My recent posts at World-Architects


Friday, February 17, 2017

Today's archidose #945

Here is a photo of Richard Meier's The Hague City Hall & Central Library adorned with a Piet Mondrian-esque mural as part of a celebration of 100 years of De Stijl. (Photograph: Happy Hotelier)

_DSC8371a City Hall The Hague

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Book Review: The Future Architect's Tool Kit

The Future Architect's Tool Kit by Barbara Beck
Schiffer, 2016
Hardcover, 48 pages

This "tool kit" geared to children ages 8 to 12 is a companion to architect Barbara Back's earlier The Future Architect's Handbook. Although I don't have that book, it appears that Beck builds upon the basics outlined in that book and includes materials for doing hands-on exercises. Specifically those materials are (as seen above) a pencil, a pad of gridded paper, a scale, and an eraser. The Handbook presented drawings of a house by fictional architect Aaron, and in turn the Tool Kit enables kids to design their own house.

Chapter one of the 48-page Tool Kit book is a review of the drawing conventions (plans, sections, elevations) described in the previous book; depending on how well a child grasps the idea, he or she might not even need the Handbook. From there Beck guides the "future architects" through the design of a house, from the site to bubble diagrams to programming to drawing plans and sections, to even building a model (spread above). Everything is basic, but that is fine. The book is not aiming for the next Robie House; instead it tries to give kids an understanding of representation and spatial thinking, and it does a good job in doing so.

That said, I must admit that there are challenges to the conventional ways of designing and representing buildings that Beck presents, particularly in regards to preteens. My eight-year-old daughter was none too excited to tackle designing a house following Beck's book, but I was blown away by the creations she made in Minecraft, which she was more than happy to play around with. That game, in which players shape environments by stacking various types of blocks, benefits from many things, especially it being first-person. That means users see the spaces they create as they create them. There is no translation from idea to 2D drawing to 3D model and beyond. (No wonder Bjarke Ingels contends that "architecture should be more like Minecraft.") With today's digital natives more comfortable with 3D graphics than pencils and paper, maybe it's time for Beck (or somebody else) to develop a digital tool kit for this generation of future architects.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Little Free Libraries

Chronicle Books, with Little Free Library and AIASF, has announced the winners of its Little Free Library Design competition. They received 300 submissions from 40 countries and selected three winners:

Judges' Choice*
Owlie by Bartosz Bochynski of FUTUMATA, London

Chronicle Books' Choice
Rachel Murdaugh of Clark Nexsen, Asheville, North Carolina

Stewards' Choice
Tree of Knowledge by CIRCLE (Ryo Otsuka, Lin Zihao), Tokyo

*Judges included Todd H. Bol and the staff of Little Free Library, Kevin Lippert of Princeton Architectural Press, Dan Cohen of Gramming for Good, Brett Randall Jones of David Baker Architects, Christina Jenkins of Project H Design, Renée Elaine Sazcı of AIASF, and the team at Snøhetta's San Francisco office.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Today's archidose #944: Valentine's Day Edition

Here are a some of my photos of The Office for Creative Research's We Were Strangers Once Too installation on display in Times Square until March 5th.

We Were Strangers Once Too
We Were Strangers Once Too
We Were Strangers Once Too
We Were Strangers Once Too
We Were Strangers Once Too
We Were Strangers Once Too

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Book Review: Garden City Mega City

Garden City Mega City: Rethinking Cities for the Age of Global Warming by WOHA & Patrick Bingham-Hall
Pesaro Publishing, 2016
Paperback, 384 pages

[Front and back covers of Garden City | Mega City | Image: Pesaro Publishing]

Two thousand sixteen was a good year for Singapore's WOHA: the firm had just completed Skyville@Dawson, one of their largest projects; their projects were put on display at an excellent exhibition at the Skyscraper Museum in New York City; they participated in the Venice Architecture Biennale; and they released their latest monograph, Garden City Mega City. It was at the Biennale that I first encountered the book by WOHA and longtime collaborator Patrick Bingham-Hall, the photographer, writer and head of Pesaro Publishing. A book launch took place at Palazzo Bembo, inside a darkened room whose walls were graced with drones-eye videos of their projects. Some covers of the books laid out on a table showed the lush vegetation covering their PARKROYAL on Pickering, while others showed a skyline of generic apartment blocks under an ominous orange sky. This prompted one visitor to ask if he could take both books, only to learn from WOHA's Wong Mun Summ and Richard Hassell that it was in fact one book in two halves: the 75-page Mega City, which focuses on problems; and the 309-page Garden City, which proposes solutions.

[Garden City | Mega City exhibition at the Skyscraper Museum | Photo by John Hill]

To get the most from the book, it makes sense for one to start with Mega City, in order to digest the problems that WOHA's practice tries to address. At this point in the 21st century the problems – pollution, global inequality, greenwashing, overpopulation, energy-hogging buildings, climate change, etc. – are widely known. It makes sense that these issues are not discussed in depth through lots of text; rather their is a 50/50 split between text and imagery that gets the points across. A couple important points come to the fore in this half: that most of the so-called mega cities are found in tropical, not temperate climates; and that for every vicious cycle in place (expressed in the example of Bangalore) there is a "virtuous cycle" that can reverse it (Dhaka is used as an example here). Even amongst the gloom, there is some hope.

[PARKROYAL on Pickering | Photo by John Hill]

The inverse side, Garden City, is as much manifesto as it is monograph. While certainly focused on WOHA's research, speculative proposals, and real-world commissions, their output is presented thematically, polemically, and piecemeal, rather than one project after another. Four chapters comprise the most of Garden City: Layering Cities, Planting Cities, Breathing Cities, and Rating Cities. As an illustration, within the first chapter are found five themes, the first being "multiple ground levels." After some bullet points on their benefits, instances of their use in WOHA projects are presented, including Skyville@Dawson, which is made up of 11-story "sky villages" linked by above-ground walkways.

Two chapters follow the four mentioned above: Prototypology and Self-Sufficient City. The first presents the projects that were touched upon in the earlier chapters, but it does so alongside WOHA's own five-part metric that ranks how well developments contribute to social and environmental sustainability. One could argue that LEED, Living Building Challenge, and other green building guidelines already to that, but they don't do it to the same degree nor in such terms as "civic generosity." WOHA's metrics are apparently more ambitious than other standards, yet they are still practical.

[Spread from Garden City Mega City | Image courtesy of PLANE - SITE]

These metrics point the way to the Self-Sufficient City, a master plan that incorporates the lessons outlined in the rest of the book, but done on a nearly unimaginable scale: 210,000 people on 1,800 acres of secondary rainforest in Jakarta. Although presented in renderings as 60-meter-tall buildings seamlessly blending with the forested landscape, I can only imagine an undertaking of this size destroying the forest as the project gets built – if it were built at all. Perhaps that is why I find myself more in favor of WOHA's projects in the middle of Singapore and other tropical cities. Such buildings as PARKROYAL on Pickering are a canvas for plants, in effect reintroducing vegetation into cities. With that in mind, there is plenty in Garden City Mega City to keep me – and I'm sure others – happy and full of hope.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Today's archidose #943

Here are a some photos of a bike store (designer unknown) by SANAA next to their Naoshima Port Terminal in Japan. (Photographed by Ken Lee.)

直島港ターミナル, Naoshima Port, Japan
直島港ターミナル, Naoshima Port, Japan
直島港ターミナル, Naoshima Port, Japan
直島港ターミナル, Naoshima Port, Japan

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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

How to Build in a Landmark District

New York YIMBY just posted some renderings of an infill project in Brooklyn's Clinton Hill Historic District.

The four-story townhouse is designed by Ramona Albert a Brooklyn-based architect whose bio includes experience at Front Inc, a facade consultancy with many big-name projects in its portfolio.

Perhaps her experience at Front influenced the exterior of the townhouse, which is elegant, unique, yet entirely appropriate to its setting. Per YIMBY, the "massive front arch [is] meant to evoke the many carriage houses in the neighborhood, including those just up the street."

The design makes me think immediately of a Philip Johnson house, though the articulation of the faux-travertine front facade is rooted in contemporary fabrication techniques, most likely gleaned from Albert's experience at Front. The rear facade, below, is understandable tamer, though it does make the modern design underlying the whole townhouse more apparent.

Although"Brooklyn Community Board 2 voted to disapprove the house, saying it diverges too far from existing structures," per YIMBY, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the design. I can see why.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Today's archidose #942

Here are a some photos of the Katyn Museum (2015) in Warsaw, Poland, by BBGK Architekci. (Photographed by Piotr Krajewski.)

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Sunday, February 05, 2017

Book Review: Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide

Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide: West Coast USA by Sam Lubell, photographs by Darren Bradley
Phaidon, 2016
Flexicover, 376 pages

[All photographs courtesy of Phaidon]

I've never considered that the idiom "never judge a book by its cover" should be ascribed to illustrated books. It makes sense in regards to works of fiction, where the text could hardly be distilled into a cover image. But covers of illustrated books, while not capturing every aspect of the contents, contain some accuracy about the words and images inside. Take the geometric cover of the Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide, which features five rows of patterned shapes: diamonds, circles, squares, hexagons, and triangles, from top to bottom. These shapes reference the five chapters that the 254 buildings are grouped into and they reflect the graphic design of the pages and maps, but they also capture the mood of mid-century modernism from a remove, much like the cover of Sugar's File Under Easy Listening. More subtly, the cover implies that the guidebook's author and photographer have a love of mid-century modern architecture that runs deep.

My first thought on flipping through the book was "what entails mid-century modern architecture?" It's an oft-used phrase, thanks to Dwell magazine, the popularity of Eames furniture and the sentimentality of baby boomers, among other things, but it's used so often that its definition is implied rather than explicitly stated. The same goes here, but a quick peruse of the guide reveals that Lubell and Bradley are as enamored with the expressionistic designs of sometimes anonymous buildings as they are with more orthodox modern architecture by name architects. Given this, the guide is a mix of well-known masterpieces and buried gems, many of the latter designed by architects who are hardly household names. These two poles can be found in the oldest and newest designs in the book (another thing not explicitly stated is what dates the book's mid-century modern buildings were to fall between): Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House from 1921 and Kendrick Bang Kellogg's Atoll Residence from 1978. Wright's house may not fall into my bounds of mid-century modern, but its impact on postwar buildings on the West Coast is undeniable, including Kellogg, who Lubell writes, "adored Frank Lloyd Wright" and "deserves to be recognized as one of the West Coast's masters."

The guidebook's five chapters focus on six urban areas from north to south: Pacific Northwest (Seattle and Portland), San Francisco, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and San Diego. Not surprisingly, the majority of the 254 buildings – 125 of them – are in and around LA, where prewar projects by Wright, Schindler and Neutra are found alongside numerous gems that have not found their way into architectural history books but deserve to be appreciated. Of the five, Palm Springs is the least "urban" place (the sprawling resort city is home to less than 50,000 residents), but its density of modern architecture is celebrated through tours and other events during the annual Modernism Week. Its inclusion here is obvious, as is the need to drive great distances to see many of the buildings in the book. Lubell's words and Bradley's photos – and the helpful practical information that's included (addresses, if buildings are open to the public and require a fee, websites, etc.) – should entice people to get in their car and do such a thing.

Friday, February 03, 2017

'Self-Interned' Noguchi

Head on over to World-Architects to read my take on Self-Interned, 1942: Noguchi in Poston War Relocation Center, an exhibition at the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City that examines how the months spent in a World War II internment camp impacted the life of Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi.

[Isamu Noguchi, This Tortured Earth, 1942-43 (cast 1963), bronze | Photo: John Hill]