Architecture - Issue 105 - Magazine | Monocle

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Norman wisdom


Norman Foster has moved his foundation to a remastered palace in the Madrid barrio of Chamberí. Enlisting curator Maria Nicanor (from London’s v&a) as director as well as Michael Bloomberg, Apple’s Jonathan Ive (both honorary trustees) and a plethora of artists, academics, engineers and architects as board members, Foster hopes to stimulate debate on cities, ignited by the inaugural Future is Now forum in June.

An extensive archive of more than 17,000 drawings, photographs, models and memorabilia is now housed under the laminated glass of the Pavilion, designed by Spanish artist Cristina Iglesias.

Country high life

Wabern, Switzerland

In the Swiss town of Wabern, Basel-based architecture studio Buchner Bründler has built a high-rise residential tower – in the middle of the countryside. The project answered a brief requiring the building to “live with a view” and the result is a polygonal tower on the grassy outskirts of town, covered in concrete slabs with balconies on all sides.


Doreen Toutikian

Director, Beirut Design Week


After graduating from the University of Notre Dame and the Köln International School of Design, Toutikian returned to her home city and launched Beirut Design Week in 2012.

Why is BDW different?
We take a critical approach to design rather than placing it in a commercial context. We are interested in social activism, generating discourse about how design can bring positive change.

What was successful about this year’s event?
The theme was “Is design a need?” We approached this through individual projects, collective exhibitions and a day-long symposium at the Sursock Museum with a mix of speakers.

What is the overall mission?
Our purpose is to build a collective of socially engaged, critical designers that belong to the region. There’s a lot that needs to be fixed. — hm

House call

São Paulo

Brazil has the largest Japanese community outside Japan so it comes as no surprise that the first Japan House has opened in São Paulo. Developed by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to promote contemporary Japan abroad, the house will host exhibitions highlighting the best of Japanese architecture, design, food and fashion. Similar houses in London and Los Angeles are set to follow.

Located on São Paulo’s busiest avenue, Avenida Paulista, the €26.7m space was a collaboration between celebrated Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and local architecture firm fgmf Architects. The façade is made of hinoki, which makes a welcome change from the concrete skyscrapers on the avenue, while the interior includes the elements that made Kuma famous, such as airy and well-lit spaces.

Studio profile

Freadman White — Melbourne

A new generation of architects is emerging to combat Melbourne’s increasingly characterless property market. Among them is husband-and-wife team Michael White and Ilana Freadman, who met while studying at rmit University. Since founding their practice, Freadman White, in 2011 the pair have earned a reputation for creating living spaces that are warm, adaptable and light-filled.

Their first commission was a townhouse complex in North Melbourne that attracted praise for its bold brick exterior. The firm has since worked with developer Milieu on two inner-city apartment blocks in the suburb of Fitzroy. While their nuanced approach has already won fans, the couple are looking ahead. “In the future it will become less about whether bigger spaces are better and more about design quality,” says White. “Architects can help with that transition.”

Three notable projects:

  1. North Melbourne townhouses: This handsome set of dwellings demonstrates Freadman White’s knack for creating multi-functional spaces.

  2. Hoddle House: The practice expertly balanced functional design with warmth at this family home in the Melbourne suburb of Elsternwick.

  3. Whitlam Place: The concrete exterior of this apartment complex of 11 residences is bold yet sympathetic to its historic surroundings.

Taking the plunge


A collaboration between Toronto-based mjma and Vancouver firm Acton Ostry, the University of British Columbia’s aquatic centre needed to be a top-class training centre and a community pool. The design reflects this with a skylight marking the division between the two spaces, while a Barrisol screen helps provide the lighting required for competitions.

Gritty cities

by Nolan Giles

A trek into modern Bangkok provides a vision far removed from the fantastically dilapidated one that viewers experienced in 2000 film The Beach. Today a more discerning experience can be enjoyed in Bangkok.

Amanda Levete’s coiling design of the new Park Hyatt rises up like a gleaming metallic cobra on the city’s skyline. Likewise, Ole Scheeren’s MahaNakhon tower and its “dissolving” upper levels adds a higher degree of contemporary architectural dare to the Thai capital. Its malls are something to behold too, with the ambitious labyrinth that is Oki Sato of Nendo’s Siam Discovery providing a level of experiential retail architecture only rivalled by the department stores of his homeland in Japan.

This is the new Bangkok and visitors from across Asia – from China’s freshly minted to Indonesia’s old monied – are flocking to experience it. But on the streets below these modern towers, one aspect of Bangkok’s urban charm is fading. As city officials strive to provide tourists and a bulging Thai middle class with a modernised southeast Asian metropolis, á la Singapore, the colourful cast of coconut peddlers, catfish cookers and flower sellers that have long given Bangkok its authentic tourist appeal are being pushed out of town.

A developing city often goes through a revamp but the hasty changes and an effective ban on street-food vending is stripping Bangkok of its soul. There has to be a happy medium, where a touch of hedonism is injected into the urban fabric without forming a pickpocket’s paradise of unregulated street business. Hopefully Bangkok can set a precedent in the region for growing up without entirely removing the on-street chaos that has created its vibrancy.

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