January 30, 2010

Video: Joshua Prince-Ramus - Building a theater that remakes itself

Joshua Prince-Ramus gives a thoughtful and inspiring talk about his recent completed project, the Wyly Theater in Dallas, Texas. The first few minutes are a must see as he takes a step back and discusses the current state of architecture, and the troubling stance architects are taking, giving up power in exchange for less liability - making Architects "for decorative purposes only." Stating that the profession is acting like cowards, he offers an inspiring approach to design and collaboration between architects and clients. Always, well spoken and a talented designer as well, it is fascinating to hear about his design process and the thoughts that lead to his innovative architecture.

Also see his presentation about the Seattle Public Library here: OMA's Joshua Prince-Ramus on Seattle's Public Library


More info on Joshua Prince-Ramus from TED.com:
With one of the decade's most celebrated buildings under his belt, Joshua Prince-Ramus would seem well-positioned to become the world's next "starchitect." Except that he doesn't want the job. With his quiet intensity and intellectual bearing, Prince-Ramus is the antithesis of the egomaniacal master architect. He flatly rejects not just the title, but the entire notion of a "starchitect" designing with a genius stroke of the pen.

Prince-Ramus is best known for his work — with Rem Koolhaas' radical Dutch architecture firm OMA — on the Seattle Central Library. The striking, diamond-windowed structure re-imagines, to spectacular effect, the library's role in a modern urban context. "Seattle's new Central Library is a blazing chandelier to swing your dreams upon," Herbert Muschamp wrote in The New York Times. "In more than 30 years of writing about architecture, this is the most exciting new building it has been my honor to review."

Having founded the US practice of OMA in 2000, Prince-Ramus split from Rem Koolhaas in May 2006 to found a new firm, REX, with colleague Erez Ella. He continues to take what he describes as a hyper-rational approach to architecture, pushing logic and rational ideas to their limits to create buildings that are unexpected, but wholly appropriate to their environment and intended use. REX's current projects include Museum Plaza in Louisville, the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in Dallas; the Vestbanen redevelopment in Oslo, Norway; and the new headquarters for design house Vakko, in Istanbul. REX is also one of five finalists for the Governors Island redevelopment in New York.

"Joshua Prince-Ramus isn't just creating buildings. In a field obsessed with celebrity, he’s putting the work -- and his workers -- first."
Fast Company

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January 27, 2010

Video: Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum - Dutch Profiles

This video highlights the work of ceramic manufacturers, Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum. Architecture is only as good as the materials it is built out of and hearing the story behind the production of those materials and the collaboration between designers and manufacturers is always intriguing. The amount of experimentation that takes place to find the perfect ceramic cladding is one of the unheralded stories behind the buildings we see every day, and one that should be more prevalent within the design community and the publications that cover the industry. To find out more information about this company visit the following link: www.tichelaar.nl

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January 25, 2010

Slideshow: The Royal Theater Playhouse by Lundgaard & Tranberg - Copenhagen, Denmark

Another building in Denmark is featured in the third installment of the slideshow feature, this time the Royal Theater Playhouse designed by Danish architects Lundgaard & Tranberg. Sitting on the harbor-front and cantilevering out over the water, this building is wonderful example of architecture that relates to its surroundings. The form of the building speaks to the functions within. The center of the complex is the theater which is visible as a box that punches through the surrounding building. The cantilever is clad in glass revealing the structural truss supporting its weight and defining the height of the interior space. It also shelters a large wooden deck below, which wraps around the front of the building providing visitors a wonderful place to soak in the vies of Copenhagen across the water. The deck gently slopes up from the surrounding streets and hugs the building giving the cafe/restaurant space for outdoor seating and place for crowds to gather before and after performances. All in all, it is a fantastic design much loved by the community and created by one of the best firms Practicing in Denmark today.

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January 22, 2010

Video: Jurgen Bey - Dutch Profiles

This Dutch Profiles video highlights the work of Jurgen Bey, a furniture and product designer and visionary. His focus on slow living and its ramifications for cutlure and our built environment are incredibly interesting and something that should be considered in our fast paced pressure packed society. His work is both thoughtful with a hint of humor and controvercial, forcing people to challenge their preconceptions of common objects.

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January 19, 2010

Video: Ordos - China's Empty City

Despite the buzz over Ordos within the architectural community I have many reservations about its ultimate success. This video uses the city of Ordos as an example to discusses one of the biggest issues in China's current economic development: developers building for the sake of building rather than for actual needs. Yes, construction might help meet economic growth projections now, but it will also limit the need for infrastructure development later. It also is creating a giant real estate bubble that is likely to burst in the coming years, much like the collapse of the real estate economy in the United States. Although the highly publicized houses, designed by some of the world's top architects, is only a small suburb of the larger city, I can still foresee it becoming a ghost town, more of an exhibition of architectural ideas than a real thriving community. After all, who is going to be able to afford or want to live in an empty town of overly luxurious mansions? I believe this whole idea really reflects on the question what is sustainability. It isn't always an environmental issue but rather a mindset of living within our means.

For more information on the Ordos 100 project check out this site: www.ordos100.com

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January 18, 2010

Slideshow: VM House by BIG - Copenhagen, Denmark

This slideshow features a residential project outside Copenhagen designed by BIG (Bjarke Ingles Group). Called the VM building because of its floor plan shape, the architects aimed to preserve views by folding the two buildings into angular slabs. Although the form is interesting, the balconies are stunning and the design principles are logical, the building feels isoalated on its site and doesn't make for a great community. Along with the other developments in this new suburb, the project is set far back off the street with no ground level retail or nearby commercial opportunities, giving the whole place a deserted feeling. A large shopping mall and corporate offices are all that's within walking distance leaving the residents to rely on cars or the new metro line to access needed amenities, entertainment and the city. Even with an adjacent bike lane and the Danish people's passion for bicycles as a means of transport, this development is just a bit too far for biking to be convenient. However, giving the architects a symbolically blank slate (an empty field) on which to work, did lead to some bold forms and ambitious architecture both in this project, and the other buildings in the district.

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January 15, 2010

OMA Wins Competition For New Chu Hai College Campus In Hong Kong

Here is a press release we just received from OMA:

Hong Kong, 15 January 2010:
The Office for Metropolitan Architecture in collaboration with Leigh & Orange Architects has won the competition for the new campus for Chu Hai College of Higher Education in the New Territories in Hong Kong. The campus will give Chu Hai College, established in 1947, a new identity as well as a new site. The project, with a gross floor area of 28,000m2, consists of education facilities for three faculties – arts, science and engineering, and business – containing 10 departments and two research centers.

Chu Hai College has traditionally emphasised a multidisciplinary and wide-ranging education for its 4,000 students engaged in the four-year degree curriculum. Accordingly, OMA’s design generates abundant communal spaces that will facilitate encounters between students from different departments.

OMA conceived a building that consists of two parallel horizontal slabs connected by a ‘mat’ of social and educational facilities. The slabs, each eight stories high, contain flexible space for classrooms, studios, and offices. Their aerated structural facades provide a visual unity for the campus, and allow views into the inner workings of the buildings and out over Castle Peak Bay and its verdant surrounding hills. The slabs are oriented to maximise natural ventilation, reducing air conditioning demands by 15–30 per cent and contributing to an efficient, sustainable design.

Connecting the two slabs, the mat contains the library, cafeteria, gym, and lecture theatres. On top of this mat OMA has designed a shaded area of steps, platforms, and ramps that acts as a circulation system between the various facilities. Crucially, this ramp coincides with the slope of the existing hill on the site, grounding the new campus firmly within the landscape.

OMA’s concentrated design for the campus allows several of the original British army buildings on the site to be preserved. These buildings will be used for accommodation, student union and canteen facilities.

The design, led by OMA partner Rem Koolhaas, General Manager of OMA Asia (Hong Kong) David Gianotten, and associate Chris van Duijn, was chosen from eight submissions by internationally renowned architecture offices. The Chu Hai College selection committee chose OMA’s design because it provides a strong visual identity for the college, flexibility in use and an environment conducive for multidisciplinary education. They called the design ‘the bookstand’.

David Gianotten commented: “OMA’s design for the new campus features both pure geometric forms with the two slabs, and subtlety and intricacy with the mat that connects them. We aimed to create a sustainable, integrated, and open platform for the future of Chu Hai College.”

The project will be executed by OMA Asia (Hong Kong), which opened in the summer of 2009. The office is currently also working on a conceptual plan for the West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong, design development of the Taipei Performing Arts Centre in Taiwan, construction of the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, and the interior design of the Edouard Malingue Gallery in Hong Kong.


The Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) is a leading international partnership practicing contemporary architecture, urbanism and cultural analysis. It is engaged in a large number of projects in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North America.

OMA recently completed the Prada Transformer, a multi-use rotating pavilion in Seoul, and won two major competitions in Asia for the Taipei Center for Performing Arts and Shenzhen Crystal Island, a cultural and transport hub in the centre of the city. OMA Beijing continues to oversee the construction of the headquarters for China Central Television in Beijing, the office’s largest project to date, and is also developing MahaNakhon, a residential tower in Bangkok, and two innovative residential complexes in Singapore: The Interlace and Scott’s Tower.

OMA is led by six partners: Rem Koolhaas, Ole Scheeren, Ellen van Loon, Reinier de Graaf, Shohei Shigematsu and Managing Partner Victor van der Chijs.

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January 14, 2010

Video: Benthem Crouwel Architects - Dutch Profiles

Benthem Crouwel Architects takes the spotlight in this short documentary. I'm not as familiar with their work as MVRDV or some of the other more famous dutch practices but I am really impressed with their design for the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam renovation and extension.

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January 13, 2010

Video: MVRDV - Dutch Profiles

Continuing with the Dutch Profile Series, here is a short video about the architecture of MVRDV. Their work is always pushing the boundaries of what architecture can be, often dealing with hyper density and a blending of environmentally sustainable design and evolving urbanity. I am not always in love with the beauty of their buildings but find their design process and research explorations fascinating. Their early work, often a bit more theoretical than realistically grounded, was particularly captivating. Their Market Hall project was featured previously on this blog and is their most recent project to start construction. Other notable buildings include the Dutch Exhibition at the World Expo in Hannover, the Silodam project in Amsterdam, and Pig City - a vertical farm. I was lucky enough to meet and talk with Winy Maas in Berlin a few months ago as a group of students from his "The Why Factory" - a part of the University of Delft school of architecture - were doing a two week workshop on future urbanism. It was fascinating to work with the students for a few days to see their ideas and listen to the professors and invited guests discuss the issues facing the development of our cities over the generations to come.

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Slideshow: Corbuhaus - Berlin, Germany

This is the first installment of a new feature I will be posting to Talkitect - Slideshows of interesting architecture and significant buildings I have visited on my travels around the world. The idea is from now on, a new slide show will be posted every Monday Morning. It is fitting to start with a building in Berlin, the city I currently call home, designed by one of the masters of 20th Century architecture, Le Corbusier. Feel free to link to or use images from this and future slide shows, but please credit and link to this site. Thanks and I hope you enjoy.

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January 9, 2010

Video: The Cloud: Broadcasting the Climate of Humanity

An intriguing architectural concept and bold aesthetics, but I ask, will anyone be willing to actually go up and inhabit the space? It looks horrifying. I also presume it is ridiculously expensive. I admire their grassroots fund raising campaign idea but I don't see how they will raise the millions of dollars needed to make this a reality. Here's hoping their partnership with google will be both technical and financially beneficial. The architecture itself is fun, playful and creates a new dimension of urban building.

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January 8, 2010

Video: NL Architects - Dutch Profiles

Typical of the Dutch designers, the Amsterdam based, NL Architectscreate buildings with bold forms and an environmental sensitivity. This video highlights a few of their recent projects and the architecture firm's design philosophy through interviews with the partners.


January 7, 2010

Video: Magnus Larsson - Turning dunes into architecture

This is an amazing architectural concept. Vast in scope and with a functional and benificial goal this idea is a monumental undertaking while positively affecting the environment of Sub Saharan Africa. I am torn whether intervening with natural systems to this extent is actually a positive, however slowing desertification is an admirable goal that could improve the lives of millions. It would be amazing if the world would band together to support a project that is not directly benifiting the wealthy developed world. The organic forms produced create intriguing spaces and forms, while introducing trees and plants to this wall has many benifits to the area. This is definitely controvercial and has me thinking about so many issues. Is this even architecture? How much control do you have over the forms once they begin to grow? How do you stop them from growing indefinitely? What are your thoughts?

From TED.com:
Architecture student Magnus Larsson details his bold plan to transform the harsh Sahara desert using bacteria and a surprising construction material: the sand itself.

Architecture student Magnus Larsson wants to turn some of the most deserted and harsh landscapes on the planet into habitable structures. How? By turning loose sand dunes into solid architecture using bacteria. A team at UC Davis has been looking at the microorganism bacillus pasteurii to solidify the ground in earthquake-prone areas. As Larsson puts it, "All I did was to deliberately misapply their technology ... and to pump up the scale, and turn it into a 6,000-km-long wall that's made of sand and protects against sand."

After talking with Jason DeJong at UC Davis and with Stefano Ciurli, a b. pasteurii expert at the University of Bologna, Larsson put together a team at University College London to grow the bacteria and attempt to solidify sand. His Holcim Award-winning proposal is a complement to the Green Wall Sahara shelterbelt, being planted across the African continent. Larsson is now investigating how to bring the project to the next stage: a 1:1 scale prototype.
"One of the most interesting aspects of the project, I think, is that this solidified dunescape is created through a particularly novel form of‚'sustainable construction' -- that is, through a kind of infection of the earth."
Geoff Manaugh, BLDG BLOG

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January 6, 2010

Video: Knut Hamsun Center by Steven Holl Architects

Here is a short video of Steven Holl wandering his newly built Knut Hamsun Center in Hamarøy, Norway, waxing poetic on his design. It isn't the most polished video I've seen but its an interesting view of the interior and nice to hear Holl talking about the building. Still one of my favorite architects, his focus on phenomenology has inspired many of my own designs, particularly his use of light and material textures. I have yet to visit this building, or Norway, but it is high on my list of places to go while living in Europe.


January 2, 2010

A New Year Update

Happy new year, readers. Thanks for being a part of a wonderful year of writing, learning and sharing ideas. I appreciate all of the emails, comments and contributions I've received throughout 2009 and hopefully 2010 will see the site and community continue to grow. If there is anything you think would be a great addition to the site - content or site improvements - please send it along and I'll post it or integrate it into the site design.

I have also started a fund raising campaign with the goal of hiring a professional web designer to redesign the site to make it more intuitive and interactive. Specifically I would like a better way to find previous content and a smoother interface to search through and watch the posted videos. I am also aiming to pay the writers who contribute articles to Talkitect. As of now, Talkitect.com doesn't have a steady source of funding since the advertisements were removed from the site (they were annoying and didn't bring much revenue anyway). A small stream of revenue comes from our Amazon Associates program (please help by buying books and items from Amazon.com by following the links from this site), but not nearly enough to cover the costs of running the site and paying writers.  I would appreciate it if you would visit the following link and most importantly forward it to your friends, family, colleagues and contacts: http://www.indiegogo.com/Talkitect - feel free to post it to facebook, tweet it, email it to people, post to forums and any other way to get the word out there.

Lastly, The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity with a new freelance job, a trip to Paris
for the Holidays and working on future plans and ideas. Talkitect has been rather quiet, especially with written articles. I have a list of articles waiting to be written and should get some up over the coming weeks. There are also more videos I will be posting and a whole bunch of new photo albums on our connected Photo Site.

Don't forget to follow us with google friend connect (located on the left hand column), on twitter, and join the Talkitect Facebook Page. Also check out and subscribe to our Google Reader shared items page to see what we are reading.

Lucas Gray

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