Antwerp and the Dream of the Future

The title City of the Future has recently turned into something of a buzz word in itself. It is also a cathegory in which almost all european cities compete fevershly. The big dream is a mystical bridge between a glorious past and a dynamic future, but what is that bridge and how to build it seems to still be a trade secret.

In the 16th century Antwerp rose to the status of the richest city on Earth, accounting for more than 40% of the world trade. Profitable economy and perceptive politics put the city forward and used the financial fortunes to foster culture, arts, crafts and among them also architecture. With a shining past like this, today the city reaches for a new title – “city of tomorrow”. When a bridge steps that high at the beginning, where does it  lead to? Since its Golden Age Antwerp has suffered some setbacks, but today seems to be a different day.

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The Broken Heart of Rotterdam

Between 1940 – 1943 Rotterdam was throughly bombed by the nazi army to become the worst damaged city during the WWII. The city looses over 26 000 homes and 6 000 other buildings and receives the name of “stad zonder hart” (dutch for “city without a heart”). In recent years Rotterdam has been praised as “the city of the future” and “world class center of architectural innovation”.

It is fascinating to observe how some places, such as Mostar or Berlin, which were once torn by war, never really recover, while others seem to thrive and find new life from the ashes. But how does a city go from “heartless” to an architectural gem?

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Drawing thoughts

“Drawing architecture is schizoid act: it involves reducing the world to a piece of paper” – Eduardo Souto de Moura

Any mention of the importance of drawings as a mean of communication with others for designers would be an understatement. For architects an idea is often born in a drawing since it is on the paper that the intuition and the reality meet.

The following is a list of paintings/drawings/artists that express deep architectural wisdom and inspire for more now and here :

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Library of Thoughts

Knowledge is not merely a sum of facts and figures, but rather the intricate way of connecting those facts and thoughts to make sense of a non-sensical world.

Here find a list of books (papers, essays etc.) that this blog builds up knowledge upon. It is the library of facts and thoughts, a catalog of inspiration and list of achievements. The underlined works are special favorites.
This list will be updated regularly.

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Reuse, Refuse, Recycle : Architecture Edition

In a way architecture can be seen as garbage. Some things go fast to the bin never to be considered again, others we don’t want to trash, but can’t utilize further either, so they remain unused until ultimately taking the leap to the litter. And then there are those which thankfully get reused or recycled.

Recycling materials is not a simple and straightforward process – it is technically complicated and involves modern facilities, expertise and even then it is not an entirely productive process. On the other hand, in order for an object or resource to be reused it takes a lot of ingenuity, creativity and knowledge to realize such product.

It is not easy, but we have to do it, for our planet.
Same is valid also for architecture. But this time it is our culture that’s at stake.

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Humans and Space

Since the middle ages the human perception of space has changed as dramatically as merely everything else. Improved transportation and technology have been widening the horizon of mankind since the invention of the wheel in faster and faster paces. Today the digital domain causes a rapid shift in that perception and takes a progressing larger role in our lives. More and more often people describe themselves as cosmopolitan or global citizens and seem not to be bound by geographic locations. So is the connection of humans to their places expiring?

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Humans and Time

“[…] for the clock is not merely a means of keeping track of the hours, but of synchronizing the actions of men.”

We are equipped with many senses in order to interact with our environment and survive and adapt to even severe conditions. We can measure temperature with our skin, luminosity with our eyes and sound with our ears. Time however is something a human cannot detect or measure purely with his body, despite his life being ultimately dependant on it. Through the ages we have come up with various methods and mechanisms to rationalize and measure time. In his infamous book “Technics and Civilization” Lewis Mumford argues that it was the invention and utilization of the Clock that started the first technological revolution. The conceptual separation of a day into abstract bits that therefore separate another abstract entity – work, into sizable units, allowed for rationalization of days and enabled processes such as planning or measuring efficiency. This kicked off a series of decisive inventions and progress was accelerated.

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Grief in Architecture

There is  little doubt that buildings of cultural and historical significance need to be restored and protected for the future generations, both as monuments and documents of the past. History however is not always a tale of successes, glorious discoveries, pride and celebration. Every country has a piece of its past that is hurtful, shameful or regretful and also the architecture to bear those memories.

When dealing with that reoccurring struggle in architecture, communities, government and architects search for local solutions despite the global aspect of the problematic. Is it possible to create a framework and strategy for overcoming that sensitive issue or is the historical and cultural background too important with its nuances to allow for a ubiquitous solution?

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The History of a City is Written in its Slums

Currently around 1 billion people worldwide live in slums. Between the years 2000 and 2010 the number of slum dwellers has increased by six million every year. The prognosis is that this growth will pinnacle around 2050 when over 7 billion people will live in slums, which makes every third person on Earth.

Slums seem to be our future so it might be worth it to take a closer look at the characteristics of these fascinating urban dwellings. In this article I argue that by examining their social and spatial structures, one can read a history of a city, with its past, present and future, hiding in its slums.

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