Search results for " Moshe Safdie"

Placeholder Alt Text

Brutalist Bulldozing

Paul Rudolph’s Shoreline Apartments are finally coming down in Buffalo
Paul Rudolph’s Brutalist Shoreline Apartments are finally under demolition in downtown Buffalo, New York after a three-year delay. A 2018 lawsuit filed in part by a resident had previously halted developer-owner Norstar Development from moving forward with razing the 9.5-acre site to make way for new affordable housing.  Built in 1974, the 142-unit complex rose at a time when Rudolph was experimenting with various Brutalist-style designs for the Western New York city, including the still-standing Niagara Falls Public Library. For Shoreline, the New York State Urban Development Corporation (UDC) brought him in to create a large-scale urban renewal project with a school, community center, and ample green space scattered throughout the site. Rudolph’s ambitious plan—which was never fully realized because the UDC ran out of money—was on view in a 1970 exhibition called Works in Progress at the Museum of Modern Art.  After just a few decades of use, the low-rise, ribbed concrete buildings, with their shed-style roofs and projecting balconies (reminiscent of Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67), fell into disrepair as vacancies rose. The surrounding landscape, including the individual enclosed garden courts, were forgotten as people flocked further into Buffalo’s suburbs and away from high-density neighborhoods like Shoreline. Locals have been calling for the buildings’ demolition since the early 2000s, and the city worked up a deal with Norstar to configure an 18-building scheme in its place.  One round of demolitions occurred in 2015 after preservation groups failed to get the complex landmarked. A CityLab article from that same year profiled the remaining Shoreline resident, John Schmidt, who filed the lawsuit to stop Norstar’s plan. He noted that he loved living there, but he recognized how badly the building needed attention. Due to eventual poor management, he said, and a general distaste for Brutalist architecture at the start of the millennia, the legacy of Shoreline waned like many similar low-income housing projects from that era.  Schmidt was evicted in January of 2018. Norstar has already completed construction on 48 new units on-site—replacing the first section of buildings that were demolished—but says it will take up to two years to build the entire complex.
Placeholder Alt Text

Raffling with China

Safdie Architects completes first phase of enormous mixed-use complex with horizontal skyscraper
The first phase of Raffles City Chongqing, a 22.7-acre skyscraper development in the burgeoning city of Chongqing in southwestern China, has been recently completed. Designed by Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, Raffles City is sited on the waterfront of the Yuzhong District made up of eight vertical skyscrapers and one “horizontal skyscraper,” comprising a total of 11 million square feet of occupiable space. Raffles City is the fourth project Safdie Architects has designed in collaboration with Capitaland, one of the largest real estate developers based in Asia, and is by far the largest project the firm has ever built. The first phase of the development’s completion was signaled by the opening of a five-story mall within a retail podium, 95 percent of which has already been leased. According to Capitaland, the mall alone is expected to accommodate 400,000 daily visitors across its 2.5 million square feet of retail space. When complete, five of the Raffles City towers will be primarily residential with approximately 1,400 luxury apartments (one of which, at 1,150 feet tall, will become the tallest residential tower in China when complete), while the others will accommodate a total of 1.6 million square feet of office space, 380 hotel rooms and several other programs. Perched above four of the towers is a 980-foot-long "horizontal skyscraper," named The Crystal, which will contain gardens, dining spaces, a clubhouse and an infinity pool set within its cylindrical expanse. This distinct feature recalls the Skypark, a three-acre recreational space resting atop the three skyscrapers constituting the Marina Bay Sands Hotel the firm completed in Singapore in 2010. From a distance, the curved facades of Raffles City are designed to recall the prow-like arcs of “a fleet of ancient Chinese ships,” according to the architects. Safdie Architects began designing Raffles City eight years ago and, with international company Arup Group as the structural engineers and LEED consultants, the building is working towards LEED Gold Level certification. Following the landmark opening of Raffles City’s first phase, the remaining majority of the megadevelopment is anticipated to open by the middle of 2020.
Placeholder Alt Text

Design Drama

Singapore and Moshe Safdie accused of plagiarizing Jewel Changi Airport
The CEO of Qatar Airways accused the country of Singapore and Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie of plagiarizing the design of the recently-opened Jewel Changi Airport, likening it to a planned-airport expansion project in Doha.  At a recent press briefing, Akbar Al Baker, the head of the international airline, alleged that “somebody” had copied Qatar’s scheme for enhancements at the Hamad International Airport (DOH) located south of Doha. He didn’t name Singapore or Safdie in his announcement but, the criticism was clear: Work done ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup will include the build-out of a large waterfall and interior garden like those found at the wildly-popular new shopping palace in Changi.  Completed in April, the $1.25 billion entertainment and retail complex boasts the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, spanning seven stories across the 1.4-million-square-feet structure. Safdie Architects designed the eye-catching space as a landside, nature-themed amenity hub for the airport. Thousands of plants and 2,000 trees populate the interior. Singapore’s English-language daily newspaper, The Straits Times, reported that Safdie’s concept was initially created exclusively for Changi Airport Group, the airport’s operator and manager, back in 2013 and therefore couldn’t be a copy of the 2019 Doha project. Safdie issued the following statement to the paper: 
“We have been pursuing the concept of gardens as a focal point for the public realm for many decades. We have also explored the concept of harvesting the rain into internal rainfalls at Ben Gurion Airport (Israel) and Marina Bay Sands. The success of these explorations have further inspired and led us to create a new icon in the Jewel that we see today—a new kind of urban place that celebrates the elements of nature and urban life. We are delighted that Jewel’s uniqueness and originality has been well-recognized by the international community and resulted in many wanting to emulate it.” 
This isn’t the first time a piece of airport infrastructure has been the center of plagiarism accusations. Hamad International Airport itself, which opened to the public in 2014, was first criticized for looking too much like the Ben Guiron Airport in Israel. Located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the airport’s Terminal 3 expansion (its international gate) was designed and completed in 2004 by Safdie and Skidmore, Owings & Merill. Last year, Thai architecture practice DBALP Consortium was accused of copying a Kengo Kuma project in its winning competition design for a new terminal in Bangkok. 
Placeholder Alt Text

LOHA in SoLA

Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects designs porous supportive housing in South Los Angeles
Though over 1,700 parcels owned by the city of Los Angeles were designated for affordable housing development in 2018, the vast majority of them remain empty to this day and without any plans in the foreseeable future. This may be due to the fact that many of these sites are “leftover spaces”—irregular geometries tucked in the margins of already-developed neighborhoods. Local firm Lorcan O’Herlihy (LOHA) is one of the first, however, to boldly make use of one of these compromising sites with their newest project, Isla De Los Angeles Supportive Housing and Annenberg Paseo, a 54-unit housing project on a triangular lot near a freeway interchange in South Los Angeles. Renderings of the project recall both the staggered apartments of Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67 and the spatial porosity of Steven Holl’s Simmons Hall dormitory at MIT. Rather than appear as a single, monolithic building on its narrow parcel, the project is broken down into housing units placed within modular boxes then arranged into informal towers. The units would be assembled by welding together three 20-foot-by-8-foot shipping containers, each of which would provide roughly 480 square feet of living space in an open plan featuring a kitchen, bathroom, and a living room that doubles as a bedroom. The units can be assembled offsite by half of the construction team while the other half prepares the grounds on-site, cutting the construction time from four years to two. They will be arranged along the perimeter of the site to make room for several green spaces in its center, which LOHA anticipates will serve as a “green lung,” helping to filter air pollution from the nearby freeway. “Our aim,” stated LOHA in a press release, “was to create something that was compartmental but solid, strong enough to withstand the demands of the project’s location but porous enough to engage the residents on a human scale with outdoor activities and places to work and socialize.” Following MLK1101 in 2017, Isla De Los Angeles Supportive Housing and Annenberg Paseo is the second project LOHA has designed in collaboration with nonprofit developer Clifford Beers Housing in South Los Angeles.
Placeholder Alt Text

A Case for Cable

Gondolas over Jerusalem spark international controversy
The Holy City of Jerusalem is known for its hilly geography and the narrow, winding roads that delineate distinct Jewish, Arab and Christian neighborhoods. The city fabric nonetheless requires both visitors and residents to cross borders, whether to see various holy sites or to get to the market.  Ronnie Ellenblum, a sociology professor at Hebrew University, describes this Old City layout as requiring “that you pass through all sorts of places before you reach your destination, mingling, feeling lost, ultimately finding yourself.” However, this feeling of self-discovery in the Old City is set to be altered; Israeli authorities have approved plans for a cable car system that would fly visitors high above the city skyline, with lines corresponding specifically to Jewish heritage pilgrimage routes.  While Moshe Safdie, the renowned Israeli-born architect, calls the project “A total outrage against a fragile city,” as well as “An aesthetic and architectural affront,” the criticisms go far deeper than just the unimaginatively modern glass-and-steel aesthetics. The locations for stations, and the sites and neighborhoods set to be serviced, boil down to be controversial choices from all angles within the context of the Holy City.  Right-wing Israeli leaders have hailed the concept as a sustainable solution to the problems of vehicular traffic in the city, congested by ever-increasing numbers of pilgrims and tourists. However, the current cable car plan curates a certain "City of David" program over the city, as large-scale urban planning and transportation has the power to fundamentally change how cities are traversed and dictate what people see, how they see it, and how it's remembered.  The plan includes a standard station architecture of raised glass boxes that would rest on pylons at high points and hills, beginning in a Jewish neighborhood, swooping downwards towards Mount Zion, and finally landing at the Western Wall.  The new transit system would fundamentally alter the visual experience of the ancient city, juxtaposing the low yellowed-brick walls with the ubiquitous international glass box aesthetic, rising high above them and crisscrossing the streetscape. The architect of the station, Mendy Rosenfeld, believes it’s a matter of taste and execution, but also admits that “there is no way you can hide a cable car system.” Rosenfeld and supporters of the design cite I.M. Pei’s famous pyramid at the Louvre, and specifically the backlash the design received in advance of its international recognition. Yet Paris is not the crossroads of three major religions.  While Israeli governments have historically been hypersensitive to aesthetic changes to the city, the current body is taking a more progressive stance towards the built environment. With approvals for 40-story skyscrapers as well as a new office park, it seems like city officials are interested in keeping up with other rapidly growing commercial cities. But the choices in taste and architectural style continue to dominate not just architecture conversations, but international politics. Whether it’s traditional Jewish West Jerusalem cladding or shiny glass-and-steel pavilions, the choices in how the world sees and experiences the built environment today have implications far beyond form and function. 
Placeholder Alt Text

Back in Motion

For its 250th anniversary, San Diego gets an update
This is the third article of AN‘s July/August 2019 print edition feature focused on development. The first, “A new breed of skyscraper threatens to devastate the fabric of New York,” can be read here. The second, "Why the developer’s vision matters in the experience economy," can be read here. As it celebrates the 250th anniversary of its founding this year, San Diego is rethinking past projects, planning billions of dollars’ worth of new projects, and coping with a housing shortage that is making it one of the nation’s least affordable markets. The most significant project on the boards is the redevelopment planned for Horton Plaza shopping center, a 1985 postmodernist downtown mall designed by Jon Jerde. But there are many other megaprojects under construction or in the offing throughout this county of 3.3 million residents. Laura Warner, an architect who moved from the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1980s, watches all this action from her perch as cochair of the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s Orchids & Onions program. This 43-year-old education effort celebrates the good and shames the bad in local building, landscape, planning, and historic preservation projects. “We’ve got some really well crafted, well designed, and well detailed buildings that are places that people like to go to, where they want to create memories,” Warner said. San Diego’s architectural zeitgeist goes back to its founding in 1769 by Spanish colonizers intent on protecting the area from European rivals and the local Kumeyaay population. The colonists introduced new building techniques, laid out towns as required by Spain’s “Laws of the Indies,” and built adobe and stucco ranch houses that remain the local go-to style, especially for residential development. The city’s iconic buildings and structures include the Mission San Diego de Alcalá, Reid & Reid’s 1888 Hotel del Coronado, the 1915 Panama-California Exposition grounds in Balboa Park, the 1920s Navy and Marine Corps bases, the 1938 County Administration Center on the downtown waterfront, Louis Kahn’s 1964 Salk Institute, and William Pereira’s 1970 Geisel Library at the University of California, San Diego, campus. Post–World War II car culture led to sprawl, center-city blight, and urban ills shared with other American cities. Some midcentury mistakes are being reversed, but challenges remain: homelessness, high-priced housing (the median home price in May was $591,000), large wage gaps between tourism service workers and high-tech engineers, and relations with Tijuana across the Mexican border. Ten major projects in the works promise to add to San Diego’s collection of notable buildings, but it remains to be seen if any of them rise to world-class, must-see status in the decades ahead. The Campus at Horton Stockdale Capital Partners of Los Angeles bought the Horton Plaza shopping center in 2018 for $175 million with plans to turn it into a high-tech office complex with only half the 600,000 square feet of retail originally required in the center. The Jerde Partnership’s original postmodern design was copied worldwide, and the new owners are seeking ways to retain some of its quirky features. L.A.-area firms RCH Studios and EYRC Architects are the design architects, and RDC is the executive architect for the redesign. The developers hope to complete the first phase by the end of 2020. Chula Vista Bayfront A 535-acre World War II-era industrial zone is being transformed into a complex comprising hotels, housing, retail, parks, and a conference center in this South Bay city’s portion of the San Diego port tidelands. Houston-based RIDA Development plans a $1.1 billion hotel and conference center on 36 acres. RIDA’s architect is HKS of Dallas. Courthouse Redevelopment Another repurposing project involves the 1960s downtown county courthouse. On the first of three blocks owned by the county government would be a $400 million, 37-story mixed-use building developed by Vancouver, Washington–based Holland Partner Group and designed by local firm Carrier Johnson + Culture. Manchester Pacific Gateway The Navy Broadway Complex, which dates back to the 1920s, has been leased to local developer Doug Manchester, who agreed to build the Navy a new West Coast headquarters. He, in turn, won rights to build hotels, offices, a retail galleria, and a museum on the balance of the complex’s 13.7 acres. Gensler is the architect, and construction of the tower is well underway in the $1.3 billion, 3 million-square-foot complex. NAVWAR The Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR, formerly the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command or SPAWAR) occupies former Air Force hangars dating to World War II located between Old Town San Diego and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot north of downtown. The Navy, seeking a modern research and development home, would like to repeat its deal on the Naval Broadway Complex by signing up a developer who would deliver such a building in exchange for the right to develop the rest of the site privately. The 71-acre location is also being eyed by regional planners as a “Grand Central” multimodal transportation center. The Navy expects to issue a request for proposals. In the meantime, the local National Association of Industrial and Office Parks chapter sponsored a “university challenge” for a portion of the site. The winning $1.6 billion, 4.1 million-square-foot “Delta District” plan from students at the University of San Diego includes offices, housing, and retail, plus an “innovation center” where education and R&D would meet. De Bartolo + Rimanic Design Studio of San Diego aided the UCSD students. One Paseo Suburban development continues in San Diego County, and one of the most controversial suburban projects, One Paseo, opened earlier this year east of Del Mar on the North County coast. Opponents, led by a rival shopping center company, objected to the density and launched an initiative to kill the project, and the developer, Kilroy Realty, downsized the plans. The retail portion, by the Hollywood architecture firm 5+design, opened earlier this year, and the first apartments are due this summer. San Diego Convention Center Expansion The center, built in 1989 and last expanded in 2001, will appear on the March 2020 city ballot in the form of a hotel tax increase that will fund an $800 million expansion, plus homeless and transportation improvements if it can gain the required two-thirds approval. The main new feature would be a rooftop public park. The project designer is Fentress Architects of Denver. SDSU Mission Valley San Diego State University won voter approval in 2018 over local developers’ rival “SoccerCity” to redevelop the 166-acre site of the former Chargers NFL football stadium site in Mission Valley, north of downtown. When the Chargers returned to Los Angeles, the future of the 70,000-seat, 52-year-old stadium was up for grabs. SDSU plans to replace what is now called SDCCU Stadium with a smaller facility for its Aztecs football team. Developers would be selected to build 4,600 housing units and 1 million square feet of office and retail space that ultimately could be repurposed for academic use to complement the university’s 250-acre campus a few miles to the east. Carrier Johnson + Culture prepared a conceptual master plan, and Gensler is the architect for the new $250 million stadium, which is targeted to open for the 2022 football season. Seaport Village The downtown Embarcadero postindustrial transformation began with the construction of the Robert Mosher–designed San Diego–Coronado Bridge in 1969. The obsolete ferry landing was redeveloped as the Seaport Village specialty retail center in 1980. Now it’s time to turn the 39-acres of one-story buildings into something denser and more sophisticated. The current $1.6 billion plan calls for the usual mix of hotel and commercial uses plus an aquarium, ocean-oriented learning center, a 500-foot skytower ride designed by BIG, and water-centric recreational and commercial fishing features. The project architect is San Diego–based AVRP Skyport. UC San Diego The UC San Diego campus, whose first class of fewer than 200 students took up residence in 1964, is nearing an enrollment of 40,000 and is planning to add three more undergraduate residential colleges to the six already in place. The 2,100-acre campus, spanning Interstate 5 in San Diego’s La Jolla neighborhood plus a community hospital near downtown, has about $10 billion dollars in projects planned over the next 10 years. That doesn’t count the $2.1 billion extension of the San Diego Trolley light-rail system which is due to reach the campus in 2021. The campus trolley stop will lead to a new campus gateway entrance, where several major buildings and an outdoor amphitheater are in the works. An off-campus downtown hub on the trolley line is already under construction. Numerous architectural firms, both local and national, have been engaged to build out the campus, including HKS and San Diego–based Safdie Rabines Architects for Sixth College, now under construction; Seattle-based LMN Partners for the Triton Pavilion, a six-building complex at the new trolley stop; and the downtown hub by Carrier Johnson + Culture. Roger Showley is a freelance writer who recently retired from The San Diego Union-Tribune.  
Placeholder Alt Text

Color Blind

Playwright Oren Safdie takes on racial tensions of national architecture
There is no shortage of drama in architecture. In a constellation of anticipation and suspense, developing design projects—particularly large works planned for the public realm—are keenly followed and critiqued, both eruditely by architecture's opining class of professional critics and casually by the hoi polloi. Buildings then emerge unashamedly in full public view, like weary exhibitionists whose once dare-devilish exploits have long since become a dull routine. And occasionally, even the destruction of architecture signals a kind of performance. While the recent tragedy at Notre Dame was not quite what Hugo had in mind, that conflagration's rapid dissemination through print and digital media underscores the 19th-century novelist's insistence on architecture as an endangered—yet formidable—protagonist. This histrionic capacity of architecture unsurprisingly extends to—or perhaps emanates from—the academy. In a fashion of education quite unlike most others, students of architecture are constantly engaged in a highly choreographed presentation of their work, resulting in a highly public (and sometimes traumatizing) cycle of humiliation and praise. The dramatics that unfold in the architectural academy are well known to playwright Oren Safdie, who, before embarking on a writing career that has spanned nearly three decades, earned a master’s degree at Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. And while pursuing these studies may have initially been an endeavor to maintain ties with the family business (the playwright's father is Moshe Safdie), Oren's experiences in architecture school clearly impacted his writing. Indeed, one of Safdie's earliest plays, Private Jokes, Public Places, detailed a young architecture student's final presentation which, thanks to the presence of some big and obnoxious egos on the jury, spiraled horrendously out of control (staging the play has become a kind of annual tradition at architecture schools around the world). Some years later, in The Bilbao Effect, Safdie's satirical pen revisited architecture, this time with a decidedly more macabre stroke. In Bilbao, we see the fallout that occurs when the play's starchitect-protagonist, Erhardt Shlaminger, is blamed by a Staten Island resident for the death of his wife, who—unable to reconcile herself with the formal qualities of a new Schlaminger tower in her bailiwick—is driven to suicide. Safdie's latest project, Color Blind, returns once again to architecture and its potential for drama and (perhaps unwanted) spectacle, but this time in the context of race. The play, which was debuted in a read-through at the University at Buffalo, is a fictionalized account of the jury deliberations surrounding the selection of an architect for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C., Designed by David Adjaye, the NMAAHC was completed in 2016. Color Blind, on the other hand, is very much a work in progress. Nevertheless, the early drafts are further evidence of Safdie's acute awareness of the tensions and contradictions that underlie architectural culture and production, and the ability of these to yield highly theatrical—and sometimes excruciatingly uncomfortable—moments. The play invites its audience into the usually sealed-off space where critical decisions about architecture are made. There, we are introduced to six fictional jurors who will decide the shape of the first institution dedicated to African-American history on Washington's National Mall. This motley crew is composed of a diverse set of players whose exchanges hover between guarded diplomacy, heartfelt confessions, and downright acrimony. The imagined jury includes the future museum director and his assistant, both of whom are black. The former is the staid elder statesman, the latter, a fiery and plainspoken woman who speaks her mind. Also present is the museum's Korean-American treasurer, who is meek and wise. Rounding out the committee is a highly neurotic community organizer (Jewish), as well as a pedantic architecture critic, and a folksy but established starchitect (both of whom are white). The racial and ethnic backgrounds of the characters are worth noting because they foreground the competing experiences and prejudices that contextualize each juror's vision for the museum. In this sense, Color Blind is aligned with Private Jokes, Public Spaces, and The Bilbao Effect; all three recognize architecture as not just a silent protagonist, but as a dramatic vehicle for exposing broader contradictions and conflicts embedded in architecture—some, occasionally, not too deep below the surface. Color Blind relies heavily on popular stereotypes about race and ethnicity—and the conflicts these imply—to drive its plot forward. As such, scattered throughout the jury's deliberations over the six finalist museum proposals are somewhat formulaic monologues: an emotional harangue on the experience of being a single mother on welfare (black assistant to the director); a frenzied, confessional tirade riddled with liberal guilt (Jewish community organizer); and a demure complaint—in broken English—about the perils of over-achievement (Korean-American treasurer). These cliches render Color Blind's dramatic trajectory for the most part predictable, and Safdie's later drafts would certainly be helped by the addition of nuance and moments of surprise. Still, the play's overall agenda deserves our attention. In a profession that maintains a track record on inclusivity that is shameful—about 2 percent of registered architects in the U.S. are black—and in a nation where xenophobic and racist hostility in both discourse and action appear at alarming levels, the play's vision is both timely and telling. With Color Blind, Safdie's desire to lift the veil that renders the process of architectural production bewildering to outsiders, and his portrait of the conflicts that lie just beneath the veil's surface could, in the end, do more than give credence to the dramatic possibilities latent in architecture. When finished, the new play has the potential to instigate a critical dialogue about uncomfortable issues that extend far beyond architecture but are undeniably relevant to the field. Mustafa Faruki was the 2018-2019 Peter Reyner Banham Fellow at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning. He is the founder of theLab-lab for architecture. Color Blind was presented by undergraduate students at the school in a live reading. The event was followed by an informal discussion with Safdie and was held in connection with The Whiteness of American Architecture, a day-long symposium examining the racial discourses underlying "American Architecture" movements from independence up to the first decades of the 20th century. Color Blind has been selected as a finalist in the Kernodle Playwriting Competition at the University of Arkansas and will be presented again in a staged reading by the Architecture Foundation in London this fall.
Placeholder Alt Text

Literal Jewel-Box

Safdie Architects completes world's largest indoor waterfall
After six years, the first phase of Safdie Architects’ monumental Jewel Changi Airport in Singapore will open to the public on April 17. That not only includes an indoor “rain forest” with walking trails, but also the world’s largest indoor waterfall. The 1.4-million-square-foot doughnut-shaped building is a greenhouse ensconced within a steel diagrid frame engineered by BuroHappold. The five-story toroid stretches another five levels underground as well and is designed to connect the Changi Airport’s terminals 1, 2, and 3, and to public transit. Jewel was conceived of as an amenity hub for the airport and contains over 280 retail stores, galleries, and restaurants, a 130-room hotel, and operations space for the airport, including a lounge and check-in area. To mitigate the noise from the aircraft taking off around it, the triangular window sections were installed with a .6-inch-thick air gap between the two glass panes. Jewel's crowning feature is its seven-story indoor waterfall, the “Rain Vortex,” which dramatically pours down from a central oculus and into a circular catch below. The waterfall is, appropriately enough, fed by water collected during Singapore’s constant thunderstorms, and the recirculated rainwater diffuses throughout the Jewel to passively cool the interior. All of that humidity also helps maintain the thousands of plants, including 2,000 trees, found within. Other than the Forest Valley, which includes terraced vegetation and “forest walks” around the waterfall, the 150,000-square-foot Canopy Park on the fifth floor further enhances then garden feel. Glass bottomed bridges, topiary mazes, sky nets (suspended net paths), mirrored “discovery slides” that will open on June 10, and a gathering space for up to 1,000 guests can all be found on the Jewel’s top floor. Such an enormous undertaking was a collaborative effort, and Safdie led a multidisciplinary group of designers and engineers. Atelier Ten was responsible for the building’s climate control systems; Singapore’s RSP Architects Planners & Engineers was the project’s executive architect; the Berkeley, California-based Peter Walker and Partners was responsible for the landscape design and plant selection; and Los Angeles’s WET engineered the Rain Vortex and developed a 360-degree light and sound show to play against the waterfall at night.
Placeholder Alt Text

America Last

“Great” construction projects in America? Starchitects say: look elsewhere

A strange thing has been happening at some public architecture talks lately, perhaps you’ve noticed. Over the course of otherwise hopeful and positive discussions covering amazing new projects from around the globe, at some point, usually toward the end of a talk, conversation turns to the current state of American building and infrastructure. And, it's safe to say, people are not happy. Sometimes, the presenter will rip off the bandaid, as Thom Mayne of Morphosis did at a recent Facades+  talk in Los Angeles, when he said, “I hate to be negative, but there’s not much going on in this country architecturally,” before adding, “[But] if you look at architecture around the world, it’s startling…It’s unbelievable, the research [taking place]—I just came back from Shenzhen [China] and I’m looking around [at the skyline] there wondering ‘is there anything left for me to do?’” Other times, a perplexed-sounding audience member will ask what it seems many in attendance had been pondering privately: “Why can’t we build like this here?” 

 It’s a debilitating question that really only has one answer. And although, even when speaking bluntly, everyone tries their best to truth-tell without offending, but the writing is right on the projection screen—building big in America simply isn’t what it used to be, and we don’t know what to do about it.

 “The United States is falling behind,” architect Moshe Safdie explained to a packed room during a recent keynote talk at Palm Springs Modernism Week when asked why the inventive array of projects he had just presented are mostly located outside the United States. “Around the world, the competition [for bold infrastructure] doesn’t stop,” he said, half-jokingly, “until you land at Kennedy or LAX.” 

 To prove his point, Safdie pointed out further that although the Hudson Yards development in New York City is the largest privately-led construction project in the country by square footage, it is easily dwarfed in terms of vision by countless projects around the globe of a similar or larger size. 

 He’s right. Hudson Yards is a dime a dozen as far as global mega-projects are concerned. Safdie’s own Raffles City development in Chongqing, China, for example, might be roughly two-thirds the size of Hudson Yards, but it is going up in less than one-third the time and is almost entirely designed by a single architecture firm—Safdie Architects—with P&T Group International Ltd. serving as architect of record. Safdie’s own portfolio of recent work shows that while New York occasionally will build an elevated billionaire citadel, Chongqing, Singapore, and other cities have tasked his office with erecting bold new structures designed for working people and the public at large, all without sacrificing design quality. 

 Safdie explained that one possible reason why American projects no longer lead the world in terms of size or scale might be due to a “lack of urban initiative,” the type of sustained and calculated political and managerial energy necessary for bringing to life the types of large-scale and lasting projects that have transformed other countries around the world in recent decades. 

It’s a sentiment echoed by Rem Koolhaas, who, when recently asked about the prevalence of NIMBYism in America, explained, “I think you can divide the world into one part that is eager to change and doesn’t have hesitations about things changing, and another part that is totally nervous about change and actually aspires to a kind of stability.” Koolhaas added, “As an architect, every one of your efforts is impacted by this. In the end, however, architecture is always controversial because it proposes to make things different than they are.”

 Perhaps nowhere is this truer than in the realm of high-speed rail (HSR), where American decision makers across all levels of government have persisted in remaining tethered to auto-centric planning, condemning the nation to antiquated transportation for at least another generation. A recent article in The New York Times covering the ongoing debacle with California’s tragic HSR project, for example, brings this condition into sharp relief with the following line: “California’s High-Speed Rail Authority…was established 23 years ago. During that time China has built 16,000 miles of high-speed rail.”

 America has built none. But America’s last-place finish doesn’t end with rail or with deteriorating airports; it includes city-building, too, as Safdie pointed out. Much of America is suffering from some form of housing crisis, whether it’s so-called Rust Belt cities struggling to retain residents or coastal cities that can’t figure out how and where to build new housing fast enough. While American cities have doubled-down on onerous building restrictions and lengthy bureaucratic reviews, politically polarized state and federal governments have worked at cross purposes, too, failing to enact bold plans and avoiding future-oriented thinking at almost all costs. The overarching legacy of redlining, racial segregation, and income inequality has placed a stranglehold over American cities, as well, contributing to intense gentrification when development does occur and debilitating displacement when it doesn’t. Over the last decade, it has become clear that America's public health, land-use, and transportation policies are all woefully out of whack, and the result is stifling the abilities of a generation of well-trained architects and engineers eager to build a better nation. Meanwhile, the world’s urbanizing areas have embraced building vertically, have expanded transit of all sorts, and have worked to enact bold planning initiatives that over a generation have remade the face of global urbanism in the name of interconnectedness, density, and place-making.

 In Europe, for example, France is currently enacting its “Le Grand Paris” plan, a vision that will stitch together the Paris city center with its inner and outer ring suburbs to bring together an urban region of 10 million inhabitants. The plan includes a €30 billion public transit expansion initiative that will create a network of regional transit routes connecting suburbs with one another as well as sizable new investments in social housing, parks, and other equity-minded initiatives.

 But it’s not just Europe. 

 Cairo, Egypt, is building a new $45 billion capital city that, when completed, will become the largest purpose-built capital city by population in the world.

 In India, the country’s largest infrastructure project, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, aims to connect the nation’s political and economic capitals with a 900-mile long conurbation made up of 24 urban “nodes.” The plan aims to urbanize 14 percent of India’s population—180 million people—over the next 30 years and will take $100 billion in investment to realize.

 In South America, Argentina’s so-called Belgrano Plan will bring $16 billion in rail expansion to 10 of the country’s neglected northern provinces and will create up to 250,000 new housing units and 1,100 childhood education centers. 

 Saudi Arabia is building new mega cities from scratch, as are China, Singapore, Nigeria, Mauritius, and countless others. 

 None of these projects are perfect socially or environmentally-speaking, to be sure, but one thing they do not lack is vision.

 If it feels like the most impressive work is taking place in other countries, that’s because in many ways, it is, and international architects know perhaps better than anyone else the truth of that reality. Even more, the hesitation, hedging, and hand-wringing that accompanies talk of the current state of American infrastructure and urban vision indicate that the problem runs deeper than a mere lack of funding or risk-averse clients. 

Whether it’s California’s flailing HSR project, the nation’s intractable housing crises, or even, the sad, dispirited political discourse surrounding the Green New Deal—a potentially transformative plan that is barely supported by the party that conceived it—it is clear that America has a crisis of vision, a failure of political will, and perhaps most alarmingly, no real interest in solving its own problems. Look at the Salesforce Transit Center debacle in San Francisco, Elon Musk’s substandard and retrograde transit ideas in Los Angeles and Chicago, and the steady stream of failing bridges and tunnels across the country for further proof. Even Amazon’s HQ2 extravaganza, a year-long publicity stunt by the world’s richest company that wrung billions in incentives from some of the most desperate cities around the country, rightfully withered on the vine. What’s going on here?

 As Safdie quipped, “We were promised infrastructure!” But the truth is that it’s just not happening in America anymore.
Placeholder Alt Text

Winning the Wolf

Moshe Safdie wins the 2019 Wolf Prize for Architecture
Moshe Safdie has won the 2019 Wolf Prize for Architecture, an award given out about every three years by the Wolf Foundation. The Israeli nonprofit gives out six prizes annually for agriculture, arts, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, and physics. The arts award recognizes a winner in either painting, music, sculpture, or architecture. Recent winners for architecture include Phyllis Lambert, Eduardo Souto de Moura, David Chipperfield, and Peter Eisenman. The award citation praised Safdie's "career motivated by the social concerns of architecture and formal experimentation," and recognized Montreal's Habitat '67 along with "the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the Harvard Rosovsky Hall in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Exploration Place in Wichita, Kansas, the National Library of Israel and the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem." Much of the Safdie Architects' current work comprises large-scale residential towers that formally echo Habitat's modularity on a much larger scale. Winners of Wolf Prizes receive $100,000.
Placeholder Alt Text

Safdie in the High Desert

Moshe Safdie to give keynote lecture at 2019 Modernism Week
Moshe Safdie, the global architect behind iconic projects such as the Habitat 67 prefabricated housing complex in Montreal and many others, will be giving a keynote presentation at the 2019 Modernism Week symposium in Palm Springs, California. Safdie’s over-50-year-long career began at the age of 26 when he was commissioned to build a version of a McGill University thesis project in Montreal. Built in conjunction with the city’s Expo 67 world's fair, the 146-unit garden apartment complex envisioned a way of melding suburban and urban housing typologies that catapulted the architect onto the world stage. Safdie Architects has realized over 75 buildings in the years since, including the Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore that is made up of three 55-story towers topped by a massive elevated park. Safdie is also responsible for Sky Habitat Singapore, a dramatic 590-unit condominium complex organized as a pair of stepped and interlinked towers studded with projecting balconies. Safdie’s office is set to complete three key projects this year, including the Jewel Changi Airport in Singapore, the Altair Residences in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and the massive mixed-use project Raffles City Chongqing in Chongqing, China. For the latter project, the architect has designed a series of six tapered towers that rise up to 1,450 feet in height and are connected by a 1/4-mile-long conservatory raised more than 800 feet off the ground. Safdie’s keynote lecture in Palm Springs is scheduled for February 16 at the Annenberg Theater in the Palm Springs Art Museum. For more information on the lecture, see the event page here.
Placeholder Alt Text

Pompidou and Circumstance

Richard Rogers wins the 2019 AIA Gold Medal
Lord Richard Rogers, honorary FAIA, has been awarded the American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2019 Gold Medal, the highest honor the institution offers. In recognizing the English architect's storied career, which spans more than 50 years, the AIA singled out Rogers’s Centre Pompidou in Paris (a collaboration with Renzo Piano), whose massive popularity kickstarted the high-tech style. The cultural complex was praised for its functional transparency and rejection of monumentality, hallmarks of Rogers’s that the AIA notes continued throughout his career. Rogers’s continued commitment to solving social, urban, and environmental issues through design, and his political activism were also praised. His continued impact on the skyline of London and New York, and approach to human-oriented urbanism, were singled out by the jury in particular as well. “He is the quintessential builder, committed to mastering the craft and technology of construction, harnessing it towards efficient buildings, and forging an expressive architectural language,” wrote Moshe Safdie, in a show of support for Rogers’s nomination. “Before it was fashionable, he was an environmentalist, who recognized early in his career the challenges of energy and climate, developing innovative solutions.” “Richard Rogers is a friend, a companion of adventures and life,” wrote Piano, who also supported Rogers’s nomination. “He also happens to be a great architect, and much more than that. He is a planner attracted by the complexity of cities and the fragility of earth; a humanist curious about everything (from art to music, people, communities, and food); an inexhaustible explorer of the world. And there is one more thing he could be: a poet.” Rogers has seen his fair share of awards, including the 2007 Pritzker, a RIBA Gold Medal in 1985, and a RIBA Stirling prize in both 2006 and 2009. The AIA jury was composed of the following members: Kelly M. Hayes-McAlonie, FAIA, Chair, University of Buffalo, Buffalo, New York Dan Hart, FAIA, Parkhill Smith & Cooper, Inc., Midland, Texas Lori Krejci, AIA, Avant Architects, Inc., Omaha, Nebraska Dr. Pamela R. Moran, Albemarle County Public Schools, Charlottesville, Virginia Antoine Predock, FAIA, Antoine Predock Architects, Albuquerque, New Mexico David B. Richards, FAIA, Rossetti, Detroit, Michigan Emily A. Roush-Elliott, AIA, Delta DB, Greenwood, Mississippi Rafael Viñoly, AIA, LMN Architects, Seattle, Washington