Posts tagged with "Rem Koolhaas":

The Best of Venice: Your Biennale Daybook

The Venice Architecture Biennale has traditionally opened later in September. But this year, because of a scheduling conflict, it is opening on August 29 and will remain open until November 21. We will be blogging from the biennale during the press preview and beyond, so watch for our posts of events, press conferences, and parties. If you want a list of official biennale events you can of course check their website, along with the new iPhone app that launched today. But this year there seem to be more collateral events to the official program than ever before. Here is an unofficial listing of some of the most exciting: August 22-27 The NOW INTERVIEWS: Hans Ulrich Obrist The curator of the 12th architecture biennale, Kazuyo Sejima, commissioned Hans Ulrich Obrist to create a new iteration of his ongoing Interview Project, first conceived in the 1970s and now produced for the biennale by the Institute of the 21st Century. Obrist will conduct the interviews in the Arsenale and talks with Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa (August 24, 9:30 a.m.), Frank Gehry (August 27, 10:30 a.m.) and this year’s Golden Lion winner Rem Koolhaas (August 25, 9:30 a.m.). Meanwhile, Bice Curiger, curator of the 2011 art biennale, will turn the tables and interview Hans Ulrich Obrist (August 26, 5:00 p.m.). August 25 Pier Luigi Nervi: Architettura come Sfida This exhibition of the engineer and architect opens on August 25 at Palazzo Giustinian Lolin Campo Manin, San Marco, and runs through November. The Arts of Giambattista Piranesi: Architect, Etcher, Antiquarian, Vedutista, Designer on Venice This exhibition, on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, opens on August 25 and runs through November 21. August 26 Rethinking Education: A New Postgraduate School in Moscow, and OMA Strelka, a new postgraduate school in Moscow for Media, Architecture, and Design, is teaming up with OMA for a conversation on architectural education in Russia and beyond. OMA’s think tank, AMO, has developed an educational programme for Strelka, which will open its doors to students in October. Rem Koolhaas introduces Strelka’s educational team and presents the school’s research agenda. On Thursday, August 26 from 2:30 to 3:45 p.m. at the Teatro Piccolo Arsenale, Venice. Mapping Contemporary Venice from the City of Today to the Venice of the Future Venturing into a project far from the mass tourism postcard, this exhibition is set down in the moleskines with the visionary idea of Acqualta in 2060. It will take place at the Venice International University on San Servolo Island from August 26 to September 20. Inventario Stop by the launch of a new publishing project called Inventario—part book, part magazine—on August 26 at Ca’ Giustinian (headquarters of Biennale) at 6:00 p.m. August 27 Workshopping The United States pavilion presents projects that “involve the architect as the initiator of a transdisciplinary cooperative team focused on research, social engagement, and private initiative for public benefit.” Featured practices include Hood Design, MOS, John Portman & Associates, Guy Nordenson, Catherine Seavitt, ARO, the LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio, Anthony Fontenot, Chicago’s Archeworks, Michael Sorkin’s Terreform, and UCLA’s cityLAB. The opening press conference is Friday, August 27. Architects Meet in Fuori Biennale This is the first survey on worldwide architects under 35 by the Association of Italian Architects and Critics. The event will take place in two different venues on August 27. One is at the Aula Magna of the Università IUAV di Venezia (S. Croce 191 Tolentini), where the work of young Italian architects and critics will be presented. Architecture on Display Book Party The launch party for Architecture on Display: On the History of the Venice Biennale of Architecture, will take place at the Fondazione Giorgip Cini on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore from 11:00-1:00 on August 27. The book features Aaron Levy and William Menking in conversations with Vittorio Gregotti, Paolo Portoghesi, Francesco Dal Co, Hans Hollein, Massimiliano Fuksas, Deyan Sudjic, Kurt Forster, Richard Burdett, Aaron Betsky, Kazuyo Sejima, and biennale president Paolo Baratta. Beyond Entropy: When Energy Becomes Form Following the book launch, the Architectural Association will host a symposium on eight projects dealing with science and architecture. Speakers include Hans Ulrich Obrist, Beppe Caccia (Councilor, Venice City Hall), Joseph Rykwert, Stefano Boeri, Eyal Weizman, Suman Basar, Richard Burdett, and Hans Hollein. If Buildings Could Talk The press conference for a new film by Wim Wenders, described as “a visual 3-D video installation that investigates the Rolex Learning Center in Lausanne, the recently inaugurated building by SANAA,” will be held on August 27. Wenders explores the question of how buildings communicate with their users, responding to Sejima’s theme for the biennale, “People Meet in Architecture.” The film will screen for the duration of the biennale. Longing for... Score #1 A hybrid performance-installation focusing on translatory movements of choreography and architecture, this show focuses on choreography as a description and design of space, through which representational conventions of both disciplines are brought into dialogue. Runs from August 27 to August 29 at the Arsenale Novissimo. August 28 M9: A New Museum for a New City The studios Agence Pierre-Louis Faloci, Carmassi Studio di Architettura, David Chipperfield Architects, Mansilla+Tuñón Arquitectos, Sauerbruch Hutton, and Souto Moura Arquitectos will present designs for the new museum and renovation of the former Matter barracks, which on this occasion will be open to the public for the first time. It runs from August 28 to November 21 at Via Alessandro Poerio, 24, Venezia-Mestre. The Bearable Lightness of Being: The Metaphor of the Space 2 This show’s 22 artists developed a special artistic engagement in interpreting the functional nature of space and its anthropological or political references. Taking space, taking ground, and working in the cultural field are the centre of this exhibition. At the Arsenale Novissimo, Tesa di San Cristoforo 94 from August 28 to October 7. L’Aquila Exhibition and Talk SISMYCITY is photographic project on the aftermath of the earthquake that struck the Italian city of L’Aquila on April 6, 2009. This exhibition and conference, held in the Palazzo Ducale, aims to make Venice itself a city-wide gallery for documentary images of the post-earthquake situation and the collective thinking on the future of the city. Join Angelo Scola, Massimo Cacciari, Robert Hammond, and others for the conference on Saturday, August 28 at 9:30 a.m. August 29 The Garden and Beyond: A Global Garden The garden has for centuries been a source of inspiration and fascination, and the object of cultural, scientific, and aesthetic studies. Its configuration as a closed space makes it similar to the more properly sacred, prohibited, or secret spaces and it shares the same definition of humanity and civilization in the finest possible sense of this term. The exhibition will be on view from August 29 to November 21 at ESU Venezia, sala polivalente “Nardocci,” Dorsoduro, 3861 (Calle larga Foscari); VELA-Actv info point “Hellovenezia,” Isola Nova. Austria Under Construction: Austrian Architecture Around the World The Austrian pavilion, curated by the American architect Eric Owen Moss, includes a long roster of international architects building and teaching in Austria such as Raimund Abraham, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Hans Hollein, Rainer Pirker, Behnisch Architekten, Zaha Hadid Architects, Steven Holl, Michael Sorkin Studio, and Lebbeus Woods. Project Eco-Delta: Design for Coastal Cities The Van Alen Institute and Environmental Defense Fund host a roundtable discussion to explore the environmental challenges faced by coastal cities throughout the world. Titled Project Eco-Delta, the initiative is part of VAI and EDF’s ongoing collaboration in developing design strategies for the landscape surrounding New Orleans. The forum will feature leading experts such as Stephane Asselin (AECOM), Maria Teresa Brotto (Consorzio Venezia Nuova), Stephen Cassell (ARO), and Padraic Kelly (Buro Happold). Check it out on Sunday, August 29 at the U.S. pavilion. Chance Encounter Venice The multidisciplinary art project TEVERETERNO, which has advocated for the revival of Rome's Tiber River, is sponsoring Chance Encounter as part of the opening of the Italian Pavilion on August 29 at 3:30 p.m.

Broad Narrows His Sites on Downtown

According to both the New York Times and the LA Times, Eli Broad appears to have settled once and for all on a Downtown LA site for his new museum, and has gone so far as to hold a new competition for its architect. Further background has it that Thom Mayne, who had been favored to design Broad’s museum, is now out, and the new  finalists are Rem Koolhaas, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Herzog & De Meuron, Christian de Portzamparc, Foreign Office Architects, and recent Pritzker Prize winners SANAA. According to the New York Times, the jury appeared to favor Diller  Scofidio + Renfro and Koolhaas. A choice, according to their story, could be made within the week. If built, the museum would be located on Grand Avenue just east of Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall and across the street from the LA Museum of Contemporary Art where he has played key roles recently in both keeping the museum on keel with a $30 million gift and steering it towards new director, Jeffrey Deitch. AN reported back on March 16 that Broad was leaning toward downtown for his museum. The site is currently slated for retail development within phase two of the now-stalled 3.5 million-square-foot Grand Avenue Project.

Smoke Clears from TVCC

Shortly after the dramatic fire consumed much of the TVCC tower in Beijing earlier this year, we speculated on the building's fate. Well, it's taken eight months, but Archinect directed us to an AP story in which OMA's Ole Scheeren finally addresses the rampant concerns that have been plaguing the burned out building, and the prognosis is good. Scheeren said that the building is indeed intact and will be replaced—at what cost, who knows, though this being state-run television, does it even really matter? The AP adds that construction scaffolding is already up on the site, and Scheeren goes to great lengths to dispel apparently rampant and, as far as we can understand, ridiculous rumors that were the TVCC building to be dismantled, it would drag down the better known CCTV building because the two shared a structural system.
Scheeren said the main buildings were not damaged. He said there is no truth to persisting rumors that the towers and the burnt-out building were interconnected and served as a counterweight for each other. "The two buildings are completely unrelated structurally. There's no connection between them. I think it's very important to dispel this kind of story that the two buildings are connected and one depends on the other. That's absolutely not true," he said. Rumors have swirled for months that the delay in reconstruction was partly because the two buildings were linked to each other and that it would be impossible to tear down the smaller building without affecting the main one.
This seems like a no brainer to us, but maybe it's an East-West thing. What's more impressive, and important, is that the building remains intact. This is not to say most buildings would not under normal circumstances, but China is not exactly known for building under normal circumstances—the terrible destruction wrought last year on inadequate buildings during the Sichuan earthquake is only the latest example, though we've heard countless reports from architects about substandard building practices, too. It is comforting, amid the devastation, to know that things could have been worse, and hopefully they've gotten better for good. Whether it was Rem demanding appropriate amounts of intumescent paint and the proper gauge steel or the Chinese matters not, so long as the the events of last February are not forgotten.

Dreaming of Rem

We've noted recently the preponderance of architectural documentaries, particularly those concerns the fields "greats"—from Gehry to Mockbee, Kahn to Shulman. Well, now you can add Rem Koolhaas to the list, as Archinect points us to this trailer for a new documentary in the works entitled Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect. The film got a nice little write-up in—where else—the Seattle Times, which explains that the documentary is as much about Koolhaas' arrival at architecture as the architecture itself. Though that often seems to be the case, especially with Rem. How else could such a famous architect declare: "One of the exciting things about architecture is it gives you so many reasons to be modest. Because there are so many levels on which you can fail." But at least we get all those cool visuals produced by OMA and AMO of buildings melding and morphing, as though there were a firm better suited to the big screen. After all, he's a multimedia star, having already conquered music and typography.

Koolhaas Flames Out, Shantytowns Inform

The announcement that Rem Koolhaas would be the keynote speaker for the “Ecological Urbanism” conference at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), which took place over three days last weekend, raised eyebrows, especially among sustainability-minded architects, landscape architects, and planners. Koolhaas had never shown any particular interest in the subject, and the fire at his TVCC Tower in Beijing was interpreted by many as a symbol of an era that had come to an end, ushering in more sustainable and responsible practices. Those of us who admire and respect his projects, but also believe that our profession needs to go green to adapt to the 21st century, were hoping his speech would redeem his formerly blasé attitude toward sustainability and provide some clarification of why this seemingly odd choice for a keynote was made. No such luck. Despite the disappointing keynote speech, charged with needless attacks against talented colleagues, including Renzo Piano and Norman Foster, and no definitive resolution as to what Ecological Urbanism is or should be, the conference added provocative ideas to the discourse on sustainable architecture and planning. Along with the usual urban farms, solar panels, wind farms, and bioswales, there were innovative proposals that advocated for changes in technological and programmatic aspects of the profession, from Mitchell Joachim’s radical houses made of meat and compact electric transportation systems presented by MIT’s William Mitchell to proposals for highrise cemeteries and prisons in the middle of Manhattan by Spanish architect Inaki Abalos. Probably one of the most enlightening talks, stripped from the glamour of sci-fi technologies or sexy images, was the breakout session on informal cities in Latin America led by Christian Werthmann, Associate Professor and Program Director at the Department of Landscape Architecture at the GSD. He conducts what he calls “dirty work,” a research initiative on upgrading informal cities. Despite the region’s slowing growth rate, lessons can be learned from the formation of favelas, barrios, or shantytowns. “The world has entered the urban millennium. Half the world's people now live in cities and towns. That in itself marks a historic transition,” said then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, according to a 2005 UN-Habitat report. “But what will happen over the next 30 years is just as significant. According to United Nations projections, virtually all of the world's population growth will occur in the urban areas of low- and middle-income countries. How we manage that growth will go a long way toward influencing the world's future peace and prosperity.” Werthmann told AN: “There are two fields of operation regarding informal settlements. One is to retrofit existing informal cities, and the other is how do you control or guide the future of informal cities.” In Latin America, there are examples like Brazil, where the government provides informal cities with communal infrastructure: water, electricity, health, sewage, and roads. But there are no comprehensive strategies. Other approaches involve community endeavors and grassroots movements. But how can cities prepare for this to create healthier communities? “That is a harder task. Nobody wants to give away their own land so people can build on it,” he said. Favelas and slums have received a lot of attention in movies like City of God and Slumdog Millionaire, in which they are depicted as unsanitary and dangerous places. But there is more to them than violence and disease. Interestingly enough slums have many of the qualities that make thriving cities frequently promoted by urban planners: They are pedestrian-friendly, high-density, mixed-use, and made of recycled materials, usually debris from adjacent formal cities. “American and European cities could learn from these informal settlements as an example for low-rise, high-density development. They have an intensive street life, the public space is not much but well used, as opposed to the suburban model, which is completely inefficient,” Werthmann said. “There is a need for an in-between model, that is not the highrise of Manhattan or Sao Paulo.” The overall sentiment of the conference was that urban living is the most sustainable way to live, so it was interesting that the counterpart of retrofitting shantytowns—fixing suburbia—didn’t come up. It would have been nice to see more ideas like that and less of distant, zero-carbon cities for a privileged few, like Foster’s Masdar project in Abu Dhabi.

TVCC Blaze: Report From the Ground

From Beijing, longtime AN contributor Aric Chen writes in with these observations:
As of 1:00 AM, hundreds of people were still gathered around police barriers (some holding their dogs), taking photos and videos of the smoldering building, while water cannons were intermittently shot at both the north and south facades. It's a misty night and, through the haze, the building, which was lit by floodlights, appeared to be burnt to a crisp. From the south side, two fires were still flaring at what looked like about the 15th and 30th floors.
Seven firefighters were reported injured, one fatally from smoke inhalation. The event took on a surreal air as the night wore on. Chen added:
Maybe it's our cynicism--or boredom--that makes us (or some of us, at least) want to aestheticize such things, but the scene was eerily beautiful. You wonder what Rem's take on this would have been had he been there, especially if it wasn't his building.

CCTV Hotel Ablaze (UPDATE)

Images and reports are spiraling out across the Web of a fire taking hold at the hotel adjacent OMA's CCTV Tower. (Building calls it the TVCC tower.) Details, at least in English, remain slim, but a translation of Chinese reports suggest the fire broke out at 9:21 p.m. local time, or just after eight o'clock this morning in New York. A call to OMA's New York office did confirm that the fire was in their building, which is still under construction, though all further inquiries were directed to the Rotterdam HQ. According to the translated reports, the site is swarmed with fire trucks and emergency responders who are struggling to keep the blaze at bay due to a shortage of water. The Times is reporting that Beijing had been full of fireworks throughout the night as part of lunar New Year celebrations, suggesting a probable cause for a fire that, the Times says, took all of 20 minutes to race from the ground floor to the top of the building. No official word anywhere yet as to the cause of the fire, if anyone was in the building, or if there have been any casualties. The BBC has some video of what can truly be described as an inferno (via Archinect). When we saw the fire, two things immediately came to minde: the tragic fire in August 2007 at 130 Liberty Street (could smoking construction workers be to blame?), as well as the demise of another Dutch master's work, Ben van Berkel's Villa NM, which burned down last year in a mysterious fire. We'll keep you updated as we learn more. Hopefully China correspondent Andrew Yang, who kept stumbling upon the CCTV tower and building paranoia over the last year, can shed some light. UPDATE: So far, only a rote release from OMA HQ, though they are presumably flooded right now, and probably as confused as the rest of us:
The Office for Metropolitan Architecture has learned that there has been a serious fire at the Television Cultural Centre (TVCC), the building adjacent to the headquarters of China Central Television (CCTV). The TVCC building was due to open in mid-May and contained a hotel, a theatre, and several studios. As we learn more about this tragedy, we will advise the public further.
In a podcast on the Times's website, reporter Andrew Jacobs essentially ruled out the fireworks thesis he initially posited on the paper's website, as well as surmising that the building was almost certainly damaged beyond repair. He also said the fire was creating quite a psychic stir in the city:
I think it’s very symbolic for Beijingers as an architectural pair. And then the other kind of layer that is the fact that it’s happened on the last day of the New Year. The fire’s still burning, and it’s just about midnight here, so ringing in the new year with this kind of disaster is very inauspicious, at least in the view of many Chinese. A lot of people in the crowd couldn’t help note that and this was just not a good omen for the new year.
He also questioned the Beijing fire department's ability to fight high-rise fires, though as we've noted above, that is even a difficult proposition here in New York. The Times is also reporting now that the fire is believed to have started around 8:30 p.m. local time, though possibly as early as 7:45 p.m. Bloomberg is reporting a representative for Mandarin Oriental--the operator of the 241-room, 522-foot tall hotel--saying that no one was injured. The AP quotes a gloomy OMAer at the site:
Erik Amir a senior architect at building designers OMA said the fire had destroyed years of hard work. "It really has been a rough 6-7 years for architects who worked on this project," said Amir, who rushed to the site after hearing of the fire. "I think it's really sad that this building is destroyed before it can be opened to the public," he said.
UPDATE 2: AN contributer Aric Chen reports. UPDATE 3: Little new news thus far, though people continue to push the fireworks allegations, including the Washington Post. Its report does include a good deal of news from the state news agency, chinanews.com, including that there are still no confirmed casualties, though seven firefighters have been hospitalized. The Post also reports that while fireworks are normally illegal in downtown Beijing, a reprieve was given for this year's New Years celebrations, though no explanation is given as to why this year was any different than those in the past. The Post also carried this rather poetic firsthand account:
"The building was like an oven, red inside," said Hu Jing, a 26-year-old paralegal who works in a building opposite the CCTV tower and noticed it burning just after 8:30. "In less than twenty minutes, the fire had engulfed half the building. Within half an hour, all of it was on fire. I thought, there goes billions of dollars, just burning."
Jeff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG airs an idea we'd been thinking of for much of the day, as well, that this was the rather literal pop of the construction bubble that has patronized architects, for better or worse, over the past few years:
Amongst many, many signs that the building boom has come to an end, from gridlocks of cars abandoned at the Dubai airport by fleeing workers to massive holes in the urban surface of Chicago, to entire architectural firms going out of business, to delayed towers and theme parks on pause, none seem quite as explicitly apocalyptic as the sight of OMA's CCTV complex – that is, the part of it known as TVCC, containing a luxury hotel – roaring with flames.
We still think it was the crane accidents last year that signalled the end, but this certainly comes in a close second. And LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne makes two interesting points on the paper's arts blog:
The architectural composition of the complex as a whole -- which I toured with Scheeren over the summer, and which I argued in a year-end piece "already ranks as the most significant piece of architecture of our young century" -- depends on the shorter hotel tower, which is known as TVCC. It is the hotel, in fact, that helps give the main tower its strange, shifting sense of scale. From certain angles the smaller section -- no shrimp itself at 34 stories tall -- looks like the tail of the big tower's dragon, from others like a fleeing creature about to be devoured by the CCTV's gaping mouth. [...] Potent symbolism aside, though, I'd be very surprised if the hotel weren't instantly rebuilt. The Chinese leadership has understood the graphic power of the CCTV complex -- the way it suggests a modern, ambitious and innovative new China -- from the earliest stages, and it seems highly unlikely it would allow the charred remains of the hotel to stand for any extended period. This is particularly true given Chinese sensitivity around the idea that its economy is rapidly losing steam. So there's likely to be no drawn-out, painstaking investigation of the wreckage by some Chinese version of the FBI or ATF. As soon as the last ember is out, I'd guess, the bulldozers will be clearing the site to begin again. Even in a global slowdown -- perhaps especially in one -- construction in China can operate at lightning speed.
UPDATE 4: Agence France Presse is reporting that one of the seven injured firefighters died in the hospital tonight: "Zhang Jianyong died early on Tuesday morning at a hospital in Beijing from toxic gases he inhaled while fighting the fire, Xinhua said, citing the city's fire control authorities." The Chinese authorities are now also suggesting fireworks, and not workers, may be to blame for the fire:
The official news agency quoted a city government spokesman as saying initial reports indicated firecrackers set off to celebrate the Lunar New Year, China's most important annual festival, has caused the fire. Firefighters found remnants of firecrackers on the roof of the burning building, Xinhua said. The agency had earlier quoted a witness saying the blaze appeared to have been sparked after fireworks landed on top of the hotel building.
According to the AP, the fire was put out "early Tuesday morning. And with the sad and happy news that the fire has been extinguished, it is hopefully time to build again. I can't help but think about a conversation I had earlier today with Alan. I asked if this was really as big of news as it seemed, or if we were simply particularly attuned to it because some big-name architect was involved. Would this still be making all the front pages were it just some regular old building, one in which almost no one was hurt? Of course not, Alan replied. Just look at The Huffington Post, he said, where the headline screams, "Rem Koolhaas Tower In Beijing Goes Up In Flames." Design hasn't been so notable since Philip Johnson was on the cover of Time. Just look at some of the 225 (225!) comments on HuffPo:
  • This is terrible for the people injured and Rem Koolhaas who is the consummate professional architect.
  • Holy balls that looks insane.
  • Notice how it did not collapse like WTC #7 which was the same size. Thats because it was brought down with demolitions. On BBC and CNN they said it had collapsed but it was still standing and not 'pulled' yet. More proof 9-11 was an inside job and that demolitions had been set up in the towers for weeks. Unbelievable the media establishment is afraid to tackle this...or is it?
  • this must be a testament to the extremely high building standards they have in china, just like the high standards they maintain for food, drugs, manufacturing, environmental and agriculture.and to think that's where some are planning to send the last american manufacturing jobs while the 'brainier' jobs go to india.
Okay. So half the comments were about the fire itself, and the other half were 7 WTC related, or jokes about Chinese construction standards. Still, whether it is a product of the building boom or some other design phenomenon, there is no denying that architecture has indeed entered--and hopefully not exited--a golden age, where the work of Gehry and Nouvel and Herzog & de Meuron are celebrated worldwide. An age where good architecture by-and-large triumphs over the bland and banal. An age where people look up. Far from being a symbolic end, look to this as a new begining, a time for more reasonable, even-handed, well-meaning buildings. Not to say this and others weren't. On the contrary. It's just that, in these harder times, we can only hope the cream will continue to rise, from the ashes, with the phoenix, etc, etc. And that, somewhere, Rem Koolhaas is, if not smiling, at least smirking. Keep fighting the good fight. UPDATE 5: Perhaps we've spoken too hopefully too soon. Our man in China Andrew Yang sends along a portentous message:
It was really gut-wrenching to see TVCC burn like that, itself like a firecracker. I woke up to read that one firefighter was killed in the blaze and several others injured. The Chinese media are so far not even reporting it. According to Shanghaiist.com, a notice was sent to all major organizations by the government to stop reporting the fire last night. As to the cause, a lot of people are speculating that it was caused by fireworks. There are three major firework nights during the Chinese New Year--one on the eve of Chinese New Year, one five days in, and the third was just last night, on the first full moon of the cycle. During the festival, people can buy July 4th-grade fireworks all over China, and fire them off, literally next to buildings, on roads, on sidewalks--they light them up just about anywhere. Of course the cause of the fire is still not known, and may not ever ascertained, since this matter is something that the Chinese government is going to be controlling very closely.
UPDATE 6: Day Two round-up, including an apology from CCTV, whose fireworks celebration--rather ironically celebrating the new buildings--caused the fire; reports of a local media blackout on the issue; and some critical takes on the fire.

Rem Sees the Sea

Courtesy Netherlands Society for Nature and the Environment 

OMA and Rem Koolhaas have released an ambitious plan for the North Sea that would produce all the electricity for Dutch households via offshore wind power before 2020. Commissioned by the Netherlands Society for Nature and the Environment, the plan would create North Sea wind parks as a “sustainable battery for Europe.” Further, OMA believes its plan would “bridge the divide” that separates the seven countries around the North Sea by exploring other potentials of the sea. By linking several different wind parks, OMA claims, “in a clever way, vast contiguous new nature areas can be created. Wind parks could provide a shelter to fish and other animals. Since fishing is not allowed in wind parks, artificial reefs could enrich the sea life.” OMA and Koolhaas certainly never think small or rigidly about the limits of architectural practice, and their audacious explorations may offer suggestions to other practices seeking commissions in these hard times.

Design Dust-Up

Over the weekend, the NYT’s Week in Review ran a scattershot call--"Design Loves a Depression" by Michael Cannell, former editor of the paper’s House & Home section--for design to "come down a notch or two." Enter the Grand Poobah of contemporary design, Murray Moss, who savagely rebutted Cannell's claims in a guest column for Design Observer cleverly titled "Design Hates a Depression."

Cannell, tripping blithely past Philippe, Zaha, Miami, Dubai, Rem, his 12-year-old doorstop S, M, L, XL (for no discernible reason), and that “apotheosis of indie cool” Brooklyn, zeroed in on an $8,910 chair by the Campana Brothers, a $10,615 couch by Hella Jongerius, and a 2006 marketing shtick wherein Dutch designer Marcel Wanders had his girlfriend swinging from a chandelier to support sales of what turned out to be a pretty popular series of over-sized lamps.

Cannell compared this while-Rome-is-burning frivolity with the sober productivity of Charles and Ray Eames during those “hard times”: the American postwar boom. A stern message followed. “However dark the economic picture,” wrote Cannell, “it will most likely cause designers to shift their attention from consumer products to the more pressing needs of infrastructure, housing, city planning, transit and energy.” Here’s hoping product designers don’t get to do all the bridges.

Moss pounced: “Design loves a depression? I can assure you that design, along with painting, sculpture, photography, music, dance, fashion, the culinary arts, architecture, and theatre, loves a depression no more than it loves a war, a flood, or a plague. Michael Cannell's article is regressive and mean-spirited, and it demands a response.”

Moss briefly celebrated the “design renaissance” of the past decade that he has helped to significantly propel forward, before mounting to a devastating sneer:

Mr. Cannell proposes that the design world "come down a notch or two." Is he suggesting that these great works should adapt something that in his personal opinion would be a more "democratic" pricepoint? What would that number be, exactly, and who would arbitrate it as accessible? (Perhaps they should be priced as the proverbial Nixonian Good Republican Cloth Coat?) When he says "come down a notch or two," does Mr. Cannell mean that Design should retreat from its current expansive, ambitious, fearless, exploratory, guild-breaking, all-encompassing plateau, from its hard-won re-positioning in the Arts? And revert back to what? To the perceived mid-century notion of efficiency and comfort? What regressive, back-in-the-box, frozen-in-the-mid-20th century absolutist utopian modernist "democratic" criteria for evaluating contemporary design is Mr. Cannell proposing from his alleged "front row seat" on design?

Withering vitriol aside, the truth is that both sides have a good argument. The price tags on design are out of whack, and yet the qualities of good design encompass far more than function as it was defined in 1933. Problem-solving has become far too complex for any glib call to arms.