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Rem Koolhaas’s Architectural Progeny.

The architect Rem Koolhaas and his Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) are the forces behind some of the most striking structures built in recent years, including the Seattle Central Library and the CCTV headquarters, in Beijing.

The new MOCA (www.mocacleveland.org)

But dozens of architects who were trained at or otherwise passed through Koolhaas’s firm are now spread across the world and beginning to make their mark, observes Metropolis. The magazine dubs them Baby Rems.

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, for example, is moving ahead with construction of a striking new building, which features triangular facades that, from certain angles, allow luminescent peeks at the museum’s interior. It’s the handiwork of Foreign Office Architects (FOA), an OMA offshoot.

The Balancing Barn, which has been feted in England (and lives up to its name, cantilevering off into space), is a project of MVRDV, which also traces its roots back to Koolhaas’s office.

Metropolis’s generational schema confuses me—who counts as Generation One, again, and who as Generation Two?—but Work A.C., evidently part of the second wave, has gotten the nod to revitalize the Hua Qiang Bei Road, in Shenzhen, China; the renderings look pretty wild, and also impressive.

All this amounts to another reminder that even architecture, long considered the redoubt of the lone genius (see: Ayn Rand), is in fact better viewed as a shifting network of creative minds with personal, professional, and intellectual ties: a Kaleidoscopic Discovery Engine.

Hat tip to Christopher Shea, WSJ

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The Manifesto House in Chile by James & Mau and Infiniski

Project Name: Infiniski Manifesto House
Location: Curacaví, Chile
Area: 160 m2
Architect: James & Mau
Construction: Infiniski
Renewable Energy: Infiniski + Geotek
Landscaping: Infiniski
Year: 2009
Furniture: Cómodo Studio
Photography: Antonio Corchera

Architects James & Mau, or Jaime Gaztelu and Mauricio Galeano are also founders and partners of Infiniski, a new concept for sustainable building and construction. The Manifesto House is just one example of the eco-friendly projects that this duo has undertaken. Completed in 2009, this home is created from three containers bit its wood slatted exterior conceals the original containers like an outer shell.

From the architects:

The Manifesto house represents the Infiniski concept and its potential: bioclimatic design, recycled, reused materials, non polluting constructive systems, integration of renewable energy.

The project relies on a bioclimatic architecture adapting the form and positioning of the house to its energetic needs. The project is based on a prefabricated and modular design allowing a cheaper and faster constructive method. This modular system also allows thinking the coherence of the house with possible future modifications or enlargements in order to adapt easily to the evolving needs of the client.

The house, of 160m2 is divided in two levels and uses 3 recycled maritime containers as structure. A container cut in two parts on the first level is used as the support structure for the containers on the second level. This structure in the form a bridge creates an extra space in between the container structure, isolated with thermo glass panels. As a consequence with only 90m2 worth of container, the project generates a total 160m2, maximizing and reducing significantly the use of extra building materials. This structure in the form of a bridge, responds to the bioclimatic needs of the house — Form follows Energy — and offers an effective natural ventilation system. It also helps to take full advantage of the house´s natural surroundings, natural light and landscape views.

Like if it had a second skin, the house “dresses and undresses” itself, thanks to ventilated external solar covers on walls and roof, depending on its need for natural solar heating. The house uses two types of covers or “skin”: wooden panels coming from sustainable forests on one side and recycled mobile pallets on the other. The pallets can open themselves in winter to allow the sun to heat the metal surface of the container walls and close themselves in summer to protect the house from the heat. This skin also serves as an exterior aesthetic finishing helping the house to better integrate in its environment.

Both exterior and interior use up to 85% of recycled, reused and eco-friendly materials: recycled cellulose and cork for insulation, recycled aluminum, iron and wood, noble wood coming from sustainable forests, ecological painting, eco-label ceramics. Thanks to its bioclimatic design and to the installation of alternative energy systems the house achieves 70% autonomy.

Hat tip to Design Milk Blog

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Beautiful Underground Aloni House Blends in With the Earth

This stunning underground home by Deca Architecture utilizes a natural palette of materials to maintain a low profile while complementing the serene Mediterranean landscape that surrounds it. Situated in a small valley with views of the coast, the Aloni house consists of two stone walls bridged by a beautiful green roof that spans two adjacent slopes. The home takes advantage of rustic materials that maximize energy efficiency while allowing the house to blend in with the rugged terrain of Greece’s Antiparos Island.

The Aloni house finds its inspiration in the landscape of the Cycladic Islands, which were shaped in the past by earthen retaining walls erected to create land fit for farming. Deca Architecture decided to incorporate this traditional building typology into the design of the house, and the result is a structure that resonates with the topography of its site while taking advantage of low-impact materials that impart high insulation values. The single-level 240 square meter home features walls made of retained earth that regulate the interior temperature thanks to their high thermal mass, while a green roof provides further insulation from the bright Mediterranean sun.

To read full article via Inhabitat click here.

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Norway’s Snohetta architecture firm marries business savvy with artistic inspiration

The planned National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion.

Low-tech meets hi-tech in the Oslo offices of Snohetta, Scandinavia’s premier architecture firm. Housed in an open-plan former warehouse on the edge of the Oslo fjord, the firm greets visitors with an improvised light fixture, comprised of 600 water-filled plastic bags suspended from the ceiling in an undulating pattern. Meanwhile, in a secluded room, a robotic arm, installed last year, is busy making 3-D prototypes associated with the firm’s diverse projects around the world.

“We are the only architects who have this,” says Snohetta’s founding partner and principal, Norwegian architect Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, of the robot, manufactured by the German firm KUKA for use in the auto industry. Snohetta uses the prototypes, explains 52-year-old Mr. Thorsen, the way an artist might use preliminary studies for a final painting.

What Snohetta also has — and what just about every other large and midsize architecture practice lacks these days — is momentum. Founded in 1989, Snohetta, named after a Norwegian mountain, burst onto the architecture scene in 2002, with the opening of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a modern-day revival of the ancient world’s most famous library. Their current roll began in 2008, with the opening of the acclaimed Oslo Opera House, and culminated in July with the commissioning of a much-publicized extension to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. This summer, the firm was also awarded a commission to redesign New York City’s Times Square, and construction is finishing up in lower Manhattan on the National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion, a multi-use visitor center built directly on the site of the former World Trade Center.

Using what Mr. Thorsen likes to call an “organic” approach, Snohetta combines a deep respect for a building’s location with a harmonic and often stripped-down use of materials. In addition, Snohetta routinely incorporates artists in the very early stages of a project, rather than seeking them out later to decorate a building after it is finished. The result is a style of architecture that is both distinctive and tranquil, and often seems like an antidote to the self-conscious experiments and brash monumentality that have characterized much of the world’s recent building spree.

This year, a few months before beating out several Pritzker-Prize-winning architects for the San Francisco commission, Snohetta launched an in-house consulting wing, called Snohetta Design, which plans to extend the firm’s activities beyond architecture. The goal, says Martin Gran, CEO and managing director of Snohetta Design, is “to brand what [a] building is supposed to house.” Mr. Gran, 38, previously worked at global advertising giant McCann Erickson, where his clients included MasterCard.

During a meeting this July with Messrs. Thorsen and Gran, the two seemed to be speaking different languages. Mr. Gran may talk about “the power of branding” inherent in a successful building like the Oslo Opera House, while Mr. Thorsen, when referring to the Opera House’s predominant use of marble, talks about the “homogeneous continuation of material.”

In conversation, the effect is jarring but one of Snohetta Design’s inaugural projects, an ethereal 3-D logo for Snohetta’s King Abdullah Center for Dialogue, currently being designed for a site just outside Mecca, Saudi Arabia, demonstrates how business savvy and artistic inspiration can come together in common purpose.

Branding may have its limits, concedes Mr. Thorsen. The September 11 Memorial Pavilion, which sits atop an underground museum by another architecture firm, needs to respect the project’s commemorative function. And even the new San Francisco museum extension offers some branding challenges, he says, because of the need to respect the 1995 original building by Swiss architect Mario Botta, whose postmodernist approach of incorporating previous eras’ architectural styles is just about the opposite of what Snohetta is trying to do. “Postmodernism was never my agenda,” says Mr. Thorsen, who describes the wave as “reinventing replicas.”

“It’s not easy,” says Mr. Thorsen, of the joint task before Snohetta Design, and the architects themselves, as they try to create a new project that does justice to Mr. Botta’s popular building, while carving out an identity for itself. “But then again, architecture never is,” he adds.

The Snohetta building will be part of a $250 million expansion, says the museum’s director, Neal Benezra, which was initiated to house the contemporary art collection of Donald and Doris Fisher, founders of the Gap chain of clothing stores. Mr. Benezra says Snohetta was chosen after a selection committee visited Oslo this summer and saw the Oslo Opera House in person. Made up of several complementary levels of white Carrera marble, which seem to rise up collectively out of the Oslo Fjord like a geometric iceberg, the building proved to be “the tipping point for us.”

American architect Craig Dykers, Snohetta’s New York-based principal, is also excited about the challenge of working with Mr. Botta’s building. “It a very strong piece of architecture,” he says. “Making expansions means that you’re entering into a marriage. And I prefer to have a strong partner.”

Mr. Dykers, 48, doesn’t see the firm’s recent successes as altering its essential nature. “We have a funny name,” he says, speaking by phone from New York. “People don’t easily remember it, so fame isn’t tailored into who we are. Most people remember our buildings before they remember us.”

Hat tip to WSJ’s J. S. Marcus

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NYC Council Approves New Domino Project

The landmarked Domino Refinery complex will be preserved and adapted for residential, commercial, and cultural uses, including 30- and 34-story apartment buildings. Rafael Viñoly Architects developed the overall master plan as well as the conceptual design for all new buildings on the site; Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners developed architectural concepts for the refinery; and Quennell Rothschild and Partners developed the landscape design. The master plan will transform the industrial complex into a modular, mixed-use, and multi-income residential development that emphasizes open space and public access to the river while preserving the refinery and its famed 40-foot-tall Domino Sugar sign. The project will create approximately 2,200 residential units, 660 of which will be affordable. The more than 223,500 square feet of retail will include a grocery store that will adhere to FRESH zoning standards in addition to approximately 143,000 square feet of community facility space. A nearly one-acre open lawn will anchor a new public waterfront esplanade.

Read more posts from the NYC AIA via eOCULUS here.

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New Green H2Otel Hotel Planned for Amsterdam by Powerhouse Company + RAU


RAU and Powerhouse Company developed H2Otel, a luxurious and completely sustainable hotel for Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The project, a prototype for luxury hotel typologies, is shown at the National Design Triennial ‘Why Design Now?’ at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum in New York.

How to make a hotel tower more sustainable? As a typology, the modern hotel is at odds with the concept of sustainability. Most of the time they are empty and unused, yet they have to be fully accessible, comfortable and pleasurable all the time. Guests usually enter their rooms in the evening. Large glass planes provide stunning views but also heat up the rooms when no one is there. The biggest energy consumer in hotels is usually the cooling system. So, why are the facades of most highrises the same on all sides, despite their different exposure to sunlight? Apart from that, modern hotels are increasingly build according to global formulas in brownfield locations. How do we create a local sense of place while using the particular efficiency if the hotel typology?

Water is an important theme of the H2Otel. Situated alongside the Amstel river, the hotel is overlooking the historic center with its numerous canals, the docks on both banks of the River IJ and, on a clear day, the North Sea. But the name, H2Otel, does not only refer to its scenic views. Water is the building’s main carrier of energy. Through oxy-hydrogen generators water can be used for heating, cooling, cooking and the generation of electricity.

Fluctuating occupancy rates are an obstacle in reaching efficient climate control, especially in large hotels. In order to improve efficiency, an adaptive, sensor-based climate system monitors and controls the indoor climate in real time and for each room individually. It recognizes the number of occupants in a room and adjusts the level of conditioning accordingly. Conditioning is automatically switched off in empty rooms. This climate system helps to save approximately 40% of the building’s energy consumption.

While innovative technology is an important asset in achieving energy efficiency and carbon neutrality, inventive design solutions make a crucial difference in keeping the building’s demand for energy at a minimum in the first place.

Much much more via Arch Daily here.

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A green answer to Vanity Fair’s architecture poll has its own blindspot

Renzo Piano's California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Credit: Tim Griffith.

When Vanity Fair recently released the results of a survey ranking the most significant pieces of architecture of the last 30 years — with Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, topping the list — the poll was met with extended grumbling. Some people griped about the many architects, including Richard Meier and Daniel Libeskind, who voted for their own work (Vanity Fair indeed!); others noted that the average age of those polled seemed to be around 70.

But the biggest complaint, by far, was that the results seemed completely to ignore green architecture, arguably the biggest single movement in the field since the emergence of modernism a century ago. In response, Lance Hosey, a writer and an architect who worked for years at William McDonough + Partners, a Virginia firm known for a commitment to sustainable design, organized an alternative survey for Architect magazine in which he polled a number of leading green architects and others. (Hosey e-mailed me earlier this month asking if I’d take part in the voting, which I did not.) He used the same format as Vanity Fair: He asked each voter to name the five most important green buildings since 1980, and separately the single most significant sustainable building finished since 2000.

The results were released Tuesday. The winner in the first category was the Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College, a building by McDonough + Partners that relies on solar panels, among other green-design features, to produce 30% more energy than it uses. (Hosey swears his old affiliation had no impact on the results, though the voters did include one current McDonough employee, Kira Gould. Unlike Vanity Fair, Architect has no plans to publish the contents of each ballot; Hosey did tell me, though, that one architect in the poll gave every one of his votes, six in all, to his own work.) Renzo Piano’s California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, which is topped by an undulating green roof made of native plants, was named the most important sustainable building since 2000.

I don’t have any issues with the winners of Hosey’s alternative survey: I admire both the McDonough and the Piano buildings, and I can understand the desire to confront the obvious limitations of the Vanity Fair project. (Similarly, given the way the Vanity Fair poll was set up, the Guggenheim Bilbao struck me as entirely deserving.) In the end, though, I have the same basic problem with Hosey’s effort as I did with the first poll: Asking voters to nominate single buildings necessarily produces results that give a skewed view of the way architecture — and more important, the way we think and write about it — has evolved in recent years.

Among critics and architects alike, there has been a rising understanding that architecture is not just about stand-alone icons but is tied inextricably to urban planning, real-estate speculation, capital flows, ecology and various kinds of networks — and similarly that architecture criticism means more than simply writing about impressive new landmarks, green or not, produced by the world’s best-known firms.

Indeed, sustainable design and its champions deserve significant credit for helping architecture as a whole adjust its values and move toward a wider, richer sense of how to measure its progress and chart its signal achievements. In that sense, it seems to me that Hosey wound up falling into the same trap as the Vanity Fair tastemakers whose shortsightedness he hoped to correct.

Maybe, in other words, the most important achievement in green architecture over the last 10 or 30 years is not a single building at all. Maybe it’s a collection of schools or linked parks or the group of advisors brought together by a young mayor somewhere. Maybe it’s a new kind of solar panel, a tax credit or a zoning change. Maybe it’s tough to hang a plaque on — or photograph for a magazine spread.

— Christopher Hawthorne, via Los Angeles Times (blog)

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245 10th Avenue may be eccentric, but at least it’s intentional

As a Manhattanite, student and practitioner of architecture, and lover of modern architecture I disagree with James Gardner, formerly the architecture critic of the New York Sun who states in his post (below), “…we must pray is not the future of architecture.”  I like the unusual materials of these buildings and the unique sculptural elements they have.  But what I like best is how they have made their neighborhoods relevent again with a sence of high-style and hipness.  Tell me what you think.

To say that 245 10th Avenue (Photos) is Manhattan’s latest contribution to the cult of ugliness is not necessarily as disrespectful as it sounds. Like the rebarbative High Line 519 (3D View) one block south on 23rd Street, 245 10th Avenue is a particularly eccentric example of Mod-meets-deconstruction, with retro-glances to the aesthetics of the 1960s and forward glances to what we must pray is not the future of architecture.

But if this nearly completed development at 245 10th Avenue (Photos) is ugly, at least it is intentionally so, which is some improvement on the status of many another recent New York building, which is unintentionally so. As a fairly representative example of the deconstructed species in question, it buckles or recedes where you would rationally expect it to present a planar wall. Along 10th Avenue, its wobbly façade is a checkered curtain wall of darker and paler panels, while to the south it appears as a windowless expanse whose blinding silvery cladding, in the proper sunlight, might well wreak havoc upon cars speeding up 10th Avenue.

Integral to the design of the new building, conceived by the architectural firm Della Valle + Bernheimer, is its proximity to a Lukoil gas station, immediately to its south. The implications of blue collar authenticity supplied by the gas station are a priceless commodity in this stretch of Chelsea, precisely because there are so few blue collar types around, and ever fewer with each passing day.

In a similar vein, across the street, heading south is a car wash, and next to that another recent condo development, Vesta 24, which is only a little more conservative than 245 10th Avenue. And yet, it requires no gift for prophecy to foresee a time, in the very near future, when the gas station and car wash will themselves give way to new developments, which will be very much like their neighbors. But all of them, once deprived of their crucial blue collar props, will look every bit as misshapen as 245 10th Avenue (Photos) today, only more so.

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