1. A history of cities in 50 buildings:
This week marks the end of a spectacular 11-week-long series about urban design and architecture, “A history of cities in 50 buildings”. Written by the team at The Guardian & guest authors, each study explores the social, political, economical impact of important architectures on the cities where they are located. Check out this interactive webpage compiling all of the writings, or read the 10 highlights article picked by the team at Archdaily. Readers also suggest a list of other buildings that should have been featured in the series, which can be found here.
2. Uncube Magazine – Commune revisited
Figure 1 (left): Paris Commune 1871; Figure 2 (right): “The motheship”, Auroville, India
As a follow-up form last year issue “Urban Commons”, Uncube Magazine (UM) issue 34. further explores the history of “commune” and its relevance to today society. In his interview with UM, Richard Sennett suggests that in today’s context we should look at corporation, not commune. His book “Together” provides past examples of self-sufficient communities founded on cooperative principles & bottom-up structure. The issue covers many case studies, ranging from the famous 1871 “Paris commune”, the “Mothership” town in Auroville India, to the “Arthouse Revival” in Xucun China. In earlier time, the idea of commune was often associated with the notion of escapism, whether from an oppressive political government, military regime, or the world in general. Yet as much off-grid as we think they are, contemporary communes are more connected than ever. Read the issue in full here.
3. A list of architecture/design/urban podcasts
If you are someone like me who enjoys listening to architecture & design while CADing away in the office or while enjoying a cup of coffee on Saturday mornings, here is a list of podcasts that you can subscribe to for free:
- RRR ‘The Architect’ Radio Show was one of my favorite podcasts on architecture, urban and design. The show mainly covered events, interviews, books & buildings reviews happening in Australia and other parts of the world. The show is no longer running but you can listen to its 10 years of broadcasting via link.
- Monocle ‘The Urbanist’ covers everything to do with planning the city and urban design. The radio broadcasts weekly and can be follow here.
- Entrepreneur Architect is an initiative advocating for architects who are pursuing passions, taking risks and reaping rewards for doing so.
- Archileague podcasts document live programs and original productions and can be accessed via link.
- Archinect session is a weekly podcast discussing recent news items and happenings on the site, hosted by Archinect’s founder and publisher,Paul Petrunia & editorial manager Amelia Taylor-Hochberg.
- 99% Invisible is another favorite show of mine, discussing about design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world. Check it out.
- The Business of Architecture is a show I have just came across recently. Doing business while doing architecture is definitely not easy yet it is so often neglected by universities and architects themselves. About time we start learning from those who have built sustainable businesses.
- I throw Song Exploder into here because: a. it is one heck of a good radio show; b. I found the approach of composers, musicians to writing and constructing a piece of music is relevant to architecture in its own way. . In the show, musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. They are the architects of sound.
- Others that i have bookmarked but yet to check them out. DnA: Design and Architecture, By Design, Architecture Insights, Architecture Knowledge Review, Spotlight by Design, Archispeak.
4. The rebirth of Wood
Figure 3 (left):The De Havilland Mosquito plywood aircraft; Figure 4 (right): Eames chair
Mark Miodownik of Guardian has written an article on the rise of wood as a building material thanks to modern digital technology. The material first breakthrough was in the early 20th century, due to the development of aircraft industry which solved many of its problems such as machines to make veneer economically, moulding techniques to form curved shapes plywood and the right glue to accommodate expansion and contraction of the material. The most famous object out of wood is probably the de Havilland Mosquito bomber plane which at the time was the fastest aircraft in the sky, outrunning any other plane. The advent of aluminium overtook the aircraft industry, and wood was predominantly used to make furniture with the most well-known being the Eames chair.
Figure 5: Proposed 84m wooden skyscraper in Austria
The 21th century digital technology could potentially upscale the use of wood once again. Standardisation, outsourcing & redistributing methods make it easily to design and build not only furnitures, but also houses. In March, Austrian architects announce their design for an 84m wood skyscraper. Will this mark the start of “plyscraper” ?
5. Which nation is leading in technology?
Figure 6: Estonia, the country that gives us Skype
Estonia would never cross my mind. Only two decades into their independence, the nation has the most number of startups per person, enjoys the fastest internet broadband, establishes paperless land registry, e-government and online tax return system which are used by 95% of Estonians.
Such successes were due to radical reboost of the economy,featuring flat income-tax, free trade, sound money and privatisation. Being able to start from a clean sheet after the fall of the Soviet Union was also an advantages. Emphasis on education and technology brings about the success of IT startups and software developer, most notably Skype, which was sold to eBay in 2005 for 2.6$ billion.
So why the nation of such potential does not appear more on the radar ? Here is the catch. Estonia ranks 228 out of 232 countries regarding population growths due to its low birth rates in Europe, low life expectancy, and high emigration rate. In 2012, Estonia has 6600 people aged 20-34 leave the country, compared to only 7810 12th grader. The country has the lowest GDP (per capita) in EU and holds the least assets per person. These problems have largely been linked to the government over-emphasising on risky startups businesses, with the majority of fund coming straight out of taxpayer’s pocket. Yet the bottom-line is, when it comes to voting, Estonians still prefer to “invest in the wealth of the future” rather than “putting smooth asphalt on the street”.
Project of the Week
Saigon House – A21studio
The project is every bit as contextual as it is nostalgic of Saigon in its former time. The house for a family with 7 children sit comfortably within a row of typical tube house of Saigon. Yet it’s metal screen work hints something different. The internal is in itself a living organism, with “houses” justaposing each other, linked together by open courtyards. The “busy” of the architecture form is counterbalanced with the used of old, calm materials and architectural elements, those that are representative of the city in the 80s and 90s. The project offers a new look at the typology that are so abundantly used, giving it a new twist to fit the need of modern families. It’s a fascinating study in spatial planning and material selection, proving that architecture does not need to be expensive and impressive to be successful.