Architecture News

Architecture's Modern Marvels - #1 by Michelle Linden

As many of you probably know, Vanity Fair recently compiled a list of Architecture's Modern Marvels. And it is really a pretty good list. Probably because they actually took the time to survey real (and prestigious) architects, rather than simply give us a list of the most popular according to HGTV. Since I've been fortunate to visit 6 of the top 21, I thought I'd take the time to write a bit about my experience with those buildings... after all, architecture is really all about the experience.

First up is Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Bilbao, which coincidentally was the site of my first ever architectural pilgrimage. While lately it has been pretty popular to hate on Gehry (I'm as guilty as anyone), it is hard to deny the success of this building.
One of my closest/oldest friends has lived in Bilbao most of her life, so the summer after my freshman year in college (1998 - just after the building opened), I took a trip to visit her. The trip was mostly social... I wanted to see my friend, but I have to admit I was also excited about the prospect of seeing this building, one that we'd been hearing about in school all year long.
Even though I've known all my life that I wanted to be an architect, I had a bit of a rough start my freshman year. I just wasn't cut out for the tedium of pencil shading, hard-lining, and precision. Precision had never been my forte, but that was exactly what we were expected to produce. In fact, after a year of hard-lining (of which I was adequate, but certainly not a star), I was beginning to wonder if architecture was meant for me after all.
That all changed when I visited Bilbao. Along with my friend and her family, we spent the day visiting the museum. Just walking the streets up towards the museum took my breath away. Clearly, this was an icon. The museum had been open for less than a year, but everyone knew that the city was changed forever. The Bilbao effect has since been coined to describe the complete and utterly positive changes on a city by a singular structure.
We spent the day wandering through the museum. For anyone who ever travels with families, you know how difficult this can be. Trying to accommodate young children, the elderly, and everyone in between can be hard, and more often than not I'm leaving the museum sooner than desired. But, with the Guggenheim, no one wanted to leave.
We all know that "form follows function" is not how Gehry works. But for some reason, the form and the function of this building are completely interconnected. All of the spaces are appropriately formed from the inside to suit the artwork, while still creating Gehry's sculpture from the outside.
Do I think it is perfect? Of course not, no building is. But whether or not the Guggenheim Bilbao is to your taste or not, you have to admit that it is a spectacular piece of architecture. This one building does more than most architects' entire careers. It has unity a city, brought (some) prosperity to that city, and become an iconic symbol across the world. It has managed the unique and delicate balance of fantastic form and suitable function. It has helped to advance both the architectural and building technologies - in the field and in the office. And perhaps least importantly to most, but most importantly to me... it helped remind me why I wanted to be an architect, and helped me to return to school completely motivated and totally invigorated.

How Embarrassing by Michelle Linden

So, the World Expo 2010 is taking place in Shanghai, and many of the world's best architects have contributed designs. Many countries have hired the best architects found in their own country, while others have ventured out beyond their borders... but most designs have something in common... trying to articulate the priorities and passions of their home country, exuding confidence and creativity. Of course, I say most because the US is one glaring exception. What does our pavilion say about us? We could be locate along any highway in any suburb. We value conformity and corporate culture (which we can directly link to many of the problems plaguing our nation). We don't really have any place for innovation or creativity and we certainly don't value our architects, which is why we hired a Canadian to design a metal panelled representation of an eagle (there is that lack of creativity and ingenuity again).
Very Frustrating. An expo is not an office park.

South Korea

Interesting Survey by Michelle Linden

The AIA recently completed a survey which includes information on who exactly is making up the profession... It is interesting to see how the percentages of minorities (while still woefully low) have been increasing, but the percentage of women has stagnated a bit...
There is a lot of other info if you are interested...