1. Inside North Korea with Oliver Wainwright:
Figure 1&2 (left to right): Mansudae Great Monument 1972; Pyongyang Ice Rink 1981
Figure 3&4 (left to right): Ryogyong Hotel 1987-present ; May Day Stadium 1989
In no other country where tourism thrives on the inclusivity, obscurity and heavily-regulated procedure like in North Korea. Koryo Tours has been operating tours, for Oliver and many other tourists, with itineraries ranging from standard sightseeing trips to more specialised ones such as golfing holidays to Pyongyang International Film Festival. About 100,000 tourists came last year, and the country sets eyes for 2 million visitors per year in 2020.
Pyongyang was heavily influenced by “Soviet-style” city planning with axial masterplan, imposing squares and grand boulevards, decorated with Stalinist neo-classicism architecture, each of which was carefully framed as part of a vista to maximise the spatial effects. Modern Pyongyang seems to enter its’ “golden age of construction”, with cranes dotting the skyline and buildings of all types being erected, from Masik Pass ski resort – first in the country, new airport, underwater hotel, theme park, 4D cinema with moving seats, “Dolphinarium”, to monumental projects such as the 47-storey Changjon Street apartments, 18-tower complex dubbed “Pyonghattan” and the famous 3000-room pyramidal Ryugyong Hotel (which remains unfinished). The whole country seems like a stage set of which realities, like chronic food insecurity, deteriorating healthcare and education systems, are being well covered up.
2. Interviews with Liam Young & Bjark Ingels:
Liam was the founder of the think tank Today’s Thought Tomorrow, as well as a co-founder of Unknown Fields Division – a nomadic design studio that investigates the extreme and alien territory. His interview with Shumi Bose of Uncube Magazine discusses relevancy of architect in today’s society, his view of citizenship and the sense of belonging to a place, especially to his practice which requires constant moving from places to places.
Bjark Ingels runs the do tank BIG architecture firm and is considered by many “the rockstar of modern architecture”. New York Magazine’s contributing editor Andrew Rice tells us an inside story of Bjark Ingels’ Two World Trade Center journey through “complex space filled with what the city really is: economics, society, power brokers, politicians”. To simply put it, Bjark has every scale of projects, with a worldwide reputation that typify a successful & iconic architect, while Liam advocates for the dissolution of the term architect altogether. Rather than summing up both articles, here are some of my favorite quotes from the two articles:
“The animal has two primary instincts, right? Fight or flight. And normally you would associate innovation with plowing through and fighting for your standpoint. But often in evolution it is the moment of flight where you are forced to go another route or climb into the tree. Or you’re the fish that escapes on land. You know, you discover new territory. In architecture, sometimes the eureka moment is actually when you give up a stance and say, OK, we have to try something else” – Bjark
“A lot of the starchitects have started their careers doing some high-end sculptural projects. When they suddenly get faced with something that is more governed by the parameters of the practical, they end up almost petrified or paralyzed, because their usual repertoire doesn’t work.” – Bjark
Ingels worries that the cheaper alternative, straight columns, would leave the lower floors cluttered with obstructions. But Rinnebach recommends straightening things out. “I could live with that,” Ingels concludes. “If we really want the truth, this is the truth. This is the truth in dollars.” – Bjark
“I think an architect’s skills are completely wasted on making buildings. But I don’t see it as weakening the profession, I see it as strengthening. It means that the profession can find traction in other fields: the architect as strategist, as politician, as planner; the architect as curator or editor or writer, as activist or storyteller. Finding ways to operate in other disciplines just gives us much more agency.” – Liam Young
“Cities” are popping up in all different forms, based around people’s interests or “likes” – maybe Justin Bieber’s fan club is just as much a city as London” – Liam Young
“What do I identify with? It’s not about locality, it’s not about physicality, or borders on a map. It’s about another kind of connectivity than adjacency” – Liam Young
3. Peter Stutchbury Gold Medal lecture:
Figure 7&8 : Peter Stutchbury; his 45sqm tent-like houses
Peter Stutchbury is an Sydney-born architect, whose residential works are of worldwide reputation. Peter is critical in his design about how a building must adjust to sun, wind, shade and ventilation without losing its expressivity and architectural quality. He was this year’s AIA Gold Medalist and was recently awarded the 2016 International Fellowship by The Royal Institute of British Architects. His Gold Medal Tour will take him to each state and territory across the country where he shared his thoughts about the current state of architecture and his philosophies in design. His talk at the University of Melbourne is definitely one of the best lecture i have ever seen, combining witty sense of humour, vast knowledge on context and climate, deep understanding of the Australian vernacular, sensible architectural responses, and a great deal more lessons to be learnt from to better oneself as an architect. Some of his award-winning project include the Invisible House (2012), Cliff Face House (2011), The Hanger (2009), Deepwater Woolshed (2005). Interestingly, he lives in a humble tent-like house despite design multi-million dollar houses for others. “It makes you realise how little you need” he states.
4. Smog-filtering tower:
Figure 9 : Smog Tower
The prototype is a product of collaboration between TU Delft researcher Bob Ursem, European Nano Solutions and Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde (the man behind glowing Smart Highway in the Netherlands). Smog Free Project started as a crowdfunding initiative, drawing more than AUD$170,000, aiming to elevate the debate on air pollution which reportedly kills more than 3 million people each year. The first built tower is approx. 7m tall, running on wind power and is able to purify enough air to fill Madison Square Garden in 10 hours, by ionizing airborne smog particles. Roosegaarde states that his tower isn’t aimed to be the answer but rather an initial step in a bottom-up approach to cleaner air, a bridge towards the solution.
5. Meanwhile in Australia:
Figure 10 : A case study demonstrating the alternative outcome if C626 planning amendment was implemented
Here’s a quick recap of what’s happening in the urban scene down under:
- Recently elected Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has appointed Jamie Briggs as the first Minister of Cities in charge of the portfolio for Cities and the Built Environment. Although many worry about the influence of the new portfolio (Mr Briggs is only a junior minister with limited expenditure & regulatory powers; the “big players” remain in the hands of others i.e. Infrastructure, Energy etc.), the general consensus has been supportive of the decision. The portfolio is expected to focus on agendas regarding cities infrastructure, energy use, public transport, living affordability.
- The introduction of plot ratio & setbacks requirements via the C262 planning amendment is considered to be one of the biggest change in recent history of Melbourne planning scheme. New projects in the city and Fisherman Bend are now required to adopt a 24:1 plot ratio, which means that if the site is 1,000sqm, the gross floor area must not exceed 24,000sqm. This hopes to control recent developments of which average plot ratio is about 35:1 (New York, Vancouver, Hong Kong require plot ratios of 10:1, 5:1 and 10:1). Furthermore, buildings up to or equal to 100m in height must setback, above the podium, 5m minimum to all boundries or from the centre of a laneway. For building higher than 100m, the setbacks are of 5% of the overall height. If placed under these new amendments, buildings like The Phoenix or JCB’s Latrobe Tower would never be built. Although Melbourne skyline might need a break from the era of “Mr Skyscraper” Matthew Guy, many people predict the ramifications will be job loss, stifled building industry, housing shortage & unaffordability.
- Another big change also happens in South Australia when Minister for Planning and Deputy Premier John Rau introduced legislations including: the establishment of a new State Planning Commission; the establishment of an environment and food protection area curbing urban sprawl and limit development on peri-urban farmland; infrastructure development levy paid by homeowners through council rates; requirements for parliamentary approval for residential rezoning. A new planning document, Renewing our Urban Future – Unlocking South Australia’s Potential, is also introduced, emphasizing on more mixed-use urban infill.
Other traces includes Kirigami-style solar panels, fascinating history of the Bathysphere by 99percentInvisible Podcast, 100 ideas to solve London’s housing crisis, what $300,000 house looks like around the world, Kigali – “African cleanest city” with a cost, 13 winners of 2015 Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Awards, this report placing Melbourne’ public transport among world’s most affordable, London Tube test to recycle energy from train breaks, radical rethinking of airline industry, Dr Rory Hyde’s (my thesis instructor) lecture on the exhibition that he curated for the Victoria & Albert Museum as well as his discussion on contemporary museum design, a book documenting Soviet-Union style bus stop,
Project of the Week
Deepwater Woolshed – Peter Stutchbury
“If I hadn’t visited the site I would have know that wind changes direction, so we have to alter the direction of the shed” that was Peter Stutchbury’s point of departure for the sheep’s shed project. The main problem that needed to be solved here is to reduce the temperature internally. It has water running down on the side which the wind blows through to cool down the building. Cool air from the shaded area underneath is also used to ultimately reduce the temperature by 10-15degree. In winter, heat is taken from the sheep itself. Water is kept on the cool side of the building and activity area on the north where the sun is. The project is very precise and is exactly what it needed to be and the aesthetic comes out of that.