Brian Carter Monthly Report for April 2019, Building Types, Architecture Article

Monthly Report for April 2019 by Brian Carter

Architectural Design & Buildings Discussion – article by Brian Carter, Buffalo, NY, USA

May 1, 2019

Monthly Report in April 2019 by Brian Carter

Buffalo Calling – Unprecedented Discoveries

Unprecedented discoveries of extensive digital landscapes and the invention of extraordinary tools are combining to make physical spaces of encounter and civic building into endangered species. In China however the surge of new construction continues to be characterized by civic landmarks.

While many of the commissions to design these new buildings continue to be awarded to global architects other clients in China are seeking out local designers. Perhaps inspired to address local needs, recognize regional skills and develop the vernacular they are also advancing indigenous architectures. Work by Wang Shu and Lu Wanyu – founders of Amateur Architecture Office, Zhu Pei and refreshingly modest buildings like the Liyuan Library designed by Li Xiaodong represent a tiny yet impressive sample of recent projects in China.

A new Opera House for Shanghai designed by Snohetta belongs emphatically in the first category. With studios in Oslo, Innsbruck, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Hong Kong and Adelaide, this is also a practice that grew out of international engagement. Snohetta began when a handful of young American and Scandinavian architects got together in Los Angeles. Their ideas provided the basis for a proposal for a large new library in Egypt and, in 1989, that proposal was awarded first prize in a major international architectural competition initiated by UNESCO. That team, handed the commission to design the vast new Bibliotheca Alexandria, went on to oversee the construction of the library which opened to international acclaim in 2001.

The practice flourished and six years later Snohetta saw the completion of another of their competition winning proposals when the new Norwegian National Opera and Ballet House opened in Oslo. That design created a vast terraced roof which extended beyond the building to the icy waters of the Oslo Fjord – an unlikely gesture yet one that effectively pulled opera and performance out of its familiar acoustically calibrated box to project music, dance and audiences into the landscapes of the city. Consequently authorities in Shanghai, another major city of significance interested in creating spaces of encounter, sought out those architects to develop ideas for a new civic building in Asia.

Administrators in Hangzhou – an emerging technology hub in Zhejiang Province – adopted a different approach. Working with Di Ma and ZUP Architects they designed a new Exhibition Centre to fill an entire block in the centre of Hangzhou Yungi Town. However research into this particular building type highlighted that it is often unused for significant periods of time and consequently the architects suggested that the extensive roof of the hall be designed as a landscaped open space dedicated to daily public use. This new field, located in the heart of a neighbourhood, provides a range of different recreational amenities, outdoor landscaped spaces and sporting facilities.

Consequently while Shanghai anticipates a new civic building inspired by terraces in Oslo and creating a spectacular and accessible built mountain in the city Cloud Town’s new rooftop field enables a community to run, jump, play and picnic. Both offer remarkable spaces that ingeniously establish social infrastructures and prompt civic life while fostering global practice and local vernaculars.

Brian Carter, a registered architect in the UK, is Professor of Architecture at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.
Brian Carter
Brian Carter

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