Category Archives: architectural history

Nihon Noir: The Metabolism Movement in Photos

Image Credit: Tom Blachford

Photographer Tom Blachford’s series ‘Nihon Noir’ calls to mind futurism, science-fiction, film noir and yes, the 1982 cult classic film Blade Runner. Blachford was inspired by the Metabolism movement era architecture in Japan, and his images showcase its unique intersection of architecture and infrastructure.

Metabolism was a post-war movement brought to the international stage during the 1960 Tokyo World Design Conference. The designers behind the movement organized their vision into a manifesto entitled Metabolism: The Proposals for New Urbanism, which described a design ethos focused on meshing mega-structures with organic shapes. The most prolific member of the movement, Kenzo Tange, worked as a designer, architect, and urban planner until his death in 2005.

The images Blachford created were designed to showcase a neon futurism, and the buildings he featured were chosen because they combined brutalism and the principles of organic growth—the essence of this post war architectural movement.  “Though these buildings are from the past,” he said, “they appear as if they have appeared from the distant future.  My intention is for the viewer to ask not ‘where’ they were taken but ‘when.”

Source: Dezeen

Colorful Vault Ceilings

Photo Credit: Deyemi Akande

Gothic cathedrals are generally discussed in the context of structure, yet the Gothic cathedrals of Britain are equally spectacular in ornamentation. The cathedrals’ vaulted ceilings were often decorated with religions iconography and heraldry. The ornamentation in St Albans Cathedral was refurbished in 1951-52 by Jane Lenton, replicating a 15th century shield. The red and white roses are associated with the Houses of Lancaster and York. Heraldry is prominent in Gothic churches, found on stained-glass windows, floor tiles, doors, and vaulted ceilings. The presence of theses shield often tells a story of patronage.

Source: Society of Architectural Historians

Domino Sugar Refinery: Ruin or Building?

When is a building considered a ruin? That’s the question currently being discussed between design firm PAU and the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The Domino Sugar Refinery was built in the 1880s on the riverfront in Brooklyn, and has been vacant for more than a decade. When the Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) revealed its plans for the Domino Sugar Refinery, their proposal planned to use the masonry facade to mask a new glass office building. They argued that the building was in fact a ruin, or “a doughnut awaiting filling.”

Users of the building would experience the historic facade from a series of metal decks between the two. The LPC instead contends that the proposal transforms an adaptable building into a ruin.

Source: Arch Daily

 

Façade Controversy

Photo Credit: Dezeen

Several campaigns and protests have rallied against Snøhetta’s proposed changes to the Philip Johnson-designed AT&T Building at 550 Madison Avenue in New York; this building, with a Chippendale-inspired roof line and marble and brass finishes, played a large role in bringing Postmodern architecture to America. Unveiled in late October, Snøhetta’s plans for 550 Madison include a curved glass curtain wall over the lower portion of the skyscraper. Protesters argue that the Postmodern building should be preserved in its original state, and that New York is losing its historic masonry buildings.

Source: Dezeen

Historic LGBT Sites

 

Photo Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project is working on documenting underrepresented historically significant LGBT sites to ensure they receive the recognition they deserve. The NYC Historic Sites Project website provides tools for those who want to gain awareness and appreciation of the impact LBGT individuals have made on American culture throughout history. One example of a notable site in LGBT history is the Little Red School House in Manhattan—one of the city’s first progressive schools—founded by Elisabeth Irwin in 1912.

Source: National Trust for Historic Preservation

Documenting Glass

Founded in 1951 by Corning Glass Works, the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York has donated 2,784 images documenting its unique glass collection to the Artstor Digital Library. The non-profit museum is dedicated to telling the story of glass, from its ancient origins to today, spanning 3,500 years of glass history. With support from the Rakow Research Museum, the museum is a center for glass scholarship, housing the world’s foremost archive and reference collection on the history of glass making.

Source: The Artstor Blog

21st Century Architects Reinterpret 20th Century Skyscraper

Image Credit: Kendall McCaugherty

In honor of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, director Johnston Marklee invited young design studios from Europe and the Americas to submit large scale, modeled towers reinterpreting the original Tribune Tower brief. The exhibition mirrors a design competition in 1922, asking architects to conceive of a home for the Chicago Tribune Newspaper. The resulting tower, a neo-Gothic structure designed by John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood, was built in 1925.

Some of the towers are abstract, others deeply detailed. Sam Jacob Studio’s design borrows elements of architect Adolf Loos’ 1922 proposal for the tower, and gives it a modern twist. The exhibition uniquely shows the evolution of design throughout the last 95 years.

The Biennial opens to the public on September 16 2017, and runs until January 17, 2018.

Source: Dezeen

The Covert Stepwells of India

Stepwells often have no above ground presence, but beneath the ground intricately carved steps lead into a pool of water displaying a beautiful and illusive architectural character. Tucked away in fields or hidden in cities, the Stepwells of India remain an architectural mystery. The scholarship of Stepwells is limited, but it is believed that the Stepwells once served as a communal place for washing, bathing, and drinking water. The Stepwells acted as a rest stop for travelers and ranged in intricacy and size. Many of the Stepwells are believed to be created or funded by women honoring their dead husbands. Interest in the Stepwells has risen in the past years. Hotels are using the Stepwells as a tourist draw, and others are revitalizing the Stepwells to be used in the communal way that they were originally intended.

Source: Archdaily

Aerial Photographs of Cities in the 1930s by Walter Mittelhozer

Photo Credit: Walter Mittelhozer

Walter Mittelhozer was a pioneering aviator and the co-founder of Swissair. He photographed many cities in the Middle East and Africa. Mittelholzer always flew with a co-pilot so that he could photograph from the air. A new book, published by Scheidegger & Spiecss documents his ariel shots.

Source: Guardian

The Mystery of Roman Concrete

Photo Credit: Colin Knowles

Modern concrete on seawalls will eventually erode and need repair after only a few decades, yet the Roman pier at Portus Consanus in Orbetello, Italy has withstood the sea for millennia.  The secret to this concrete’s longevity is a mineral growth after the concrete has cured. When Roman engineers mixed volcanic ash, lime, and seawater to make mortar, the combination also created a pozzolanic reaction. This reaction, named after the city Pozzuoli in the Bay of Naples, caused the formation of crystals in the spaces of the concrete mixture making the concrete incredibly strong.

Source: Archinect

Beautiful, Obsolete Technology

Giant concrete acoustic mirrors speckle the British coastline. These massive concrete dishes were used as sound mirrors to warn the United Kingdom of enemy airplanes approaching from across the English Channel and the North Sea. The concrete dish acted almost as a radar, by responding to the sound of the aircraft and focusing the waves to a single point, then, a microphone would catch the sounds. The structures were also able to determine the direction of the attacking plane. After airplanes became faster in the 1930s, the sounds dishes were no longer usable.

Source: ArchDaily

Famous Architects without an Architecture Degree

Photo Credit: Archdaily

Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Buckminster Fuller, Luis Barragán, Carlo Scarpa, Tadao Ando, and Peter Zumthor all reached critical acclaim as architects without possessing a design degree. Many of these men attended school for a short time and then moved on to apprenticeships. This article explains how each architect encountered obstacles in their education, yet, ultimately became successful.

Source: Archdaily