October 30, 2009

Video: Aimee Mullins and her 12 pairs of legs

The TED.com description of the video: Athlete, actor and activist Aimee Mullins talks about her prosthetic legs -- she's got a dozen amazing pairs -- and the superpowers they grant her: speed, beauty, an extra 6 inches of height ... Quite simply, she redefines what the body can be.

Aimee Mullins was born without fibular bones, and had both of her legs amputated below the knee when she was an infant. She learned to walk on prosthetics, then to run - competing at the national and international level as a champion sprinter, and setting world records at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta. At Georgetown, where she double-majored in history and diplomacy, she became the first double amputee to compete in NCAA Division 1 track and field.

After school, Mullins did some modeling - including a legendary runway show for Alexander McQueen - and then turned to acting, appearing as the Leopard Queen in Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle. In 2008 she was the official Ambassador for the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.

She's a passionate advocate for a new kind of thinking about prosthetics, and recently mentioned to an interviewer that she's been looking closely at MIT's in-development powered robotic ankle, "which I fully plan on having."

October 29, 2009

Glenn Murcutt International Master Class (Part IV)

Here is the official press release for the 10th annual Glenn Murcutt International Architecture Master Class - July 11 to 25, 2010.

The tenth Glenn Murcutt International Architecture Master Class will be held in Australia at Glenn Murcutt's "Masterwork", the Arthur and Yvonne Boyd Education Centre 'Riversdale' on the banks of the Shoalhaven River south of Sydney, and at the School of Architecture at the University of Sydney, 11-25 July 2010. Information: www.ozetecture.org. Watch a four minute clip from the 2008 Glenn Murcutt International Architecture Master Class on the web site (or on Talkitect by clicking here)

The two week residential design studio program is led by Glenn Murcutt with other tutors including Richard Leplastrier, Peter Stutchbury, Brit Andresen and, Master Class Convener, Lindsay Johnston. A major feature each year has been the insights contributed by Aboriginal Elder 'Uncle' Max Dulumunmun Harrison. Since its inception, participants from 46 nations have attended the program. Participants are primarily, now, practicing architects - older and younger - with some professors, academics, recent graduates and a few senior students.

Participants stay for the first week in the exquisite hostel accommodation at the Boyd Education Center, designed by Murcutt with Wendy Lewin and Reg Lark and completed in 1999. The 'big room' at 'Riversdale' is transformed into both banqueting hall and a design studio for six days while participants commence the conceptual design of a project located on a sensitive scenic site within walking distance of the venue. The program includes extensive site investigations, intensive studio tutoring, progress design critiques and after dinner lectures by the 'masters'. The studio relocates to the University of Sydney for the second week, where participants stay in a hotel near the University at Darling Harbour, and culminates in final presentations and a 'Big Crit Day'. Other events in the program include visits to significant houses designed by Glenn Murcutt and the other tutors and, in previous years, a Sydney Harbour evening cruise.


Glenn Murcutt is best known for his 'singular practice' acclaimed through the award of the 2002 Pritzker Prize. He has also been recipient of numerous other international awards including the Alvar Aalto Medal in Finland, the 'Green Pin' Award for Architecture and Ecology in Denmark and the Richard Neutra Award in USA. He received the Gold Medal of the Australian Institute of Architects in 1992 and the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects in 2009.

Richard Leplastrier is a seminal figure in Australian architecture and is considered as one of the great teachers. He worked with Kenzo Tange and with Jørn Utzon at the time of the Sydney Opera House and his body of work has been acclaimed with the award of the 2009 Dreyers Foundation Prize of Honour in Denmark. In 2004, he was awarded the 'Spirit of Nature Wood Architecture' Award in Finland, also awarded to Renzo Piano, Kengo Kuma, Peter Zumthor and José Cruz Ovalle. He is also a Gold Medalist of the Australian Institute of Architects 1999.

Professor Brit Andresen taught at the AA in London before joining the University of Queensland. She worked with Barry Gasson on the winning entry for the Burrell Museum in Scotland and, with her partner Peter O'Gorman, has authored significant works that have been widely published internationally including in the Phaidon Atlas of World Architecture. Brit was the first woman recipient of the Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 2002.

Peter Stutchbury is a leading practitioner in Australia with a significant body of outstanding innovative built projects that have been awarded nationally and published internationally. He was winner of the 2008 International Iron and Steel Institute 'Living Steel' Competition for extreme climate housing in Cherepovets, Russia and held the 2008 Catedra Luis Barragán in Mexico, a Chair previously held by Tadao Ando, Norman Foster, Nicholas Grimshaw, Peter Zumthor and Glenn Murcutt.

Lindsay Johnston is former Dean of Architecture and Design at the University of Newcastle, Australia, with a particular expertise in environmentally responsive design and some of his built projects have been awarded and published internationally.

See the web site for information, program, costs and application form - http://www.ozetecture.org/

See the blog for latest news - http://ozetectureblog.blogspot.com/

For details of Uncle Max Dulumunmun Harrisons's book 'My People's Dreaming" see - http://www.finch.com.au/html/s02_article/article_view.asp?art_id=288&nav_cat_id=220&nav_top_id=70

To contact us - info@ozetecture.org


October 21, 2009

Video: Transforming the Tate

In this video Jacques Herzog describes the concept and design process behind their design for the extension to the Tate Gallery in London. Here is the description according to the Tate Website:
As one half of architecture superstars Herzog and De Meuron, Jacques Herzog has been behind some of the world’s most spectacular buildings – from Beijing’s Olympic Stadium to the original Tate Modern nearly a decade ago. Plans are now afoot for an ambitious new extension to Tate Modern. TateShots was given privileged access to the architects’ studio in Basel, Switzerland, where work is well underway. In our film, Herzog talks about his excitement to be working on the project, and why TM2 (as the new building is currently known) will stand out in London’s busy skyline.

I haven't been to the Tate in almost 8 years now, but I recall being impressed by Herzog and de Meuron's tasteful adaptation of the old structure. Adding an extension is a difficult problem, especially trying to blend a bold new design with the historic image of the turbine hall. Their creative use of brick is elegant and admirable although I am not sure if the angular form quite fits into the context. However, I have loved almost every building of theirs that I have visited, so I will withhold final judgment until it is completed and I have seen it in person and in context.


October 19, 2009

Save Berlin

Save Berlin is a project aiming to catalog and present ideas about the urban condition of Berlin. To combat unwanted and misguided change, this forum gives everyone a voice in the development of our beloved city.

What is your vision for Berlin?

Berlin is changing. The city's leaders have plans for a sanitized Euro-capital. They're replacing the city's history and character with shopping malls and luxury condos. Their ideas for 21st Century Berlin landmarks: a fake Baroque palace and a copy of London's giant Ferris wheel. Berlin is a city of daring artists and irreverent dreamers.

Save Berlin 09 (November 13-15, 2009) taps into Berliners' enormous resource of imagination, asking for new visionary schemes for Berlin, to inspire debate and build a vision for the city's future. Come join the conversation, and let's show we can do better!

1. Berlin in 2009 is a fascinating city. It has everything - a vibrant youth culture, high art, generous infrastructure and cheap rent. It's an island of affordable civilization for outcasts and dreamers. Berlin welcomes Turks and Jews, artists and families, punks and bureaucrats, sexual outlaws and party kids. Its dark past and deep scars are integral to its character and appeal. The cityscape reflects its tumultuous past and heterogeneous present.

2. Berlin is in danger. Creeping gentrification is pushing up rents and killing the vibrant mix of cultures, demographics and architecture. Shopping malls, glass towers and unimaginative historical replicas are filling up the gaps in the cityscape, pushing towards a generic uniformity. History is being selectively wiped away or sanitized beyond recognition.

3. The wrong people are making decisions about Berlin's future. Businessmen and bureaucrats strive to upgrade the city into a bland European capital. This isn't what most Berliners envision their city should become.

4. All Berliners deserve a say in their city's future. Foreigners who have chosen to live in this city are inspired by its spirit, history and mythology. They sense what makes Berlin unique. They not only know what should be preserved and cultivated, but can also contribute creative ideas for the future.

5. Save Berlin is a movement that will launch with a three-day event at Stattbad Wedding. From November 13-15, 2009, dozens of architects, artists, performers, musicians and other imaginative Berliners will present their ideas and visions. They'll be revisiting the past, challenging the present and showing their alternatives for the future - in the form of concrete proposals and artistic works. The exhibition will show drawings, models, photographs and installations of the people's vision for 21st Century Berlin, while each night we'll also have a varied program of performances, films, music and discussions.

November 13-15, 2009

Stattbad Wedding - Gerichtstrasse 65, Wedding, Berlin, www.stattbad.net

public transport
S-Bahn Wedding


October 17, 2009

Video: Glenn Murcutt International Masters Class (Part III)

Last summer there was a film crew that followed the Masters Class to create a full documentary about the program. This trailer gives a brief glimpse of the course and the full film.

Click here to read Part I: The Project
Click here to read Part II: Site visits and the Tutors


October 16, 2009

Glenn Murcutt International Masters Class (Part II)

by Lucas Gray

click here for Part I
click here for Part III

One of the extraordinary opportunities we experienced as participants of the Glenn Murcutt International Masters Class was the chance to visit some of the world renowned projects designed by the tutors. It was incredibly captivating to hear about the design process and the final outcome directly from the architects and clients, while actually walking through the buildings. Many of the projects were private residences which aren't open to the public, giving us an insiders view of some of the tutor's best work. Along with the site visits, each professor also gave a lecture, showcasing projects currently on the drawing board as well as notable works from their careers.

Peter Stutchbury is the lone tutor that runs a small office and engages in architecture on the international stage. The others are sole practitioners, exclusively working within Australia. An incredibly sensitive focus on the environment transcends Mr. Stutchbury's designs, while the detailing is incredibly intricate. We were able to visit two of his houses, each in completely different landscapes. The Bangalay House, nestled into a clearing in a wooded and mountainous region, was a wonderful example of how to open a house to the surrounding landscape. The elongated, pitched roof echoed the slopes of the mountain ridges, while the glass clad walls consisted of sliding panels that tucked away, leaving the living spaces completely open to the outdoors. The back of the house, where the bathrooms and other service areas are located, is constructed of concrete, acting as heavy thermal mass to regulate temperature. Rain water collection is another essentially design element, both for irrigation of the gardens as well as for bush fire protection. The Outcrop House was located in a relatively dense, suburban neighborhood on a steep embankment overlooking a picturesque ocean bay. Rather than being completely open like the previous house, privacy was a primary concern and led to an innovative daylighting solution. Light is introduced through a transparent roof, while interior curved wooden elements below, deflect the hot direct sun while reflecting diffused cool light. A ventilation system then takes the trapped hot air out of the building. A steel structure spans between the two exterior load bearing walls, like a warehouse, freeing the interior from columns. Rooms were then built up as individual boxes within the structural shell. The back of the house was left entirely open, once again using movable glass wall panels. This preserved stunning views of the coast below, as well as incorporating an indoor/outdoor swimming pool and patio. The master bedroom overlooks a two story social space and out of this rear glass facade, allowing the phenomenal views and daylight to penetrate into the depths of the interior. Once again, the detailing was immaculate and the woodworking throughout both projects was astounding and, not surprisingly, award winning.
Check out these websites to see images of these houses and more of his work: www.stutchburyandpape.com.au and www.peterstutchbury.com.au

Richard Leplastrier's work was of particular note because it hasn't been published extensively. The attention to detail and fine craftsmanship was superb, as he often draws his details at one to one scale. He crafts many parts of his buildings by hand and constructs a lot of his buildings himself. Every aspect of his designs are in harmony with each other - working together to create a splendid symphony of architecture. His buildings are warm, welcoming and perfectly built for the human touch. Finely carved wood, leather wrapped door handles, windows aligning with the eye height of his clients, these are just a few of the minute details he passionately works into his designs. His houses are like ships, with the detailing and woodwork perfectly in unison with the function of the building. Each house adapts and transforms with the climate and seasons, making a fluidity between building and landscape. On top of this attention to detail is a decision to only taking on projects that Richard is passionate about - designs for close friends, for organizations he is part of, and always with a love for the land on which they stand. Like most of the work by the other tutors, all of Peter's work is done with hand media - extensive use of models, sketches and hand drafting, while his own house was built based entirely on a single detailed model - no drawings. He also works with simple materials that he is familiar with and can easily be worked with the human hand, particularly the prevalent use of wood. Rammed earth was also a material he explored in some of his earlier work.

We weren't able to visit Brit Andresen's work because she didn't have any built projects in the greater Sydney area. However, her lecture introduced us to her graceful architecture and sensitive design process. Ms. Andresen's work was elegant, beautiful, in touch with the landscape and kept with the theme of creative use of materials (especially wood) and a sensitivity to climate and the environment. Taking full advantage of the mild Australia climate, particularly the northern tropical area where many of her projects are situated, her buildings open to the landscape, using minimal enclosure. Each incorporates natural lighting and ventilation, while offering fantastic views of the natural surroundings.

Glenn Murcutt's houses were the highlight of the excursions. Once again we were taken to varying examples of houses, designed for different landscapes and completed at different stages in his long illustrious career. This enabled us to experience the evolution of his design ideas. Coupled with Mr. Murcutt's inspiring lecture - highlighting the projects currently on his drawing board, including some larger public buildings: a museum and a mosque -  we got a glimpse of his architectural passion and vitality. His breadth of knowledge and design process is unparalleled and clearly distinguishes his work from his peers, leading to becoming a Pritzker Prize laureate.

Along with the site visits we had the luxury of spending the first week of the course housed in one of Mr. Murcutt's most notable works, the Arthur and Yvonne Boyd Art Center in Riversdale. Located about a three hour drive south of Sydney in the midst of the picturesque Australian landscape, this was the location of the site for the project as well as our home base for many site visits the first week. The small rooms - displaying the sensibility and detailing of a master builder - were boat-like cabins and had us waking up to the sun rising over the gently meandering river. An amazing variety of birds swooped through the early morning air and sang unfamiliar songs as wombats and kangaroos grazed the fields - a markedly Australian experience and one that was most welcome for us foreigners. Mist rose off the gently flowing water as the sun rose over the adjacent ridge. The building is perfectly nestled into the hill side, at the moment where the meadow broke into forest. Each morning we gathered and slowly woke over breakfast in the great room, overlooking this spectacular landscape. The bedroom wing branched off to the south, eventually becoming a two story structure as the ground slopes away. Each room had two beds, and a movable partition between it and the room next door. A simple, yet elegant bathroom, equiped with a splendid outdoor shower, separated each set of 2 rooms. A sheltered, yet outdoor gathering space looking out into the landscape broke up these living units. With artistically revealed water catchment systems, operable enclosing walls and windows, incredibly detailed natural ventilation systems and stunning indoor/outdoor showers, this building set the perfect precedent for our design project.

Although the exposure to some of my favorite buildings in the world was spectacular, it was the people that truly made this experience so amazing. Along with the extraordinary tutors discussed above, there were 30 participants representing 21 different countries; they were advanced grad students, recently graduated architects, partners in large and small firms, young architects just starting their careers and older architects looking for a new start and inspiration. The diversity of the group led to amazing discussions, cultural exchanges, and sharing of ideas. Living together for the two weeks, sharing meals, rooms, and wine brought us all close together, cultivating the feeling of a large extended family. We learned from each other as much as from the tutors, and now we all have a network of friends and colleagues spread throughout the world - both from our course as well as the extended nework of all past and future participants.

One of the factors that sets this program apart from many design school experiences, is the integration of the tutors and students. For two weeks we lived, worked, ate and played together as one large family. the tutors sat besides us at dinner telling stories and sharing experiences. Late nights brought out harmonicas as Peter and Richard played along with Lindsay Johnson on his guitar or mandolin. A grand piano was played by those with talents and one of the participants even played a cello concerto. Music may sound like a random side topic when describing an architecture program but these aspects really can't be separated from the entire experience. These times of entertainment and casual interaction made the design work that much more meaningful and enjoyable. They created an instant atmosphere of belonging, a place everyone felt comfortable to share their thoughts, ideas and dreams. We heard stories from our past lives, future plans and shared our diverse cultures, languages, and songs. With 21 different countries represented we now are part of a family that spans the globe.

To read Part I click here.
To see the video in Part III click here.

For more info visit: http://ozetectureblog.blogspot.com or hwww.ozetecture.org


October 15, 2009

Glenn Murcutt International Masters Class (Part I)

by Lucas Gray

Read Part II
Read Part III

Every summer, well summer in the northern hemisphere at least, 30 international architects descend on Sydney to participate in a once in a lifetime experience. Greeted by Lindsay Johnson and whisked by bus a few hours drive south, this new family of designers embarks on a 2 week studio exploration under the title of the Glenn Murcutt International Masters Class. Australian architects, Peter Stutchbury, Brit Andresen, Richard Leplastrier, and of course Glenn Murcutt lead the workshop as it delves into a design project emphasizing the vital connection between building and landscape. Using site visits to the tutor's built work around the Sydney area as precedents, the 30 designers are asked to work in small teams to address a design problem in a way that respects, repairs, and enhances the surrounding landscape and environment. Taking a decidedly low-tech approach these students generate a philosophical and technical solution to a difficult challenge - how to integrate architecture and landscape ecology.

The theme of the 2008 class, of which I was a participant, was a Place of Reconciliation. The concept was presented along with a rather vague program forcing the project teams to interpret what a Place of Reconciliation is, and what it represents for humanity's future. The conversations and debates ranged from reconciling large international conflicts, small personal affairs and even reconciling human inflicted damage to the environment. As the groups explored this theme we also spent the first three days conducting an in depth analysis of the given site - a ridge overlooking the Glenn Murcutt designed, Arthur and Yvonne Boyd Art Center (described in more detail later in this post and these images).

A short hike up a steep embankment from our accommodation, landed us on a ridge overlooking a gorgeous meandering river and farmlands beyond. Our first introduction to this landscape was lead by an Aboriginal Elder who offered stories, legends and gave us insight into the land. He provided an emotional approach to understanding the local ecology and the vital role each plant and animal plays - all told though the filter of a spiritual connection to the world. He also offered us insight into the seasonal and climactic changes and their importance to Australian life. Even the devastating bush fires, present in the international news, play an important role in the evolution of the landscape, opening seed capsules and offering rebirth to many species. From this experience, each group was asked to spend the next three days exploring the ridge, going through a process of environmental analysis, both technical and spiritual. We looked at lush rainforrests, land scarred by fire, light filtering through the canopy, shadows offering protection and enclosure for animals. We heard songs from birds, breezes ruffle the leaves overhead, the sound of the ground beneath our feet and the drone of insects surround us. We felt the texture of bark, the roughness of the stone, the dryness of the soil. We tasted the freshness of the air and smelt the diverse scents carried on the wind. We approached the land from a sensory experience, and took our impressions back to the maps and charts to merge them with an analytical view of the place.

These exercises led to a presentation of each group's interpretation of the site, and ultimately to choosing a specific location for their architectural intervention. Each team approached this problem in a slightly different way based on their earlier discussions and feelings, leading to a wide range of locations along the ridge. Each location faced slightly different environmental conditions and thus required differing design responses. Throughout the process the tutors were available for consultation, critiques, and offered their insight into the natural history and culture of Australia, exhibiting an exhaustive amount of information and anecdotes.

Once the site locations were selected the building brief was revealed. The program for the Place of Reconciliation consisted of the following:
  • Accommodation for 30
  • Various sized meeting rooms - spaces for individuals to meditate, rooms for one on one meetings, rooms for small groups
  • A Great Room - large enough for all 30 people to gather
  • Service and Support facilities
Other Issues we had to address - followed by my group's interpretations:
  • Habitat restoration - build on damaged land, repair land to prevent further damage, preserve ground plane for animals. limit the removal of trees. limit parking
  • Sustainable Design Strategies - completely off grid, rainwater collection, gray water systems, take advantage of moderate climate, natural lighting, natural ventilation
  • Minimal Footprint (literal and figurative) - stilts limit foundation excavation, use of rammed earth and other natural materials, compact living spaces
  • Water Issues - repair and stop water erosion, storm water collection, permeable paving and other surfaces
  • Bush Fire Protection - water storage tanks, non flammable materials,
  • Landscape Design - interconnected paths, limit damage caused by human use, preserve use of the land for the public, public gathering space, private paths
  • Local Animal Habitat - preserve movement patterns, add protected habitats by elevating the buildings
  • Climactic Response - mild climate, insulation not necessary, protection from wind and rain, use of fire places for heat and for social gathering points, protection from bugs and other wildlife, open to the surroundings, living in the landscape
  • Site Selection - chose a site with easy access from road, already damaged land, protection from western winds
  • Site Analysis - direction of: wind, heat, sun, fire, water, slope; damaged land, don't remove trees, new plantings
After an amazing week living in an incredible building, in the midst of a stunning landscape, we packed our things and returned to Sydney to continue with the design process. We set up a studio space at the University of Sydney, where we delved into further development of our design hypothesis. Late nights, many bottles of wine, philosophical debates, a few sliced fingers, and dinner excursions all led to an incredible bond uniting the participants. To support the process of designing in such a short amount of time, each group was assigned a couple of university students to assist with supply gathering, model building and other necessary but time consuming tasks. After 6 days of intense labor we finally had a night off, to rest up before the final reviews.

The final presentations were a celebration of a diverse approach to design. Projects ranged from three story vertical housing lanterns illuminating the landscape, cave like dwellings carved into the side of the embankments, and almost resort style hotel and meeting halls, to rows of accommodation creating dams in the scarred landscape, rammed earth walls protecting light wood structures, and small pavilions tucked between the trees. All projects addressed climactic conditions such as the intense summer heat, drought, brush fires, and water retention, each in a creative and unique way. Each design also confronted the issue of repairing the landscape, while preserving a public hiking trail and an access road to the river below. Each project was unique, provocative and incorporated sustainable design features in a different way. The various scales of design, from the larger master plan of the site to minute details relating to water collection, materiality and structure were also incredibly varied and unique depending on the site specific characteristics the groups had to confront. The tutors and invited renowned guests critiqued each project, offering alternative ideas and talking points for further discussion, and engaged in thoughtful debate. It was an incredibly lively day and stimulated a great deal of architectural dialogue.

See some images of the work from the course, as well as some great books about Glenn Murcutt's Architecture after the break.

October 12, 2009

Video: The design genius of Charles + Ray Eames

This presentation, by Eames Demetrios the grandson of the infamous design team of Charles and Ray Eames, looks back at the life and work of the couple and delves into their design process and vast interests. Dappling in a wide range of fields, the Eames' made films, houses, furniture and continuously explored the worlds of art, architecture and design. Here rare photos and video footage of the couple is shown as a tribute to their creative process, and the wonderful work that has been born from it. What I found particularly fascinating was their love for playfulness and the humor that permeates their work - they even had a clown act and ran a clowning college in case the furniture business didn't work out. Their diversity is a stunning example of how design transcends the standard notion of fields of expertise. They drew inspiration from all fields of research and created masterpieces in all fields of design, influencing entire generations of people to follow.

Books about the work of Charles and Ray Eames Charles & Ray Eames: 1907-1978, 1912-1988 Pioneers of Mid-Century Modernism, Eames: Furniture 1941-1978, Ray & Charles Eames: Objects and Furniture Design By Architects, and a series of films by the royal family of design: The Films of Charles & Ray Eames


October 9, 2009

Video: Antonio Gaudi - Gods Architect - Visions of Space

The last of the BBC Visions of Space series, takes a look at the organic forms of Antonio Gaudi. Already icons of Barcelona, his flowing, sculptural architecture is truly stunning and unique, foreshadowing the flamboyant designs of today's leading architects, like Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid.

Part I:

Click here to watch the rest of the documentary. There are 7 installments in total.

October 6, 2009

Video: Albert Speer - Size Matters - Visions of Space

Looking within the horrors of the Third Reich, Hitler's chief architect, Albert Speer, designed some of the most powerful buildings of the 20th century. This documentary, another in the Visions of Space series on the BBC,, looks into the life of the man and his grand vision.

Part I:

Click here to watch the rest of the documentary. There are 7 installments in total.

October 1, 2009

Video: John La Grou plugs smart power outlets

Here is a product developed to make our energy obsessed lifestyles more sustainable. Assuming the relatively low cost and great benefits this product should help move traditional construction towards a green future. Like EcoRock, featured here, products like this are often overlooked when talking about sustainable trends in architecture. Getting over the glossy images on architecture magazine covers and focusing on real elements of the construction process is imperative to making change in the industry - smart power outlets is just a start.


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