How do you rebuild after a natural disaster? This question was the call to action at the fifth edition of the MEXTRÓPOLI Festival of Architecture and City that took place March 17 to 20. The four-day city-wide event was presented as an active reflection to rebuild since last September’s major earthquake that struck central Mexico. Coincidently marking the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, the natural disaster in September last year hit hard on the same day three decades prior–at least 40 buildings collapsed, wreaking havoc in the Mexican states of Puebla, Morelos, and in the Greater Mexico City area. At MEXTRÓPOLI, temporary built environments activated Mexico City’s public spaces to promote reflection of those events and fuel sustainable future building. Twenty pavilions designed by institutions such as UNAM, Ibero Puebla, Anahuac University, Querétaro, Sci-Arc, and Maristas took up at Alameda Central, the oldest public park in the Americas located downtown, adjacent to the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The goal? To inspire sustainable and preventative practices, and to demonstrate potential sustainable architectural futures. Architect Elias Kababie, Taller Paralelo Arquitectura, Michigan Architecture, and students from Colectivo Seis collaborated to design Pabellón ( ), a brick pavilion, with financial support from Masonite. The ephemeral structure is described by Kababie as a built testament to what local people felt in the aftermath of the quakes. “It creates an experience based on what we felt when everything was demolished,” explains Kababie. The structure itself was the very first built project for Colectivo Seis, who are only in their second year of college. As the story goes, on the first night of building the pavilion, the students and Kababie assembled the bricks made by a local factory and craftsman. The bricks themselves are made from locally-sourced clay, baked, and dried. Initially, they tried laying each brick one by one. Eventually, they made a rig that allowed them to stack eight bricks at a time. What took six hours to build on the first day took only one hour on the second. The trace of their handiwork lingers, with the red ochre-hued dust marking anyone who enters the pavilion. From the outside, the pavilion looks fortress-like, a cubic construction of six tiers of stacked brick on all four sides. Visitors were invited in by Kababie and the students through the periwinkle Masonite door into a narrow, tubular passageway. Once inside, onlookers are pleasantly surprised to find an undulating series of brick laid out to form the negative space of a circular sphere, or, if you will, an inverted oculus. The stacked formation encourages sitting and climbing, as well as spectacular views of the heart of Mexico City. Aptly dubbed, Pabellón ( ) is formally a parenthesis. Conceptually, it is a theoretical interpretation of the meaning of “collapse,” what students from Colectivo Seis described as the continuum of material and emotional rubble that was left behind after the quake. These experiences are collectively housed between the empty parentheses, the material manifestation of the symbolic namesake, the pavilion. “It’s a metaphor for the current situation. When you have this perfect brick wall that when you walk outside, you don't realize that there’s a greater structure, an emptiness that came about through the earthquakes. It’s still there and it hasn’t been fixed. We wanted this to be a point to talk about those aspects of our lives and that is still going on and many of us don’t realize it,” explained Alonso Varela of Collectivo Seis. This collective experience is not only expressed in concept, but also in practice. Kababie proudly reflects on their experience as completely collaborative, a project completed by a group from beginning to end as a group. “Having that extraordinary shared journey, the idea of idea of changing the conversation through bricks, through a situation, with a door that you go through, in a specific place as a specific project—it was an amazing idea.” You can find more videos of Mextropoli, Pabellón ( ), interviews, and other footage of the festival as a story highlight on AN's Instagram story highlights.
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Although rescue teams are still in the process of recovering the injured and deceased from the rubble, Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi has announced that acclaimed Italian architect Renzo Piano will lead the country’s recovery from a disastrous 6.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the towns of Amatrice, Accumoli, and Pescara del Tronto on August 24th. Piano, who was appointed an Italian senator for life in 2013, has deep experience working with UNESCO and in earthquake zones from Japan to California. He will be joined in his task by local governor Vasco Errani of Emilia Romagna, who has been appointed as a special commissioner to oversee post-quake reconstruction. Errani headed a similar reconstruction effort after a series of earthquakes rocked his region in 2012, leaving 27 dead as well as thousands without homes. Piano’s reconstruction plan features a three-pronged approach. First, over the next six months 2,900 displaced residents—currently occupying 58 tent encampments—will move to semi-permanent, lightweight wooden shelters. Second, Piano projects taking six to eight months to rebuild the affected areas. The third prong of Piano’s plan involves bolstering seismic regulations across the country, with the goal of making existing structures like homes, public buildings, and cultural sites more earthquake resistant. Piano spoke with The Guardian, underlining the urgency of the developing situation, saying, “We have to act quickly, with the utmost urgency. Anti-seismic requirements must be inserted in the laws of the country to make our homes safe, just as it’s compulsory for a car to have brakes that work.” As has been true in previous, large-scale earthquake events, unreinforced and masonry structures are often to blame for a large percentage of overall deaths. Italy, with its large stock of old and ancient brick structures, as well as a thriving informal construction culture, is especially susceptible to seismic events. The improvement of seismic regulations is an intergenerational project Piano envisions taking place over the next 50 years. Piano went on to tell The Guardian, “We are speaking about the ridge of the Apennines, the backbone of Italy from north to south, an operation projected over 50 years and two generations,” he said. “We are talking about millions of buildings, it is not impossible if you work through generations.”
Memorializing the quiet town of Gibellina that was destroyed by a 6.1 magnitude earthquake in 1968, Alberto Burri's Grande Cretto has finally been completed after some 30 years of planning. Occupying over 86,000 square feet, the concrete piece of land art is now open to the public and coincides with the artist's 100th birthday. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcQhDWGoR00 New Gibellina, built to house the displaced residents of the old town is now situated 12 miles away from its predecessor. In the wake of the disastrous event, Alberto Burri decided he would concentrate his attention on what was left of Gibellina when artists and architects were asked to contribute to the foundation of New Gibellina. In doing so, Burri, unlike his counterparts, chose to cover the area with slabs of white concrete, over five feet tall, punctuated only by his signature cracks (roughly nine feet wide) that follow the original street plan. The stark emptiness of the installation echoes the horrors of the earthquake. Burri started his work in 1985 though construction halted after just four years, stopping short at 64,000 square feet of his proposed 86,000. Thanks to the Fondazione Burri, the work has now been fully realized which has prompted a series of celebratory events in New Gibellina notably an installation called AUDIOGHOST 68 that features the band Massive Attack, Robert Del Naja, and Italian artist Giancarlo Neri. For the installation, hundreds of portable radios were dotted across the surface of the concrete and lights from the audience contributed to create the effect of a thousand fireflies dancing in the night through the cities veins—a poignant reminder of what once was. A video of the installation can be seen above. In addition to this, Burri's works have seen a remarkable resurgence of late. A new exhibition, Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting, is now open at the Guggenheim New York (closing on January 6), meanwhile another New York gallery, Luxembourg & Dayan is currently exhibiting Alberto Burri: Grafica. The artist's works at auction have also been subject to a recent rise as the graph from Artnet illustrates.
After traveling all over the Western Hemisphere to inspect built work by emerging architects from Canada to Chile, a team of judges awarded the first-ever Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize on Tuesday, bestowing $25,000 and an offer to teach at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) on Mauricio Pezo and Sofia Von Ellrichshausen for their poetic Poli House, perched above the Pacific Ocean on a cliff in Tomé, Chile. The inaugural MCHAP.emerge prize was directed by Wiel Arets, Dean of the College of Architecture at IIT, and IIT professor / Chicago architect Dirk Denison. Some 265 nominees vied for two prizes, each “recognizing the most distinguished works built in North and South America between January 2000 and December 2013.” The nominees for MCHAP were established designers, while MCHAP.emerge was meant for architects in the early stages of their careers. The later-career architects get their day in the sun October 22,w hen the $50,000 MCHAP award is announced. Four finalists were feted Tuesday at IIT, where they were congratulated by Denison, Arets, Rice University Architecture Dean Sarah Whiting, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Pezo von Ellrihshausen, a design firm based in Concepción, Chile, took home the MCHAP.emerge prize for their Poli House—a solid, earthquake-resistant concrete cube whose simple materiality and exterior form belies a series of intricately sculpted interior spaces. Occasional voids in the double-walled concrete perimeter punctuate the building’s rooms and passageways with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, which rumbles below the cliffside residence and art gallery. Another Chilean project, the Kiltro House in Talca, similarly celebrated its dramatic setting with floor-to-ceiling glass spaces jutting out over steep drops in elevation. Named for a Chilean crossbreed dog, the Kiltro House took its cues from a mishmash of architectural styles, according to designer Juan Pablo Corvalán. With Gabriel Vergara, he heads Supersudaca architects. A Farnsworth-esque glass box cantilevered from a hybrid of various residential styles—including a castle included for a client who fancied herself a princess, Corvalán said—lifts up a roof whose undulations reflect the underlying topography. Farther north, in Los Angeles, architects Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues won recognition for Maximilian’s Schell, a golden vortex that hovers above a formerly vacant lot in the Silverlake neighborhood. Inspired by the Disney flop "Black Hole" and the minimalist surfaces of architect/engineer Frei Otto, the installation creates “both an intimate experience and a spectacle,” Ball said, by transmitting geometric shadows and yellow-tinged pools of light on the ground beneath the canopy. Look up from beneath the eye of the black hole, as it were, and you get a glimpse of a “James Turrell moment,” Ball said, if the sky cooperates. Still farther north, Winnipeg, Canada’s 5468796 Architecture was asked to reactivate a downtown plaza, whose 1970s bandshell had fallen into disrepair. They went much further than a simple rehab, however, coaxing great versatility from what at first appears to be an illuminated mesh cube. Ringed by a flexible curtain of perforated metal, the cube conceals several possible performance and event spaces, as well as what has become one of the most popular spots for wedding photos in Winnipeg. Projections from inside translate to the exterior, an effect used frequently when the cube’s metal screen is pulled back to frame the stage with an elegance surprising for its metallic heft.
A routine Tuesday afternoon came to an abrupt halt as our desks at AN HQ on Murray Street in Manhattan began to shake, rattle, and roll. As we grabbed our phones, commenced tweeting that we were among the survivors, and ran for the stairs, it appeared that New Yorkers all around City Hall had been suddenly given a recess to hang out in the streets. It turned out to be the strongest quake in the City since the 19th century at a magnitude 5.9 and was centered in Mineral, VA, about 90 miles from Washington, D.C. where stones fells from the National Cathedral. Buildings were evacuated up and down the east coast from Boston to North Carolina although little damage was reported.
Would you stay in a 15-story structure built in six days? Through the magic of prefabrication, one new hotel in Changsha, China was built erector-set-style at just such a fantastic pace and recorded through time-lapse photography. The better term might be constructed in six days, however, as the building's foundation and the factory-made pieces were already finished at the beginning of this architectural ballet, but the feat proves rather amazing nonetheless. While you might have never heard of Changsha, China, home to the new Ark Hotel, the country's 19th largest city mirrors the building's rapid growth. Changsha tripled in size between the 1940s and 1980s and today contains an estimated population of 6.6 million. While such a quickly constructed building might seem prone to shoddy construction, the Ark Hotel is reportedly built to withstand a magnitude 9 earthquake, meaning a quake over 1,000 times more powerful than January's quake in Haiti. Call us skeptical, but we'd opt to be out of the building when disaster strikes. Prefabrication, architecture's "oldest new idea," can have its green benefits. The Ark Hotel is thermally insulated and boasts only one percent construction waste. [ Via Gizmodo. ]
Engineering News Record brings us the news that the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince is one of the few major buildings to survive the January 12th earthquake with only minor damage. According to the report, the facility remained functional during and after the earthquake: the electricity stayed on, communications systems continued to function, and water and air kept operating. As a result the building has become an important center for relief efforts. The reason that the 134,000-square-foot structure escaped the general devastation seems to be that it was built recently in accordance with the International Building Code and the State Department's Overseas Building Operations requirements. The building was constructed between 2005 and 2008 as a design-build project by New York City-based Fluor Corp, was bolstered by reinforced concrete shear walls, and had mechanical and electrical systems built to withstand seismic events.