Letter from Rome: YAP Opening Night at the MAXXI

International, Newsletter
Thursday, July 7, 2011
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stARTT's illuminated fiberglass flowers (Courtesy James Stevens)

stARTT's illuminated fiberglass flowers (Courtesy James Stevens)

Imagine a warm summer evening in Rome. Then imagine stretching out on a cool, grass lawn underneath giant Jurassic tulips the size of a cherry tree. Their glow softly illuminates conversations over cocktails. Add a backdrop of the serpentine jewel of Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI museum, and you have theater.

Rome is all about theater.

Continue reading after the jump.

Kimmelman Bags NY Times Archi-Critic Post

International, Shft+Alt+Del
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
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MICHAEL KIMMELMAN (COURTESY WIKIPEDIA)

MICHAEL KIMMELMAN (COURTESY WIKIPEDIA)

An internal New York Times email, acquired by AN today, announced that Michael Kimmelman would start this fall as the New York Times’ new chief architecture critic. Citing Kimmelman as “one of the paper’s great writers”, Jonathan Landman, deputy managing editor, wrote how Kimmelman started at the paper of record as a music critic and “swiftly morphed into an art critic.” And now after four years as a foreign correspondent, he will fill out his all-purpose critic portfolio as architecture critic.

Continue reading after the jump.

Sustainability Martyred in Name of Saint Green

International, Newsletter
Thursday, June 30, 2011
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Eco-Pantheon, Rome 126AD (Courtesy Star Strategies+Architecture)

Eco-Pantheon, Rome 126AD (Courtesy Star Strategies+Architecture)

Has the green movement gone too far? STAR Strategies + Architecture examines the prevalence of “green-washing and the abuse of sustainability” in their project O’ Mighty Green, where they posit that the notion of “green” has taken on a life of its own outside of sustainability and has become on many levels a new sort of religion. As the architects said in their introduction:

Sustainability currently shares many qualities with God; supreme concept, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient; creator and judge, protector, and (…) saviour of the universe and the humanity. And, like God, it has millions of believers. Since we humans are relatively simpleminded and suspicious and need evidence before belief can become conviction, Green has come to represent sustainability; has become its incarnation in the human world. But sustainability, like God, might not have a form, nor a colour.

To demonstrate this absurdity, STAR has implemented what they call “sustainability as a photoshop filter” and clad a variety of iconic—and notorious—buildings with green walls, even invoking the spirit of St. Green, the patron saint of sustainable architects. The architects have taken a similarly snarky view of contradictions in preservation. (Via Dezeen.)

What are your thoughts? Are architects guilty of praying at the green altar?

Photos after the jump.

Architects Offer a Glimpse into the Future

East, International
Monday, June 27, 2011
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WORKac's Infoodstructure Brooklyn uses food to create new infrastructures

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.

Continue reading after the jump.

Piet’s Key to the Serpentine Secret Garden

International
Monday, June 27, 2011
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Zumthor's Serpentine Pavilion 2011 (Walter Herfst)

Zumthor's Serpentine Pavilion 2011 (Walter Herfst)

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.

Continue reading & see the plan after the jump.

Video> Theo Jansen’s Walking Strandbeests

International
Thursday, June 23, 2011
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Strandbeests by Theo Jansen made from yellow piping.

Strandbeests by Theo Jansen made from yellow piping.

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.

Watch the videos after the jump.

A Bittersweet Archi Film from Cuba

International, West
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
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Porro's School of Plastic Arts.

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

Revealing The Airplane Of The Future

International, Newsletter
Monday, June 20, 2011
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Aircraft manufacturer Airbus unveiled its conceptual designs for a futuristic, see-through plane last week in advance of the 2011 Paris Airshow, which began today. The “Concept Cabin” showcases what commercial air travel could look like in 2050, and is packed with interfacing technologies and design features to give passengers an ultra-personalized and otherworldly experience.

Continue reading after the jump.

Pictorial> Tour FIRST by Kohn Pedersen Fox

International
Monday, June 20, 2011
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(Courtesy KPF)

(Courtesy KPF)

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.

More photos after the jump.

Paris’ Lost Cafe from Hell

International, Newsletter
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
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Le Café de L’Enfer (Via How to be a Retronaut)

Le Café de L’Enfer (Via How to be a Retronaut)

Tucked away in in the bohemian enclave of Montmartre in Paris, Le Café de L’Enfer—the Cafe of Hell—welcomed all who dared pass through the mouth of a giant ghoul and a doorman dressed as the devil proclaiming, “Enter and be damned!” The exterior facade appears to be molten rock surrounding misshapen windows and dripping off the building while inside, caldrons of fire and ghostly bodies of humans and beasts covered the walls and ceiling. From an account published in Morrow and Cucuel‘s Bohemian Paris of Today (1899):

Red-hot bars and gratings through which flaming coals gleamed appeared in the walls within the red mouth. A placard announced that should the temperature of this inferno make one thirsty, innumerable bocks might be had at sixty-five centimes each. A little red imp guarded the throat of the monster into whose mouth we had walked; he was cutting extraordinary capers, and made a great show of stirring the fires. The red imp opened the imitation heavy metal door for our passage to the interior, crying, – “Ah, ah, ah! still they come! Oh, how they will roast!”

Quite a site! (In an epic battle of good and evil, another entrepreneur opened Le Ciel—”Heaven”—next door that was filled with clouds, angels, and harps.) The Café de L’Enfer operated from the late 19th through the middle of the 20th century. (Via How to be a Retronaut.)

A few more photos after the jump.

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TEN Arquitectos’ Hot Plan For Tabasco, Mexico

International, Newsletter
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
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The boomerang bridge as seen from above. (Courtesy Enrique Norten/TEN Arquitectos)

If opponents of New York’s bike lanes think bikers get the upper hand, then they’d be stunned to see what TEN Arquitectos has planned for the main drag of Villahermosa, the capital of Tabasco, Mexico. Of course, accommodating bikes is only a small part of what is intended to overhaul the city’s spine including an eye catching pedestrian bridge anchoring the project.

The perforated, metal-clad boomerang of a bridge links two lakeside parks, the Tomas Garrido Park and Lake of Illusions. At street level the illusion takes hold as the bridge morphs into the shape of a giant alligator.  A large amphitheater sits at its base with the park serving as backdrop. The project is set for dedication next week.

Read More

Blue Ventures Takes Buckminster Fuller Prize

Blue Ventures' conservation efforts on the coastal towns of Madagascar helped it take home the prize. Courtesy Buckminster Fuller Challenge.

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.

Watch a video after the jump.

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