Point of View

July 2011

New Practices Sao Paulo

07/29/11

New Practices Sao Paulo

The exciting and educational exhibit, New Practices Sao Paulo, on view at the Center for Architecture, sheds light on the rising new wave of architects building the new Brazil, more specifically its sprawling urban epicenter Sao Paulo. The talented group includes Metro Arquitetos Associados, 23sul, ARKIZ, PAX.ARQ, Yuri Vital Architect, Vazio S.A Arquitetura e Urbanismo, Triptyque Arquitetura. New Practices Sao Paulo is part of a biennial juried portfolio competition and exhibit organized by New Practices Committee of the AIA New York Chapter to promote new and emerging young architectural firms both in the US and abroad. Denise Hochbaum, Brazilian born member of the New Practices committee, was the liaison to Sao Paulo for the New Practices exchange. A thread among the projects is a...

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Remembering Sylvia Harris

07/29/11

Remembering Sylvia Harris

The Metropolis office was saddened this week to hear of the sudden loss of a visionary leader in the design community. Sylvia Harris, the founder and principal of Citizen Research & Design and a designer at the Public Policy Lab, passed away on Sunday. Harris is remembered for her pioneering approach to improving the usability of public spaces and programs through design. Sylvia (center) and her team, image courtesy Citizen Research & Design. Harris’s company—originally called Sylvia Harris LLC but recently renamed Citizen Research & Design—specialized in wayfinding graphics and improved communication in the public realm. Harris once wrote, “As citizens, we deserve public services that are efficient, effective and respectful. We need straightforward forms and...

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Design Competition with a Difference

07/28/11

Design Competition with a Difference

For the past few months, Metropolis has had a ringside view of the first ever Core77 Design Awards—but so has everyone else! In an age that is so unfortunately obsessed with “vote for your favorite online,” the recently concluded awards program has pulled off a class act, making the act of judging design an open, inclusive experience that truly celebrates the profession. Over 10 days between July 12 and July 22, I watched as one jury team after another reported via webcast from their corner of the world, announcing the winners in each of the 15 categories. Not only was it a pageant of great design work, I also appreciated the opportunity to hear from the jurors—74 of the greatest design minds of our time—from Austin, Texas, to Ahmedabad, India. I have long rued design...

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Places that Work: The Urban Garden Room

07/25/11

Places that Work: The Urban Garden Room

The Urban Garden Room at One Bryant Park (Bank of America Tower by Cook + Fox Architects) in New York City is a place that works – and not simply because of its greenery and daylight. These elements appeal to our senses and emotions in a deep, primal way. Extensive writings on psychological value of being in spaces with green plants and daylight document our needs, as do my previous posts. I bring it up, again, because in a high tech world we need these connections the earth more than ever. The Urban Garden Room is a huge glass-walled room furnished with an assortment of forms, ranging from a 25-foot high arch to a 7-foot tall monolith, all of which are covered with living mosses, vines, ferns, and lichens. The installation was designed by Margie Ruddick of the collaborative and...

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Towards a Car-less California

07/23/11

Towards a Car-less California

Traffic ahead of the I-405 shutdown, photo via the Daily Mail. When America’s busiest freeway, Interstate 405, closed temporarily for mandatory construction from July 16-17, all of Los Angeles broke out in panic as drivers canceled weekend plans and signs flashed on every freeway in the region preparing locals for anticipated delays. The LAPD even recruited popular celebrities on Twitter, including Ashton Kutcher and Kim Kardashian, to broadcast a warning so people would stay off the roads, during what was referred to as the “Carmaggedon.” But 53-hours of blocked access and apocalyptic panic later, LA did not find itself in a hopeless gridlock. Instead, the anticlimactic closure proved how much Californians depended on the 10-mile route, yet how surprisingly easy it also was to...

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Two RIBA Shortlists

07/21/11

Two RIBA Shortlists

The Guangzhou Opera House, by Zaha Hadid, photo: Virgile Simon Bertrand Among the recognitions and awards given by the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Stirling and Lubetkin prizes are the most prestigious. The Lubetkin prize, in honor of the Tecton Group founder Berthold Lubetkin, is given to the best international building outside the European Union. The Stirling prize scarcely needs introduction. Long considered Britain’s foremost architectural award, and given for a building “built or designed in Britain,” it bestows upon the winner not only £20,000, but also a nimbus of accomplishment. RIBA released the shortlists of both prizes this morning, and they include many familiar favorites of the Institute, such as Zaha Hadid, who has made it into both lists. Here are...

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Three Novel Lighting Designs

07/20/11

Three Novel Lighting Designs

Even with the necessary emphasis on LED technology and efficient materials, many lighting designers can’t resist experimenting with products that are just, for lack of a better word, cool. While strict functionalists may cringe, I admire this vein of creative conceptual design, in the tradition of Isamu Noguchi’s sculptural Akari lamps. Last week saw the debut of three new lighting designs that are similarly imaginative and playful, blurring the lines between lamp and objet d’art. Well of Life Lamp Series by Arik Levy At first glance, Arik Levy’s new lamp series looks like it may have been inspired by the plumbing-supply aisle at a hardware store. But as with most of Levy’s highly conceptual projects, each aspect of the product has material and symbolic significance....

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Smart, and on the Move

07/19/11

Smart, and on the Move

Portable Spot Cleaner, designed by Adrian Mankovecky, Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Bratislava, Slovakia If the Electrolux Design Lab competition were given charge of the future of our home appliances, all our gadgets would be monochrome, have oversize back-lit interfaces, and be either rounded or flexible. Since its inception in 2003, the competition has been asking industrial design students to imagine the future of home appliances, offering 5,000 Euros and a six-month stint at an Electrolux design center to the winner.  Each year’s theme is different, but the finalists always have a remarkable family resemblance. And they always manage to work past the fact that domestic appliances are energy guzzlers by suggesting some as-yet-unproven battery technology – sugar crystal...

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Another Film on Design Thinking in the Oven

07/18/11

Another Film on Design Thinking in the Oven

Just as the film makers at One Time Studio are rallying up supporters and funding for their documentary, Design & Thinking, another group of designers are working on their own film, also eager to investigate the meaning behind the overused buzzword “design thinking.” Initiated by Erik Roscam Abbing, Design the New Business is a collaboration with Erik van Bergen, Esra Gokgoz, Gunjan Singh, Juan David Martin, Marta Ferreira de Sá, Miguel Melgarejo and Robert Zwamborn to find out the design key to business success. Like Design & Thinking, Design the New Business promises it will feature an array of notable interviewees across the design industry, but the line-up has not yet been announced. They’ve released a teaser so far, and have emphasized that there will be equal parts...

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Hand Illustrating a World War

07/15/11

Hand Illustrating a World War

German Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, March 22, 1944 Pavel Petrovich Sokolov-Skalya Multicolor brush stencil on newsprint (pieced), laid down on tan Korean lining paper, 1872 x 845 mm (click on images to enlarge). While here in the United States, the Bureau of Graphics at the Office of War Information was cranking out World War II posters by the hundreds of thousands, its Soviet counterpart took a far more artisanal approach. The exhibition Windows on the War: Soviet TASS Posters at Home and Abroad, 1941-1945, on view at the Art Institute of Chicago from July 31, will present 157 posters created by the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS) during World War II. All of these posters are between five and ten feet tall, and each of them was painstakingly painted by hand! A...

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Mapping the Cityscape

07/14/11

Mapping the Cityscape

The Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 was a visionary approach that reshaped New York’s underlying structure, separating Manhattan from the old organic cities, while still defining it today. To acknowledge the success of the grid model made possible by John Randel, Jr., and celebrate its 200th anniversary this year, The Center for Architecture opened an exhibition, Mapping the Cityscape, on July 6, exploring the ways in which mapping influences our perception of the environment. The exhibition includes maps ranging from 1609 to present day interpretations, taking into account the technological advances and methodologies that are shaping our urban landscape. Spanning across the walls at this exhibition are a wide range of cartographic representations, including ecological, cultural,...

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The Big Urban Apps

07/13/11

The Big Urban Apps

Mayor Bloomberg at the NYC Big Apps 2.0 awards ceremony, photo: Kristin Artz/Office of the Mayor, via the New York Times. How do you take the enormous amount of critical information gathered every day by city agencies and make it actually useful to citizens? On the City of New York’s DataMine web site, just looking through the list of datasets generated by the Department of Transportation alone is enough to give you a headache. Enter the annual NYC Big Apps competition – a call to software developers who can mine this data and find ingenious ways to put it at the fingertips, or keyboard clicks, of the average New Yorker. This April, winners received a total of $20,000 in cash, the wide exposure their work deserves, investment meetings with BMW, and a chance to talk to Mayor...

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Sylvan Poetry

07/12/11

Sylvan Poetry

Le Nichoir: Matali Crasset's first feral house in France, photo: Lucas Fréchin The last time we checked in with Matali Crasset, she was coming up with names like The Troglodyte for the ecolodge she had designed in the Tunisian desert. Now we find her deep in the forests of France, building little camper's retreats. Six villages in the region of Meuse, Lorraine, which collectively call themselves by the rather lyrical name Le Vent des Forêts (The Forest Winds) have been inviting artists to their neck of the woods since 2008. Crasset is the only designer among this year's invitees. photo courtesy Matali Crasset. Crasset will build four maisons sylvestres (feral houses) for them, along a pathway called Sentier du Vent (the trail of the wind). The first of these houses, which opens...

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The Power of Speculation

07/11/11

The Power of Speculation

It turns out that the 1939 World’s Fair in New York was only the culmination of what seems to have been a veritable craze for International Expositions in the United States. Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930s, on view at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., until September 5, presents astounding evidence of America’s world-fair-mania: posters, architectural models, films, furniture, and even Elektro the Moto-Man robot.  Throughout that glorious decade companies like GM and Stran-Steel gave designers free reign to speculate and dream. And the American public lapped it all up. The contrast with the US pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo, or even recent American design shows, is almost too stark to bear. Architect Albert Kahn and designer...

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The Bowery Hustle

07/08/11

The Bowery Hustle

The never-ending building boom continues on the Bowery and in NoHo in New York, and for the most part it is a good thing.  Neighborhoods will and should evolve. The East Village and NoHo are about to gain two new buildings, both of which are meant to look toward the future. One succeeds and the other fails.   51 Astor Place, photo: Ann Weiser The first is a welcome replacement for the dreary 7-story set of beige brick rectangles at 51 Astor place. In its place will be a striking 13-story building from architect Fumihiko Maki. While the base of the new building does consist of some right angles (which meet the  generous sidewalk in a welcoming way), its form begins to fully take off five stories above the street, with two muscular shards—one of glass, the other of granite—that...

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Design Thinking on Film

07/07/11

Design Thinking on Film

As we discovered at the Architecture and Design Film Festival in New York last year, good films about design are few and far between. Even among these, it is easier to find films about designers, design disciplines, or objects. But a film about design theory? Now that’s a truly ambitious project. In March this year, Yuhsiu Yang and Melissa Huang of the Taipei Design Center U.S. teamed up with film makers Mu-Ming Tsai and Iris Lai of Muris Media to make a film about one of the most elusive concepts designers have come up with in the last couple of decades – Design Thinking. Even though the term has been bandied about since the 1970’s, and used as a mantra by some of the biggest creative consultancies,  we’re still debating if it is relevant, indeed if it means anything at all....

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Chipperfield Receives Mies van der Rohe Award

07/01/11

Chipperfield Receives Mies van der Rohe Award

© Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz / David Chipperfield Architects, Photo: Jörg von Bruchhausen On June 20, British architect Sir David Chipperfield took center stage at a ceremony in Barcelona to officially receive the much-coveted European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award. Aside from having the longest name imaginable—henceforth shortened by this author to “Mies Prize”—it is also regarded as Europe’s most prestigious architecture honor. Sir David has been having a good time of it these past two years. He was knighted in 2010 and was the recipient of this year’s RIBA Royal Gold Medal. He has been winning so much that people mistakenly assume he has also won a Pritzker Prize. To set the record straight, no, he has not. Not...

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