The 1’st Misfits’ Trienalle

Bucharest Architecture Triennale JULY 10th – OCTOBER 2019
Seoul Architecture Biennale SEPTEMBER 7th – NOVEMBER 10th 2019
Tallinn Architecture Bienalle SEPTEMBER 11th – NOVEMBER 30th 2019
Sao Paulo Architecture Biennale AUGUST 15th – SEPTEMBER 20th 2019
Chicago Architecture Biennial SEPTEMBER 19th, 2019 – JANUARY 5th 2010
Oslo Architecture Triennale SEPTEMBER 26th – NOVEMBER 24th 2019
Lisbon Architecture Triennale OCTOBER 3rd – DECEMBER 2nd 2019
Buenos Aires Architecture Biennale OCTOBER 15th–26th 2019
Sharjah Architecture Triennale NOVEMBER 9th, 2019 – FEBRUARY 8th, 2020
Shenzen Bienalle DECEMBER 15th, 2019 – MARCH 15th 2020
Venice Architecture Biennale MAY 23rd – NOVEMBER 29 2020 
Tbilisi Architecture Biennale OCTOBER – NOVEMBER 2020

A quick look at the calendar shows the final quarter of 2019 oversupplied with biennali and triennali as everything but Venice and Tbilisi overlap no less than four others – and these are just the major ones. It looks like there’s going to be a dry patch between March when Shenzen ends and May when Venice picks up. What’s an architecture obsessive to do?

Football addicts have no choice but to watch European friendlies in that six-week gap they like to call a “run-up” until the next season. Architecture addicts have a similar system of denial, making do with a stream of updates regarding the theme, content, personalities and preparations in anticipation of HOW FANTASTIC THE NEXT ONE IS GOING TO BE! With such a crowded calendar and resultant enlightenment churn, there’s never any time to reflect upon whether any particular event lived up to its expectations.

It’s no less ephemeral for being physical things viewed in physical space. We’re still not allowed time to digest the information or lapse into the habit of thinking about it. The more bi/triennali there are, the more they dumb down thought and discourse globally. This is the way of the modern world and why, about three years ago, I closed all social media accounts, first Facebook and Pinterest and then Instagram and Twitter. I was tired of the tyranny of newsfeeds, I suspected their purpose and I refused to equate knowledge with diversion.

In this respect, the production and consumption of “live” architectural content is no different from the production and consumption of that electronically delivered.

The last time I remember looking at ArchDaily was the time of that brouhaha over the competition to build a wall on the Mexico-US border. Accusations of lack of editorial oversight and lack of ethics were followed by counteraccusations claiming the problem was one of content and not The Platform. There was the same polarisation of stances we’ve since become acquainted with courtesy of the more “social” of the social media platforms. All that was in March 2016 – more than three infinite-scrolling years ago.

FOR THE PAST THREE YEARS I HAVE NOT LOOKED AT ARCHDAILY OR DEZEEN.

The break happened around the time of the Home Improvement post.

Life went on. I still managed to find things I thought interesting and worth writing 1,500–1,800 words about each week. Some posts were about architectural propositions based on some current interest, sometimes prompted by teaching preoccupations at the time. Others were reflections on history, often suggested by a book I’d either been given or come across in a store. Some were the result of a reader kindly suggesting I look into a particular architect and, though I might not always have done so immediately, I always did. Through such recommendations I learned about the wonderful architect Josef Frank [c.f. Josef Frank] and more recently about The Mechanics of Fame [c.f. Architecture Myths #25: The Creative Spark].

GIVING UP INTERNET ARCHITECTURAL MEDIA HAS MADE MY ARCHITECTURAL LIFE RICHER.

Or so I think. It’s time to see if that’s true and, if so, by how much. I’m going to binge-scroll the past three years of ArchDaily and list everything I genuinely wish I’d known about earlier. Unlike biennali and triennali never called to account for misinterpreting the present or/and the future, this inaugural Misfits’ Biennale will curate the past three years of ArchDaily content into a single post. I’m interested to see what survives the “test of time” once being top of the newsfeed is no longer a metric of worth.

31 July 2019: Cristiano Toraldo di Francia, Co-Founder of the Radical ‘Superstudio’ (leftmost, below), dies at 78. This is news, but me knowing it changes nothing. I admire Superstudio no more or less.. [c.f. Architecture Misfit #4: Adolfo Natalini]

[1] 31 July 2019: Nowhere but Sajima, Yasutake Yoshimura Architects
This is a house available for weekly rental – a kind of pay-per-stay architecture. I know that’s not new or even a good trend and I did ask myself if I wasn’t getting too excited too early. Nevertheless, I lingered a while over this because I’ve never seen a facade like this before. Somehow, it challenges our (or at least my) notions of what a facade can be. Taking the trope of shuffly windows and reinventing it as a bizarre and pretty advent calendar, it made me think a bit of Gio Ponti and his obsession with surface. [c.f. Career Case Study #8: Gio Ponti] Unsurprisingly, it’s in Japan. I was curious to know more about its construction but there was none of that kind of information.

[2] 25 July 2019 The Deformed Roof House of Furano / Yoshichika Takagi + associates
Another house. This one is all about construction, and extending a single-family house into a two-family house. As is often the case in Japan, it’s an example of a single logic relentlessly pursued to its conclusion.

16 July 2019: Four Finalists Selected for Cottesloe Beach Pavilion in Australia
I’d known about this. The competition is for a pavilion to replace the building known as the Indiana Tea Rooms, and will attempt to reconcile a beach amenity with year-round dining as well as various “experiences” to be decided.

20 June 2019: Adaptative Plans: An Algorithm That Predicts Spatial Configurations
I’d found out about this via LinkedIn. I’ll have more to say about it in a separate post. For now, it’s enough to note how inept all the “spatial configurations” are.

30 May 2019: Higharc Startup Aims to Automate Home Design
To go with the adaptative spatial configurations, we now have something for the exterior. I’m only two months into two years of ArchDaily and already I’m getting distracted by this rubbish. The plan was to discover things I really wish I’d known about earlier. This ain’t one.

28 May 2019: Arata Isozaki Accepts the 2019 Pritzker Prize

[3] 22 April 2019: Building LL 2474, Arqtipo
I like this. It gets the apartments onto this narrow site and without waste or pretence. The compromises it makes are understandable for what looks like the sharp end. I admire its architects for naming the building by what looks like a job number or a plot number, something we’ve not seen for a long time.

15 April 2019: Major Fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris
This was global news. I ignored all the proposals produced by mercenary architects wanting us to mistake prompt response for considered judgment. Macron was little better, promising a rebuild in five years. Even if it took fifty, I wouldn’t mind the opportunity to ponder the symbolism of Notre Dame as a ruin, and then watch it being rebuilt with all the care and thought we could muster. The thing about buildings feted as symbols of city, country, society and humanity is that when the building loses its integrity it’s symbolism takes a hit too and we don’t like it’s new meanings,

[4] 5 April 2019: Infra-Space 1, Landing Studio
It’s a good idea to make better use of the spaces beneath flyovers, as with this initiative in Boston.

[5] 2 April 2019: House Maison Individuelle, Perraudin Architectes
At last – some construction! This house shows what can be done when care is taken to get the basics right. It’s spacious, well constructed and looks like a pleasant place to be. Money is not saved on poor-quality materials only to waste it on finishes. There’s no architectural pretence – it’s raised because it’s in a flood plain.

[6] 25 February 2019: Affordable Housing in Zurich, Gus Wüstemann
I’d like to know more about the economics of this scheme for affordable housing in Zurich, not known for being a cheap city. You’ok have to like concrete, and who doesn’t?

[7] 4 January 2019: Cottage in Las Herencias, OOIIO Arquitectura
I see a lot of sense in a new building that neither tries too hard to be new nor opts for a simplistic mimicking of “what’s already there”.

[8] 17 October 2018: Challenge Studio’s Award-Winning Design Envisions a New Residential Typology 
I’m not quite sure how this works as there’s no plan but, as a principle, the idea of “stacked units that act as tri-axis modules, [so that the] … cohesive interlocking of these modules enables the creation of different unit types and deviates from the ordinary double-loaded corridor strategy” sounds good. 

30 September 2018: Serious Question: Should We Call Them Slums?
I think we should call them the future. So far I’ve seen proposals for smog-filtering towers, floating cities and 3-D printed buildings on Mars, all of which are stock responses of the technology-got-us-into-this-mess-and-technology-will-get-us-out kind. On the other hand here we have self-build, low energy, recycled/salvaged materials put together with vernacular intelligence. There’s a lot to learn from settlements such as this.

[9] 15 November 2018: Garage Hall House, Tsukagoshi Miyashita Sekkei + Keitarchi
My younger brother would like this. But the idea of having a view of a previously neglected space, and one that mediates yet connects the world outside is a good and useful idea. It’s sort of what I’ve been trying to achieve with apartments having views of access corridors. [c.f. The Universal Apartment, The Uncompleted Apartments]

[10] 20 July 2018: Asma Bahçeler Residences, Martı D Mimarlık
Here’s something I haven’t seen before. It’s not exactly an inclined mat building but it’s a decent attempt at giving apartments the garden amenities of detached houses. The only downside is that it takes a fairly steep site to make it work. [c.f. The Mat Building]

[11] 21 May 2018: Car Park Katwolderplein, Dok architects
This is not the cheapest way to build a car park but it’s not as if money has simply been thrown at it. I included this to illustrate that every project has the potential to be something it hopefully wants to be. I would have appreciated a plan so I could check traffic flow and efficiency. Car parks have some way to go before they can be called the caravanserai of our times as the architects claim, but they’re not a bad inspiration for any kind of building. Note how the ornament is achieved by the simple manipulation of bricks. [c.f. Caravanserai]

[12] 21 May 2018: 1413 House, HARQUITECTES
I’d been hoping for something new by HArquitectes. [c.f. Architecture Misfits #22: Arquitectes] The fence-wall around the site had to be demolished (due to street widening) but it was recreated as one side of the house, restoring the street and leaving maximum site remaining as garden. The house has no corridors, like some other HArquitectes plans. I admire their clarity of thought.

[13] 28 December 2019: Reinvent or Die: The Transformation of Malls Under The New Economic Urban Paradigm, Ecosistema Urbano

I read this article because I’m interested in the shopping mall + housing mashup as a typology. [c.f. Living Above Shops] I don’t think the question is one of attracting new users or providing new experiences but one of reconnecting residents with residential amenities within walking distance. Continuing to add bigger and more attractions is not going to bring more users when what’s wanted are more amenities. Some degree of repurposing, adaptive reuse or merging of typologies is inevitable. Linked to sustaining continued levels of production and consumption, “Shopping as entertainment” was never a revolutionary concept.

[14] 13 December 2017: Storstrøm Prison, C.F. Møller

This is the first prison I’ve seen so far. It’s in Denmark. “One of the project’s major architectural challenges is for the high-security prison, which can accommodate around 250 inmates, to be less institutionalised.” It was interesting that high security wasn’t seen as an architectural challenge but institutional-ness was. This was the most thought-provoking project so far, I still need to know what “high security” means in the context of the Danish prison system.

[15] 14 October 2017: Tanpo Solar School, Csoma’s Room Foundation

At last, something genuinely uplifting! A single-room school high in the Himalayas that doesn’t require an indoor wood-burning stove to heat it. A corridor on the north side insulates. Materials are local, but the double glazing is new technology. A prototype is born, and children are able to learn in a warm and non-toxic space. If only architecture had concepts of motive and intent, applicable to all.

[16] 4 October 2017: Where Roofs and Streets Become One: Iran’s Historic Village of Masuleh

This was nice for being some proper history, for bein in Iran, and for being a typology that has worked since the 11th century. It’s a not-quite-an-inclined mat-building, like we saw above on 20 July 2018. As ever, it takes a certain inclination to make it work.

[17] 4 October 2017: The Wooden Box House, Spridd

In my binge survey of the past two years I’ve seen much news of the “Tallest timber building in [wherever] planned” but this modest timber apartment building in Sweden does what timber does best and the two/storey apartments top and bottom make the access and balconies the sole ornament. Nice.

25 July 2017: Sydney’s Brutalist Sirius Building Saved from Demolition after Court Ruling

At last, some good news! It’s difficult to find any government love for social housing in the English-speaking world, and even less when they are constructed of concrete on what is known as prime (a.k.a. “Ripe for redevelopment”) real estate. Contrary to the Robin Hood Gardens rule of Take from the poor and give to the rich, this is a rare win for the team.

[18] 26 March 2017: Toronto’s Urban Farming Residence Will Bridge the Gap Between Housing and Agriculture

The connection between food and shelter is us. The problem with domestic self-sufficiency is that a nutritionally-balanced plant-based diet requires 50 square metres per person for ideal sunlight, temperature and soil conditions.

Still, multi-level window boxes for plants are a better use of limited area in much the same way as multi-storey apartment buildings are for people. [c.f. Food and Shelter] The vertical spacing of the window boxes will need to be optimised for windowbox depth, required sunlight, latitude, and types of plants grown but the plants themselves would constitute a view and gardening and harvesting don’t subtract from the growing area.

25 November 2016: Finnish Architect Juhani Pallasmaa Refuses to Support Guggenheim Helsinki Project

Suddenly, I’ve come to the end of my three years’ worth of scrolling representing a total of 1,052 pages. I became more ruthless over the years, or perhaps less patient. I found I could scroll through a year of ArchDaily in a day at a rate of approximately one month an hour if I didn’t bother reading anything or thinking too much about process, justification or ethics.

I saw nothing that moved me as much as Kenzo Tange’s 1963 Tokyo Olympic stadia did when I discovered them at 13. Times changed. It’s not that the buildings got smaller. It just seems like greatness isn’t so great anymore. This isn’t a bad thing, but when global architects can’t even be bothered to convince themselves what they’re doing is worthwhile, it’s little wonder we feel shortchanged. The things in this post are those that give me hope.

I began this post by embedding various observations on projects not included here, along with various observations on ArchDaily and it’s purpose but soon decided, in the spirit of enquiry and analysis, that it would be more useful to separate and compile them into an after-the-event review. Next week.


The header image is from a Zadig & Voltaire camo t-shirt advertisement ArchDaily’s ad-server service has had tracking me around Europe and the internet these past two weeks. It’s my trienniale souvenir.

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