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Found 17 results

  1. The New York Times July 15, 2008 Country, the City Version: By BINA VENKATARAMAN What if “eating local” in Shanghai or New York meant getting your fresh produce from five blocks away? And what if skyscrapers grew off the grid, as verdant, self-sustaining towers where city slickers cultivated their own food? Dickson Despommier, a professor of public health at Columbia University, hopes to make these zucchini-in-the-sky visions a reality. Dr. Despommier’s pet project is the “vertical farm,” a concept he created in 1999 with graduate students in his class on medical ecology, the study of how the environment and human health interact. The idea, which has captured the imagination of several architects in the United States and Europe in the past several years, just caught the eye of another big city dreamer: Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president. When Mr. Stringer heard about the concept in June, he said he immediately pictured a “food farm” addition to the New York City skyline. “Obviously we don’t have vast amounts of vacant land,” he said in a phone interview. “But the sky is the limit in Manhattan.” Mr. Stringer’s office is “sketching out what it would take to pilot a vertical farm,” and plans to pitch a feasibility study to the mayor’s office within the next couple of months, he said. “I think we can really do this,” he added. “We could get the funding.” Dr. Despommier estimates that it would cost $20 million to $30 million to make a prototype of a vertical farm, but hundreds of millions to build one of the 30-story towers that he suggests could feed 50,000 people. “I’m viewed as kind of an outlier because it’s kind of a crazy idea,” Dr. Despommier, 68, said with a chuckle. “You’d think these are mythological creatures.” Dr. Despommier, whose name in French means “of the apple trees,” has been spreading the seeds of his radical idea in lectures and through his Web site. He says his ideas are supported by hydroponic vegetable research done by NASA and are made more feasible by the potential to use sun, wind and wastewater as energy sources. Several observers have said Dr. Despommier’s sky-high dreams need to be brought down to earth. “Why does it have to be 30 stories?” said Jerry Kaufman, professor emeritus of urban and regional planning at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “Why can’t it be six stories? There’s some exciting potential in the concept, but I think he overstates what can be done.” Armando Carbonell, chairman of the department of planning and urban form at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, Mass., called the idea “very provocative.” But it requires a rigorous economic analysis, he added. “Would a tomato in lower Manhattan be able to outbid an investment banker for space in a high-rise? My bet is that the investment banker will pay more.” Mr. Carbonell questions if a vertical farm could deliver the energy savings its supporters promise. “There’s embodied energy in the concrete and steel and in construction,” he said, adding that the price of land in the city would still outweigh any savings from not having to transport food from afar. “I believe that this general relationship is going to hold, even as transportation costs go up and carbon costs get incorporated into the economic system.” Some criticism is quite helpful. Stephen Colbert jokingly asserted that vertical farming was elitist when Dr. Despommier appeared in June on “The Colbert Report,” a visit that led to a jump in hits to the project’s Web site from an average of 400 daily to 400,000 the day after the show. Dr. Despommier agrees that more research is needed, and calls the energy calculations his students made for the farms, which would rely solely on alternative energy, “a little bit too optimistic.” He added, “I’m a biologist swimming in very deep water right now.” “If I were to set myself as a certifier of vertical farms, I would begin with security,” he said. “How do you keep insects and bacteria from invading your crops?” He says growing food in climate-controlled skyscrapers would also protect against hail and other weather-related hazards, ensuring a higher quality food supply for a city, without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Architects’ renderings of vertical farms — hybrids of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and Biosphere 2 with SimCity appeal — seem to be stirring interest. “It also has to be stunning in terms of the architecture, because it needs to work in terms of social marketing,” Dr. Despommier said. “You want people to say, ‘I want that in my backyard.’ ” Augustin Rosenstiehl, a French architect who worked with Dr. Despommier to design a template “living tower,” said he thought that any vertical farm proposal needed to be adapted to a specific place. Mr. Rosenstiehl, principal architect for Atelier SOA in Paris, said: “We cannot do a project without knowing where and why and what we are going to cultivate. For example, in Paris, if you grow some wheat, it’s stupid because we have big fields all around the city and lots of wheat and it’s good wheat. There’s no reason to build towers that are very expensive.” Despite its potential problems, the idea of bringing food closer to the city is gaining traction among pragmatists and dreamers alike. A smaller-scale design of a vertical farm for downtown Seattle won a regional green building contest in 2007 and has piqued the interest of officials in Portland, Ore. The building, a Center for Urban Agriculture designed by architects at Mithun, would supply about a third of the food needed for the 400 people who would live there. In June at P.S.1 Contemporary Arts Center in Queens, a husband-wife architect team built a solar-powered outdoor farm out of stacked rows of cardboard tube planters — one that would not meet Dr. Despommier’s security requirements — with chicken coops for egg collection and an array of fruits and vegetables. For Dr. Despommier, the high-rise version is on the horizon. “It’s very idealistic and ivory tower and all of that,” he said. “But there’s a real desire to make this happen.” ---------------- Peut-être pour Dubai en premier? Et le silo no.5, un de ses jours?
  2. The jury members are: - Melvin Charney, architect; - Odile Decq, architect and Director of the École Spéciale d'Architecture, Paris; - Jacques Des Rochers, Curator of Canadian Art, Montréal Museum of Fine Arts; - Michel Dionne, architect, Cooper, Robertson & Partners, New York; - Raphaël Fischler, urban planner and professor at the School of Urban Planning, McGill University; - Mario Masson, landscape architect and Division Manager, Service du développement culturel, de la qualité du milieu de vie et de la diversité ethnoculturelle, Ville de Montréal; - Alessandra Ponte, associate professor, School of Architecture, Université de Montréal; - Philippe Poullaouec-Gonidec, landscape architect and holder of the UNESCO Chair in Landscape and Environmental Design at Université de Montréal. Instructions for prospective entrants (Courtesy of CNW Telbec)
  3. Local architect pledges to stop the ‘joke’ of high-rise Rotterdam World War II saw the destruction of many cities around Europe and not least hit was the city of Rotterdam. While devastating on a human and financial scale this allowed the city to evolve into what is now considered as the ‘high rise city of the Netherlands’. But local architect Jan Willem van Kuilenburg, principal of Monolab Architects has derided this label as ‘a joke’ calling for an extension to the local authorities’ planned high rise zone to the south and proposes Rotterdam's first super-tower, the 450 m high City Tower. “Rotterdam is too hesitant, too defensive and too much like an underdog. After the Erasmus bridge we are in need of a real skyscraper of European scale of which Rotterdam can be proud,” says Kuilenburg, “All currently realised towers in Rotterdam are of mediocre quality and very primitive. As we should save in prosperous periods, it makes the current economic crisis the right time to invest.” Kuilenburg proposes City Tower as the leader in this campaign. The 450 m mixed-use tower with a photovoltaic skin would be built in the water by the Maas Harbour. According to Kuilenburg it would allow the high-rise zone to serve the whole city and help to connect Europe’s largest port to the rest of the city. The tower would be connected to land via a steel pedestrian boulevard to a separate parking lot with the capacity for 1000 cars. Kuilenburg believes this element of the project could aid the local authorities’ plans to liberate the downtown area of traffic by creating a 6th park and ride zone with its close proximity to the Metro. Asked about the likely response from the people of Rotterdam to what would be a very bold visual landmark, Kuilenburg said: “I don’t know. In general Rotterdam people are proud of the skyline, they are energetic and ready to go for new proposals. It has always been a scene for experiment. Rotterdam was bombed in the Second World War and so new buildings emerged, since then people are used to change.” Kuilenburg is currently in talks with developers and calling for international investment for the project. Niki May Young News Editor http://www.worldarchitecturenews.com/index.php?fuseaction=wanappln.projectview&upload_id=10909
  4. Could the era of glass skyscrapers be over? One of the architects behind London's famous Gherkin skyscraper has now turned against glass buildings. Is it time tall towers were made out of something else, asks Hannah Sander. It is one of the UK's most recognisable buildings. A Stirling Prize winner. A backdrop to Hollywood films. Named the most admired tower in the world. But 10 years after it was opened, one of the designers behind the "Gherkin" has turned against it. Architect Ken Shuttleworth, one of the team at Foster and Partners who designed the tower, now thinks the gigantic glass structure was a mistake. "The Gherkin is a fantastic building," he says. "But we can't have that anymore. We can't have those all-glass buildings. We need to be much more responsible." The building at 30 St Mary Axe - nicknamed after a gherkin because of its bulbous silhouette - kick-started a decade of strangely shaped glass towers. The Cheesegrater, the Walkie-Talkie and the Shard loomed up from the pavements of London. The skylines of both Birmingham and Manchester were drastically altered by the addition of towers by property firm Beetham. One of the best-known glass building mishaps took place last summer, when the Walkie-Talkie at 20 Fenchurch Street in London was accused of melting cars. The 37-storey building reflected light in its glass facade and shone powerful rays at its surroundings. Cars parked underneath were damaged, and passers-by even managed to fry eggs using only sunlight. In the end the developers, Land Securities, had to apply for planning permission to obscure architect Rafael Vinoly's £200m design with a permanent "brise soleil" or sunshade. And yet despite this, Land Securities recently revealed that the widely reported calamity "did nothing to deter lettings". Glass buildings are popular - not just because of their striking appearance but for the views they boast, and the increased light they let in. When German architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe designed what is said to be the world's first glass skyscraper in 1921, he associated the glass facade with purity and renewal. Later in the century, British architect Richard Rogers praised glass buildings because of their social worth. Glass walls enabled even employees working in the basement to benefit from reflected natural light and dissolved barriers between a cramped indoor office space and the greenery outside. Companies like to give the impression of a democratic working environment - open-plan and with floor-to-ceiling windows, so that all employees, not just the boss, benefit from the view. However, as concerns over global warming have become more widespread, so the glass structure has come under scrutiny. Since leaving Foster and Partners in 2006, Shuttleworth has become a key voice in the fight against glass. Despite his background working on giant glazed buildings, he has founded an architectural practice in which floor-to-ceiling windows are considered an archaic luxury. "Everything I've done for the last 40 years I'm rethinking now," he says. "If you were designing [the Gherkin] today... it wouldn't be the same product all the way around the building. "We need to be much more responsible in terms of the way we shade our buildings and the way we thermally think about our buildings." Glass lets out and lets in a lot of heat. A vast amount of energy is required for an office full of people to remain cool in the UAE and to stay warm in the snowstorms of Toronto. Governments are now so concerned by the long-term impact of "solar gain" - the extent to which a building absorbs sunlight and heats up - that they have introduced strict regulations around shape and structure. Architects are being encouraged to change where they place windows, so that a sunny south-facing wall has less chance to absorb heat than a chilly north-face. Walkie-Talkie developers Land Securities are currently at work on a building called the ZigZag, that is designed so that alternate walls cast shadows on their neighbours. The building is deliberately shaped so it can keep itself cool. In the US there is a campaign in favour of wooden skyscrapers, promoting wood as a "green" building material in place of glass. However, the trade association Glass for Europe has dismissed what they consider "a preconceived idea" that glass is bad. Instead they point to sustainable buildings in which glass has been fashioned into corridors that don't require central heating and solar panels that have been slotted seamlessly into a design. The association also points out that glass is fully recyclable. "A whole palette of glass products is available for the glazing to meet different functions in the building envelope," the association said. "Glass is fit for all climates." In the past decades, the glass industry has worked hard to adapt technology in the context of climate change. Engineer Andrea Charlson is part of a team at firm Arup that seeks new ways to increase material sustainability. She is not convinced that the glass in glass buildings is the cause of their problems. "There have been a lot of advancements in glass technology in the last few years and it's amazing what we can do now in terms of putting coatings on glass. Some of them can be a heavy colour tint that will provide some shading. Others will be almost invisible but will still keep a lot of the heat and solar gain outside a building," she says. Charlson is currently investigating problems in the materials that hold the glazed panels on buildings in place. "As the glass technology improves, one of the biggest causes of heat loss is through the framing. The heat energy will always try to find the path of least resistance." Even with the improvements to glass technology, Shuttleworth is not convinced that these sheer skyscrapers can be justified in today's society. He is not only concerned by their environmental impact, but also with the other effects a glass tower has on its surroundings. Architecture and design critic Tom Dyckhoff is equally keen to see the glass skyscraper put to bed. "As someone who spends their entire life staring at buildings, I am a bit bored by the glass box. They were radical in the 1920s and now they are just cliches, expensive ones at that. "But now that we are having to be more thoughtful about how and where we use glass, maybe architects will become more inventive in how they use windows, instead of plastering them across whole facades," he says. Shuttleworth's most recent project began life as a solid steel object and he says it has glass only where it is needed. "It is a privilege to have a window. I think it should be seen as a privilege," he says. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27501938
  5. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-03-14/micro-apartments-in-the-big-city-a-trend-builds Always happy to see quotes from professors at my alma mater, especially when it comes to real estate issues! Micro-Apartments in the Big City: A Trend Builds By Venessa Wong March 14, 2013 6:00 PM EDT Imagine waking in a 15-by-15-foot apartment that still manages to have everything you need. The bed collapses into the wall, and a breakfast table extends down from the back of the bed once it’s tucked away. Instead of closets, look overhead to nooks suspended from the ceiling. Company coming? Get out the stools that stack like nesting dolls in an ottoman. Micro-apartments, in some cases smaller than college dorm rooms, are cropping up in North American cities as urban planners experiment with new types of housing to accommodate growing numbers of single professionals, students, and the elderly. Single-person households made up 26.7 percent of the U.S. total in 2010, vs. 17.6 percent in 1970, according to Census Bureau data. In cities, the proportion is often higher: In New York, it’s about 33 percent. And these boîtes aren’t just for singles. The idea is to be more efficient and eventually to offer cheaper rents. To foster innovation, several municipalities are waiving zoning regulations to allow construction of smaller dwellings at select sites. In November, San Francisco reduced minimum requirements for a pilot project to 220 square feet, from 290, for a two-person efficiency unit. In Boston, where most homes are at least 450 sq. ft., the city has approved 300 new units as small as 375 sq. ft. With the blessing of local authorities, a developer in Vancouver in 2011 converted a single-room occupancy hotel into 30 “micro-lofts” under 300 sq. ft. Seattle and Chicago have also green-lighted micro-apartments. “In the foreseeable future, this trend will continue,” says Avi Friedman, a professor and director of the Affordable Homes Research Group at McGill University’s School of Architecture. A growing number of people are opting to live alone or not to have children, he says. Among this group, many choose cities over suburbs to reduce reliance on cars and cut commute times. “Many people recognize that there is a great deal of value to living in the city,” he says. Friedman calls the new fashion for micro-digs the “Europeanization” of North America. In the U.K. the average home is only 915 square feet. In the U.S. the average new single-family home is 2,480 square feet. The National Association of Home Builders expects that to shrink to 2,152 square feet by 2015. Small living has deep roots in Japan, where land is scarce. “It’s just the way things have always been done,” says Azby Brown, an architect and author of The Very Small Home: Japanese Ideas for Living Well in Limited Space. Three hundred square feet may sound tight, but consider that Japanese families historically lived in row houses outfitted with 100-square-foot living quarters and large communal areas. After World War II, Japan’s homes grew, though not much by American standards. By the late 1980s the average Japanese home measured 900 square feet. Tight quarters demand ingenuity and compromise. Think of the Japanese futon or the under-the-counter refrigerator, a feature of European apartments. The Murphy bed gets a sleek makeover in a mock-up of a micro-apartment on exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York. The 325-square-foot space, designed by New York architect Amie Gross, also features a table on wheels that can be tucked under a kitchen counter and a flat-screen TV that slides along a rail attached to built-in shelves. Visual tricks such as high ceilings and varied floor materials make the space feel roomier. The show, titled “Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers,” displays some of the entries from a design competition sponsored by New York’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The winning team, comprising Monadnock Development, Actors Fund Housing Development, and nArchitects, secured permission to erect a 10-story building in Manhattan made of prefabricated steel modules. Some of the 55 units will be as small as 250 square feet. “The hope is that with more supply, that should help with the affordability of these kinds of apartments so that the young or the elderly can afford to live closer to the center and not have to commute so far in,” says Mimi Hoang, a co-founder of nArchitects. Although tiny, these properties aren’t cheap, at least not on a per-square-foot basis. In San Francisco, where two projects are under way, rents will range from $1,200 to $1,500 per month. In New York, the 20-odd units for low- and middle-income renters will start at $939. Ted Smith, an architect in San Diego, says singles would be better served by residences that group efficiency studios into suites with communal areas for cooking, dining, and recreation. “The market does not want little motel rooms to live in,” he says. “There needs to be cool, hip buildings that everyone loves and goes, ‘Man, these little units are wonderful,’ not ‘I guess I can put up with this.’ ” BusinessWeek - Home ©2013 Bloomberg L.P. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  6. Bonjour à tous, La compilation des projets sur les forums skyscrapercity et skyscraperpage n'a pas été mise à jour depuis longtemps et de part ça qualité, n'est pas très digne de Montréal! (c'est moi qui l'est faite en plus...) J'ai fait plusieurs recherches sur tous le projets, afin de compléter quelques renseignements et ainsi faire une nouvelle compilation. Je suis pourri en anglais, donc ne vous gêner pas pour me corriger. Je veux vos commentaires, afin de finaliser le fil et le mettre sur les deux autres forums. Merci bien! Gilbert P.S. Au risque de me répéter, le premier qui, après avoir vu ce fil, dira encore que Montréal stagne et ne bouge pas aura affaire à moi... ------------------------------------------------------ Updated compilation – by Gilbert (mtlurb.com) Under construction Hilton Garden Inn Expected Occupancy: 2008 Developer: Groupe Canvar Architect: Geiger Huot Architectes Floors: 37 fl Designation: 200-room hotel (first 13 fl), residential Louis Bohème Expected Occupancy: 2009 Developer: SacresaCanada, Iber Management Architect: Menkès, Shooner, Dagenais, Letourneux Height : 85m Floors: 28 fl Designation: Residential Crystal de la Montagne Expected Occupancy: 2008 Developer: Le Crystal de la Montagne / S.E.N.C. Architect: BLT Architectes Floors: 27 fl Designation: 131 suites, 59 luxurious condominium residences Le Vistal 1 & 2 Expected Occupancy: 2008 - 2009 Developer: Groupe Proment Designation : Residential Floors: 2*28 fl Designation: Residential Westin Montreal Expected Occupancy: 2008 Developer: Atlific Architect: Geiger Huot Architectes Floors: 20 fl Designation: 432 deluxe rooms and suites Quebecor Head Office Expansion Expected Occupancy: 2008 Developer: Québécor Architect: Cardinal Hardy / Arcop Floors: 19 fl Designation: Office space Université de Sherbrooke Expected Occupancy: 2009 City : Longueuil Developer: Université de Sherbrooke Floors: 17 fl Designation: University building Boisé Notre-Dame Expected Occupancy: 2008 City : Laval Developer: Groupe Joyal Floors: 3*17 fl Designation: Residential Îlot Voyageur Expected Occupancy: 2009 Developer: UQAM Floors: 2*9 fl / 16 fl Designation: University building and a new bus terminal Villa Latella - Mont-Carmel Expected Occupancy: 2008 Developer: San Carlo Construction Inc. Floors: 15 fl Designation: Residential John Molson School of Business Building Expected Occupancy: 2009 Developer: Concordia University Architects: KPMB Architects – FSA Architectes Floors: 15 fl Designation: University building Sir George Simpson Expected Occupancy: 2009 Developer: Groupe Lépine Architects: DCYSA Floors: 13 fl Designation: Residential LUX Résidences Gouverneur Expected Occupancy: 2009 Developer: Gouverneur Residences Architects: DCYSA Floors: 4*12 fl Designation: Residential Lowney 3 Expected Occupancy: 2008 Developer: Groupe Prével Architects: DCYSA Floors: 10 fl Designation: Residential 333 Sherbrooke Est Expected Occupancy: 2008 Developer: Homburg Invest Inc. Architects: Cardinal Hardy et Associés Floors: 2*10 fl Designation: Residential Stade Saputo Team : Impact de Montréal Expected Occupancy: 2008 Developer: Groupe Saputo Architect: Zinno Zappitelli Architectes Number of seats: 13,000 seats, expandable to 17,000
  7. Step aside Toronto, the next housing boom is in Montreal Karen Mazurkewich, Financial Post Published: Friday, January 11, 2008 Gordon Beck/Canwest News Service What sets Montreal apart from other urban centers is the fact that it has retained its neighbourhood mosaic. When Montreal architect Henri Cleinge purchased an old wine depot in Montreal's Little Italy district in 2002, he transformed it into a contemporary three-unit condo with polished wood and concrete floors, iron staircases and stainless steel kitchens. He then flipped two of the units for seven times the original investment of $200,000. Mr. Cleinge had a few sleepless nights wondering whether the units would sell. He didn't have to worry. In Montreal, there's big demand for contemporary-design living. Much has been made about Toronto's big museum projects and condo lineups, but Montreal is also changing its shape. Toronto housing prices have experienced 58% growth since 2000. The island of Montreal, however, has seen housing sales jump 50%, but the city itself has gone up 94%. In addition, a new concert hall and 28-storey condo tower is being erected atop Place des Arts metro, two mega hospitals are under construction and Sotheby's International Realty recently entered the market. As well, the largest private real estate investment in decades, involving 4,000 dwellings and a shopping plaza, is scheduled to get a green light from city hall. Montreal's mojo is back. But its not the big urban projects that are redefining this city. What makes Montreal distinct from other urban centres is the fact it has retained its neighbourhood mosaic. The most famous is the northeastern district known as Plateau-Mont-Royal. The Plateau has become the most expensive address in the city, with its average housing price jumping 105% in the past seven years. It's also one of the reasons Montreal consistently ranks among the top 25 cities in the world for quality of life. Like Greenwich Village in New York or Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, the Plateau is where culture and haute couture intersect. In the 1980s, the Plateau was a string of shabby row houses. Owners lived on the main floor and rented the walk-ups. But the working-class enclave changed dramatically in the 1990s, when new legislation made it possible to subdivide duplexes and triplexes into condo apartments. "Instead of a single owner, who would rent one or two of the other floors, now each apartment is owned individually and people are now willing to invest," says Susan Bronson, a Montreal heritage conservationist. The artists and architects that moved into the area with nothing in their pockets can now afford to invest. The hood became hip because it maintained "high bohemian index," she says. Montreal's Mile End, a subsection within the Plateau immortalized by Canadian author Mordecai Richler, has seen the greatest upheaval. Gone are the icons: the discount grocery store Warshaw's, Simcha's Fruit Market and St. Laurent Bakery have closed. Instead, a slew of new high-concept design stores, including Interversion and Latitude Nord, have staked out Boulevard Saint-Laurent, turning it into the new fashion Mecca. Even the old rag-trade factories, religious buildings and empty lots have received a radical facelift. Architect Eric Gauthier, who created the landmark Espace Go on Saint-Laurent, is currently constructing the all-new Théâtre de Quat'Sous on formerly grungy Avenue Pins. The firm Lepointe Magne has also made its mark on the Plateau, redesigning the public swimming pool Bain Lévesque and converting an old fire hall into the high concept Théâtre Espace Libre. In Plateau's housing, one of the first innovations was Atelier Big City's 1989 Sept-Plex condominium project on Clark Street, which made creative use of the narrow street fronts and back lanes. Atelier Build reinvented the notion of infill with its 2004 "thin house" project along Avenue L'Hotel-du-ville. When she started her architectural company with partner Michael Carroll 12 years ago, Danita Rooyakkers of Atelier Build, says few others were betting on the Plateau. Political instability in the province was a deterrent for developers, but it was the perfect time for a young architect with modest means and big dreams. Ms. Rooyakkers biked around Plateau in search of cheap empty lots and made her mark by eschewing the traditional walk-ups, where every family gets a floor, and subdivided the property so each owner has a front door, backyard and terraces. By opening up the walls and adding skylights, the architectural firm created a vertical loft. It won awards because it offered another prototype for high-density Montreal living, she says. The design aesthetic in Montreal has been tempered by activism. The Plateau is not only governed by a planning advisory committee stacked with architects and landscapers, it has community watchdogs galore, including the Mile End Citizens Committee and Urban Ecology. Every architect working here has had to face fierce town hall forums before building begins. "As educated local residents, we have both a sense of entitlement and empowerment," says Owen Rose, an architect and head of the Urban Ecology group, which focuses on urban green spaces. "It's easy to get involved in issues because we are constantly bumping into each other on the street in this urban village," he says, adding that community involvement has permeated the local culture. As one of the first architects to help reshape the plateau, Mr. Gauthier was frequently forced to marry old facades with his slick contemporary style to meet the borough's strict guidelines. With Théâtre de Quat'Sous, he's been given an exemption: the historic synagogue in which the theater is currently housed didn't meet safety codes so it will be replaced by a showy new architectural structure. Mr. Gauthier is concerned about a public outcry, but he's excited about the new design. "If you want to keep the city alive, you need to add new buildings and new layers." While the strict development guidelines built a "cohesive" neighbourhood, he says, "we've passed the point where conservation should now trump freedom." Mr. Cleinge, the architect, is trying to exercise that freedom. In recent years he has revamped in his sleek industrial design look a microbrewery on Duluth Street as well as the Les Chocolats de Chloe of Roy Street East. He avoids wood stairs and plastered ceilings, preferring concrete and steel for urban living spaces. The look reflects the city's history, he says. "Montreal is an industrial city with a large garment industry so it's appropriate language to use in a residential context," he says. Luckily for him, clients such as Stéphane Dion and Éloïse Corbeil, typical Plateau dwellers, are looking to restyle their 1880s duplex. Ms. Corbeil's father purchased the building on Christophe Columb Street in 1996 when she and her brother needed a place to live while they attended university. Ms. Corbeil's brother has since moved to the United States, but the 33-year-old writer-filmmaker and her lawyer husband still love the mixed neighbourhood. They looked in the swank neighbourhoods of Westmount and Outremont after the birth of their two children, but decided to stay put. "We didn't want to go to the suburbs because we like the diversity here," says Ms. Corbeil. Conscious of their limitations but eager for a contemporary style, they hired Mr. Cleinge after seeing his work in a magazine. His mandate was to keep a portion of the "stacked wood" interior shell of the house, but rebuild the place from top bottom. He proposed a mezzanine open-style approach to filter more light into the home and create more space. Concrete floors and iron railings are part of the new plan. For most young buyers, the Plateau is now untouchable - meaning overpriced. Its evolution, however, has created a ripple effect across the city and intensive gentrification is happening in the shabby districts of Point St. Charles and the Jean Talon market area. "The Plateau has matured," says Mr. Cleinge. But the condoization of Montreal has only begun. Financial Post [email protected] http://www.financialpost.com/magazine/family_finance/story.html?id=231679
  8. Le magazine Canadian Architect vient de remettre ses prix d'excellence pour l'année 2007 (prix remis à des projets proposés ou en construction). Deux projets montréalais se distinguent: le Louis Bohème et le campus de Longueuil de l'université de sherbrooke. Le lien: http://www.canadianarchitect.com/issues/ISArticle.asp?id=77687&issue=12182007&btac=no ps: En passant, il me semble que ce serait bien d'avoir une section sur ce forum consacré essentiellement à l'architecture, au design et aux architectes montréalais. Juste une suggestion...
  9. Trouvé sur ce site : Irenebrination: Notes on Architecture, Art, Fashion and Technology: May 2014 avec cette description : Également trouvé en parcourant divers site, cette photo de la maison Shaughnessy en 1948 : sur ce site : Montreal Mission | Sisters of Service
  10. Why is this forest floating 1000 feet above Taiwan's skyline, apparently sitting on a blue glow of anti-gravity beams? It's the Taiwan Tower, a giant steel superstructure that may become the most surreal piece of engineering I've ever seen. The renderings give you an idea of how weird and wonderful this thing will be. It really blows my mind to think that they are actually going to build this ethereal steel column labyrinth, which would be as tall as the Eiffel Tower. The banyan tree-like design, which was created by Tokyo-based architect Sou Fujimoto, just won the first prize in the Taiwan Tower International Competition. It would be made entirely of steel, with perimeter columns, inner columns, intermediate columns, spiral beams and roof beams all of them circular, 800 millimeters in diameter and hollow. It will be surrounded by parks. In fact, it will look as if someone cut a wedge of the terrain and pushed up in the air. [Sou Fujimoto viaArchdaily] Republished from http://gizmodo.com
  11. Architect Koolhaas sees economic woes blunting excess SEOUL (Reuters Life!) – Architect Rem Koolhaas, renowned for his striking designs and musings on cities, believes the global economic downturn will lead to less ostentatious, more "socially responsible" buildings that better serve the public. The Dutch architect, whose firm designed the gravity-defying CCTV Headquarters in Beijing, Casa de Musica in Portugal and the Seattle Central Library, said more emphasis will now be placed on the efficient use of space during these lean times. "The last 10 years have been noteworthy for the excess in the private sector," Koolhaas told Reuters at the opening of a sleek temporary exhibit hall he and his Office for Metropolitan Architecture designed for fashion house Prada in Seoul. "What we are going to see is a return to the public sector. This is a healthy thing," he said on Wednesday. The Prada Transformer structure, located next to an ancient palace in central Seoul, will open on Saturday with a fashion display. The tetrahedron-shaped steel building, covered in a translucent white skin, is designed to be lifted by cranes and rotated so that it can best use each of its differently designed sides to show movies, host fashion shows or hold art exhibits. Koolhaas said the building provides a bit of lightness -- constructed at a reasonable costs -- that is needed during an economic downturn. Prada would not provide the amount it paid to construct the building. (Editing by Miral Fahmy)
  12. March 15, 2009 KEY | SPRING 2009 By JIM LEWIS New York is the capital of glass, the city of windows. Other cities get their gravitas from marble or stone, but New York is made of silica, soda ash and lime, melted to make this vitreous stuff: transparent, translucent and opaque; reflective, tinted, frosted, coated, clear. The slightest shift in the angle of sun fall can hide or reveal entire worlds, and as evening comes the city gradually turns itself inside out — the streets go dark and the buildings open up, offering their rooms like stagelets upon which our little lives are played. 25 Cooper Square: The Cooper Square Hotel Completed: 2009 Architect: Carlos Zapata Developer: Sciame Photo date: Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009 As old as the material is, glass remains a mystery. No one quite knows what goes on, down where the molecules bind — whether it’s a slow-moving liquid, an especially mutable solid or something in between. Still, new compounds appear regularly, with new qualities that promise new possibilities. The substance has never been exhausted, and may yet prove inexhaustible, an endless inspiration to architects and designers as it grows stronger, lighter, clearer and more flexible. 731 Lexington Avenue and 1 Beacon Court: Global headquarters for Bloomberg L.P. and other offices, as well as retail and residences Completed: 2005 Architects: Cesar and Rafael Pelli (Pelli Clark Pelli Architects) Developer: Vornado Realty Trust Photo date: Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009 For this issue, In Sook Kim, an artist with a special interest in intimacy and display, photographed five buildings in Manhattan — chips in the kaleidoscope of the city and homes to some of its most emblematic activities: business, the arts, putting up tourists and, of course, staying in for the night. 405 West 55th Street: The Joan Weill Center for Dance, home of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Completed: 2004 Architect: lu + Bibliowicz Architects L.L.P. Photo date: Friday, Jan. 16, 2009 For each photograph, Kim, who is based in Germany, lit interior rooms with colored gels and arranged the occupants of the buildings in everyday tableaux. She then parked herself across from the buildings with a large-format camera, the glass of her lens facing the glass of the facades, creating portraits of the city as a crystalline beehive, always bright and always busy. 48 Bond Street: Condominium residence Completed: 2008 Architect: Deborah Berke & Partners Architects Developer: Dacbon L.L.C. Photo date: Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/15/realestate/keymagazine/15KeyGLASS-t.html?ref=keymagazine&pagewanted=print
  13. December 19th, 2011 Confessions of a Condo Architect By Alanah Heffez // 7 Comments http://spacingmontreal.ca/page/7/ Right after completing her Masters degree in Architecture, Alex got a job with a local firm that designs those condominiums you always see cropping up in the Plateau, Rosemont and Villeray. We have all seen these new constructions and shuddered, or perhaps just sighed it could be worse. The blocks are neither offensive nor inspiring: they're mediocre at best. “We’re creating a generation of condos that are really ugly," Alex says,"It’s as bad as the 'eighties. Frankly, I think it’s going to be worse.” She runs through a list of all-too-familiar features: cramped juliettes where balconies should be; basement apartments with dug-out cours anglaises surrounded with bars that end up looking like jail cells; the use of different tones of brick to break up the façade; the random insertion of incongruous colours to add a semblance of architectural variety... As Alex describes it, designing condos is a constant give and take between respecting the building code while maximizing the client's profits that leaves little space for creativity. Here's an example: the City of Montreal requires 80% of building fronts to be masonry and monotone bricks in taupe matt, grey anthracite and Champlain orange-red are inexpensive (how cheap it feels to reduce the urban landscape to colours in a catalogue). The most an architect can hope to do is to add a splash of coloured plexiglass, and only if the borough's CCU lets it through. Within the envelope, the constraints are event tighter: Alex describes her workdays as "trying to shove too much into a space that’s inherently too small.” She recalls debating with a colleague about the ethics of sketching a double-bed into the plans when a queen simply wouldn't fit in the room. "'If you can’t fit a Queen-sized bed in your apartment, then it’s not an acceptable apartment," Alex insists. But most people don't have much experience reading architectural plans so they don’t necessarily realize what they’re getting. The developer, on the other hand, knows exactly what they want: "they come to you and say: this is the lot, and we want 8 condos in it." That leaves room for only a couple two-bedroom apartments, and the rest bachelors, all within the footprint of what was once a duplex or triplex apartment block. "It’s more profitable to sell more condos than to sell more bedrooms,” Alex points out. There's another catch: buildings under three stories fall within part 9 of the building code, which is more lenient in terms of fire safety regulations. But by sinking in a couple basement suites and adding a mezzanine (which must not exceed a certain percentage of the floorspace), it's possible to squeeze five levels into a building that is officially only three stories high. At least there's a sliver of good news: just this year the city stopped allowing windowless rooms. And while we may be in favour of urban density, tightly-packed residential units are not synonymous with density of inhabitants. "All these properties with great potential are being turned into one single type of real estate that is not family friendly: it’s all geared to young professionals without children. They’re not big enough for a growing family and there’s no flexibility in the space," says Alex. Another thing that she laments is that, with the requirement to transform every square inch of the lot into square-footage of floorspace, there's a tendency to lose the individual entrances, balconies and outdoor staircases that are typical of Montreal's urban landscape, and that create a dialogue between public and private space. Of course, being an architect, she also dwells on the aesthetics: “It’s all going to look very 2010," she sighs, "....and not in a good way.”
  14. May 22, 2009 By IAN AUSTEN OTTAWA — Arthur Erickson, who was widely viewed as Canada’s pre-eminent Modernist architect, died in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Wednesday. He was 84. Phyllis Lambert, the chairwoman of the Canadian Center for Architecture in Montreal, said Mr. Erickson, a friend, had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Mr. Erickson established an international reputation for designing innovative complexes and buildings, often to critical acclaim. Among them are the San Diego Convention Center; Napp Laboratories in Cambridge, England; the Kuwait Oil Sector Complex in Kuwait City; and Kunlun Apartment Hotel Development in Beijing. He designed the Canadian pavilion, an inverted pyramid, at Expo 67, the world’s fair in Montreal; Canada’s embassy in Washington; and, with the firm of Mathers and Haldenby, the Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto’s main concert hall, a circular, futuristic building that tapers to a flat top. But Mr. Erickson is perhaps best known for providing Vancouver, his hometown, with many of its architectural signatures, the most successful of which he integrated with their surrounding landscapes, avoiding ornamentation and favoring concrete (which he called “the marble of our time”). Among his notable buildings there is the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. “His work always came out of the earth,” Ms. Lambert said. “He didn’t start the way most architects started. He actually started off with the earth, the landscape, and made something that inhabited the land.” Mr. Erickson also campaigned for buildings that strove to maintain a human scale. In 1972 he persuaded the province of British Columbia to abandon plans for a 55-story office and court complex in downtown Vancouver. Mr. Erickson’s replacement design effectively turned the tower on its side. He created a relatively low, three-block-long complex with a steel and glass truss roof and a complex concrete structure softened with trees, gardens and waterfalls. It was another Vancouver commission, however, that first brought Mr. Erickson fame. Much to his surprise, he and his architectural partner at the time, Geoffrey Massey, won a competition in 1965 to design the campus of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver. Its wide, low buildings mirror the mountains surrounding the city. Arthur Charles Erickson was born on June 14, 1924. His parents were influential promoters of the arts in Vancouver as the city began to grow rapidly in the early 20th century, and they encouraged Arthur and his brother to study the arts. Prominent Canadian artists in Vancouver became Mr. Erickson’s mentors, notably the landscape painter Lawren S. Harris. After serving with the Canadian Army in Asia as a commando and intelligence officer during World War II, Mr. Erickson began his university studies with the hope of becoming a diplomat. But in his autobiography, “The Architecture of Arthur Erickson,” he wrote that he changed his mind in 1947 after seeing, in Fortune magazine, photographs of Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Modernist and environmentally sensitive house built in the desert in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Suddenly, it was clear to me,” Mr. Erickson wrote. “If such a magical realm was the province of an architect, I would become one.” He moved to Montreal to study architecture at McGill University. After his success with the Simon Fraser commission, Mr. Erickson was awarded other prestigious projects, including the Canadian Expo pavilion. That work raised his public profile, and Mr. Erickson used it to promote environmentalism and corporate responsibility. Mr. Erickson’s commission to design a new embassy in Washington generated some controversy when Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, a friend, awarded it to Mr. Erickson without any public process. The building, which opened in 1989, is on Pennsylvania Avenue, near the Capitol. Paul Goldberger, the chief architecture critic of The New York Times at the time, called it one of Mr. Erickson’s less-successful works. Over the years Mr. Erickson’s firm — today it is called the Arthur Erickson Corporation — opened branches in Toronto, Los Angeles, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Information about his survivors was not available. Il étudie à Montréal, mais aucune oeuvre ici? In 1992, Mr. Erickson, millions of dollars in debt, was forced to declare bankruptcy. But he continued to practice, producing work like the Museum of Glass, in Tacoma, Wash. He also continued to champion Modernism and decried a postmodern trend that emphasized ornamentation and decoration. “After 1980, you never heard reference to space again,” he said in a speech at McGill in 2000. “Surface, the most convincing evidence of the descent into materialism, became the focus of design,” and, he added, “space the essence of architectural expression at its highest level, disappeared.” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/22/arts/22erickson.html?scp=1&sq=montreal&st=cse
  15. Confessions of a Condo Architect Halanah Heffez Right after completing her Masters degree in Architecture, Alex got a job with a local firm that designs those condominiums you always see cropping up in the Plateau, Rosemont and Villeray. We have all seen these new constructions and shuddered, or perhaps just sighed it could be worse. The blocks are neither offensive nor inspiring: they're mediocre at best. “We’re creating a generation of condos that are really ugly," Alex says,"It’s as bad as the 'eighties. Frankly, I think it’s going to be worse.” She runs through a list of all-too-familiar features: cramped juliettes where balconies should be; basement apartments with dug-out cours anglaises surrounded with bars that end up looking like jail cells; the use of different tones of brick to break up the façade; the random insertion of incongruous colours to add a semblance of architectural variety... As Alex describes it, designing condos is a constant give and take between respecting the building code while maximizing the client's profits that leaves little space for creativity. Here's an example: the City of Montreal requires 80% of building fronts to be masonry and monotone bricks in taupe matt, grey anthracite and Champlain orange-red are inexpensive (how cheap it feels to reduce the urban landscape to colours in a catalogue). The most an architect can hope to do is to add a splash of coloured plexiglass, and only if the borough's CCU lets it through. Within the envelope, the constraints are event tighter: Alex describes her workdays as "trying to shove too much into a space that’s inherently too small.” She recalls debating with a colleague about the ethics of sketching a double-bed into the plans when a queen simply wouldn't fit in the room. "'If you can’t fit a Queen-sized bed in your apartment, then it’s not an acceptable apartment," Alex insists. But most people don't have much experience reading architectural plans so they don’t necessarily realize what they’re getting. The developer, on the other hand, knows exactly what they want: "they come to you and say: this is the lot, and we want 8 condos in it." That leaves room for only a couple two-bedroom apartments, and the rest bachelors, all within the footprint of what was once a duplex or triplex apartment block. "It’s more profitable to sell more condos than to sell more bedrooms,” Alex points out. There's another catch: buildings under three stories fall within part 9 of the building code, which is more lenient in terms of fire safety regulations. But by sinking in a couple basement suites and adding a mezzanine (which must not exceed a certain percentage of the floorspace), it's possible to squeeze five levels into a building that is officially only three stories high. At least there's a sliver of good news: just this year the city stopped allowing windowless rooms. And while we may be in favour of urban density, tightly-packed residential units are not synonymous with density of inhabitants. "All these properties with great potential are being turned into one single type of real estate that is not family friendly: it’s all geared to young professionals without children. They’re not big enough for a growing family and there’s no flexibility in the space," says Alex. Another thing that she laments is that, with the requirement to transform every square inch of the lot into square-footage of floorspace, there's a tendency to lose the individual entrances, balconies and outdoor staircases that are typical of Montreal's urban landscape, and that create a dialogue between public and private space. Of course, being an architect, she also dwells on the aesthetics: “It’s all going to look very 2010," she sighs, "....and not in a good way.” http://spacingmontreal.ca/2011/12/19/the-architecture-of-mediocrity/
  16. (By Roger K. Lewis For The Washington Post) Enlarge Photo Real Estate Search By Roger K. Lewis Saturday, October 17, 2009 Chicago's 2016 Olympics bid was rejected, but the city hardly needs the Olympics. Chicago 2009 is already uniquely "Olympian" thanks to its soaring urban architecture and architectural legacy, its skyscraper-flanked downtown river, its Lake Michigan waterfront and its beautiful public parks. Chicago is "my kind of town" and a kind of Mecca for many architects. Even if you are not an architecture aficionado, you can't help appreciating the Windy City's size and scale, bustling street life, aesthetic bravado and innovative design traditions. And Chicago is not just a magnet for architects. Unlike residents of most other American cities, Chicagoans generally seem more knowledgeable about and more proudly respectful of their well-publicized architectural heritage. A conversation topic on a par with politics, sports and weather, Chicago's old and new buildings, along with the city's architectural heroes, get star billing and are among the city's top attractions. Horizontal and vertical size is the most visible of Chicago's unique urban and architectural characteristics. The Chicago metropolitan area stretches for dozens of square miles north, south and west of the lakefront. Like metropolitan Washington, Chicago is a sprawling mosaic of diverse municipalities, villages and neighborhoods. Fortunately, they are woven together by extensive networks of roads and transit. Chicago's downtown is huge, and during the past 20 years it has grown even larger. High-density commercial and residential real estate development has spread along scores of blocks to the north and south. Chicago's well-known Loop, the central business district encompassed by the century-old elevated transit line, today constitutes a small percentage of downtown. Central Chicago is blessed with a rational grid plan of north-south and east-west streets forming comfortably walkable city blocks. And many east-west Chicago streets, perpendicular to the lakefront, afford views of the lake and lakefront parks. ad_icon But it's Chicago's vertical dimensions that are most awe-inspiring. The city is famous for tall buildings, although its urban fabric is layered in height. The oldest layer of buildings, constructed after the 1871 fire that destroyed the city, are only a few stories high. With the advent of Otis's elevator, America's first skyscrapers -- short by today's standards -- appeared in Chicago. Instead of thick masonry-bearing walls, multi-story buildings were structured using steel skeletons to which non-bearing curtain walls of glass, terra cotta, brick, stone and metal could be attached. Chicago lays claim to inventing the skyscraper, with authorship attributed to local engineers and architects. Their turn-of-the-century designs and aesthetic language became known around the world as the Chicago School. Subsequently, buildings grew larger and soared higher as construction materials and structural technology advanced, and as land values and real estate market opportunities increased. The Sears Tower (recently renamed the Willis Tower), built in 1973 and reaching over 100 stories, was for many years the tallest building in the world. Half a century earlier, Chicago's Merchandise Mart was briefly the world's largest building in floor area. Varying greatly in height, mass, geometric composition and materials, Chicago's buildings exhibit every architectural style and decorative motif: neoclassic, Victorian gothic, Romanesque, art nouveau, art deco and limitless varieties of 20th-century modernism. Observing the city via the Chicago River is equally memorable. Threading through the heart of downtown, the river is one of America's most extraordinary urban spaces, a veritable architectural fiord. Countless historic and modern buildings rise next to the river. Whether on a boat or riverside promenade, you can readily perceive the city's fabric of streets and blocks, in part thanks to the iconic steel-truss drawbridges spanning the river at each street. It's easy to understand why architects are such heroes in Chicago. Recall some of the talents who produced original work there during the late 19th and the 20th century: Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Daniel Burnham and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Architects following in their footsteps include Ludwig Mies van der Rohe as well as Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, designers of more Chicago skyscrapers than any other firm. A few years ago, Frank Gehry arrived on the lakefront scene with his trademark stainless steel shingles to design the curvaceously exuberant Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a band shell, in fabulous Millennium Park, along with the BP Bridge snaking its way from the park over a road and eastward toward the lake. Celebrated architect Renzo Piano recently designed the latest addition to the Art Institute of Chicago, immediately adjacent to Millennium Park. The museum's new wing is rectilinear and rational, glass and pure white metal, elegantly composed and immaculately detailed. Its cool, controlled geometry contrasts sharply with the exploding form of Gehry's visually hot pavilion rising in the park a few hundred yards to the north. The museum addition and Millennium Park, completed five years ago after substantial delays and huge cost overruns, reaffirm a Chicago tradition: Architecture and architects deserve to be front and center. Roger K. Lewis is a practicing architect and a professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/15/AR2009101504559.html
  17. [IMG]http://images.businessweek.com/gen/logos/bw/bw_255x54.gif[/img] The Battle for the World's Skyline Cities like London and New York don't have the money to keep up with Asia, Russia, and the Persian Gulf. Is the Western urban landscape out of date? by Ulrike Knöfel, Frank Hornig and Bernhard Zand For an entire century, New York was the city of skyscrapers, the epitome of the vertical city. It just kept growing into the sky, faster and faster. It was an exhilarating adventure in stone, steel and glass — and seemingly unsurpassable. In "Delirious New York," his legendary 1978 book about the giant city of skyscrapers and its magic, the young Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas raved about what he called the "colonization of the sky." Even the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center have not diminished the enthusiasm the now world-famous architect has for the skyscraper as a model of success. Despite the disaster, says Koolhaas, the skyscraper is still "about the only type of building that has survived the leap into the 21st century." Koolhaas is apparently right. The tower has survived as both a form of architecture and a status symbol. The impressiveness of a city's skyline is seen as a reflection of its prosperity. Skyscrapers serve as a physical expression of an economic upswing, and bear witness to an economy's level of adrenalin. Go East! From a Western perspective, at least, this is precisely the problem. Economically booming megacities — such as Beijing, Shanghai and Dubai — where extravagant skyscrapers are shooting up all over, mean that cities like New York are beginning to look old and outdated, despite attempts to modernize. In Europe, the eastern part is beginning to look more modern than the western part. Cities like Istanbul and Moscow are more dynamic than London, Paris or Milan. There have never been this many skyscrapers on the drawing boards, with most of them planned for the world's new boom towns. The West is eying this development with jealousy, all the more intense for its inability to compete. The massive downturn in the American credit market has caused the cancellation or postponement of many major architectural and urban-planning projects. The battle for the best skyline, which has been underway for more than 100 years, is entering a new round. And it already seems to be clear who the winners will be: the Middle East and the Far East. Kazakhstan and Qatar could soon be aesthetically more dominant than Europe or the United States. It is an architectural clash of civilizations. One of the most ironic aspects of this development is that, in many cases, it is the West's leading architects who are driving this transition. Working for newly enriched governments and real estate tycoons, they are now being given free reign to do what would now be inconceivable in their home countries. An angular building in the shape of a colossal triumphal arch? One designed by Koolhaas was recently completed in Beijing to serve as the headquarters of China Central Television. A landscape of tall, asymmetrical buildings reminiscent of icebergs? One designed by American architect Steven Holl now stands in the Chinese city of Chengdu. A pyramid for Moscow that climbs 450 meters (1,476 feet)? Both are the work of prominent London architect Lord Norman Foster, who is also designing the Crystal Island, the Moscow development that will include it. According to Foster, it is the "world's most ambitious construction project." The All-powerful 'Wow Effect' The megalomania of this boomtown euphoria demands more than just tall buildings. Nowadays, spectacular shapes and glittering surfaces are in demand, eccentricities that are noticeable even from great distances. The "wow effect" is everything; it translates into structures mimicking lilies, harps, trophies, tents and other unconventional shapes. Hamburg architect Volkwin Marg, who runs a thriving business in China with his partner Meinhard von Gerkan, isn't fond of this tendency toward representational building. For Marg, these "iconic buildings" lack social significance. Peter Schweger, another architect from Hamburg, even describes the current trend as "absurd, atrocious blossoms of sculptural architecture." He has also noticed an impact on Western architectural aesthetics, where "buildings are starting to be designed like commercial products that can be aggressively marketed." Schweger describes his own skyscraper designs, such as the reflective Twin Towers he designed for Moscow, as rational. The investor and the other architect collaborating in the Twin Towers project are Russian, while most of the construction workers are Chinese. At 500 meters (1,640 feet), the larger of the two towers — with its so-called "panorama needle" — will go down in history as one of the tallest buildings in Europe. But not for long. A Matter of Standards Schweger has just signed a contract to design a new business park in Moscow. The development will consist of 400,000 square meters (4.3 million square feet) of office space. Compared with its surroundings, though, this almost seems modest. As Schweger puts it, the amount of new construction underway in the Russian capital "is almost difficult to fathom." Schweger is critical of Russian building standards. "Many buildings are 10 years behind the Western standard technologically," he says. "The developers have no interest in questions of energy efficiency." There are other good reasons to criticize today's hectic global building trend — aesthetic, environmental and ethical reasons. But few investors or architects are interested. Instead, they prefer to immortalize themselves and watch their towers grow. Calling it "too brutal," Schweger says he's not interested in China. Instead, he focusing his design efforts on a collection of skyscrapers in Dubai, which are part of a development somewhat cheesily named "Dubai Pearl." Building Up The emirate of Dubai is the promised land for real estate speculators. It is said that half of all construction cranes in the world are in Dubai. But is architectural history really being written there? Dubai consists of two peninsulas on its western side and an older section on the eastern side, with a kilometer-long line of skyscrapers in between. The skyscrapers look somehow familiar — and not accidentally so. Many of the building's architectural elements — including the bell tower from St. Mark's Square in Venice and the silver arches of New York's Chrysler Building — are borrowed. Giant billboards line the highways cutting through the desert. They advertise the names of urban visions to come, names like Arabian Ranches, Emirates Hills, Springs, Meadows, The Old Town — all in English. Even the names seem borrowed from America. "Almost everything here is paid for with oil money," says a man employed by the ruler of Dubai, "but not our own." The emirate has little more than a few puddles of oil left, and only 4 percent of its current economic output stems from the oil business. Instead, it has created a real estate bonanza that is attracting billions in investment money that in the past would have gone to New York. The area's slew of real estate fairs — with names like "Cityscape Dubai," "Cityscape Abu Dhabi" and "The Property Shoppe" — attest to how eager investors are to invest here. Building Down The situation in the West is radically different. In the United States, the current guiding principle appears to be: The more glamorous the utopian vision, the more potential investors are determined to back away from the project. Until recently, borrowing money — and even huge sums of money — was relatively easy. "If I or someone else needed money," says Donald Trump, America's most prominent real estate czar, "all it took was a quick call to the bank, and they'd send the cash over in a car. There was a huge amount of money floating around." This is how it was — until the financial crisis hit. The crisis itself was triggered in 2007 in the United States by an overheated market for mortgage loans that private citizens had taken out to buy houses and condominiums. Since then, the banks have been far more tight-fisted. Ironically, it is more or less the real estate industry's own fault that it has now been so difficult to borrow money. The boom is over. A high-profile casualty of the credit crisis is a complex in Las Vegas called the Cosmopolitan Resort Casino. The shells of the two 180-meter (590-foot) skyscrapers are already up. For the lobby, developer Ian Bruce Eichner had ordered nine-meter (30-foot) robots that would play the song "Disco Inferno" on oversized guitars. The project is now headed for foreclosure, the Wall Street Journal recently reported. One of the investors, Deutsche Bank, is at risk of losing about $1 billion (€645 million). Another example is in Los Angeles, where construction on the Grand Avenue Project has been delayed several times. The collection of hotel, apartment and retail towers was intended to revitalize downtown Los Angeles at a cost of $3 billion (€1.9 billion). The complex was designed by Frank O. Gehry, another top name in the US architecture scene known for buildings clad in stylishly shimmering materials. The work, initially scheduled to begin last December, has now been postponed until next February. The developers, Related Companies, blamed the delays on the real estate crisis. Soon one of the investors — Calpers, which is California's largest pension fund — withdrew from the project. Now the developers hope their new primary shareholder, the royal family of Dubai, will take a more patient approach. Part 2: Hard Times, NY Yet another of Gehry's urban improvement ventures has run into difficulties. Gehry was commissioned to transform an industrial wasteland in Brooklyn into a mixed-use architectural pearl. The price tag of the Atlantic Yards project — which New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised as a "colossal achievement of one of the world's leading architects" — was $4 billion (€2.6 billion). But demand has been unsatisfactory, and Gehry was forced to reduce the size of the largest tower in the complex. According to the developers, construction of several of the planned buildings will be placed on hold. It's a tough blow for New York. For real estate aficionados, it remains the "ultimate 24-hour American city," a place that attracts the global elite. But it takes some effort and a constant series of facelifts to keep it that way. Where else but in New York is there so must distaste for any form of inertia? The mayor had a plan to revitalize Manhattan, the heart of the city, with a special focus on the west side. His vision included building a modern train station, which would have required tearing down the well-known arena, Madison Square Garden. But now Bloomberg no longer knows how he is going to raise the $14 billion (€9 billion) the project is estimated to cost. The original plan also called for an ambitious expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, a project that has now been considerably scaled back. And the search for an investor for the new Hudson Yards business district — a project that even jaded New Yorkers describe as "megalomaniacal" — recently became nothing short of embarrassing. Tishman Speyer, a real estate development company, had initially planned to cooperate on the project with German-American skyscraper architect Helmut Jahn. But then it surprisingly withdrew. Now Related Companies has stepped in to take advantage of what may well be a historic opportunity. It could take months before the contracts are worked out and before a series of cliffhangers finally comes to an end. This in a city where the sky has traditionally been the limit. Old Europe? And what about Europe? Will the old world have to start getting used to the idea of becoming a museum — picturesque, but without any real chance of keeping pace with the iconography-rich growth of other continents? According to a study by the Washington-based Urban Land Institute, a large number of major European deals that were until recently in the planning stages are now "clinically dead." Perhaps Vittorio Lampugnani, an Italian architect who works in Milan and teaches architectural theory in Zurich, is merely trying to comfort himself when he says that he doubts whether cities like Shanghai will remain attractive in the long term. As he sees it, with their "layers of history," European cities "offer the sort of quality of life that will be in demand in the future." This is what Lampugnani calls "enduring cityscapes." At the same time, a sharp division is naturally emerging. Lampugnani admits that the newly minted architects who opt to go to Asia are essentially building skyscrapers right off the bat, while graduates who stay in Europe can count themselves lucky if their first commission is to design a weekend home for their parents. Still, he says, "if Europe manages its heritage intelligently," Lampugnani say, "it can be a huge opportunity, not just for culture and the quality of life, but also for the economy." But, more than anything else, the economy is standing in the way. In Spain, for example, the association representing Spanish construction companies estimates that the number of new projects in 2008 will decline by more than 70 percent over the previous year. Many European cities are not at all interested in becoming open-air museums. For example, London — as Europe's most important financial center — would like to liven up its Victorian grandeur with a few more futuristic landmarks. When Norman Foster placed a bombastic, egg-shaped tower into the center of the old city early in the new millennium, it kicked off a wave of modernization. For the most part, Londoners approached the update of their skyline with humor, and Foster's skyscraper immediately earned the nickname of the "erotic gherkin." With plans to construct at least 20 other towers in the coming years, London is enthusiastically planning to build itself into the 21st century. Although few of these projects have left the drawing board, some have already acquired nicknames. One skyscraper project has been dubbed the "cheese grater," and another is the "splinter." Others are called "head over heels," "boomerang" and "walkie talkie." But even in London, where prices had been headed steeply up for a long time, the real estate industry is grappling with a softening market. Investment volume there is expected to decline by 30 to 40 percent in 2008, and Londoners are no longer accustomed to this sort of slowdown. Almost all major projects in London are now considered highly speculative. And what about the fate of the controversial "walkie talkie" venture? The investor won't say. A New World for Architect Of course, shopping malls rarely prove to be aesthetic highlights, and architecture fans probably won't bemoan the prediction that 40 percent fewer shopping centers than planned will be built in Great Britain over the next five years. But the decline in new construction also affects more ambitious projects. A London architectural foundation that had commissioned British architect Zaha Hadid to build its new headquarters pulled out of the venture, citing "economic nervousness." When stock prices fall, so does charitable giving, and the foundation relies heavily on private donors. Although she made it clear that she was disappointed, Hadid has already moved on to other projects, for example, in Dubai and Warsaw. The modern architect has become a nomad. Like the itinerant tradesmen of the Middle Ages, architects go where the work is. A route that once may have taken them from court to court, now leads from continent to continent. German Builders Germany boasts 121,000 architects, the largest number in Europe. Although the country is considered one of the more stable markets, major urban projects — such as Hamburg's HafenCity — are the exception. Architects are upset that there are so few competitions open to everyone and that the opportunities for young, avant-garde architects to prove themselves are few and far between. Project cancellations, no matter how discreetly they are handled, are noticed. BMW, for example, decided to cancel plans to build a new "Designhaus," although it now intends to "prioritize" other projects. It's been only a year since the Federal Foundation for Building Culture was founded in Potsdam, outside Berlin. The new organization has already been sharply critical of the mediocrity of German architecture. Unfortunately, as the foundation's president, Michael Braum, puts it, it's been standard in Germany for quite a while "for owners to want everything, but for half the price." Distant lands, where developers plan in larger dimensions, seem seductive. Léon, Wohlhage, Wernik (LWW), a Berlin-based architecture firm, made a splash in 2007 when it won a competition with well-known competitors to design the new government district in Tripoli, the capital of Libya. The architecture named their design "Tripoli Greens," combining arabesque minarets with park-like settings. However, construction has been postponed and architect Hilde Léon speaks of "a holding pattern." As a rule, says Léon, she believes that it is important to work in places where high-quality architecture is in demand. "Some countries simply have some catching up to do," Léon says. At the same time, though, cooperating with controversial regions like Libya's doesn't seem to bother her. Léon already has her sights set on the next market. It is only a matter of time, she says, before all of Africa will be "the next big thing." In this context, the word "big" is no exaggeration. What a paradisiacal concept for architects: all that undeveloped land for what Friedrich Nietzsche called representative architecture's "eloquence of power." Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan Source :: http://www.businessweek.com/print/globalbiz/content/jun2008/gb2008069_320569.htm