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PELLEGRIN Buildings and Visions for Spaceship Earth

Luigi Pellegrin was a visionary architect way ahead of his time. He realized that the human settlement, as created 35,000 years ago, must be reset now at a geographic scale and become an integral part of the planet. I believe that bringing Pellegrin’s work to public awareness during a global illness and uncertainty is vital for the re-invention of a post-pandemic world. 

His vision transcended Wright’s philosophy of organic architecture both in scale and time. His fantasy was grounded on a prolific professional practice and experience in prefabricated technology. His territory was that of the Earth’s crust. His history was the history of the universe. 

Vision of integrated habitat

The 20th Century produced a large number of highly-skilled architects, yet few delivered a transformative message. Le Corbusier’s saw the detachment of buildings from the ground as a way of expanding green open spaces; Frank Lloyd Wright’s interpreted the laws of nature and translated them into Organic Architecture design principles; Buckminster Fuller transcended land use by proposing a planetary vision of geography; and Paolo Soleri attempted to demonstrate an alternative human habitat by creating a walkable, social city that could meet the needs of future societies. Pellegrin, the least known of this small group of visionary thinkers, believed in PROCESS, in open-minded architectural research based on trial and error, like in science.

 

WORK

 Pellegrin assumed his social commitment through the design of popular housing and schools. His first period, 1955-1965, is characterized by a poetically organic approach to low-budget design, using simple construction materials. His artistic creativity exploded in the design of the via Aurelia bi-family house in Rome (1964.) The traditional box is crushed. The round living room is suspended in space like a bridge that rests on two multi-functional pilasters. The bedrooms, enclosed within triangular prisms, are perforated by windows that direct views and light as needed. This is an organic architecture expression, not-mimetic of Wright’s style.

During the 1965-1976 period, Pellegrin focuses his social commitment on the design of prefabricated schools. From kindergartens to high schools, he laboriously invested most of his energy in the design of articulated interior spaces, even when, given limited budgets, he had to simplify the buildings’ exteriors.

The accumulation of knowledge and creativity in prefabricated technology generated a gigantic design-jump in 1969, with the International Competition for the Design of the New University of Barcelona. Pellegrin’s concept had no precedent. He designed the common areas, such as libraries, sports facilities, and cafeterias on the ground, and suspended from the top, above these, classrooms to be used by the students as a circuit. The project won second prize. The jurors were not ready for such an outbreak.

The spatial concept for the University of Barcelona leads to another revolutionary project in 1970. The subject was a design competition for the ZEN Cardillo neighborhood in Palermo. While the ground was dedicated to commercial, social and cultural activities intertwined with green areas, the housing for 17,000 inhabitants was suspended in the space 30 to 90 feet above it. The structure was defined by 30 hollow pylons supporting the housing above, and its total footprint was 35% of a conventional project for the same number of inhabitants.

The ideas for the Barcelona and Palermo projects found their way in a design competition of two unified schools in Pisa. The program was complex. His design concept included the roof as a ramp that would become an open space accessible to the neighborhood, flexible classrooms on the top, and at the ground floor all the common services that could be used by the neighborhood when the classrooms were closed. The design was way ahead of his time. It was misunderstood by its users. Conservative teachers and city authorities asked for its demolition which was fought by many committed architects.

During the twenty-five years that followed the Pisa school’s building, Pellegrin’s prolific production moved in three parallel directions:

1. He continued to design and build prefabricated schools. It is notable to observe that out of 300 built buildings he produced, 200 were schools, 72 of which were built in Saudi Arabia.

2. He focused his research on the industrialization and mobility of components (roofs, walls, column-beams, residential tubes, emergency housing units) in many materials (concrete, aluminum, steel, fiberglass, bamboo.)

3. He expanded his research on integral urbanization at a geographic scale (habitat, services, commerce, mobility) through multi-directional and multi-use “vectors.” These complex structures were elevated like freeways not only over country fields, mountains, and historic places without altering them but also over artificial islands in the sea.

 WHO WAS PELLEGRIN?

 Pellegrin’s architecture was an expression of his will to change the world from the bottom up throughout his professional life. His upbringing was modest. His father, Paolo Pellegrin, was a construction worker from Italy’s northern region of Friuli, which borders the Veneto region, Austria, and Slovenia. When Paolo got a building job in Courcellette, ninety miles northeast of Paris, he took his family with him for the duration of the project. Luigi Pellegrin was born there in 1925. Although technically he was French, he saw himself as a son of Friuli, an area with a strong sense of identity, where people speak a regional dialect, have a unique cuisine, and are proud of their way of life.

 His humble origin and his contact with the proletariat of building sites molded his character and care for people’s needs, for excellent craftmanship, and for a sense of hard work to reach goals. Unlike many Italian architects and artists of his time, who manifested their concerns for social justice by joining the Communist Party, Pellegrin spent his mostly secluded life trying to elevate the people’s built environment with limited resources.

 He studied architecture at the University of Rome, but, fundamentally, he was a self-taught person, an acute observer of reality, visible or hidden, in the spirit of Leonardo Da Vinci.

 The one year he spent in New Orleans after graduation opened his horizons. He saw America as a land open to experimentation. When he visited Chicago and saw some of Sullivan and Wright’s works, he set his direction towards Organic Architecture. 

Back in Rome, he felt estranged from most architects but established an intellectual dialogue with Bruno Zevi, who had brought to Italy an awareness of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. This relationship developed into a not so easy 50-year long discussion. Zevi was Italy’s best historian and critic of architecture, the only one that Wright respected. Over the years he published most of Pellegrin’s works in L’Architettura. Yet, in 1974, he lamented: “Pellegrin was born to be a great architect, but he reduced himself to become a technician.”

 Although Pellegrin respected Zevi, he felt misunderstood by the master critic. For him, Wright was not only a genial architect but also as a thinker that transcended the Judeo-Christian and Greek philosophies that dominated Europe. Wright understood Buddhism and Taoism, Japanese art, and pre-Columbian civilizations. He believed in exploring the potential of materials and technologies and would have understood Pellegrin’s innovative productivity.

With Frank Lloyd Wright in Rome, 1956

MODUS OPERANDI

 Pellegrin’s studio was located at the heart of Rome’s historical center. The 18th Century building belonged to the Aldobrandini family. It was placed halfway between the Trevi Fountain and the Gregorian University, just across a small 17th Century church denominated Santa Croce e Santa Bonaventura de Lucchesi. The street was pebbled and had no sidewalks. The entrance to the building was through a large portal, sized to allow access to carriages. A smaller door was cut within it to allow people’s access. As in many old palaces, the ground floor was defined by a court decorated with marble busts and sculptures. A broad stairway led to the second floor, twenty feet above the ground floor.

 His work habits were unusual. He arrived at the office after errands in the city around noon, met with clients and consultants in the afternoon, left for dinner with his family, and returned to the studio at around 10:00 pm. That was when his design-time started. Surrounded by young architects, he worked until 4:00 am, seven days a week. 

Pellegrin spoke out aloud while designing so that everyone could follow his thinking process. We listened attentively, with music (Albinoni, Aretha Franklin) playing in the background.

 When he was relaxed, he spoke critically about many subjects: nature, science, history, art, politics, philosophy, literature, fashion, cinema, food, soccer. He could talk with the same ease about Michelangelo, Bernini, Borromini, Raphael, and Caravaggio on the one hand, and about Wright, Buckminster Fuller, Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Siqueiros on the other.

 His teaching method was indirect, not explicit. He gave clues to stimulate self-discovery through hard work. He thought that artists, mainly those of American Pop Art, understood the world better than architects. While New York’s artists adopted “the crude, the acid and the non-finished” for their artworks, most architects were busy creating monuments for posterity.

PELLEGRIN AND US

The students’ revolt of 1968 in Berkeley, Paris and Rome marked an era and defined a generation. It was punctuated by demonstrations, general strikes, and the occupation of universities and factories. The protests spurred movements worldwide, with songs, imaginative graffiti, posters, and slogans such as “Imagination to Power.”

The revolt was a protest against consumerism, American imperialism and traditional institutions. There were over half a million troops in Vietnam, who in less than a month had killed 37,000 of the ill-supported enemy. There were a counterculture and a revolution in social norms about clothing, music, drugs, and sexuality, all amplified by the lyrics of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Paul Simon.

We were third-year students of architecture at the University of Rome. The school had been occupied. We were not part of the revolt, but we were actively becoming conscious of the times. The Club of Rome had been founded at the Academia dei Lincei by former heads of state, economists and business leaders from around the world. The world population, 3.6 billion at the time, was predicted to be 6 billion by the year 2000. It was 6.1 billion when the time came. Right on target.

 The view of the Earth from outer space generated a planetary self-consciousness. There was an acknowledgment of the world’s limited resources. Buckminster Fuller published a book under the title “Operating Manual of Spaceship Earth.” Marshall McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Message” predicted the internet 30 years before it was invented.  

In the summer of 1968 we made a two-month drive to Scandinavia, mainly to visit and photograph the works of Alvar Aalto in Finland. We had in mind to arrive to Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) but we were in Stockholm when the Soviets invaded Prague and decided to change our plans. On our way back we visited Le Corbusier’s RonchampLa Tourette and the Unite d’Habitation in Marseilles. The trip gave us a direct experience with great contemporary architecture, and we were eager to follow into the steps of masters.

During the course of our fourth year of architecture, we started to think about our graduating theses. We asked Professor Bruno Zevi to be our tutor. He accepted but said that we should have a co-tutor, a practicing architect. “Chose anyone you want,” he said. Whom shall we choose? We wanted someone “organic,” with an affinity for Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas. After investigating the works of a dozen architects in Rome, we narrowed down our list to three: Lucio Pasarelli, Maurizio Sacripanti and Luigi Pellegrin. When we saw one of Pellegrin’s smallest projects in Rome, a pavilion for selling flowers, we chose Pellegrin.

Trying to reach him was another story. For two months, we called several times a week and we were always told: “the architect is not available.” Nobody would set an appointment for us, and he never returned our calls. One day, already frustrated, I made a call from a public phone at school. “Yes?” answered a grave voice. It was Pellegrin. I told him why I called, and of the strong impression, we had had visiting the flower pavilion that he had designed. “Come next Thursday at midnight,” he said, and without adding any comment, he switched the line to his secretary, who gave us directions on how to enter the studio.

Luigi Pellegrin’s studio was located at the very heart of Rome’s historic Center, in an 18th Century building belonging to Aldobrandini noble family, halfway between the Trevi Fountain and the Gregorian University, and just across a small 17th Century church denominated Santa Croce e Santa Bonaventura de Lucchesi . The street was pebbled and had no sidewalks. The entrance to the building was through a large portal sized to allow access to carriages, in which a smaller door was cut to allow for people’s entrance. As in many old palaces, the ground floor was defined by a court decorated with marble busts and larger sculptures. A beautiful stair led to the second floor, which was about twenty feet above the ground floor.

Pellegrin’s quarters were divided into two separate areas. On one were the drafting rooms. On the other, facing the floor lobby, was a private area that included a reception room, a conference room, and his office. That was where he met his clients and professional consultants.  

We arrived on time at midnight. His secretary received us, let us know that the architect had not returned yet and that he will be late. She invited us to wait. We started to explore walls and shelves, containing samples of his work.  

Pellegrin arrived at about 2:00 AM. His presence was powerful. He was thin, with deep green eyes, a chiseled face, and abundant hair, undulated and almost entirely white, despite being only forty-three years old. He was well dressed, wore a green jacket, dark brown pants, and a tie. We shook hands. He apologized for being late and asked us to follow him. We walked through a conference room filled with blueprints of works in progress and entered into his private room. There were books everywhere: on the walls, over his table, on the floor, resting on chairs. His desk was laid out diagonally, with his chair facing the entrance. The only source of light was that of a drafting lamp attached to his desk. He lowered it to one side below the desk’s surface and asked us to sit down. Then he remained silent, waiting for us to start. I felt like being in a psychologist’s room.

We told him about ourselves, about Zevi’s request. I had written a few pages about my goals and he read them. Ruth told him about her ideas. We showed him drawings of our first joint projects, a public library, and a condominium tower. He looked at them in silence. Taking a deep breath, he said: “They are extrusions, thought in plan only. The generator of architectural space is the section, and the section is not there. Organic architecture cannot be an extrusion nor an addition. The tower is both.” Then he continued: “I can read the inspiration from Wright but if you want to have and architectural education, you must study Wright for six months. Read him, analyze his work. Wright’s works are not extrusions or additions. They are spaces to be walked through, to be lived in.”

He asked some questions about our relationship to Israel. Why Israel? Although he never visited it, he spoke as if he knew everything about it. He then faced me and said: “You can write. Write an essay titled “California today and Israel in the year 2000.” To Ruth he said, “start drawing.” “How do you know I can draw?” Ruth said with a humorous tone. “It is written on you,” he answered without smiling. During the two hours we spent with him, he never smiled. By 4:00 AM we felt a deep sense of connection. He shook our hands once again, walked us to the floor’s lobby, and continued towards the drafting rooms’ area.

We started to go periodically to Pellegrin, to get reviews on our theses. He was a harsh critic. Ruth’s subject was an integrative center for the arts in Jerusalem. Mine was a university in Eilat, specialized in oceanology. Since he had decided to participate in an international competition for the design of the University of Barcelona’s new campus, a subject related to both our theses, he offered to both of us to come and work at his studio through the competition’s design process. We were thrilled.

He gave Ruth a small room adjacent to his office. Handing her a rough schematic of “dwelling units suspended in space” drawn with thick colored markers (the genesis of many future projects,) he asked her to put it to scale. Then he took me to his conference room and, pointing at a mountain of books piled over the table, he said: “All these are related to the design of campuses and university buildings. Read them, and when you are done, summarize for me what you learned and what is relevant for the competition.” When I did, a month later, he said: “you have not understood a thing.” In his eyes, the old concept of campus with separate buildings for each faculty had become obsolete.

His submission to the competition was revolutionary. The classrooms were suspended in space, with all the common facilities on the ground. He won the second prize. The jurors were not ready for such an innovative project.

In 1972, when we returned from our Wright pilgrimage and stopped in Rome on our way to Israel, we went to visit him. He proposed for us to stay “for a while” and join him. There were many projects going on: a dozen prefabricated schools, a development for the island of Goree in Senegal and the country’s presidential residence, studies for prefabricated hotels, and continuous research on habitats. Our “shortstop” lasted for sixteen months. A lifelong impacting experience. 

One day he convened some consultants and the office’s architects at 10:00 PM. We all sat in the conference room. He said: “During the last year I lost several design competitions for schools. The deadline for the competition on the design of two unified schools in Pisa is in ten days. I decided to submit an entry.”

 It seemed “mission impossible.” The project was large, and the program complex. He presented his concept: The roof as a ramp that would become an open space accessible to the neighborhood; the flexible classrooms on the top, and the servicing areas on the ground floor, so that all common services could be used by the neighborhood when the classrooms were closed.

 Discussions followed until 6:00 AM. When the meeting was over, he called Ruth and me, handed us a set of keys and a big bag containing an expensive Hasselblad camera with interchangeable lenses, and said: “Take my car, photograph the site in Pisa (220 miles away,) come back and leave the negatives for development at the photography laboratory. I’ll see you tonight.”

 Twelve hours later we were back in Rome, took a nap (after 32 sleepless hours,) and returned to the studio at 10:00 PM. During the following days, two shifts of architects and drafting technicians worked 24 hours a day to prepare drawings for the competition. A month later, we found a handwritten paper stuck at the entrance of the studio that read: “This studio of incompetent designers won the First Price at the Pisa Competition.”

We went back to Israel in April 1973 and started our own practice in September, one month before the Yom Kippur War. In December of 1974 we won a conceptual competition for a 5,000 dwelling-unit neighborhood influenced by Pellegrin’s ideas.

During the years that followed, we maintained periodic contacts by phone, and during our visits to Rome. Our last encounter was in August of 1998. He made arrangments to have lunch together for five consecutive days. We were in California when we got notice of his death, on September 15, 2001. His ashes rest in Domanins, San Giorgio in Richinvelda, Friuli, at his father’s grave.

It took me almost twenty years to decide to make this documentary, during the Convid-19 pandemic. Pellegrin’s message for the re-design of the world has become more tangible now than ever before. We have all to contemplate a radical transformation of life on Earth. The young generation of architects and those following them will benefit from studying Pellegrin’s work, not as a template to copy but as a way of thinking. 

End of an Era Ray Kappe and Dion Neutra: Close of a 100-year Time in Architecture

With the passing of Ray Kappe and Dion Neutra in Los Angeles, a heroic era of architecture has come to an end. The tributary sources were two: Organic Architecture in the United States, envisioned by Frank Lloyd Wright and, in Europe, Rationalism / International Style, headed by Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Pieter Oud, and Erich Mendelsohn.  These two tributaries bifurcated into many streams, becoming a present-day “delta,” mislabeled as “Modernism.” Both sources wanted to change the world. The first one, by changing people’s mindsets. The second one, by providing how-to solutions easy to apply.

Sources: Wright, Gropius, Neutra, Mendelsohn, Schindler

Ray Kappe’s most creative segment of his productivity belonged to the first source. His houses in Pacific Palisades’ Rustic Canyon remain excellent examples of an indoor-outdoor architecture conceived as a whole. Yet, in spite of this Wright-influenced architecture, Kappe continued to evolve, both as an educator and as an architect. In the last two decades, he embarked on the challenge of creating quality prefabricated homes.

Dion Neutra’s father, Richard Neutra, although aware of the difference between the two currents from having spent some time working for Wright, belonged to the European source. Later called “therapeutic architecture” adapted to California’s weather, it remained linked to the International Style.

Milton Goldman Residence, Encino, 1951

Dion Neutra and Eric Lloyd Wright in Malibu, 2017

Kaufmann Desert House, Palm Springs, 1946

When I read that Kappe didn’t like the term ‘modernist,’ I was not surprised. “He embraced the term ‘modern’ because it represented to be current with the latest ideas, technologies, and materials.” In that sense, as stated by Bruno Zevi, both Michelangelo and Borromini were, in the 16th and 17th centuries, modern to their times.

My first encounter with Ray and Shelly Kappe, Ray’s partner in work and life and an educator in her own right, was during the mid-1980s when they invited Luigi Pellegrin to give a lecture at SCI-Arc in Santa Monica. I was then asked to be the Italian-to-English translator. During Pellegrini’s visit, the Kappes invited us for dinner at their residence in Rustic Canyon. The conversation was definitely “organic.” Following that visit, Ruth and I met the Kappes several times. We sympathized with them. We felt that we had many ideas in common.

My encounters with Dion Neutra were more recent, at Carol King’s Salon, in Pasadena. Dion, who had worked with his father on many projects was, in the last few years, embarked on a one-man crusade to save some of the Neutra buildings from demolition.

The “architectural delta” of the early 21st century is melting into the ocean of the world’s challenges: climate change, sustainability, affordable housing, infrastructure, food production, universal health and education, preservation of nature, and much more. In spite of notable self-expressions by some architects, a meaningful new direction in architecture demands now an urgently needed change of mindsets, beyond that of architectural design language, towards a new meaning of what represents life quality today.

U.N. Sustainable Development Goals for 2030

Photo © Rick Meghiddo, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

As We Saw It – Part 2: Paris Builds Recently built: Louis Vuitton Foundation, Foundation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, New Palais de Justice, The Canopy of Les Halles

The four recently completed architectural works that accompany the documentary “Paris Builds” send powerful messages of what is possible to elevate the quality of life in the city.

Side View

Gehry’s Louis Vuitton Foundation is not only an architectural masterpiece and a new icon in a city where icons abound, but it also brings an example of what is possible to cover urban spaces, an alternative to Buckminster Fuller-like geodesic domes.

Renzo Piano’s Foundation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé is a hidden gem that exemplifies what is possible in a small site surrounded by historic buildings.

Paris’ new Palais de Justice, also designed by Renzo Piano, responds to a very complex program – ninety new courtrooms built vertically – while confronting sustainability and the creation of new green spaces on roofs.

Also, the Canopy of Les Halles, designed by architects Patrick Berger and Jacques Anziutti, sensibly responds with daring technology to an urban place crossed daily by tens of thousands of people, in a historic location that Emile Zola called “The Belly of Paris.”

The Louis Vuitton Foundation

Commissioned by Bernard Arnault, head of the LVMH luxury brand empire, the complex houses his collection of modern and contemporary art and hosts temporary exhibitions. Built on public land with private funds, it will be given as a gift to the city in 55-years time.

Inserted in the middle of Bois de Boulogne’s woodland park, the building is an assemblage of white blocks, so-called “icebergs,” clad in panels of fiber-reinforced concrete, surrounded by twelve immense glass “sails” supported by wooden beams. The sails give Fondation Louis Vuitton its transparency and sense of movement while allowing the building to reflect the water, woods and garden, and continually change with the light.

The ground-level entrance hall is designed as an active social space, featuring a restaurant and bookstore. The ample, multi-purpose space directly adjacent to the entrance hall may be used as an auditorium accommodating 350 persons, an exhibition space, or an event venue.

The upper floors accommodate straightforward gallery spaces. Of the 11,000 m2 across which the building spreads, just 3,850 m2 are exhibition rooms. More than 3,600 glass panels and 19,000 concrete panels that form the façade were simulated using mathematical techniques and molded using advanced industrial robots, all automated from the shared 3D model. The new software was developed specifically for sharing and working with the complex design.

The structure of the glass roof allows the building to collect and reuse rainwater and improves its geothermal power. Besides, the Foundation has attained its overall goal to reach HQE (Haute Qualité Environmentale) certification noted as Très Performant. The steps taken to achieve this level of certification could be considered equivalent to LEED Gold.

The Foundation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé

The new headquarters of the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, by architects from Renzo Piano Building Workshop, is an unexpected presence, a curved volume glimpsed floating in the middle of a courtyard, anchored on just a few supports. It is complemented by a group of birch trees, a floral island set in the dense mineral context of the city.

This “organic creature” is located in the courtyard of a 19th-century block that includes a complex of historical Hausmann-era buildings. This structure houses the headquarters of the Foundation Jerôme Seydoux-Pathé, a foundation dedicated to preserving the history of the French film company Pathè and to promote cinematography.

The 839 m2 headquarters are located in Paris’ 13th arrondissement and their construction has been completed in September 2014. The clever use of the site includes a main entrance on a restored and preserved facade along the Avenue des Gobelins which features sculptures by Auguste Rodin. This stone-made building is not only a historical landmark, but also an icon and symbol for the Gobelins area of Paris.

New Paris Palais de Justice

Since the Middle Ages, Parisian justice has been dispensed from the famous building that surrounds the Sainte-Chapelle on the Île de la Cité. However, over the years an increasing shortage of space has resulted in many good offices having to be located in a multitude of locations spread out over all four corners of the city. The new Paris law courts at the Porte de Clichy will enable the judicial institution’s courtrooms and offices to occupy the same building.

The new law courts stand 160 meters high, has an internal area of around 100,000 m2 and accommodates up to 8,000 people per day. The building’s facades are fully glazed. On the three blocks of the tower, fine blades extend the glazing beyond the facade, exalting its verticality. The building’s primary structure, robust and orthogonal, ensures flexibility over the long term that will be able to accommodate future requirements and any changes in the way the justice system operates.

In developing the scheme, the architects sought to reduce the apparent scale of the building by breaking it down into four volumes of decreasing size.

50 desks within the reception areas minimize visitor waiting time, while three atria ensure that space is filled with natural light. A system of vertical and horizontal circulation routes lead to the 90 courtrooms above. The subsequent three volumes, which contain around ten-story each, include offices and meeting rooms: the second is the domain of the magistrates, the third of the public prosecutor’s offices, and the fourth and final volume houses the presiding judges.

The stacked system results in large roof terraces — around a hectare in total — which have been landscaped and planted with trees and other vegetation. From an environmental standpoint, the project employs a range of strategies including the use of natural ventilation, the incorporation of photovoltaic panels on the façade, and the collection of rainwater.

The Canopy of Les Halles

The long-awaited cultural center and metro station created by architects Patrick Berger and Jacques Anziutti on the site of a historic Paris marketplace is now a new urban reality. The design at Les Halles is known as the Canopy due to its enormous umbrella-like glass roof, which comprises 18,000 pieces of glass supported by 7,000 tons of steel.

Construction on the €1bn (US$1.42bn) project, funded by the City of Paris, began ten years ago following several architecture competitions to choose a design popular with both politicians and the public.

The completed Canopy and the center below replaces a deeply unpopular concrete shopping complex – nicknamed ‘the hole of Les Halles’ – which was built in the place of the market’s original 19th-century glass and iron buildings designed by architect Victor Baltard. They were demolished in the 1970s in an act many critics have described as cultural vandalism.

The new center features shops and high-end retailers, some of which are located underground, and these combine with leisure facilities such as a new library, a conservatory for the arts and a hip-hop center, all underneath the 270,000sq ft (25,000 m2) roof – described by Berger as a “translucent envelope”.

Explaining the design, Berger said: “The shape, its spaces, and its materialization arise from a confrontation between the state of things and the emergence of new energy to Les Halles. “The Canopy is designed as a substance. The ceramic glass material means that light diffuses in the day and it becomes a chandelier at night. It’s also a shelter at an urban scale against the weather, protecting a global space where one can travel at all times and in all seasons. The morphology of the architecture is the result of a balance between the building’s program and its dynamic location.”

'>Jasper Johns in L.A. and Vanguard Art Today Who are today's Jasper Johns? What is really 'avant-garde' today in art and architecture?

 

Jasper Johns’ exhibition at The Broad, titled “Something Resembling Truth,” is revealing. It illustrates the integrity of a life-long research and provides a stimulant example to the young generation. At a time when art flows in all directions without clear distinction and criteria between serious or trivial, committed or casual, Johns shows us how one can be an explorer of meaning and forms of expression without falling into platitude. The documentary tries to establish a link between one of the most important artists of the 1960s avant-garde, and some of today’s avant-garde artists in multiple disciplines and media: painting, sculpture, film, video-art, choreography, architecture. 

The show raises some questions: What is really ‘avant-garde’ today? Who are today’s Jasper Johns? Are there any ‘Leo Castelli-like” art dealers around? Are today’s architects connected to the art scene, and artists connected to architecture?

Fast backward: the display triggered some memories. During the late 1960s we were students of architecture in Rome. Since the National Academy of Modern Art was next door to our school, we visited it frequently. The Gallery’s director, Palma Bucarelli, was a strenuous promoter of Abstract Expressionists as well as Neo-Dada, Pop, Minimalist and Conceptualist artists. It was during that time when we first came across some of Jasper Johns’ paintings.

In parallel, while working as apprentices at the studio of architect Luigi Pellegrin, we listened to time and again his insights on the new American art. Opening a publication illustrating contemporary American art, he would say “Look at this well: it is acid, it is crude, it is purposefully not-finished. It reflects our time.” The design of his house in via Aurelia carried some of these attributes.

When we traveled to the United States to visit and photograph Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture across the country, we started our trip in New York. It was 1971, and we were in our twenties. At the time, Soho was the epicenter of contemporary art. Leo Castelli had just opened two branches of his gallery on 77th street, one on the second floor of 420 West Broadway, and an even larger one at 142 Greene Street. It was there we saw newer works of Jasper Johns, along with those of several vanguard artists of the time: Frank Stella, James Rosenquist, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Bruce Nauman, Sol LeWitt.

A month later, when having a private stopover at Phillip Johnson’s glass house in New Canaan, we visited, within his estate, Johnson’s ‘buried’ panting gallery and his underground sculpture gallery. They both contained multiple masterpieces of contemporary art.

Did we see any reflection of the art-of-the-times in architecture? Wright was out of all trends. The architecture of the establishment  “didn’t talk” to the on-going art vanguard. A rare exception was John Johansen’s Mummers Theater in Oklahoma City, built in 1970, outrageously demolished in 2014. Bruce Goff and Herb Green’s architecture were in-between organic and dissonant.

Fast forward to the present. The Broad exhibition of over one hundred Jasper Johns’ works, spanning sixty years of his career, is not a retrospective.  Works from different decades and in various media have been curated thematically, to demonstrate Johns’ career-long preoccupations.

And today? Art is breaking away from the confines of museums and art galleries. Perhaps the more strident example street art is the work of JR, which surpasses in scope that of Christo. He is not alone. There is a good number of forefront artists breaking new ground in film, video art, dance, sculpture, painting, music.

And in architecture? It is a tough call. Gehry led the way to liberate architects’ forms of expression, but the results come with many question marks about their social content. There seems to be an infatuation with the endless possibilities offered by new 3-D technology, but is… are these result also socially responsible?

Copyright R&R Meghiddo, 2017, All Rights Reserved.

Seen, Done, Thought, In-the Making On Photography, Films, Architecture, and 2018 Challenges

The turn of the year offers an opportunity to summarize what we have seen, done and thought, and to program a new year. I am sharing with you selected photos we shot, films we watched and produced, architecture we recorded or selected, relevant books I read, and some thought on “The State of the World,” and what we can do to create a better tomorrow.

IMAGES

Showing images is the best way of “making a long story short.”

Click on: Selected Photography 2017.

Selected Photography 2017

Selected Photography 2017

The selection is personal and eclectic. Some have value as a document of an event rather than for its quality as a photograph.  The gallery includes panoramic photos, images of historical value (such as of architects Eric Lloyd Wright and Dion Neutra getting together in Malibu during Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday celebration, and civil rights activist  Dolores Huerta, who coined the slogan “Yes We Can – Si Se Puede,” borrowed by Obama ; film directors, producers and actors at Q & As’ we frequented;  Richard King’s memorial and the spreading of his ashes; and some people we met. As a coda, I also added recent underwater photos sent by our daughter Gabby from the Maldives Islands, southwest of Sri Lanka and India; and a few shots of us.

“Stars” included veteran director Marcel OphulsAlexander Payne (“Downsizing,”) Kathryn Bigelow (“Detroit,”) director Joe Wright and actor Gary Oldman (“The Darkest Hours,”) Annette Bening (“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,”) some images of nature in Idyllwild, and even a bird visiting my desk.

This year I also published for the first time a selection of photographs shot during our “Frank Lloyd Wright pilgrimage” back in 1971, when we visited over one hundred of Wright’s buildings across twenty-five states. 

http://archidocu.com/the-wright-way-2/ 

The Wright Way Photos.

The Wright Way Photos.

SELECTED FILMS SEEN IN 2017

We had a busy year watching documentaries + Q & As’ (presented by the International Documentary Association – IDA ) We also saw many feature films at the American Cinematheque,  at the WRAP, at the LA Jewish Film Festival, and at the Israel Film Festival. I share the list of some of them. They are all very good. The ones in bold letters are “must see.”

Alone in Berlin, Neruda, Hidden Figures, Gigi Gorgeous, Hell on Earth, Nobody Speaks, Dolores, Trophy, Icarus, Intent to Destroy, City of Ghosts, New York Times Op-Docs, 11/8/16, God Knows Where I Am, I Call Him Morgan, Step, One of Us, The Work, Oklahoma City, Finding Oscar, Atomic Homefront, The Rape of Recy Taylor, Under One Sun, An Inconvenient Sequel, Detroit, Columbus, I Am Evidence, Arthur Miller – Writer, Kedi, Chasing CoralBen Gurion, EpilogueCries from Syria, The Divine Order, The Final Year, MachinesFoxtrotCall Me by Your NameDownsizing, Film Stars Don’t Die in LiverpoolThe SquareHuman Flow, I Am not your Negro, Intent to Destroy, Strong Island, Phantom Thread, The Post.

Documentarians are real contemporary heroes. Many risk their lives in bringing to us images of genocidal wars, human brutality, racism, inequality, global warming, migration tragedies, political and corporate corruption, and also beauty in nature, indigenous cultures and extraordinary human beings. Most of this is produced following prolonged research, scouting, shooting, hard-editing work, meager budgets and scarce distribution.

They are a unique mix of artists-journalists working with passion, combining filmmaking excellence with the search for truth. Their work contributes to expanding our consciousness of the world we live in.

FILMS PRODUCED IN 2017

My own production this year was intense. With fifteen published titles, most of which have been published in Cultural Weekly, they exceeded two hours of film. This year I crossed the mark of sixty short documentaries. The ones published during 2017 are:

Tangoing with Paul & Amigos (12:13) A non-scripted experiment.

The Wright Way – An overture (17:21’)   The Wright Way Hint (2:36)  Both the “Overture” and the “Hint” were preliminary warm-ups towards  The Wright Way feature documentary (work-in-progress.)

Tongva Park and the Angelbird (5:33′) This open public space is the best architecture that we have documented this year in Los Angeles.

Architecture + Cinema + Hollywood (29:52) Renzo Piano’s Academy Museum under construction provided an opportunity to link the museum’s content with the Hollywood context and with architecture.

Idyllwild Idyll (9:12) “Back to nature,” this documentary includes the little-known Pearlman Cabin designed by architect John Lautner in 1957.

Netflix Night (2:55’) A not-scripted documentation of my first visit to Netflix.

Normality “Lo-Normali” /(4:56’) It summarizes the documentaries I shot in Israel during 2016.

Radio Day Unabridged (26:11) and  Radio Day (16:43) Both the full version (“Unabridged,” which includes questions on Israel) and the short version are the result of a radio interview hosted by Nancy Pearlman, to which I added visualization later on.

Architecture in a Nutshell (9:20’) An introduction to principles of architecture.

Human-Made Plastic Ocean (3:55) A Plastic Ocean premiere in Beverly Hills. See full cast.

Hanukkah’s First Candle (40:32) The lighting of Hanukkah’s fifth candle in a Greater Los Angeles home was not only the place for the gathering of people from many backgrounds and areas of the the city, but also for the screening of “Never Again is Now,” a new documentary telling a unique story of survival in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation, and sending a message about the danger of raising antisemitism in Europe and elsewhere, including the United States.

Mormon Temple Visit (1:51) A brief first visit to the secluded Mormon Temple in Los Angeles.

Food for Thought (2:58) Farm Urbana, as presented in “Food for Thought,” proposes practical solutions to help the rapidly growing urban population’s access to fresh food close to home.

FILMMAKING PLANS

The Wright Way, my first feature documentary, is on the way. It is to be a cry-out documentary about how some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas and principles can help to inspire and appeal the young generation to create a sustainable future of livable cities and human settlements. Not a biography, it looks at Wright with fresh eyes and will suggest alternative scenarios for the future of the human environment with a sense of urgency.

ARCHITECTURE

Although 2017 has produced many new projects, I found most of them dominated by “acrobatics,” infatuation with 3-D renderings, and little concern confronting an urgent agenda towards sustainable quality mass-production, to narrow the gap between population growth, decaying cities, climate change and poverty. The production of Organic Architecture was practically zero. I chose to produce a short documentary on one of the exceptions, the  Tongva Park in Santa Monica (see “Tongva Park and the Angelbird” listed above.)

The exception is  Snøhettaan international architecture, landscape architecture, interior design and brand design office based in Oslo, Norway and New York City with studios in San Francisco, Innsbruck, Singapore and Stockholm. A major new building  has opened in the south of France, framing a huge replica of one of the world’s most important examples of prehistoric cave art. Called Lascaux IV, the new visitor complex recreates the appearance and atmosphere of the caves in Montignac where the 20,000-year-old Lascaux paintings are located, but which have been closed to the public for over 50 years.

The examples that follow have been produced by committed architects and designers: Brooks + ScarpaSnohettaWhitaker StudioEric RosenPatkau Architects,  Thomas Heatherwick, and Herzog & de Meuron.

CHALLENGES

World politics had been dominated by the ascent of Trump to power. He is a symptom that denotes a sick society suffering from branding brainwashing, widespread ignorance of the world’s reality and dogmatic beliefs, all of which have been brewed during the past half-century.

Solutions will demand both talking and action, such as:

  1. Containment of Trump until 2020 through the rule of law. All other alternatives are worse.

  2. Awareness of reality as-is. Documentarians have much to say and show on this.

  3. Action-oriented assumption of responsibility, particularly by millennials.

  4. A vision of a better world in healthcare, housing, justice, the urban environment, closing the gap of inequality and much more.

     The UN goals for sustainable development are quite detailed about 17 areas of challenge.

BOOKS

From the books I read during 2017, the ones that I found the most relevant are:

Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari

Internal Ecology, by Darío Salas Sommer

No Is Not Enough, by Naomi Klein

TEACHING

Scheduled to give a six-week class on “How to Look at Architecture” at the Skirball Cultural Center and at OLLI/CSULB,  the classes will include the screening of architecture documentaries I made, to convey visually a better understanding of the importance of good design in our life.

"How to Look at Architecture" class at the Skirball Cultural Center, Jan. 16 - Fe. 20, 2018.

“How to Look at Architecture” class at the Skirball Cultural Center, Jan. 16 – Feb 20, 2018.

The Wright Way Hint A Teaser of a Future Documentary

How can Wright’s ideas and principles help a young generation to create better livable cities and human settlements? This is the central question that motivated me to start the production of a feature documentary, The Wright Way, as a transformational film that may benefit people of all cultures around the world. I know that when young people begin to study Frank Lloyd Wright, a better future will be invented based on the laws of nature, which includes human nature.

Wright’s iconic works should not be turned into objects of worship, nor should his writings become a dogma. After studying Wright in depth, his ideas should be challenged to generate new ideas. By learning from history and from Wright, a new generation of designers willing to transform the world can get inspired to create original organic architecture from the city to the private dwelling.
Having visited many of his works, including less famous Usonian houses, and having met with some of his best followers, The Wright Way Hint “hints” at the production of a feature documentary that may contribute to a needed global transformation.

TRANSFORMING THE WORLD

U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, 2016,

U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, 2016,

In 2016 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution of 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. They included:

1. End poverty; 2 . End hunger; 3. Ensure healthy lives; 4. Ensure inclusive quality education; 5. Achieve gender equality; 6. Ensure water and sanitation; 7. Ensure sustainable energy; 8. Promote sustainable decent work for all; 9. Build resilient infrastructure, sustainable industrialization and foster innovation; 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries, 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns; 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change; 14. Keep oceans, seas and marine resources sustainable; 15. Protect and restore terrestrial ecosystems; 16. Promote peace and justice for all; 17. Strengthen the means of implementation.

It is an ambitious wish-list out of which architecture can play a vital role (Goal #11.) If adopting Wright’s organic architecture principles, the result could extend a sustainable life on Earth well beyond 2030.

Frank Lloyd Wright, c. 1957.

Frank Lloyd Wright, c. 1957.

WRIGHT IDEAS IN A NUTSHELL

 Like Galileo, Newton, Darwin and Einstein, who discovered laws of nature, Frank Lloyd Wright formulated principles which have affected design throughout the ages, from the Nuraghe of Sardinia (1900-730 BCE,) to the Katsura Imperial Villa (1624,) to Fallingwater (1939.) Although he was as prolific a writer as he was an architect, the reading and studying his ideas has remained confined to few scholars. His language is not easily accessible, his books are rarely put in the schools of architecture’s “must read” list. How can one overcome these obstacles while young people’s span of attention is getting shorter and shorter?

What are Wright’s essential ideas?

Nature is the architect’s principal school. The creative possibilities of form, color, pattern, texture, proportion, rhythm and growth are all well expressed in nature.

The building grows out of the landscape as naturally as any plant. Its relationship to the site is so unique that it would be out of place elsewhere.

Materials are to be used based on their intrinsic nature: strength, color, texture. One material is not to be disguised as another.

A building should convey a sense of shelter, refuge, or protection against the elements. Its inhabitants should never lack privacy or feel exposed and unprotected.

Space: “The reality of the building does not consist of the roof and the walls but the space within to be lived in”, said Wright, quoting Lao Tzu. The interior space determines the exterior form. Interior space is not packed in boxes called rooms; rather, space should flow freely from interior area to interior area. An area is never fully comprehended when viewed from a single point, but it must be slowly experienced as one moves through space.

The human body should be the only scale of a building and its furnishings.

Each building has its own grammar, its distinct vocabulary of pattern and form. All parts of the building, from the smallest detail to the overall form, speak the same language. The grammar may be completely different for two buildings of similar functions.

Ornament, when used, it is to be developed as an integral part of the material, not applied.

Simplicity in art is a synthetic positive quality in which we may see evidence of mind, breadth of scheme, wealth of detail and with the sense of completeness found in a tree or a flower.

Furniture should be built-in as much as possible.

Sculpture and painting are to become elements of the total design.

MODERN, CONTEMPORARY AND ORGANIC ARCHITECTURE

What became labeled as “Modern Architecture” or “Modernism,” originated in Europe of the 1920s. Walter Gropius’ BauhausLe Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe’s ideas, based on constructive social programs, provided with a machine –like  with no decoration and easy to learn slogans, such as “less is more,” ribbon glass windows, all-white rectangle walls, and building on piloti. They influenced the design of thousands of architects around the world, some with positive results, many with catastrophic effects of massive housing and urban sprawl lacking identity.
Wright’s work, although classified by historians under the umbrella name of “Modernism,” refused to be categorized in any one architectural movement. His master-teacher, Louis Sullivan, who pioneered the use of steel for office building, had coined the concept of “form follows function”, later on modified be Wright as “form and function are one.” Simplicity for Wright was an end-result of chiseling out the unnecessary, not a point of departure.
 For most young architects eager to start building their own projects, it was impossible to learn Wright’s principles and ethic code without studying in depth his writings, analyzing his drawings and visiting his buildings. Most chose the shortcut.
 In the 1960s the term “modern” was substituted by the more inclusive term “contemporary.” It included hundreds of art and architecture languages and grammars. Some were authentic, some were progressive, like “High-Tech,“ some were regressive, like “Post-Modernism,” many were trendy, and some “stararchitects” indulged in building acrobatics having little to do with people’s needs. “Contemporary” implied a freedom of expression that many interpreted as “anything goes.”
 The Italian Website ADAO (Friends of Organic Archirecture) (http://www.architetturaorganica.org/architetturaorganica/HOME.htm ) shows links to many organic architects, such as John Lautner, Carlo Scarpa, Bruce Goff, Bart Prince, Kendrick Bangs Kellog, Robert Harvey Oshatz, to name a few, their numbers remain a small fraction in comparison to all what is being built.

A ONE-HUNDRED YEAR AGENDA

 At a philosophical level, the quests of Dario Salas Sommer’s Moral Physics, Yuval Noah Harari’s New Human Agenda, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Organic Architecture, interact as “a cosmic vision beyond ever-changing creeds or viewpoints that have until now divided human beings according to their geography, their culture or their ideas.” God / Nature / Truth / Unity / Existence  / Being / Whole become interchangeable words implying the working and interacting together as a whole. The time is now. As the world’s population grows to a likely ten billion by mid-century, twelve billion by 2100 and possibly 30 billion by 2200, planetary management that crosses borderlines and governments become indispensable.

In addition to all said, mixed-use and multi-functionality are integral components of a sustainability agenda. While mixed-use juxtapose multiple functions (housing, commerce, education, )  multi-functionality makes possible the multiple uses of the same space, and the multiple-use of a same component: a stairway as structure, a column or beam as a container of ducts, a wall as container of storage, a roof as an edible garden.

Proximity between living space and working space are part of the sustainability agenda. Working space can be: a. within the dwelling unit; b. adjacent to the dwelling unit ( see Price Tower); c. Within walking or bike distance from the dwelling.

Mobility is integral to both human needs and to sustainability, yet it demands a total revision of how it works. It consists of three categories. A. Emergency access (firemen, ambulances, police, rescue from disasters.) b. Public use: air mobility and public transportation of multiple kinds: trains, tramways, air tram cable cars, moving conveyors, buses, taxis (with drivers or driverless,)  hot air balloons. c. Private: bikes, skateboards, cars, trucks (owned or rented.)

Organic architecture needs to awaken from its long sleep. It requires reinterpretation without falling into nostalgia or an imitative expression of Nature. Although nature remains the most important source of inspiration, it is to be interpreted, not copied.

The United Earth Wheel of Synergy

The United Earth Wheel of Synergy. Copyright United Earth, 2016.

 

'>The Wright Way – An Overture On Wright's 150th Birthday and the Future of Organic Architecture

Why Wright now? What can a man born 150 years ago, tell to a young generation of architects likely to be responsible for the invention of the future? The following documentary is intended to emphasize the link between Wright ideas and the needs of tomorrow.

At the time of his death, the world’s population was three billion. Today it is 7.2 billion, likely to become ten billion by mid-century. We must confront sustainability, higher mix-use urban density, working space closer to dwellings, less dependence on the car, food production closer to home, flexible prefabrication and self-help.
During the last years of his life, when asked how he saw the future of architecture, Wright’s answer was: “the future of architecture is the future of the human race. If civilization has a future, so will architecture. Democracy was never intended to be a mass production affair. A free life is not necessarily a free-for-all. It is nothing someone gives you. A free life is something you work out for yourself. Freedom is not conferred, must be worked out from self.”
There is no substitute for reading Wright’s prolific writing while filtering “the Wright’s Style” from his principles. There is no alternative to walking through his spaces, to absorb them in their totality – fluidity, scale, light, views, and details. To take Wright’s words literally would be as misleading as all dogmas are. Wright’s principles of Organic Architecture can be understood and reinterpreted to match the needs of our time.
Here is my take:
1. Space is the fundamental component of the architecture. In a profound sense, it is mostly “interior space,” where streets and plazas are the interior spaces of a three-dimensional city.
2. Continuity, physical and spatial, is as essential for organic architecture as the relationship between skin, muscles, bones, organs, blood, and nerves.
3. Nature implies not just the nature of a site, or the nature of materials, or the nature of production; it also means the nature of humans, both in their ergonometric and psychological dimensions.
4. Human scale is the only scale of architecture, and it should not be confused with “size.” Human scale defines the relation to purpose. Bernini’s Saint Peter’s square is at human scale, in spite of its size. Fascist architecture, whether governmental or corporate, is not.
5. Context is not only the relationship between a building and its surroundings; it is also a connection between a building and the culture within which it surges.
Flashback: we were recently graduated architects, influenced by our master teachers and mentors, Prof. Bruno Zevi and architect Luigi Pellegrin when we decided to come to the United States to experience Wright by ourselves. Together with our friend Viviana Campajola, we embarked on a “Wright pilgrimage” that took us through ninety-six of his works along more than twenty states.
Following are some samples of photographs we shot during our trip (click on the link.) They are presented here for the first time. After more than 40 years we remain amazed at seeing how much of Wright’s architecture withstood the passage of time. His works look as fresh today as when we visited them.

 Let’s face it: the world won’t stop at ten billion. The order of “pragmatic idealism” remains unchanged, independently of scale, place or time: DREAM first, then PROGRAM and quantify, then DESIGN, and then BUILD.

 The Wright Way Photos. Copyright Ruth and Rick Meghiddo. All Rights Reserved.

Wright 150 - by Rick Meghiddo.

Wright 150

 SOME TIPS

– For The Wright Way gallery of selected photos, click here.

– A great PBS visual biography of
  Frank Lloyd Wright by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick Part 1
  Frank Lloyd Wright by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick Part 2
THE MIKE WALLACE INTERVIEW with Wright, 1957.

Frank Lloyd Wright Collected Writings:

     Volume 1   Volume 2   Volume 3 

     Volume 4   Volume 5 

One of the best books about Wright:

   Frank Lloyd Wright by Neil Levine 

Principles: Time. Copyright Rick Meghiddo. All Rights Reserved.

Architecture in a Nutshell The Times, Principles and Process of Architecture

We live within architectural spaces throughout our lives, 24/7. From the moment we open our eyes until we close them, the spaces we live in affect our lives and contribute to shaping who we are. They impact us physically, psychologically and monetarily. They contribute to our happiness or unhappiness.

While we can choose to eat healthily or to eat junk food, choose to listen to music we like, go to a museum or read a book, the spaces we live in – dwelling, work, streets – feed our subconscious at all times. Why is it that few people, besides professionals, “can see” architecture? The following video is a nine-minute jumpstart to better understand architecture.

There may be as many definitions of “What is Architecture?” as they are architects. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “the art or practice of designing and building structures and especially habitable ones.” Are the millions of dwellings around the world “architecture?”

The problem is not a semantic one. The point of “Architecture in a Nutshell” and of www.architectureawareness.com is to help more people to see. In a world where at least half of its population lacks essentials such as decent housing, schools, hospitals, open public spaces and institutions, architecture awareness can be a matter of survival. Even if all the world’s architects would be working 60–hour weeks, even if we would be using the best available technology at 100% efficiency, there’s no way we will be able to catch up in fixing the existing urban chaos while absorbing a population growth of about 80 million people per year. By or around 2050 we will be ten billion.  And then?

It is a key issue today not just to inform people, but to change mindsets, so that many may learn how to help themselves and to contribute to the building of better environments. By combining architecture awareness with filmmaking knowledge, it is possible to help not only the consumers of architecture but also its generators – architects, institutions, government, educators – who are instrumental in the world’s betterment.

Ruth Meghiddo

Food for Thought

Farm Urbana, as presented in “Food for Thought,” proposes practical solutions to help the rapidly growing urban population’s access to fresh food close to home. Ruth Meghiddo challenges developers, architects, and property owners to include urban farming as an integral part of the built environment. She sees bridging between urban farming and design a critical response to the planet’s sustainability problems.

Ruth founded Farm Urbana in 2013, with a vision for cities to be prosperous. Her clients, forward-thinking developers and owners, value innovation and anticipate rewards for advancing a lifestyle amenity for their residents. She helps them offer a desirable eco-friendly solution that is aesthetic and stimulates creating local communities.

The system consumes 90% less water, little labor, and a fraction of space and weight of traditional vegetable gardens. For more, visit: http://farmurbana.com/

Farm Urbana Website

Farm Urbana Website

 

From Architecture to Urban Farming

A Brief Story of a Vision

“While doing research on solutions for sustainable mixed-use urban corridors, I came to foresee the advantage of incorporating a food-growth area integrated to the common spaces of the habitat at arm length of people’s home.”

In a brief story of her vision, Ruth brings us the case of urban farming as a growing movement to tackle problems that the world faces in the 21st century. Her story is personal.  She tells us how her vision evolved from childhood experiences in the Romanian countryside, to her life in Rome, to the mentorships of Zevi and Pellegrin, to her fascination with Wright’s thinking and works, to her practice as an architect, to her discovery of Permaculture, to her new passion for urban farming and local edible gardens.

She posed to herself some critical questions:

  • How can urban farming contribute to make the world a better place?
  • What is the connection between architecture, planning and urban farming?
  • What can each of us do to become self-reliable on the food we put on our table?
  • How can edible gardens become a design component integrated to urban development?
  • How can urban farming provide a stage for social interaction?

 

Some facts may help to put a global problem into perspective:

  1. The First Agriculture Revolution started about 10,000 years ago. As nomads settled, cities were born. Until about a century ago, they were surrounded by farms, which supplied its population with fresh food.

    San Gimignano, Photo: Pablo Charin, Rick Meghiddo

    San Gimigniano surrounded by farms – Photo: Pablo Charin / Minube

  2. As the world’s population grew from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 7.5 billion today, the way we feed ourselves was transformed radically. Industrialized farming brought us ecological degradation, aggravated by the massive use of toxic chemicals. In addition, the path of food from the farm to the city became dependent on carbon-based fuel for transportation.
  3. As the temperatures will continue to raise, climate change is likely to expand the areas of drought hurricanes and floods, diminishing the existing cultivable areas.
    Nwesweek 10/30/2015

    Nwesweek 10/30/2015

    Milano EXPO 2015: Feeding the World, Rick Meghiddo

    Milano EXPO 2015: Feeding the World

  4. Today’s global growth is about 75 million a year. We are likely to reach ten billion around by 2050. Too far away? Not really! That is just “around the corner.” By 2050, children born today will be in their thirties.

    World Population-1800-2050

    World Population-1800-2050

  5. One acre of land is needed to feed one person for one year. By 2050 we will need additional not-yet-existing cultivable land of about 10 million km2, equal to the size of the United States.

How shall we continue to feed the planet? How shall we invent the future while we free cultivable land from the voracious appetite of urban sprawl?  If we want to create a decent living environment, action is needed NOW. Here are some possibilities:

  • Increase mixed-use urban density along urban corridors.
  • Create cultivable areas within residential multi-family buildings, office buildings, schools, factories, hotels, etc.
  • Design common edible gardens as places for social interaction.
  • Design workspaces that provide edible gardens to its tenants.
  • Plan neighborhoods that include collective cultivable areas.
  • Build multi-story farms.
  • Vertical Farming - Rendering: Blake Kurasek

    Vertical Farming – Rendering: Blake Kurasek

    Vertical Farming

    Vertical Farming

 

No single solution can fit all needs. The use of eco-friendly lightweight hydroponic systems that consume 90% less water than traditional farming can be incorporated into the built environment.

On the other hand, permaculture, first developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, brings a holistic approach that combines agricultural and social design principles. By increasing our awareness of “thinking globally and acting locally,” each of us can contribute to make the world a better place to inhabit.

 

Jean Phillipe Pargade Technical and Scientific School, Paris. Photo: Sergio Grazia

Jean Phillipe Pargade Technical and Scientific School, Paris. Photo: Sergio Grazia