Search results for "swa"

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Survive and Thrive

Akoaki is blending design disciplines in Detroit
Upon their arrival to Detroit, partners Anya Sirota and Jean Louis Farges took four years to understand the complex landscapes and narratives that co-exist within the city. At the time, Detroit was fully entrenched in “ruin porn” and the design interest of the city followed a fascination with degradation or a re-imagination to building new. Cultural assets (like the industrial design of cars and jazz music) once thrived in the city and continue to have national and international range. Often though, the direct impact upon the residents is nonexistent. Akoaki [pronounced ak-o-ak-i] is compelled to research fields of architecture and art and their relationships to equitable redevelopment. By embracing the power of aesthetics and form-making, the couple peels away normative tropes of social practice. Beginning with aspirations to include aesthetics, beauty, and pomp creates pieces that do not comply with age. Often feeling burdened by good taste, Akoaki’s aesthetic quality tries to be bigger and badder. Imaging Detroit Supported by a Research on the City grant from the University of Michigan's Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning, Imaging Detroit is, in a nutshell, an international film festival and pop-up agora. The project investigates the many ways Detroit has been portrayed over the last decade, be it film or publications. Sirota and Farges, along with a suite of collaborators, researched the way people construct narratives around the city and responses to those narratives. A major challenge of the project was how to stage an event in this context without contributing to a proliferation of ruin porn and social degradation. The goal was to create true conversation and a positive impact while staging a public debate and open speculation. The 36-hour event transformed Perrien Park into a civic space with screenings, conversations, exhibitions, food, and leisure—a true ephemeral urbanization. Detroit Cultivator In collaboration with the six-acre Oakland Avenue Urban Farm (OAUF), Akoaki is designing a master plan that combines agriculture, culture, business, and ecology to envision a landscape that is both economically and ecologically sustainable. The project required navigating through major issues regarding land ownership, pressure from developers, and water access. After working with the University of Michigan Law School and a team of “moral investors” to secure the land, a business plan was created with volunteers from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. The plan prioritizes the farm’s productivity to create a source of income and a flexible space for neighborhood entrepreneurs. As a result, the master plan features existing structures that will eventually become public amenity spaces; for example, a shoe-shine parlor will reopen as a multi-tenant commercial space and performance venue. Rather than keeping the farm purely agricultural, Sirota and Farges sought to activate other existing uses through building and site interventions. The project is an experimental urban prototype, though Akoaki is working to ensure the farm can become a permanent fixture in the neighborhood. Jackson, Mississippi Sirota and Farges’s experience working on Detroit Cultivator has set them up to discover a similar food-related project, this time in Mississippi. Supported by a $1 million public art grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, “Fertile Ground: Inspiring Dialogue about Food Access” brings together architects and artists with chefs, gardeners, food policy experts, and local institutions to facilitate a year of community-engaged interventions. Ultimately, the project aims to establish a nonprofit research lab on food access that will operate on a permanent basis to sustain the momentum that is created. While Mississippi is known for its agriculture, a majority of the food grown in the state leaves, and Jackson is full of “food swamps”—a plethora of fast food options as opposed to fresh food. Rather than return to the “idyllic” past of farming (an image that is not necessarily representationally positive to everyone), Akoaki has formulated a “neo-rural” environment that deserves an aesthetic value and brings together aspirations of the city. Midtown Cultural Center Detroit’s Midtown Cultural Connections organized a year-long competition in an effort to connect Detroit’s most significant cultural institutions. The winning entry includes Akoaki and their assembled team of landscape architects, urban planners, and technology-experts. The announcement of the winning proposal displays how Detroit’s participating institutions and stakeholders carry a willingness in allowing an open-ended framework a chance to succeed. The plan that Akoaki and team are working on will take issues of mobility, environmental sustainability, and stormwater stewardship into consideration. Overall, the project requires a sensitivity to placemaking in order to avoid displaced cultural queues and gentrification. When finished, the project will create a unified, dynamic, and inclusive space that facilitates connections between the Cultural Center and the Midtown neighborhood.
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Cash Cab

Can you capture a portrait of a city with a taxi-mounted sensor?
Big data and its purported utility comes with the attendant need to actually collect that data in the first place, meaning an increase of sensing devices being attached to all manner of things. That includes treating many everyday things, from skyscrapers to human beings, as sensors themselves. When it comes to the urban environment, data on air quality, weather, traffic, and other metrics, is becoming more important than ever. However, in general, the sensors that collect this data are fixed, attached to buildings or found in other stable spots. “They’re good in time, but not in space,” said Kevin O’Keeffe, a postdoc in MIT’s Senseable City Lab, in a release from the university. Airborne sensors such as drones, on the other hand, explained O'Keefe,  work well in space, but not in time. To collect greater data that more accurately reflects an entire city—in both space and time—mobile sensors would be needed at street level. Cities already have fleets of mobile devices close to the ground: vehicles. While private cars operate only sporadically, and buses run fixed routes, taxis spend all day and night traversing large swaths of cities. Incidentally, the lab also tried using garbage trucks, but they did not collect as much data as they predicted cabs could. Inexpensive sensors could be attached to taxis to provide researchers and others important data on the on-the-ground status of urban environments. However, to see the viability of this concept, the Senseable City Lab had to first find out just exactly how much ground taxis actually cover. And then, how many sensor-enabled taxis would it take to create an accurate picture of a city's terrain and air quality? By analyzing taxi routes in New York City, researchers discovered that a relatively small number of cars covered a pretty wide territory. It took just ten cabs to cover a third of Manhattan in a single day. And, while one might expect this to be particular to Manhattan and its orderly grid, the researchers also discovered that similar patterns occurred in cities across the world, from Vienna to Singapore. That said, because many taxis travel to similar areas and along high-traffic routes, the number of cabs it takes to cover even greater ground grows quite rapidly. In the case of Manhattan, it takes 30 taxis to cover half the island and over 1,000 to reach 85 percent. To realize the full potential of car-borne sensors, which can reach popular areas as well as underserved ones, O’Keeffe suggested a hybrid approach: placing sensors on taxis along with a few dedicated vehicles, à la Google Street View. The research team hopes that this data will help planners and politicians put together a more realistic idea about how mobile sensing could work in their city, its cost, and potential impacts. The data will also hopefully help cities tailor any mobile sensing projects to their particular needs, and the Senseable City Lab believes that these mobile sensors would be less expensive than traditional options. This research also appears in a paper recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that was co-authored, along with O’Keeffe, by Amin Anjomshoaa, a researcher at the Senseable City Lab; Steven Strogatz, a professor of mathematics at Cornell University; Paolo Santi, a research scientist at the Senseable City Lab and the Institute of Informatics and Telematics of CNR in Pisa, Italy; and Carlo Ratti, director of the Senseable City Lab and professor of the practice in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Curious urbanites can check out the accompanying maps and infographics on the lab’s website.
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Shake It Up

Why doesn't the U.S. design buildings to survive earthquakes?
Earthquakes have been in the news lately with increasing regularity: Southern California recently experienced a July 4th quake registering 6.4 on the Richter scale followed by one just a day later at 7.1. It's predicted that within the week there's an 11 percent chance that a major quake could follow, and, of course, there's the looming specter of the so-called Big One. But despite the relative frequency of seismic activity on the West coast and in other parts of the United States, in general, the U.S. lags behind other earthquake-prone countries, especially Japan, in terms of earthquake readiness. A recent New York Times investigation asked why, when buildings can be designed to stand up to earthquakes, the United States has so few of them. Though there are notable exceptions—like older retrofits such as Los Angeles’s city hall, and luxurious new construction like Apple’s Foster + Partners-designed headquarters, a ring that floats on base isolators rather than being fixed to a traditional foundation—most buildings in the States feature concrete cores, relatively un-rigid construction, and no seismic shock absorbers or isolation systems. Even those that do, the Times reports, are of varying quality of construction, with many failing basic preparedness tests. Simply put, while Japanese buildings are, in general, designed to sway in an earthquake and minimize damage (and use a steel grid to make up their core), American buildings are designed primarily to fail and collapse in a way that will hopefully minimize loss of life. This can mostly be chalked up to not only weak regulations, but to economics. It’s more costly to build an earthquake-ready building, though obviously only in the short run. A federal study demonstrated that rebuilding after a quake in urban centers will cost billions of dollars, and is four times as expensive as simply building a structure that can stand up to an earthquake in the first place. However, with lax laws and a real estate and development market that prioritizes short term ownership and thinking, building owners and developers remain wary of spending the extra cash up front; estimated to only add approximately 13–15 percent in cost in a seven-story building, according to the Japanese construction company Nice Corporation. Though, per the Times, engineer Ian Aiken says that some systems “can cost as little as 5% more.” Tokyo, which experiences more than 1,000 seismic events each year, is also anticipating its own big quake in the next 30 years, a follow up to the devastating 1923 earthquake. while predictions of the potential damage remain calamitous, there is perhaps no city more ready to take the hit. Not only are high rises, skyscrapers, and smaller buildings all designed to withstand significant seismic activity, but, as The Guardian reports, “parks feature hidden emergency toilets and benches that turn into cooking stoves, and the city has the world’s largest fire brigade, specifically trained to prevent the kind of flash blazes that spread after earthquakes.” The city is not only a world population and business center, but also a major tourist destination, something that's likely to become only more true with events like the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. But even new construction for the Olympics is getting the high tech treatment. Seismic isolation bearings are being placed inside the new Tokyo Aquatics Center and the Ariake Arena, which will be home to Olympic volleyball and wheelchair basketball games. The aquatics center and arena are using Bridgestone Seismic Isolation Systems, an update to older methods that relied on increasing the rigidity of buildings or adding additional framing. Instead of adding greater rigidity, base isolation systems use rubber bearings ranging in size between approximately 23 inches and 70 inches to allow structures to sway slowly and cause only minor disturbances, if any at all, on the floors above, instead of allowing the whole structure to shake violently. Similar such bearings can be found in buildings like Tokyo Station and Los Angeles's City Hall. While the isolators are often placed in the foundations of buildings, for the new arenas, they’ve been located in the roofs, a common approach for buildings with large open spaces that helps decrease the stress on the roof’s support elements. Still, all the technology in the world only goes so far if the community isn’t prepared. As Tokyo-based disaster preparedness specialist Ronin Takashi Lewis told The Guardian, even all this tech, “If you look around the Tokyo skyscrapers it’s incredible how advanced a lot of technology here is, especially seismic resistance – but my concern is preparedness at the community and individual level.” As per usual, technology alone won’t save us. Still, hopefully the United States can learn from Tokyo and invest in resilient buildings for safer cities and communities.
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Go Long

Barry Bergdoll showcases a new wave of modern architecture on Long Island
The “North Fork” of Long Island, from the town of Riverhead to Orient Point at the eastern tip, is one of the most varied and beautiful landscapes in the New York region. A peninsula jutting out into Long Island Sound, it is the last place where one can still find open space devoted to farming, alongside fresh and saltwater inlets, bays, and ponds in the state. It also has a unique regional style of cedar shingled “Cape” homes and handsome pine potato barns that date back to the 18th century. But North Fork is also home to a handful of modernist post-World War II summer homes, that have remained largely unknown in comparison to those in the Hamptons, it’s more glamorous neighbor across the Peconic Bay. Now, thanks to Columbia Art History Professor and ex-MoMA architecture curator Barry Bergdoll, the story of modern architecture on the peninsula will be better known. Somehow Bergdoll found the time last year to stage A New Wave of Modern Architecture, a small but alluring exhibition on the region’s post-war modern architectural history. Now, the exhibit has moved six miles east to the Oysterponds Historical Society in Orient, New York, and Bergdoll has added to the show’s survey of contemporary housing and expanded our understanding of the region’s architectural uniqueness. He begins with the area’s fascinating early history of artists who gathered around the legendary art dealer, Betty Parsons, who came to the area in the 1950s. Parsons commissioned the architect-slash-sculptor Tony Smith to build a guest house and studio above the Long Island Sound. He designed a pavilion fronting the sound out of large railroad ties. He then designed and built a house for Abstract Expressionist painter Theodoros Stamos in 1951. For Stamos, Bergdoll writes, “Smith designed a dramatically innovative variant on the American timber frame house, elevating a single-story space sandwiched between two trusses, one upside down to create a large open floor plan. Elevated off the ground, the house’s living space afforded sweeping views over Long Island Sound from its bluff-top site.” Finally, he points to the double pavilion house Charles Moore designed for Simone Swan in 1975, a few houses away from Parson’s home, as an influence to newer designs. This second exhibition highlights a number of new houses, including a modest but beautiful wood-shingled Peconic bayside house by Toshiko Mori, and a TTC passive house designed by Wayne Turett on a back lot in Greenport, New York. But Bergdoll’s most insightful addition to the show is his description of what makes the area’s modern houses unique. He points to the North Fork’s environmentally sensitive farm and wetland landscape as an influence in the innovative new houses being constructed “with structural openness” and elevated platforms capable of capturing views of the landscape. This modest little show identifies a singular new style evolving just a few hours east of New York. The exhibit is open to the public Wednesdays through Sundays, 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm, as well as Saturdays from 11:00 am through 5:00 pm. Admission is free.
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Laser Mies at the Planetarium

The Farnsworth House will get an x-ray makeover for the Chicago Architecture Biennial
All eyes will be on Plano, Illinois, the small town nearly 60 miles west of the city that’s home to the Miesian masterpiece Farnsworth House, for the upcoming Chicago Architecture Biennial. Artists Iker Gil and Luftwerk duo, Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero, are teaming up to shed new light on the pioneering international style house, lining its underlying geometries with beams of neon laser light. The laser installation, Geometry of Light, will be open to the public from October 11th to 13th for an evening walk-through like no other.  Fitted out for a tech- and social media-savvy audience, the neon-saturated installation is sure to bring attention to the Fox River site, as the home will become the next in a series of architectural icons to get the Luftwerk treatment. In 2011, the collective brought a prototype of Geometry of Light to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater for its 75th anniversary. That installation was named INsite, and the artists collaborated with video designer Liviu Pasare and composer Owen Clayton Condon to create an audiovisual study of the house. INsite focused on outlining the building's geometric components and the experience of moving through the lines of the space. An INsite-style study was also conducted independently for the Farnsworth house in 2014 However, the latest iteration of Luftwerk’s fluorescent vision debuted this past February as Geometry of Light was applied to another famous Mies project, the Barcelona Pavilion. Both the Pavilion and the Farnsworth House, with their open, overtly modernist massings, appear to be viewed through an x-ray after Luftwerk's illumination, exposing the bones of the building from a fresh new perspective. The 2019 Farnsworth exhibit will also be enhanced by sound, as a “minimalist” soundtrack will be pumped through the home in sync with the visuals.  The installation is a notable part of a wave of recent publicity for the Farnsworth House, as effort mounts to attract attention towards its preservation. Situated on the Fox River floodplain, the property of the modernist monument has been inundated by water several times since 2013, and a debate has erupted amongst preservationists and the home’s current owner over whether to protect the house or to take more drastic measures: relocation. Even though the house sits on stilts, the swampy site presents structural dangers and the stilts may not prove high enough as the flooding is predicted to worsen.  “Such are the choices in an era when disastrous '100-year floods' seem to occur every few years,” a spokesperson for The National Trust for Historic Preservation, who have owned and operated the structure since 2003, told the Chicago Tribune. The group even suggested the installation of hydraulic jacks programmed to physically elevate the base of the house when floodwaters rise.  Though the Mies-designed home is about an hour-and-a-half drive from the Chicago Biennial's core, Luftwerk’s eye-catching installation is sure to saturate the social media airwaves come this fall.
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Form and Function

Weiss/Manfredi continues to reinvent its approach at all scales
The realities of contemporary architectural production—site, client, and program—often demand that architects incorporate a combination of open space planning, landscape, and infrastructure into their building projects. The reasons are fairly obvious, given the fraught relationship of daily life to the realities of climate change, digitally mediated landscapes, and the amount of time we spend away from home and in our workplaces. It is unfortunate that these conditions most often appear in contemporary architecture as symbols, tacked on to a facade or plaza, hinted at in a green-walled lobby, or worse still, exist only in the project’s marketing images. However, there are a handful of architecture firms that, as far back as the early 1990s, foresaw the looming urban and environmental crises that we face today. They took climate change and the need for environmentally healthy workplaces seriously and considered how architecture might address these demands. One of the firms that recognized the need to rethink architectural approaches is Weiss/Manfredi. Its formulation of design thinking and form making was best described in a 2008 interview with the designers by the late historian Detlef Mertens. “I am fascinated how you teased out commonalities across scales and disciplines,” Mertens said, “and at the same time, used each to rethink the other—landscape to rethink what a building is, infrastructure to rethink what a landscape is, architecture to rethink landscape—and so on.” The firm’s signature design approach and formal architectural response were developed at its inception, when Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi left Mitchell Giurgola to found their own firm in 1989. Yale Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking The unique, elliptical form of Yale University’s Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking is centrally positioned in a courtyard of stepped orthogonal structures. Curved glass walls encourage circulation through and around the center and allow the rest of the university to see and participate in the building’s program. The open studio, conference, and cafe spaces create opportunities for spontaneous discussion and provide a link between public areas and adjacent instructional spaces. Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle Art Museum The firm’s design synthesis was utilized even more powerfully in its 2007 Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle. Its design for an industrial site on the edge of Elliot Bay creates a continuous constructed landscape for art in the form of an uninterrupted Z-shaped "green" platform, and descends 40 feet from the city to the water, capitalizing on skyline views and rising over the existing infrastructure to reconnect the urban core to the waterfront. An exhibition pavilion that provides spaces for art, performances, and educational programming links three new northwest landscapes: a dense temperate evergreen forest, a deciduous forest, and a shoreline garden. The design not only brings sculpture outside the museum walls but also establishes the park itself within the landscape of the city. Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park The firm’s established design aesthetic of merging landscape, infrastructure, and building are no more fully developed than in this new, 11-acre continuous waterfront in Queens designed in tandem with SWA/Balsley. Its design creates places of retreat and invites intimate connections with nature at the water's edge, complementing active recreation spaces. Further, it reestablishes the site's former marshland identity and introduces a resilient, multilayered recreational and cultural destination that brings city dwellers to the park and the park to the waterfront. Museum of the Earth The firm’s approach can already be seen in its 2003 Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, New York, located on an open promontory sloping down toward Cayuga Lake. Weiss/Manfredi carefully modified the site to merge delicately into the museum’s two glass and steel pavilions through processional ramps and out to the view beyond. The site and plan merge without compromising the building’s powerful glass-and-steel form.
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Logging On

Sidewalk Labs unveils full Toronto waterfront master plan that's a timber-topia
The smart city is the king of go-to solutions for the problems that bedevil urban areas. At the moment, the concept—tech innovates those problems away!—is trending hard in Toronto thanks to the work of Sidewalk Labs, the Alphabet-owned company that dove face first into urban design a few years ago with a plan for a lakefront district in Ontario's capital. Now, that plan is a completed master plan, the foreground to any large development. The public got its first look at Sidewalk Labs' new neighborhoods yesterday when the company released a full run through of their finalized plans. Unlike New York's super-sleek Hudson Yards, a comparable "big development," there will be a forest's worth of wood buildings in this project.  The digital doorstopper runs 1,500 pages and is available here, but the basic premise is two new mega-developments, with the potential for more, will be built mostly from mass timber and kitted out with sensors and data collectors that will, its authors contend, make life more pleasant for Torontonians by providing affordable housing, non-car transit options, jobs, and economic development. The company will, for a substantial investment and cut of the profits, develop real estate, finance transit networks, provide management services to government, and deliver what it calls "advanced systems," the whiz-bang infrastructure that supports the building of Quayside and Villiers West. The computerized promise of better services has garnered a lot of attention. Trash-sweeping robots would displace nifty nabber trash grabbers. Sensors embedded in crosswalks could, for example, keep the walk sign on until a pedestrian is safely on the opposite curve. Google's business model relies on pawning off data advertisers, but in a media briefing, Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff claimed that the very valuable data Sidewalk Labs collects will be underpinned by the "strongest data and privacy regime for any urban data in the world." That protection was certainly absent for Google Nest Cam users, and government officials still have concerns over whether the company's policies will align with Canadian data security laws. Data gleaned in Toronto, Doctoroff noted, will be stored in a data bank and won't be shared with third parties without users' "explicit consent." While it's too soon to tell how that promise shakes out, there's plenty of information on the smart city's design and construction. Unlike 20th-century glass-and-steel corporate modernism that projected power and influence, Sidewalk Labs is turning to mass timber for 12 major buildings in the Quayside portion of the development. The showcase here is both structures by London's Heatherwick Studios, the eminent go-to firm for megadevelopers, and an $80 million vertical timber supply chain for those buildings that will extend from forests to an Ontario factory to fashionable city blocks. Doctoroff said his company is working with the Toronto buildings department to amend rules that cap timber building heights at six stories in order to build up to 30 stories tall. The developments will feature a standard of mixed-use towers, but about 70 percent of the project will be devoted to housing. Of these units, about 40 percent, or 1,700 units, will be rented below-market. "We expect to make money the way a normal real estate company would," said Doctoroff. Sidewalk Labs is investing over $680 million in what is projected to be a $2.9 billion development.  The credits list New York's Beyer Blinder Belle (BBB) and Heatherwick Studio as the teams responsible for the master plan sketches and renderings, but Doctoroff said Canadian firms would be behind most of the projects to come. Along with Stantec, BBB gets top billing for design and engineering services, while Snøhetta who were tapped for design services back in February, is credited alongside Heatherwick and dozens of other firms for research and development.
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Eames for the Sky

The Getty Conservation Institute charts a 100-year plan for the Eames House
It’s not easy being a septuagenarian, especially when your bones are made of steel and your skin consists of little more than brittle sheets of single-pane glass. Just ask the Eames House, an icon of midcentury industrial modernism designed as a personal residence by storied design duo Charles and Ray Eames in 1949. The conservation of the breezy home, filled with the eclectic knick-knacks and thoughtful design objects that define the couple’s colorful and practical oeuvre, is the subject of a new plan crafted by the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), the Eames Foundation, and project architects Escher GuneWardena Architecture that aims to preserve the residence for posterity. Described as an “outstanding international exemplar of postwar modern residential design” by GCI, the house, a national historic landmark, sits on a scrubby, eucalyptus-filled bluff outside Los Angeles overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was originally developed as part of the influential Case Study House Program initiated by Arts and Architecture magazine editor John Entenza. Organized as a pair of spartan volumes set on a landscaped terrace, the home pioneered a new approach to residential design that married soaring, interlocking interiors with industrial construction materials—steel trusses, plywood paneling, and expanses of early curtain wall glass—to “humanize” the fruits of mass production while also providing effervescent but economical accommodations. But in the decades since, those then-experimental approaches have shown their wear, despite the Eames Foundation’s laudable stewardship. GCI’s plan, like the inventive spirit that went into designing the house, will work as a global case study in its own right by piloting conservation and research approaches for stabilizing and maintaining modernist-era structures. Detailed conditions assessments, an inventory of existing elements, and long-term site stabilization strategies are being developed in conjunction with the plan in an effort to create an approach that better resembles a cohesive preservation ethos rather than a detailed to-do list for the home. As a result, the effort is focused on problem-solving tasks like replacing asbestos tiles with nontoxic finishes, adding moisture barriers to prevent indoor condensation, and examining microscopic layers of paint around the premises to develop a detailed color-coded timeline for the complex. Describing the plan, Tim Whalen, the John E. and Louise Bryson Director of the Getty Conservation Institute, said, “While the GCI undertakes initiatives all over the world, it is critical to recognize the important organizations that we engage locally, like our work at the Eames House,” adding, “We are pleased that the completion of the Conservation Management Plan will now guide future conservation efforts.”
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Everyone Wins

Five winning submissions picked in Buffalo park ideas competition
A competition to revitalize a 1.5-mile-long elevated railway in Buffalo, New York, has ended with five winners, and all five proposals will be combined to shape an RFP aimed at breathing new life into the abandoned rail corridor. The Western New York Land Conservancy launched the Reimagining the DL&W Corridor: International Design Ideas Competition in November of 2018 to revive an abandoned stretch of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western (DL&W) railway that runs from Canalside to the Solar City plant. Much like the High Line or the proposed QueensWay in the southern half of the state, the DL&W railway will be turned into an elevated park that will unite formerly-industrial neighborhoods with a continuous rewilded landscape. “Reclaiming Hill & Del” from the New York City–based Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects (MNLA) took first prize. Their ambitious proposal turns the corridor into an all-season multimodal path to the Buffalo River, using the varied topography of the ridge to add excitement to the routes. Native plants would be used to return the path to a state of nature. “The Dell, The Link & The Wanderer (DLW),” a collaboration between Marvel Architects, BuroHappold, horticulturalist and landscape architect Patrick Cullina, and graphic and placemaking studio NOWHERE Office took second place. The DLW would divide the railway into several distinct ecologies while threading through the neighborhoods. The Dell portion would bring secluded, wooded areas to the former rail line; the Link is where the new park would integrate with existing streets at grade; and visitors can Wander through meandering paths along the water’s edge. Third place was split between two proposals, “The Loop Line” and “Railn.” The Loop Line comes courtesy of the Brooklyn-based OSA, which wanted to turn the railway from a “barrier” to a “linear urban organizer” that capitalizes on investment along the Buffalo River. Unlike the other projects, The Loop Line was conceived as “seasonally inverted,” showcasing the majesty of Buffalo’s winters (even if they are buried in snow).   Railn was conceived of by a team of six graduate landscape architecture students from Beijing Forestry University. The project would overlay different axes, including transportation, quality of life, and economic improvements over the railway to create an inclusive, multimodal park. Finally, the community choice award went to Matt Renkas, a SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry grad and Buffalo resident, for his “The Del” proposal. The Del would integrate the industrial remnants along the new park into the landscape and include scrap steel sculptures of animals representing Haudenosaunee clans would dot the DL&W Corridor. The Del would also include several earthwork theaters and staging areas for performances and art shows. With the ideas competition complete, the Land Conservancy will launch a Request For Proposals for conceptual and schematic designs later this summer, integrating ideas from all of the submissions they received, not just the winners.
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Second Home for Second Home

SelgasCano designs coworking jungle for Los Angeles
Second Home, the London-based workspace company, is designing a Los Angeles offshoot with longtime architectural partner SelgasCano. The new-ish startup is poised to open in September and compete with other big names like Soho House and WeWork by nature of its cultural programming and wellness focuses. All cultural events will be open to the public, and the space will even allow local charities and neighborhood groups to use conference rooms free of charge. These inclusivity measures have the potential to breathe fresh air into the elitist luxury workspace arena—the website has a tab labeled “social impact”—not only culturally, but also physically. The spaces will be surrounded with thousands of plants and trees. Entrepreneurial duo Sam Aldenton and Rohan Silva opened their first space in East London in 2014. Their unconventional ideas about design—from hanging hats from the ceiling for muffling sound to large swaths of colored glass fittings—attract eccentric creative types from all sorts of industries. Second Home Hollywood will be more than just a workspace of colorful couches and succulents, as SelgasCano plans to integrate an outpost of the acclaimed Libreria bookstore within it, as well as an auditorium, cafe, and restaurant. All these amenities will be open to the public, giving more and more individuals and companies access to “sneak peaks” of the new 90,000-square-foot urban campus. SelgasCano has designed all but one of the Second Home campuses, but this one is specific to the Los Angeles architectural vernacular in ways that depart strictly from the more high-rise, corporate-leaning designs that can be seen at Second Home Clerkenwell, for example. The L.A. campus is inspired by the city’s iconic 20th-century bungalow court residences, with the 60 one-story oval buildings of the campus, called studios, fitting in with the horizontality of the surrounding environment off Sunset Boulevard in East Hollywood. All of the structures are connected by a continuous yellow roof plane, and the gardens surrounding the campus are lush and colorful, taking advantage of the Southern California climate, and open to views with wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows. Second Home is also bringing a new architectural trophy to its new city—SelgasCano’s 2015 Serpentine Pavilion, which will be used as an events space. The Madrid-based practice also has many other accolades under its belt, including a residency at MIT and exhibitions at the Guggenheim and MoMA in New York, the Venice Biennale, and the Akademie der Kunste in Berlin. Its work is acclaimed for embracing environmentally conscious materials and technologies, abundant color, and social impact priorities—all facets that can be seen in its work alongside Second Home. As workspaces continue to skyrocket in popularity (and price—a resident membership at Second Home starts at £450, or around $572) smart wellness decisions and cultural collaboration are rising to the forefront of design decisions. How the next generation of creatives and entrepreneurs will work, socialize, and network is being tinkered and reconfigured as the workspace industry continues to grow around the world.
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Spark Something

Portman Architects starts new era with Atlanta's CODA at Tech Square
A 755,000-square-foot tech facility in Atlanta embodies the latest evolution of the city as a hub for innovation and creativity, and also stands as a symbol for the changes happening at the firm behind it. John Portman Architects, newly dubbed Portman Architects, designed CODA at Tech Square in collaboration with Georgia Tech to be a tech hub with one of the largest data centers in the Southeast. It’s no surprise that as the firm transitions into partner-based leadership and new work in tech-centric architecture, it also pushes forward an evolved identity. CEO Jack Portman, son of the late John Portman, told AN that this project is the next big step in the company’s 66-year story. “Each evolution of our firm has been a motivation to create anew,” said Portman. “My father created the super atrium, then modern mixed-use developments, and he was the first to move his firm and work overseas in China. CODA is one of these evolutionary points in our firm’s history. We’re back in Atlanta and looking to advance the future of design.” Portman Architects is currently working on three projects in Midtown Atlanta—north of downtown and east of the university. CODA is the first building completed in what will be the city’s T (tech) Zone. At 21 stories, the glass-clad, L-shaped building features room for 3,500 tech employees, as well as students and faculty, and is designed around a series of six, three-story vertical atriums that connect various wings. One of its defining design moments is the white spiral staircase—the tallest freestanding, helical stair in the world—which links the building’s “Collaboration Core.” According to Luca Maffey, vice president and design director of CODA, the piece of interior infrastructure allows views past the end of the city and it only takes a few minutes to climb to the top. The staircase, which is located right near the facade, also overlooks the grand piazza that cuts through the center of the site. Maffey said this outdoor living room-like space is already attracting people to the building. “Atlanta is known for great, internal and insular spaces, largely thanks to Portman himself,” he said. “CODA really opens up to the public and the streets with this plaza and with its transparency. It’s now a reference point for not only navigating Midtown but it also is a destination in and of itself.” Portman Architects integrated almost 40,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space on the ground floors in order to enhance that indoor-outdoor connectivity. A surprising exterior column that resembles a martini glass extends from the lower levels of the building and punches the plaza below. The entirety of CODA’s lower half also sits in dialogue with a historic, 1920s building on the site. Major design moments such as this elevate what could have been a boxy office structure with a glass curtain wall. Instead, these moves activate the efficiency of the site both in a sustainable aspect and in its circulation. Developed by Portman Holdings (the development company also started by John Portman), CODA is the first project Portman Architects has ever done for Georgia Tech, the largest tenant in the building. Other tech companies are starting to fill in the rest of the spaces, while others are finding a way to be next to CODA, Jack Portman says. “The 1.5 million square feet of expansion happening at tech square is the result of the excitement created by the design of CODA,” he said. The firm recently started construction on the adjacent Anthem Technology Center, which features a cluster of four towers connected at the core. Unlike CODA, not all the atriums will be connected, but the buildings will circle around a staircase that goes up to the top floor. Overall, the architecture is quite different—sections of the structures feature varied materials and textures, while CODA is pinstriped, calm, and elegant, Maffey said. “On the bottom half of the building, we wanted something that was more active and played with the light more,” he said. “The cladding has small folds of silver metal that will interact with the sun as it changes throughout the day.” Portman Architects is currently designing a “sibling” for the Anthem Tech Center which includes another building with three, interlocking facades. All of these high-profile local projects in Tech Square coincide with major changes happening at the firm. “Ten years ago, my father started to think about how his firm would continue to evolve once he stepped down,” Portman told AN. “He then created a partnership that better represented our motivation for working as part of a team, giving credit to everyone involved. The name change also helps differentiate buildings that we design now versus what he worked on.” Along with a new name comes a new visual identity for the firm as well. Portman Architects’ new logo is a six-point star, or a spark, which pays tribute to Portman’s old signature. Maffey noted the spark also alludes to the company’s history sparking change in the field of architecture. He now believes the firm is positioning itself to ignite more innovation in the future. “The firm’s evolution has also been in this crescendo mode,” he said. “Right now the energy in our office is higher, the average age of our employees is younger, and we’re pursuing new technologies to create our architecture. There’s also no singular approach to the way we work, and we’re more collaborative than ever. Everybody here is a Portman Architect.”
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Playing House

Startup wants to automate the home design process
Anyone who’s played The Sims (especially with cheat codes) knows the fun and ease of designing your own home with a few clicks of the mouse. Anyone who's designed an actual, IRL home knows that the real process is completely different. Homebuyers who want a custom home often encounter a frustratingly opaque and expensive process, or are stuck with pre-made plans that look like everyone else’s. They’re left, as Michael Bergin, cofounder and director of architecture at the startup Higharc put it, with “houses that are just left without design.” And even getting an architect to customize stock home plans, like those available online, Bergin said, can wind up costing at least in the low five figures, so instead, most go for pre-designed plans. “People spend their entire savings, everything that they have, on something that's not fit for them." Higharc believes there could be a “middle ground” in home architecture. To that end, it's developed a web-based home design app aimed at the everyday user and homebuyer. “We are trying to…address fundamental inefficiencies, structural challenges in the home building,” said Bergin. “The product that we are developing isn't going to replace an experienced 20-year architect,” he admitted, but it will, Higharc hopes, make customization much more accessible to a wider swath of new home buyers. Higharc is trying to embed “architectural intelligence” directly into its web-based software. The app uses, among other technologies, “procedural generation,” a computational technique borrowed from video games (one of Higharc’s founding members, Thomas Holt, has game industry experience), that generates graphics on the fly. “The difference between where this lands in gaming and our approach is that we're building in these heuristic or structural rules, so that no house that's produced in our system is structurally deficient,” explained Bergin. “[Higharc] looks at the international building code and prescriptive span tables and ensures that every house that we are producing is something that's buildable.” (A recent Curbed article reported that many of these code data come from the International Code Council, which recently sued the startup UpCodes for republishing building codes.) Higharc said that as it expands into new markets (it's currently beginning its first role out in the Chapel Hill, North Carolina, area), it is also incorporating regional building codes. To help with siting, Higharc pulls in public GIS data. Users can pick a plot anywhere in their area from a Google Maps–like interface and try out building their home. They can then take their design and see how it fits on another plot, and Higharc will adjust the home accordingly to make sure it fits just right on the new site. Right now, The Sims comparison might go a little too far—those 3D characters don’t have to worry too much about structural integrity, after all. Higharc allows users to choose from a series of options—preset aesthetics, number of bedrooms, guest suites, number of floors, the size of each room, etc.—and automatically generates a home optimized for the user selections and the chosen plot, immediately adjusting and restructuring the entire home as the homebuyer switches options. All the while, the software displays an estimated cost range that adapts with each change to help users stay on budget. “We’re making [home building] a fun process, making it an accessible process for everyone,” said Bergin. “Ultimately, we just want to make better neighborhoods and give home buyers and builders choice—and agency.”