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“A decade now, one of Manhattan’s most distinctive icons, that which Baudrillard offered as the perfect architectural embodiment of the simulacrum of the model, disappeared from the island’s skyline.

There are other über-New Yorker architectural icons, of course. Earlier and more widely broadcasted for the better part of the XX century, the Empire State and Chrysler buildings are expressive of a former New York defined by constant competition where each new building sought to top the preceding “…each of them the original moment of a system constantly transcending itself in a perpetual crisis and self-challenge.” In Baudrillard’s discourse, the two towers of the World Trade Center put an (architectural) end to this scenario of vertical competition and mutual building suspicion: The effigy of the capitalist system(Baudrillard again) passed from the pyramid to the perforated card, and the twin WTC towers, perfect parallelepipeds looking like the mute, anonymous, indifferent to competition columns in a statistical graph, gave architectural shape to a system that was no longer competitive, but compatible, a new scenario where competition was substituted by correlation.

The twin towers represented, the end of competition, but also, within Baudrillard’s history of simulacra, the end of all meaning, for they were a pure (architectural) sign, already born replicated. Its meaning destroyed by the duplication itself, the denaturalized Janus of New York’s old World Trade Center ended competition, but did not offer an iterative, serial alternative. If the doubled tower captured and aroused, as Baudrillard put it, the closure of the system in a vertigo of duplication, it also exuded a balance that did no open the door for a longer seriation. It was a series closed on the number two, just as if architecture, in the image of the system, proceeded only from an unchangeable genetic code, a definitive model. Much as it implied the very idea of the series, the World Trade Center was not (mean to be) part of  one, in the same way that it was not an original and its copy. And it was this dichotomy between singularity (one single design) and duality (two towers), and between repetition and the negation of indefinite serialization which helped build the strong iconicity of the pair. (…) Baudrillard also pointed out the iconic power of the parallelepipedic asceticism of the towers. The simple, subtly postmodern ornamentation of the prisms’ skin just contributed the minimum amount of materiality via decoration so as to keep the icon on this side of the line between the real and the ideal.

The undeletable presence of the towers in the collective eye-mind of the society, standing in a liminal space reserved to few image/icons, can be grasped in the shadow of a literal rebuilding, improbable as it was, which still glided over the early discussions on the plans for the reconstruction of ground zero. Certainly, the re-erection of the towers in the wake of their thirtieth anniversary would have taken the issue of duplication to a whole new level, introducing a new number two in the equation. Adding to the preservation of the icon -for the inevitable price of erasing memory-, the cathartic Phoenix-like rebirth from the ashes would have definitely settle the towers in a timeless plane, outside the historical timeline delineated by the products of the skyscraper race, which constructed a traceable history of the development of New York. Unleashing an endless flux of meta-readings, the (re)duplicated -doubly duplicated- WTC would become, in a tongue-twisting mishmash of pairing Baudrillardian tropes, a replica of a simulacrum, a literal copy done to stand for the original in its own location once this has disappeared, which would suggest the unleashing of a Sisyphean process of reconstruction that would endlessly rejuvenate the towers through consecutive fancies destruens. A rather effective alternative to literal reconstruction, Richard Nash Gould’s Tribute in Light/ Towers of Light offered a comparably meaning-full replication that would have been much more effective if (boldly)placed within the void footprints of the towers, which would have turned the lightbeams as much a follow-up as a replacement. Standing like a Gilmourian -or Wateresque- fleeting glimpse, the volumes of light would have appeared as an ideal(ized) recreation of the absence of the towers through their ethereal presence, which inverted the very presence of the original towers in the city: invisible by daylight, material at night, but now suitably devoid of substance.

None of this subtlety made it, however, into the proposals that sought to fill both the physical and functional, as well as iconic void left by the towers, whose double shadow was cast, tilted, twisted, glorified and glossified, and of course, suitably banalized in most of them (…) Standing completely out of the sensibilities where these architectural delicatessen were bred, only the unpopular, unsexy proposal by Eisenman’s Dream Team (Meier, Eisenman, Gwathmey-Siegel, minus Graves and Hejduk, plus a particularly fitting Steven Holl) seemed to want to play on the grounds of the original World Trade Center, tackling on the same issues that had shaped Baudrillard’s reading, as well as the traits that provided it (them) with its iconic aura: replication, refusal of verticality, stripping the form down to a Platonic level. If the Twin Towers both called for and negated the possibility of extending the series they created, Eisenman&friends solved this dichotomy by interposing a new order (…) Indeed, as interwoven as it was within the trajectory of its designers, there is very little in the way of the architect’s presence within the design, very little that had not been there already.  Other than that, the project was pervaded by an asceticism, a lack of gestures, determined to prevent the architect’s persona from showing, as well as to avoid any assertion of the project’s “object self” that would undermine the cupio dissolvi of the new towers within the memory of the former. Ironically, due to their kinship with Eisenman’s language of pure sign, the Tic-Tac-Towers stood as semiotic ghosts (a personal favorite among Gibson’s constructs) of their past selves, so, unlike their twin ancestors, they were signifiers with a very specific meaning, and certain representational requirements.

(…) In the shadow of this proposal, itself reveling in the shadow of the WTC Twin Towers, the underwhelming banality of the finally constructed Freedom Tower becomes doubly (inevitable, wasn’t it?) disheartening, both for its imposingly dull presence and because of the absence it implies. (…) For all their onanistic absurdity, the masturbatory excesses of some of the other proposals were still preferable to the coitus interruptus of the final built form of Liebeskind’s proposal. A compromise on top of a compromise (…on top of a compromise), the single tower at Ground Zero works as a perfect statement of architectural inanity. (…)”

Excerpts from “Iconic On”. Studio Magazine #03: ICON, October 2012

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The cartoon that opens this post was originally meant for a post entitled with it “In the Shadow of No Towers -Ten years After”, intended to be published on September 11, 2011, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 events and celebrate the late twin towers of the WTC. However, although the cartoon itself was finished in time, several circumstances worked together to prevent it from being uploaded that day, and I decided to put it to sleep till a better occasion would come.

That better occasion (much better, indeed) was the publication of the third issue (ICON) of Milano-based magazine STUDIO, which were so kind as to publish it, and gave me the opportunity to expand the ideas I intended to tackle on in the original post into a full-length (longer than I remembered, actually) article, with a new ilo, too. The magazine, whose previous issues included contributions from Alberto Campo Baeza or Vittorio Gregotti, Luis Úrculo, DPR-Barcelona, features articles by RRCStudio itself, as well as Fake Industries, Alicia Guerrero&Freddy Massad, Léopold Lambert (The Funambulist), Franco Purini, Wai Think Tank and many others.

The complete issue can be read in its entirety in ISSUU, or bought here, if you’re a paper fetishist such as myself. I’d strongly recommend to go through the whole, nicely designed issue, and mildly recommend to read ICONIC ON in full, which I believe makes a little more sense that way. Please, just skip all the typos which are there due to my inAbiliti to corrrect te ttexts once I’ve writen tHem.

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But today we collect Gags [and gigs, and schticks]

Gropius wrote a book on grain silos,

Le Corbusier one on aeroplanes,

and Charlotte Periand brought

a new object to the office every morning,

But today we collect ads.[i]

Today (today), Rem Koolhaas writes big fat books and reinvents OMA each ten years in a different exhibition, and Bjarke Ingels recounts the 8 House to us conjuring a virtual model in the air while speaking to the camera. Nic Clear evokes the spaces suggested by Ballard in videos created in the Bartlett workshops, and Factory Fifteen win the RIBA medal with a short film on androids of the Apartheid. Architecture and fiction, again.

And comics. A decade before, Koolhaas (and son) rediscovered one more time (for architecture) the underground appeal of drawn stories, and Neutelings appropriated the graphic patterns of a certain Swarte (or perhaps Eddy Vermeulen’s) due to their inherent conceptual transparency. Today, Jimenez Lai published a graphic novel under the  Princeton Architectural Press seal, and Yes is More or Metro Bassel signify the drift  of architecture -a discipline traditionally burdened by its obsession with distancing itself from anything that could question its intellectual pedigree- towards the uncertain terrains of ars poverae and cool, of marketing and circus-like mediatic massage.

(… but -I am told- Le Corbusier also did storyboards for buildings in the 1920s, and before that he had already adopted the graphic conventionalisms of American cartoons. And even earlier, he flirted with the idea of writing a doctoral dissertation on the comic strips of Rodolphe Töpffer, the Swiss father of the bande dessinée…)

Jeanneret was a fertile and feverish communicator, too; like Loos, an active polemist; like Mies, a skilled coiner of catchphrases and mottos. The journey is, some they say, in how you tell it, and if architecture has nowadays a passionate affair with communication, this is nothing new, anyways. Today (the day before yesterday, at the latest), Rem Koolhaas poses impeccably dressed as the cover image of Vogue, while he plays confusion with his audience, displaying a discourse in permanent -and studied- contradiction. But long before that, Corbusier (that early Koolhaas impersonator) already understood that his main role was that of the publicist who could as well photograph himself painting nude in Saint Tropez, or rebuild his own history over and over again in the consecutive editions of his Oeuvre Complete. Architecture, and starchitecture, is in how you tel it, yes, and its legend gets built through grand discourses, but also in small talk, gossip and small miseries, through a mouth-to-ear that current informational ubiquity has augmented exponentially. Today, information is bigger, and bigger are the chances for media presence; but a more ephemeral one. That’s why the flux has to keep coming; the flux of images, publications and conferences, of debates, but also of opinions and minutiae, of Facebook walls and tittle-tattle.

Because today, we collect gags.


[i] Alison&Peter Smithson: “But Today We Collect Ads”. Ark magazine No. 18, November 1956.

“But today we collect gags”, originally published in the e-book “The Importance of the Ways Stories are Being Told” (dpr-Barcelona, June-July 2012) after the debate of the same name, and cracked during a train trip to Barcelona. Anyone who has read the similarly-themed “Tell Me More!” or “Modern Talking” will notice the recurrences and overlaps. [Also, the above image doesn’t have much to do with the text itself, just with the title, but…]

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”The Importance of the Way Stories are Being Told”. Following the debate “Communication and Bottom-UP. The importance of the way stories are being told.” dpr-barcelona seek to expand the debates and conversations avoiding them to get lost after a few days of the event. This digital-pamphlet [kindle + ePub] is meant as a tool to keep exploring the thought and ideas of thinkers and doers; articulated by simple detonating questions posed through emails, tweets and conversations intending to comunicate effectively the very essence of the debate: “the importance of telling stories”.
This “fast generated” publication includes contributions by attending guest to the debate [that you can see here in the post], the so-called “Line 0” [Ana María León, Pedro Hernández and Clara Nubiola] and with the aim to expand the conversation beyond the dome of Eme3’s piazza, we also have invited a few friends who are involved in similar activities to share their thoughts about this topic with us. They are Iker Gil, Mario Ballesteros, Cristina Goberna and Urtzi Grau [Fake Industries], Mimi Zeiger, and Nick Axel.
This digital pamphlet is also a starting point for a open and written debate were everyone can also sum opinions: Those interested in responding will be able to add more contents using Booki (http://www.booki.cc/list-books/), which is an open platform that allows to write collaborative books and even generating a very personal version.
The book has been published bilingual, with some articles in Spanish and other ones in English, as each author was free to choose the language that makes easier to communicate his/her ideas. You are free to add a complete chapter, to add contents to the published ones and to add images… Did someone say participate? You can download the eBook version for kindle, ipad and tablets by paying with a tweet.

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“New trends and new times, new market conditions and newer communicational means are also creating, it seems, new modes of architectural production-consumption and along with them, an allegedly new type of professional with skills suited for an era where communication primes.

News spreads at an increasingly faster rate, generating an exponential inflation in the informational corpus: news and texts are forwarded, commented on, cut/cropped/quoted/linked and disseminated in the blink of an eye, and we, internauts brought up a on a steady diet of continuous feedbacks, updates and comments, have quickly grown dependent upon the continuity of the flux. We require a constant nourishing perpetuating the dynamics of a performative informational experience, which has become the default setting. We, the archinauts, have also grown accustomed to a steady diet of flashy images, renderings and videos that have become the default architectural experience. In this context, the architect renews his vows as a social interlocutor, but this time in the form of a performer who needs to grab the fluctuating attention of a public eye turned into volatile audience. Communicational skills are now, more than ever, a sine qua non for architects who leave behind any past incarnation as either reclusive geniuses or silent craftsmen and become active spokesmen, polemists or even provocateurs. The rise of the contemporary starchitectural system reflects very vividly this situation, where architects stand in the spotlight not only according to the quality of their (classically considered) architectural production, but also corresponding to their qualities as performers, or even due to their ability to keep a network of gossip circulating around them. But in this context, a recurring question keeps emerging, casting a doubt on the legitimacy of architectural discourses that are threatened to be thinned down to nothing by this hypertrophy of the communicational apparatus, which primes production over content. Might it be — I can hear Roger Waters singing — that Architecture is communicating itself to death?”

Excerpt from Modern Talking [don’t you…forget about me]

Mas Context nº 14, June 2012

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The image above was designed as an aside to the last issue of Iker Gil/Mas Studio’s MAS Context: Communication, which includes the article excerpted here, along with way more valuable contributions by Vladimir Belogolovsky, Craighton Berman, Ariadna Cantis, Center for Urban Pedagogy, Felipe Chaimovich, Eme3, Pedro Gadanho, Iker Gil, Michael Hirschbichler, Sam Jacob, Klaus, Michael Kubo, Stephen Killion, Luis Mendo, Elias Redstone, Zoë Ryan, Oriol Tarragó, Rick Valicenti, and Mirko Zardin, with a cover design by Plural via Pink Floyd’s Meddle.

You can have a peek at the article by clicking the images below, or -preferably- going online through the full article in the link provided. However, I strongly suggest having a look at the whole issue here or downloading it in pdf form. If you want the comic, though, you’ll have to buy a physical copy.

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Previous collaborations for CLOG: BIG here and here

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 “Et in Arcadia Ego”

 Poussin

“And it’s a question of how far we’re willing to go in order to let the ego shine, in order to let that beacon penetrate not only the local scene but the world.”

Taylor Hackford

For all its promise of unlimited connetivity, Apple´s design seems to leave almost everything out. Apple has built a style on impenetrability, providing us with sleek, polished technological gizmos that are not only, a product of design, but a symbol of designed obsolescence.

Apple is itself a brand and a symbol, a signifier of future and Buzz-Lightyear-ian progress towards infinity. However, its approach to design takes us back to a past, long gone vision of future utopia bred in hardcore modernism. When Apple´s New Wave was launched in 1984, cyberpunk had started to reshape the image of the future and future technology according to a postmodern sensibility. Star Wars, Alien and Blade Runner introduced an image of the future as a layered, additive and textured place, a dark but rich metropolitan –megalopolitan- reality whose productive (thanks, Chen&Young) dystopianism provided us with an inclusive approach to postmodernism, as opposed to the exclussiveness of academic PoMo, and a new way to conceptualise (a new eye to look through) our urban postmodern reality.It´s extraordinarily fitting that the man chosen to inaugurate the era of Apple Design in a commercial reminiscent of Owrell´s 1984 was precisely Ridley Scott, who touched in the lapse of two years on the two poles that, as Peter Lunenfeld notes, still rule contemporary culture thirty years after.

Apple´s present-future is not the system of constant retrofitting dictated by the permanence of every-thing that Syd Mead designed for Blade Runner, but the clean, plastic and semi-translucent reality of Alex Proyas´s I Robot, a reality of immutable and ephemeral objects designed to shine and die, as user-friendly as they remain impermeable to change (…the light that burns twice as bright, burns half as long). And in doing so, Apple leaps over postmodernity to recover the dream of a clean, antiseptic, white utopia dreamt in the age of pulp. Jobs´s dream of the future is that of William Cameron Menzies´s Things to come, of streamline design, of Norman Bel-Geddes´s Futurama, where Roman togas have been substituted for Mao collars and turtlenecks.

Looking like an alien mothership hanging gently in the middle of Arcadia, the new Cupertino campus resounds with echoes of Steve Jobs sitting in peaceful yoga position in his empty apartment in the 80s, and it really speaks of a dream of ascetic-aesthetic plenitude that goes back to modern utopianism. Foster´s design, bred in a sensibility nourished by Dan Dare, Werner Von Braun and the visionary 60s conjures an ultimate state of the Corbusian cult of the liner as a model for architectural assertion. The platonic exactitude of Cupertino´s rounded shell conjures the old ideal of ectopic utopianism: a technological eutopia of isolated perfection in an anthitetic relationship with natural beauty. Apple leaves behind the organic, anarchic ambiguity of postmodernity, substituting the visceral for the virtual; and somehow, this renewed dream of an (old) brave new world scares me a little bit.

But then, I´m a PC guy.

Image Captions: 1. Cupertino: Apple Campus 2. Foster and Parners, 2011. 2. Things to Come. William Cameron Menzies, 1936. 3. Heliopolis. Project for an Olympic Village in the Mountains of Tatras. Alex Mlynarcik, 1968. 4. Werner Von Braun et al.: Space Station. Across the Space Frontier, 1952. 5. Thalassa: Project for a Floating City. Paul Maymont, 1959.
Image credits: Heliopolis photographed by the artist. In RAGON, Michel:Histoire mondiale de l’architecture et de l’urbanisme modernes. T.3. Prospective et futurologie; 350. Thalassa: Photo by P. Joly/ Vera Cardot. In RAGON, Michel: Les Cités de l’Avenir. Paris: Editions Planète, 1968.  Space station: Illustration by Chesley Bonstell. In KAPLAN, Joseph et al.: Across the Space Frontier. New York, Viking Press, 1952. Everytown: Frame from William Cameron Menzies´s Things to Come. London Film Productions/United Artists, 1936.

Luis Miguel Lus-Arana: “Return to Ectopia: Apple Design and Futurist Classicism”. Published in MAY, Kyle et al. (edited by): Clog: Apple nº 2. NY: February 2012, pp. 96-7

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CLOG: APPLE. On 7 June 2011, Steve Jobs presented Apple Campus 2 to the Cupertino City Council. Due to Apple’s high profile – not to mention the scale and iconic nature of Foster + Partners’s design – the online reaction to the “spaceship” was immediate and strong. While Apple has been building retail stores throughout the world for over a decade, discussion, even among architects, has typically focused on the company’s famed product design. With one of the largest American office projects in history underway in Cupertino, it’s time to talk about Apple and architecture.
Contributors: Michael Abrahamson, Paul Adamson, Gary Allen, Collin Anderson, Haik Avanian, Rachel Berger, Freek Bos, Gabrielle Brainard, Tom Brooksbank, Keith Burns, Marcus Carter, Haiko Cornelissen, Philippine d’Avout D’Auerstaedt, Erandi de Silva, Kevin Erickson, Matthew J. Giordano, Hanny Hindi, Julia van den Hout, Allyn Hughes, Axel Kilian, Klaus, Austin Kotting, Michael Kubo, Jimenez Lai, Nicholas Leahy, Christopher Lee, Frank Lesser, Michael Ludvik, Luis Miguel Lus-Arana, Kyle May, Adam Nathaniel Mayer, Nicholas McDermott, Mark McKenna, Samuel Medina, Louise A. Mozingo, Rob Nijsse, The Office of PlayLab, Inc., Glenn Phillips, Graffitilab, Nina Rappaport, Jacob Reidel, Erin M. Routson, Mika Savela, Chris Shelley, Noam Shoked, Mike Treff, Kazys Varnelis, Ronald Wayne, and Human Wu.

Clog: Apple edited by Kyle May, Julia Van den Hout, Jacob Reidel and Human Wu. Design by PlayLab, Inc. Find it here.

I rarely publish articles under Klaus’s name (I have a whole different personality just for that). However, when Kyle May approached me in order to collaborate with a short review (a sketch of an article rather than a long text) on BIG´s “Yes Is More”  in the debut issue of Clog Magazine, it seemed most appropriate.

Clog aims, according to its editors, at slowing things down, with each issue exploring “from multiple viewpoints and through a variety of means, a single subject particularly relevant to architecture now. Succinctly, on paper, away from the distractions and imperatives of the screen.” The first issue, focused on Bjarke Ingels Group, gathers together a sort of critical aleph, showing a cloud of different glimpses/glances from an extensive list of contributors, including Michael Abrahamson, Iwan Baan, E. Sean Bailey, Greg Barton and Michael Keller, Aleksandr Bierig, Janine Biunno, Gabrielle Brainard, Greg Broerman, Sean Burkholder, John Cantwell, Dan Clark, Justin Davidson, Obinna Elechi, Fake Design, Graffitilab, Rúnar Halldórsson, Jonathan Hanahan, Han Hsi Ho, Julia van den Hout, Karrie Jacobs, KiBiSi, Klaus, Jonathan Kurtz, Alexandra Lange, Kyle May, Stephen Melville, Michel Onfray (translated by Charlotte van den Hout), Carol Patterson, Ethan Pomerance, Jacob Reidel, Team JiYo, Erandi de Silva, Bernd Upmeyer, Oliver Wainwright, Human Wu, Sung Goo Yang and Ying Zhou.

Along with the official launch in October 1, 2011, Clog will feature a tête à tête with Bjarke Ingels in the Storefront for Art & Architecture on October 7. For further details, check CLOG’s website. Find my few scribbled lines below.  A full version with images here.

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You can find a short preview (it used to be longer) of Yes is More at Taschen’s site here. A useful introductory analysis of the book by John Hill can be found here, and a review of Clog here.

Also: A translation of the article into Spanish has been published by fellow Spaniard bloggers FreakArq here. Baunetz.de uploaded some images of Clog: Big, in their blog here, including one of Yes is More or Less.

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Clog: BIG. Online press, blogs, tweets, social media, and other digital forums have drastically increased the speed at which architectural imagery is distributed and consumed today. While an unprecedented amount of work is available to the public, the lifespan of any single design or topic has been reduced in the profession’s collective consciousness to a week, an afternoon, a single post – an endlessly changing architecture du jour. In the deluge, excellent projects receive the same fleeting attention as mediocre ones. Meanwhile, mere exposure has taken the place of thoughtful engagement, not to mention a substantial discussion. CLOG slows things down. Each issue explores, from multiple viewpoints and through a variety of means, a single subject particularly relevant to architecture now. Succinctly, on paper, away from the distractions and imperatives of the screen. 
Clog: Big is edited by: Kyle May (Editor-in-Chief), Julia van den Hout, Jacob Reidel, Human Wu, The Office of PlayLab, Inc. (Design)

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The above is a (slight variation on a) cartoon just published in the Fall/Winter issue of New York- based, Carlo Aiello-directed eVolo Magazine. Other than the cartoon itself, the magazine focuses, under the title “Cities of Tomorrow”, on recent works by Arup Biomimetics, AS/D, BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group, LAVA – Laboratory for Visionary Architecture, MAD Architects, Matter Management, MONAD Studio, NH Architecture, Rojkind Arquitectos, SOFTlab, Ted Givens, Terreform One, Trahan Architects, UNStudio, Vincent Callebaut, Will Alsop or WOHA Studio among others. Of course, all these are just an excuse to publish the cartoon (magazines usually require a certain minimum amount of pages to be considered as such), but the editors disguised it so well that it’s impossible to notice. You may want to check the complete list of featured works here.

EVolo also launched their 2011 Skyscraper Competition. Registration and submission will be open till January 11, 2011.

A preview, with the article “Lincoln Road: Envisioning Infrastructure Sensuality” on MONAD Studio’s Lincoln Road Capacitors Project written by Eric Goldemberg can be found here.

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UPDATE: Below you can find the cartoon in its original context as a companion to the article API – AR 2050, by John Hill, creator of A Weekly Dose of Architecture and its sister website A Daily Dose of Architecture. You can read it by clicking on the images or download them in .pdf form here, by courtesy of Carlo Aiello and John.

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eVolo 03 – Cities of Tomorrow. How do we imagine the cities of tomorrow? This is one of the most difficult questions that architects, designers, and urban planners need to answer in a time where more than half of the world’s population lives in urban settlements – a mere century ago only ten percent did.
This issue examines innovative urban proposals that will transform the way we live; projects that preserve the natural landscape with integral architecture and urbanism with deep connections to site, culture, and environment. These are concepts of hybrid urbanism that offer a juxtaposition of programs to live, work, and play for a hyper-mobile population.
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