Venice 2010> Has the Biennale Outlived its Usefulness?

International
Thursday, September 2, 2010
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The Cherry Blossom Pavilion, in the Italian pavilion, one of the increasingly rare examples of architecture at the biennale. (Bill Menking)

The 2010 Venice architecture biennale closed on Saturday—at least for media representatives, as journalists were required for the first time to turn in their press passes and enter as public citizens (tickets, $25). I hated giving up that pass as it allowed me access to the exhibitions both at the Arsenale and in the giardini, home of the national pavilions. Though Venice is hardly a major military installation there are canals in the area that are off-limits to civilians; a water taxi driver informed my group that only a special permit would get us into the canal so I produced my press pass and he said “va bene” and he drove us up the canal. The power of the press! Read More

Venice 2010> Storming the Arsenale & Rem in da Haas

International
Friday, August 27, 2010
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Rem Koolhaas, winner of this year's Golden Lion, at the Arsenale. (Bill Menking)

Nothing much to report from yesterday, as it was a day of formal openings when very little was in fact open to the press or public. It was mostly a day of introductory speeches by biennale directors and city and government officials. Frank Gehry presented some models, made a few brief remarks, and then everyone headed for the hallway, where we had our first free prosecco and great little appetizers. Journalists and media types stood around asking about where the best parties were to be had in the coming days (more on this later). Read More

The U.S. Pavilion Sells Out in Shanghai

International
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit to the U.S. Pavilion earlier this year. The "Wall of Honor"—with its corporate sponsors—can be seen in the background. (Courtesy U.S. State Dept.)

Now that the pavilions have begun arriving at the Grand Canal, that other great architectural exhibition of the summer has faded into memory. No, we’re not talking about the one in Pasadena. Or at P.S.1. Not the Serpentine. This would be the Shanghai World Expo, which did have some pretty great pavilions upon its opening in June. Not among them, sadly, was the U.S. Pavilion, in large part because we refused to front the money for the structure, and so it got farmed out. Now, Marketplace has a report from the pavilion that pretty perfectly encapsulates the problems and perseverance of the little pavilion that couldn’t, even how it has won over many Chinese, what with their love with propaganda and irony.

Venice 2010> The Black Shirts are Coming!

International
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
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An installation made from frisbees. (CLICK TO ZOOM)

No, not the Fascists—that was 2008, when the Northern League held its national rally at the entrance gates of the biennale giardini. I mean the architects! They have arrived in droves, and it’s easy to spot them walking along the Grand Canal absorbing the searing heat and humidity of August in Venice. The second day of reading press releases, walking the giardini, and visiting collateral exhibitions reaffirms my sense that there is more art in the 2010 biennale than architecture. This is, of course, not necessarily a bad thing, and many of these installations do consider architectural questions. But it makes one wonder why national pavilions make the decisions they do about the architectural conditions in their country. Read More

Venice 2010> Going Gaga at the Giardini

International
Monday, August 23, 2010
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The Austrian pavilion, dressed up in a snazzy scrim.

The Venice biennale does not open officially to the press until Thursday, August 26, and just about all of the national pavilions in the giardini are madly rushing to finish before that date. All the pavilions that is, except sadly the crumbling Venezuelan pavilion, which will not have an exhibition in it this year. Read More

The Best of Venice: Your Biennale Daybook

International
Friday, August 20, 2010
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Rem Koolhaas chats about Strelka, his new educational endeavor in Moscow, on August 26. (Courtesy Strelka)

The Venice Architecture Biennale has traditionally opened later in September. But this year, because of a scheduling conflict, it is opening on August 29 and will remain open until November 21. We will be blogging from the biennale during the press preview and beyond, so watch for our posts of events, press conferences, and parties. If you want a list of official biennale events you can of course check their website, along with the new iPhone app that launched today. But this year there seem to be more collateral events to the official program than ever before. Read More

Learning From, and Ignoring, Hong Kong

East Coast, International
Monday, August 16, 2010
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Hong Kong (right) and Kowloon, one of the many cities-within-cities that have sprung up on the island in recent decades. (Mr. Wabu/Flickr)

We’re fairly critical of the planning process here in New York, but our pal Norman Oder has us beat a thousand times over with his watchdog website The Atlantic Yards Report. Which is why we were surprised to find him writing over on Urban Omnibus about just how laudable our way of doing things can actually be, at least compared to the current vogue for Asian-style authoritarian planning, particularly that of Hong Kong. Jumping off from Vishaan Chakrabarti’s praise for Hong Kong’s “doubling down on density,” Oder points out that of the locals he’s heard from, “enough is enough.” Read More

Dyson Awards Aim to Improve Society Through Design

International
Thursday, August 12, 2010
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Copenhagen 1

The brief for the James Dyson Award design competition is deceptively simple: Design something that solves a problem. The winner and nine finalists representing the United States all responded with highly functional designs that could make a positive impact on the way we live, none more so than the U.S. winner, the Copenhagen Wheel, designed by Christine Outram and students in the SENSEable City Lab at MIT. The hybrid battery-powered disk turns any bike into an electric boosted bike, helping cyclists go longer distances and ride up hills. Read More

All Aboard for the Venice Biennale

International
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
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The Biennale Architettura 2010 in Venice will open a month earlier than usual this year, with the media vernissage set for August 26–28. The Architect’s Newspaper will be there blogging daily on Kazuyo Sejima’s curated exhibition People Meet in Architecture, bringing you reports from all the national pavilions, collateral exhibits, and of course the parties. Read More

Transitional Classrooms Help Haiti Head Back to School

International
Thursday, August 5, 2010
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Architect Jack Ryan designed this temporary school building in Jacmel. (Courtesy Jack Ryan)

More than six months after January’s catastrophic earthquake, Haiti’s need for new infrastructure remains an urgent challenge for the many nonprofit groups seeking to rebuild nearly 300,000 structures across the country. Among them is Plan International, a children’s development organization that has worked in Haiti since 1973. Having mobilized in the wake of the earthquake to build transitional schools, among other reconstruction projects, this summer Plan completed a cluster of six classrooms in Jacmel, in the country’s southeastern region, as the first step toward an ambitious goal of building 80 classrooms throughout Haiti by September. Read More

Gunter Behnisch, 1922-2010

International
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
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Günter Behnisch in 2000. (Courtesy Behnisch Architekten)

Word spread yesterday that Dresden-born, Deconstructivist-inspiring architect Günter Behnisch had died. His son’s firm, which had taken on much of his work, sent around the following announcement today. There will be a memorial service tomorrow in Stuttgart, Behnisch’s long-time home.

Professor Günter Behnisch passed away in the early morning hours of July 12th at the age of 88. A good three years ago he retreated from professional life. Since then he has lived, weakened by several strokes, in his home in Stuttgart-Sillenbuch, where his family cared for him. Read More

Allah Architecture Causes Controversies Worldwide

East Coast, International
Thursday, July 8, 2010
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It looks like New York isn’t the only city with a controversial mosque on the horizon—and in the case of Marseilles, that’s quite literally where it’s going. Archinect points us to a BBC report about the Grand Mosque, a huge new complex atop one of the city’s northern hills. As the video above shows, the complaints are akin to those surrounding the proposed mosque around the corner from the World Trade Center site—concerns about culture, paternalism, terrorism, and community, though in France the concerns are obviously less direct. In a favorable sign for the NYC mosque, the local community board voted against landmarking the former Burlington Coat Factory ahead of a binding review at the commission next Tuesday. The vote is non-binding but tends to carry some wait, though we’re curious to see what actually happens, as this should be one of the more interesting commission meetings in recent memory. Do check back for a full report.

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