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IBM at 100: How Big Blue helped redefine corporate architecture

Led by IBM President Thomas Watson Jr., Big Blue’s building boom cemented IBM’s role as design patron

In the mid-20th century, as the U.S. asserted its role as global economic powerhouse, architecture provided the perfect outlet for companies like IBM to define their corporate identity.

Between 1956 and 1971, IBM constructed approximately 150 plants, labs and office buildings around the world. The building boom was orchestrated by IBM President Thomas Watson Jr. and architect and industrial designer Eliot Noyes, who commissioned many of the period’s greatest architects, graphic designers and artists to do work for Big Blue.

Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames, Paul Rand and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe are among the designers whose work cemented IBM’s role as a leading patron of modern design and architecture, beginning in postwar America and continuing into the 1980s.

IN PICTURES: IBM’s greatest architectural gems

“There were other corporations that were also focusing on design quality and using buildings to express their corporate culture, but it’s fair to say that IBM was a vanguard. It was really the scope and ambition of IBM’s efforts that stood out,” says Martin Moeller, senior vice president and curator of the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

This period in IBM’s 100-year history — the company is celebrating its centennial anniversary this week — started with a walk down Fifth Avenue in New York. As the story goes, Watson Jr. saw the showroom of Italian office equipment maker Olivetti and was impressed by its cohesive approach to industrial design, graphic design and architecture. Watson Jr. wanted the same for IBM. He recruited Noyes to develop a corporate design program, and Saarinen was the first architect hired.

Saarinen had just completed the landmark General Motors Technical Center, a sprawling corporate campus built around a manmade lake in Warren, Mich. Saarinen adopted fabrication techniques and industrial materials from GM’s assembly lines. For instance, instead of traditional caulking to seal the buildings’ windows, Saarinen specified Neoprene gaskets similar to those GM used for car windshields.

His first building for IBM — a research and manufacturing facility in Rochester, Minn., with sweeping expanses of blue-hued glass — likewise is an expression of modern architecture and modern science. “It was architecturally advanced in the same way that the new IT technologies were technologically advanced,” says Donald Albrecht, curator of architecture and design at the Museum of the City of New York.

Saarinen’s work for GM and IBM epitomizes what many U.S. corporations were trying to achieve during that period: a forward-thinking image, conveyed through progressive architecture. Edward Durrell Stone’s PepsiCo world headquarters in Purchase, N.Y., is another example.

“There’s this feeling from around 1945 to the mid-’60s,” Albrecht says. “As the United States is confirmed as a global power and as American business becomes, in a sense, our ambassador overseas, the question was how we would present ourselves as a modern, technologically advanced, economic powerhouse. Architecture was one way that was done.”

Continue reading at the source:  Network World

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The Jewels of Aoyama – Today’s featured project

A project by: Jun Mitsui & Associates Inc. Tokyo, Japan

This project is a formation of two different buildings; the main building has a limestone curtainwall façade of slit-windows that angles rhythmically like a folding screen, and in contrast to this, the smaller corner building is an entirely glass volume.  Together with its very prominent neighboring building, Prada, the buildings form a core complex for the Miyuki Dori area.  The corner building, surrounded by its larger neighbors, is set off as a centerpiece and creates a very strong identity for the complex as a whole and for the Minami Aoyama area as well.

The different appearance of the two buildings helps to enhance their relationship; the main building’s limestone façade creates a cohesive background to contrast with the entirely glass surfaces of the corner building, while also revealing activity of the shops behind through its slit windows.  By dividing the project into two buildings, this provided the opportunity to create an open plaza space in the center.  This space creates an extra circulation zone at this central intersection, pulling people through the complex, and making a dynamic space at the tenant’s entry space.  As people pass through, the intent is to evoke a response through the impact of the building design, and create interest in entering. 

Set beside the stoic blue crystal volume of the Prada building, the warm yellow limestone façade changes with the moving perspective as people walk by.   With this contrast, the intent is to ultimately compliment the surrounding buildings by creating an animated street experience.

Source:  Architizer – see more photos

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Steve Jobs Is Building A Giant Spaceship In California


Steve Jobs gave a speech to the Cupertino City Council to get approval for a new Apple campus. It looks like “a spaceship just landed there,” Jobs said. 

And indeed it’s a very ambitious thing. It’s one giant building that would hold 12,000 people. The building is circular with “not a straight piece of glass”–all curved. 

It’s also interesting to see Jobs in “pitch mode” outside of the regular keynote speech setting. He’s much more low-key, because he knows the city council can screw his project if they want to. He’s still salesy, but doesn’t use words like “magical” or “insanely great.”

And yet you can see his tough streak. When a council member asks if Apple plans to give the city free wi-fi, he says: “We’re the largest taxpayers in Cupertino, so we’d like to continue to stay here and pay taxes,” which is like the perfect veiled threat. We wonder if that’s how meetings go at Foxconn.  

Other highlights:

  • The campus would use its own natural gas generator as its primary source of power and the city’s power grid only as a backup. Weird.
  • The building includes an auditorium for conferences, and Jobs suggests that’s where Apple could hold its big events instead of renting out space in San Francisco.
  • Apple wants to break ground next year, and move in in 2015.

We put together a slideshow of pictures and charts about the amazing new campus. Click through for the pictures and the video of Steve Jobs’ pitch.

Jobs presentation to Cupertino board

Continue reading and viewing images at Business Insider

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Ravensbourne by Foreign Office Architects

The new Ravensbourne campus, a university sector college innovating in digital media and design, at London’s Greenwich Peninsula was just recently one of the winners in the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Awards 2011 (previously on Bustler). From a shortlist of 55 schemes, Ravensbourne’s building, designed by Foreign Office Architects, won through in the education and community category. Only recently, Ravensbourne has moved fromLondon’s suburb Chislehurst to this new building next to The O2, formerly known as the Millennium Dome.

Ravensbourne’s new building in Penrose Way opened to students at the end of October 2010 following a £70 million investment including £3.5 million from the London Development Agency (LDA), £5.5 million from the Department for Communities and Local Government and further investment from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), Greenwich Council, Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Skills Funding Agency. The European Development Fund also provided £1.5 million to create low carbon incubator space, incorporating new technologies and a suite of environmentally sustainable features. Ravensbourne had been based in Chislehurst in Bromley since 1976.

Professor Robin Baker OBE, Director of Ravensbourne said: “We are delighted that Ravensbourne’s new building is a winner in this prestigious awards scheme. We are very proud of our stunning new campus, and for it to be recognised in this way confirms the quality and ingenuity of Foreign Office Architects’ design. This new building has positively transformed Ravensbourne, enabling us to develop both as a higher education institution and as a dynamic destination for innovation and enterprise meeting the demands of theUKeconomy.

Alejandro Zaera Polo, Foreign Office Architects said: “‘We are both delighted and humbled by this recognition for a project which we feel is mostly due to the ambition and courage of Ravensbourne, who dared to embody an alternative form of education in design and media, and was prepared to take this ambition into an unprecedented architectural embodiment

All we had to do was to listen to these ambitions and act as an architectural midwife as best as we could into this birth. We hope that our research for this project will open new perspectives to a new breed of higher education facilities. All the crowns go to Ravensbourne.”


Photo credits: Morley von Sternburg

Source:  Bustler

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White House gala honors Pritzker Prize recipient architect Eduardo Souto de Moura

Eduardo Souto de Moura

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama led the list of A-listers at Thursday’s gala dinner to award the Pritzker Architecture Prize to a Portuguese architect, Eduardo Souto de Moura.

In truth, he and first lady Michelle Obama made but a brief appearance at the black-tie gala, leaving Mayor Rahm Emanuel, top White House aides Valerie Jarrett, Bill Daley, Austan Goolsbee and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to fill them in on the menu offerings (caviar, cheese scones and steak), the music (Mozart and Haydn from a string quartet) and the requisite representative of Hollywood (Richard Gere).

“There was a time when I thought I wanted to be an architect, where I expected to be more creative than I turned out, so I had to go into politics instead,” President Obama told the crowd.

He paid homage to both the Pritzker family, whose foundation awards the international prize, and to some of the architectural giants whose work stands tall in Chicago: Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry (the latter a dinner guest).

Obama pointed out that his 2008 campaign headquarters in Chicago was in a building based on a Mies van der Rohe design, adding: “And for two years, we crammed it full of hundreds of people working around the clock and surviving on nothing but pizza. I’m not sure if that’s what Mies had in mind, but it worked out pretty well for us.”

The first lady, at his side on stage as he spoke, wore a sleeveless, backless gown by designer Reed Krakoff.

The Pritzker Prize, awarded internationally to a living architect, is sometimes called the Nobel Prize of the architecture world. The prize was founded in 1979 by two Chicagoans, the late Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, Cindy, who made the rounds at the soiree, through their Hyatt Foundation.

Their niece, businesswoman and philanthropist Penny Pritzker, was national finance chair for the 2008 Obama presidential campaign and co-chair of his inaugural committee. She is an informal advisor to the 2012 re-election bid, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said.

Souto de Moura, 58, best known for the Braga Municipal Stadium in Portugal, has designed homes, a cinema, shopping centers, hotels, apartments, offices, art galleries, museums, schools, sports facilities and subways, according to The Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the prize. Judges lauded him for three decades of work and for buildings that convey “power and modesty, bravado and subtlety, bold public authority and a sense of intimacy — at the same time.”

The soiree was in the capital’s Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium.

Quite possibly only one single guest seemed more pleased than Souto de Moura.

That would be Rahm da Mayor.

Just sworn in last month, Emanuel, who was on hand with his wife Amy Rule, told a Tribune reporter that his is “a great job. It is better than I imagined–it is 10 times better than I imagined.”


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Center for Global Conservation

An office building in the Bronx Zoo seems as natural to the site as the surrounding parkland and accommodates multiple programs with minimal resources. Staring out the window is part of the job description.

Employees on their lunch break at the Center for Global Conservation (CGC) recently paused to observe wild turkeys roaming in front of the building. In the northwest corner of the Bronx Zoo’s 265 acres of New York City parkland, this display isn’t a rare occurrence. Nor is the sight of Inca terns swooping in the seabird aviary across from the CGC headquarters. Muskrats and goldfinches visit, too. Perhaps these creatures continue to treat the turf as their own because the rectangular, elongated three-story building — which achieved LEED Gold Certification in 2009 — seems as natural to the site as the two rock outcroppings it bridges.

The CGC, designed by FXFOWLE, houses several Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) programs. WCS operates the largest network of wildlife parks in the world, including the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, and Prospect Park Zoo, and operates over 500 conservation programs in more than 65 countries. Until the new headquarters was completed in 2009, WCS employees were scattered in buildings across the Bronx Zoo. FXFOWLE, which had previously renovated the zoo’s Lion House in 2008, consolidated various programs with diverse needs at an unused edge of the park. After looking at various configurations, the firm designed the building to intrude as little as possible on the landscape, even inflecting it to save two trees. WCS employees now benefit from chance encounters. “It’s really changed our relationship. Proximity is everything,” says Susan Chin, vice president of planning and design and chief architect for WCS.

Continue story at source:  Architectural Record

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Architecture Nation Building: South Korea’s desire to become an international business hub

As South Korea’s economy stabilizes, its ambition to be recognized as a major international business hub is leading to a bold building strategy. Ann Lok Lui investigates how Korea aims to impress the world not only with its tall towers but its large-scale sustainable planning.

The KPF-designed Northeast Asia Trade Tower will be Songdo's landmark on the skyline.

Buzz and hype have surrounded China’s recent building boom, but to the east, South Korea is becoming the next hot spot for international architecture.

Far from deferring to China’s hectic development, South Korea is positioning itself to be the East Asian country that grows not only faster but also smarter. In 2010, Engineering News Record ranked Seoul as home to six of the 75 top international contractors—a significant number for a nation so small. The juxtaposition of major construction corporations side-by-side with government support and a growing national interest in architectural design is producing opportunities inevitably attractive to international players.

From big corporate firms from the United States to young, internationally-trained Koreans, architects are capitalizing on opportunities in the East Asian nation and particularly Seoul as it rises to compete with China and assert itself as a business hub for northeastern Asia.

After generations of political turmoil, South Korea can now guarantee a degree of economic stability. As a result and on a grand scale, Korean companies that went abroad to build some of the tallest buildings around the world (Samsung led construction on the Burj Khalifa) are now looking to field monuments on their own native soil. Even at the grass-roots level, there is a growing interest in avant-garde architecture and design—home-brewed as well as imported—providing opportunities for small firms and young designers to have an impact on the street by designing art galleries and small homes.

Off the coast of South Korea and not far from Seoul, Songdo represents a new kind of large-scale planned city. A joint venture between Cisco Systems, Gale International, and the New York City office of Kohn Pederson Fox, New Songdo City could be the prototypical aerotropolis—a city defined as much by its proximity to an airport as by its livability—as described by authors John Kasarda and Greg Lindsay in their new book Aerotropolis: How We’ll Live Next.

Since 2001, when Gale International signed a $35 billion dollar loan from Korean banks to develop a city right by Incheon International Airport, Songdo has grown rapidly on landfill in the Yellow Sea. Today, it’s home to the tallest building in the country —KPF’s 68-story Northeast Asia Trade Tower—and it’s still growing. Construction on KPF’s masterplan will be completed in 2015. Fitting to the city’s mission to attract foreign business, its architecture includes work by multiple American firms: KPF’s own nine buildings in the central business district include a convention center and an international school, and there are also six residential towers and a hotel by HOK.

An evening view of Asymptote's World Business Tower.

Songdo is intrinsic to the South Korean government’s vision of the future, according to Richard Nemeth, a KPF principal: “[They] realized that to compete with China, they needed a platform to work internationally. [Songdo] is connected to the new airport, one of the busiest in the world.”

If its proximity to an international airport gives Songdo the futuristic moniker “aerotropolis,” its vast scale represents a first in international sustainability. Under the USGBC’s LEED for Neighborhood Development Pilot Program (KPF engaged with USGBC to certify the masterplan and develop a new LEED category), Songdo boasts a central non-potable water canal, electric vehicle charging stations, and a city-scale co-generation plant—elements that operate on a larger scale than traditional single-building LEED certification. The city also takes some of its literally green inspiration from American roots: a large public park in the middle of Songdo is named Central Park. The city also attempts to offset the effects of massive new construction by recycling 75% of construction waste and using local materials to minimize transportation costs.

Continue story:  The Architects Newspaper









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Historic WASP’s Nest Gets Makeover at Chelsea Seminary

Winning the chairmanship of the Metropolitan Museum hasn’t slowed developer Daniel Brodsky down.  Architect John H. Beyer of Beyer Blinder Belle revealed the Brodsky Organization’s proposed plans for the next phase of its remake of parts of the General Theological Seminary in Chelsea into a new condo community. The historic brownstone-and-brick oasis was founded in 1817 as the first seminary of the Episcopal Church. DNAinfo reports that the “news sparked concerns around Chelsea because the landmarked institution’s grassy enclave, bounded by Ninth and Tenth Avenues and 20th and 21st Streets, is a rare pocket of serenity in lower Manhattan.”

All things considered, the community was pretty gentle in criticizing the makeover of the WASP landmark. In fact, they found Brodsky’s approach artful and the little bit of sniping hardly stung at all. A new six-story building with two duplexes and elevator equipment plunked above, to be erected over a portion of the yard now used as a tennis court, drew scorn as looking “funky” and “out-of-scale,” but generally, commenters at Community Board 4’s landmarks committee meeting on the plans praised them as thoughtful and consistent with the seminary’s overall design. Committee chair Edward Kirkland even agreed with the developers’ plan to remove ivy covering–and damaging–the decrepit West Building, the oldest in the complex, prior to restoring it. “This is not an Ivy League institution, so the ivy is an intrusion,” he said. The plans must still be approved by the Landmarks Commission, though, so reports of the ivy’s demise may be premature.

Source:  Curbed

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An Alarmed Architect’s Complaint: Preservation Distorts the Past

Has preservation become a dangerous epidemic? Is it destroying our cities?

That’s the conclusion you may come to after seeing “Cronocaos” at the New Museum. Organized by Rem Koolhaas and Shohei Shigematsu, a partner in Mr. Koolhaas’s Office for Metropolitan Architecture, the show draws on ideas that have been floating around architectural circles for several years now — particularly the view among many academics that preservation movements around the world, working hand in hand with governments and developers, have become a force for gentrification and social displacement, driving out the poor to make room for wealthy homeowners and tourists.

Mr. Koolhaas’s vision is even more apocalyptic. A skilled provocateur, he paints a picture of an army of well-meaning but clueless preservationists who, in their zeal to protect the world’s architectural legacies, end up debasing them by creating tasteful scenery for docile consumers while airbrushing out the most difficult chapters of history. The result, he argues, is a new form of historical amnesia, one that, perversely, only further alienates us from the past.

“Cronocaos” was first shown at the 2010 architecture biennale in Venice, the ultimate example of what can happen to an aged city when it is repackaged for tourists. In New York, the show is housed in a former restaurant-supply store next to the museum on the Bowery, in a neighborhood where the threats to urban diversity include culture as well as tourism. The Bowery’s lively bar scene has been pushed out by galleries and boutiques. CBGB, the former rock club, is a John Varvatos store.

To highlight this transformation, Mr. Koolhaas and Mr. Shigematsu kept the supply store’s yellow awning, painting the show’s title directly over the old lettering. Inside, the architects drew a line down the middle of the space, transforming one side into a pristine white gallery and leaving the other raw and untouched.

The result is startling. The uneven, patched-up floors and soiled walls of the old space look vibrant and alive; the new space looks sterile, an illustration of how even the minimalist renovations favored by art galleries today, which often are promoted as ways of preserving a building’s character, can cleanse it of historical meaning. (To sharpen the contrast further, Mr. Koolhaas scattered a few beat-up tables and chairs, salvaged when CBGB was closed five years ago, throughout the room.)

This has become a global phenomenon. All over the world, historic centers are being sanitized of signs of age and decay, losing any sense of the identity that buildings accumulate over time. Facades are carefully scrubbed clean; interiors, often blending minimalist white walls and a few painstakingly restored historic details, are reduced to a bland perfection. And new buildings are designed in watered-down period styles, further eroding the distinction between what’s real and what’s fake, and producing what Mr. Koolhaas calls a “low-grade, unintended timelessness.”

Mr. Koolhaas argues that this process continues to spread. Using an assortment of graphs and charts, he claims that 12 percent of the earth’s surface has already been landmarked by groups like Unesco, and that figure is expected to rise steeply in the near future. What’s more, the age of what is being preserved continues to shrink. In the late 19th century only ancient monuments received legal protection; today buildings that are 30 years old are regularly listed as historic sites. (Mr. Koolhaas’s own architecture is part of this trend. A house he designed in Bordeaux, France, was declared a national monument only three years after its completion in 1998.)

This phenomenon is coupled with another disturbing trend: the selective demolition of the most socially ambitious architecture of the 1960s and ’70s — the last period when architects were able to do large-scale public work — which has been condemned as a monstrous expression of Modernism.

In Germany, monuments like the Palast der Republik, whose government offices, restaurants and nightclubs were once the social heart of East Berlin, became shorthand for a period many West Germans wanted to forget. Kisho Kurokawa’s 1972 capsule tower, one of the most radical housing experiments built in postwar Japan, lies in a state of ruin, awaiting demolition. To Mr. Koolhaas, these examples are part of a widespread campaign to stamp out an entire period in architectural history — a form of censorship that is driven by ideological as much as aesthetic concerns.

The New Museum show is essentially a manifesto, of course, but what saves it from becoming pure polemic is that Mr. Koolhaas is a first-rate architect as well as an original thinker. Some of the best parts of the show involve his efforts to find ways out of this mess.

A 1995 competition design for an expansion of Zurich international airport sought to make sense of what had become a confusing labyrinth of mismatched terminals built over several decades. Rather than tear down the existing structures, Mr. Koolhaas proposed filling in leftover spaces between them with centralized entrance halls and new retail zones. He then created a circulation route to tie it all together. The experience would have been more like traveling though a real city than a conventional airport. By keeping the various historical layers intact, and playing up their differences, he aimed to breathe new life into a dead environment. (The plan was rejected.)

In another, more extreme proposal, from 2003, Mr. Koolhaas suggested creating preservation sectors in Beijing, in which everything from traditional hutongs to postwar Communist housing blocks would be protected, along with the way of life they housed. The rest of the city would be a kind of free-for-all where planners and architects could experiment with new ideas and urban strategies without the crushing burden of history.

Not all of his ideas are viable; some seem intended mainly to challenge conventional wisdom about preservation and its benefits, and in doing so, to liberate architecture just a little from stale ideas. Yet Mr. Koolhaas’s bigger point is worth paying attention to: in the realm of preservation, as in so much else, we seem to have become a world terrified of too much direct contact with reality.

More Photo’s

Source:  NYT

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Constructive criticism: the week in architecture

Over-reaching ambition is the order of the week as Liverpool tries to outshine Shanghai, an ex-footballer plans to outdo the Teletubbies and Shoreditch lands a shiny skyscraper.

Bright lights ... Why does Liverpool want to emulate Pudong's showy sky at night? Photograph: Image Source / Rex Features

Ambition can get the better of architects, buildings and even entire cities. When you hear people joking about British cities turning into lesser versions of modern Shanghai – all shiny high-rise towers – you should ask them to take the subject more seriously. Liverpool is twinned with Shanghai, and just as the two cities boast superb early 20th-century waterfronts – Liverpool’s Pier Head and Shanghai’s Bund – so Liverpool now wants to emulate its Chinese twin’s bombastic new Pudong district.

Unesco has taken Liverpool to task for this. If the city grants planning permission for the Liverpool Waters development proposal put forward by Peel Holdings for a shock of Shanghai-style skyscrapers, its historic centre could well be struck off the official list of World Heritage Sites. Liverpool Waters does resemble a parody of Shanghai or Dubai; if nothing else, developing it will make Liverpool look behind the times now that the tide is turning against such over-the-top Blingitecture. Peel Holdings, however, doesn’t think much of Unesco: “We are right and they are completely wrong”, a company spokesman told the Liverpool Daily Post.

Sore-ditch ... will Amanda Levete be the woman to ruin east London? Photograph: David Levene

Amanda Levete was also in hot water this week, criticised by Turner prize winning artist Rachel Whiteread over her design for a twisting, shining and very prominent 225ft skyscraper planned for Shoreditch, north of the City of London. As Chris Dyson, a local architect, told Building Design, “The choice of architect is glamorous and she [Levete] is very good, but the building is inappropriate for the context.” Shoreditch is not downtown Chicago, where Jeanne Gang has designed an eye-catching skyscraper that rises elegantly and appropriately from its site.

In her tower’s defence, Levete told The Architects’ Journal: “I understand the emotional issues raised by large developments. But the evolution of a city is bigger than us all.” And, so much so, that if and when Shoreditch shoots skywards and goes slickly corporate, the very artists who have done so much to inject new life into this old quarter will probably move elsewhere.

Flower power ... Make's petal house for Gary Neville. Photograph: Make Architects

How about Bolton? Here, Gary Neville, the former Manchester United defender, has been granted planning permission to build a house that is either an interesting example of Land art, or else something to do with the Teletubbies. Designed by Make architects, this underground “eco” house will look like the petals of a flower from above, radiating from a central kitchen. The architects compare it, rather ambitiously, to the neolithic Skara Brae settlement in Orkney, but with all mod cons.

Meanwhile, Saif al-Islam Gadaffi, who once studied architecture and engineering science, was charged by the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity. In 2007 Gadaffi junior announced a hugely ambitious scheme to turn the east coast of Libya into “the world’s largest sustainable region”, albeit one with new luxury hotels, resorts and spas, all under the design guidance of Norman Foster. My Guardian colleague, Steve Rose, was at the launch in Cyrene; Steve was justifiably sceptical.

Finally, it was announced this week that two men would stand trial for the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the would-be architect who was stabbed to death at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London in 1993. The murderers ended Lawrence’s life and ambition, yet his memory lives on not just among family and friends, but in the Stephen Lawrence prize aimed at encouraging young British architects and their ambitions for the future, skywards or otherwise.

Source:  Guardian UK

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