Search results for " The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture "

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Robert Irwin: Site Determined panel discussion and exhibition at Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture
When Robert Irwin: Site Determined opened last year at the University Art Museum, California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), it was the first museum exhibition dedicated to the creative process of one of the most significant American artists of the postwar generation. The visitor is invited to explore four decades of Irwin’s outdoor environmental projects through rarely exhibited drawings and architectural models. Site-determined art, Irwin has explained, “draws all of its cues (reasons for being) from its surroundings.” This exhibition promises insights into Irwin’s working process as he developed aesthetic responses to such cues, including his Window Wall on the CSULB campus, Central Garden at the J. Paul Getty Center in Los Angeles, and his most recent site-determined work, Untitled (dawn to dusk), in Marfa, Texas. Robert Irwin: Site Determined at Pratt Institute will include a new piece never shown before publicly. This exhibition was organized by the University Art Museum, CSULB, and curated by Dr. Matthew Simms, Professor of Art History, CSULB. This unique panel discussion features Agnieszka Kurant, artist; Ann Reynolds, professor, University of Texas at Austin; and Frida Escobedo, artist and architect; moderated by Sanford Kwinter, professor, Pratt Institute. Pratt Institute is pleased to host the second and final installment of the exhibition, which has been organized by the School of Architecture and Dr. Sanford Kwinter, Professor of Undergraduate Architecture. Panel discussion: September 6 at 6 p.m. Opening reception: September 6 at 8 p.m. Exhibition on view September 6–November 28, 2018 Click here for more information.
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Chasing Perfection

John S. Chase, trailblazing Texas architect, celebrated in two exhibits
John Saunders Chase, FAIA (1925–2012) was a Houston architect who realized a large body of work in the city, throughout the state of Texas, and around the United States. At its peak, his office had nearly fifty employees in four cities: Houston, Dallas, Austin, and Washington, D.C. Chase, an African American in a profession that has struggled with diversity and discrimination, achieved many historic firsts during his career. His life, as seen via his personal and professional achievements and the work of younger architects who passed through his office, was on display this spring in Chasing Perfection, a two-part exhibit produced by the Houston Public Library. Born in Maryland, John Chase moved to Austin in the late 1940s after receiving initial architectural training at the Hampton Institute in Virginia and serving in the Army during World War II. He applied to graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) School of Architecture after the Sweatt v. Painter Supreme Court decision in 1950 that fought the “separate but equal” policy of racial segregation in college education. After graduation, no firm would hire him, so Chase established his own practice in Houston, and in 1956, he became the first African American architect to be licensed in the state. Throughout his career, he designed churches, homes, union halls, libraries, high schools, fire stations, and institutional buildings, including much of the campus of Texas Southern University. He was a founding member of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) in 1970 and received his AIA Fellowship award in 1977. In 1980, Chase was selected by President Jimmy Carter to join the Commission of Fine Arts and was part of that committee during the contentious process of realizing Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall. He was the first African American to serve on this commission. During the 1980s, his office was part of a consortium of local architects responsible for the design of the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. Chase is survived by his wife, Drucie, and their three adult children. According to Danielle Wilson, the exhibition’s curator, discussions about the show began in 2009 with Chase’s participation. At that time, his architectural archive had been donated to the Houston Metropolitan Research Center’s Architectural Archives, and his personal archive was in the process of being donated to the African American Library at the Gregory School. Wilson’s father grew up next to the Chases in Houston, so she was familiar with the family and immediately knew that she wanted to work on a show about the architect when she joined the staff of the Gregory School. After Chase passed away, it took a number of years to assemble the parts for this successful exhibition. On the second floor of the Julia Ideson Building in downtown Houston, letters, photographs, and artifacts were installed alongside photographs of built work, architectural drawings, and hand-drawn renderings. Seen together, Chase’s life and work could be understood through the staging of these personal and professional artifacts, sequenced together to tell a holistic life story. Wilson said, “When I think about architects and their work, everything goes all together. I think it’s great when you have that context of both. I think it makes works more powerful.” The room also included a large–scale model and drawings of the George R. Brown Convention Center mounted on a drafting table. At the Gregory School, the work of four architects who worked with Chase is on display and demonstrates the effect his mentorship had on a subsequent generation of African American architects. “When I was focusing on his work and life, it was hard to tell a comprehensive narrative without talking about these men,” Wilson said. Daniel Bankhead, AIA; Darrell Fitzgerald, FAIA; James Harrison; and Wilbert Taylor all worked at various points with Chase and went on to become professional and community leaders themselves. In February, the library hosted a discussion between these architects, in addition to a conversation with Mrs. Chase and her children. Chasing Perfection offered a powerful portrait of a 20th–century American architect through Chase’s life, work, and impact on the profession. Wall text for the exhibit was excerpted from a manuscript titled The Life and Work of Architect John Saunders Chase: You Can Do More from the Inside, by architectural historian Dr. Wesley Henderson with Andrea Lazar. Both worked for two years to conduct interviews with family members, colleagues, and former employees of John Chase. Henderson and Lazar believe that Chase’s life story deserves to be more widely known since very few biographies of successful black architects have been published. They were very pleased to be able to contribute to the show at the Houston Public Library. Chase’s legacy continues to be explored and celebrated. In February, UT Austin announced that it had purchased one of Chase’s early buildings in east Austin to renovate and use as a community engagement center. While Chasing Perfection closed in early June, Wilson says there are already discussions underway about touring the show at other institutions. She also said a brochure from Chase’s firm and drawing supplies from his office were recently acquired by the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C. Wilson added that she and Mrs. Chase are “going to go through his personal archives to see what materials might go to the NMAAHC, and the rest will be housed at the African American Library at the Gregory School.” Chase is an important figure among the talented architects who practiced in Houston during the second half of the 20th century. His career opened the door for many architects of color to enter the profession, and he serves as an example of the countless ways in which an architect can effect positive change in the world.

Chasing Perfection: The Work and Life of Architect John S. Chase Houston Public Library Julia Ideson Building

Chasing Perfection: The Legacy of Architect John S. Chase The African American Library at the Gregory School

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Teaching trends

UT Austin hires experts on border communities and environmental justice
The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture (UTSoA) has announced two new teaching hires as part of the school's ongoing Race and Gender in the Built Environment Initiative. Edna Ledesma has joined as a teaching fellow for the next academic year and Miriam Solis will begin a tenure-track position in the Fall of 2018. This announcement comes on the heels of the university naming Michelle Addington as dean of the school earlier this year, though the initiative pre-dates her tenure at the school. UTSoA is a leader among architecture schools when it comes to diversity, having originated several internal commissions and programs as far back as 2008 to address the growing calls for equitable representation in academia. The school in recent years has announced new academic tracks in Latin American Architecture and expanded the offerings of its Community and Regional Planning program, one of the most robust programs of its kind. In many cases, it is not simply a matter of who the school is hiring, but also what research those scholars bring into the fold and how they contribute to a heterogenous learning environment. Ledesma, who holds a PhD in Urban and Regional Science from Texas A&M University and has two previous graduate degrees in design, focuses on issues related to border communities and the cultural landscape of immigrant populations in Texas. Ledesma’s research formally began in 2013 when she organized a series of design engagements called “dialogos” in the South Texas city of Brownsville. Her work seeks to bridge the gap between communities and city governments to help define the design agency of traditionally under-represented groups. Ledesma noted that she was drawn to this fellowship because of UTSoA’s distinct interdisciplinary approach to design and research, which often allows for cross-pollination among the school's academic programs. Solis will enter her professorship next year with a PhD in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley after completing a Switzer Fellowship for her work in environmental planning. Her research focuses on social and environmental justice related to the development of urban infrastructures, an area of research that she has contributed to through her years of experience in California. One of Solis’ ongoing projects concerns the equitable redevelopment of San Francisco’s wastewater system which has historically negatively impacted African American communities.
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Facades+ Austin

Kory Bieg of Austin’s OTA+ on how parametric design can shape structures
Aluminum composite panels have been making headlines of late for all the wrong reasons. The subject of scourge was at the heart—or rather, outer edges—of the Grenfell Tower disaster in the U.K. that saw a fire take the lives of an estimated 80 people as flames traveled via the building's aluminum composite cladding. However, at Facades+ AM conference in Austin yesterday morning, the material was shown in a new light. As part of the opening discussion panel, titled Digital Design and Fabrication Frontiers, principal at OTA+, Kory Bieg demonstrated how aluminum composite panels can be used to make three-dimensional structures such as arches and vaults. Speaking to The Architect's Newspaper (AN), Bieg described how he used parametric design tools such as the Kangaroo plugin for Grasshopper to design Caret 6. The vaulting structure, designed and fabricated by his Design V Studio at the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, was part of an exhibition on metal structures in 2013. Caret 6 is comprised of large folded panels and responds to a brief that called for a structure using aggregation, weaving, and stacking techniques to create an assembly that could transition from a flat surface to a volumetric enclosure.
"To enable a smooth transition from a flat, two-dimensional ground surface into a volumetric, three-dimensional vault, the studio used a diamond pattern that could work as both an aggregate and woven rib-system. Though the diamond pattern appears to be series of stacked cells, the structure is actually three layers of overlapping ribs," said OTA+ on its website. "Large, continuous primary ribs form the seams from vault to vault, while secondary ribs span between each seam. Tertiary ribs complete the web and enclose each cell to create a rigid structure."
"A core goal of the studio was to introduce asymmetry into what would otherwise be a symmetrical form. The vault is roughly eleven foot at its highest point, enclosing a space small enough for occupants to engage directly with the surface, a condition atypical for most vaults which often frame larger and much taller spaces. "Caret 6 was designed to fill an already existing space," said Bieg, "so it was necessary to design a geometry that responded to the existing room, especially at the edges, where the vaulting forms project toward the walls."
Bieg benefitted from using Robot Structural Analysis which enabled him to model and test different Aluminum Composite Panel configurations to find the optimum structural solution. "Ultimately, we added a layer of attachment details that included thousands of O-rings and binder rings to ensure stability in the event a lateral force or unexpected point load is applied (ie. someone hanging on the edge of the cantilever), but in its resting state, Caret 6 does not require any fasteners," the firm said. Bieg was joined by Anthony Birchler of fabrication firm Zahner. "Digital manufacturing plays an enormous role in not only what we do, but the changing landscape of architecture and design fields," he said speaking to AN. "Designers want to understand how they can interface with a firm like Zahner—and here's the big part—they need to know how to establish this kind of precedent with their clients in our industry. Our presentation shows how firms are accomplishing unique architectural works. This isn't theoretical. This is our practice, and we want to show you how you can do this kind of work"
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Dean Buzz

New Dean Michelle Addington talks about her vision for UT Austin School of Architecture
This summer the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture (UTSoA) will be the latest school in recent years to appoint new leadership, welcoming Professor Michelle Addington of Yale University as its new dean. Addington will succeed Interim Dean Elizabeth Danze, who took the helm of the institution last year after the abrupt departure of Frederick Steiner. According to Maurie McInnis, the executive vice president and provost at UT Austin, “Michelle is a perfect fit.” She added that Professor Addington “brings fresh eyes and new ideas that will continue supporting the robust breadth and depth of interdisciplinary work happening at the school, and she will lead conversations that advance the field in the 21st century." The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) spoke with Addington last week about her vision for UTSoA, emerging issues for designers in the built environment, and her eagerness to be walking distance from Franklin’s Barbecue. AN: What initially interested you about UTSoA as an institution? Michelle Addington: I wanted this position for a very long time. I always kept my eye on different deanships and interviewed off and on over the years, but none of them felt right to me. When this became available, I knew it was one I really wanted. Part of it has to do with the fact that I come from a Texas family and there is a sense of home. My mother is from Austin, so it is a part of the country that really resonates with me. Another part of it has to do with the fact that [UTSoA] has such a storied legacy in the development of contemporary design education. One can look to the Texas Rangers... [they] were an incredibly formative part of architectural education. And, the fact that the full range of design disciplines are represented, everything from architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, urban design, community and regional planning, sustainable design, and historic preservation. And a robust combination of degrees from undergraduate to PhD. I feel that it's a place that is right for me as an individual but also a place where I feel as though I can bring my experience to the existing faculty and students and build on their strengths. In the last few years, the school has attracted significant funding and progressive initiatives. Examples include the U.S. DOT Transit Research Grant, a new faculty position for the study of Race and Gender, and a high-tech Robotics Lab, to name a few. Though these are early days, can you talk a little about these initiatives and the direction you see the school going under your leadership? If you think about the field of architecture writ large—about all of the design disciplines—they were heavily product-centric for centuries. The digital turn at the end of the 20th century brought forward methods that enable us to deal with multiple contexts, multiple terrains, and different kinds of content. We became incredible masters at manipulating this varied terrain but mostly in terms of dealing with what I consider to be ‘contested boundaries.’ It’s easy to think about a building as being bounded by its site and envelope. But when you start to look at [architecture] as an insertion for instance in ecological, economic, spatial, political boundaries, [it] can accurately map and open up questions that I don't think any other discipline can do. All of these initiatives—the DOT, the Robotics Lab, the program dealing with gender and racial diversity—are looking to insert [designers] into the center of questions that heretofore have been addressed by other disciplines. I think the University of Texas has been on the mark in recognizing what we need to do [in this respect] and it is one of the reasons I'm so excited to be there. One of the things that I spoke to the [UTSoA] faculty about was that I see interdisciplinarity differently than I think many traditional schools of architecture have seen it. All too often we think about how we fold in content from other disciplines—that is not interdisciplinarity to me. That's cherry picking information to support what it is one wants to do. Real interdisciplinarity actually means that you have to be involved in, understand, and affect the 'other'—other frameworks and conflicting points of view. And, you have to de-center yourself in order to do that. You are making some news as the first woman to be named dean of UTSoA, succeeding Elizabeth Danze as Interim Dean. Your credentials I think speak for themselves but do you perhaps have any thoughts about the increasing prominence of women in leadership positions at architecture schools? And in the profession? I have to correct that because Elizabeth Danze is the first woman dean [of UTSoA]. She may be interim but she is the trailblazer here. She is one of my favorite people. There are many ways that practice leads academia in terms of its reflection of the world at large. However, this is a case where practice is lagging. It's going to take some time. I think one of the things that would be interesting to talk about with a larger number of women in the field... is this idea of the ‘other.’ [Women] are used to being on the margins, away from the center, practicing on the edges. A number of years ago there was a book put together by Lance Hosey and Kira Gould called Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design. They had noticed there was a disproportionate number of women who were working in sustainable design. You are going to find this for a lot of interdisciplinary areas that are on the edge. I think that as we start looking, again, at this negotiated terrain that is not so centered on the building object, we are going to find and recognize a lot more parity from a gender standpoint. There might be some pendulum swinging for a while because we have big problems to deal with in this world. All I can wait for is the day when it doesn't even occur to someone to say ‘woman architect’ but simply ‘architect.’ I want that term to disappear from our [discourse]. As a public institution, UT Austin operates quite differently than a private school like Yale, where you currently teach. Recently, we have seen several controversial policies emerge in Texas such as Senate Bill 6 (the so-called “bathroom bill”) and the open carry law which went into effect last summer. With these in mind, how do you see architecture schools engaging with similar issues of public space and more broadly how does this translate into practice? I can't say yet how it translates into practice. But what I can say is these issues are another reason why I want to be at [UTSoA]. I want to come precisely because these debates are on the table. It is very easy to be critical of how others are thinking about particular situations, but part of understanding and embracing the 'other' is that you have to fully embrace it. You have to engage yourself in that discourse no matter what you believe for yourself. We are in a really messy world. We are not going to be able to come up with solutions by bracketing ourselves and narrowing our domains or territories so that we are only surrounded with like-minded individuals. I am most interested in figuring out how we negotiate these radically different voices. How we map progress that accepts these differences yet at the same time protects the most vulnerable. In design disciplines, we have an enormous responsibility for the health, safety, and welfare of society at large which means we have to tackle these issues head on. What we really need to do is figure out how to engage. On a lighter note, you will begin your post on July 1st of this year; and, as you well-know having attended Tulane, the south has an unforgiving summer heat. Weather aside, though, what are you looking forward to most about relocating to Austin?  Well, my grandparents lived outside of Dallas and I used to spend my summers at their unairconditioned ranch. I've never forgotten that. Number one, though, is BBQ. No matter what you try in the north nobody can make decent BBQ and I'm tired of my friends from New England constantly dragging me to places where they claim that it's the best BBQ—no. And driving, I shouldn't say this because I'm a sustainability person, but I miss a good road trip. I've never been to Marfa, that's so high on my list.
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Longhorn Leader

Michelle Addington named dean at University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture has just announced the selection of a new dean: Professor Michelle Addington of Yale University. At Yale, Addington is the Hines Professor of Sustainable Development and she holds a joint appointment in Forestry and Environmental Studies and Architecture. The university hopes she will bring an "interdisciplinary perspective" to her new position. Here is the full announcement from the university:
Dear UT community, I am excited to announce that Michelle Addington will serve as the next dean of the School of Architecture effective July 1, 2017. Michelle comes to us from Yale University where she holds joint appointments in the School of Architecture as well as the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Educated as an architect and engineer, she brings an impressive array of experience and expertise, both in academia and applied practice. Over the past 20 years she has dedicated herself to education as a teacher, mentor, and leader at Yale and Harvard. Earlier in her career she worked at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and at DuPont as an engineer and manager. The interdisciplinary perspective she brings will be a tremendous asset to the school and university, and I am thrilled that she has agreed to lead one of the top architecture programs in the country. Michelle holds undergraduate degrees from Tulane University and Temple University, and master and doctorate degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Her teaching and research focuses on sustainable energy systems, advanced materials, and new technologies. In 2009, Architect Magazine recognized her as one of the top ten architecture faculty in the nation. I also want to take this opportunity to thank Elizabeth Danze. As interim dean, I could not have asked for a more effective leader and partner throughout this process. She is highly respected by her colleagues and the campus community and has led the school with distinction this year. Please join me in thanking Elizabeth for her leadership and service. Michelle is an exciting addition to the Longhorn community. Please join me in welcoming her to UT. Sincerely, Maurie McInnis Executive Vice President and Provost The University of Texas at Austin
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All Aboard

UT Austin School of Architecture gets millions to study transportation across megaregions
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) is pouring money into transit research at universities nationwide, among them the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture (UTSOA). The federal agency is giving millions in grant money to UTSOA and its partner schools to fund transit research in so-called megaregions, rural-to-urban geographic areas that share environmental features, infrastructure, and economic futures. The funds will be disbursed over five years, beginning with a $1.4 million grant for UTSOA's 2016-17 fiscal year. Dr. Ming Zhang, associate professor of community and regional planning at the School of Architecture and researcher at the university's Center for Transportation Research will lead the four-school "CM-2" consortium (CM-2 stands for Cooperative Mobility for Competitive Megaregions). The group includes researchers from Louisiana State University, Texas Southern University, and the University of Pennsylvania. “Support from the U.S. Department of Transportation will allow us to advance our research, education, and technology transfer initiatives that work to improve the mobility of people and goods in urban and rural communities of megaregions like the Texas Triangle,” said Dr. Zhang, in a statement. “CM-2 seeks innovations in institutional cooperation for transportation planning, multi-modal integration for increased access and equity, and better transportation investment decisions and public engagement achieved through improved information technologies.” UTSOA's DOT grant is one of 32 from the agency that fund research at University Transportation Centers (UTC) programs. UTC works with transportation agencies and the private sector to study the field from all angles. CM-2 will lead workforce development and education, carry out mobility research, as well as investigate how technology could be used to enhance mobility and economic vitality in megaregions across the United States. The group's research will focus on transportation policy and regional planning, increasing equitable connections across regions, thinking about modeling for fast-growing regions, and coming up with new multi-modal planning strategies.
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Doctored Up

UT Austin gets medical center that aims to reform the healthcare industry

The University of Texas at Austin is the first tier-one public university in the United States to build a new medical school from the ground up in almost 50 years. Dell Medical School, funded largely by a raise in local property taxes, consists of 11 departments and institutes scattered among new buildings on the southern edge of campus and oriented around the school’s idyllic Waller Creek.

The new campus’s master plan, designed to connect the medical district physically and architecturally to the rest of the university and Downtown Austin, was designed by Sasaki Associates and Page Southerland Page. Of its new structures, unquestionably the centerpiece is Page’s and S/L/A/M Collaborative’s Health Learning Building.

The five-story structure is a long, slender volume with massing, height, and materiality all informed by the campus’s materials, colors, and overall feel. It’s essentially divided into two main components: The north-facing “social edge”—a section of open spaces, workshops, and breakout zones expressed by a largely glass wall (including both clear- and clay-colored glass)—and a large, multilevel cantilevered stair. An opaquely-clad section, facing south, east, and west, is marked by intricately CNC-milled limestone walls with punched windows (shaded by terra-cotta colored fins). All areas feature team-based learning spaces and labs, as opposed to traditional classrooms, a strategy meant to promote innovation and collaboration.

“They’re really interested in being revolutionary. Rethinking the healthcare industry,” said Page partner Lawrence Speck. The school’s tagline, he noted, is Rethink Everything.

The surrounding structures, which Speck refers to as “fabric buildings,” are tied together, and to the rest of campus, by materials like stone and metal as well as by their height and massing. The 260,000-square-foot, eight-story Health Discovery Building is primarily for research and houses 97,000 square feet of laboratory space, a 20,000-square-foot vivarium and 15,000 square feet of core labs. The 233,000-square-foot, 10-story Health Transformation Building, an advanced medical office building, will be connected to the Health Discovery Building via a five-level “dry lab,” allowing collaboration among medical professionals and clinical researchers.

The campus is also shooting high in terms of sustainability. The Health Learning Building will be LEED Gold, while the overall district is aiming to be one of the first examples of the Sustainable Sites Initiative, evaluating buildings, landscape architecture, and engineering as a holistic whole.

Things seem to be going so well, said Speck, that the dean has already started talking to the design team about a second phase of building, far ahead of schedule. “They definitely see the architecture as a means to go after their goals,” said Speck, who has been studying, teaching, and building at UT for about 40 years. “I feel like I’m living a dream,” he added.

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Class Act

UT Austin’s Michael Garrison reflects on students’ changed approach to facade design
When Professor Michael Garrison, the Cass Gilbert Centennial Teaching Fellow in Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, thinks about how students are pushing the cutting edge in design, three developments come to mind. First, said Garrison, who will participate in the “Form Follows Performance” panel at the upcoming Facades+Dallas conference, is a heightened attention to materiality. “Our students are keen on new materials, the embodied energy of materials, smart materials,” he explained. This new awareness is largely the result of students’ exposure to the school’s University Co-op Materials Lab, a multidisciplinary space for hands-on exposure to more than 27,000 materials samples. Second is the question of craft. “We find it very interesting that naval architects and NASA call their works craft, but we in architecture don’t know such things,” said Garrison, recalling Buckminster Fuller’s question, “How much does your house weigh?” Thanks to developments in digital design and fabrication, he said, “the old idea of tool and die mass production characteristic of modern thinking in the twentieth century has really changed. Students are able to make something of a more unusual shape.” Parametric design is the new normal in the design-school classroom. Finally, Garrison points to a “new and profound” evolution away from “the hermetically sealed box of the Seagram Building era” to a focus on “thick skins.” These multi-layered facades typically involve a sunshade or other external component, which “creates an interstitial space between the traditional envelope and the new envelope,” said Garrison. Increasingly, students are focused on incorporating adaptive technology into building envelopes, often patterning facades along biomimetic lines. “Whereas the first two decades of the twenty-first century were about unusual shapes, [with] parametric design, we are now moving toward intelligent shapes that are more responsive,” he concluded. Catch up with Garrison and other top AEC industry professionals at Facades+Dallas. Seating is limited; register today.
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1928-2016

John Shaw, former Cornell professor and member of the “Texas Rangers,” passes away
Note: The Architect's Newspaper received this obituary from John Shaw's son, Lytle Shaw, who's also the author. With his permission, we've posted the obituary below. John Preston Shaw passed away on June 9, 2016 in Issaquah, Washington. Shaw had a long and prestigious career as an architectural educator and architect. He was born July 7, 1928 in Abilene, Texas, and graduated with a degree in architecture from the University of Texas in 1950. The next four years he spent in the Air Force, first in North Dakota and Nebraska, designing demountable housing for the Strategic Air Command directly under the famous Cold Warrior Curtis LeMay. In 1953-54 Shaw was sent to Europe: first, by accident, to Paris; later, once the Air Force learned of their mistake, to Wiesbaden, West Germany. In 1955 Shaw returned to Austin where he worked in the office of Fehr and Granger (1955-1956) and taught at the University of Texas in the architecture department (1955-1958). It was here Shaw met Bernhard Hoesli, Colin Rowe, Lee Hodgden, Werner Seligmann, and John Hejduk, and formed the group of educators known as the Texas Rangers, many of whom (Hodgden, Rowe, Seligman, and Shaw) later taught at Cornell. Shaw had the distinction of being the only Texas Ranger actually from Texas. This group’s contribution to architecture education in the United States is the topic of Alex Caragonne’s 1995 The Texas Rangers: Notes from an Architectural Underground. John Shaw met Betsy Gidley in Austin, Texas in 1957 and the two were married in 1958. They shared, among other things, a strong interest in music, especially opera. The two moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts during the summer of 1958, where Shaw attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA, 1960), studying with Eduardo Catalano, and taking classes with Lewis Mumford, and with Siegfried Giedion at Harvard. During the summer of 1959 Shaw won a Skidmore Owings and Merrill travelling fellowship that took him and Betsy to Europe. That fall he was offered an assistant professorship at North Carolina State University, where he taught until 1962, when he was offered a job at Cornell University, where he remained until his retirement in 1995. At Cornell, the ideas explored initially at the University of Texas were developed into a more robust, expansive pedagogy. While Shaw’s examples still centered around modernist architects (including Le Corbusier, Wright, Mies, Aalto, and Kahn) he tended to understand them less as makers of iconic, self-enclosed buildings than as architects whose program and site-specific vocabularies had not been sufficiently acknowledged. His lectures and seminars often focused on the buried contextualism latent within high modernism, and to this end stressed on-site investigation. It was on such investigations that he generated a formidable slide archive. And yet the slides that remained at the center of his lectures were not only those of the high modernists. Shaw was equally interested in Swiss barns, Dutch polders, the mosque at Cordoba, medieval urbanism in Spain and France, small town Texas courthouses, Italian villas, palazzi and town planning, cubist and Renaissance painting, and Commedia dell’Arte (about which he published an article in the Cornell Journal of Architecture). He was also an enthusiastic watercolorist and collagist. Among his many interlocutors at Cornell were not only the Texas Rangers, and many younger colleagues, but also European architects including Martin Dominguez and Oswald Mathias Ungers (who Shaw recruited to Cornell). Shaw was a strong advocate of his students, and a much-loved professor. He trained and mentored several generations of architects including Musfafa Abadan, Bruce Abbey, Ed Bakos, Larry Borins, Jason Chandler, Peter Choi, Steven Fong, Dan Kaplan, Blake Middleton, Burton Miller, Richard Olcott, Chad Oppenheim, Andrea Simitch, Todd Schliemann, Aaron Schwartz, and Val Warke, amongst many others. In 1986, Shaw was the first professor to teach in Cornell’s new program in Rome, to which he returned several times. Other foreign teaching included summer schools in Switzerland, Mexico, Greece, the Aegean, and Germany. Shaw was also a visiting professor at University of California, Berkeley, Rice University, University of Texas, and University of Tennessee. Shaw retired from Cornell in 1995 to an earth-ship hacienda he designed and built in Taos, New Mexico. Among his other built works are the Tompkins Trust Company Bank in Ithaca, New York, the Divi Hotel in Aruba, and the Clark/Shaw house in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. In retirement, Shaw published a catalog on the collages of his close friend Bernhard Hoesli in 2001, and wrote up his lecture notes into an as yet unpublished manuscript. John is survived by his children David Shaw, with whom he lived his last years, Anna Studebaker, and Lytle Shaw, and by his grand children Dalton Studebaker, Alexandra Studebaker, Julia Shaw, Amilia Shaw, Cosmo Clark-Shaw, and Luca Clark-Shaw. A memorial service will be held at Robert H Treman park in Ithaca at noon on Saturday, August 27th (upper enclosure). In lieu of flowers, the family is accepting donations for a “Professor John Shaw Memorial Lecture” Fund at College of Architecture, Art and Planning, Cornell. Donations to the fund can be made by check (Cornell University PO Box 25842) or via this website.
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spaceCAMP

UT Austin’s School of Architecture gets its own site-specific art installation

In Hyperstyle, architects Mason Leland Moore and Joel Nolan of spaceCAMP create an environment in which physical tension takes center stage. The exhibition looks at the pull between the concrete floor and the ceiling of the Materials Lab at the school of architecture. Both set out to test different materials while exploring spatial concepts at specific site installations. Two grids of thin columns overlap with one rising from the floor, and the other descending from the roof. The tension is accentuated by the consistent overlays, along with a change in color from yellow to a light gray. Conventional construction techniques are reflected in the room’s organization through the intimate relationship formed between the ceiling and the floor’s multiple columns.

Hyperstyle is on view at the Materials Lab Gallery of the West Mall Building at the The University of Texas at Austin's School of Architectures, April 15–August 10.

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Close In and Sky High

How real estate speculation, ugly architecture, and gentrification shape Austin’s urbanity
In a teaser for the new season of IFC's Portlandia, protagonist Fred Armisen comes to Austin, Texas whereKyle MacLachlan plays the mayor who navigates the pitfalls of our neighborhoods. Coffee shops, record stores, a couple of bars: “Alright, cool,” MacLachlan says. But then strollers and baby clothing stores start popping up, “Not cool!” he protests. The show’s hyperbole isn’t far off: It's hard to find a good, affordable place to live in this town. The Austin real estate bubble’s most difficult issues manifest themselves in the realm of single-family housing. Buoyed by soaring property costs, speculative redevelopment has been transformative in central neighborhoods, especially East Austin. Typically, developers buy properties and quickly erect a cheap new house that maximizes the allotted FAR (floor area ratio) of the site, thereby maximizing sales profit. This type of development is disruptive. As houses grow larger and boxier, they change a street’s definitive qualities of scale and grain. Last December, the Austin City Council updated the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) requirements, which set limitations on the size and placement of back houses. ADUs are now able to be 1,100 square feet (up from 850 square feet), closer to the main structures (10 feet, down from 15 feet) and a parking space is not required in some areas. The minimum lot size required for an ADU is now 5,740 square feet, down from 7,000 square feet. The legislation also placed restrictions on the use of ADUs for short-term rentals, a contentious issue that further affects housing prices. This is a step in the right direction. Currently, Austin’s minimum buildable lot size is 5,750 square feet, and a movement for small lot amnesty calls for that number’s reduction. The opposition is explicit in its reasoning: Such a change would allow developers to buy larger lots and subdivide them, encouraging further conversion of neighborhoods into engines of capital creation. Unfortunately, whatever is good for urban density is good for developers, as it increases the number of housing units to be sold. Small secondary houses do improve density, but they don’t adequately address affordability. Those residences are sold or rented at market cost-per-square-foot prices, rendering them only available to individuals or couples who can both afford them and only require so much space—youthful types who move here in large quantities. Hence, gentrification. This doesn’t help families or low-income individuals, populations that are in decline in central Austin. Minority residents of East Austin, for example, are priced out of their homes and are exiting the city in large numbers. African-Americans in particular are adversely affected, singled out as the only demographic that’s shrinking in our booming city. Such trends have created an Austin that is now the most economically segregated metro area in the country.
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For Anthony Alofsin, AIA, a practicing architect and professor in architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, the concerns of diversity outweigh the concerns of density. Alofsin has been in Austin for almost 30 years, long enough to recount previous boom and bust cycles in the real estate market. Some of his academic research studies builder homes, which remain the most common way Americans house themselves, a statistic largely ignored by the architectural profession. In Alofsin’s view, a diverse mix of individuals—different patterns, passions, occupations, incomes, and ethnicities—leads to an “urban experience,” and Austin is short on this type of urbanity. Alofsin also worries about larger repercussions of civic housing trends: Changes in national family trends combined with the exodus of families from the city center spells disaster for the future of Austin’s public schools. Form-making isn’t important at this scale: Whether a house has a flat roof or fake stone or a turret is irrelevant to the economics at work.

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To see what’s on the market now, Creede Fitch, a real estate agent with Skout who focuses solely on modern and midcentury properties, took me on a tour of neighborhoods near 12th Street. Close to the railroad tracks, one luxury spec house near the railroad tracks set a high water mark, selling for around $600,000 last year (it was also featured on the 2015 AIA Austin Homes Tour). A few blocks away, Fitch points out a slim lot with an older structure on-site, clearly not worth salvaging. “$290,000!” he reports, not without disbelief.

Fitch, who himself is building a new home in East Austin, tries to educate clients on both Austin and modern architecture, though he admits that “modern” is not important to many buyers. Fitch is also aware of better ways to increase density; he described one solution where smaller existing homes are maintained and a larger “primary” new build house is placed behind, providing privacy and preserving the scale of the street. A pilot project in this style is a casita renovated by architect Alan Gonzalez, sited on the front half of its lot. The steep price tag—a listed $375,000 for 785 square feet—would make most wince, but it’s a baby step in the right direction.

The good news is that some architects are working to change market realities, or at least their aesthetic dimensions. Jared Haas, principal of Un.Box Studio, spoke with me about a house he recently completed with Newcastle Homes. Knowing the market and the ground rules of spec projects, he designed a clean shape with a restrained material palette inside and out. Instead of the ubiquitous Hardie board siding, he sourced a vertical wood board at a comparable price. The house was purchased before it was completed, and Haas is at work on two more with the same company.

Other models of practice—architect-as-developer, design-build, design-build-develop—offer exciting alternate avenues of investment and engagement, and there are a number of successful examples at work in East Austin. Speculative building is now seen as pejorative, but it can be incredibly progressive. Haas, for one, looks forward to the time where spec projects, rather than further isolating residents, can bring them together in hybrid social spaces. What if speculative housing led the way toward new formats of living?

Later, I drove around East Austin to check in on its progress. I lived in the Chestnut neighborhood for two-and-a-half years in a full-size back house with two housemates; the house’s builder-developer had created a condominium complex of two houses on a single lot, another way to circumvent typical density limitations. It is both smartly dense, lucrative, and ruinous to the property values of neighbors. Nearby blocks are majority new builds, with accompanying new residents.

Construction has started on The Chicon, a three-building complex of affordable and market-rate apartments, close to an intersection that was once singled out as the city’s most dangerous. In 1925, one could take a streetcar from that corner all the way downtown. Now there’s a skee-ball bar on the block. Neighborhoods roll over, sometimes with unfortunate consequences, but the tide keeps going—part of life in a city. I stopped in front of a particularly ugly spec home with walls that bulge and tilt, as if frozen in nauseous mid-collapse. I slow my car to photograph the offense, but instead smile, wave, and move along—there is a moving truck out front with a couple unloading bicycles, ready to make that house their home.