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Category: HISTORY


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Career Case Study #12: Albert Speer

Career Case Study #12: Albert Speer
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A draft of this post lay in my drafts folder for almost four years. The problem was that I thought something could be said about the career of Albert Speer but what? The architect Albert Speer (1905–1981) of this post is the one you might expect, the one whose only client was Adolf Hitler, and […]

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Modern Tropes

Modern Tropes
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Some architectural fixations are easily achieved, some boundaries easily pushed. For example and whether by accident or design, the world has always had and always will have a tallest building. I’m guessing it was the Great Pyramid at Giza 4,500 years ago but I’m more sure of recent tallest buildings such as the World Trade […]

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The Houses of Arata Isozaki

The Houses of Arata Isozaki
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The Nakayama House is Isozaki’s first recorded house, completed in 1964 one year after he left Tange’s office to start his own. It was later demolished and a facsimile built in 1998 at Akiyoshidai International Art Village. By 1964 it was already expected of Japanese architects to have elliptical theories about their work and how […]

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The Floating World: Part II

The Floating World: Part II
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It’s not just houses. No building is spared from Japan’s memory loss when it comes to its own architectural history. Earlier this year, there was a bit of a stir when it was announced Kenzo Tange’s 1964 Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium would be demolished, the given reason being that the then innovative suspension roof was in […]

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The Floating World: Part I

The Floating World: Part I
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The rate of building stock churn in Japan is well documented and the architectural churn it generates more so. This very real manifestation of the Futurist concern for neverending newness meshes perfectly with the post-WWII belief in continuous growth that architects are, on the whole, inclined to accept. Toyo Ito isn’t alone in decrying the […]

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A Career in Architecture

A Career in Architecture
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In her book, American Architects and the Mechanics of Fame, Roxanne Williamson hinted at such a thing as a “creative spark” being somehow “transmitted” to an employee in an office of an architect who was either just-about-to-be-famous or flush with the success of their first highly acclaimed project. Williamson contains her study to American architects […]

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More of the same

More of the same
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Mario Chiattone was a Swiss architect who fell in with The Futurists. This is his 1914 Futurist City. He’s showing it’s the future by going for mixed-use superblocks linked by elevated pedestrian walkways on perimeter buildings bordering ground level roads futuristically congested with automobiles. This unit is then repeated X-Y. A decade later was Ludwig […]

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Artificial Land

Artificial Land
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I’m currently reading Casey Mack’s recent book, “Digesting Metabolism: Artificial Land in Japan 1960-2200” when I’m both teaching a short course on Modern Japanese Architecture and, at the same time, interested in making better use of enclosed volume in residential spaces by squeezing an extra cubic meter of living space out of 30 cu.m [c.f. […]

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Rapid Cities

Rapid Cities
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It was maybe February 2019 and I was living in Dubai when this invitation to participate in this event arrived in my inbox. Rapid Cities – Responsive Architectures seeks to examine the dialectic, tensions, problems and possibilities of architecture and urbanism as technologically imbued, fast-paced commercial exercises.  These questions are all provocative but still manage […]

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The Wrong Side of History

The Wrong Side of History
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I only learned about Victorian era architect Decimus Burton (1800–1881) a few months ago when two articles on him appeared in The Guardian online the same day. Decimus Burton was a skilled and prolific architect who, until recently, was mostly forgotten or, more to the point, never remembered. Both articles suggested this was because he […]

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Minimalism: In Poor Taste

Minimalism: In Poor Taste
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Here’s another one from the archive. April 1999. I remember the career trajectory of John Pawson worrying me at the time. Then, everyone was talking about Minimalism. I later found out I lived about 200m from Pawson’s King’s Cross studio. Now, when I look back on this, I was clearly angry about something. I’ve bracketed […]

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The Tops of Buildings

The Tops of Buildings
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The first thing many people younger than me probably thought of when they saw the title of this post is the song Mansard Roof by epic New York indie band Vampire Weekend. This link is to the video accompanying the studio version of the song that, I think as a statement of musical intent is […]

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The Middle Ground

The Middle Ground
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Architects used to have us believe that better architecture made for better lives. They were rightly ignored as it would make more sense for us all first to agree on what a better life is before thinking about the means to achieve it. Of course some degree of spatial and physiological requirements need to be […]