June 23, 2010

Video: Discussion with Cameron Sinclair and Carol Coletta

This is an interesting discussion with Cameron Sinclair of Architecture for Humanity and Carol Coletta of CEOs for Cities, that touches on many important aspects facing our society and architecture's role in the built environment.

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June 21, 2010

Slideshow: US Federal Courthouse - by Morphosis - Eugene, Oregon

I was only able to take a few images of the exterior of The US Federal Courthouse in Eugene, Oregon - unfortunately they don't allow photos of the interior. This building, designed by Thom Mayne's firm Morphosis, is a strange design considering the urban context in which it sits. Eugene is a small city that doesn't seem a logical place for flashy architecture featuring flowing titanium curves. Add that to the fact the building sits in a relatively undeveloped area adjacent to the downtown and it doesn't really add much to the urban fabric of the city. It would have been more appropriate to build this in one of the many vacant lots in the downtown core - bringing more people and activity to a city center that could really use a boost. However, this is more a criticism of the urban planning of Eugene than the building itself. As for the design, I can't say I am particularly captivated by the form and haven't been inside to experience the function of the spaces. I have heard that the interior design of the courtrooms is fantastic. The skin material also offers some amazing qualities, particularly at dusk when the colors of the sunset light the building on fire. The semi reflective gray metal also seems to blend in well with the moody blues and grays of the long wet Oregon winters.

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June 17, 2010

Ozeaneum - designed by Behnisch Architekten - Is 2010 European Museum of the Year

A few weeks ago I visited the Ozeaneum in Stralsund, Germany - a couple hours train ride from Berlin. It was actually a recommendation to visit the city of Stralsund that prompted the trip yet the rainy weather lead us to search out indoor activities. Tucked away on the harbor front between old brick warehouses and boats selling various friend fish was this twisting, flowing white form - a contemporary architectural icon disrupting the historic city fabric. Completely uneducated about the project or the architect behind the design - Behnisch Architekten - we ventured inside to explore the aquarium and education center dedicated to the Baltic and North Seas. Despite the elaborate curves that echo of a Frank Gehry design, and my bias against such architecture, the interior was quite enjoyable.

The circulation, moving up and down flying escalators, ramps, bridges and stairs is creative and adventurous - leading to unknown exhibitions and offering unique views down through the atrium and into the city beyond. However, I found the actual exhibition spaces much less successful. With almost no natural light and only small electric lights highlighting individual displays, the interior became a dark unpleasant space - particularly in the first gallery space. The aquarium displays were much more successful, particularly when the twists of the building lead to unexpected windows offering great perspectives down the narrow city streets. Finally the exhibits give way to the climax of the museum, a 3 or 4 story high cylinder with life-size models of whales suspended down the space. Guests are invited to recline on lounges in the bottom and stare up at the animals as a light show and presentation (in German) immerses you in oceanic life. This was actually a great disappointment, other than a chance to sit and relax for a few minutes - the drama of the space was ruined by the fake looking models of whales.

All in all I think it was an interesting building. The atrium was fantastic, circulation was successful and the the twisting form of the facade was a dramatic departure from the historic brick city and evoked images of sails and white tipped waves. However the actual exhibit spaces were a little forced and less effective. Regardless of its downfalls, the building recently won the 2010 European Museum of the Year award. Below is the press release with more information about the project, award and firm.


Stralsund, Germany - Ozeaneum, the German Oceanographic Museum, designed by Behnisch Architekten, is the winner of the European Museum of the Year Award for 2010. Opened in 2008, the sleekly modern Ozeaneum sits at a harbor promenade astride the Baltic Sea in the north German port city of Stralsund. A striking new landmark, the museum complex’s white façade, clean and elegant lines, and light-filled atrium contrast, yet complement, the historic warehouses and centuries-old buildings in the surrounding neighborhood.

Ozeaneum was among 22 museums competing for this year’s European Museum of the Year honor, which has been given annually since 1977 by the non-profit European Museum Forum (EMF). EMF Chair Dr. Mikhail Gnedovsky said, “The main award goes to a museum that contributes most directly to attracting and satisfying its visitors with unique atmosphere, imaginative interpretation and presentation, creative approach to education, and social responsibility.” Ozeaneum director, Dr. Harald Benke, accepted the award on May 22nd during EMF’s recent conference in Tampere, Finland.

Previous recipients of this top prize include Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Danish National Museum in Copenhagen, and Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Candidates for European Museum of the Year are new museums—established within three years prior to the Awards year—and older museums completely renovated during the same period.

“Creating Ozeaneum was a great challenge — and a great pleasure,” says Stefan Behnisch, Hon. FAIA, BDA, RIBA, principal partner of Behnisch Architekten. "We are delighted that EMF recognized it with this important honor.”

An international architecture competition to design Ozeaneum was originally won in 2002 by Behnisch & Partner, led by architect Günter Behnisch, Stefan Behnisch’s father. Planning his retirement, the elder Behnisch entrusted the project to his son’s well-established firm Behnisch Architekten. Work broke ground in 2006, with construction completed two years later.

Behnisch Architekten’s design encompasses a special Greenpeace-sponsored display of “Giants of the Sea”, large aquaria, and interactive exhibitions about the Baltic Sea, the world’s oceans, and marine research. The architect’s aim “to echo the rough nature and fluid motion of the sea” is understood viewing Ozeaneum’s exterior — reminiscent of billowed sails in an ocean breeze — flow around the façades of the exhibition and aquarium sections. Fluid and unified, the Behnisch Architekten designed museum complex visually and functionally supports Ozeaneum’s stated intent to be "a declaration of love to the oceans that visualizes a fascinating underwater journey through Northern Seas.”


Behnisch Architekten - previously known as Behnisch, Behnisch & Partner — is a leader in creating distinctive architectural solutions that are environmentally sustainable. The Stuttgart, Germany - originated architecture, landscape architecture, and planning firm maintains additional offices in Munich, as well as in Los Angeles, CA, and Boston, MA. Stefan Behnisch, Hon. FAIA, RIBA, BDA, is principal partner, along with partners David Cook, RIBA, and Martin Haas, BDA, in both Germany offices, Robert Hösle in Munich, Christof Jantzen, AIA, LEED AP, in Los Angeles, and Matt Noblett, AIA, in Boston.

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June 16, 2010

Video: Interview with Cameron Sinclair - Architecture for Humanity

Cameron Sinclair, the founder of Architecture for Humanity, has started to shift the focus of the architecture and it's image. His dedication to working for humanitarian causes as a not for profit organization has humbled what had previously been a Starchitect worshiping egotistical profession, particularly as covered in the media. This organization not only creates outstanding, award winning designs, through their collaborations with firms from around the world, but they also directly affect the lives of people who normally wouldn't have access to architectural services - people who's lives are dominated by natural disasters, war, poverty, disease. It is an unbelievably noble cause and one we should all participate in throughout our careers. What makes this interview and other presentations by Mr. Sinclair so amazing is his passion, his dedication to this cause. It is inspiring. This interview with Mr. Sinclair was conducted by the fabulous people at Arch Daily.
Part II:

For more information or to get involved go the their website: http://architectureforhumanity.org/
Also check out their fantastic book: Design Like You Give A Damn
This interview was cunducted by the fantastic site Arch Daily: www.archdaily.com

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June 15, 2010

Geoff Manaugh (of BLDG BLOG) Resident of the CCA's Study Center

Montréal, 3 June 2010 — The Canadian Centre for Architecture is pleased to welcome Geoff Manaugh as a resident of the CCA’s Study Centre for two months. He is the well known architectural blogger of the hugely popular BLDGBLOG and author of the BLDGBLOG Book. As a resident of the Study Centre, he will explore the archives, the collections, programs, and events to post a regular stream of new content specifically for the CCA website.

Manaugh's collaboration with the CCA until July 31st 2010 will add a certain character, perspective and pitch to our content, as he has agreed to co-publish and link CCA content with his own BLDGBLOG site. On the website itself, Geoff will live within a series called ‘To CCA, From...’ a series in the Study Centre we’re creating for critics and thinkers. Recent residents have included Axel Sowa (L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, 2008) and Sina Najafi (Cabinet, 2009).

Geoff Manaugh is the author of BLDGBLOG and The BLDGBLOG Book, a former senior editor of Dwell magazine, and contributing editor at Wired UK. In addition to lecturing on a broad range of architectural topics at design schools and museums around the world, from Turin to Melbourne, he has taught design studios at Columbia University, the Pratt Institute, and the University of Technology, Sydney. Manaugh has organized events at Storefront for Art and Architecture, the Architectural Association, the Chicago Humanities Festival, the California College of the Arts, and many more, and he continues to write freelance articles for publications such as GOOD, Icon, Volume, Domus, and many websites. In spring 2010, with Nicola Twilley, he co-curated the exhibition Landscapes of Quarantine, an ARTFORUM Editor’s Pick, at Storefront for Art and Architecture. He is curating the exhibition Landscape Futures at the Nevada Museum of Art, which will open in autumn 2011.
Inaugurated in September 1997, the CCA’s Study Centre is an international institute devoted to advanced research on architecture, its history and theory. The Study Centre aims at fostering scientific exchange, debate, and the emergence of innovative ideas. It offers a program of seminars, lectures, and other research activities intended to create and maintain a forum of exchange for CCA visiting scholars, professionals, the academic community and the public.

The CCA Study Centre provides grants to many researchers, between 30 and 50 every year, including graduate students and independent researchers, and since the launch of the CCA’s new website in 2009, most of them have written "Scholar's Choice" posts on objects in the Collection. This represents part of the CCA’s effort to explore the collection publicly.

The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) is an international research centre and museum founded in 1979 on the conviction that architecture is a public concern. Based on its extensive collections, the CCA is a leading voice in advancing knowledge, promoting public understanding, and widening thought and debate on the art of architecture and its history, theory, practice and role in society today. The Canadian Centre for Architecture acknowledges the Ministère de la Culture, des Communications et de la Condition féminine, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts de Montréal.

For more information visit the CCA website: www.cca.qc.ca


I have followed the writings of Geoff Manaugh for a while now and am impressed by the blend of architecture, science, fiction, and unique perspectives on our built environment, landscapes and culture. His ideas, research and posts force us to confront new views on our society and the world we inhabit. I look forward to following his posts as he delves into the archives of the Canadian Center for Architecture.

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June 14, 2010

Slideshow: Fallingwater - by Frank Lloyd Wright - Mill Run, Pennsylvania, USA

Fallingwater is a must visit for anyone interested in architecture. Photographs of the interior weren't allowed but I did manage to capture some nice exterior views of Frank Lloyd Wright's modernist masterpiece. It was one of the few buildings that surpassed all expectations, which is surprising considering the praise and hype surrounding this American classic.

And just for some fun, check out this Lego set of Fallingwater

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June 8, 2010

Video: Interview with José Mª García Sánchez

Studio Banana TV interviews José María García Sánchez, author of the sports activities center in the Tajo river basin, Caceres, Spain.

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June 7, 2010

Slideshow: Ontario College of Art and Design - by Will Alsop - Toronto, Canada

A controversial design, but innovative none the less. Will Alsop has given Toronto a bold icon - a contemporary looking box floating high above an old brick buildings, supported by crayon like colored columns. It is fun, playful and rather fitting for an art college. However, I haven't been inside to see how the interior works. I have heard mixed reviews of the studio space and wonder why there aren't larger windows revealing what must be an amazing view of the Toronto skyline.

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June 3, 2010

Book Review: LEED Materials - A Resource Guide to Green Building

LEED Materials: A Resource Guide to Green Building, by Ari Meisel, is a comprehensive guide to innovative new materials aimed to reduce the environmental impact of building construction. Divided into nine categories reflecting the various stages of the construction cycle, each material is described in detail, highlighting the sustainable features and where or how it can be used. The descriptions also mention how the material can help a project earn LEED credits and ultimately lead to a higher LEED rating. Furthermore, and probably most useful, the guide offers contact information for manufacturers of each product in order find out more information, get Specification details and research the cost.

In general, I would recommend this book as a useful reference to have in the Library of a firm, especially one just starting out and looking for material suppliers. It would also be useful in university settings as students start exploring materiality and tectonics of architecture. It offers a straight forward, albeit simple, analysis of each material. This works as a way to get a brief understanding of the benefits and some drawbacks, while requiring a more in depth study to fully understand the material and its costs.

- LEED Materials: A Resource Guide to Green Building by Ari Meisel
Published by the Princeton Architectural Press
ISBN 978-56898-885-6

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