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Inclusive Recovery

Five years after Detroit’s bankruptcy, design fuels recovery
Could Detroit be pioneering a new type of gentrification? It is possible. The recovery—with its innovative experiments in revitalization—is set to become a laboratory of ideas that will redefine gentrification, learning from the urban renaissance of the last 20 years in other cities. The Detroit of the late aughts was a desolate place: The municipal government had all but crumbled in the wake of a depopulation that saw the city go from over 2 million residents to around 700,000. With the loss of people and jobs came the loss of density and infrastructure, which left Detroit the poster child for apocalyptic Rust Belt landscapes. During this period of the late 2000s to the early 2010s, steep real estate discounts allowed artists and entrepreneurs to buy houses and commercial buildings extremely cheap. This legendary scenario led The New York Times to publish an article titled "Last Stop on the L Train: Detroit,” in 2015.  And it certainly feels that way, with vibrant music, arts, food, and design scenes in the city that seem to be linked together by a small community of like-minded people working on a host of cultural projects together. However, much of the buzz about Detroit in the national media has died down. How is Detroit doing five years after becoming the largest city ever to go through a structured bankruptcy, and how is design helping to speculate on new future urbanisms? Today’s Detroit is a different place than five years ago. The days of $500 houses bought at auction and dark, empty landscapes are becoming a thing of the past. Developers and speculators have bought up much of the land around the city center, with Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Ventures owning almost 95 percent of the downtown area. This area could now pass for a street in downtown Chicago, with high-end boutiques and chains like Warby Parker and lululemon. In other neighborhoods, such as the more industrial Milwaukee Junction, near the Russell Industrial Center—an icon of gritty urban reuse—land and property have been claimed by those waiting to sell or develop it. Other neighborhoods like Corktown and Midtown have seen a resurgence in development, an increase in market-rate housing, and more traditional forms of urban revitalization. Infamously abandoned sites have been bought for eventual redevelopment or reuse. Most strikingly, a Ford-branded security Ford Escape is parked outside the Ford-emblazoned fence at Detroit Central Train Station, a ruin-porn poster child now slated for redevelopment as the auto giant’s “innovation” hub, focusing on autonomous vehicles. Now the challenge will be to deliver on some of the potential that has been so evident over the last decade. Detroit’s municipal government has long been seen as incapable of addressing the city’s problems, such as abandoned buildings, vacant lots, lack of infrastructure, and general disinvestment. Since declaring bankruptcy in 2013, the city has implemented a series of initiatives that have in many ways stabilized it. These include basic things like improving emergency services and transportation. Perhaps most important, new LED streetlights were installed, ending the days when residents carried flashlights in their cars. Perhaps the most dramatic change in Detroit’s governance has been in the city planning department. Architect and former Charlottesville mayor Maurice Cox has been tasked with overseeing the recovery. His first step? Hiring a diverse, interdisciplinary team of 36 planners, architects, urban designers, and landscape designers to rethink how a city can incentivize investment, rebuild infrastructure, redensify targeted neighborhoods, and provide services to new residents while preventing displacement of existing residents and cultures that have endured the city’s darker times. Cox calls it “inclusive recovery.” This comprises measures that harness one of the unique things about Detroit—a high level of community engagement. As a majority African-American city, it is an especially promising place to pioneer these ideas. At a recent event at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), the artist Tyree Guyton sat down for a talk at the closing for a show about his Heidelberg Project, a self-started community art project he has developed since 1986. Rather than a typical artist’s talk, the event was more like a community town hall, where residents of the nearby neighborhood spoke in detail about how they see the neighborhood changing, and how the evolution could be better. This kind of community-led development will be key to making sure that Detroit can innovate without displacing people or local cultures. The most important priority of the plan is to recover while preserving both local neighborhood culture and affordable housing. Cox’s initiatives include framework plans for targeted neighborhoods that have strong residential numbers and some active housing stock. The planning department identified weak spots surrounded by higher-density areas that could be tied together with coordinated investment, resulting in—thus far—six quarter-mile-by-quarter-mile areas where recovery could be easiest. The proposed Joe Louis Greenway will be a 31.5-mile bike-pedestrian loop that passes mostly through neighborhoods with a median income under $27,500 a year and a 30 percent rate of access to a car. The greenway will incorporate existing routes, such as the Dequindre Cut, a below-grade rail-line-turned-pedestrian-promenade that is being used as a gentrification vehicle to spur development of a mix of affordable housing embedded in market-rate developments. Development group The Platform will be developing a housing complex at the north end of the cut. This could lead to displacement, but because the city owns so much land along the path, it will experiment with ways to provide affordable housing and transportation without driving people out. Local housing research includes a joint venture between the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and the City of Detroit. In studios led by Lars Gräbner and Christina Hansen, students generate ideas about what housing might look like in Detroit, some of which are displayed in exhibitions such as 2017’s A City For All: Future Housing Models for the City of Detroit. These studios also helped produce a series of design guidelines. For example, one line reads: “Impress the value of design on all projects and all audiences—emphasizing equity, design excellence, and inclusion.” As design thinking ramps up, so too will design excellence. Detroit has a long legacy of designers and architects who have called Michigan home, such as Eliel and Eero Saarinen and Albert Kahn. But in recent years, there have been fewer high-quality projects. This is changing, however, with firms such as Lorcan O’Herlihy, SCAPE, Walter Hood, Adjaye Associates, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, and others signing up to design housing, parks, and urban farms. O’Herlihy, for instance, is working on a housing study for Brush Park, the first of Cox’s targeted neighborhoods just outside downtown, designing a 24-building, 410-unit densification plan. And design is baked into the new planning department goals and regulations. What could be design’s biggest impact is the preservation of existing cultures, which includes the existing building culture, one of the goals for “inclusive recovery.” To prevent the loss of the visual character of the neighborhoods, incentives such as a double density allowance are offered for projects that preserve the existing shell of a building. Layering history in this way will inevitably lead to interesting new adaptive reuses. These building refills are a good metaphor for the new type of gentrification being pioneered here: They redensify the abandoned fabric with useful infill, but do not take away the texture that makes Detroit unique. As part of VolumeOne, Gräbner and Hansen’s private practice, the pair is working on a redevelopment of the historic Stone Soap Building, an historic 1907 factory. The structural concrete frame and brick infill will be preserved, and a minimal, floating addition will be clad in a galvanized metal panel system. The strong visual contrast between old and new will articulate a strategy of respect for the existing structure while implying continuity through the use of industrial materials. Imagining new uses for vacant land will also play a big part in making the future of Detroit, and nature is integral to the next image of the city. There are about 24 square miles of vacant land that are very costly to maintain. In collaboration with developers and designers, the city is programming many experiments in urban agriculture and self-reliant landscapes. The ad-hoc, community-initiated urban farming pioneered by projects such as Oakland Avenue Urban Farm has become a staple of Detroit urbanism and is becoming part of larger, city-led projects as well. Walter Hood Studio’s Rosa Parks Neighborhood Master Plan does not propose any new buildings but rather infills vacant lots with tree nursery gardens that will provide jobs and act as productive landscapes. In the Fitzgerald neighborhood, local developers Century Partners have set out to rehab 20 acres of 100 vacant houses and 200 vacant lots. The strategy included some 28 community meetings and 50 neighborhood meetings that resulted in creating a park—a connective tissue—for the neighborhood, as well as flowering meadows in vacant lots. Cox sees it as a success in testing the idea of using design to create a place and restore beauty and community. Detroit is not without its issues, of course, but the future looks bright for the city. Its unique problems, such as the over-the-top reliance on the car built into the city’s planning, and its sprawling, vacant lots, could become assets when coupled with its strengths: relatively cheap land, strong communities, diverse leadership, and many cultural artifacts that have survived the dark times. Five years after bankruptcy, it is an exciting time in Detroit, and there is reason to believe it will provoke a new kind of urban revitalization: one in harmony with nature and existing cultures, informed by the urban progress made over the last few decades.
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New Twist on History

nARCHITECTS’ Equal Rights Heritage Center frames the history around it
The first new civic building in Auburn, New York, in 40 years lets visitors explore the city’s place in the history of civil rights movements. The nARCHITECTS-designed Equal Rights Heritage Center, now open to the public, frames views of surrounding landmarks to expand the reach of the center to the building's historic context. What began as a request for proposal from the New York State Office of Parks and Recreation and the City of Auburn for a Finger Lakes–region welcome center in 2017 quickly snowballed in importance, according to nARCHITECTS principal Eric Bunge. In light of the rapidly changing national political climate, the governor’s office reoriented the project to focus on New York’s progressive history as a leader in promoting equal rights.  The center specifically focuses on women's rights, the abolition of slavery, civil rights, and the more recent efforts for LGBTQ rights. The 7,500-square-foot, $10 million Heritage Center opened to the public on November 13, 2018, in a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, local officials, and Pauline Copes Johnson, the great-great-grandniece of Harriet Tubman. A statue of the historic abolitionist and activist stands to the south of the new building. The single-story Heritage Center sits smack-dab between several historic landmarks; the building is directly across the street from the Memorial City Hall, is next to the William H. Seward House Museum, and is in the city’s South Street National Register District. A corbelled, pink brick facade was used to better blend the building into the mainly federal-style neighborhood. Inside, the building’s structure was left exposed. Board-formed concrete walls and glulam beams (which appear to continue past the confines of the center thanks to clever mirror placement) were left exposed to open up the interior as much as possible. Radiant geothermal heating emanates up through the terrazzo flooring, eliminating the need for a bulky overhead HVAC system. Double, sometimes triple, height windows frame views of the surrounding city, and the building’s three main interconnected volumes were each rotated to maximize the range of views. Graphic design studio MTWTF worked with nARCHITECTS to co-design the exhibition and wayfinding across the building’s figure-8 circulation path, and the nARCHITECTS-led team pulled double duty as the Heritage Center’s curator. Zones are organized by medium rather than topic, and the center uses posters, videos, recordings, games, a large interactive map, portraits, and other materials to chart the history of equal rights in New York State. But the center will hopefully become the first stop in a broader historical tour of the region for visitors, said Bunge, including the local landmarks visible from the building, and that the “context is content.” Siting the Heritage Center was also an issue for the design team, as the building rose on what was formerly a municipal parking lot. Although there’s a parking garage directly across the street, the community raised concerns over the potential loss of parking at the site. Ultimately, nARCHITECTS chose to exclude any on-site parking to encourage a pedestrian-friendly scheme and included a new public plaza to the center’s east. Construction took only nine months and the project team was able to come in 20 percent under budget. Interested in visiting? Admission is free, and the center is open from 10:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m. daily.
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Emerging Voices 2019

FreelandBuck draws on representation for spatial effects
Every year the Architectural League of New York recognizes eight dynamic young firms as Emerging Voices that have the potential to become leaders in the field. Historic winners like Morphosis (1983) and Toshiko Mori (1992) have become today’s lions, and practices like Johnston Marklee (2007) and Tatiana Bilbao (2010) have jumped to new heights after recent wins. This year’s crop was selected in a two-stage portfolio competition where a jury of architects selected the winners. The deciding jury included several previous winners like Dominic Leong (2017), Fernanda Canales (2018), and Marlon Blackwell (1998), giving the process a familial feel. Laureates for 2019 come from across North America and almost all are partnerships or collaboratives—capital letters feature prominently, too.  FreelandBuck will lecture at the Scholastic Auditorium at 130 Mercer Street, New York, New York, at 7:00 p.m. on March 14, as part of the Emerging Voices lecture series. FreelandBuck builds drawings. Not in the traditional sense of constructing what’s represented by a drawing set, but in the sense that its architecture directly evokes carefully constructed perspectives and painstakingly hand-drawn renderings. “We think about drawing at the scale of architectural space,” says partner Brennan Buck, “as an end product, not a means to build.” Buck, based in New York City, and David Freeland, who is based in Los Angeles, met in grad school at UCLA and started working together in 2009. Of their bicoastal practice, Freeland says, “There are more opportunities than challenges. It exposes us to different groups of potential clients, but also to different environments. I think the practice is richer for that.” Working at a variety of scales also makes the practice richer, giving the firm the chance to explore its ideas in different ways. Parallax Gap, a colorful canopy of layered screens installed in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C., feels like a drawing come to life. The intricate trompe-l’oeil representations of historic American ceilings are like perspective drawings—each constructed with a unique vanishing point—that reveal themselves as visitors walk through the space. FreelandBuck borrowed rendering techniques to enliven the riff on office cubicles the firm designed for a film production company in L.A. To accommodate the company’s variable spatial needs and match its lighthearted style, the architects defined flexible work areas with a series of “tumbling” cubes whose milled surfaces, evoking a poché or hatch, suggest another set of cubes overlaid onto the first. Furniture that looks torn from a Roy Lichtenstein canvas adds to the effect of stepping into a drawing. Although there are nods to linework in the exterior finishes used on two of the firm's residential projects, Stack House and Second House, these connections to representation are more complex. In both buildings, distinctive exterior volumes articulate dedicated programs, and in both buildings, this distinction is broken down by unexpected interior elements. Stack House’s curved walls blend its spaces together, while Second House achieves a sense of continuity through materials, transparency, and interior courtyards. The perspectival shifts of Parallax Gap appear here in more subtle ways, concealing and revealing spaces, views, and experiences; it’s not about adding lines, it’s about erasing them. FreelandBuck may draw on the techniques of representation but, unlike a conventional drawing, its work can’t be understood through a single image. Like the best architecture, the spaces, places, and objects the firm creates are challenging and engaging and must be experienced to be fully appreciated.
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Emerging Voices 2019

SCHAUM/SHIEH experiments with architectural tools to produce surprising spaces at every scale
Every year the Architectural League of New York recognizes eight dynamic young firms as Emerging Voices that have the potential to become leaders in the field. Historic winners like Morphosis (1983) and Toshiko Mori (1992) have become today's lions, and practices like Johnston Marklee (2007) and Tatiana Bilbao (2010) have jumped to new heights after recent wins. This year's crop was selected in a two-stage portfolio competition where a jury of architects selected the winners. The deciding jury included several previous winners like Dominic Leong (2017), Fernanda Canales (2018), and Marlon Blackwell (1998), giving the process a familial feel. Laureates for 2019 come from across North America and almost all are partnerships or collaboratives—capital letters feature prominently, too.  SCHAUM/SHIEH will lecture at the Scholastic Auditorium at 130 Mercer Street, New York, New York, at 7:00 p.m. on March 21, as part of the Emerging Voices lecture series.

For SCHAUM/SHIEH, the city is not a mere backdrop for designing buildings. Instead, it is a source of productive potential and a platform for theoretical and built experimentation that has informed the firm’s relationship to design from its founding in 2010.

The studio’s founding partners, Rosalyne Shieh and Troy Schaum, first explored this interest in speculative projects for Detroit and the Taiwanese port city of Kaohsiung. Their early urban proposals for Detroit led to an installation at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale of a room that was also a staircase and public seating, one of many prototype structures they envisioned could infill the spaces between vacant homes in the city. This design, part of a larger project called “Sponge Urbanism,” challenged the divide between domestic and public space and confronted the broader narrative about vacancy in Detroit.

This intersection of urbanism, form, and identity is something that the studio has carried into its commissioned work, especially for cultural institutions and spaces with hybrid programs. These include the Judd Foundation’s buildings in Marfa, Texas; White Oak Music Hall in Houston; and most recently, the Transart Foundation, also in Houston.

While its Judd Foundation work is an exercise in restraint, aimed at preserving and restoring the artist Donald Judd’s vision for more than a dozen buildings in Marfa, projects like White Oak show how the designers play with form, massing, and landscape to create a distinctive destination for Houston’s music lovers and a new open space for the city as a whole. The main two-story concert hall, which contains multiple stages for different types of music and audience sizes, is part of a larger 7-acre complex which includes a lawn for outdoor performances and an open-air pavilion and bar, converted from an existing shed on the site.

Across the studio's diverse range of projects, abstract representation and diagrammatic processes are essential tools to generate concepts and collaborate with partners and clients. But, as Schaum explained, “We always like to come back to where that kind of set-making and pattern-making starts to break down and question its own set of possibilities, where the sets open up new possibilities for inhabitation rather than where they complete themselves in perfect studies of pattern or complex assemblages.”

This is evident in SCHAUM/SHIEH’s Transart Foundation (a 2018 AN Best of Design Awards Building of the Year). The project includes two structures comprising a private residence, art studio, and exhibition space, and is located across from the Menil Collection within a largely residential neighborhood.

Transart's white stucco facades, with their thick massing, look substantial, but are peeled away at the edges and corners, giving the overall appearance of lightness, like curled paper. The sculptural massing of the main building, juxtaposed against its relatively compact size— closer to a large house than a museum—also makes the foundation appear more monumental than it is, demonstrating the way SCHAUM/SHIEH works with scale to blur the lines between private and public space. This exercise in form and material produces unexpected moments and transitions that serve the multi-functional art space well.

But ultimately, the practice is most interested in its ongoing dialogue with the broader world. As Shieh explained, “I want the buildings that we make to belong to the world, and not to architecture. We don’t necessarily put them out there in a way that we hope that they tell architecture what they are, but that they somehow produce some kind of surprise.”

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À La MODU

MODU’s multi-disciplinary approach to architecture equips them for any task
Every year the Architectural League of New York recognizes eight dynamic young firms as Emerging Voices that have the potential to become leaders in the field. Historic winners like Morphosis (1983) and Toshiko Mori (1992) have become today's lions, and practices like Johnston Marklee (2007) and Tatiana Bilbao (2010) have jumped to new heights after recent wins. This year's crop was selected in a two-stage portfolio competition where a jury of architects selected the winners. The deciding jury included several previous winners like Dominic Leong (2017), Fernanda Canales (2018), and Marlon Blackwell (1998), giving the process a familial feel. Laureates for 2019 come from across North America and almost all are partnerships or collaboratives—capital letters feature prominently, too.  MODU will lecture at the Scholastic Auditorium at 130 Mercer Street, New York, New York, at 7:00 p.m. on March 28, as part of the Emerging Voices lecture series. Phu Hoang and Rachely Rotem are architects without borders. This is not to say they’re traveling around the world doing good where it's most needed—although they are indeed doing both of these things. Rather, they’re working toward an urban future that fosters deeper and more direct connections between people and places. It’s not just a form of design, says Rotem. “It’s a form of wellbeing.” Their Cloud Seeding pavilion elegantly embodies this connection between architecture and the environment. Designed to shade a sun-battered plaza in front of the Design Museum in Holon, Israel, the pavilion is a minimal interpretation of a vernacular greenhouse with a ceiling that encloses 30,000 balls rolling freely in the wind. The shaded areas beneath the pavilion change with the weather, reprogramming the plaza. The idea of “climate” has become abstract and politicized, but weather is immediate. “Weather, for us, is a medium to allow for experiences,” says Rotem. “We see a world that is overabundant with information, but truth is unclear. Connecting to the environment is a form of truth.” Hoang agrees, adding, “I think it's important that architecture play the role of connector rather than separator. That may mean drawing the public realm into the private realm, and rethinking what both those spaces can be.” It may also mean creating indoor weather. Intake is a proposal to adapt an abandoned shipbuilding factory for light-manufacturing and commercial use. The 50,000-square-foot structure will be subdivided and conditioned by invisible walls of high-velocity air that create and maintain distinctive climactic zones tuned to each place and program. MODU’s fascination with abandoned buildings—what they call the “Incomplete City”—solidified during their recent Rome Prize fellowship, when they visited hundreds of unfinished structures. They’re building on that experience with the interdisciplinary pro bono initiative Second Life. This project aims to help revitalize communities through temporary, self-sustaining interventions—“mini-buildings”—in vacant structures. Currently, MODU is working with urban planner Naomi Hersson-Ringskog and the residents of Newburgh, New York to help preserve, protect, and program the city’s 300 vacant buildings until the town has the resources to find a more permanent solution. Hoang and Rotem also blur the boundaries of their practice, working in multiple modes simultaneously. Their conceptual work, built work, research, teaching, and urban initiatives inform one another and allow the firm to continually develop, test, and refine their ideas. Through discourse and design at scales both large and small, MODU’s indoor cities and outdoor rooms ultimately ask one question: How can we live better?
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A Pathway to Healing

New 9/11 Memorial is coming to the World Trade Center site
A new monument at the 9/11 Memorial will honor those affected by illness born of the attacks. The Memorial Glade, now under construction at Liberty and West Streets in New York City, will feature a pathway lined with six granite slabs pointing to the sky. Meant to symbolize “strength and determination through adversity,” the stone pieces have been specially crafted to look worn, but not beaten, and native to the surrounding landscape. Designed by Michael Arad and Peter Walker, the architects behind the 9/11 Memorial, the Glade will be situated along the pathway that relief workers trod during the years-long cleanup of Ground Zero. Per the architects’ vision, the stone monoliths flanking the new memorial walkway will weigh between 15 and 17.5 tons each. Each piece will incorporate steel fragments from the original World Trade Center, a design move inspired by kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. The New York Post reported the project will open on May 30, but it has been in planning since 2014 when an advocate for WTC first responders first approached the 9/11 Memorial and Museum with the idea. The Memorial Glade will honor not only first responders but also survivors and downtown residents who suffered or died from life-threatening toxins released during the disaster.  According to 6sqft, an estimated 400,000 people near Ground Zero were exposed to such airborne threats during the recovery and relief period after 9/11. The World Trade Center Health Program, signed into law by President Obama in 2011, has enrolled 73,000 first responders and over 17,000 survivors since its establishment. As part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the program is responsible for helping victims find treatment for these specific illnesses. Over $4.8 billion in benefits have been given out, reported the Daily News, but the program is slated to expire at the end of 2020.  Construction on the $5 million Memorial Glade started last fall. The project has already received a $500,000 New York State grant, as well as donations from Bloomberg Philanthropies and former Daily Show host Jon Stewart, a member of the museum’s board.
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Nature, Nurture, Nouveau

The Cooper Hewitt’s 2019 Design Triennial will tackle climate change
The Cooper Hewitt’s sixth Design Triennial will look at ways to radically redress the climate crisis. The Manhattan museum has enlisted designers, scientists, environmentalists, and local stakeholders to present over 60 works that tackle how humans can fix their climate mistakes and harmonize with nature. Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, co-organized by the Cooper Hewitt and Cube design museum in Kerkrade, Netherlands, will put large-scale sculptures, virtual reality installations, extinct scents, and more on display from May 10 through January 20, 2019. “With 2018 the Earth’s fourth-warmest year on record and global carbon emissions at an all-time high, the crisis of human-caused climate change has never been more dire,” said Cooper Hewitt director Caroline Baumann. “Solutions will not emerge without radical new thinking and alliances. Nature brings together some of the most creative and intelligent designers whose works address our complex relationship to nature and its precious resources and advocate for greater empathy for our planet.” Nature is organized in seven categories for understanding how designers can work with, and around, the natural world to benefit both the environment and humanity. "Understand" celebrates the fusion of scientific knowledge with design, and the pursuit of understanding the natural world. In Curiosity Cloud, courtesy of the Vienna-based design studio Mischer’Traxler, patrons can walk through a cloud of light bulbs, each containing a handcrafted model of an insect native to New York City. The models will flutter to life in response to movement. "Simulate" focuses on biomimicry, the borrowing of techniques and structures from nature in architecture and design. In Resurrecting the Sublime, museum-goers can sniff long-extinct flowers, their scents recreated Jurrasic Park–style from DNA extracted from specimens at the Harvard University Herbaria. "Salvage" is less about nature itself and more about how humans can reclaim their waste, making new goods and products from our mountains of garbage. In Shahar Livne’s Metamorphism, the conceptual material designer imagines a future in which ocean-faring plastic is collected and recycled back into a useable product. Livne will also present “Lithoplast," a composite material made from discarded plastics that form the basis of this conceptual economy. In "Facilitate," designers worked with and around the forces of nature and growth. Xu Tiantian, of the Beijing-based DnA_Design and Architecture, will present Bamboo Theater. The theater, set in a remote, rural Chinese village, bends live bamboo to form an outdoor theater and invites villagers to tend to the piece of living infrastructure. "Augment" references nature’s ever-evolving, ever-advancing character, with projects that use science to push the boundaries of the natural world. MIT’s Neri Oxman and the Mediated Matter Group will present Aguahoja, a 3-D-printed pavilion built from a blend of plant cellulose and chitosan (a sugar extracted from invertebrate shells), in the museum’s Great Hall. Aguahoja represents the continued evolution of Oxman’s adaptations of natural materials and patterns with computational design and advanced fabrication. "Remediate" prompted designers and artists to think about how humanity can slow, stop, and even reverse the deleterious impacts of modern society. In Monarch Sanctuary, which comes courtesy of the New York-based Terreform ONE, a section of a monarch butterfly incubator-slash-facade will be on display. The Monarch butterfly population has been ravaged by climate change and habitat loss in recent years, and the full-scale variegated facade mockup will contain live butterflies that will periodically be released to fly around the exhibition space. Finally, "Nurture" asks viewers and designers to reinterpret humanity’s relationship with nature, and to reach a place of respect instead of dismissal. In The Substitute, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg will confine an artificially intelligent digital recreation of the extinct northern white rhino to one of the museum’s hallways, where it will gradually refine its movement over time to become more lifelike. Ginsberg’s work questions the role that science plays in preservation—researchers are currently working to revive the white rhno through preserved cell cultures and genetic manipulation—at a time when science increasingly usurps the primacy of social awareness in preservation. Nature’s installations won’t be confined to the floors of the Cooper Hewitt; two large-scale, site-specific installations are coming to the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden. Sam Van Aken’s Tree of 40 Fruit, which grafts 40 different types of stone fruit branches to one monster hybrid tree, will join Ensamble Studio’s 40-foot-long Petrified River, a concrete river that “flows” from a mountain peak and into a flattened, urbanized landscape. To commemorate the triennial, the Cooper Hewitt will also be releasing a 240-page book of essays, renderings, and deep dives into the science behind each installation. Nature: Collaborations in Design: Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial will be available for purchase on May 21.
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Keep Your Ion This, Houston

Rice University taps SHoP Architects for an innovation center in Houston
An 80-year-old former Sears department store will be transformed into a multi-level innovation center and business incubator for Houston, Texas, under a plan unveiled by Rice University. The 270,000-square-foot project is designed to bring students, professors, and entrepreneurs together with corporate leaders and investors, and to provide the centerpiece for a 16-acre innovation district in midtown Houston. Besides classrooms for students and workspace for start-up companies, there will be areas for lectures, conferences, hack-a-thons, demonstrations, job training, and networking events, as well as restaurants and other amenities. Rice has assembled four high-profile designers to repurpose the 1939 flagship department store, keeping salient Art Deco features while modifying the building for 21st-century occupants. Designers include SHoP Architects, James Carpenter Design Associates, James Corner Field Operations, and the Houston office of Gensler. The four-story building on Main Street was the first Sears store in Houston and closed in January of 2018 as part of the retailer’s nationwide retrenchment. Part of a 9.4-acre tract that was offered to Amazon as part of Houston’s bid to be selected for that company’s second headquarters, it’s close to seven colleges and universities, a METRORail line, the Texas Medical Center, and the city’s Museum District. When Houston didn’t make Amazon’s short list of 20 regions under consideration as of January of 2018, it became available for other uses. Amazon later chose northern Virginia and New York City as sites where it will split its second headquarters. In advance of its transformation, the Sears building in Houston has been renamed The Ion. “We chose the name Ion because it’s from the Greek ienai, which means go,” said Rice University president David Leebron, in a statement on Rice’s website. “We see it as embodying the ever-forward motion of discovery, the spark at the center of a truly original idea…The Ion will become Houston’s nucleus for innovation, fostering a community and culture where entrepreneurs and corporations come together to solve some of the world’s greatest problems.” “The Ion will inspire open innovation between universities, global corporations and investors,” said Gabriela Rowe, the CEO of Station Houston, a tech accelerator that will manage programming, in a statement about the project. “Students and faculty members from institutions like Rice University and the University of Houston will coexist and collaborate with scientists from Houston’s other great institutions. Investors and corporations will meet face to face with start-up entrepreneurs. Together, at The Ion, they will transform Houston into a thriving, connected high-tech ecosystem.” Besides Rice, officials say, institutions that will be involved with programming include the University of Houston, UH-Downtown, the University of St. Thomas, Houston Community College, Texas Southern University, Houston Baptist University, San Jacinto College, and the South Texas College of Law. Architectural plans call for retention of original Art Deco elements such as glass block windows, canopies, and decorative tiles that date back to the store’s opening. A central atrium will be created to let in natural light, and new windows will be installed to provide views that weren’t possible before and provide glimpses of the activity inside. The larger innovation district will include housing, stores, restaurants, public spaces, and infrastructure that will support a growing tech community. The Ion project will be led by Rice Management Company, which manages Rice University’s endowment, and Hines of Houston is managing the development. An exact construction budget has not been disclosed, but Rice Management officials said in 2018 they will invest up to $100 million for the project. Construction is expected to start in May and be complete by the end of 2020.
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Just the Scaffolding

Queens towers interrupt the view at MoMA PS1’s James Turrell installation
James Turrell installation in QueensNew York, faces an unclear future after visitors began to notice its skyspace has been interrupted by the neighborhood’s newest high-rise. Meeting is a part of the MoMA PS1 campus and was designed by Turrell between 1980 and 1986 with the goal of creating a meditative place where guests would be able to gaze at the sky away from the ebb and flow of the outside world. The piece is a purely white room with a square hole in the ceiling, drawing guests to look up to the deep blue. A series of LED lights undulating in color changes the ways people perceive both the room they are in and the sky above. However, for those who enjoy visiting the piece and watching the New York sky without the interruptions of gentrification on the skyline, this experience may have just come to an end. Last week, visitors to Meeting began taking photos of what appears to be a series of bars and pipes at the lower edge of the piece, and PS1 has temporarily closed the room, according to The New York Times. The shapes, it turns out, are scaffolding belonging to a luxury, high-rise condo building under construction on the Queens–Long Island City border. Though museum officials have said the scaffolding will not be seen once the building is finished, many locals and Turrell fans are afraid their beloved installation and undisrupted view of the sky is gone for good. Among these is Craig Adcock, a professor of art history at the University of Iowa, and author of James Turrell: The Art of Light and Space. He recently told Gothamist any disruptions of the sky “will ruin [the effect]. It won’t work properly if there’s a building with lights up that’s visible.” Fans have also taken to Twitter to express their fears for the exhibit (and their city) by photoshopping the original picture to now depict a sky interrupted by countless advertisements and drones, as well as by some familiar buildings, such as One Times Square, and the infamous 432 Park Avenue and 56 Leonard. The same developer in charge of the intruding high-rise, Jerry Wolkoff, was also responsible for building another luxury residential tower on top of the famous and widely-loved 5pointz, a fortress for graffiti artists whose works lined the walls before they were whitewashed and erased forever in 2013. In 2016, a federal judge ruled Wolkoff pay 21 artists at 5pointz $6.7 million for the damages of the lost art.
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A beacon for DIA

Finalists present bold visions for the future of Detroit’s museum district
The future of Detroit’s museum district—an area within striking distance of the city’s revitalized downtown that has 12 cultural institutions—received bold ideas and insights into what urban architects and landscape designers would do if given the chance to unite Motown’s Midtown during an all-day series of presentations Wednesday at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). The DIA Plaza project hopes to create cultural, community, and city connections between institutions like the classical art museum and its illustrious neighbors, which include the main branch of the Detroit Public Library, Detroit Historical Museum, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History, Wayne State University, and others. Three teams with international and national resumes as well as Detroit partners gave what observers called insightful and innovative pitches Wednesday on how their ideas about mobility, technology and a revived infrastructure around the art museum could unite not only the buildings in the up-and-coming Midtown district but to the city and the region as a whole. The DIA and its local partners will select a winner from the three presentations by spring, officials said. Insiders say the final decision should come before the end of April. The DIA and its partners, including development organization Midtown Detroit Inc., started this process of building a “heart” for the cultural and educational district in spring 2018. The two also hosted a student competition, led by communications and urban-planning students from around Michigan. The winning team from Wayne State University created a vision of a large cultural campus that removed one of the DIA’s existing parking structures and created an open campus with food trucks, a performance stage and additional signage. The three presenters at Wednesday’s event had a few items in common – they suggested narrowing Detroit’s legendary Woodward Avenue to make it more pedestrian friendly, closing off little-used streets to create a cultural campus and developing additional “living rooms” and outdoor installation spaces to bring art outside the walls of the major institutions involved. The initial 44 submissions to the competition RFQ from more than 10 countries and 22 cities were narrowed down to eight firms, each of which presented their ideas to a panel of jurors at a public event at the DIA in June 2018. Each of the three design teams presenting as finalists in the competition include Detroit-area firms as partners. The three design teams and their partners are: Agence Ter, Paris, France, with team partners Akoaki, Detroit; Harley Etienne, University of Michigan; rootoftwo, metro Detroit; and Transsolar | KlimaEngineering, Germany; Mikyoung Kim Design, Boston, with team partners are James Carpenter Design Associates, New York; CDAD, Detroit; Wkshps, New York; Quinn Evans, Detroit; Giffels Webster, Detroit; Tillett Lighting, New York; Cuseum, Boston; Transsolar | KlimaEngineering, Germany; and Schlaich Bergermann & Partners, New York; and TEN x TEN, Minneapolis, with team partners MASS Design Group, Boston; D MET, Detroit; Atelier Ten, New York; Local Projects, New York; HR&A Advisors, New York; Dr. Craig Wilkins, University of Michigan; and Wade Trim, Detroit. Detroiters who attended the event said they appreciated the attention to reforesting the area with more trees and landscaping as well as the connections to Detroit-based artists, who could benefit from the additional performance spaces. However, there were concerns about removing parking in an urban center already struggling with having enough space for cars alongside its relatively new tram system known as the QLINE. “I'm seeing a great deal of investment in branding and design vision but not so great a connection to cultural/community impact,” said Nick Rowley, a local activist who attended Wednesday’s presentations. The actor, voiceover artist and events planner said his much of his favorite proposals came from Agence Ter, which focused on developing projects and installations that centered on Detroit issues, such as how to commemorate the 1967 riot/rebellion, as well as local artists. “I like hearing ‘Biennale’ and ‘Afro-Futurist’ being evoked in the same presentation,” he noted. The judges questioned the three groups for their attention to details like how they would blend walkways with the planned structures, how they proposed to develop the projects over time and whether they had given enough attention to Detroit’s unique artist and resident communities, which all wanted a voice in the final proposal. When asked whether their proposal was too audacious, Anya Sirota, co-founder of Detroit-based architecture and design studio Akoaki, responded by noting, “Detroit deserves an ambitious project,” and that they worked extensively with community groups, artist communities and event planners to learn about the city, how it hosts events and what it needed to attract both suburbanites and urban dwellers to the cultural center.
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Twisted Architecture

Diller Scofidio + Renfro reveals design for London Centre for Music
After winning a competition in 2017, Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) has released new renderings of its conceptual design for a London Centre for Music. The new building is backed by a group of local institutions, including the London Symphony Orchestra and the Barbican. The £288 million structure will rise like a twisted block on the site where the Museum of London now stands. The new building reinterprets the idea of a vertical campus that DS+R used in the Vagelos Education Center for Columbia University in New York City. Performance and rehearsal spaces are stacked with lobbies and other public areas mixed in between, and a staircase with seating will wrap around the building to tie it all together. Many spaces are swathed in uniform wood paneling, as in the firm's design for New York's Alice Tully Hall, and many rooms are oriented toward a window wall displaying a view over the city, similar to the computer space in Boston's ICA, also by the firm. The exterior finishes are abstracted in the renderings, giving the building a largely transparent appearance, but there are apparent hints at slatted wood siding and a twisted glass facade. Work on the new building can only begin after the Museum of London vacates the site in 2023, and construction is expected to take a further four years after that.
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MOCA Move

MOCA shutters architecture galleries amid arts losses around Los Angeles
Los Angeles–area arts spaces are having a rough go of it lately. Just this week, two long-standing art and architecture galleries announced either immediate or planned closures. The Downtown Los Angeles–based Museum of Contemporary Art announced Wednesday that it would be shutting down its architecture and design galleries at the Cesar Pelli–designed Pacific Design Center (PDC) in West Hollywood. Though MOCA has occupied the space for over 20 years, MOCA board chairperson Maria Seferian gave few details in a press release announcing the move, saying simply that “the programming agreement between the two organizations has reached the end of its term.” Seferian added, “We are grateful for our partnership with the PDC ... and now look forward to consolidating and growing our exhibition activities, including presentations on architecture and design, at MOCA’s two Downtown Los Angeles locations.” The museum maintains its flagship, Arata Isozaki–designed location in Downtown Los Angeles’s Bunker Hill district and a Frank Gehry–designed outpost in Little Tokyo. MOCA recently came under the direction of Klaus Biesenbach, the former director of MOMA PS1 in New York City. Over the years, MOCA has exhibited the work of many artists and designers at the PDC, including Takashi Murakami, Catherine Opie, Rodarte, Jean Prouve, and Rick Owens, among others. The current exhibition on view, One Day at a Time: Kahlil Joseph’s Fly Paper, will close out the space on February 24. The news came just one day after Los Angeles Downtown News reported that the local artist–friendly Main Museum had abruptly closed down. According to the report, the museum’s top staff, including museum director Allison Agsten, left their posts in late 2018. The museum is temporarily located in a storefront in L.A.’s Old Bank District as plans for an artful expansion by Tom Wiscombe Architecture (TWA) were supposedly underway. A reason for the museum’s closure has not been stated. The Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA) also closed its doors last year following financial troubles and a long and expensive list of necessary building repairs. PMCA opened in 2002 as a non-collecting museum focused exclusively on California art and design from the 1800s to the present. The closures run somewhat counter to the actions of other local arts organizations like the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Art and Los Angeles Philharmonic. In advance of a planned closure of its main William Pereira and Pfeiffer Associates–designed flagship, the museum announced its intention to open several satellite locations across the city, including a pair of art spaces in South Los Angeles. The L.A. Philharmonic, on the other hand, is pushing forward with its own expansion to Inglewood, where Gehry Partners is designing a new headquarters for an associated youth orchestra.