Category Archives: Contemporary

And the Pritzker goes to…

A house in Ningbo, China, designed by Wang Shu. Photo by Lang Shuilong, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.

“Wang Shu, an architect based in Hangzhou, China, on Monday received this year’s Pritzker Architecture Prize,” reports the Wall Street Journal on a cool blog about Asian arts called ‘Scene Asia’:

“The fact that an architect from China has been selected by the jury represents a significant step in acknowledging the role that China will play in the development of architectural ideals,” Thomas J. Pritzker said in the prize announcement. “Over the coming decades China’s success at urbanization will be important to China and to the world. This urbanization, like urbanization around the world, needs to be in harmony with local needs and culture. China’s unprecedented opportunities for urban planning and design will want to be in harmony with both its long and unique traditions of the past and with its future needs for sustainable development.”

This is the second year in a row I haven’t known much about the Pritzker winner; part of this has to do with the fact that I don’t do a good job keeping up with international architecture news, and part of it simply has to do with the fact that the Pritzkers aren’t going to starchitects like Frank Gehry these days. The world of architecture has decided that it feels guilty for its decades of fawning and is now paying lip service to small-scale development and sustainable design and all that boring stuff.

That sounds pejorative, and it is meant to be, a little bit. However, I do like the work of both Eduardo Souto du Moura and Wang Shu; both deserve their prices.

Then again, so does Steven Holl.

Anyway, here’s a gallery of Shu’s works, here’s a somewhat informative blog post from the New Yorker magazine about reactions to his win, and here’s a video of Shu speaking on geometry and narrative in architecture (the video is like two hours long!):

And one other thing to remember: this prize is the one distributed by the family that discussed in the second part of this post, yeah, the family building the monstrous 50,000 square foot über-mansion overlooking LA. Take the prize with a grain of salt.

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George F. Will weighs in on architecture

This, a model of Frank Gehry's proposed Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, DC, is the project in question. Image courtesy DCist.

Everyone, meet George F. Will. He’s a syndicated right-wing columnist at the Washington Post (although at the rate things are going, maybe not for much longer) and the author of this recent gem, a jaw-dropping exhibition of architectural ignorance and general idiocy. The full breakdown after the break. Continue reading

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Caucus day: On architecture and politics

A collage of the Republican candidates' houses from the New York Times

In honor of Iowa caucus day, I think the architecture of the Republican candidates’ houses is worth considering. An in-depth breakdown after the break.

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WSJ. Magazine awards Bjarke Ingels

WSJ. Magazine (the Wall Street Journal’s monthly magazine) has given the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels its 2011 Innovator of the Year architecture prize for his environmentally conscious but still artistic approach to architecture: his belief in playful, exciting design that’s also environmentally friendly. (I wonder what the Wall Street Journal editorial page would have to say about this, given the whole not-believing-in-global-warming thing it has going on.)

Bjarke Ingeles's Greenland National Gallery. Photo courtesy Big, Ingeles's architecture firm.

More after the break. Continue reading

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Architectural lessons from Arrested Development

This is not the first time I’ve blogged about architecture as it relates to a TV show. Remember my post about The Office?

The Bluth family's model home. Photo courtesy the-op.com

But this time I’m not going to write about social commentary in a show — instead, I’m going to address the architecture of a set.

The show is Arrested Development. If you like The Office and other shows in the same vein, you probably know it. If you don’t, watch all of it right now. (Don’t worry, there are only three seasons.)

Much of Arrested Development centers around a family living in a model house — the Bluth family’s company sells homes, and when the business starts to fall apart, almost the entire family moves into the model for a new development. The home is frequently seen as it is above: a lone McMansion sitting in the middle of what appears to be something of a desert.

A running joke in the show is the home’s shoddiness: everything in it seems to break constantly, a testament to the company’s poor work and, perhaps, to the state of most American residential architecture. It’s poorly thought-out, badly built and very, very ugly.

But it’s still the Bluth’s. It’s still a home. And it seems to say that in a way, despite all the bad features of today’s American architecture — and today’s American life — we’re maybe still not all that far from what it really means for something to be a home.

But we are somewhat far off, and we really ought to try to get back on track.

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On civic architecture

A painting of the New York Public Library by Carrère & Hastings. Graphic courtesy Gothamist.

2011 marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of the New York Public Library’s main branch, a fantastic example of early 20th century Beaux Arts architecture. The famed building stands as a testament to civic pride — to the government’s unique role as an overarching organization ideally dedicated entirely to the public good. More after the break. Continue reading

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Paul Goldberger criticizes Apple’s new HQ

So this is my first blog post in a rather long while. My apologies. I promise I’ll blog much more often.

A rendering of Apple's proposed headquarters. Graphic courtesy KlingPost.

Remember my post about Apple’s unfortunate new headquarters building a few months ago? I quoted Christopher Hawthorne, the Los Angeles Times’s architecture critic and one of the first to review the building, quite extensively in his criticism. Now, Paul Goldberger, the Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times and current New Yorker architecture critic, joins the cause (actually he posted this a while ago; I just didn’t see it until now). Check out what he has to say after the break. Continue reading

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The way(s) forward for urbanism, part V

Too often the debate about urbanism revolves only around function and not about form, as if architecture and urbanism were divorced and unrelated. That is, of course, not the case at all. Time for round five! You can find the first four parts here, here, here and here.

The new West Hollywood Library. Photo courtesy LA Times.

More about the new West Hollywood Library after the break.

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Building a modern house

There’s a new modern house going up about five minutes from where I live, a rarity for a New England town. So many of the houses that are built now are faux-colonial or just generally faux-traditional that it’s a pretty big deal when this sort of thing happens. People tend to get excited and to heap praise onto the new house without holding it to any sort of serious standard.

This is not the house that I toured, but it looks pretty similar in the way that it begins to edge on tasteful staleness.

Read on past the break for more on these sorts of houses.

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The Lens: Richard Rogers’s Madrid airport

Stunning. Simply stunning. My new series "The Lens" will simply consist of single stunning photorgraphs.

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