The 2’nd Misfits’ Trienniale: WEEK 2

August 18, 2020 – August 18, 2021

This post covers the second week of The 2nd Misfits’ Triennale spaning the period including the Chicago Biennale, the Sharjah Bienalle, the Venice Bienalle and others, as well as Dubai Expo 2020. You won’t find any content about themes of pavilions and exhibitions, who was chosen to curate them or design them, or breathless updates on their design and construction. There’s so much content like this that it’d be possible to have a breakaway site called Bienalle Daily. This same period also spans the Omicron stage of the pandemic and the period when many people were housebound. ArchDaily must have provided many people with a continuity of daily routine. I can imagine its operations were hardly affected as receiving online information and broadcasting it worldwide doesn’t require the physical presence of either employees or buildings. Out of curiosity, I’d like to see what the ArchDaily headquarters looks like. I imagine it’s a building that exists only in images in our heads. Results of a competition to design a virtual headquarters for ArchDaily might provide some interesting data on the general state of education and the profession.

August-November 2020 was a dry patch. True, there was still a pandemic but, despite daily being part of the name, online content doesn’t track the world in real time. It’s just that I wasn’t interested in any private house of more than 100 sq.m, or anything about Foster+Partners inroads into the Saudi market, or OMA’s, BIG’s, ZHA’s or MVRDV’s considerable business development in China and elsewhere. Around the world, masterplanning for the revitalization of waterfronts and pretty much anywhere else is a thing, Henning Larsen and Snøhetta are a huge presence. I don’t think Kengo Kuma and SANAA are punching above their weight. It’s just that we still think of them as small practices. It’s still possible to tell a ZHA building from an MVRDV one but these global commercial practices are becoming more and more samey, even when they try to be different. The smaller and small practices are doing things more interesting and relevant.

[1] November 10, 2020: Jiading Mini Block, An Urban Experiment / Atelier FCJZ
This one made me think. It’s an attempt to design an R&D park as a walkable city, using city blocks of 50m x 50m (to the centre of the roads). All buildings have a covered arcade at ground level, food and beverage outlets are given desirable corner locations, and traffic is restricted although through traffic was never going to be a problem with canals on two sides of the site. It’s a decent attempt to think something through from scratch. I hope it’s worked. I’d like to go check it out one day.

Photograph :Fangfang Tian

[2] November 19, 2020: Housing Choices Australia Dandenon / Kennedy Nolan Architects
The architects have done something good here, showing that accommodation provided by a not-for-profit housing association can still be attractive, well-designed, durable, passive, and low-energy all at the same time. Nice job! Photographs: Derek Swalwell

[3] December 10, 2020: Dique Luján House / FRAM arquitectos
Not since the heyday of Danish modernism has a house simply been the result of the materials and processes by which it was constructed. I don’t know why this should be such a radical concept. The materials don’t all have to be perfect or expensive and the processes needn’t be difficult or contrived. I suspect it’s because it’s not possible to conceal shoddy materials or workmanship when every piece and how they are put together is revealed. Human thought, care and craft work (as opposed to robot and 3D printer thought, care and craft) all work against profits in the building industry. Photos: Fernando Schapochnik

[4] February 22, 2021: Arakawa Building / Nikken Sekkei
This is both office building and residence for the building owner. There’s a lot happening and not just with the structure. The fire escape stairs are used as bracing for earthquake resistance but also provide outdoor spaces for the office workers, as well as shading for many of the windows. The architects say ” The building has utilized the full potential of every building element, and now reveals the activities of the building users as an element of the building’s façade. Our intention is that the dynamic façade incorporating human activities would also create a new expression in the cityscape.” I think they’ve succeeded. The true test is whether or not it becomes a template for future buildings.

[5] April 28, 2020: TECLA Technology and Clay 3D Printed House / Mario Cucinella Architects
Mario Cucinella has history of exploring sustainable technologies so I’m interested in his take on 3D printed houses. The norm so far has been to print vertical walls with curved corners and to cap it with large overhanging flat roof that’s been transported in. Cuchinella’s design is driven by the limitations of 3D printers and the material which is clay in this case okay. The 3D printer-friendly plan is simple and has no sharp corners. The entrance opening is how 3D printers do corbelling. [There’s a nice door frame that might lend some support. This is not the time for frameless glass.] Where you’d expect a thicker wall or even buttresses, the walls corbel outwards to gain some height before corbelling inwards to form the roof. A vertical wall would also provide more headroom and would require less material but wouldn’t look so primitive-modern. It’s still possible to waste cheap materials such as clay, for aesthetic pursuit and to me, this proves the maxim that, with visual aesthetics, everything beautiful costs money. The adhesion strength and setting time of the chosen material make the near-horizontal surfaces the two most difficult for 3D printing and so the oculii off the two joined domes are capped by round windows. All in all, it’s not horrible, although the tree inside does make me wonder what kind of outside this house is built for. If we join many of them together we’d get a honeycomb with curvy corners. While you’re at it, and assuming the clay can cope, you could even add a second story using the three dimensional geometry and structure already perfected by bees. What we have is a house designed around the current strengths and weaknesses of a 3D printing system.

The hexagon comment proved apt, but not in the way I expected. A February 18, 2021 article described the process of construction and how the 3D printers were configured on a reconfigurable frame structure. It was interesting reading. Could it have been hand made with mud bricks? Probably, but probably not in 200 hours.

TECLA, 3D Printed Habitat by WASP and Mario Cucinella Architects. Image Cortesía de WASP

[6] May 26, 2021: La Bourse de Commerce / Tadao Ando Architect & Associates + NeM Architectes + Pierre-Antoine Gatier
This is fundamentally a restoration project but the concrete part that looks like Tadao Ando’s contribution is curious because its only purpose seems to be to get people closer to the frieze so they can have a better look. Is this the best way to do it, I wonder? And what about the three floors of building supporting that frieze? Times change, I guess, and what people thought important in one era is not what they’ll pay to see in another.If you want a look, a single-entry exhibitions ticket posts 14€ with reduced rate entry of 10€ according to the conditions for reduced price and free admission.

[7] June 8, 2021: “Habitare” Home Without a House / Bayona Studio
This installation in Spain does something easily understandable yet is more effective because of what looks like its end-of-terrace site. We could talk about the plan but that’s not the point. It might have been more interesting with stairs that can be as much furniture or part of a building as you like, although perhaps not in Spain. Apart from looking a bit like a sou Fujimoto house, this is what the transparent concrete would actually look like. I’ve never understood the rush to develop it or the illusion of it.

©Pep Sau

[8] June 15, 2021: Around the Corner Grain / Eureka + MARU。architecture
This building contains seven non-identical apartments. It could have gone on forever but what’s here is sufficient to describe the principle. The seven apartments each have a different arrangement expressed through the entrances rather than the pattern of window openings. It’s a design-intensive design designed by people who enjoy designing. Photographs: Ookura Hideki

[9] June 19, 2021: Does Automation Take Away From the Individuality of Design?
It’s a provocative question, and a curious one when juxtaposed with a photograph of Kenzo Tange’s 1995 Fuji Television building in Tokyo. Whatever automation in architectural offices meant in 1995 it’s almost certainly not the same as it does today. What I’m not sure about is whether the Fuji Television building is there as an example of an abundance of individuality or a dearth of it. I suspect it’s supposed to illustrate the lack of, because it has almost no curves apart from that simple sphere.

© Jacopo Gennari Feslikenian

“Gramazio Kohler Research’s Rock Print Pavilion is also another example of how automation can create a distinct design. Built by a mobile robot, the house is made out of aggregates and twine – automation does not in any way curb the individuality of its design, and instead enhances it. Its design is a good example of how unique craftsmanship can be achieved even with the use of automated technology.” I don’t think we can blame the robot unless it had a robot hand in the roof.

© Michael Lyrenmann

[10] July 24, 2021: 24-mm Plywood House
This house is in line with my new policy of refusing to look at houses of more than 100 sq.m (and ideally no more than 50 sq.m) and that aren’t designed for urban situations. If there is some quality about it that was thought important despite the size of house then so much the better. This seems a better say to describe my new policy rather than say architecturally pretentious or audacious as both reinforce the mindset that small houses aren’t supposed to have aspirations to architecture lest they become mainstream. This house is about 45 sq.m. The main idea is an x-axis void on the ground floor intersecting a y-axis one on the upper floor to create a z-axis void for stairs and light. It’s a big idea for a small house, but not a complicated one. Photographs: Toshiyuki Yano


Out-takes and take-aways

In my quick scan through these past three years of ArchDaily at a rate of approximately one day per four months, I’d also pause at the superficially eye-catching projects like many a bored office worker on a Friday afternoon so you can’t say I’m using ArchDaily in a manner for which it was not designed. But for the period from August 2021to August 2022, the sheer volume of content from the Far East was apparent. It’s probably a function of volume of construction and the usual economic indicators. Also apparent was the inroads high-profile practices are making into the Saudi market. It’s always been true that the global commercial practices follow the money.

The faith in technology is limitless.

The continuing promotion of techniques and technologies with the potential to decimate the architectural workplace is now standard.

The ArchDaily history lessons are always enjoyable.

As are their top tips for the home.

I saw many sensitive houses from India to Argentina, from St. Louis to Bordeaux to Kyoto. I saw culture centres and art galleries and museums galore, mostly in China. There were some notable examples of affordable housing (most notably, MAD’s Baiziwan Housing in Beijing) but not that many. There’s much good work out there and much invention that’s often the result of having to deal with adverse circumstances be they site or economic or resource limitations. As it should be.

The third and final week of the 2nd Misfits’ Triennale, covering the period from August 18, 2021 to August 18, 2022, will follow next week’s post.

1 thought on “The 2’nd Misfits’ Trienniale: WEEK 2

  1. Baukunst

    For me, the Aussie housing is best in show. Nice Scarpa influence. Will the Shanghai Astronomy Museum be in the next segment? Stay tuned, we’re gonna find out. :P

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