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Architecture

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Shrinking Our Carbon Footprint While Reimagining Urban Space

The United States has evolved into a nation of twenty densely populated megaregions. Yet despite the environmental advantages of urban density, urban sprawl and reliance on the private car still set the pattern for most new development. Cars guzzle not only gas but also space, as massive acreage is dedicated to roadways and parking. Even more pressing, the replication of this pattern throughout the fast-developing world makes it doubtful that we will achieve the reductions in carbon emissions needed to avoid climate catastrophe.

Encounters between Art and Architecture

Expansion, convergence, adjacency, projection, rapport, and intersection are a few of the terms used to redraw the boundaries between art and architecture during the last thirty-five years. If modernists invented the model of an ostensible “synthesis of the arts,” their postmodern progeny promoted the semblance of pluralist fusion.

Money

Money plays a paradoxical role in the creation of architecture. Formless itself, money is a fundamental form giver. At all scales, and across the ages, architecture is a product of the financial environment in which it is conceived, for better or worse. Yet despite its ubiquity, money is often disregarded as a factor in conceptual design and is persistently avoided by architectural academia as a serious field of inquiry. It is time to break these habits.

Disappointment and Failure in Architecture

The usual history of architecture is a grand narrative of soaring monuments and heroic makers. But it is also a false narrative in many ways, rarely acknowledging the personal failures and disappointments of architects. In Bleak Houses, Timothy Brittain-Catlin investigates the underside of architecture, the stories of losers and unfulfillment often ignored by an architectural criticism that values novelty, fame, and virility over fallibility and rejection.

Architecture on the Wireless, 1927-1945

In the years between the world wars, millions of people heard the world through a box on the dresser. In Britain, radio listeners relied on the British Broadcasting Corporation for information on everything from interior decoration to Hitler’s rise to power. One subject covered regularly on the wireless was architecture and the built environment. Between 1927 and 1945, the BBC aired more than six hundred programs on this topic, published a similar number of articles in its magazine, The Listener, and sponsored several traveling exhibitions.

Why would an architect reach for a pencil when drawing software and AutoCAD are a click away? Use a ruler when 3D-scanners and GPS devices are close at hand? In Why Architects Still Draw, Paolo Belardi offers an elegant and ardent defense of drawing by hand as a way of thinking. Belardi is no Luddite; he doesn’t urge architects to give up digital devices for watercolors and a measuring tape. Rather, he makes a case for drawing as the interface between the idea and the work itself.

A Perverse View of Architecture

Buildings, although inanimate, are often assumed to have “life." And the architect, through the act of design, is assumed to be their conceiver and creator. But what of the “death" of buildings? What of the decay, deterioration, and destruction to which they are inevitably subject? And what might such endings mean for architecture’s sense of itself? In Buildings Must Die, Stephen Cairns and Jane Jacobs look awry at core architectural concerns.

In The New Science of Cities, Michael Batty suggests that to understand cities we must view them not simply as places in space but as systems of networks and flows. To understand space, he argues, we must understand flows, and to understand flows, we must understand networks—the relations between objects that comprise the system of the city.

The Social Structures of Sustainability

Buildings are the nation’s greatest energy consumers. Forty percent of all our energy is used for heating, cooling, lighting, and powering machines and devices in buildings. And despite decades of investment in green construction technologies, residential and commercial buildings remain stubbornly energy inefficient.

Urbanization and globalization have shaped the last hundred years. These two dominant trends are mutually reinforcing: globalization links countries through the networked communications of urban hubs. The urban population now generates more than eighty percent of global GDP. Cities account for enormous flows of energy and materials—inflows of goods and services and outflows of waste. Thus urban environmental management critically affects global sustainability.

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