Friday, February 15, 2008

World Architecture News

Our dilemma: having the time to spend daily on keeping up with the frenetic pace of design in todays world . Always a challenge, and in searching out more resources, I stumbled upon a great site yesterday, World Architecture News (WAN) featuring at least daily updates to a wide range of buildings world-wide. While building-centric, it follows trends in architecture, thus fits into Vegetated Architecture category (without really even knowing it). One exception was an article/link to the renovation of Les Halles, the much loved Parisian open space. Other great features: good photos, links to firms, and a listing of related books relevant to the project. Definitely check it out.

Here are a few of their projects I thought worthy of highlighting (all images via WAN).

:: The Church Site - Slough - by 3DReid

:: Town Hall - Sogne, Norway - by A-lab

:: Drents Museum - Assen, Netherlands by Erick van Egeraat Architects (EEA)

:: The Red Apple - Rotterdam, Netherlands by KCAP

:: Ocean Financial Centre - Singapore - by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects

And that's just from the past month or so. Perhaps my bias peeking out again, but there is some really compelling architecture world-wide - that kind of puts a lot of what's going on around here to shame. That is not to say there is not some great examples in Portland or the greater US, but it seems to be more restrained. This is probably due in part to regulation, in part to financing. But what other factors are at work? A recent article in BusinessWeek via Architectural Record highlighted the 'State of American Architecture', starting with a focus on New York. Paul Goldberger is quoted often, giving some shape to the American situation: "Trends today are national or even global. Sustainability is certainly one. We should be doing more on this, but we're doing more than we did in the past."

While regional differences make sense, and global trends provide some levelling to the field, what is the major difference between American architecture/design and it's worldwide peers? Areas like Dubai are driven by significant wealth that tends to create the amazing excess of such interventions as artificial islands, populated by star-powered monumental architecture that would never be built in the US.

:: The Palm Deira - image via TEN Real Estate

Sustainability might provide a common thread, but that is only one major driver of design style and innovation. Ugly LEED Platinum is definitely possible... One word for a driver in the US... money - namely in infrastructure. Cities don't have the funds, where private developers do, and he who pays tends to get to decide. This is reflected, according to Goldberger, of the Ground Zero redevelopment:

"... In many ways, it merely reflects where we are today. It's a commercial development, not a civic place. And it isn't effective urban design." Warming to the topic, he talks about "the relative withdrawal, even abandonment, of large-scale planning by the public sector. It's giving way to private developers, letting them take charge of what gets built where. At the end of the day, it's not real planning." A reason for this withdrawal is the government's inability to build urban infrastructure on the scale that is needed. "What we're seeing is the development of parallel infrastructures—one built by the private sector and one by the public. I can imagine a time in the future when some people might have little interaction with the public infrastructure."

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