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ACADIA

ACADIA 2019 showcased the state of digital design
The presentations and activities at this year’s ACADIA (Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture) conference gave attendees a glimpse of potentially disruptive technologies and workflows for computational architectural production. The conference was held this year in Austin from October 24 through 26 and was organized by The University of Texas School of Architecture faculty members Kory Bieg, Danelle Briscoe, and Clay Odom. The organizers collected papers, workshops, and projects addressing the theme of “Ubiquity and Autonomy” in computation. Contributors reflected on the state of architectural production, in which digital tools and methodologies developed in the boutique, specialized settings at the fringes of the profession a generation ago have now become commonplace in architectural offices—while at the same time, new forms of specialist computational practices are emerging which may themselves soon become mainstream. While each participant grappled to position themselves in the cyclical and ever-advancing framework of technological inheritance and transference, the most encouraging efforts can be described in three categories: Expansions, subversions, and wholesale disruptions of the computational status quo. The expansionists claimed new technological territories, enlisting emerging and peripheral technologies to their purposes. The subvertors sampled the work and scrambled the workflows of their predecessors, configuring novel material applications in the process. Disruptors actively sought to break the techno-positivist cycle, questioning the assumptions, ethics, and values of previous generations to leverage computational design and digital processes to advance pressing and prescient political, economic, and ecological agendas. Expansionists appropriated bleeding-edge technologies, or those newly introduced to the discipline, to stake new terrain in design and construction. The conference was the first of its kind to host a dedicated session on the use of Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) in design. This machine-learning system pits two forms of artificial intelligence against each other—one AI acts as the creative “artist,” generating all the possible solutions to a given task, while the other acts as the “critic,” selectively editing and curating the most appropriate responses. After training the networks on archives of architectural imagery, panelists put the GANs to work on evaluative and generative design tasks, alternately generating passably authentic floor plans, building envelopes, and reconstructed streetscapes. The workshop sessions, hosted by a suite of computational research teams from several architectural offices, demonstrated possibilities for adopting emerging technologies with familiar platforms, adopting and adapting tools like Fologram and Hololens to more familiar software platforms and fabrication methods. The subvertors, familiar with the expected uses and applications of given tools, would offer intentionally contradictory alternatives, short-circuiting established workflows and celebrating the unintended consequences of digitally enhanced platforms. A project from MIT researchers Lavender Tessmer, Yijiang Huang, and Caitlin Mueller entitled “Additive Casting of Mass-Customizable Brick” is a good example of the subvertors’ approach to interrogating workflows, enlisting precision-equipment for low-fidelity effect. As the current state-of-the-art in custom concrete formwork employs costly and time-consuming workflows to task CNC routers or robotic arms with milling, the MIT project is a critical alternative. Instead of shaping the mold, the project mobilizes the mold, achieving a wide variety of sculptural concrete “bricks” using standard cylindrical forms wielded by a robotic arm, while leveraging the ability of liquid concrete to self-level. The molds are shifted to preset positions while the concrete sets, allowing the sequential states of self-leveled concrete to intersect in complex geometries. The process is surprisingly delightful to watch, as the robot controls seven molds simultaneously like a drummer with a drumkit. The unexpected combination of high- and low-tech recalibrates possibilities for the robotic craft. Other researchers swapped out expected materials to produce unexpected results. Vasily Sitnikov (KTH) and Peter Eigenraam (TU Delft) teamed with BuroHappold to produce IceFormwork, a project that uses milled blocks of ice as the unlikely forms for casting high-performance fiber-reinforced concrete. Ice, the team argued, is a preferred, environmentally neutral alternative to industry-standard EPS foam molds, which produce a vast amount of waste. Ice molds, the team demonstrated, are easy enough to make (with some help from a reliable water source and a repurposed refrigerated ISO container). Airborne particles suspended by the ice-milling process are harmless water vapor, unlike the dangerous foam dust requiring ventilation equipment and other protective measures. When it comes to de-molding, the ice can simply be left outside to melt. While these investigations showcased new ways to hack the assembly process of cast building elements, their choice of concrete as a material contradicted a growing consensus in the panels; that designers should actively seek alternatives to the glut of concrete in the building industry, given the high ecological cost and high carbon footprint of concrete manufacturing in the context of an accelerating global sand shortage. Daniela Mitterberger and Tiziano Derme (MAEID/University of Innsbruck) offered one of the more radical alternatives with their project “Soil 3D Printing.” The team is using hydrogels—non-toxic, biodegradable adhesives—as binding agents injected into loose soil, to form alien landscapes of networked, earthen structures that portend a near-future where biocompatible, organic additive manufacturing processes restructure geotechnical landscapes and planetary geology. The provocations of the disruptors—who radically repurpose computational tools beyond perceived disciplinary constraints—raised profound questions about the potential for design technologies to enable and enact larger societal transformations by lining up global supply chains, material economies, and non-human constituencies squarely in their sights. Jose Sanchez (Plethora Project/Bloom Games/USC), in the presentation he gave while accepting the Innovative Research Award, presented his work leveraging computation and game design to critically examine and transform economic and ecologic realities. Sanchez has developed a series of game environments which force players to navigate wicked problems in contemporary cities, to confront the complexities, contradictions, and paradoxes of urbanization, logistics, and manufacturing. Sanchez described the continued focus in his work on efforts to "optimize for the many"—as opposed to the few—in a period of increased economic inequality, re-assessing the predominant use of digital technologies over the past few decades to enable complex mass-customized assemblies. Sanchez, in his own work, and in projects like Bloom with Alisa Andrasek (Biothing/Bloom Games/RMIT), has been exploring the potential of digital technologies to disrupt mass-production models through high-volume production of serialized and standardized “discrete” architectural components. In a similar vein, Gilles Retsin (UCL/Bartlett) argued for a reconsideration of the labor practices and digital economies enmeshed in, and implicitly supported by,  a building industry that has not yet come to terms with automation. By focusing on the ability of digital tools to combat material waste, Retsin argued, a generation of digitally savvy architects have ignored the potential of automation to address wasted labor. Through speculative research and small projects, Retsin is hoping to disrupt the building industry, increasing the capacity of architects to design and implement new platforms for project delivery which can combat exploitative practices. As expansionists pointed out where to look for the next big advancement, subvertors demonstrated how existing tools could be used differently. Disruptors were some of the few to ask—and answer—why. Stephen Mueller is a founding partner of AGENCY and a Research Assistant Professor at Texas Tech University College of Architecture in El Paso.
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In Memorium

Remembering César Pelli
The death of César Pelli at 92 on July 19 marked the end of an era. Yet the firm he headed with Fred Clarke and his son Rafael Pelli continues, with dozens of important and innovative projects underway. Pelli’s modest demeanor belied the fact that he and his partners designed over 300 buildings and 68 unrealized or theoretical projects. The best known built works are the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur (briefly the tallest buildings in the world), the colorful glass-skinned Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, the complex Cleveland Clinic, the American Embassy in Tokyo, and the recent Salesforce Tower and Transit Center in San Francisco (the tallest building there). In New York, they built the 1977-84 addition to the Museum of Modern Art and its residential tower, the World Financial Center—now dubbed Brookfield Place—in Battery Park City, the unusually contextual Carnegie Hall Tower, the Theodore Roosevelt Federal Building in downtown Brooklyn, and the pioneeringly energy-efficient Verdesian apartment building in Battery Park City, along with numerous other buildings that fit into their surroundings so well that they are not easily recognized. An office building for Trinity Church on Wall Street, the Yale Biology Building, the one-million-square-foot Bulfinch Crossing in Boston, a Natural History Museum in Chengdu, China, the Google Tower in Austin, Texas, and 3.3-million-square-foot Union Park in Toronto are among dozens of buildings underway now. Given the size of the practice, the complexity of its projects, their international range, size, scale, and sensitivity to place, it is surprising that the work of Pelli Clark Pelli has not received more critical attention. It is not something the partners sought. Doing innovative work and treating colleagues well has always been the firm’s priorities. César Pelli was one of architecture’s real artists and intellectuals. He was born in the medium-sized city of San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina, where one of the most innovative architecture schools in the world opened just before he matriculated. His father, Victor Pelli, was an innovative tinkerer who loved to make things. His mother. Theresa Pelli was a professor at Resistencia, who taught alongside the mother of the woman César would eventually marry, Diana Balmori. They got to know one another in architecture school, and then applied to various graduate programs together around the world. They ended up moving to the United States, where César earned a Master’s degree at the University of Illinois. It was not easy. Other young Argentinians they knew soon returned home. Diana once told me that they sold their wedding presents to make ends meet, but that fact that she spoke excellent English helped. Then, César’s professor recommended that he join the very busy office of Eero Saarinen in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. That move was not easy for Diana either, who had two young sons, but it was there, on the lush Cranbrook campus, that she developed an interest in landscape design. Saarinen’s office, enriched by the opportunity to design the $100 million, 320-acre General Motors Design Center, had attracted talented young architects from all over the world. César soon became the one Saarinen trusted with some of his most challenging projects. The firm was thriving with numerous enticing commissions. Eero had recently remarried journalist and architecture critic Aline Bernstein Saarinen, who wanted to move to the East Coast where her career, and increasingly Eero’s, was centered. Lonely in Michigan, she often invited the Pellis to join them for lunch. But soon after the birth of their son Eames, Eero developed a brain tumor and died within days. The firm moved to New Haven as planned to finish his work. César was in charge of two of the most challenging projects: the proto-postmodern Morse and Ezra Stiles Colleges at Yale, which imaginatively acknowledged Gothic Revival buildings nearby, and the TWA Terminal at JFK (then Idlewild) Airport in New York, which has now been restored and turned into the centerpiece of a new hotel. When Saarinen’s work was completed, some associates formed a successor firm, Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Partners, but the Pellis instead moved to the booming Los Angeles. César went to work first for the pragmatic commercial firm, Daniel, Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall from 1965 through 1968, then to Gruen Associates from 1968 through 1976, often collaborating with young talented international architects he had known at the Saarinen firm, such as Anthony J. Lumsden. By the mid-70s, Pelli, who had been teaching part-time at UCLA, decided he would like to work in architectural education. He was offered deanships at UCLA, Harvard, and Yale, that last being where he moved in 1977 and had been living ever since. Soon he was invited to expand the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, so he opened the original Cesar Pelli & Associates office in New Haven, which continued to grow after he stepped down as Yale dean in 1984, but which still operates on an open-minded academic model. Over the years, Pelli worked on and off with Balmori, who herself developed an innovative practice in landscape design. She died in 2016. César Pelli is survived by sons Rafael and Denis, as well as dozens of colleagues, friends, clients, former students, and admirers. His legacy is enormous.
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Big Shoes to Fill

Reed Kroloff named new dean of IIT's College of Architecture
Reed Kroloff has been named the new dean of the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) College of Architecture in Chicago. The news comes after an extensive search and two years after the school’s last permanent dean, Wiel Arets, exited his five-year term due to rumored frustrations from faculty. Kroloff is principal of jones|kroloff, an advisory practice that has helped lead architect selection processes for major design competitions, educational institutions, businesses, and nonprofits around the world. He previously served as the director of Cranbrook Academy of Art and Art Museum, as dean of Tulane University's School of Architecture, and as editor-in-chief of Architecture Magazine, the predecessor to ARCHITECT. Kroloff holds a Bachelor of Arts from Yale University and a Master of Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin.  He joins an esteemed list of leaders as IIT’s newest dean—a position first held 80 years ago by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. “As an unapologetic modernist, I’m excited to be part of an institution that has been—and remains—so central to the history and practice of architecture,” said Kroloff in a statement. “There is no more significant laboratory for modern architecture than this school and its campus, nor a more auspicious moment to join Chicago’s only design- and tech-focused university than during the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus.” Kroloff will begin his deanship this fall with the 2019-2020 academic year. 
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A Look Inside

Unmentionables Symposium promises a fresh look at the current state of interior architecture
This spring, the Woodbury School of Architecture in Los Angeles will once again present the Unmentionables Symposiuman experimental program made up of talks and interactive performances that aims to provide a fresh look at the current state of interior architecture. Presented by Woodbury’s Department of Interior Architecture, the symposium hopes to go further than past years by providing a “forum for rarely mentioned ideas in spatial practice and theory” that also interrogates the conventional format of the symposium itself. Last presented in 2017, the biennial gathering aims to bring to light some of the conveniently ignored elements of interior architecture. The 2017 symposium showcased wide-ranging lectures on the importance of curtains in architecture, for example, as well as panel discussions centered around air and atmosphere, labor issues, and gender, among other topics. Rather than engaging in the conventional lecture- and panel discussion-focused programming for the 2019 event, symposium coordinator Maria Kobalyan explained that the organizers instead hope to embrace new discursive formats and open-ended presentations in tandem with under-sung topics. Kobalyan added, “We just don’t want people to be sitting down all day.” This year’s symposium is set to take place at WUHO Gallery in Hollywood and will feature keynote presentations by Jane Rendell, Director of Architectural Research at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, and Joel Sanders of Joel Sanders Architect. Rendell has written extensively on gendered urban spaces and on the blurred lines between art and architectural practice, among other topics, while Sanders practices architecture and has also published a book on inclusive bathroom design. Other speakers include Los Angeles architect Lauren Amador; Los Angeles-, Richmond-, and London-based Peter Culley of Spatial Affairs Bureau; and Deborah Schneiderman of DeSc: Architecture and Pratt University.

The full list of speakers:

  • Lauren Amador, Principal, Amador Architecture
  • Amy Campos, Associate Professor and Chair of Interior Design, California College of the Arts
  • Annie Coggan, Adjunct Associate Professor of Interior Design, Pratt Institute
  • Matthew Gillis, Principal, G!LL!S; Adjunct Professor of Architecture and Interior Architecture, Woodbury University
  • Parsa Rezaee, MArch 1 Candidate, Woodbury University
  • Jennifer Meakins, Adjunct Faculty Adjunct Professor of Interior Architecture, Woodbury University, California Polytechnic State University Pomona
  • Emily Pellicano, Assistant Professor, Marywood University School of Architecture
  • Bryony Roberts, Founder, Bryony Roberts Studio; Assistant Professor, Columbia GSAPP
  • Cathrine Veikos, Professor of Architecture, California College of the Arts
  • Deborah Schneiderman, Principal/Founder, deSc, Professor of Interior Design, Pratt Institute
  • Igor Siddiqui, Associate Professor and Program Director of Interior Design, The University of Texas at Austin
  • Rossen Ventzislavov, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Woodbury University
The symposium is set to take place on April 6. See the Unmentionables Symposium website for more information.
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Belmont University

Nashville to start its first undergraduate architecture program
Nashville, Tennessee's Belmont University just announced it’s creating a five-year Bachelor of Architecture program. It will be the first of its kind in Middle Tennessee and only the second in the state. Why is this big news? Currently, Nashville is home to about 600 architects, which isn’t a lot compared to similarly-sized cities like Austin, Texas (1,010) and Charlotte, North Carolina (1,190), according to the U.S. Department of Labor statistics, and the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization estimates that the Cumberland Region surrounding Nashville, which covers 10 counties, will add another million people by 2035. Previously, there were no undergraduate architecture programs located within 150 miles of the city. The only other in the state is at the University of Tennesee—Knoxville, which also offers a master's degree—The University of Memphis only has a graduate program in architecture. In fifteen years, future Belmont architecture graduates could be getting their licenses. The Christian liberal arts school said it will begin offering courses in the fall of 2020 through its newly acquired O’More College of Design. Belmont’s Provost Dr. Thomas Burns told AN in an email that over the years, many local community members, from students, architects, and business leaders, have lamented the lack of such a program in Nashville. “Nashville has always been an extremely creative community where the importance of the development of a designer’s or artist’s craft found seamless purchase with the heart of the community,” Burns said, “so the marriage of an architecture program with Belmont’s focus on creating citizens ready to contribute to our city was a natural choice.” Though Belmont boasts a small population of just over 8,300 students, its global reach is large. More than 36 countries are represented in its current study body as well as people from every state in the U.S. It offers over 90 areas of undergraduate study (music and music business are two of its biggest attractions—Brad Paisley is an alumnus), as well as 25 master's programs, and five doctoral degrees. With the addition of an architecture program, future students could steer Nashville through a massive building boom. The Music City is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the South—over $13 billion have been poured into the region in recent years. Provost Burns noted the announcement, though just a few days old, has already sparked excitement in the community. “Nashville has been ready for an architecture program for years, but there wasn’t an educational institution where they could focus their energy,” he said. “We’ve had a great deal of interest from local architects wanting to develop and support the program and our students.” Over the next year, the school will work with the local leaders to develop the architecture program’s initial curriculum, which, according to Provost Burns, is aimed at producing graduates “who see themselves contributing and supporting their community through good work and good citizenship.”
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Notes from Mexico City

Acadia 2018 focused on imprecision in digital design
For the first time in its 37-year history, the 2018 Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) Conference convened in Mexico City. The conference was chaired by Pablo Kobayashi and Brian Slocum, and was hosted by the University Iberoamericana. The cultural implications of holding the conference in Mexico City were best explained by keynote speaker and professor at the Universidad Iberoamericana CDMX and principal at Estudio MMX, Diego Ricalde’s analysis punnily titled PPP (Prejudice, Paradox, Pragmatism). Ricalde speculated that Mexico’s architectural culture is at a moment where the unproductive division of old world single-vision, analog thinking, and new world "digital hysteria" needs to come to an end. Ricalde’s call for action can be read as a parallel to this year’s ACADIA theme "Recalibration: On Imprecision and Infidelity". The theme encouraged participants to rethink a machine-driven infatuation with nano-centric precision, and recover other avenues of thinking and making. One of the keynote lecturers in the conference, Francesca Hughes, a professor and head of school at UTS Sydney, presented a historically guided parallel analysis between the development of machines and algorithms (in relation to precision and imprecision). She highlighted the architectural surface as an agent that inspired a world-wide (or rather architecture school–wide) cultural obsession with precision and the birth of the software-compulsive object. Critiquing our collective obsession with precision, Hughes offered “error” as a new architectural context in which to frame other digital and "real" systems of designing. Other conference participants (organizers, keynote lecturers, presenters, award recipients, and moderators) responded in their own particular ways to the same question. Every Acadia conference is unique, and the overall discourse generated from the discussions and presentations of the work varies significantly from year to year. The 2018 six-day endeavor, split evenly between conference and workshop components, attracted 282 attendees from all over the world. One could say that this year’s conference consisted of three primary categories: theory/speculative narratives, work that investigates the aesthetic potential of new technologies, and hyper-focused computation/fabrication oriented research efforts. These categories balanced and propelled the conference into a truly spectacular, inspiring, and educational event. Projects, papers, and talks positioned on theoretical and cross-disciplinary grounds This first category can be best illustrated by the materials presented (and materials included in the publication) by participants such as Neil Leach, Mónica Ponce de León, Patrik Schumacher, Axel Kilian, Behnaz Farahi, Brandon Clifford, Jose Sanchez, ACADIA president Kathy Velikov, and many others. These researchers and thinkers are engaged in cross-disciplinary work and therefore carry a certain responsibility for setting the tone for the overall theme of the event and the conversations that continue after the conference. Leach, for example, appealed to the audience to reassess its understanding of the digital and post-digital. He suggested that we are not yet, and have never really been authentically digital. On another note, Killian warned that the anthropomorphizing of robotics as a way to move forward is a false promise. Lastly, Ponce de León, upon receiving the 2018 Teaching Award of Excellence, illustrated her broader ambitions for digital fabrication from a pedagogical and professional point of view. She argued that the two must be intertwined in order to productively engage with professional and academic architecture. Other thinkers and designers contributed to this discussion with their own predictions and convictions of where the field is headed. This meta-discussion is most essential for the future of the conference. Theoretical and extra-disciplinary discourse sets the tone for the speculative fronts of the next conference, and the evolution of its ambitions for many more to come. Work that explores aesthetic potentials in new technologies The second category of the conference, broadly speaking, can be characterized as an intermediary between the more theoretically-oriented work and work embedded in deep studies of technology, borrowing critical aspects from both. Many participants that plug into this territory discussed projects executed at the pavilion scale. What distinguishes this work from the purely technical or scientific experiments is that many of the projects synthesize serious visual problems and broader research themes. A great example of this type is Jenny Sabin’s Lumen project for the MoMA PS1 pavilion. Lumen, a robotic knitting project, demonstrates multiple layers of tremendous effort and research. While the project showcases deep fabrication/material knowledge, one cannot help but notice its balancing act between material performance optimization (robotic knitting, custom analysis software, form-finding simulation) and an equally sincere interest in visual studies (composition, lighting, color). Other exemplary practices represented at the conference operating in the same mode are Oyler Wu Collaborative, Matsys, Stephanie Chaltiel and Maite Bravo, Chandler Ahrens, Tsz Yan Ng, and many others as featured in the proceeding's publications. Deep dives into technology and science This last category, central to the overall theme of the conference, is probably closest to the initial ambitions of ACADIA as it was originally conceived. It is fair to say that almost all the projects participate in technologically-driven research and scholarship. However, a few of them focus on a more scientific approach; their project ambitions seem to culminate in the search for novel processes. The evaluation of such projects is perhaps the most speculative because the criteria are abstract and yet to be discovered. Philippe Block, one of the keynote speakers and a professor at the Institute of Technology in Architecture at ETH Zurich, presented a very thorough research project centered on the use of concrete and its capacities for structural integrity and material thickness (or thinness). Another interesting example was Madeline Gannon’s research. Upon receiving the Innovative Research Award of Excellence, Gannon presented her work on synchronized, real-time robotic motion. Her work takes form in unique environments (trade shows, gallery exhibitions, and biennales), but what was most interesting about her investigation was the custom workflows and software that she developed during her time at Autodesk’s Pier 9 space. Dr. Gannon’s interface design supports the exchange of information between different parts of machines that were never meant to communicate with one another—introducing a new type of cross-contamination of machine vision and reactive motion. During the last five-plus years, the workshop segment of the conference has been heavily focused on this last category (tech/engineering/computation). The 2018 workshop series, hosted by the Facultad de Arquitectura at UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) however, was more balanced and plural by comparison; solar optimization and robotic spray-painting workshops were held in tandem. The workshops held true to the theme of the conference and interrogated various recalibrations through concentrated production-events. In the workshops, leaders investigated a reassessment of machine and software-thinking related to visual ideas, specific projects, and scientific research. Final thoughts and thinking ahead to next year’s event Of course, it is important to note that the three categories outlined above are inextricably intertwined with one another. One of ACADIA’s strengths is that it provides a unique platform for these conversations to occur under the umbrella of computation’s presence in the expanded territory of contemporary architecture. Perhaps the project that best illustrates a scenario that accommodates these three modes of thinking in a non-hierarchical manner was presented by another keynote speaker, the Mexican-born, electronic artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. For Lozano-Hemmer, the artwork is not simply a thing on display but an interactive environment that promotes human-machine symbiosis. For example, Population Theatre (2016) is a beautifully orchestrated collection of self-inflicted responsibilities. In this work, a highly diverse team of artists and scientists collaborate to generate funds to support a politically-driven project. Population Theatre is technologically-supported by the use of 3651 Raspberry Pi boards to create 7.5 billion points of light. This exceptional keynote lecture was accessible to the public and was held at the Alberto Kalach and Juan Palomar–designed Biblioteca Vasconcelos in downtown Mexico City. It was events such as Lozano-Hemmer’s keynote lecture that made this year’s gathering extraordinary. The organization and curatorial efforts for the 2018 conference were impeccable. It was very clear that the board of directors (comprising 20 members) and the president of ACADIA, Kathy Velikov’s ambitions were to widen the scope of the conference as a pedagogical and professional platform and to challenge the organization to evolve with the discipline. This year’s conference was heavily supported by industrial and academic sponsors, and by the Universidad Iberoamericana, which hosted the workshop series, the project exhibition, and the first day of the conference. Next year’s conference will be held from October 24 to 26, 2019, at the University of Texas at Austin and is titled "Ubiquity and Autonomy".
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Earthworks

The American Society of Landscape Architects names their best projects of 2018
Rejoice, lovers of landscape architecture, because the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has published their 2018 ASLA Professional Awards and awarded their top honors to projects across the U.S. and Canada. The Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates–designed Brooklyn Bridge Park, a project twenty years in the making but closing in on the finish line, took home the Award of Excellence in the General Design category. The transformation of a formerly-industrial landscape into a leisure-oriented waterfront park that simultaneously knits together formerly disconnected communities paved the way for an entire generation of similar projects. Ross Barney Architects and Sasaki’s revitalization of the Chicago Riverwalk, another urban landscape project that has been heavily lauded in the past, was recognized with a General Design Honor award. The ASLA chose a wide variety of winners this year. West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture’s master planning and landscaping of the Main Fountain Garden at the Longwood Gardens was honored alongside a culturally sensitive native cemetery in Nunavut, Canada, and an international sculpture center in the grasslands of Fishtail, Montana. In the Residential Design category, the Word + Carr Design Group’s Balcones Residence in Austin, Texas, received the Award of Excellence. The landscape balances positive and negative space and creates a dialogue with the house’s boxy, concrete forms while requiring little maintenance. The top prize in the Analysis and Planning category went to A Colorado Legacy: I-25 Conservation Corridor Master Plan, a master plan by the Design Workshop - Aspen which created a strategic vision for a 17-mile-long stretch of Interstate 25. Other than offering solutions to the urban sprawl surrounding the interstate, the plan serves strategies for preserving up to 100,000 acres of open space while promoting sensible development. Three projects received Honor awards in the Research category, each tackling resiliency in one form or another. The University of Pennsylvania’s interactive Atlas for the End of the World - Atlas for the Beginning of the Anthropocene tracks the decline of biodiversity worldwide as conservation clashes with development and climate change; Mahan Rykiel Associates tracked the 1.5 million cubic yards of sediment dredged from Baltimore Harbor in Design with Dredge: Resilient Landscape Infrastructure in the Chesapeake Bay; and Ayers Saint Gross explored sustainability strategies for the National Aquarium in Baltimore with their Urban Aquatic Health: Integrating New Technologies and Resiliency into Floating Wetlands project. In the Communications category, the Landscape Architecture Section, Knowlton School, The Ohio State University took the Award of Excellence for their free, online library of historical landscapes. The database, 100 Years of Landscape Architecture at The Ohio State University, offers virtual tours of historical and contemporary landscapes around the world, inlcuding in virtual reality, and is meant to serve as both a teaching and landscape architecture recruiting tool. Last but certainly not least, Design Workshop received the Landmark Award for their From Weapons to Wildlife: The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Management Plan. The ambitious plan demonstrates how a 17,000-acre Superfund site could be converted into one of the country’s largest urban wildlife refuges. Now in its third phase, the plan was put into implantation in 1992 as the U.S. government and Shell struggled to remediate what was once a testing ground for biological and chemical weapons. A full list of this year’s Professional Award winners is available here. No less important are the recently announced 2018 ASLA Student Awards, available here.
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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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Earth Daze

AIA honors the top eleven sustainable buildings of 2018
As a fitting kickoff to Earth Day weekend, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE) has announced the 2018 recipients of its COTE Top Ten Awards. Honoring ten projects that have surpassed rigorous thresholds in integration, energy use, water conservation, and wellness benchmarks, the award showcases cutting-edge buildings that are not only sustainable, but that contribute to the surrounding neighborhood. This year’s jury included:
  • Michelle Addington, Dean, School of Architecture, The University of Texas Austin Austin, Texas
  • Jennifer Devlin-Herbert, FAIA, EHDD. San Francisco
  • Kevin Schorn, AIA, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, New York
  • Julie V. Snow, FAIA, Snow Kreilich, Minneapolis
  • Susan Ubbelohde, LOISOS + UBBELOHDE, Alameda, California
The 2018 awardees ranged in usage from libraries to art galleries, as well as one single-family home. While the COTE Top Ten Awards are given to buildings that meet certain requirements, an additional “Top Ten Plus Award” is handed out to a single project with exceptional post-occupancy performance. The winners are as follows: Albion District Library; Toronto, Ontario, Canada Architect: Perkins+Will According to the jury: "This project clearly demonstrates the immediate positive impact of good design. A district library that serves a diverse and newly-immigrant community, the library has a dramatically increased visitorship (with a notable 75 percent increase for teenagers) over the old facility." Georgia Tech Engineered Biosystems Building; Atlanta, Georgia Architect: Lake|Flato in collaboration with Cooper Carry According to the jury: "The Georgia Tech Engineered Biosystems Building weaves a large array of active and passive strategies into a highly tuned machine for this university research laboratory." Mundo Verde at Cook Campus; Washington Architect: Studio Twenty Seven Architecture According to the jury: "A 25,000-gallon cistern holds rainwater for reuse, while the gardens have increased site vegetation from zero to 40 percent." Nancy and Stephen Grand Family House; San Francisco Architect: Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects According to the jury: "This cost-effective building serves a community of sick children and their families while prioritizing environmental performance." New United States Courthouse; Los Angeles; Los Angeles Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP According to the jury: "We were impressed with the quality of the calm, light-filled interior spaces for occupants who are often in the courthouse under difficult circumstances." The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum; Washington, D.C. Architect: DLR Group According to the jury: "The Renwick Gallery renovation wove complex and robust new systems while preserving the impressive historic design and collection and allowing opportunities for new works to be displayed." San Francisco Art Institute - Fort Mason Center Pier 2; San Francisco Architect: Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects According to the jury: "The design team recognized the assets of the existing structure and created a great, low-energy building with a healthy interior environment." Sawmill; Tehachapi, California Architect: Olson Kundig According to the jury: "The team is commended for their site-specific analysis, as evidenced by the decision to let rainwater recharge the water table rather than collect it. If a single-family dwelling is to be built in a desert climate, this is how to do it." Sonoma Academy’s Janet Durgin Guild & Commons; Santa Rosa, California Architect: WRNS Studio According to the jury: "This project demonstrates that, even with an energy-heavy program that includes a commercial kitchen, a fully integrated and dedicated design team can produce a beautiful and extremely well-performing building." Top Ten Plus winner: Ortlieb's Bottling House; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Architect: KieranTimberlake According to the jury: "An exceptional example of passive strategies used in adaptive reuse of an historic urban building."
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No-Fly-Over

The year's best buildings outside NYC-LA-CHI
Not every piece of spectacular architecture built this year has been located in the major urban centers. From Utah to Ohio, ambitious institutions have constructed some of the country’s best new architecture. The following projects are a few of our editor’s favorites from this year. (See the rest of our Year in Review 2017 articles here.) Southern Utah Museum of Art by Brooks + Scarpa Cedar City, Utah The 28,000-square-foot Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA) by Los Angeles-based Brooks + Scarpa looks to the sandstone canyons of nearby Mount Zion National Park for its soft, yet expressive, form. The dipping and arching exterior includes a 120-foot cantilever, covering a 6,000-square-foot public event space. That form also works to reduce solar gain and protect the museum's artworks, reducing the building's environmental footprint. Home to contemporary and performing art from southern Utah and the surrounding region, the museum is also an educational resource, providing a site for conservation training for MFA students at Southern Utah University. Kent State Center for Architecture and Environmental Design by WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism Kent, Ohio Of great interest to most architects, new academic architecture buildings are a rare treat. Designed by New York-based WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism, the Kent State Center for Architecture and Environmental Design was the winner of Building of the Year – Midwest in AN’s 2017 Best of Design Awards. Along with the expected studio spaces, lecture halls, library and classrooms, the building includes a café, gallery, and grand stairways, which activate the north and south facades. Large custom brick fins, made of locally produced iron-spot bricks, ties the building into the surrounding campus, while a larger tiered form makes reference to the scale of neighboring buildings. The Contemporary by Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis Architects Austin, Texas The Contemporary brings together two of Austin, Texas’s, most important art institutions, Arthouse and the Art Museum of Art. The project is an adaptive reuse of a building that in the past has served as a theater, a department store, and, most recently, a local art center. The redesign specifically allows for large-scale art pieces to be installed in the building, while the large roof terrace provides additional exhibition space. The roof also includes a perforated aluminum canopy, which includes a retractable weather curtain. At 23,800 square feet, the Contemporary is a new center for art in the heart of Downtown Austin. Innovation Lab and Lamplighter Barn by Marlon Blackwell Architects North Dallas, Texas Arkansas-based Marlon Blackwell Architects has been delivering exceptional buildings throughout the middle south for years. This continues with its first North Texas project, an Innovation Lab and Lamplighter Barn. Built on the campus of the North Dallas Lamplighter School, the project is part of the "Igniting Young Minds for a Lifetime of Learning” campaign. The Innovation Lab includes a teaching kitchen, environmental science spaces, a robotics lab, and a woodworking shop. The Lamplighter Barn is replacing the campus’s chicken coop and will define an outdoor pasture for its animals. Most strikingly, the Innovation Lab takes the form of a long sleek building clad in a concealed-fastener, flat-panel copper facade. Over time the project is expected to gain a varied coloration as the copper patinas, based on local weather and sun movements. Cummins Headquarters by Deborah Berke Partners Indianapolis, Indiana Cummins, makers of diesel engines, is no stranger to quality architecture. The company’s founder is credited with bringing many of the Modernist masterpieces to the small town of Columbus, Indiana, just south of Indianapolis. When it came to building its own headquarters, Cummins turned to New York-based Deborah Berke. The nine-story tower is Berke's first office design, which is located on the empty site of a former arena. The building includes flexible work spaces, including double height “social hubs,” retail space, with a new urban park at the its base. The highly tuned form and facade of the building integrates vertical fins and horizontal shades to provide environmental control, as well as a carefully considered aesthetic.
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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.