National Kaohsiung Stadium, Taiwan

Toyo Ito designed the National Stadium in Kaohsiung, Tiawan for the 2009 World Games. It seats 55,000 people and is usually used for football games.

Ito derived the stadium's shape from the skeleton of a winding dragon. The structure gestures to the entrance and then coils around the field. The surrounding park is lush and green, and the entrance vast and vague. The repetitive ribs influence the core structure, as Ito bends over chunks of concrete and repeats them below the seating. The concrete seems to sag under the weight of all the people. This stark difference in material but similarity in design speaks of the spectators' relationship to the athletes. The architecture is all about the event.

The roof is covered with 8,844 solar panels, and this is the first stadium to generate all of its electricity. It is also remarkable that it incorporates the solar panels into the general aesthetic, and pulls it off quite well. It could generate up to 1.14 gwh of electricity per year.

The 2009 World Olympics were an alternative to China's 2008 Olympics, and I am happy to promote it because my blog is censored in China.

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Jaume Fuster Library, Barelona Spain

Josep Llinás Carmona designed the Biblioteca Jaume Fuster in Barcelona, completed in 2005. The building settles down into the built landscape to give prominence to the historical buildings around it. The Gracia district of the city was a scene of bloodshed in the Spanish Civil War in 1936. It also contains rich architecture such as Gaudí's Park Güell. The library uses this setting as a backdrop, like stained glass windows of a church, with a low profile and a deconstructionist language. Bustling traffic transitions to quiet residential units.

A canopied front transitions between interior building and exterior plaza. The Lesseps plaza effacing the building rises up, and folds and crackles as it meets the city. The building channels a "green corridor." It emphasizes a weird topography and blends natural imagery with that of the city. The programming of space is intermingled and chaotic, continuing the unexpected and organic site. Crystal is used in the exterior facade material, an interesting local aesthetic.

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Architecture Innovations Of Ancient Rome

Ancient Rome pushed engineering to great heights with the innovations of new technologies. They introduced unprecedented cities, culture, and design. These innovations were lost from the world for over a thousand years when Rome fell. But they were rediscovered, and today we continue to build on their ideas.


Domes had been around a long time before Rome. There were two kinds. The Tholos was an underground domed tomb with stacked concentric slabs of stone. The Tumulus mound was a rough construction of stones. The Romes vastly increased the size of domes. The Pantheon is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world.

Rome likewise vastly increased the scale of the barrel vault, which had been used in Sumeria and Egypt
for many years. Romans increased the height of structures by placing arches atop columns. They also strengthened their structures by using groin vaults at the intersection of two barrel vaults.

War Machines

Rome greatly expanded its empire through the use of engineering. The praefectus fabrum were in charge of war machines and war structures, such as Hadrian's Wall which crossed the whole of Britain.

Roman engineers invented or developed a variety of siege machines: Tormenta, ballistae, testudo, gallery, onager, scorpios, battering ram, siege tower, mine. A large portion of Vitrivius' Ten Books on Architecture is devoted to engineering in offensive and defensive positions.

Concrete was developed around 250 B.C. based on ancient Mesopotamian recipes. After the burning of Rome in 64 AD, concrete is used extensively in reconstruction of the city structures. Its versatility and structural properties made concrete a good material for the area. Many structures that may appear to be stone are actually concrete.

The recipe for pozzolan cement was lost in 476 AD after Rome fell.

Roads & Bridges

Key to Rome's success was their system of roads and bridges across the land. They allowed quick troop movement, trade, and communication. Major roads connected cities and were stone-paved, curved for drainage, and flanked by sidewalks and ditches. Survey teams engineered these roads to be comfortably level through mountains and marshes.

As part of this network, Romans built great bridges. Concrete and
arch technology allowed them to build robust bridges larger than ever before.


Health was a major consideration for Roman design. Vitrivius discussed the drainage of wetlands and testing of site conditions as the first step in building a city.

Rome established a system of drainage, as it was originally a marshland. The Etruscans were among the first to drain rainwater to avoid erosion. These drain paths eventually served to dispose of human waste, and these channels were covered to form a sewer. Water from the public baths were reused at public latrines, and upper-class home connected
directly to the sewer. Knowledge of the sewer was lost when Rome fell.


As part of their emphasis on health, Romans constructed public bath utilities. The thermae were devoted to bodily and mental health, with libraries, classrooms, and exercise gymnasiums included.

The hypocaust system was an efficient heating system that pumped heated air under floors. Floors were raised and rooms arranged to make optimal use of the heated air. This system is the basis of some heating strategies today.

Engineers went to great lengths to pump water to their cities. Though many ancient nations achieved incredible aqueducts, the Roman aqueducts are noteworthy because of their precision. The chorobate was used to keep the water channel's slope very slight. Reservoirs were created to feed the aqueducts, though standing water was avoided due to the health affects.

The stacked Roman arch made it possible to cross rivers and wide valleys. Careful design went into
the material, shape, and scale of these aqueducts for optimal construction.

Social Projects

The government of ancient Rome subsidized basic costs for the general population such as education and food. Perhaps the most important social projects were structures, however. The forum, the circus, the coliseum, baths, etc. were public venues that used architecture's unique role in social relations.

Vitruvius spoke of architecture in terms of social responsibility, terms that are rarely heard today. We may talk about environmental concerns and community, but social responsibility may be the one innovation we haven't truly gotten back.


Cathedral of Learning, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh's endurance through the decline of the steel industry in America is remarkable, however its lack of contemporary architecture in the city indicates that it is past its prime. The city is filled with wonderful historic pieces, but nothing new of note, that I have seen.

The city's most important historic piece is the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. It is the second-tallest university building in the world, at 535 ft, and by far the coolest. A rich Gothic style full of stained glass, wrought iron, and limestone cladding comes from an early nineteenth-century spirit of forward thinking and imagination. It was completed in 1931 after ten years of construction, and was designed by Charles Klauder. Klauder's work at universities across the east cemented Thomas Jefferson's vision of the university as an academic village, but with "collegiate Gothic" buildings. The Cathedral of Learning is still used by the entire campus as a central landmark, and battles the creeping blandness of today's typical college architecture.

The interior is just as rich as the outside. The 52 ft commons room uses accoustic tiles between the true Gothic arch vaulting to quiet the enormous space. The structure is visually honest, and artistic stonework, wrought ironwork at the gates, calligraphy, stained glass, and slate floors give it a legitimate quality. The building has 2,000 rooms and 2,500 windows, with interiors decorated with antiques from recent centuries.

Secret doors and passageways are to be found between rooms. The Greek Revival style Croghan-Schenley Ballroom is connected to the Oval Room via a hidden passage at the fireplace. A secret panal next to the blackboard in the Early American Room unlatches to reveal a staircase that leads leads to a 17th century-styled bedroom.

Not surprisingly, there are urban tales of ghosts in various rooms. Nothing really tragic has happened in the building and it never served as a residence, but perhaps the antique decorations imbue ghosts? Really, architecture is not be mythologically successful until it evokes stories of spirits.

The Cathedral has 29 rooms dedicated to various nationalities around the world. About $300,000 is typically spent on furnishing each room to celebrate the culture of nations that have influenced Pittsburgh's development, and they are decorated on the culture's significant holidays. Eight more rooms are being planned. In today's university environment that wants to ban cultural diversity instead of celebrate it, this harks back to a time when America sought an assimilation of world culture under a single edifice:

Indian Classroom:

Japanese Classroom:

African Classroom:

Welsh Classroom:

Hungarian Classroom:

French Classroom:

Greek Classroom:

Turkish Classroom:

Scottish Classroom:

Italian Classroom:

Czechoslovak Classroom:

Romanian Classroom:

Lithuanian Classroom:

Yugoslav Classroom:

Swedish Classroom:

Israeli Classroom:

English Classroom:

Ukranian Classroom:

Irish Classroom:

German Classroom:

Chinese Classroom:

Austrian Classroom:

Russian Classroom:

Norwegian Classroom:

Swiss Classroom:

Commons study area:

More exterior views: