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Defying Gravity

MVRDV's The Imprint mirrors and distorts its surrounding with glass fiber–reinforced concrete
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In Paradise City, a new entertainment and hospitality complex in Seoul, South Korea, MVRDV was faced with a unique challenge: design two contextual, expressive buildings without any windows—one an indoor theme park and the other a nightclub. The two new structures, known collectively as The Imprint, share an architectural language and echo the design of the six other buildings in Paradise City. Despite its theme park name, “Paradise City is not a collection of individual objects like Las Vegas,” noted MVRDV principal and cofounder Winy Maas, “but a real city.”
  • Facade Manufacturer Techwall
  • Architect MVRDV
  • Co-Architect GANSAM Architects & Partners
  • Facade Consultant VS-A Group Ltd
  • Panelization Consultant WITHWORKS
  • Location Incheon, South Korea
  • Date of Completion 2018
  • System Panelized glass reinforced concrete
To make these new buildings fit in with their environment, MVRDV’s solution was to fit the environment over the new buildings. That is to say, the architects virtually projected the facades of the nearby buildings, stretching them across the plazas and over the massing of the new structures—one a simple box, the other a curving box that gives definition to a public space. The facade compositions were “imprinted” in relief onto glass fiber-reinforced concrete panels. The panels, 3,869 of which are unique, were individually fabricated employing the same 3D modeling files used to design the project. Most of the panels were painted white to create high contrast shadows that emphasize the design of the contextual echoes, but a few sections of the nightclub and surrounding plaza are painted gold. These gilded highlights are augmented with exterior lighting and, when seen from the planes landing at the nearby Incheon Airport, look like spotlights shining onto the structure. It’s an appropriate gesture for a project with facades that appear to be pulled upward, offering a peek under the curtain where mirrored surfaces and dynamic lighting suggest the glamorous spaces and experiences that lie behind. MVRDV’s client called the completed Imprint a “work of art,” and indeed, the buildings do evoke dueling works by the sculptor Rachel Whiteread, who is known for her casts of architectural objects and spaces. But can a nightclub in an entertainment complex really be a work of art? Why not? “What, then, is the difference between architecture and art?” asked Maas. “The project plays with that, and I think that abstraction is part of it, but it has to surprise, seduce, and it has to calm down... Giorgio de Chirico would have liked to paint it, I think.”  
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Red Rover Red Rover

Red Regatta brings a sea of color to the Venice lagoon
One of the world’s great liminal conditions is the space between the viewer and the backdrops along the major canals of Venice, Italy. In most spots along the city’s waterfront edge, the view continues across the canals to architectural and historical layers of magnificent facades. It is a contained view of such sublime beauty, that despite the age-old clichés of Venice, it reminds us why we continue to believe in the power of architecture and the city. But, there are wide and expansive vistas out across the open waters of the lagoon that are as equally as captivating. One thinks, for example, of the view from the quarter around the Giardini towards the Lido and San Giorgio Maggiore, or from the Fondamenta Nove towards the Cemetery of San Michele, that opens up to grand vistas that merge the sky and sea; off in the far distance, hints of outer islands add to the beauty of the setting. Now Red Regatta, a series of performances, or “choreographed regattas,” of up to 52 vela al terzo (traditional flat-bottomed sailboats) is being staged in “La Serenissima” by a group of 250 local partners. The event is organized by the Magazzino Italian Art Foundation in New York to highlights the city’s open vistas. Artist Melissa McGill and curator Chiara Spangaro have painted the sails on the boats a bright red color to activate them in the open water of the lagoon. Pageants like Red Regatta are spectacular in the waters of Venice, and this one, its creators believe, staged using only wind-powered sailboats, is intended to “encourage a new appreciation of the interaction of the defining forces of Venice, water, wind art, architecture.” Further, McGill believes that this piece will also “call attention to the forces of climate change, and tourism.” It’s hard to see how this piece will draw prolonged interest in solving these long-suffering issues, but Red Regatta proudly includes Venetians as the performers in the boats, and that’s a great accomplishment for the city in itself. The dates of the special regatta, organized alongside the city’s ongoing art biennale, are as follow: Red Regatta  June 30, 2019, 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Route: San Servolo – Poveglia Viewing locations: Riva dei Sette Martiri; Viale Giardini Pubblici; San Servolo Island; Lido’s Lagoon waterfront From McGill: “Navigating the waters between the islands of San Servolo and Poveglia, Red Regatta will weave through the historic landscape and activate the architecture with the choreographed flotilla. Starting between San Servolo and Venice, Red Regatta will move towards Poveglia, in parallel to the Lagoon coast of Lido.” Red Regatta, coinciding with Venice’s Regata Storica September 1, 2019, 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Route: Canale della Giudecca – Bacino San Marco – Canal Grande Viewing locations: Fondamenta Zattere; Punta della Dogana; Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore; Piazza San Marco and Riva degli Schiavoni; Fondamenta della Giudecca, side of Canale della Giudecca Canal Grande Red Regatta  September 15, 2019, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Route: Burano – Torcello Viewing locations: Burano waterfront; Torcello waterfront From McGill: “Concurrently with the historic Regata di Burano, which features the centuries-old tradition of the voga alla veneta, Red Regatta will move through the Northern lagoon between Burano and Torcello. Engaging with the landscape of this unique section of Venice with its ancient Roman ruins and distinctive architecture, the vela al terzo fleet will weave through the islands and call attention to the location’s history and traditions.”
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Gaming Design

Graphisoft CEO talks about changes in BIM possibilities with ARCHICAD

At the 2019 AIA Architecture Expo in Las Vegas earlier this month, longtime architectural software company Graphisoft premiered the newest update to their ARCHICAD software suite, a 3D BIM tool which has been available to architects continually since 1984.

ARCHICAD 23, according to recently-appointed CEO Huw Roberts, a former architect, adds an array of new features and "a whole bunch of really substantial performance increasing capabilities." This includes whole new ways of dealing with mechanical voids, columns, and beams, among other building fundamentals, and a live connection that automatically makes changes within existing software like Rhino and Grasshopper.

Additionally, the new release has more APIs and greater OPEN BIM integration. “We're strong advocates of OPEN BIM," said Roberts, "and connecting our users with all the different tools and products out there through our open BIM." In addition to existing C++ integration, ARCHICAD 23 also adds support for Python and JSON. There is also an API for Graphisoft’s mobile app. “We've got lots of customers that are using programmatic interface through Rhino and Grasshopper, but that requires you to actually be in the software,” said Roberts going over the benefits of the new APIs, "But that API actually can work software to software, doesn't need a human or user interface to make that connection.”

Graphisoft also entered into an agreement with Epic Games to leverage Unreal Engine, the video game engine behind Fortnite and other massively popular mainstream video games. “[Unreal Engine] allows you to add things like trees, and lights, and weather, and cars, and more, in a really easy way,” said Roberts. “Twinmotion is an extension built on Unreal Engine that Epic Games just bought a month ago that we have already had a partnership with, that makes Unreal Engine work really well for AEC, for architects, and designers. And so what an ARCHICAD user can do is we have a live link from ARCHICAD to Twinmotion and the Epic Games Unreal Engine, so that in real time you can be changing your BIM model and a photorealistic movie view of the model updates live,” he explained. “You can fly around in there, and move around, and change the weather, change materials, and it's always instantly the best rendering available.”

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And I Feel Fine

The 2019 Venice Art Biennale asks us to ponder our “interesting times”
Political chaos is spreading, and climate change is upon us. Meanwhile, populist leaders throughout the world are scapegoating immigrants, trashing environmental regulations and spreading blatant lies. But at the 2019 Venice Art Biennale, one of the world’s most important art exhibitions, artists are fighting back in what may be the largest exhibition of politically subversive art ever shown. Ralph Rugoff, curator of this year’s Biennale, titled the show “May You Live in Interesting Times,” after an apocryphal Chinese “curse” pertaining to periods of danger and uncertainty, which has been cited by politicians ranging from British imperialist Joseph Chamberlain to Hilary Rodham Clinton. In his essay for the exhibition, Rugoff writes that “art can give us tools to reimagine the possibilities of these ‘interesting times’ and so transform this phrase from a curse into a challenge that we can enthusiastically embrace.” Rugoff’s revolutionary agenda is conspicuous for an art exhibition, where the official opening in May also featured glittering parties in Venetian palazzos and a legion of plutocrats and oligarchs. The contrast was especially striking at the Biennale’s main exhibition space, a cavernous brick building known as the Arsenale, in which almost every other artwork appears to be about poverty, sexism, environmental degradation, racism, or political violence. Indeed, at this year’s Biennale, the only thing holding an otherwise disparate show together is the focus on the ills of our time. The main exhibition features the work of 79 artists from around the world and includes sculptures of the growing homeless population in Athens, videos showing Palestinian protestors trying to breach the border in the Golan Heights, and paintings of verdant landscapes that include images of political violence in Kenya. One series of photographs shows half-finished housing developments and piles of garbage outside of Rome. Another series is about the fallout from aspirational housing developments gone bust in India, which according to an accompanying text is linked to, “developers hoardings peddling unattainable dreams.” Capitalism’s failures are rife. One of the first exhibits is a salvo of harrowing nocturnal photographs from the series titled Angst by Soham Gupta, showing disheveled street people in Kolkata, India, whom, as an accompanying text informs us, have suffered “abuse and abandonment.” Their faces display expressions of pain, madness or lust. They are posed embracing one another, dancing wildly, lurching towards the camera or simply sitting quietly in abject loneliness. Gupta gets up close with his camera and shows these spectral characters in a soft light against a black backdrop, revealing a humanity within that you might not otherwise notice. It might be overly ambitious to think that art can help make society more just and compassionate. However, Rugoff is expecting between 180,000 to 600,000 visitors to his show, which runs through November 11th, 2019, and is hoping that it will help change the conversation. He maintains that artists have a unique role in combatting the conspiracy theories and narrow nationalistic messages on social media that increasingly are shaping political discourse. He says that art can reveal hidden or unfamiliar truths in profoundly different ways than can journalism or historical reporting. “We [the public] don’t see things in the same ways that artists do,” Rugoff told me. “They are asking us to hold different images in our minds at one time.” Plato warned about art’s ability to present alternative realities to the body politic, and it seems axiomatic that the more repressive a society is, the more threated it is by artists. Edouard Manet’s painting, Execution of Maximillian, was censored by the French government shortly after it was painted in 1867 because it portrayed the French puppet emperor being shot by a firing squad of Mexican revolutionaries. Fascist regimes and dictators are notoriously fearful of abstract art. Considering that China censored images of Winnie the Pooh because bloggers were comparing the cartoon character’s appearance to Chinese President Xi Jinping, it is understandable that much of the artwork currently being produced in that country is not overtly critical of the regime. But in totalitarian societies, art is politicized even it doesn’t convey a literal political message. “If you are an artist in China today, you are dealing with political import,” Rugoff told me, giving as an example an art installation at the Biennale’s Central Pavilion titled Can’t Help Myself by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, in which an enormous robot with a mop at the end of its arm moves with terrifying jerks as it repeatedly attempts to control a flowing red substance that looks like blood. Currently, in most parts of the world, artists can more directly challenge the system. Several of the most political pieces in the show had their roots in Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades, found objects that take on new meanings when signed by an artist and displayed in a museum or a gallery. One is Teresa Margolles’ meditation on the violence engulfing parts of Mexico, which consists of a 39-foot-long cinderblock wall, pockmarked with bullet holes and crested with barbed wire that the artist transported to Venice from the city of Juarez. And just when one is hoping for visual relief from this compelling but disturbing show, one’s view of the canal outside the Arsenale is obstructed by the actual boat from the Mediterranean’s deadliest shipwreck, on which between 700 and 1,100 Syrian refugees went missing. The artist Christoph Büechel transported the rusted wreck, which has a large gaping hole in its side, from Sicily to Venice and titled it Barca Nostra. An accompanying wall text refers to the ship as a “monument to contemporary migration” and as “representing the collective policies and politics that create these kinds of disasters.” A series of prints from the Body En Thrall series by transgender Latina artist Martine Gutierrez shows the artist nude in a series of staged erotic encounters with clothed mannequins, such as one where she is draped across the lap of a figure dressed in a tuxedo with a come-hither expression on her face. Calling to mind Edouard Manet’s notorious Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe in which a naked woman picnics with two clothed men, the prints raise questions of power in regard to Eurocentric standards of beauty, gender identity, consumerism, and a host of other issues that are au courant in cultural studies classes at elite universities throughout the West. The coming apocalypse is also a popular topic at this year’s Biennale. One example is the enormous Eskalation by the German artist Alexandra Birc ken, which is ominously suspended overhead. Here, forty figurines fashioned from black calico and latex look as they are out of one of Dante’s circles of hell—they are shown climbing and hanging off of ladders that ascend towards the vertiginous ceiling of the Arsenale. Wherever they are trying to get to, it doesn’t look good. Another work in the "end of civilization vein" is a sculptural series of large menacing mammals on the verge of extinction by the American artist, Jimmie Durham, who connects human waste with environmental degradation. Durham’s animals look angry and tortured. Their jaws are agape, and teeth bared; wires, cables and dark metal define their forms. They are constructed from contemporary civilization’s detritus, used clothes, discarded furniture, and machine parts. May You Live in Interesting Times is intended to be aggressive and disturbing. We already are living in a post-truth age in which leaders such as U.S president Donald Trump and Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro are denying climate change and sanctioning political violence as a justifiable campaign tactic. Rugoff clearly wants his exhibition to make us think harder about our fast-changing world. “Ultimately, what is most important about an exhibition is not what happens inside a gallery,” he writes in his essay for the exhibition, “but how audiences use their experiences afterward to reimagine everyday realities from expanded perspectives.”
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Logging On

Sidewalk Labs unveils full Toronto waterfront master plan that's a timber-topia
The smart city is the king of go-to solutions for the problems that bedevil urban areas. At the moment, the concept—tech innovates those problems away!—is trending hard in Toronto thanks to the work of Sidewalk Labs, the Alphabet-owned company that dove face first into urban design a few years ago with a plan for a lakefront district in Ontario's capital. Now, that plan is a completed master plan, the foreground to any large development. The public got its first look at Sidewalk Labs' new neighborhoods yesterday when the company released a full run through of their finalized plans. Unlike New York's super-sleek Hudson Yards, a comparable "big development," there will be a forest's worth of wood buildings in this project.  The digital doorstopper runs 1,500 pages and is available here, but the basic premise is two new mega-developments, with the potential for more, will be built mostly from mass timber and kitted out with sensors and data collectors that will, its authors contend, make life more pleasant for Torontonians by providing affordable housing, non-car transit options, jobs, and economic development. The company will, for a substantial investment and cut of the profits, develop real estate, finance transit networks, provide management services to government, and deliver what it calls "advanced systems," the whiz-bang infrastructure that supports the building of Quayside and Villiers West. The computerized promise of better services has garnered a lot of attention. Trash-sweeping robots would displace nifty nabber trash grabbers. Sensors embedded in crosswalks could, for example, keep the walk sign on until a pedestrian is safely on the opposite curve. Google's business model relies on pawning off data advertisers, but in a media briefing, Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff claimed that the very valuable data Sidewalk Labs collects will be underpinned by the "strongest data and privacy regime for any urban data in the world." That protection was certainly absent for Google Nest Cam users, and government officials still have concerns over whether the company's policies will align with Canadian data security laws. Data gleaned in Toronto, Doctoroff noted, will be stored in a data bank and won't be shared with third parties without users' "explicit consent." While it's too soon to tell how that promise shakes out, there's plenty of information on the smart city's design and construction. Unlike 20th-century glass-and-steel corporate modernism that projected power and influence, Sidewalk Labs is turning to mass timber for 12 major buildings in the Quayside portion of the development. The showcase here is both structures by London's Heatherwick Studios, the eminent go-to firm for megadevelopers, and an $80 million vertical timber supply chain for those buildings that will extend from forests to an Ontario factory to fashionable city blocks. Doctoroff said his company is working with the Toronto buildings department to amend rules that cap timber building heights at six stories in order to build up to 30 stories tall. The developments will feature a standard of mixed-use towers, but about 70 percent of the project will be devoted to housing. Of these units, about 40 percent, or 1,700 units, will be rented below-market. "We expect to make money the way a normal real estate company would," said Doctoroff. Sidewalk Labs is investing over $680 million in what is projected to be a $2.9 billion development.  The credits list New York's Beyer Blinder Belle (BBB) and Heatherwick Studio as the teams responsible for the master plan sketches and renderings, but Doctoroff said Canadian firms would be behind most of the projects to come. Along with Stantec, BBB gets top billing for design and engineering services, while Snøhetta who were tapped for design services back in February, is credited alongside Heatherwick and dozens of other firms for research and development.
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Green as Hel

Finland to go carbon neutral by 2035
Following the election in April of this year of a left-leaning, five-party coalition government in Finland, the country has pledged to institute a wide-ranging increase in infrastructure and welfare spending and to make the country carbon neutral by 2035. If enacted, the transition would make Finland the first fossil fuel-free country in the world.  Social Democratic party leader Antti Rinne set the target on June 3 and broke down how Finland would reach such an ambitious goal. The plan to combat climate change involves a full-scale mobilization of the Finnish economy and an overt rejection of the austerity imposed by the former center-right coalition.  Rinne emphasized that efforts will stem directly from internal cutbacks and reorganization of national energy sourcing, rather than from outsourcing carbon dioxide emissions via carbon-capture credits in other countries. The plan is slated to be reviewed in 2025. "Building the world's first fossil-free, sustainable society is going to require much more than nice words on paper,” said Sini Harkki, a Greenpeace Nordic representative, “but we're determined to make it happen."  The new government will increase public spending by $1.4 billion per year over their incoming term, made possible by increasing taxes by an estimated $828 million—much of that stemming from fossil fuel levies. The government’s plan to address infrastructure and welfare in combination also aims to raise nationwide employment from 72.4 percent (in April of 2019) to 75 percent.    Harkki also commented on the “far from perfect” nature of the plan, which will have major implications on the nation’s forestry and peat industries. However, she cited that with the “broad public support” the government and its program has, steps can be taken to refine government actions and win partisan fights. Some parts of the country have already taken even more progressive steps ahead of any official action. A northern town called Li is on track to cut its emissions by 80 percent by 2020 -- 30 years ahead of the EU’s most ambitious targets. Li has ceased using fossil fuels and instead invested heavily in geothermal, solar, and wind energy sources since 2012, with a payoff: The town generates $568,000 in profit each year. On top of this, they are working towards becoming the world’s first zero-waste community, too.  The financial success and stability of Li counters a stance by the populist Finns party, who claim that the environmental goals of the country’s left would "take the sausage from the mouths of laborers." The push and pull within the Scandinavian country echoes a worldwide divide, one between economic stability in continuing the status-quo and the risks of system overhaul to address emissions issues around the globe. 
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OPEN in All Things

In Conversation: OPEN Architecture
For Li Hu and Huang Wenjing, practicing architecture in China is a study of locality. As the founders of OPEN Architecture, the pair have been responsible for typology-bending projects across the country, from the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) Dune Art Museum that’s buried into China’s Gold Coast to the expansive Garden School in Beijing’s Fangshan District. Their work is steeped in nature and simplicity, no matter whether the building sits in an urban or rural environment. Eleven years into its practice, OPEN is emerging as a global force for design that’s deeply rooted in its location. AN Interior’s executive editor Matt Shaw spoke with Hu about OPEN’s latest projects and what it looks like to work in China today. AN Interior: I see a clear influence of Steven Holl in your early work, from the soft edges of your buildings to the way you deal with fenestration. It seems that recently some of your work has started to depart from this style, favoring the use of more organic forms. Li Hu: I started working on projects in China in 2003 for Steven Holl’s office. I worked with him for ten years, and five of these years as a partner. I worked on several well-known American projects like the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri; the Visual Arts Building for the University of Iowa School of Art; and the Swiss Embassy in Washington, D.C. During my time with Steven Holl, my wife and now partner, Wenjing, was an associate at Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, a much larger, more organized, traditional firm. Steven definitely has a big influence on our work. Actually, in how we work, not necessarily on the language. I think what underlines our work, beneath the surface, is our focus on humans. So much of architecture today is about form and what the end result will look like in photos, but architecture really is about life. Steven’s biggest influence on us was his constantly driven approach to architecture, and that every project at the beginning was just a concept. Read the full story on our interiors and design site, aninteriormag.com.  
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Blocked Out

Toronto drops concrete blocks in front of illegal home weed stores
A peculiar legal loophole in Ontario, Canada's weed laws prevents authorities from accessing and shutting down alleged illegal cannabis dispensaries that operate out of people's homes. Predictably, the state is not happy about it. That's why Toronto law enforcement has dropped large concrete blocks in front of the storefronts in question. Big blocks = no buyers going in and no product going out. Reddit user okThisYear snapped a picture of one of the piles, which resemble a drunk giant Lego pile-on:
In front of an old dispensary. from r/toronto
This cement chock-a-block has to be one of the more ham-handed architectures of exclusion. But it wasn't a first-try tactic: Previously, authorities had padlocked entrances and installed steel doors to prevent illegal sales, but the strategy didn't deter around 15 percent of the city's craftiest underground dealers, who continued to peddle cannabis from their stores-slash-homes. As of this year, weed is legal in Toronto, but the drug can only be sold by licensed dispensaries. CBC reported that a bill to close the loophole received royal assent (it passed) over the objections of some legislators who fear the law might lead to evictions if residents who are not participating in the weed business are found guilty of unlawful sales by association.
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Sarah Myerscough Gallery

A new gallery dedicated to craft opens in West London
When a fire rages through a forest, it carves the opportunity for a fresh start. There was no fire at the Sarah Myerscough Gallery, but the inaugural exhibition, Scorched, signals a new life for the former Boathouse in Barnes, West London. The exhibition showcases an array of artists, designers, and makers who all work with wood—in this case, scorched wood. The exhibition was originally commissioned by the London Craft Week 2019 for the Fitzrovia Chapel (Central London) but has now moved to the Western banks of the River Thames, where gallerist Sarah Myerscough’s new permanent space can be found. “We want to show people the relevance of contemporary, craft, art, and design in the UK,” Myerscough told AN. “Putting on curated shows like this, it’s quite fitting to bring [Scorched] here to show how it's possible to curate something which allows us to look at individual artists, their unique skills, their innovative approaches, processes involved in making like lathe work, carving and CNC cutting. Designers David Gates and Helen Carnac have produced the most architectural piece, of which there are 17. Using elm, ash, quilted maple, cedar wood from Lebanon, and vitreous enamel on mild steel, the Gates and Carnac have created a cabinet that riffs on the industrial landscapes they draw inspiration from; particularly the former, now-derelict Tate & Lyle factory in East London’s docks. Rust has been used to form decorative patterns while the structural elements, the joints and drawer mechanism, of the cabinet are celebrated and made very apparent. If Lebbeus Woods were to design a cabinet, this is what it would look like. With a background in fine art, Myerscough founded her own gallery in 1998, setting up shop in Mayfair on London’s West End. “All the rents went astronomical,” she explained. “We had to decide to do exhibitions of fares. We chose fares so we could go out and reach our audience.” Then came the opportunity to do both, in Barnes. Supported by the landlord, Myerscough has renovated a former boathouse. Timber beams have been exposed, wood flooring has been put in, and the brick walls were painted white. On the Friday before the gallery opened on June 10, the smell of fresh paint still lingered in the air. “When we first got it, it was like a 1960s office space,” said Myerscough. “It's changed completely.” Where the opening for boats to come and go once was, is now a window which looks out onto the street. Today it advertises the contents of the gallery, offering a view into the relatively small, linear space. “We wanted to bring back its character and the original state of the place. Everything you are shown is full of character, narrative.” Despite being outside of Central London, Myerscough isn’t worried about a drop in visitor numbers. “It's probably more modest in the West End, but I don’t think that really matters, it's more what you do in the space,” she said. “I think we were slightly shackled by place. People say, 'Oh you're a West End gallery' and you immediately have this kind of profile. I don't think it should be like that; what you do in the space should determine how successful you are as a gallerist.” "In the art world, you need to have a specialization to be noticed. But it won't just be timber on display here. There are so much more exciting things going on — with organic materials, sustainability." Scorched runs through August 18, 2019. Other artists featured include Max Bainbridge, Alison Crowther, Christopher Kurtz, Eleanor Lakelin, Malcolm Martin and Gaynor Dowling, Gareth Neal, Jim Partridge & Liz Walmsley, Benjamin Planitzer, Marc Ricourt, Wycliffe Stutchbury and Nic Webb.
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Art Imitates Life

Turner Prize-winner Mark Leckey to build an interstate in the Tate
Starting September 24 and running through January 5, 2020, the Tate Britain will offer visitors a new perspective on something monumental in its ubiquity: a highway. A new life-sized replica of a stretch of the M53 highway and overpass located near Wirral, Merseyside, is coming to the museum via Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Leckey. This same stretch of pavement that he's creating, located near his hometown, has also made an appearance in his 2015 film, Dream English Kid, 1964-1999 AD. The replica is part sculpture and part stage set, and the structure will also be the backdrop for an audio play. The piece in both of its forms -- freestanding artwork and active, designed environment -- will be one of the most imposing works included in Leckey’s ambitious, large-scale exhibition for the Tate, titled O Magic Power of Bleakness. The highway in all its ugly, functionalist glory may be the exact pulse of ‘bleakness’ that Leckey is going for in his title choice. Born in 1964, in the midst of the automobile culture boom, the artist has seen the highway become a staple of the modern commute, landscape, and mainstream imagination. The open roads and endless stretches of asphalt are at once overtly familiar, yet a deeper dive reveals and reminds that they also act as spaces of harbored secrets, sheltering the fringes of society congregating at under- and overpasses such as the section immortalized by Leckey’s sculpture. The Tate describes the upcoming exhibition as “focusing on a group of teenagers, the play is inspired by folklore and stories of changelings and ‘fairy raids’ and by the artist’s own pre-adolescent experiences.” Described as having haunted the artist’s work throughout his career, the ominous subject of the highway has a great potential due to its sheer size and imposing materiality to exert a certain power over visitors. Leckey has worked with collage, found objects, and video to create powerful commentary and conversations surrounding themes like nostalgia, pop cultural imagery, and anxiety. His first taste of the Tate came in 2002 -- his current wife, Lizzie Carey Thomas, had accepted a job as a curator of contemporary art and asked Leckey to make a performance piece. He chose to "borrow" one of the museum's most iconic sculptures, a Jacob Epstein work titled Jacob and the Angel. He positioned a speaker system on a pedestal nearby, laid out so the speaker and sculpture seemed to be facing off in competition. He then played music at a deafening volume. Catherine Wood, curator of performance art at the Tate, told the Guardian that “the Epstein was an iconic work I had looked at 1,000 times. Suddenly it became tender…  He was possessing the museum – possessing it with our culture.” Maybe, with the re-presentation of the M53, Leckey will be able to possess the museum all over again.
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Sand Castle

UCCA Dune Museum burrows into a Chinese beach
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On a beach in northern China, light cannons emerge from the tops of a dune, hinting at a structure buried beneath the sand like a lost Courbusian villa. But the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art Dune Museum (UCCA Dune) is neither lost nor buried, but carved into the sands of Bohai Bay by the Beijing-based firm OPEN Architecture.
  • Facade Manufacturers & Installers South Lion Establish Group (CurtainWall Manufacturer and Installer)
  • Architect OPEN Architecture
  • Facade Consultant CABR Technology Co., Ltd.
  • Location Qinhuangdao, China
  • Date of Completion 2018
  • System Burrowed concrete shell
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Inspired by children digging in the sand, the building is defined by a series of interconnected organic spaces that seem scooped from the ground. There’s a raw, handcrafted feel to the rooms because they are, in fact, crafted by hand. Local workers and former shipbuilders shaped the complex geometries of the museum’s concrete shell using formwork made from small linear strips of wood, and other, more elastic materials. The architects deliberately retained the rough texture left by the formwork, allowing traces of the building’s construction to be felt and seen. Natural light from generous light wells fills the central gallery, casting shadows that accentuate the interior’s rough concrete texture. Creating this handmade aesthetic required some technological support. The architects and structural engineers shared digital models to optimize the building’s form and calculate the thickness of the concrete walls. “Fine-tuning this geometry was a back and forth process between structure and architecture,” notes founding partner Li Hu. Even with these calculations, the realities of the unusual site required the architects to adapt their design in the field, simplifying things and changing details like the enormous opening that faces out toward the sky and sea, which could only be installed from the inside rather from without, as had been initially planned. These field adjustments were challenging, “but on the other hand,” Hu says, “they were also the sources of great excitement, as they pushed for innovation and improvisation, which lead to unexpected results.”
A sense of craftsmanship carries through the entire building, which features custom furniture and fenestration—all made by hand. The final element of the enclosure is, of course, the dune itself. As a green—or rather, brown—roof, the sand improves the building’s performance by dramatically reducing the energy required to cool it during the summer. But as the dune protects the building, so too does the building protect the vulnerable coastal ecosystem. The presence of the museum ensures the preservation of the dunes, from large oceanside real estate developments.
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Beyond BIM

BIG and UNStudio launch augmented reality design software
The phrase “bring a project to life” is thrown around casually by creative types of all creeds, from industrial designers to conceptual painters—people whose daily lives involve intense engagement with communication tools that allow the ideas in their heads to exist in the physical world. Emerging technologies from 3D software to VR goggles have revolutionized the way that clients can experience a designer’s vision, and now, Hyperform, a new collaborative and data-driven design tool, allows the design industry to literally immerse themselves—digitally—within a working project, blown up via augmented reality technology to 1:1 scale. Hyperform comes from a Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) collaboration with Squint/Opera, a creative digital studio, and UNStudio. These big-name studios believe that their immersive software will enable designers to make the best decisions for the project and the client much faster, as the interactive elements are closer to complete project visualization than anything we’ve seen yet. Jan Bunge, managing director at Squint/Opera, said, “Hyperform marks the first time we can feel and sense a spatial condition before it gets built.” Client and designer can walk around a project, experiencing its massing, spatial qualities, and materiality, and simply use hand gestures to edit, delete, and alter this type of digital file in real time before it’s too late or too expensive to make a change. In a concept film, the Hyperform user is depicted as a disembodied hand, the viewer’s own, pushing at virtual buttons suspended in space and scrolling through horizontal libraries of architectural drawings, 3D models, and plans. Selecting a model and blowing it up with verbal cues to immersive size, the user shares it with a life-size colleague who materializes in a pixelated form before our eyes, calling in and “ready to join the meeting.” BIG has debuted this new tool at its curated exhibition, FORMGIVING An Architectural Future History from Big Bang to Singularity, at the Danish Architecture Center in Copenhagen. Amid the exhibition of 71 BIG projects currently on the drawing boards, representing the firm’s active proposals for the future, Hyperform exists towards the end of the exhibition's “timeline”—near the top of the staircase near “singularity”—as the software represents the step beyond perceiving mere reality, going beyond into creating new realities—digital ones.