The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei

Concept images

Images: Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei

The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion has, in the last eleven years, become one of architecture’s hot dates in London. This year, four years after their collaboration on the Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei again collaborate marking London’s hosting of the games. The syrupy poignancy of the timing is what it is, but what of the pavilion?

Such is the stature of the previous designers of the pavilion that the show has inevitably become something of a muscle act. The culmination of this approach, abdominals, pectorals, and all, was arguably the 2008 pavilion by Frank Gehry. The year after, Sejima & Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA, and again in 2011 Peter Zumthor, kicked back against the creation of loud, powerful, architectural objects with something more subtle entirely. This year’s pavilion continues in the vein of this critique with a rummage through the bowels of pavilions past. Read more

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Flying the flags: Puma stores by Plajer & Franz

changing room sign

Amsterdam. Photos Manuel Schlüter

Three new flagship stores in Amsterdam, London and Munich designed by Plajer & Franz take a studio theme with mid grey walls and flashes of red, and add a dash of wit with a touch of cheek, to create stores that are both amusing and entertaining to design eyes, but with sufficient edge and irreverence to put them out there for the young adults who adore the products being sold. Read more

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Industrial intervention: Bottling plant, Chile by Panorama.

perspective of factory

Photos:Christobal Valdes

On the edge of the Queulat National Park in Patagonia, Chile, creating an industrial water bottling plant posed an interesting architectural question for its designer: Panorama. The river, beside which the factory is located, is fed by glacial melt water whose purity is highly valued. But installing a factory by the river, for aesthetic considerations if nothing else, is not a matter to be taken lightly.

Similar facilities in or on the edge of national parks in the UK and elsewhere have produced ugly factories clad in crinkly tin, or profiled metal sheet, if you prefer, that at best are accepted as aberrations provided they feed the local rural economies in which they are located. Here however, the architects have tried to engage positively with the sensitive environment creating a striking intervention that in certain light, appears to melt into its environment. Read more

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An impressive number: House M Ishikawa, Japan by Ae 5 Architects.

wall detail

Photos: Ae 5 Architects

The M House by Ae 5 Architects raises questions of tradition and modernity in the Japanese town of Kaga City, Ishikawa. A ‘Kurra’ is a traditional Japanese warehouse and is a typological feature of the town – something like a barn as might be understood in western Europe. Every house in the town has a Kura. They are often positioned between the main house and the busy road acting as a privacy screen. This Kurra, like the traditional version, is carefully proportioned and has carefully positioned openings to safeguard the inhabitants privacy. Because its design has followed the traditional principles of layout, form and scale it fits into the town without creating architectural antagonism amongst its neighbours. Read more

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Books from beer crates: Open air library , Salbke, Germany by Karo* Architects.

front perspective

Photos: Karo* Architects

A poetry pavilion made of beer crates does not sound like a promising start for a public library. But Karo* Architects could see their vision for what it was, not for the way it was rendered. So when the local people of Salbke, who wanted to energise and regenerate their neighbourhood, chose such a radical design for their new public library, they wanted to see if it would actually work. To test it they built a 1 to 1 model from beer crates! When it attracted a two day poetry festival they new they were on to something! Read more

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