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The 2’nd Misfits’ Trienniale: WEEK 3

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August 18, 2021 – August 18, 2022

This is the third and final week of The 2nd Misfits’ Triennale. It spans the above period and brings us up to the present, or rather, to three and a half weeks ago. If I’ve missed anything worthwhile in those past three weeks then I’ll find out about it in three years’ time. Slow architecture. I’m okay with that. The problem with daily architecture feeds is that it’s all forgotten the next day. It’s already difficult enough to learn from history so what hope is there for yesterday? Still, some good and thoughtful things have happened in the past three years and are deserving of a chance of a few more minutes contemplation. These are my selections from the past year.

[8] August 24, 2021: Xinsha Primary School / 11ARCHITECTURE
I didn’t see many schools in the first two installments of this 2nd Misfits’ Trienalle so I’m glad to see this one in Shenzen. It’s multi-level like many Asian schools, but makes space for a sports field and running track. Space for children to play is found in unlikely places as well as the likely ones. The building isn’t isolated from the street around it. It has several distinct zones. There are plants. Entering it is an event for students. Waiting to take their children home is an event for parents. Impressive.

[8] August 27, 2021: Port-o-Prenz Apartments / J. Mayer H. Architects
It’s nice too see Jurgen Mayer H. keeping busy. The facades have some familiar H. motifs and, come to think of it, so does the site plan. Six dispersed cores provide the maximum number of dual-aspect apartments. More than half the L-shaped apartments on internal corners are also dual-aspect. Nine of the ten one-bedroom single-aspect apartments are on the outer periphery of the project. Importantly, and this is why I include it here, apartments or rooms of apartment facing into the project site all have long views across it. You don’t see this amount of thought very often.

[8] November 2, 2021: 6 tsubo-house / Arte-1 Architects
We’re in Japan of course, where a tsubo is a traditional unit of area measurement equal to 3.3 sq.m, making this house 21 sq.m in area. I wouldn’t have thought it possible to get in two bedrooms plus a separate kitchen. Not having a sunken genkan and getabako (shoe cupboard) must have been a difficult decision. I also like that this micro-house is not for some idyllic countryside location but a functioning house for a tight urban situation. My new criteria for microhouses are skill, audacity and pretentiousness and this one has the lot. That double-height arched window is a masterstroke. Microhouses without shame!

[8] November 15, 2021: Spiral House in Berlin Proposes a New Residential Typology of Homogenous Living Spaces
At last, a project best comprehended in section! The spaces in the apartments step around the central core with a split circular stair, each apartment having a entrance at one end, and an exit at the other end half a floor above or below.

The two sets of stairs are independent and therefore one of them will always serve as a fire escape. I’ve only ever seen this once before in the 1964 Mt. Eliza Apartments, Krantz & Sheldon, 1964 at 3/71 Mount Street, Perth.

[8] November 16, 2021: The Ledge / Wallmakers
This house in Peermade, India made me think. It’s aesthetically pretentious but, at the same time, bordering on a required poetry. The more interesting thing is the lo-res materials and construction by which this has been achieved – not that it’s without contrivance on that level too. There’s no section but the roof and walls seem layered with LED sandwiched there somehow. Despite all that, it’s something unexpected made from dirt, rocks and sticks.

[8] November 26, 2021: Renovation and Transformation of a Norman Jaffe House / Neil Logan Architect
Norman Jaffe is one of those architects destined to be never remembered. Many say he sold out by resigning from Philip Johnson’s office to design many large and expensive houses for rich clients, mostly on Long Island. They’re very much of their time, but what houses! [c.f. Career Case Study #2: Norman Jaffe]

[8] December 2, 2021; Kennels / Atelier GOM
This is the first project I‘ve linked to. It’s a hotel where people and their dogs can stay. The architects have thought about unit entry and eye-heights to make it pleasant for dogs and producing an awareness of other dogs while limiting the opportunity for accidental encounters. The project is well thought-through on all other levels and the documentation is good. It’s not just an idea. I hope it’s successful. I admire that all this was done without any mention of Object Oriented Ontology. It’s just a hotel for dogs and their owners. China.

[8] December 17, 2021; House in Kanazawa / Shota Nakanishi Architects + Ohno Japan
I’m trying to avoid houses of more than 50 sq.m unless they have some compensating feature and this house does. It’s not on a pretty site facing north. The large roof is a light reflector and should generate pleasant microclimates year round. There’s attention paid to every aspect of the internal environment yet the living areas of the house are directly connected to and visible from the street to the benefit of both sides. While not a caricature, the house also has a strong Japaneseness in its construction, its front elevation, and its relation to the street.

This next house should have appeared in the first installment as it was published in April 2020. At first glance it’s another house with a reflector roof and that explains why the living areas are upstairs getting maximum light from the south.

But in light of last week’s post, this house has a very interesting relationship between inside and outside. First, the corner window truncates the volume and lets us see inside like a perspective section. This window will never have a curtain and so the outside will always have a strong presence as the occupants go downstairs to bed or to go take a bath. (Although it’s probably not so common these days, people in yukata walking to the sentō is not a strange sight in Japan. Going to have a bath is a public act.)

Also interesting is the genkan. Here, it is enlarged to become a gallery into which outsiders can enter and keep their outside shoes on and not enter the house proper.

This genkan is a virtual outside space adjacent to the virtual outside space of the truncation/terrace and then on to the outside proper. You can think of the corridor leading to bathroom and bedrooms as an engawa separating the virtual inside and virtual outside. This house wears its art lightly. That single angled truncation on the incline has set up some very pleasant consequences. Nice photographs by Satoshi Takae.

[8] April18, 2022, La Lomita Retreat / ASPJ Arquitectura, Paisaje y Territorio
As I keep saying, it has to be a very special house to make me look deeper if it’s more than 60 sq.m. This one does. It does all the good things and hasn’t gone crazy with the materials and finishes. It’s a shame it’s in such a lovely environment as much of what it does is applicable to Mexico’s larger cities, or even cities anywhere. It’d be good to have a world with more buildings like this instead of 350 sq.m houses with 50 photographs and no plans.

[9] April 21, 2022, House 905 / HARQUITECTES
It’s always good to see a new house by Harquitectes. I’m glad they’re still doing houses well, with their own integration planning logic and construction. Always a pleasure.

[8] May 22, 2022, Sako House / Tomoaki Uno Architects
Yes, the Japanese are still making weird little houses but this one a universe for its owner. I counted nine different spatial experiences in 54 sq.m. There are sufficient plans, sections, construction and detail drawings to fully understand everything about the house apart from what it would be like to inhabit. The allocation and priorities of spaces are unorthodox, weird, and actually a bit disturbing. What I like about this house is that it doesn’t care what anybody anywhere else in the world thinks of it. See for yourself.

[8] June 13, 2022, A New Building by Kazuo Shinohara will be Added to the Vitra Campus
Well well. Technically, it’s not exactly a new building by Kazuo Shinohara. He would have preferred to have been asked by Vitra to design them a new one. Umbrella House is not a large house but the inappropriate “campus” landscaping makes it seem diminutive.

[9] June 22, 2022: Minimum House in Toyota / Nori Architects
I was cheered to see this genuine attempt to do a lot with a minimum amount of inexpensive materials. It can’t be done without a thorough questioning of the role and cost of every construction element. Nice work!


Take-aways

With this third and final week of August 2021 – August 2022, the sheer volume of content from the Far East is apparent. It’s probably a function of volume of construction but also a higher proportion of construction for reasons of their respective economies. Also apparent was the sheer amount of content promoting or asking rhetorical questions such as “How to make the metaverse make money for you?” [sic.] I won’t trouble myself too much over this as someone will make money from the metaverse and it will probably not be you or me. Nevertheless, I’ll have to look deeper into this as it seems like a thing that the media obsesses about until it actually becomes a thing.

Finally, this early December 2021 article, originally on CommonEdge, resonated.

In this three-part review I call the Misfits Triennale, I saw two distinct ways of practicing architecture – a divide. There are the ten or so behemoths who suck up all the huge projects and most of the media oxygen. And then there are all the other architects.We should be grateful to ArchDaily for giving them the opportunity to let other people know they exist. Apart from maybe being on the same page of the feed on any given ArchDaily day, these two ways of practicing architecture have nothing in common. The big practices’ technologies and aesthetics don’t inform those of the smaller ones and there’s definitely no flow of thought and intelligence in the other direction. They’re two separate dimensions.

When we have a situation where the extraordinary is so divorced from the ordinary, any perceived lack of masterpieces is because we no longer have any shared reference by which to identify them. They’re either all masterpieces or none of them is. It’s not as if the masterpieces of the past had that much influence anyway on how architecture is practiced. They may have reinforced the notion that architecture had two distinct levels one higher than the other, but at least there was a connection between them. Smaller practices found inspiration in the work of those more famous than them. I don’t think that’s the case anymore. Despite attempts by ArchDaily and others to set certain agendas, I don’t see any shared theory, outlook, or even aspirations. It’s everyone for themselves. In theory, this ought to result in more individuality but for the big practices it seems to be making everything more samey as they compete for the same money. I find the work of the medium- and small-sized practices more genuine.

Out-takes

Some of these are absurd, some are propaganda, some are filler, and some are a combination. Some are to remind me to have something to say later. At the end of the 1st Misfits’ Triennale, I followed up with the post Space Merchants that identified the “trending” topics of 1) Vertical Forests, 2) Automatic Design, 3) 3D Printed Houses, 4) “Data Driven”, and 5) Living on Mars and, over the past three years, I think I’ve returned to all of them more than once either as posts or persistent themes.

Mars is still hot, although not as hot as it used to be.

Perhaps it’s because The Metaverse is now being shoved down our throats.

NFTs are no small part of this.

The reduction of labour in the construction workforce is always being cheerled by someone, if not by Gropius anymore.

As is the reduction of labour in the design workforce. I wonder who’s going to be left to design airports, corporate headquarters, art galleries, high-rise luxury apartment buildings, large-scale infrastructure, coastline revitalization projects and new city masterplanning?

We’ll find out soon enough, by observing architecture’s new business development hotspot, Saudi Arabia.

Comments

  • Thank you for letting us participate in The 2nd Misfits’ Trienniale! It’s actually quite schocking to find out once again that Archdaily is just what it is. Last couple of years I’ve been dabbing in interiors and I find it easier to bear no-substance websites that serve only as references for presentations. I prefer Divisare though, it doesn’t aspire to be something more than archive. Do you have any on-line architecture theory and critique resources that you can recommend? I used to enjoy Lebbeus Woods blog, but nowadays it’s only A Weekly Dose od Architecture and maybe Hidden Architecture Journal for me? Sometimes I find Domus miniarticles entertaining and that’s about it online. Please help!

    • Hello Alia and thank you for your excellent question that basically is “how does one create an identity for oneself as an architect without being exposed to diverse influences?” and then, if successful, “how does anyone get to know about it?” From what I saw over the past three years of AD, the people who did what they did locally and with feeling were far superior to the big practices doing what they do wherever they can. I like this new localism. Globalism didn’t turn out to be much. Bigger didn’t turn out to be better. I’m really turned off by the big practices. They’re all competing for the same clients/money so it’s no surprise there’s only superficial differences. Historically, there’s an element of “nothing new about that” about it, so I’m heartened to see these small practices who, hopefully, will just be happy doing what they do and not think that becoming a famous “global practice” is some indicator of quality. …. I’m sorry this is all very abstract. Better advice might be to keep looking at whatever you come across and, whenever you see something you like, email the architects and tell them directly. I think this way can make everyone’s world larger and in a far better, organic way. It’s my wish.

      • I think it’s okay to mature in one of those “global practices” and become an informed lone practicioner afterwards. One has firmer footing when persuading the client that local and vernacular is indeed the way to go. I see many small practices forgo their goals as the time passes, just to stay afloat. I hope what you call “new localism” will flourish slowly in the background of the global architectural scene. There’s just so much hidden beauty, basically every place that is NOT tagged on Archdaily. When one can travel unrestricted it’s basically the only Archdaily an architect needs. Meeting different cultures, cirmustances and architectural solutions. Digesting them very slowly and just staying true to one’s own roots and local traditions.