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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

1907-2012 - Oscar Niemeyer, a brilliant, pioneering architect

Without the foundational buildings designed by genius architect Oscar Niemeyer as inspiration, it would be difficult to conceive of artistic architectural icons Santiago Calatrava and Zaha Hadid having the freedom and success they have enjoyed in the early years of the 21st Century.

Born December 15, 1907 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Oscar Niemayer grew up in a wealthy family without any aspirations toward being an architect, though he started drawing at an early age. "When I was very little," he later remembered, "my mother said I used to draw in the air with my fingers. I needed a pencil. Once I could hold one, I have drawn every day since." He graduated from Barnabitas College in 1923 and soon after wed a woman named Annita Baldo, to whom he would remain married until her death in 2004.

Oscar passed away on December 5th, 2012, at the age of 104. He was a Brazilian architect specialized in international modern architecture. In the 1940s, '50s and '60s "he established himself as one of Modernism's greatest luminaries, while reshaping Brazil’s identity in the popular imagination and mesmerizing architects around the globe". He is a pioneer in exploring the formal constructive possibilities of reinforced concrete for its aesthetic impact.

Even Toronto's magnificent City Hall, by architect Viljo Revell, fits neatly in the tradition from Niemeyer to Hadid and ultimately, Calatrava.

Toronto City Hall, by architect Viljo Revell

Oscar's work presaged and foreshadowed the 21st Century architecture biomorphic style, utilizing the science of biomimicry and the artistic, flowing forms of nature to create profound and iconic new buildings. Niemeyer is most famous for his use of abstract forms and curves that specifically characterize most of his works; he didn’t stick to traditional straight lines, for he is not attracted to straight angles or lines but rather he is captured by ”free-flowing, sensual curves… [like that] on the body of the beloved woman.”
I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman. Curves make up the entire Universe, the curved Universe of Einstein.

Both lauded and criticized for being a "sculptor of monuments", he has been praised for being a great artist and one of the greatest architects of his generation by his supporters. He claims his architecture was strongly influenced by Le Corbusier, but in an interview conducted by Fritz Uteri, he assures that, “didn’t prevent [his] architecture from going in a different direction”

As a young man, Oscar Niemeyer worked for his father at a typography house for a short while before entering the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes, from which he graduated in 1934. Shortly before graduation, he joined the offices of Lúcio Costa, an architect from the Modernist school. Niemeyer worked with Costa on many major buildings between 1936 and 1943, including the design for Brazil's Ministry of Education and Health building, which was part of a collaboration with Bauhaus director Le Corbusier. Costa and Niemeyer also worked together on Brazil's iconic pavilion in the 1939 New York World's Fair; legendary Mayor Fiorello La Guardiawas so impressed with Niemeyer's design that he declared him an honorary citizen of New York.

The United Nations Building in New York City, by Oscar Niemeyer.

In 1941, Niemeyer launched his solo career by designing a series of buildings in a new suburb of Rio de Janeiro named Pampulha. Here Niemeyer started developing some of his design trademarks, including the heavy use of concrete and a propensity toward curves. "I consciously ignored the highly praised right angle and the rational architecture of T-squares and triangles," he said, "in order to wholeheartedly enter the world of curves and new shapes made possible by the introduction of concrete into the building process."

Niemeyer's status as a rising star in the architectural world was confirmed when he was chosen to represent Brazil as part of the team to design the new headquarters of the United Nations in New York City; the final building was based primarily on Niemeyer's design, with significant elements also taken from his old collaborator Corbusier. Following the completion of the United Nations building in 1953, Niemeyer won an appointment as dean of Harvard University's Graduate School of Design, but he was refused an American work visa by the United States government due to his membership in Brazil's Communist Party.

In 1956, Juscelino Kubitschek, the president of Brazil and a close friend of Niemeyer, came to the architect with a proposal, asking Niemeyer to become the new chief architect of public buildings in the country's new capital, Brasilia, a Modernist civic metropolis being built from scratch in the interior of the country. This is an approach being replicated by Kazakhstan in the modern era, as they create a new capital city, Astana, based on modern architecture by the United Kingdom's Norman Foster and other notables.

Niemeyer eagerly accepted, designing buildings that went along with his utopian vision of government:

"This was a liberating time," he said. "It seemed as if a new society was being born, with all the traditional barriers cast aside.... When planning the government buildings for Brasilia I decided they should be characterized by their own structures within the prescribed shapes.... I tried to push the potential of concrete to its limits, especially at the load-bearing points which I wanted to be as delicate as possible so that it would seem as if the palaces barely touched the ground." 

Some of the buildings Niemeyer designed in Brasilia include the President's Palace, the Brasília Palace Hotel, the Ministry of Justice building, the presidential chapel and the cathedral. After the inauguration of the new capital city in 1960, Niemeyer resigned his position as the government's chief architect and returned to private practice.

Oscar Niemeyer had become interested in Communist ideology as a youth and joined the Brazilian Communist Party in 1945. This became a serious problem in 1964, when the Brazilian military overthrew the government in a coup; Niemeyer, viewed by the army as an individual with dangerously left-wing sympathies, had his office ransacked. Spooked, the architect left the country of his birth a year later, in 1965, resettling in France and mainly designing buildings in Europe and northern Africa. He also turned to designing furniture, which also included his trademark use of sinuous curves. Niemeyer did not return to Brazil until the end of the military dictatorship in 1985.

Given the worldwide fame of his monumental projects and the plastic emphasis which Niemeyer believed were an inherent part of their program, a large portion of his work before the 1960's is usually neglected. This body of work shows Niemeyer's great ability in dealing with the human scale, addressing the building's surroundings and marrying technical and aesthetic aspects, taking into account the thermal comfort of the buildings, usually through the use of cross-ventilation and brises-soleil, which he helped to popularize.

Niemeyer received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988, the highest award in the profession, for his Cathedral of Brasilia. In his acceptance speech, Niemeyer explained his design philosophy: 
"My architecture followed the old examples — beauty prevailing over the limitations of the constructive logic. My work proceeded, indifferent to the unavoidable criticism set forth by those who take the trouble to examine the minimum details, so very true of what mediocrity is capable of. It was enough to think of Le Corbusier saying to me once while standing on the ramp of the Congress: 'There is invention here.'"

Semi-retired since the mid-1980s, at the age of 103 Oscar Niemeyer still goes into his office every day to work on designs and oversee projects. Having outlived most of his old friends, intellectual sparring partners and his wife of sixty years though he remarried in 2006, to his longtime assistant Vera Lucia Cabreira — Niemeyer continues to press for a better world through better design. 
"It is important that the architect think not only of architecture but of how architecture can solve the problems of the world. The architect's role is to fight for a better world, where he can produce an architecture that serves everyone and not just a group of privileged people."

Oscar Niemeyer, 1907-2012

Related Links:

21st Century Architect Santiago Calatrava

Modern Spanish Architecture: Barcelona, Bilboa, Valencia, Zaragosa

New Middle Eastern Architecture

Additional keywords: webpage for architect oscar niemeyer, brazil architect, brazilian architecture, architectural genius, pioneer modern architecture

Source: Biography.com, wikipedia.org, 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Center for Sustainable Landscapes seeking a greener nation

How Green A Garden Grows: A Conservatory targets a certification trifecta

By Joann Gonchar, AIA

Pittsburgh is home to what is arguably one of the greenest buildings in the country: the Center for Sustainable Landscapes, a recently completed facility for research and educational programs on the campus of the 119-year-old Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The center, known as the CSL, is aiming for a trio of certifications. In addition to LEED Platinum, the project is one of 150 taking part in the Sustainable Sites Initiative—a pilot program intended to encourage ecologically sensitive landscape-design practices. Phipps and the CSL team hope to achieve four stars, the highest rating possible. But they have even bigger aspirations. They are targeting Living Building status, a designation with tough-to-satisfy requirements such as net-zero-energy and net-zero-water performance.

Center for Sustainable Landscapes, Pittsburgh PA

The $12 million CSL is just the latest piece of a multiphase green expansion program that began after the nonprofit Phipps Conservatory Inc. signed a 100-year lease, taking over management of the city-owned garden in 1993. “Phipps had the potential to be more successful and become a national tourist attraction,” explains Richard Piacentini, the conservatory's executive director.

The new management's first capital project was a LEED Silver–certified visitors' reception wing that opened in 2005. The next year it completed two more: a 36,000-square-foot production greenhouse, with a computer-controlled roof venting system, and the Tropical Forest Conservatory, cooled passively with underground earth tubes.

For the CSL, the garden's most ambitious project to date, designers developed a “synthetic solution” in which the 24,000-square-foot structure and its 2.65-acre site work as one, explains Chris Minnerly, principal at The Design Alliance, the building's architect. The building steps down with the steeply sloping terrain and has its long axis oriented east-west to minimize solar gain. Its thermally robust envelope includes a skin of wood reclaimed from dismantled Pennsylvania barns. Photovoltaic panels, a vertical-axis wind turbine, and geothermal wells will satisfy energy needs.

The landscape, which was still under construction at press time, will include water features, native plant materials, and rain gardens. The scheme will do more than merely look good, says José Almiñana, a principal at Andropogon, which did the project's landscape architecture. “It will perform.”

One of the roles the landscape will play is helping the project meet Living Building water requirements. The CSL and its environs will manage stormwater and treat wastewater. It will put these sources to use for toilet flushing and to offset the significant irrigation demands of the conservatory's greenhouses.

A collection of orchids, for example, will be watered with the outflow from sinks and toilets, but only after the effluent is cleansed in a multistep treatment process that includes a traditional septic system and a constructed wetland containing plants such as cattails and rushes. A solar-distillation system will provide final purification.
A separate system will collect rainwater from the CSL's green roof and the roofs of neighboring buildings, directing it to a lagoon where hydrophytes (plants that thrive when submerged in water) will help remove the small amount of impurities found in roof runoff. After UV treatment, the water will be allowed to slowly filter into the ground or will be stored in cisterns for various nonpotable uses.

The lagoon will provide a habitat for fish and insects and, along with the constructed wetland, will transform the normally hidden, workaday processes of stormwater and wastewater management into landscape amenities. These water features are also an example of the “systems thinking” that inspired the project, says Piacentini. At the CSL, “the waste of one process benefits another.”

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Transbay Tower will be tallest on USA West Coast

Pelli Clarke Pelli creation the centrepiece of San Fran redevelopment

The San Francisco skyline will soon feature the tallest skyscraper on the West Coast, as the Transbay Tower was just approved by the San Francisco Planning Commission! Designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, the 1,070 foot, sixty-one story Transbay Tower will form the pinnacle of the Transbay Transit Center. The center is to serve as a downtown hub for Caltrain and its forthcoming high-speed rail network. A lower portion of the transit center will be topped with an elevated green space, which will be called City Park, while the area surrounding First and Mission Street will undergo significant redevelopment.

Having received final approval by SF’s Planning Commission, the new tower is set to form an integral part of a plan to enliven the area at First and Mission Streets. The surrounding area will be redeveloped to include not only the tower, but the train station, public plaza, shopping center and public art.

The metal and glass tower has undergone some design changes since it was first proposed in 2007, including the addition of a curved mesh top, with a metal mesh that thickens as the skin extends down the tower to the ground. This mesh skin will also help divert rainwater, as well as make the structure safer for birds flying at the high of the building’s crown.

Adding a new tower to San Francisco’s skyline has of course been met with mixed reviews, but Planning Commission President, Rodney Fong, feels that the gently tapered metal and glass structure will harmonize with the city’s skyline, and not overshadow it.
The Planning Commission will investigate the idea of installing an observation deck atop the tower once the plan advances to the next stage.

Source: http://inhabitat.com/san-franciscos-mesh-encased-transbay-tower-will-be-the-tallest-building-on-the-west-coast/

Friday, October 19, 2012

World-class Architectural Animation and Renderings

We have just finished up an incredible animation of an Indoor City being built in Astana, Kazakhstan. It is two kilometres across and features innovative architecture that sees most units having front doors and windows that open on the indoor city side, yet have back windows that open into outdoor courtyards strategically pocketed throughout the circular design. It's a confidential project right now, however once the designs can be released to the public, we will display some stills and footage here.

Next thing up is some visualization for a major sporting event to take place in 2014, however we still have room for another two or three marquee projects for late 2012 and early 2013 delivery.

If you are an architect or builder, do you have a world-class project that may benefit from hyper-realistic, top-shelf visualization? If so, please contact me via joetrainor at dhrendering.com and we can have a proposal over to you within 1 to 2 business hours of receiving the relevant info.

Have an inspiring weekend everyone, keep being creative!

Joe Trainor
DoHere Digital Technology Inc
1.866.967.0868 x 369

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Seven Super City Skylines

Cities that shimmer and glimmer in the night

Here are 7 spectacular city skylines, presented in alphabetical order.

Doha, Qatar

Dubai, UAE

London, UK

New York City, USA

Shanghai, China

Singapore, Singapore

Toronto, Canada

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

World-class 3D Architectural visualization, renderings and animation

DoHere Digital Technology offers dreamy, hyper-realistic renderings and animated videos for architects and builders globally. Please email Joe @ DHrendering.com with details of your project, and we'll have a proposal out to you within 2 business hours.

We look forward to working with you!

Joe Trainor, Director of Sales
DoHere Digital Technology Inc.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

TOTeMS Architecture presents symphonic Casey Keys Guest House

By Springer, of ArchitectureLinked.com

In a mature oak hammock along Sarasota Bay, the architecture of the Casey Key Guest House is inspired by the forms of the oaks, which have been shaped by the prevailing coastal winds from the west.   The Florida-based firm TOTeMS Architecture designed the home to be a “house in the trees,” with curved glulam pine beams that reflect the arching quality of the live oak limbs.  The small structure includes one bedroom, one bath, a living area with kitchenette, and a loft.  It also provides privacy between a neighboring property to the north, while offering broad views of the oak hammock to the south and west, and the intercoastal waterway to the east.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Galaxy Yabao in China's Guangdong province

 Located in the fast growing city of Shenzhen, in China’s Guangdong Province, the Galaxy Yabao Hi-Tech Enterprises Headquarter Park covers an area of about 65 ha, Galaxy Yabao. It is a complex comprised of 18 high-rise towers, a 5 star hotel, 3 service apartment towers, 3 residential towers, a shopping mall and a 32 ha park. 

Developed by 10 Design, the business park is designed to complement nature, clean air pollution and purify grey water via an algae system that produces oxygen, organic fertilizer and clean water.

China continues to lead the planet in developing iconic, leading-edge architecture, moving humanity forward into the 21st Century.

Seoul, Korea, building iconic architectural core

Please enjoy this imagery from the new Yongsang business area being built in Seoul, Korea.

New Yongsang International Business area in Seoul, South Korea.

Diagonal Tower, by SOM

Cross towers by BIG

Harmony Tower by Libeskind

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Gardens By the Bay, Singapore, opens tomorrow!

The wondrous and inspiring Gardens By the Bay gets bigger tomorrow, June 29, with the opening of the Bay South section of Singapore's innovative greenhouse and vertical gardens. Bay East has been developed as an interim park in support of the Youth Olympic Games 2010, and is opened to the public since Nov 2011, allowing an alternate access to the Marina Barrage. The full master plan implementation of Bay East and the development of Bay Central are part of the next phase of development.

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