For over a decade, the Los Angeles offices of multinational engineering firm Arup were housed within a standalone 38,000-square-foot space in Playa Vista, an affluent yet sleepy neighborhood in West L.A. As the years passed, several factors drew the firm closer to the East side of town. “When we moved to Playa Vista,” explained Arup principal and Los Angeles Group Leader Jim Quiter, “many of our clients were on the Westside. Over the years, many of them have moved downtown. It’s also sort of the center of our industry.” In response to the locations of their client base, as well as the growth of their own workforce and a desire to be close to the city’s public transportation system, Arup traded in its Playa Vista space this Spring for the 18th, 19th and 20th floors of the 73-story Wilshire Grand in Downtown Los Angeles. Encompassing 66,000 square feet, nearly twice the amount of its former space, Arup’s move reflected the biggest lease in Southern California of 2018. But Arup decided to make much more of the move than a simple expansion. Designed in collaboration with Bestor Architecture, SmithGroup, and Mata Construction, the new space is full of features to create the optimal working environment for its roughly 290 employees while leaving plenty of room for immersive demonstrations to educate visiting clients about their projects. With all of the working spaces situated along the perimeter of each floor in an open-plan style, every desk receives more than ample sunlight throughout the majority of the working day. The west facade receives so much sunlight that Arup developed, designed, and installed a custom 'interior light shelf'—a drywall device suspended from the ceiling designed to shield workstations from direct sunlight by diffusing it throughout the entire space from above. This and other alterations to the space make electric illumination unnecessary for at least half of the day, as well as drastically reducing the need for air-conditioning. Following a vote among Arup staff members, flexible workstations were developed with an emphasis on ergonomics and personal preference. While every employee has their own personal sit-stand desk, they also have the option of taking their work to the diner-like booths near the core, the smaller, café-like tables near the windows, or even the “living rooms” that occupy a sizable space on each floor. Gender-neutral bathrooms, a fully-equipped Nursing Mothers Room, and a wellness room also go a long way to make Arup’s employees feel taken care of. Additionally, Bestor Architecture designed three unique wallpapers to wrap each elevator core, which were abstractly inspired by the oceans, forests, and deserts of California. Perhaps the office’s most impressive feature is its SoundLab, a fully immersive audio and visual environment sealed off from the rest of the office in a structurally independent box. The walls of the room are embedded with sophisticated audio equipment which can provide accurate simulations of existing or speculative spaces to help engineers and their clients make educated design decisions. A seven-minute demonstration reveals that it can be used to design, for instance, a system for reducing noise in a NYC subway station, a sound buffering wall between a playground and a train track, and even an entire architecture pavilion with an emphasis on sound art. An open house was held on October 1 to celebrate the new space, which included even more design simulation tools, including a Motion Platform, an augmented reality station and a series of virtual reality presentations using Oculus Go headsets.
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The Reading Prison in Berkshire, England, has been put on the market and cultural figures are rallying to save the building where Oscar Wilde was incarcerated between 1895 and 1897. The Grade II-listed building closed in 2013 and is under threat of redevelopment after the U.K. Minister of Justice put it up for sale earlier this month. The local council and Reading’s member of parliament, as well as other cultural figures, are working to develop a bid for the site. “Sadly the Ministry of Justice put the gaol on the market and hopes to sell it to the highest bidder," said Matt Rodda, the Labor MP for Reading East, according to The Art Newspaper. "This decision risks this wonderful Victorian building being gutted and turned into luxury flats." The building’s association with Wilde makes it irrevokably an important site of LGBTQ+ history and heritage. Wilde was arrested in 1895 for “gross indecency,” a crime enforced by the Labouchere Amendment and largely used to prosecute men for homosexuality. Because sodomy laws were so difficult to enforce, the amendment instead enforced a blanket term that made such arrests much easier. The amendment wasn’t fully repealed until 1967, a time when widespread LGBT rights and advocacy were just beginning to gain traction. The prison has been described as a “Mecca for LGBT people wordwide" by the Reading Borough Council. A 2016 exhibition Inside: Artists and Writers in Reading Prison, exemplified the building’s importance through a showcase of art by Ai Weiwei, Marlene Dumas, and Wolfgang Tillmans. A well-known admirer of Wilde, Patti Smith, paid homage by reading De Profundis, a 50,000-word letter Wilde wrote to his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, while he was incarcerated in Reading. “It’s a hugely significant space,” said Joseph Galliano, CEO and co-founder of Queer Britain, the national LGBTQ+ museum. “We are losing heritage and cultural spaces to commercial redevelopment which will never be recovered,” he told Euronews. The Ministry of Justice promised in a statement that they would “seek the best outcome for the taxpayer.” Illustrating the artistic legacy produced under unfortunate circumstances, the following is an excerpt from Wilde’s De Profundis:
“When first I was put into prison some people advised me to try and forget who I was. It was ruinous advice. It is only by realizing what I am that I have found comfort of any kind. Now I am advised by others to try on my release to forget that I have ever been in a prison at all. I know that would be equally fatal. It would mean that I would always be haunted by an intolerable sense of disgrace, and that those things that are meant for me as much as for anybody else - the beauty of the sun and moon, the pageant of the seasons, the music of daybreak and the silence of great nights, the rain falling through the leaves, or the dew creeping over the grass and making it silver - would all be tainted for me, and lose their healing power, and their power of communicating joy. To regret one's own experiences is to arrest one's own development. To deny one's own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one's own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.”
Designing Space for Space in Space
Living in space is the answer, but what was the question?
In early September of this year, I was at a conference at an aviation museum in Seattle, to lend some architectural context to ideas about long-term living in space. The folks at the Space Studies Institute (SSI) had invited me to talk about some of the research on NASA’s 1970s proposals to build huge rotating cities in orbit from my book, Space Settlements, as part of a panel on habitat design. This conference was commemorating two anniversaries; it had been 50 years since the Apollo 11 moon landing, and 50 years since Gerard O’Neill, a Princeton physics professor—and the leader of the 1970s NASA work—had asked a question of his freshman intro students: “Is the surface of a planet really the right place for an expanding technological civilization?” The answer they arrived at, after much study, was “no,” and they started to imagine the technical details of living elsewhere. My interest in this question has as much to do with history and culture as it does with getting down to the details of execution. “Why do we make space and live in it?” is a question worth asking, whether on Earth or off of it. But, while the conference itself was a fascinating two days of discussion, I was surprised to find that almost everyone there considered O’Neill’s (and my) questions to have been settled long ago. Why, the other panelists seemed to wonder, would anyone even ask “why” humans should go and live in outer space, when we can instead talk about “how?” And so that was the subject of the next two day’s conversation. 50 years on from Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s historic flight—the culmination of almost a decade’s worth of work and about $150 billion in 2019 dollars—that “how?” seems easier than ever to answer. As of writing, it costs Elon Musk’s company SpaceX about $1,500 to launch 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). That’s down from about $43,000 for the same kilogram on the Space Shuttle in 1995. With new vehicles about to come online from SpaceX, NASA, and Jeff Bezos’s spaceflight company Blue Origin, these costs will only continue to go down. Two other factors are driving a new renaissance of plans for living and working in space: The discovery of new resources, and the confirmation, in the United States at least, that those resources can be put to use. The discovery of long-suspected ice in craters at the Moon’s poles was announced in 2018 by an international team of researchers using data from an Indian Lunar satellite. Water in space is useful, not least because living things require it to stay alive. But, once it’s been cracked apart with the cheap and plentiful solar electricity available there, it can become rocket fuel. “Water is the oil of space,” said one panelist at the SSI conference, George Sowers, formerly chief scientist with Lockheed Martin and the United Launch Alliance, now a professor of practice in space mining at the Colorado School of Mines. In 2015, the lobbying efforts of two asteroid mining startups were vindicated when Congress passed the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act into law. This new interpretation of the 1967 international Outer Space Treaty allowed private individuals and companies to engage in “exploration and exploitation” of water and other resources on the Moon, in the asteroids, and on other planets. These same two startups, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, later failed and were acquired by other companies. But the former CEO and cofounder of Planetary Resources, Chris Lewicki, was onstage at the SSI conference to talk about future successes. “If we make money in space, space settlement will happen,” said Lewicki, “it’s just us continuing to do the things we’ve always done.” This trifecta: low launch costs, a supply chain of matter and energy that’s already there, and a legal framework that can guarantee ownership of those resources, is the backend behind a new wave of proposals for architecture in space. These forces will keep that space wave going long after this post-Apollo nostalgia dies down. Earlier this year NASA awarded $500,000 to AI SpaceFactory, “a multi-planetary architectural and technology design agency, building for Earth and space,” for their MARSHA project. MARSHA successfully demonstrated an ability to use in-situ resources—Martian soil (or regolith)—to 3D print the outer shell of a habitat for four humans. The European Space Agency (ESA) Moon Village concept has been in development for most of this decade. Norman Foster, who has also designed for Mars, contributed design work to the Moon Village project in 2016, and SOM released information about its own Moon Village work earlier this spring. And of course, Bjarke Ingels is in on it, too. His firm, BIG, is making plans for a Mars simulator complex outside Dubai, and Ingels told the online design journal SSENSE that this work is a case study for a future Mars city. There’s beginning to be a long history to the notion that designing space for humans in space is a task that requires not just engineering, but architecture as well. At the inception of the Soviet Soyuz project in 1957, chief designer Sergei Korolev was unhappy with the capsule interiors that his engineers were drawing. The only architect working for the Soviet space program at that time was a woman named Galina Balashova, who was designing their office spaces. Korolev hired Balashova to redesign the habitable spaces of Soyuz, and later the space stations Salyut and Mir. Her work is still orbiting today as part of the International Space Station. On the other side of the Space Race, the Americans hired industrial designer Raymond Loewy to do the interior fit-out for Skylab. Famously, he was the one who talked them into adding a window and suggested that the best place for it would be next to the zero-gee “dining table” on the station. Back on Earth, the Space Architecture Studio and Research Lab, founded by the late Yoshiko Sato at Columbia GSAPP, now continues at Pratt under the guidance of Michael Morris, Sato’s husband. For over 30 years, the University of Houston has hosted the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture. The chief space architect for AI SpaceFactory’s award-winning MARSHA design was Jeffrey Montes, an alum of the GSAPP studio. And Suzana Bianco, a graduate of the Houston program, was a copanelist at the Space Studies Institute conference in Seattle, presenting her New Venice habitat design. In technical circles within space science, the design of a total system—with launch capability, flight modules, crew or cargo space, and recovery—is known as an “architecture.” But in most of the presentations about various technical architectures for space travel and space settlement in Seattle last month—Bianco’s presentation being a welcome exception—there was little talk about the value that architects bring to those systems. No one knows space like architects do, and these threads that connect the (still largely speculative) work taking place in outer space today with the history of architectural space on Earth are too often neglected by those working in the field. Alongside all of this talk about “how?” the other question haunting the space settlement work being discussed at this conference and elsewhere was “who?”—as in “who will pay for all of this?” Even as the costs and barriers to entry drop, there is still uncertainty about the ways in which value might be designed into the projects that will help people live in space. Whether the users of the systems under design by these space architects are tourists, miners, hotelkeepers, or simple explorers, the question of “who?” is intimately tied up in the “why?” The architect Cedric Price famously asked, “Technology is the answer, but what was the question?” Maybe architects are the designers best positioned to ask, and even answer, these questions about space.
BIG Slopes to Shred
BIG’s skiable Copenhill power plant is a contradictory landmark
“Very soon it’s going to be a fact that in Copenhagen we ski on the roofs of our power plants,” Bjarke Ingels, founder of the Danish architecture practice Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), stated a couple of months prior to the completion of his firm’s Copenhill. Now, Copenhill, a new waste-to-energy power plant, has officially opened its doors after eight years (delays were primarily caused by safety approvals to occupy the roof). Beyond its hyped rooftop ski slope, the building also houses ski lifts, a ski rental shop, hiking trails, a cafe, and the tallest artificial climbing wall in the world. Copenhill, or Amager Bakke in Danish, ironically refers to the lack of hills in the southeastern Amager area of Copenhagen, a flatness that becomes apparent when one stands on the top of the 90-foot-tall “mega-brick” metal-clad building. “We do not have mountains, but we do have mountains of trash,” Ingels said. Turning away from the panoramic city views, one sees the 1,300-foot-long artificial ski slope designed in collaboration with Colorado’s International Alpine Design, the creators of many larger ski resorts around the world. The five shades of green of the ski slope surface membrane peek out from clean steam released from the nearby smaller chimneys. The gradient of green colors has been chosen to emphasize the sustainable agenda. The slope mimics—in a cartoon-like manner—a naturalistic terrain. However, the professional skiers testing it disappear within seconds, which makes the excitement of watching the skiers fade quickly. A park, designed in collaboration with the Danish landscape practice SLA, runs along both sides of the ski track. The park was planned as a manicured Nordic wilderness with the ambition of attracting natural wildlife to the building. The metal facade, which will feature crawling plants, has setbacks for birds and other animals to inhabit. While the sustainable agenda informed details like the choice of plants, it can be questioned why the same consideration has not been given to the actual building materials. The choice of nonsustainable materials such as concrete, glass, steel, and aluminum is in many ways contradictory to the ideology of the building itself. On the underside of Copenhill is Amager Resource Centre (ARC), billed as the world’s cleanest power plant. It provides 30,000 homes with electricity and 72,000 homes with heating across five municipalities, including Copenhagen. The heaviness of the technology that goes into a building like a power plant becomes very apparent when the glass elevator takes you from the ground floor up to the ski slope. An impressive interior landscape of monochrome silver-painted machines extends as far as the eye can see, and as Ingels explained, “the only design decision BIG was able to make on the inside of the power plant was to decide the color of the machinery—if it was of no extra cost.” The building in its entirety has so far cost 4 billion Danish kroner ($670 million USD) and is one of the most expensive construction projects in the recent history of Copenhagen. It is a high cost for a building that is supposed to be obsolete in the near future—plans are being drawn for a recycling system to take over all waste management. The building—with the merging of interior industry and exterior recreative space—is what Ingels describes as hedonistic architecture. Copenhill should, in his eyes, be viewed as a landmark of an ambition to use clean tech to create a better environment, quality of life, and awareness of habits of consumption. The initial ambition was to have the 410-foot chimney discharge a smoke ring made from water vapor every time one ton of carbon dioxide was released into the atmosphere. There are no rings, but at least the exhaust is cleaned as much as possible before being unleashed above the city. As a contradictory landmark—the overall agenda is to have fun while increasing awareness of consumption—the building is officially part of the ambitious goal of making Copenhagen the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025. Christine Bjerke is a Copenhagen-based architect and writer and teaches at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation.
At the heart of social housing in Mexico is a contradiction: Flimsy houses built far from city centers sit empty, while millions of Mexicans are still waiting to use publicly financed housing credits. Developers continue to replicate the much-maligned cutter-cut model to keep costs down. But how can new construction not just meet the bottom line but satisfy the needs of low- and middle-income families? That is the question Carlos Zedillo and Julia Gómez Candela set out to answer at the Research Center for Sustainable Development of the National Workers’ Housing Fund Institute (Infonavit). After several years of research and design, they inaugurated the nine-acre Housing Laboratory in Apan, Hidalgo, in November 2018. The laboratory is made up of 32 prototype homes that explore new typologies for social housing to meet the needs of Mexico’s diverse cultures and climates. Infonavit partnered with Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample of New York–based architecture firm MOS to execute the ambitious project. “For a long time, developers have built the exact same housing in the north of the country as the south, without thinking about climate or materials,” said architect Gómez Candela in an interview by phone. That’s why the same boxy, concrete block homes dot the outskirts of almost all Mexican cities. Homes as small as 325 square feet stay within the budget, but are hardly adequate for families. Mexican workers gradually build up credit with Infonavit to finance their first home purchase. Infonavit used to build housing, but since the 1990s it plays the role of financer—workers use their Infonavit loans to pay for houses built by private developers. Along the way, architects’ role in the process diminished. Gómez Candela says that as director of the research center, the Yale-educated Zedillo set out, “To get architects to redirect their attention back to social housing in Mexico.” The research center began with an exhaustive study of the state of social housing in Mexico, identifying where the supply of homes was failing to meet demand. Then they selected 84 counties with high rates of Infonavit credit holders who had not yet bought homes. The target counties represented the nine climate zones of Mexico. The research center then worked with MOS to solicit proposals from around the world, settling on 32 prototype homes for the Housing Laboratory. Architects including Enrique Norten, Tatiana Bilbao, and Fernanda Canales designed houses for the project. The laboratory was conceived in Apan, a small town two hours to the east of Mexico City. Built on land owned by Infonavit, the site’s proximity to the capital allowed frequent visits. Towns and cities like Apan, in the outer limits of the Mexico City metro area, are usually known for drab, uniform housing. The small village of prototype homes is a welcome variation. The houses include vernacular architectural styles from around Mexico, including adobe, thatched roofing, and Mexican timber, designed with the country’s different climates in mind; from the humid, tropical south to the arid, hot north. Each architect described their inspirations and reference points, from local architectural styles like the wooden cabins known as trojes in the state of Michoacan to self-constructed housing. Collaborating with MOS allowed the research center to learn from their extensive experience designing housing. The Apan Housing Laboratory shows how developers could build high-quality housing within the tight budgets of Infonavit credits. It is only natural that Gómez Candela says cost was the greatest difficulty in the international collaboration. “In Mexico, we are used to building with very little money,” she says. “With our colleagues from the United States and other countries, we kept having to say, ‘Make it cheaper!’” The extra effort was necessary to convince developers that the models are feasible. Even so, developers have been slow to adopt the ideas proposed in the laboratory. “They [developers] still think it will be more expensive to build this way, even if we showed them otherwise” says Gómez Candela. “The numbers do add up.” Most visitors to the Housing Laboratory are students, urban planners and developers. Gómez Candela and Zedillo both left Infonavit when the new federal administration entered in December 2018. But the laboratory remains open and the floor plans are available online under open access. The laboratory is the start of a long process to refocus social housing in Mexico on the experience of the residents, not just efficacy for the builder. The research center’s work is seeing results, as Mexican architects focus more energy on designing housing. Gómez Candela is optimistic, saying, “The architects we worked with have continued to champion the cause of housing in Mexico.”
West Philadelphia Born and Raised
PAU's JFK Towers will stagger over Philadelphia's Schuylkill Yards
Brought to you with support fromPhiladelphia's Schuylkill Yards is undergoing a massive redevelopment by Brandywine Realty Estate that will bring half-a-dozen new buildings, totaling approximately six million square feet, into the center of the city. Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU), is joining the fray with JFK Towers; a duo of cantilevering, offset mixed-use buildings clad in terra-cotta and aluminum. The project, which broke ground in November 2017 and is master-planned by SHoP Architects, follows a spate of railyard redevelopments around the country; ranging from the ongoing construction at Hudson Yards to the 244-acre revamp of Sacramento's former Union Pacific Railyards. In this instance, the redevelopment is located atop the former parking facilities at the adjacent 30th Street Station, rather than decking over the yards that neighbor the Schuylkill River.
terra-cotta base for the vaulted arcade and a similarly-colored polychromatic paint coating over the aluminum cladding. The west tower will be subject to a similar material treatment but in a brownish-gray hue. The fenestration pattern that will rise from the arcaded base of the two towers will be a clear nod to commercial high modernism, with ribbons of windows divided by protruding vertically-oriented fins, and is a significant diversion from the predominantly all-glass towers otherwise rising throughout the city. PAU studio associate partner Mark Faulkner and Brandywine Realty Trust vice president Joseph Ritchie will be joining the panel "Schuylkill Yards First Facades: Architects’ and Developers’ POV" at the Architect's Newspaper's upcoming Facades+ Philadelphia conference on October 18.As a tabula rasa, the architects enjoyed the opportunity of shaping an entirely new district that will be visibly prominent from most vantage points within Philadelphia—the east tower will reach a height of 512 feet and the west tower will stand at 360 feet—and will effectively bridge Center City to University City across the Schuykill River. "We generated the forms through the site geometry. Rail is adjacent on three sides which bifurcate the buildable area at different angles and heights informing the cantilevers and stacking," said PAU associate partner Mark Faulkner. "The breaking of our massing into low, mid, and high-rise blocks yields a playful stacking of volumes, efficiency for the complex mixed-used program, and a unique addition to the skyline that announces this important new neighborhood in the city." Although the planned towers of Schuykill Yards will dwarf surrounding structures in this corner of West Philadelphia, the design team has included several material choices that will tie the JFK towers to the city-at-large. Outside of Center City, Philadelphia is comprised of residences and small businesses rendered in often brownish-red low-rise brick and masonry. An additional influence can be found in the historic red metal coaches used by the defunct Pennslyvania Railroad headquartered in Philadelphia. The east tower of PAU's duo will appropriate this heritage with a red
Though rapper Kanye West has continued to push his art into the visual field for the last few years, fans were still surprised last January to learn that he donated $10 million towards the completion of James Turrell's Roden Crater, a series of tunnels and experiential spaces burrowed into a dormant volcano in the painted deserts of northern Arizona. The project began in 1977 and has been in the works for so long that, in 2013, “Sooner or Later, Roden Crater” became its unofficial tagline. Though Roden Crater is not officially complete yet (due to a lack of funding), ARTnews announced that West had produced a film within the hollowed volcano this summer and it will soon be released through a collaboration with IMAX. Titled Jesus is King, the film documents one of West’s Sunday Service performances in the gospel tradition, set to the music of his eponymous album to be released sometime this year. A poster has also been released for the movie and it features Alpha (East) Tunnel, one of the ‘light tunnels’ within Roden Crater. On top of the $10 million he independently provided, West partnered with Arizona State University (ASU) to work towards accruing $200 million to put towards Roden Crater's completion within the next five years, $40 million of which has been raised to date. When finished, visitors will be able to explore the three mile-wide site’s 21 viewing spaces and six tunnels, all designed to align with celestial phenomena, for which Turrell consulted a number of noted astronomers—including E.C. Krupp, the current director of the Los Angeles Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, as well as the late Richard Walker, an Astronomer based in the nearby town of Flagstaff. Unfortunately, because the crater is unfinished, access to the public has been restricted and will likely remain that way until the project is complete. Until then, West’s film will likely provide substantial shots of the art bunker's interiors when presented in IMAX theatres starting October 25.
What is the architecture of degrowth?
The Oslo Architecture Triennale, now in its seventh iteration, has made a name for itself under the directorship of Hanna Dencik Petersson as one of the most prescient and timely showcases in the relentless stream of -iennales and -ennials, those beloved recurring art and design festivals where dreams are made. After a successful 2016 exhibition themed around migration and identity in the face of hyper-globalization, the program returned in 2019, this time examining climate change, resource allocation, and economic systems under the theme of “degrowth” with Enough: The Architecture of Degrowth. Curated by Interrobang, an architecture and engineering firm, with chief curators Matthew Dalziel, Phineas Harper, Cecilie Sachs Olsen, and Maria Smith, the exhibition is a fresh take on ecology, introducing the ideology of degrowth into architecture discourse and examining how it would help realize a more ecologically-oriented human civilization. Degrowth has recently gotten attention as a new paradigm for understanding a post-consumerist future where resource extraction and economic growth are decelerated, giving way to new social, political, and economic systems that are more harmonious with nature and the earth’s finite resources and terrain. For an exhibition, this is fertile intellectual territory to speculate on the ways in which we build, and how they can evolve in alternative worlds. It is a refreshingly positive take on politics today, as much of our discourse, in architecture and beyond, is overwhelmingly negative and aims to discount or problematize (cancel) rather than propose new ideas or provoke new thoughts. The main festival exhibition, titled The Library, was conceptualized as “a spatial infrastructure for sharing knowledge” and was organized as a series of four rooms or “collections” that featured works ranging from material samples and books to analyses of languages and economic systems. The range and breadth of types of thought experiments presented a holistic and clear vision—almost a manifesto—of what degrowth might look like as an architectural philosophy. It was not a set of solutions, but rather speculative, positive provocations on what this new area of discourse might look like. In the Library's first collection, “The Subjective,” personal identities and rituals were examined. How would life change in a degrowth world? How would we live, laugh, and love? The Aerocene backpack by the Aerocene Community is a personal, solar-powered balloon imagined as an alternative to carbon-intensive jet air travel. Helen Stratford’s Organizational Diagrams for Everyday Life is a set of schematic diagrams that redraw the rituals of a daily schedule to visualize new routines outside of the pressures of work and productivity metrics that define us today. Perhaps the most traditionally eco-friendly collection is the “Objective Collection,” which is about materials and building techniques. Like the rest of the Triennale, it attempts to take these decades-old sustainability ideas and pushes them into new places. Another Column by YYYY-MM-DD is a deployable textile column that can be filled with sand or aggregate to create a site-specific architecture to replace concrete. Multiplo by GUSTO is a simple brise-soleil made of discarded fan covers from an abandoned army base in Northern Italy. A host of other new, eco-friendly materials gave a glimpse into how resource extraction, especially fossil fuels, could be replaced by smaller-scale reuse and bio-engineering to architectural "degrowth." In the Collective and Systemic collections lie the big questions that both define a possible “Architecture of degrowth,” and are also impossible to answer now. How new collectivities and systems would be constructed is not clear in degrowth discourse at the moment, but the ideology is ripe for speculating on how we might live in a post-consumerist, post-growth society. Collective projects include Visual Ecolophonic by INDA and Animali Domestici examines and visualizes the Sami language of Northern Finland, which they describe as more in harmony than nature than most languages. ARPA by (ab)Normal is a theoretical world where artificial intelligence replaces market forces as an organizing principle. It is an important aspect to consider here, as questions about power structures and humanity’s proclivity toward violence have to be taken into consideration. The biggest questions are raised in the Systemic Collection, where entire social and political systems, networks, and environments are rethought at both the local and the global scale. This, according to the curators, is where degrowth departs from previous environmental movements. MassBespoke, a project to build quality housing out of timber, another replacement for concrete, was also on show at the Triennale. By allowing that flexibility in the system, these homes can now be personalized like custom homes. The Intentional Estates Agency (Jesse LeCavalier, Tei Carpenter, Dan Taeyuong, and Chris Woebken) is a set of real and imagined real estate models both new and old—from 19th-century utopias to seasteading—that speculate on alternatives to our current real estate metrics. In addition to the main exhibition, more than 100 events and other programming added to the degrowth chorus. Standouts included a workshop to make tote bags from recycled tote bags from previous events, as well as a spectacular, interactive performance by Rimini Protokoll that made the audience unwilling participants in the complexities and absurdities of our growth-fueled construction industry; politicians engaging in corruption, lawyers battling, financiers gambling, and precarious workers struggling. Perhaps what is the most interesting aspect of this festival are the questions about that come next. How is degrowth a helpful ideology for architecture? Can it provoke new ways of building at the individual level that can become communal and then translate into change at the systemic scale? What power structures are most susceptible to degrowth in architecture? How can the development and real estate industry be convinced to participate in this? How do democracy and degrowth interact? What would happen if the right were to take degrowth and use it as an excuse to enable eco-fascism? Conversely, what does a green, socialist utopia look like? Can every aspect of our lives be redesigned through the lens of degrowth? The answers don’t matter right now, it is the questions being raised that offer promise, and should echo through architecture at this most critical and important time for these eco-ideas.
Like the LP and the hardcover book, the DVD is a form of media subject to unpredictable waves of popularity and stagnation, never to be officially put to rest. However, it may come as a shock that, in 2019, a video store housing more than 50,000 DVDs, BluRay discs, and VHS tapes is in the works. The owners of cult-favorite Vidiots, a “one-of-kind hub for film lovers, filmmakers, and everyone curious about cinema” that first opened in 1985 in Santa Monica and closed in 2017, announced that they will reopen next fall as a store, movie theater, and event space in the youthful northeastern neighborhood of Eagle Rock. The nonprofit will be housed in the former Eagle Theatre, a 200-seat independent theatre built in 1929 that shut down in 2001 and has since operated as a church. “Vidiots relaunching on the cusp of our 35th birthday," said Vidiots executive director Maggie Mackay, "is a triumph for Los Angeles film history and cements the legacy of Vidiots founders Patty Polinger and Cathy Tauber as innovators in L.A. film culture. Bringing the Eagle Theatre back and providing L.A. with a long-needed new film space is thrilling.” The original theater space will be renovated and equipped with state-of-the-art sound and projection, as well as a second 50-seat screening room that will host screenings, workshops, and receptions, and a storefront from which its vast collection of film materials will be sold. According to renderings, the original 1980s-era Vidiots sign will be hung above a renovated marquee, which will continue to function as a space for advertising upcoming movies and events. Vidiots secured funds for the theater space with the support of development partner Jeffrey Birkmeyer and “founding members,” which include actors Mark Duplass, Katie Aselton, and director Jason Reitman, who will be donating a 35mm projection system. Until it opens roughly a year from now, Vidiots will continue to remotely host events in the recently-opened Alamo Drafthouse in Downtown Los Angeles, and the Bootleg, a concert venue in Historic Filipinotown.
The Seattle Asian Art Museum will reopen to the public in February 2020 after a two-year, $56 million renovation and expansion project. The museum, which has not undergone any major work since it was first built in 1933, is in the midst of an extensive renovation by LMN Architects to both secure the building’s aging structure and reopen the facilities as a modernized exhibition space. The Asian Art Museum will reopen with a new debut, Boundless: Stories of Asian Art, and the special exhibition Be/longing: Contemporary Asian Art. Two full days of free events will also accompany the shows on February 8 and 9, 2020, with tickets available starting in December. The museum is renowned for housing one of the most prominent collections of Asian art outside the continent itself. Its galleries display work spanning the 1st to 21st century and hailing from China, Japan, Korea, India, the Himalayas, and Southeast Asia. The Asian Art Museum is in Volunteer Park and makes up one-third of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), and has occupied its art deco home since 1994. Prior to that, the 1930s-era building functioned as the original location of SAM until its move downtown. In addition to preserving the historic sandstone facade, landscaping, and fountains, the museum has significantly expanded its gallery and programing facilities. The expansion includes a new 2,600-square-foot gallery as well as new education, conservation, and community spaces on the building's east side. The existing Fuller Garden Court, the museum's central point, will be renovated and connected to a new park-facing lobby. The galleries will also receive an upgraded lighting system that mimics natural daylight. Taking advantage of its location, the glass-enclosed Park Lobby on the east side of the museum will overlook Olmsted’s Volunteer Park. Reinforcing the building’s relationship to the park was one of the museum’s major goals. “The design represents the seamless integration of the building’s spectacular site," said LMN in a statement, "with the museum’s mission for the 21st century: to showcase Asian art in conjunction with contemporary educational and conservation spaces." As one of only a handful of museums specializing in Asian art in the U.S., the expanded public programming, exhibition, and conservation capabilities of the museum will be a huge cultural asset to the city. “With the completion of this project, we unveil new spaces to connect the museum’s extraordinary collection of Asian art to our lives and experiences,” said Amada Cruz, Illsley Ball Nordstrom director and CEO of SAM, in a press statement.
Needling for Space
Microsoft chips in for major affordable housing strategy around Seattle
Like many American cities with more than half a million residents, Seattle is in a housing crisis. The growth of local tech companies, including Microsoft, Amazon, and Expedia Group, is reported to have increased Seattle’s population of higher-income residents by 16 percent, making the task of finding affordable housing more difficult for the city’s working class. It was announced on September 26 that Microsoft, King County, and the King County Housing Authority (KCHA) will work together to create affordable housing for more than 3,000 residents. Together, they will provide more than $245 million to purchase five apartment complexes in Kirkland, one in Bellevue, and one in Federal Way. These complexes across the three King County cities were chosen for their proximity to transit hubs and burgeoning real estate markets, which would have likely caused significant rent increases in the targeted buildings if they had not been slated for affordable housing. “This is a long-term effort to stabilize rents in communities where rents are rapidly rising,” said Dan Watson, deputy executive director of the King County Housing Authority, “and fully expect to continue over the next 10 to 15 years.” Watson also confirmed that after the complexes are purchased, their monthly rents could be as much as $500 below similar developments in their respective neighborhoods. To accrue the necessary funds for the project, Microsoft provided a loan to the KCHA for $60 million, King County provided an additional $20 million, and the KCHA itself chipped in $140 million in bonds. Jane Broom, the senior director of Microsoft Philanthropies, announced that its involvement in the collaboration is one part of a $500 million strategy initiated by the company earlier this year to respond to the myriad of challenges facing Seattle’s middle class (defined as households earning between $60,000 and $120,000 a year). "We are committed to maintaining and bolstering strong, vibrant communities here in the greater Puget Sound region," said Broom. "Thriving communities include safe, reliable and affordable housing options for people at all income levels. To do this, we all need to come together to not only build more housing options, but also to preserve what already exists." The remaining $440 million allocated by Microsoft is planned to eventually go towards the construction of additional affordable housing and homeless services.
Precast and Stacked
Studio Gang's first residential tower in New York ripples with scalloped concrete
Brought to you with support fromSince rezoning under the tenure of Michael Bloomberg, Downtown Brooklyn has undergone a tremendous transformation from a relatively low-slung commercial district to a burgeoning neighborhood defined by row upon row of residential towers. 11 Hoyt, located on the southern boundary of the district, is another addition to the area set to be completed in 2020. The tower, developed by Tishman Speyer, is Studio Gang's first residential project in New York City and breaks from the fairly lackluster design typology of the area with a unitized curtainwall of scalloped precast concrete panels. The 770,000-square-foot project rises to a height of over 600 feet and is tucked in midblock—the tower will be ringed by a street-wall podium which is in turn topped by a private park.
BPDL), and measure just under twelve feet in both height and width. The panels are composed of white concrete with a thin veneer of light grey calcite. They are arranged in seven sweeping undulations along the east and west elevations, and three to the narrower north and south elevations, creating diagonal strands of bay windows that protrude from the otherwise flush curtainwall. According to Studio Gang senior project leader Arthur Liu, "the design process and digital design tools helped create a small number of discrete facade elements arranged in a way that offered variation and flexibility to the design of the facade while simultaneously aligning with interior spaces and respecting the limits of constructability." The custom aluminum window systems fabricated by Stahibau Pichler were, for the most part, installed by BPDL into the precast while at the factory. In total, over 110,000-square-feet of glass, produced by Guardian Glass and cut by Tvitec, was used for the project. Prior to the construction of the park-topped podium, the multi-lot space has served as a staging ground for the installation of the oversized panels. The panels are split into two categories; the 22,000-pound "scalloped" panel and the 11,000-pound flat panel. Both are hoisted into position and connected for lateral and gravity support at the floor slab with multiple galvanized steel anchor assemblies. A particular challenge of the project was waterproofing associated with the exposed horizontal precast panels. "The waterproofing had to be applied at the BPDL plant to avoid costly and difficult installation in the field and it had to be done immediately at the time of production without disrupting BPDL's plant workflow," said Gilsanz Murray Steficek Partner Achim Hermes. "Due to winter weather restrictions in Alma, Quebec from October to April, the application of the waterproofing had to be done indoors. That meant it had to occur shortly after the precast panels were stripped out of their forms."The approximately 1155 precast concrete panels were produced by Canadian manufacturer Bétons Préfabriqués Du Lac (