Sunday, 25 January 2015

Architects should do nothing

Remember the outrage when Zaha declared that workers dieing on her projects in Qatar had nothing to do with her?  Or when her loyal lieutenant Patrik Schumacher took to Facebook with his inane rant: "Architecture is not politics not art not science not engineering. It is the design of communicative spatial form....what we NOT up to the architects"?

In this blog at the time I joined the incredulity.  But I almost feel like an apology to those two, having come across an earlier declaration by Peter Eisenman in an interview by David Basulto on ArchDaily in 2011:
I don’t think that architecture is about solving human problems at all. Psychologists solve human problems, sociologists solve human problems, economists solve human problems. We’re none of those things. We do culturally necessary projects, which have a value for the culture in general. What should the architect do in society? I don’t think the architect should do anything, frankly”.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Roll over Bruno Taut

I never did understand the social implications of 'die Stadkrone', or 'City Crown' as a concept of urban planning put forward by German expressionist architects, and particularly championed by Bruno Taut in the early part of the 20th century.  As Wikipaedia helpfully summarizes: 'it was often conceived as an inspirational, crystalline form or something with a homogenous formal vocabulary in the centre of a town, with huge impressive scale, analogous to, but not necessarily Skyscrapers. The physical forms were notions of social restructuring with subordination of individuals to the collective good and sometimes ideas of a return to an agrarian existence'.

So I am suitably bemused by developments in the City of London. If a recent piece in Architizer is any guide, they are definitely on the way to realising Taut's vision .

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Zombie energy efficiency

Explosive report lifts the lid on Australia’s building energy performance sham

Energy efficiency in the home building sector in Australia has been dead for some years.  It just puts on a brave show that it isn't. 

Read this if you care.  It's not pretty, but it's important.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Murcutt is famous enough.....

 ....without gilding the lily.

I honestly don't know what motivates journalists on architectural websites. But I know that when they try to talk up the technical virtues of famous architecture, more often than not they cause more damage than good.

A recent example is an article in Architecture and Design by

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Peasants need not apply

World’s Largest Indoor Farm is 100 Times More Productive

There have been many proposals for urban farms, especially high-rise and/or fully enclosed and artificially climate controlled. Most have been entirely fanciful, supported by tenuous claims of efficiency, and have generally invited adverse comment based on equally speculative evidence. A few have been small scale demonstration projects, typically concentrating more on the feel good message, than on commercial viability – like the tastefully displayed boutique growing facility embedded in the K11 ‘Art Mall’ in Shanghai.

But to convey credibility as a proof of concept, there is nothing like an actual working prototype, funded by a private individual and holding its own in the marketplace.  So with a title like that above, the article in webUrbanist is sure to make you look twice.  To quote:
The statistics for this incredibly successful indoor farming endeavor in Japan are staggering: 25,000 square feet producing 10,000 heads of lettuce per day (100 times more per square foot than traditional methods) with 40% less power, 80% less food waste and 99% less water usage than outdoor fields. 

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The Extended Self

Architecture, memes and minds

This is a book review.  I don't do them often, but I am honoured to do this one.  And I do it because I really do think Chris Abel writes important books.  Not many books.  Abel is primarily an essayist – in the original meaning of 'essayer', like Montaigne, he writes clearly and succinctly to try to explain the world around him.  Well, not all of the world; Abel concentrates on what is architecture, how we make architecture, and why it defines us as human beings.

As if all that wasn't enough, Abel interests me specially, because unlike most other architectural theorists, he doesn't set up an implied opposition between an architecture that does least ecological harm, and Architecture explained by some other cultural imperatives.