THE ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW | 1402 | december 2013
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The Architectural Review Issue number 1402 December 2013 Volume CCXXXIV Founded 1896 Ad augusta per angusta
Overview Buenos Aires biennial; Urban Age conference, Rio; curating architecture at Yale; Thomas Demand and Caruso St John
View from Rangoon, Burma
Viewpoints William JR Curtis
ar+d Awards for Emerging Architecture
Joint Winner: RAAAF/Atelier de Lyon Bunker 599, Culemborg, The Netherlands
Joint Winner: Studio Weave Lullaby Factory, London, UK
Joint Winner: SPEECH Tchoban & Kuznetsov Museum for Architectural Drawing, Berlin, Germany
Joint Winner: Hernan Diaz Alonso Pitch Black Installation, Vienna, Austria
Highly Commended San Jorge Health Faculty, Villanueva de Gállego, Spain; Observation Tower, Hemer, Germany; Jianamani Visitor Centre, Qinghai, China; Oceanographic Observatory, Banyuls-sur-Mer, France; Makoko Floating School, Lagos, Nigeria; Bamboo Courtyard Teahouse, Yangzhou, China; Cemetery Hall, Sayama, Japan; Rubido Romero Foundation, Galicia, Spain; Education Centre, Nyanza, Rwanda; Sky Courts Exhibition Hall, Chengdu, China
Special Report The Active Third Age and the future of the city
Reviews Pier Vittorio Aureli; masterplanning; photography and architecture; libraries; Tony Fretton on John Glew
Pedagogy ESCALA, Edinburgh
Reputations Howard Roark
122 Cover: the sliced concrete of a Second World War pillbox in the Netherlands gleams like polished granite in RAAAF/Atelier de Lyon’s winning entry for this year’s Emerging Architecture Awards (see p30)
Folio Thibaud Hérem
‘To be able to speak authoritatively about historical events there seems to be an unwritten rule of academe that it is proper not to have been around (even better, not to have been born)’
Niall Hobhouse, p14
‘Architects are mostly apolitical except for the transparent worthies who eat grass, ride bikes and transmit contagious boredom in company’
Neil Spiller, p48
‘Pier Vittorio Aureli’s advocacy of abstinence instead of austerity is like arguing that to avoid the cigarette ban, you should give up smoking − that’ll show them!’
Austin Williams, p102
‘The West’s anxiety about masterplans that could be seen as anti-democratic or fascist, leads us to favour informality, which we confuse with transparency and equality’
Jack Self, p103
‘We have to be wary of fame these days; it is sick, perhaps even mad, certainly dangerous’
Tony Fretton, p107
ar | DEcember 2013 3
the architectural review
South Bank University and also our regular Pedagogy correspondent. This month he looks at the Edinburgh University School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture
James Parkinson is a planner who has worked for Yorkshire’s Regional Development Agency, and is currently policy officer for the RIBA’s thinktank Building Futures. This month he collaborated with Will Hunter on an Essay about the greying city
Knut Bjørgum is a senior landscape architect
Steve Parnell is former contributing editor of The
Matthew Barac is a senior lecturer at London’s
at Oslo-based Snøhetta. Currently living in Rangoon, he pens his View from the rapidly changing former Burmese capital
William JR Curtis is a critic, historian of 20th-century
architecture and author of such seminal texts as Modern Architecture Since 1900 and Le Corbusier: Ideas and Form. He gives us his Viewpoints
Paul Davies is an architect who teaches History
and Theory at London’s South Bank University. In this month’s Reputations he gives an insight into the fictional architect Howard Roark from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead
Thomas Ermacora is an urbanist-architect, artist,
strategy director and founder of non-profit Clear Village, creative regeneration specialists. He reports on the Urban Age conference in Rio de Janeiro
Adrian Forty was until recently professor of
architectural history at the Bartlett at University College London and is a prolific author. He reviews Concrete: Photography and Architecture
Tony Fretton is an architect who specialises
in residential and public gallery buildings. He enthusiastically reviews an exhibition of the architecture and photography of John Glew
Jonathan Glancey is an architectural critic and
writer who cut his teeth as assistant editor on the AR, and was architecture and design editor at The Guardian from 1997 to 2012. This month he writes on Bunker 599 by Rietveld Landscape and Atelier de Lyon, a winning entry of this year’s Emerging Architecture Awards
Niall Hobhouse is a trustee of the Soane Museum
and of the Canadian Centre of Architecture and collects architectural drawings. He is on the board of the London School of Architecture. He reviews Exhibiting Architecture − a Paradox?
Sutherland Lyall is author of a dozen books on
architecture and landscape, sometime buildings editor of The Architects’ Journal and editor of Building Design. He wrote the practice profile for Aedas in this issue
Architects’ Journal and holds a doctorate on the role of the architectural magazine. He assesses the Museum for Architectural Drawing by SPEECH Tchoban & Kuznetsov, a winner of the AR Awards for Emerging Architecture
Freddie Phillipson is associate director at Witherford
Watson Mann Architects and was site architect for their 2013 Stirling Prize-winning Astley Castle. He discusses the collaborations of Adam Caruso and Thomas Demand in Overview, subject of a lecture and conference at London’s RCA on 5 December
Oriel Prizeman is the principal of Oriel Prizeman Architect and senior lecturer at the Welsh School of Architecture. She has a PhD in library design and last year her Philanthropy and Light: Carnegie Libraries and the Advent of Transatlantic Standards for Public Space was published. She reviews Contemporary Library Architecture and The Library: A World History Jack Self is a London-based designer and
writer. He founded Fulcrum, the Architectural Association’s weekly magazine, in 2011. In October he attended the debate on ‘Master Planning the Future’ which he appraises in Overview
Neil Spiller is dean of the School of Architecture, Design & Construction at the University of Greenwich, Professor of Architecture and Digital Theory, Founding Director of the Advanced Virtual and Technological Architecture Research Group (AVATAR) and a practising architect. He contributes his analysis of Hernan Diaz Alonso’s winning Pitch Black ar+d scheme Austin Williams is associate professor of architecture
at XJTLU, Suzhou, China. He is coordinating the Critical Subjects Summer School next July sponsored by the AR. He tweets at Future_Cities. In this issue he contributes profiles on the four winners of this year’s Emerging Architecture Award and reviews Pier Vittorio Aureli’s Less is Enough
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Editorial view Demographic shifts are redefining the relationships between generations
What defines an emerging architect? For the purposes of the AR’s annual Emerging Architecture Awards, it’s the simple expedient of being under 45. When the programme was first initiated in 1999, architectural prizes were heavily skewed in favour of lifetime achievement. There was virtually no recognition for those in the early stages of their careers. The AR’s awards are for completed work, so an age limit of 45 seemed reasonable, as it takes time to actually build something. Clients are generally reluctant to trust less experienced designers with big projects, so the process of being apprenticed to a large firm in order to learn your craft before going solo is a familiar route through the professional labyrinth. And while there are occasional instances of young architects bursting precociously into the design firmament (for instance Piano and Rogers were in their mid thirties when they won the competition for the Pompidou Centre), these are rare exceptions. Architecture is characterised by endurance and longevity: a long education, long training, long hours and long lives. The American design magazine Metropolis once produced an issue entitled ‘9 over 90’ and wasn’t short of plausible candidates. But as demographics shift and people come to architecture later or through more circuitous routes, is there a case for redefining the notion of ‘emerging’ to mean something slightly different? Rather than a fixed age limit, perhaps it could be a maximum of 20 years from qualifying as an architect?
Does a focus on youth preclude the contribution of older architects who might still be considered to be ‘emerging’? Some would argue that it does, so let us know your views. As Frank Lloyd Wright once remarked: ‘Youth is a quality, not a matter of circumstances’. It’s an aphorism that finds added resonance in how prospects for older people (especially in the developed world) are changing and what this new demographic landscape, unique in human history, might portend for new sorts of neighbourhoods, buildings and patterns of use. In the UK, despite a tedious media fixation with youth, 80 per cent of the nation’s wealth is held by those over 50. Advances in healthcare, changes in family structures, a more relaxed moral climate and technological streamlining are radically reshaping conventional notions of how to grow old. Increasingly, as a new study produced by the RIBA shows (p91), those in the ‘Active Third Age’ (between 60 and 74) are discerning, healthy, networked consumers. And, like the generations below them, they are both technologically aware and increasingly nomadic, confounding stereotypes of impoverishment and immobility. As society becomes more mutable and porous, architects will have a key role to play in responding imaginatively to the issues raised by these profound but inevitable political and demographic changes. After all, the young designers of today, whose award-winning work is featured in this issue, will be the Active Third-Agers of tomorrow.
Catherine Slessor, Editor
ar | decemBER 2013 11
Overview new haven, USA
Look back for anger
Reporting from a conference at Yale on the curation of architecture, Niall Hobhouse asks: when did radicalism become merely chic?
No protest here: Philippe Rahm’s naked display at the Venice Biennale, 2008 12 ar | december 2013
The first hours of any academic conference have me wondering what this is all about, and why I came. Sometimes the pieces drop into place the next day − even if the jigsaw isn’t anything like what was shown on the box, and with a parallel realisation that the ‘questions’ weren’t really the right ones. With a bit of luck the accumulating answers lead us into dangerous water. No doubt this is how knowledge is created, but it is a process that always makes me a little queasy. Exhibiting Architecture: a Paradox? − organised and splendidly hosted by the Yale School of Architecture − was held in early October. The School is one of the few institutions in the architectural world that has the credibility and resources to directly address any important topical issue in the field. It seemed to me, in this context, that the topical question might be why there are so many places just now in which architecture seems merely to be exhibiting itself; the important one is why this self-display is often so mindlessly bad. That the event also coincided with the departure of Barry Bergdoll from MoMA − where he has presided over a run of impeccably presented exhibitions − and with the circulation of Rem Koolhaas’s radical brief for the Biennale in Venice next year, seemed to offer just the immediate intellectual frame that any such enquiry would need. The organisers at Yale decided instead on the indirect approach − perhaps they were hoping to keep the proceedings within reach of the shore. On that first evening, Philippe Rahm, master-practitioner of immersive architectural environments, presented a catalogue of his projects. His gorgeous critique of our use of heat and light in interior spaces seems to require the comforting armature of an exhibition programme; actual inhabitation is something else altogether. The built work which emerges from the white cube is strangely
awkward. We were shown an apartment which offered a remake of the Merzbau for an eco-warrior; and in Taiwan a series of open-air cooling structures in a public park, which combined high-minded gesture with bland literalness − Disneyworld for the eco-warrior. Rahm and the practitioners who presented the following morning − mostly young Yale faculty working in New York − seem to inhabit a hermetic world, not unlike the artificial environments which they design. The architects as they described their work, failed to convince on the question of what they stood for, or why − betraying instead the familiar studied restraint, and the very familiar confusion between ‘curatorship’ and ‘practice’, of the artist-curator. My (unasked) question was why not, if you talk the talk (and you dress that way), just call yourself an artist and attach the work to a better developed market economy? Instead, Rahm, like Lear turning on his offspring, wondered if the curator wasn’t someone who hadn’t quite the courage to become a politician. The hipsters did squirm at the idea that calling a gallery installation ‘architectural’ was any way to change the world − or even to answer the conference question. The formal research papers began with an elegiac analysis by Mari Lending of the great wave of architectural plaster casts which, by the end of the 19th century, had drowned historicism in its own debris. Fragments of fragments, as she expresses it, impossible to put (back) together as a coherent history of anything, let alone of architectural form. This made for an appropriate overture to the papers that followed, focused on picking through the rubble of heroic Modernism, starting with This is Tomorrow at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1956, and ending with the Paper Architecture movement in Riga, Leningrad and Moscow during the 1980s.
To be able to speak authoritatively about historical events there seems to be an unwritten rule of academe that it is proper not to have been around (even better, not to have been born) while they were all going on. At Yale, we waited in vain for a heckled intervention by some wild creature who had really been there, then. For sure, as expressed in the measured scholarly tones of younger academics, there was a whiff of antiseptic nostalgia in their tales of far away and long ago. Mostly, the listener had to provide all historical context; when some was offered, the emphasis was on architects and a profession anxiously repositioning themselves in relation to the prevailing political establishment. Probably this is what must happen to the memory of any charged political event, as recollected by their actors in the tranquillity of architecture school professorships. The pale ghost of Giancarlo De Carlo, from the back of the Paul Rudolph Hall, might instead have explained to us that in those years − beyond the reality of there being little work and far too many architects − the assault on the traditional territory of the profession in fact came from the New Left, over a very broad front: from C Wright Mills, Deleuze, the Vienna Actionists, Land Art, the Red Brigades, even from Jane Jacobs. But not, certainly, from Mitterrand or Jimmy Carter. So if the story you want to tell is about architectural exhibitions as a form of activism or as a valid architectural practice in themselves, maybe it is important to have got this balance right. By this account there are rather fewer heroes, and they are the ones who seemed then to be refusing to fight in defence of their profession. Theo Crosby, with his ‘Pessimist Utopia’ of the Hayward Gallery show in 1973 and the flirtation with Prince Charles; EAT in Osaka, or Boyarsky’s AA as a kind of catacomb religion; above all,
The XIV Milan Triennale in 1968 was occupied after Giancarlo De Carlo (centre), organiser of the Triennale and a founder member of Team X, opened its doors to protesters De Carlo himself opening the door to the student protesters so that they could trash the XIV Triennale, and in particular his own huge photographic parody of the events in the street outside. In his keynote address, Bergdoll had reminded us that ever since de Wailly’s pop-up booth at the Salon, exhibitions have been understood as in the mainstream of what architects do as architects − sometimes as a research tool, sometimes as a statement of a polemic position, always as a way of touting work and reputation. The lecture condensed the work that Bergdoll has been doing for the Slade Professorship and the Mellon Lectures; it is perhaps a pity that he had not the time to deal fully with Wright’s Broadacre City model, or The Show to End all Shows − still the most assured and effective statements of their kind by any architect. To have done so would have provided the exact preamble to the
conference’s examination of the postwar exhibition, and softened the pervading impression that such events were rather messy failures that came from nowhere. And, apparently, that had nowhere to go. A touch more courage here from the conference organisers, and we might have come closer to understanding the strangest paradox of the last 30 years: that, even as architecture as spectacle − sur place, or in the museum − gets more and more attention from the public, the voice of the architect in ideological debate has shrunk almost to a whisper. To put this another way, it is quite right to understand the XIV Triennale as a painful and untidy performance. Mess will always be the condition of intense engagement, and it is the mess that makes those events in Milan 50-odd years ago a fine subject for scholars now. And its absence is just the reason that any thoughtful exhibition at MoMA
− on the repossession crisis or rising sea levels − will struggle to escape the suggestion of being an uneasy exercise in topical chic. What chance of finding angry crowds picketing the doors on 53rd Street? Or, next summer, closing the vaporetto stop at the Giardini?
São Paulo, Brazil
Rebel cities Roberto Costa Charged with political euphoria, the 10th São Paulo Architecture Biennale (running from 12 October to 1 December) takes the visitor onto the streets − literally. Earlier this year, over 100 cities across Brazil saw millions express dissatisfaction with poor urban conditions in the largest demonstrations of a generation. Caught in this particular moment in history
and urged to reform after the fiasco of its last edition, this year’s Biennale leaves its traditional precinct at Ibirapuera Park to use the city itself as a backdrop, asking questions like: in what ways are we involved in the consolidation of citizenship and public realm in urban space? What models to follow after the breakdown of global paradigms? Under the title City: Ways of Making, Ways of Using, curator Guilherme Wisnik and adjunct curators Ana Luiza Nobre and Ligia Nobre, try to reach out to a wide audience by placing their bets on the topics of urban mobility, public space and collective modes of design. Together with the São Paulo branch of the Institute of Architects of Brazil (IAB-SP) and the São Paulo Biennale Foundation (FBSP), the team had a budget roughly 10 times higher than the previous edition to rethink the event in the year of its 40th anniversary. ar | december 2013 13
The radical move was to spread the content across different places in the city; hitherto it had been hosted in a single building. The ‘network’ is composed of over 10 venues that were chosen first for their interconnection to the city’s mass public transport system, particularly metro lines, and second for the venues’ complementary capacity to address the Biennale’s theme in their respective usages. When the focus is not the isolated architectural project but the city as a whole, the hope is to unify content and form. The strategic centre of the Biennale is the Centro Cultural de São Paulo (CCSP). One section shows research done in the Brazilian towns that have grown the most in the past 10 years. Hand-painted diagrams and television sets sitting atop piles of bricks portray the development of industry and state-led social and infrastructural programmes. Conjuring the uncertain optimism of a construction site, the display presents the effects of the so-called ‘economical boom’ occurring in the country. Another exhibition about Detroit, on the other hand, shows the decline of the North American icon of industrialisation and Fordism. Today the city has a problem of population shrinkage and some empty plots have been turned into self-sufficient farms. Paradoxically, Ordos, in north China, is the ghost of the future (AR September). A video guides you through the city designed for a million inhabitants that remains empty, having been built purely on the logic of real-estate speculation. You start to wonder whether there is no alternative to this market-oriented model of city-making where cities have only pure exchange value. The curators hope there is, as should we. Scaffolding with various manifestations of protests that occurred recently in Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro and Wall Street reinforces the vitality of usage as the most important 14 ar | december 2013
value of urban life. You are then compelled to criss-cross the bridges of the CCSP’s central void to look for solutions in the, at times fuzzy, display of recent projects about the appropriation of public space. Perhaps learning about the process behind community-led projects in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro; or before-and-after photographs of Medellín, in Colombia; or seeing the possibility of demolishing a motorway to make a river-side park in Seoul, Korea, may offer successful recipes to the visitor. At Museu da Casa Brasileira (MCB) the architect is given the spotlight. A video interview lets you into Brazilian architect Eduardo Longo’s eccentric world of ‘Casa Bola’ and photographs illustrate the intimate life of ‘Moriyama House’ by Japanese architect Ryue Nishizawa. The thread to the Biennale’s theme comes back in the proposals by local architects and students from ETH Zurich exploring the possibilities of social housing in
Brazil under state-run programmes like ‘Minha Casa, Minha Vida’. Housing in the country is indeed a complex articulation of territorial, social and political challenges. At Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP), curator Wisnik’s background in the relationship between art and architecture comes to hand to explore the dualities of domestic and public space. The exhibition recalls the radical experiments being done in Brazil during the ’60s by vanguard architects João Batista Vilanova Artigas, Paulo Mendes da Rocha and Lina Bo Bardi, juxtaposed with artists Hélio Oiticica, Cildo Meireles and Lygia Clark. In some ways, the original drawings and footage of these maestros serve to flesh out a theme that, despite its new incarnations mentioned above, has in fact been around for a long time. Other venues offer the visitor different kinds of metropolitan experiences and their respective architectural possibilities.
Located inside an apartment that faces the ‘Minhocão’ − an elevated motorway that crosses the city − is a narrative display of New York’s High Line. A metro stop away, SESC Pompeia brings together practices that represent the emergence of collaborative, horizontal networks of action, such as the Barcelona-based EME3, to host workshops, lectures and residencies. It might be difficult to see the whole Biennale if you only have a couple of days. (But you may come across parts of the exhibition on the way from venue to venue, like in metro station Paraíso, where São Paulo Lab and Columbia University’s Studio-X present mappings of the fauna and flora in different urban regions.) So you might have to choose between going to Centro Universitário Maria Antônia to check out a photographic archive of the construction of Brasília, or going to Lina Bo Bardi’s recentlyreopened Casa de Vidro to see the architect’s proposal for
Shown at the Brazilian Biennale, Andrew Moore’s photography captures the dereliction of Detroit’s decaying Ford motor factory
Anhangabaú square in downtown São Paulo. Although this venue hopping can devour a frustrating amount of time in combined bus rides, metro journeys and walks, it provides for unexpected encounters. The visitor experiences at first-hand some of the reasons that have brought millions of unhappy publictransport users onto the streets. But you will not be alone, as you are bound to stumble upon other architecture enthusiasts on the way, only this time in specific metropolitan contexts rather than being confined to the generic white rooms of exhibition spaces. Is this what it means to apply theoretical thinking to concrete experience? In any case, the Biennale puts the spectator in motion, explicitly exposing the fact that Brazil lacks a culture of public space and efficient urban mobility: a condition that relates to both architects and non-architects.
Caruso meets Demand Freddie Phillipson Previously the ‘Mother of the Arts’, Architecture’s traditional role as the underlying structure that unified available forms of representation into a single coherent vehicle of meaning now seems distant from contemporary understandings of creative practices. We can no longer aspire to the seductive fiction of the gesamtkunstwerk, in which architecture establishes the framework within which sculpture, painting, and even live performance purportedly acquire their broader relevance. In the process of dissolving this relationship, we have perhaps been able to realise more distinctly what conceptual territory each creative discipline can command for itself. At the same time, we necessarily accept the continual challenge of
understanding the benefits, or otherwise, of these very distinctions. Ever greater emphasis is placed on the processes employed to realise work in each discipline. For the engaged practitioner this appears to be occurring at a time when aspects of architectural thinking are adopted, subverted or indeed destabilised by the very disciplines whose contributions architects both endeavour to serve, and often draw on in the development of their own work. It is therefore particularly timely that a substantial programme should revolve around the issue of collaboration between architects and other creative practitioners. Meeting Architecture: Architecture and the Creative Process, curated by Marina Engel for the British School at Rome, sets out to do just this. In partnership with the Royal College of Art, which will also host the same events in London, this ambitious framework is intended to explore these questions over several years through discussions and accompanying exhibitions. It is especially informative that the series should be launched by a collaboration between an artist and an architect which focuses not on the incorporation of ‘art’ as artefact into an otherwise independent, completed building, but on a much more nuanced and perhaps elusive process of creation. The study-exhibition centred on the working relationship between Thomas Demand and Caruso St John Architects, which opened at the British School on 29 October, has been succinctly curated by Engel in a thought-provoking manner belying the modest dimensions of the room itself, and was accompanied on the opening night by a discussion between Demand and Adam Caruso, chaired by the critic and curator Mario Codognato. The exhibition is organised in a series of pairings. Demand’s Haltestelle (2009) faces a wall occupied by photographs of his
Collaborations between Thomas Demand and Caruso St John are exhibited in Rome own house, the so-called ‘Hellmühle’, a lakeside villa located north-east of Berlin which has been recently adapted and refurbished by Caruso St John. The Haltestelle, Demand’s full scale recreation in paper of a rural German bus shelter where the band Tokio Hotel once waited for their school bus, is perhaps emblematic here of the artist’s best known work, in which photographs of locations which enter the collective imagination are re-staged, only for the full size maquette to be destroyed after the photograph has been taken. It also specifically invokes the exhibition of Demand’s work at the Nationalgalerie in Berlin in 2009, where the Haltestelle was one of the works displayed against a backdrop of heavy fabric ‘curtains’ (walls of fabric, not hanging but stayed to the ceiling) which established territories within Mies van der Rohe’s monumental temple-pavilion. The curtains are re-presented here as wallpaper, against which float historic postcards of the Hellmühle and Hélène Binet’s photographs. There are also various representations of the competition design developed jointly by Demand and Caruso St John for the Nagelhaus (2007-10), two small buildings housing a Chinese restaurant and a kiosk which were to be located under
the viaduct at Escher Wyss Platz in Zurich. This cluster is divided between two-dimensional and three-dimensional works, including a further pairing of films displayed on adjacent monitors. One shows Chinese television footage covering the dramatic case of the house which Madame Wu declined to sell to developers of a shopping mall in Chongqing, resulting in the house becoming a free-standing object within a four-storey deep excavation. Demand and Caruso St John suggested re-creating the house in Zurich. The physical isolation of the original house, and its proposed transposition from one form of collective consciousness into another, are complemented by the accompanying slideshow of ‘Chinese’ pavilions, apparently Western garden follies in the ‘orientalist’ tradition. The Nagelhaus in particular makes clear that this is a relatively long-standing collaboration based on mutual trust, in which, as Engel puts it, the point of contact is conceptual. As such the relationship is perhaps unique: it does not require the incorporation of art into a building as artefact, or as ‘decoration’. Indeed, Caruso explained how the exhibition design for the Palazzo Pitti in Florence reverses this relationship, such that the ar | december 2013 15
Nagelhaus is a proposal by the artist and architects to recreate a Chinese ‘nail house’ under the viaduct at Escher Wyss Platz in Zurich practice were providing the ‘supporting architecture’ for the art work. Demand and Caruso, in both their exhibition texts and in conversation, provided a compelling account of the working roles adopted in a range of exhibition projects and the Nagelhaus, where the architect acts as ‘explainer-facilitator’. This role appears to have several aspects. In the exhibition context, the collaborations discussed all concerned cases where the existing space effectively had no available walls for display: in Jean Nouvel’s Fondation Cartier and at the Nationalgalerie, because of the abundance of glass, and in the Palazzo Pitti because of the sensitivity about touching the 19th-century interior. The architects found ingenious solutions to these problems which both enriched and subtly subverted the order of the existing situation. Furthermore, Caruso St John clearly became advocates for the Nagelhaus to the outside world. As Caruso put it, the artist does not always ‘want to be clear’. In turn, Demand generously describes ‘the under-recognised role of an architect, the constant negotiation, the swallowing of dissent and finding compromises’. 16 ar | december 2013
Demand’s sensitivity to architectural space is evident in his approaching the practice in the first place, not wanting to alter his art in deference to the architecture of the gallery but equally not seeking to obliterate that architecture. Nor does the art work seek to determine the architecture in the Nagelhaus: Demand is clear that this was not intended as a gesamtkunstwerk, emphasising that the buildings were meant to take an active role in urban life by not extending the ‘art’ to the interior, or the use of the architecture. In this respect the ‘facilitating’ role of the architect emerges in yet another light: the architect reinterprets the existing situation to enable the art work to have a sufficient and distinct presence in its new context. This is also to do with Demand’s ambition to define clearly where the art work begins, especially important given the themes and content of his work. Demand explained that, had he designed the exhibition architecture himself, there would be no need for his photographic recreations of architecture to be displayed; the line between the museum and the art work would have been irretrievably blurred. In this way Demand positions the architect as ‘someone in
between’ two realities, or two transpositions of found conditions: the movement from the given architectural context to a new spatial structure, and the architectural recollections of the photographs themselves. In both respects these collaborations show the power of acknowledging what has come before, not passively but through acts of interpretation which are both literate and provocative. Just as Demand’s recreations edit aspects of the ‘original’ and make one see reality in a new way, the installation designs and the Escher Wyss Platz project gently destabilise a prior order, opening it to a wider range of possible meanings, ‘a field of references’. The existing situation is charged by the changes introduced, but not eradicated. A question posed at the beginning of the discussion persists: how has the collaboration influenced the respective practices of artist and architect? Both parties set out their individual positions and joint working practices eloquently, but enigmatically allow this question to hover over the exhibition. This perhaps suggests that the depth of common ground evident in the work arises not in the simplistic
manner of influential cause and effect, but through mutually enriching sensibilities, developed in parallel. The Hellmühle project is of course particularly interesting for architects in this respect. The uncomfortably ‘Nazified’ 1930s fabric of the house (Caruso’s term) has, through requirements of a Monuments Committee, been retained and in part reinstated. However, the new work consistently tempers possible interpretations of the ‘original’. Where heavy panelling and false beams had to be refurbished, these have been stained white, muted and abstracted. A new portico constructed using insitu concrete closely matches the stucco of the existing elevation. Its material ambivalence, oscillating between heaviness and thinness, is surely part of a much broader concern with the representational role of architecture, and architecture’s dialogue with its own received forms of representation. The portico, Caruso notes, is a reference to Demand’s own work. Demand’s photographic recollections can partly be seen as a comment on the architectural model. The relation with the practice’s own large models, uncannily real when captured in photographs and yet just sufficiently abstract to be unsettling, suggests a conceptual dialogue which is not explicitly emphasised here. However, this is perhaps because it is already inherent in the work, but more importantly because its latency in both creative practices points to more profound concerns: how it is that we perceive things in the first place, how we relate to what has come before us. In part I have in mind the highly literate understanding of architectural traditions evident in the architects’ thinking, the awareness of a long history in which, as Caruso noted, internal and external appearances have been separate for all but approximately 20 years
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Rio de Janeiro, brazil
Urban sage Thomas Ermacora We are in the ‘Urban Age’, and every significant academic and corporate institution is developing a discourse around how cities are effectively shaping our collective future, for better or for worse. This was addressed at the 12th Urban Age forum in Rio de Janeiro on 24-25 October organised by LSE Cities and Deutsche Bank’s Alfred Herrhausen Society. Before it kicked off, RUA Architetos director Pedro Rivera gave a tour of Rio’s socially oriented design projects. There was the interesting, but often contested, favela urban transit cable-car project in Complexo do Alemão; the generously conceived new leisure and learning park in Madureira; and the model public realm improvement of a part of the Rosario favela. Along with a drive through Rio it gave some hope to the inhabitants concerning the potential of the World Cup and the Olympics for Rio: could it lift millions out of poverty, or further polarise a city prone to corruption? Will this expensive series of infrastructures benefit its inhabitants? The bus rapid transit, copying the Peñalosa vision for Bogota, may indeed, 18 ar | december 2013
but many other initiatives are truly worth questioning, as exposed in the conference, and with reason, as the real estate bubble could well make the events a massive catalyst for gentrification rather than balancing the city. Conferences can be dry, complacent environments where the usual suspects provide substance everyone expects, to create a reason to come from far away. Urban Age didn’t challenge this assumption fully because it was an inherently highly politicised event when the city of Rio, currently under the scrutiny of global media, was the host and co-organiser. Nevertheless, the dense programme curated by Ricky Burdett and his team, supported by Ute Weiland et al, was full of exciting choices which helped to create as lively a debate as possible. Even if not always occurring during the sessions, the breaks in the beautiful Palácio do Itamaraty allowed for unusually informative encounters. The opening session linked to London’s Olympic project and legacy, ‘moving east’ as Ricky Burdett summarised it, as a core strategy to regenerate a whole part of a city. No news there, but it set the stage for the conversation and presentation of a range of large-scale urban transformation strategies in both developed and developing contexts, which were impressively
supported by the data-rich newspaper produced by the LSE for the occasion (which will soon be available on their website and is definitely worth a read). Making a strong impression was the number of speakers who referred to the need for a more subtle way of placemaking. At last we could say that the epoch of traditional top-down masterplanning was ending and even the dinosaurs had to acknowledge it. This was evident in the adopted change of vocabulary and sensitivity to the importance of social resilience as a factor of urban quality. Antoni Vives, deputy mayor of the city of Barcelona, eloquently defended his vision to get Barcelona out of the current Spanish employment, banking and real estate crisis by focusing on a series of principles and linked micro-strategies, rather than big rigid plans, to allow a more organic and participatory regeneration of his city. Suketu Mehta powerfully stated that ‘the great secret of a place is not that everyone is included but that nobody is excluded’, and Edgar Pieterse reminded us of the fact that 62 per cent of Africans live in slums with 63 per cent of those having vulnerable jobs − making highways and shopping malls will not suffice to create a prosperous African middle class in the years to come, to stabilise civil society.
of the 20th century. In these conditions architecture creates a variety of territories and its treatment − even ornament − suggests the tone of each setting without necessarily enforcing any particular programme. However, I am also thinking of how this engagement with prior forms of collective order − that which, expressly or not, any creative work at some level ‘represents’ − has deep implications for our sense of individual consciousness. As Demand has phrased it elsewhere, ‘recollection is a new construction every time’.
Favela residents say the cable car lets tourists gawp without getting their feet dirty
Adam Greenfield’s phrase, ‘cities are cauldrons of contestations with deeply competing conceptions of the good’, implies a need to shift towards understanding bits versus atoms, in other words having less stuff and studying the relations between things more. We were also given a chance to hear Henk Ovink describe how a bid on the 2028 Dutch Olympics could be used as a way to reinvent Holland and design risk planning. For those unfamiliar with rapidly growing cities in Latin America, we heard the compelling story of the Chilean mining city, Antofagasta, which is adopting a creative framework to avoid the atomisation of existing communities. But probably the most provocative and enjoyable moment was Deyan Sudjic’s brilliant intervention warning against prefabricated urbanism, or what he called ‘zombie planning’ in a rather unexpected parallel with World War Z. Some would have been more eager to find more local stories but we did have a full session with Celso Athayde and Jailson de Sousa e Silva discussing the merits of social design in favelas worth preserving and learning from, should these places make the transition from the informal to the formal city. At the end it became quite apparent that there is a consensus emerging on the question of tackling urban scale problems in developing and developed countries: we need to invest in adaptive solutions and institutional innovation to generate a sustainable source of urban dividends that are less exploitative. To quote Pedro Rivera, we need to ‘move from control to stimulus’. This is a key element that should influence policy makers and decision makers as technology allows creation of more generative urbanistic solutions when given the right framework, eclipsing the old-school static designs that need more power and money to exist and, finally, to disappoint.
Staron-Architectural Review(Dec)_레이아웃 1 13. 10. 30 오후 5:51 페이지 1
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View from... Sule Pagoda’s golden dome glints above the trees. But Rangoon’s historic character is now under threat from a boom in newly deregulated development
Rangoon, Burma Formerly isolated under the countryʼs military dictatorship, Rangoon now has an unparalleled opportunity to become a modern and sustainable Asian metropolis, says Knut Bjørgum
After decades of isolation under military dictatorship, Rangoon (Yangon) is finally opening up to the world, but economic liberalisation is also putting the city’s urban character at risk. Most Western sanctions on Burma have been lifted and Rangoon is now exposed to rapid changes caused by foreign investment. A shortage of hotel rooms, offices and flats has led to excessive property prices and breakneck development. Faced with a massive increase in road traffic, construction and highrise developments, can Rangoon preserve its green character and save its unique historic centre? Famous for its leafy avenues, lakes and golden pagodas, Rangoon is known as the ‘Garden City of Southeast Asia’. Even though many large trees fell when Cyclone Nargis hit in 2008, the city still has a lush green silhouette crowned by the ancient Buddhist pagodas of Shwedagon and Sule. Yet prime locations around the central lakes and green open spaces are developed with little regard to height or plot ratios, and new buildings are already intruding on views to the golden stupas. Laid out in 1852 by British military engineers Fraser and Montgomerie, downtown Rangoon has one of the largest collections of colonial architecture in Southeast Asia. However most of it fell into poor condition in the years of military
rule, and the relocation of the capital to Nay Pyi Taw in 2006 left many former government buildings abandoned. Without clear plans for future use, the civilising potential of the areaʼs broad promenades, restaurants, street life and hotels is rapidly being squandered. Today, visitors are confronted with traffic jams, crowded pavements, rubbish and decaying buildings in danger of collapse. The Rangoon Heritage Trust, founded by historian Thant Myint-U, is working to attract investors to renovate historic structures and create heritage areas to protect buildings from demolition. But the lack of legal and economic incentives for preservation favours new, taller structures, such as a recently proposed 38-storey tower sited next to the 100-year-old Indian Embassy in Kyauktada Township. Predictably, the proposal has generated protests about its impact on the old city. The population of greater Rangoon is expected to double by 2040, but much of the city has no basic municipal services such as reliable electricity and regular rubbish collection. Soaring rents and the high cost of living have seen hundreds of families leave their homes. The Association of Burmese Architects is organising a competition for green housing, but more action is needed. Public space is also under pressure, with the rise in
the number of cars throttling the city’s vibrant streetlife. Trees, vendor shops and tea stalls are being displaced and pavements narrowed to create new driving lanes and parking. Bike lanes and safe pedestrian crossings are non-existent, and parks and open green space are in equally poor condition. Rangoon was originally developed as a mercantile city by marine transport, but now most of the riverfront is occupied by port facilities. However the proposed deep-sea port at Thilawa in a Special Economic Zone to the south offers the hope that some public open space can be recovered. In an attempt to present a holistic view of future growth, Rangoon City Development Committee has initiated a strategic plan for urban development. In conjunction with UN-Habitat, an Urban Research and Development Institute opened in September to increase capacity among planners and architects. As well as housing and key infrastructure, the need to mitigate natural disasters such as flooding is also critical. A promising sign of the new times is that these matters are publicly being debated in an increasingly free media, and a new generation of Burmese architects is finally emerging to take on the important work of renewing and saving their city. ar | december 2013 21
11/15/13 1:40 PM
William JR Curtis
Learning from Spanish modern masters
This is an important year for the history of Spanish modern architecture for it is the centenary of three masters: Josep Antoni Coderch (1913–1984), Miguel Fisac (1913-2006) and Alejandro de la Sota (1913-1996). The centenary is being marked in several ways including an exhibition at the Museo ICO in Madrid on the work of de la Sota and Fisac (‘miradas en paralelo’) and the VIII Congreso DoCoMoMo Ibérico at Malaga University in late November devoted to the Modern Movement and education. In key works such as the Maravillas Gym in Madrid or the Gobierno Civil in Tarragona (1957), de la Sota established an architecture of understatement and refined abstraction. The former building contains a void for the ball court which is spanned by curved steel beams containing classrooms. On the roof is a school playground while the main space beneath is bathed with indirect light on which the structure seems to hover. De la Sota’s spidery sketches reveal his generating ideas for each project. With the Gobierno Civil, he avoided the ponderous traditionalism of the regime, and made a subtle, modern inversion of the idea of a public palace. The result is full of ambiguities: solid/ void, materiality/immateriality, and recalls his interest in the sculptures of Eduardo Chillida. Spanish architects of this generation absorbed the universalising tendencies of modern masters such as Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Alvar Aalto but transformed these to deal with the social realities,
technologies and topography of Spain. At the same time they were nourished by internal traditions and underlying types, so de la Sota returned time and again to the theme of the mirador bay window, which he reinvented in modern terms using industrial materials and plate glass. Coderch was profoundly influenced by the vernacular seaside architecture of Catalonia but he did not copy it. Rather he metamorphosed it into a modern, organic language of form inspired by modern painters such as Miró and Picasso, and by the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. His masterpiece is surely the Casa Ugalde (1953) on the coast north of Barcelona which is perfectly wedded to its site and reminds us of Gaudí’s topographical curves. So what is the relevance of these past figures of Spanish modern architecture to today? The answer is simple: they achieved work of great substance which transmits across time and provides numerous lessons for the future. They influenced subsequent generations and still provide sources of inspiration in the search for a rigorous contemporary architecture attuned to the social problems and economic difficulties of the present. In the current economic crisis they seem like antidotes to the excesses of the international architectural star system, which have littered the Spanish landscape with catastrophic and economically disastrous shipwrecks from the period of overspending and bogus credit. You think of the pharaonic and pretentious City of Culture in Galicia by Peter Eisenman
(thankfully cancelled but still costly to maintain); or the anti-urban Metropol Parasol in Seville by Jürgen Mayer H, which some citizens wish to demolish. Those ‘icons’ so beloved of marketing-obsessed politicians in the pre-crisis years brought little of architectural value to Spain, whereas the works of masters live on. Sometimes it is valuable to look back to look forward, not to copy, but to transform principles. I got to know the enigmatic and profound figure of de la Sota in his last years when he was physically feeble but mentally alert. I first saw the Maravillas Gym in 1987 and admired the rigour, economy of means and humble industrial materials, an ‘architecture almost without architecture’ as de la Sota liked to say. When I first met him, I promised that I would include the Gym and the Gobierno Civil in future editions of Modern Architecture Since 1900. De la Sota died in 1996 and I received the sad news when I was correcting the proofs of that book. I immediately wrote an obituary for El Païs. The book came out a few months later. This is how the relevant chapter ended: ‘A tradition is made not just from sequences of forms, but also from the linkage of underlying architectural ideas. De la Sota returned to Mies van der Rohe, not to mimic his style, but to transform his principles in the service of new intentions and another “myth”. Similarly, de la Sota became a link in a chain for later generations of Spanish architects seeking their own balance of modernity and continuity’.
‘Out of the blue, a phone call: “Hi Norman, it’s Steve. I need help!”’
‘It’s hard to think of architects as genuinely creative people when the best company names they can muster are a list of the owner’s surnames’
‘I see myself as something of a detective, like Sherlock Holmes’
Norman Foster recounts how Steve Jobs asked him to design Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino, Wired, 11 November
Terry Farrell discussing his approach to urbanism, AD Primers, The City as a Tangled Bank, 2014
Alan Partridge podcast on architects
ar | december 2013 23
Your views Women in architecture
Letters to the Editor should be sent to: The Architectural Review 69-77 Paul Street London EC2A 4NW Or by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org Letters may be edited 24 ar | december 2013
I approach this subject with trepidation but I feel that I’m about to say what many others think. In the November issue Dr Tatjana Schneider raised some important issues in her thoughtprovoking response to Matthew Barac’s article on women in architecture (AR October 2013), not least the fact that Barac’s article didn’t go further than giving some women in architecture some ‘limelight’, something that Dr Schneider has jumped on as a little patronising. Maybe she’s right about that. However, her notion of what the female sex may offer in the context of architectural practice and academia surely plays up to unacceptable stereotypes. Why is it that women architects are less likely to give credence to the notion of architect as hero? Has she seen Phyllis Lambert’s latest book on the Seagram Building? Why are women architects more likely to go for collaboration over diktat? Unless Dr Schneider has some factual or statistical evidence to back up what she is saying, this is potentially dangerous territory which Barac was very wise to steer clear of. I think of more relevance is that it used to be said that in order to get the same job, pay, position as a man, a woman had to be as twice as good as him (something that ethnic minorities also have to deal with; my father always advised me to this effect with respect to competing with whites for jobs, and I would have thought that those with Scouse, northern, Irish or Scottish accents − even though the Scots are in charge of everything anyway − face similar discrimination when competing with Londoners for London jobs). It would be interesting to get an insight into the extent to which this is still true for women in architecture. Perhaps the Scots really are more than twice as good as the rest of us! It is also worth mentioning that most of us fall into one or more of the discriminated-against groups that I’ve mentioned (there
are or course more) so further clarity is needed on this issue. However, I personally am gratified that Dr Schneider chose to ‘spit’ on the limelight she was offered rather than bask in it and retreat into the default ‘there is no sexism ... if I can do it anyone can ... pull yourself together’ position as many others have done in the past. It’s not about making it easier for certain groups, it’s about making sure that we actually have the society we claim to.
Michael Badu, by email
Heroic failure I am writing in reference to ‘No More Heroes’ by Fran Tonkiss of the London School of Economics (AR November 2013). I believe her writing to be a refreshing and detailed consideration of the architect’s cultural mandate. I live in the US, in Kansas City, Missouri. Trained as an urban planner, I now live in the urban core directing a small studio. Our city is gouged by a disassociation between design and use. The history of our city is characterised by a rampant disregard for cultural and political responsibility across many fields. The deficit described in Dr Tonkiss’s essay aptly reflects our reality in Kansas City. Her essay is an encouraging reminder to me this morning as I head towards the office. I am glad to have read it.
Chris Gorney, Second Life Studios
Critical thinking Sam Jacob raises interesting points about architectural production (Overview, AR November). But if he is calling for a 21st-century paradigm − where ‘new vocabularies ... talk about relationships rather than revolutions ... conversation rather than competition’ − then it seems that the AR is still stuck in the 20th-century mindset: at least judging by the buildings that it chooses to cover. Following on from Jacob’s thoughtful article, we turn the page to find Hadid’s Serpentine extension; then Ando’s Mexican architecture school; then Rem’s Shenzhen Stock Exchange. These three projects share in common a preference for exterior form and image − to the point that Ando’s school emerges as an overinflated sketch impervious to its pedagogical programme. After some years of a more neutral tone, I’m pleased to see the AR regain its critical voice(s). I could understand you might want to pick flawed buildings to say about them. But as a reader who believes that architecture − at its most profound − is human ritual spatialised, can’t you turn your critical faculties to buildings more worthy of attention? Ones that put the social aspects at the centre of their architecture? This is surely where we need to focus our attention in the 21st century and beyond.
Alan Croft, Toronto
Ando’s Mexican university: overinflated sketch impervious to pedagogical programme?
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ar+d awards for emerging architecture 2013
Edging into the wider architectural firmament, with projects from locales as diverse as Bloomsbury and the Himalayas, the architects shown in these pages are the stars of tomorrow. Around 350 schemes were whittled down to four winners who share the prize fund of £10,000. There are also 10 Highly Commended schemes. Now in their 15th year, the Awards continue to astonish us with their range and resourcefulness. Only built work is eligible for submission as we know that architecture cannot simply be confined to paper or computerised theorising, but is a compact with society to build well and to build responsibly. Offering a compelling snapshot of design activity from around the world, we hope that the schemes shown here will be a powerful incentive for others to go out and do even better. Austin Williams profiles the winners overleaf. ar | december 2013 27
SPEECH Tchoban & Kuznetsov Russia
Studio Weave UK Studio Weave is a relatively small young practice based in London whose portfolio makes it look like a cross between a housing cooperative and an arts collective. Their floating barges converted into cinemas, treehouses, garden layouts or eco-follies give the practice a 1970s hippy-chic romance. The studio comprises three key players: director Je Ahn, who was born in South Korea (where he ‘enjoyed fishing and eating seafood’), grew up in West Sussex and completed his architectural education at Bath, TU Delft and London Met. Director Maria Smith is also from Sussex and studied at the same universities and now, she says she ‘enjoys reading and writing stories, singing and playing the violin’; and finally, Esme Fieldhouse, who studied architecture in Nottingham, Dundee and London 28 ar | december 2013
Met and is a freelance journalist who ‘enjoys birdwatching and making greetings cards’. In some ways, Studio Weave is the thinking man’s Blue Peter. Engaging, liaising, making, conversing, interacting and enjoyment, are words which crop up all the time: playing a large part in Studio Weave’s way of doing things. From urban pop-ups to rural installations; from community arts to singular spaces; the practice is very interested in interventions in forgotten places like Romford, Croydon or Willesden Green. They state that their approach is ‘joyful’, believing that ‘imagination and narrative have a powerful role to play in projects of every scale ... from cutting edge technology to fairytales’. Indeed, they work in a faraway place called the ‘public realm’, and ‘believe in the intrinsic value of good’. The winning project is the Lullaby Factory at Great Ormond Street Hospital for sick children in London, comprising a 10-storey series of pipes, tubes, taps and horns that provide a soundscape of specially commissioned musical lullabies. There is a
Studio Weave, architect of the Lullaby Factory at Great Ormond Street Hospital delicate balance between dreamscapes and nightmares and there is surely a whiff of Tim Burton-esque darkness to the project, but it has been very well received by staff and patients alike. Studio Weave was founded in 2006 and grew slowly, but ‘feel that slow growth is no bad thing’. Such stealth has allowed them to cut their teeth on small projects and rigorously test design ideas, seeing them through to completion. To date, they have 25 small but substantial built projects and are looking forward to breaking into more mainstream projects, from housing to offices, but all the while maintaining a sense of enjoyment in the creative process. Studio Weave believes in open, free communication in the daily life of an architectural practice. ‘The exchange of information through talking offers something different from drawing.’ The most invaluable part of their way of working, they say, is the ‘design agency of words’.
Sergei Tchoban was born in St Petersburg and studied architecture at the Russian Academy of Arts. He now heads up the Berlin practice of NPS Tchoban Voss as well as managing the architectural firm, SPEECH Tchoban & Kuznetsov. This latter practice, founded in Moscow, is managed with Sergei Kuznetsov (chief architect and first deputy chairman of the Moscow Committee for Architecture and Urban Development). It is a powerful firm with good connections. Kuznetsov was the chief executive of an architectural workshop called ‘S P Project’ which was restructured (as ‘SPEECH’ etc) when Tchoban joined in 2006. Kuznetsov’s previous practice was one of the first architecture offices in Moscow to specialise in 3-D technology and, in their new combined incarnation, Tchoban and Kuznetsov have shown themselves to be fundamentally interested in the healing powers of drawing. This is not the dissenting, avant-garde radicalism of the Paper Architecture movement in the Soviet Union in the 1980s;
Sergei Tchoban of SPEECH
as Tchoban admits that ‘every architect should eventually find his or her own way, that special thing that he or she contributes to the profession without being supported by doctrines, trends and ideas that seem to be long-standing truths’. by bringing drawing and architecture together as one, Tchoban believes buildings can establish a harmonious balance between the environment and humanity. In his view, a building has to age well and remain capable of performing its functions and become a worthy representation of the historic period of its creation. SPeecH advocates the importance of drawings as a design tool and the ar+d award goes to berlin’s museum for architectural drawing. Here, Tchoban acted as architect and patron, creating a home for, inter alia, his own extensive collection of works. The concrete museum exterior is a parchment-coloured etching of Tchoban’s first ever purchase, by Italian artist Pietro di Gottardo Gonzaga. modern architecture, says Tchoban, has relegated decoration to a swear word, but by doing so, ‘students and even practising architects often have no idea about the ways of achieving the quality of facade which was part of the normal work for every professional in our trade a hundred years ago’. even though it lost a third of its employees due to an unexpected investors’ default in the recession, SPeecH managed to keep the core talent so that it is still able to work innovatively in russia and abroad. Its staff includes contractors and engineers, allowing them to deal with all phases of construction and anyone pontificating about gender equality or employability issues would do well to visit the website to see a majority female and youth employee demographic, none of whom is there as a result of positive discrimination, simply a desire by Tchoban and Kuznetsov to educate the next generation of architects.
Hernan Diaz Alonso, creator of Pitch Black
HeRnan diaz aLonSo uSa
ateLieR de LYon/RaaaF tHe netHeRLandS
In contrast to Studio Weave, the diaz alonso practice is the kind of futuristic cad-generated architectural cacophony that makes sustainable architects turn in their cardboard coffins. and in contrast to SPeecH, it is very much at the cutting edge of cad-toolery; actively renouncing hand-drawing. Having grown up in argentina, Hernan diaz alonso now runs the masters programmes in ScI-arc and the postgraduate masters in emerging Systems and Technologies/media. He worked with miralles in barcelona and eisenman in New York and taught at columbia, Yale and Vienna, and the latter is where his winning project at the maK (museum for applied arts) archive is installed. Pitch Black exhibition comprises five spindly sculptures that project slowplaying, looped, high-resolution renders of select projects onto a wall. It is all about ‘Fear and Lust hid(ing) in the dark’, apparently. diaz alonso’s architecture mixes filmic reference with what he describes as the ‘perversity of mutant form’. His previous work at the gallery was an installation, Eyes of Laura Mars, comprising displays that glow in the dark, ‘representing a particular ontology of work that regards the image as a form of production, using the grotesque, the horrific, and the misfit as a new condition of arousement’. Neil Spiller (p48) describes the practice ‘whose watchwords are “mutation, Horror, Grotesque” (which) excites many conflicting emotions’. One of these is surely bemusement at the morphing homepage, perhaps. The website makes you want to insist that the designer write 100 times ‘6 point font is not big and it is not clever’.
This award is shared between raaaF and atelier de Lyon for their bunker 599 project near maastricht. This is an artistic intervention along the new dutch Waterline commissioned by the dutch Service for Land and Water management. by slicing open one of the historic concrete defence bunkers to reveal its spartan interior, the team wants to create a ‘public domain out of them’. This bomb-resistant pillbox is bisected with a boardwalk that runs down some steps, through the middle and out to the water. The architects say the project ‘unorthodoxly questions the dutch and UNeScO policies on cultural heritage’. Previously known as rietveld Landscape until the end of October 2013, raaaF (rietveld architecture-art-affordances) − which presumably works better as a dutch acronym − is the new name. It has been chosen, say the architects, to better reflect a practice ‘at the crossroads of architecture, art and science’. If that sentence wasn’t evidence enough of their creativity, their research into the potential of the growing number of vacant government buildings in the Netherlands led them to launch the new discipline of ‘Vacancy Studies’. In 2012, this discipline was included in the Knowledge and Innovation agenda of the government’s creative Industry sector; and vacancy has subsequently been particularly prevalent in the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific research too, it seems. The founding partners of raaaF are Prix de Rome architecture laureate ronald rietveld and his brother, philosopher erik rietveld. erik regularly publishes in international philosophical
Erick de Lyon, architect of Bunker 599 journals about ‘acting skilfully without thinking about it’. raaaF’s partner on this winning project is erick de Lyon, of arts practice atelier de Lyon. de Lyon’s work finds its expression in the dutch landscape and he collaborates with landscape architects, town planners, hydraulic engineers and technicians among others to achieve the best results. The starting point of his work comes from ‘contextual knowledge about the site’ acquired by ‘combining observations of the environment with relevant knowledge of others’. The common aspect of the two practices’ philosophical approach to working, it seems, is that, in line with rietveld’s unthinking creativity, de Lyon also says that his work emerges ‘almost spontaneously’.
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Bunker 599, Culemborg, The Netherlands, RAAAF/Atelier de Lyon
A bisected pillbox on the bank of a dyke opens a way through the sometimes impenetrable memories of war to a future of broader horizons ar | december 2013 31
JONATHAN GLANCEY It is not the most beautiful or obviously inspiring location in Holland, europe, or the world, and yet the dot on the map at culemborg where bunker 599 broods alongside the lugubrious waters of the 13th-century diefdijk, and faces the relentless mechanised roar of the amsterdam-maastricht motorway, is poignant, and oddly moving. This reinforced-concrete bunker, erected in early 1940 as part of Holland’s defences against military invasion, has been split in two − cut through by steel wires like some giant, and untypically hard, dutch cheese − and now acts as a framed viewpoint for passers-by who, stepping down from the roadway, pass through its mournful bulk out onto a wooden jetty, set between timber piles, to the very edge of the dijk, and a view across the motorway, electricity pylons and flat levels stretching away into an infinitely big sky. There is no meaning here other than stopping to stare. certainly, the remodelled bunker 599 catches the eyes of walkers and cyclists. It is at once, or so it seems, a large-scale contemporary sculpture, or, perhaps − seen from a distance − some Neolithic standing stone. and just as those
ancient and ineffable monuments draw us to them, as if magnetically, so this split concrete bunker, reconceived by rietveld Landscape, with atelier de Lyon, commands attention. Walkers, this way, if you please. cyclists, dismount. a part of the poignancy lies in the fact that, like its many sibling bunkers, pillboxes and canal-side defences, Fort 599 did nothing to stop the Germans from invading Holland in may 1940 and occupying the country in a few days. For all its ingenuity, the extensive system of water defences built from the mid-17th century to 1940 was unable to hold up an enemy who simply bypassed it. German paratroopers were dropped in their thousands on the other side of the 85 kilometre long dutch Waterline, while the Luftwaffe reduced much of rotterdam to rubble, threatening the same treatment for amsterdam and other key cities unless the dutch surrendered. They had no choice. So, all the ingenuity that went into the creation of a vast waterworks designed to flood the eastern Netherlands and so hold back invasions by Spanish, French and German armies, was ultimately to no effect. even then, the defences were shored up again after the Second World War, as if they might restrain the might of the Soviet armed forces at the outbreak of a much-feared Third World War. Holland may have fought
1. (Previous spread) passers-by are invited to enter the bunker by steps 2. (Opposite) the project collides abstract form and historical relic to evocative eﬀect
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Bunker 599, Culemborg, The Netherlands, RAAAF/Atelier de Lyon
Cestes as apedipsam vitam que oditior aut magnim que nam repro derunturio. Nequia nate ipsam reruptas cumet excessitatio eribus reped mollupt atureptium numquas voluptibus et aspisquae volorum aliquiam, inullacearum utem sim samusci ligenti
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3 (Opposite) the visitor is drawn out onto the water 4. The sliced concrete takes on a sky-reflecting sheen, making the manmade material feel like funereal granite and the apertures, catacombs
Bunker 599, Culemborg, The Netherlands, RAAAF/Atelier de Lyon
Architect RAAAF/Atelier de Lyon Photographs Courtesy of the architect
‘Despite the project’s small scale, it is very powerful. It has a mix of delicateness, strength and impertinence, which is rare to observe, and is cleverly inserted in the site, linking landscape and water. It clearly stood out because of its simplicity, beauty and capacity to situate itself between art, landscape and architecture.’
brilliantly against the Spanish in the 17th century, but − especially because of its flat geography − it was to be no match for the sheer might of Napoleon and, later, Adolf Hitler. And, yet, today, the trade borne by all those articulated lorries thundering along the A2 motorway in view of Bunker 599 is a symbol of a Europe at peace, of boundaries pushed aside, of infinite possibilities. This, too, is something to contemplate while looking through the fissure Rietveld Landscape have excavated through the warless concrete bunker, out into that level economic playing field, that boundless sky. Unlike the German Atlantic Wall bunkers built by the Todt Organisation as a defence against the Allied invasion of mainland Europe, the Dutch fortifications seem, if not innocent, unthreatening. One bunker − Fort Hoofddijk − is now a part of the botanical garden at the University of Utrecht, while others serve as cafés and bed-and-breakfast hostels. Their picturesque quality, and, of course, their historical importance, was fully recognised in 1999 when a central, regional and local government masterplan was drawn up to re-imagine the Dutch Waterline, old and new, as a kind of national park, or trail. The Hungarian-born, New York artist, Agnes Denes, was charged with overall artistic control, and now the plan is unfolding,
‘Today there remains a whole world of redundant structures, technologies and landscapes that can yet be transformed, no matter how seemingly naïve or banal, into something moving or quietly contemplative’ over a 20-year period from 2000, the length of this haunting, and, for many visitors to Holland, still unexpected military landscape. Bunker 599 is just one of the ‘strategic interventions’ Rietveld Landscape have made across Holland. The practice, which was founded by Ronald and Erik Rietveld in 2006 and has recently been renamed RAAAF (Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances), came to international attention at the 2010 Venice Biennale. Its project there, Vacant NL, was a strangely compelling study of 10,000 empty government buildings − an enormous number in a small country − with imaginative ideas of what could be done with them: the Dutch government has been listening. For this year’s Peace of Utrecht Festival, RAAAF unveiled its Secret Operation 610. This proved to be another meditation on defence, its impact on the landscape and its possible futility against overwhelming odds.
Again, it is hard to know quite what to make of this RAAAF project, and yet there is something strangely thrilling in the sight of the most unexpected think-tank studio you will ever have encountered emerging on caterpillar tracks − in the guise of some monstrous Cold War warrior, Captain Condor space vehicle, or giant mechanical crow − from an abandoned F-15 military jet interceptor hangar at Soesterberg airbase. The jet black machine trundles in sinister fashion along a concrete runway that never saw Cold War aircraft taking off in anger with a circle of Delft university engineers inside its belly working on their ‘CleanEra’ project, a quest for ‘no noise, no carbon, just fly’ aircraft of the future. Architects have long created ‘interventions’ in the landscape − townscape, too − that raise buildings of whatever purpose above the level of pure functionality, from domes and spires to triumphal arches and even − think of Inigo Jones − masques and other theatrical diversions. Today, though, there remains a whole world of redundant structures, technologies and landscapes that can yet be transformed, no matter how seemingly naïve or banal, into something moving or quietly contemplative, and whether overlooking some lyrical valley or grinding Dutch motorway. ar | december 2013 35
Lullaby Factory, London, UK, Studio Weave
pipe dreams Weaving an urban narrative, this steampunk soundscape reanimates a neglected corner of a childrenʼs hospital
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1. A concept drawing shows young patients looking out onto the installation 2. (Opposite) the sculptural horns are an imaginative addition to a tangled pipe-scape in a dead space between buildings old and new
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elevation2013 38 ar | december
PHINEAS HARPER You may recall the scene: an army of nurses aided by mary Poppins do battle with captain Hook, the child catcher and other monstrous villains of fiction as author JK rowling reads from Peter Pan. The sequence was part of the 2012 London Olympic Games opening ceremony and the combination of characters was pertinent. all came from the pages of british children’s books and were played by staff from London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), the oldest medical facility specifically for children in the world. The ceremony underscored a historic link between british literature and GOSH that dates back to its inception when charles dickens, a close friend of the hospital’s founder charles West, became an instrumental fundraiser. In 1913 resident surgeon robert bridges was made Poet Laureate, while in 1929 Jm barrie bequeathed his Peter Pan copyright to the hospital on condition that the amount of money it generates is never disclosed. It is in this tradition and partly funded by Peter Pan royalties, that Studio Weave’s chapter at GOSH begins. The hospital is developing an ambitious masterplan that will see the Southwood building (now the oldest medical building in London) demolished to make way for a public square surrounded by a combination of existing and future clinical facilities. In the 15-year interim, the 1938 structure must remain operational while new buildings go up around it. The result is a curious condition in which brand new wards with floor-toceiling glazing designed to eventually overlook a leafy square instead abut the grimy rear elevation of the Southwood building encrusted with a jumble of pipes accumulated over decades of shoehorning new services into the brickwork. research has repeatedly demonstrated a clear link between hospital environment and patient health, so in a bid to enliven this awkward in-between space, GOSH launched an open competition to design an installation for the alley. Studio Weave’s winning scheme is an interconnected arrangement of pipes, trumpets, ducts, gaskets and valves snaking up the alley like a steampunk Heath robinson 3
‘An interconnected arrangement of pipes, trumpets, ducts, gaskets and valves snake up the alley like a steampunk Heath Robinson cartoon come to life’ 3. The tangled installation cannot be seen in toto but its elements protrude into views around the hospital
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‘Studio Weave has proved that it is possible to marry an absorbing narrative with forensic architectural detailing, reconfiguring urban detritus as architectural opportunities and breathing life into dying spaces’
components employing multiple fabrication processes. One set of trumpets are spun aluminium, shaped using chucks originally for mass producing Second World War fighter planes. Another set have the appearance of cast bronze but are in fact glass-reinforced plastic moulded over CNC-milled polystyrene then given a metallic finish. In their choice of materials the architects have deftly avoided the patronising primary colour palette that so often dominates design projects where children are involved − a temptation sadly succumbed to in the neighbouring hospital restaurant whose seven undulating strips of colour-cycling lighting were set to ‘rainbow mode’ for my visit. Instead Studio Weave’s assembly evokes an almost Edwardian sensibility that feels dignified and will weather elegantly. The Lullaby Factory could be seen as an enchanting but unlikely one-off. Exactly the right client just happened to have the right site and took a chance on the right architects, culminating in a project that will delight staff and patients for 15 years then quietly retreat. But this would be to sell it short. There are thousands of similar rear-conditions lurking down alleys and in the forgotten corners of towns and cities. Such landscapes of pipes and protruding services are a perpetual feature of the urban realm crying out for attention. Studio Weave has proved that it is possible to marry an absorbing narrative with forensic architectural detailing, reconfiguring urban detritus as architectural opportunities and breathing life into dying spaces. ‘Our approach is about teasing out the inherent character of a site and celebrating it’, explains Studio Weave co-founder Maria Smith. ‘Rather than importing some abstract idea we find the qualities in a location and work with them. We try to make the places we work in the best versions of themselves.’ Here the architects have tapped into the British literary tradition of the hospital, recalling the dreamlike writing of Roald Dahl and weaving in their own narrative between complex technical challenges and a tight budget. Playful in appearance and sincere in intent, it demonstrates a lightness of touch that could lift the spirits of many neglected urban spaces.
cartoon come to life. The configuration of pipework whimsically suggests how lullabies might be fabricated in the industrial quantities required by a children’s hospital to lull its 387 patients to sleep. Melodies start life in a cylindrical chamber peppered with knobs and dials then zigzag their way across the facade constantly refined, tuned and amplified by filters until they reach one of more than 60 trumpets of various sizes. Of course it’s a conceit; the factory doesn’t actually make a sound but a platform accessible at ground level from the hospital’s restaurant lets visitors listen to a specially composed lullaby piped through a quartet of bulbous listening horns while patients can also tune in to the lullaby factory on the in-hospital radio network. Rather than tidy away the tangle of aging plant work, Studio Weave’s defining move was to embrace and embellish it, appropriating existing services as components of their factory. In one place, brass and gold pipes wrap around an existing gas main. Elsewhere a metre-wide airconditioning duct is adorned in valves and buttons like the shaft of a giant clarinet. Although the whole cannot be seen at once, oblique views and fragments of the factory are visible from every floor transforming the otherwise bleak light well. The brief was riddled with logistical obstacles. The irregular site is 30 metres long but just a metre wide in places, while the buildable area was limited to the facade of the Southwood Building as no element could touch the alley floor or hang from the new wards. Meeting the challenge head-on, the architects used 3-D scanning to survey the alley, mapping in the centre lines of each existing pipe and gradually building up an accurate digital model. The factory itself is a combination of reclaimed and bespoke
Lullaby Factory, London, UK, Studio Weave
4. Some horns at ground level produce an audible lullaby, composed by sound artist Jessica Curry 5. Gramophone-style trumpets flare
‘These strange invented objects are in the great British tradition of Gordon Pask or William Heath Robinson. But few public institutions have the wit to encourage such a thing and few young architects are relaxed enough to do it. Bully for Studio Weave. I don’t know them but wish I did.’
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Architect Studio Weave Photographs Edmund Sumner, 2,3,5 Lullaby Jessica Curry
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drawing strength An exquisitely finished museum devoted to architectural drawings shows just as much attention to detail as the images it displays commentary
STEVE PARNELL A former brewery in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg is becoming a magnet for architectural culture. The Aedes Architecture Forum moved there in 2006, followed by Olafur Eliasson’s Institute for Spatial Experiments. Now the Tchoban Foundation’s Museum for Architectural Drawing has joined them. The foundation was established in 2009 by architect Sergei Tchoban of Moscow-based SPEECH Tchoban & Kuznetsov. Most of the practice’s work consists of large-scale commercial projects in Russia and the former Soviet republics, but it was also behind the Russian Pavilion at last year’s Venice Biennale (AR October 2012) with its installation of QR codes and iCity. However, what Tchoban is really passionate about is architectural drawing. He started collecting drawings in 1999 and 10 years later established his eponymous foundation in order to ‘promote classical training in draftsmanship’ and ‘present the imaginative and emotionally-charged world of the architectural drawing to a broad public’. The building itself is smaller and simpler than photographs suggest. The four layers of concrete surmounted by a glass box resemble a fondant-covered cake, like an oversized contemporary creation of Antonin Carême. It could also be a younger sibling of Sanaa’s New Museum of Contemporary Art in Manhattan (AR April 2008), but the way the boxes overhang and crank belies its very rational planning. Tchoban claims that he wanted it to be constructed from concrete 42 ar | december 2013
Museum For Architectural Drawing, Berlin, Germany, SPEECH Tchoban & Kuznetsov
1. The cranked and stacked volumes of the galleries are topped by a glass box
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Museum For Architectural Drawing, Berlin, Germany, SPEECH Tchoban & Kuznetsov
2. The stairs are beautifully finished with grey concrete and brass handrails 3. (Opposite) the walnut-panelled lobby doubles as a library
1 plant room 2 WCs 3 library 4 gallery 5 archive 6 office
as a hard, permanent counterpoint to the lightness of the drawings it houses. The building’s form suggests protection but it also explicitly wears its content on its surface with enlarged abstracted engravings of a drawing by Pietro di Gottardo Gonzaga, the drawing that started Tchoban’s collection. Tchoban says that it was difficult to find a contractor in Germany skilled enough to take on this complex concrete formwork (it was all cast in-situ), but the finish is of a very high quality and the facade composition breaks down what could easily have been a monotonous blank wall. It turns the museum inside-out and for a building of Modernist credentials, communicates its function in a Postmodern fashion. This is what happens when representation meets realisation. The motif of the enlarged drawing detail continues on the glass entrance doors and into the ground-floor lobby, a surprisingly opulent space that doubles as a reading room. Every surface is covered in dark wood except the ceiling whose mirror-polished stainless steel reflects the same. Echoing the facade, the walnut veneered panelling is also delicately engraved. Perhaps ironically given the museum’s mandate, the patterns were etched onto the panels using CNC machines before being finished by hand. Those glass panels arbitrarily selected from between the lines of the enlarged drawings define their own abstract composition on both the exterior and interior. Being obscured, they admit light without making a connection to the outside. Along one side of the long lobby are bookshelves behind glass doors. It is unclear whether these are for sale, for display, or for browsing. I take a risk, click open a door and remove a second edition of Chernikov’s 44 ar | december 2013
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‘Recasting the blind-box gallery into a tantalising cabinet of curiosities, this highly sophisticated project uplifts and anchors a still-evolving urban realm. Beautifully built and precisely detailed, it has the character and sensuous finesse of a modern gesamtkunstwerk.’
4. The galleries are idiosyncratic spaces 5. The glazed eyrie of the offices has views over Prenzlauer Berg 6. (Opposite) the concrete is detailed with patterns derived from a drawing by set designer Pietro di Gottardo Gonzaga
Architect SPEECH Tchoban & Kuznetsov Photographs Patricia Parinejad, 1, 2, 3, 4 Roland Halbe, 5, 6
Museum For Architectural Drawing, Berlin, Germany, SPEECH Tchoban & Kuznetsov
section AA Fundamentals of Contemporary Architecture from 1931. No alarm goes off and so I retreat to a leather chair to enjoy half an hour of Russian Constructivism in an atmosphere of silent reverence. The foundation’s architectural drawing book collection is made available for visitors to peruse, which is a generous gesture given that this space could so easily have become the ubiquitous gift shop for architectural tourists. The lobby’s doors are heavy and click with a satisfying robustness on closing. Their handles are bronze, the panelling is precise, and the seats are leather. The overall feeling is that of an expensively handcrafted car. Beyond the wall of books, the stairs treat visitors to charcoal-coloured concrete steps, tubular lighting and a neat fire hydrant detail (both precisely inset into concrete walls), brass handrails, and a view through the glass lift to Christinenstraße. The galleries, which occupy the first and second floors, are small, but the reason for the cranks that articulate the external boxes is apparent once inside. Instead of two identical boxes with four display walls, the slight protuberance and change in wall angle gives a sense of progress and individuality to each room, allowing some sense of differentiation for hanging works. A small room off the second floor is as far
‘The building’s form suggests protection but it also explicitly wears its content on its surface with enlarged abstracted engravings of a drawing by Pietro di Gottardo Gonzaga’ 46 ar | december 2013
as most visitors will get. When the blind isn’t sheltering it from the sun, this pleasant, informal space with views over the park is a release from the galleries’ introversion. Yet it also feels like an appendix in search of a function and could perhaps take a cue from the lobby below. The third floor will house the Tchoban Foundation’s collection and viewing space for researchers and curators. Finally, the crystalline penthouse contains a single office with floor-to-ceiling glazing on three sides, two of which open to glass-balustraded terraces. The crispness of the glass and polished steel contrasts starkly with the solid concrete below and provides some ethereal, extroverted bling atop the protective base. But it’s the more crafted, public facing lobby, galleries and staircase that give the museum its character. This rooftop office with views over Berlin to Alexanderplatz will double as host to a couple of exhibition openings planned every year, one from the Tchoban collection and one from other institutions, such as the Soane Museum, from which the inaugural exhibition on Piranesi was loaned. The next programme will show Russian Bolshevik Neoclassical architectural drawings of the early 20th century, a movement neglected in favour of the more avant-garde Constructivism. Tchoban is not the first to lament the slow death of architectural drawing in an age of digital hegemony but he’s the first to build a monument to it. The building he’s designed to hold and embody his passion is finely controlled and detailed, and will doubtless become yet another required stop on Berlinʼs architectural tourist circuit.
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dark star A celebration of the gorgeous grotesque, these glinting arachnoid fabrications exhibit an idiosyncratic formal language
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1. (Previous spread) up close, a chrome-plated thorax glints like jewellery 2. (Previous spread) a swarm of arachnids of indeterminate size: are they nano-spiders or of Louise Bourgeoisstyle proportions? 3. (Opposite) their true dimensions revealed
Pitch Black, Hernan Diaz Alonso
neil Spiller Hernan Diaz Alonso and his practice Xefirotarch excite many conflicting emotions. Diaz Alonso’s architecture is like the man himself, a tad Gothic, exuberant, convoluted and often handsome and theatrical. His watchwords are ‘Mutation, Horror, Grotesque’, the ‘boredom of perfection’ and ‘monstrosity is the new sex’. Yet behind all the PR and showboating is a visceral understanding of scenic rhythms, of space and void, filmic establishing shots and the metamorphosis of composition learned from decades of looking at movie and computer screens − in short an almost Baroque sensitivity. Diaz Alonso, like many of his colleagues in the rarefied atmosphere of SCI-Arc in Los Angeles, is pushing the computer and its softwares as far as possible to create architectures that are almost floral, biomorphic and cyborgian. In this ‘new world’, the old aphorisms of Modernism (‘form follows function’, ‘ornament is crime’) are not just ignored but actively abused. Function, space, programmes and constructional pragmatism are thrown to the winds, supplicant to the synthetic, sinuous curves of the new bio-computational replicants. Currently housed in the MAK archive in Vienna, Pitch Black is a modest installation for Diaz Alonso, yet it is one of my favourite pieces of his work. It has poise and a lightness of touch but equally it is astounding in its fragility and alien-ness. ‘Fear and lust hide in the dark’, Diaz Alonso says of the project. The installation consists of five elements including projections, line drawings and digital 3D prints. But the real focus is the ‘spiders’, whose spindly, splayed limbs resemble baby deer learning to walk, and the beautiful 3D-printed silvery forms surmounting them, which combine metallic driftwood and the mercurial fluidity of a nanotech Terminator 2. The whole ensemble gives the impression of cyborgian forms becoming stronger − at the moment benign but for how much longer? Fear, yes, of which might come next − what these aliens might turn into? Lust, maybe, a lust for the strange, the different and the chromed digital caress. You are also reminded of the jewel-like quality of these pieces and their a-scalar appearance. Photographed
‘Although its essential spatial language belongs to a recognisable digital vocabulary, it suggests that the application of digital tools can deliver an entirely idiosyncratic reading. The dense application of contemporary software tools need not produce a generic and predictable form language, but instead delivers a uniquely personal result.’
ERIC OWEN MOSS
without human accompaniment they could be any size. Equally, this installation implies that the spiders, with their beautiful but frightening silvery nerve centres, are starting to flock and stalk through the space, at once intimidating and fascinating, the eye dazzled by the symphony of form and curves. In terms of scale, Diaz Alonso’s work has explored such subjects as cutlery for Alessi in his ‘Instruments of Manner’ series, chairs and other installations, as well as competition entries and invitations to apply his skills to a variety of architectural issues. I find the smaller pieces more convincing mainly for their anthropomorphic tactility. Some of the ‘Instruments of Manner’ are exquisite. A few critics have seized on the apolitical nature of Diaz Alonso’s oeuvre and it is partly true that the politics of his work are undeclared. Yet, this trait is not confined to Diaz Alonso but is shared by many younger architects. Indeed I would argue that architects across the world are mostly apolitical except for the transparent worthies who eat grass, ride bikes and transmit contagious boredom in company. Apoliticism in youth can be excused for a while, justified by unrestrained exuberance and a less deep understanding of the vicissitudes of history. It is after all what late capitalism wants us to do − forget and crave the new in all its cyborgian forms. But this quest for the new, in all its forms, can sometimes throw the baby out with the bath water. Once we discover something ‘new’ how long does it satiate our desires for the even ‘newer’? Or can it leave us with a sense of anti-climax when we discover it is not as earth-shakingly original as we had hoped. Diaz Alonso’s work straddles this paradox. In an age of paradox, paradox is what comes through in Diaz Alonso’s work. It has the exactitude of digital logics yet also he strives to ‘dirty’ the process up. He maintains the humanist and aesthete position yet it is not, he says, about craft. Are the traditional tools of judging architecture failing us? Do we know what architecture is any more? As Cedric Price once suggested, is it about finishing the already assumed to be finished? Above all, I admire Diaz Alonso’s guiltless rhetoric and his unburdened creativity. Watch him, he will go far − he’s gone pretty far already. He is staking new terrain. Few architects do this. installation plan ar | december 2013 51
HEALTH SCIENCES FACULTY, SAN JORGE UNIVERSITY TALLER BÁSICO DE ARQUITECTURA
Housing teaching facilities for students of pharmacy, nursing and physiotherapy at Zaragoza’s San Jorge University, this Faculty of Health Sciences joins two existing buildings, a rectory and Communications Faculty, on the periphery of the city. Though the setting is semi-rural, the landscape is not especially bucolic, peppered with scrub and spindly saplings, as the campus is still evolving. In reply, the building turns in on itself around an intimate triangular patio formed by a trio of L-shaped wings. In this way it both defines and becomes the landscape. ‘It’s architecture thought of as part of a new nature’, as Javier Pérez-Herreras, partner in TBA, describes it. ‘It offers a new landscape of white scales breathing light on the outside and a big room open to the sky on the inside.’ Evoking the whiteness and hermeticism of traditional Iberian architecture, each wing is conceived as a set of overlapping white planes 52 ar | december 2013
or scales in the landscape. Thin glazed slots between the scales present guarded views out and channel daylight from the south and east into classrooms and research spaces. It’s faculty as fortress, a crisply executed and self-contained grove of academe, with a triad at its heart. The dimensions and configurations of the room modules are not proscriptive so rooms can be adapted to a range of uses. Spaces are single loaded off spinal connecting corridors running around the inner patio side. Here the concrete is left raw, like the rough core of a geode, and incised with larger planes of glazing. The jury thought this a highly accomplished and imaginative response to the challenge of a brief that is essentially a repetitive series of classroom units. The solution makes a virtue of this repetition and elevates the modular into the atmospheric, creating architecture with a strong topographic presence in a nondescript campus terrain.
1. Imbricated concrete planes form the perimeter of the faculty: between them narrow slots of glazing mitigate glare and solar gain
2. The white concrete planes of the perimeter contrast with the window-punctured béton brut of the interior 3. Oblique angles draw visitors in to the courtyard 4. The interiors are ﬁlled with reﬂected light
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Architect Taller Básico de Arquitectura Photographs JM Cutillas
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As a microcosmic embodiment of structural and architectural ingenuity, the observation tower is a perennial staple in submissions for the Awards. The version that attracted the jury’s attention this year is a timber structure set on a forested hill on the outskirts of Hemer, just east of the Ruhr in North Rhine-Westphalia. Originally designed as a landmark for a regional garden festival, the hyperboloid structure comprises 240 timber battens criss-crossing in two directions around the tower to create a crisply articulated lattice structure. Inside, a spiral staircase winds up to an observation deck. Visible from afar and offering panoramic vistas of Hemer, the 23.5m high tower marks the edge of the town and the transition into the surrounding forest landscape. The laminated timber battens are fabricated from pale Siberian
OBSERVATION TOWER Birk Heilmeyer & Frenzel Architekten
1. (Opposite) the tower rises from Jüberg hill in the Hemer Sauerlandpark 2. Inside the timber structure, stairs wind up to the observation deck
site plan larch with a square section of 80mm. Structural loads diminish as the tower rises, so the lattice expands and becomes more permeable at the top, flaring out like a funnel while minimising its footprint on the ground. Anchored by steel piles, the lattice is entirely self-supporting, with no central mast or additional structural members. The jury admired the evident thoughtfulness and economy of the structural solution and its beautifully precise execution.
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1. The production of Mani stones, inscribed with a Buddhist mantra for addition to the cairn, provides much employment for locals 2. Built by local masons, the random rubble walls of the new visitor centre allude to the structure of the sacred cairn
JIANAMANI VISITOR CENTRE Atelier Teamminus
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Bordering the north-east edge of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, Yushu is a significant centre of Tibetan Buddhism. Its importance derives from being the site of the Jianamani, the world’s largest Buddhist cairn. Over three centuries old, this monumental sacred mound contains over 250 million Mani stones. These are stone plates, rocks or pebbles typically inscribed with the six-syllable mantra ‘om mani padme hum’ or any Buddhist devotional prayer. Intended as offerings to spirits of place, Mani stones are placed along roadsides and rivers or piled together to form cairns. Creating or carving them is seen as an ego-transcending practice. Fed by a steady stream of pilgrims, the Jianamani continues to grow. Nearly half of Yushu’s population earn a living by carving Mani stones and after an earthquake in 2010, local people set about repairing the Jianamani before attending to their own homes. The new visitor centre serves both tourist pilgrims and
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site plan 62 ar | december 2013
the wider community, providing information about the cairn as well as incorporating a post oﬃce, clinic and small research archive. The building adopts a traditional square Tibetan plan augmented by a network of observation decks that choreograph vistas of the Jianamani and various sites associated with it. Form and construction draw on locally available technologies and recast the simple, robust language of Tibetan vernacular buildings. Intricate, random rubble walls crafted by local masons evoke the texture of the Jianamani and employ the same rock from which mani stones are carved. Observation decks are fabricated from timber with some elements recycled from earthquake debris. The jury was impressed by how the project connected very explicitly with place and culture, and how the architecture had a sense of timelessness while also cultivating a wider social purpose.
3. (Previous spread) the cyclopean walls of the centre have a mass and solidity that feels timeless 4. Pilgrims throng beneath prayer ﬂags around the monumental cairn, made up of over 250 million Mani stones
5. The network of roof terraces offers views of the cairn and surrounding sacred sites
Architect TeamMinus Photographs Courtesy of the architect
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1. (Opposite) pink concrete tendrils glow against the Mediterranean sky 2. The seductive colour blends softly with the town’s roofscape
APARTMENTS ATELIER FERNANDEZ & SERRES
Though the veiled box is a familiar architectural device, this version of it deploys an organically inspired mashrabiya confected from dusky pink concrete to enliven a basic residential block. The building is essentially a shoebox containing 74 apartments for students and researchers on short-term secondment at the Oceanographic Observatory at Banyuls-sur-Mer, a coastal resort in the eastern Pyrenees. The observatory is affiliated to the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, France’s largest specialist science university. The programme also includes lounge spaces and a canteen for residents. Ground and first floors house these
communal spaces with four decks of accommodation stacked above. Rooms are compact, in the manner of student halls, accessed by peripheral walkways that double as balcony spaces. Enveloped in its ornate concrete screen, the monolithic block overlooks the harbour, imparting a gently surreal air to the waterfront. Architects Fernandez & Serres describe it as ‘creating a subtle vibration within the town’. Apart from a long glazed gash cut in the first floor to give the canteen views out over the sea, the facade is impressively hermetic and seamless. The rippling fronds of coral pink concrete recall the delicate, questing tendrils of sea
anemones, an appropriate analogy since the building’s function concerns marine research. The screen filters the intense Mediterranean light and its concrete tendrils cast rippling shadows along the external decks seductively animating the long walkways. Broken down into a series of panels, the facade was prefabricated on site using specially designed formwork. As a decorated box, the building is effectively an astute one-liner. Nonetheless the jury admired the ambition to create a compelling piece of architecture out of a modest programme and applauded the imaginative and technical achievement of the facade. ar | december 2013 65
0 first floor plan with restaurant
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3. Appropriately, this apartment block for oceanographers borrows the colour and wriggling forms of coral 4. Views of the adjacent harbour are veiled by the concrete mashrabiya
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MAKOKO FLOATING SCHOOL NLE 2
1. The floating school in the lagoon landscape 2. The simple A-frame structure is extremely stable and can also be customised for other uses
Photographs Iwan Baan
This pilot project for a floating school was built for the community of Makoko on the lagoon fringe of Nigeria’s most populous city Lagos. Around 100,000 people live in Makoko in houses built on stilts. Yet the community has no roads, no land and no formal infrastructure to support it and is precariously under threat from the municipal government, which has attempted to demolish it. In many ways Makoko epitomises the critical challenges posed by urbanisation and climate change across Africa. At the same time it also inspires possible new solutions and alternatives to the invasive culture of land reclamation. In partnership with various NGOs, Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi, who formerly worked
for OMA, devised a prototype floating structure to serve primarily as a school while also being scalable and adaptable for other uses, such as a health centre, market or housing. Constructed from locally sourced bamboo and timber, the simple and economical A-frame structure allows for customisation depending on needs and capacities. Its low centre of gravity provides stability even in turbulent conditions and recycled plastic barrels form an efficient buoyancy system. The jury was impressed by the project’s determination and ingenuity in harnessing the transformational potential of architecture to address an extreme social context.
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BAMBOO COURTYARD TEAHOUSE HWCD 1
Synthesising elements of traditional Chinese garden design with a contemporary sensibility, this project for a modern teahouse provides a setting for one of China’s most culturally significant rituals, the tea ceremony. Cultivated over centuries, it requires a neutral space in which to fully appreciate its nuances. The teahouse is set in a park in Yangzhou, a city to the northwest of Shanghai. Its lakeside site isolates it from the distraction of the surrounding city and its fragmented form alludes to Yangzhou’s historic vernacular of courtyards surrounded by inward-facing pavilions. The project began with a basic square footprint, which was then fragmented into smaller volumes 70 ar | december 2013
around a central landscaped courtyard. Each fragment has carefully framed views into the surrounding lake and courtyard. Austere volumes of grey brick are wrapped in bamboo pergolas and colonnades that simultaneously veil and add depth and complexity to the facade. The lightness and fragility of the bamboo counterpoints the mass and solidity of the brick. At night, light catches the structures, so the teahouse appears clothed in a delicately glowing mantle of bamboo. The jury admired the scheme’s lyricism and deft handling of materials, and the way in which it wove together elements from traditional Chinese architecture and landscape to generate a new formal language.
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1. (Previous page) seen from across the lake, the teahouse’s bamboo envelope eases the structure into its bucolic surroundings 2. (Previous page) the building is fragmented into a series of courtyards 3. Light striates through the delicate bamboo veil
ground floor plan
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Architect HWCD Photographs Courtesy of the architect
Cestes as apedipsam vitam que oditior aut magnim que nam repro derunturio. Nequia nate ipsam reruptas cumet excessitatio eribus reped mollupt atureptium numquas voluptibus et aspisquae volorum aliquiam, inullacearum utem sim samusci ligenti
Cestes as apedipsam vitam que oditior aut magnim que
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CEMETERY HALL HIROSHI NAKAMURA
Hiroshi Nakamura’s Optical Glass House in Hiroshima shared first prize in last year’s Awards (AR December 2012). This year he is the sole Japanese representative, with a project for a cemetery hall in Sayama in eastern Japan. Set in the forested hills of Sayama, the cemetery has a lush, Arcadian quality, transforming it into a tranquil garden of the dead. The building provides a focal point in the landscape, a place in which mourners can gather before and after funerals. Visitors to the cemetery can also use it when paying their respects to their loved ones. The architecture is serene, sober and elemental, with an emphasis on natural materials, the sensitive handling of light, and the expression of a connection with nature. A roughly circular plan has an inner core of service functions and an outer ring of public and private gathering spaces enveloped by a great conical roof extending almost to the ground. From a distance, the building resembles a warped 74 ar | december 2013
1. The warped conical roof extends down to the edge of a tranquil pool
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section and ﬂattened wigwam surrounded by a shallow reﬂecting pool. a roof garden planted with Japanese maples protrudes through the conical canopy, as if the trees are growing up through the building. clerestory glazing funnels light from the roof garden into the spaces below, and seasonally changing foliage adds to the poetical eﬀect in a reminder of the regenerative power of nature. more prosaically it also assists in environmental regulation, with cool air drawn in from the pool and warm air rising to be expelled into the roof garden. a narrow slot of glazing frames views out to the pool and landscape. a leather bench around the perimeter of the hall encourages visitors to rest and contemplate in calm introspection, sheltered and protected by the great roof. The jury admired the modesty and nuance of the project and how it responded with great thoughtfulness to the social and personal sensitivities of bereavement. 78 ar | december 2013
2. (Previous spread) from a distance, the tree-ﬁlled cone blends in with and acts as the culmination to a leafy, stele-ﬁlled landscape 3. (Opposite) the glazed perimeter oﬀers space for the contemplation of nature
Architect Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP Photographs Koji Fujii/Nacasa & Partners
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The creative reuse of old buildings is addressed in this modest but compelling project for the regional headquarters of the Rubido Romero Foundation, a Spanish charity that offers support to the elderly and disabled. On a site in rural Galicia, an existing farmhouse is renovated to provide space for lectures, exhibitions, counselling and community activities. The approach sensitively unites old and new elements in a dialogue that articulates a convincing new whole. Iberian vernacular architecture has particular character of plainness and sobriety and this spirit finds thoughtful expression here. The thick stone walls of the farmhouse are meticulously repaired and the interior painted white with new floors of grey granite. Existing timber beams are left raw, the dark patina of age a deliberate and powerful intrusion within the glacial interior. Dark steel elements complete the limited palette.
RUBIDO ROMERO FOUNDATION ABALO ALONSO ARQUITECTOS
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Part of the two-storey building was originally a stable with a low ceiling height. The intermediate floor structure has been removed to create a dignified, doubleheight volume that reflects the building’s revitalised role. The jury was impressed by the reticent, elemental quality of the architecture and how this finds expression in a series of simple, highly controlled moves.
1. The low roof and thick walls of the old farmhouse create an impression of great strength and solidity 2. Whitewashed rubble walls and stained timber wainscotting form a neutral backdrop to modern furnishings 3. New and old elements articulate a convincing and subtle sum of parts 4. Massive stone shelves provide storage
Architect Abalo Alonso Arquitectos Photographs Héctor Santos-Díez/ BISimages ar | december 2013 81
EDUCATION CENTRE DOMINIKUS STARK ARCHITEKTEN
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A hiCAD STUDENTEN V
A hiCAD STUDENTEN V
1. While the colour of the brick blends in with the dusty local soil, the building’s crisply hewn volumes stand out from the undulating terrain 2. The formal language of black steel and pale brick recalls the Smithsons’ Hunstanton School transposed to the tropics
The central african state of rwanda is rarely the focus of attention or engagement by european architects. In designing the Nyanza education centre, munich-based dominikus Stark had to reset his architectural compass and navigate a new path of improvisation and adaptation. The outcome is an exceptionally sober and digniﬁed building that resonates with place, time and culture. conceived as an educational lighthouse with a diverse training programme, the centre was established as a private initiative in the southern town of Nyanza. On a rural site, the new complex is set like a boulder or fortress in the landscape. analogous to local building tradition, inward-facing elements are grouped around a large courtyard that functions as a protected enclave of social encounter. The roof structure is also oriented towards the courtyard enabling the collection and storage of precious rainwater. Only the publicly accessible internet café and copy shop open up to the outside to create a forecourt and entrance.
Local precedents also establish an austere language of colour and form. This is drilled down to three basic materials − brick, steel and wickerwork − as construction, protection, surfacing or decoration. clay, the traditional building material, is employed for the whole complex. The manual ﬁring process creates intriguing irregularities and colour variations that give the walls an extraordinarily subtle texture unlike the blandness of industrially manufactured bricks. because wood is scarce here it is not used for building purposes, so alternatives had to be sought. ceilings are lined with thin sheets of papyrus and local basket-makers fabricated wickerwork doors and screens. The involvement of local craftsmen embeds the centre more directly in the community it serves, and reinforces a wider dynamic of sustainability. The jury was impressed by the project’s evident skill and sensitivity in reconceptualising vernacular precedents to create an authentic modern architecture in a challenging context.
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3. (Opposite) the same brick is used for walls and paving, creating a unified formal environment in the enclosed central courtyard Architect Dominikus Stark Architekten Photographs Courtesy of the architect
section AA B 1 language lab 2 library 3 kitchen 4 open-air kitchen 5 kitchen garden 6 dining hall 7 classroom 8 internet café 9 administration block
6 9 5
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SKY COURTS EXHIBITION HALL HOWELER + YOON ARCHITECTURE
Set in a park in chengdu, this project for an exhibition complex explores the internalised form of the traditional chinese courtyard house to generate a variety of aggregated exhibition galleries within a single building. broken up into a series of diﬀerently scaled halls wrapped around seven courtyards, the structures create a range of open spaces within the deep ﬂoor plan. This strategy has both spatial and environmental benefits. The aggregation of courtyards within the larger building becomes a network of spaces linked by multiple paths, so the exhibition hall is at once open and subdivided. The sequence through these precincts creates a series of layered spaces with views through the courtyards. The courtyards maintain a pure rectilinear geometry while the edge of the building responds to the irregular site condition. This gives rise to a complex hyperbolic roofscape based on inward-sloping planes. Passive energy control strategies are integral to the design, redeploying techniques 86 ar | december 2013
1. The grey brick facades have a variable texture
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from the traditional courtyard house in a contemporary context. Reducing dependence on artificial and mechanical sources, the network of courtyards encourages cross ventilation and exploits natural light, while the thermal mass of the brick and concrete walls regulates temperature swings throughout the day. The project draws extensively on local construction techniques and materials. Facades are made from locally produced grey brick, thoughtfully detailed to emphasise the tectonics of the brick as a building module as well as the oblique geometries of the building. Each brick is oriented in the same direction, so that west and east walls are smooth while other facades have a serrated quality. Reprising the geometry of the roof planes, Corten steel panels emphasise clusters of openings and break down the scale of the building. The jury was impressed by the approach to creating a simple but culturally resonant architectural language that intelligently draws on the past to inform the present. 88 ar | december 2013
2. From the air, the inward-sloping eaves appear like tesseracts 3. This geometry is echoed in the weathered Corten window surrounds 4. The courtyard form generates a complex, irregular roofline
Architect Höweler + Yoon Architecture Photographs Yihaui Hu
ground floor plan
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INTERNATIONAL VELUX AWARD 2014 FOR STUDENTS OF ARCHITECTURE 'RESONANCE, MEMORY' BY BO LI AND GE MEN, WINNER OF THE 2012 AWARD
REGISTER AT IVA.VELUX.COM BY 3 MARCH
The VELUX Group challenges the world’s architecture students to explore daylight in architecture under the award theme Light of Tomorrow. The International VELUX Award is open to creative reflections on the role of daylight in architecture. You can investigate this fundamental element freely within the built environment: in urban contexts; in individual buildings; or as a more abstract concept. However, we encourage you to focus on the importance of sunlight for a sustainable development that takes human needs and the rhythms and balances of nature into account. We welcome your participation and look forward to your contribution to the continuous discussion on daylight and architecture.
Read more on: iva.velux.com and facebook.com/internationalveluxaward Registration closes on 3 March
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silver linings the active third age and the future of the city BY WILL HUNTER AND JAMES PARKINSON, ILLUSTRATIONS PATRICK VALE
Benefiting from increased life expectancy and better healthcare, the Active Third Age are aged between 60 and 74 and lead mobile and energetic lives. As their numbers grow over the coming decades, we speculate on how this demographic group could shape and define the city of the future, imagining five possible scenarios for the Britain of 2030
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special report By 2050 there will be two billion people aged over 60 worldwide. That’s a 250 per cent increase on today’s figures.1 We can all now expect to live longer than any previous generation; since 1970, worldwide life expectancy has risen by around 10 years for both men and women2 and this is not only being driven by the developed world, which has seen life expectancy nearly double in the last century,3 the developing world too is a large contributing factor with life expectancy nearly tripling in the same period.4 In the UK, the population of older people is growing at a much faster rate than other age groups; evidence suggests that between 2013 and 2035, the number of people aged 60+ in the UK will increase by 43 per cent and that in 2035, nearly a third of our population will be over the age of 60.5 This means that we can expect a more equal distribution of age groups within our society over the next 20 years and people over 60 years old will no longer represent a minority group. At the same time, we are seeing an increase in the number of healthy years we can expect during our lifetime. At age 65, men in the UK can now expect to live (on average) a further 10 years in good health, with a life expectancy of 83 years. Women can expect 11.7 years of good health after the age of 65 and a slightly longer life expectancy than men: 85.6 years.6 This means that, post retirement age, we can all expect to live over half of our remaining lives in good health.7 An increased number of active, healthy members of society approaching (or beyond) retirement, represent a new demographic phenomenon, unique to this period in history. Known as the ‘Active Third Age’, this group is 60-74 years old, and still very much engaged in leisure and cultural pursuits. They can expect a significant period − maybe a decade or more − between the end of their formal working lives and old age (the point at which they may require assistance or care), unless we see retirement age increased substantially. With time, health and a will to participate in mainstream society, this group are in an exciting phase of life, one that could potentially afford new freedoms and opportunities. This demographic shift will present challenges, but more interestingly, significant opportunities: a cohort fully able to contribute to both society and the economy. In addition, people aged over 50 today (who currently only account for a third of the population) own 80 per cent of the wealth. This presents a heady mix of potential political and economic power. (Whether the growing, Active Third Age harness and retain this potential power is still unclear.) The emerging Active Third-Agers represent a unique opportunity for positive change. This group has a key role to play in the successful transition to a new demographic landscape; one in which older age is more widely considered as a dynamic and productive phase of life. Over the following pages we speculate on a series of potential future scenarios, at a range of scales from the home, through the neighbourhood and town to wider urban and international networks. Considered together, these scenarios aim to respond to the socio-economic trends we have identified, while drawing out the positive 92 ar | december 2013
contribution that our shifting demographic landscape could have on the city of the near future. They are not predictions or proposals, but possibilities envisaged to inspire ideas and debate. Guiding our speculations and derived from the evidence presented in this report, are a series of key drivers of change. Some scenarios draw on more than one of these, but the principle that unites them all is that we have a growing and ageing population and this will include an increase in an Active Third Age. Our shifting demographics: ● The cost of providing pension, welfare and health services to older people is set to rise considerably. ● There is a significant, untapped market opportunity surrounding the older consumer. ● There is significant potential for the Active Third Age to contribute to the production economy through work; either voluntary or by necessity. ● Lifelong learning in the form of skills transfer, re-training and mentoring is likely to grow in both popularity and necessity. ● Healthy lifestyles and wellbeing are gaining prominence in political discourse as ways to counter the rising cost of public healthcare including issues of obesity, social isolation and mental health.
The desire to see more of the world combined with the need for fewer possessions could see the Active Third Age spawn international networks of a new housing type: a cross between a mansion block and a members' club, which allows privacy, sociability and global travel
The wider context: ● We have a housing crisis, with a lack of quality, affordable homes for an increasing population. ● Both the traditional British high street and coastal town are in decline. ● Technology and virtual networks (of information, or communities) are becoming more influential, enabling new relationships and exchanges. ● Raising a family in the 21st century is becoming increasingly complicated amid social change, with new types of family unit and new pressures of working parents, cost of childcare and provision of facilities in the modern city. ● Political influence will likely rise as the population ages and we could see a significant shift in policy to reflect this voting power.
dematerialised, with music, movies, photographs, books, magazines and correspondence becoming digital rather than physical assets. Where previously such collections were the amassed clutter of an active social and cultured lifestyle, they can now be slipped into a pocket or simply projected as part of a digital persona. The life lived has come to be defined as a collection of experiences, not things. The Active Third Age typify this experience-seeking, light-travelling group and roam the globe, prompting networks of members’ club mansion blocks to emerge that allow such itinerant, uncluttered and unencumbered lifestyles to flourish. Increasing numbers of Third-Agers no longer require, or desire, a fixed residence, and new ways of encouraging them to open up housing for younger families have become a key priority area for governments and policy makers.
1. MEMBERS’ CLUB MANSION BLOCK: A NEW URBAN LIFESTYLE
Consumers of culture and experience
An international network of residences is replacing home ownership, balancing privacy with sociability and liberating Third-Agers to explore the world in style
Transient lifestyles In 2030 Third-Agers are travelling more, and travelling light. Over the course of their lives their possessions have
If retirement used to be about winding down, for the Active Third Age it is now about gearing up. This increasingly healthy and confident group consider the traditional country idyll to be stifling and isolating, preferring to engage in the cultural melting pot of the world’s global cities − more connected and accessible than ever before. Those with money and energy are spending these resources in equal measure, consuming global ar | december 2013 93
‘Over half of 46 to 65 year olds plan to travel more during retirement’ Standard Life − The Death of Retirement culture and embracing the urban age. Market innovation and enterprise has responded to cater for this cohort’s new demands: accommodation that supports their need for security, comfort and sociability within the home, yet provides easy, integrated access to the stimulation, richness and culture of public life characteristic of the modern city. What began as a response to the Active Third Age has come to heavily influence the way buildings and spaces now explore permeability and fluidity between private and social life and the boundaries between transience and permanence. Those shaping the City in 2030 are increasingly concerned with the user experience; how to ensure people are closer and more involved at the heart of the action. 94 ar | december 2013
Mansion block for the Third Age Occupying central urban plots with good transport links, high-density members’ club mansion blocks for the Active Third Age are a common feature. While stylish, the apartments are economical in the amount of personal space they offer, with their design revolving around a greater focus on the shared and social spaces supporting the private dwellings; with dining, leisure and even learning used to build a very modern sense of transient community. As a 21st-century iteration of the 19th-century mansion block, this metropolitan housing type will be a synthesis of privacy and sociability, re-imagined for the Active Third Age. Networks of these residences − either constructed organically, as a form of international association, or by private companies fusing the model of the hotel with the private members’ club − have become ever more developed, often attached to key cultural and educational institutions. Plentiful and trusted accommodation in international hotspots has resulted in an extreme form of urban time-share; instead of being ‘a home away from
With shops deserting the high street, the Active Third Age have spearheaded the regeneration of town centres, using other programmes to replace retail transactions with social exchange
home’ the members’ club mansion block is a chain of ‘home after home after home’. This domestic arrangement is seen as the inevitable conclusion of a trend that has been developing since the 1950s − the rise of individualism. Abandoning the idea of the neighbourhood, it is now the relationship with the ever-changing city that these Third-Agers wish to prioritise, remaining actively engaged in civic life, with their new notion of a supportive community becoming flexible, transient − even global.
2. THE HIGH STREET REVIVED
The Active Third Age have reclaimed the high street acting as catalyst for new public amenity, private enterprise and intergenerational exchange
Reviving the high street The British high street in 2030 is a hive of activity. After struggling economically for decades − ceding ground first to out-of-town offers and then the rise of online retail − its social purpose was significantly undermined. However,
intrinsic urban characteristics remained that allowed the Active Third Age to lead a revival: central locations at the heart of traditional communities, and a comparatively varied and characterful urban fabric, able to host a mixture of uses and frame public life. Third-Agers have invigorated our high streets and shifted the balance back towards diverse, prosperous and active hubs for our new intergenerational communities. The most important exchanges are no longer those between retailer and consumer, but between different types of people, as monetary transactions recede behind social ones. By their very nature, high streets developed centrally so people could walk to them, and that has become ever more important for a low-carbon future. In appearance the high street remains familiar, yet the activities taking place there have been transformed: the shops remain, but with much less shopping.
Choreographing the community This increasing Third Age presence was the catalyst to finally convince local authorities that high streets could be ar | december 2013 95
better re-imagined as destinations to host local services and support recreation; a distinct shift in emphasis from a retail focus. With Third-Agers playing a much larger role in their grandchildren’s care, playgrounds accompanying the local crèche, nursery or infant school became a feature on high streets nationwide. This daily presence of old and young provided the impetus to rethink the urban fabric; from how we use existing buildings, to the character of public spaces. High streets became much more flexible, containing a diversity of uses that support a rich, active social and civic life. This, in turn, attracted new families to consolidate the local community. High streets were reborn as places to meet and dwell, going beyond more functional trips to become destinations enjoyed by many age groups.
A dynamic social hub Different high streets took a bespoke, local approach to this transformation. Public space varied from pleasure gardens or covered arcades for meandering and repose, to allotments where food is grown for home-use, sold locally as a living market, or cooked in adjacent cafés and 96 ar | december 2013
restaurants. Local services from doctors to town hall functions were relocated among new opportunities for recreation and play such as health and fitness clubs or sports facilities. Individual shop units that were once monofunctional became exciting hybrids of use; chemists took on larger healthcare roles signing deals with the NHS to offer some of its services while also encouraging healthy lifestyles through facilities and classes, delivered within the adjacent public realm. Driven by technological advances facilitating networks of ‘pop-up’ university courses, libraries saw a renaissance, mixing life-long learning with childcare or providing small business incubator spaces for new Third-Age entrepreneurs. Pubs often became ideal spaces for intergenerational knowledge exchange and skill sharing, as the boundaries between generations began to blur. This cluster of expertise with both the time and technology to innovate, led to new enterprise and local business taking root locally, from small-scale manufacture and 3-D printing workshops to specialist consultancy; plenty of the Active Third Age now work
As the trend for the Active Third Age to move to the coast continues, private companies focus their attentions on the seaside to court this reliable demographic group into increasingly flexible working environments
‘30 per cent of 46 to 65 year olds say they want to continue to be involved in work − but on their own terms’ Standard Life − The Death of Retirement decline with high unemployment and poor levels of education. The trend for older people to move to the coast in later life continued after 2013, but with the threshold between working life and retirement becoming increasingly blurred, the rise of the Active Third Age proved a catalyst for wholesale rebirth. The presence of an educated, skilled workforce brought in much-needed investment and began to shape a new economic purpose and identity, bespoke to each town but united as a riposte to the traditional tourism model of the past. Coastal towns now offer a real alternative to our core cities, one that still draws on the charm and nostalgia that remains from their heydays, but couples this with a viable socioeconomic future.
part-time, with the flexibility and proximity to continue to watch over their grandchildren. Reasons to visit daily, for a variety of purposes, have helped reinstate the high street at the heart of the local neighbourhood. A flexible and adaptable urban fabric of retail, commerce, service provision and recreation has created an ecosystem of production and consumption, of learning and working, of socialising and caring; all galvanised by the presence of the Active Third Age.
3. SEASIDE ENTERPRISE ZONES: A NEW LOCAL ECONOMY
Flexible work, leisure and living opportunities for Third-Agers have attracted investment to kick-start coastal towns
A sea change in coastal towns It was the Active Third Age that saved our coastal towns. Characterised by a worrying cycle of deprivation and dependency only two decades ago, the seaside town of 2030 is no longer a place of significant social and economic
At the root of this success was the way the Active Third Age allowed them to diversify or specialise their economies; rethinking the reliance on the same tourism industry that has been declining since cheap, package holidays abroad made such an impact on the British public. While coastal tourism was born in the days of the industrial revolution, as an escape from dirty, polluted cities, there is no reason, in the modern world, why industry and tourism should be so starkly separated. New specialist industries were well suited to a location outside Britain’s main cities, and encouraged to work in tandem with tourism to revive both the economic structure and the unique identity of coastal towns. Private companies increasingly welcomed older employees who have often proved to be articulate, responsible and reliable members of their workforce. Such companies were encouraged to invest in coastal areas, forming strategic partnerships with the local authority or taking advantage of new national Government policy initiatives to establish special economic zones for innovation. The Coastal Communities Fund, set up by Government back in 2012, acknowledged the public sector role in stimulating investment and became key to unlocking the potential of demographic change and the impact that the Active Third Age could have at the scale of a town.
Expertise as local identity A new model of identity-led regeneration has emerged; one that is replicated around the country, each location being defined by a different industry combining tourism, production and training. This layered economy provides a resilient and sustainable structure that has allowed places to best harness the resource presented by our shifting demographic landscape. Third-Age ‘enterprise zones’ have become fully integrated into the urban fabric and are now widely supported by new infrastructure from high-speed rail links to new public transport routes. ar | december 2013 97
special report New innovations in housing models now explore retirement housing organised around career type, in order to make an attractive proposition for potential residents who will have confidence they will be living with people sharing similar interests. In this regard, we are seeing both private business and professional institutions investing and committing to a place and its community, reminiscent of the Victorian philanthropists in both scope and impact. Over time, a synergy has developed between education (intergenerational skill sharing), production (specialist industry) and consumption (entertainment, leisure and tourism) at the scale of the town. Catalysed by the Active Third Age, this has consolidated the image, identity and future of Britain’s coastal town heritage. Instead of a spiral of decline and deprivation, a new cycle of sustainable innovation and enterprise has emerged to help rebalance the national economy.
4. CITY NETWORKS: THE POP-UP UNIVERSITY
The city has become a university, using existing infrastructure to support learning and skill sharing between generations
Intergenerational knowledge transfer Many Active Third-Agers in 2030 are taking the opportunity to study later in life. Some need to re-train to extend their working life, or move into a different sector to better suit their health and lifestyle, but many will see learning as part of a leisured life. Studying informally and for the sheer enjoyment of it, this group often pick and mix short courses. The University of the Third Age (U3A) has, for half a century now, pioneered older experts or enthusiasts sharing knowledge and skills, using existing spaces for lessons with no help from the state. What began as learning for fun, within a social group, became a defining feature of the increasingly Active Third Age presence in the 21st-century city. This intensifying demographic phenomenon, coupled with technological advances, enabled U3A to blossom, expanding the network which became chief mediator to connect people from different generations who previously may only have met through family, friends or proximity. Conversely, some Third-Agers now see participation in education as part of their responsibility to society. Following the dramatic rise in student tuition fees, this type of intergenerational knowledge transfer has come to play a profound role in the higher education market, from course-based accredited formats to practical experiencebased ones. Retired accountants now impart book-keeping skills, while those from the building trades are readily mentoring apprentices.
‘76 per cent of older people say that their talents and skills go unused and are wasted by our country’ One Voice: Shaping Our Ageing Society of Retirement 98 ar | december 2013
Traditionally a place for social interaction, the public house struggled in the early 21st century to stay in business. Could pubs of the future host other programmes, such as skills transfer between the generations?
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City as campus
A new approach to work/life balance
An array of networks has now become well established to facilitate this new knowledge economy. These mostly, though not exclusively, choreograph first contact between people in the digital realm, but unlike Open University where remote learning is valued for its convenience, Third-Agers have embraced the more social aspects of face-to-face interaction. Both the giving and receiving of education are now carried out in ad-hoc urban settings, using and appropriating existing spaces and infrastructure. The city has become a university. The cultural resources of the metropolis easily serve such an enterprise with galleries, museums and theatres offering informal, open and free space to meet. But private businesses were quick to follow suit, with the morning and afternoon lulls in restaurants and cafés readily absorbed by the need for sociable spaces for seminars and workshops. Public transport is now an essential part of education taking place in the city; transport hubs often accommodate lectures and lessons, which even continue on certain trains and planes. Timetables and travel plans are now increasingly becoming structured around learning; from making the most of the commute to killing time at the airport, education is seeping into the everyday.
The Active Third-Agers have become the vanguard of this new work-learn-play lifestyle − liberated from being exclusively preoccupied with any one pursuit. Major social and commercial hubs now offer learning opportunities alongside existing products or services, to satisfy demand: libraries, high streets, theatres, galleries, public transport interchanges, cafés, all form part of an informal network of knowledge exchange and dissemination. The boundaries between work, education and leisure have blurred and the city has started to respond to this opportunity. Urban educational networks have become a valuable piece of social and financial infrastructure, giving purpose and employment to those seeking to learn or teach for enjoyment or enrichment.
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5. CITY NETWORKS: HEALTHY INFRASTRUCTURE
A network of Third-Age health hubs, connected by routes promoting exercise in public spaces, now encourage active ageing and wellbeing in the city
Promoting health Staying healthy is of increasing importance to Third-Agers in 2030. The determining factor of whether
Instead of going to the gym (a hopelessly 20thcentury monofunctional building type), city networks could provide many of the exercise environments needed by the Active Third Age to keep fit
‘80 per cent of 65 to 74 year olds in England are not doing the recommended levels of exercise’ lifestyles rather than spending unsustainable amounts on health provision − a move from reactionary towards preventative action. We also now see private companies marketing health services to Third-Agers. More than just a gym exclusively for an older clientele, innovative facilities act as a point-of-contact in the transition from work to retirement, creating a crucial social network − an arena not only for exercise but for camaraderie, support and even romance.
Health hubs and active networks
you will lead a fulfilling and varied later life is now widely acknowledged to be the degree to which you can remain active; a member of the Active Third Age. Public and private bodies were slow to react to the poor levels of exercise in older people but now endeavour to encourage fitness − both physical and mental − as part of daily routine. A new culture of public exercise is now perceived to help keep national health costs down and ensure Active Third-Agers can remain part of a reliable and productive workforce.
Street level interventions With an eye on health budgets, governments dramatically expanded active life campaigns and urban planning followed suit. Encouraged by national codes and local strategic plans, cities have invested in and developed long-term innovations in ‘healthy infrastructure’. They have been transformed with generous routes for walking, running and cycling along with integrated opportunities for sports and games or dwelling and socialising, catering for a broad demographic. Connections often link key landmarks, public parks or different communities by providing spaces and facilities that prioritise the active pedestrian. Money is increasingly invested in new environments that draw on design to foster and support healthy
There is now increasing potential to bring together public and private services, with gym providers creating facilities to support emerging recreation networks. Like the red telephone boxes that used to be an essential ingredient of the street, branded facilities are dispersed around the city, piggybacking off existing exercise spaces. These offer changing rooms, showers and bathrooms, cycle hire, cycle parking and social spaces to allow friends to meet. Crucially, they provide a 24-hour constant monitoring service that is linked to the health cloud and your local GP. Wrist bands take heart readings and blood pressure, and constant monitoring increasingly allows health problems to be predicted before they develop. Travelling across the city by recreational networks and integrated public transport has become the most healthy, efficient and accessible option; the obvious choice. In the same way commuting was once seen as an opportunity to catch up on the daily news, it’s now seen primarily as an opportunity to stay healthy and socialise while moving around the city.
This essay has been extracted from ‘Silver Linings: The Active Third Age and the City’ produced by RIBA Building Futures. The full report can be found at www.buildingfutures.org.uk
1. Ageing in the 21st Century: A Celebration and a Challenge, UNFPA/HelpAge International, 2012. 2. The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, The Lancet, 13 December 2012. 3. Around 1900 average life expectancy was between 45 and 50 years old in the developed world, now it is 80. Ageing in the 21st Century: A Celebration and a Challenge, UNFPA/HelpAge International, 2012. 4. Human Development 1900 & 2000: The Facts, New Internationalist magazine issue 309, 1999. 5. Based on data from analysis of the Office for National Statistics Principal Population Projection 2010 (continuing trends of births, deaths and migration). 6. Later Life in the United Kingdom: Fact Sheet, August 2013, Age UK, 2013. 7. Good Health is defined by the Office for National Statistics Healthy Life Expectancy which incorporates a quality of life dimension based upon self-perceived general health and freedom from limiting persistent illness or disability. ar | december 2013 101
Reviews Cretinous rustic idyll Austin Williams Less is Enough, Pier Vittorio Aureli, Strelka Press, e-book, £2.49 The global financial crisis hit in 2008 with a devastating impact on the world’s national economies. The rest is history, as they say. The consequent unravelling of much of the postwar world’s capitalist framework has been dramatic. But while the collapse of banking sectors and financial institutions has been uncomfortable, the collapse of global confidence seems to have had a more insidious effect. There are certain harsh economic realities that have had a detrimental impact on people’s lives and livelihoods, but there is now no clear understanding of, no real belief in, how we should get out of this mess. Let’s take an example of construction activity, long a bellwether of economic performance. Currently, construction output in the UK is 15 per cent below its pre-crisis peak in 2007; and Forbes magazine notes that ‘from 2007 through 2011, construction hemorrhaged roughly 2.2 million jobs across the US, or 28 per cent of its labor pool’. But given that it is widely recognised that it was a construction bubble that caused the problem in the first place, we are left with a philosophical dilemma about whether growing the construction sector is the way out. On one hand we want to build more, on the other we know that building more − too quickly − could lead to problems. In the past, this was a fiercely robust Keynesian/ Thatcherite public-political debate. Today it is simply a murmuring apology for stasis. This seems to be the ideological impasse of our age. Seeing the future as a worrisome place to be, caused by problems from the past, means that 102 ar | DECember 2013
we are somewhat paralysed in the present. This book attempts to address this issue ... a worthy effort which fails miserably. On the plus side: it advocates a Utopian project, which provides an ambitious attainment target; a beacon of hope. On the negative side: it advocates a Utopian project; a mere evasion of the causal problem that it seeks to address. Pier Vittorio Aureli is an architect who currently teaches at the Architectural Association in London. He has written widely on the subject of personal, political and architectural autonomy; he is avowedly anti-capitalist and is keen to reject the idea of austerity as a positive progenitor of a new dynamism. So far so good. He rejects the idea that less is more, and challenges the notion that hardship concentrates the mind. However, in place of the positive spin commonly applied to austerity these days by those who seek to deflect attention away from the failures of the system onto the individual, Aureli prefers to opt out. The book begins with an examination of monastic life. Aureli has a sneaking regard for those who have removed themselves from the mainstream while still retaining their critical faculties. He posits a version of Weber's ‘religious virtuoso’, someone who is separate from everyday life but who seeks to attain perfection through self-discipline. From the outset, Aureli says, ‘monasticism manifests itself as ... a radical critique of power, not by fighting it, but by leaving it’. As such, Aureli insists that ‘asceticism’ (self-training) is a better word −by implication a more progressive word − than ‘austere’. In other words, Aureli advocates abstinence instead of austerity as a new form of self-discipline. This is moving the goal posts in order to score an own goal. Essentially, it is like arguing that in order to avoid the cigarette ban,
Above: soggy hippies from the Hog Farm commune on their way to Woodstock — is the pursuit of the simple (minded) life a retreat to neanderthal crepuscularity?
you should give up smoking − that’ll show them! While Aureli thinks that this is an expression of power and decision-making, it is actually a sad reflection of the vacuum of ideas in today’s society. It is equivalent to self-censorship instead of the Leveson Inquiry into the British press; it’s emigration to avoid immigration laws. It’s redefining powerlessness as power. So, what are we left with? Aureli’s celebration of self-restraint is analogous to the short-lived movement that advocated living ‘off-grid’: those people who protested against extortionate water rates and electricity companies by empowering themselves to shit in a bucket ... in the dark. Admittedly, the difference between off-grid lifestyles and having your power cut off is all about intention and Aureli is keen to respect ‘self-enactment’ instead of pressure by others to behave in certain ways. But it is a funny kind of autonomy that will require ‘less individual freedom, although’, he adds, ‘that may be no bad thing’.
He concludes with an aspiration for ‘socially oriented ways of living such as co-housing or sharing domestic space ... [and] the less we have in terms of possessions’ he assures us, ‘the more we'll be able to share’. In effect, this kind of social justice through barter and collectivity was reasonably radical 200 years ago, but without an appreciation of the all-pervasive, anti-political contemporary climate, this is just so much romantic guff today. As Engels once wrote of the Utopian Socialists: ‘the more completely [the new social systems] were worked out in detail, the more they could not avoid drifting off into pure phantasies’. In essence, a secular monastic lifestyle, far from representing an engagement with social problems, is in fact the ultimate in cynical futility.
to resolve everyone’s life and every activity, thereby designing out the possibility of an unpredictable future. But this unpredictability is core to the human drive to make cities. We need to believe that, tomorrow, anything might be possible. This question of the role of the individual in shaping urbanity − to what extent masterplans can be imposed on a population, and whether they can ever be truly participatory − formed the backbone to the Battle of Ideas debate, titled ‘Master Planning the Future’. Hardly surprising, it was not a question that could be answered definitively, although the fast and furious exchange of opinions was entertaining and very telling about the broader historical condition in which it occurred. This condition
Below: fiat cities tend to exclude the vagaries of human life as it is really lived, and have a deadening effect on future development
might be summarised briefly as the Eastern tendency to build big (best results come from the top down) versus the Western faith in the wisdom of crowds (the best results come from the bottom up). The mistake would be in thinking this was merely a question of financial capacity − that China is on the economic ascendancy, while a languishing Europe and America have to do more with less − quite the contrary, the battle lines were drawn as unambiguously ideological. Farshid Moussavi made the excellent point that masterplanning as a concept is inherently flawed from the outset, since we cannot know over what timescale our plans are best applied. If a masterplan is implemented rapidly it runs the risk of not being realistic about the future needs of the city (and not simply
The best laid plans Jack self Battle of Ideas: Master Planning the Future, Barbican, London, 19 October 2013 Hippodamus of Miletus, the famous ‘father of urban planning’ and supposed inventor of the gridded city, was a figure who provoked a good deal of controversy among his contemporaries. This was not necessarily because of the formalism of his plans, but because in a field of squares, all of which are alike, the question of where to locate the agora was an acutely uncomfortable one. In other words, when a man imagines the entire city from nothing, creating all possible urban interactions in one stroke, the place for politics is not at all clear. How are the citizens to assume ownership of the city? How are they to feel a democratic engagement with its processes, if its very space is simply handed to them readymade? The paradox of the masterplanned city is its intent ar | december 2013 103
answering its short-term crises); alternatively, a very long-term plan is almost necessarily diluted as unforeseen changes render portions of it no longer desirable. Most of all, Moussavi argued for incremental planning, with built-in feedback loops and circuit breakers. This type of plan shouldn’t be conceived at the scale of infrastructure, in which buildings play the role of infill, but should start from the scale of the building itself and examine the capacity of architecture to influence its surrounds through indirect means. In this scenario the design of affordances outside what is called for by the architect’s brief (as with the introduction of a public park to what was a port terminal at Yokohama) becomes very significant. For Theodore Dounas, associate professor of architecture at Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University, the West’s inability to successfully implement large-scale plans in fact stems from the people’s loss of confidence in politics and the entire political process of city making. Whatever the Chinese might think about their government (which was a hotly disputed point), they allow it to exercise incredible power in the urban realm. Conflict over state redevelopment, Dounas argued, mostly comes down to a fight over compensation, and not the raison d’être of the plan itself. This is because the Chinese recognise the basic intent, that even colossal scales of planning are ultimately intended to improve the lives of everyone. The fact that over the last 30 years China has dragged more than 200 million people out of poverty and introduced them to a metropolitan consumerist 104 ar | DECember 2013
Above: a bridge over the Yangtze towers over the rural remnants of Chongqing, like Piranesi’s engravings of peasants squatting in the ruins of Rome — but thrown into historical reverse
lifestyle is testament to this goal. Speaking more directly to Moussavi’s position, Malcolm Smith, the director of Urban Design at Arup, pointed out how infrastructure-led planning can find a compromise between the two extremes of determinacy. A project like the Channel Tunnel might be predominantly a rail connection between two cities, but it offers unexpected opportunities for third parties to capitalise on its sphere of influence − the 2012 Games, Smith suggested, were in part a consequence of strategic thinking about how to maximise the effectiveness of infrastructural development. This general optimism about piggybacking on specific projects was not one shared by Penny Lewis, who only needed to mention HS2 to underline how sceptical she was about economic benefits from masterplans of this type. In the West, there is a profound distrust of any monumental, utopian or wilful project larger in scale than the Boris bikes. This is because of our extreme anxiety about plans that could in any way be perceived as anti-democratic, fascist or authoritarian. By consequence, we have developed a preoccupation with informality, which we confuse with transparency and equality. On the whole, it was a fine event, chaired expertly by the implacable Austin Williams (who penned the previous review). However, while it fulfilled a certain critical role, it failed to be clearly propositional − no participant tackled the elephant in the room concerning masterplanning. Irrespective of whether a project is in the East or West, when discussing politics, culture, ‘placemaking’ and various other factors, it can be easy to forget that today they are all subsumed by economics. Regardless of location, all contemporary projects operate in an identical financial context, that of late capitalist neoliberalism. This is an economic model that is not at all risk averse, and which has its own philosophies designed to justify both spatial and social inequality on an unprecedented scale. Therefore, when we assess the agency of the architect, engineer or planner, it is not enough to consider their work alone − we must also appraise the degree to which any project facilitates alternatives to these hyper-stable, but unjust, social power relations.
The world is beautiful Adrian forty Concrete Fotografie und Architektur/ Photography and Architecture, Fotomuseum Winterthur/ Scheidegger & Spiess, Zurich, €87 The title of this sumptuously produced book is misleading. ‘Concrete’ here refers not to the stuff of building sites, béton, hormigón, but to whatever has substance, to the opposite of the immaterial. Published to accompany an exhibition held in Winterthur in early 2013, it reproduces several hundred photographs of architecture and cities, with nine short essays on the current relationship of photography to architecture. Taking issue with Walter Benjamin’s famous pronouncement that photography had destroyed the ‘aura’ of works of art and architecture, making the originals superfluous, the book argues that we need to know actual buildings, how they sound and feel, for photographs to exercise their power. The book is a modest response to the common charge against photography that it drains architecture of substance. If the book’s agenda is to confirm the need for a physical presence to ‘verify’ the photograph, the result can hardly be considered a success. The beauty of photographs, and especially of those reproduced here, overwhelms us: and as one of the contributors, an art historian, remarks, the sight of a photograph of a building in a gallery ‘doesn’t give me the urge to see the building in real life: the image alone moves me enough’. Concrete Photography and Architecture is, ultimately, a collection of photographs − and a spectacular one too, a work of outstanding curatorial research. Many of the photographs are unfamiliar, and they range from 19th-century photographs of construction sites, ruins and street scenes, to 21st-century ‘art’ photographs of interiors, cityscapes and suburban desolation. They are presented non-chronologically around various themes − stone/steel/ glass; construction/decay/ destruction; models/simulation/ temporary architecture; house/home/ unhomely; settlements/transit spaces/metropolises. While the
Left: photography revealed the structure of architecture, just as it was revealing (via microscopy and radiography) the structure of life itself, giving impetus to functionalists and pedlars of organic metaphors
allocation of certain photographs to one or another classification seems sometimes arbitrary, the merit of this mixing up of chronology is to draw attention to how very different our own photographic norms are to those of photographers of the past − so different are they that it hardly seems appropriate to treat them as the same genus. This isn’t simply a matter of the difference between analogue and digital photography − we know when we look at any recent image, whether shot on film or digitally, that it is likely to have been digitally reworked, whereas we can look at 19th- and early 20th-century photographs and be certain that they are indexical records of a moment in time. But 19th-century photographs are also different in that they are so rich with detail, they absorb our attention, and have to be looked at slowly; contemporary images, on the other hand, tend to have relatively little detail, are often rather sparse, with large blank areas rich in tone and texture, and while they may have high impact, there doesn’t seem to be any expectation that they will receive anything more than a momentary glance. If the image saturation of modern culture has meant that we never look for long at a single image, it has in its turn produced a new kind of image that responds to this new condition.Very few of the photographs here are by famous professional architectural photographers (Ezra Stoller is a rare exception). Almost all the images are either anonymous, like the early photographs of construction sites, or by ‘artists’. The development of ‘photography as art’ has brought about a revival in architecture as the subject matter of photography. Whereas the pioneers of photography favoured architectural subjects because they were static, contemporary artist photographers choose ‘architectural’ subjects to exploit diverse potentials of the medium. Unconcerned with documenting the buildings, which are often anonymous, the results are more about the picture than the representation. For architects, as for the readers of magazines where the photographs appear, this sets up new expectations when it comes to the photographing of new buildings − and a few architects, like Peter Zumthor, have embraced this new development, commissioning photographers whose main concern ar | december 2013 105
is with the image, rather than the building. The sumptuous reproduction of the photographs in this volume raises the power of photography to beautify to new heights. Duo-tone printing gives a luscious velvety depth that the original black-andwhite prints never had − which is why the originals often seem so disappointing when one sees them exhibited. We are faced not merely with the power of the camera to beautify, but also with the power of modern printing to make the drabbest of images irresistible. As one of the contributors, the architect Annette Gigon, says, ‘With an image one can almost never say “no”’ − but with printing like this, one can never say ‘no’.
Reading rooms oriel prizeman The Library: A World History, James WP Campbell with photographs by Will Pryce, Thames & Hudson, £48; Contemporary Library Architecture: A Planning and Design Guide, Ken Worpole, Routledge, $70 (pb) James Campbell and Will Pryce’s latest addition to their handsome Thames & Hudson series, incorporating Wood and Brick, 106 ar | DECember 2013
Above: the Tripitaka Koreana at Haeinsa Temple, South Korea, a historic precedent from which the Liyuan Library draws inspiration Below: Li Xiaodong’s twig-clad Liyuan Library, located in a village near Beijing is a contemporary update on the scholarly solitude associated with traditional Chinese libraries
and Campbell’s Building St Paul’s, adopts another large and visually enjoyable armchair subject. The Library: A World History aims to contain the entire history of library design in one volume, an ambition Campbell has apparently held since he was a student. Strangely, the publisher’s first promotional comment is to describe the illustrations as ‘flawless’. Indeed, they are numerous and of excellent quality printed on good paper (292 images on 320 pages). The text is confidently divided to lead the reader step by step from the beginning of time to the present day with critical emphasis on key eras of development and with reference to wider sources of information. Bracketed by medieval and modern Asian examples, the ground is predominantly Western European with reference to 19th- and 20thcentury America. The pace of information is challenging and the ambition to produce such an
encyclopaedic work seems somewhat Victorian. However, Campbell manages to stay in the saddle and get through the curriculum with even and steady bulletins. He praises Pevsner above all others and it is perhaps that overarching critical metabolism that he is limbering-up for. In line with previous Campbell and Pryce publications, the portrayal of the physical quality of the subject is of paramount importance. The dominance of illustrations means that the library typology is presented more as an artefact rather than an organism. In concert with a trend to saturate the reader with ravishing full-colour interiors it moves beyond other works − The Most Beautiful Libraries of the World (2003) and Höfer’s Libraries (2005) − by seeking to establish a higher-brow, more authoritative and comprehensive vantage point. There’s no time to stop and ponder as we jump from 1560s China to 1560s Venice and then we are back in a more familiar groove of Western architectural history until near the end. What is perhaps inevitably lost in the pace and dazzling competence of visual presentation is time to reflect on the humane aspect of the typology, the fact that library history represents the development of the emancipation of knowledge. There is necessarily limited time for reflection
on the transfer of privilege, economy, power or democratisation. What is cultivated here is almost a sense of nostalgia for the lost monastic realm, for the value of knowledge to be increased through the embellishment of its physical embodiment. The book ends with an exquisite image of the twig-clad Liyuan Library in China, an aesthetic of silence and removal from the world. Its completeness and composure makes the book an excellent Christmas present. By contrast, Ken Worpole’s book is flexible, full of slightly flawed photographs and aimed squarely at the desktops of designers and procurers of library buildings. It approaches the subject as a design guide and, contrary to the thrust of contemporary dialogue on the subject, it asserts the positive development of library design as a growing phenomenon. Addressing both public and academic buildings the focus is on the role of the library in society from the start. Establishing the semi-sacred role of libraries in the modern city, it continues with a balanced reading of contemporary sociological theory regarding the library as a ‘third place’. Again these notions are discussed in terms of both public and campus libraries. While a limited historic context is drawn, its purpose is to define the identity of the typology today. The comprehensive sets of case studies show useful plans and consistent data outlining costs, procurement routes and key features of the brief. The emphasis of the information is pragmatic rather than descriptive. It discusses themes that have been repeated recently; the living room in the city, the partnered space. It also briefly develops an understanding of the way in which the designation of library spaces has altered. A chapter on post-occupancy evaluation raises valuable insights and observations which may be fed into the wisdom of library designers of the future − for example the use of the library at night, the visibility of access and the necessary provision of coffee with books. In the heyday of the turn of 20th-century library building, architects, librarians and electrical engineers were regularly updated with international data on building performance. For some time, library architecture, with its responsibility to define cultural identity, has seemed to focus on uniqueness as
Above: John Glew’s Cox House in Gloucester Crescent was displayed in a recent exhibition Below right: Glew’s photography focuses on the mundane details of our built environment, a concern he also demonstrates in his thoughtful architecture
its winning feature, pulling away from such shared wisdom. Worpole’s book takes a careful and critical path through the contemporary scene, identifying pitfalls, trends and successes. It succinctly brings up to date many aspects of what should be absorbed as shared knowledge. Above all, Worpole leaves the reader optimistic for the future of the library as a building type − a valuable boost in an era of regret. While cherishing the same subject, these two books are not comparable in ambition or intention but serve distinct and well conceived reading positions.
Sticking with Glew tony fretton John Glew, Second Thought, 185 Queen’s Crescent, London, 25–26 October 2013 This is a review of an exhibition of the architecture of John Glew that ran for a short time in the Camden studio of Martina Geccelli in her programme Raum X. From this unpromising start I am going to launch a case for architecture that exists below the thresholds of fame in our troubled society. But before I do, let me be clear: John Glew is an exceptionally talented designer and photographer, and his website johnglew.co.uk will soon carry a downloadable pdf of the exhibition.
We have to be wary of fame these days; it is sick, perhaps even mad, certainly dangerous. Dental nurses become stars overnight, their unpreparedness cruelly revealed, and then die-with-dignity in public. Party girls become singers, waste their lives, die young and are memorialised by their families. Artists exhibit a bed, tent or diamond-encrusted skull, while former commodity brokers sell giant dogs as art to oligarchs. It could all be seen as sinister fun, except that it blunts minds to committed creative work. Who really wants to be part of it? Better to produce work and develop your thoughts. That is what John Glew and other architects like him are doing. Like the Austrian architect Hermann Czech, John Glew channels a great deal of thought into a small number of things. His clients get a very high ratio of artistry and configurational intelligence per square metre on limited budgets. An example is the house in Gloucester Crescent, which is not only full of lovely spaces but, as I see it, ideas about existence. His design for BDP of the concert hall and foyer in Leeds Grand Theatre make him the match of any of us designing today. His architecture repays sustained looking and thoughtful consideration, and by staying below the threshold of fame it does the proper work of design, which is to make a general civilised culture available through daily experience.
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ESALA Edinburgh, Scotland Matthew barac ‘Ridged high against the evening bloom/The Old Town rises, street on street,’ wrote William Ernest Henley in 1893, describing the view from Princes Street, which marks the edge of Edinburgh’s Neoclassical and Georgian gridiron: the New Town. Separated by a narrow valley, the two towns, New and Old − the latter crowned by Edinburgh Castle − are now divided by the East Coast Main Line. Rattling along this artery, trains carry 20 million passengers a year into and out of Waverley Station. Their song recalls Henley’s ‘bold bugles’ which reverberate ‘from crag and scar’. The poetic echoes that populate this topography fascinate David 108 ar | december 2013
Clark, Ross McArthur and Heidi Wakefield, all final-year MArch students at Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA). Working on a joint project, they see architecture as an ‘instrument calibrated to respond’ to urban conditions that Wakefield describes as ‘tremulous’: the quivers, groans and vibrations of the city. Setting out to interpret Edinburgh’s urbanity, the trio developed eavesdropping techniques to capture sounds, harmonies, rhythms and aftershocks that usually go unnoticed. They wanted not only to diagnose − to pinpoint sources of discord within the urban substructure − but also to listen: to hear the city tell its story. Although sited in Edinburgh, their project is linked to a series of European urban studies that have looked, under the MArch umbrella, at cities including Cadiz, Florence
1-4. The sound of the city inspired David Clark, Ross McArthur and Heidi Wakefield’s investigation into Edinburgh’s urban fabric
and Marseille. A proportion of the current student cohort will focus on seismically unstable Lisbon, a city conceptualised by studio-leader Suzanne Ewing according to its ‘unsure ground’. Treating Edinburgh as a comparative test case, Ewing’s thematic category refers not only to the daily knocks absorbed by the city but also to deeper cycles of change. Such cycles leave their mark in urban identities that rely on differences being held in check: the capacity of cities to be both fragile and resilient. Notwithstanding the emphasis placed, by Ewing and her colleagues, on the city as vehicle for speculation − for ‘blue sky’ research − an attribute of ESALA student output is its anchoring in the physical world. This physicality is borne out in recurrent pedagogical themes: in geological contextual analysis, in the priority of the cross-section as a graphic format, and in the prevalence
of model-making. According to head of school John Brennan, model-making provides a pedagogical medium ‘for enquiry and reflection’ and, importantly, a way to ‘share common ground with (other) disciplines’. Set against the 2011 merger of the University with Edinburgh College of Art, Brennan’s interdisciplinary perspective draws attention to the capacity of physical models to navigate the scales and spatial vocabularies of architecture, landscape and fine art, encouraging, in lecturer Lisa Moffitt’s words, ‘productive conflations in between’. This diversified engagement with the tectonics of architectural creativity is refreshing when there is pressure, from both industry and the self-styled avant garde, to prioritise a reductive, digitised rendition of professional productivity: from ‘parametricism’ to BIM. Models offer students a hands-on way to remain
faithful to concrete reality, rather than being cast adrift in an ocean of abstractions with only bits and bytes for company. For all its quirky aestheticism − as a device for measuring seismic and sonic fluctuations − the project by Clark, McArthur and Wakefield engages with the reality of a living, breathing city; its architecture is neither bland nor overwrought. The students produced a laser-cut model, several ‘field instruments’, a short film, and conceptual designs for a paper press and shift-worker hostel in rooms and walkways cantilevered over Waverley Station. Pedagogical motifs exercised at MArch level reflect values across the school, notwithstanding a range of teaching approaches. Most academic staff, including Chris Lowry who directs the undergraduate programme, think of Edinburgh as an ‘architectural laboratory on our doorstep’.
5-6. Olle Blomqvist designed this model of a hostel for homeless young people to be sited in Edinburgh’s Old Town
Two of Lowry’s recent graduates, Frazer Haviz and Olle Blomqvist, designed schemes that exploit the vertical character of the city. Both produced ‘foyer’ buildings for homeless youth: a hybrid typology combining reception and support activities with transitional accommodation. Haviz, whose proposal towers above its neighbours, took particular care over thresholds between public, semi-public and private territories at different levels, implicating the architecture in residents’ efforts to reconstruct their personal boundaries. By contrast, Blomqvist’s scheme is in the Old Town. It too makes a virtue of the deep crosssectional potential of Edinburgh’s urban form, articulating a dialogue between spatial and acoustic separation of street and block interior to define spaces for recovery, contemplation and renewal. ar | december 2013 109
Reputations Howard Roark paul davies The downside of Howard Roark’s reputation is that he dynamited his own perfectly serviceable social housing project because he didn’t like the aesthetic. Unfortunately this was also the making of him. Born under the influence of amphetamine, Roark was rejected by 12 publishers before he made it to print in 1943. This is not surprising as this is how his story begins, with another explosion: ‘Howard Roark laughed. He stood naked at the edge of a cliff. The lake lay far below him. A frozen explosion of granite burst in flight to the sky over motionless water … The stone had the stillness of one brief moment in battle.’ Ayn Rand conceived him to champion the individual out of an unhappy Soviet upbringing where her father was twice relieved of his chemist shop by communists. She fled the workers’ paradise in 1926. Word of mouth rather than critical acclaim made Roark’s arduous story a bestseller, but his career was greatly assisted by the 1949 film starring Gary Cooper; a melodrama of such perversity but with such quotable lines it transcends its pretext: the creeping menace of socialism. Roark’s action cemented a notion of architectural heroism unqualified by the creation or experience of any actual building. Rand had worked briefly in an architectural office, and Andrew Saint traces his real-life affiliations, but it is in Rand’s idealism that Roark became not just a character, but a mythic hero, a hero underlying the perception of the modern architect. Each Christmas I show masters students The Fountainhead. One scene never fails to bring a wave of sympathy. It seems that Roark has finally won a competition, his brave design markedly more efficient than his competitors, and he is called to a meeting to clinch the deal. But there 110 ar | december 2013
is a catch, for the coterie, from their back pockets, bring out some rather cunningly devised Neoclassical do-dads that they offer to his model as improvements. Roark, of course, even in the direst straits, storms off in disgust with his integrity and his design intact. Other scenes, in particular when he is drilling rocks while his love interest seems in danger of wetting her knickers, also evoke swathes of nervous laughter. Rand (who wrote the screenplay too) conflates two myths in her sexy genius, and the film is gripping for somewhat the wrong reasons − for instance we never know why his buildings might be any good, or why his love interest enjoys being raped. However we are still transfixed; it’s uncanny, but architecture is of course the sexiest profession and we need individual authors’ names to tag on buildings. Perhaps that’s a problem. But whereas real architectural heroes seem versed in the tragic nature of their endeavours, Roark presents a Viz cartoon of the Nietzschean superman. So, when architects are not sexy male heroes, they become Tom Hanks: what Rand called ‘second handers’ (or Peter Keating). So Roark prefigures generations of silver screen architects who, in tune with events, become either undone as a mirror of failing America, like Paul Newman in The Towering Inferno or Woody Harrelson in Indecent Proposal; turn vigilante like Charles Bronson in Death Wish; or make the final transition to full-blown anti-hero, the unscrupulous starchitect of today, as in the graphic novel Batman: Death By Design. Mere rom-com architects are soft, they hold the babies; they do not challenge the skyline. Neither do critics, socialists or homosexuals, especially if they are all three (as in Ellsworth Toohey). Women just quiver. Roark’s mentor is clearly a thinly disguised Louis Sullivan, but Roark gains none of his sentiment and Cameron dies muttering about
‘Entry-level students haven’t a clue why Roark dynamited his housing project but final-year students all too painfully do’
Howard Roark Setting 1922-1939 Written 1938-1942 Creator Ayn Rand (1905–1982) Major conflict Dealing with the mediocrity surrounding him, represented by Ellsworth Toohey Climax Bombing of his housing complex to retain the integrity of his design Quote ‘To sell your soul is the easiest thing in the world. That’s what everybody does every hour of his life. If I asked you to keep your soul – would you understand why that’s much harder?’
plastics. Roark’s love interest is Dominique Francon, a woman so disturbed as to throw anything she loves immediately out of the window; a woman who Rand admitted behaved like her in a bad mood. Their emotional tug of war was so gripping as to throw Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal into the sack themselves, much to the detriment of Cooper’s marriage; his wife no doubt noting that final scene where Francon glides adoringly up the side of Roark’s enormous skyscraper. Fiction and fact at times coincide, and nobody tried harder to reconcile idealist philosophy with its disastrous practical consequences than Rand herself or her numerous and powerful political acolytes. FLW went as far as to say her thesis was a great one. This says a lot about him, but so does the fact he demanded an astronomic $250,000 to do the production design. The job went to rookie set designer Edward Carrere. Wright is often cited as the model for Roark, but a chillier source might be Mies van der Rohe, as he had less redemptive pretence. Carrere’s production simply stretches the logic of forced perspective, what has to go up goes further up; what has to go along goes further along; and sometimes, as with the Enright House, they go along as they go up, because in films, that’s exactly what you can do. After all it is not tangible aspects of building design we are asked to believe in, just that they be true to themselves. At the time the architectural press was ‘astonished’ and ‘outraged’ at what it considered a mongrel vision; blaming Hollywood for ‘the silliest travesty … a total perversion of formal and structural elements’. However the Wynand Building prefigures John Portman. Roark has legs: in his thrusting individualism he didn’t just aid McCarthy, but he was right for Reagan and he’s still talisman for the Tea Party, all without professing any politics. By wielding nothing but his pencil, he has come to represent
the core values of neo-liberalism. Whenever the American economy needs a bump, Rand is there to encourage an intellectual walk out. But Roark’s, and Rand’s, enemy is people. Dominique and Roark spit integrity at each other, Gail Wynand shoots himself for lack of it. In this world of histrionics, it is always high noon. Such a horror story of an ideology (so-called objectivism) wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t so attractive to the pseudo-Darwinian mechanisms of marketplace. When Rand died in 1982, Alan Greenspan had a six-foot floral tribute in the shape of a dollar sign mark the funeral, and in a groundswell of resurgent popularity, Silicon Valley schools began to fill with Ayns and Randys. In the US today, criticising Roark is like criticising Moses; there is no point, he is a myth we need, and to many of the wider architectural profession he’s still Santa Claus (somebody you should preferably grow out of). However there is no point complaining he doesn’t exist. Ammunition against his mythical powers comes via parody. I’ve found Rand on the web writing a whole new chapter of Atlas Shrugged in a toilet cubicle of Studio 54 after a roaring contest (!) with Liza Minnelli. Slavoj Žižek is amused by Rand, and enjoys her precisely because she demonstrates so wonderfully how preposterous she is. But in the end architects should note there is much in Roark that is merely convenient. Rand chose a profession whose working methods are notoriously lonely. Architectural students inevitably feel heroism at the drawing board and then crushing public defeat, and many can see heroism in FLW who should know better. Further we cannot imagine Roark doing it for the money. Hence, entry-level students haven’t a clue why Roark dynamited his housing project but final-year students all too painfully do. This is why his myth has legs, and why it continually needs a bomb under it. ar | december 2013 111
Practice profile 1
UPSCALing for THE ASIAN CENTURY
The recent work of Aedas in China finesses the unparalleled demands of scale and a burgeoning economy to create a new kind of architecture set in a rapidly evolving urban milieu SUTHERLAND LYALL 112 ar | december 2013
Architecture follows the money. Obvious that, when you remember that the kernel for architectural thinking is actually a catalogue of temples, palaces, public edifices, city plans, offices: all commissioned largely by people and institutions possessed of serious money. So however unlikely it may seem to the modern architectural Schoolmen − recent incarnations of those medieval scholars who agonised over dancing angels and pinheads − it’s likely that the next-but-two generations of recorded heavy-duty architectural conversation will have been conducted somewhat to the east of America and Europe where the money has led: Asia and especially China. Serious conversations have need of serious content and China has yet to produce its own Ronchamps and Sagrada Familías to channel veneration and exegesis. But the sheer volume of basic material in the form of the above palaces, public edifices, offices and so on already in train suggests the emergence soon of a concomitant body of observation, commentary and theory. The changing rules of criticism will not just be a response to the really quite good architecture being done in Asia but because Asian culture will offer a different starting point for evaluating architecture. Unhappily for us it is likely to be written in languages such as Mandarin and Hindi which few of us or the Schoolmen speak or read. Waiting for that moment, when 20th-century Western architecture has become a footnote, the current big thing about China is size. The projects are big, the scale of projected new cities is big, its capacity for architecture seems endlessly big. Its economy is fast-growing and big. Its no-holds-barred-ness is big. And, although the perception may have been talked up by architectural corporate flacks, the practices which seem to be getting the big work in China and Asia are big too. That squares with former RIBA president Paul Hyett’s
‘The changing rules of criticism will not just be a response to the really quite good architecture being done in Asia but because Asian culture will offer a different starting point for evaluating architectureʼ
1, 2. Designed by Andrew Bromberg of Aedas and currently under construction, the Xihongmen Mixed-use Development in the Daxing District of Beijing epitomises the ambition of Chinese clients 3. The mix of functions includes retail units and an ice rink, all designed to cater to an increasingly demanding constituency ar | december 2013 113
Practice profile 4
much debated argument that big practices are the future for architecture in the global market economy. Also the practical reality is that you need to be big in order to resource the design and management of vast projects. So maybe big is one of the new elements of which the architectural discourse of the future has to take account. Watching the transition across the West–East cusp, a kind of pattern is emerging. The big US practices served as the early skirmishers in the battle to win China. They were mostly architectural practices working for Western clients seeking to establish an Asian foothold. In their clients’ heads were the conventional glass and steel solutions developed by their homeland letting agents in the belief that offices were offices were offices wherever they were located. It is at this stage that Aedas has begun to develop an alternative to the mythology of the new glass and steel international style. It’s an upstart, big, Asian/Western practice which, unlike its rivals such as Gensler and IBM and HOK, has been around for only 11 years. Incidentally you pronounce it ‘eye-das’ − it has a connection with the Latin for ‘to build’. Aedas is really big: nearly 1,500 professional staff, 920 of them architects, in 26 offices in 12 countries and more than 1,000 of them based in Asia and the Middle East. It’s not as big as Nikken Sekkei, Gensler or HOK but it comfortably pips SOM, BDP and the company which it seems to use as a kind of comparison test, KPF. Noteworthy is the fact that all of these have been 114 ar | december 2013
around a lot longer than Aedas’s 11 years of existence. Not entirely convincingly because whatever you say, Aedas is big, its boss, Keith Griffiths, says, ‘The big side is not of importance to us.’ In fact, before the worldwide recession, it had been bigger with 32 offices in 20 countries. Most of the offices closed were small, five or so staff, and in countries where they were experimental toes in the water. Turin was there to attract Italian design talent, Belgrade was a bit of a flyer, according to Griffiths as were, one suspects, Kiev, Bangalore and Hanoi. They recently closed one of the Kazakhstan offices and the UK staff was cut by 100 back to 300 people. But, Griffiths says, ‘Since 2008 we have actually been growing steadily in Asia.’ Of its £135m turnover last year, £110m came from Asian work. Practices get big via a number of routes. One is by acquiring or merging with smaller practices − a practice favoured among UK architects before the recession. But not Aedas because they can’t see the point of adapting to other business cultures. The other major route is by organic growth, in Aedas’s case with a twist. Griffiths says, ‘The secret behind our growth is that we set off with a very strong belief that architecture should be practised locally and globally.’ In its early 1990s incarnation as Abbey Holford Rowe and the Asia-based practice LPT, Aedas had worked in Hong Kong and China as local executive architects for the big boys. Griffiths says, ‘We felt this was not the ideal way of working. The designs were stereotypical North American,
4. The Da Wang Jing Plot#2 Mixed-use Development in Beijing designed by Andrew Bromberg of Aedas 5. Creating a sense of public realm at the base of a cluster of towers ar | december ar | december 2013 2013 115 7
Practice profile 6
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6, 7. Hengqin International Finance Centre in Zhuhai, China. The tower acts as a powerful new landmark on its riverside site 8. Office tower for One AIA Financial Centre in Foshan, China 9. Entrance courtyard and reflecting pool
10. Retail concourse at Centre 66 in Wuxi designed by Christine Lam and David Clayton 11. The emergence of a Chinese middle class is fuelling a new Asian consumer boom
‘When Aedas had a commission it set up a local office to run the job and also establish a base for more work in that region. You think of the Greeks setting up city-state colonies all around the Mediterraneanʼ
designed for incoming US and European clients and were not appropriate for an Asian culture. You need to remember that building types such as mixed commercial and high-rise residential actually emanated out of Asia and demand their own local identity.’ So that when Aedas had a commission it set up a local office to run the job and also to establish a base for more work in that region. You think of the ancient Greeks setting up city-state colonies all around the Mediterranean. Griffiths says, ‘We realised we needed peripatetic designers who were prepared to live in these cities to train local people and give them responsibility. And they incentivised them via ownership. So now when clients are talking to a local office the senior designers are all owners.’ And they are to a large extent local architects trained locally or in Hong Kong. In the mainland China offices 65 per cent are locals, 35 per cent are international designers. In the Hong Kong offices around 15 per cent are mainland Chinese, 60 per cent locals and 25 per cent from elsewhere in the world. Aedas doesn’t make a big thing about it but this is a confederation of local architects with a leavening of expertise from around the world. It has a Western dimension and offices to match but the greater part of its work is done in Asia to a large extent designed by Asian architects. And, if the Hong Kong offices are anything to go by, they are young Asian architects. The financials are that the local office keeps 50 per cent of revenue and the other half, in the case of the Asian operation, goes to the group. A significant amount ar | december 2013 117
Practice profile ‘In the big scheme of things, Aedas represents a paradigm of the transition practice. Asian in all but name it retains some of the facets of Western design practice, such as rigorous design crits and provocative peer reviewsʼ
of that is reinvested in training and development: funding doctoral programmes, releasing senior designers to tutor and lecture in local universities and in employing a consistent number of year-out students regardless of the vagaries of the prevailing local economic climate. So here is a firm which has grown astonishingly and successfully in a very short time. What differentiates it from its big rivals is its view about commercial architecture. Griffiths says, ‘Commercial architecture can be just more of the same. I don’t think it should be. It has to be different depending on where it is practised. In Aedas we insist on each design being particular to its environment. We have never insisted on one way of designing. We are a bunch of individual designers and we are successful because we don’t want the North American formula and that is how we have found our place in the Asian market in which clients come to us.’ In the big scheme of things, Aedas represents a paradigm of the transition practice. Asian in all but name it retains some of the facets of Western design practice − such as its rigorous design crits, proactive peer reviews, regular global, inter-office and local design workshops and the institution of design buddies. And it has its star designer, Andrew Bromberg, who breaks all the conventional letting agent rules by designing extraordinary buildings which happen to make conventional financial sense. We don’t know what Aedas will transition into come three generations but we can guess that it will become more fundamentally Asian and that it will have designed and built those temples, palaces, public edifices, offices and city plans which will have evoked an architectural discourse of its time and place.
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12, 13. Greenland East Village CBED Plots in Chengdu. With over 14 million inhabitants it is one of China’s fastest growing cities 14, 15. The China Construction Bank Tower in Hong Kong joins a skyline already thick with skyscrapers ar | december 2013 119
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FOLIO The severe monolith of Ideal House (1929) originally housed the American National Radiator Company in London. Their New York HQ has a similar black and gold livery; both were designed by Raymond Hood, who debuted by winning the Chicago Tribune competition in 1922 with a neo-Gothic confection, much to the chagrin of the Modernists. (Ayn Rand was also unimpressed, allegedly using Hood as the model for the ruthless and talentless Peter Keating — see p110.) But Hood went on to design some of the most intriguing transitional New York skyscrapers, dispensing with Art Deco crowns in favour of sleek linearity: the Daily News Building (1930), the McGraw-Hill Building (1931), and eventually, Rockefeller Center. It was a homegrown Modernism that tends to be ignored in favour of Mies’s gnomic abstractions, but Hood and his temples to media and commerce may have more to say about the mid-century American city. This illustration shows the beginning of Hood’s process of paring back the Deco glitz, and comes from Thibaud Hérem’s 3m-long frieze of hand-drawings London Deco, which took the author 1,200 hours to execute (Nobrow Press). 122 ar | decemBER 2013
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