Yankee Ingenuity

Six innovative American projects you should know about

Architecture National Urbanism
Six innovative American projects you should know about. (Courtesy © GSA / David Lena)
Six innovative American projects you should know about. (Courtesy © GSA / David Lena)

American inventors gave us airplanes, elevators, light bulbs, cellular phones, and countless other modern devices we take for granted. This July 4th, we’re celebrating that spirit of ingenuity with six architectural and urban projects that are pushing the envelope, whether that’s through cutting-edge technology or unprecedented design strategies.

SOM‘s design for the new United States District Courthouse utilizes 1,600 pieces of chevron-shaped, blast-proof glass to form the building’s exterior and minimize solar heat gain and glare. (Courtesy © GSA / David Lena)

SOM’s new L.A. courthouse needs almost no artificial lighting during the day

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) gave the new Los Angeles U.S. District Courthouse a simple yet powerful design: A cube of folded glass that seems to float above a recessed base. About 1,600 chevron-shaped units of high-performance, blast-resistant glass were craned into place, and nearly all of them have an inner baffle on the side that receives direct sunlight. That cuts solar gain by half, and a rooftop array of photovoltaic panels further reduces energy consumption. A soaring atrium with south-facing baffles channels light down to all 10 levels, including the 24 courtrooms on floors five through ten. “The whole building is about light,” said José Luis Palacios, design director at SOM with Paul Danna.

Detroit sewage storm water

These bioretention gardens, developed by Joan Nassauer, a landscape architect and University of Michigan professor, replace Detroit’s impermeable clay with permeable sand and gravel. They’re excavated from the basements of demolished houses. (Courtesy Dave Brenner)

Detroit engages with its community to solve its raw sewage and storm water problem

The City of Detroit is solving one of its major problems with the help of one of its other problems. Detroit is experiencing combined sewer overflow, a messy, and often downright dangerous event that happens every time it rains too much. But by leveraging the abundant city-owned vacant land to create bioretention gardensDetroit may have found a way to alleviate at least some of the overflow.

New-York Historical Society previews new Gallery of Tiffany Lamps. (Courtesy Corrado Serra)

Eva Jiřičná designs all-glass stair in New-York Historical Society’ new Gallery of Tiffany Lamps

Jiřičná’s firm, who has come to specialize in glass construction, designed these LED-lit stairs with absolutely minimal metal details. In most instances, the stair’s glass-to-glass metal connections are encased within the layers of laminated glass panes, making them totally flush and well-hidden. Furthermore, the stair’s glass hangs off the nearby wall and works in tension. A small amount of give was engineered into the steps for users’ comfort when walking upward.

(Courtesy U Chicago)

(Courtesy U Chicago)

Chicago debuts first of 500 sensors that aim to transform urban data collection

The City of Chicago is piloting a “Fitbit” for its city streets. In collaboration with researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Chicago, and a few corporations, the city last week installed two of 500 planned sensors for the Array of Things, a project to measure the city’s performance on an array of environmental metrics.

The first cross-laminated timber high-rise in the U.S. now has a building permit. (Courtesy of LEVER Architecture)

The first cross-laminated timber high-rise in the U.S. now has a building permit

It’s a first for the United States: the State of Oregon and City of Portland have granted a building permit for the first Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) high rise over 85 feet. The building is called Framework, an under development 12-story (148 feet tall), 90,000-square-foot mixed-use building in Portland, Oregon designed by LEVER Architecture that will make use of a wood core structure. Construction is expected to begin this fall, while the building is slated to open in the winter of 2018.

A large raised earth “Lily Pad” will help stop future floods at KPF’s Red Hook Houses. (Courtesy Kohn Pedersen Fox)

Large raised earth “Lily Pads” by KPF will help stop future floods at NYC’s Red Hook Houses

Collaborating with Philadelphia-based landscape architects OLIN, KPF worked out a master plan that will serve as part of a contingency plan in response to the devastation Red Hook faced after Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012. After conducting community research, including surveys, workshops, forums, KPF now aims to install 14 “utility pods” that would provide heat and electricity to each building as well as doubling-up as a gathering place for public programs.

Related Stories