Architecture is the most contingent of the arts. A painter or a poet, a musician or a novelist can, with even the most meagre of means, begin to create. Buildings need clients and sites, they need planning permission and approval from neighbours, they need engineers and construction crews. And, most of all, they need money.
Architecture is consequently more intimately involved in the economic cycle than any of the other arts. But there is also a curious paradox. Much of the worst architecture emerges from a boom (think of Dubai) when there is too much work and not enough reflection...
The retreat from practice has traditionally fostered intellectual advance and new movements.
But, in recent years, an intriguing trend has emerged: architects
frustrated by a lack of opportunity to build who, rather than retreating
into drawings or text, have formed multidisciplinary practices to build
their designs themselves. READ MORE >>
It’s not that uncommon to see architects designing furniture and product designers involved with small buildings like street carts or garden sheds. In sustainable design terms, a common suggestion for architecture is that we get serious about manufactured housing, that is, housing where the components are manufactured offsite, then delivered and assembled on location. This idea, of course, has a long history as “prefab” or “prefabricated housing.”
Architecture firm Keiran Timberlake is known for promoting high precision manufactured housing, such that component parts are so reliable and interchangeable that you could buy and sell them on ebay when it is time to make modifications to your structure. Their Loblolly house (short video or a blog post) exemplifies this approach where wall components basically become products assembled into buildings–and disassembled later. READ MORE >>
Spatial Agency is a project that presents a new
way of looking at how buildings and space can be produced. Moving
away from architecture's traditional focus on the look and making
of buildings, Spatial Agency proposes a much more
expansive field of opportunities in which architects and
non-architects can operate. It suggests other ways of doing
In the spirit of Cedric Price the project started with the
belief that a building is not necessarily the best solution to a
spatial problem. The project attempts to uncover a second history
of architecture, one that moves sharply away from the figure of the
architect as individual hero, and replaces it with a much more
collaborative approach in which agents act with, and on behalf of,
In all the examples on this website, there is a transformative
intent to make the status quo better, but the means are very
varied, from activism to pedagogy, publications to networking,
making stuff to making policy - all done in the name of empowering
others. In Bruno Latour's terms, critical attention is shifted from
architecture as a matter of fact to architecture as a matter of
concern. As matters of fact, buildings can be subjected to rules
and methods, and they can be treated as objects on their own terms.
As matters of concern, they enter into socially embedded networks,
in which the consequences of architecture are of much more
significance than the objects of architecture.
This website is an extendable repository of examples of Spatial
Agency. The database is sortable into broad
thematic areas that group the motivations (why?), locations
(where?) and means (how?) of Spatial Agency. READ MORE >>
Fantastic video from Gensler - created for the NAIOP '12 Ideas Competition (Commercial Real Estate Development Association):
"Given workplace mobility trends, broadening employee and corporate
interest in sustainability, in conjunction with growing economic
pressure on businesses, the vision for the office building of the future
in North America is no longer a new building. Instead the future lies
in existing structures that have been adapted beyond recognition, beyond
a use dedicated solely to traditional office work. These buildings will
be forever known as the 'Hackable Buildings'." READ MORE>>
Architecture conjures up all sorts of images in the minds of non-architects: rolls of blueprints, soaring buildings, a life of glamour and fame. But even the most famous architects say the past and present realities of the profession are markedly different. Becoming an architect today requires grueling hours, a disproportionate amount of education, years-long licensing hurdles, and finicky clients, while yielding relatively low pay and career stability compared to other learned professions.
More detrimentally for both the public’s perception and opportunities within the field, architecture remains a luxury available only to a privileged few. The field has long wrestled with its elitism; books have been written, conferences staged, and museum exhibitions mounted around estimates that architecture and good design are accessible to only a select sliver of the population. Yet architecture shapes everyone by creating the environments around us, impacting our collective quality of life. As philosopher Alain de Botton once wrote, “Belief in the significance of architecture is premised on the notion that we are, for better or worse, different people in different places—and on the conviction that it is architecture’s task to render vivid to us who we might ideally be.”
Like public health did for medicine, the emerging field of public interest design offers a new direction for architecture, one that takes into account the needs of the other 99 percent of the population that has historically been marginalized or disempowered from shaping their environments. While architecture has divorced itself from related fields like environmental psychology, landscape architecture, and urban planning, public interest design seeks to reunite them—not for the good of the profession, its image, or its bottom line, but for the benefit of society. READ FULL ARTICLE >>
London (CNN) -- What if buildings had lungs that could absorb carbon emissions from the city and convert them into something useful? What if they had skin that could control their temperature without the need for radiators or air-conditioning? What if buildings could come "alive?"
"Not as such," claims Dr Rachel Armstrong, senior TED fellow and co-director of Avatar, a research group exploring the potential of advanced technologies in architecture. "Over the next 40 years, 'living' buildings -- biologically programmed to extract carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere -- could fill our cities."
Armstrong works on the cutting edge of "synthetic biology," a relatively new science devoted to the manufacture of life-like matter from synthesized chemicals, and is something of an evangelist for the discipline. READ MORE >>
At a meeting of the D.C. Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Robert Ivy, the new CEO of the national organization and former editor of Architectural Record, said architects are already expanding their offerings beyond traditional building design to “supplemental services.” Eventually, architects may even become “creative consultants” to a wide range of industries, particularly given the drop-off in building work with the economic downturn. Business schools around the country are now promoting the benefits of “design-thinking” and architects may be uniquely positioned to “intuit, analyze, and solve problems in different ways.” Perhaps much the same can be said for landscape architects and other design professionals though.
The economic landscape has changed in the past few years. Just in 2008, at the height of the economic boom, architects were “cult figures.” It was the “era of the star, with Frank Gehry on billboards and Zaha Hadid on the cover of magazines.” Architecture was seen as “fantastic formalism.” Now, there’s a “different economic landscape. Projects are on hold, and the practice is also shifting.”
Indeed, architectural practice may be shifting in some positive ways. Ivy believes “sustainability is now widely embraced, and has been embedded into our designs. This is now our accepted way of working.” This new sustainable approach to design is crucial because of the dire pressures facing the planet. The global population is expected to grow to 9.4 billion. In the U.S., the population will hit 450 million by 2050. There has been an “assault on nature,” and architects must come up with design solutions to those environmental challenges. With increasingly cataclysmic weather events and earthquakes, “architects and engineers” (but not landscape architects or planners?) are central to “avoiding losses of life.” While designing aesthetic and inspiring buildings is important, perhaps designing safe buildings that can hold up in earthquakes is “more vital considering human life is at stake.”
Ivy sees the rise of cities as a largely positive phenonemon because urban living is how countries will create low-carbon societies. However, he argues all urban residents need to have a good quality of life, which will be a major challenge given two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2025. He quoted Peter Calthorpe, who said in a recent interview: “urbanism is the foundation for a low carbon future,” and the most cost effective solution to climate change, even more so than renewable energy. In addition, David Owen’s arguments in “Green Metropolis” (see an interview) are used to emphasize the idea that “dense urban living is the most sustainable form of human organization.” Shanghai is cited as an example of the growing trend of the megalopolis, a collection of cities around a central city. While rural areas can be connected to cities via information and communication technologies (ICTs), cities themselves are still very important and the source of “knowledge and human innovation.” READ MORE >>