May 24, 2011

Video: Worst 5 Buildings in Toronto, Canada

To follow up on the earlier post highlighting the top 5 buildings in Toronto, as selected by architecture critic Christopher Hume, here is his list for the worst 5 buildings in Toronto from the last century.

Number 5 - The Four Seasons Performing Arts Center:

Number 4 - The Toronto Life Square Building:

Number 3 - Ted Rogers School of Management:

Number 2 - BeBloor Condo:

Number 1 - Trump Tower:

Well there are definitely some ugly buildings in Toronto. I always wonder what clients choose to settle for mediocrity or worse - I guess Donald Trump is one. Furthermore, what architects have such little integrity to give it to them?

- The source:

May 23, 2011

Video: Top 5 buildings in Toronto, Canada

Chris Hume, the architecture critic from The Star in Toronto, offers his list of top 5 buildings in Toronto from the 21st century. Soon to follow is his 5 worst list...

Number 5 - The Pier Spirit Condo:

Number 4 - George Brown School of Culinary Arts:

Number 3 - Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at the ROM:

This one I wholeheartedly disagree with.

Number 2 - Maple Leaf Square:

A surprising choice.

Number 1 - RBC Dexia Tower / The Ritz-Carlton:

Another surprise and definitely leaves one to wonder why all the projects chosen are large scale developments.

- The source:

May 21, 2011

Slideshow: Copenhagen Concert Hall - by Jean Nouvel - Copenhagen, Denmark

Above are a few pictures I snapped of the Copenhagen Concert Hall by Jean Nouvel before my camera inconveniently ran out of batteries. I can't say I adore this building, as the large blue screen tends to make this feel like a monolithic alien object in the otherwise flat landscape. I would have preferred to see the form the theaters and other functions within would have necessitated rather than an abstract blue cube. It would be interesting to revisit this building in a couple years when the community around it has been further developed, as now it sits awkwardly at the edge of an empty field looking more like a construction site than a lively neighborhood.

May 8, 2011


BIG, Martha Schwartz Landscape, Buro Happold , Speirs & Major, Lutzenberger & Lutzenberger, and Global Cultural Asset Management are today announced as the winning team of the international design competition for a new 27.000 m2 cultural complex in Albania, consisting of a Mosque, an Islamic Centre, and a Museum of Religious Harmony.

The capital Tirana is undergoing an urban transformation which includes the restoration and refurbishment of existing buildings, the construction of a series of new public and private urban structures, and the complete reconceptualization of Scanderbeg Square. This important square is the site of the new cultural complex that will consist of a Mosque, an Islamic Centre, and a Museum of Religious Harmony.

Albania is the crossroads of three major religions: Orthodox Christianity; Catholicism; and Islam. With the recent completion of two new churches, all three religions will now have new places of worship in the heart of Tirana. The complex will not only serve the Muslim community of the city and surrounding areas, but will educate the public about Islamic values and serve as a beacon for religious tolerance.

BIG’s winning entry was selected out of five finalists, including Spanish Architect Andreas Perea Ortega, Architecture Studio from France, Dutch SeARCH and London-based Zaha Hadid.

The winning proposal was chosen for its ability to create an inviting public space flexible enough to accommodate daily users and large religious events, while harmonically connecting with the Scanderbeg square, the city of Tirana and its citizens across different religions. Additionally the project shines through its beautiful garden surrounding the new Mosque and Center of Islamic Culture which symbolically features the rich vegetation described in Islamic literature. Finally the team’s awareness of the economic aspects of this important development will contribute to a successful realization of this project.” Mayor of Tirana, Edi Rama.

The buildings’ forms emerge from two intersecting axes and formal requirements: the city grid of Tirana which calls for the proper framing of the square and a coherent urban identity, and orientation of the Mosque’s main wall towards Mecca. BIG’s proposal incorporates Tirana’s grid by maintaining the street wall and eaves line, yet rotates the ground floor so both the Mosque and the plaza face the holy city of Islam. This transformation also opens up a series of plazas—two minor ones on the sides of the Mosque and a major plaza with a minaret in front—which are semi-covered and serve as an urban extension of the place of worship. By turning the mosque inside out and bringing the program and qualities of the Mosque to a public arena, the religion becomes inclusive and inviting, and the cool shaded urban space can be shared by all.

“This project is very significant for us for two reasons: Firstly it is a privilege to contribute to the ambitious rejuvenation of Tirana City – especially since it is happening not by the random accumulation of singular monuments – but rather in accordance with a careful and considerate holistic master plan. Secondly and perhaps most importantly –religious tolerance is one of our greatest challenges today– politically, culturally and even urbanistically. With the construction of the New Mosque of Tirana, The Islamic Center and The Museum of Religious Harmony – Tirana will reestablish the equilibrium by adding a mosque to the newly completed Orthodox and Catholic Cathedrals – making Tirana an example for the rest of the world as a global capital of religious harmony”, Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner of BIG.

The mosque can accommodate up to 1,000 people performing their daily prayers. Through the unique layout of courtyards and public space, the mosque can also expand to accommodate larger groups of 5,000 on Fridays and up to 10,000 on special holy days. The facade with the multitude of rational, rectangular windows finds its inspiration in Islamic mashrabiya screens, which provide shading and privacy while still allowing views out. The light qualities of the mosque will change dramatically throughout the day as the light washes across the curved facades.

“The alignment towards Mecca solves the dilemma inherent in the master plan – in its triangular layout the mosque was somehow tugged in the corner – now it sits at the end of the plaza – framed by its two neighbors. The resultant architecture evokes the curved domes and arches of traditional Islamic architecture – for both the mosque itself and the semi-domed spaces around it”, Thomas Christoffersen, Partner-in-Charge, BIG.

The design also includes The Quran Gardens containing all of the plants mentioned in the Quran in the same amount as the number of times they appear in the holy scripture.

PROJECT “A Mosque for All” New Mosque, Islamic Cultural Center, and Museum of Religious Harmony
TYPE Invited Competition
CLIENT Municipality of Tirana, Albanian Muslim Community
Martha Schwartz Landscape, Buro Happold , Speirs & Major, Lutzenberger & Lutzenberger, and Global Cultural Asset Management
SIZE 27000 m2
LOCATION Tirana, Albania
STATUS 1st Prize
DATE May 2nd 2011
Partner-in-Charge: Bjarke Ingels, Thomas Christoffersen
Project Leader: Leon Rost
Project Team: Marcella Martinez, Se Yoon Park, Alessandro Ronfini, Daniel Kidd, Julian Nin Liang, Erick Kristanto, Ho Kyung Lee

For further information regarding the competition:


May 6, 2011


(May 3, 2011, New York, NY) —Designers & Books ( a newly launched website that celebrates the special and robust relationship between designers and books, is growing steadily, with contributions, to date, by 70 of the most important names in the world of architecture and design. Featuring lists of books that inspire the world’s esteemed designers, the unique site offers a highly personal look at the books that have shaped their values, their worldview, and also their ideas about design.

New designers and book lists are added every Tuesday, giving visitors an important reason to check back often. Contributors include luminaries from every discipline—architecture, interiors, product, graphic, fashion, and urban design—among them Shigeru Ban, Michael Bierut, Tim Brown, Norman Foster, Milton Glaser, Jessica Helfand, Steven Holl, George Lois, Stefan Sagmeister, John Maeda, Isaac Mizrahi, Massimo Vignelli, Eva Zeisel, and more. The site also features a commentators section with essays and book lists by well-known curators and critics – from architecture critic Witold Rybczynski to fashion curator Valerie Steele.

“Designers read books, write them, design them, collect them, learn from them and are inspired by them,” said Designers & Books founder and Editor-in-Chief, Steve Kroeter, “and this creates a special relationship that deserves attention. Designers & Books is an opportunity to explore and reflect upon the books that have been personally meaningful, important and formative to esteemed designers from an array of disciplines.” In doing so, the site offers an addictive, fascinating look into creativity, innovation, and the process of thinking and making.

The site’s latest addition, an essay entitled "Books Every Architect Should Read: Seeing Things as You Have Never Seen Them Before"by noted New Yorker Architecture Critic Paul Goldberger, is both a beautiful meditation on the books that have inspired one of today’s leading voices on architecture and, together with his book list, is a master class for architects and aficionados alike.

“If architectural guidebooks as a genre can bring you closer to the reality of architecture than most other kinds of books, they nonetheless make only the barest beginning of a basic reading list,” states Goldberger. “Architecture, after all, is about everything—it is a product of culture and money and politics as well as aesthetics, and sometimes there is more insight about architecture to be found in books that are ostensibly about something else.”

This statement rings true throughout the site -- with books ranging from classic texts such as Complexity & Contradiction in Architecture (the book cited on the most lists) by Robert Venturi (whose own list appears on the site as well) and Paul Rand’s Thoughts on Design to literary works such as Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace and Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, about which Goldberger asks, “Can any work of architectural history provoke you to think about the relationship between the physical form of the city and the social life that goes on within it as powerfully?”

Inspirational, educational, and useful, the site allows visitors to make their own digital book lists, and includes a list of booksellers with a particular expertise or interest in design books. A valuable resource and an important addition to today’s design dialogue, Designers & Books also says as much about reading as it does about design.

In a specially commissioned essay by Maryanne Wolf, a professor at the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University, entitled “You Are What You Read,” Wolf observes that “our continuously increasing knowledge in the cognitive neurosciences teaches us that we are the sum of what and how and why we read,” telling us that the dynamics of the human brain enable books to have an impact on us far beyond what we might imagine.

Upcoming lists will soon post by graphic designers Pierre Bernard, Erik Spiekermann, Wim Crouwel, Joshua Darden, and Chip Kidd; architects Cesar Pelli, Enrique Norten, Moshe Safdie, Sou Fujimoto, and Deborah Berke; landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburgh and Deborah Nevins; car designer Chris Bangle; fashion designer Stephen Burrows; interior designers Rose Tarlow and Penny Drue Baird; and in the commentators section, curators Barry Bergdoll, Ellen Lupton, and Zoe Ryan, Alberto Alessi, Anita de la Rosa de Berrizbeitia, and Sheila Danko.

Designers & Books was designed by Lisa Strausfeld at Pentagram.
Press Contact: Sarah Natkins @ Culture & Commerce, inc.
+1 212 842 1509 /

May 2, 2011

Gallery Opening: Tight Urbanism an exhibition by Daniel Toole | May 11


Tight Urbanism
A study of alleyway architecture in the U.S., Australia, and Japan by Daniel Toole, 2010 AIA Seattle Emerging Professionals Travel Scholarship recipient.

Opening reception
Wednesday, May 11, 5-7PM

AIA Seattle in Belltown - 1911 First Ave. Seattle, WA 98101
Exhibit runs through July 1

AIA Seattle’s Design Gallery will feature an exhibit by AIA Seattle Emerging Professionals Travel Scholarship recipient Daniel Toole Assoc. AIA. Daniel travelled to San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Melbourne, Sydney, Kyoto, and Tokyo - cities that continue to transform their alley networks – to study the potentially vibrant in-between spaces of the built environment. The exhibit will connect Daniel’s findings to the less-travelled paths of Seattle’s own abundant alleyways.

Showing May 11-July 1 and utilizing several mediums, including photographs, sketches, video, and physical models, the exhibit is mounted on shipping pallets and casters to keep it mobile and modular. After its run at AIA Seattle, the exhibit will be displayed in situ in alleys throughout the city to catalyze development in these spaces. The first such display will be in Canton Alley in the International District, on Saturday, July 16.

In conjunction with the exhibit will be two walking tours ( June 25 & August 27 ) coordinated by the Seattle Architecture Foundation, a small independent booklet launch, and various community events.

The AIA Seattle Emerging Professionals Travel Scholarship seeks to expand the experience and leadership opportunities of young professionals, encourage cross-cultural dialogue in the profession, and share knowledge from architecture practice around the globe with members in Puget Sound. It is supported by generous contributions from AIA Seattle members. More information about the scholarship is available here.

Congratulations to Dan on recently winning this year’s Cavin Fellowship as well. He will be continuing his research into ‘tight urbanism’ throughout the Mediterranean and Northern Europe this fall.

For more information check out Daniel Toole's blog: Alleys of Seattle
or the gallery website:

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