Turkeys strut, peacocks preen, and bowerbirds design. Of all the strange things that male birds do to attract a mate, the bowerbird's ritual is the only one that could make it into the MoMA. They use two distinct types of "architecture" and have a keen eye for color as well.
Once mating season rolls around, these Oceanican birds start gathering sticks and using them to erect structures called bowers. Amusingly, the bowerbirds pick one of two architectural styles, depending on their subspecies. One type is a "maypole" bower, where the sticks are arranged around a sapling to form a kind of teepee or cave:
You undoubtedly remember those slick renderings for the Lowline, the still-in-progress underground NYC park tentatively scheduled for a 2018 opening. The renderings were done by architect Kibum Park, a partner at James Ramsey's RAAD, where Park "[focuses] on single and multi-family residential, commercial and hospitality projects." Well, turns out Park's got a Coroflot page, loaded up with renders of some bee-yootiful hotels, restaurants, houses and apartments, the latter being the ones that most caught our eye.
The clients are of course anonymous and text descriptions are largely absent, but the images do most of the talking. Check out this NYC penthouse with its crazy, sun-dappled, yurt-like master bedroom with elevated library:
We wondered how our neighbors across the pond deal with roofborne snow and ice hazards, and Switzerland-based reader Christian put us on to Schneestops. Having been used in the Alpines for over 30 years, Schneestops ("snow stops") are a simple, clever, and retroactively-installable solution to prevent large chunks of ice or snow sliding off of your roof and harming whatever's beneath them. (Check out the wrecked Honda in our last entry on the subject.)
The idea behind Schneestops is pretty brilliant: Assuming your roof is built strongly enough to handle the weight of snow, as they are in the Alpines, and assuming your roof is watertight, as it should be, then it's better to actually hold the snow in place on top of your roof, like this:
Snow serves as an excellent insulator, so you might as well get a little extra R value from Mother Nature's wintry gift.
To that end, Schneestops are metal brackets with a right angle placed in the bottom end:
What happens is, when you space them out into a diamond grid on your roof...
On a daily basis, I pass the Maya Lin-designed Museum of the Chinese in the Americas, and I hate looking at it. It's a constant reminder of what happens when people don't design and build things to endure in the actual environments they're meant to inhabit. And while this is an annoyance in product design, I find it unforgivable in architecture, as buildings are meant to stand the test of time.
Lin has designed the museum's protruding awning to be flat, and chosen wood as the material. Fail and fail. The flat design means rainwater and snow pool on top of the thing, gradually rotting it away; and when the snow begins to melt and drip off in several spots, and you can see the results on the poorly-finished wood.
Update: An earlier version of this story misreported that the structure works like a cooling tower.
The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 are pleased to announce the winner of this year's Young Architects Program (YAP), an annual call for proposals for a temporary outdoor installation for the converted schoolyard space in Long Island City. In keeping with the institution's mission to support contemporary art, architecture and design practice, the entries invariably err on the side of experimental even as they meet a brief to 1.) provide shade, seating and water, and 2.) address environmental issues, including sustainability and recycling. New Yorkers and well-heeled visitors alike have probably encountered one of these structures during MoMA PS1's weekly Warm-Up summer concert series, when these spectacular projects serve to elevate the courtyard (literally, at times) from a humble outdoor venue to a visionary social space.
The winner of the 15th YAP is The Living, an architectural practice led by principal David Benjamin, whose "Hy-Fi" is billed as a "100% organic" structure. Designed using "biological technologies combined with cutting-edge computation and engineering," the ambitious eco-edifice comes in at roughly three stories tall, with its lower portions constructed from organic bricks developed in conjunction with bio-material specialists Ecovative. Its upper extremities are made from hollow reflective bricks—"produced through the custom-forming of a new daylighting mirror film"—by 3M, which will first be used as the "growing trays" for the corn+'shroom bricks.
The organic bricks are arranged at the bottom of the structure and the reflective bricks are arranged at the top to bounce light down on the towers and the ground. The structure inverts the logic of load-bearing brick construction and creates a gravity-defying effect—instead of being thick and dense at the bottom, it is thin and porous at the bottom.
That's the SeaOrbiter, a 200-foot tall floating platform for aquatic exploration, and construction on it is due to begin this spring. It is the brainchild and passion project of a French ocean explorer named Jacques—no, not that one: Jacques Rougerie, a "sea architect" who has spent over a decade designing and securing funding for the concept, in addition to his 30 years of research in subsea architecture.
Slightly over half of the structure will be submerged, and as you can see the core of the design is a sort of eight-story building housing a variety of labs and living quarters for the crew. The underside of the structure houses dive pits, special pressurized living quarters and "underwater garages." Human divers living at atmospheric pressure can get down to 50 meters below the surface, while "saturation divers" living in the pressureized chambers can get down to 100 meters; beyond that, the SeaOrbiter will deploy exploration vehicles that can travel down to 1,000 meters, and will also deploy a bad-ass diving drone that can descend to 6,000 meters.
From Seinfeld to Friends, from Rhoda to The Odd Couple, NYC apartments are always depicetd on television as being ridiculously huge. Of course that's a far cry from reality, but at least one show has not only got the scale correct, but has actually injected elements of space-saving design into it: Charlie's sub-200-square-foot studio apartment on HBO's "Girls."
I don't watch the show and don't know if the apartment still figures into the storyline, but a couple years ago the L.A. Times ran a feature on the fictional apartment's design, cleverly created by production designer Laura Ballinger Gardner. While it is in fact a set, it's pretty stunning how simultaneously realistic and tasteful it looks. On top of that, the design solutions to small-space storage and living, from the bed-topping loft-lounge with storage stairs to the "Mondrian-inspired birch plywood" storage wall to the bedsprings-cum-pot-rack, would be a welcome addition to many an NYC studio.
What's the opposite of a scale model? A Bauprofil fits the profile: Guardian architecture critic Oliver Wainwright recently took a closer look at what he called 'ghost buildings,' a Swiss concept, also known as baugespanne, in which a life-size, low-cost 'wireframe' limns a proposed building project in situ. "Constructed from metal rods or wooden poles, fixed in place by wire guy ropes, the Swiss baugespanne or bauprofile are usually erected for a month, outlining the full height of the proposed development, with protruding markers to indicate the angle of the roof and direction of the walls," Wainwright writes. "For taller buildings, tethered balloons can be used, and helicopters have even been employed to hover at a specified height for the tallest towers."
Of course, I initially thought he was referring to the Chinese ghost town phenomenon, the utterly desolate planned communities that seem to crop up, mirage-like, in the hinterlands of the Mainland. Indeed, Wainwright had covered the closely related saga of Zaha Hadid's Galaxy SOHO in Beijing—namely, that it's but a parametric shell of a building—before I (full disclosure) met him during Beijing Design Week last October. Given the generally overambitious and bloated real estate development business in China, it's egregious but perhaps not unexpected... and, in short, flies in the face of the highly prudent Swiss approach.
Everyone from dog trainers to engineers of hydroelectric dams will tell you to work with nature, not against it. So in his bid to design a tsunami-resistant house, Dan Nelson and his team at Designs Northwest Architects figured if they couldn't build a house to withstand tsunami waves, they'd come up with one that let the waves pass through it. Their 30-foot Tsunami House, situated on the waterfront of Puget Sound, is designed to remain structurally intact even when hit by eight-foot waves.
How they did this was to raise the house nine feet on concrete-encased, steel-frame-reinforced pillars. But the ground floor is still livable, to a degree: Every fixture and piece of furniture on the first level is waterproof, and there are no electrical outlets down here, just ceiling-mounted lights. The outer walls consist of large, garage-door-style glass walls that are designed to break away under the force of a wave, rather than provide resistance that could be transmitted to the structure.
Victor Enrich, a Barcelona based photographer, has pushed even his reputation of reconfigurations and twisted figures to the extreme. For his most recent project, he took an image of the NH Deutscher Kaiser hotel (hence the name Project NHDK) in Munich and translated the building's architecture 88 different ways. Most are impossible twists and turns, but some pass as surprisingly realistic.
Lifelike or not, it's fun to think about what the familiar structures in our lives would look like if we had the chance to get our hands on the architecture. Check out this video showing all of Enrich's variations:
Hello Wood has gotten into the holiday swing of things with a Ai Weiwei-esque installation. With 365 sleighs, some colored lights and lots of helpful hands, the Hungary-based art program put together a Christmas tree made entirely of the multitude of sleighs. The entire installment—which is on display at the Palace of Arts in Budapest—gives off the same glow and textures that we see in Weiwei's bike installations.
Lucky for us, the organization has created an online panoramic view just in case you can't make it to Hungary this holiday season. You can take a look at the entire structure from two vantage points: a passerby's view and an inside look at the core of the installation (which you can also experience on-site.
We've written about Jean Prouvé before, the designer who figured out how to create flat-pack houses some fifty years before Ikea did. While his aluminum Maison Tropicale is the one I remember from ID History, an earlier design of his, the Maison Demontable from 1945, is now making the blog rounds.
Prouve was truly a man before his own time, and his designs never saw the mass production they were so perfectly suited for. The Maison Tropicale, for instance, was intended for mass uptake in French colonies in Africa; only three were built and shipped, and two were reportedly shipped back to Paris. But French art dealer Patrick Seguin, who owns some nine Prouvé-designed houses, dismantled and shipped one of them to Design Miami. Once on site and uncrated, the Maison Demontable ("demontable" means "de-mountable" or "can be taken to pieces") was knocked back together by workers, and the process was time-lapse-video'd for all to see:
Anyone who has ever visited the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, would probably agree that it is one of the most fascinating buildings that he or she has ever been in the presence of. Even in pictures, one can sense the almost magical aura of this massive marble memorial, which appears as though it is floating. If it has a breathtaking effect from afar, it becomes truly mind-blowing when having a closer look—when one can see that all the delicate patterns that cover the huge marble blocks are actually stone inlays.
On a recent trip to India, I had the chance to learn how these stone inlays are made. They are in fact still done in exactly the same way that they used to be done in 1633, when the 17-year construction of the Taj Mahal began—except that the craft is applied to souvenirs rather than mausoleums these days.
The Taj Mahal was built by the great Mughul emperor Shajahan, in memory of his wife Mumtaz, who died giving birth to her 14th child. To create it, the most skilled architects, inlay craftsmen, calligraphers, stone-carvers and masons were called from all across India and lands as distant as Persia and Turkey. It is said that the most skilled individuals who had worked on the Taj Mahal had one hand cut off after it was finished so they could never duplicate this work again.
Fortunately, the artisans were still able to pass on their skills to future generations (although only to the men and only within the family), and, 14 generations down the line, I had the pleasure to meet some of their descendants, who demonstrated how these stone inlays—pietra dura or parchin kari—are made. The artisans work together as a cooperative, meaning each of them remains an individual artist with complete creative freedom, but all profits are shared equally.
The starting point are thin sheets of various (semiprecious) stone, from which the artisan creates delicate shapes, some only a few millimetres in size, like the little dot in the picture above. Only a (human-powered) grindstone is used, and the craftsman will inevitably also abrade the skin on his fingers during this process.
Each shape is ground individually and must fit precisely without any gaps. Once a perfect fit has been achieved, the marble plate, into which the ornamental pattern will be integrated, is covered with a layer of henna paint.
The single pieces that make the inlay pattern are laid out on the marble plate and their outlines scratched into the surface. The orange color serves as an orientation when carving out the individual grooves, into which the semiprecious stone pieces will be glued.
With dual degrees from RISD in both Fine Arts and Architecture, Phillip K. Smith has a good grasp of both expression and structure. Along with technical acumen in lighting design, these skills served him well for his "Lucid Stead" project, whereby he transformed a 70-year-old Joshua Tree homestead from weatherbeaten shack to web-friendly spectacle.
By replacing every other siding board and all of the building's apertures with mirrored glass, Smith has created a brilliantly striking structure that blends into the desert without disappearing or denying its true roots. (For you fans of '80s X-Men comics, it looks like something the character Forge would have built.)
And "Lucid Stead" fits in with the desert in more ways than one. Deserts offer more contrast that your average environment, what with blazing hot days and freezing cold nights. And as the sun goes down on Smith's structure, so too does the building shift into something entirely different: A semi-transparent structure where LEDs within reveal cracks and seams, allowing one to glimpse the cross-bracing within.
The lights on the Empire State Building are among those magical aspects of the city that New Yorkers take for granted—we don't really care what color they are, as long we can orient ourselves to the unmistakable beacon of Manhattan from whatever vantage point we're at. For what its worth, the colors change like the weather: for holidays, of course, from Independence Day to World Diabetes Day (today); sporting events such as the marathon on Sunday; and enough other special events that more often than not, the lights symbolize something—the full schedule is available online.
A very brief history of the lights: The very first lights on the tower were installed in 1956, 25 years after the Empire State Building was completed; these four beacons were replaced by floodlights in 1964 to illuminate the building for the World's Fair, and colored lights came in 1976, presumably for America's bicentennial. The ESB upgraded from metal halide lamps to custom LEDs designed by Philips Color Kinetics (PCK):
This system, which is unique to ESB, allows customized light capabilities from a palette of over 16 million colors in limitless combinations along with effects previously not possible such as ripples, cross-fades, sparkles, chasers, sweeps, strobes and bursts. In addition to greater control and management of the lighting, the new computerized system delivers superior light and vibrancy levels in real-time, unlike the previous floodlights.
Halloween marked the occasion for the addition of LEDs to the antenna, as well as a first-ever LED Halloween light show by Marc Brickman, pictured at the controls above. Those of us who have been to major cities in Asia are likely familiar with the* love of incandescent architectural spectacle, but it's always a nice treat for New Yorkers—after all, the Empire State Building remains the cynosure of our lovely skyline and I must say, aerial footage always gets to me. Check it out:
Over 30 films were screened as a part of the 5th annual Architecture and Design Film Festival, which took place from October 16–20. This year's theme of 'Urbanism' encompassed a diverse array of feature length and short films, as well as a series of engaging discussions... and, of course, some great popcorn.
The festival opened with a screening of Andreas Dalsgaard's The Human Scale (2012) which moves beyond Gary Hustwit's Urbanized (2011) and examines the Danish architect Jan Gehl's user-centered vision for 21st century urbanism. By following Gehl's team as they work with six cities across the globe, Dalsgaard offers a window into an iterative design process and emphasizes the effectiveness of community participation in new development.
The plans for Dithyrambalina orbit Swoon's original structure and take architectural notes from New Orleans' history, pictured front and center in this photo.
Two years ago, we wrote about street artist Swoon's plans to collaborate with the New Orleans Airlift to create a music laboratory called "The Music Box"—a musical shantytown, where everything in the structures could be played like an instrument. The New Orleans Airlift had come into possession of an old 18th century Creole home that had collapsed due to aging. Swoon worked with the group to create a plan to give the structure new life as a musical laboratory. And it was wildly successful.
Over 15,000 people visited The Music Box and 70 musicians played concerts in the temporary exhibit. As Swoon dreamed, plans for a permanent music laboratory were put into place. But instead of a single structure, it was decided that an entire sonic village centered around Swoon's original musical house building plan would be created.
The building on the left is an early model of Swoon's musical house in The Music Box.
All of the structures in The Music Box have some sort of musical element.
Enter Dithyrambalina, a Kickstarter campaign that may seem a little too "hippie" for your tastes at first glance. The goal is to create a permanent village built by musicians for musicians. The plan is to place the permanent village in New Orleans, but for now Dithyrambalina will take to the roads as a traveling act in an attempt to raise money for the ever-evolving project. The musical buildings will start popping up in May 2014 and—if the Kickstarter campaign is successful—five structures will be built by next fall.
The likes of Andrew W.K. and Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore were among the 70+ musicians who performed at the 150-year-old-house-gone-sonic-playground was around, when the makeshift venue hosted more than 15,000 people came to take part in the interactive elements of the exhibit and attend the concerts. With only a few days left on their Kickstarter campaign as of press time, the group is still $20,000 shy of their funding goal.
While the namesake might be a bit Burning Man-esque to me—'dithyramb' means "Chant of wild and abandoned nature sung by the cult of Dionysus to bring forth their god"—their mission to create an area where all kinds of music is explored and played can only mean good things.
Contribute to Dithyrambalina's Kickstarter campaign here.
After spending several years in the habitation department at NASA, developing living spaces for the International Space Station as well as multiple off earth exploration vehicles, designer Garrett Finney left in 2009 to launch his dream recreational vehicle, the Cricket trailer. At the recent Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, Finney introduced a prototype of the FireFly, an even more compact and utilitarian next-gen trailer, designed to fit in the back of a pickup truck or be towed by a small car.
The FireFly's interior is minimal, lined with folding bench tops for the sleeping/living surface with room for storage underneath. Although he initially hopes to attract the eco-campers who require the robustness of a trailer and the serious off-roader, Finney also envisions industrial or disaster-relief applications, such as deploying temporary base camps in remote and disaster stricken areas. Working with the small team of Evan Twyford (recruited from NASA in 2012) and Cricket Lead Designer Brian Black, the FireFly was designed in a three-week blitz after several months of sketching, mockups and CAD modelling.
"We worked with one of our local metal vendors to cut and fabricate the majority of the exo-skeleton," Black says of the development process. "Most of these skeletal components were laser cut and bent sheet aluminum which, when fastened together, create rigid structures."
Combined with the welded square tube sections, this created a rugged yet light weight architecture. We borrowed many construction methods and materials from our NASA/aerospace design experience as well as our experience designing and manufacturing with the Cricket such as the use of light weight yet highly insulative composite panels. These panels are high R-value, inch thick architectural siding with .04inch aluminum skin and an eps foam core. This use of aluminum and composites allowed us to create the rugged volume seen with this prototype while keeping it weight at just over 600lbs.
Evan Twyford sketching
Vehicle profile iterations balance ergonomic sizing and human factors concerns, such as bunk width and ceiling height, with technical sizing constraints such as truck bed dimensions and under-bench stowage.
Early concept sketching depicts multi-mode use on trailers, in a truck bed, and on a notional lander-leg package. Sketches also outline separate habitation module and frame/decking components with modular stowage/water tank compartments.
Firefly with deployable lander leg package. Concept sketch by Evan Twyford.
HEVO Power has been making headlines this week following the announcement not of the product itself but the fact that they've made the semifinalist round for the SAFE (Securing America's Future Energy) Emerging Innovation Award. That and the fact that they'll be launching a pilot program for their flagship wireless electric vehicle charging system in New York City in early 2014. HEVO Power is founder Jeremy McCool's approach to reducing America's dependence on foreign fuel—he served in Iraq before recently completing his Master's in Urban Policy at Columbia—a solution to overcome certain barriers to EV adoption (which we've previously explored in relation to BMW 360° Electric). Wired reports:
McCool and his crew opted for a resonance charging system rather than the traditional inductive charging system used by some smartphones, tablets, and retrofitted EVs like the Nissan Leaf.
Traditionally, inductive charging requires a primary coil to generate an electromagnetic field that is picked up by a second coil mounted underneath the EV to juice up the battery pack. But it's not particularly efficient, with large amounts of energy dissipating through the coil. With a resonance-based system, both coils are connected with capacitors that resonate at a specific frequency. The energy losses are reduced and you can transmit more energy at a faster rate and further apart.
Hevo's system comes in three parts: a power station that can either be bolted to the street or embedded in the pavement, a vehicle receiver that's connected to the battery, and a smartphone app that lets drivers line up their vehicle with the station and keep tabs on charging.
To be honest, I'm not so impressed by the fact that they 'blend in' to extant infrastructure, I see it as a kind of quasi-skeuomorphism: Granted, HEVO is not a vestige of an outdated sanitation system, but the manhole-cover aesthetic is essentially a marketing hook for a subtle, street-based. (Then again, the idea of transposing a charging port onto the traditional gas tank is as good an example of the S-word as anything.)
In any case, the pilot program—HEVO is partnering with NYU to install a pair of stations for electric Smart ForTwo's near Washington Square Park—is widely being hailed as a major step towards greater adoption of electric vehicles... ostensibly because New York City is a tougher crowd than, say, the Greater Bay Area. Yet a far more ambitious plan in Gumi, South Korea, is already underway. Engineers at KAIST have developed what (I assume) is a similar resonance charging system, SMFIR, which boasts a whopping 85% transmission efficiency and will be embedded in bus lanes in Gumi, under certain stretches of road.
The other upshot of KAIST's SMFIR system is that the buses can incorporate smaller batteries, which allows for weight and cost savings, as well as reducing the unquanifiable variable of range anxiety. With a bit of data, I'm sure someone could undertake a cursory CBA of whether installing a widespread induction/resonance charging system—cf. Citibike stations: start dense within a limited area and slowly expand, maintaining the same density—would bring down the cost of (and resistance to) the vehicles themselves, and what the break-even point would be. (It's also worth noting that only certain battery systems will work with these charging systems.)
Tomorrow, the Cupertino City Council will cast their final votes on Apple's dream headquarters design, giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to the project. Which is why just a few days ago, Apple opened their doors to the Bay Area News Group for a rare glimpse at their in-house scale model for Apple Campus 2.
A foamcore hack job this ain't. The "top-secret, living-room sized model" depicts the much-ballyhooed circular main building and the sprawling green campus in detailed glory, and we viewers are now able to get a sense of scale that was absent in the 2D renderings. Whether you call it the Spaceship or the Apple Ring, the four-story round building is nearly one mile in circumference and close to a third of a mile in diameter.
The circular shape isn't a product of whimsy, by the way. "The concept of the building is collaboration and fluidity," Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer told the San Jose Mercury News. "We found that rectangles or squares or long buildings or buildings with more than four stories would inhibit collaboration. We wanted this to be a walkable building, and that's why we eventually settled on a circle."
Culture and belief often are often expressed through visual codes. The origin and meaning of these codes are full of rich influences driven by historical evolution, invasions and colonization of societies, combined with ideas of modernity, status and progress.
The Indian state of Kerala is home to many unique visual messages combining the influences of Portuguese colonization and Christianity with architecture and beliefs of Islam, both through historical settlement and the contemporary influences of modern day migration and trade with the Persian Gulf.
Although Hinduism remains more widely practiced in Kerala, the region is home to many Christians and Muslims as well, and their visual presence through the architecture of places of worship has evolved into its own particular and unique statement. This imagery tells the story of a complex subcontinent distinctly different from the typical associations of India: Hindu deities, Mughal palaces and British colonial architecture.
Since both belief systems are migratory to the region, they bring with them the ideas and interpretations of the old along with a healthy dose of Indian modernism and assimilation with the natural beauty and color of the region. When separated from its source or origin, an idea begins to evolve into a new form. New strains can be seen in the Keralan edifices of belief or even in the way the Indian tradition of Yoga is now practiced globally through the development of new branches.
My earliest memories of hutong come from my first visits to China as a child: Pedicab drivers offering tours of Beijing's arcane labyrinth of largely unmarked alleyways that once demarcated the space between the city's traditional courtyard houses. Aside from the principle that upper class residences were closer to the city center, the actual construction of the homes—and the incidental passageways between them—was an ad hoc approach to urban planning at best, and subsequent divisions of the houses and land has resulted in a dense network of narrow alleys criss-crossing the enduring swaths of Old Beijing that have not been razed and redeveloped... yet. (Fun fact: Since courtyard houses, or siheyuan, traditionally face south for better natural light, the majority of hutong run from east to west.)
With hundreds of years of history embedded in their crumbling walls, many of these neighborhoods remain jam-packed with longtime residents; despite the fact that the original courtyard houses have been either been modified or left to decay beyond recognition, there is a tendency to romanticize the hutongs as a kind of cultural artifact, authentic both for their historic significance and their current conditions. But how do you preserve a dynamic relic—one that is defined by the fact that it is lived-in? One that, like an organism, is subject to both an internal logic and external factors? As Oliver Wainwright of the Guardian (a fellow member of the media tour for Beijing Design Week) reports:
... in numerous pockets of the old city over the last 10 years, neighbourhoods have been demolished and rebuilt in the name of heritage preservation... areas designated for historic conservation have been transformed into zombie recreations of themselves. Elsewhere, crumbling courtyard houses have been wrapped in neat jackets but their squalid innards left unchanged, adding a flimsy tourist-friendly veneer to give a picturesque backdrop for lucrative hutong tours.
But in Dashilar, things seem to be going in a different direction... the "nodal" Dashilar pilot strategy, developed by local architect Liang Jingyu from 2011, [facilitates] several model projects in strategic locations across the area—and show existing owners how investing in their properties and businesses could help turn a profit and improve the area.
Thus, although Dashilar has been among the major design districts during previous Beijing Design Weeks, the dense neighborhood saw more exhibitions than ever, including a pilot program that showcased works-in-progress from architects and designers examining the neighborhood itself. Here are a few of our favorites:
Hidden behind a faux-ramshackle façade on the Dashilar's main drag, standardArchitecture's "microHutong" was definitely a crowdpleaser, not so much for its ambitious scope but the fact that it was open for exploration. (The highly regarded Beijing-based practice was founded by Zhang Ke in 2001; although it hasn't been updated since December 2012, the News Feed on their site provides a nice survey of the studio's recent work.)
The installation itself was something like an inside-out treehouse: human-sized plywood boxes arrayed at varying heights and angles around a kind of micro-courtyard. Compelling? Certainly—children took to it as a veritable playground. Inhabitable? Sure—a studio assistant mentioned that some of his fellow architects (visiting for Beijing Design Week) had indeed spent the night in the cubic chambers when their lodging arrangements fell through. Scalable? Not so much—the team demolished an extant edifice in order to build the structure in situ at the rear of the space and essentially rebuilt an ad hoc façade / gallery afterward (credit where due to the tradesmen who made it happen in a week or so).
It so happens that I upgraded to the iPhone 5s just before I took off for Beijing Design Week, and once I'd acclimated to iOS7—arguably a more significant new development than the improved hardware—and a bout of jet lag, I found myself playing around with some of the other new features of the device. I'd assumed that the Slo-Mo video feature would be gimmicky at best (and maybe it is), but I must say it was surprisingly fun to explore a cinematographic trope with a smartphone camera.
The media tour of Beijing Design Week was, in fact, a perfect opportunity to play around with the Slo-Mo camera: Since the venues are spread out throughout Beijing, we spent a not insubstantial proportion of the time simply getting shuttled around town by a hapless Shifu. Several of major building projects—namely the Rem Koolhaas' CCTV Building and Zaha Hadid's Galaxy Soho—happen to be adjacent to major north-south routes in the Chaoyang District, which extends from 798/751 down to the historic city center (i.e. Tiananmen Square and Dashilar), so our time in transit doubled as an incidental architecture tour.
In other words, I had a lot of time to kill on the bus, and Slo-Mo video almost justified the horrendous traffic of Beijing... almost.
If you're designing urban homes for Japan, you've automatically got two built-in problems: Earthquakes and tiny building footprints. Japan's seismic woes are well-known, and the nation's space-tight cities mean you're always dealing with narrow frontage. The traditional way to combat the former is to use shear walls, which combine bracing and cladding in such a way as to prevent lateral motion. (Think of an unclad wall made from vertical studs, and how it can potentially parallelogram if the floor or ceiling moves; nail some sheets of structural plywood to it and the problem is basically solved.) The traditional way to combat the latter is to design spaces that admit a lot of sunlight and ventilation through that narrow piece of frontage. But that openness doesn't jive with shear walls, which by definition are clad.
Here with the solution is architect Kiyoshi Kasai and his "Wooden Box 212" construction method, which uses wood yet enables large, column- and partition-free spaces. As he describes the issue (roughly translated from Japanese),
With narrow-frontage urban housing there is a conflict with providing a window for lighting, ventilation and entrance and reconciling that with a shear wall on the same side.... The design preference in recent years has been to seek a sense of transparency and openness via a wide opening in the outer wall surface of the housing, but achieving this with conventional wood is difficult.
One of the most wonderfully bizarre pieces of architecture I've ever been lucky enough to experience in person is Antonio Gaudi's Parc Guell in Barcelona. That the famous Catalan architect was able to conceptualize and realize all of those undulating, organic shapes in a pre-CAD era of pencil, paper and T-square is as amazing as the nearly two-million-square-foot site. It took 15 years of building, from 1900 to 1914, before Gaudi was able to see it finished.
One thing Gaudi never lived to complete is the Sagrada Familia church, also in Barcelona. He had taken the project over in 1883, but by his death in 1926, some 43 years later, it was still less than 25% complete. A reported nine architects have attempted to complete the structure since then, with the process interrupted by wars and eventually modernized by the advent of CAD. And now it seems as if architect Jordi Fauli and his team will be the ones to complete it.
Check out this amazing animation put together by Fauli and co. of how the finished structure will look as it goes up:
For a sports arena that can hold 85,000 people to be built directly on a fault line does not sound promising. But that's what happened in 1923, when UC Berkeley opened their Memorial Stadium, presumably due to a lack of surveying technology. Over the years cracks began to appear in the building, as the Hayward Fault runs directly under the field—practically from goal post to goal post, as you can see below:
With a 62% chance of a 6.7+ earthquake hitting sometime in the next three decades, something needed to be done, and the University recently revamped the stadium. Did they completely tear it down or move it, like you'd think they would? Nope: As the school's Assistant Athletic Director Bob Milano Jr. pointed out in a 2011 article, "The alumni have some great memories at Memorial Stadium, and we have to make sure not to lose the heart and soul of the place."