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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Today's archidose #940

Here are a some photos of the National Art Schools in Havana, Cuba, which were designed by Ricardo Porro, Roberto Gottardi and Vittorio Garatti in the early 1960s but then abandoned in 1965 when the Communist Party came to power. Made a National Monument in 2011, the site was added to the World Monuments Fund's 2016 World Monuments Watch, which "aims to build on its new-found international prominence and highlight the need for a comprehensive and integrated approach to the management of the site." (Photographed by Trevor Patt, who has many more photos of the National Art Schools in his Flickr set.)


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Monday, January 23, 2017

Book Review: eVolo Skyscrapers 3

eVolo Skyscrapers 3 edited by Carlo Aiello
eVolo, 2016
Hardcover, 656 pages

Every year since 2006 the eVolo Skyscraper Competition has asked architects, students, engineers, designers, and artists from around the world to submit "outstanding ideas that redefine skyscraper design through the implementation of novel technologies, materials, programs, aesthetics, and spatial organizations along with studies on globalization, flexibility, adaptability, and the digital revolution." Those familiar with the competition know these are not "shovel-ready" designs; the winners will not jump from the drawings boards to reality any time in the near future – if at all. These are experiments: speculations on density, cities of the future, and how technology can be harnessed to envision and realize new realities. Or in the words of eVolo's Carlo Aiello, the submissions "are not traditional skyscrapers by any means but instead they are deep investigations of many aspects of contemporary architecture and urbanism."

The third limited-edition Skyscraper book collects 150 submissions, what are considered the best from the last three competition cycles. At 656 pages, it's a sizable book, big enough to give each project two spreads. Each project is documented through a consistent layout: colored background with title, author(s), project description at top, and four boards/images below that take up most of the pages' real estate. Each project is found in one of six color-coded sections/themes: Technological Advances (red), Ecological Urbanism (green), New Frontiers (orange), Social Solutions (blue), Morphotectonic Aesthetics (purple), and Urban Theories & Strategies (tan). Based on a purely quantitative measurement of how many projects are in each section, ecological urbanism and social solutions are the most popular themes explored by entrants.

Although the book is long and the projects are numerous, the book lacks an index. Combined with the fact the table of contents lists projects by name only (not the authors) and the winners are noted only subtly within their pages, the book is set up for browsing: This is a book to flip through and discover the "deep investigations"based on their images and words. But the book rewards a slow browse for those willing, since a quick flip can be overwhelming to the senses, given a degree of formal similarities and an abundance of hyper-realistic (and quite bleak at times) renderings.

That said, it's interesting to note, as evidenced through a map of all the submissions from the last three cycles included in the book, that the country building the most skyscrapers today (China) is not submitting to the annual competition as much as the United States, whose output of tall buildings last year was less than 10% of China's, per CTBUH's Year in Review. Nearly 300 competition entries came from the USA, though less than half of that (146) were submitted by people from China. Although I wouldn't ascribe too much meaning to this statistic, I'd wager that more submissions will come from China in future cycles, as younger architects in the country experiment with how tall buildings can be more than mundane, extruded masses of concrete peppered across new and old cities alike.

Speaking of submissions, those interested in participating in the 2017 Skyscraper Competition have until tomorrow to register (pardon the late warning) and until February 7 to submit.

Friday, January 20, 2017

BBP's New Berm

I've been a fan of the berm at Brooklyn Bridge Park, an earthwork that drowns out the sounds of the double-decker BQE, ever since visiting it and realizing just how well it worked. I wrote about the feature, part of Michael Van Valkenburgh's design for the park, back in 2014, the same time I snapped this photo:
Brooklyn Bridge Park

Last fall I was walking the Brooklyn Heights Esplanade when I noticed another berm, south of the existing one but winding instead of straight:
A photo posted by John Hill (@therealarchidose) on

Here is MVVA's better shot of the berm's construction:
A photo posted by MVVA ( on

Yesterday Curbed posted a rendering by MVVA of the berm and the rest of the Pier 5 uplands, which is located between Montague and Joralemon streets just across from One Brooklyn Bridge Park.

And here's how it compares to the construction as it was about four months ago:
A photo posted by MVVA ( on

Lastly, in case you were wondering about the two structures being built on either side of the berm, they are the park's maintenance & operations building:

And boathouse, both designed by ARO:

According to the Brooklyn Bridge Park website, this new section of the park will open later this year.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Today's archidose #939

Here are a handful of photos of the Netzquartier 50Hertz (2016) in Berlin, Germany, by LOVE architecture and urbanism. (Photographed by Artur Salisz)

Hauptquartier für 50Hertz
Hauptquartier für 50Hertz
Hauptquartier für 50Hertz
Hauptquartier für 50Hertz
Hauptquartier für 50Hertz
Hauptquartier für 50Hertz
Hauptquartier für 50Hertz

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Coloring Book of the Moment

I'll admit I have a love-hate attitude toward the trend of coloring books geared toward grown-ups. Although I like coloring books, even for adults (the mix of patience, concentration, relaxation, and mind/hand skill is beneficial) their popularity means there are just too many of them – 50,450 in Amazon's "Coloring Books for Grown-Ups" category! And with so many, they all tend to look the same, even if they take on different themes: cities, fantasy, flowers, animals, etc.

That said, find the bare-bones simplicity of Marc Thomasset's The Brutalist Colouring Book appealing.

[All photos by Geert De Taeye]

If Thomasset, who emailed me about his coloring book and sent me these photos, wanted to be funny, he would include one or two gray colored pencils in every order. After all, what is Brutalist architecture but concrete?

But just as other coloring books for grown-ups invite juxtapositions of color that could never be found in nature or whatever is being depicted, there's no reason such Brutalist masterpieces as William Pereira's Geisel Library in San Diego can't be jazzed up with color in more than just their glass surfaces.

The first edition of The Brutalist Colouring Book is limited to 500 numbered copies. "Designed and printed with love in Brussels" on thick recycled paper: 36 pages (cover 4 pages - inside 32 pages), 148 x 210 mm (5,8" X 8,2"). Only €12.00.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Old+New Book Review: Architecture in Austria

"Old + New" is a new series that pairs two books: one old and one new. Most of the reviews on this blog are fairly recent titles sent to me by publishers, but I wanted to expand the reviews to include older books from my library. To do so I'm using this series to review new books and, when appropriate, dig out an old book and include it as part of the review. This series does not replace my typical book reviews or book briefs or my Unpacking My Library blog; it merely expands how I present books on this blog.

Architecture in Austria: A Survey of the 20th Century edited by Sasha Pirker (Architekturzentrum Wien), Jaime Salazar (Actar)
Birkhäuser/Actar, 1999
Hardcover, 334 pages

Architecture in Austria in the 20th and 21st Centuries edited by Architekturzentrum Wien
AzW/Park Books, 2016
Flexicover, 440 pages

Ever since undergraduate architecture school in the early 1990s, I've been a fan of Austrian architecture. I've never taken the time to understand or explain why this is, but I've noticed my appreciation for everything from the early modern designs of Otto Wagner and his other Viennese contemporaries, to the avant-garde projects in the 1960s by Coop Himmelb(l)au and others, to the wooden buildings that draw people to Vorarlberg, and even to Raimund Abraham's Austrian Cultural Forum New York, which is still my favorite building in New York City from this century. Perhaps the appeal is found the diversity of the country's modern and contemporary architecture, which encompasses even more variety than what is found in these four examples. Whatever the case, I'm drawn to these two books that round up the country's best buildings from the last 100-150 years.

[Spread from Architecture in Austria in the 20th and 21st Centuries showing the timeline]

I found Architecture in Austria: A Survey of the 20th Century at a used bookstore in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, one of the many used bookstores in the city that had to close, since people now buy their books – new and old – online. It is a book of its time, and by that I mean the post-S,M,L,XL era of making architecture books: it is thick and square in format, a sizable book that glares at you from your bookshelf with its big "AA20" binding. It has about 100 projects presented in chronological order, with most of the selection (around 60%) from after 1975. The pages are heavy and matte, which contributes to the book's size but leaves room for improvement when it comes to the few color photos included. The selection of buildings is strong if unsurprising and the descriptions are short, but for a book that propounds the quality of a country's architecture, rather than scholarship into the buildings, the book's shortcomings are easy to overlook.

[Spread from Architecture in Austria in the 20th and 21st Centuries showing projects]

More than fifteen years later, the Architekturzentrum Wien, which produced the first book, updated it with more ambition and lots of improvements. The most dramatic difference is the new book's size: at what looks to be A4 size, the pages can hold a lot of information, and in some cases multiple projects, with the most important projects given two pages. Although the descriptions remain small, there is more real estate for photos to help in explaining the buildings. With glossier pages, the colors pop much better than the previous book. Furthermore, the strong binding and flexicover allow the book to lay flat on a table, making it easy to browse.

[Spread from Architecture in Austria in the 20th and 21st Centuries showing "war damage and reconstruction"]

With about 100 more projects than the previous book, the most dramatic change is the diversity of what's presented. There are plenty of buildings, but urban plans, unbuilt projects, and even texts are also included this time. Austrian architectural output is considered in a wider spectrum, echoing the ambitions of its architects and the varied ways of dealing with problems, be it postwar reconstruction, the revolutions of the 1960s, or today's sustainability. As in the first book, the last chapter is devoted to housing, and at nearly 100 pages it is a sizable chapter, with apparently more projects than the preceding chronological chapters combined. This chapter alone is worth the price of admission; it, like the book it's part of, it capably traces the social and architectural history of Austria over the last 150 years.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Today's archidose #938

Here are a handful of photos of the Campus North Residential Commons and the Frank and Laura Baker Dining Commons (2016) in Chicago, Illinois, by Studio Gang Architects. (Photographed by Trevor Patt)


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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Planning for a Distant Future

A couple nights ago I watched the PBS documentary Containment, a sobering look at the practicalities and uncertainties of dealing with nuclear waste. The film bounces back and forth between a few places around the world – a nuclear weapon facility in South Carolina, an underground burial site in New Mexico, and Fukushima, Japan – but of interest here are the speculative designs of artists, architects and other experts on "imagining society 10,000 years from now in order to create warning monuments that will speak across time to mark waste repositories."

["Landscape of Thorns" | Image: Screenshot from Containment]

Architect Michael Brill, who died in 2002, was one participant in a 1991 study commissioned by the US Department of Energy through the Sandia National Laboratory. In Brill's words, "DOE wants to make a permanent warning at this burial site of its dangers, to help prevent inadvertent release of radioactivity into our descendant's food chain, water supply, and air. The warning must endure, be found and un­der­stood." But without any guarantee that our languages would be around in 10,000 years (a duration based, I'm guessing, on the half-life of radioactive elements), something besides warning signs are necessary. Therefore Brill and his team focused on "a multi-modal communication system," a "'natural language' of form," and "endur­ing phenomena shared by all human beings‑-things that are species-wide now, probably always have been, and will continue to be."

They devised seven test designs, some of them covered in Containment:

  1. Landscape of Thorns
  2. Menacing Earthworks
  3. Black Hole
  4. Spikes Bursting Through Grid
  5. Rubble Landscape
  6. Forbidding Blocks
  7. Spike Field

See also Mammoth and WIPP's Expert Judgment on Markers to Deter Inadvertent Human Intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. The full Containment documentary can be watched here.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Mies in London

This looks promising: the REAL Foundation has gained exclusive access to the long-inaccessible and unpublished archive of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's unbuilt Mansion House in London, and they're planning on publishing the first-ever book on the project, Mies in London.

[Mansion House Square photo-collage. Image: RIBA Collections / John Donat]

To make Mies in London happen they're going the Kickstarter route. Watch the video below to learn more about the project and head over to Kickstarter to give them lots of £.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Book Review: Architectural Guide Berlin

Architectural Guide Berlin by Dominik Schendel
DOM Publishers, 2016
Paperback, 192 pages

In November last year I traveled to Berlin to cover the World Architecture Festival (WAF) for World-Architects (some highlights are here). Previously I'd visited Frankfurt, Munich and Stuttgart, but this was my first trip to Germany's capital, Berlin – a much overdue visit. To plan for what to see in what little time I had outside of WAF, beforehand I bought a used book covering projects completed in the 1990s. With so much construction taking place this century, that dated guidebook was missing plenty of what I wanted to see, even obvious projects like Libeskind's Jewish Museum. So I was pleased to learn that DOM was giving out a Berlin guide to WAF attendees. Compared to other DOM guidebooks (I've reviewed those on Venice, Pyonyang, Japan and Taiwan), this guide to Berlin is shorter, more selective, but also more thematically honed.

There are many consistencies with other DOM guidebooks: the simple cover, the paper size, the page layout and graphic design, the helpful maps and aerials, and the presence of QR codes linked to maps for easy smartphone navigation. But whereas the guides to modern and contemporary architecture in Brazil, Venice, and other countries and cities present hundreds of buildings, Dominik Schendel's guide to Berlin is structured as four tours and is therefore limited to buildings sited along their routes. Each walking, biking or driving tour tackles a theme, not just a geographical area: "The Former East: Unter den Linden," "The Former West: Kurfürstendamm," "On the Trail of the Berlin Wall," and "On the Trail of Plattenbau."

As might be obvious from the names of the tours, history is an important part of this guide, a bit more so than in other DOM guides: for one, the Berlin buildings highlighted are not limited to modern and contemporary projects. And perhaps more than the other DOM guides, Schendel provides a remarkably deep sense of understanding the city, not just buildings, through his tours. Given Berlin's obviously difficult and divided history, as well as its remarkable rebuilding since the Wall came down, it is certainly deserving of such a treatment. Speaking of the Wall, the most remarkable chapter is the third one, which is devoted to its absence. Those going on the tour (two hours by bicycle) trace the former dividing line between East and West, seeing in the process a small section of the Wall itself and a remarkable selection of the historical and contemporary architecture that graces this dynamic capital city.