Recently in Domus: Urban exploration and usufruct, a striking Chinese dragon in Mérida, Open Source Architecture (OSArc)

What urban explorers assert though action, in the words of Ninjalicious, “revives an old and long-out-of-favour legal concept called usufruct, which basically means that someone has the right to use and enjoy the property of another, provided it is not changed or damaged in any way.”…Where late modernity has buried these systems in an attempt to present a frictionless interface that is to remain unseen, unquestioned and taken for granted, urban explorers, as active participatory citizens, are asserting the right to know how these things work, where they exist and what they connect to. 

More on how an unlikely mix of media attention and marketing exploitation threatens to polarize an otherwise apolitical practice (urban exploration) in an op-ed by Bradley L. Garrett over at at DOMUS.

the Factoría Joven phot by Iwan Baan

Pedro Gadanho architect and writer, reviewed a playground project by Spanish practice Selgascano. Gadanho compares the project to Rafael Moneo’s Museum of Roman Art which opened in the same town 25 years earlier. The comparison is clarifying. He notes that the musuem “was made for tourists and visitors, offering ruins to interpretation in an adequately contextual environment; theFactoría Joven caters for local, disenchanted populations in the semi-industrial periferia, in an effort to prevent the city’s desertification. Rafael Moneo aspired to perpetuity, and dialogued with ancient, enduring construction techniques; José Selgas and Lucía Cano are interested in ordinariness, and engage with a built landscape that is determined by low-budget, off-the-shelf materials and practices like graffiti, skating, cycling or wall climbing.

Carlo Ratti, Paola Antonelli, Adam Bly, Lucas Dietrich, Joseph Grima, Dan Hill, John Habraken, Alex Haw, John Maeda, Nicholas Negroponte, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Carlo Ratti, Casey Reas, Marco Santambrogio, Mark Shepard, Chiara Somajni and Bruce Sterling contributed to -a 21st-century manifesto of sorts-on the theme of open source architecture.

Domus also published multiple essays on the various spatio-political occupation and encampment movements that made the news this year. First Andrés Jaque on the indignados protests in Spain, then Joshua Simon on the tent republics of Tel Aviv and then greater Israel and finally Chris Cobb on Occupy Wall Street. All authors explore the protocols, strategies and meanings of these various efforts in relation towards the idea of reclaiming public space as the key trajectory of contemporary, urban(ism).

Site plan and plan of the two Tokyo stadiums: Kenzo Tange, architect with engineers Yoshikatsu Tsuboi and Uichi Inoue. via Domus

Finally, the above image comes from a “re-print” of an old essay Kenzo Tange for Tokyo, an first hand account written by the Japanese architect, soon after he finished the stadiums for the 1964 Olympic Games. Originally published in Domus 424-March 1965.

In it Tange described the relationship between the two stadia “But the true definition of their relationship with the context came about when we resolved the architecture of the ‘street’ with which would connect them. This is the long building having the function of a ‘street’ running, between the two stadiums. It is a long ‘corridor’ which collects all stadium-related services and offices and that has a restaurant and a training pool at the two ends.

Recently in domus: Kengo Kuma in Kawatana, PREVI, CIPEA, Torre Confinanzas and Waffle Urbanism

In Kengo Kuma: New Organic, Salavator-John A. Liotta reviews Kengo Kuma’s new building in Kawatana, a spa town in search of revival. The building is designed for a number of different functions including exhibit and events spaces, a museum of traditional culture and folklore and a tourist information center.

In his essay Mr. Liotta writes “Kuma proposes a building that is similar to a quarry, which organically follows the contours of the land on which it rests and mimics the profile of the mountains that stand out on the landscape embracing the city.

The buildings follow the organic development of the land and mimic the profile of the mountains embrace the city. (Photo by Salvator-John A. Liotta)

Justin McGuirk traveled to PREVI: the Metabolists Utopia, an experimental district collectively designed by a generation of radical avant-garde architects who converged on Lima (Peru) in the late 1960s. All the architects involved were selected for their participation in the most interesting experiments in social housing in the early ’60s.

Unlike the master-planned and controlled, Modernists housing projects of that era PREVI’s approach is more along the lines of contemporary work such as Elemantal’s Quinta Monroy project or my friend Quilian Riano’s Harvard GSD mARCH thesis project. As McGuirk writes;

The original houses are encrusted with geological layers: extra floors, pitched roofs, balconies, external staircases, faux-marble facades, terracotta roof tiles and bright coats of paint. It’s like a form of archaeology, mentally scraping away these accretions. That was the genius of PREVI: it was designed as a platform for change. The houses were not the end but the beginning, a framework for expansion.

By Iwan Baan

Sam Jacob of FAT in Lift-off reviews Steven Holl’s latest effort, the soaring Contemporary Art & Architecture Museum in Nanjing. The museum is but one part of a larger project being developed by CIPEA—China International Practical Exhibition of Architecture-which when completed will consist of a resort hotel surrounded by an orbit of satellite villas.

Even though the building is elevated it doesn’t use that formal move as a way to focus on the landscape, as Jacob writes; “Strangely, even though we’ve come up so high, the views outside are heavily rationed by slivers of glass set into the polycarbonate skin, allowing us only fleeting glimpses. Even the balcony—where the view over the whole complex is at last thrown wide open—is controlled, set behind a solid core. It is as though the idea of being elevated is prioritised over the physical sensation.

In The Tower of David Jesús Fuenmayor interviews two Venezuelan artists, Ángela Bonadies and Juan José Olavarría, who have documented the story of a contemporary heterotopia, the Torre Confinanzas. The Torre Confinanzas was dreamed up twenty years ago by Venezuelan financier David Brillembourg but never finished the 45 story skyscraper is now the tallest squat in the world.

Section of Torre Confinanzas. by Ángela Bonadies and Juan José Olavarría (?)

In Waffle urbanism, Ethel Baraona Pohl reports from Jürgen Mayer H.’s Metropol Parasol, one of the most daring and controversial urban interventions to be completed in Europe in recent years. Pohl uses the frame of the megastructure and argues that the project has successfully re-enlivened the historic Plaza de la Encarnación which for many years was used solely as a car-park. Pohl notes that since it’s opening the project has engendered much criticism and dialogue even though when initially proposed it was praised by the architectural community-press. Reflecting on the current fascination with projects by Archizooom, Archigram and Superstudio and relating it to the current arguments surround the Metropol Parasol she writes; “Could it be that the fascination we feel today for the utopias and radical architecture of the 1960s and ’70s stems from the fact that they are precisely that, unrealised utopias?

In order not to spoil a Roman archaeological site, the waffle frame of the new complex, built in reinforced, concrete, wood laminate and steel, touches the ground at only six points. (Photos by Pedro Kok)

Recently in domus 4/16/11: Shikantaza, pluralism, the shophouse and media archaeology

In this article Chiara Alessi reflects on Naoto Fukasawa’s decision (post the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake)  to withdraw from participating in the Salone 2011 this year they feature an old quote from Naoto “thinking takes time; feeling is immediate. Focusing on immediacy which does not require the act of thinking is the essence of design“.

Giulia Guzzini in Mutant Architecture & Design reviews the various pavilions brought together by Interni,designed by the likes of Jacopo Foggini, Zaha Hadid, Richard Meier and Matteo Ragni—in the splendid courtyards of Milan’s Università Statale. I was particularly struck by Buon Weekend a collaboration of Diego Grandi with Rosenthal and Sambonet.

Neeraj Bhatia the Director of InfraNet Lab writes The Urban Project of Plurality an op-ed which argues for the importance of the politics of pluralism within the context of contemporary architectures recent focus on urbanism. Bhatia writes: “ The issue of pluralism is even more pronounced today, with more than half the population of some cities consisting of visible “minorities.” This growing situation prompts a design interrogation of how one can provide unity in diversity, reconcile the individual and collective or allow for distinction and equality. ” He then goes on to suggest that what is needed to effectively address issues of pluralism is a fresh approach towards conceptualizing two earlier ideas of the Twentieth century: the megastructure and softpod.

In “all(zone) shophouse transformation” Rachaporn Choochuey reports in from Bangkok and Thai studio, all(zone)’s attempts to transform and solve the problems of the shophouse typology, underutilized in contemporary Bangkok’s urban fabric.

by Piyawut Srisakul

Finally, Ethel Baraona Pohl interviews Lydia Kallipoliti and Anna Pla Català curators of the EcoRedux 02  exhibit in Barcelona. Their talk begins with the term media archaeology and the spate in recent years of exhiibtions, which explore various artistic or architectural movements of the postwar period.  Lydia Kallipoliti believes one reason for this is the fact that many of these movements “are highly resonant to the contemporary discourse and an important tool to understand what is happening now in the architectural world.” The EcoRedux project as she goes on to explain is essentially “an archive that assembles one hundred projects, as a database of ecological materials and experiments of the 1960s and 1970s“. Finally, Anna Pla Català clarifies the duo’s understanding of the term ecology, explaining that “the claim we are making here is that ecology is not sustainability, nor does it have a specific form. On the contrary, ecology is linked with cybernetics and system theory.

Recently in domus: a visit to Dornach, designed fiction, Sagrada Família and BNKR Arquitectura

Ákos Moravánszky visits Dornach site of Rudolf Steiner’s Goetheanum building. I of course (having been exposed to numerous child education models by my parents) was aware of Rudolf Steiner. I just never knew he had designed a geomorphic, fantastic building. The piece goes on to discuss Ruldolf Steiner’s theories of architecture including his belief that: “ his contribution to a new architectural style lay” in his  “spiritualisation of tectonic forms.” More in The Rudolf Steiner Goetheanum.

In Translated ByBeatrice Galilee discusses the exhibition by the same name at the Architectural Association, with curators Shumon Basar and Charles Arsène Henry. The exhibit, wherein 11 writers and 11 literary places are the subject of an immaterial translation, is mostly an audio one and features the authors reading a previously written passage of their own text. Although, each of the authors ranging from Rana Dasgupta to Neal Stephenson, sent a small picture postcard – a trigger image – which holds the listeners’ attention.

the Doha Desert, where the Sheraton Hotel building site seems an Aztec mothership just landed

In her Op-Ed Only Collect, Mimi Zeiger explores the effects of digital culture on collecting. She writes: “I suggest that the archive itself has become not a mode of collection, but the thing in itself to be collected.” What do we collect then the archive has gone digital? The archive too often now takes the form of the digital ephemera or file. Resulting in a condition where we collate and hoard not discrete objects (books, journals or monographs), but collections: of files/data.

Also a book review.

Carlo Ratti reviews Harvard GSD professor Antoine Picon’s new book Digital Culture in Architecture. An introduction for the design professions. Ratti believes that Picon’s real insight is in the idea that with regards to digital architecture we should be more concerned with the analysis and critique of design processes allowed by new forms of digital culture rather than their mere formal and stylistic results. In which case the real realm of the future architectural project might lie as Picon says “in the domain of augmented reality, that is, dealing with the interface between the physical and the virtual, rather than focusing almost exclusively on the latter.” Although hopefully, this doesn’t mean that architects will end up only shaping how we experience and interact with space, but will continue to play the role of actually shaping the physical expression and forms of our space.

In In-finite Architectures, Oscar Tusquets Blanca reports from Barcelona. Originally a self-labeled Marxist heretic, for in the early 1960s arguing against the continuation of the building-after Gaudí’s death-he now writes from a position of appreciation. He writes: “I have just toured the church from top (it is over 60 metres high) to bottom with Alfons and Josep Gómez Serrano, one of the project architects, and I must admit that I was dumbfounded.

Sagrada Família By Rafael Vargas

Esteban Suárez visited BNKR Arquitectura’s Sunset Chapel. A private commission for a family chapel in Acapulco. This image in particular grabbed my eye.

By Esteban Suárez

Recently in domus

In Hybrid Highrise Beatrice Galilee writes about Wandel Hoefer Lorch & Hirsch new building in Tbilisi, Georgia.  The 2008 Russia-Georgia war left  the project in an incomplete state.

The building with its main structure, its façade, and its technical equipment was finished – just the inner partitions were missing. The partition of the office building became a long process, and actually a process that will never really stop since the user structure will be constantly changing.

In Forms of Energy #8, Marialuisia Palumbo, looks at the Terlizzi project by the Pica Ciamarra office an example of attempted urban redevelopment which she writes “is certainly a positive point for the Puglia region, which has become the most significant political laboratory in Italy in recent years researching an alternative to the oil-based culture“. The project is an attempt to weave together residential, post-industrial, business spaces and solar energy production into a new urban district.

Also, published recently was a great Op-Ed by Brian Kuan Wood, entitled Gated Communities, it explores the idea of autonomous communities. From new “contract cities” managed and serviced by multinational corporation like CH2M HILL, to modern day Tory dreams of a Big Society. Or the indigenous Croa community in Brazil’s remote state of Acre.

Image: Iwan Baan

Brendan McGetrick travels to Songjiang to visit The Giant Interactive Group Campus by Morphosis. I was surprised to read this passage, give the size and scale, even contemporary nature of the work; “These thoughtful “third places” comprise one of the campus’s defining features and suggest the existence of a soft, compassionate core beneath the headquarters’ hard exterior.

Alona Martinez Perez interviews Lord Rogers in A Design Community. Lord Rogers, at one point notes that he has always opposed “the concept that planning is different to architecture. They’re the same, just different surfaces: one horizontal and one vertical.

Image: Francis Kéré

Laura Bossi reports in from Bamako, Mali with Diébédo Francis Kéré., in Francis Kéré. See Africa. As noted in earlier posts on Francis one of the most interesting aspects of his projects is the effort he puts into incorporating the community. Even as far as teaching them design-build skills and using them as workers. Yet, Laura seems to indicate that this involvement stems as much from economic necessity as social agenda “the scope of work always faces rock bottom economic resources and humble materials. His creative practice is accompanied by a busy teaching schedule. In order to build his schools, he trains masons who are often people he grew up with, digging and cutting the laterite – layers of clay found in nature, even in the vicinity of his construction sites – in order to transform this material with zero kilometer impacts and costs.

Image: by Leonardo Finotti

Two houses by João Vilanova Artigas, explores the houses for Olga Baeta and Rubens de Mendonça which belong to the second phase of the work of João Vilanova Artigas the most important modernist architect of São Paulo. Lauro Cavalcanti concludes, that ‘The Baeta and Mendonça houses demonstrate how the pursuit of spontaneity brought Artigas to the conclusion that buildings must “renounce their immediate function, in favour of expressing that which is richest and most extraordinary about humankind, that is to say, the poetic vision of space”.’

Image: by Leonardo Finotti

Recently in domus

Alessandra Scognamiglio writes about the extension of the Violino district in Brescia, designed by Boschi + Serboli Architetti Associati, in collaboration with Cigognetti-Piccardi-Vitale.This project is featured as Forms of Energy #5, and is highlighted for it’s extensive use  photovoltaic technology and other active and passive sustainable design strategies.

While the project is noteworthy for it’s environmental consciousness and it’s pleasant visual design, the article in DOMUS concludes: “On a final note, the Violino project seems a total success, showing that “low-cost and social” solutions are compatible with quality objectives and technology that saves and produces energy. However, we cannot but wonder (and ask the designers and even more so those who dictated the rules) whether so much uniformity and repetition was really so essential.” Which seems to emphasize the need for ways to realize such an environmentally conscious design that doesn’t rely so heavily on total design/total control.

Beatrice Galilee reviews Zaha Hadid Architects first completed England project, the Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton, south London. While the school could be criticized for its aesthetic of controlled productivity and it’s “city academy” fueled by hedge-fund manager monies model, architecturally it is surprisingly vibrant (especially in it’s interior) yet as infrastructurally massive and concrete hewn as the best of Zaha’s work.

This passage by Beatrice, seems a fitting epitaph, “This is an extraordinary ordinary school, built for the local community under a previous left wing government whose behaviour towards poverty and education couldn’t stand in more contrast with the current incumbents. In a new England where a devastating assault on public services which cuts funding from inner city families and women in work over any other class, this building takes on more baggage than it probably intended. “It can’t help but be political,” admits Zaha Hadid architect Bidisha Sinha.

Eugenia Kikodze explores the “paper architecture” of  Moscow firm Iced Architects. As opposed to their day job work of constructing real buildings, Iced Architects “paper architecture” allows them to present conceptual research projects tinged with surrealism and utopia.

The key with much of their work is the fact that it is more than simply another utopian project, if anything their “paper architecture” is more along the lines of Volume’s proposed “unsolicited architecture“. Because as Kikodze notes, “There is one fundamental aspect that makes it impossible to consider the work of Iced Architects as entirely “paper architecture”: no matter how whimsical they seem, these projects are intended to be realized in concrete environments. A convincing example is to be found in “Scaffold in the Woods”. When the owner of the lakeside property at the Klyazma Reservoir saw that this construction would be able to make a tiny part of the beach profitable, it was built within only one and a half months.”

Francesca Picchi interviewed Diébédo Francis Kéré. They discussed Diébédo’s not yet completed Woman Centre in Gando and the key role  participation of the village communities plays in the actual construction of Diébédo’s projects. This participation involves knowledge transfer and builds trust between designer and the clients. It also, provides the workers with new skill sets and thus the architectural act has an impact which goes beyond the architectural.

This process thus helps to shape the architecture and redefines the architects role, as noted in such a context “Architecture is defined through the construction process.” He later expands on this notion “Before beginning, we do not know the final details; details are defined progressively as the building takes shape. As in the traditional building, construction is a process.

Recently in domus…

MVRDV have completed The Balancing Barn, for philosopher Alain du Botton’s organisation Living Architecture. The first of a series of modern day, retreats for the English countryside. The image below is of the main/living room and features a window to display the houses cantilever. More (here)

By Edmund Sumner

Mikio Kuranishi writing about “Tokyo Apartment” a project recently completed by Sosuke Fujimoto.

The form it takes – a grouping of archetypical gabled-roof house units stacked, as it were, in a higgledy-piggledy way – is not only a scaled-down, three-dimensional version of Tokyo’s structure, but also a symbol of it.” More (here)

By Edmund Sumner

Gideon Fink Shapiro visits Foster + Partners innovative Sperone Westwater gallery, in the Bowery NYC. More (here)

By Nigel Young/Foster + Partners