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December 16, 2013
We recap 2013's top headlines related to design and architecture. The year's top-of-mind issues—privacy rights, government's reach, the increasing income gap, economic vitality, and gender politics, among others—were tied into design current events more than ever before. In case you missed them the first time around, these stories related to preservation, urban planning, and technology, stuck with us. Lastly, we also say goodbye to five pioneering figures in architecture, design, photography, and criticism.
A Bad Year for Brutalism

On the preservation front, the fight to save Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Women's Hospital came to an end. Despite calls from noted architects and critics to reconsider demolition, wrecking balls took to the concrete structure in October. “Great late-Modernist buildings, innovative and ruggedly beautiful, deserve respect and, increasingly, careful custody. Prentice is a good example,” Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times argued. While Brutalist buildings garner their fair share of derision (consider the aptly named Tumblr Architecture of Doom for instance) there's no denying the movement's importance in 20th-century architecture. In 75 years when we're looking back at the lost moments of modernism, will we have a Penn Station moment?

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No Pritzker for Denise Scott Brown—Again

In one of the less proud moments in architecture, the Pritzker committee awarded a deserving Robert Venturi their prize—one of the profession's highest honors—in 1991 but failed to recognize an equally deserving Denise Scott Brown, who co-authored the seminal tome Learning from Las Vegas and worked alongside Venturi. Students at Harvard created a petition on change.org to convince the jury to retroactively acknowledge her work. But again, they did not. More on the story here.

2 / 18
Julia Morgan Goes for the Gold

On December 12, the American Institute of Architects posthumously awarded the 2014 AIA Gold Medal to Julia Morgan. The organization cites the following reasons: "A pivotal figure in the history of American architecture and American women, Julia Morgan accomplished a litany of firsts she used to establish a new precedent for greatness. A building technology expert who was professionally adopted by some of the most powerful post–Gilded Age patrons imaginable, Morgan practiced for nearly 50 years and designed more than 700 buildings of almost every type, including houses, churches, hotels, commercial buildings, and museums."

We're incredibly excited to see a woman win the award as it took more than 60 years since the Gold Medal's inception in 1947 for this to happen. That said, Morgan passed away in 1957 and we find it tough to believe that there are no living female architects with "a significant body of work of lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture."

3 / 18
Stadium Woes

Across the country, stadiums are front and center in a slew of controversies. The multi-million dollar projects are viewed as a way to bring income, jobs, and tax revenue to cities as well as an architectural landmark for places seeking a Bilbao effect.

In San Francisco, mayor Ed Lee welcomed a proposal for the new Warriors stadium (above) to be built on the city's busy waterfront. Supporters say the project will bring more money and growth to the city while opponents argue that building the project will reverse years of work to make the Embarcadero one of San Francisco's great public spaces. Here's the latest on the proposed development.

Across the bay in Oakland, developers proposed a $500 million waterfront stadium for the Athletics (go A's!). The deteriorating Coliseum (the only remaining dual-use sports stadium in the United States, mind you) is currently home to the baseball team. Some believe that the owners' reluctance to commit to a new location in the city stems from a desire to relocate elsewhere in the Bay Area. Before San Francisco seals the deal on the Warriors stadium plan, they should note that the much-beleaguered Coliseum was heralded when it was completed and won an Honor Award from the AIA in 1967. (For the record: the stadium is one of our favorites for nostalgic reasons.)

In Atlanta, some say the Braves's move from the inner city to the suburbs highlights the city's race and class issues.

Houston recently voted to raze the Astrodome. In November, shortly after the decision was made, Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne wrote: "Now that voters have rejected a plan to save the Houston Astrodome, a marvel of engineering muscle and space-age glamour and easily the city's most important building, it would be easy to conclude that modern architecture has a major image problem in this country…Works of architecture tend to fall out of fashion beginning around age 25 and hit their deepest levels of disfavor between 40 and 50 years old. This is largely true regardless of architectural style or historical period. Buildings, it turns out, experience their own version of a midlife crisis." More on the story here.

 

4 / 18
Public Space in Istanbul

This June, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Istanbul objecting to the demolition of Taksim Square, one of the city's last remaining green public spaces. What began as a reaction to poor urban planning decisions quickly changed into something larger: "The movement shows the deep discontent within a large cross section of Turkish society against the increasingly authoritarian government, and especially its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of the ruling Islamist AKP party," wrote historian Heghnar Watenpaugh, a professor at the University of California, Davis.

5 / 18
Kanye West, Harvard Bound

Mr. Yeezus himself Kanye West made headlines—and raised eyebrows—by delivering a talk at Harvard's Graduate School of Design. Though his comments were often platitudes—"I really do believe that the world can be saved through design," he said—they undoubtedly brought more eyes to the profession and more interest to the field.

A Rolling Stone story reports that urban planning student Tessa Kaneene invited West to speak. "[We sent him] a hand-delivered invitation in the form of a personal letter, written by all the members of our group," Kaneene said in the story. "It was very serious about issues of diversity in design and under-representation. Only one percent of licensed architects are African-American, and we make up 13 percent of the population." Diversity in design and architecture—as in all fields—is incredibly important and we're eager to see how West and his creative agency, DONDA, address this.

In related news, West also joined architect Jacques Herzog and historian Hans-Ulrich Obrist for a discussion during Design Miami.

(Tangentially, a spoof by James Franco and Seth Rogen of his Bound video tops our list for the year's most hilarious parodies.)

6 / 18
Technology, Privacy, and You

Google launched its wearable computer, Google Glass, which brought about a slew of questions and concerns about expectations of who sees what information. Not only will people be more keenly aware that they have no reasonable expectation of privacy in public, Glass and devices like it could make it easier for government authorities to gain access to everything they see and record without a warrant, University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo told the Los Angeles Times. Even more disconcerting are reports of the National Security Agency building back doors into encryption systems. To what point will the allure of shiny new gadgets and their myriad capabilites override concern for privacy?

(Recommended reading: For a detailed look at the NSA story, read read this report from the Guardian.)

7 / 18
Bloomberg Takes on the World

Though his term ends at the close of 2013, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has no plans to leave the public realm. He just announced a new consulting group to tackle urban problems. He brings much of his team from City Hall with him. Amanda M. Burden, the director of city planning in the Bloomberg administration, plans to join the consulting group and told the New York Times: “We have heard this huge demand and need from other cities to learn from New York City.” More on the story here. We're curious about who his first clients will be.

8 / 18
MIT Media Lab's inFORM

Students at MIT developed a dynamic shape display that lets people interact with digital information in a tangible way. Watch his video to see it in action:

9 / 18
An Architecture of Human Anatomy?

Critics have likened Zaha Hadid's design for the Al Wakrah stadium in Qatar as "a great vulvic bulge."

"It’s really embarrassing that they come up with nonsense like this," Hadid told Time magazine . "What are they saying? Everything with a hole in it is a vagina? That’s ridiculous."

We couldn't agree more. Take note: just as all skyscrapers are not phallic symbols, structures with holes in them are not all allusions to vaginas.

(In good humor, the Daily Show covered—ie. satirized—the comparison.)

10 / 18
Toyo Ito Wins the Pritzker Prize

Tokyo-based architect Toyo Ito won the 2013 Pritzker Prize. Stated jury chairman Lord Palumbo: “Throughout his career, Toyo Ito has been able to produce a body of work that combines conceptual innovation with superbly executed buildings. Creating outstanding architecture for more than 40 years, he has successfully undertaken libraries, houses, parks, theaters, shops, office buildings and pavilions, each time seeking to extend the possibilities of architecture. A professional of unique talent, he is dedicated to the process of discovery that comes from seeing the opportunities that lie in each commission and each site.” Kudos to Mr. Ito!

11 / 18
What Tech Hasn't Learned from Urban Planning

In the San Francisco Bay Area, tech companies have come under fire for failing to be good members of their respective communities. "There’s been no shortage of published laments on the changing nature of San Francisco over the past several weeks, so I’m loath to add another complaint to the list. And yet … I keep coming across instances where the tech sector flocks to the city and talks of community yet isolates itself from the urban experience it presumably couldn’t wait to be a part of," writes Allison Arieff in an op-ed piece for the New York Times. Let's not count the many missed opportunities to give back to the city....

12 / 18
A Golden Age of UI Design

We've entered an era where the way we interact with technology has fundamentally changed, one where the digital world is increasingly woven into our daily lives. Wired published this story on user interface design.

13 / 18
Lastly, We Say Goodbye to Talented People who Passed Away

Natalie de Blois (1921–2013), an associate partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in the 1960s.

14 / 18

Balthazar Korab (1926–2013), a midcentury architectural photographer.

Originally appeared in Balthazar Korab, 1926-2013
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prentice womens hospital
A Bad Year for Brutalism

On the preservation front, the fight to save Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Women's Hospital came to an end. Despite calls from noted architects and critics to reconsider demolition, wrecking balls took to the concrete structure in October. “Great late-Modernist buildings, innovative and ruggedly beautiful, deserve respect and, increasingly, careful custody. Prentice is a good example,” Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times argued. While Brutalist buildings garner their fair share of derision (consider the aptly named Tumblr Architecture of Doom for instance) there's no denying the movement's importance in 20th-century architecture. In 75 years when we're looking back at the lost moments of modernism, will we have a Penn Station moment?

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