Chinese President Calls for End to “Weird Architecture” Trend

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[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

oma strange shaped building

After years of both importing famous designers and copying strange structures from abroad, Xi Jinping, the leader of China’s Communist Party has declared an end to offbeat construction projects going forward. Translated from a two-hour speech on the subject, he was recently quoted as saying: “No more weird architecture.” As yet, it remains unclear whether this is a statement of official policy direction or a tacit warning to developers to play it safe.

headquaters china penis shaped

Iconic buildings in the country have been coming under attack for quite some time, but the phallic look of the 500-foot headquarters of the Chinese state newspaper, the People’s Daily, sparked particular outrage, likely leading to his more vocal objection. Crasser comparisons aside, various spheres, donuts and other shaped deemed odd by the party leader have also been critiqued both domestically and on the international social web.

donut shaped structure

bridges river china

Other designs prompting problems for the government in the press include the CCTV headquarters in Beijing by Rem Koolhaas. Still, the theme of genitalia shape comparisons in paritcular, as in the case of the bridges (above) in Chongqing, have caused state media to start censoring search results related to some projects. They are also not fans of advertising their surreal replicas or ghost cities, also unusual byproducts of the recent construction boom.

cctv tower headquarters

cctv tower china

Speaking recently, Xi maintained that Fine art works should be like sunshine from the blue sky and the breeze in spring that will inspire minds, warm hearts, cultivate taste and clean up undesirable work styles.” Sadly for some, his response comes at a time when architecture in China is also drawing a great deal of positive attention, some copycat scandals aside.


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Adapting Aging Architecture: Modern Plug-Ins for Beijing

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[ By Steph in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

modular home beijing 1

Cold, dilapidated and lacking modern amenities like bathrooms, Beijing’s historic architecture in the Hutong districts becomes livable again with sleek modern plug-ins that make them more comfortable without significant alteration. People’s Architecture Office created a modular system called the Courtyard House Plugin that acts as a temporary solution to make the spaces more desirable, minus the trouble of renovation.

modular home beijing 2

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These aging structures are typically built around small courtyards, and after centuries of habitation, have sometimes reached the point of being dangerous. Developers are often hesitant to take on significant renovation projects due to costs and the fact that some of these spaces are still inhabited.

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The new modular components slide into existing spaces, instantly updating them with modern amenities and clean, contemporary interiors. They can be assembled quickly with no more than a single hex wrench.

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The first prototype, ‘Courtyard 72,’ will be a live-in laboratory for researchers studying the living conditions in the region. Ultimately, this sort of plug-in modular solution could ensure that Beijing’s oldest and most culturally and historically important neighborhoods remain livable for local residents.


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Amphibious Architecture: 12 Flood-Proof Home Designs

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[ By Steph in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

amphibious architecture affordable bamboo house 1

Instead of trying to beat back rising water levels, these innovative structures work with them, adapting from land-based to floating houses with the ease of an amphibian. From a DIY foam-based flotation system on a modest home in Louisiana to high-tech, self-sustaining disaster pods, these buildings are ready for whatever Mother Nature might throw their way – even 10-foot floodwaters.

The UK’s First Amphibious House
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Located on the Thames River, the UK’s first amphibious house is nearing completion. Baca Architects designed the home for a couple who wanted to live on a flood-prone island in the river, integrating a terraced landscape that acts as an early warning system that the waters are rising. The terraces will fill with water before the ‘wet dock’ under the house does, and then the home itself will gently rise to stay above the surface.

Foundations That Float Above Floods
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The Buoyant Foundation Project has come up with a solution to retrofit existing homes in post-Katrina New Orleans in anticipation of future storms and floods, allowing the structures to lift off the ground in an emergency. Buoyancy blocks would be installed beneath the sub-frame of the home, while four corner guideposts keep the building in place as it rises with the water.

Amphibious Communities for Thailand
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Flooding in Thailand gets worse with each passing year, now occurring in off-seasons and in areas that haven’t historically been flood-prone. Site-Specific looks to the nation’s past for an answer, in the form of homes that were built as rafts. This idea can be adapted even to communities that aren’t built directly on the water in the form of amphibious homes built over trenches, which fill with water first, raising the structures as the water rises. The entire prefabricated steel flotation system is hidden in the trench beneath the house during the dry seasons.

New Orleans Home Will Break Free & Float in Case of Flooding
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New Orleans design firm Morphosis, which has designed many of the city’s most innovative post-Katrina architecture, came up with a home that will rise up on the surface of the water in the event of flooding but remain tethered to vertical guides. Sponsored by Brad Pitt’s Make it Right Foundation, the house uses the region’s classic narrow shotgun house typology and adapts it for the realities of the present time.

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3D-Printed Columns Use Ancient Technique Against Earthquakes

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[ By WebUrbanist in Conceptual & Futuristic & Technology. ]

quake column design detail

Bringing together cutting-edge technologies and an ancient approach to resisting earthquake damage, the so-called Quake Column marries tradition and high-tech to create a bold new structural solution needing no mortar nor rebar to reinforce it.

3d printed column interlocking

Incan masons historically interlocked complex three-dimensional stone shapes in order to allow movement during earthquakes while preventing buildings from becoming structurally compromised in the process. The puzzle-like interlinking of the constituent parts helps structures resist seismic shocks, keeping them from becoming detached either horizontally or vertically.

quake-column-assembly-examp

A modern-day company in California, Emerging Objects, has taken this page out of history and reapplied it with 3D printing, allowing their new variants of these old blocks to be fabricated quickly, easily and cost-effectively. Unlike their heavy stone predecessors, these new versions are can be lightweight, modular and made on demand, including built-in handles for carrying printed-on instructions showing builders how to assemble them into columns.

quake column mortar free

3d printed material exterior

These contemporary equivalents are designed to be load-bearing, code-compliant materials that could be used in actual architectural applications of all kinds, all without steel reinforcement or mortar cementing the connections. More on the structural physics at work via Inhabitat: “the absence of resonant frequencies and stress concentration points made the structures more earthquake resistant. During earthquakes, the dry-stone walls built by the Incas would move slightly and resettle without any damage. Rounded corners and an incline of three to five degrees contributed to their stability.”


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Lost Soles: 10 Abandoned & De-Feeted Shoe Repair Stores

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[ By Steve in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

8 Cents shoe repair store Peoria 1
Abandoned shoe repair stores, once ubiquitous elements of the urban tapestry, epitomize small Mom & Pop stores that “progress” has kicked to the curb. Here’s one shoe repair store that won’t play in Peoria, even at the bargain rate of eight cents. Not that shoe repair ever was an expensive chore, this shop had to be abandoned a LONG time when Flickr user Smitty-Snaps chanced upon it on January 23rd of 2009.

8 Cents shoe repair store Peoria 2

A little over two years after Smitty-Snaps snapped the abandoned 8 Cents Shoe Repair (if that actually was its original name, and that’s doubtful), another Flickr user, David Sebben, couldn’t pass on the opportunity to photo-document the peeling green patina on the abandoned storefront. The shop lost its “1209” street number in the meantime but an extra couple of years haven’t noticeably aged this already well-weathered denizen of a long-passed Peoria.

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service

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Militello's Shoe Repair Baton Rouge 2

Militello's Shoe Repair Baton Rouge 3

“Complete Shoe Service While You Wait”? Ain’t nobody got time for that these days! The former Militello’s Shoe Repair located on Government Street in downtown Baton Rouge, LA, was visited in August of 2007 by the delightful Colleen Kane from the Abandoned Baton Rouge blog. Could that be a reflection of her sandal-clad tootsies in the lower left corner of the third image above? If not, Militello’s is way creepier than we thought.

“This Pizza’s Tougher’n Boot Leather”

Boot & Shoe Repair in McAlester OK

If the external architecture of the eerily lit Boot & Shoe Repair shop in McAlester, Oklahoma looks a little familiar, you just might be hankering for some pizza & birch beer. Yes indeed, this used to be a Pizza Hut restaurant back in the day and as the author of the Used to Be a Pizza Hut blog states, the store “pretty much looks abandoned but is apparently a boot & shoe repair place, which is actually harder to believe would be in business than the original Pizza Hut that it replaced. When is the last time you took a shoe in to be repaired?” Harsh.

From Re-Soled to Re-Sold

Cordonnerie Shoe Repair shop 1

Cordonnerie Shoe Repair shop 2

“Cordonnerie” is French for Shoe Repair and J. M. Dostie’s shop on Avenue De La Salle in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Montreal, was legendary amongst the shoe-repairing cognoscenti. Although Dostie’s Cordonnerie had managed to build up an appreciative clientele among the Canadian city’s rock-climbing community, rising rents amidst gentrification in the neighborhood delivered an effective coup de grace to the store in early 2011. Kudos to The Milkman at Vanishing Montreal for the above before & after images.

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Capital Idea: Bridge to Elevated Park for Washington D.C.

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[ By Steph in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

Washington DC Elevated Park

A freeway bridge linking historically divided sides of Washington, D.C. on either side of the Anacostia River is set to become a vibrant, High-Line-style elevated park. OMA + OLIN have been announced as the winners of a competition to design the new civic space, which will be packed full of fun attractions including performance spaces, play areas and an environmental education center.

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The 11th Street Bridge Park will reuse existing piers from the bridge that once connected Wards 6, 7 and 8 on either side of the river before it was replaced. Uniting these diverse communities in an unprecedented way, the bridge will offer recreational opportunities ranging from canoe and kayak launches to a hammock grove. There’s even a series of nets that allows people to hover over the water.

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Paying tribute to a motif found throughout the city, the design consists of a sloping X-shape with an eclipsed cafe, an environmental center and a central plaza at its center. Atop each building is a rooftop garden filled with public art, amphitheaters, playground equipment and lots of trees.

Washignton DC Elevated Park 4 Washington DC Elevated Park 6

The design encourages interaction between two very different sides of the city, one wealthy and the other historically poor, drawing them together to enjoy nature, culture and physical activity. The project incorporates a wide variety of suggestions from the community, creating a space that’s tailored to their wants and preferences.


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Rounded Market Hall: Huge Digital Mural Wraps 118,000 Sq Ft

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[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

market hall night view

A massive mixed use project in Rotterdam by MVRDV, this newly-opened building wraps vertically around an open central space but also features one of the largest works of art in the Netherlands: an incredible digital display spanning over 100,000 square feet of the interior surface area.

market hall lit up

market hall ceiling shot

markte hall shop view

The closed-but-open solution is a response to new Dutch legislation requiring produce markets to be enclosed, balanced with a desire to keep an open-air feeling to the space.  The resulting design with its vibrantly-colored displays makes the place seem inviting from the outside, drawing people in to visit the nearly 100 shopping stalls within. The complex is expected to have over 5 million annual visitors.

market hall interior display

market hall flowers fruits

market hall apartment view

Glazed on two sides with transparent glass, apartments wraps the others sides and top of the structure, giving over 200 residents views down into the market below as well as balconies toward the outside world on the exterior skin of the structure. The suspended glass panels are held in tension by thin wires, making the supports as invisible as possible while providing protection against strong winter winds.

market hall at nights

market hall inside levels

From the firm’s press release: “The large mural which covers the vaulted interior, ‘Cornucopia’ by artists Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam has a total surface of 11.000 m² and shows oversized images of market produce which can be bought at the market, as well as flowers and insects referencing the work of Dutch still life masters from the 17th century. In order to achieve the required sharpness, the image was rendered by Pixar software. It was printed onto perforated aluminium panels, then attached to acoustic panels for noise control. The print resolution of the art work is comparable to a glossy magazine.”

market hall facade windwos

market hall urban context

markte hall exterior view

market hall night angle

More about the layout: “Markthal comprises 96 fresh food stalls and shop units, ranging from Rotterdam based businesses and market vendors to established local heroes. They will offer a diverse range of products: from fresh fish to game, from cappuccino to cheese, from Chinese to Dutch, from ice cream to local produce, from bargains to exclusive slow food. The ground and first floor accommodate 20 retail units, restaurants and cafés. All shops are food-related and include a crockery- and a wine shop. A supermarket is located on the 1st underground level allowing the shoppers to complete their shopping under one roof.”


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Punched Cards: 12 Closed & Abandoned Bingo Halls

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[ By Steve in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

abandoned Hippodrome bingo hall Dudley 1
These 12 closed and abandoned bingo halls couldn’t compete with an increasing variety of online gaming options and the gradual spread of gambling casinos.

Down & Out In Dudley

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Bingo can trace its history back to early 16th century Italy but the classic cards & numbers game really took off in the 1920s when its rules, format and equipment were standardized. Bingo boomed in Great Britain as well when, following the flight from movie theaters to in-home television in the 1950s, many newly-closed cinemas were converted to bingo halls.

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The Hippodrome in Dudley, just northwest of the city of Birmingham, was one of these re-purposed silver screens. The 1,750-person capacity Hippodrome opened in 1938, closed (as a theater) in 1964, reopened as a bingo hall operated by Gala Bingo, and finally closed for good in 2009. Cheers to Flickr user Mikey Jones (donebythehandsofabrokenartist) for capturing the once-grand Hippodrome in its current (as of November 2010) sad state.

Punched Card

abandoned church bingo card Brownsville

Bingo was (and still is) popular at traditional social gatherings held at and by churches so when the church is abandoned, so is the bingo. Credit Flickr user Forsaken Fotos for the evocative image above depicting a scattered remnant of fun times past from Brownsville, PA.

Odeon, Odeoff

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When Bradford’s New Victoria cinema opened in 1930 it was the first such theater to be designed especially for showing “talkies”. The stately Renaissance Revival building underwent multiple changes in ownership over the next few decades until it was bought by Odeon Cinemas in the late 1960s. Odeon converted part of the building into the 1,000-seat Top Rank bingo hall, which shut its doors in the late 1990s. Credit Flickr user jST. with photographically capturing the abandoned bingo hall in mid-March of 2011.

Under The B: INGO

abandoned bingo hall sign

The photographer who snapped the image above didn’t give any details whatsoever on where the sign is located or what bingo hall it advertised – and the striking yet generic sign itself offers no clue either. Give Flickr user geo3pea credit, however, for bending over backwards (literally) to create an outstanding image that gives real perspective on the current state of the bingo “industry”.

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Schematic of Structures: 90 Buildings, Prehistory to Present

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[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Graphics & Branding. ]

pop charts architectural poster

This stunning blueprint-inspired poster takes you on a visual tour of 90 celebrated structures around the world, highlighting architectural achievements from the Greek Parthenon to Buckingham Palace to Taipei 101 to the Freedom Tower, “a lineup of landmark landmarks and eminent edifices erected and perfected throughout history.”

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An 18-by-24-inch print available from Pop Chart Lab for around $30, this frame-worthy work of art and design may solve your architectural gifting needs for the foreseeable future. The juxtapositions of old and new, Classical and Modernist, help show off the rich historical variety of buildings and monuments. Some structures made the cut for being canonical classics, while others are record-setters or unusual examples of unique typologies. Rendering them all in a way that would make them consistent but bring out their different characters was also a challenge for the creators.

pop charts full size

More from the creators: “Each breathtaking building has been beautifully hand-illustrated to scale in blueprint-like style—and is accompanied by notations for location, height, year of construction, and architectural mode. For the serious sight-seer, history hobbyist, or architectural aficionado, this collection of captivating cornerstones is sure to tower above all others. Using 100 lb. archival stock certified by The Forest Stewardship Council, this poster is pressed on an offset lithographic press with vegetable-based inks in Long Island City.”


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Shape-Shifting Architecture: Material Morphs with Heat & Air

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[ By WebUrbanist in Conceptual & Futuristic & Technology. ]

flexible-material-modular-p

This project asks a question that goes to the heart of how we think of buildings, asking: what if architectural shapes and structures could be more than just stable but also smart, responsive and flexible?

gravity actuated prototype design

Translated Geometries “is a performative prototype which exploits the Shape Memory Polymer (SMP) properties in order to generate responsive architectural behaviors” – it explores how heat, light, air and humidity can be utilized to deform and reform architectures. For instance, at higher temperatures the material is made more fluid, hardening into a new (or reverting to an original) shape when cooled.

shape shfiting form demo

A project of IAAC (the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia) students, tutors and faculty, this origami-like demonstration model uses triangular modules and responsive intersections to expand a surface to more than four times its original area.

A very early-stage iteration to be sure, there are many possible applications yet to be explored, perhaps first in larger demo versions then eventually in architectural facades and structures. Imagine buildings (or doors), for instance, that opened up naturally by day and closed at night, or let in light and heat when cool but converted to passive cooling via wind when too warm.


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