2011 - an overview

19 Dec 2011

As the year comes to an end, WAN runs down 2011's top 10 most important stories

In this last News Review of 2011 we’re looking back at the most resonating stories of the year. Over the past twelve months we’ve brought you news from every corner of the Earth, from Beijing to Bali and Paris to Pakistan. Each project showcased on WAN has been hand-picked for its exquisite architectural design and the majority display highly innovative solutions to site constraints or issues of sustainability.

As the year progressed, we (like everyone else in the industry) saw an incredible incline in the number of projects spilling out of China. In 2011 alone we featured 148 individual architectural projects across China - a 35% increase on the previous twelve months. This intense construction boom was not without its limitations however, as two of the ten editorials below detail.

China silenced by illegal steel thinning

This lead story in a September issue of News Review struck home with many of our 200,000 subscribers, a number of which got in touch with the WAN office to express their concern and dismay over our claims that the illegal practice of thinning steel reinforcement rods across China was continuing despite enhanced legislation. With many regions within the country prone to severe earthquakes and pressure on construction companies to reduce building periods, this prohibited practice of pulling steel bars below legal thickness and selling the excess to make a small profit despite weakening the final structure has become a very real problem.

Launch of ECOWAN with DARE’s Plastic Bottle House

Issues of sustainability affect us all and have become commonplace in the design of new architectural structures, with innovative solutions and eco-friendly alternatives bursting onto the scene on an almost weekly basis. To keep our readers at the forefront of this burgeoning sector we launched a new section of the World Architecture News website last month - ECOWAN - which showcases the very best in sustainable design and construction, with product case studies, podcasts, project archives and editorial features on offer to all our users. To kick things off we ran an article on DARE’s Plastic Bottle House in Nigeria, highlighting how a little ingenuity can have a major effect on the sustainable properties of a residential community and a lasting effect on the local surroundings.

Why don't our workspaces work?

Michael Hammond penned an enlightening comment piece in August in response to a Channel 4 documentary series presented by architecture critic Tom Dyckhoff, who explored the effectiveness of office design in the UK and across Europe. Hammond challenges the preconceptions of what makes an effective working environment and talks to experts at commercial architects MAKE and the British Council for Offices to gauge what the word is on the street.

A shadow creeps over China

Prior to doubts over the structural security of China’s rising towers was the concern that plummeting funds were steadily gaining speed as the country pressed onwards with their numerous landmark projects. This article highlighted the potential financial issues that China may face as investment from the government and private parties spirals out of control.

International Think Tank affirms Detroit’s strategy

In February 2011, WAN hosted an international think tank with global engineering firm Buro Happold, entitled Detroit: Rethinking the Post-Industrial City. Detroit famously began to pale as its automobile factories started to shut down, forcing unemployment upwards and the city’s residents to relocate elsewhere. The Motor City’s key strategists flew over to Buro Happold’s offices in London to meet a room full of the industry’s most creative thinkers, including Fred Mason OBE from Heatherwick Studio and David West from Studio Egret West, to brainstorm ways to set Detroit back on the road to recovery.

MVRDV’s Cloud said to resemble 9/11 attacks

Last week’s lead story in News Review was potentially the most explosive of the year, garnering thirty comments from our impassioned readers. The topic was a new pair of residential towers in South Korea by Dutch architects MVRDV, linked by a ‘pixelated cloud’ of shared amenities and external spaces. Almost as soon as the firm released renderings of the design - supplemented by an image of low clouds encasing a pair of towers as the initial inspiration - the world’s media began to draw links between the concept design and visuals of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in Manhattan. People in the industry appear to be split into two camps: those who are outraged by the apparent ‘insensitivity’ of MVRDV towards the American people, and those who believe this to be an unfortunate oversight on the firm’s behalf and have assessed the concept on its architectural merits alone.

2012 Industry Outlook

In our quest to analyse the global architecture and design industry, we not only look back at past projects and news stories but invite our contacts at major firms to predict the shape of things to come. This September editorial does just that, as experts at AS+GG, Goettsch Partners, Arup, NBBJ, Perkins Eastman, BDP, Aedas, HOK and Gensler look forward to the shape of 2012.

ZHA wins Stirling Prize for second year running

There are reams of architectural awards presented each year but only a handful reverberate worldwide. The Stirling Prize is one such award, bestowed to a scheme of superior design either built or designed in the United Kingdom. Despite being the bookies’ favourite to win, Hopkins’ elegant Velodrome at the London 2012 Olympic Park was pipped at the post by Zaha Hadid Architects’ Evelyn Grace Academy, causing a frenzied backlash from many architecture critics. ZHA’s name was added to the elite list of four who now tote two Stirling Prizes, the others being Foster + Partners, Wilkinson Eyre and Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.

First images of Park 51

Park 51 is a cultural centre designed by SOMA Architects two blocks from the Ground Zero site, and much has been made of the decision to incorporate a Muslim prayer area into two basement floors. Back in August, our US Correspondent, Sharon McHugh issued a piece on the division between New Yorkers over the insertion of the cultural centre. Readers from either side of the divide flocked to comment on both articles, with potentially the most poignant comment coming from Chris in Las Vegas, who said: “I believe that they have the right to build on this site…but with all this bad PR, will it be profitable anymore or any patrons show? … The sad truth, with the extreme right that is in this country right now, I wouldn’t be surprised of any violence happening on this site now putting its own patrons in danger.”

Jerusalem Light Railway starts the next leg of its journey Another of our Editor in Chief’s editorials this year focussed on the progress of the Jerusalem Light Railway following a five year delay. The railway opened in August this year despite a number of issues with ticketing and air conditioning, and was met by tens of thousands of keen public travellers. Michael Hammond’s insightful piece examines the political issues that surround the completion of the Jerusalem Light Railway as he speaks to a number of local stakeholders to gain insight into the community’s reaction to this new uniting network.

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