Seeking ideas for a new 645,800 square foot media campus in Berlin, Axel Springer AG revealed its design contest by inviting twenty international firms to propose innovative schemes. Mathias Döpfner, CEO of the company, specified “the building should not be overwhelmingly beautiful, but also address the question: what does material mean in a dematerialized media company, what does an office mean in a mobile working environment, in which offices are no longer really required?” The five shortlisted firms are Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Kuehn Malvezzi, Ole Scheeren, Rem Koolhaas (OMA) and SANAA. The winner will be announced in December. (Photo: Google Earth)
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Architecture and urban design apps are appearing so fast its hard to keep up with the latest new site to investigate city history and growth. But a new one—Archipelago Town-lines—is the result of a 3 year-long research on three key places: Berlin, Beirut, and Venice. It uses original photo galleries, video, and audio content and interactive data visualization features, as a guide for new urban geography, history, and lifestyle of these three very different cities. These places are then place holders for the analysis of contemporary urban trends, in order to propose a new possibility for growth. A second app second section puts forwards a new model for urban growth based on 9th century Venice and the figure of the archipelago whose archetype is to be found in a place built in the impossible like Venice, namely a place in which un-built areas have the same importance as built ones. The third section of the app features video interviews of prominent architects, urban planners, and academicians, specifically produced for it, that suggest imaginary path and different reading of the urban phenomenon stimulated by the app itself. Archipelago Town-lines has been released in English as an app for the iPad. In April, it will be available for Amazon Kindle Fire and all tablets operating on an Android platform. It's worth a download!
Daniel Libeskind’s second contribution to the Jewish Museum Berlin since 2001, the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin, will open this Saturday, November 17. The 25,000 square foot Academy is located just across from the original museum and now houses the museum library, a growing archive, and will also house lectures, workshops, and seminars. The design is named “In-Between Spaces,” alluding to the voids between three cubes that make up the Academy. The cubes mirror Libeskind’s original museum design with sharp angular forms combined with dramatic intersections. Entry into the Academy is gained through a large slash in the first cube, which leads to a middle space between the other two cubes. With large skylights and front and rear access the Academy is connected with its outside spaces. Libeskind is proud to celebrate Jewish history in his design with windows shaped like the Hebrew letters Alef and Bet, and with a quotation from the famous Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides printed across the façade: “Hear the truth, whoever speaks it,” written in English, German, Hebrew, Arabic, and the Judeo-Arabic of medieval Spain.
The BMW Guggenheim Lab is taking its show on the road one more time, after jaunts in Manhattan's East Village and Berlin, Germany. This time to Mumbai, India, where starting in December, an international group of experts and innovators will lead six weeks of free programs, public discourse, and experiments exploring a range of topics related to contemporary urban life. Mumbai, a city of 20.5 million people—the fourth most populous city in the world—represents a unique challenge for the Mumbai Lab Team, who have created a series of projects, studies, and design proposals that respond to issues including transportation, infrastructure, governance, and housing. To get a sense of the types of discourse that will be going on, check out 100 Urban Trends, a glossary of 100 of the most talked about trends in urban thinking, compiled during the BMW Guggenheim Lab’s trip to Berlin in June. A 36-column bamboo structure, designed by Tokyo-based Atelier Bow-Wow and inspired by a traditional Indian Mandapa—a pillared outdoor hall for events—will serve as a mobile pavilion and hub for the happenings. Atelier Bow-Wow designed all three BWM Guggemheim Lab pavilions, part of a collaboration between the museum and the car company. The pavilion will be built at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum and will open on December 9, 2012. Pop-up sites are also planned throughout the city.
Even as Berlin loses green space, the city remains Europe’s greenest with more than 400,000 trees. One of the grandest, a 100-year-old chestnut tree towering over Montbijoupark, was the center of Tree Concert, a public art project that took place in September to bring light, literally, to the city’s diminishing greenery with a glowing LED sculpture circling the trees trunk. The project was a combination of audio and visual elements. As chestnuts fell one after the other onto a series of internally lit shapes covered with polymer membranes placed around the tree, ambient sounds emanated from hidden speakers creating a symphony for park goers. Tree Concert was put on by the ad agency Proximity BBDO Berlin and the environmental organization BUND for Environment and Nature Conservation Germany, inspired by recent years when more trees have been cut than planted. The groups also wanted to draw awareness that trees are not being properly maintained because of a lack of funding. Thus they created an easy way to donate through text messages from passing visitors. The design was executed by Gang of Berlin with music from Ketchum Pleon PR.
Facing the possibility of anti-gentrification protests, the Guggenheim decided to cancel plans to bring the BMW Guggenheim Lab to the city's Kreuzberg district. They have decided to bring the lab to the already gentrified Prenzlauer Berg instead, specifically the Pfefferberg cultural center, according to Spiegel online. "The decision to relocate the Lab was not an easy one, but we are very pleased to have so quickly confirmed such a suitable alternative and to continue the urgent and important discussions we have begun about cities, and specifically about Berlin, at the Pfefferberg site," Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, said in a statement. Time will tell if the move will mollify critics and protesters.
While the commercialization of museums raises eyebrows in some circles in America, in Germany such criticism is much more forceful and threatening. Activist groups have derailed the planned May 24th opening in Berlin of the BMW Guggenheim lab, according to Bloomberg News. They argued that the mobile lab--which debuted in New York and is traveling the globe, all bankrolled by the German luxury carmaker--would accelerate the gentrification of the Kreuzberg district. The Guggenheim has faced criticism for its sponsors and activities many times before, so this episode is not likely to spur much institutional reflection. According to the report, the Museum is currently shopping for a new host city.
Barbara Bloom is not an architect. Yet, her current exhibition, part of FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, would fit in at any of the innumerable architecture biennials and triennials around the world. Entitled The Rendering (H x W x D =), the solo exhibition explores the relationships between images, objects, and space. Located in the Robert Venturi–designed Ellen Johnson Gallery, at the Allen Memorial Art Museum on the campus of Oberlin College, Bloom takes full advantage of the museum’s collection and the gallery’s pedigree. Invoking architectural language and imagery, the installation is at once both thoughtful and funny. With the Ellen Johnson Gallery, Venturi actively questioned the logic of the typical white box, and Bloom uses this to her advantage. Divided into several discrete pieces, The Rendering reverse engineers a number of two-dimensional architectural images into three-dimensional installations. In each case, Bloom uses primary documents from the museum’s collection, and in one case engages with the building itself. This happens in a glass corner looking out onto Venturi’s “Ironic Ionic” column. Like the other pieces Bloom constructed for the show, the column is matched with a series of column drawings, effectively making Venturi an unaware collaborator in the project. The other pieces in the show include a bridge, garden, tea house, and screen, which are all constructed based on overly literal readings of historic architectural drawings. The largest piece, Garden, for example, is based on a 19th-century Indian print, which is a mix of perspective, plan, and axonometric drawing techniques. As such, the construction fluctuates from legible to confusing (in a good way) as the viewer moves around the piece. A similar effect takes place with the Tea House, which, on first inspection, looks to be a traditional Japanese space for tea ceremonies. This reading falls apart as one works out the relationships of angles and surfaces, which were pulled directly from an 18th-century woodblock print. These larger pieces are augmented by two series of flat works that flank the entry to the gallery. One set of 20 works from the museum’s collection are “framed” in such a way to hide most of the image, revealing only select architectural moments. Another set of photographs curated by the artist from the larger museum collection are hung to temper the palette of viewers entering the space. This attention to procession into the space is just another example of how the artist worked in a distinctly architectural way while conceiving the show. The FRONT Triennial has many exhibitions and pieces that architects may find interested, but Bloom's The Rendering is likely the most directly relatable. The Frank Lloyd Wright–designed Weltzheimer/Johnson House is also hosting works by artist Juan Araujo, and the Richard D. Baron ’64 Art Gallery has the striking architectural paintings of Ciu Jie, both just a short distance from the college. Though these works are a bit of a hike from Cleveland, where most of the triennial is taking place, they are well worth the trip. Considering the popular argument that all these new architecture biennials are, in the end, mostly self-absorbant, it is somehow fitting that the best architectural installations might just be happening at art shows. The Rendering (H x W x D =) and FRONT will be open through September 30 at at the Allen Memorial Art Museum and across the City of Cleveland.
Wheel of Misfortune
New York City’s massive Staten Island ferris wheel may never spin
For the past six years, the St. George neighborhood of Staten Island in New York City has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of what would be one of the city’s greatest landmark attractions: the giant, 630-foot New York Wheel with views of the New York Harbor, Statue of Liberty, and New York City skyline. While over $400 million has been sunk into the project since its conception, little has been done to get the ball rolling. Construction has barely begun, and Mayor de Blasio recently signaled that it may not ever happen. The main problem is the cost. The New York City Economic Development Corporation reported that the estimated cost of the Wheel has skyrocketed from $250 million when the project was first proposed in 2012 to a devastating $999 million under the de Blasio administration. When the Wheel’s developer, New York Wheel LLC, asked the city for $140 million in support, de Blasio rejected their pleas, refusing to bail out the floundering project. His administration told New York 1 that the city government is “clear-eyed about the risks of putting public money into an expensive, speculative project.” The New York Wheel promised to transform the humble yet densely packed neighborhood of St. George into a world-class, waterfront destination. Aside from the Wheel itself, whose 36 spacious and climate-controlled pods would provide visitors with fine food, drink, and breathtaking views of the city, the site also comprises five acres of publically accessible grass space for events, a state-of-the-art children’s playground, and a terminal building with restaurants, shops, and boutiques. The project would have potentially revitalized Staten Island, a borough that has long been neglected by New York City tourists. Yet the government’s decision to oppose the funding of the New York Wheel comes after a surge of similar projects in cities like Berlin and Beijing that eventually failed due to a lack of support and income. “Despite many recent conversations with the Wheel developer, we remain convinced that public funds are too scare and valuable to be leveraged for this venture,” an official with the Economic Development Corporation told New York 1. Since the Wheel’s developer and former contractor, Mammoet-Starneth, hoped to rely on the city for financial provision, the two parties were forced to craft a new deal that would give the development team until January 7, 2019 to hire a new contractor and complete the project. According to Staten Island Advance, a hearing on a motion to approve the agreement has been set for September 21. Until then, the fate of the Wheel remains unknown.
Sergei Tchoban wins the 2018 European Prize for Architecture
Architect Sergei Tchoban, a founding partner at Sergei Tchoban Voss Architekten, has been named the 2018 European Prize for Architecture laureate. The prize is Europe’s highest architectural recognition and is jointly presented by The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design. Tchoban’s modernist-inspired work has been a mainstay of Berlin for the last 20 years, and spans a variety of forms, colors, and uses, from religious institutions to cultural buildings, to offices and commercial centers. The president and CEO of The Chicago Athenaeum, Christian Narkiewicz-Laine, said in a statement:
We are delighted to present The European Prize for Architecture to this highly innovative and creative Russian/German architect that has been instrumental in shaping in our time an unprecedented and inspiring discourse between art and architecture with the keen ability to bridge and transform imagination and the creative mind into the actual built works in the environments in which they are placed. His is a most rare, thought-provoking, and profound approach to architecture, extensions of his life, his philosophy, and his intellect, that fuse the power of imagination into the final end product—the building.It’s important to note that the European Prize for Architecture isn’t a lifetime achievement award, but rather meant to draw attention to an architect’s work and spark further innovation; some of the past mid-career winners of the prize include Bjarke Ingels, Santiago Calatrava, Graft Architects, TYIN Architects, Marco Casagrande, Alessandro Mendini, LAVA Laboratory for Visionary Architecture, and Manuelle Gautrand. Tchoban has also been recognized for his drafting and drawing abilities, and he founded the Tchoban Foundation – Museum for Architectural Drawing in Berlin in 2009 to nurture the hand drafting and drawing talent of young architects. Tchoban has also been designing in Russia since 2003 and helped design Europe’s tallest skyscraper, the 1,226-foot-tall Federation Tower, in Moscow with architect Peter Paul Schweger. Tchoban was also one of the curators of the Russian Pavilion for the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale. “In my projects, I try to go beyond the boundaries of the accustomed Modernist minimalism,” said Tchoban, “which is based on producing a particular perfection of the architectural detail, but does not quite reach that atmospheric environment, which we admire in our favorite cities.”
Four Corners of the Earth
Urban Intermedia at Harvard shines light on gaps in urban studies
From now until October 14, visitors to the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) can enjoy the fruits of urban research from four cities: Berlin, Istanbul, Mumbai, and Boston. Urban Intermedia: City, Archive, Narrative is the product of four years of research, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and compares and contrasts the history and growth of each city to find commonalities and differences. That four-year project was spearheaded by the GSD’s Eve Blau, who curated the show with Robert Pietrusko, as part of the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative. The exhibition is a culmination of the team’s research but is also intended to spur discussion and gather feedback on the future direction of the project. Höweler + Yoon Architecture handled the installation design of Urban Intermedia in the school's Druker Design Gallery, centered around four concrete stations, one for each city, where narratives are projected. These narratives are a combination of spatial and historical information and present open-ended stories that are meant to encourage viewers to dig deeper. These narratives delve into the three key themes that guided the research in each city: the planned and unplanned, a look into formal and informal placemaking; migration and mobility, how the residents and others move through each city; and nature and technology, examinations of each city’s infrastructure and urban ecology. Urban Intermedia has previously been on display in Istanbul and Berlin this past year, and the GSD’s Stephen Gray has added a Boston-centric supplement to the show’s Harvard homecoming. The new section in the current exhibition adds archival materials that contextualize the role of race, space, and power in Boston’s development and covers three eras of the city’s growth. Gray solicited Boston-based collections for “race and space” materials and received contributions from institutions such as the Boston Globe, Boston Public Library, Northeastern University, and Norman B. Leventhal Map and Education Center. A 33-foot-long, wooden meeting table has also been installed as a place to exchange ideas. Lectures, classes, and discussions will be hosted at the table, which will serve as a site of “active research” until the exhibition’s closing in October.
A Place for Parks
Rosa Parks house reconstructed and put up for sale
Artnet News recently reported on a Berlin-based artist who reconstructed one of Rosa Parks's homes and is now trying to sell it to an American institution so that it can be publicly displayed. The Rosa Parks house sheltered the famous civil rights pioneer after she left Montgomery, Alabama, for Detroit, Michigan, because of death threats that she was receiving because of her activism. After Parks's death the building was eventually abandoned and fell into disrepair, and the City of Detroit had slated the structure for demolition. The house was saved by Rhea McCauley, Parks's niece, who bought it for $500 in 2014. She then offered the building to Ryan Mendoza, an American artist based out of Berlin who had previous experience moving a house from Detroit to the Netherlands, so that he could move the building to a secure location. He then deconstructed the house, shipped it to Berlin, and rebuilt it in the European capital. Artnet News talked to both McCauley and Mendoza, who said that Berlin was just a stopping point for the house while he found a more permanent custodian for the structure in the U.S., where it could potentially serve as part of an educational exhibit on the life of Parks, the civil rights movement, or the history of African American housing throughout the past century. As Mendoza notes in the artnet News article, the Parks house is a testament to the low-quality structures that many African Americans were forced to accept as racist policies and redlining excluded them from housing loans and affluent neighborhoods. The article reported that Mendoza and McCauley were having trouble finding a suitable buyer, but that they are continuing their search and still hope to bring the structure back to the U.S.