THE AGA'S TRAMPOLINE
Speaking in Syria, the Aga Khan called for new links between technology and Islam.
'Syria has demonstrated the power of Islam as a crucible for the spirit and the intellect, transcending boundaries of geography and culture. The Aga Khan celebrated a quarter century of his Awards for Architecture (AR November) at the Citadel in Aleppo late last year.
He was clear that 'his 'goal was to create an intellectual space' in which 'there will be no possibility of suffocation from the dying weeds of dogma, whether professional or ideological. Where the flowers of articulation and challenging ideas could grow without restraint. Where the new plants of creativity and risk-taking could blossom'.
The aim is to find how 'the profound humanistic tradition of Islam could inform the conception and construction of buildings and public spaces'.
'At its core', he said, is 'a message of opportunity, of potential, of hope.' He asked for greater understanding of the great plurality of the Muslim world, 'it is essential that we respect and value that plurality ... to build unity in diversity'. His Awards are intended to be 'an intellectual trampoline to generate ideas for building the future productively and constructively in terms that will be meaningful and beneficial to Muslims generally'.
Most of us were extremely puzzled when the first Aga Awards started to recognize humble works for poor people in the Third World and were given acclaim equal to buildings by world-renowned architects. In fact, the Awards' sensitive understanding of the relationships between people and their buildings, their public places and landscapes has greatly added to our understanding of what architecture is for.
The Awards undoubtedly give us another dimension of thought and criticism. The Aga argued that 'We need to achieve a better understanding of how dynamic cultures have and do lose their vitality, and to identify the potential new linkages between technical issues ... and the historical traditions of Islam'. The cultures of the West can learn. P. D.
A major new exhibition at the DAM investigates the work of German architect and green pioneer Thomas Herzog.
For the first time since its foundation, 17 years ago, the Deutsches Architektur Museum has exhibited the work of a living architect. Thomas Herzog, 60 years old this year, is not a star architect but an architect's architect. In the 30 years since founding his Munich office he has been researcher, inventor, designer and constructor of systems and material combinations, in the service of elegant, sustainable and energy-saving architecture, and long before the label green was invented. With his partner, Hanns Jorg Schrade, and sculptor wife Verena Herzog-Loibl, he has done more than pay lip service to multi-disciplinary teamwork, collaborating with scientists, engineers, artists and his own students, Europe-wide.
Most well known is his work in Hanover for EXPO 2000 and subsequent trade fairs; Hall 26 (AR March 1997), Deutsche Messe AG administration tower (AR January 2001) and the Expodach itself (AR September 2000), a giant ribbed timber shell roof that epitomized EXPO's theme of 'Humankind -- Nature -- Technology'. Herzog has continually demonstrated that environmentally friendly architecture is not synonymous with kitschy handcrafts, and a life reduced to eating muesli in mud huts.
The Herzog retrospective starts with the Berlin 1996 manifesto European Charter for Solar Energy in Architecture and Urban Planning written in four languages over the entrance walls. Herzog was one of its chief instigators and the signatories included 29 influential European architects. Growing up in a family of medical doctors, and with a physicist father, Herzog was perhaps predestined to approach architecture from a scientist's point of view. He is on the board of EUROSOLAR, at the Fraunhofer Society for Applied Research, and his preoccupations encompass timber -- as a regenerative construction material, daylight -- as the most energy saving method of illumination, and passive insulation systems. With Vladimir Nikolic he developed a Petrocarbona External Wall System (1973), and with Helmut Muller the partners put into production a Fischer Unit Construction Facade System (1975). A Daylight Grid System, for diffusing natural light, was developed with Christian Bartenbach for the glazed barrel vault of Linz E xhibition Centre. Translucent Aerogel-Panels, of fluid wall insulation sandwiched between glass sheets, were used for a private house in 1994 (AR January 1995). Most recently, Herzog has developed an insulating hanging clay tile facade system, with Max Gerhaher.
The paradox, as Peter Buchanan points out in his essay 'Pioneering a New Paradigm' in the accompanying catalogue, is that progress in sustainable architectural forms owes more to architects who question accepted practices and reorientate their work using scientific knowledge, than to the fireworks of self-appointed avantgardists who disguise old technology in spectacular new clothes. The green agenda is essentially conservationist, but it needs the light hand of innovative artists and scientists to serve the non-exploitative European ideal of a new age. Werner Lang's interview with Herzog (also in the catalogue), reveals a fascinating picture of Herzog's student years in the '60s. Meetings with the young James Stirling, Oswald Mathias Ungers, the then unknown Frei Otto, and the influence of alternative political movements, among a section of post-war German students at this time, also encouraged enquiry and experimentation in architecture. Herzog's continuing work with the structural engineer Kurt Stepan star ted with their first project in the mid-'60s.
Twenty-six projects, from a summer house on Chiemsee (1966) to the most recent Federal German Environmental Foundation centre in Osnabruck, full-scale component samples and giant photographs as hanging posters, have been specifically designed for a worldwide tour. Needless to say, the display was designed in Herzog's office and is as crystal clear and as thoroughly executed as the architecture.
In future years the cost of this retrospective (a quarter of a million Euros, at a time when the Deutsches Museum has no independent budget), may be weighed against the importance of having documented a historical benchmark in sustainable architectural development.
Thomas Herzog Architecture + Technology is at the Deutsches Architectur Museum Frankfart am Main, Germany, until 3 March 2002. An accompanying English/German catalogue is published by Prestel.
Sutherland Lyall heroically surfs the cyberwaves.
Nikolaus Pevsner was the defining historian for the Modern Movement. He has a special place for us because he was one of the wartime editors of AR and kept the flame of intellectual curiosity alight during those dark days -- at the same time as dousing flames as a firewatcher on St Paul's Cathedral. Yet for the lay world his monument will probably be a multi-volume gazetteer to the architectural heritage of his adopted land: the Penguin Buildings of England. It is an extraordinary series. No less than 32 of the books were written by Pevsner on his own, 10 of them he wrote with collaborators and four were by other authors.
When, in the late '90s, Penguin Books went a bit quiet about the series, The Buildings Books Trust, launched its site at http://www.pevsner.co.uk/. The trust is dedicated to updating and continuing the series' publication -- and to completing its coverage of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Thirty-three volumes need revision, and new books have been commissioned: Glare Hartwell's Manchester is the latest paperback published in this the 50th anniversary year of the series. Although funding comes from such bodies as the Arts Council, Penguin Books is still there in the background -- especially for the linked Looking at Buildings website which can be found at www.lookingatbuildings.org/. It is a lay guide to 'understanding and enjoying architecture of all varieties' but so far mainly English architecture. For the moment its coverage is to do primarily with London and Manchester. For architectural tourists you click on successively detailed maps and then on the red dot denoting a building, say the Tate Modern and, a fter a panoramic view comes up you click on a succession of blue arrows as you are drawn into the building's interior. It's still a bit rough and is in an early stage of growth but it's basically an ace way of telling people about significant architecture and its environment.
If you are on the trail of buildings from round the world, another site, the Great Buildings Collection, has a welcome plainness of layout and simplicity of access at http://wxvw.greatbuildings.com/types.html. Type in Stirling and up come Leicester, Cambridge History Faculty and the Neue Staatsgalerie. Usefully you can search by building type, style, date, major city, construction type, climate, context, elements, issues and the editor's choice -- oh and there are two greatest hits lists based on surfers' preferences for buildings and architects on both of which topics you can also base your search.
Sustainability is firmly on the architectural agenda. So this new global warming-related site, www.ukcip.org.uk/, should be of interest. It's directed primarily at the UK's problems and is called UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP) People, especially those returned from holidays in the sun, have long argued for casting adrift the British Isles and towing them south to below the Tropic of Cancer. But, it seems, within a few decades we shall be experiencing the weather of those climes anyway -- including storms and floods.
At the UKCIP site there is quite detailed stuff about the above risks and uncertainties plus cost scenarios and social and economic predictions. All this is produced by people at Sussex University and on the site they offer a bunch of answers to frequently asked questions. Should you live in, say, Jakarta you could possibly extrapolate from this. But it may be more useful to consult the brief set of sites listed at http://www.ukcip.org.uk/ international/international.html.
I guess it's something to do with the fact that architects are trained in the crit system which somehow leads them to habitually compare, comment on and rate designs and buildings. This can be the only explanation for what seems to be a consistent Web interest in architectural league tables. For example, you find at Archibot at www.archibot.com/search.html you are invited to enter images of architecture (and architects) that you rate highly. And it's open to students too: 'How will your thesis project fare in the cut-throat critique that is Archibot HotOrNot? The catagories [sic] are: famous project, unknown project, famous architect, and unknown architect.'
There is, happily, more than this, including news and links (and a link swap market), an inchoate forum and a search engine courtesy of Mamma.com which deploys 10 major search engines. This is a bit ho, hum because a search on 'London architecture' failed to produce anything about the Looking at Buildings site above but then neither did the first seven pages of a Google search for entries under the same topic. I would, incidentally, prefer to use Google when searching for information, if only because it referred to more than half a million London architecture-related sites against Archibot's 10. Still, it seems like a site to watch.
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|Title Annotation:||excerpts from speech by Aga Khan, exhibition of Thomas Herzog's work, new architectural Web sites|
|Publication:||The Architectural Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2002|
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