Friday, 29 October 2010

VM Houses

Since it was announced that BIG has won the European Prize for Architecture it has been a bit of madness all around about the Danish architect and his work, which reminded me of one of his first major works visited some years ago: the VM Houses.

At the time called PLOT (BIG + JDS) got the contract for the first apartments’ complex in Ørestaden, in the outskirts of Copenhagen and started a whole awakening movement in the world of Danish architecture, developing a pretty experimental concept and formal approach to the apartments’ building typology.

Through the manipulation of a typical city block they created 2 buildings that in plan configure the letter V and M, trying this way to avoid the direct view between the apartments in the 2 buildings and opening the views from the apartments to the surroundings, giving them at same time a better sun exposure and ventilation.

The most interesting thing about the project is the reinterpretation and improvement of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’habitation, with an amazing diversity of duplex apartments, a typology not very often worked on nowadays in complex apartment buildings.

But I guess, the most eye-catching feature of the project is the shark’s teeth-like balconies, which create a very photogenic façade but which I still have some doubts about the functional side of it.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Journey to the East

In a time while he still answered by the name of Charles-Édouard, and only 24-years old, the young man who would turn out to be the most influential architect of the 20th century decided to switch the “Grand Tour” (the “mandatory” trip through all the main European capitals at the time) by the mysterious cities and cultures of Eastern Europe, including Vienne, Budapest, Istanbul, Athens and many others.

During the 7 months that the trip took, the young student kept a diary, with a collection of very personal thoughts, describing experiences, what he saw and felt, always maintaining a more or less open mind to all these new cultures and people that were starting to reveal themselves to him. Everything followed by numerous drawings, watercolours, sketches or simple notes, a routine that he would keep for the rest of his life.

Posthumous published (requirement of the architect himself), this book is a true adventure romance (especially for “architecture geeks”), which, in a way, brings us back to our teenager readings where everything is read in a rush. Even though it can’t be called an “architecture book” it will provide a delicious trip to the universe of Le Corbusier as a person and not as much of his work, though, it’s packed with multiple architectonic references and this sense of vocation’s discovery.
In this time of uncertainty where most architects already forgot where they came from or where they are going to, perhaps this book can provide some clues and inspiration.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Goodbye to the Serpentine Pavilion 2010, by Jean Nouvel

Peter Zumthor designs the Serpentine Pavilion in 2011

Days before the current Pavillion, designed by Jean Nouvel, is taken down, the British “The Architects’ Journal” announces that another Pritzker Prize winner has been appointed to design next year’s Serpentine Pavilion in London’s Hyde Park.

Since all Zumthor’s works attract huge numbers of tourists and architecture lovers, London can expect also a new wave of visitors that until down had to travel to Switzerland, Austria or Germany if they wanted to have the opportunity to visit the architect’s work.

Known by his issues to compromise his work, due to budget questions, client’s inputs or other constraints, this type of commission is ideal for Zumthor, which in this way has the chance to express his freedom in which, we can only expect, another master work.

Looking forward to check out the first sketches.

Monday, 25 October 2010

The European Prize for Architecture 2010 goes to Bjarke Ingels

The winner of the European Prize for Architecture will this year be delivered to the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels (1974) and it will be formally presented during “The City and The World: Madrid Symposium” November 4-7, 2010.

The European Architecture Prize is established by The European Center for Architecture, Art, Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum and it has as a purpose to honor a living architect whose built work demonstrates vision, talent and a body of work that has significant contributions to art and humanity.

According to the press release from the European Centre, Bjarke Ingels “advocates for architecture to be taught in public schools alongside science and mathematics. He has broken Denmark’s good-old boy network challenging a constipated establishment to think outside a boring box. He is challenging Europe’s mundane status quo. He is also a leading force in Europe’s Green Architecture movement producing astonishing and exemplary works of sustainable design. He has inspired Europe’s emerging young generation—of which he is apart—to push for new architecture beyond the pale fringe.”

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Conditions – issue 5/6 2010

The latest number of the Scandinavian magazine dedicated to architecture and urbanism is out and this time devoted to the subject “Politics of quality management” in a special double issue.
The starting point for this number is the meaning of quality in Architecture. And the discussion can turn to different levels according to who’s involved, from a more objective  point of view (technical and functional qualities) to a more subjective one (spatial, aesthetic or formal qualities). The second question is who’s actually capable of defining and judging quality in architecture: the experts and academics (architects, city planners, etc) or the “democratic way” (through the general public and politicians)? And the final question how to evaluate quality in architecture? Through more regulations, creating an even more totalitarian system?
To try to find the answers to some of these questions is worth reading the interview with Jensen Skodvin, the article “Architectural policy for the city of Oslo”, also the article “The killing machine”, by Bruno Alves about the incredible decreasing of apartments’ sizes in Oslo and the very interesting “Young Architecture – A critic of a built Norwegian institution” by Mathias Harang.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Competition for a sculpture mast

 It was recently announced the competition’s winner for a sculpture / electricity mast to be placed on a moor in Troms, held by Statnett and the Norwegian Association of Architects, which gave the first prize to the Danish office Bystrup with the project “Mirror wall”. According to the jury, the proposal is “new and different, yet in harmony with the environment and the place” and also points out that “neither the form nor materials are innovative, but that the mast’ use and scale, appears as a new and fascinating element”.

The jury committee has received 57 valid proposals, 11 of which were from the office Bystrup (including the winner). Desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess.
The jury decided to attribute the second prize to “The world’s largest reindeer”, by the Norwegian office Lalaland AS Studio (picture below). There are no comments.
Several countries were represented in this competition: Norway (26 proposals), Denmark (21), Finland (2), Portugal (2 – Flush architects, Matosinhos and Onoffice architects, Porto), Sweden (2), Greece (1), Japan (1), Switzerland (1) and Estonia (1).

Thursday, 21 October 2010

And the winner is …

And the winner of 2010’s “Oslo bys arkitekturpris” (Oslo’s Architecture Award) is “Lærernes hus – Utdanningsforbundets konferansesenter” (Teachers' House - Education Association’ Conference Centre), designed by Element Arkitekter.
The winner was announced yesterday, and the final dispute was between the Teacher’s House and the apartment building at Korsgata 5, designed by Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter.
This award honors outstanding architecture in Oslo, and is awarded by the City´s Council for city development in cooperation with the Council of city architecture, planning and construction. This year's proposals included the buildings completed in 2009 or landscape architecture projects completed in 2004-2009.
On the run were some different kinds of projects but basically all from the same offices:
-       Ullevål Stadium, by Narud Stokke Wiig Sivilarkitekter;
-       Schous Culture Brewery, by Arkitektkontoret Eide & Haslestad;
-       Kiosk / Service building in Frogner Park, by div.A Arkitekter;
-       “Quadraturen” – Dronningens gate 15, by Kritt Arkitekter;
-       Park of the National Library, by Østengen & Bergo;
-       Park Svarttjen, by Tegn3 (with Selberg Arkitektkontor);
-       Schandorffs Square, by Østengen & Bergo;
-       Tiedemanns Complex, by Scala Arkitekter;
-       Apartment building in Schouskvartalet, by MAD;
-       House Engan, by Knut Hjeltnes Sivilarkitekter;
-       Oslo’s 1st Passive House, by Medplan Arkitekter;
-       Twin Schools Oppsal / Vetland, by Jostein Rønsen Arkitekter  and HUS Arkitekter;
-       Kindergarten Ammerudlia, by Aursand og Spangen;
-       Kindergarten Kongsberggata, by Oker Arkitektur;
-       Kindergarten Kværnerdalen, by NAV A.S Arkitekter;
-       Kindergaten Betha Thorsens, by Aursand og Spangen;
-       Helsfyr Atrium, by Lund + Slaatto Arkitekter;
-       Confederation House, by Dark Arkitekter;
-       Akerselva Atrium, by NBBJ Arkitekter, Pran Arkitekter and Poulsson/Pran;
-       Taxes’ Office Headquarters, by Narud Stokke Wiig Sivilarkitekter;
-       KLP - built Bjørvika, by Solheim + Jacobsen Arkitekter;
-       Alfaset Crematorium, by Arkitektene and Dyrvik Arkitekter;
-       Tjuvholmen, section F1, by Niels Torp Arkitekter;
-       Apartment building at Tjuvholmen Allé 4-6, by MAD;
-       Tjuvholmen, section F3, by Niels Torp Arkitekter;
-       Apartment building at Lille Stranden 2, by Arkitektkontoret Kari Nissen Brodtkorb;

Fra balkongen

Fra balkongen (From the balcony) one can see the city. One can see the countryside. One can see the country. One can see the world. A balcony is a multi-functional platform standing outside a building from where one can think the city, architecture or whatever else comes to mind.
And there are balconies everywhere. Natural or human-built. The scenery might change. The thoughts might change. Still a platform.