The Bauhaus, 100 this year, has impacted tremendously on the creative world ideologically and aesthetically. It has transformed how we design our homes, the objects we choose to live with, and urban life. Yet, the 21st century is facing its own unique and hugely urgent challenges – globalisation, rapid urbanisation and rising environmental concerns. Cities are overcrowded, new buildings must meet stringent energy requirements and negotiate a myriad of planning regulations. They need to address their surroundings; form progressive narratives with history – hopefully. Contemporary urban architecture is, therefore, a complex jigsaw-puzzle with invention, innovation and imagination as critical as ever.
‘The Contemporary House’ takes on this very theme. Written by Jonathan Bell and Ellie Stathaki, both architectural critics and editors at Wallpaper* magazine, and published by Thames & Hudson, this is an insightful study of new city living. It is organised geographically as a way of understanding regional dialogues, and features seventy of the world’s most innovative, extreme and ingenious houses. The book reviews how modern residential design is integrated into the existing urban fabric for a fascinating insight into the variety of contemporary approaches to urban design.
Some of the traditional vernacular forms such as terraced homes, townhouses and isolated villas are being questioned today, as are the repercussions of the 20th century’s suburban sprawls and their poor land use. ‘The Contemporary House’ sees new philosophies of minimalism replacing some of the more indulgent structures of the past. For instance, it refers to a new shape called ‘the stack’ – one that is compact, space-conscious and insulated. Amidst the fear of homogenisation of cities, there is a tendency for more self-expression in the contemporary homes too. Most importantly, the 21st century is defined by the urgency for thinking sustainably and imaginatively in reusing resources.
As cities become ever-congested, as we face the challenges of an ageing population and mass migration, and as we work towards a sustainable future – architects, designers and urban planners will need to continue to expand on the principals laid out by the Bauhaus members one-hundred years ago. To quote the school’s founder, Walter Gropius, ‘To have the gift of imagination is more important than all technology.’
All images are under ©. In order of appearance: Lee-Chin Crystal at Royal Ontario Museum by Studio Daniel © Nikreates/Alamy Stock Photo; Amsterdam’s Inntel Hotel by WAM Architecten © Frans lemmens/Alamy Stock Photo; The Shard in London by Renzo Piano © CW Images/Alamy Stock Photo; Glenn Murcutt’s houses Sydney suburb © Paul Lovelace/Alamy Stock Photo; Via 57 West in Manhattan by BIG © imageBROKER/Alamy Stock Photo
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