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France - Louis Vuitton Foundation
The building boasts an auditorium, a stepped waterfall a restaurant and art galleries. Photograph: Justin Lorget/ Justin Lorget/Corbis

When architect Frank Gehry unveiled his plans for a museum shaped like a massive glass cloud in the heart of Paris it looked little more than a few squiggles on a piece of paper.

Even Gehry, whose celebrated works are often cited as among the most important in contemporary architecture, had difficulty finding words to describe what he hoped to create.

“It’s a cloud of glass – magical, ephemeral, all transparent … it’s not stodgy,” he told the Guardian back in 2006.

On Friday, Gehry’s glass cloud – which has also been nicknamed The Iceberg, but is officially the Louis Vuitton Foundation – was unveiled.

As promised, the massive glass, metal and wood structure – commissioned by Bernard Arnault, president of the French luxury goods group LVMH and France’s wealthiest man – appeared to float ethereally over one of France’s oldest parks, the Jardin d’Acclimatation.

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Kim Willsher
The Guardian

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A detail of the newly re-designed Clark center and reflecting pool. (Photo: Courtesy Clark Art Institute )

“I started to cry a bit when I saw the finished result for the first time this morning,” said architect Annabelle Selldorf at the June 27 press preview of the newly expanded Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Michael Conforti, director of the Institute, also teared up as he addressed the crowd gathered to celebrate the reopening after 10 years and $145 million of time and funds were invested into reconstruction. Visitors might have similarly emotional reactions to the results, including Pritzker-winner Tadao Ando’s multipurpose visitor center, which prioritizes circulation and the views of lush hills behind the Clark; landscape architecture firm Reed Hilderbrand’s stepped pools , which create a peaceful setting primed for meditation; and Selldorf’s redesign of the main museum building’s interior, which glorifies the Clark’s collection.

Though thorough and comprehensive, the Clark’s transformation is decidedly understated. The refrain “Bilbao of the Berkshires” was used time and again over the weekend to describe the project, but that phrase isn’t really accurate. The Guggenheim Bilbao is a monumental, sculptural showpiece that draws attention away from the cityscape unto itself; the new Clark pays homage to the surrounding landscape with understated architecture and interiors that frame views of the neighboring hillside and the art on view.

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Anna Kats
Blouin ArtInfo

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Poland’s “Impossible Objects” exhibition at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. (Photo By Wojciech Wilczyk/Courtesy of Zachęta National Gallery of Art)

In the lead-up to the June 7 opening of the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, director Rem Koolhaas sounded like he was planning a family therapy session for the architectural profession: “This retrospective will generate a fresh understanding of the richness of architecture’s fundamental repertoire, apparently so exhausted today,” he remarked upon the January 2013 announcement that he would curate this year’s edition. Koolhaas cited “the process of the erasure of national characteristics in favor of the almost universal adoption of a single modern language” as one source of architecture’s current predicament. Contemporary architecture, he noted, has become “flattened,” and though Koolhaas doesn’t necessarily see this as a negative quality, he requested that national pavilion curators redirect their attention away from contemporary architecture. Each participating country was asked to produce an exhibition on the influence of modernization in the 20th century on its architecture, as a means of inspiring reflection on the worldwide monotony of contemporary building. With the 2014 Biennale now underway, it’s clear that the combined efforts of the 66 exhibiting countries have produced more questions than answers.

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Anna Katz
Blouin ArtInfo

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Images: stpmj

If you’re looking to hide a barn in plain sight, here’s a fool-proof way to go about: cover it in mylar. That’s what New York City architecture firm stpmj did for a new conceptual project for the Architectural League’s Folly Competition.

The contest asks up and coming designers to create a 21st century architectural folly to be installed in the Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, N.Y. Derived from the French word for “foolish,” a folly is a building or structure that’s created with no real purpose beyond looking cool.

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Liz Stinson
Wired

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The Gasometer complex in Vienna. (Photo: Getty Images)

On May 1, the de Blasio administration will roll out its plan to build (“or preserve,” that weaselly escape word) 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade, a number that has struck many as wishful to the point of deluded. I hope that, as the mayor’s planners buff their strategy in the coming weeks, they remember that what gets built is just as important as how much of it gets built. Housing the needy and the middle class is a wonderful and necessary urge, but handled sloppily, it could wind up blockading the waterfronts behind an unbroken wall of glass, clogging the skyline with high-rise clones, and sullying neighborhoods with quickie construction.

During the Bloomberg era, the mayor’s livability crew went idea-hunting in Copenhagen and returned with pedestrian plazas, sidewalk cafés, and bike lanes. If de Blasio is serious about making New York not just pleasant but just, he ought to go on a scouting trip to Vienna, where housing is considered a social good, not primarily a financial tool. In a sleekly modern home for Alzheimer’s patients, each apartment façade is color-coded to make it easier to locate, and hallways wrap around in a continuous circle to prevent dead ends from adding to the residents’ confusion. At the Gasometer complex, celebrity architects refitted a set of immense gas-storage silos with offices, shopping, and affordable apartments. Bike City, another elegantly designed building, is geared to residents who don’t own cars.

These projects emerge out of a 100-year history of high-design, low-cost housing and an apparatus that has placed nearly two-thirds of Vienna’s rapidly growing population in subsidized housing. The city government effectively controls the real-estate market and maintains a housing-research department that puts academic conjecture into practice. The model works because it combines generosity, rigor, and competition. The bidding process fixes construction costs around a modest $200 per square foot, yet teams of developers and architects vie for every project and the city evaluates their plans in terms of sustainability, design, and social justice. “You cannot win a project for housing in Vienna if you don’t meet a high planning and architectural level, and none of it is out of reach in terms of quality for New York City,” says William Menking, a Pratt professor who last year co-curated an exhibit on the subject called “The Vienna Model.” New York’s land and labor costs are higher, but even here, an ingenious design is no more expensive than a lazy one.

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Justin Davidson
New York Magazine

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Model of Memory Wound, a 3.5m gap cut into the Sørbråten peninsula by artist Jonas Dahlberg as a memorial for the victims of the 2011 massacre. Picture: Jonas Dahlberg Studio

A Swedish artist has been selected to create official memorials at the sites of the 2011 Norwegian massacres carried out by right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik.

The competition, called Memorial Sites After 22 July, was won by Jonas Dahlberg, who will create three artworks at a cost of 27m Norwegian kroner (£2.7m) to the government in Oslo.

The most striking memorial is called Memory Wound. The 43-year-old artist has sliced a three-and-a-half-metre-wide slit into the Sørbråten peninsula, which faces the island of Utøya where Breivik killed 69 people. It marks a “symbolic wound” in the landscape.

One hundred cubic metres of the stone cut from Sørbråten will be transferred to the governmental quarter in Oslo, where another memorial will mark the spot where a car bomb was detonated by Breivik that resulted in eight deaths.

A temporary pathway in the capital, between Grubbegata and Deichmanske library, will also be made by Dahlberg, who will later take trees from Sørbråten to create a permanent amphitheatre in the government quarter called Time and Movement.

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Cameron Robertson
The Guardian

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The design for the proposed Maya Museum in Guatemala (via Harry Gugger Studio website)

“We are not myths of the past, ruins in the jungle, or zoos,” Maya human rights activist Rigoberta Menchú said in a 1992 interview shortly before she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. If she was speaking today, Menchú might have included “museum” among the list of things that Guatemala’s indigenous are not, after news of a proposed Maya museum in Guatemala City was announced last month.

Dezeen magazine reported on the plans to build Central America’s largest museum of Maya artifacts, Museo Maya de América (Maya Museum of America), in the Guatemalan capital. This comes less than two years after Mexico opened two new Maya museums, one in the resort town of Cancun, the other in touristy Merida. The $60 million construction of the new Guatemalan museum will begin in 2015 and will be completed through a public-private partnership, with the building scheduled to open in 2017.

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Laura C. Mallonee
Hyperallergic

The design for Qatar's Al-Wakrah 'vagina' stadium. Zaha Hadid says it is inspired by Arab dhows
The design for Qatar’s Al-Wakrah stadium. Zaha Hadid says it is inspired by the sails of Arab dhows – others say it just looks like a vagina. Photograph: AECOM

One looks like a futuristic bicycle helmet, stretched across its Tokyo site in an aerodynamic sweep. The other has been said to resemble a vagina, rising out of the Qatari desert in a great vulvic bulge.

Both are in fact sinuous sporting stadiums by the London-based Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, who is facing calls for her exuberant designs to be scaled back.

This week Japanese sports officials finally bowed to growing criticism that Hadid’s scheme for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic stadium was too big and too expensive, saying they would shrink the design by a quarter.

The 80,000-seat venue, planned for the site of the current 48,000-seat national stadium, built in 1958, is described by Hadid as “light and cohesive”, its structure forming a dynamic bridge that “creates an exciting new journey for visitors”.

But the design has been met with fury by Japanese architects, who have complained that it is grossly insensitive to its context, looming 70 metres above the area of low-rise buildings and parks in the west of the city, close to the Meiji shrine, where a 15-metre height limit is in force.

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Oliver Wainwright
Guardian

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Sifang Art Museum, designed by Steven Holl Architects

The Sifang Art Museum, part of a $164m development in a national park outside Nanjing, opened its doors on 2 November with an exhibition of works by contemporary artists including Olafur Eliasson, Luc Tuymans, Zeng Fanzhi and Takashi Murakami.

The private museum, designed by the New York-based architect Steven Holl, is the centrepiece of a larger project: the Chinese International Practical Exhibition of Architecture (CIPEA), which is ten years in the making. The museum is just one of 20 buildings under construction in the 115-acre complex, each designed by a leading international architect, such as Arata Isozaki, David Adjaye and Wang Shu. The ambitious project is funded by the property developer Lu Jun and his son Lu Xun, who bought the land in 2002. So far, 11 buildings are nearly complete, and more are expected to be finished next year

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Sammi Liu
The Art Newspaper

The Serpentine Sackler gallery.
The Serpentine Sackler gallery. Photograph: Karen Robinson

The Zaha Hadid gallery contains a metropolis in miniature, a streetplan of fantastical scale models preserved under perspex. Hadid’s PR walks me down the aisles and points out the landmarks. Over here is the imposing MAXXI museum in Rome and over there the BMW plant in Leipzig, where translucent conveyor belts ferry the cars between the factory floors. Away in the corner, the gallery floorspace is occupied by what appears to be a white, frozen avalanche of futurist geometry. This, I am told, is the design for a building in Saudi Arabia.

I stare at the avalanche with mounting alarm. I’m looking for the windows, I’m looking for the door. Try as I might, I can’t see it as a building. “No, of course,” the PR says. “It’s a concept.”

Increasingly, it seems, Zaha Hadid’s concepts are becoming constructions. At the age of 62, she has blossomed into one of the world’s most celebrated and sought-after architects, with a staff of 350, a Pritzker prize on the shelf and around 40 buildings already dotting the globe. Her practice is putting the finishing touches to Japan’s national stadium, the principal venue for the 2020 Olympics. Her undulating Serpentine Sackler gallery, nestled in the heart of Hyde Park, opens for business this week. For fans of her work, Hadid is a bloody-minded genius, the woman who broke the mould, upturned the applecart and found fluid solutions to rectangular problems. For her detractors, however, she’s something else again: a showboating “starchitect” who trades in hubristic, convoluted fantasies. Many of her concepts, it’s claimed, would have been better off as drafts.

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Xan Brooks
The Guardian

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