A really BIG mosque

International
Thursday, May 5, 2011
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A public plaza is formed by carving away the corners of the new buildings.

Just when you thought  architecture juggernaut Bjarke Ingels and his firm BIG couldn’t win YET another commission in YET another country… the firm announced yesterday that it had beat out competitors including Zaha Hadid to lead the construction of a new cultural center in Albania’s capital, Tirana. The complex will consist of a mosque, an Islamic Centre, and a Museum of Religious Harmony.

The design team is made up of BIG, Martha Schwartz Landscape, Buro Happold, Speirs & Major lighting, Lutzenberger & Lutzenberger, and Global Cultural Asset Management. A triangular site plan is divided into the three main components, all carved away to form a central plaza oriented toward Mecca. images after the jump

Inside Osama bin Laden’s Compound

International, National
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
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Where was the world’s most wanted terrorist hiding all these years? Osama bin Laden’s final hiding place was a mansion in Abbottamad, an hour north of the capital Islamabad, according to the New York Times. The paper reports:

It was hardly the spartan cave in the mountains that many had envisioned as Bin Laden’s hiding place. Rather, it was a mansion on the outskirts of the town’s center, set on an imposing hilltop and ringed by 12-foot-high concrete walls topped with barbed wire.

The property was valued at $1 million, but it had neither a telephone nor an Internet connection. Its residents were so concerned about security that they burned their trash rather putting it on the street for collection the way their neighbors did.

Read More

Pictorial> Soumaya Museum by Fernando Romero

International
Thursday, April 28, 2011
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Soumaya Museum (Courtsey Adam Wiseman)

Soumaya Museum (Courtsey Adam Wiseman)

Mexico City’s new Museo Soumaya (named after the deceased wife of Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire who owns the museum) was finally unveiled to the public late last month. The museum houses 60,000-square-feet of continuous exhibition space spread over six levels and containing over 6,200 pieces from Slim’s art collection.

Designed by Fernando Romero of the firm FREE, the building is shaped like a woman’s bustier with a cinched waist. The amorphous structure is built with 28 curved steel columns of varying diameters, each with its own contoured geometry. While the exterior mass resembles a singular object, the skin is comprised of thousands of hexagonal aluminum modules.

While the building itself is almost opaque–it has no windows–the roof of the top floor is suspended from a cantilever, letting in natural light. The result is a monumental parametric design offering a dramatic sculptural addition to the city once celebrated for its tradition and hand-painted, colorful architecture.

Check out a photo gallery after the jump.

Unveiled> Ryerson University Student Learning Centre

Rendering of the exterior of the Student Learning Centre looking north on Yonge Street. (Courtesy Ryerson University)

Rendering of the exterior of the Student Learning Centre looking north on Yonge Street. (Courtesy Ryerson University)

Toronto’s Ryerson University announced plans this week for a bold Student Learning Center designed by Oslo-based Snøhetta and Zeidler Partnership Architects of Toronto. The 8-story structure will mix passive and active academic uses with street-level retail and will serve as the university’s front door on busy Yonge Street.

More renderings and info after the jump.

(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.

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