I just finished my day of judging the Civic and Community session of the WAF in Barcelona. The festival competition is divided into sixteen categories, with each session winner going into a final round to determine the Building of the Year. My session’s jurors included the Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto and the Canadian (now living in London) Renato Benedetti, and we spent the day working our way through 14 entries, including the new British Embassy in Algiers by John McAslan + Partners, and a fine Mexican church and community center by Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos. Read More
This week, the second World Architecture Festival is taking place in one of the most design-conscious cities in the world: Barcelona. Sadly, the festival is located in the Diagonal Mar district on the city’s waterfront, along with the hotel that WAF sponsor emap provided to jurors (I am here serving on the jury for the festival’s Civic and Community award). At first glance, this entirely new district of the city seems to have more in common with Grand Rapids than the Catalonian capital. I mentioned this to a British colleague, who replied, “Are American cities this nice?” He’s right: We can’t even do modern urbanism better than the Europeans. Read More
Shortly after the dramatic fire consumed much of the TVCC tower in Beijing earlier this year, we speculated on the building’s fate. Well, it’s taken eight months, but Archinect directed us to an AP story in which OMA’s Ole Scheeren finally addresses the rampant concerns that have been plaguing the burned out building, and the prognosis is good. Scheeren said that the building is indeed intact and will be replaced—at what cost, who knows, though this being state-run television, does it even really matter? The AP adds that construction scaffolding is already up on the site, and Scheeren goes to great lengths to dispel apparently rampant and, as far as we can understand, ridiculous rumors that were the TVCC building to be dismantled, it would drag down the better known CCTV building because the two shared a structural system. Read More
We’ve noted recently the preponderance of architectural documentaries, particularly those concerns the fields “greats”—from Gehry to Mockbee, Kahn to Shulman. Well, now you can add Rem Koolhaas to the list, as Archinect points us to this trailer for a new documentary in the works entitled Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect. The film got a nice little write-up in—where else—the Seattle Times, which explains that the documentary is as much about Koolhaas’ arrival at architecture as the architecture itself. Though that often seems to be the case, especially with Rem. How else could such a famous architect declare: “One of the exciting things about architecture is it gives you so many reasons to be modest. Because there are so many levels on which you can fail.” But at least we get all those cool visuals produced by OMA and AMO of buildings melding and morphing, as though there were a firm better suited to the big screen. After all, he’s a multimedia star, having already conquered music and typography. Read More
This innovative British firm is on the shortlist for the 2010 Stirling Prize. The building they’re brainstorming is the firm’s first U.S. commission. The site is somewhere on Cooper Square. Morphosis is the architect of record.
Their work is the focus of a new book, Feasibility: The New Polemic (The Too Little Too Late Press, 2009).
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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