Search results for "situ studio"

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Casa Verde

PRODUCTORA redesigns a calm row house in Mexico City
When Belgian architect Wonne Ickx and Spanish curator Ruth Estévez bought a small 1910 row house in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City ten years ago, the building was in rough shape, with earthquake-damaged floors and an awkward layout. After spending the past seven years living and teaching in Los Angeles, Ickx and Estévez have returned to the house with their two sons—but only after transforming it into a colorfully finished home. Originally built as a suburban playground for Mexico City’s captains of industry, Roma slipped into impoverishment and was eventually engulfed by the 20-million-strong megalopolis. The devastating 1985 earthquake, which killed thousands and leveled countless historic buildings, exacerbated the situation; the disaster was particularly brutal to the neighborhood, which sits on loose clay soil. In recent years, though, the area has finally seen a change in its luck. Filled with galleries, restaurants, art studios, and offices, the once-down-trodden neighborhood is taking part in Mexico City and its rich design scene. Read the full walkthrough on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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A Life Well Lived

The Canadian Centre for Architecture gets reflective in The Museum is Not Enough
What can an institution like the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) do, for architecture and for the world at large? The Museum is Not Enough offers a not unexpected answer. While the CCA certainly does what museums do—collecting architectural archives, producing exhibitions, running a research center—the scope of its ambition mirrors the vastness of contemporary dilemmas. Museums are institutions with social agency, but their power is dwarfed by the issues they are tempted to tackle. The CCA’s location in Montreal highlights this ambivalence: it is central by disciplinary measures but geographically and politically peripheral. This situation has inculcated a strong avant-garde spirit at the CCA. To pick a few examples of current topics, the CCA has made a film on homelessness (What It Takes to Make a Home), exhibitions on happiness and the medicalization of architecture (Our Happy Life and Imperfect Health), and an illustrated book on fossil fuel (Goodbye, Oil) that is part of a sweeping “counter-history of the modern Canadian environment.” Seemingly no big issue is left untouched, and every discursive genre is conscripted for the fight. The Museum is Not Enough muses through the many roles of contemporary architectural institutions in a series of nine open-ended manifestos. Its timing is calculated, arriving just as the CCA's director of the past 15 years, Mirko Zardini, has stepped down and Giovanna Borasi has been promoted to take his place. The book was a group effort (Borasi and Zardini are joined by Albert Ferré, Francesco Garutti, Jayne Kelley as editors), though it is written in the first person. It feels like listening in on an ongoing internal conversation among a close-knit team: “I try to act as a frame for making sense of, anticipating, and projecting on the world. I do this by focusing on architecture.” The quick but thoughtful writing draws out the complexities and contradictions of its subject matter. To say it is not complacent about the role of the CCA would be an understatement. The dialogue often tips into a hyper-self-awareness that recalls David Foster Wallace: “I'm not sure to what degree we should protect (fetishize?) the experience of being in the archives, of uncovering something seemingly tangential or trivial that unlocks a new idea... Maybe we've become a little too obsessed with this. I know I'm also responsible.” Emerging from this self-questioning are gems of clarity. A series of interviews stand out in this regard. Kalle Lasn, the founder and editor-in-chief of Adbusters, says easily that “architects are living in their own bubble” and distills simple advice: "follow the money, always, and maintain a healthy allergy to cant... It's about who benefits, where, how, and why.” A lively conversation between Kieran Long and Mark Wigley also catches the eye for its comparison of archives to graveyards—“that's where the action is.” The book coheres as a multi-genre, multidisciplinary provocation for architects to be both more critical and more open to discovering vitality in unexpected places. This attitude was imparted on the CCA by its founder, Phyllis Lambert—“we try to make people think”—and it is echoed on the last page of book in a quote from Gordon Matta-Clark: “Here is what we have to offer you... confusion guided by a clear sense of purpose.” The purpose here does not focus on buildings or representations. Sometimes it is presented with a dash of mysticism: the chapter on exhibitions starts by noting that "architecture is a way of reading and redefining the present, the society in which we're living and working.” For all its questioning, however, The Museum is Not Enough offers a reassuring sense that architecture is a field that takes in all things. Pictures of architecture abound, but they don't dominate. The freeform but careful graphic design (by Studio Jonathan Hares) works primarily through juxtaposition, generating connections between disparate words and things: Archival photographs, floorplans, scribbled questionnaires, screenshots of the CCA's website, book covers, furtive snapshots taken through security doors. What emerges is a sense of the hidden order of the material world and the agency of design over everything from scrap of paper to vast landscapes. There is an inescapable sense that a vague institutional or disciplinary “center” is somehow at work to organize these operations. Architecture is in charge. The book's concluding chapter helpfully asks “what else might be enough?” The answer is somehow both specific and vaguely allegorical: to “really think differently” we need to “inhabit another persona” or “become a strange animal.” Before planning we may need to forget. A series of events at the CCA called Come and Forget led audiences on “fruitful acts of mass amnesia.” This invitation to clear the slate is followed by a conceptual art piece in the form of a series of fictive grant applications for possible institutions, modeled after a proposal by Gordon Matta-Clark. This is all certainly food for thought. One senses affinity with the loose movement in art known as Relational Aesthetics. Maybe the gallery is not a place for hanging paintings but rather for conversation and enjoying a meal? The chief curator has, after all, been hosting a series of events called Curatorial Loaf, which do just that. What may be enough, then, is something very much in the spirit of Montreal: encouraging lives to be well-lived. The Museum is Not Enough will appeal to architects and curators for its ability to transport readers into the backstage conversations at an institution not afraid to interrogate itself and its major subject. It is clear by the end that architects very often work like curators even if they like to imagine themselves producing iconic works of art. They set the stage for things to happen. And they face the same challenge as curators: museums have a history as rarified citadels of cultural value, separate from the messy life of society around them. The Museum is Not Enough shows that it doesn't have to be this way. Intelligence and beauty emerge also from the mundane.
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A Bit Off the Top, Please

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

inFORM studio and BuroHappold's Providence Pedestrian Bridge links and transforms downtown
In many ways, the newly developed Innovation & Design District in Providence, Rhode Island, echoes the typical pattern of urban redevelopment: Sleek, angular buildings have sprung up on previously industrial land parcels, now home to hotels, shops, and academic centers. A waterfront park will provide seven new acres of green space amid the bustling new development. At the heart of the new district, a new bridge completed last year aims to physically link for the city while inviting pedestrians to cross the Providence River and explore the urban landscape. Envisioned by Detroit-based architecture firm inFORM studio and structural engineer BuroHappold, the Providence River Pedestrian Bridge is the culmination of a decade’s work. The 394-foot walkway cuts across the river from east-to-west, set atop granite piers remaining from the narrow stretch of Interstate 195 that traversed the river before its relocation in 2013. Wood cladding by SITU Fabrication provides the bridge with warmth and references the historic nature of the Providence. While the bridge's prominent location has made it a well-attended attraction since its summer completion, the bridge is expected to see an even greater surge in pedestrian activity as the Innovation & Design District continues development. Providence has long been a city defined by academia; five universities call the city home, many of which have continued to expand into disconnected nodes bisected by the river. With the opening of the pedestrian bridge, Brown University’s main campus is now linked to its medical school, the New School of Professional Studies, the Peti Laboratory, and South Street Landing, a 432,000-square-foot residential development by the university. Johnson & Wales University and the Rhode Island School of Design have also been connected via the bridge. BuroHappold’s Cities Team estimated that 14 percent of the city’s population lives within a one-mile range of the bridge, and approximately 60,000 people work within that range. The accessibility of the location is a draw in its own right, but a space designated for pedestrian use in this area has its own symbolic importance: in the transition from major highway to a public walkway, what was once a quick route from one city to another has become a destination that Providence residents can enjoy on their own terms.
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Wandering Merchants

Gallery Gabriel & Guillaume takes on New York in grand style
Untethered to a fixed brick and mortar space in one city or another, a nomadic gallery has the advantage of setting up (temporary) shop in some of the most emblematic locales. Whether their wears feature prominently at an exhaustive list of fairs, in storied buildings, or in recently completed real estate projects, this type of platform often enters into and benefits from, win-win situations. These purveyors sell better when showcasing their collections in aptly-decorated contexts while the proprietors of these sumptuous settings can promote their venues more holistically. For the arbiters of historic palaces and stately homes, this type of program represents the chance to recontextualize and, in turn, shed new light on often forgotten sites. For developers of new residential projects, this type of arrangement puts a spin on the timeworn practice of open houses and helps their real estate agents sell more units. Brightening up a dreary, albeit warm, New York January is a special exhibition mounted by Beirut and Paris-based collectible design gallery Gabriel & Guillaume. Staged in the penthouse of the SHoP Architects and Studio Sofield-restored 111 West 57th Street building in Midtown Manhattan, the L'Œi'l du Collectionneur showcase brings together an eclectic array of historical and contemporary furnishings, presented in various domestic vignettes. The atypical initiative was conceived by marketing agency frenchCALIFORNIA, in partnership with JDS Development Group, Property Markets Group, and Spruce Capital Partners. Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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Ice Cold

Alaska’s Cold Climate Housing Research Center is rethinking how the Circumpolar North builds

The Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) describes itself as “an industry-based, nonprofit corporation created to facilitate the development, use, and testing of energy-efficient, durable, healthy, and cost-effective building technologies for people living in circumpolar regions around the globe.”

Aaron Cooke, the architect who leads the Sustainable Northern Communities Program at the CCHRC in Fairbanks, Alaska, is at the front lines of helping northern communities in developing solutions for homes in extremely cold climates. Cooke spoke to Matt Shaw, AN’s executive editor, and Stephen Zacks, AN contributor, about technologies and prototypes being developed to conserve energy, recycle heat, rethink building envelope systems, stabilize homes situated on melting permafrost, and ensure supplies of fresh air. As the communities of the Circumpolar North adapt to climate change, their solutions hold lessons for carbon-neutral designs in the temperate zone while providing a pointed message about post-colonial regional design.

The Architect’s Newspaper: What are the main areas of research for the CCHRC?

Aaron Cooke: Our largest program is the Building Science Research program, which deals with testing and researching the suitability of different techniques and products for the physical environment and cultural environment of circumpolar peoples. We also have a design program, the Sustainable Northern Communities program, that aims to take some of the building research and find real-world or holistic building applications. We design prototype homes that we test with occupants living in them for various periods of time. Then we have a smaller program called Policy Research, which aims to aid policymakers and governmental entities but also looks at the code amendments that northern communities need to consider. Most northern places have small populations, so they don’t have their own building code; they’ll take a building code from the temperate region and add amendments specific to the physical environment in Alaska and the Circumpolar North. Between those three programs, we try and stay at the forefront of regional design for the Arctic and subarctic climates.

Can you talk about the challenges of the extreme terrain and cold weather in the north?

The north has two primary challenges that it has to face constantly. We have an antagonistic physical environment that is very hard on buildings. Oversights in detailing or failures to plan small appropriate details in construction do not fail small in the Arctic: They always fail big, because it’s a zero-forgiveness environment. But in addition to our physical environment, the north has always faced a postcolonial problem. Every Arctic country in the world is governed by a capital city that is not in the Arctic—and that goes for Russia, Canada, Alaska, everywhere. So, there’s underrepresentation in the design field, and in policy and building code. Importing technologies, assumptions, and best practices from the temperate zone without thorough vetting causes us as many problems as our physical environment does. The idea of what a home—or a public building or a school—looks like and how it should behave is often based on temperate models, and we then have to retroactively make them Arctic. There have been famous attempts to make an architecture for the north, but there's been very little impetus to create an Arctic architecture from the north. It generally comes at us from the south, and we have to manage it somehow.

Are there things that you’re learning from traditional methods of conserving heat that go into your research, or is the group mainly developing new technologies?

It’s generally developing new technologies, but it’s also giving a platform for traditional wisdom, because people have lived here for a very, very long time and have come up with innovative ways of building in the north. You’re trying to make traditional communities aware of new technologies applicable in a harsh physical environment, and then you’re also trying to be receptive and a good listener when people are saying what has worked or hasn’t worked in the past. As an example, we did an eight-sided house for a community in the Yukon–Kuskokwim Delta of Alaska called Quinhagak. It was a very windy place: Although it only got about 24 inches of snow a year, the snow would drift in houses to the point where you couldn’t get out of the windows or in the door. We did some pretty complex wind drift studies, and we came up with this eight-sided house. We went out to the community to see if they were interested in building a prototype there to test it, and they were. We gave an analysis of winds, vector diagrams of how we thought the snow would self-scour away from the house, and I remember being in the community building and saying, “This is the shape I think that would be best for this region.” Someone stands up and said, “We used to make our houses that shape, we used to know that. It’s only in the last 50 years that we’ve started making square boxes, and [snowbanks] started drifting in.” Some things we’re discovering, and some things we’re remembering, I guess.

What are some of the new technologies you’re developing or working with? Are they materials-based or are they wall sections?

I’d say a very large bulk of our work could be divided into three fields. One is envelope design: We need warmer envelopes, and we need materials that go together in wall design differently. Arctic villages often don’t have heavy equipment, so you’re trying to find materials that can be constructed without cranes or trucks, or any of the things that we assume are going to be on job site. We also are looking at how things are transported when we choose our construction materials. When I was in architecture school, I never once had a class on sourcing materials. We assumed that the materials are going to show up at site; we’d choose them based on how they perform once they’re assembled.

In our region, about 40 percent of overall construction costs are in shipping. But we don’t take a course on how to choose materials based on how they ship, and the shipping companies are smart: The barge season is short, the air strips are short, and if something’s heavier than it is big, they charge you by weight. If something’s bigger than it’s heavy, they charge you by volume. If the barge gets delayed, you don’t build next month, you build next year. Most of our economics can be boiled down to how we get our materials to site and how we select them based on their appropriateness for shipping. In envelope design, a big part is to create a materials package that can be shipped and easily brought to a very remote location.

Besides envelope design, we work quite a bit with foundation design. The Arctic is one of the fastest changing regions in the world. There are a million models, and they all contradict each other, but one thing is for sure: We have a lot less sea ice than we used to, and that is creating unprecedented coastal erosion that is forcing our communities to relocate. Land that has been permanently frozen since the last ice age is melting in very unpredictable ways and causing massive foundation failures. It’s not hypothetically happening sometime in the future, it’s happening to us now. Those are very expensive problems, so foundation design is something that we’ve been working quite hard on. One of the easiest things to get funding for is how to design foundations for the degradation of permafrost. The third tier of what we research is mechanical systems: how to provide heat. We’re always looking for heat that is more efficient, heat that is more clean and reliable. That’ll never go away, no matter how much global warming occurs. The Arctic will always be one of the colder places on the earth, and we’ll always have a winter in which we need heat somehow.

Are there solutions that you’ve come up with, or ideal systems that you’ve developed?

A paradigm shift has happened in foundation design in the Arctic during my short career. When I was studying to be a specialist in northern design, the basic rules for permafrost foundation design were if the ground’s frozen, keep it frozen, and if it’s thawed, keep it thawed—that’s foundation design in the Arctic. In the 1960s and ’70s and ’80s, when they were putting more modern and larger buildings in the Arctic, as we were urbanizing, most of the building failures were because the building was leaking heat into the ground around the base of the foundation and melting the permafrost, creating a sinkhole. The building then had this foundation failure, and that was why most of the emphasis was on keeping the ground frozen through installation. But now the permafrost is melting even if we do everything right. Even if we perfectly thermally isolate our building from the thermal regime of the soil, it’s still melting out from under us in many circumstances, and the circumstances aren’t something that we’re able to easily predict. Since the research center is focused mostly around housing, we want adjustable foundations that the occupant can adjust without specialized knowledge—very simple mechanical foundations that can be leveled as the ground drops away or floods or heaves.

What does that look like?

It can be as complex as a kind of a Buckminster Fuller–style space frame, where you’ve got triangulated points that can be hand ratcheted, or it can be as simple as car jacks on top of columns that are pounded into the ground. We’ve tested no fewer than a dozen types of adjustable foundations. We’re mostly looking at threaded rod and things that can be jacked with a cheater bar in a circular motion or with what’s basically a glorified wrench. We haven’t given up on trying to keep the ground frozen. For larger buildings, we’re still using thermosiphons and technology that takes advantage of state change and chemicals that have a boiling point around 32 degrees Fahrenheit so that they can move heat away from the ground. We’re also looking at ground source heat pumps—or geothermal, as it’s commonly called in the Lower 48—to move heat from the ground to the house for cooling in the summer and heating in the winter.

What does fieldwork look like? Is it mostly working with communities, or testing experiments?

It’s both. Almost every year we’re building a prototype home somewhere with a local construction force. We train the local carpenters on new construction techniques. Living in an experimental house means there needs to be quite a bit of follow-up. We try to make a good, close relationship with the occupants so when there are problems with technology, they can call us, and we can get on a plane and head out there. I always require a resident of the experimental home to be on the crew, so that they fully understand the systems that are different than the rest of the houses in the village. That way, we have an above-average success rate with new technology acceptance and more pride in the construction. It’s like Habitat for Humanity for building scientists.

What are the main differences between the prototypes and traditional buildings?

The prototypes always have an envelope that we’re testing that’s different than a two-by-six wall or a structural insulated panel, which are the two most common types of walls out there already. They always have a foundation type that we’re trying to test, whenever we know that the ground is going to be volatile. We’re also looking for new mechanical systems, because rural Alaska is by and large an economically depressed region. There are large rates of poverty and overcrowding. We’re always trying to lower the heating bill and create efficient mechanical systems and healthy indoor air quality, while lowering the amount people have to pay for fuel.

Are you going out to sites and living in extreme conditions yourself?

Oftentimes when we’re building a house in the summer season, and we’re in a village that’s small enough that there’s no real lodging, we’re just sleeping on the gym floor at the school while school is out and building with the local crew. This summer, we oversaw the building of 13 homes for a community that’s relocating entirely because their original community site’s falling into the ocean now that there’s no sea ice anymore. The fall storms have been eating about 80 feet of shoreline a year, and they’re being forced to relocate the entire community. In that case, when we were building the first prototype home over there at the new community site, there was nothing there. We were just basically camping and getting our water and dealing with our own waste, and trying to stay warm through the season. Sometimes it’s a very remote field camp, and then other times it’s just hanging out at the school at night.

Is there an ideal wall section that you’ve developed at this point—or if not, what are a few examples of improvements?

One thing that almost all Arctic and northern walls need to have in common that makes construction more challenging is you absolutely need a complete thermal break in the walls. That flies in the face of every stud wall we’ve ever built. Generally, a stud wall has a structured component, and then in between the structural components is insulation. But that means, of course, that the structure is leaking heat. At the inside, the two-by-fours are in the warm; at the outside, the two-by-fours are in the cold. That might get you through the winter in the temperate zone, but it absolutely doesn’t work in the Arctic. We’re always trying to make sure that nothing that touches the inside of the thermal envelope is also touching the outside of the thermal envelope. We’ve done walls where we’ve used two-by-four studs and then had a gusset plate made of something like PVC or OSB that holds the cladding up, and then we fill it with something so that the stud doesn’t reach all the way through the thick wall. We were looking at spray-applied polyurethane for a while; you can spray past the stud and make this adobe kind of shape as a way to avoid thermal bridging of materials. The double-wall that could all go up at once added efficiencies to the framing of thick-walled structures. We’ve also looked at an older Canadian technique, recently updated, which involves reframing a two-by-four wall, sheeting the entire outside of the wall in rigid installation, and lapping the joints, not allowing any of the framing to touch the outside of the wall. This is called the REMOTE wall technique, and it would be a good fit for temperate regions with hard winters too.

What are the main challenges to energy-efficient retrofits of existing buildings?

The retrofits are a large part of our work. When you create a giant impermeable coat over your old building, the first thing that almost always happens is your indoor air quality suffers. When we do retrofits today, we’re always trying to approach indoor air environment and thermal comfort at the same time, because the understanding now is that a lot of times when you add R-value to a wall, you’re tightening the house, and you’re going to have to come up with a mechanical solution to address ventilation and fresh air.

Are heat-recovery ventilation technologies a method for bringing in fresh air and ventilating moisture without losing heat in the process?

Certainly there should be no such thing as waste heat in a place this cold, and heat recovery ventilators have been one of the technologies that have made the most progress in the last ten or 15 years.

What is a heat-recovery ventilator, exactly?

It is a method of solving the problem of fresh air being colder. You’re in a house, it’s very cold outside—say it’s 30 degrees below zero outside—and you don’t want to open your windows. You want to keep all the heat that you possibly can in your building. What that means is the carbon dioxide goes up, and anything your furniture is off-gassing becomes more concentrated. You’re not getting the air changes that you need to be a healthy human when you’re scared of the cold air coming into the house.

There’s a branch of mechanical engineering that is concerned with taking your wonderfully warm but dangerously dirty indoor air and allowing the wonderfully clean but dangerously cold outdoor air to rob the heat from it without mixing with it. That’s the question: How do we steal heat from our used air and then get it out of the house so that we can get fresh, clean air inside, but have it be warm enough that people will use that system?

The prototype in Anaktuvuk Pass looks strikingly different than other approaches. Is there a break from the past that you’re exploring, or is there a radically new wall section that you’re trying out there?

It was a wall section that we had not tried before. Anaktuvuk Pass is fly-in only. They have no roads or barge delivery. Construction costs are extremely, prohibitively expensive there. We had been working with a spray-applied polyurethane applicator to see if we could create a wall that was a two-by-four steel structure that would be built inside out. We put the interior sheeting on the stud, and then we’d spray foam out and keep spraying past the foam to create that thermal break. The look that you see there—they’re a kind of dumpling, adobe look—is all based on the thermal requirements. It’s pretty far north. The other thing is that the residents there wanted to try a building where the foundation was on the ground. We use that polyurethane foam to create a raft, and the raft basically floats on the permafrost and bridges it if any movement occurs. The spray foam comes in barrels and expands to 30 times its size when it comes out of the gun. We can fit the barrels on the plane, and we can fit a lot more R-value per cubic foot on that plane because it’s going to expand once it gets to the site.

Can you talk about any problems that you might anticipate in the crafting of policy around the Green New Deal mandates meant for temperate regions that could have a potentially harmful effect on you?

Ten or 15 years ago, there were a lot of adaptations that needed to be made for, say, a LEED system when it finally came north. The research center tries to incorporate environmentally conscious building practices into everything we do—we’re the farthest north LEED Platinum building in the world. There are certainly things that don’t apply: There was a time when permafrost was considered a wetland by professionals from the temperate zone, and in the south, you can’t build on a wetland. Here that would mean you couldn’t build on 70 percent of Alaskan soils—think about a land area bigger than the state of Texas that you’re not allowed to build anything in. Simple things like that. The other thing is the passive house ideal: Getting to 90 percent off fossil fuels in the Arctic is possible, but for the last 10 percent, the returns are just not there. Ninety percent has to be good enough, and then we have to realize that sometimes our heating is going to have to come from somewhere else.

For all the theories of architecture and design, and all the isms out there—Classicism and deconstructionism, and all the isms that exist—I believe in regionalism in architecture because I live in a place where it’s necessary. Regionalist architecture manifests itself when and where it’s most necessary. It’s no mistake that it tends to be in places like deserts and the Arctic, places where if you ignore regional inputs to design, you ignore them at your peril. Your building will fail.

In your collaboration with the Royal Danish Academy, how did their experience in extreme environments and yours overlap or inform each other?

I try to work in a pan-Arctic sense because we are all trying to solve similar, difficult design problems, but we’re doing it alone because the polar region is spread-out with a lot of different governments involved. The centers of design learning are also very far from us. There is no accredited degree in architecture north of 60 degrees latitude in North America. You’ve got to go south to get your degree, and then come north and unlearn quite a bit of what you learned in school. The Royal Danish Academy’s Architecture and Extreme Environments program recognizes this, and it does a very good job of engaging underrepresented regions in design discourse.

I can remember taking my first construction methodology course while I was getting a master’s degree in Ohio, and we were talking about foundation design, and the professor—who was a very good professor, a good architect—was teaching us about how to get our foundations below the frost line. It was my first year of school, and I asked, “What do we do when we can’t get below the frost line?” He said, “Well, don’t build there. That’s a bad site.”

So, we have this familiar problem. We want to engage universities in our design growth. We want young, smart people to care about this place and move here or return here and practice architecture here. But again: Every university that is interested in saving the Arctic is located outside the Arctic, and this is a textbook postcolonial problem, right? We get approached by universities all the time; it’s very in vogue right now to save the Arctic. The icecaps are melting, polar bears are going extinct—there are plenty of reasons that Lower-48 universities are suddenly interested in us, and we need them. We need the attention of the young designers who want to solve some of the difficult problems we have. But the question is always, are you willing to send your studio here, or are you going to try and solve the problem from South Florida?

University architecture programs, from our small rural perspective, bring a lot of resources. The unspoken worry in Alaska is that we are very far from the rest of the world. A lot of disaster relief funding is federal. It’s been undeniably challenging that we’re the first part of the world to be dealing with these massive community shifts due to climate change, but it’s also good to be at the beginning of the process. The instant the rest of the population has to deal with it, too, there’s not going to be any money left to move tiny little Alaskan villages. Once New Orleans and San Francisco and Manhattan have a climate change problem, that’s the end of our help. We’re trying to figure out how to handle these moves now, and what we’re going to do when the resources to handle them get diverted to larger population centers. That’s the Arctic problem.

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Melting Pot

2019 Best of Design Awards winners for Unbuilt — Residential
2019 Best of Design Award for Unbuilt – Education: Ambrosia Designer: Gensler Location: Los Angeles

Ambrosia, which is largely composed of modular units that are manufactured off-site, aims to move beyond the strict economy and repetitiveness generally associated with factory-built housing. The design provides a spatial and social framework that encourages interaction and enables each resident to take an active role in defining their living situation and place within the community. Different surface treatments, such as perforated metal siding, orange and white stucco, and polycarbonate, are deployed to lend the project a unique character in response to varying urban conditions. Multiple amenity spaces, including bike storage, staff offices, a courtyard, and a community garden, are provided for its residents. The hallways and corridors are exposed to further activate the building and strike a balance between privacy and connectivity.

Modular Supplier: Factory OS Landscape Architect: TINA CHEE landscape studio Structural Engineer: DCI Engineers Civil Engineer: KPFF MEP Engineer: FARD Engineers

Honorable Mention
Project Name: Little Berkeley Designer: Kevin Daly Architects
Project Name: Stump House Designer: PARA Project Editors' Picks Project Name: Aqualuna Designer: 3XN Project Name: Mass Timber: Micro Unit Designer: Studio Ames
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Ganging Up

Studio Gang's Gia Biagi appointed as Chicago's new transportation chief
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has appointed Gia Biagi, an urban planner, civil servant, and principal of Studio Gang, to head up the city’s transportation department (CDOT). The decision comes seven months after the previous commissioner resigned ahead of Lightfoot’s inauguration in May.  Before joining Studio Gang in 2015 as the firm’s leader of urbanism and civic impact, Biagi served with the Chicago Park District from 2003 to 2015. During her last two years there, she served as the chief of staff. Biagi has also worked as a policy associate under former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daly after finishing her master’s in urban planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago “Gia’s expertise and years of on-the-ground experience make her the ideal choice to lead our ambitious agenda for CDOT through the coming decade,” said Mayor Lightfoot in a statement. “As we move ahead, I look forward to working side-by-side with Gia and the entire team at CDOT as we implement our vision for equitable, comprehensive urban planning, and transportation that supports every one of our residents, neighborhoods, and businesses, and helps our entire city thrive.”  According to the mayor’s office, Biagi will focus on improving traffic issues in downtown Chicago and tie in CDOT’s projects with other critical infrastructure projects such as affordable housing and the mayor’s INVEST South/West Initiative. It’s also likely that Biagi will be working with her former team at Studio Gang on the transit situation surrounding the O’Hare airport expansion “I am proud that Gia has answered the call to return to public service,” said Jeanne Gang, founding principal of Studio Gang, in a statement. “It is always rewarding to see the members of our team harness the skills they have cultivated in the studio to effect positive change in the world. Gia has been a critical partner in maturing the Studio’s unique approach to our urban scale work that emphasizes mutuality and equity. She remains part of the Studio Gang family, and I am confident that she will accomplish great things for our City.” Biagi’s nomination as CDOT commissioner may be confirmed by the City Council in a vote as early as next month. 
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The RA Zoo

Where are the so-called Eco-Visionaries coming to save our planet?
To planet Earth, the city of Venice being a designated UNESCO World Heritage site is meaningless. It can, and will, treat the city with abject indifference as was demonstrated earlier this month. In more recent climate chaos news, floods have devastated other parts of Italy, causing a viaduct to collapse near the city of Savona; meanwhile, across the other side of the world, fires are raging across the Amazon and Australia. Bizarrely, and tragically, many governments lack the impetus to make any meaningful change in this regard. We find ourselves in a dire situation, crying out for radical approaches that will galvanize the human race into action, something that Eco-Visionaries, which opened last weekend at London's Royal Academy of Arts (RA), strives to do. First of all, what an exciting name: "Eco-Visionaries," does it get more enticing than that? Upon entering the exhibition, audiences are greeted with a rotating model globe shrouded in green, murky dust. Playing through speakers in the background meanwhile, is Clara Rockmore's ominous rendition of Camille Saint-Saëns' Le Cygne (The Swan). This is Domestic Catastrophies nº3: La Planète en Laboratoire by French artist collective HeHe and it sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition, which is a sobering affair; but the vision of what, exactly, is as about as clear as HeHe's installation, despite being populated with visionaries. But that's not to say it's all doom and gloom either, despite the fact that the second installation you see features a giraffe being graphically shot, with blood spewing rapidly from its neck. A journey has been crafted by in-house RA curator Gonzalo Herrero Delicado (who worked with Pedro Gadanho and Mariana Pestana to curate the original show for Lisbon's MAAT) taking patrons through installations that highlight the climate crisis we find ourselves in and propositions that attempt to mitigate it. This seems like a natural progression one should take when addressing the issue of saving the planet: here's a problem and here's how we might solve it. However, Eco-Visionaries jumps between art as commentary and architecture as proposition, and struggles to get a strong grip on either. The architecture that does hint at radical change has to build upon the success of others—New York firm WORKac developed The Dolphin Embassy from Ant Farm, while Paris-based Studio Malka Architecture's Green Machine riffs on Archigram's Walking City. Both fall short, and architects don't come off as potential planetary saviors by any stretch. The strongest installations, meanwhile, are presented as art. An imaginative proposition comes from Turkish designer-artist-researcher Pinar Yoldas, whose Ecosystem of Excess envisages plastic-gobbling pelagic insects populating a post-human planet and cleaning it up in the process. On a similar strand, working alongside DeepMind artificial intelligence, artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg's recreation of a white rhinoceros is powerful. The now-extinct creature comes to life at a 1:1 scale, developing from a wandering cluster of pixels into a great beast that seems confused by the white box it finds itself in. Here we question, besides humanity, what lies ahead for the animals of this Earth. Extinction? Digital archival? That's certainly not the case for jellyfish, who, as it turns out, are seemingly the harbinger of the end times. The pulsating creatures thrive in the conditions created by climate change. "More warm water," says a narrator in the exhibition's final, and best, exhibit, "is a disaster for anything that breathes and a dream come true for anything that doesn’t breathe much, like jellyfish.” Titled win > < win, the installation is by Berlin-based artist group Rimini Protokoll and occupies a room in the third and last gallery of the exhibition. win > < win splits audiences in two with a circular tank filled with jellyfish—something the RA had to obtain a zoological license to host. With clever lighting, the two audiences are revealed and hidden from each other, the tank acting as both a mirror and portal for the divided audiences. Through headphones, we learn about the ascendance of jellyfish, a species that benefits from humans killing their predators with overfishing and pollution as plastic bags kill turtles and other animals. The influx of jellyfish has direct consequences for humans too, as they clog up nuclear power and desalination plants across the world. "Jellyfish will be the only survivors when everything else has fallen apart," the narrator ominously intones. Despite this sombre note, win > < win is fun, engaging and informative all at the same time and makes the $15 exhibition fee is worth it. It also represents a success for Delicado, who told AN that he wanted the exhibition "to talk a younger audience," hence the inclusion of more familiar names like Virgil Abloh and Olafur Eliasson, whose installations—a gold, supposedly sunken chair and pictures of melting ice, respectively—do little to inspire. And that's what we need, inspiration. In his book, The is no Planet B, author Mike Berners-Lee writes: "Whilst the idea of limiting climate change seems like essential damage limitation, in itself, it spectacularly fails to excite most of us. More often than not, it gets framed primarily as the need to forego things we enjoy. And since humans–all of us–hate thinking about anything unpleasant, the temptation to switch off is hard to resist."
Eco-Visionaries, as its title tantalizingly suggested, might change that. This was a great chance to show the world that we might, by the skin of our teeth, be able to claw ourselves out from climate change-induced catastrophe. In this regard, Eco-Visionaries falls short. Perhaps this was because the RA only allowed the exhibition to have three rooms, preventing it from going further. However, while filled with insight and inquisitive introspection into how humanity lives on this earth, the feeling of future inspiration is sadly lacking. Eco-Visionaries runs through 23 February 2020.
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Propping it Up

Props breathes new life into Zaha Hadid's Contemporary Arts Center
Nearly two decades ago, Zaha Hadid's vision for a building that housed art, but more broadly worked to catalyze an urban redevelopment effort in Cincinnati, was to create a structure that made art accessible to the public. She delivered on her goal as a spatially complex series of stacked galleries piled up high over a tight infill site. Accentuated on the ground level by virtually no threshold between the city and institution, Hadid's Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) has since become defined by it's airy public lobby, an "urban carpet" that transitions seamlessly from sidewalk floor to gallery wall, and Corbusier-inspired stairways that form a vertical street, tapping into a set of galleries floating seemingly impossibly overhead. It is only fitting that a show like Props could emerge in a space that set out to reimagine the idea of what a white box gallery could be. Props is a set of eight experimental sculptures from architecture-trained mixed media artist Lauren Henkin, who has found new productive uses for underutilized space in the 16-year-old building. Her solo exhibition joins two other compatible shows concerned with spatial awareness: Confinement: Politics of Space and Bodies, and Cincinnati-based photographer Tom Schiff's Surrounded by Art. The trio of exhibitions will remain open through March 1, 2020. Steven Matijcio, former curator of the CAC, and the current director & chief curator at the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston curated the work. "Lauren [Henkin] and I wanted to challenge and expand the typical locations of artistic presentation at the CAC," said Matijcio. "By its very nature, Lauren's series of "Props" was meant to skew the habits, conventions, and assignments that coalesce in even the most avant-garde of structures." Each of Henkin's Props is assembled from an ad hoc material palette—concrete, PVC, wiring cable, plaster scraps, and so on. In one case, scrap wood was pulled from the CAC's basement and piles of debris discarded by installers of the concurrent exhibitions. The development of the work relied heavily on photographic documentation, drawing, and visits to the building. Henkin worked between her Maine-based studio, the CAC, and a nearby Kentucky-based fabrication studio. Props intentionally undermines the programming of the CAC's formal gallery spaces. Why have work in the gallery when it can exist outside of the gallery? Lacking any formalized infrastructure for art viewing (lights, art labels, etc.), the work feels at home amid and within the architecture of the building. The pieces dissolve into walls, hug corners, and playfully grow out from the floor. In this regard, the Props do not come off as menacing or insulting in any way. Instead, they feel like discreet, optimistically friendly characters, producing compelling moments of their own that stop us in our tracks. With no labels or signage, there seems to be a real possibility that some of these Props could be overlooked during de-installation and hang around the museum indefinitely. Henkin, whose background is in architecture, says movement is the organizational force underlying Props: "These pieces are meant to be viewed while in motion where the viewer is moving up and around the work." Henkin flips our traditional relationship to art: the work becomes static, while the viewer is set in motion. However, beyond Zaha's stair, Props can be spotted hiding out in spaces less trafficked, like the entrance to the fourth-floor women's restroom or a forgotten corner of a hall leading to a fire stair. Formalized art galleries offer no escape for visitors who become immediately incorporated into the spatial logic of the institution: you must walk up these stairs, and you must view the work in this order. Henkin, Matijcio, and co. offer an alternative to this. You inevitably pass Henkin's work, but it operates as a filter, or primer, for the other work in the galleries. "The element of play, whimsy, and revelry played an important role in the conception and execution of the project. Lauren's sculptural interventions in the CAC are meant to disorient and befuddle, and provoke," said Matijcio. "Some are imposing and seemingly precarious; others are quizzical and slightly comical. Each one is different, but the unifying thread was to reimagine the structure's non-gallery spaces as fertile terrain to reconsider and activate." While this iteration of Henkin's Props likely won't travel elsewhere due to its site-specificity, the show might still have a legacy. The problem that Henkin's show exposes is that austere, raw, underutilized display and circulation spaces of today's art museum do have the opportunity to be more critically used. What would it look like for an exhibition to spill out into these spaces? What trouble would this cause, between issues of security, lighting, and liability? However, what opportunities this could create, to reimagine the broader curatorial flow to the institution! Props beg us to consider and reinvent our normative, intuitive, choreographed movements through the museum, especially in Cincinnati, where 16 years of exhibitions have begun to familiarize and dull this incredibly significant architectural space. In an institution that prides itself as a "non-collecting" contemporary museum showing "work of the last five minutes," Props exist as a welcome sideshow to the CAC's ongoing spirited circus of traveling acts. Henkin reminds us that a white room can fit only so many paintings before overflowing.
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Forever Young

Exclusive: MoMA and PS1's Young Architects Program is going on hiatus
MoMA and PS1 have disclosed to AN that the Young Architects Program (YAP) will be going on hiatus next year, following its 20-year anniversary this past summer. AN had heard from sources close to MoMA PS1 that the program might be shutting down, and upon following up with the Queens institution, Martino Stierli, the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at the MoMA, provided the following statement:
"Following the 20th anniversary of the Young Architects Program (YAP), MoMA and MoMA PS1 have decided to place the program on a one-year hiatus. We remain deeply committed to supporting and recognizing emerging architectural talent. "We’ve already started to use the hiatus to bring together a diverse group of influential scholars and professionals, experimental architects and designers, and previous YAP winners to assess the program’s impact for the past two decades, explore its potential, and strategically chart its future. We look forward to sharing more news as we move along in this process."
MoMA could be moving toward a more durable, longer-term commission in its courtyard to serve its outdoor summer Warm Up music series, performance events, and art book fair, but that's only speculation. The Young Architects Program's origins go back to 1998, a year after the Frederick Fisher-designed renovation enclosed the PS1 entrance courtyard in concrete walls. That year, Vienna-based artist group Gelatin installed a scrappy "environment" in conjunction with PS1's first series of Warm Up summer concerts. Percutaneous Delights was composed of rough compositions of stacked refrigerators, discarded furniture, Po-mo inflatables, a graffitied shipping container, and an array of sprinklers to activate the space with what the P.R. at the time described as a welcoming hang-out for hot summer days. The following year, PS1 inaugurated its gradual absorption into the MoMA collective with a project by Philip Johnson, ever a follower of fashions (even if it led him, at times, in the direction of Nazism), who designed a Dance Pavilion DJ booth for the 1999 summer concerts as the first collaboration between the two institutions. It wasn't until 2000 that MoMA architecture curator Terence Riley formally established the Young Architects Program as an annual invited competition to promote innovative practices. The program was simple: provide shade, seating, and water for Warm Up. The first winner—if anyone can still remember the now 190-plus person office as a young startup—was SHoP Architects, which demonstrated the kind of digitally designed, people-friendly, carefully crafted form-making that would make them the go-to firm for urban development projects that need a warmer public face. The program frequently created opportunities for younger architects to demonstrate conceptual ideas percolating in academia on a small but meaningful scale. Early winners of the competition included Lindy Roy (2001), William Massie (2002), Tom Wiscombe (2003), nARCHITECTS (2004), Hernan Diaz Alonso (2005), and OBRA Architects (2006). Sometimes the projects leaned in the direction of conceptual follies that had less of a service component, and early projects at times demonstrated the limits of digital design as often as its potential. The initial budget was $25,000, later increased to $75,000, though it became common knowledge that most firms would spend more out of their own pockets and lean heavily on interns to build out the ideas. It was not an open competition: MoMA curators and advisors pre-selected a handful of designers and frequently favored well-connected circles from Ivy League schools and well-connected academics. The arc of the program traces a mini-curatorial history of MoMA, from Riley to Tina di Carlo and Peter Christensen, Barry Bergdoll, Andres Lepik, Pedro Gadanho, Sean Anderson, and Stierli, whose influences are reflected in the selections, along with changes in the profession. Little by little, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center became PS1 MoMA, then MoMA PS1. Some of the better-regarded highlights over the years included WORKac's 2008 P.F.1 (Public Farm One), which installed a demonstration urban farm that could survive the barren courtyard environment and created an ascending staircase of planter boxes on top of the gravel-covered space. SO-IL's Pole Dance (2010) engaged the playful possibilities of the program with colorful beach balls, overhead netting, hammocks, misters, and flexible PVC pipes, programmed with dance performances. On the most service-oriented end, Interboro Partners (2011) used their project as a demonstration of how PS1 could engage the surrounding neighborhood, building out the courtyard with a kit-of-parts based on the expressed needs of nonprofit organizations, businesses, and others in the community who they interviewed and donated components to at the end of the summer. Later projects by MOS (afterparty, 2009), Hollwich Kushner (Wendy, 2012), The Living (Hy-Fi, 2014), Andrés Jacque/ Office for Political Innovation (COSMO, 2015), and Jenny Sabin Studio (Lumen, 2017) increasingly verged in the direction of critical grotesques, parametric design, and environmental remediation experiments to varying degrees of success. Through it all, the surrounding neighborhood blew up in an astonishing, if predictable manner, in ascending towers of luxury apartments, demolishing the beloved 5 Pointz graffiti space in the process. If SHoP's origins as a young firm are hard to remember, it's even more difficult to retrieve the imperative that once made PS1 so improbable and ingenious a proposition in the first place—and the Young Architects Program an innocent delight—when its enterprising founder Alanna Heiss somehow convinced the Queens borough president to hand over a closed-down public school to a group of misfits from the SoHo/ Tribeca alternative space scene who proceeded to saw through floors as sculptures. Notably, one of the names that appears as a funder in the first decade of YAP, along with Bloomberg, Agnes Gund, and Isaac Liberman, is none other than real-estate-reality-show-specter-turned-president Donald J. Trump. How a contemporary art center can meaningfully respond to the current situation, if at all, could be a starting point for the continuation of the program or its eventual cancellation, but the Young Architects Program unquestionably pioneered a model of temporary urban pavilion imitated worldwide, activating public spaces that without major capital improvements or altering their historic character remained inhospitable and inflexible for contemporary needs.
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Second time around

French researcher "quarries" on site for a new type of recycling and restoration
“The mass-production of rubble constitutes one of modern architecture’s main legacies,” said the French designer and researcher Anna Saint Pierre. So much of what gets built gets demolished, or decays and needs to be restored or renovated. She explained that “The building sector accounts for 50 percent of natural resource consumption and almost 40 percent of waste production within European territories.” To help combat this waste she’s developed a new technique of in-situ recycling called Granito. The concept is to “quarry” materials on-site, taking stone from surrounding demolished structures and pulverizing it for use in new aggregates—by reusing these materials on location there’s no need for transportation. An architect at the French firm SCAU, Saint Pierre is putting Granito to the test on one of the office’s Paris projects. Saint Pierre’s proposal is to take 182 tons of unwanted granite panels from the extant structure, an office block also designed by the firm and opened in 1997 as the headquarters of Télédiffusion de France, and grind, sort, and reincorporate the material into terrazzo floors for the new building, a co-working space. Saint Pierre says that the granite and terrazzo floors, visible from the street, will act as “a fifth facade.” In addition to working to create terrazzo, she’s also been using in-situ recycling to create gabion walls, including for a future housing project. Since announcing Granito earlier this year, Saint Pierre has worked to tweak the process to become more energy efficient. “This project highlights the impact that the ever-shortening life of tertiary real estate programs has on the life and death cycle of the materials used,” Saint Pierre said. In this manner, Granito is not just a practical solution, but also a commentary on issues of architectural preservation. “Granito investigates new modes of memory transmission through [the] in-situ transformation of rubble,” she explains. “It’s an alternative to both ‘tabula rasa’ approaches or strict restoration.” Granito, “investigates site-specific loops of remembrance,” and understanding just what “in situ” might mean in this context is key to understanding the purpose of Granito. It’s about “the existing site, its memory, and its mutation.”