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Archive for the ‘architecture’ Category

Disrupting Urban Development

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

from on .

I have enormous respect for architect/developer . He’s a living, breathing case study for sticking to your guns and pursuing what you believe in, even at great risk if required. Segal has chosen a rebel path for his life’s work, eschewing the safe route, the established process, for a professionally trained architect by instead choosing to design and build what he wants, for himself. He’s certainly nothing if not incredibly confident. Very early on Segal was determined to not waiver, compromise, or work under the direction of another. He’s been profoundly successful as a result. Personally, I love his design and the environments that he creates. I love the disruption of his properties in areas that seem to have been overlooked, are in transition, or perhaps may be close to tipping to a more “suburban” style of development. Segal’s buildings stand out not because they are loud, sharp, or trendy. They shine because they are design and experience uncompromised. His work is the slamming of a fist on the table, the pounding of the podium with a shoe. Jonathan Segal knows that urban development does not have to suck, and he’s going to make sure that know this, too.

The video above is about 12 minutes of interview with Segal about his work. It’s excellent, and illuminating of the power of disruption. Rock on. That Segal is also rumored to ride a Ducati and pilot a … well, those that know me well can easily guess what level on the badass scale, from my perspective, Segal comfortably occupies.

Because It’s Beautiful

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

And additionally because I love tilt-shift. Tokyo would seem to be the perfect city to be filmed in this way.

Via via .

No Rules, Just Architecture (NRJA)

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

from on .

Great video from NRJA, an aggressive, smart, young practice (avg age is 25) from Latvia. Also a great use of the song “Exploration” from Karminsky Experience. That song is like ten years old now, but it still sounds good.

More on .


Architecture In Beijing Is On Fire. Literally.

Monday, February 9th, 2009

CCTV Tower Fire

This morning I awoke to news that one of the towers in OMA’s CCTV complex, the not yet completed TVCC tower and the future home to the 241 room Mandarin Oriental Hotel, was burning. I have written about this high profile architectural project several times previously, so news of the fire definitely got my attention. Actually, by the time I had gotten news of this event the tower had been completely destroyed by the fire, and authorities were fearing that it would collapse, with news that the fire spread across the entire building in less than an hour. This is what the 34 story tower looked like before the fire (TVCC is the building in the middle):

TVCC Tower

The fire was started by a fireworks display, and this video seems to actually catch the start of the fire on the rooftop of the building, though this is not yet verified:

Some incredibly shaky video of the building burning and disintegrating:

No word yet on anybody injured or killed by the blaze. More on this at the and at , where there are several more videos of the fire. BLDGBLOG gets in a jab with .

Update: Here’s a much better video showing the building ablaze with the sound of fireworks in the background:

Update 2: There are some incredible images, like this one below (which I saw at ), available at :


Update 3: Holy crap!

Update 4: An excellent article in the bringing a bit more detail to this architectural tragedy, perhaps the biggest revelations being that the fire stemmed from an illegal fireworks show being put on by CCTV in very close proximity to the TVCC building (see first video above), and that the Chinese government and media went into overdrive trying to prevent news and images of this fire from surfacing in any of the Chinese news channels. There is also an excellent slide show with the article, some of the images in which depict the burnt aftermath of the TVCC fire.

There are many more detailed images of the burned out TVCC tower .

The Sport of Commerce

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

The Bird's Nest at night

I’ve not been able to confirm this elsewhere, but is reporting that only six months after opening for the Beijing Olympics, the Beijing National Stadium, or “Bird’s Nest”, is now going to meet the inglorious end of anchoring a shopping mall. This is apparently driven by the high costs of maintaining the stadium, and by the fact that there is only one event scheduled to be held there for all of 2009.

Somebody needs to send a couple very strong drinks about now. I cannot imagine that this is a desired end for this project of theirs.

I had written about the design of this building a few times previously. I have greatly enjoyed the many incredible pictures taken by during her time in Beijing.

OMA Will Harness The Wind, And The Sea

Friday, January 16th, 2009


I was really impressed to read this week that OMA, the architecture office of Rem Koolhaas, unveiled plans for a comprehensive array of that could potentially yield as much clean energy as the fossil fuels produced in the entire Persian Gulf region. The masterplan, named (Dutch for “sea power”),  is essentially an enormous band of wind farms emanating from the Netherlands and spanning out to adjacent countries. The announcement of this plan is a significant step in ensuring European energy independence by 2025. It is also exactly the type of thinking around scale that will make wind power a truly viable option as an alternative to fossil fuels, and in that way not so different than what has been proposed by T. Boone Pickens with his Pickens Plan.


Tiny Architecture

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

If you cannot identify the two buildings above you’ve been living under a rock. Both have graced the covers of just about every mainstream magazine and newpaper in the last year, not to mention my own obsession not just with the bird’s nest and watercube pictured above, but also with the CCTV Tower. Architecture in Beijing has been very, very hot with not only a rolodex of high profile architects present, but some incredibly innovative design and use of materials.

Over the last year a favorite blogger, , has captured stunning images of this new Beijing architecture as it was completed prior to the olympics being hosted in Beijing last summer. You can see more of her work on her page. The image above was taken by toomanytribbles from the Ling Long Pagoda, and for it she employed the very cool effect called . I love it.

Tell A Compelling Story

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

from on .

The visualization of ideas is a powerful tool for telling an effective and compelling story. Then there’s this. Architects have long relied on animated renderings and computer models to provide clients with indications of what the built project just might be like. Along the way, great storytellers like those at OMA began building on these animations to communicate more depth and context, to make the paper architecture more real. In my opinion, this video by of Herzog & de Meuron’s residential tower nails it (check out the site for 56 Leonard, it’s also nicely done).


Interaction as a Material

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

View SlideShare or your own. (tags: )

An interesting presentation by of given at the a few weeks ago. Dan’s presentation details the convergence in thinking that is occuring in design… that design is about interactions, and these interactions are about people. There is increasing focus on the contextual connections we create through design, connections that are between people and products, between people, and between people and environments. This is the reality, and realization, that design is not autonomous, it is contextual, and the better we understand the importance and details of context the better our designs meet the real needs of the people who will interact with them. This is as priority in product design and web sites, as it is in architecture and furniture design. This is interaction design.

Dan Saffer is also the author of .

Vito Acconci’s Manifesto: Dualities, Tension, and The Architecture of Fairy Tales

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Back in 2002 I had the opportunity to attend the International Design Conference in Aspen (IDCA). The event was an incredible mix of design professions, creative leaders, and visionaries. Among the more memorable on the list of presenters was . Acconci’s presentation was an arcing review of the work and thinking of his studio, and gave us a window into the creative process used to conceive some of the more conceptually challenging work I had experienced up to that point. Simultaneous with the conference was an installation of the diversity of work by Vito Acconci at a local gallery, which was an appropriate exclamation point to Acconci’s provocative presentation at IDCA. I had a chance to meet Acconci at the conference, and greatly enjoyed our brief conversation about the thin boundary between conceptual and real, and how the effectiveness of crossing that boundary is defined by our own ability to effectively communicate what it is we intend to do, and how exactly we intend to do it.

I bring up Vito Acconci because a couple of days ago I came across his manifesto, , from last year’s Icon Magazine Manifesto issue and it made me recall meeting Acconci at the conference. His manifesto articulates the dualities of the tensions in architecture and the built environment today:

“It is the best of architectural times, it is the worst of architectural times. It’s the age of lightness, of fluid architecture; it’s the age of architecture that’s only constructed into forms of fluidity and lightness that themselves remain solid and heavy. It’s the epoch of architecture that emerges and grows as a living creature; it’s the epoch of architecture that only looks as if it emerges and grows, that only looks like a living creature. It’s the era of sensual architecture; it’s the era of an architecture of visual affects. It’s the season of virtual architecture, science-fiction architecture; it’s the season of architecture that, when built, comes tumbling back down to earth. It’s the spring of code-writing and computational architecture; it’s the winter of generic architecture generated by and justified by numbers. We architects and designers practice operations now that will make architects ultimately unnecessary, we anticipate architecture that designs itself; in the meantime, we’re narrowed down to the chosen few starchitects. We architects and designers harness multiple complexities; all the while we refine complication into elegance, we revive aesthetics, we do something that smells like art, we resort to taste and sophistication, we tag onto an ‘upper class.’ We architects and designers make places for people; but the more parameters we use to design, the less our design-process can be read in the places we build – if people can’t ‘get’ the buildings we make, then those buildings are meant to appear as a force of nature, and we expect from people only belief”

Vito Acconci –

Design Thinking, Divergent Thinking

Friday, October 10th, 2008

I have been wanting to post about the recent piece in the New York Times. It’s a brief article, but quickly gets to the heart of something seemingly being discussed everywhere for the last couple of years, the concept of design thinking. Reading the article made me recall the image above, which is a quick sketch done by Charles Eames to visually help him to explain design, and that was shown in the 1969 Louvre Show, “What is Design.” I like that we are still investigating what this means nearly thirty forty years later (1969 is my birth year, I was in denial…).

In the article I was excited to see Tim Brown of IDEO bring up the relationship between design thinking and divergence. He goes into more detail on design thinking as one of many approaches to problem solving, to business, on his own blog, which is aptly titled . This is what we are talking about, after all, and this is from where the value for business in design thinking emanates, this idea of divergence or divergent thinking. I was discussing this with a friend of mine who is an architect, and he proclaimed that this is how architects have been talking for awhile. Oh, really? Talking, probably, but acting on… not so much. In the article Brown goes on to say:

“Most business processes are about making choices from a set of existing alternatives. Clearly, if all your competition is doing the same, then differentiation is tough. In order to innovate, we have to have new alternatives and new solutions to problems, and that is what design can do.”

This, however, is not what you are seeing in the business of architecture. Nor have you seen this for a very, very long time. Sure, there are architects who embody this approach to their business and some of them are very, very successful. But as an industry, as a group, this hardly applies to the way that architects think. We have hardly seen the business model of architecture, or its approach to design, change in any significant way for decades, other than to see its influence in building culture be consistently reduced by other, smarter, more aggresive industries. The truth hurts, but this is where the opportunity for architecture clearly lies, on putting action to his words and actually applying divergent thinking to the architecture business model and making a determined effort to focus on innovation.

This post is a milestone for schneiderism, it being the 300th post since launch in July of 2007.

How Bad Architecture Ruins Lives

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

The word “McMansion” has entered the common vernacular. They are ubiquitous in America, representative of an era that appears to be drawing to a close. Increasingly, these are the homes that have been foreclosed on and are sitting empty as monuments to conspicuous consumption and thoughtless, careless, irresponsible building practices. The trailer above is for a documentary that I have not yet seen, but given the prevalence of the story of McMansions these days, do you really need to? I seriously doubt that in 75 years there will be any trace of these homes left to remember them by.


Thoughts on Value, Effectiveness, And Getting To The Workplace of The Future

Monday, September 29th, 2008

I spent the better part of the weekend digging into research reports and knowledge papers from the (ARC) group at Steelcase. I was doing this to deepen my understanding of how ARC works to connect workplace design to organizational culture and business model. The big idea here is that a workplace is a social interface, and this interface can work for or against the goals of an organization depending on how successfully it manifests organizational culture and business model. The physical environments in which we work affect, both positively and negatively, the behaviors of those individuals who make up the organization and the culture that results from this bringing together of people for the purpose of business. The markets that we all operate in are increasingly competitive, whether driven by change in technology, the war for talent, or any number of other forces exerting pressure, and to be effective it is required of organizations to think deeply about all of their assets, and how they apply those assets in support of their business model. Success demands that organizations align the often separate business strategies for people, business process, technology, work environment, and real estate.

Workplaces that reflect the desired innovative behaviors and attitudes for an organization are rare, so it is difficult to point to readily available examples. They are rare because to create this type of environment requires an entirely different approach to designing them. It requires a change in the paradigm of workplace design, and as we all know… change is hard. This is partly because legacy thinking pervades how we conceive of the work environments that we create, legacy thinking that begins and ends with cost models that are more about reducing costs using a well-worn methodology based on control, minimization, and reduction, and not on the strategic application of resources. The net result is that enormous opportunities for innovation, efficiency, and effectiveness are missed. This reduces the workplace to something of an “isolated asset” that is effectively constrained by the legacy thinking of real estate cost models and arcane concepts of point and control as a management methodology. Our people demand better, our clients demand better, and those companies that figure out how to empower their human and social capital with effective workplace design have a distinct competitive advantage.

This begins with understanding how an organization’s business model and culture is not only impacted by the physical workplace, but can be aligned with it… and how that alignment can scale over time to the great benefit of the organization. All of this allows us to work toward an understanding of how a workplace is intrinsically related to value creation, and how it is a strategic conduit in delivering this value to the marketplace. The days of point and control are ending as we find ourselves deep into a business environment that is fluid, reactive, and taxing of our best efforts. Workplace must support this reality, it must be able to respond to it, it must adapt. The results will be evident.

Part of the historical problem, and hence the challenge, is that workplace research and analysis has historically been the limited to investigating adjacency and proximity, executive interviews, employee expectation management, and the creation of workstation mock-ups. No doubt, this has helped organizations understand a process and evolve smoothly from one place to another. But it is not enough, at least not anymore. The workplace of the future will emanate from a thorough analysis and the understanding created from a substantial investigation into company and organizational culture, the networks that comprise that culture, the relationship of all of this to business model, and how the inter-relationships of all of these factors will scale together over time. Within this depth of analysis and understanding are revealed the critical business factors.

When we begin to embrace our work environments as a tool, of a manifestation of the valuable processes that not only make organizations unique, but comprise the competitive factors that create success in the marketplace, we realize that this is a first step in transitioning the social and human capital of an organization into innovation and learning. The arcane model of the workplace that seeks to warehouse us in the most efficient and cost-effective way is not only losing relevancy in today’s marketplace, it is becoming an operational liability. What is needed is a workplace that unleashes the potential of the organization, it’s amalgam of groups and networks, its connection to the marketplace, and each individual. This is an approach that turns the workplace into a launchpad for the organization, not a landing pad.

Virtual Architecture

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

An amazingly fluid presentation of 3D rendered models of recognizable and iconic American buildings layered onto Google Earth, some in incredible detail including interiors. Worth checking out, especially when actually being there is not good enough.

More at the .

Making a SuperTower

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

The , designed by and completed and opened in August of this year, 11 years after construction began. It stands 101 stories tall and is among the tallest buildings in the world, at one point being the tallest building in the world by roof height, and is sheathed in over 10,000 windows which were installed at a rate of roughly 15 per day. This building will be work, entertainment, and hotel to some 17,000 people and features the world’s highest observation deck, and with a transparent glass floor. Visually, the design is relatively straightforward, simple, and elegant despite its giganticness. What is most interesting, though, is the story behind the construction:

Burning The Moon

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

Beautiful photographs of the Olympic flame burning atop the Beijing National Stadium, the “Bird’s Nest,” with the moon appearing to be singed as it passes through the flames. The image above was taken by , and is one from a series of photos of this nicely timed opportunity. Click to check them out as her photography is excellent. Most of the images I have used here to feature the new architecture of Beijing have been snapped by toomanytribbles, and I have especially enjoyed her periodic pictures of the CCTV Tower during construction.

Let The Games Begin

Friday, August 8th, 2008

And begin in an incredibly memorable way. Holy crap. A couple breathtaking images of the fireworks display for the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Beijing earlier today. Gorgeous. Below, Beijing National Stadium (The Bird’s Nest) explodes in a crown of thousands of fireworks.

This next image is the Beijing National Stadium again but with the National Aquatics Center in the foreground:

Definitely an impressive display, and all the more because of the dramatic architecture that is the backdrop for the spectacle. Nice work, everyone.

Images are from and I found them via .

OMA’s “The Rotterdam”

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Time to distract your attention from the deluge of architecture going down in Dubai and Beijing for a moment. I just watched this short animation of a building is doing in Rotterdam, aptly named “The Rotterdam”, in conjunction with progressive development concern MAB. Note at the beginning of the animation the brief review of the program for the building, which takes a very literal and typically separated use division and mashes it up in an incredibly hyperrational manner. This approach to defining building program has been used with success by OMA and is essentially what in 2006 with regards to OMA’s approach to the Seattle Public Library (a project that has met with some controversy before and after completion). This hyperrational approach is one that seems to tightly entwine form with function to the degree that function begins to bring definition to form. While this may be an accepted best practice in many design fields (UX rules!), it is still surprisingly novel in the world of architecture design.

Found video via

The Future of Beachfront Real Estate

Friday, July 25th, 2008

That’s because with the current prognostications of global warming and climate change the beachfront real estate that we all know and love may be disappearing. With focus being put on the possibility of complete loss of Arctic ice, rising sea levels, and the resulting inundation of cities like New York, London, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, most of Japan… places where some huge percentage of the world’s populations make their homes and places that many also like to travel to while on vacation, who is preparing themselves for this possible bleak future for the coastal areas and vacation prospects? The wealthy, with the help of and in the UK. By 2010 those with means should be able to choose from a fleet of 40 different yachts of the future designed by Foster + Partners. Actually, I exaggerate a bit as the plan is for these yachts to be leased for vacations in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean complete with a captain and support staff. YachtPlus claims this scheme is a “financially sensible” way for you to partake in the joys of luxury yachting. I have no idea how financial sensibility and luxury yachting can mutually coexist, but I digress.

The most interesting story here for me, though, is that an architecture design firm is designing this fleet of 40 luxury yachts. This is oddly coincidental as the week before last a co-worker asked me if we had considered diversifying our services into yacht and cruise ship design. Honestly, up to that point I do not believe that we had. Perhaps, in the interest of business model innovation, this should be seriously considered. Perhaps not. Everything else asside, the design of the yachts does indeed strike me as innovative and interesting:

Dubai’s Worker Housing Problem

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Dubai is undergoing a very visible, rapid and dramatic transformation. The intensity and quality of the building happening there is staggering, and this is to serve the needs of a relatively small elite segment of the population as well as a burgeoning population of investors. Servicing this population is a growing mass of foreign service workers who make their way to Dubai for the opportunity to earn better wages. As of 2007 nearly 85% of Dubai’s 1.3 million population were foreign workers. This percentage is increasing, and by 2015 it is estimated that Dubai will require over 1.3 million in foreign service workers alone, essentially their total current population. Currently, the armies of construction workers and craftsman who are building the future of Dubai live in temporary worker camps outside the city, but the city is growing at a pace to soon surround those camps. What to do?

The video above is an angle on addressing this challenge. Proposed by a team from , it presents solutions that are frank, pragmatic, and at some level take into account occupant quality and quality of life for the service workers. It’s definitely an interesting piece, and nothing if not just a bit controversial.

I found this video at , who found it at . Both are excellent.