We surfed into 2014 on a tidal wave of optimism. On New Year’s Day, James Bartolacci predicted trends in architecture and urban planning that sparkled with ambition and innovation, not to mention good ethics and integrity: resilient cities were the way forward, affordable housing would be reimagined, and the pedestrian realm would finally take priority over that of the automobile. Architects were thinking bigger than ever; these were truly exciting times.
Pretty soon though, the industry and its associated media was flooded with a familiar tide of controversy – there has been no shortage of provocation, politics and pretension, and all along we have been tracking the hot stuff, stoking the fires of debate.
Leave it to me to take you on a whirlwind tour (in four parts) of the highs and lows for architects this year, remembering all the while that where there are lessons to be learnt, even bad news is good news!
The American Folk Art Museum. Via Vanity Fair
No sooner had the dust settled after raucous NYE celebrations across Manhattan than the argument around the island’s civic landmarks was raging once again. Diller Scofidio + Renfro released final renderings of their proposal to expand the Museum of Modern Art, consigning the American Folk Art Museum and its distinctive façade to the history books.
As one museum was set to be “reduced to a memory”, the realization of another was just beginning: authorities in Helsinki reserved a plot of land for their very own Guggenheim. The only question remaining, then, was who should design it? Cue the architecture competition to end all architecture competitions…
Libeskind's Złota 44 Condominium. © Aldinger & Wolf
Meanwhile, Daniel Libeskind’s scythe-like luxury condo was topped out in Warsaw, with critics pointing out a glaring disparity between the firm’s good-looking CGIs and the distinctly plain-faced finished product. It was a form of dissent that superstar architects had to get used to in 2014: The ‘Render Vs. Reality’ fiasco would rear its ugly head time and again over the year ahead.
MoMA/PS1 Pavilion by The Living. Via Dezeen
As snow remained piled upon rooftops across the northern hemisphere, a timely report arrived from theEnergy and Buildings Journal — we were informed that white roofs may, in fact, be a lot ‘greener’ than green roofs. If this is to be believed, the prospects for 2014 just got a lot rosier for SANAA, Richard Meier, and even a certain Santiago Calatrava…
Green architecture also muscled in on the MoMA/PS1 Young Architect’s Program in New York City, as The Living won the right to realize their pavilion made from 100% organic bricks. Meanwhile, bikes were on the sustainable agenda in dear old Blighty: Norman Foster’s ambitious cycling highway for London was mooted to mixed reviews.
Workers toil into the night at a Sochi construction site. © Rob Hornstra.
Speaking of mixed reviews, the hastily constructed architecture for the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russiawas roundly mocked across the Twittersphere, while others leapt to the beach resort’s defense. The prospects for Sochi’s future are only marginally more precarious than that of the world’s tallest building,the Kingdom Tower, which began to rise from the desert sands of Jeddah.
Foster + Partner's 610 Lexington Avenue. Via Designboom
With the coming of spring, history was confronted by the future in New York: Norman Foster’s 610 Lexington Avenue broke ground, the skyscraper set to rub metallic shoulders with Mies Van der Rohe’s iconic Seagram Building.
On the Pacific coast, high rises were also the subject of heated debate — a trio of towers proposed for San Francisco’s downtown had readers debating the pros and cons of corporate mega development in a city that is known for sticking to its roots.
Zaha Hadid's Design Park, Seoul. Via Designboom
Half way around the world, there were more grand plans afoot — Zaha Hadid released renderings of hergargantuan Design Park complex in Seoul, South Korea. Whilst this outlandish proposal polarized opinions, one thing was certain: it would be nowhere near the most controversial moment of ZHA’s year…
Loafing about on the Thames... via Dezeen
April Fool’s Day came and went with nobody in the industry getting pranked too badly… or did it? Those reading reports on London’s new bread-shaped skyscrapers — designed to accompany the city’s Cheesegrater, Gherkin, and Can of Ham — may argue otherwise.
With the dark days of winter behind us, it was time to reflect on the dark side of architectural discourse:Katherine Wisniewski analysed Patrick Schumacher’s Facebook rant against political correctness in architecture, and we all sighed and tried to forget about the whole sorry affair.
Architect Eric Corey Freed labelled two-thirds of the profession cowards for our approach to sustainable design — which wouldn’t have hurt so badly if it wasn’t so close to the truth. Meanwhile, articles on 3D printing were being written almost as quickly as the printers themselves were printing — particularly in China, where 10 concrete houses were produced at a rate of one every 180 minutes… phew.
The 9/11 Memorial Museum. © Snøhetta.
Big news from the Big Apple came in May, as Norwegian rising stars Snøhetta saw one of their most scrutinized projects open to the public. Like many of the structures commissioned for Ground Zero, the 9/11 Memorial Museum was dealt its fair share of controversy and budget-bursting complications, but the project made it through the mire to fruition.
The Glasgow School of Art ablaze. Via The Daily Mail
Across the Pond, disaster struck: Charles Rennie Macintosh’s stunning Glasgow School of Art caught alight, the fire leaving the iconic building ‘battered and bruised, but not destroyed.’ The same could not be said of Norman Foster’s Harmon Hotel in Las Vegas, which was well and truly doomed to demolitionfollowing months of financial struggles and legal wrangling.
Moving south of the border, photographer Oscar Ruiz revealed ‘the line that divides us’: Rich and poor urban environments juxtaposed in Mexico City provided a shocking glimpse of how architecture can act as a powerful socio-political metaphor.
Rem speaks his mind in Venice. Via la Biennale di Venezia
The beginning of summer saw the beginning of the Venice Biennale, with everyone’s favourite architectural sensei, Rem Koolhaas, taking the reins as director for the industry’s most renowned exhibition. The Dutch maestro eschewed pretentious ‘archispeak,' instead breaking down a century of architecture into 15 basic elements, and asked us to re-examine each under the proverbial microscope.
BIG's resilient coastline for New York City. Via THE BIG ‘U’
Whilst Rem was delving into the more minute aspects of architectural design, BIG were thinking… well, big. Ex-OMA'er Bjarke Ingels’ firm was announced as one of the winners of Rebuild By Design, as New York City sought better ways to protect its exposed southern coastline and increase resilience in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Meanwhile, a few blocks north in central Manhattan, Architizer’s very own Marc Kushner launched another ambitious online project, FindAnArchitect.com, helping architects find new work and bringing clients an infinitely more accessible way to connect with the industry.
Estádio Maracanã. Via schlaich bergermann und partner
As temperatures continued to rise, all eyes were on Brazil for the planet’s premier sporting occasion of the year — or rather, every four years. The World Cup final was played out inside the extraordinary Maracana, recently subject to an overhaul by superstar stadium engineers Schlaich Bergermann und Partner.
Despite a terrifyingly tight schedule and fierce socio-political protests, the venues in Brazil were successfully completed in the end. Zaha Hadid will be wondering if the same can ever be said of her proposal for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic stadium, the subject of fierce criticism from a plethora of Japanese architects — the scaled-back design has not faired much better, and this one is set to rumble on well into 2015 and beyond…
Gehry presents his Toronto towers: only two of the trio survived the cut. Via The Telegram
Another architect scaling back proposals this month was a certain Frank O. Gehry, who got his rippling towers approved in Toronto after months of design amendments. Herzog and de Meuron will be hoping that their own condominium — envisioned for the banks of the Hudson River in Manhattan — does not require so much manipulation in the months to come.
Al Wakrah Stadium. Via Zaha Hadid Architects
If you thought Zaha must have used up her quota of controversy already this year, you couldn’t be more wrong: this time she had a bone to pick with the New York Review Of Books, suing over comments relating to the safety of workers on the site of the Al Wakrah stadium in Qatar. For better or worse, the spotlight never leaves the British-Iraqi architect…
Aspen Art Museum. Via ArchDaily
Substantially more serene news from the mountains of Aspen came in the form of Shigeru Ban’s new art museum, with its woven-basket façade and staggering scenery appearing in stark contrast to another snow sport resort: Sochi had become a ghost town just six months on from the Winter Olympics.
BioMuseo, Panama City. Via Inhabitat
As autumn closed in, the leaves turned a multitude of colors… much like Frank Gehry’s latest creation, completed in September and the subject of some truly scathing online reviews. The BioMuseo in Panama City, Gehry’s first project in South America, marked the beginning of a rollercoaster few weeks for the Canadian…
The High Line. Via ArchDaily
If Frank could do with a relaxing stroll to clear his head, I’d recommend a visit to the High Line in Manhattan, where the third and final phase was opened to high praise from the critics. The brainchild ofJames Corner and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the linear park stands as one of the greatest examples of urban design and adaptive reuse in recent times.
Gehry's retort. Via The Guardian
As autumn turned to winter, things got frosty in a media conference in Spain…
Frank Gehry cranked up the controversy — and his middle finger — when asked for his response to accusations that he produces “showy architecture.” The reporter involved listened on, open-mouthed, to Gehry’s assertion that “98% of everything built today is pure shit.” While many agreed with this sentiment, most felt the way in which it was communicated was a little on the brutal side. Regardless, the Internet rejoiced: His finger became an instant meme.
All told, it was a busy month for Frank — his flamboyant Fondation Louis Vuitton opened in Paris, and the redesigned Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington D.C. was finally approved by the Commission of Fine Arts.
The Everyman Theatre, Liverpool, UK. Via Dezeen
Meanwhile, the UK’s premier architectural award was scooped by Haworth Tompkins, who won the Sterling Prize with their beautifully considered renovation of the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool.
While the London-based firm were clear and deserved winners, there was no such clarity in the competition to design the Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki – no fewer than 1715 anonymous submissions were received, giving the jurors a real headache. More on this later…
The Museum of Narrative Art, Chicago. Via Archdaily
As the nights grew longer still, MAD Architects flirted with the Dark Side: their proposal for George Lucas’s Museum of Narrative Art in Chicago was unveiled to mixed reviews from Star Wars fans and architecture critics alike. The Force will awaken next year apparently, but Ma Yansong's red carpet reception may have to wait a little longer...
Sweeping gestures were all the rage this autumn, with the unveiling of BIG’s peeled-up plan for Smithsonian’s South Mall Campus and Herzog and de Meuron’s swooping design for the National Library of Israel.
One World Trade Center. Via Time
In the Big Apple, One World Trade Center finally opened, bringing to a close one of the most emotionally charged — not to mention bureaucratic — construction projects in the history of architecture. While this skyscraper stands as a towering ode to paranoia and compromise, at least it was completed in the end. The same could not be said of Calatrava’s epic Chicago Spire: the project was finally cancelled, leaving the Windy City with nothing to show for it but a huge hole in the ground.
Thomas Heatherwick's Garden Bridge, London, UK. Via Heatherwick Studio
As winter closed in, the jurors of Helsinki’s Guggenheim competition emerged from their huddle to announce the six finalists for the major art museum commission. The task of choosing a winner will be a more leisurely affair: we won’t find out the victor until June 2015.
Back in London, Thomas Heatherwick’s beautiful but contentious garden bridge proposal won approval from Westminster City Council, and work should begin on the Mayor’s pet project next year. More green schemes were afoot across the Atlantic, as James Corner Field Operations was entrusted with creating San Francisco’s very own ‘High Line’.
James Corner's Presidio Parklands, San Francisco. Via Dezeen
Finally, architects and product designers around the world scrambled to submit their entries for the 3rd annual A+ Awards — the definite global award program with 90+ categories and over 300 judges. The winners will be announced in the spring, so roll on 2015!
The Angry Architect