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Fiber Intake

MIT lab creates sculptural pavilion made with dissolvable panels
Less than 10 percent of the billions of tons of plastic ever produced has been recycled, with much of it winding up in the Earth's oceans where the plastic disrupts ecosystems and releases toxic chemicals. In response, researchers led by Neri Oxman of MIT’s Mediated Matter Group, which focuses on “nature-inspired design and design-inspired nature,” have devised a new materials that they say, in somewhat biblical terms, go “from water to water.” The substances include a structure made of biocomposite skins derived from cellulose, chitosan, and pectin, some of the most abundant biopolymers on earth, in everything from tree branches to insect exoskeletons to common fruits to human bones. The researchers have put these new composites to the test in a 16-foot-tall pavilion named Aguahoja I (literally, water-sheet in Spanish), the culmination of six years of intense research into material science and robotic fabrication. Panels, comprising a top layer of chitosan and cellulose with a bottom layer of apple pectin and chitosan, were 3D-printed in various compositions to affect their rigidity and strength, color and color-changing abilities, transparency, and responses to heat and humidity, as well as their load-bearing abilities. This means, according to the lab, that the materials are functionally "programmable." Because of this variability, a variety of facade or load-bearing structural components can be generated from the same process, and the size is limited only by that of the printer. This “water-based digital fabrication” is intended to create a situation in which form, function, and fabrication are more closely linked, working in a way that mimics how the natural world designs itself; the result is “a continuous construction modeled after human skin—with regions that serve as structure, window, and environmental filter,” said the lab. In a display at the MIT Media Lab, the pavilion was shown along with a library of materials with various colors, shades, and structural properties, and an array of custom hardware, software, and wetware. The pavilion has been acquired by SFMOMA for its permanent collection, and a second version, Aguahoja II, will appear in the Cooper Hewitt’s design triennial, themed “Nature,” which opens next month. When structures made of these materials have run their course, the materials can be dissolved in water, returning natural materials to the environment with relatively little harm or disruption, much like any organic object in a naturally occurring ecosystem that decays and returns to be reused by the life that relies on it. For more on the latest in AEC technology and for information about the upcoming TECH+ conference, visit techplusexpo.com/nyc/.
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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, 2020. “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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Broken Nature

Paola Antonelli’s upcoming Milan Triennale urges designers to tackle climate change
Next year’s XXII Triennale di Milano couldn’t come at a better time. Curated by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)’s Paola Antonelli, the exhibition focuses on the one-of-a-kind ways designers are tackling one of the world’s biggest contemporary problems: climate change. Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival introduces the concept of restorative design and analyzes how humans interact with the natural environment. “A healthy concern for the future of our planet and of our species should come as no surprise," said Antonelli in a statement, "and yet the Broken Nature team feels thankful for the eager and consistent restorative design that is at the core of [this event]...It allows us to keep believing in the power of design to help citizens understand complexity, assess risks, adapt behaviors, and demand change.” Running from March 1 to September 1, 2019, the international showcase will bring together thought-provoking commissions from around the world that sit at the intersection of art, industry, and politics. Special projects will be on view by Formafantasma, Sigil Collective, as well as Neri Oxman and the MIT-based Mediated Matter Group, among others. Scientist Stefano Mancuso will present the immersive exhibition, The Nation of Plants, which will explore the role of botany in helping to solve the world’s vast ecological issues.  It was recently announced that Italian architect Stefano Boeri will lead the global event as its new president. He aims to reinstitute the traditional roots of the 85-year-old Milan Triennale as a collaborative design event that centers on modern day issues. The 2016 event, which was the first Triennale held after a 20-year hiatus, didn’t follow the former format that encouraged such widespread cross-disciplinary collaboration. The Architect’s Newspaper spoke with Antonelli about what it means now that the Triennale is back, and why next year’s thematic exhibition is particularly pertinent for cities in Italy and beyond: AN: Broken Nature is a total revamp of the 2016 Milan Triennale. Can you talk about the ways in which the 2019 event will be different? Paola Antonelli: Hopefully it will exist in the same vein of the ones that happened over 20 years ago. The 2016 event was a loose collection of design innovations while the Triennales held before the 21st century very much connected to what was happening in the world. That’s how I think about Broken Nature. We’re creating the opportunity for architects and designers to participate in a dialogue and contribute to the world’s most urgent crisis: the future of the environment. What makes it different is its attempt to connect a network of efforts. Very often you have these events where the curators know each other, but they make something new and original individually. I believe in originality, of course, but I also believe in collaboration. If we’re talking about emergency as the central focus, we might as well join forces. I would like Broken Nature to become not an umbrella, but an embrace for all these efforts, and for curators to complement each others’ efforts. With this theme of climate change and protecting the environment, we have to join forces in order to be taken seriously. What was the inspiration behind giving science as much of a platform as design? PA: I began this exploration 10 years ago with the MoMA exhibition, Design and the Elastic Mind. We put designers and scientists in conversation to discuss recent changes in tech, science, and social habits, and how people can deal with those changes through thoughtful design. The idea for Broken Nature was birthed in 2013 as a proposal for another exhibition at MoMA that didn’t work out. It never left my mind, because soon after that, new solutions and ways to address change emerged out of this growing urgency to save ourselves and the earth from major environmental threats. For the Milan Triennale, we’re not gathering curators to put together new works necessarily. The National Bureau of Expositions will handle organizing the various pavilions by other countries. I am curating part of the exhibition myself, and we’re asking designers worldwide to share projects that they’ve already been working on for some time. We’re looking for eco-visionaries who have already helped start a dialogue on restorative design and how humans can better connect with nature.
 
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What role has public engagement played in the process of putting together this event? PA: We’ve done public symposia on Broken Nature already, which has helped not only spread awareness but organize our ideas and prepare content. Some of our contributors have already written essays about their projects, which we’ll use toward a book later that sums up our learnings. The symposia have also helped us test out a few ideas to see if they will work out on the national stage. What else should we know going into next year’s 7-month-long triennale? PA: Overall, we’re hoping people will be puzzled and inspired by the exhibition, but we do have three main desired outcomes for it. First, we’re doing this not only for the architecture and design community but for the Milanese citizens because we know they’re interested in design. We’re looking to them as the agent of change to exercise pressure on institutions and change behaviors. We hope citizens will come to the show and leave with a short-term sense of what they can do in their everyday lives to be restorative. Second, we want people to leave the building knowing we live in a complex world, so our actions need to be thoughtful as we move forward in interacting with nature. Third, we want people to have a long-term vision. We tend to always think of our children and our children’s children when it comes to caring for the earth. But beyond that into the third generation of humans, it’s hard to psychologically imagine what it will be like. We hope the exhibition will help people put the far-out future into perspective. Leading the curatorial effort alongside Antonelli for XXII Triennale di Milano are Ala Tannir, Laura Maeran, and Azzurra Muzzonigro. Laura Agnesi will act as lead coordinator for the event, while Marco Sammicheli will handle international relations.
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Age of the Machine

Neri Oxman’s Fiberbots autonomously build human-scale structures
The MIT-based Mediated Matter Group, founded by architect and designer Neri Oxman, is well known for its groundbreaking explorations at the nexus of 3-D printing, design, and what Oxman refers to as "material ecology," a term that covers projects ranging from a CNC-fabricated scaffold coiled with silk thread produced by 6,500 silkworms to a solid wooden chaise adorned with 3-D printed, multi-colored cells. Now, the group has released footage of their latest project involving a swarm of robots, dubbed Fiberbots, capable of rapidly fabricating freestanding fiber-reinforced tubes. Over the course of 12 hours, the Fiberbots autonomously produced a series of approximately-15-foot fiber structures. The 16 tubes are four inches in diameter, each using an estimated 1.2 miles of fiberglass thread. In total, over 80 miles of fiberglass were spun for the entire installation. “Fibreglass can provide energy-efficient, green, sustainable solutions for building enclosures,” said Neri Oxman in a statement to Dezeen. “It has relatively low embodied energy due to its composition and can be shaped to carry loads in multiple directions.” Mediated Matter Group tested their new device in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in an outdoor environment to gauge the Fiberbot’s durability. The design team fastened a series of external monitors to the robots to allow for a real-time response to external stimuli that adjusted fabrication variables to swings in temperature and or wind speed. The body of each Fiberbot is identical, consisting of electronics and a software drive enclosed in an inflatable silicone membrane. The Fiberbot is topped by a curved robotic arm that continuously wraps a mixture of fiberglass thread and photocurable resin around the existing structure. The materials for the structure are located at the base of the tubular forms and are siphoned upwards towards the robot's nozzle. Each robot navigates the freestanding structure through the compression and inflation of its surrounding silicone membrane. The membrane expands while the robot fabricates a new fiberglass segment, and subsequently retreats within the tube as that segment solidifies. This process follows a pre-programmed trajectory to ensure that none of the tubes inadvertently collide. According to the Architect Magazine, Mediated Matter Group is currently researching how to scale up their technique into full-scale architectural prototypes. However, there are significant hurdles to overcome in developing the fiberglass forms into load-bearing, interlocking frames.
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Caddy Shack Palace

Sightings at the Venice Biennale and news from the UC Berkeley expansion
Eavesdrop from Venice We were wondering if we would see any celebs in Venice this year—perhaps Brad Pitt and Neri Oxman would be strolling the Giardini, or maybe Kanye West would show up at the Arsenale. But instead, AN editors ran into none other than legendary comedian and actor Chevy Chase, who was spending the week at the Biennale. Chase was in town because his old friend, photographer Peter Aaron, was showing a series of pictures about pre-Civil War Syria. Aaron’s wife wasn’t able to make the trip, so Chevy—an old college friend—came with him. The pair was spotted dining with the Architectural League’s Anne Reiselbach at a small osteria in the San Polo neighborhood. What national pavilion at the Venice Biennale seemingly featured more Americans than the U.S. Pavilion? The Dutch! With GSAPP’s curatorial program—including Mark Wasiuta, Felicity Scott, and Dutch Pavilion curator and CCCP grad Marina Otera—talking to themselves and their friends, as well as Beatriz Colomina in bed with other (mostly New York) friends, it seemed more like a U.S. academy than the actual U.S. pavilion. Now that Eva Franch i Gilabert is packing up her paella pans and heading to Brexitland, the Storefront for Art and Architecture needs a new director. It is currently assembling a list of prospective directors from over 100 applicants. A new director will need to be in place by early fall. In the world of architects’ archives, two of the biggest have recently been promised to major collecting organizations, and we will reveal them shortly. Stay tuned. People's Park No More
The University of California, Berkeley recently announced intentions to make good on a 70-year-old plan to convert the university’s People’s Park into a student housing site. The school hopes to replace the notorious park—site of the 1969 “Bloody Thursday” police violence incident—with new student housing structures containing up to 1,000 beds. The move will displace many of the people currently living in and around the park, which officials have likened to a “daytime homeless shelter.” Plans for the site are still in the works, but the university is considering dedicating a portion of the site to supportive housing and social services. The housing is due to be completed by 2022, according to a UC Berkeley spokesperson.
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Cooper Kudos

Weiss/Manfredi, Neri Oxman among winners of 2018 Cooper Hewitt Design Awards
The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum has announced the winners of the 2018 National Design Awards, recognizing ten individuals and firms who have used design to shape the world for the better. This year’s winners include: Lifetime Achievement: Writer, educator, and designer Gail Anderson has taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York for the last 25 years, and is an active partner at the multidisciplinary Anderson Newton Design. Anderson has written or co-authored a total of 14 books on popular culture and design, and formerly served as the senior art director at Rolling Stone. Design Mind: Landscape architect, award-winning author, and Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning at MIT Anne Whiston Spirn. Spirn was recognized for her longtime advocacy for balancing urbanism with nature, as well as her continued direction of the West Philadelphia Landscape Project. Corporate & Institutional Achievement: Design studio Design for America, which empowers communities to solve local problems through design. Architecture Design: WEISS/MANFREDI was recognized for the way their projects consistently bridge the gap between architecture, art, and the surrounding landscape. The firm’s been on a roll lately, having picked up several cultural commissions and an invite to exhibit at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale. Communication Design: Digital identity and experience firm Civilization was recognized for its ability to create empathetic connections and commitment to working with companies who are advocating for the greater good. Fashion Design: The Los Angeles-based fashion designer Christina Kim was recognized for her use of traditional hand working techniques and sustainable business practices. Interaction Design: Architect and designer Neri Oxman was recognized for her experimental material usage and continual boundary-pushing forms. Oxman leads the Mediated Matter Group at the MIT Media Lab, a group whose work frequently bridges the gap between art and technology; their most recent project, Vespers, is a contemporary reinterpretation of the death mask typology that uses living microorganisms. Interior Design: The Miami-based Oppenheim Architecture + Design was recognized for its sense-invoking interiors that are often inspired by local vernacular. The firm has realized projects all over the world from towers in Dubai to the Williamsburg Hotel in Brooklyn, but like many of the other winners, Oppenheim balances their projects within the surrounding natural environment. Landscape Architecture: Boston-based landscape architecture firm Mikyoung Kim Design was honored for its vast body of public work, much of it focused on improving urban resiliency. The firm has tackled projects large and small around the world, from the Chicago Botanic Garden Learning Campus to the Songdo International Plaza in Incheon, South Korea. Product Design: Minneapolis-based Furniture designer and manufacturer Blu Dot was recognized for its playful and modern stylings (including some less-than-functional objects). The National Design Awards have been recognizing exemplary names in the design world since 2000. Nominees must have seven years of professional experience under their belt, while the lifetime achievement nominees must have at least 20 years of experience. Caroline Baumann, director of Cooper Hewitt, will announce the winner of the Director’s Award at a later date, to be given to an outstanding patron of the design world. This year’s awards ceremony will be accompanied by National Design Week, which will run from October 13 through the 21st.
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What's Up?

Architect Neri Oxman is hanging out with Brad Pitt, and the internet is going wild
The rumor mill is buzzing around the purportedly budding relationship between Boston-based architect and artist Neri Oxman and actor Brad Pitt. According to Page SixOxman met Pitt when he was referred to her for guidance on an architectural project. Since then, the two have developed what the publication called a "professional friendship." Celebrity gossip mag US Weekly took it a step further, claiming the two have been secretly rendezvousing for months, with Brad even tagging along on Oxman’s professional trips across the globe. The Israeli-American Oxman, a professor at MIT and founder of design group Mediated Matter, is known for her forward-thinking approach to architecture and design that fuses natural, biological forms with the growing capabilities of digital fabrication. Oxman has produced acclaimed pieces such as “The Silk Pavilion,” a CNC-fabricated scaffold coiled with silk thread produced by 6,500 silkworms, and “Gemeni” a solid wood chaise crafted to resemble a cocoon, adorned with cells of varying colors and rigidity. Her ventures into 3-D printed wearables also include a design for Björk's Vulnicura tour, a movable mask that mimicked the musician's own bone and tissue based on scans. Oxman’s work is exhibited widely, including at MoMaSan Francisco's Museum of Modern Art, and the Centre Pompidou. This is not Pitt’s first flirtation with the world of architecture. The Hollywood star met and befriended Frank Gehry in 2001, leading to an internship focused on computer-aided design at the international architect’s Los Angeles office. Since then, Pitt has gone on to found Make it Right, a non-profit focused on delivering environmentally-friendly housing to post-Katrina Louisiana. During this venture, Gehry designed a duplex in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, his only residential project in the state of Louisiana. While Pitt has dabbled in architecture and design, he has nothing on Oxman’s impressive record of academic and design accolades, including the 2016 MIT Collier Medal, the Textiles Spaces 2015 Award, and the 2014 Vilcek Prize. Whatever the truth about their relationship is, Oxman is probably too good for Pitt.
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ACADIA 2017

Highlights from ACADIA’s 36th conference at MIT
From November 2 through the 4, 2017, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) convened the 36th ACADIA conference in the Fumihiko Maki–designed MIT Media Lab. For three days, nearly 350 people from over 30 countries drank untold gallons of coffee and shared their ideas through an array of research and paper presentations. Leading up to the conference itself was three days of intensive workshops hosted at Autodesk BUILD Space in Boston's Seaport District. ACADIA is a unique organization advancing the computational horizons in architecture. Founded in 1981 by pioneers in the field of design computation, including Bill Mitchell, Chuck Eastman, and Chris Yessios, ACADIA has hosted over 30 conferences across North America and has grown into a wide network of academics and professionals. Welcoming the ACADIANs was Hashim Sarkis, MIT’s dean of the School of Architecture + Planning. He highlighted three "turns" driving new practices in architecture. First, said Sarkis, was the "turn of scalar problems: how technology has smoothed shifts of scale from the nanoscale to the planetary." Second, the turn of values: the open sourcing of production to design processes that empower end-users and will radically change the role of the designer. Design should be a mode of inquiry that now works hand-in-hand with fabrication, said Sarkis. Lastly, he spoke of a turn toward contingency. The traditional view of a designer is that in order to be in control, we need to exclude non-relevant elements. As computational power continues to grow, more contingency enters the process as elements that were once excluded can be brought into the fold, opening design to more variety and possibility than before. MIT Host Committee Co-Chair’s Takahiko Nakamura and Skylar Tibbets welcomed the audience and kicked off the first of 13 paper-based sessions. The sessions ranged from BIM use to Automation, Visualization to Machine Learning. A major sponsorship from Autodesk allowed the ACADIA Board of Directors to award $10,000 in student travel scholarships to paper and project presenters. Breaking up the barrage of research presentations were carefully chosen keynotes from afar and close to home. MIT’s own Neri Oxman kicked off the first day, and the ACADIA Design achievement award was bestowed on designer Thomas Heatherwick that same night. Heatherwick was singled out for his studio's provocative work worldwide, and he shared insights into his studio’s processes. "The ACADIA Design Excellence Award is recognized internationally as one of the highest honors in the field," said Jason Kelly Johnson, outgoing president of ACADIA. "It represents recognition by colleagues worldwide of extraordinary contributions and impact on the field of architectural computing and design culture." The award was most recently given to Liz Diller and the late Zaha Hadid. The next day began with two awards for educators: The Innovator Award and Educator Award, which was followed by an education panel. The Educator Award went to Heather Roberge, the new Chair of Architecture at UCLA. Roberge walked the audience through a handful of studio curricula and projects, and spoke on the crucial difference between a model and a prototype, the different kinds of skills that students learn, the difference between handcraft vs machinecraft, and demonstrated how to use molds to visualize parametric concepts and form finding. The second day closed out with a presentation from Paris-based Iconem, an organization using advanced photogrammetric techniques for heritage preservation in conflict zones. Wrapping up the conference’s final day, Nervous Systems’ Jesse Louis-Rosenberg and Jessica Rosenkrantz described their eclectic design practice, and how the studio uses generative design to create interactive forms. Kathy Velikov, the incoming 2018 president of ACADIA, discussed how ACADIA brings together a community engaged with design challenges and future-facing solutions. Much of the work shown could be brought back to the office or classroom, and either might be applicable today, or open new paths to research or near-future concepts, and tools that will change work across practices. "Next year we are excited that the ACADIA conference will be held in Mexico City," said Velikov in a statement after the conference. "We are partnering with Mexico City's Ibero-American University to host and organize the event. ACADIA is a North American organization, and while we have had several conferences in Canada, this is the first time we will be in Mexico." "Besides the obvious attraction of the vibrance, history, and design culture of Mexico City, this is a fantastic opportunity to frame conversations around computational design within a different technological and cultural context, and to be able to open conference to new communities of participants," he added. The 2018 ACADIA conference, Re/calibration: on imprecision and infidelity, will attempt to recalibrate the discourse around computational design research, and a new venue in a new country is the perfect place to shake things up. The Call for Papers is live and due May 1, 2018 The full list of award winners is as follows: Design Excellence Award Thomas Heatherwick Founder/Design Director, Ηeatherwick Studio  Digital Practice Award of Excellence Lisa Iwamoto & Craig Scott Founders, IWAMOTTOSCOTT ARCHITECTURE Society Award of Excellence Bob Martens Associate Professor, TU Wien Innovative Research Award of Excellence Wesley McGee Assistant Professor of Architecture, University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning/Co-founder, Matter Design Teaching Award of Excellence Heather Roberge Chair, UCLA School of Architecture and Urban Design/Founder, Murmur design Academic Program Award of Excellence Bartlett School of Architecture, B-Pro Program
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Disciplines & Disruption

A preview of ACADIA 2017, where disciplinary boundaries are blurred
On November 2-4, ACADIA will host its annual conference at MIT. Ahead of the proceedings, The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) spoke with one of this year’s organizers, Skylar Tibbits, Assistant Professor of Design Research in MIT's Department of Architecture and director of the Self-Assembly Lab—to get a preview of what to expect from this year’s impressive lineup. AN: The theme of this year’s conference is Disciplines & Disruption. What are the prime disruptors you’ve identified and what types of research are you expecting to see? ST: If you asked this question in previous years, everyone’s attention was on robots. We had a robotics arms race for a moment and robotics has spun off into its own architectural conferences. The submissions this year are more about AI and Machine Learning, Visualization like AR/VR, and advances in HCI demonstrating the wealth and breadth of tools now available and the velocity of technological change. AN: The most disruptive thing is really the acceleration of technological change, is it not? ST: It’s a given that people participate in ACADIA for the latest and greatest research in technology for the architectural field and yet we are struck also by the context. Disruption isn’t about just rapid change in markets but about people, their contexts, and concerns and the feeling of cultural and technological shifts happening concurrently. AN: Can you speak more to these shifts and how you define disciplines in increasingly co-located and overlapping fields of research? ST: Disciplinary shifts look like convergence and hybridization. Boundaries between disciplines shrink and we ask what are the limits of the discipline today. Is ACADIA a Materials Science conference or a Computer Science Conference? Of course, the work comes out of architecture practice, but we need to ask those disciplinary questions in a bigger way. When everyone is a hybrid, you can get quite existential about what you are doing. We have a great line-up of keynotes from Neri Oxman and Thomas Heatherwick to Nervous Systems and Ben Fry that I think embody these hybrid practices. AN: What has changed in the course of ACADIA’s history? ACADIA started back when CAD was a novel idea and now every architecture student uses tools in really advanced ways. The technologies are now so ubiquitous and yet there is always room for innovation. The pressing questions become about testing the limits of the disciplines and how we can understand and elevate the social/cultural/political impacts while we innovate. AN: What makes hosting the conference at MIT special? The organizers and myself wanted to bring the MIT ethos to ACADIA. I want attendees to come away with a sense of the real MIT, not just that we are tight-knit group of techies, but that there are people here looking seriously at the big picture and developing hybrid research practices. ACADIA kicks off this weekend with a Hackathon at MIT Media Lab followed by three days of workshops at the newly opened Autodesk BUILD Sspace. The conference is happening at MIT November 2-4. Visit 2017.acadia.org
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Disciplines & Disruption

Thomas Heatherwick wins the ACADIA Design Excellence Award for 2017
[UPDATE 7/17/2017—This article has been updated to reflect that another faculty member from the Bartlett School of Architecture will be attending in lieu of Frederic Migayrou, who was previously listed below.] The Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) has announced British designer Thomas Heatherwick as the winner of the institute's 2017 Design Excellence Award. Heatherwick, who founded his eponymous studio in 1994, will receive the award at this year's ACADIA conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts where he will be a keynote speaker. Running under the title Disciplines & Disruption, the conference will address how technology is impacting architectural design, as well as its methods and culture. Touching on advancements in fabrication, materials, and digital tools, Disciplines & Disruption will also look at how technology has connected—or in some cases, disrupted—once distinct facets of the discipline, making numerous realms of architecture more accessible. "Distinctions between design and making, building and urban scale, architecture and engineering, real and virtual, on site and remote, physical and digital data, professionals and crowds, are diminishing as technology increases the designer's reach far beyond the confines of the drafting board," reads a synopsis in a press release. Heatherwick will headline the conference and appear alongside Ben Fry, founder of Information Design; Neri Oxman, a director at Mediated Matter Group and of MIT's Media Lab; and Jessica Rosenkrantz & Jesse Louis-Rosenberg, founders of Nervous System. Other award winners, who will each deliver a mini keynote themselves, include Lisa Iwamoto and Craig Scott, Heather Roberge, faculty from the B-Pro program at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London, Wes McGee from the University of Michigan, and Bob Martens from the Technical University of Vienna. "Thomas Heatherwick's work epitomizes the high caliber of design innovation that ACADIA has sought to foster over the years," Jason Kelly Johnson, ACADIA president and founder of Future Cities Lab in San Francisco told The Architect's Newspaper, speaking of Heatherwick's award. "From furniture to bridges to buildings, his work is consistently experimental, iterative, and well-crafted. It also synthesizes digital and analog techniques in ground breaking ways. Thomas's upcoming ACADIA talk follows in a line of incredible awardee talks and keynote speakers including Zaha Hadid, Liz Diller, Greg Lynn, Manuel De Landa, and many others." The ACADIA conference will run from November 2 through the 4th.
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Reactions to a Complex World

Experience fear and love in London’s new Design Museum, courtesy Sam Jacob Studio

When the new Design Museum in Kensington Gardens, London opened to the public on the November 24th, many aesthetically astute Brits flocked to the new "palace of culture." There they found the post-war (landmarked) relic, originally designed for the Commonwealth Institute by Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall & Partners and opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1962, reincarnated and open once again. However, despite director of the museum Deyan Sudjic recruiting the likes of John Pawson and OMA for the renovation, the reaction to the $104 million museum has been mixed. The exhibitions inside, though, have enjoyed a much warmer reception. The inaugural exhibit, Fear And Love: Reactions to a Complex World features exhibition design by Sam Jacob Studio and eleven diverse installations from the likes of Andrés Jaque, Neri Oxman, and OMA/AMO.

“To design the first show at the new Design Museum was both an honor and a challenge—a way to mark a new era in London’s design culture," said Jacob. "The subject of Fear and Love was always more of a mood than a statement. Our design attempts to embody this ambivalence in a way that adds mystery and imagination.”

The London-based designer has employed a 623-foot-long pleated felt curtain that articulates the installation spaces and acts as a fluid circulatory device as it meanders through the rectangular exhibition area. With breaks interspersed throughout the curtain trail, views across and into each of the installations are created, opening up what would be tight corners to form a coherent space.

While this material carries warmth with it on its journey through Fear And Love, the use of gray translucent PVC bares the opposite (and perhaps even hints at love in another sense). Working with graphic designers OK-RM, signage within Fear And Love displays information on a series of freestanding, bent steel frames of which have been given a protective, passivated finish, giving a modern and iridescent look. This aesthetic is furthered through a neon two-way mirror totem that displays the words "FEAR" and "LOVE" to those passing by the exhibition inside the museum.

Justin McGuirk, curator of Fear And Love and chief curator at the Design Museum, said: “Sam Jacob Studio’s exhibition design was central to setting the mood of Fear and Love: it creates a dream-like space that, in the most elegant way, heightens the sense of uncertainty that the exhibition explores.”

Meanwhile, Chloë Leen, who spearheaded the project for Sam Jacob Studio commented: “It has been a great privilege to work with 11 designers at the forefront of shaping contemporary practice. Our design creates a unifying experience, choreographing these varied complex ideas and installations, while the spaces and moods of the exhibition design give each a distinct quality. This duality was at the heart of the de-sign challenge that the museum’s curatorial position presented.” Fear and Love runs through April 23, 2017.
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