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Sofia Architecture Week 2013: the Future City Forum

19.12.2013 11:15 No comments

Nine of the most awarded European architecture studios held lectures between 30.11-1.12. This was the sixth edition of the architecture festival whose previous editions took place in Sofia.

In the three panels of the Forum under the slogan Future City – Reduse Reuse Recycle Vol. 2, Analog/Digital and What's Next?, more than 300 guests had the opportunity to hear the concepts and the stories of the futuristic-style buildings presented as draft and also as accomplished visionary projects from around the world.

A discussion took place after each panel facilitated by the festival curators – the Belgium-based architects Orlin Manolov and Pavel Yanchev. The questions from the public were mostly about the role of technology in the projects and in the construction process, as well as about the approach of the lecturing architects to each project.  

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Vol.2

The architects in the first panel - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Vol.2, showed projects with a sensitive approach to their surroundings with a focus on the resistant, functional and at the same time aesthetic side of the suggested transport infrastructure.

Peter Ray from the London-based studio Amin Taha Architects – ATA, winners of the international competition for the Sofia Metro Station 20 in 2012, showed how the studio manages to adapt its work to the surroundings, by implementing historical and even mythological motives. The transition from nature to the underground world in the project was inspired by Greek Mythology and the Hades's Kingdom.

The project for the Metro Station 20 was not only cost-effective but also, in the long run, could save over 30% of the standard operating costs.

The studio presented a few more of its newest projects – the Ada Street, well-known for its media attention in blogs and magazines, as well as the Golden Lane office building, in which ATA had renewed the already existing Victorian architecture with its cast-iron columns by adding steel beams, a steel interior ladder and a metal library.

Eduardo Gutierrez from the Madrid-based studio ON-A revealed behind-the-scenes details about the parametric design of his architectural project by showing some of the most beautiful cafes and metro stations in Europe and placing emphasis on the very popular metro station project Drassares in Barcelona.

Adam Hatvani from the Hungarian Sporaarchitects added more touches to the palette with projects from Budapest and gave an example of how architectural projects could optimize the building process.

Analog / Digital

The second panel – Analog/Digital, was focused on high-technology work and materials in conjunction with existing surroundings and traditions.

Jan Schellhof from the Dutch UNStudio showed one of the best presentations at the Forum. He presented 12 projects, among which were the Mercedes-Benz Museum, the Dutch Pavillion NY400 in New York, as well as the competition winner Baumkirchen Mitte. What was impressive in the presentation were the Analog/Digital tech solutions, used mainly for raising energy-efficiency and a better flow with the environment. For example, the round drop ceilings in Education Executive Agency & Tax Offices, which cover 50% of the concrete slates, but also include all ventilation and lighting installations, by supporting the better acoustic and aesthetic value of the offices. A curious fact about the work of UNStudio is that some of their projects are certified by the American LEED Association, British BREEAM and German DGNB. Jan also gave us insights on the internal organization of the studio – the Inranet, the office social life, the staff's profile and the organization of the projects.

Laszlo Kalmar form the Hungarian architectural studio ZSK presented not only their projects but also a view on the historical frame of the Hungarian architecture and the connection of the ZSK's work with it. One such project was the House in Budapest inspired by the houses in the Roman atrium. The most interesting project of them is the new building of the Art Academy in Maribor, Slovenia, especially built for pronouncing the city European capital of culture in 2012. In the glass towers, one could read cross-references to the work of the famous Slovenian architect Joze Plecnik.

The ending of this fascinating panel was as impressive as its beginning - Daniel Baudisch and Jan Mach from Mjolk Architects who were often compared to the Sofia-based studio Transformatori in Bulgaria, explained the concept behind their work focused mainly on transforming urban spaces. In their projects, they follow the philosophy „from the bottom - up“: first comes the idea, then – the investors and the licenses by the municipality.  

The discussion after the panel placed important questions on the table - does using analog or digital instruments have an impact on the characteristics of the final project and which are the advantages of using these technologies in the planning process.

What’s next?

Early on the second day of the Professional Forum of SAW 2013 the third panel called What's Next? began. Nils Ole Bae Brandtzaeg from the Norwegian Atelier Oslo presented a few truly inspiring projects of the studio. They unite sensitivity to nature with the cultural heritage of Norway, and at the same time innovative technologies are applied. Among the presented projects, we saw The Lantern which had been awarded in the competition of the town of Sandnes for a pavilion with public functions as a temporary market and outdoor concerts; the project for the Venice Biennale in 2012 – an example for the symbiosis between nature and innovative application of 3D-scanning of the surroundings; the project for a bungalow in Nothernhof whose soft interior highlights the connection with the nature.

Michael Zinganel, an Austrian architecture theorist, a cultural historian, an artist and a curator, made an outstanding presentation on urban projects. He gave advice on how to prepare, produce, present, and apply for financing of cultural projects. In a separate lecture, Michael presented his book on the seaside resorts architecture from the socialist era in Bulgaria and Croatia, hitting bookstores in 2013 – “Holiday after the fall”, together with Bulgarian photographer Nikola Mihov.

The final lecture was presented by one of the most respected studios in the sphere of urban planning – the Italians Paola Viganò and Bernardo Secchi. They presented their work on three large-scale visionary projects from the last few years, as Grand Paris (2008-2009), Brussels 2040 (2010) and The New Moscow (2012). In each of these projects the studio makes a structural analysis of the city and its needs, and offers an approach for having a bigger-scale scope. “We always try to say that we all carry the responsibility for the future of the city; we are all its authors”, Paola Viganò ended.

What possibilities does the future hold for the Future City? What problems does it solve? Who lives there and what is it like living in the future city? These were the questions put forth by the curators of Sofia Architecture Week 2013 when they began working on the program a year ago, and now we believe that the Professional Forum of SAW 2013 made a step forward to providing answers for them.

Text by: Boyka Ognyanova, Program Director, SAW 2013