).