(Updated!) A Call to Free Ai Weiwei, Artist, Architect, Activist

Ai Weiwei with Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia (Courtesy Melissa Lam)

Ai Weiwei with Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia (Courtesy Melissa Lam)

(Updated 4-6-2011) As details emerge, be sure to track the comments on this post for the latest on Ai Weiwei. We have learned that the US State Department called for his release on Monday. According to VOA News, Mark Toner, State Department Acting Deputy Spokesman saud, “The detention of artist and activist Ai Weiwei is inconsistent with the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all Chinese citizens, including China’s commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we urge the Chinese government to release him immediately.” Today, the Guardian reported that Ai Weiwei is under investigation for “suspected economic crimes” according to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua which has since deleted the statement.

AN also received the following note of support for Ai Weiwei from Richard Meier. Please feel free to voice your messages of support in the comments.

Ai Weiwei deserves all of our support in his efforts to communicate with the world community of architects about the conditions that currently exist in China. We all hope that his immediate release will happen quickly in response to comments from all of us that support him in his cause.

Sincerely yours,

Richard Meier

(Original Report 4-4-2011) News that Chinese artist, architect, and activist Ai Wei Wei has been detained and disappeared as of April 3, 2011 broke yesterday in the International media.  As reported by Andrew Jacobs in the New York Times, and more recently today by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, his detention and police closure of his Beijing studio coincides with what is known as the “Jasmine Revolution,” a protest movement in the People’s Republic of China that was inspired by the 2011 Tunisian Revolution and has prompted the Communist Party’s six-week crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists, with many of those detained still not released, and others, such as pro-democracy writer Liu Xianbin, sentenced to 10 years in jail for subversion.

Continue reading after the jump.

Zumthor′s Secret Garden: First Look at 2011 Serpentine Pavilion

International, Newsletter
Monday, April 4, 2011
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Peter & Piet: Landscape architect Piet Oudolf will collaborate with Peter Zumthor on the 2011 Serpentine Pavilion (Courtesy Serpentine Gallery).

Today the Serpentine Gallery released the first renderings of Swiss architect Peter Zumthor‘s plans for its annual 2011 pavilion. Zumthor has recruited Piet Oudolf, the Dutch landscape designer who helped transform the High Line in New York, to work with him on the concept of a “hortus conclusus” (in case you skipped Latin class, that’s a secret garden within a garden).

Continue reading after the jump.

Is Wright Wrong on Chandigarh?

International
Friday, April 1, 2011
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Armchair from Chandigarh (Courtesy Wright Auction House)

Pierre Jeanneret armchair from Chandigarh (Courtesy Wright Auction House).

On March 31, the Wright auction house gingerly dipped into controversy with its sale of 23 lots of office furniture from Chandigarh even as the Indian government launched a belated international campaign to recover the pieces designed by Pierre Jeanneret for the masterwork by cousin Corbusier.

Continue reading after the jump.

Happy Birthday, Mies!

International
Monday, March 28, 2011
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Mies standing behind a model of Crown Hall (Courtesy Illinois Institute of Technology)

Mies standing behind a model of Crown Hall (Courtesy Illinois Institute of Technology)

125 years ago this past Sunday, a newborn Ludwig Mies van der Rohe may have been dreaming up his first glass box, but 125 years later, a party in one of his most famous boxes hopes to rekindle the spirit of the famous architect. The Mies van der Rohe Society will gather in a couple hours in Crown Hall on the campus of the Chicago’s Illinois Institute of Technology for an evening of architecture, history, and, of course, cocktails.

If you can’t make the party, you can celebrate with a rather, well, unique tribute to the architect after the jump.

And a crazy Mies music video right over here.

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Eduardo Souto de Moura Wins 2011 Pritzker Prize (Updated)

Apartment Building in Maia, Portugal (Courtesy El Croquis)

Apartment Building in Maia, Portugal (Courtesy El Croquis)

Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura has won the 2011 Pritzker Prize, according to several reports. The Porto-based architect worked for the country’s other Pritzker winner, Alvaro Siza, but has had a prolific career on his own since opening his office in 1980. Not widely known outside Portugal, Souto de Moura designed the new stadium in Braga in 2004, which, like much of his work, has strong, highly legible forms. There he blasted granite from the site that was later crushed to make concrete for the building.

Check out some of De Moura’s work after the jump.

Unveiled>Amanora Apartment City by MVRDV

International
Friday, March 25, 2011
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Phase one of MVRDV's Amanora Apartment City in Pune, India (all images courtesy MVRDV).

Like its neighbor to the northeast, India is urbanizing at break-neck speed. Much of the resulting development takes the shape of monotonous towers and slabs designed to house the maximum number people as quickly as possible. The innovative Dutch firm MVRDV’s project Amanora Apartment City punches through, twists, and slices off pieces of a monolithic superstructure, to create a new park-side landmark within a largely undifferentiated urban field.

Read More

BIG’s First Step into the Final Frontier

International, Newsletter
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
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Courtesy BIG

A reflective sphere floats above a highway outside Stockholm in BIG's winning "Energy Valley" master plan (Courtesy BIG).

BIG won’t let its ambitions be impeded by the laws of physics–namely, gravity. For a competition to plan and design the area around the Hjulsta Intersection, a massive highway infrastructure project just north of Stockholm, BIG teamed up with firms Grontji and Spacescape to create “Energy Valley,” and their winning master plan addresses not only the area around the highway interchange but also above it. The plan’s surreal defining feature is “a reflective, self‐sustaining hovering sphere mirroring Stockholm as it is, new and old, creating a 180 degree view of the area for the drivers on their way in or out of the city.”

Covered with photovoltaic film and tethered to the ground, this mysterious giant orb would supposedly generate enough solar and wind power to keep itself aloft while also providing power for over 200 surrounding houses. Read More

Unveiled> INABA′s Norwegian Skylight

International
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
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Courtesy INABA

Courtesy INABA

INABA has won a competition to design a permanent art work for the new concert hall in Stravanger, Norway. Called Skylight, the approximately 43 foot tall helix-like form will be visible to city through the transparent glass cladding of the five story great hall. At night colored, artificial light will animate the form and indicate cues like curtain calls. During the day it will reflect natural light throughout the space.

Read more and check out a gallery after the jump.

Plumen Light Bulb Wins Design of the Year

International
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
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If one of the main complaints lodged against the compact fluorescent lightbulb is that it’s ugly, all that’s about to change with the Plumen 001. The energy efficient bulb has been hailed as one of the first major re-designs of the CFL, and today, it won Brit Insurance Product Design of the Year 2011.

Created by product designer Samuel Wilkinson and British electronics company Hulger, the Plumen is made out of two interwoven glass tubes. The curved design has a new silhouette from every angle. In addition to radiating warm white light, it uses 80% less energy and lasting eight times longer than incandescents. Read More

Video> Subterranean City of Ants Unearthed

International, Newsletter
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
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Unearthing a giant ant colony (Still from video)

Unearthing a giant ant colony (Still from video)

Architecture built by other species can be just as fascinating as our own. Take this excavation of a giant ant colony covering 50 square meters and descending 8 meters into the ground. Researchers filled the (hopefully abandoned) insect city with ten tons of cement and proceeded to excavate the surrounding dirt, revealing hidden tunnels and fungi farms. According to the film, the ant colony was also designed with good ventilation in mind. In all, it’s estimated that the ants moved some 40 tons of earth to create their metropolis. (Via Swiss Miss.)

Watch the video after the jump.

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Swooping Bridges of Google Earth

Millau Bridge (Google Earth via Clement Valla)

Millau Bridge (Google Earth via Clement Valla)

Brooklyn-based architect and designer Clement Villa has collected a series of Google Earth views of bridges that appear to have melted, succumbing to gravity, and hanging languidly across their respective terrains, offering a surreal nod to Dali’s Persistence of Memory. (Via Notcot.)

Check out a few more examples after the jump.

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Mixed Media> SHoP Talk: Botswana Innovation Hub

International
Monday, March 7, 2011
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The roofscape of the SHoP-designed Botswana Innovation Hub.

With over 270,000 square feet and costs projected at $50 million, the Botswana Information Hub is ambitious on many levels, both literally and figuratively. The winner of an international competition, the SHoP-designed research campus brings green technology to the Gaborone, Botswana.

The sinuous structure merges into the landscape, with various levels seeming to kinetically lift from the earth. An “energy blanket” roofscape blends solar and water re-use systems into the sweeping composition. Gregg Pasquarelli tells AN all about it.

Check out the interview after the jump.

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