1. Form follows Carpark
Figure 1-2 : Nightingale ethical apartment development (top); Vision Building by Brady Group (below)
It sounds rather unglamorous but it is the truth, more so for two recently stories regarding the Nightingale project and the Vision tower in Melbourne. The former is an ethical apartment development continuing the success of The Common Apartment by Breathe Architecture, both of which advocates for affordable housing, co-living, and housing people not cars. While the building was approved by Moreland City Council (with no carpark provided due to its close proximity to many forms of public transportation), it was objected by one of the local developers on the basis of unhealthy competitions, and the possibility that owners will end up having cars and use up local on street parking. The project eventually got rejected at VCAT (Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal), among their reasoning reads “No arrangements as convenient as private car ownership”. This causes a wave of frustrations from the design community in Melbourne, blaming the decision for its car-dependent backwards thinking. The project has since gone back to Council with 3 added car parking spaces.
The second stories regards the finding that Brady Group’s 72-storey Vision tower lack 2 basement car parking levels as to its approved town planning permit. Where it becomes a fraction vague, is that Vision Tower has 2 approved permit, one in 2009 with 1 basement parking, another later on with 3 levels underground. What other changes between the two designs and who is responsible for checking if the building adhered to the updated permit remain unclear, however Brady Group did not dispute the findings and are working out “minor changes” for reconsideration by the planning department.
Are we the world’s most livable cities? or carpark?
2. Chicago Biennial – A Brief Look
When it comes to hosting North America’s first Architecture Biennial, no city seems more suitable than Chicago. It’s the city that is made out of architecture, being the cradle to modern skyscraper, the birthplace of the elevator and the place where Frank Lloyd Wright built most of his houses. Over 3 months, over 100 designers, architects, artists examine the current and future state of design in shaping the world through projects, lectures, seminars and installations. Below are some highlights from the exhibitions.
Figure 3: “Polis Station” – Studio Gang installation for Chicago Architecture Biennial
Jeanne Gang, prompted by the increasing friction between police force and citizens, has reinvestigated the typology of police station, using design to encourage interactions and embedded community facilities.“The police have become ever more isolated from their neighbourhoods, and most stations are now just jails in parking lots,” says Gang. “By combining them with everyday facilities, you could increase the opportunities for regular interaction between officers and residents, and help to make people feel less intimidated.”
Housing is a prevalent theme in the Biennial, being explored by many architects and designers such as Cape Town architect Jo Noero, French duo Lacaton & Vassal, Mexican Tatiana Bilbao etc. While Jo Noero operates on both ends of the spectrum, using his luxury villa commissions to subsidise community housing projects, Lacaton & Vassal’s renovation in Paris proves that sensitive and smart design can significantly save cost, avoid relocations, demolition and rebuilding. Tatiana’s 8000$ house provide an alternative to state-built housing and supply shortage in Mexico, allowing residents to extend on the basic shell as they want with lighter-weight materials for similar cost.
Design with technology presents some very interesting project at the Biennial, one of which is a three-legged sculpture design by the team from Zurich and MIT – the first architectural structure built by robotic machines using only rocks and thread without any adhesive or mortar.
Figure 4-6 : Tatiana’s $8000 house prototype (top right); “Rock Print” – 3D printed rock installation built by robot by the team from Zurich and MIT (top left); Lacaton&Vassal’s renovated Paris apartment project (below)
Many programs within the exhibition also tackle the question of how architects should operate in the future. A panel discussion titled “International perspectives on Chicago and the Future of Urban Change” calls upon architects, urbanist, urban planners and designers such as Wiel Arets, MarySue Barrett, Sarah Dunn from UrbanLab, architecture critics Robert Bruegmann, Elaine Molinar from Snohetta, etc. to reflect on the challenges Chicago and the Midwest will face in the coming years.
The incredible breadth of approaches and themes, however, do not get on with some critics, such as Olive Wainwright of The Guardian, who claimed that ” the distinct lack of any central idea, can make it a frustrating experience […] After visiting several times over the course of three days, I still left with indigestion. Edwin thinks that the title “The State of the Art of Architecture” is a rather slippery one, “avoiding any difficult questions, and the pick’n’mix of almost exclusively young(ish) architects from around the globe mostly present their own obsessions and research.”
3. And the title goes to…?
I enjoy browsing through everything “top ten list…”, “the best of …” etc. more so when it relates to architecture and design. Regardless of these titles being highly subjective and debatable most of the time, here are some of the cities in the Guardian’s “Extreme Cities” category.
Figure 7-9 : Yakutsk – one of world’s coldest cities (top); Kuwait – one of world’s hottest cities (lower left); Luanda – Angola named world most expensive city (lower right)
For the World’s Coldest Title, contenders include Oymyakon in Russia (population: 500, temperature: as low as -67°C), Ulaanbaatar – Mongolia capital cities (population: 1.3m, temperature: as low as -33°C), Yakutsk, Russian (population: 270000, temperature: as low as -34°C). As a result, preparation for burial in Mongolia involves keeping a bonfire roaring at the grave site to melt the permafrost. Airport in such extremely cold weather can’t accept most aeroplanes because they are not rated for temperature lower than -40°C. The local diet includes horse-blood ice cubes in Mongolia, frozen Arctic cisco fish in Yakutsk, with greenhouses being the only source of fresh vegetables.
In contrast, World’s Hottest Cities see many of Middle Eastern places topping the chart. Kuwait in 2014 recorded a staggering 52°C temperature during the summer. This does not just comes from the climate zone but also from the city’s poor urban design in the 1950s with predominant use of concrete and asphalt, sprawling planning with little external shading and vegetation, and car dependence. Other cities such as Ahvaz in Iran are even worse, being both hot and polluted. The effects are tangible, from heat waves in Karachi, Delhi, Seoul, bush fires in Australia, causing thousands of heat-related deaths every year.
The usual suspects for World’s most expensive cities are Hong Kong, Zurich, Singapore, Geneva, according to Mercer’s annual Cost of Living survey which measures how expensive it is for expatriate employees to sustain their life, with items including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment and benchmarks them against New York. However, all of them come behind one surprising city: Luanda, in Angola. “A pair of jeans apparently costs in excess of $240, and a basic fast-food meal will set you back $18.95 – in a sub-Saharan country where millions get by on less than $2 a day”. This is due to the oil industry which accounts for more than half the country’s GDP, and they charge premium for imported goods and security from industry workers coming into the country. Despite (or because of) the fact, Luanda is rated as the 7th worst in the world for income equality, according to World Bank. On a similar note, sub-Saharan Africa has some of the world’s poorest cities. According to the IMF, the poorest countries in 2013 were Eritrea, Liberia, Burundi, Zimbabwe and, taking the bottom spot, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Major factors include civil wars, political instability, corruption, poor infrastructure, water shortages, lack of health care.
Other “extreme cities” include world’s oldest, safest, cleanest, noisiest, windiest, and most stressful cities. See if your cities claim any prize.
4. Tools & tips & how-tos
ArchDaily recently compiled a list of online platforms for tutorials (with the help from its readers), from Preproduction Modelling and Drawing, to Image Production, Image Post-Production and other general purposes. The list contributes to the website database for online resources, such as places to watch architectural lectures online, 2014 & 2015 lists of to-watch documentaries on design-related topics, useful websites and apps for architects (my favorite Color Adobe), tips on job hunting, portfolio and interviewing. Contributions from readers in the comment section is also worth checking out for extra information,f eedbacks and reviews.
5. STARchitects’ Nests:
Last year in Milan, an exhibition titled “Where Architects Live” presents photos of the homes and workspaces of world’s most eminent designers, including Shigeru Ban, Zaha Hadid, David Chipperfield, Daniel Libeskind etc. Here is a “down-under” version of that, featuring some of the most celebrated Australian architects and their own houses.
Figure 13-15 : Lyon HouseMuseum – The house of Australian architect and Lyons co-founder Corbett Lyon and his wide Yueji Lyon, using also as a artwork gallery open to public on designated days
Figure 19-20: “A Little House set on a hilltop” – an eclectic renovated Victorian house of architecture academic Philip Goad
Figure 23-25: The Barn – house of young architects Alex Nielsen and Liz Walsh, which is also 2015 Tasmania Architecture Award Recipient
Figure 26-28: House 3 – Coy Yiontis Architect’s renovated house
Figure 29-31: Tent House – humble dwelling of 2015 AIA Gold Medalist Peter Stutchbury
Other traces include Bangkok’s pop-up apartment, prefab house by Japanese mega retailer Muji, Guggenheim’s first ever online exhibition, list of 2016 America’s best architecture schools by Architecture Record, Melbourne architects’ takes on where can the city most improve, Emojis story telling, brief history of the office evolution, and of the geometric sans font style, Olso’s ban on cars in city center, world’s most efficient solar panel, is random in design good? and can trees really clean the air?
Project of the Week
Luis Barragan House – Luis Barragan
Not only my personal favorite architect, Luis Barragan is also an icon for Mexican modernism architecture. His architecture achieves a sense of serenity and through materiality, colour, texture, and mass composition. His house, Casa Barragan, is a masterpiece that blends traditional and modern Mexican architecture.In 2014, it was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The exterior is quite minimal, adorned only with the bay window which is greatly contrasting to the architectural richness internally. The moment you enter the house, you are on a journey crafted by Luis Barragan’s skillful play of color, spatial arrangement, tactility, and spatial sequencing. All of which not only maximise the visual effect but also alleviate our sense of space. It is quite astounding to grasp how so much can be achieved with so minimal and humble use of resources.