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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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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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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With the insides out : Prisons

“A whole problematic then develops: that of an architecture that is no longer built simply to be seen, or to observe the external space, but to permit an internal, articulated and detailed control – to render visible those who are inside it. ”

–  Michael Foucault, “Discipline and Punish – The Birth of a Prison”, 1975

The following piece is dedicated to a type of building that turns architecture inside out and upside down. A strong political and cultural statement, no other building type speaks of a society as clearly as prisons do.

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Ghost in the Smart Home

The new movie by Rupert Sanders, based on the hugely popular anime Ghost in the Shell by Musamune Shirow opens with a haunting preface. It is set in 2029 and observes as the boundary between human and machine becomes more and more blurred. In the time it has become customary for people to choose to “enhance” themselves by replacing a limb or an internal organ with a synthetic one, therefore also one with many new high-tech features. In that context, one private company works on blurring that boundary even further by creating the first “synthetic full-body prosthesis augmented-cybernetic human” – Major Mira Killian. She has an entirely robotic body except for her human brain. Therefore the story argues that by keeping the brain the soul, or the ghost, remains unaltered independent from the body, or the shell.

Now the obvious question this setup poses is where the boundary between human and machine really stands – how far can one go on altering and enhancing  before one turns to a cyborg? All that further leads to the discussion what is it that defines a human at all.

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With a Scent of Tobacco : A Story of Plovdiv’s Tobacco Factories

Buildings denote space. They give it meaning and fill it with function and life. Interestingly though, sometimes buildings come to describe not only space, but also time. They become symbolic for the people and the events they lived through. Breathing in history firsthand, buildings sometimes mean so much more than their function and design. This story is a part of a series, dedicated to such buildings and the fascinating way in which they remember, inspire and describe us.

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