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LEVERaging Timber

The Nature Conservancy turns to protected habitats and LEVER for its Portland headquarters
The Oregon Conservation Center (OCC) in Portland, Oregon has reopened a new 15,000 square foot nature-centered expansion and renovation courtesy of LEVER Architecture. A redevelopment project of The Nature’s Conservancy’s existing headquarters, the building better reflects the mission of the organization which acts to conserve nature for nature’s sake and to enrich human lives through conservation. The original, dull landscape and 1970’s-era building were not representative of the organization’s identity as a global nonprofit headquarters. The building’s exterior has been reenvisioned and entirely clad in a combination of materials vulnerable to weathering, such as a new steel rainscreen facade that will weather over time, Juniper siding, and Cedar decking both harvested from nonprofit’s conservation sites. With The Nature Conservancy’s commitment to sustainability, renovating the original, uninspired office building was important for the project. Targeting LEED Gold certification, the new rooftop photovoltaics produce 25 percent of its electrical supply and the use of efficient building systems and fixtures reduce electric consumption by a further 54 percent, and water consumption by 44 percent. In an effort to articulate The Nature Conservancy’s impactful work, LEVER's design reflects the ecology of the region with special attention to three of the organization’s protected habitats: the Rowena Plateau, the Cascade-Siskiyou region, and western hemlock and cedar forests. Managing partner of the project, Tom Cody, describes the project as an “ecological and innovative hub” with respect to reused and recycled materials, and landscape architecture firm Lando and Associates’ incorporation of Oregon’s indigenous plants. The new design values a connection to the region’s natural surroundings, offering visitors and staff a greater and more accessible bond to the outdoors. Central to the upgrade is a new, highly visible 2,000-square-foot building addition built with domestically-fabricated cross-laminated timber panels, the first of its kind built in the U.S. and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The addition contains a community room and roof garden terrace, ideal spaces to hold gatherings and public events. Additional programmatic elements include open-plan layouts, meeting rooms of various sizes, staff cafe and lounge, and dedicated storage space for equipment used in the field. “The Oregon Conservation Center truly embodies the mission of sustainability, stewardship, and inspiration that we serve at The Nature Conservancy,” said Jim Desmond, Oregon state director at The Nature Conservancy. “Against this inspiring new backdrop, we can now better convene with partners in a highly collaborative environment featuring elements of our important work around Oregon.”
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Bridging Communities

D.C.'s highly-anticipated bridge park by OMA and OLIN is coming in 2023
A High Line-like park for Washington, D.C. has been in the works since 2014 and was supposed to open later this year, but construction hasn’t even started. The 11th Street Bridge Park project, a 1.45-mile-long elevated landscape that aims to dramatically connect Anacostia to Capitol Hill, features a landscaped vision by OMA and OLIN that also comes with an amphitheater, public plaza, cafe, and hammock grove. Thanks to a recent $5 million donation by utility company Exelon, the ambitious public project is much closer to breaking ground and will now feature an 11,000-square-foot environmental education center.  DCist reported that local officials expect the latest news of fundraising to inspire others to support the plan. For the last few years, both Washington-based organizations, philanthropists, and large corporations such as JPMorgan have pledged millions of dollars, all of which will be dropped into what’s now being described as a $139 million capital community investment campaign—a number far higher than the $40 million initially projected five years ago. According to Scott Kratz, director of the 11th Street Bridge Park project, the money will go both toward the build-out of the revitalized bridge as well as a series of equitable development strategies. Kratz told DCist that this move is key in ensuring that the residents of Ward 6 in Capitol Hill proper, as well as 7 and 8 in Anacostia, get first access to construction jobs onsite and a say in the park’s overall development. Additionally, both the city and the Ward 8 nonprofit in charge of the proposal, Building Bridges Across the River at THE ARC, aim to keep the cost of living low surrounding the new park.  Another way the team is trying to elevate community life in the area is through the creation of the newly-announced Exelon Environmental Education Center, where kids can learn about science, engineering, river health, and flora and fauna. DCist reported that it will be run by the Anacostia Watershed Society and sit on the eastern end of the park. The site will be aptly surrounded by the 1,200-acre Anacostia Park, as well as a slew of highways separating it from residential and commercial properties nearby. So far, a design team for the new hub has not been chosen, but with Exelon’s gift, the entire project is nearly fully funded at a total of $111.5 million. Kratz said the 11th Street Bridge Park is slated to open in 2023. 
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Unit-by-Unit

New report shows that the modular construction business is booming
According to the recently released Commercial Construction Index (CCI), an economic indicator that tracks trends in the commercial construction industry, demand for modular construction is on the rise, and general contractors expect the trend to continue. Modular construction uses prefabricated and preassembled building components that are built in a factory and shipped to the job site for assembly. They meet the same standards and use the same materials as a traditional building but, advocates say, they offer a range of additional benefits.  As reported by The National Real Estate Investor, over the last five years, the modular construction business has doubled in size to become an $8 billion industry. What amounts for the new interest? Previous studies have shown that increased productivity and lower costs are driving contractors to embrace modular construction. Now, with materials costs continuing to rise around the world, these potential savings have become even more critical. But they're not the only issue. The CCI study found that more than 70 percent of surveyed contractors reported eight clear benefits of modular construction: increases in efficiency, productivity, safety, and quality; reductions in risk, cost, material waste, and construction times—an particularly important benefit for revenue-earning buildings whose owners want to start collecting rent as soon as possible. A few of those benefits go hand-in-hand with one another, but the report is promising for the industry. The nonprofit Modular Building Institute also predicts an increase in modular construction over the next few years. However, in their view, it's not just the above-mentioned benefits driving change, it's also the accelerating loss of skilled labor that will push the industry further toward industrialization and automation. The reports are a potential boon for the industry, which hit some bumps during what might be called its “start-up” phase a few years ago. Notably, 461 Dean Street in Brooklyn’s Pacific Park development hit setbacks that included manufacturing disruptions, disputes, and delays that ultimately lead to a four-year construction period and giving it, as AN wrote at the time, “the dubious honor of having one of the most languid construction timelines for a tower of its size in city history.” The plan for more modular buildings in Pacific Park was abandoned, but, after the project got back on track, the building now stands as a model of the potential and the pitfalls of modular construction.   The stories that have since followed have suffered from fewer hiccups, like the 21-story CitizenM New York. The tallest modular hotel in the United States, the CitizenM is composed of 210 modular units, each housing two hotel rooms. Housing, hotels, and hospitals, which depend on the repetition of identical rooms and spaces, are the areas that stand to benefit the most and, in turn, drive the growth of modular construction.   What could stall the rise of modular construction? Upfront costs can be large and securing loans can be difficult. And although the manufacturing technology is becoming more sound, the much-touted savings aren’t as significant as predicted yet. That could change as demand rises, as more factories are built to produce modular components, and as other factors, like the use of autonomous vehicles to reduce shipping costs and advancements in BIM make it easier to build stronger partnerships between architect, fabricator, and contractor. The last hurdle? A lack of awareness. More than 70 percent of general contractors say their reason for not using modular construction is that clients aren't asking for them and architects aren’t designing them.
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Art Re-Start

Art on demolished Brooklyn Heights Library facade has found a new home
The art on the facade of the Brooklyn Heights Library has found a new home. Back in 2017, the old library building, a squat structure from the early 1960s that exuded WPA vibes, was demolished to make way for a luxury condo tower designed by New York's Marvel Architects. While the building itself wasn't much to look at, the art on its facade was most certainly was: six bas-reliefs by Italian sculptor Clemente Spampinato that playfully depicted industry and businesses; crafts; sciencesknowledge; literature; and arts. A BPL spokesperson confirmed over email that, per the original announcement, two of the six 10-by-11-foot panels will adorn a meeting room in the new library, which is slated to open in fall 2020. The other four panels will be the spolia in a to-be-planted garden outside the Walt Whitman Library, which is about a mile's walk from the branch in Brooklyn Heights at 280 Cadman Plaza West (or One Clinton, per the condo's branding). The new 26,600-square-foot Brooklyn Heights library space will sit within the Marvel Architects-designed building. The old library's demolition is part of a $300 million capital repair campaign that the Brooklyn Public Library estimates will generate $40 million in revenue for major repairs at other branches. There's certainly plenty of value locked into the building: At press time, a 900-square-foot one-bedroom was listed at $1.2 million, while the cheapest three-bedroom, a 2,000-square-foot 2.5 bath unit, is going for $3.1 million.
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Pedal to the Metal

British interior design duo Fettle brings refined, yet rustic flair, to the U.S.
Combining decades of experience in the British architecture and interior decor industries, designers Andy Goodwin and Tom Parker joined forces in 2013 to form Fettle. The London and Los Angeles interior design firm primarily develops hospitality projects for a range of independent, start-up, and blue-chip clients on both sides of the Atlantic; in London, Rome, Los Angeles, Portland, and New York. Major clients have included Somerston Capital, Ennismore, Metropolitian Restaurants, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, La Brasseria, Yard Sale Pizza, The Oxford Blue, Andeva Gastronomy, Bel-Air, and Mike Robinson. Pulling from their respective expertise, Goodwin and Parker offer a full spectrum of services; everything from space planning and project feasibility studies to the design of bespoke furnishings and finishes. The duo's holistic approach ensures a seamless process from start to finish. While London-based Goodwin places emphasis on detailing, furniture and architectural ornamentation, his Los Angeles-based counterpart recognizes the importance of context; the value of using local materials and stylistic references to better situate an interior. AN Interior editor Adrian Madlener spoke to Parker about three recent U.S. projects and Fettle's particular methodology; one predicated on remitting honest, direct, functional, and site-specific results.  Read the full interview with Andy Goodwin and Tom Parker on our interiors and design site, aninteriormag.com.
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Diamonds are Forever

ODA's 10 Jay Street in DUMBO shines with a faceted facade
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Over the last two decades, Brooklyn's DUMBO neighborhood has undergone a significant degree of development, including the restoration of historic warehouses that dominated the neighborhood for centuries and plenty of new construction. ODA, which has a number of projects across the borough, recently completed the restoration and partial recladding of a decrepit 19th-century refinery and warehouse with a lively, iridescent glass curtainwall. The 130,000-square-foot development, which reaches a height of 10 stories, was originally built in 1898 as a sugar refinery for the Arbuckle Brothers and relied on a steel structural system with the brick elevations largely serving as curtainwall. Similar to other structures throughout the neighborhood, the building has undergone significant changes since construction; in 1925 it was converted to a winery, with the west elevation shorn off a decade later. The site was left vacant and in a state of continual decline from the middle of the 20th century until 1991.
  • Facade Manufacturer KPA Studio Hankuk Glass Industries
  • Architect ODA
  • Facade Installer KPA Studio
  • Facade Consultant SURFACE DESIGN GROUP
  • Location Brooklyn, New York
  • Date of Completion April 2019
  • System Custom KPA Studio unitized curtainwall
  • Products Hankuk Glass custom Low-E glass
The design from ODA draws from this history with a crystalline western elevation which shimmers and reflects the skyline of Lower Manhattan and the East River. According to ODA communications director Juan Roque Urrutia, "besides the construction challenges of dealing with an old structure, one of the main challenges was to actually convince the Landmarks Preservation Commission about the values of the original building and how a modern incorporation of a kaleidoscopic facade was not only respectful but also appeals to heritage stories." The glass modules are split between rectangular and triangular units, which rise perpendicular to the floor plate or inflect inward to effectively create concave bay windows. Minor segments of brick are interspersed throughout the western elevation and are located adjacent to the branch-like mullions. The average dimensions of the glass modules are approximately 11-by-5 feet, and each module was treated with a low-e coating to boost their reflectivity. Each panel spans from floor-to-floor and is held to the top of each floor slab with an aluminum anchor plate and hook. Grafting an entirely new skin onto a historic structure is a remarkably complex procedure, and ODA turned to facade consultant SURFACE DESIGN GROUP (SDG), who have established a particular expertise in facade retrofit and historic preservation. The retrofit uses a unitized glass and aluminum curtain wall system with angular facets and spandrel panels located at the slab edge. "As part of the north façade retrofit, the existing historic brick and terra cotta arched floors were extended with reinforced concrete to meet the new profile of the faceted facade," said the SDG team. "Given the complexity of both the curtain wall panel and edge of slab geometry, which is also faceted to mirror the form of the panels, standardizing the anchoring method aided in the efficiency of panel installation." Standing derelict for decades, the former sugar refinery also required an extensive degree of restorative work. First, stucco coating from the 1990s, and layers of old paint which hastened the decay of the brick masonry, had to be peeled away. The east elevation suffered the worst of the building's deterioration and required the complete reconstruction of the brick facade and the underlying steel structure. The remainder of the restorative work entailed brick replacement—nearly a third of them recycled, steel spandrel repairs, mortar repointing, and the application of a new weather resistant coating. The project is located in the DUMBO Historic District and required the input and approval of the Landmarks Preservation Commission throughout the design and construction process.
 
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A Calatravesty

Venice fines Santiago Calatrava for slippery, inaccessible bridge
Santiago Calatrava is being fined—again—for his work.  This time it’s $87,000 for his Ponte della Costituzione, or Constitution Bridge, in Venice, Italy. An Italian court recently ruled that the Spanish architect needs to pay the city for cost over-runs and “negligence” in faulty design. According to The Telegraph, the 300-foot-long steel and glass piece of infrastructure ended up being weaker than intended.  Completed in 2008, the project was controversial from the beginning. Protests and heated criticism over its placement rang out upon its announcement in 1999. The biggest issues included its lack of accessibility for wheelchair users, the conflict between its modernist design and the city’s historic scenery, and the fact that it’s located very close to one of the other three walking bridges that span the Grand Canal. Nevertheless, the structure was installed after years of delays for a total of $12.9 million and now leads locals and tourists over the water from a bus terminal (many of them with rolling luggage in tow) in Santa Croce to the Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia.  The Telegraph reports that one of the other unexpected problems that people have complained about over the years involves the glass steps. They noted how slippery the stairs get when it rains or the fog descends on Venice in the winter, but Calatrava's office recently told AN that the steps are "no more slippery than other parts of the city." In addition to this, due to the bridge’s location in a highly-trafficked area, the steps have become worn-down. Some of them have already been replaced, according to the ruling judges, even though they were expected to last 20 years.   Furthermore, the court determined that the steel tubes used on the bridge were too small and the egg-shaped glass elevator, which was later added for accessibility, overheated too much. A court found earlier this year it had to be removed for safety reasons, costing the city $44,000.  The Telegraph noted that when asked over a decade ago to respond to all the criticism, Calatrava noted that he had “no influence in the selection of the contracting company that built the structure.” His work, he said, was limited to the aesthetic. In a call with AN, the firm clarified that the stairlift was, in fact, incorporated into the initial design that was revealed in the late 90s, but it was rejected by the city council. They claimed wheelchair users could take the Vaporetto water taxi instead. Years later, a new mayor commissioned the glass elevator "against Calatrava's advice," the firm said.  This isn’t the first time the famed architect has gotten in trouble with a municipality over the complexity of his projects and the time it takes to build them. Despite that, bridges are one of his specialties having designed 35 total in his career. The first, located in Barcelona, was completed in 1987—which is why the fines against him due to the mistakes on the Constitution Bridge are so high, according to the court.  
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Close Clerkenwell Shave

Amin Taha wins fight to stop 15 Clerkenwell Close demolition
London architect Amin Taha has won his battle against planners to save his award-winning project, 15 Clerkenwell Close. Taha had previously been told his building faced a demolition order from the London borough of Islington. However, today, that decision has been overturned and the glorious, unfinished limestone that serves as a load-bearing facade will remain. For more than a year Taha has been embroiled in a disagreement over the building's appearance. In fact, the council had attempted to bring the building down twice before: In 2013, when the building was granted planning permission, a local argued that concrete was being used instead of brick, the facade material that was supposedly initially stipulated. A demolition notice that resulted from a site inspection from an enforcement officer and conservation officer amounted to nothing. The saga was far from over, though. 2017 saw another demolition notice, this time stating that the building must be rebuilt in brick. Taha disputed this, asking to see the notice report. Again, the notice was withdrawn. A year later, a third demolition notice was issued. "After an investigation, the council has come to the view that the building at 15 Clerkenwell Close does not reflect the building that was granted planning permission and conservation area consent in 2013," said the council. Taha, meanwhile, argued that the difference from what was sent to the planning department and was built was down to the fact that the limestone used was being taken from a quarry in France and left unfinished. Speaking to me last year, he likened it to complaining where knots in wood appear. The architect also said that the enforcement officer was relying on outdated and rejected plans for the design, as approved plans showing the stone facade had been redacted. Today it appears the architect has saved the seven-story building, where his studio's offices are also located. "It was taking so long and so much of our time it’s come somewhat close to a pyrrhic victory," said Taha in an email to The Architect's Newspaper today. "The battle is over and now we clear up the mess left behind." Planning inspector Peter Jarratt told the Architects' Journal in the U.K. that while he agreed there was a "difference" between the architects and planning authorities on what was submitted and approved, the building was in "general terms" not detrimental to the conservation area. "This is an unsatisfactory situation for both parties and it is not in the public interest if members of the public cannot establish what has been approved when examining planning records... Nevertheless, the principle of development is not in dispute and the building accords with the generality of what had previously been approved," he added. Despite all this, there is evidence of demolition, or at least that seems to be the case anyway. 15 Clerkenwell Close sits on the corner of the street, nestled into an enclave. Its rough, unfinished limestone facade, which still bears fossil marks in it, begs you to stroke it and feel the raw material. This is what stone is like before humans meddle with it and refine with technological precision, and in the author's experience, is wonderful to experience in this quiet forum in North London. As you approach it to do so, one will find a fallen Ionic pilaster—but fear not, it's only a joke, a tongue-in-cheek architectural moment that serves as a testament to how much this relatively simple building speaks. The planning department of Islington Borough Council may have lost, but this is a victory for everyone. An Islington Council spokesperson provided the following statement:
“We’re pleased that Mr. Taha has finally admitted that the building did not benefit from planning permission.  We are also pleased that the inspector has required 15 Clerkenwell Close to be modified to include more employment space, in line with Islington’s development plan.  The Inspector also concluded that the building should be modified to mitigate the harm caused to local heritage assets. “We’re of course disappointed that the inspector did not agree with the council’s view that the degree of harm the building caused to the Clerkenwell Green conservation area and the setting of nearby listed buildings warranted further modifications to the building.   “The council looks forward to the removal of the unauthorized and visually harmful solar chimney, changes to the roof garden, and alterations to the limestone columns and beams facing Clerkenwell Close, as set out in the Inspector’s conditions. “We’re also pleased that there will be a £420,000 payment towards badly-needed affordable housing, in line with Islington’s planning policies.” Additional notes: Par 1 of the Inspector’s Appeal Decision says: “… the appellant considered that no planning permission exists for the building as erected” Par 24 of the Inspector’s Appeal Decision says: “The appellant has been extremely critical of the failure of the Council officers to resolve apparent inconsistencies in the drawings at the appropriate time, which clearly should have been done. However, the appellant must also share a significant degree of responsibility for the errors made as it was his practice that submitted inconsistent plans in the first place.”
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No Thanks

Eavesdrop: Here are all the architects and designers in Jeffrey Epstein's black book

Just before financier and alleged pedophile Jeffrey Epstein died in a New York City jail, New York Magazine published the A-to-Z contents of Epstein's contacts book. Along with business tycoons, foreign royalty, and powerful politicians, there were a number of names from the worlds of art and design—including architects and interior designers.

Perhaps the most prominent of these is Alberto Pinto, the interior designer known for his lavish-beyond-lavish creations for the superrich. According to the magazine, Epstein's $56 million Upper East Side mansion featured silky leopard print armchairs and walls covered in custom-tooled gold-leafed leather. Interior designer and countess-by-marriage Muriel Brandolini—who's dreamed up luxe spaces for the prince and princess of Greece, among other high-profile clients—also made the list. Of course, association doesn't mean guilt by association—rich people hang out with other rich people, especially when working on a commission or reached out to and asked to take on a project.

Joining these A&D professionals in the book were luxury hotel genius Jean-Michel Gathy, Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta, Peter Marino, and guitar-shaped Hard Rock Hotel interiors honcho David Rockwell.

The last architect in Epstein's contacts executed one of the most puzzling buildings in the entire Miami–Caribbean–New York City triangle of Epstein's real estate portfolio. For the late financier's private 70-acre island, Little St. James Island, resort designer Edward Tuttle designed the centerpiece "main house" in 2003. However, no designer has yet been named for the most enigmatic structure on the island, a blue-striped, gold-roofed "temple" on a white plinth that is surrounded by a red geometric pattern baked into the white plaza.

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Remembrances from 2002-2015

Peter Lang on Cristiano Toraldo di Francia's 'incredible love'
Cristiano Toraldo di Francia sadly passed away on July 30. Cofounder, along with Adolfo Natalini, of the Florentine Radical design and architecture group Superstudio, Cristiano was the kind of person who was incredibly open-minded, shared a sharp sense of humor, and professed a deep love for humanity. While accolades spread across the internet following news of his passing, there was a lot to Cristiano that didn’t make it into these postings, tributes, and memorials. What might have been most lacking in all these accounts was the way he shrugged off fame and shunned formality. Yet he never wasted a moment, had infinite stamina, and to stick by him you needed to react fast and move quickly. Cristiano was a perceptive and ever-present photographer, and it is thanks to him that so many historical moments during their superlative adventure were captured for posterity. When I asked him about how he got into photography, he spoke about his father, Giuliano, who was a renowned physicist, recounting an odd story about how he was introduced to his first photo-camera. As Cristiano told me, in an interview at his house in Filottrano back in 2005, his father “…designed lenses for Ducati, at that time they made electronics—now they´re making motorcycles. They made cameras, radios. And they made a micro-camera, which anticipated the cameras of today, instead of the normal 35 mm film --24x36mm, they were using 24x18mm film, so it was fantastic. Italy was poor at the time, everything had to be reduced! Cristiano couldn’t help make a quip about the States, and while proudly acknowledging that Italian technology was inventing incredible things that were “almost too advanced for their time,” in America “everything was big—big cameras, big cars. But that camera was a jewel... Just to say that since I was a child I was initiated to the mysteries of photography—the images coming out of the acids, of the paper.” Probing further, I asked Cristiano what his relationship was to the burgeoning Florentine fashion industry in the early sixties when he was a professional photographer. “I was making family portraits at the time to raise money. In Florence, there is a big tradition around the Alinari family that besides all the city portraits,” now in the Alinari Archive in Florence, “they shot a lot of family portraits, but these were like paintings, all retouched, like Photoshop. “They were perfect photographers- so this tradition was present. I was trying to do a very different kind of photography. I looked more to the American model. A journalistic kind of picture, Diane Arbus... Not so much Man Ray or the historical ones.I became quite successful at the time. All these noble mothers came to make photos in my studio. After a while, I was asked to do fashion photography, but after a while, Superstudio started and I quit. But of course, I had all the contacts and all the people- I was friends with Oliviero Toscani for example,” who would go on to make the controversial photographic campaigns for Bennetton. With his usual irony, Cristiano pointed out that he also worked as a fashion model, for the kind of magazines that were constantly referencing architecture. It’s hard not to talk about the origins of the Italian Radical movement without getting into influences, of which there were many: “We started…” as Cristiano clarified in that same interview, “…on parallel levels, looking at Archigram, but even more we looked back at Dada and then to Pop-art that was bringing the Dada methods up to date. Fluxus—breaking boundaries and being completely interdisciplinary, fluctuating from one activity to the other. But on the other hand, Archigram had this political information as background—for which we could say maybe we were more idealistic than them. They were more pragmatic, more Anglo-Saxon.” Dan Graham connected his generation to Rock and Roll, and given the times, it is clear that music played a considerable role for Cristiano. When I spoke to Cristiano about music when we met in December of 2002, he had this to say: “When I talk about the importance of music, we don’t deny having discovered a person like Bob Dylan, or the Beatles, it was a time when popular music reached great artistic levels, Laurie Anderson, the whole group of Fluxus, back then there was a system of self-propulsion, in every field…” What is critical in understanding Superstudio is precisely this level of mixing passions that the art and architecture curator Lara Vinca Masini referred to as “contaminations.” Cristiano stabbed at this point by bringing in Aldo Rossi: “Yes the work of Rossi and others was interesting, but it was always inside a discipline with few confrontations with the world that went much faster than their own reasoning.” Getting back to the Florentine music scene, Cristiano credited his father with exposing him to experimental music when he was beginning university. In a conversation I had with him in 2005, Cristiano remarked: “My father was a scientist, and as a scientist he was traveling a lot and, in a way, disillusioned and relativistic. He was asked in 1963 to become president of the young contemporary music association. One of those members was Sylvano Bussotti,” a Florentine native, musical polyglot and noted dandy. “One was Giuseppe Chiari,” the atonal musician, close to John Cage and a member of Fluxus, “and the other was Pietro Grossi,” a Venetian electronic musician and composer living in Florence. “I remember they were making concerts of electronic music, and one concert was in the Conservatorio di Musica Cherubini which is a traditional music conservatory. And after 10 minutes of this music people went crazy.” Evidently, for this generation of young architects living in Florence in the sixties, these were incredibly stimulating years. Superstudio detoured around the traditional tools of the architect, experimenting with alternative forms of expression and representation. When Emilio Ambasz showed up in Florence around 1971, scouting for ideas for the upcoming exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape for MoMA, the young curator was seeking out experimental “environments.” These would be full-scale prototypes for living, accompanied by films serving as animated captions. Yet I wanted to know just how Superstudio produced this project, what kind of technology was used to build this elaborate environment and how did they create their 12-minute film Supersurface. The main backer for the environment was the manufacturer Print but they also had to procure other funders, due to the elevated expenses. According to Cristiano, they found the supplies they needed in Florence, the special reflective glass and the electronic components key to simulate alternating moods of day and night inside the environment. It took 15 days to manually assemble it before the show opened in New York on May 26th, 1972. The movie was instead made during the winter of 1971- 72 and it was filmed in 36 mm. “I worked on that with Sandro Poli,” the Superstudio member officially present between 1970 and 1972, “we found the music, made the soundtrack, with the professional help of a guy who made advertising for TV (Marchi Producers), who had that mentality, and in fact, we wanted it to be projected as if it would be an advertisement for the Supersurface. The first part presents in a scientific way how the thing is done, and the second one tells how happy you will be living there.” In fact, both making the environment and directing the animated film were very labor-intensive hands-on processes. I asked Cristiano what role the Italian manufacturers had in producing Superstudio’s concepts. Cristiano’s response was that these factories were mostly made up of artisans. “That is why we managed to make a series of objects from very different things and from really different materials. Most of these objects are coming out of a kind of bricolage. The factory made almost nothing—we had to find artisans who did the different parts. The industry would just put the parts together. We were doing a kind of bricolage Cheap-scape—as Frank Gehry would say—for the industries.” The Italian design industry seemed to work as an artisanal chain assembly. But what was still not clear, was why did these manufacturers get behind a group like Superstudio to make things that worked against the idea of mass consumption? Why would they sponsor designs that were against their best interests? “We thought these objects we were making were a kind of trojan horses that coming from inside the system would produce criticism, which means creativity, which means refusal, or incredible love. They were objects of poetic reaction for the people. They were not mass-produced, they were in little series, multiples, like works of art.” To this day I still think about Cristiano’s trojan horses, and his incredible love.
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Fly Away to China

Digitally tour Zaha Hadid Architect's 7.5-million-square-foot airport near Beijing
Zaha Hadid Architect’s sprawling Beijing Daxing International Airport (PKX) in Daxing is nearly complete. Design lovers can get a preliminary peek inside of China’s largest, otherworldly terminal, and ZHA's first airport project, thanks to news organization CGTN, which produced a 360-degree walkthrough of the shiny new space. Slated to open in late September, the 7.5-million-square-foot structure is expected to take on upwards of 45 million passengers a year. Within six years, it’s projected that the facility will handle 72 million people. Aiming to accommodate up to 630,000 flights per year across four runways, PKX hopes to relieve traffic from the Beijing Capital International Airport, a 2008 structure on the opposite end of the city, designed by Foster + Partners. According to CGTN, a phased plan will transfer several flight operations from the existing airport to PKX at the southern tip of Daxing. Based on initial visuals, visitors can get a sense of how the throngs of passengers might flow through the airport’s unique layout. ZHA created a single structure with a six-pier radial design—as they call it—that features a core transfer and check-in space infused with natural light thanks to large windows and several skylights. The late Hadid’s signature slick and sweeping white ceilings, as well as curvaceous walls, are evident in CGTN’s insider photography. From above, the architecture appears web-like, and narrow skylights extend from the central public area out to the edge of the terminal legs.  AN will report further details on the design of PKX upon its opening on September 30th.
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Carbon-up Fibers

Researchers and robots team up to build innovative pavilion in a German garden
Installed on the grounds of the 2019 Bundesgartenschau (BUGA) biennial horticulture show in Heilbronn, Germany, the BUGA Fibre Pavilion is a the product of years of research in biomimicry at the University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Computational Design and Construction (ICD) and the Institute for Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE). Biomimetic design aims to produce structures, materials, and effects after principles and processes found in nature. In other words, the BUGA Pavilion is a not-so-primitive hut inspired by fauna rather than flora. Specifically, the pavilion’s 60 woven structural components are inspired by fibrous biological composites like cellulose and chitin, which form insect wings and exoskeletons. Evolved over millions of years, these naturally occurring organic fibers are incredibly efficient and incredibly strong. Adapting this principle to architecture, the Stuttgart team created the 4,300-square-foot BUGA Fibre Pavilion using half-a-million-square-feet of a human-made synthetic equivalent—glass- and carbon-fibers weaved together by a robot working between two rotating scaffolds. The resulting hollow warped cylindrical elements, which each took four-to-six hours to produce, resemble a toy finger trap. Workers connected them together on-site to form a dome shape spanning more than 75 feet. An appropriately advanced skin, translucent ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), covers the fibrous synthetic muscle system. The design process required intense computationally-powered iteration. Although complex, the manufacturing process is wondrously efficient, producing zero waste and obviating the need for any formwork. It’s also quite strong. Five times lighter than a comparable steel structure, each component can withstand 250 kilonewtons of compression force—or, as the design team notes, “the weight of more than 15 cars.” The fabrication method recalls the futuristic 3D printer featured in the opening sequence of the HBO sci-fi series West World. The comparison is apt because the pavilion truly feels like something from the future. Indeed, as the researchers note, “Only a few years ago, this pavilion would have been impossible to design or build.” Thanks to the dramatic advancements in material science and our powers of scientific observation, the Stuttgart team was able to unite human innovation with natural principles to create something beautiful that perhaps transcends both science and art.