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Duck and Cover

Does the Hollywood Hard Rock Hotel rock, or is it a one-hit wonder?
Speeding down the asphalt behemoth of the Florida Turnpike, it’s impossible to miss the latest addition to the swampy peninsula’s flat horizon. Six shafts of fluorescent light climb thousands of feet into the sky, slicing through the Everglades’ winter fog and reducing local air traffic to the appearance of toy planes. Following the light beams to their source, I encounter what can only be an accident-inducing sight: A 450-foot tall, glass-fronted building that’s shaped like an electric guitar—unmistakeably a Hard Rock Hotel. A project seven years in the making, the new Guitar Hotel (which is, needless to say, the world’s first guitar-shaped building) is the frontrunner of a $1.5 billion extension of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The supersized instrument, designed by Klai Juba Wald Architecture, contains 638 guest suites, bringing the total room count of the resort (including the old hotel) to over 1,200. These rooms range from a 700-square-foot standard to a two-floor, 4,000-square-foot “Beyoncé penthouse” designed by Wilson Associates of Dallas. Featuring over three football fields of casino space, a 6,500-seat theatre-style concert venue, a half-dozen pools, a mall, a day-and-nightclub, and dozens of restaurants and bars, the hotel is gearing up to become a global attraction. It already was when I visited. I pulled down Seminole Way just before sunset on a regular Tuesday evening. This palm tree flanked road snakes around the old hotel and casino and then spits me out at the swanky base of the gargantuan guitar, which is flanked by lush lit tropical landscaping, water features, and bow-tied valet boys circling Lamborghinis. A broad spectrum of guests including families with hyperactive kids, solo gamblers, road-tripping bros, and honeymooners all made a beeline for the 18-acre recreational archipelago in front of the Guitar Hotel; I followed suit.  Dashing through the glitzy smoke-filled casino, I reach the poolside exit just as a bone-shaking rendition of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” erupts from both sides of the hotel. The building’s glossy façade becomes a psychedelic screen of choreographed color bursts. Miles of LEDs running horizontally along its 35 stories twinkle into ever-busier patterns as the guitar’s ‘strings’—six great shafts of light cutting 20,000 feet into the sky—pulsate maniacally to the beat. My jaw drops when I learn that this epic light show occurs twice nightly.  Becoming an international destination is a lofty goal for a building situated in the guts of southern Florida’s highway system: A cacophonous collage of roaring freeways, alligator wrestling megaplexes, smoke shops, used car dealers, RV parks, and sleepy suburbs dotted with manmade water features. But the glowing guitar’s strategic situation on the 497-acre Florida Seminole reservation is as tactical as it gets, both in its flashy design and the political sway of tribe’s global gambling empire.  Despite their nonchalant appearance, the Florida Seminoles, a group of around 4,000 (another 18,000 live in Oklahoma, having been forcibly uprooted by white settlers in the 18th century), possesses an indomitable business acumen. They hold an impressive claim to Florida’s booming gambling economy, managing six separate casinos across the sunshine state alone. Before the original Hollywood Hard Rock Hotel and Casino was erected here in 2004, the Seminoles introduced the country’s first tribe-owned gambling facility—a high stakes bingo hall—in 1979. “The Seminole Tribe of Florida has played the most important role in the origins and development of Indian gaming in the United States of any single tribe,” suggested Matthew L.M. Fletcher, professor of Law & Director of the Indigenous Law & Policy Center at Michigan State University Initially, erecting casinos on tribe land enabled Native Americans to bypass state gambling legislation across the United States, but disputes between tribes and politicians eventually snowballed into a supreme court case in 1987. This case resulted in the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which allowed Native American tribes to continue their gambling business as usual, so long as they gave a cut of their profits to the state. For the Seminoles, this equates to a hefty $350 million pay-off per year. But Florida’s increased dependency on this bonus revenue has enabled the tribe to sweeten their end of the deal, gaining exclusive rights to many of the highest-grossing casino games, including Blackjack, as outlined in the 2010 Seminole Compact At the far end of the hotel’s sprawling outdoor complex, the faint upbeat jingle of the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” wafts over a water sports pool easily clearing three football fields in length. Canoes, kayaks, and paddle-boards bobble in the phosphorescent blue water. A walking path populated with Floridian flora snakes around the active pool, leading to a state-of-the-art muscle toning outdoor gym that’s pumping the same soundtrack from the machines’ built-in speakers. The hotel sound system is impossible to escape; duck underwater and the feel good™ tunes are only amplified.  Unfurling around the active pool like a chain of seasteads is what the hotel calls the ‘Bora Bora experience’: A cluster of sixteen luxury villas with swim-up entrances, private plunge pools, and butler services that are available for hotel guests to rent for the day. Swim-up ground floor suites appear again in the new Oasis tower, a seven-story, 168-room low-rise building that slinks across the southwestern end of the complex and peeks over The Spine, an undulating covered walkway flanked by waterfalls that extends from the base of the guitar. Adjacent ‘Seminole style’ poolside chickees with TVs and fridges are another stay-within-a-stay opportunity. For those craving a beach (this is Florida, after all) there are two themed areas, complete with Floridian sand, tropical lagoon waterfalls, and plenty of palm trees. The interiors are equally glitzy: Caught between an ultra-polished cruise ship and an unspeakably upscale airport, the opulent materials, including leather, marble, wood paneling, and hand-blown glass accents around every corner collectively put Vegas to shame. The Beyoncé penthouse is the crowning jewel of this hedonistic playground. Scattered around the elegant chamber, which, in addition to featuring floor-to-ceiling marble bathrooms, boasts its own private balcony pool, and a miniature Taschen library and various texts on feminist theory—which, rather unsurprisingly, appear untouched. A secret VIP gaming room featuring blackjack and slot machines is available exclusively for celebrities, athletes, and other select guests on floor 34.  While the building’s curvaceous guitar shape is an undeniably iconic feat of engineering, there are also more subtle design elements to be commended. Nine floors of generous balconies have been cut into both sides of the guitar and staggered and set back from public view, ensuring that nobody sneaks a peak on your open-air morning shower. An inventive rigging system has been installed for facilitating the cleaning and repair of the windows and lights via telescopic tools kept on top of the building to allow for minimal visual interference for guests (although it’s no small business keeping the glass facade spotless).  The most extravagant feature here is The Oculus, a warm, glowing neon beacon located in the hotel lobby. Designed collaboratively between Rockwell Group and Mark Fuller of WET Design Group (the masterminds behind the audacious Dubai Fountain), the Oculus shares some of the same traits and runs its own multisensory mini light shows from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. Fourteen concentric panels of laminated glass create a waterfall effect from both in and outside the fountain, with eight holographic projections of various rock ‘n’ roll demigods going on at any one time. A tube of water tumbles down from the dark wood-lined dome, appearing like an alien abduction scene as it’s illuminated by LEDs from above and below. It’s the perfect place to space out after losing one too many rounds of Texas hold ’em. A cocktail bar with its own live music program is located just above The Oculus and offers trippy views down below.  Scattered throughout the building is a rotating selection of celebrity accessories from the Hard Rock’s epic 81,000 piece-strong memorabilia archive. On show during my visit was Neil Diamond’s classic thunderbird car and some choice outfits of Britney Spears and Björk, among others; the rest is kept in a vault in Fort Lauderdale. A built-in marble-floored mall that stretches 26,000 square feet offers boutique stores, caviar outlets, cigar lounges, and even an indoor miniature golf course. Around the Hard Rock complex are nineteen restaurants and 20 bars. On the other end of the mall, a heavenly escalator will whisk you away to DAER, a 44,000-square-foot nightclub and “day club” (remarkably, South Florida’s first), where the whos-who of EDM and dance let loose around a Steve Lieberman-designed LED centerpiece.  Buried in the bowels of the building is the new Hard Rock Live: a 7,000-capacity theater designed by Canadian entertainment gurus Scéno Plus and broken in with a set by Maroon 5. Sixty-five-hundred spacious seats offer unobstructed views across the acoustically pure clamshell-shaped theatre. Golden VIP couches offer nonstop cocktail service for the fortunate, but there’s not a dud seat in the house, with the back row less than 50 yards away from the stage. A dozen shows, performances, and concerts are planned for February alone (Rod Stewart fans, listen up. Then, of course, there is the gambling. The new Guitar Hotel adds 150,000 square feet of gaming space with 7,000 seats at 195 tables, effectively doubling the original size of the casino. Popular games like blackjack, mini-baccarat, and Spanish 21 are on the menu, alongside over new 3,000 slot machines and a high limit slot room. There is even a designated non-smoking section—but tucked behind drab black curtains, it’s a bit of a hard sell.  Apart from the name and the sawgrass-scented bath accessories in the suites, there’s hardly a trace of Seminole about this place. But, ask any member of the tribe and they’ll tell you they prefer it that way. The Vegas-inspired razzmatazz is all part of the Hard Rock franchise’s cultish draw, and it equals more cash in their pockets.  “The Seminoles don’t interfere with the Hard Rock brand,” explained Gary Bitner, president and founder of Bitner Group, the PR firm behind the new hotel. “It’s been that way since Jim Allen took the helm and the Seminoles began generating the bulk of the franchise profits.”  A businessman originally from New Jersey, Allen can largely be credited for the Florida Seminoles’ monopoly over Floridian gambling. He’s helmed the tribe’s gambling operations as the chief executive officer of Seminole Gaming since 2001, following stints at Atlantis Bahamas and The Trump Organization. It’s under his reign that the Seminoles acquired the Hard Rock brand back in 2007 for $906 million, beating out 72 competitors including titans of the hospitality industry, and extending the tribe’s casino empire up the East Coast and into the American heartland. Looking at Allen’s track record of designing casinos out in paradise, it becomes easy to see how the building harnesses paradisiacal escapism and exudes rock’n’roll charisma all at once, to mass appeal.  That its rooms have been almost fully booked since the building’s star-studded opening in October, which drew the likes of Johnny Depp and Khloe Kardashian, alongside an amped-up light show and event schedule planned for the year ahead, suggests the Guitar Hotel has no intentions of slowing its tempo. Its 2020 “Big Game” commercial, which featured Jennifer Lopez, DJ Khaled, Pitbull, and other high-profile celebrities on a wild race across the hotel’s lagoon-filled landscape for JLo’s “Bling Cup”—launching pineapple grenades, paddleboarding in stilettos, and even crashing a Stevie Van Zandt concert to retrieve the rhinestoned god-tier Starbucks thermos—is the latest testament to the brand’s ability to enlist pop culture and conjure the spectacular with a virtually limitless budget. While it’s fair play to criticize the very existence of a guitar-shaped luxury hotel as our relationship with the Earth grows more precarious, or find fault with the detrimental social impact of gambling, which preys on minorities and unemployed, you can walk away from a weekend at the Guitar Hotel knowing the livelihood of the Seminoles grows stronger for it. In addition to a $1,000 check paid out monthly in their name along with free college tuition, every tribe member currently receives dividends of their gambling empire paid out to around $128,000 a year. In other words, every Seminole member reaches adulthood with over $2 million in reserves. Rarely do ethnic minorities make it so big in the US — a country that built its wealth on the forced displacement, persecution and eradication of indigenous groups. At the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel, the right guys are on the winning end of your bad poker face.
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When They Go High, We Go Low

Manhattan’s subterranean Lowline park flatlines
Manhattan’s Lowline, a planned underground park project that stretched the concept of adaptive reuse to exciting and seemingly impossible new extremes, is no more. As first reported by Crain’s, funding for the estimated $83 million subterranean green space that would have been tucked deep beneath the Lower East Side within the long-abandoned Williamsburg Trolley Terminal has essentially dried up. This has forced the project to go “into dormancy” as Signe Nielsen, a landscape architect and member of the Lowline’s board of directors, explained to Crain’s. “We were unable to meet all of the benchmarks that were required, one of the most significant of which was to raise a substantial amount of money.” The Underground Development Foundation, the park’s nonprofit fundraising arm, launched two successful Kickstarter campaigns during the park’s early years, raising $150,000 in 2015 and $223,506 in 2015. As Crain’s notes, $3.7 million had been secured by the nonprofit after the project’s attention-grabbing launch in 2011—the same year that the second section of the High Line, a project that also famously harnesses New York City’s dormant transport infrastructure, opened to enormous fanfare on Manhattan’s far West Side. But public filings show that by the end of 2017, the nonprofit possessed little under $10,000 in funding. In 2016, the year that the Lowline received the formal green light from the city to proceed with the ambitious project, the foundation had $815,287 on hand. Obviously, such a visionary undertaking—one that involved reimagining a derelict subterranean space and employing emerging solar technology to reactivate it as a lush, community-centric park—came with a steep price tag. Regardless of fundraising struggles, the Lowline, which would have been New York City’s first underground park, was still slated for a 2021 opening as of last year. In a prescient 2016 interview with Fast Company, former Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen noted there was a chance that the Lowline would never be fully realized, going on to say that such a risk was ultimately positive. “This is all upside,” she said at the time. “There’s a chance to take the unbelievable advances in technology and the creative spirit of New York and harness it to create a public space that no one could have imagined.” Speaking with AN, Lowline co-founder Dan Barasch mirrored Glen's earlier sentiments on the benefits of risk-taking while also suggesting that the Lowline is, in fact, “not over” despite the current absence of a fundraising-driven pulse first reported by Crain's. “It's going to get done,” Barasch said, going on to explain that the team is open to exploring other hidden spaces in New York and beyond that are ripe for rediscovery and reactivation. And the Lowline's current home on the Lower East Side certainly isn't out of the question for future work. Barasch expressed his frustration with the de Blasio administration and the “fundamental lack of public funding” for bold, risk-taking projects like the Lowline. Barasch mentioned a greenery-filled underground park in Seoul that's quite similar to the Lowline but benefited from greater public support from the city's government. “This was a project that always needed the city to be behind it,” he said. “We're going to wait for an administration that has the imagination and capital that a project like this requires.” While the Lowline may never see the light of day under the current mayoral administration, this isn’t to say that it failed to provide the curious public with a taste of what was (supposed to) come. From October 2015 through February 2017, the Lowline team operated the Lowline Lab, a non-subterranean space described as a “long-term open laboratory and technical exhibit designed to test and showcase how the Lowline will grow and sustain plants underground.” Free and open to the public during the weekends, the Lowline Lab welcomed 100,000 visitors over the course of its existence. The lab was housed in what was once part of Essex Street Market, and is now the Essex Crossing mega-development. The idea for a public space that made use of the old Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal was first conceived as the Delancy Underground by Barasch and James Ramsey in 2009. When the Lowline launched two years later, the duo envisioned it as an obvious inverse of the wildly popular—but controversial—elevated High Line. It would, however, ultimately been an entirely different, more futuristic creature. At 1.5 acres compared to the High Line’s 6.7 acres, the Lowline would have placed a greater emphasis on innovation and technology as well as on fostering community engagement.
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The Pisa of Texas

Change.org petition seeks to save half-imploded Dallas office tower
Forget football, frozen margaritas, and the Texas State Fair. It would appear that the one thing capable of truly bringing the entire city of Dallas together is a failed mid-rise demolition. In the seconds following a much-anticipated planned implosion of the former Affiliated Computer Services tower on February 16, it became abundantly clear that 300 pounds of dynamite wouldn’t be enough to bring the dogged 11-story building completely down. Located north of downtown Dallas off of the Central Expressway, the otherwise forgettable 1970s-era office tower in question is being razed to make way for a $2.5 billion mixed-use development dubbed The Central. But the demolition went awry, leaving the building’s concrete-and-steel core standing a distinctive tilt that's not too dissimilar from a certain Tuscan bell tower. Just like that, Dallas gained itself an instant, internet-famous photo backdrop. Now Dallasonians—tongues firmly planted in cheeks—are rallying to save the half-demolished building now known as the “Leaning Tower of Dallas.” A “dank meme"-seeking Dallas resident has even launched a Change.org petition calling for the inclined tower to be bestowed with Texas Historic Landmark status as well as UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. Reads the petition:
Over the past few days, The Leaning Tower of Dallas has become the city's largest cultural icon. After making national headlines, we are finally famous for something other than the JFK Assassination. Unfortunately, the demolition will be completed soon to make way for even more hideous shops and condos for the bourgeois residents of Uptown Dallas.
As of this writing, over 900 people have signed the petition, which is directed toward Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Texas Historical Commission executive director Mark Wolfe, and noted reprieve-giver President Donald Trump, among others. In all fairness, there is some cultural significance to the Affiliated Computer Services tower. Although owned by Xerox in its final years, the building was once home to the Southland Corporation, the parent company behind one of Dallas’s greatest contributions to modern society: 7-Eleven. While obviously unserious in its intent, the petition does serve as a sort of battle cry against The Central, a dense and upscale project that will ultimately span 30 acres. As reported by The Dallas Morning News, the first phase of development will include a 17-story office tower, two hotels, two large apartment complexes, a 3.5-acre park, and 110,000 square feet of retail, entertainment, and restaurant space. Dallas architecture firms GFF and BOKA Powell are both involved in the project, as is New York-based Perkins Eastman.

Project developer De La Vega Development plans to break ground during the third quarter of this year—that is, provided that the remaining portion of the tower fully comes down when a crane and wrecking ball finish the job at some point this week.

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I Can't Thrive 55

Herzog & de Meuron reveal Switzerland’s first roadside chapel
Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron has unveiled its design for Autobahnkirche, an appropriately austere roadside chapel to be built near the small village of Andeer, alongside the A13 motorway in the firm’s home country. A major north-south route, the A13 transverses the eastern section of the Swiss Alps through the sprawling, trilingual canton of Graubünden. Along with wayside shrines, ecumenical chapels situated along long and lonely stretches of highway are fairly common across Europe, particularly in Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany, where there are nearly 50 so-called “road churches” or Autobahnkirchen. Herzog & de Meuron’s 3,000-square-foot Autobahnkirche will be the first of its kind in Switzerland. While this is somewhat surprising considering both the country’s monastic associations and its white-knuckle alpine highways, the Swiss populace is increasingly non-religious. The Autobahnkirche aims to be both a singular pit stop for motorists traveling along the A13 as well as introspection-seeking local residents regardless of their religious beliefs (or non-beliefs). Painted in the customary solid white, Herzog & de Meuron’s angular, box-shaped structure will be highly visible from the motorway as a distinctive beacon. Of the project, Herzog & de Meuron wrote:
"The idea for the chapel in Andeer had to emerge from the site alone, from the location, from the road. And we did not want to work with explicit religious signs or symbols, even less with Christian symbols such as a cross or representations of Christ. We were looking for architecture that would sharpen the perception of visitors — of the location, the natural environs, and even of the way they see themselves."
The Autobahnkirche will be comprised of four individual spaces, all of them functioning as distinct sanctuaries. One doubles as a sheltered overlook of sorts where visitors can take in sweeping views of the pastoral countryside through a massive ovoid window. The structure’s main entrance is through an airy aboveground sanctuary enclosed by walls that “just lean against each other; they lean and support at the same time,” as the architects put it in a press statement. “One of them stands upright. Almost like the wall of a choir. A simple gesture that emerged almost in play.” After descending down a staircase from the aboveground space, visitors will enter into the hushed subterranean heart of the chapel, a tunnel-like sequence of three cavernous chambers that will each serve an individual purpose while flowing seamlessly into each other. The first room will be a circular refuge for “readers” in which natural light pours in from above. Moving deeper into the underground area, visitors will find a more somber room with a reflecting wall that’s illuminated only by candle and a single skylight. “This is the most personal place for visitors; here they are confronted with themselves,” explained Herzog & de Meuron. Beyond this space is the magnificent viewing room, where the dramatic alpine beauty that envelopes the Autobahnkirche is on full display. “The deeper you go, the weaker the sounds from the motorway and the stronger the sound of your own footsteps,” writes Herzog and de Meuron. “Finally, when you reach the last room, strong daylight streams into the heart of the chapel and you see a panoramic view of the landscape, the village, and the lush green meadows and woods. Perception of the vegetation is heightened by the complementary red of a room-height pane of tinted glass. The sun, setting in the evening, shines through the red glass into this last portion of the chapel, which leads directly to the landscape outside.”     Autobahnkirche is the first building with spiritual affiliations designed by Herzog & de Meuron, although the Basel-headquartered firm did participate in a 1989 design competition for Zurich’s Greek Orthodox Church. No timeline has been made public for the chapel’s construction, or the project’s estimated cost.
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Did Somebody Say Timbah

A net-zero, cross-laminated timber apartment complex will rise in Boston
Thanks to support from the U.S. Forest Service and the Softwood Lumber Board, developer Placetailor and Boston-based architecture firm Generate have collaborated to design a carbon-neutral apartment block in Roxbury, a neighborhood in the south end of Boston. Named Model-C, the 5-story, 19,000-square-foot building will contain 14 residential units above an affordable co-working space on its ground floor. Model-C will be assembled using a cross-laminated timber (CLT) kit-of-parts and will be net-zero energy and net-zero carbon for its first decade of operation. The CLT rooftop will allow for the easy installation of solar panels, and the building’s walls will be insulated with natural mineral wool. The entire building, including bathroom “pods,” will be prefabricated in sections off-site and assembled from the ground up to reduce the need for scaffolding. Its plans have been certified by PassivHaus and meet the standards of the new Boston Department of Neighborhood Development’s “Zero Emissions Standards,” part of the city's Climate Action Plan. Once complete, Model-C will be one of the only totally timber buildings in Massachusetts, and one of the least energy-intensive buildings in America. Generate sees Model-C as a demonstration of a modular cross-laminated timber system the firm will apply to other sites in response to different topographical conditions and coding requirements. “Over the past year,” the firm's website states, “Generate has been transitioning out of the academic setting of the MIT Mass Timber Lab, and into industry by actively seeking progressive developers to deploy its first demonstration project, which they hope will serve as a catalyst in the Greater Boston area, and eventually in North America.” While mass-timber buildings are currently limited to six stories in North America, Generate is currently exploring the application of their system to buildings as tall as 18 stories tall in response to the 2021 Tall Wood building codes. The project received zoning approval last September and construction is expected to begin this June. Given the expediency of the prefabrication method developed by Placetailor and Generate, as well as the elimination of an interior framing system, the project can be completed as early as winter of next year.
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Art on Site

Barozzi Veiga to design campus for mainstay Miami nonprofit Oolite Arts
Miami nonprofit Oolite Arts has hired Spanish firm Barozzi Veiga to design its new headquarters. The 36-year-old group, formerly known as ArtCenter/South Florida, purchased a warehouse property in the city’s Little Haiti-Little River neighborhood, according to the Miami Herald, and plans to build a $30 million center boasting artists’ studios, a theater, a maker space, and classrooms for professionals and the public.  “Miami’s visual arts community has grown exponentially over the past decade, and Oolite Arts has transformed its programming to help Miami-based artists grow,” said Dennis School, president and CEO of Oolite Arts, in a press release. “Our new home will enable us to better meet the needs of both visual artists and the community.”  As the Miami Herald notes, Oolite Arts and its old headquarters on Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road Mall once helped revive a once-forgotten strip of land into a thriving commercial and cultural corridor. The nonprofit’s upcoming new space will be located at 75 NW 72nd St. runs along the Florida East Coast Railway and is slated to open in 2022. At 35,000-square-feet, the campus is expected to also bolster the largely industrial area and its surrounding community, a neighborhood that’s been growing with incoming art galleries and arts-related organizations looking for cheaper rent. News of Barozzi Veiga’s selection comes just months after the Barcelona-based studio was announced as the new campus master plan architects for the Art Institute of Chicago, an institution also located over a rail line. The firm’s most recently-completed structure, a museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, additionally dealt with train tracks.  Established in 2004 by Fabrizio Barozzi and Alberto Veiga, the international practice has won numerous awards for its cultural work including the Mies van der Rohe Award for European Architecture for its design of Poland’s Szczecin Philharmonic Hall in 2015. The duo has designed countless projects around the world and a few smaller commissions in the United States, but Oolite Arts will be Barozzi Veiga’s first building in the country.  Miami-based firm Charles Benson will serve as the architect of record on the arts center, and visuals will be released later this year. 
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A Bit Off the Top, Please

Court ruling against Upper West Side tower could take down 20 floors
A striking New York State Supreme Court ruling may force the developers of an Upper West Side condo tower at 200 Amsterdam Avenue to scale back their soaring design by 20 floors. While developments of this kind are often modified in the planning phase in order to comply with zoning regulations, this case has a twist: Construction of the 668-foot building is nearly complete. Last Thursday, Supreme Court Justice W. Franc Perry ordered that the New York City Department of Buildings revoke the building permit for the development at 200 Amsterdam as well as demolish all floors that exceed zoning restrictions. The exact number of floors slated for removal remains unclear, but The New York Times reports that it could be 20 or more, depending on the final interpretation of the zoning laws. That’s quite a trim for a 52-story building. 200 Amsterdam, designed by Elkus Manfredi, occupies the lot where the original Lincoln Square Synagogue stood. In 2013, the synagogue moved to an updated building designed by CetraRuddy right next door, and renderings of the luxury condo high-rise first appeared in 2016. UWS community activists have viewed the project with contempt over the past few years, and many celebrated the ruling as a feat for community organizing. “We are very gratified that after a long fight, the gerrymandered zoning lot at 200 Amsterdam has been declared illegal. This groundbreaking decision averts a dangerous precedent that would have ultimately affected every corner of the city,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS), in a press statement. In a statement to AN, developers SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan defended their vision for 200 Amsterdam and indicated plans to appeal the ruling:
“This ruling is a shocking loss for New York City and its residents. It defies more than 40 years of precedent in the city’s zoning laws. It also ignores the thoughtful decision of the DOB to grant the permit which was upheld by the BSA following exhaustive document review and testimony over a two-year period. Both of those decisions recognized that retroactively applying new interpretations of the city’s zoning to previously approved projects undermines the stability of the regulatory environment needed to support the investment that is critical to New York City’s economy, tax base, housing stock and services.  We will appeal this decision vigorously in court and are confident that we, and the City, will prevail on the merits.”
While the retroactive trimming of a nearly-finished tower is certainly unusual, it is worth noting that New York has seen this situation before—in 1991, a New York developer was forced to tear down the top 12 floors of a 31-story residential tower at 108 East 96th Street five  whole years after it was built. This marked the most severe consequence a New York developer had ever faced for zoning violations; the NYT reporting from 1991 claims that developers of the project repeatedly blamed the violations on an “error in a city map.” The immediate future of 200 Amsterdam remains unclear, but the potential of a partial demolition presents a unique set of challenges, especially with some of the most profitable units located on the upper floors.
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Conflicts of Interest

Cooper Hewitt director and six trustees resign over wedding controversy
Caroline Baumann, director of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, resigned from her post last week after internal controversy arose over her 2018 wedding. According to The New York Times, an investigation conducted by the Smithsonian’s inspector general dove into the amount of money Baumann paid for a custom-made wedding dress, as well as the procurement of her East Hampton, New York, wedding venue—both acquired through potential conflicts of interest in the eyes of the design museum’s governing body.  Some background: All museums under the Smithsonian umbrella are partially funded by the United States government and, like all government jobs, its employee code of conduct states that “employees shall not solicit or accept any gift from any source that is, or appears to be, offered because the employee holds a Smithsonian position or may have influence within the Smithsonian.” The probe into Baumann’s wedding began after an anonymous staff complaint was filed over concerns on two aspects of Baumann’s nuptials. In September 2018, Baumann married branding consultant John Stewart Malcolmson in a $750 silver wedding dress which investigating agents believed, according to NYT, to be a heavily-discounted price that she negotiated using her status as head of Cooper Hewitt. According to Brooklyn-based designer Samantha Sleeper who made the piece, she did not give Baumann a discount nor did Baumann request a discount, even though her dresses start at a rate of $3,000. Sleeper denied the claim that Baumann used her status to procure the gown and insisted the low-dollar amount was standard for the cocktail-style dress which she had purchased. The other issue the agents looked into involved where Baumann and Malcolmson held their wedding; a 16-acre sculpture garden on Long Island founded by textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen. The property, LongHouse Reserve, won a Cooper Hewitt Award in 2015. Per multiple sources, Larsen and Baumann are good friends and he offered up the site for her to use free of charge. NYT noted that Larsen’s nonprofit of the same name has freely used Cooper Hewitt conference rooms for board meetings, an exchange that also drummed up concern within the Smithsonian.   Baumann reportedly stepped back from her directorial role over the claims, despite opposition from the museum’s board of trustees. In the aftermath, six of its 27 members resigned over the weekend from their posts, including architect David Rockwell. NYT reported that artist Judy Francis Zankel, the board secretary, wrote in her resignation letter that the way Baumann was treated “violates every principle of decency.”  “I feel that remaining on the board tacitly condones this behavior,” she continued. Zankel went on to question whether there was a “touch of misogyny” in Baumann’s forced ousting. “Can you imagine all this brouhaha about a dress and a wedding directed toward a man in the same position?”  The specifics of these accusations are especially confusing given Baumann’s success within the institution since she started working there in 2001. After being appointed director in 2013, Baumann supervised the museum’s rebranding by Pentagram and oversaw the $91 million renovation of its Carnegie Mansion home by Gluckman Mayner Architects and Beyer Blinder Belle. Diller Scofidio + Renfro completed its internal exhibition design in 2014 and the following year, the museum’s Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden reopened to the public. The massive project resulted in widespread praise for the 123-year-old institution. Over email, the museum confirmed Baumann’s departure and announced Dr. John Davis, Smithsonian Provost, as Cooper Hewitt’s interim director: “Baumann has been a passionate voice for design, and much was accomplished during her tenure."
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The Ignored Realm

Rem Koolhaas sets a global non-urban agenda with Countryside at the Guggenheim
In both pre-Christianity Rome and China, the countryside was a place of retreat where those seeking respite from the bustle and grime of the city would go for rest, relaxation, and creative inspiration. The Chinese founders of Taoism called this freedom and wondering Xiaoyao, while Roman philosophers referred to time away as Otium: and idealized existences—from off-the-grid hippy utopias to the peaceful bliss of Arcadia—have continued to crystallize in the natural landscapes of the rural. Contemporary ideas around wellness, mindfulness, ayahuasca startup retreats, and glamping at Burning Man fill the same role in our society as a full-circle return to pre-industrial, pre-capitalist, nature-centric lifestyles that are paradoxically a product of our neoliberal consumerist culture and sold as an antidote to it. This lineage, from the beginning of western civilization and ancient eastern philosophy to 21st-century marketing culture, is just part of Rem Koolhaas’s ten-year transcultural, transhistorical research and analysis of non-urban territories, or what he calls the “ignored realm.” On view at New York’s Guggenheim Museum through August 14, Countryside: The Future is a project of Koolhaas, AMO director Samir Bantal, and Troy Conrad Therrien of the Guggenheim. The show fills the museum’s entire main rotunda. It is meant to upend traditional notions of the countryside by investigating the places where the influence, as well as the oddities, normally associated with the urban can be found outside the city. If, at one time in the not-so-distant past, the countryside was an idyllic place where each human had a role, Koolhaas posits that the “romantic” landscape of creek beds, hillsides, and family farms is now unrecognizable as a stable, human-centered place, but rather a hyper-efficient, inorganic, non-place where Cartesian technological systems define life. The show reverses course on much of what we have come to accept as the baseline for thinking about development. Take that famous statistic: by 2050, 70- to-80 percent of humanity would live in cities. “Are we really heading for this absurd outcome, where the vast majority of humanity lives on only 2% of the earth’s surface, and the remaining 98%, inhabited by only one-fifth of humanity, exists to serve cities?” Of course, Rem is not the first person to do research on the rural. But he has the resources (5 partner schools and AMO), the storytelling ability, and the platform (an entire museum in NYC) to reorient the conversation, as he has on other topics such as cities, Dubai, and toilets. The exhibition starts outside the museum, with a tractor next to a small, high-tech indoor tomato farm under pink lights that illuminate passing pedestrians. In the lobby, a requisite hanging sculpture in the rotunda is made from a bale of hay, an imaging satellite akin those used by Google Maps, and an underwater robot that kills fish threatening coral reefs. Land, sea, and even space are all implicated in this broad survey of the rural, as this sculpture sets the tone for the rest of the show, which launches into an outpouring of information. It is reminiscent of OMA/AMO publications Content, Volume, or the Elements exhibition and books, as visitors are greeted by a wall text of 1,000 questions posed by Koolhaas. Nearby is a table showcasing publications that provided context: The Red Book and the Great Wall, The Future of the Great Plains, Golf Courses of the World, and a German publication about Muammar al-Gaddafi. At the core of the show, the Guggenheim’s iconic ramp houses a set of themed vignettes. ‘Political Redesign’ is a catalog of ‘heroic’ 20th-century geopolitical operations, ranging from the founding of several United States federal agencies during the Dust Bowl, to German Architect Herman Sörgel’s plan to unite Europe and Africa by lowering the level of the Mediterranean Sea and building a bridge over the resulting span. Stalin’s Plan for the Transformation of Nature and the evolution of the Jeffersonian grid from squares to circles are also highlights. Countryside then moves away from these governmental models into more polyvalent experiments with nature, technology, politics, planning, and preservation. Many of these we might normally associate with the urban, such as the anarchist community in Tarnac, France that was raided by police in 2008 but is now home to an informal university hidden in the forest. There are also glimpses of rural China, most beautifully Taobao Live, Alibaba’s live streaming channel that allows sellers in the countryside to broadcast their produce and foodstuffs to audiences in the cities. Arcosanti, afro-futurism, and China’s Belt and Road Initiative are among the other kaleidoscopic ways that the narrative extends beyond industrial farming into a host of other social and political spheres. Working through contemporary preservation methods, proposals, and scenarios, including a curious example from Siberia where valuable mammoth tusks are becoming exposed in the ground by climate change and creating new economies for local, amateur “archaeologists,” the exhibitions closes on ‘cartesian euphoria,’ a kind of paranoiac-critical reading of the technologies and systems that are rearranging nature and politics in the countryside, complete with a full-scale installation of a PhenoMate, a cutting-edge farming tool that uses machine learning to identify which plants in a nursery bed photosynthesizing the most, and selectively breeds stronger strains without genetic modification. The show operates politically in a context where the countryside, and those who live in it are a marginalized group, at least culturally. Urban elites deride rural areas as many things, most out-of-touchedly as “fly-over states.” After a decade or more or the architectural world focusing on cities and urban areas as the main spaces of inquiry, Rem’s turn to the countryside —most likely born from a desire to look where most others are not— and his ability to show the public that the so-called hinterlands are a place where not only are some of the most important agricultural, industrial, and social mechanisms of society operating, but it is also where many of the interesting intersections of experimental politics, economics, engineering, and social relationships are taking place. To ignore the rural because we don’t agree with the politics of those who live there, or think that their culture is not sophisticated is not only missing out on experiencing a countryside beyond a luxury faux-rustic retreat, but it is also disregarding the fact that the countryside and the city are and always will be inextricably linked, as elucidated by a brilliant provocation that cities have become stuck in “frivolity,” while supported by complex, managed landscapes in the countryside. For example, urbanites underneath London’s ArcelorMittal Orbit leisurely eat ice cream brought in from factory farms in the outskirts. It is also a show with a decidedly top-down lens on the countryside. Some will not like the relative lack of representation of small-scale communities in the show, but the acknowledgment of systems and technology is an important way of seeing these territories. Had the curators included more grassroots narratives, it likely would have watered down the larger, geopolitical stories being told, and the show is better off for staying focused on larger-scale issues rather than getting into the folk aspects of the countryside, which would be more predictable and less compelling. Countryside is definitely a magazine- or book-on-the-wall type of exhibition, but not in a bad way. The texts are snappily written in typical Koolhaasian style, and there are not too many complex maps or charts, making the exhibition feel more like a journalistic analysis of what is interesting about the countryside, not necessarily a theoretical treatise or prescriptive path forward. It could be read as a transformation of the museum into a publication, a curatorial strategy that upturns not only our ideas about the Guggenheim but about how to leverage a hyper-didactic exhibition into an aesthetic experience.  The show is literally distorted by the Guggenheim’s double-curved surfaces, spiraling ramp, and constantly shifting vantage points, with a string of text spiraling around the underside of the ramps like a dizzying thesis statement, always to be revisited. If there is a sticking point, it is that the aesthetic of the exhibition will be familiar to many, as it harkens back to previous OMA/AMO publications. Koolhaas has long collaborated with Dutch graphic designer Irma Boom, who created a custom Countryside typeface for the show, which resembles both handwriting and her Neutral typeface used throughout. In an exhibition that is really a publication, typefaces matter, and the familiar layouts and fonts make the exhibition seem more like the work of a signature architect or firm, not a global coalition. No, but seriously, folks, go see the show! Taschen has published an accompanying publication, available for 24.95 online or at the gift shop.
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Next stop, Hitsville

Detroit’s Motown Museum teases expansion in new flyover video
Detroit’s Motown Museum has reached out by releasing a flyover video that gives the first good look at its $50 million expansion in hopes that we’ll (eventually) be there. And although there ain’t nothing like the real thing, the teaser video showcases the under-construction museum in its full glory. “It’s such a thrill for us to give the world this fresh visual of what our expanded campus will look like when construction is completed,” Robin Terry, chairwoman and CEO of the Motown Museum, told Detroit News. “The dynamic format for this aerial ‘flyover’ video means you can experience the project in a way that even the most detailed plans and renderings cannot—bringing the expansion to life in a way that makes you feel like you’re there. This preview also illustrates how the museum will offer unique programming, a collaborative space for the community to gather and one-of-a-kind experiences that no other institution can match.” As previously reported, the museum expansion, which broke ground in September of last year, was designed by the late Phil Freelon of Perkins and Will. Most notably, the North Carolina-based Freelon led the design team behind the National Museum of African American History and Culture as well as other museums dedicated to civil rights and the black experience. For the Motown Museum expansion, Freelon collaborated with Detroit’s Hamilton Anderson Associates. “Motown introduced a brilliant collection of voices and stories across racial, generational, and cultural lines,” said Zena Howard, a managing director at Perkins and Will, in a statement to the Detroit Free Press. “The expansion of the Motown Museum will carry these voices even further.” When complete, the museum, which is currently located in the original Motown home offices/studios on West Grand Boulevard, will feature an additional 50,000 square feet of interactive exhibition space, performance venues, recording studios, community gathering areas, retail space, and more. The first phase will mostly involve renovating and connecting the existing museum buildings, and is the first of four. The sprawling new museum complex will be connected to Hitsville U.S.A., the name of Motown Records’ historic hit-producing compound. In effect, the expansion will create a sprawling cultural campus in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood. Currently, three of the seven original Motown-affiliated residential homes lining West Grand Boulevard make up the present-day museum. Motown mogul Berry Gordy purchased the first Hitsville home in 1959. In 1972, Gordy moved the label’s headquarters from Detroit to Los Angeles. Esther Gordy Edwards, sister of Berry Gordon and former senior vice president of Motown Records, established the Motown Museum at the Hitsville site in 1985. It remains one of southeast Michigan’s top tourist attractions. As reported by the Detroit Free Press, the Motown Museum announced it had surpassed the halfway mark of its $50 million expansion fundraising campaign on the same day it premiered the new flyover teaser.
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Forever Young (& Ayata)

Young & Ayata builds practice through discipline
The following interview was conducted as part of “Building Practice,” a professional elective course at the Syracuse University School of Architecture taught by Molly Hunker and Kyle Miller (and is now an AN interview series). On October 10, 2019, Felix Samo and Tirta Teguh, students at Syracuse University, interviewed Kutan Ayata of the Brooklyn-based Young & Ayata. The following interview was edited by Kyle Miller and AN for clarity. Felix Samo and Tirta Teguh: We’ll start with an easy one… What does it mean to practice architecture? Kutan Ayata: Do we have three hours?! Actually, this is something I recently discussed at length in a lecture titled, “Practicing-Teaching.” These two modes of operation are inseparable for us, as well as for many of our colleagues who established their offices after the recession in 2008. We actually started our office three months before the recession… timed perfectly! We quickly realized that traditional practice was no longer going to be viable for us. So, our practice includes teaching, our teaching includes practice. They’re inseparable. Practicing architecture is pedagogical. It’s about an exchange of ideas. Because we are primarily supported by teaching salaries, we can be very selective when it comes to our practice. Our office is a space where we actively explore our evolving curiosities about architectural potentials without too much compromise. Was starting an office something that you always wanted to do or something that happened unexpectedly or circumstantially? It’s both. I always knew I wanted to have a practice of my own. Michael [Young] would say the same thing. We both worked for about eight years for others before starting our practice. The way we started was incredibly casual. Michael and I lived on 14th Street in Manhattan after we graduated. We met up one night for drinks and had an unplanned discussion about starting a firm. We studied at Princeton at the same time and we worked together at Reiser + Umemoto. We got along, and we enjoyed working together. At that time, forming a partnership was almost more of a social decision than a professional decision. The spirit of that moment is maintained—we enjoy working together which helps us stay motivated. The answer is “yes” to both parts of the question: the practice came about rather unexpectedly, but it was also very intentional. What was your experience of the financial crisis in 2008? How did it affect the way you and your peers practice? That was a defining moment. In hindsight, it was the best thing that could have happened to us. We had real projects, real contracts, projects going into construction… and all that basically disappeared overnight. All of a sudden, no job, no income. It was obviously a moment to freak out. But we found ways to deal with the situation. That’s when I started teaching, which changed the way I look at the world. The crises gave us an opportunity to slow down and contemplate our position in the discourse of Architecture. We began developing self-generated speculative projects, which, to this day, serve as the conceptual basis for much of our work. Concerning success you’ve had as an architect and as an office, do you attribute these moments more to fortunate circumstances or to skill and perseverance? Again, both. Nothing happens without hard work. In this last 10 years, both of us have started families, had kids… our lives got more and more hectic. We have less and less time to work. Additionally, we often teach at multiple schools each year and every day of the week, which is not common, nor easy. Before Michael earned the tenure-track position at Cooper Union, he was jumping around quite a bit—sometimes teaching at three schools in three different states in one semester. We figured out a way to make our work time more efficient amongst all those scheduled pressures. Success doesn’t come without a tremendous amount of hard work, but it also doesn’t happen without luck. We’ve had some luck. But in this country, I still believe you’re rewarded for hard work. That’s what strikes me about living and working in the United States… value is assigned to sustained effort. Persistence is recognized here and that’s quite amazing. What was the experience of starting a firm in a country in which you didn’t grow up? When we started the firm in 2008, I had already been in the US for 14 years. I came right after high school. The US was my home at that point. Now I’m quite removed from the place I come from, in the sense of customs and business… it’s all very unfamiliar. I know my high school lingo in Turkish, but I don’t know how to operate there as an adult. Does where you grew up have an influence on your work, or have you been removed from where you grew up for so long that it does not affect the work? It’s hard to say. I’m sure it does in some deep psychological level. It’s been 25 years, and I’ve lived most of my life in the US now. But let’s unpack this. When I was in Turkey, I was a die-hard skateboarder, and I always wanted to go to California. I didn't quite make it that far, but I found a partner who's from California. I tried to come to the US during high school as well. I ended up in a really small town, which was very depressing. At that moment, I didn’t want to stay, but it was very clear to me that my future would be in the US. But where I come from certainly influences me. Exposure to certain conditions present in Turkey during the time I lived there definitely influence how I look at the world today. Do architects have the responsibility to engage global issues? You can’t escape them. But I don’t think architecture as a discipline is responsible for solving the world’s problems. There are other issues that we are immediately engaged with, that are more disciplinary and, to us, more important, at least from the perspective of an architect. I’d like to draw the line between a citizen and an architect. We have our politics, we have our interests, we know where we stand in terms of the issues. In the last 10 to 15 years, there are always voices within the discipline which claim a broader reach and an urgency to deal with political issues. We’re more interested in central disciplinary questions that operate through aesthetics, which has its own political agency. Your answer reminds me of something you said in your 2014 Architectural League of New York talk, when you claimed that architecture should be separate from politics. You said that “architecture is not contingent, it develops its logic internally and grows from disciplinary concerns.” Can you elaborate on that and share how this belief affects your work? The relationship between architecture and politics is intensifying, but we have remained focused on issues internal to our discipline as a way to ensure its continual evolution. For us, it’s most interesting to talk to other architects about architecture… to have deep discussions and debates about the pertinent and persistent architectural topics. Of course, architecture performs on a broader cultural platform once it’s out in the world, but we believe that we have a responsibility to imagine that we can use our knowledge and tools to create new worlds rather than simply reflect and accommodate the one in which we live. In many of your projects, there is a continuous translation between objects, drawings, and buildings. Where does this interest come from and how does it ultimately affect your work? Michael and I are stuck in-between architectural generations, which is simply a result of what was happening in architecture culture when we graduated from Princeton. We’re close friends and colleagues with the generation of architects above us—let’s call them digital formalists or the affect and sensation generation who focused on digital modeling, digital fabrication, and rendering—and the generation of architects below us, who are interested in things like figure, graphic expediency, and engagement, and who more commonly use physical models and collage. We're interested in the routines and techniques of both cohorts. When we completed graduate school, the digital project was winding down as it pertains to experimentation in an academic environment. Michael and I were never directly a part of the authorship of that project. We never rejected it, but we also weren't looking to dismantle it. We quickly realized that we were interested in engaging multiple contemporary mediums and modes of representation. We were operating through sketching, physical modeling, digital fabrication, lecturing, teaching, writing, etc. Our projects are intellectual pursuits as much as they are design speculations, and they are developed through and across each of those modes of operation. The combination of and translation between drawings, objects, and buildings is a way for us to combine unique mediums through which our aesthetic ideas mature. Can you talk about this approach to design in relation to your most recent project, DL 1310? How does the building embody conceptual studies that may have first appeared in drawings or objects? It’s important to recognize that we evaluate all mediums individually. Throughout the development of DL 1310, drawings did things for us that objects could not, and vice versa. Equally important to note is that a drawing of the project by itself doesn’t necessarily capture the entire idea of a project, nor does a model, nor does the building. Cumulatively, these three outputs are the project. In fact, I would argue that as much as we love to build, the building is a form of representation with the very least amount of freedom in terms of articulating the architectural idea. This is because the building must account for more than a drawing or a model… concern for cost, financing institutions, contractors, subcontractors—these things add more complexity. We don’t think about these complexities in relation to compromise, but we do recognize the addition of necessary forces beyond our control that claim partial authorship over the project. In DL 1310, the building is inspired by a range of drawings and objects we’ve produced over the years in addition to the ones produced for that project. It goes back to an answer I gave earlier. All of our projects, including DL 1310, are part of a body of work with an interconnected and evolving aesthetic sensibility. Regarding clients, who commissioned DL 1310? How did your relationship with the client impact the result? The project is a collaboration between our office and Michan Architecture. Michan Architecture is an office based in Mexico City that is led by a former student of mine, Isaac Michan Daniel. We kept in touch after he graduated and moved back to Mexico, where his father owns a development company and serves as a collaborator. He called us one day a few years ago and asked us if we’d like to collaborate on a small housing project. That's how it all started. It's a relationship that developed through teaching that became a friendship and now a collaboration. How does the office operate now? How many people do you employ? Right now, it’s just me, because Michael is in Rome. Well, today he’s in London, but he is away all year at the American Academy in Rome. What’s interesting is that I've seen him more frequently this fall than I last fall when we were both in New York. Our teaching schedules don't typically align so we're always communicating over the phone and through email. So, it’s actually not different this year with him living in Italy. We’re currently working on a competition and our shared comments are made on the internet. This is the reality of practice today, regardless of whether your office is distributed or operating in one place. That's how we’re managing projects right now. During the winter months, we rarely have anybody else in the office with us. In summer, we try to grow to four or six people for more intense production outside of the academic calendar. With a few exceptions, almost all of our projects have been completed during the summer months. What’s been the most rewarding moment in your practice thus far? The office is a place where I can go and explore ideas freely without the pressure of economic performance. Teaching affords us the opportunity to approach practice in this way. The space academia created for the practice is thrilling. It's an incredible luxury. To have time to think about issues that interest us and to speculate on the way in which they become architectural… that's the biggest reward. It’s incredible for Michael and me to have time to spend working on things that we love. For architecture, that's incredibly important. If you're working on a project that you're not interested in, you’re not likely to do a good job. We really enjoy the day to day activities of the office. Because of the way in which we are able to practice, we remain excited and optimistic about the future and our ability to make meaningful contributions to the world through design.
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A Lab, For Art!

Barkow Leibinger and Sasaki create a radiant, net-zero ArtLab for Harvard
The Berlin-based Barkow Leibinger, with the help of the Boston-based architect of record Sasaki, has created the adaptable, translucent ArtLab for Harvard. As the university expands across the river into Boston’s Allston neighborhood, they’ve been developing an ArtYard—a contemporary, arts-focused answer to the walled Harvard Yard in Cambridge. Barkow Leibinger’s brief was to create an adaptable, net-zero-energy building that offered space to meet the many programmatic needs of different disciplines working side-by-side. The 9,000-square-foot ArtLab is arranged in a pinwheel configuration, providing spaces for artmaking, research, classes, and performances. It also has studios for artists-in-residence, a sound lab and recording studios, and an open workshop in the building’s center. “We were designing the building, but also designing the programming,” explained Frank Barkow, cofounder of Barkow Leibinger. “Different programs had to be in close adjacency to each other: studios, workshops, film editing suites, those sort of things.” Previously, disparate creative fields were spread across the campus, many with limited space, said Barkow. In the ArtLab, “different arts are in close proximity to each other,” he said. “You've got fine artists working close to film, close to performance, close to dance. It was important that the ArtLab acting as an incubator with different creative practices in close proximity to each other.”  The ArtLab also had to be temporary, or at least portable. Made of a steel frame that’s been mechanically fastened and clad in insulated glass and polycarbonate panels, the building is not only lightweight in visual character, but in physical design. Placed on grade on a concrete slab, it can be quickly dis- and re-assembled as the spatial needs of the expanding campus evolve. “It’s what I call basic Kmart construction,” joked Barkow. “It’s open web, steel joints, glazing, polycarbonate, chipboard, plywood. It’s quite simple.” He added that the firm is used to designing factories and inflected the art building with an industrial element. “It’s robust. They can knock it around. They can beat it up. In a way, it’s much less precious than the historical buildings that make up much of the Harvard campus.”  While a polycarbonate envelope is common for industrial construction in Europe, it’s used less frequently in the United States, which was a challenge for the local architects of record. Sasaki undertook “a lot of research and testing,” according to Sasaki principal Lan Ying Ip. “To our knowledge, there has never been a net-zero building designed with a polycarbonate facade,” she said. Sasaki’s director of technical resources, Brad Prestbo, added that when working with the material “all the fundamental design moves that you normally make really have quite an impact on the overall performance of the envelope.” Sasaki also worked to create a custom system that could meet the solar heat metrics required by the energy model. And, not only is the continuous envelope well-insulated, but every aspect of the building is electric-powered by photovoltaic cells on the roof and requires no fossil fuels for heating. The polycarbonate was used throughout as both a barrier wall and as part of a rain screen assembly. “Oftentimes, the same piece of polycarbonate would transition between those two states,” explained Prestbo. The project had to use both opaque and transparent polycarbonate to hide mechanical elements and while creating an overall translucent effect, and making it appear as a “light box” at night. More than purely aesthetic, transparency is also a guiding conceptual feature. “[Harvard] wanted the building to be a kind of mediator between the neighborhood’s community and the campus,” explained Barkow. “It’s meant to be open. It's meant to be inviting. The public can come in and see what’s going on.”