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Using it as a LEVER

LEVER Architecture’s Thomas Robinson discusses the impact California could have on the timber industry

We are witnessing a revolution in how we build with engineered timber in the United States.

In January 2019, the International Code Council (ICC) approved changes that would allow high-rise wood buildings in the 2021 International Building Code (IBC). Oregon and Washington were early adopters of these code changes, and Denver, Colorado, recently followed suit. Other states and municipalities are expected to adopt the 2021 IBC timber provisions early, but it is anyone’s guess what California will do. Will the state decide to adopt now, or will it wait till the code becomes part of the new issuance of the 2021 IBC? This is an important question not just for California, and by extension the City of Los Angeles, but also for the future of mass timber in the U.S. and beyond. California standards and codes transform markets, and a mass timber movement in the U.S. without the state that is also the world’s fifth-largest economy is not going to move the needle fast enough. The opportunity to scale a low-carbon, renewable supply chain to address catastrophic climate change is closing quickly, and it is time for California to step up and demonstrate the progressiveness and leadership that have been key to its prosperity.

What does early adoption mean in practice? Today, an architect in Oregon or Washington who follows the provisions of the new IBC can stamp drawings to build a timber building up to 270 feet in height as of right. This is a significant change. Just over four years ago, my firm’s design for a wood high-rise called Framework was selected as one of two winners of the first U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition. At that time, there was no code path in the U.S. for wood buildings over 75 feet. To receive a permit, our team of designers and engineers worked with the State of Oregon on a performance-based design process. Partly funded by the competition prize, this process included 40 tests on full-scale timber building assemblies to demonstrate their fire, seismic, structural, and acoustic performance relative to high-rise life-safety requirements. It was a fascinating, exhausting, and exhilarating experience, and we are proud that this work and research impacted the timber code changes. Thanks to the new code provisions, it is unlikely that another design team will ever have to go through this process in quite the same way again.

Early adoption of the timber code provisions isn’t just about tall buildings, though—it is a critical opportunity to encourage wider investment and innovation in sustainable mass timber development of all scales. Why should California (or any place else) care about mass timber construction? Building with engineered timber products addresses our most pressing global challenges. It has the potential to decrease carbon emissions relative to construction, spur rural economic development, encourage forest practices that prevent fires, and increase the speed at which we can deliver projects, including much-needed affordable housing. The promise of a major market like California supporting mass timber construction will be an incentive for manufacturers to invest in a more advanced supply chain, back new research, and encourage more sustainable forest management. California’s early advocacy of renewables and electric vehicles moved the market (see Tesla), and I believe it could have a similar impact on the development of mass timber.

We are currently in the permit process for one of the first multistory office buildings in Los Angeles with a cross-laminated timber (CLT) floor system. The building is essentially a hybrid, with CLT floors and steel columns and beams. It meets the current code and does not use the provisions of the 2021 IBC because the highest occupied floor is not over 75 feet. That said, it is still a 125,000-square-foot building—not a small undertaking. We have been working closely with Los Angeles authorities and our engineer to clarify and explain how the CLT performs structurally in the project and how it fits within the current code. We have made incremental steps that will allow for subsequent projects to better navigate permitting this type of building, as well as open up options for multiple CLT suppliers to serve the Los Angeles market. I believe these small steps are significant, but I know that my team could have gone further faster if California had already adopted the new timber provisions. Building officials in California are justifiably cautious. The optics of approving tall wood construction as the state faces devastating wildfires is difficult. However, moving in this direction creates a market that will advance the sustainable forest management that prevents these fires in the first place. If we are serious about addressing the major environmental issues of our time, we need California to adopt the 2021 IBC now. We are simply running out of time.

Of course, there is more to do. I believe as architects we must rethink design as a wider ecosystem of environmental and regional economic choices. Where our materials come from and how they are produced should drive and inspire our designs. This is not a limitation but an invitation to innovate with regional, renewable materials to create more compelling architecture that truly addresses both local and global issues.

Thomas Robinson is the founder and principal of LEVER Architecture.

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Design Grouping

The LADG builds practice in parts
The following interview was conducted as part of “Building Practice,” a professional elective course at Syracuse University School of Architecture taught by Molly Hunker and Kyle Miller, and now an AN interview series. On September 3, 2019, Ella Arne and Eliza Williamson, students at Syracuse University, interviewed Benjamin Freyinger and Andrew Holder of the Los Angeles-based The LADG. The following interview was edited by Kyle Miller and AN and was lightly condensed for clarity. Ella Arne and Eliza Williamson: Thank you for joining us. Our first question is a very simple one; how and when did your practice start? Andrew Holder: We started our practice when we were still students. Ben and I were in graduate school at UCLA from 2002 to 2005, and we began working on our first project together at the end of 2004. If you look at the older projects in our portfolio, you’ll see stores for a ski boot retailer called Surefoot. Surefoot in Vail, Colorado was our first project. I don’t think we intended to form a durable corporate entity at that time, and it wasn’t our intention to be a practice forever. The Surefoot store was our first opportunity and was followed very quickly by a residential remodel in downtown Los Angeles and a loft building across the street from SCI-Arc. But to the original question, “How did it start?”... we were raised on a myth of how architecture firms start. You sit down and write to clarify your position in the world. After that is absolutely clear to yourself and others, you begin to work. Our experience was almost exactly the opposite… the work came first. What is the identity of your practice, and how has it changed over the years? We started our practice during boom years for construction in Los Angeles. It was a good time to be an architect. For the first four years, we were totally consumed with work and executing projects commissioned by various clients. During the financial crisis of 2008 it became clear to us that architecture purely as a service for the market was not enough for us. We decided that we needed another layer of activity or set of incentives to impel what we were doing, because we felt as though the financial crash had removed many market-based incentives. We weren’t making money anymore. The thinness of incentives that we had thought would stick around forever was revealed. We needed new reasons to get out of bed in the morning, which lead us back to the idea that we needed an operating theory of what architecture wants to be in the world. We asked ourselves why we do this on a very personal level, but also how architecture can engage a broader audience. It was in 2009, 2010, and 2011 when we first started thinking through architecture’s relation to audience. In those years, you see the emergence of animal figures and biomorphic forms in our work. These things were essentially the most direct answer that we could imagine to the question of how architecture interfaces with a mass audience. Our answer to that was architecture sheds its status as an object, and it becomes a subject. I know how to participate in a crowd if I’m a living thing. We were doing everything we could think to do to turn architecture into a subject that could participate like other people. We reached a limit with 48 Characters, an installation at the University of Michigan where we were creating plaster versions of balloon animals. We started to realize that if architecture as a subject needs formal complication, then we have to come up with different ideas about how to make habitable space. It’s a very simple initiating problem. And that question essentially initiated a string of investigations up to the present day where we are thinking about assemblies of objects that produce rooms. Who exactly are you referring to when you talk about audience? Who is the audience for your work? We always want to have a couple of different conversations simultaneously. We are hoping that the balloon animal projects are immediately legible with no specialized knowledge in architecture. Stuffed animals have a mode of communication that requires little to no expertise. It just requires enculturation. You have to have been a person on the planet for a while. At the same time, balloon animals have a kind of second discursive tale. They're plugged into issues in architecture that are for sophisticated audiences. That longer tale has to do with the history of complex form and architecture, and the history of the use of digital tools and a long conversation about character. What exactly that term means… it looks like Ben is joining us now. Ben Freyinger: Hello. Sorry, I’m super late from another meeting. We were talking about how your work resonates differently with different audiences. But now that we have both of you here, we can ask how you maintain the identity of your practice considering both of you are in different locations. Ben: Case in point. Andrew: It'll be interesting if we have different answers to this question. Ben, what is that noise? Is that an airplane? I can assure you there is no airplane in Cambridge. Okay, so first, the geographic distance for us is profoundly clarifying. So, to revisit the history of how we started… Ben there's incredible background noise. Please go inside. Ben: I'm on a job site. I'll mute my microphone when I'm not speaking. Andrew: Great, thank you. So, bear in mind we started as students, which means that didn’t yet have formalized understandings of our roles. What we had was a desire to work together. It was when we started living on different coasts that we had conversations about who does what. It was that moment of specialization that also required us to have conversations about the operating theory of the practice. All of a sudden, in order to be efficient in schematic design, we needed to constantly be referring back to ideas we had about how to make space and how to use assemblies of objects loosely fit together to produce things like rooms and interior order. Those were as much theories of architecture and how it should work as they were a series of conversations regarding how to distribute labor between the two coasts, and how to clarify what Andrew does and what Ben does. Ben: I agree. To be blunt about it, having two people with either similar ideas or productively conflicting ideas in the same room is not always productive. There's the personal growth that you need to go through in order to expand in your career and move forward and learn new things that tends to get stunted when there is someone else in the room. Independently, we've discovered that the practice can grow and that there is a need for specialization. But no matter how specialized we each become in our roles, we still wear a lot of the same hats. We still do a lot of the same things. Andrew: Here is an example of how, for instance, something we produce has multiple lives, and becomes useful for the office. When I wrote “Notes on More,” the Log piece about density, I was interested in an academic audience. But I was also writing it as a letter to our office. It was how I was structuring thoughts about design, and was asking, “Can this help give us a common understanding of how to sit down to work?” We're always growing and shrinking, so it means anywhere from two to six people are participating in schematic design. Everyone has to be extraordinarily coordinated in their work output. The essays help hold that together. Can you talk more about the way in which the preference for using everyday objects informs your aesthetic sensibility? Also, how does this approach impact constructability and construction? Andrew: Interesting. We haven't used the word sensibility a lot in our conversations with one another. But maybe we should more often, because we have definite ideas about where we want to end up in terms of how things look. We want a kind of casualness, as though materials could come together in a variety of orientations and we would have simply picked one of those possibilities. We want a sense that our material palette is not elevated and expensive, but is common to the point of being retrievable from a junkyard if funds are limited. We also want for the fits between things to produce an occasion for design. If things fit together too perfectly, design is discouraged. One way that we create opportunities for design is by subjecting our work to physics by frequently positioning things with respect to one another so that all of the energy and intensity is in an interface or point of contact. Ben: We are using materials that are readily available and, in some cases, kind of ugly. And yes, it's in the interface between the materials and how they respond to one another or how they coexist… it’s where the invention is. The reality is that we have contractors that are looking at what we are producing. What they see is complicated or complex. We can break it down very logically, piece by piece, and explain why it isn't. But the reception of it is often “Oh, this is unusual… this is too complex to build.” Andrew: I also want to say that the casualness and looseness is not just for its own sake. Actually, let me go back. I'm totally fine if it's casualness for its own sake. I have no need to justify it further, but maybe we have an additional possibility. One thing that starts to happen as things are loosely arrayed against one another is the production of crenelated edges, which makes it difficult to assign things to the inside or outside. Elements often fall outside of the proper territory of the house or building. This means more engagement in the surrounding context. If you can't figure out where the envelope is, you're always questioning what’s around you. For us, that's good politics. We want to self-consciously style ourselves as part of architecture’s progressive crowd, but we don't see that as being related to exclusion on the basis of privilege—educational, financial, or otherwise. We're trying to resort to things that have a democratic availability and low barriers to intellectual engagement. Given this attitude towards being democratic and inclusive, what kinds of projects do you hope to work on in the future? Andrew: In the very immediate future, we're really interested in the suburbs and we're really interested in the single-family home, which may seem a weird answer to your question. We're trying to think of ways in which the form of the house can open up and start to create shared regions with neighbors. So, imagine many House in Los Angeles I’s next to one another. We'd have to imagine a different way of describing what constitutes yard or private ownership. Ben: We’re looking at the fringe areas of Los Angeles, specifically hillside areas, which encourage invention with regard to what Andrew was saying about the concept of yard or the concept of private ownership. We want to challenge and reconsider these things. Andrew: If you look at the larger context for House in Los Angeles I, you'll see that it's part of a series of suburbs that stretch between downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena. They're all super irregular, hillside lots. House in Los Angeles I looks kind of flat, but it's at the edge of a pretty steep hillside. What that means is that buildable area is tightly circumscribed. You can only put houses in certain spots, which leaves huge portions of the hillside unbuilt but also given up for shared uses. We want to be deliberate about how built form can preserve collective spaces that have already emerged, and start to encourage the emergence of new collective spaces. You spoke earlier of your dissatisfaction with conceptualizing architecture as being subservient to the market. How would you position your practice in relation to the market now? Is the market something you engage with critically? Andrew: What the market asked of us in 2009 did not overlap with how we wanted to spend our time. We wanted personal and intellectual satisfaction that the task given to us by the open market did not demand. We wanted to do more thinking and more drawing and more model building… and we weren't doing a lot of those things. When we talk about a reaction against an exclusively service-based practice, it's not that we were withdrawing from the market or the structure of how business works in Los Angeles. It's that we were trying to construct a viable business model with habits of life and thought and work that we found to be more humane and of interest to us regarding ways we wanted to live our lives. I would love to be a soldier of resistance against late capitalism, but my tools for thinking through that problem are more effective when I examine it at the scale of what I do when I get up in the morning. We’re encouraged that the market is now telling us that it has niches that support our habits. What's been the most fulfilling moment in your professional careers thus far? Andrew: I had a very fulfilling experience on my last site walk at House in Los Angeles I. It's been a while since I've been out there. When I went out, it was just after all of the rain in Los Angeles, but before the landscaping went in, so it was super muddy. My foot got stuck in one of the courtyards. There I was stuck in an idea we'd only been kicking around on paper. Ben: I'm going to play a similar card, but I'll zoom out a bit. For me, it's the physical evidence of the work. I can relate this back to Andrew's comment about how we choose to lead our lives in the office. If there's physical evidence of that work in the world, that is also the litmus test of our success in trying to bring a desire to operate, practice, and live a certain way into the market productively and reconcile those two things. I can look at it, I can touch it, and I can see it. That never gets old.
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By Decree

On beauty, value, and justice in federal architecture in America
This past week, a frenzied debate has erupted in response to “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again,” a draft executive order that, if adopted, would effectively mandate “the classical architectural style” for U.S. federal buildings. Assembled by the National Civic Art Society, a little-known organization dedicated to the promotion of classical architecture and design, the order proposes to rewrite the US General Services Administration’s (GSA) “Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture,” a three-point policy document written in 1962 by the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then Special Assistant to the Secretary of Labor, to focus the architectural ambitions of the GSA. Moynihan’s first and third directives aim squarely at design, insisting that federal buildings “reflect the dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability of the American National Government” and that careful consideration be given to the building site and the layout of adjacent streets, public spaces, and landscape. His second speaks more generally to matters of architectural style:
The development of an official style must be avoided. Design must flow from the architectural profession to the Government. And not vice versa. […] The advice of distinguished architects ought to, as a rule, be sought prior to the award of important design contracts.
The crux of MFBBA’s argument is that Moynihan’s second principle precludes his first. By granting authority on matters of style to architects, it claims, the Guiding Principles supplant the preferences of the American people with “the architectural profession’s reigning orthodoxy.” This, it continues, “implicitly discouraged classical and other designs known for their beauty,” and sanctioned instead modernist, Brutalist, and Deconstructivist buildings which “have little aesthetic appeal,” citing work by Marcel Breuer, Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, Morphosis, and others as examples. In so doing, the order claims, “the Federal government has largely stopped building beautiful buildings that the American people want to look at or work in.” To encourage the design of buildings that inspire “admiration” instead of “public derision,” the order proposes that “in the National Capital [sic] Region and for all Federal courthouses, the classical architectural style shall be the preferred and default style absent special extenuating factors necessitating another style.” While this technically leaves open the possibility of non-traditional design, MFBBA sets an extremely high bar for its approval. Brutalism, Deconstructivism, and their derivatives (specified by extremely problematic, open-ended definitions) are excluded outright. Other non-traditional buildings would be permitted to move forward only with approval from the president, who must first be provided with a detailed explanation of “whether such design is as beautiful… as alternative designs of comparable cost in a traditional architectural style.” The term beauty, or one of its derivatives, appears twelve times in MFBBA’s seven pages. Though it is not included in the document’s list of definitions, it is used throughout to signify those qualities that give pleasure to the senses and the intellect. At its core, then, this debate is about more than just architectural style. It is about publicly funded pleasure. The art critic Dave Hickey similarly locates the essence of beauty in pleasure. In his 2009 essay, “American Beauty,” he finds it primarily in the “pleasant surprises” one encounters in everyday life. Such pleasure, whether derived from monumental architecture, a clear blue sky, or a perfectly executed jump shot, often leads people—Americans in particular—to dialog. “Beautiful!” someone exclaims, moved by an arresting object or experience. Others respond, sometimes in agreement, sometimes in dissent. Chatter ensues, occasionally moving toward the consensus from which societies are built. “American beauty is inextricable from its optimal social consequence,” Hickey writes, “our membership in a happy coalition of citizens who agree on what is beautiful, valuable, and just.” In American society, beauty, value, and justice are determined similarly—through the often-contentious debates we conduct in Congress, in court, in the press, in the marketplace, at school, at home, and out in the street. Given the complexity of these collective conversations (and the difficulty of surprising oneself), we often turn to trained experts—elected representatives, lawyers, cultural critics, brokers, artists, architects, and others—to generate possibilities and look after our interests. Though it often seeks guidance in expert opinion, American society is not based on timeless values, religious doctrine, or ancient edicts. It is based on mutual agreement. With the Declaration of Independence, Americans mutually agreed to their collective right to pursue “pleasant surprises” and other forms of happiness, and to tentatively ascribe power to the government to secure that right. This is where it gets complicated. As Hickey points out, every pleasant surprise is an occasion for change, an opportunity to renegotiate our collective agreement regarding what we hold to be beautiful, valuable, and just. Such activity always threatens the stability of the status quo, which is why authoritarian societies often attempt to neutralize such threats by outlawing idiosyncrasy and mandating familiarity. MFBBA adopts exactly this authoritarian posture, though its authors undoubtedly would point to their populist invocations of “the public” and to their proposal that all GSA architectural competitions convene public panels that exclude design and construction professionals as evidence of their efforts to foster exactly the sort of open debate I am advocating. Such arguments would ring false. With their thumb firmly on the scale from the outset, MFBBA’s authors decide in advance the outcome of public deliberation on federal buildings. Their message is clear: When it comes to the most hallowed spaces of our democracy, the American debate on beauty—and by extension, on value and justice – is settled. The authors of “Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again” thus work entirely on the side of entrenched authority, and rightly recognize the federal buildings of Breuer, Morphosis, Scogin, Elam, and others as subtly subversive. These works signal that the brilliance of American democracy issues from its accommodation of periodic reinvention, from our collective agreement that what we held to be beautiful, valuable, and just yesterday may not align with what we will hold to be so tomorrow. This is not to say that progressive architecture best represents our union, or that classically derived designs can no longer embody American values. It is merely to recognize, as Daniel Moynihan did, that we would do well to continue to draw on “the finest contemporary American architectural thought” to help us determine the best way forward, and to remember that the “dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability” of the American government obtains from the right of its citizens to perpetually renegotiate the terms by which we are governed, to reimagine the values we wish to uphold, and to freely pursue the subversive pleasures of beauty. Todd Gannon is the Robert S. Livesey Professor and head of the architecture section at The Ohio State University’s Knowlton School.
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These Structures are Big in Japan

Japanese engineering gets its due in Structured Lineages

Structured Lineages: Learning from Japanese Structural Design Edited by Guy Nordenson Published by the Museum of Modern Art MSRP $45.00

Western architects’ fascination with Japan is indisputable, a tendency most famously personified by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright. Contemporary practices are contributing to what is perhaps the third or fourth wave of Japanese influence on American architects, and this group was the focus of the 2016 Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) exhibition A Japanese Constellation: Toyo Ito, SANAA, and Beyond, organized by Pedro Gadanho and Phoebe Springstubb. There is something simple yet sophisticated in the examples of contemporary Japanese architecture selected for this exhibition—attributes one can trace to the synthetic nature of Japanese design itself.

To accompany the exhibition, Guy Nordenson, a structural engineer and professor at Princeton’s School of Architecture, organized a symposium that sought to delve more deeply into Japanese design from the vantage point of the structural engineers who have collaborated with these architects. (Nordenson himself has a significant engineering practice, and worked with SANAA on the New Museum in New York and Johnston Marklee on the Menil Drawing Institute in Houston.) The resultant publication, Structured Lineages: Learning from Japanese Structural Design, illuminates key figures of postwar Japanese structural engineering and the hybrid nature of their consulting on the major works in the MoMA show. Consulting is not the right word for the essential, creative contributions of these talented engineers. As Nordenson noted in his introduction, “In Japan the cultures of architecture and engineering are entirely intertwined.” Laurent Ney observed that the architect and engineer Saito Masao titled an exhibition that he organized at the Architectural Institute of Japan in Tokyo in 2008 Archi-neering Design, coining a term that neatly grafts the two disciplines. Aspiring Japanese architects and engineers study together at university in the first phase of their education and specialize only later on. Design and technical skill are given equal weight academically, which forges a hybrid of both disciplines from a unified way of thinking.

The Structured Lineages symposium highlighted various practitioners of this fusion of art and technology: In addition to Masao, Yoshikatsu Tsuboi, Mamoru Kawaguchi, Gengo Matsui, Toshihiko Kimura, and the most significant contemporary structural engineer, Mutsuro Sasaki (who has collaborated with architects like Kenzo Tange and Rem Koolhaas), were given their rightful prominence by experts such as Marc Mimram of l’Ecole d’Architecture de Marne-la-Vallée, Mike Schlaich of Technische Universität Berlin, Jane Wernick of Jane Wernick Associates, and William F. Baker of SOM. Three roundtable discussions, moderated by Sigrid Adriaenssens, John Ochsendorf, and Caitlin Mueller and transcribed in the book, explored the basis for this “intertwining” of disciplines. These revelations—of what would be considered in Japan to be open secrets—feel like the discovery of why there is such qualitative consistency in Japanese design and architecture.

Numerous structures are presented throughout the book. Little known architect/engineer Mamoru Kawaguchi’s Fuji Pavilion at Expo ’70 in Osaka, the book’s cover image, could easily be mistaken for an early Ant Farm proposal (or a late Zaha Hadid project), with its colorful inflated tubular skin and curvaceous geometry. Toyo Ito’s innovative Sendai Mediatheque, with its occupiable structural elements engineered by none other than Sasaki, makes an appearance. MoMA curator Sean Anderson details how, in 1954, a traditional Japanese house came to be the third constructed “House in the Museum Garden,” following designs by Marcel Breuer and Gregory Ain.

This newly published book of the symposium offers essential enlightenment into the thinking, philosophy, and technical explorations behind these canonical buildings. It adds insightful analysis of and commentary on the special circumstances that gave rise to these projects, even though these significant Japanese structural engineers may be unfamiliar to the average American architecture student (and quite possibly for the average American architect). The documentation of the technical contributions, coupled with the high regard in which these projects are held internationally, makes Structured Lineages a necessary companion text for those with a deeper curiosity about the basis for the uniqueness of the design and structural experiments that have come to define architecture in contemporary Japan.

Craig Konyk is an architect and the chair of the School of Public Architecture at the Michael Graves College at Kean University in New Jersey.

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Drumroll, Please

AN presents the Architectural League’s 2020 Emerging Voices winners

The Architectural League of New York’s annual Emerging Voices program once again delivers eight up-and-coming practices making an impact on building and discourse. This year’s jury was composed of Stella Betts, Mario Gooden, Mimi Hoang, Lisa Iwamoto, Dominic Leong, Paul Lewis, Matt Shaw, and Lisa Switkin. Approximately 50 firms were evaluated throughout the invited competition. As in past years, the winners were varied and represented practices from across North America, although many of the 2020 winners can be found on the East Coast. All of the winners will be honored next month and will participate in a lecture series at 130 Mercer Street in Manhattan:

Olalekan Jeyifous and PORT on March 5 at 7:00 p.m. Mork Ulnes Architects and Young Projects on March 12 at 7:00 p.m. Escobedo Soliz and Dake Wells Architecture on March 19 at 7:00 p.m. Blouin Orzes architectes and Peterson Rich Office on March 26 at 7:00 p.m.

Escobedo Soliz

Only four years after founding their firm, Pavel Escobedo and Andres Soliz have built a trusted brand in Mexico City’s saturated design market. Escobedo Soliz formed soon after the pair graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and together won the 2016 MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program (YAP) summer installation competition.

Their YAP project, Weaving the Courtyard, brought acclaim in the U.S. but not at home, Soliz said. “That award is amazing for people in New York and holds a lot of prestige among those people, but here in Mexico, sadly, developers don’t care as much. What we took from that experience was a foundation of concepts and rules that we have used to build our practice, like the value of using simple or prefabricated materials and constructing by hand.”

After struggling to get commissions back in Mexico, the duo moved to Bolivia for a year to begin work on an ongoing design-build structure: a 17,200-square-foot funeral chapel made of artisanal brick on a shoestring budget. This project helped define the studio’s emerging focus on social service. When the pair returned to Mexico, their first major project was the José Maria Morelos Primary Rural School in Santa Isabel Cholula, part of the recovery from the deadly 2017 Puebla earthquake, which damaged over 200 public school buildings in the state. The design team conceptualized and built the school in just nine months.

“In Mexico, the country’s laws are very strict and the architect frequently has to be the builder,” said Soliz. “That’s why we go after custom projects in different contexts and with low budgets, whether it's for someone’s home or a special typology like the funerary chapel. We like to focus on the quality of materials and controlling the details. As young architects in Mexico, this keeps us competitive.” - Sydney Franklin

Young Projects

Bryan Young, principal and founder of Brooklyn-based Young Projects, aims for ambiguity. His buildings lend themselves to spatial and material misreadings that disrupt conventional hierarchies, inviting occupants to recalibrate their relationships with their surroundings.

“A tension exists between a normative reading and a misreading, but the misreading is just subtly off,” Young said. “It’s always something that is just a little bit off that draws you into the work.”

Young founded his firm in 2010 after working for Allied Works, Architecture Research Office (ARO), and Peter Pfau, all previous Emerging Voices winners that explore and exploit material properties. Since then, Young has designed polished residential projects that reinterpret familiar materials or layouts. Several walls of the Pulled Plaster Loft in Tribeca ripple with a custom pulled-plaster treatment that adapts techniques used to make traditional crown molding; the plan of the forthcoming 6 Square House in Bridgehampton, New York, is simultaneously a cluster of squares, a crossing of bars, and a fragment of an extendable pattern; and the Glitch House in the Dominican Republic is clad in encaustic cement tiles arranged to confuse light and shadow.

Smaller, in-house experiments (Young refers to them as “young projects”) incubate ideas and processes that could be applied to larger work, or just inspire new ways of creating. Currently sitting in his office is a tensile structure encrusted with salt crystals that might—or might not—point toward what Young Projects has in store. - Jack Balderrama Morley

Mork Ulnes

Dividing his time between Oslo, Norway, and San Francisco, Casper Mork-Ulnes has learned to synthesize design principles from the two regions as the basis for Mork Ulnes, the firm he founded in 2005. “Simply put,” he explained, his eight-person team is “influenced by Scandinavian practicality and California’s spirit of innovation.”

Residential design makes up the majority of the firm’s completed work, including the dramatic renovation of several Victorian-era homes throughout San Francisco. When updating antiquated interiors, Mork Ulnes “strives to make [homes] more efficient, more light-filled, and less compartmentalized,” according to the architect, “to perhaps hark back to a California way of living in which buildings were once more extroverted.”

When given the opportunity to design from the ground up, the firm favors locally sourced woods and distinctly minimal forms. For example, the exterior of Mylla Hytte, a 940-square-foot cabin set within a Norwegian forest, is clad in untreated heart-pine planks that will weather over time, in contrast to the plywood of its interior walls and built-in furniture. - Shane Reiner-Roth

PORT

The members of Chicago and Philadelphia–based firm PORT have made it their mission to elevate urban navigation from a chore to a pleasure. The firm believes that a city’s highways, byways, and interstitial spaces reflect a collective attitude toward equity, democracy, and civil rights, and that those values can be bolstered by creative design intervention.

Christopher Marcinkoski and Andrew Moddrell both trained as architects and formally established PORT in 2013 after setting their sights on the spaces in between buildings. They demonstrated their passion for the interstitial with their Lakeview Low-Line project, a collection of bright yellow urban furniture installed beneath the elevated train tracks of Chicago’s Brown Line. “Lakeview takes a site that no one pays attention to,” said Marcinkoski, “and demonstrates the possibility of transforming that space into something that is generous and welcoming.”

PORT has also taken to increasing public engagement at sites that have long been the center of civic attention, as in its OVAL+ series of temporary pavilions for Eakins Oval, the 8-acre park in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. - Shane Reiner-Roth

Peterson Rich Office

Sculptural gallery interiors, high-end retail, and housing and maintenance strategies for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)—three areas that might seem incongruous, but at the eight-year-old Peterson Rich Office (PRO), designing airy, light-filled spaces is part and parcel of considerate urban planning.

Founders Miriam Peterson and Nathan Rich trace their approach to experiences working at Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Steven Holl Architects—two firms known for their bright institutional projects—as well as SHoP, which Rich says taught him to break down the profession’s “traditional barriers and open [himself] up to different types of work.” Because of often tight budget constraints, PRO’s projects focus on form, gesture, and filling spaces with natural light instead of expensive materials.

The studio is working with New York’s Regional Plan Association to come up with suggestions for how NYCHA can simultaneously make up its $31.8 billion maintenance deficit while capitalizing on the agency’s 68.5 million square feet of undeveloped floor area. This isn’t the firm’s first dance with NYCHA; in 2014, PRO’s 9x18 project provided a blueprint for turning the housing agency’s 20 million square feet of parking into infill housing, and those strategies made their way into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan.

“We always start with a certain amount of research, and try to draw from that research a series of goals for the project,” Rich said. “We try to introduce what we call ‘five points’; these are values and goals built with the client, guiding principles, and those things emerge from context, institution, and need. It’s narrative, and we try to stay true to those things.” - Jonathan Hilburg

Dake Wells

“People are often surprised by how our projects end up looking like they do in these really rural areas,” said Andrew Wells, cofounder of Springfield- and Kansas City-based firm Dake Wells Architecture. “The common question we get is, How did you do that? For us, it boils down to solving peoples’ problems. There is an aesthetic component to that, yes, but it’s just a response.”

On numerous occasions, Wells and Brandon Dake, who together started the studio in 2004, have presented several design options to a client who ended up choosing the most challenging proposal on the table. Take Reeds Spring Middle School in rural southwestern Missouri. Set on 150 acres of undeveloped land beneath the Ozark Mountains, this 2017 project is tucked into a sloping ravine. “Finding the right spot to put the school was hard, so one of our ideas was to allow the building to negotiate the steep topography of the site,” said Wells, “but we didn’t think they'd go for it.” In the end, the semisubterranean design allowed Dake Wells to add a storm shelter to protect students, teachers, and staff during tornado season, one of the client’s biggest goals, and resulted in a striking exterior.

According to the design team, using few materials and a muted color palette also helps them concentrate on forming shapes that will stand out. Both Dake and Wells are from small towns in Missouri and feel most rooted in their work when they return to similar spots throughout the region on commission, often collaborating with low-income school districts with tight budgets. “We don’t subscribe to the notion that good design is for elite clients with money to spend,” Dake said. “We take on low-budget projects and push them as far as we can.” - Sydney Franklin

Blouin Orzes

Few have mastered the nuanced art of designing for the extreme climate of Canada’s Circumpolar North in the face of global warming. But Marc Blouin and Catherine Orzes of Montreal-based Blouin Orzes architectes have made that challenge the heart of their practice. Dedicated to what they describe as a “tireless journey” through the villages of Nunavik, the vast northern third of Quebec, Blouin and Orzes create buildings that empathetically address the pressing needs of Inuit communities.

For Blouin Orzes, the work doesn’t stop at the building itself—the architects also play an active role in public consultation processes, sourcing funding and filing grants on behalf of their clients. “It’s a constant search for a balance between tradition and modernity in the contemporary realities of northern communities,” the architects explained. “We have discovered the importance of patiently learning from a culture distinct from our own and have come to love the landscapes and respect nature’s harsh conditions.”

The Katittavik Cultural Centre in Kuujjuarapik, a village on the coast of Hudson Bay, is representative of the firm’s work providing much-needed social spaces for people in remote locations. Upward of 10,000 people use the center, located in one of Nunavit’s 14 communities north of the 55th parallel. The area’s harsh conditions create construction challenges, like high costs, a limited labor force, protracted schedules, and concerns about sustainability. Yet building here takes not only resources and time, but also considerable trust—which the designers work continually and respectfully to earn. - Leilah Stone

Olalekan Jeyifous

For Olalekan Jeyifous, the physical world doesn’t take precedence over the space of imagination. By embracing the tension between reality and invented narratives, his work produces a panoply of architectural inquiries in various media, including hyperreal photomontages, public sculpture, whimsical installations, and immersive VR experiences. Rather than prescribing function, his projects encourage their audiences to reconsider architecture’s relationship to the communities it affects.

Jeyifous describes his work as a result of the “process of connection as opposed to reaction, evoking a notion of ‘place’ rooted in immanence and possibility.” His built public work embraces multiplicity and interpretation, and engages each community’s historic and contemporary challenges, including histories of mobility and displacement, issues of equity in urban housing markets, and the importance of public spaces as sites of protest.

His unbuilt work is equally rooted in social justice. Born in Nigeria, Jeyifous has developed various projects that envision the future of the country’s sprawling megacity, Lagos, in a way that questions ideas of what progress looks like. In Shanty Mega-structures, he produced a series of renderings depicting the city’s informal settlements at the scale of large commercial developments, asking viewers to reconsider who visionary architecture should be for and what practices should inspire it. -  Leilah Stone

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Some Assembly Required

T+E+A+M builds practice through assembly
The following interview was conducted as part of “Building Practice,” a professional elective course at Syracuse University School of Architecture taught by Molly Hunker and Kyle Miller, now an AN interview series. On September 3, 2019, Peter Maffei and Sanat Dangol, students at Syracuse University, interviewed Meredith Miller and Thom Moran, one half of the Ann Arbor-based practice T+E+A+M. The following interview was edited by Kyle Miller and AN. Peter Maffei and Sanat Dangol: We're really interested in how the four of you came together. What is it like for four architects who previously practiced individually to form a collaborative practice? Thom Moran: The answer to how we started working together is pretty prosaic, and also a bit humorous. We started a reading group to learn more about the architect Emilio Ambasz, whose work resonated with each of us, but in different ways. It was during the time of this reading group that the opportunity arose to apply to represent the United States at the 2016 Venice Biennale. We decided to turn our reading group conversations into the basis for our application. Our application was successful, and we exhibited Detroit Reassembly Plant in Venice in 2016, but it still wasn't clear to us whether or not we were going to continue as a practice. Given that we enjoyed working together and acknowledged that we did something together that we never would have done independently, we decided to keep collaborating. Meredith Miller: The Detroit Reassembly Plant threaded so many themes together that we had developed individually. It was very exciting for us to see how the work came together. But regarding the mechanics of how we operate as a four Principal office, there are things about it that are hugely inefficient in terms of time management. We all like to be involved, especially in the conceptual phase of a project. It’s what we enjoy the most and we’re at our best when we're sitting around a table, sketching and talking. With four of us, there's a lot of input. For the sake of efficiency, as a project moves forward, we divide tasks and responsibilities, but most of the work cycles through all four of us. How has your architectural education influenced your work? Meredith: The four of us have different educational and professional backgrounds. Adam, Thom and I studied architecture at the undergraduate level, and Ellie went to NYU and earned a liberal arts degree. For the graduate degrees, Ellie and Adam both studied at UCLA, Thom went to Yale, and I went to Princeton. We benefit from a diverse set of sources of inspiration relative to these different educational backgrounds. Thom: For me, it's also more personal and I think of my education as having started a very long time ago. I grew up in the building trades and was on job sites with my father and uncle since I was five or six years old. These experiences still inform how I think about design. I approach buildings from a material proposition first. All four of us are interested in materiality, but for me it comes from the logics of construction. What is the responsibility of the architect and how do you think that has changed throughout your career? Thom: Responsibility? That's a good one. There are a couple of different ways you could frame responsibility and there are many ways in which this has changed in the last 20 years. There’s the issue of sustainability, but I don't think there's much disagreement that it’s an important part of what we do, and should always be considered. More recently, there’s the responsibility to be inclusive and consider how architecture intersects with social justice. But I have a more romantic view about the architect’s role in society, as a visionary or as a critic or as someone who offers a different worldview compared to dominant ideologies. We have an opportunity and responsibility to offer a critique of the world through buildings we design. Meredith:  I agree and would also add that critique is much more collaborative today. There's an awareness and a willingness to work across different fields, acknowledging that executing a building design isn't the work of a singular author. There are so many people involved, and the responsibilities associated with building are distributed across an ecology of different disciplines. A successful architect can assert a vision while acknowledging the different roles and contributions of many other individuals. Thom: Right, and I’ll put a fine point on that. An architect can positively impact the world through design. You know, there are all kinds of ways an architect can be ethical, but if it doesn't show up in the building, we’re not doing our part. There are lots of different hats you can put on. You can go out be an activist, but we have a responsibility to make our beliefs and provocations manifest in the buildings that we design, in addition to the ways we conduct ourselves as professionals and as citizens. Where does your aesthetic sensibility come from? What are your sources of inspiration? Meredith: It’s a process of discovery. We begin by sorting out shared intuitions and values for a project. Our different approaches often lead us to certain aesthetics that surprise us. Thom: And in some projects, we begin with a particular provocation that directs this process of discovery. For example, in Living Picture, we were really interested in the instantiation of a rendering in physical space. It's a really complicated thing to unpack. We all make renderings to represent buildings. But just making a building that looks like the rendering you made isn't going to deliver the experience of inhabiting a rendering. We were interested in building something that makes legible rendering techniques and rendering as a design tool. Throughout the development of this project, we expanded our understanding of rendering and texture mapping. To that point, the aesthetic result of our work is often dependent upon a critical inquiry into the tools and technologies we use to design and construct buildings. Meredith: Exactly. There's often traces of digital processes in the products. There's a way in which the outcomes that are material or spatial evidence the particular tools we use and the way we use them. We’re compelled by the ability for these specific interests to inform the aesthetic result and the experience of the environments we create. Thom: We also really love early [Frank] Gehry, but we don't want to just do early Gehry. We’re trying to figure out what is early Gehry in another context, using different technologies and responding to different economic forces. We’re interested in architectural authorship that has an affinity for the inexpensive—the cheap, but it’s an authorship that belongs to 2019, and it looks different and it feels different than a Gehry project from the late ’70s or the ’80s. The images you’ve created through these various tools are really compelling, especially to us students and especially on social media. Who do you identify as your audience? Who is your work for? Meredith: To begin, we think of students as a portion of our audience, but also architecture schools and architecture culture, in general. It’s one audience that we're definitely in dialogue with and aware of. But there are other audiences that are important to us as well. Currently, a lot of our work ends in representation, in images. That's not the end game for us. The end game for us is building, where the audience is more varied. Our hope is that our research into digital design procedures and material effects adds up to something that can be experienced by broader audiences and becomes part of architectural backgrounds that augment day to day activities. Thom: We’re really interested in the reality of our digital lives showing up in physical space. We are committed to not just participating in the role of digital media in contemporary culture, but translating that into a spatial experience in a consequential way. So, one might feel a vibration between one’s digital extension into media and one’s physical instantiation in space. We remain committed to the reality of buildings. We will not be satisfied with a fantastically popular Instagram page that circulates digital images everywhere. That would be fun, but we're more committed to what we can achieve through building. And we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the fact that potential clients have not been averse to our admittedly challenging aesthetic predilections yet. We’ve started to believe that if we get something built that is experimental aesthetically, it will be easier to get potential clients on board because they'll see not only what we can achieve, but also the added value of our approach. Meredith: Also, it’s not only important that our work is economically and environmentally conscious, but that we use each opportunity to experiment with off the shelf materials, conventional assembly systems, and familiar construction techniques. Even when operating in these territories, there's a lot of design authorship that's available to us while also being mindful of cost. Again, we want to demonstrate this added value to potential clients through built work. We are pursuing sophisticated material and aesthetic results without compromising affordability. How do you select your source images? We see a lot of rocks and trees. Why rocks and why trees? What other types of images do you start with? Meredith: Something we discuss a lot is how images we create interact with the context in which they are placed. For example, in Living Picture we digitally modeled the historic theater that no longer exists. We also created renderings from that digital model in the context, and those renderings eventually became printed on vinyl in the final, full-scale construction. Living Picture was made of digital trees in dialogue with physical trees. There was a logic there regarding image selection. For us, it was a new kind of contextualism. There are similar ideas being developed in the Northwood ADU project, where the site of the existing house backs up to a wooded park. There is a scheme being developed which includes wrapping the exterior of the building with imagery that would visually merge the house with its context. For the inhabitants, there would be a blending of the real trees and the digital trees, of real sky and the digital sky. On the interior, we are selecting images that would expand the sense of space. It's a very small apartment—750 square feet—and we are working on visually expanding the space through introducing an artificial horizon through imagery. There are ideas about ground and sky acting as interior elements. We’re working on blurring physical boundaries of space. Overall, it's not just about the content of images, but also the qualities that they can lend to the space. It all contributes to our larger interest in being playful and experimental with image production, material manipulation, and a combination of the two. Thom: It’s a great question. And It's something we struggle with. We’re drawn to the fact that there's simply a lot more content in a project when you saturate it with imagery. So, you probably wouldn't be asking us, how do we figure out where to put the bedroom? Those answers are almost evident, and far more objective than image selection. In general, we’re primarily interested in what effects get produced as a result of our decisions, whether it’s a rock or a tree or something else. How does the location of each project affect the design strategy? Thom: It’s different for every project. For Detroit Reassembly Plant, we started with the initial observation that the Packard Plant wasn't really a building anymore. It was a pile of materials. And it was an image that was circulating in the media. It no longer functioned as a building. This describes two ways we look at almost every context. Whether we’re engaging a vacant mall or an abandoned big box or a factory that's falling apart, we often question the material reality of the object and locate the images the object produces that circulate. Meredith: Your question also makes me think of the fact that Michigan is one context for our practice. It’s not just the location for projects we've done, but the location for us—where we work and live, and also the location of the kinds of projects we hope to get to work on in the future. We’re really interested in working locally. We’re actively trying to get work in the area and especially in Detroit where there's an incredible building boom right now. Some of it great and some of it not so great for the city. That’s something that we want to participate in and help shape. What's been the most rewarding moment in your professional careers thus far? Thom: This is a silly one, but I have to say it tickles me. At the 2016 Venice Biennale, MOS made lenticular drawings. Michael [Meredith] was proud of making a drawing that made people move around in order to understand it. We were just sitting there, laughing as people rocked back and forth. With Living Picture, we made a project where people had to traipse around in order to get things to visually align. We were watching people strain their necks and meander around our installation to figure out what we had done. We actually did what we set out to do with the project which was to build a rendering in which people could walk around. Meredith: I had a text exchange with James Wines recently.
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What Would Be Lost?

Opinion: To close The School of Architecture at Taliesin is to kill the experimental legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright
The following letter to the editor comes courtesy of Cruz García and Nathalie Frankowski. García and Frankowski are former Visiting Teaching Fellows at The School of Architecture at Taliesin, codirectors of WAI Architecture Think Tank, and current Ann Kalla Professors at the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University. This is the fourth in a series AN from former students, lecturers, and those in Taliesin’s orbit. Last week we got some horrible news. The School of Architecture at Taliesin (SoAT) would close by the summer of 2020. Our former home would officially become a museum, our former students would be left without their beloved school, the opportunity to educate future architects would disappear, and the unique offerings of an almost century-old institution would melt into air. Why, at the moment when the school seemed so vivid, the student work so exciting, and the educational programs so transcendental are we facing this fate? We paid close attention to the official announcements made by The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, former students, faculty, followers, but among the many questions, letters, complaints, and affirmations published by many parties since the fateful announcement, one thing remains unclear: what would be lost if the school closes? The following are five points about what will be lost with the closure The School of Architecture at Taliesin: 1: Without Accreditation in the United States, you can’t have an Architecture School Losing accreditation means losing all legitimacy in the formal education of architects under the current certification and licensing system. Contrary to the claims of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the legacy of the institution they claim to protect cannot be safeguarded with K-12 education and sporadic arts and craft workshops, that although necessary programs of outreach, won’t satisfy the required steps for the education of future architects. In his will signed on April 25, 1958, Frank Lloyd Wright stated the direct relationship between the Foundation and the education of Architects: ‘Since their inception the Foundation and the Fellowship have operated as the equivalent of a college in the preparation of American architects in which capacity they have rendered full service the past twenty-five years.’ Denying the students of the opportunity to at least obtain a diploma of equal value to a University rests legitimacy to a program devised to train future architects with critical thinking, technical and material skills. If the School follows the demand of the Foundation and loses its accreditation, it will lose all forms of professional, academic, and intellectual legitimacy. Without an architecture school, the Foundation can offer educational programs but cannot formally ‘prepare architects’, thus opposing the very reason the foundation was assembled by Frank Lloyd Wright. 2: Taliesin is one of the smallest schools with the most organic offerings. Lead by president Aaron Betsky, Dean Chris Lasch, a dynamic Faculty, and an enthusiastic group of students, Taliesin boasts with an incredible array of projects, initiatives, publications, and events that have brought it back to the center stage of contemporary architectural relevance. The spatial limitations of the premises (operating between Historical landmarks), and the necessity to oscillate mid-year between the Taliesin Campus in Spring Green, Wisconsin (too cold in the winter), and the Taliesin West Campus in Scottsdale, Arizona (too hot in the summer), create a series of unique opportunities for the students and faculty to migrate and in the journey experience some of the most stunning landscapes in North America. In the two campuses students and resident faculty assist with the maintenance of the fields, the kitchen, and events like lectures, and dinners, thus creating a self-sustaining community where architectural thinking and discourse are at the center stage every day of the week. Sharing living spaces with Taliesin fellows like Jane Houston (Minerva Montooth) who was Olgivanna Lloyd Wright’s personal assistant, Indira Berndtson, whose mother Cornelia Brierly worked on the plan for Broadacre City, or painter and musician Effie Cassey, guarantees that the legacy of Taliesin is shared among generations living, breathing, thinking, and making architecture in these spaces. What can be more organic than learning like this? As quoted from the recent manifesto published by former faculty and students: “Organic are the ways the students, faculty, staff, former fellows, and the community at Taliesin learn from the landscapes of the rolling hills and prairies in Wisconsin, and the wild, blossoming desert in Arizona. Organic are the histories that are shared and the life that is lived in Taliesin. Organic are the experiments that the students execute living with and in nature, in their buildings that find new ways to relate to their material, historical, and architectural contexts. Organic are the future architectures to be devised by those who have lived and been educated at Taliesin.” 3: The learning intensity is unmatched Imagine being one of twenty students and spending several days a semester listening to lectures and exchanging ideas in the dining room with Tatiana Bilbao, David Adjaye, Wolff D. Prix, Hernan Diaz Alonso, Erin Besler, Lise Ann Couture, Michiel Riedjik, and Frank Gehry, among others. Imagine learning about the work and discussing ideas with these practitioners to then publish these exchanges in WASH Magazine, a Graham Foundation grantee student-run publication. Imagine living in constant contact with established and new positions and discourses. The School of Architecture at Taliesin is part of the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright but avoids reducing the experience of learning and practicing architecture to the mere aesthetic imitation of the late architect. Instead, the School anchors its foundations on the rich past of the two historical sites and the people that live in them while enriching them with a diverse plethora of ideas and positions of local and global relevance to the discipline of architecture. 4: Taliesin redefines design-build Challenging the design-build model across the country where students are often subordinated to the role of draftspeople while the professors take the accolades and awards, at Taliesin the students design and build (with their own hands) the shelters where they live during half of the Fall Semester and the Full spring semester. Recent projects like ‘Branch’, a rammed earth minimalist cube designed and built by Conor Denison, ‘Site 168’, Richard Quittenton’s post-internet take on desert concrete and Organic aesthetics, ‘Lander’, a commentary on dark ecologies and surveillance culture by Jan Sobotka, ‘Dwelling 17’, a built ontology of found contemporary desert objects constructed by Nelson Schleiff, ‘Ava’, an inhabitable miniature wooden palace built by Liu Xinxuan, and ‘Tali-Beach’, a student lounge built by Jose Amaya on the former ruins of a derelict structure in the desert, are just some of the latest shelter-thesis constructed by the most recent class of graduates. These students are not only going out to the world with the unique experience of living and learning in Taliesin for several years, but they have built architectural experiments for minimal and sustainable living as one of their many accolades. Through this hands-on learning-by-doing approach the students at Taliesin have also been able to offer practical, real, and innovative ideas to communities, like the recent project to transform a discarded early twentieth-century school into a teacher-preferable residential compound and community center in the town of Miami, Arizona. 5: Closing the school is an attack on architectural education In the current political and social climate, with ballooning tuition fees, the elimination of art programs across many higher learning institutions, and the deformation of educational institutions into businesses, the threat launched against The School of Architecture at Taliesin should be of concern to us all. The demand of the Foundation that The School of Architecture drops its accreditation shows a lack of understanding of the complexities and challenges inherent to the education of future architects. Assuming that Taliesin can be reduced to ‘organic’ slogans, aesthetics, and products may be a profitable business model, but abandoning a robust academic curriculum presents a toxic menace to critical inquiry, curiosity, and experimentation. Taliesin is an institution founded on a culture of critical rebelliousness that rejects, in the words of Frank Lloyd Wright, ‘little art of any but the most superficial kind—the formula or the fashion’, because ‘the capacity for spiritual rebellion has grown small and the present ideals of success are making it smaller every day.’ The tone-deaf insistence of the Foundation, in claiming that it will be offering other forms of education once the School closes instead of doing everything possible to keep alive the one thing Frank Lloyd Wright created the foundation for, shows that the leadership of the foundation doesn’t get it and is on the way to destroy the legacy it claims to protect. To close with words by Frank Lloyd Wright: “We don’t use the word organic as referring as something hanging in the butcher shop, organic means in philosophical sense, entity, where the whole is to the part and the part is to the whole.” By closing the School of Architecture, Taliesin can’t be whole.
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Major League

Opinion: Shame on the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
The following editorial comes courtesy of former Taliesin teaching fellow Ryan Scavnicky following the recent news that the School of Architecture at Taliesin would close come June 30 of this year. This letter is the first in a series AN will run in the following days from former students, lecturers, and those in Taliesin’s orbit. The gift shop at Taliesin West tells you everything you need to know about the closure of the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SOAT). Look around it and you will realize there is little gained by the world of architecture from a room full of tourists paying top dollar for home decor with prairie-style motifs. One can smell the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation cashing in on the aesthetic legacy produced by the work of the late architect. Meanwhile, SOAT has continued and built upon that legacy for 88 years, serving as a home base for experimental architecture and providing a counter-narrative to the sterile classrooms of state schools. Through its ups and downs SOAT remains intact and healthy, with enrollment increasing from a total student body of two to 30 in the last five years. Recently independent, on the heels of receiving a full eight-year accreditation, and re-energized by the herculean efforts of president Aaron Betsky and dean Chris Lasch, the school at Taliesin was thriving. Why then, the decision to close?  The architecture community isn’t just mourning the loss of another accredited degree-awarding machine; this is the loss of a pedagogical apparatus whose contemporary presence is in dire need. When we are in school we learn information, but we also learn life skills and craft behaviors which we model off of our colleagues and teachers. We do that outside of the classroom. In an era of infinite access to information, the “living community” of SOAT is increasingly valuable. I am grateful to have served three semesters as the Visiting Teaching Fellow, having experiences with students beyond that which is provided by typical institutions of learning today: I drove sleeping students home from a field trip to Kitt Peak Observatory, asked for help in ridding my apartment of scorpions, washed the dishes, gave a toast, played Dungeons & Dragons, learned yoga, wandered the desert to yell at God, taught Rhino, and I even performed a rendition of En Fermant Les Yeux when entertainment options were running thin. These extreme moments of “ad hoc” were intertwined with everyday life as fluidly as you can imagine. The value of education via distinct experience in today’s attention economy society is certainly worth more to the world than the ability to sell a couple more gaudy stained glass earrings. SOAT made this immensely felt, and the students I was honored to teach are now cutting-edge cultural operators.  On my first day of work, I made jokes about feeling like an Oompa Loompa—that the school’s significance was to provide scale figures to make the tourists happy. At least then I had a value that was being used in service to the field of architecture. In my experience, the current leadership at the Foundation doesn’t care about the mission of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin because they will still be able to sell $250 chess sets and tired craft classes to beady-eyed baby boomers as a stand-in for the heralded school. Do you remember the plot of the movie Major League? Released on April 7, 1989, the film follows a professional baseball team in Cleveland, Ohio. Owner Rachel Phelps secretly wants the team to tank so that she can move them to sunny Miami. She attempts to do this by intentionally staffing the organization with oddballs and misfits who all have a major flaw in their game. Spoiler alert for those who still haven’t seen this cult classic—the ball club finds out about the scheme, and with nothing to lose, the team plays above expectations, eventually winning a playoff series with the New York Yankees. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is currently playing the part of owner Phelps, attempting to publicly eschew their role in putting the final nail in the coffin of Frank Lloyd Wright's grand and timely pedagogical legacy just to line their pockets. They made a mistake hiring such capable and passionate administrators. Although SOAT pushed passed many obstacles, there is no nationally-televised game for them to win. Meanwhile, the Foundation is sitting in box seats, resting on their Usonian gravy train and toasting our collective tears. Everything in the statement released by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is accurate; but if you believe that to be the whole story then I know a Saudi Prince who would love your email address and social security number. The failure of the School of Architecture at Taliesin to agree to terms with its landlord, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, is a real tragedy and we must learn from it. The architecture community needs to be acutely aware of the value of germinating a style recognized by popular culture and what that means for future commodification. We need to be cognizant of the potential impact outsiders can have on our field who fetishize and exploit the genius of our heroes. We must claim aesthetic territory and take no prisoners securing that value to be in service of architecture, lest any more establishments like SOAT become the victims of assassination by the very institutions sworn to protect them. Correction: The article originally gave credit for the accreditation to Betsky and Lasch, however, the process had begun before they started at the school.
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Wood You Imagine

Architects apply the latest in fabrication, design, and visualization to age-old timber
Every so often, the field of architecture is presented with what is hailed as the next “miracle building material.” Concrete enabled the expansion of the Roman Empire, steel densified cities to previously unthinkable heights, and plastic reconstituted the architectural interior and the building economy along with it.  But it would be reasonable to question why and how, in the 21st century, timber was accorded a miracle status on the tail-end of a timeline several millennia long. Though its rough-hewn surface and the puzzle-like assembly it engenders might seem antithetical to the current global demand for exponential building development, it is timber’s durability, renewability, and capacity for sequestering carbon—rather than release it—that inspires the building industry to heavily invest in its future.  Cross-laminated timber (CLT), a highly resilient form of engineered wood made by gluing layers of solid-sawn lumber together, was first developed in Europe in the early 1990s, yet the product was not commonly used until the 2000s and was only introduced into the International Building Code in 2015. While mid-to-large range firms around the world have been in competition to build the largest or the tallest timber structures to demonstrate its comparability to concrete and steel, a number of independent practitioners have been applying the latest methods of fabrication, computational design techniques, and visualization software to the primordial material. Here, AN exhibits a cross-section of the experimental work currently being pursued with the belief that timber can be for the future what concrete, steel, and plastic have been in the past. AnnaLisa Meyboom In the Fall of 2018, 15 of professor AnnaLisa Meyboom’s students at the University of British Columbia (UBC), along with David Correa at University of Waterloo, Oliver David Krieg of Intelligent City, and 22 industry participants designed and constructed the third annual Wander Wood Pavilion, a twisting, latticed timber structure made up entirely of non-identical components.  By taking advantage of the advanced fabrication resources available at the UBC Centre for Advanced Wood Processing, including a CNC mill and an multi-axis industrial robot, the project was both a learning opportunity for its design team and a demonstration to a broader public that timber is a more than viable material to which contemporary fabrication technologies can be applied. The pavilion forms a bench on one end that's large enough for two people, a public invitation test the structure's strength and durability for themselves. While the pavilion only required three days to fabricate and assemble on-site, a significant amount of time and energy was spent ensuring its quick assembly when the time came. A rigorous design workflow was established that balanced an iterative design process with rapid geometric output that accounted for logical assembly sequencing. Every piece of the pavilion was then milled to interlock into place and be further secured by metal rivets. The project was devised in part to teach students one strategy for narrowing the gap between digital design and physical fabrication while applying a novel material. In this vein, a standard industrial robot was used throughout the fabrication process that was then “set up with an integrator specifically to work on wood,” according to Meyboom. Gilles Retsin While Gilles Retsin, the London-based architect and professor at the Bartlett School of Architecture, has long experimented with both computational design and novel methods of fabrication, a recent focus on timber has propelled his practice into a bold new direction. A giant wooden structure installed at London’s Royal Academy in early 2019, for instance, was the architect’s first attempt at applying augmented reality to modular timber construction through the use of Microsoft’s Hololens. “We used AR to send instructions directly from the digital model to the team working on-site,” Retsin explained. “AR therefore helps us understand what a fully-automated construction process would look like, where a digital model communicates directly with people and robots on site.” In a recent international competition set in Nuremberg, Germany, Retsin set his sights on a much larger scale for what would have been the world’s first robotically prefabricated timber concert hall. Designed in collaboration with architect Stephan Markus Albrecht, engineering consultancy Bollinger-Grohmann, and climate engineers Transsolar and acoustic specialists Theatre Projects, the proposal takes advantage of the site’s location in a region with an abundance of timber while envisioning the material’s application to a uniquely challenging building type. The building’s form exhibits the material’s lightness using 30-foot sawtooth CLT prefabricated modules over the main lobby spaces, which are exposed from the exterior thanks to a seamless glass envelope.  “Designing in timber not only means a more sustainable future, but also has architects profoundly redesigning buildings from the ground up,” said Retsin. “It’s a challenging creative task, we’re really questioning the fundamental parts, the building blocks of architecture again.”  Casey Rehm For SCI-Arc professor Casey Rehm, working with timber has meant challenging many issues in the field of architecture at once. Timber is a rarely-considered building material in Los Angeles given the high time and material costs associated with its transportation and manufacturing. “Right now,” Rehm said, “the industry is manually laying up two-by-sixes into industrial presses, pressing them into panels, and then manually cutting window openings.” But if timber waste itself was adopted as a building material, he argued, the material could be far more globally cost-efficient.  While timber has been used in the construction of increasingly large structures around the world, such as multistory housing developments and office buildings, Rehm believes the material can be reasonably adapted to a smaller scale for quick deployment. In this vein, Rehm has been researching strategies with his students for producing inexpensive CLT panels for the construction of homeless housing and accessory dwelling units in Los Angeles, a city with a particularly conspicuous housing shortage.  But aside from its potential as a cost and material-efficient material, the architect has applied timber to even his most exploratory design work. NN_House 1, a sprawling single-floor home Rehm proposed in 2018 for the desert plains of Joshua Tree, California, was designed in part using a 3D neural network to develop ambiguous divisions between rooms, as well as to blur the divide between interior and exterior. The AI was trained on the work of modernist architects—while producing idiosyncrasies of its own—to develop a living space with multiple spatial readings. Kivi Sotamaa As an architect practicing in Finland, Kivi Sotamaa is certainly not unique in his community for his admiration of the far-reaching possibilities of timber construction. He is, however, producing novel research into its application at a domestic scale to reimagine how wood can be used as a primary material for home construction. The Meteorite, a three-story home the architect has designed near Helsinki constructed entirely of locally-grown CLT, was designed using an organizational strategy the architect has nicknamed ‘the misfit.’ This system, as Sotamaa defines it, creates two distinct formal systems to generate room-sized interstitial spaces that simultaneously act as insulation, storage space, and housing for the building’s technical systems. “Aesthetically,” Sotamaa elaborated, “the misfit strategy allows for the creation of a large scale monolithic form on the outside, which addresses the scale of the forest, and an intricate human-scale spatial arrangement on the interior.” Altogether, the architect estimates, the home’s CLT slabs have sequestered 59,488 kilograms, or roughly 65 tons, of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The Meteorite was developed and introduced to the client using virtual reality, and Sotamaa hopes to apply other visualization technologies to the design and production of timber architecture, including augmented reality that could allow builders to view assembly instructions in real-time on site. “When the pieces are in order on-site and [with clear] instructions,” Sotamaa explained, “the assembly of the three-dimensional puzzle can happen swiftly and efficiently, saving energy and resources when compared with conventional construction processes.” 
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It's Alive!

Upali Nanda uses neuroscience to understand buildings as living organisms
Doctor Upali Nanda is reimagining the role of the architect. Where design today is often top-down and architects move on to new projects before doors of the project open, Nanda believes the role of architecture is to create living systems that respond to inhabitants’ changing needs, and architects have to stay involved during occupancy to have true agency. Nanda heads up cutting-edge projects as principal and director of research at HKS Architects, and also serves as the executive director for the nonprofit Center for Advanced Design Research and Education, and teaches as an associate professor of practice at the Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning at University of Michigan. Perhaps most tellingly, she serves on the board of directors of the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture. Working to create measurable outcomes in buildings that respond adaptably to human cognition and perception, Nanda will be discussing the intersection of data, neuroscience, and IRL space at the upcoming TECH+ conference in Los Angeles. AN: In many ways, you’re an outlier in architecture as a researcher who really thinks about human perception and cognition. How did you wind up approaching architecture this way? Nanda: My entire career pathway can be summed up as someone who links design to outcomes, trying to understand the difference we make through design, and how human perception and human cognition play into it. My doctoral work was on how senses interact with each other to craft our perceived experience. By diving deep into neuroscience I stumbled upon insights that could give me agency as an architect. It allowed me to ask how form could impact emotions, or how art could impact health, or how views could impact achievement. It also changed my thinking to architecture not as a building, but an immersive interface between humans and the environment.

We create interfaces, and that perhaps gives us a certain overlap with the tech industry. The difference is that humans are immersed within the interfaces we create. We constantly work at a different scales—from macro to micro and back again. Unfortunately, all too often with these immersive interfaces that we create, we never truly engage with what it means to the people who live in it, because our engagement with the project has ended long before people move in.

How does this impact how you see the lifespan of the design process and the architect’s role in it? A project doesn't end when the doors open. That's when it begins. So a project really starts living when the doors open, when people are in it. Until that point, all of your design is a hypothesis. And until we test that hypothesis, not just in simulations, but in lived reality, we have no proof that it works. What's fascinating is that we cannot test this performance once and think its enough. We are living organisms. And what we create, once occupied, is a living organism too. Architects evolve, the building evolves, and occupants evolve. Not seeing architecture as an evolving, living organism has always been problematic. How has that shifted with the increase in sensing technology and the ability to build measurement in? We live in times where there is so much nuanced data available that we never had access to before. We can now measure environmental quality, energy performance, and space utilization on one end, and human physiology, and brain behavior on the other. Our understanding of the human brain, the human body, and the building have all become more sophisticated. We can now think of the brain and the building in new ways. The human brain responds to the building for sure, but also there is now brain in the building itself that can respond back to human needs. In an era of sensing systems and digital twins the building has a brain of its own. It is well on its way to becoming an intelligent organism that is climate responsive, but can also be community responsive. We are at this inflection point where the human brain and the building brain can be in conversation with each other. They can talk to each other. They can respond to each other. That’s an entire paradigm shift because that changes how we look at architecture and makes us stop looking at architecture as a static object or as an object at all, but rather a living breathing organism that interacts actively with the people that it’s for. And this means investing in people science as rigorously as we invest in building science. So what does that mean for someone like you? What does that mean for how architects can begin to think about approaching what it means to do architecture in this way?  For someone like me, and researchers in practice all over, this means finding ways of linking design to outcomes—during occupancy. One of my colleagues says it best when he says “there is nothing post about occupancy.” That is when our work is tested and really comes to life. Occupancy is what marks the transition of a building from being giant sculpture to architecture. Our work should always be judged not pre-, or post-, but during occupancy. The changes I see in our profession are making us focus on occupancy, be accountable to occupancy outcomes, and be able to link the performance of the building, to the performance of the people within that building, within the context of the climate and community that we serve. When we link design to outcomes, we link prediction to proof. We’ve done prediction—not enough, and not always well, but we are getting there. A lot of the modeling we do, a lot of the software we talk about, they’re all about prediction. Unfortunately we’ve reached a point as a society where we keep predicting what is going to happen. But at some point, we’re going to have to stop and ask ourselves, "where’s the proof?" We have to be honest when things didn’t really happen the way we thought they would. If design is about predictions, then we have to have some accountability to the proof. What’s an example of how you’ve put this way of thinking to work? As someone who bridges practice and academia, I believe we have to practice what we preach. Or die trying. Students at the university now are coming out with not just an incredible skillset, but also a level of citizenship we have not seen before, and so the courses I teach are set up to link students to professional mentors and professionals to state of the art academic thinking At our firm, one thing is we set up our own offices as living labs. We had discoveries in-house where we said, “Why don't we just test on ourselves before we do any renovation?” So we did. We were about to refresh a few offices so we set them up as living labs, which meant before we did anything, we did a lot of design diagnostics. We measured the energy use, environmental quality, and spatial quality, as well as the experience of our employees. We used old-school methods of interviews, and surveys as well as digital tools using sensors and spatial analytics. We had data on where everybody sits, how they move, what activities they do at certain points in time, and their personality types. Because these were our own offices, we had access to all of this data not just from before and after they moved into this space, but also every morning and evening for a period of time. That was important for us because we acknowledged that human experience is not defined in a single point in time. Our findings from the Chicago living lab showed an improvement in sleep quality and focus. We saw an improvement in overall reports of well-being. We also saw an improvement in air quality and some of the environmental measures. We were able to say that when the environment becomes better, the human response to the environment also becomes better. One of the things that’s been a challenge for us in our profession is that we have been many, many levels removed from final occupancy. We need to blur those boundaries. We need to be able to speak directly to the occupant. We need to understand that we work for them, that whatever we do is in service of that eventual stakeholder. Investment in research is investment in a "think, make, test" philosophy: getting to a point where every time we want to try a new design strategy, we test it. We have to understand that we are not only doing studies that are pre- or post-occupancy, but setting the stage for a living, breathing, learning ecosystem. We learn from the mistakes because we are living with them. And as we evolve, the system evolves with us. For more on the latest in AEC technology and for information about the upcoming TECH+ conference, visit https://techplusexpo.com/events/la/
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Part Two

Bjarke Ingels defends his meeting with Brazil’s President Bolsonaro
One week after BIG founder Bjarke Ingels was photographed in Brazil alongside the country’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, the Danish architect has provided AN with a more in-depth explanation of his time there. Ingels was reportedly touring Brazil as part of a Nomade Group delegation, investors who had been invited by Minister of Tourism Marcelo Álvaro Antônio to explore sustainable tourism opportunities. The backlash online was swift given the President’s history of climate denialism, and only intensified when Culture Secretary Roberto Alvim was fired after lifting phrases and imagery from Nazi propaganda for a speech about funding national art that Bolsonaro finds acceptable. Heated back-and-forths over whether Ingels’ meeting was appropriate broke out on Twitter, as well as in AN’s own comments. Ingels issued the following statement earlier today, where he called for critics to move beyond binary ways of seeing the world:
Our role and impact in the world Many have asked what we are doing in Brazil. My colleague and I have been on a fact-finding trip with Nomade Group to gather background information for a holistic masterplan for responsible tourism in socially and environmentally sustainable destinations in Northeast Brazil. Some may know the incredible, barefoot, light impact environments that Nomade is known for—a form of tourism that doesn’t replace the forest or the sand but rather inhabits and preserves it. A much-needed alternative to the high-rises on the beach that often happens when international tourism arrives as it has in Cancun only hours north of Tulum. We traveled the Northeast Coast of Brazil from Fortaleza to Atins, crossing three states, meeting mayors, governors and ministers across the entire political spectrum, and most importantly, amazing people from all walks of life. The observations and ideas we presented in our preliminary research to the ministries of Economy and Tourism impacted them so much that that they asked us to present our ideas directly to the president’s office. How better to impact the future of the region and the country than to plant the ideas we believe in at the highest level of government? Neither the president nor the ministers are our clients, but we are happy to share our ideas and ideals with a government that is willing to listen. As much as I would enjoy working in a bubble where everybody agrees with me, the places that can really benefit from our involvement are the places that are further from the ideals that we already hold. I love Brazil as a country, and I really want to see Brazil succeed. Slash and burn agriculture is one of many examples of how socioeconomic problems can become environmental problems. That is why I want to be actively involved with the necessary transformation of Brazil and share ideas that I believe would be a great alternative to the traditional development that destroys the landscape, deteriorates the ecosystems and displaces the local community. We may not succeed, but I am certain that we will not succeed, if we don’t even try. Creating a list of countries or companies that BIG should shy away from working with seems to be an oversimplification of a complex world. Dividing everything into two categories is neither accurate nor reasonable. The way the world evolves isn’t binary but rather gradual and on a vast array of aspects and nuances. If we want to positively impact the world, we need active engagement, not superficial clickbait or ignorance. I believe we have a great responsibility that comes with the creative platform that we have created. We should use that platform to change the world for the better. We can’t expect every public instance to be aligned with all aspects of our thinking, but we can make sure that we bring the change we want to see in the world, through the work we do. The ideas and ideals of the projects we propose bear their legitimacy. That means working in countries like Brazil (and the USA for that matter) despite the controversies that their elected leaders may generate. One of the core principles of democracy is the ability to coexist and collaborate despite political differences. In my mind that is a way for us architects to have ethical impact. To engage actively to create the future that we want, by proposing our ideas to people, governments and businesses even if they have different points of view than we do. We have to engage and embrace our differences if we want to dare to imagine a different future. Bjarke Ingels
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10th Anniversary Memories

SCHAUM/SHIEH builds practice through agreement
The following interview was conducted as part of “Building Practice,” a professional elective course (and now AN interview series) at the Syracuse University School of Architecture, taught by Molly Hunker and Kyle Miller. On October 10, 2019, Kate Kini and Rachael Gaydos, students at Syracuse University, interviewed Troy Schaum and Rosalyne Shieh of SCHAUM/SHIEH. The following interview has been edited by Kyle Miller and AN for clarity. This year marks your 10-year anniversary. Congratulations! Can you talk about how starting a practice in 2009, the year after the recession, presented a challenge that may have limited growth? Troy Schaum: Both of us were teaching when the recession hit. Rosalyne was a Taubman Fellow at the University of Michigan and I was a Wortham Fellow at Rice. What we anticipated would be a brief foray into the academy was extended as a result of the macroeconomic situation in this country. We had to figure out how to work as architects without being hired to work as architects. So we started making our own projects—competition submissions and university-sponsored independent research projects and installations. It was only after we were invited to participate in the Venice Biennale in 2012, curated by David Chipperfield, that we started to get commissioned work. I don't know if those two things were related, but we started to pick up projects both in New York and Texas, and we very quickly had four additional employees. Our office size hasn’t grown a lot since then, but when we look at the numbers every year, it's been relatively steady, which is its own form of success. In response to the challenges of starting a practice at that time, have you used unconventional methods to promote your firm or to attract potential clients? Rosalyne Shieh: We began our practice in an academic setting with little opportunity to practice in a traditional manner. In 2009, by starting in the midst of the recession, there was little momentum to be lost and the work we made was unsolicited. I don’t mention this so much to bemoan, rather to state the conditions within which we set out and to explain why in the beginning, most of our work was speculative, invested in an alternate economy of ideas and discourse, one partially encapsulated from the macroeconomic situation that professional practice is embedded in. So we may have had a small audience tied to the academy, but we didn't have clients. We started by thinking about what it meant to make work that nobody was asking for, about what questions could be posed or offerings made through the framework of an architectural project. The parameters and conceptual territory of this early work were partly self-defined but also defined by our educations, conversations with our peers and collaborators, as well as things we were reading and looking at. This was an important incubation period for us, but it didn’t necessarily transition seamlessly into attracting clients and working on commissioned projects. Troy: What encouraged that transition for us was a desire to work at a certain scale. We were conducting design research and building temporary installations, but we were interested in engaging building[s] at a much larger scale. When we received opportunities to work on larger projects, we realized that the two of us couldn’t do it alone anymore. We had to build an ecosystem of people to support us. All of a sudden we had to develop an economy around the work in order to support the people that were supporting us. At that point, we found ourselves running a business. We didn't say “no” to a lot of requests, because you never know where certain journeys are going to take you. In 2012 or 2013, we were asked by some relatively young people in Houston if we were interested in designing a music venue. We made some sketches and renderings for a very small amount of money. We just assumed these people would go away and we’d never hear from them again. What actually happened was that they took those renderings all over town and raised significant capital to build the music venue. What also happened was that lots of people who build things in Houston saw the renderings. They didn't necessarily want to invest in a music venue but were very curious about us as architects. Developers would contact us and request a portfolio of built work. The problem was that we hadn't actually built anything! It’s a common and unfortunate catch-22, especially for a U.S.-based practice in its earliest stages. That said, some of them hired us anyway. How do you mediate between presenting your work to a broader public audience versus an audience of architecture students, colleagues, and other professionals? Troy: This is a huge issue for us, especially as we oscillate between our audiences. We're both teachers and we both have conversations with very erudite students and colleagues, and we have conversations with people who work out of the back of their trucks and know a lot about building things, but not so much about architectural discourse. The importance and role of communication and the ability to articulate ideas to many different audiences [are] primary to our understanding of architecture. You mentioned two audiences, but there are probably 20 audiences that we communicate with throughout the course of the day, from the people that are going to send us metal samples to the lawyers that are helping us draft contracts for our clients. Rosalyne: Also, communication is a very personal thing. You have to respond to who you're talking to. Depending on what it is that each person is able to receive or wants to talk about, you have to meet each other somewhere, and you both need to arrive from where you’re coming. I like to speak with my own voice across different conversations, but communicate differently given the situation or who I’m talking to. Troy: It's become very apparent to me that when we talk about audiences in school, we’re talking about collectives. And we're very interested in creating projects for collectives. There's a democratizing idea that architecture is for everyone. It is. But, one of the things that I underestimated was how powerful architecture can be for individuals­–our individual clients and the contractors who build our projects. What do you understand to be your responsibility as an architect? Troy: Wow, that's a difficult question! Our practice is both of our names for a reason. SCHAUM/SHIEH wasn't just a default. That decision makes the practice a very personal thing for us. I imagine there's certain ethics in our work. I believe we have a responsibility to use these professional tools and our ways of seeing the world to be as careful and reflective and deliberate about our decisions and our work, especially when working in cities and in public spaces. To be stewards of the resources that we’re given, to be stewards of opportunities that we’re given to shape cities–these are very important responsibilities. Rosalyne: I agree and would add that we hope our projects enrich the world and make more connections possible. That's the aspiration, at least. We hope our efforts lead to building more complexity into the world. One of the quotes that we come back to a lot is this one–it's included by Jane Jacobs at the beginning of Death and Life of Great American Cities, from Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.: “Life is an end in itself, and the only question as to whether it is worth living is whether you have enough of it.” He's talking about the vibrant complexity of civilization and Jacobs connects this to cities as an engine of that. There's an interest in the pursuit of what we do as architects, but also as people to contribute to more life for more people. Some architects believe that there should be a separation between being a citizen and being an architect, specifically in relation to political issues and attempt to be as apolitical as possible. With your office, it seems to be the inverse. How much effort do you put into making a project political? Does it come naturally from its inception? Rosalyne: That’s a good question, and it's one that comes up again and again in architecture: What is the relationship between architecture and politics? If being political means seeing and engaging structural inequality, I can't live in a world where those two things can be separated, because it would mean willfully denying a part of reality, if not my own then someone else’s, with whom I share this world. It’s not only an issue of what we believe, but it’s also about lived realities. There could be different reasons why people feel the need to separate these roles. It could be because the very act or idea of the work—its property—requires that its limits are circumscribed. One way to work on something is to isolate or bracket it from other things. Or it might be a matter of survival: the world can be difficult; maybe you’re at capacity with what you can handle, and creative work is a kind of expression that feeds you. Some might have the choice to separate the two where others don’t. Broadly speaking, people undertake creative work for so many different reasons. I would just ask whether your position to proceed in any certain way is predicated upon an invalidation of someone else’s, and if it does, I would find it hard to support. I do not require you to not be in order for myself to be. That said, work that is explicitly political is not the only way to be political as an architect or artist. Godard said: “The problem is not to make political films but to make films politically.” That might mean simply expressing or applying yourself without explanation. There's no way to escape this question. It's not fair actually, to say that those worlds should be separate. I can't say that every project we do is political; we're not a political practice per se, but I am who I am, who I am, who I am… whether it's an architect, an educator, a person in the world, a cis-woman, a Taiwanese person, visibly Asian, a daughter of immigrants in the United States, today. The tension of trying to hold all these things together is at the heart of my humanity. Troy: There's a certain disciplinary agenda in the work of some practices, and a legacy of a particular kind of formalism. This way of approaching architecture is very different from how we understand practice. One important role of the architect is to construct agreement. For example, when working on White Oak Music Hall, we found ourselves in scenes similar to scenes in Ghostbusters where we were summoned to the mayor's office at eight in the morning to be reproached regarding an aspect of the project that a certain constituency was not happy with. These explicitly political aspects of practice and this particular project necessitated engagement with a broad audience and a range of issues well beyond the purview of the discipline of architecture. I don't know how you practice any other way. It's beautiful that buildings have the ability to engage political issues, and that architects have the ability to engage political issues. What's been the most rewarding moment in your professional careers thus far? Troy: We recently had the opportunity to observe how powerful work can be for an individual. This positive impact is not something you can encounter until you build something. White Oak Music Hall was embedded in a lot of politics around how music is booked in this country. We created White Oak Music Hall and made a lot of sacrifices in order to complete that project. We were criticized by a portion of the local community, but also supported by many diverse groups within the community. Recently, after finding out that we designed White Oak Music Hall, a local musician said to us, “That space you've created—we didn't have a space like that. That's my temple.” There's an entire ecosystem of creative people that can now work in this space we designed. Rosalyne: I agree with that, and I'll give you pretty much the same answer, but in a more abstract sense. We’ve had that experience a few times with the projects that are out in the world, with both White Oak Music Hall and Transart. You talk to people, and you might not know them well, and they’re like, “I know that project,” and they share some story that gives you an understanding that the project somehow belongs to them. These are the moments when you realize that projects, once they are out there, belong to the world and not just to ourselves. It can come back to us through clients, contractors, or anyone really… when they share a sense of belonging to this thing that we helped create, and that’s a really special moment.