Cities concentrate opportunities and exchanges, culture and business, while, at the same time are a key contributor to climate change. They are highly complex organisms, with multiple actors involved, that bring to light underlying social interests and conflicts present in society. In 2007, the world’s urban population surpassed the rural and this difference has been increasing ever since. According to the 2018 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects report, 55% of the world’s current population lives in urban areas, rising to 68% by 2050. This will represent an increase of 2.5 billion people in urban areas, with almost 90% of this increase occurring in Asia and Africa. The Smart Sustainable Cities: Reconnaissance Study also points out that urban centers account for 67% of global energy demand, emit 70% of greenhouse gases and, on top of it all, buildings consume 40% of all energy worldwide. The prospect of a mostly urban world, along with the alarming onset of climate change, both raise challenges regarding living conditions in the coming decades and centuries, and all the implications that will accompany these changes.
“Life, space, buildings – in that order”. This phrase, from the Danish urban architect Jan Gehl, sums up the changes that Copenhagen has undergone in the last 50 years. Currently known as one of the cities with the highest levels of quality of life satisfaction, the way its public spaces and buildings were and are designed have inspired architects, government authorities and urban planners around the world. What we see today, however, is the result of courageous decision-making, much observation and, above all, designs that put people first. Copenhagen will be the UNESCO-UIA World Capital of Architecture in 2023 as well as host of the UIA World Congress of Architects due to its strong legacy in innovative architecture and urban development, along with its concerted efforts in matters of climate, sustainability solutions and livability.
The search for the fundamental particle has been driving curious minds for much longer than we imagine. Leucippus and Democritus, Greek philosophers from the 5th century B.C., were the first to propose that the entire universe was made up of particles called atoms, indivisible and colliding against each other in an infinite void. Since then much has been studied about how dynamics actually take place at the atomic level (neutrons, protons and electrons), and there is still much to be discovered. Understanding the Higgs boson, for example, may even lead to a new understanding of the origin of the universe and life, since it can explain how elementary particles have mass. Moving from atomic abstraction to the world as we know it is a fascinating thing. It was this plunge into the particle –the smallest known part of the universe– which inspired the new collection by the Italian company Fiandre Architectural Surfaces, which produces ceramic pieces for spaces.
Expanded polystyrene (EPS) was discovered in 1839 in Berlin and became a widely used material in airplanes manufactured for World War II due to its extremely low density. It is this characteristic that makes it a suitable material for thermal and acoustic insulation, often specified in buildings, but also widely used in packaging. A rigid cellular plastic, it is the result of polymerizing styrene in water, whose end product are expandable beads that have a diameter of up to 3 millimeters. Unfortunately though, this material takes more than 500 years to decompose and, in the process, leaches harmful chemicals into the environment. Recycling is possible, but it is complex and costly. This means that most of the Styrofoam produced to date still remains on the planet, taking up valuable space in landfills, or worse, broken into tiny pieces and interfering with ocean life. “Decomposition Farm: Stairway” is a temporary installation that offers a possible solution to the environmental issues related to construction waste in the architectural field.
Windows and doors dictate the relationship between interiors and exteriors in buildings, helping to either integrate or separate them. They are also important components in architecture that can add to a façade’s composition, balance and rhythm, while fulfilling its main function: to protect the interiors and serve as a barrier to the weather. While the first windows were composed of reduced spans and small glass panes with heavy frames, today there are almost invisible options that easily adapt to any type of project. It is up to the designers to choose among the various possibilities of materials, operations, colors and finishes.
Pretentious as it may sound, we can say with certainty that bamboo is one of the most promising materials for the future of the construction industry. Neil Thomas, principal engineer at studio one, says that if we were to design an ideal building material, it would look a lot like bamboo. This is because it grows very fast, is present in many countries around the world, has a highly efficient cross-section, and has impressive load-bearing strength. But beyond its structural use in its raw form, bamboo is also a material that allows a high level of processing and can be laminated for flooring, fixtures and, as we will see in this article, for Structural Engineered Bamboo (SEB) structures, which are very similar to Engineered Wood. We spoke with Luke D. Schuette, founder and CEO of ReNüTeq Solutions, LLC, a company in St. Louis, Missouri, that has been working with this building system.
Versatility is the main characteristic of wire mesh. They can be used indoors, as ceilings and walls, but also outdoors, covering railings or wrapping entire buildings. In addition to its many possible uses, versatility is intrinsic to the material: Depending on the choice of warp and weft wires and the type of weave, the result is an individual mesh with a specific look and light effect, that can be further expanded with different materials or colored mesh surfaces. Another notable quality of the material is the safety it provides, either in guard rails on walkways, vehicle bridges with sidewalks, central atriums, elevated playgrounds, multi-storey parking lots, or internal or external stairways.
We have written a lot about the adaptive reuse of buildings and how this should become an even more important activity for architects in the future. Focusing on interiors, it consists of adapting spaces to new demands, promoting quality and comfort, and often incorporating new technologies into a space. Whether adding a new bedroom, organizing a home office, or transforming a historical building into an office, the architects’ creativity allows them to create interesting environments without the need for demolishing. But one thing that tends to make designers scratch their heads in concern is how to include bathrooms and all the complication that it entails. This is because adding a simple toilet usually requires breaking slabs, walls, and floors, working with thick plumbing, and, above all, spending a lot of money and time. There is, however, the possibility of using a macerating pump system – a straightforward, affordable solution for creating a complete or half bathroom practically anywhere.
Flexibility has been an increasingly appreciated characteristic in the field of architecture. In the extremely dynamic societies and spaces that we inhabit, it makes sense for buildings to have the ability to continuously adapt their spatial layout and even their structure to changing needs. Providing a space that can be adaptable and not completely static is a priority in today’s world and can extend to many different types of projects, from domestic to public. In offices and convention centers, for example, having the opportunity to create reserved rooms when needed makes these large open spaces much more versatile.
In October, the ArchDaily team spoke with Henry Glogau during his stay in London, where he was working on a number of projects. At only 26 years old, his resume includes an impressive amount of international awards, which he has received for the relevance of his work to issues both so basic and urgent for humanity: access to potable water, sanitation and quality of life. Born in New Zealand, Henry moved to Copenhagen in 2018 to study at the Royal Danish Academy and for the past two years has been working at the 3XN GXN office as an architect in their innovation unit, alongside a multidisciplinary team. Below, read the conversation we had about some of his projects, his beliefs about the role of architecture, and his views on our responsibility to the planet.