The new designs making our towns and cities more exciting.
While Singaporeans compromise when it comes to the size of their homes in the space-starved city-state, smart national planning means access to nature is never far away. Kampung Admiralty is a new government development that blends housing, retail, healthcare and an incredible amount of green space in one lushly planted block.
While the 104 apartments here are reserved for the elderly, everything else, including its tropical tiered gardens – replete with urban farmland and playgrounds – is for everyone. Designed by architecture firm Woha, this vertical complex provides a sense of community for the ageing and forms an urban design benchmark for developers in similarly dense cities.
Until opening its shop in August, Method Studio had been making bespoke timber pieces in collaboration with brands from its sawmill in the Beecraigs Country Park. The new showroom is home to Method’s own range of furniture and based in the small town of Linlithgow, a midway point between Glasgow and Edinburgh. The hope is that the space will draw in clientele in search of pieces finely carved from elm and oak (among other hardy materials). “We sell things that you’ll never have to buy again,” says co-founder Callum Robinson. “We hope that our pieces will be in families for generations.”
Robinson and his wife Marisa’s shop is painted in tasteful greens with the front windowsill home to ferns and small firs. “I wanted to give the impression of peering through the trees,” says Robinson, “to reinforce the connection with our workshop that’s in the middle of nature.”
Today’s architects have the opportunity to tackle the biggest challenge the profession has ever faced: housing the planet’s ballooning population. Residential architecture has always been essential to society but many bigger names in the field today tend to shy away from it. The reality is that it’s not desirable, or well paid, to work on the types of homes we now require more than ever: affordable ones. Stockholm’s Andreas Martin-Löf (celebrated for his affordable housing designs alongside more luxurious works) says that famous designers tend to aspire toward grander commissions: malls, museums and the like. “It’s sad because residential architecture is what we need most, especially for low to medium-income people,” he says.
Housing in places from the British countryside to Asian metropolises should be simply designed, cheap and quick to construct – not typically seen as glamorous work. Yet, as governments across the world mull over ideas to ease various housing crises (battling profit-driven developers and bureaucratic obstacles along the way), architects should be seizing the moment.
“Architects are best placed to think creatively about solving housing issues. Everyone else, from developers to housing associations, has their own agenda but we can look at the problem more objectively,” says architect Richard Hyams, whose firm Astudio is building a business around modular affordable housing that was recently commissioned for a London borough. While Hyams and Martin-Löf say the work is taxing, they note that the opportunities and exposure they’ve gained for their affordable housing concepts have been worth the effort. They’re keen for more architects to champion the cause, noting that, after all, problem-solving is what designers do best.
A growing interest in renewable materials and eco-friendly methods of building has made timber construction pertinent once again – and not just in Sweden. The exhibition “Woodland Sweden” by the Swedish Institute and Architects Sweden, presents contemporary timber projects such as schools, housing and cultural institutions. The exhibition, at the Aedes Architecture Forum in Berlin, runs until 11 October.
Why was it important to create this exhibition now?
We are showing the best examples of Swedish timber architecture from nine architecture firms. Timber is an important part of Swedish building tradition and we wanted to show what is possible today, such as the Strandparken, an eight-floor residential building designed by the firm Wingårdhs, and Tham & Videgård Arkitekter’s yellow curving nursery school in Stockholm. Often people have a preconception that timber buildings are dull – they’re anything but.
Should the building industry be doing more to promote prefabs and the use of timber?
Yes it’s all about spreading the word: prefabrication means the building can be made close to the forest, it’s easy to transport, it lends itself to digital design – so as architects we have more control and a lot more flexibility. We often think of prefab as short-term but it’s not, it’s really a long-term way of building.
Since its founding in 1991, the firm Brooks & Scarpa has dipped its toe in most genres of architecture, from high-density residences in Chengdu and housing for LA’s homeless to transit stations, schools and cultural institutions. The output of the 25-person studio, based in LA’s Windsor Hills neighbourhood, is defined by translating sustainable design and socially progressive values into architecture.
A tight budget, something Brooks & Scarpa contends with often, “makes you distil your ideas to the most important ones,” says co-founder Lawrence Scarpa. The Six, an apartment complex housing some of LA’s formerly homeless veterans, is organised around a central courtyard. “The challenge was to provide both openness and physical security,” says Angela Brooks, managing principal architect. “The façade emphasises depth. You can be in the courtyard and feel like you’re part of the street while feeling safe.” The design also allows for easy cross-ventilation, a simple and economical decision that helped garner the building its Leed Platinum certification.
Brooks & Scarpa’s portfolio reveals a taste for experimentation. The smooth concrete exterior of the Southern Utah Museum of Art, which opened in 2017, echoes the state’s weathered sandstone canyons. While at Animo South Los Angeles High School classrooms are encircled by perforated screens that allow for a sense of security without creating the feeling of a fortress. “It’s more about the experience and memory of a place than the physical thing we leave behind,” says Scarpa. “You get satisfaction from the people that inhabit your buildings.”
Social housing that isn’t drab.
Animo South Los Angeles High School
A visually open but safe campus.
American Tropical Museum of Art
Comes with a viewing platform from which to admire a 1932 mural from social-realist painter David Alfaro Siqueiros.
This handsome, newly built wooden structure has been providing a rooftop setting with ample shade across the late summer months at the Swiss cultural centre in Rome. But more importantly, the latticed timber pergola is showcasing the smarts of Swiss design to visitors – with no glue, screws or nails used in the construction process.
It is the result of a project realised during the master’s programme of digital fabrication at ETH Zürich. Each element of this structure has been designed and calculated based on the position of the sun, providing shade in the most optimal manner at every hour of the day. The project is part of a wider array of ETH’s efforts in research and development to progress construction methods and reinvent the way buildings are assembled, often finding inspiration based on the shapes found in nature.