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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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Not small or large, though

Is the medium the message in post-digital architecture?

Possible Mediums Edited by Kelly Bair, Kristy Balliet, Adam Fure, and Kyle Miller Actar $34.95 MSRP

Possible Mediums, a volume edited by four xennial American architecture professors, documents the formal experimentation of the recent post-digital turn in architecture. The book glimpses a generation paradoxically invested in using obscure methods to make charismatic forms. Unlike other postmodern camps (pomo, deconstructivism, parametricism), this generation eschews stylistic cohesion, instead claiming diversity and eclecticism as its hallmark. Inspired by philosopher Michel Foucault’s reading of a fictional Chinese encyclopedia in The Order of Things (the incoherence of which undermines Western epistemology itself), Possible Mediums’ preface essay, “Notes from the Middle,” relishes pluralism and how “the delightfully weird work of…colleagues challenged preconceived notions of order.” However, by deliberately withholding a theoretical framework, the editors leave their uninitiated readers to wonder whether the volume marks a new architectural movement or is simply a yearbook filled with the signatures of well-wishing friends. Whether Possible Mediums is a yearbook or Oriental arcana, the book’s format is infectious and invites casual, nonlinear, and occasional reading. In the same spirit of the volume’s meandering musings, this review will proceed as a loose collection of entries. #71 Arguing for strength in numbers, this volume is full of them. The editors treat their own numbers as a conceptual argument, noting, “We began as a group of four, but quickly grew to 16, then to 25, and now have over 40 project contributors…” They could go on: John McMorrough’s six examples of architectural mediums explicitly numbered, 71 total projects, 16 jam-packed guest essays, 16 mediums [sic], 18 paper stocks, etc. The editors claim, “Possible Mediums is not a systematic theory, a manifesto, or banal survey—it is a projection of architecture and knowledge to come.” And in the absence of knowledge per se, quantity becomes quality. A slow reading might go something like this: The book contains 71 projects, a number sufficiently large, indicating something historic underfoot. Moreover, 71 seems sufficiently precise, an irreducible prime number, the inelegance of which also suggests that there can neither be more nor less, neither 70 nor 72. In sum, 71 is an architectural movement, at once historical, irreducible, and singular. Listicle Beginning with the editors’ reference to Foucault’s Chinese encyclopedia, this book continues to make happy use of lists throughout. Along with lists of paper stocks, architectural media, and guest essays, there are lists of influential UCLA faculty, supply stores, types of sandwiches, questions for readers to ask themselves, etc. The explicit use of lists by both the editors and contributors is reminiscent of the proliferation of useless content on the internet, necessitating the novel curation of listicles as a new literary genre. We now revel in the veneration of tiny, insignificant yet common phenomena. In the post-internet age, architecture defers to everyday non-architectural objects, high and low, from CAD Blocks to Google’s 3-D Warehouse. These things are all worthy of appropriation in the process of making new forms. Debris Flipping through the book, there’s a lot of debris. Some of it is more like piles, rubble, clutter, junk, or ruins, depending on which page you land on. The volume’s insistence on including so many different types of debris makes one think that there is something important about this seemingly unimportant form. In fact, these architects are much more interested in architecture as things rather than forms. Most of their projects look like they are in disuse—things that are falling apart, recycled, decomposing, and on their backsides. Perhaps in reaction to the pageantry of elegant and hyper-engineered surfaces of the digital age, debris ushers in a new cycle of decomposition to architectural discourse. However, unlike the previous antagonism and violence of deconstructivism, debris is more casual, informal, and nonchalant. According to the architects, debris has a purpose: It disrupts part-to-whole relations, celebrates ambiguity, and elevates the ordinary. Inconclusive Like their digital predecessors, this group is invested in formal complex exuberance. Unlike their precursors, this crew is invested in the misappropriation of citations and readymades to such a degree that disciplinary norms and hierarchies are overturned. Such preoccupations, however, are never explicitly acknowledged, and adopt a thinglike quality. Once noted, this degree of thingness becomes an index of contemporaneity: The 2000s are malleable, diagrammatic, and morphological, while the mid-to-late 2010s are full of referential things in semi-disarray. To an outsider, this shift may feel solipsistic and inconsequential—but make no mistake, this generation is distrustful of formal mastery, and instead agnostically embraces the detritus of what’s left of meaning. Nothing is taken for granted, and every thing is worked on as a medium of inquiry. For architecture, this novelty is not only formal, but also etymological in an intriguing, almost imperceptible, way. Max Kuo designs with ALLTHATISSOLID and teaches at Harvard Graduate School of Design.
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Oops

Trump declares national emergency to force border wall construction
After a record 35-day-long government shutdown over funding for a southern border wall was put on hold for lawmakers to hash out a continued spending bill, it now appears that the Trump administration will declare a national emergency to appropriate funds for the wall. The president is in Washington, D.C., to sign a massive $328 billion bipartisan spending bill that would have only allocated $1.4 billion for the construction of 55 miles of fencing, well short of the $5.7 billion he had previously demanded. As the New York Times and other sources are reporting, the president is expected to sign the bill as well as declare a national emergency. The government was set to shut down again on February 15 if no compromise over the issue had been reached by then. On the Senate floor today, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Trump "is prepared to sign the bill" and that "he will also be issuing a national emergency declaration at the same time." Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Senator McConnell's comments, and added that the president would also take unspecified "other executive action."  The president had been threatening to fund the border wall through alternative means for months, but any plan to do so could face a legal challenge from Democratic lawmakers and nonprofit groups, as well as the possibility that the Senate would rescind the declaration via a two-thirds majority vote. A national emergency would allow the Trump administration to pull funds from other accounts, such as disaster relief spending (including reconstruction money designated for Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria), and the military budget. Update: On February 15, president Trump officially declared a national emergency and will direct $8 billion towards the construction and repair of 234 miles of wall along the U.S.'s southern border. That figure includes the previously allocated $1.375 billion, as well as $3.6 billion diverted from military projects, $2.5 billion from the Pentagon's drug prevention program, and $600 million claimed from the drug forfeiture program.
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It's a Gas

Two new books dig into the gas station’s impact on architecture

It's a Gas: The Allure of the Gas Station Edited by Sascha Friesike, with a preface by Jay Leno Gestalten $60.00

The Current: New Wheels for the Post-Petrol Age By Paul d’Orléans, Robert Klanten, and Maximilian Funk Gestalten $50.00 Automobiles fascinate architects. Le Corbusier designed the Voiture Minimum; Buckminster Fuller, the Dymaxion; Renzo Piano, the Flying Carpet; and Norman Foster, the Routemaste. And while Charles and Ray Eames were posing with a Velocette motorcycle, Michael Czysz—founder of Architropolis, his firm—was designing the record-breaking MotoCzysz E1pc electric motorcycle. Given recent developments in electric vehicle (EV) innovations, designers may soon create new infrastructure for these silent, zero-emission vehicles. Two books from international publishing house Gestalten reflect on this crossroads with one foot on the accelerator and one hand on the wheel. Jay Leno—late-night comedian and automobile aficionado—introduces It’s a Gas: The Allure of the Gas Station, edited by Sascha Friesike. Leno recalls his childhood fascination with “grease monkeys,” tending vehicles, hot rods, and watching new models come and go. Leno also remarks on gas station architecture, including Richard Neutra’s now-demolished stations. From the introduction onward, Friesike’s volume takes us on a joyride around the world of gas stations. Gas stations never became a celebrated typology, despite celebrated architects like Albert Frey and Norman Foster designing them. It’s a Gas begins to address this curiosity. Friesike presents an aesthetic history of the gas station from its 1888 origins in a Wieshold, Germany, pharmacy to the contemporary designs of Philippe Samyn and Partners. Along the way, Friesike also casts his gaze on Arne Jacobsen’s 1936 rectilinear facility with a contrasting sinuous canopy—a beautiful prototype sadly never replicated—and Atelier SAD’s mushroom column canopy. Canopies are typological features that shield from sleet, sun, and rain, and can encompass concrete shells, decked trusses, or even a B-17 bomber. Some stations forgo the billboard and inhabit teapots, tee-pees, and cowboy hats.  Novelty attracts customers (there even exist floating gas stations to service motorboats), but unfortunately, in the U.S., mega-pump filling stations like Buc-ees seem to pass for novel. Canopies can differ greatly. Postcards from Eugenio Grosso’s trek from Kurdistan to Sulaymaniyah, and Tim Hölscher’s photos of isolated gas pumps and stations highlight typological differences. Every modern master has had stops and starts in petroland. In Quebec, in 2011 (the book misdates it as 2002), Les Architectes FABG completed the conversion of Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie-esque gas station into a community center. In 2014, the Pierce-Arrow Museum in Buffalo, New York, unveiled a non-operational version of Frank Lloyd Wright’s never-realized station. Equal parts nostalgia and premonition, “Ghost Town Gas Stations” closes It’s a Gas by questioning the gas station’s future. If their fall “from grace came as the golden age of flying was ushered in,” will they hit rock bottom now that EVs have hit the scene? The Current: New Wheels for the Post-Petrol Age by Paul d’Orléans, Robert Klanten, and Maximilian Funk leans into this question, examining the state of EVs. Motorcycle aficionado d’Orléans charges through a history of EVs before running the gamut of the latest electric transporters. Given the author’s focus on motorcycle history and customization (and from working with him personally at motorcycle film festivals), I was pleasantly surprised to see all manner of land vehicles included in his survey. EVs are ideal for urban commuting. Electronic cars and motorcycles have a range of 150 miles at highway speeds. Electric bicycles and scooters are more accessible, but fizzle out around 60-mile ranges at 35 mph. China has been leading this “e-volution” by changing licensing classifications on e-scooters and banning internal combustion engine (ICE) scooters in large cities, leading to myriad manufacturers and sales of e-scooters. Other countries have been slower to adopt EVs, despite riders’ praise of their “fun factor” and sustainability. To combat customer hesitation, Taiwan-based electric scooter manufacturer Gogoro designed an e-scooter with batteries that can be easily exchanged. A subscription-based station network in Taipei supports its riders, who have already collectively logged 186 million miles. This infrastructure is key to reassuring potential riders that their destinations can be reached. Similar networks are now being planned for Paris and Berlin. Even mainstream manufacturers are flipping the switch. BMW developed an e-motorcycle weighing in at 600 pounds—a whale by industry standards, as many other models hover at around 250 pounds. Other large manufacturers developing EVs on the two- and four-wheel front include KTM, Yamaha, Porsche, Lamborghini, and Honda. Tackling a more sustainable approach, Ferrari has developed an E-Type concept retrofit for its 1950s through ’70s models. Taking sustainability further, the Dutch e-scooter Be.e boasts a flax and bio-resin body that foregoes the use of metal and carbon. Waarmaker—the designers of the scooter—said of their design process: “Form follows material and production.” Many EVs don’t travel far from the traditional styling of their ICE cousins. D’Orléans explains: “Designers walk a fine line of trying to push the boundaries of styling and technology while catering to a surprisingly conservative streak among the supposed rebels on two wheels.” The same goes for cars—witness name-brand dealer offerings. Thankfully, d’Orléans’s arc surpasses workaday solutions to showcase more provocative and lesser-known innovators. Joey Ruiter, who has designed furniture for Herman Miller, eschewed telltale signs in his Consumer car and Moto Undone motorcycle: Both are pared-down, minimal, rectilinear forms, in black and mirror finishes, respectively. These vehicles, while alluring, do not reference any stereotypical automotive styling. Bandit9 Motors’ bespoke L-Concept motorcycle is a tube with a turbine attached on two wheels. Meanwhile, Ujet’s Electric Scooter looks traditional but has an asymmetrical folding frame and battery-seat module that can be detached like a portable, wheeled tote for easy recharging. BMW’s Motorrad VISION NEXT 100 concept vehicle at once mimics the lines of the company’s first motorcycle and resembles a Tron Light Cycle. United Nude’s black crystalline Lo Res Car is as mysterious as Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey monolith. EVs and their potential infrastructures are inherently sci-fi. The books by Friesike and d’Orléans are both beautifully designed and illustrated, and one won’t find better volumes on EVs and gas stations without traveling to the realm of the overly technical. The Current lists specifications with its case studies, but highlights design, not mechanics. Its a Gas exposes a new typology without drilling into the industry. Together these books anticipate the future of automobile architecture, including approaches to designing adaptive reuses of filling stations and exploring new types of e-stations.
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Emerging Voices 2019

Colloqate instrumentalizes design as a tool for social justice
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.  Colloqate 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. Colloqate Design, a multidisciplinary, New Orleans–based “nonprofit design justice practice” founded in 2017 by Bryan Lee Jr.—Sue Mobley came on in 2018—with the goal of “building power through the design of public, civic, and cultural spaces,” is setting a different path relative to other design offices. For one, Colloqate spends quite a bit of time doing the arduous work of educating and training communities, institutions, and municipal agencies through initiatives like its Design as Protest and Design Justice Summit events to “build practices around design justice,” according to Lee. Buildings are not an afterthought for the practice, but Lee and Mobley’s view of how designers and design justice intersect is firmly rooted in grappling with everything that exists beyond and around their particular projects. According to the duo, this “syntax of built environment”—including but not limited to the social mores we keep, the design of streetscapes and infrastructure, and the impact of political policies—has as direct an impact on how people use spaces as any one design element might. So a key goal of their practice involves making others aware of how these overlapping and sometimes competing languages operate so that when they do building-oriented design work in a given space, they can “intentionally organize, advocate, and design spaces of racial, social, and cultural equity.” The practice started off as an outgrowth of the Claiborne Corridor Cultural Innovation District, a visionary urban plan that would transform a 19-block area below an elevated highway in New Orleans into a “culture-based economic driver” for the Claiborne Corridor neighborhood. The plan, envisioned for an area that was once a social and economic core of New Orleans’s black community but was cleared to make room for the highway, aims to articulate a socially guided vision for bringing a public market, classrooms, exhibition spaces, and health, environmental, and social services to the area. Another project, Paper Monuments, brought a flurry of posters to sites across the city to “create new narratives and symbols of [New Orleans]…and to honor the erased histories of the people, events, movements, and places that have made up the past three hundred years” of history. The citizen-led project sought to use public art as a way to further Colloqate’s core aim of “dismantling the privilege and power structures that use the design professions to maintain systems of injustice.” Lee explained that as a nonprofit entity (Colloqate’s growing board includes urban planners, architects, and other design professionals), Colloqate must necessarily take an unorthodox and provocative approach. As the practice expands, completes projects, and envisions its future, however, Lee hopes to apply Colloqate’s ethos more directly to bricks and mortar. “We want to be the most radical design firm out there,” Lee said, “and we need to build buildings to do that.”
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Labiomista

Mario Botta’s sanctuary for cosmopolitan super chickens rises in Belgium
In a giant cage-conservatory in Genk, Belgium, a toucan is making eyes at me. It has flown onto a nearby perch from a giant nest emblazoned with the neon words “fertility comes from outside” to get closer to a bowl of grapes on my table. After a small, not-so-gracious jump, the bird trots over the table and takes its prize. “They’re confident, aren’t they!” says Koen Vanmechelen proudly, also tucking into the grapes. The already surreal environment is further heightened when the Belgian artist tells me that we're in a studio—something he calls “The Battery”—which is part of his Community Chicken Project. We're in the Labiomista—a 60-acre complex, the 53,000-square-foot main building and entranceway of which has been designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta. Labiomista, in Vanmechelen’s terms, translates to “mixture of life” and that’s exactly what the Community Chicken Project (CCP) is attempting to make. The 20-year-old crossbreeding program samples chickens from across the world and naturally breeds them, creating a more diverse and subsequently stronger gene pool. As a result, places like Zimbabwe and Ethiopia where Vanmechelen has farms have access to chickens that can live longer in harsh conditions and produce more to benefit communities in need. In Genk, Labiomista showcases this work with flamboyant aplomb. The space is filled with huge chicken portraits alongside stuffed birds (that have died naturally). By the ground floor entrance, 40 stuffed chickens, native to countries across the world, reside neatly on shelves in a recessed alcove behind glass windows. Vanmechelen has found fame using naturally deceased animals as a medium, and more taxidermy with different animals, stretching beyond Genk’s typical fauna, can be found inside. The animal art is dotted around the Botta-designed “Battery”—a steel-framed building with polished concrete floors and a series of 20-foot-high windows that provides an open, flexible space for Vanmechelen. The Battery is split in two and is composed of three floors: At the western end, which is raised, is ground level storage space primed for pick-ups and drop-offs; the second floor showcases Vanmechelen’s art; the third, a mezzanine level that has an interior perimeter balcony hosts an office and more storage space. To the east, visitors will find an open-air gallery where stuffed chickens can be found and there will soon be an enclosure for (live) red junglefowl, the bird from which most domestic chickens descend. “Genk is a wounded place,” said Vanmechelen on a walk around the premises. The small city, which has a population of 65,000, was once home to a successful coal mine, but after that and a zoo that Vanmechelen visited as a child closed, there has been “20 years of nothing.” Botta has taken the site’s history and Vanmechelen’s investment as his cue. The architect has employed black, coal-like, brick to skin the building and cages, which sit on top and on the western side of The Battery, emulate the tectonics of the defunct Winterslag Colliery nearby. As for the rest of the site, Vanmechelen’s plans are edging closer to completion. The "Cosmopolitan Culture Park" will be a zoo of sorts, home to domesticated alpacas, nandus, llamas, emus, camels, dromedaries, and ostriches as well as a breeding area for chickens. The animals will be enclosed by natural elements such as a small lake, a moat, and ha-ha walls designed by Belgian landscaping firm Buro Landschap, keeping them from getting too close to visitors and vice-versa. Vanmechelen has curated a journey through the park; a one-mile-long serpentine concrete pathway traverses the park’s topography from the Botta-designed entrance (Vanmechelen calls it the “Ark”) round to The Battery. The park also accommodates large-scale sculptures from Vanmechelen and an amphitheater that will be used as a venue for talks by locals, artists, and scientists. A significant proportion of the park will also be left untouched per an agreement with Belgium’s National Parks Department and will be used to bring back wolves to the area. “People, when they come here, need to understand that it’s a place about human rights and a sustainable society,” said Vanmechelen. “The evolution of the chicken is part of human culture and everyone should be able to see that here.” Labiomista is scheduled to be open to visitors this summer.
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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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They're Here

Announcing the Architectural League’s 2019 Emerging Voices
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. The League will hold a lecture series from this year’s winners every Thursday in March at the Scholastic Auditorium at 130 Mercer Street, New York, New York. We profiled this year's winners, snippets of which are included below. Click on the images for the full profiles. And now, the winners are: Ignacio Urquiza, Bernardo Quinzaños, Centro de Colaboración Arquitectónica Bernardo Quinzaños, Ignacio Urquiza, and Mexico City–based Centro de Colaboración Arquitectónica (CCA) have over a decade of experience working toward their goal of using architecture as a “tool for change.” ... Urquiza explained, “We’ve always had a particular interest in architecture that is precise, yet at the same time has the flexibility of being able to give itself to each space.” He added, “Ambiguity is what gives architecture the freedom to be owned by its users.” UUfie Despite being just ten years old, UUfie has snagged commissions in high-profile locations around the world that any practice would envy. Few firms of a comparable size have worked in three continents, and UUfie’s founders are aware of the benefits of having worked around the world; they credit their global experience with bringing “more cultural awareness and diversity in thinking” to their practice. ... “In Canada, there is a growth in supporting Canadian talent and potential for establishing a vibrant design scene that is broadening its perspective. In Japan, this scene is highly established and appears to lean now toward a retrospective view,” [cofounder Irene] Gardpoit said. “Canada is a culturally diverse country in comparison to Japan. This diversity brings on its challenges, but it is also unique in that it does not necessarily have its own established identity. It allows us to experiment.”

Waechter Architecture

For Ben Waechter, practicing architecture is an investigation into creating spaces with clarity. ... “To us, a strong sense of clarity tends to be in places that simply feel the best to be in,” [Waechter] said. According to Waechter, that’s one of the main themes that must be teased out when reviewing a project.

MODU

Phu Hoang and Rachely Rotem…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?

SCHAUM/SHIEH

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.

Colloqate

Colloqate Design, a multidisciplinary, New Orleans–based “nonprofit design justice practice” founded in 2017 by Bryan Lee Jr.—Sue Mobley came on in 2018—with the goal of “building power through the design of public, civic, and cultural spaces,” is setting a different path relative to other design offices. … “We want to be the most radical design firm out there,” Lee said, “and we need to build buildings to do that.”

FreelandBuck

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.”

Davies Toews

Partners Trattie Davies and Jonathan Toews are no strangers to working around tight spatial and financial limitations. Whether it’s a linear park that rises between a descending set of switchback staircases in Hudson, New York; a perspective-defying, split-level park and art gallery in Memphis, Tennessee; or a three-story townhouse in Brooklyn, their projects are united by the common thread of extreme site-specificity. “Our strategy has been: Do first, analyze second,” said Davies.
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Concrete Collaborations

Ignacio Urquiza, Bernardo Quinzaños, and Centro de Colaboración Arquitectónica are an inclusive activist practice
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.  Ignacio Urquiza, Bernardo Quinzaños, and CCA will lecture at the Scholastic Auditorium at 130 Mercer Street, New York, New York, at 7:00 p.m. on March 7, as part of the Emerging Voices lecture series.

Bernardo Quinzaños, Ignacio Urquiza, and Mexico City–based Centro de Colaboración Arquitectónica (CCA) have over a decade of experience working toward their goal of using architecture as a “tool for change.”

Since its founding in 2008, the partnership has completed over two hundred projects with the help of many interdisciplinary collaborators, including builders, contractors, and nonprofits. The firm, an organization dedicated to the “research, conceptualization, and development of architectural and urban projects,” according to the architects, combines tastefully exuberant buildings with socially driven programming—the goal being to enrich the practice of architecture. With a deep interest in local building traditions and a passion for collaboration between adjacent professionals and craftspeople, Quinzaños and Urquiza pursue building as a social and creative enterprise.

For example, the firm recently completed a new campus for the State of Mexico Boys and Girls Club, an organization for at-risk youth, comprising three spartan educational buildings linked by an arch-covered concrete walkway. Just as the human spine is made up of two dozen vertebrae, the walkway is composed of 24 pairs of intersecting concrete vaults generously proportioned for group conversation. The walkway connects classrooms and spaces for the performing arts and sports programs with a sunken amphitheater and plaza that constitute the center’s beating social heart.

Urquiza explained, “We’ve always had a particular interest in architecture that is precise, yet at the same time has the flexibility of being able to give itself to each space.” He added, “Ambiguity is what gives architecture the freedom to be owned by its users.”

One way the parnership imbues its projects with this desired ambiguity is by creating many different kinds of covered outdoor spaces to establish architecturally focused social condensers.

In their Escuela Bancaria y Comercial Aguascalientes project, for instance, the designers invert the approach taken at the Boys and Girls Club by designing an inwardly focused campus centered on broad internal hallways and exposed single-loaded corridors. A central concrete-lined courtyard is the epicenter of consecutive circulation rings that connect formal classrooms and libraries with public living rooms to help create areas where students’ minds can wander and extended conversations can take place.

In the firm’s more conventional commercial and residential projects, the designers make skillful use of layered spaces to add a human dimension to larger-scale buildings. Casa Moulat, a wedge-shaped residential golf compound north of Mexico City, for example, uses mud-colored concrete walls to frame a pair of long-span openings that dematerialize to form a living room open to the landscape on two sides. At Casa Moulat, landscapes, materials, and buildings come together both physically and conceptually.

As Urquiza sees it, their approach is a pragmatic one: “For us, it’s very important to understand what we have available nearby and use it in a precise manner. Economy of means is a fundamental concept in our practice.”

Starting 2019, Urquiza and Quinzaños will carry on to work in independent offices: Quinzaños will remain as lead of Centro de Colaboración Arquitectónica while Urquiza will continue his practice as Ignacio Urquiza Arquitectos.
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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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Concrete Solutions

Swiss researchers develop high-tech floor that minimizes concrete use
Global construction continues to steam ahead, even while seemingly mundane building materials (like sand) become rarer and more precious, and construction industry's carbon dioxide emissions contribute to global climate change. The building industry seems to be demanding new solutions, but scalable alternatives remain scarce. Enter the Block Research Group at ETH Zurich. The group, which is based out of the Institute of Technology in Architecture at the Swiss school and is led by Philippe Block and Tom Van Mele, takes a “geometry-based approach” to assessing and attacking engineering problems using technology like algorithmic design and 3-D printing. Most recently, at ETH’s pavilion at the World Economic Forum, which took place earlier this winter in Davos, the group unveiled its solution to building in an age of tightening resources: a "functionally integrated funicular floor." The flooring solution builds on the group's rib-stiffened funicular slab system, which was inspired by tile vaulting and was on display at the Beyond Bending exhibition at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. It relies on doubly-curved shells to bear loads and uses up to 70 percent less concrete than typical construction methods. The structure also minimizes stress even in the thinnest areas, making it possible to build with weaker materials, like recycled concrete, which the lab is currently using. It also permits space to embed pipes, wires, and mechanical systems in space created in the floor. Currently, the lab is collaborating with the Architecture and Building Systems lab at the university to see if HVAC systems can be placed within the flooring. https://vimeo.com/312082531 However, despite its significantly decreased use of concrete, the complex geometry could make for expensive and wasteful formworks, which themselves require intensive labor to build and remove. The Block Research Group is also collaborating with the Digital Buildings Technology lab to investigate the use of 3-D printing to mitigate these challenges. This year, the research group is gearing up to use its new floor system and other technologies in the ongoing experimental NEST HiLo (high performance, low energy) project, a prototype two-bedroom apartment for ETH visiting faculty that features an array of cutting-edge construction and environmentally conscious technologies, being constructed in Dübendorf, Switzerland.