These are AN's best hot takes of 2017


These are AN's best hot takes of 2017

These are AN's best hot takes of 2017 (Courtesy Oiio Studio/via Huffington Post)

2017 was a tumultuous year for the news, but it was also a controversial one for architecture. We saw many of the same weird 2017 phenomena (social media, privatization, the post-truth) affecting AN and the subjects we cover. Here are some of our most controversial and critical opinion pieces, from the lackluster Chicago Architecture Biennial to the way that media is changing how we see and make architecture. (See the rest of our Year in Review 2017 posts here).

The best hot takes of 2017. Pictured here: A man soaks up sunshine on Pershing Square’s sculptural plaza. The plaza’s bubbly 1990s upgrade by Laurie Olin, Ricardo Legorreta, and Barbara McCarren is slated to be flattened by new renovations, its colorful forms replaced by standard-issue outdoor pavilions. (Lourdes Legorreta)

Why are we wrecking our best modernist landscapes?

by Audrey Wachs

“Just as chokers and platform sandals are cool again, designers are expressing renewed interest in successful 1990s postmodern landscapes, like Wagner Park or Pershing Square. Despite their significance, these parks are now threatened by thoughtless development.”

In 2011, IBM’s Watson supercomputer handily beat two human competitors. The machine proved very good at buzzing in quickly in addition to knowing the answers. (Atomic Taco/CourtesyWikimedia Commons)

Architects must redesign their profession before technology does

by Phil Bernstein

“Since society created the professional class to codify and distribute professional expertise, shouldn’t this trend to democratization be embraced? And since architects design a small percentage of the built environment, isn’t this trend, in theory, all for the good? Should architects cede our authority to algorithms, it’s likely we’ll lose all control and influence over the forces that often reduce great design aspirations to mediocre results.”


J. MAYER H. und Partner, Architekten and Philip Ursprung’s, Cosmic Latte: Beige Manifesto explores the color beige. (Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial, Kendall McCaugherty c. Hall Merrick Photographers)

Five fundamental problems with the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial

by Matt Shaw

“Some projects were about ‘signs’ or about ‘steel construction,’ but that label was more or less the extent of it. There was not much criticality in each individual project, and the overall idea of history seemed to simply be about picking a precedent. Precedent and history are two different things: the former is about legal or argumentative justification, while the second is about all the interesting social, political, and formal ideas. Perhaps the exhibition should have simply been ‘Use Precedent (101).'”

Joshua Tree Residence (Courtesy Whitaker Studio)

Splashy renderings hide the flaws of this shipping container house

by Mark Hogan

“While it would be easy to criticize yet another shipping container project on the basis of it being made out of shipping containers, what is more remarkable is the publicity one can get for renderings of a structure that has no connection to its site or program.”


(Courtesy Oiio Studio/via Huffington Post)

Does architecture have a crisis of ideas?

by Matt Shaw

“Where are the relevant ideas in architecture? While taking the latest philosophy or digital technology and applying it to architecture is at least a stab in the right direction, what happened to innovative formal ideas, or cultural innovations in architectural form? Where are the radical ideas that might spark our imagination and make us think differently about the discipline and the world in which it exists?”


The Democratic Monument (Courtesy Adam Nathaniel Furman)

The town hall as democratic monument: a manifesto

by Adam Nathaniel Furman

“We are living through what is perceived to be one of our democracy’s most intense crises in generations, which means it is in fact the perfect moment to build monuments to its rebirth. In crisis lies the greatest opportunity for reinvention… It is time for the town hall as a democratic monument: architectural plurality in compositional unity.”




Ellis Island, or as Frank Lloyd Wright wanted it to be in 1959: “City of the Future.” (Metropolis Books)

What happened to speculation in architecture?

by Matt Shaw

“While the discipline might be struggling to imagine new ways of living, it is not a boring time for architecture. The world around us is changing quickly, and we can see several new futures simultaneously developing before our eyes. It may not be about predicting or producing new futures, but about reflecting on the present and what plausible near futures could be on the horizon and how they will affect our cities.”

As the American Dream dies, we must rethink our suburbs, homes, and communities. Seen here: ,L’Abri de la Bourgeoisie, after L’Abri du Pauvre, Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, 1804, from Atlas of Another America, Park Books, 2016.
(Courtesy Keith Krumwiede)

As the American Dream dies, we must rethink our communities 

by Keith Krumwiede

Any new ideas about the way we live, if they are to dislodge us from our long-habituated connection to the single-family detached house, must be accompanied by new architectural models and delivered through compelling new narratives that situate the needs and desires currently manifest in the house within new patterns that make collective life more desirable.”


America’s public land is under threat. What can architects do to protect our national resources? Pictured here: Citadel ruins at Bear Ears National Monument, one of the sites reviewed by the U.S. Department of the Interior this summer as the agency prepares a potential revision to the laws that guide public land conservation. (Flickr/IIP Photo Archive)

Architects must do more to protect our threatened public lands

by Antonio Pacheco

“In the same way that architects have led the way in saving architectural relics via support for historic preservation and the National Register of Historic Places—also administered by the Department of the Interior—we must become more vocal in our support for retaining and, in fact, expanding public access to public lands.”