The search for “areas of outstanding urban beauty” is the theme of a novel photography competition run by Cabe (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment). You have until October to send a snap of your favourite bits of town. Little chance of winning of course, but I’ve nevertheless sent them one of our last visit to Saltaire, near Bradford.
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Ben Kelly, the architect of the Hacienda, has released this stunning pair of limited edition prints (above) of the legendary Mancunian club. They are not photos, nor paintings but digital renderings from a full-scale digital model being produced to celebrate its 25th anniversary. £600 each, £1000 the pair (via the excellent Cerysmatic Factory)
Desert cities, for a generation raised on dreams of Tatooine anyway, are far from a new idea, George Lucas’s sand planet drifted in on a dust clouds left behind by Frank Herbert’s Dune. Before that, authors such as Ray Bradbury and Kim Stanley Robinson mined the sands of Mars to create early environmental allegories that predicted Earth’s demise.
Lately, moreover, the fears of science fiction writers have given way to massive commercial enterprises on a scale that retains the capacity to dazzle. Desert cities from Dubai to Nevada continue to capture the imagination, perhaps because they appeal to both the something-out-of-nothing pioneer spirit and those with a desire to build eco-oasis for after the flood. Only today China announces its China-Vegas a 100 sq km “New World Resort City” in Inner Mongolia, although one presupposes that it will be the former model that will be constructed.
The picture above (via bldg) is from an exhibition entitled Out of Water | innovative technologies in arid climates at the University of Toronto and designed by Matsys, a design studio in San Francisco. Its founder, Andrew Kudless, regards the desert city as a new urban prototype. Here’s why:
“Although this science fiction novel sounded alien in 1965, the concept of a water-poor world is quickly becoming a reality, especially in the American Southwest. Lured by cheap land and the promise of endless water via the powerful Colorado River, millions have made this area their home. However, the Colorado River has been desiccated by both heavy agricultural use and global warming to the point that it now ends in an intermittent trickle in Baja California. Towns that once relied on the river for water have increasingly begun to create underground water banks for use in emergency drought conditions. However, as droughts are becoming more frequent and severe, these water banks will become more than simply emergency precautions.”
Sietch Nevada projects waterbanking as the fundamental factor in future urban infrastructure in the American Southwest. Sietch Nevada is an urban prototype that makes the storage, use, and collection of water essential to the form and performance of urban life. Inverting the stereotypical Southwest urban patterns of dispersed programs open to the sky, the Sietch is a dense, underground community. A network of storage canals is covered with undulating residential and commercial structures. These canals connect the city with vast aquifers deep underground and provide transportation as well as agricultural irrigation. The caverns brim with dense, urban life: an underground Venice. Cellular in form, these structures constitute a new neighborhood typology that mediates between the subterranean urban network and the surface level activities of water harvesting, energy generation, and urban agriculture and aquaculture. However, the Sietch is also a bunker-like fortress preparing for the inevitable wars over water in the region.
I’ve had a small break from blogging brought on in part by the absorbing nature of this summer’s Ashes cricket. I was at Lord’s yesterday to witness a classic day’s play. England broke through in the morning, only to be frustrated by some admirable Australian belligerence later on.
The old stadium, like the tenacity of the Australian cricketers, never fails to impress me and its redevelopment is something that I find fascinating. I sat in the lower level of the Compton Stand, and once again admired the way that the ground manages to combine so much tradition and so much of what is modern. So it with mixed feelings that I learn that soon the old stand could be no more. The Marylebone Cricket Club, the ground’s owners, has recently commissioned Herzog & de Meuron, the architectural practice responsible for Beijing’s Bird Nest and Munich’s Allianz Arena, to design a masterplan for the ground’s redevelopment.
According to a report in Building Design, the plan is to increase the ground’s capacity by 11,000 to 40,000, with the existing Compton, Edrich, Warner, Allen and Tavern stands supplanted by “lectern-style edifices”. While The Times recently reported that the plan will also incorporate several subterranean levels and possibly incorporate the Victorian railway tunnels that exist beneath the ground. There will be a new museum and indoor school, as well as a further redevelopment of the pavillion.
Herzog & de Meuron were also responsible for the transformation of Bankside Power Station into Tate Modern, as well as the gallery’s extension, which is proving controversial. The redevelopment of Lord’s, while not without precedent, the old ground has always embraced new architectural styles, might prove even more divisive, but at least the increased capacity might make it easier to get hold of elusive tickets.
To London on Friday to attend the private view of a rather unusual exhibition revolving around the furniture of arch-modernists Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret created for the Indian city of Chandigarh. Situated in P3, an enormous subterranean gallery beneath the University of Westminster, the exhibition tells the story of the timely rescue of furniture from the city’s public buildings created by the two cousins in the 1960s. Chandigarh, the administrative capital of both the Punjab and Haryana, was India’s first planned city and is home to several architectural projects by the two great Swiss architects.
The city is world renowned for its urban planning and building, but the pair also worked on the smaller details of public life, including many fine examples of modernist furniture. Over the years many of the original handmade pieces had fallen into disrepair and were being cast aside by the the city, or else being stolen and finding its way into foreign auction houses . Apparently the curators stumbled across several items being disposed of in the street and requested that they be allowed to save for posterity.
It’s a great exhibition, fittingly housed in the university’s former concrete construction hall. The examples of furniture differ greatly from our expectations of what constitutes modernist design: handmade, vernacular and largely constructed of wood. No two pieces are identical.
The hall also reconstructs a section of the city’s Palace of Justice, including a handsome spiral defendant’s dock. Much of the furniture on show is a reminder that we often fail to appreciate until we are threatened with its loss. Indeed, the Times of India has reported that now thathe t city’s heritage is being internationally recognised, the government has belatedly realised what’s been going on and issued an urgent directive instructing government departments “not sell or dispose of any heritage furniture to any person or agency.”
The Furniture of Chandigarh – Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, June 20 to July 12
P3, University of Westminster, 35 Marylebone Road, London Nw1 5LS
+44 (0)20 7911 5876
Castleford gets this spectacular S-shaped bridge over the River Aire.
+ Futher evidence of the “Berlinification” of London. Wayne Hemmingway, of RedorDead, proposes a “pop-up shop” to serve up outside City Hall.
+ Johann Hari lays into David Cameron and reminds that he once said his wife is “highly unconventional” because “she went to a day school.”
+ The New Socialism. Wired identifies the revival of the left.
+ How Harold Pinter loved cricket. Maybe that was the origin of his obsession with pauses.
As part of its Changing Cityscapes series, BBC News has invited former-Hacienda DJ Dave Haslam to ruminate on the transformation of his adopted city. The three-minute video is a characteristically thoughtful look at the city’s reinvention.
Here he is on the recently completed 47-story Beetham Tower, now the tallest in the city:
“I love the fact that its a reflection of that steel-grey Manchester sky: solid and quiet and solitary,” he says.
I’m a couple of clicks late on this, but I’ve just noticed that the 20th Century Society recently named Huddersfield’s Queensgate Market (above) as its Building of the Month. The Society, a charity which lobbies to protect modernist architecture, describes the market as “one of the finest post-war buildings in the north of England”. And so it is.
For the last few years I’ve had an ongoing debate with my Father about the beauty of Queensgate Market. Growing up in the 1950s, Dad has always been a lover of the town’s old Market Hall, which was demolished in 1957. I never got to see the old building, but I’ve some splendid memories of the newer market thanks to my Grandmother taking me there on Saturdays. It’s still got this amazing roof, comprised of an asymmetric lattice of concrete shells, that floods the place with natural light even on the most cloudy days. Believe you me those Pennie skies can be very overcast indeed.
Despite its unique architectural heritage, it’s the only building of its type in the UK, the local council is threatening to demolish the market to make way for a new development, that will build a new market hall, while adding a number of residential units and a department store to the mix.
Luckily a campaign to save the building is underway, led in part by the 20th Century Society and local conservationists. Here’s how Jon Wright, the Society’s senior case worker, sees it:
“It comes as a shock when a twentieth century building that is widely admired, not just by the Society or by architectural and design enthusiasts, but by the general public and its every day users, comes under threat. When the building in question is also listed, has a concrete roof structure unique in the country and contains extraordinary artwork, proposals for demolition seem outrageous.”
Work has just begun on the winning design, by Heatherwick Studio. The brushes in the picture (above) are actually pixels and can be pre-programmed to display several different designs. The symbolism seems wholly appropriate, mind, as if to say to the world that, honestly, we can clean up our mountains of debt.
Shenzhen, located north of Hong Kong, both fascinates and frightens me in equal measure. I’ve been writing about how the city is being used as a social laboratory to test the world’s most sophisticated city-wide surveillance system in the latest issue of Icon.
But it’s the recent competition to re-design its central business district that I’m linking to today. Steven Holl Architects actually won the competition, but it is the four towers (two of which are above) proposed by Rotterdam’s MVRDV that caught my eye. The towers, stacked precariously almost like a pile of books, provide shelter for large public spaces below. It’s an original and bold urban vision designed to encourage street life in Shenzhen: the soon-to-be surviellance capital of the world (via SpaceInvading).
I’m bound for Nottingham later this week for the Raditor Festival and Symposium, which will explore notions of the “wireless city” while looking at how the future of public space might be shaped. I’m chairing a panel on the “internet of things” with my friend and collegue Rob Van Kranenburg; as well at the architects Usman Haque and Holger Schnädelbach. It’s on at the Broadway Media Centre, January 15 at 10.15.
Here’s the offical blurb:
“Future visions on part of the technology developers are predicting a world where everything from fridge to toothbrush will be computerised, in which not only users are linked to data, but where also the world of physical objects will be networked in a complex system of information exchange. Based on technologies such as RFID (radio frequency identification tags), our environment would turn into a space of “ambient intelligence”, interlinking the physical world with that of data space.
Exploring this controversial development, the speakers will illustrate the alarming consequences this might have concerning issues of surveillance and privacy. At the same time, alternative concepts of empowerment from the artistic community will be presented.”
First pictures of the stunning Church of Santa Monica in Madrid by Vicens & Ramos Architects (right) / Björk sings No Limits by 2Unlimited / Japan plans to build a space elevator: 22,000 miles into space / A whole new meaning to the office treadmill / The extraordinary heroism of Witold Pilecki, the man who deliberately got himself arrested and sent to Auschwitz (via) / Nick Cave to write the score for the movie adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. But does The Road need a score? Silence would seem a more appropriate accompanyment to the end of the world / That the Bristol Sound is back. And Mark Stewart with it / That highbrow magazines are putting on sales despite the gloom
I’ve just returned to Graz in Austria on the second leg of a journey to Istanbul (and back) on the InterRail pass. I first visited over five years ago, a little before the city enjoyed its status as European City of Culture.
I am amazed that much more is not made of Graz. It’s surely one of the most overlooked cities in Europe. Its food is not only inexpensive but takes the best from both Germanic and Italian cultures,while adding delicious local ingredients, most notably pumpkin oil to the mix. Its architecture is both full of Baroque and Renaissance flourishes (the city is a former seat of the Hapsburg’s) set beside ambitious new buildings. Its both bourgeois and comfortably old fashioned, but since the sixties has been a centre for the Austrian avante gard, while as many as six universities give the city a youthful appearance. It is, moreover, large enough to explore and extremely cultured, and yet unlike Vienna, it doesn’t take itself incredibly seriously and, unlike Salzburg, it isn’t packed with tourist coaches. I don’t know why Graz is so often overlooked, it deserves a much better reputation
Of course, more prestige would probably only spoil it as it is perfect as it is.
Mike Davis, author of the entirely precient City of Quartz, is back. His new essay. Living on the Ice Shelf: Humanity’s Meltdown makes a devastating critique of global climate change policy. Davis singles out the “supercharged” Gulf States, such as Dubai, as laying the heaviest carbon footprint on the planet, even though the wealth it has generated is patently failing to trickle down. He predicts trouble ahead (via).
“And what if growing environmental and social turbulence, instead of galvanizing heroic innovation and international cooperation, simply drive elite publics into even more frenzied attempts to wall themselves off from the rest of humanity? Global mitigation, in this unexplored but not improbable scenario, would be tacitly abandoned (as, to some extent, it already has been) in favor of accelerated investment in selective adaptation for Earth’s first-class passengers. We’re talking here of the prospect of creating green and gated oases of permanent affluence on an otherwise stricken planet.”
Subversive architecture: the growing practice of taking over public spaces in order to make political points. The name is derived from the Office for Subversive Architecture, a small practice in Berlin. Among their many projects is a recently installed “viewing platform” designed to help you look over the wall onto the site of the London Olympics (Flickr photoset here).
Also in London is the work of Bruno Taylor (left), who recently installed a swing in a bus stop (video here) at Exmouth Market in Clerkenwell. Behind the visual gags of both projects is a serious attempt to improve the life, no mater how temporarily, of city dwellers. Also working to similar ends is the Polish artist-known-only-as “Truth” who adorns (often abandoned) buildings with a three-dimensional graffiti made from blocks of polystyrene. Like the movement of Guerrilla Gardeners before them, these artists seek to offer a wry commentary on city life by deploying the tactics of the graffti artist and a political theory clearly influenced bt Situationist International of the late 1950s.