September 29, 2009

Steven Holl Architects Wins Glasgow School of Art Design Competition

by Lucas Gray

The Glasgow School of Art has announced Steven Holl Architects as the winner of the international design competition for the new school facility to be located opposite the famous Charles Rennie Mackintosh building in Garnethill, Glasgow. The competition entry was submitted as a collaboration between Steven Holl Architects and Glasgow-based JM Architects, and was selected from a field of over 150 international firms. Their brief is now to rework the master plan of the site and to design and deliver phase 1, a new building for the urban campus. The building is set to be opened for the 2013/14 school year. The new design aims to both increase the interaction between the school and the public while enhancing the school's learning and research facilities. The competition was held to select an architect to proceed with the design of the project rather than to chose a specific design, with Steven Holl's selection being a unanimous decision by the competition committee. 

“The Selection Committee considered that Steven Holl Architects’ work showed a poetic use of light and their submission demonstrated a singular creative vision, scale of ambition, profound clarity and a respectful rivalry for the Mackintosh Building. The Committee believed that Holl’s approach to the craft of building, his understanding of the opportunities of new technology and an enjoyment of the challenges of sustainable design, promised a great step forward in the development of architecture in an urban setting.”

Steven Holl Architects, with offices in New York and Beijing, is one of the leading design practices in the world with award winning projects spanning the globe. Winner of numerous prestigious prizes their work is consistently innovative, beautiful, elegant and inspirational while maintaining a dedication to sustainable design. A couple of their recent projects of note include the award winning Nelson Atkins Museum of Art and the Linked Hybrid in Beijing. Known for their phenomenological approach to design, their work is based on the experience of building materials and their sensory properties while engaging the users in an emotional and sensory way. The manipulation of light and space is of particular note in their body of work.

Like in many of Holl's previous projects, the manipulation of light became a defining feature in this proposal; offering various qualities of light related to the interior function of the space. Their complex section demonstrated a variety of spaces, each with a unique connection to natural daylight, while also creating inter-connectivity between parts of the building. This fosters a collaborative environment central to the workings of the school. This attention to the section design as a means of bringing light into the complex interior, is closely related to Mackintosh's original masterpiece. To address issues of sustainability, the proposed facade will consist of 100 percent recycled glass. They have also proposed an intelligent solar cavity, within the facade enclosure, that will harvest heat in winter and cooling in summer. This seems like a rather vague concept at the moment but knowing Holl's past work it is sure to be both beautiful and elegantly designed. Responding to the urban context, the ground floor of the future building will open up to the city allowing a close connection between the school and community.

“100 years after completion, Mackintosh’s building continues to inspire as a work of architecture and a place to make art. The invention of an original architectural language is as fresh today as it was then. Its intensity of detail, light and material calls for the highest aspirations of a phenomenologically-driven architecture of our time. We feel the urgency of recovering the integral action of “thinking and making” in the use of the highest new technologies available. We imagine the new Glasgow School of Art to be a celebration of Knowledge: the phenomenological and experiential joys of perception supercharged by the techniques of tomorrow.”
- Steven Holl

For more information on Steven Holl Architects, please visit
For more information on the Glasgow School of Art, please visit
For more information on JM Architects, please visit

Books by Steven Holl: Parallax, Intertwining, Anchoring, and Questions of Perception: Phenomenology of Architecture


September 27, 2009

An Interview with the founders of PROGRAM: Initiative for art + architecture collaboration

Carson Chan and Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga founded PROGRAM in 2006 as a forum to explore and test the boundaries of architecture through collaborations with other fields. As a non-profit project space, PROGRAM offers a platform for artists, architects, researchers and others to explore ideas of space through exhibitions, performances, workshops, lectures and various other events. Along with the gallery, workspace is available for rent in an open office for people looking for a shared creative environment to conduct their work. This includes individual desks as well as a shared reading and conference room. A residency program further enriches the community and the collaborative spirit of PROGRAM. Through these collaborations the intent is to challenge the traditional notions of architectural representation and broaden our concept of what architecture and space can be. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Carson and Fotini to talk about PROGRAM, their other interests and their thoughts on current trends in architecture and design.

How long has PROGRAM been established?

Fotini: Almost three years now.
Carson: We have had about 18 shows, 19 shows.

What is your background and where did the idea for Program come from?

Fotini: I have a professional degree in architecture from Greece where I’m from. I moved to Boston to go to grad school - we did a masters program together at Harvard - the Masters in Design Studies in the History and Theory of Architecture. I stayed in the States for another couple of years - first working in an architecture office and then I worked on a documentary film project. Since then we have been wanting to engage in architecture in a different way [from traditional practice]. We worked in architectural firms after graduating, but soon realized that we wanted to do other things; to think about questions of space and experience of space - things we were thinking about in grad school but we couldn't really do working in architecture offices.

Fotini: I was in Boston at a big firm doing construction documents. I learned a lot but it was not that exciting. Then we decided very quickly to open a space and try to pursue this interest through exhibitions, workshops, lectures and different kinds of activities. Carson was in Berlin already, and I moved to Berlin as well. We were very lucky to find this really great space.

Carson: I grew up in Toronto and then went to school, grad and undergrad, in the States. I then moved [to Berlin] and worked in an architecture firm - Barkow Leibinger. From there I started working at the Neue National Gallery, they have an architecture curating department and I helped work on three shows. I then did some freelance curating. Fotini came to visit while I was doing a show at the gallery 0047, and we came up with this idea to start our own thing.

Fotini: That's also another thing that influenced what we wanted to do here - the fact we were looking at other exhibitions of architecture. Usually it's a presentation of a building, a drawing or a model, that most people can not really engage with if they don't have an education in architecture. And even then it is usually not that interesting. So we decided that what we wanted to do is try to find another way to share architecture, mainly through the experience one can have visiting an installation, and what you can learn through that in a more embodied way.

Carson: Architects have a hard time expressing themselves, because it takes so many years and so much money to build a building - if you chose to build buildings, as an architect. City planners have a doubly hard time expressing their ideas physically, because you come up with a plan and by the time its implemented it is completely different than what you initially wanted. There are so many contingent factors.

Fotini: Because we started this soon after graduating, PROGRAM has been a learning process. And this experimental aspect of many of the things that we do is just because we want to try things out - or have other people try out things and then see what we get and learn from it.

September 22, 2009

The 2009 Solar Decathlon Approaches

The fourth U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon will take place in October 2009 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Solar Decathlon is a unique competition where teams of students from universities around the world - including the US, Canada, Spain and Germany - design and build a zero energy home. The houses then compete in 10 categories, addressing issues of energy, design and other sustainable features. The teams need to merge aesthetics with effective and energy efficient systems, blending design and technical expertise.

20 teams are entering the competition in 2009, while each began their project almost two years prior. Students are managing all aspects of the project from its conception, through various design phases and construction. They are also required to take on the challenges of fund raising, communicating their team activities, collecting needed materials, systems and other supplies and collaborating with contractors and other consultants. This gives the participants a look into the complex world of architecture outside the protection of the classroom. It is usually during this time that the competition is actually won or lost, even though the actual public event is what garners all the attention. All of design and construction takes place at their university and then the final building is shipped and assembled on the National Mall.

Along with being an education tool for the participating universities and project teams, the event is also used to raise awareness about energy issues among the general public. The international event highlights creative solutions to these pressing problems - offering solutions aimed at energy efficiency and renewable resources. These projects also aid solar energy technologies to enter the market faster and encourages research and development in the industrial sector.

The houses are required to:
  • Be attractive and easy to live in
  • Maintain comfortable and healthy indoor environmental conditions
  • Feature appealing and adequate lighting
  • Supply energy to household appliances for cooking and cleaning
  • Power home electronics
  • Provide hot water
  • Balance energy production and consumption
The 10 Solar Decathlon Contests for 2009:
  • Architecture — 100 points (subjective)
  • Market Viability — 100 points (subjective)
  • Engineering — 100 points (subjective)
  • Lighting Design — 75 points (subjective)
  • Communications — 75 points (subjective)
  • Comfort Zone — 100 points (objective)
  • Hot Water — 100 points (objective)
  • Appliances — 100 points (objective)
  • Home Entertainment — 100 points (objective)
  • Net Metering — 150 points (objective)
The objective categories are scored based on technical readings while the remaining categories are judged by a committee of professional architects, engineers and experts in other appropriate fields. The winning project is the one with the most accumulative points.

Important Dates to Know:
  • Oct. 8 to 16: Teams compete in 10 contests
  • Oct. 9to 13 and 15 to 18: Houses are open to the public
  • Oct. 19-21: Teams disassemble their houses
The Solar Decathlon houses will be open for public tours 11 a.m.­ until 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Take note that all homes will be closed on Wednesday, Oct. 14 if you are planning on visiting the event.

For more information visit or check out these books: Precedents in Zero-Energy Design: A Graphic Analysis of the 2007 Solar Decathlon Houses, Team North Entry to the 2009 Solar Decathlon, Solar Decathlon The 2005 International Competition of Solar Home Design and Solar Decathlon 2005 (DVD)- A Solar Village on the National Mall


September 18, 2009

Video: Bjarke Ingles - 3 Warp-Speed Architecture Tales

Principal of the trendsetting firm BIG, Danish architect Bjarke Ingels has been a powerful force in recent architectural competitions - winner of the Danish Pavilion for the Shanghai Expo and a recent competition for Tallinn's new City Hall. The firm continuously creates bold forms while focusing on being environmentally responsible. This lecture touches on their design process, highlights some recent projects, discusses their design philosophy and interest in diverse ways of illustrating those design ideas.

Ingles worked for OMA before opening his own practice and you can see the strong influences in his work. Using clear diagrams to describe main concepts, focusing on creating unique icons within the urban context, BIG has made its mark on the contemporary architecture stage. Along with their striking design work, the firm is publishing a manifesto titled "Yes is More." Using the form of a comic book they discuss ways of visualizing the built environment and confronting challenges in a way that inspires creativity and innovation.

Looking to buy his book? Pre order Yes Is More: An Archicomic on Architectural Evolution


September 17, 2009

Video: Norman Foster's Green Agenda

One of the highest profile architects in the world today, Norman Foster has designed some of the biggest landmarks ranging from skyscrapers in NY and London, the new Beijing airport, a bridge spanning a valley in the south of France and an entire green city for the dessert in the UAE. Winning the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 1999, his projects have taken on a vast range of scales yet all tend to fit within a style uniquely his. Lots of sleek glass, high tech systems, and innovative exposed structures are his trademark. Foster + Partners also has developed a strong focus on sustainable design and environmental responsibility as this lecture discusses. Also discussing the role of technology in the design process Norman Foster highlights how his office is able to make efficient, sustainable, and beautiful buildings.

For further reading on Foster + Partners check out Norman Foster Works 5, Foster + Partners: Catalogue and Foster and Partners (Archipockets)


September 4, 2009

Upcoming Posts

You may have noticed that has been pretty quiet over the past few weeks (not including the spike of video posts recently). This is because I was gallivanting around southern Germany and Switzerland visiting amazing works of architecture, exploring stunning landscapes and checking out some fantastic cities. Part of the goal of my travels was to gather more places and topics to write about. Over the next couple of weeks I will be posting four or five new articles, some new videos and even an Interview or two with some inspiring people running architecture themed galleries here in Berlin. There are also a couple of interesting architecture and art events coming up that I plan on covering as well as a short trip to London that might offer some more topics of conversation. All this goes hand in hand with a job search, as I look for a design position at an architecture firm in Berlin.

Upcoming Articles:
- Peter Zumthor's Thermal Baths in Vals, Switzerland
- Peter Zumthor's Kunsthaus in Bregenz Austria
- Peter Zumthor's Kolumba art museum in Cologne, Germany
- The Vitra Design Museum and Campus (including buildings by Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Nicholas Grimshaw, Álvaro Siza, and Herzog & de Meuron as well as an exhibit on the Campana Brothers)
- The Glenn Murcutt International Masters Class
- Herzog & de Meuron and the architecture of Basel

Check out the most recent slide shows Here:
Architecture Photography

An older post worth reading:
The Sustainability of an Architectural Practice

Don't forget to check the list of articles and slide shows in the left hand column or the blog's archive for past posts you may have missed. Also, get involved in the conversation by leaving comments on articles or videos you find interesting (or mundane for that matter - critical comments are welcome too) and by clicking the "follow" or "subscribe" buttons at the top of the left hand column. You can also follow me on twitter by going here: lugray on twitter.Your contributions are greatly appreciated and what makes running a blog like this worthwhile. Thanks for reading and check back soon for new content.

September 3, 2009

Video: ArchiCULTURE

This trailer is for a new documentary film about the culture of architecture and the educational process. The film synopsis from the official website describes the project like this:

Archiculture is a feature- length documentary that explores the role that architecture and design play in our daily lives. The film follows five architecture students through their final senior design projects in order to shed light on the critical issues impacting our built environment.

if you liked this trailer check out this one: objectified

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