Als Well With Alsop

International
Thursday, October 1, 2009
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Will Alsop with his new boss, Peter Morrison of RMJM. (Courtesy RMJM)

Will Alsop with his new boss, Peter Morrison of RMJM. (Courtesy RMJM)

As suspected, Will Alsop wasn’t out of the game for long. The foul-mouthed StirlingPrize winner announced less than two months ago that he was leaving Archial, né SMC, the British architectural conglomerate that had bought up his smallish practice but three years earlier. Now BD reports that Alsop has teamed up with RMJM, and he will launch an atelier within the international powerhouse based in Battersea called Will Alsop at RMJM. “I like the overall vision they have for the future and the fact that it’s really global,” Allsp told BD. “In Archial, the only international bit was me.” Read More

Solar Communications

International
Friday, September 18, 2009
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The photovoltaic tower can be affixed to existing cell phone towers to produce on-site electricity to power broadcasting equipment. (Courtesy MDAA)

The photovoltaic tower can be affixed to existing cell phone towers to produce on-site electricity to power broadcasting equipment. (Courtesy MDAA)

On the occasion of the 2009 G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy, architecture firm MDAA (Massimo d’Alessandro & Associati) of Rome designed a photovoltaic tower to power an existing cellular communications aerial. The installation brought to life an idea that has been paddled about quite a bit in recent years: equipping our existing infrastructure with energy-producing technology. After the G8 tower was erected, MDAA designed a more efficient version for Vodafone (the largest mobile network operator in the world). The new tower raises the design quality, lowers  the use of materials, and is capable of producing 15KWp, enough to run broadcasting equipment. Check out that design, as well as more on the G8 tower, after the jump. Read More

Norway Gets Fresh

International
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
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Duo (all images courtesy LK Hjelle).

While Denmark, Sweden, and even Finland may better known as leaders in design, in recent years the small family-owned Norwegian company LK Hjelle has been working with the collaborative Norway Says to produce innovative contemporary furniture that should be better known in the US. The company, best known for its more traditional upholstered furniture, has embraced contemporary designs, both for seating and tables, that are practical and well made with a fresh, lighthearted sensibility. Read More

Green Tremors

International
Monday, September 14, 2009
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The deep drilling involved in geothermal power production can induce earthquakes.

The deep drilling involved in geothermal power production can induce earthquakes.

Icarus. The Tower of Babel. We all know what can happen when humans reach too high. Well, apparently reaching too low can also have some negative side effects. In mid-August, a geothermal power plant under construction in Germany set off a trembler that registered at 2.7 on the Richter scale. A similar project in Basel, Switzerland, set off successive earthquakes in 2006 and 2007, one registering as high as 3.4. While some seismic activity has always resulted from geothermal installations, a new process which digs deeper and involves fracturing solid rock, rather than harvesting existing steam beds, both promises to increase power production and, evidently, earthquakes. The news is disheartening, considering that a report from the Department of Energy that came out earlier this year cast geothermal energy as real possibility for significantly reducing our reliance on fossil fuels in a relatively short time frame.

Euro Bulb Ban Begins

International
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
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Environmentalists feel that banning incandescent light bulbs is a no brainer.

Environmentalists feel that banning incandescent light bulbs is a no brainer.

Europe’s ban on incandescent light bulbs went into effect today. A New York Times report filed yesterday from Brussels brought home the air of ambivalence that has accompanied the prohibition, relating tales of some Europeans jumping eagerly on the compact fluorescent (CFL) bandwagon, others racing out to stockpile the old bulbs before retailers run out, and still others wondering, “Why are we switching?” The european ban can be seen as a bellwether for a similar phasing out that will begin to take place here in the U.S. in 2012, which I wrote about in the editorial for our 2008 Lighting Issue. Just to recap, while there is no argument in terms of the energy savings that incandescent replacement technologies such as CFLs offer, they do come with their own problems: they cost more, come with embedded electronics, contain mercury, and, most important for designers, they do not render color as well. And, let’s not forget, in certain places incandescent light bulbs’ inefficiency is a boon.

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Making Buildings Dream

International
Monday, August 10, 2009
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From Germany via Dangerous Minds comes this stunning 3-D architectural illusion: A square building appears possessed, its facade rippling, segmenting and mutating. Giant hands manipulate the building’s surface and then dissolve. A wave ripples through the building’s bricks as if it were shivering. Read More

Unforgettable Stage

International
Thursday, August 6, 2009
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The 4,000-square-foot video screen is made up of 800 LED Panels. It also expands and contracts.

The 4,000-square-foot video screen is made up of 888 LED Panels. It also expands and contracts.

Engineering firm Buro Happold is known for designing innovative structures. The glazed canopies it suspended above the courtyards of the Smithsonian and the British Museum baffle the mind with their seeming lightness. And the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic, on which the firm collaborated with fellow UK native Grimshaw, introduced upstate New York to some of the most space-age forms it has seen since Whitley Streiber’s Communion. Now the firm—along with designers Hoberman Associates and Innovative Designs—has turned its expertise to the world of rock and roll with its structural design for an expanding 4,000-square-foot video screen that will accompany U2 on their current 360º tour. Made up of 888 LED panels (500,000 pixels) the screen weighs 32 tons, can expand and contract from 23 feet tall to 72 feet tall in 90 seconds, and can be assembled in 8 hours and broken down into portable pieces in 6 hours. More pics and some videos after the jump. Read More

Alsop Retires (For Now)

International
Thursday, August 6, 2009
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Alsop (Courtesy Alsop Architects)

Alsop (Courtesy Alsop Architects)

Our compatriots across the Pond report today that Will Alsop, “British architecture’s most colourful personality,” is leaving his eponymous firm.

Following 30 years of running a private practice, the 61-year-old has told BD that he will shortly hand over day-to-day management of Battersea-based Alsop to others, in order to devote more time to painting and teaching.

The paper goes on to say that it’s an amicable departure, with Alsop staying on as a consultant to the Archial-overseen firm (for an American referent, think WSP or Aedes), though there are also hints of a falling out, and even the suggestion the fanciful designer could start up his own independent firm should he so desire. Read More

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OMA Pixilates Bangkok

International
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
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Ole Scheerens MahaNakhon tower. (Courtesy OMA)

Ole Scheeren's MahaNakhon tower. (Courtesy OMA)

It was only a matter of time, perhaps, before Bangkok boasted it was going to erect the tallest tower in the land. And where there’s bravado, there’s often the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). This fall construction is to begin on MahaNakhon, a 77-story, 1.6 million-square-foot tower, designed by OMA partner Ole Scheeren. Read More

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Grass Not Greener at Serpentine

International
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
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Caption TK

Japanese perfection meets British bodginess. (Andrew Mead)

The excitement over the annual Serpentine Pavilion in London’s Kensington Gardens often has more to do with the modish names that are commissioned than the quality of their designs. But after last year’s ponderously wooden effort from Frank Gehry, the Serpentine has struck lucky this summer with an elegant pavilion by SANAA. Read More

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Yona Friedman to Design Afghan Museum

International
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
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The Virtual Museum overlaid on the Bamiyan Caves. (Courtesy Association Afghanculture)

The Virtual Museum overlaid on the Bamiyan Caves. (Courtesy Association Afghanculture)

The superlative 86-year-old designer Yona Friedman—widely known for his Ville spatiale and the 1956 CIAM Manifeste de l’architecture mobile—has been selected by the Paris-based group Afghanculture to design a digital Museum of Afghan Civilization. Read More

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The Past Imperfect

International
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
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For the 53rd Venice Art Biennial, Jorge Otero-Pailos, a professor of preservation at Columbia, made a cast of the pollution on a wall of the Doge’s Palace on the Palazzo San Marco. Trained as a conservationist, he painted liquid latex directly onto the wall and then carefully removed the cast in one sheet. The result, The Ethics of Dust, Doge’s Palace, Venice, 2009, seen in this video, is a luminous scrim that preserves the residue accrued overtime.

Such pollution is typically seen negatively, but Otero-Pailos sees it as a record of human activity and questions the impulse to erase these traces of the past.

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