A strange thing has been happening at some public architecture talks lately, perhaps you’ve noticed. Over the course of otherwise hopeful and positive discussions covering amazing new projects from around the globe, at some point, usually toward the end of a talk, conversation turns to the current state of American building and infrastructure. And, it's safe to say, people are not happy. Sometimes, the presenter will rip off the bandaid, as Thom Mayne of Morphosis did at a recent Facades+ talk in Los Angeles, when he said, “I hate to be negative, but there’s not much going on in this country architecturally,” before adding, “[But] if you look at architecture around the world, it’s startling…It’s unbelievable, the research [taking place]—I just came back from Shenzhen [China] and I’m looking around [at the skyline] there wondering ‘is there anything left for me to do?’” Other times, a perplexed-sounding audience member will ask what it seems many in attendance had been pondering privately: “Why can’t we build like this here?” It’s a debilitating question that really only has one answer. And although, even when speaking bluntly, everyone tries their best to truth-tell without offending, but the writing is right on the projection screen—building big in America simply isn’t what it used to be, and we don’t know what to do about it. “The United States is falling behind,” architect Moshe Safdie explained to a packed room during a recent keynote talk at Palm Springs Modernism Week when asked why the inventive array of projects he had just presented are mostly located outside the United States. “Around the world, the competition [for bold infrastructure] doesn’t stop,” he said, half-jokingly, “until you land at Kennedy or LAX.” To prove his point, Safdie pointed out further that although the Hudson Yards development in New York City is the largest privately-led construction project in the country by square footage, it is easily dwarfed in terms of vision by countless projects around the globe of a similar or larger size. He’s right. Hudson Yards is a dime a dozen as far as global mega-projects are concerned. Safdie’s own Raffles City development in Chongqing, China, for example, might be roughly two-thirds the size of Hudson Yards, but it is going up in less than one-third the time and is almost entirely designed by a single architecture firm—Safdie Architects—with P&T Group International Ltd. serving as architect of record. Safdie’s own portfolio of recent work shows that while New York occasionally will build an elevated billionaire citadel, Chongqing, Singapore, and other cities have tasked his office with erecting bold new structures designed for working people and the public at large, all without sacrificing design quality. Safdie explained that one possible reason why American projects no longer lead the world in terms of size or scale might be due to a “lack of urban initiative,” the type of sustained and calculated political and managerial energy necessary for bringing to life the types of large-scale and lasting projects that have transformed other countries around the world in recent decades. It’s a sentiment echoed by Rem Koolhaas, who, when recently asked about the prevalence of NIMBYism in America, explained, “I think you can divide the world into one part that is eager to change and doesn’t have hesitations about things changing, and another part that is totally nervous about change and actually aspires to a kind of stability.” Koolhaas added, “As an architect, every one of your efforts is impacted by this. In the end, however, architecture is always controversial because it proposes to make things different than they are.” Perhaps nowhere is this truer than in the realm of high-speed rail (HSR), where American decision makers across all levels of government have persisted in remaining tethered to auto-centric planning, condemning the nation to antiquated transportation for at least another generation. A recent article in The New York Times covering the ongoing debacle with California’s tragic HSR project, for example, brings this condition into sharp relief with the following line: “California’s High-Speed Rail Authority…was established 23 years ago. During that time China has built 16,000 miles of high-speed rail.” America has built none. But America’s last-place finish doesn’t end with rail or with deteriorating airports; it includes city-building, too, as Safdie pointed out. Much of America is suffering from some form of housing crisis, whether it’s so-called Rust Belt cities struggling to retain residents or coastal cities that can’t figure out how and where to build new housing fast enough. While American cities have doubled-down on onerous building restrictions and lengthy bureaucratic reviews, politically polarized state and federal governments have worked at cross purposes, too, failing to enact bold plans and avoiding future-oriented thinking at almost all costs. The overarching legacy of redlining, racial segregation, and income inequality has placed a stranglehold over American cities, as well, contributing to intense gentrification when development does occur and debilitating displacement when it doesn’t. Over the last decade, it has become clear that America's public health, land-use, and transportation policies are all woefully out of whack, and the result is stifling the abilities of a generation of well-trained architects and engineers eager to build a better nation. Meanwhile, the world’s urbanizing areas have embraced building vertically, have expanded transit of all sorts, and have worked to enact bold planning initiatives that over a generation have remade the face of global urbanism in the name of interconnectedness, density, and place-making. In Europe, for example, France is currently enacting its “Le Grand Paris” plan, a vision that will stitch together the Paris city center with its inner and outer ring suburbs to bring together an urban region of 10 million inhabitants. The plan includes a €30 billion public transit expansion initiative that will create a network of regional transit routes connecting suburbs with one another as well as sizable new investments in social housing, parks, and other equity-minded initiatives. But it’s not just Europe. Cairo, Egypt, is building a new $45 billion capital city that, when completed, will become the largest purpose-built capital city by population in the world. In India, the country’s largest infrastructure project, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, aims to connect the nation’s political and economic capitals with a 900-mile long conurbation made up of 24 urban “nodes.” The plan aims to urbanize 14 percent of India’s population—180 million people—over the next 30 years and will take $100 billion in investment to realize. In South America, Argentina’s so-called Belgrano Plan will bring $16 billion in rail expansion to 10 of the country’s neglected northern provinces and will create up to 250,000 new housing units and 1,100 childhood education centers. Saudi Arabia is building new mega cities from scratch, as are China, Singapore, Nigeria, Mauritius, and countless others. None of these projects are perfect socially or environmentally-speaking, to be sure, but one thing they do not lack is vision. If it feels like the most impressive work is taking place in other countries, that’s because in many ways, it is, and international architects know perhaps better than anyone else the truth of that reality. Even more, the hesitation, hedging, and hand-wringing that accompanies talk of the current state of American infrastructure and urban vision indicate that the problem runs deeper than a mere lack of funding or risk-averse clients. Whether it’s California’s flailing HSR project, the nation’s intractable housing crises, or even, the sad, dispirited political discourse surrounding the Green New Deal—a potentially transformative plan that is barely supported by the party that conceived it—it is clear that America has a crisis of vision, a failure of political will, and perhaps most alarmingly, no real interest in solving its own problems. Look at the Salesforce Transit Center debacle in San Francisco, Elon Musk’s substandard and retrograde transit ideas in Los Angeles and Chicago, and the steady stream of failing bridges and tunnels across the country for further proof. Even Amazon’s HQ2 extravaganza, a year-long publicity stunt by the world’s richest company that wrung billions in incentives from some of the most desperate cities around the country, rightfully withered on the vine. What’s going on here? As Safdie quipped, “We were promised infrastructure!” But the truth is that it’s just not happening in America anymore.
Posts tagged with "China":
Brought to you with support fromWith an imposing set of towers rising from a tabula rasa-like setting, one could at first mistake Bernard Tschumi Architects (BTA)'s Tianjin Binhai Exploratorium as a contemporary take on medieval fortifications. Designed between 2013 and 2014, and completed in the fall of 2019, the museum houses artifacts from Tianjin's heavy industrial past and displays of large-scale contemporary technology. The formidable complex is clad in thousands of perforated copper-colored aluminum panels studded with oculi for interior lighting. The 355,200-square-foot museum is located on the former site of a sprawling industrial park; the towers of the design are intended by the firm to evoke the smokestacks that formerly blanketed that landscape, with the copper-like panels standing in for rusted pipes and machinery.
Printing concrete has long been looked to as a way to speed up construction times and cut waste, and more and more projects are being 3-D printed, from barracks to outdoor furniture. Now, the world’s largest 3-D-printed concrete pedestrian bridge has been completed in Shanghai, China, across the city’s Wisdom Bay pond. The 86-foot-long, 12-foot-wide bridge was designed and fabricated by a team from Tsinghua University School of Architecture's Zoina Land Joint Research Center for Digital Architecture (JCDA) led by professor Xu Weiguo. The curvaceous bridge, which mimics billowing fabric for the railings and uses pavers patterned after brain coral for the pedestrian portion, was inspired by the Anji Bridge in Zhaoxian, China. The bridge’s construction was a joint effort with the Shanghai Wisdom Bay Investment Management Company. This isn't the first time that a bridge has been robotically fabricated; see the stainless-steel bridge produced by MX3D for a canal in Amsterdam. However, this concrete bridge is more than twice the length of its steel counterpart. The bridge structure is composed of 44 separate hollow units, while the handrails were pieced together from 68 hollow blocks, all of them printed from a proprietary polyethylene fiber concrete mix meant to ensure a steady rate of flow while printing. First, a one-quarter-scale model of the bridge was printed to test the structure’s integrity. Then, over the course of 450 hours, two robotic arms printed the components for the full-size bridge. Vibration and strain-monitoring sensors have been embedded throughout the structure to track the bridge’s stability in real time and allow researchers to pinpoint where the greatest amount of stress is occurring.
David Chipperfield Architects has recently finished a new museum in Anji outside Dipuzhen in eastern China that comprises a set of interlinked bars in a "red ochre" color that references local clay earth. The facility will be a branch of the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History when it opens this spring. The museum's rectangular galleries step down its hillside site and are connected by a loggia that encloses an interior courtyard. The galleries have roughly the same grand height and width but vary in length, bringing some diversity to the exhibition spaces. Altogether, the museum will enclose about 624,000 square feet. When fully landscaped, the complex will include green roofs and water features that, along with the ruddy color, will connect the building to its subtropical setting. German firm Levin Monsigny Landschaftsarchitekten and local firm Zhejiang South Architecture Design Ltd. worked on the landscape design.
Brought to you with support fromFive years ago, Fuzhou hosted an international competition for a new cultural center to affirm the city's as a premier destination along the Strait of Taiwan and the East China Sea. Opened in October 2018. The Strait Culture and Art Centre is a five-pronged complex on the banks of the Minjiang River designed by Helsinki and Shanghai–based PES-Architects. The complex is clad in terra-cotta louvers over a yawning glass curtain wall made of trapezoidal panels. According to the architects, the design of the Strait Culture and Art Centre intends to provoke a dialogue with the residents of Fuzhou and Fujian province as a whole. Every city in China has its own distinctive flower: Shanghai has its magnolia, Guangzhou the Bombax ceiba, and Fuzhou the jasmine white. The five wings of the center, clad in LOPO China and Zhonglei-produced terra-cotta glazed brilliantly white, function as conjoined "petals" of a gargantuan 1.6-million-square-foot flower.
New York City and Beijing–based OPEN Architecture recently completed a cave-like museum that’s carved into a sand dune along China’s Gold Coast. The UCCA Dune Art Museum is a 10,000-square-foot facility featuring 10 galleries, studios, and a cafe tucked inside an all-white, unassuming structure beside the sea. According to the architects, the museum’s hidden form was inspired by the way in which children dig into the sand. It takes visitors beneath the mass of loose land and allows them to enter into a series of otherworldly, cell-like spaces below ground. After walking through a dark tunnel and small reception area, museum-goers are exposed to the largest multifunctional gallery. This procession, along with its secluded location, creates a more personal experience for viewing contemporary art. “Its interconnected, organically shaped spaces echo those of caves…whose walls were once home to some of man’s first works of art," the firm told Archinect. The largely-underground building includes a massive concrete shell that was formed by small linear wood strips and other structural materials. A multitude of overhead openings and skylights of varying sizes allow natural light to seep into the gallery spaces. Perched by the shore, the roof is covered in sand to reduce the building’s overall heat load. It also includes a low-energy, zero-emission ground source heat pump that cools the structure during the day. Visitors can ascend a spiral staircase from the galleries up onto a viewing platform to take in the surrounding views and fresh air. The entire space is engineered to be contemplative, urging art lovers to consider the museum’s context as part of the art itself. The UCCA Dune Art Museum is part of the Ullen Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, a leading international institution. OPEN Architecture aims to design a walkway that extends from the Dune Art Museum into the Bohai Sea. When the tide is low, it will lead visitors to the solitary Sea Art Museum, a boxy, open-air structure built like a rock. That project is currently under construction.
International design firm Sasaki has been selected to develop a master plan for the Chengdu Panda Capital. Chengdu is also the human capital of China’s Sichuan province, one of the largest and fastest growing cities in the country, and the only native habitat of the giant panda. The city government recognizes its responsibility as steward of this vulnerable species and, in June of last year, called for submissions to expand its panda research and tourism facilities. Sasaki beat out 98 other contenders with a plan that balances smart urbanism and thoughtful conservation. The masterplan is spread across three sites, each playing a different role in the panda conservation effort. Longquanshan Panda Village, located near the airport, will be focused on education. Visitors there will be introduced to the region’s history, culture, and dedication to conservation. Panda Park, in Beihu, is the closest to downtown Chengdu and reachable by mass transit. Here, panda tourists will learn more about the panda and its habitat at a new visitor center. The primary research center and gateway to the giant panda preserve is outside the city in Dujiangyan Panda Valley, where conservators breed and prepare pandas to enter the wild. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, one of the greatest threats to the giant panda is the tourism and recreation areas, and large-scale infrastructure projects. Tourism, if not properly managed, is a particular concern for the expanded capital, which is anticipated to receive 20 million annual visitors— that’s about two million more people per year than Disneyland. This plan involves all those threats, and Sasaki is embracing the challenge. “How do you reconcile human land use and wildlife protection?” asked Sasaki principal Tao Zhang. “With this project, we’re aiming to set a new baseline for how cities can achieve a sustainable model that generates win-wins…through extensive educational and environmental stewardship programs and a fully-integrated design approach.” The new master plan will help ensure that the city will grow in a sustainable manner while reaffirming its brand as the panda capital of the world and securing a shared future for both of the area’s major species.
Brought to you with support fromOpened to the public in December 2017, West-Line Studio’s Shui Cultural Center is an imposing complex located in a valley within China’s rugged Sandu Shui Autonomous County. The complex, consisting of three single-gabled halls and a monumental tower, is a formidable display of timber-pressed concrete covered in pitched copper plates.
perforated copper cladding panels. Each half-inch-thick panel, measuring four by two feet, was subjected to a multi-stepped anodizing process to overcome corrosion in the acid rain–drenched province and to boost iridescence. The perforations, numbering just under 50,000 in total, fulfill three functions. Structurally, gaps in the copper plate significantly reduce the dead load placed on cantilevered concrete trusses and the screen wall fastening system, composed of galvanized steel corners, sheets, and expansion-and-burst bolts. Aesthetically, the perforations create a patterned brise-soleil for the halls’ east and west elevations, filtering light through the narrow, rectangular glass panes that line the hall. Symbolically, the gaps are a nod to the Shui character for rain, which consists of tiered vertical bands. The interiors of the complex, marked by exposed concrete structural systems, are imprinted by the surrounding landscape through the use of pine panel-formed concrete. Sandu, relatively isolated from the country’s principal economic centers, is known for its dense Huashan pine and Chinese fir forests. The concrete detail effectively softens what could be considered an ominous space, transforming them into grey, oversized versions of the region’s traditional timber vernacular forms. The triple-glazed glass panels, produced 350 miles north in the megalopolis of Chongqing, largely insulate and guard the complex from the elements. However, West-Line Studio inserted two details that add color and symbolic depth to the cultural center. In the complex's ritual hall, glass panels are dyed to resemble typical batik tapestry patterns, blanketing the concrete walls and flooring with ever-changing color. Additionally, box-like concrete appendages marked with traditional Shui logographic characters protrude from this same hall. With a glance of sunlight, the characters are beamed downward, further tying the symbolic and material. Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the cladding panels as being made of bronze rather than copper.The Shui people, concentrated in the county and the larger Guizhou province, are a distinct ethnic minority with a unique language and logographic writing system. For West-Line Studio, the project was an ambitious attempt to translate local customs into a cohesive design for a cultural center campus nearing 150,000 square feet. Placed atop an expansive concrete podium, the halls are of varying size, height, and function. They are unified by relatively hidden wall openings and approximately 4,000
In recent years, the People’s Republic of China has pushed forward with large-scale and ambitious ideas, from the construction of an eco-city outside Beijing to the form-defying Harbin Opera House. Now, the southwestern city of Chengdu hopes to launch an illumination satellite functioning as an artificial moon by 2020. The purported goal of this interstellar adventure is to cast a dusk-like glow over the area below, significantly reducing nighttime energy use and, in turn, monthly electricity bills. The satellite would reflect sunlight onto Chengdu during the night. Reported by the People’s Daily, the man-made moon will work in tandem with the star’s nighttime illumination to further brighten the city below. Wu Chunfeng, chairman of the Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co., Ltd, believes that the galactic device could light an area of significant size, ranging from a diameter of 4 to 50 miles. Located significantly closer to the earth, Chunfeng estimates that it could provide eight times as much iridescence as the moon. The Guardian notes that similar initiatives reflecting sunlight at night have proved successful in both Russia and Norway, albeit at a much smaller scale and ambition. Funding, or full state approval, has not yet been secured for the project.
Architecture curator and former AN columnist Aric Chen has stepped down from his role as the lead curator for design and Architecture at M+ in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District and has taken on the title of curator-at-large at the museum. In addition to M+, Chen will be focusing on other curatorial projects as well as teaching, including guest curating the 2018 Beazley Designs of the Year exhibition at London’s Design Museum, from his new base in Shanghai. M+, first proposed in 2007 but currently without a permanent home, is focused mainly on the visual culture of Asia, in a global context, throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. The museum’s collection includes a wide variety of pieces including paintings, architectural models, furniture, digital art, performance art, and more. Following an international design competition in 2013, Herzog & de Meuron were chosen to design M+’s permanent home in West Kowloon. The 700,000-square-foot waterfront museum will resemble a ceramic-and-glass-clad, upside down “T” once complete and will hold over 180,000 square feet of exhibition space, performance spaces, cafes, offices, three theaters, and a rooftop terrace. Construction has been fraught with delays, and there have been fears of cost overruns as the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority fired its main contractor earlier this month. While construction has been put on pause for six weeks as the authority searches for a replacement, the managing body has maintained that the museum will still open in 2020 as previously promised. Chen, who had served as M+’s lead curator since 2012, oversaw the formation of the museum’s design and architecture department and its acquisitions. He also led the establishment of the department’s programming and curatorial team. Chen also served as the first creative director for Beijing Design Week from 2010 to 2012. His online exhibition NEONSIGNS.HK, an interactive catalog of Hong Kong’s vibrant neon sign ecosystem, won Chen praise when it was released in 2013, and it won a Webby. Chen’s most recent book, Brazil Modern: The Rediscovery of Twentieth-Century Brazilian Furniture, is available now.
AMO’s tradition of experimentation with imagery, jokey self-referential installations, and the power of perception has arrived in China. From now through August 14, True Me will be on display at the 798 Art Factory in Beijing, presenting guests with distorted selfies, monochrome rooms, and anime-inspired installations. True Me was organized in conjunction with AMO, the Chinese selfie app (and data vacuum) Meitu, and the Beijing Contemporary Arts Foundation to celebrate Meitu’s new logo. The show simultaneously skewers and celebrates “selfie culture”: wavy mirror walls wrap the exhibitions and line the show’s circulation, warping the reflections of guests as they move through the Art Factory. According to AMO, this is to show patrons their heavily post-produced “outer self” that social media users project on image sharing apps. The “inner self” is represented too, with six installations meant to evoke visitors’ raw, softer internal life. These spaces are covered in felt, flannel, and grass, and contain photogenic backdrops that were highly influenced by pop culture. Ironically enough, each installation is highly Instagrammable and will likely feature in just as many “outer self” photographs. The spaces range from neon-pink cosmetic mockups, to a faux arcade wallpapered with anime characters in dynamic poses, to a giant backlit eye, to a long purple hall containing alternative versions of the Meitu logo. True Me was led by OMA Partner and Asia Director Chris van Duijn and is AMO’s first exhibition in China. It’s far from AMO’s parent firm OMA’s first project in the country, however. Most recently the firm won a competition to master plan and design an enormous “Unicorn Island” in Chengdu.
Long after the golden era of corporate modernist skyscrapers (think Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building, SOM’s Lever House, and so on), many contemporary office skyscrapers are still designed with traditional glass curtain walls that have low insulation and cause overheating from unnecessary direct sunlight. Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) conjured an otherworldly alternative for Shenzhen International Energy Mansion: a sawtooth, zigzagging curtain wall comprising glass panels and powder-coated aluminum that blocks direct sunlight, thereby reducing solar gain by up to 30 percent. The 1-million-square-foot structure is composed of two towers and a nine-story connecting block complete with a shared cafeteria, conference rooms, and various retail shops: The uppermost 13 floors of the 42-story north tower houses the Shenzhen Energy Mansion headquarters. As a starting point, BIG considered the subtropical climate in Shenzhen, gauging how they could create comfortable working spaces in hot and humid conditions while at the same time reducing energy consumption. The solution? A passive facade. “Our proposal for Shenzhen Energy Mansion enhances the sustainable performance of the building drastically by only focusing on its envelope, the facade,” said Andreas Klok Pedersen, partner and design director at BIG. Collaborating with Transsolar, the design studio dedicated to addressing climate change, the firm employed various solutions to reduce solar-derived heat and glare without relying on machines or heavy glass coating (which would make views out seem gray and bleak). The building has achieved two out of three stars with the Chinese Green Building Evaluation Label and a LEED Gold rating. BIG and Transsolar developed a multifaceted passive program with a facade folded in an origami-like shape consisting of closed and open subsections. The closed sections provide high insulation values by blocking direct sunlight. “With solid facade panels on the southeast and southwest side for shading, the glazed facade facing northwest and northeast is able to achieve high sustainability requirements with more clarity and less coating,” said Pedersen. All in all, the effect enhances the environmentally sustainable performance of the building and creates an office mise-en-scène bathed in soft light reflected from the direct sunlight diffused between interior panels. Meanwhile, the double glazing applied to the low-e tempered Super Energy-Saving Insulated Glass Units (IGU) by Shanghai Yaohua Pilkington Glass on the folded facade provides open views through the clear glass in one direction via a series of simple deformations in the geometry that allows for larger openings. These interjecting pockets of glass create cavernous folds that interrupt the smooth facade in various interior areas, including lobbies, recreational areas, and meeting areas. This seemingly precarious arrangement of views is made possible by the aluminum cladding's comprising full-height extruded panels that form a meandering profile. The setup enables the panel system to interlock smoothly, creating a uniform surface with almost seamless joints. A profile of twists and turns accentuates the reflections of light. In effect, these solid facade panels located on the southeast and southwest sides directly obstruct solar penetration. “The amount of insulation used in the curtain wall is a result of optimization between visibility and sustainability,” said Pedersen. Location: Shenzhen, China Architect: Bjarke Ingels Group Consulting Architect: SADI Shenzhen Architecture and Design Institute Contractor: CSCEC Engineer: ARUP Facade Consultants: Front, Inc. and Aurecon Facade Contractor: Fangda Group Sustainability Consultant: Transsolar Glass Manufacturer, Supplier, Glazing: Shanghai Yaohua Pilkington Glass Group Co., Ltd Windows: Aumüller Exterior Cladding Panels: Xingfa Aluminum