Search results for "wHY"

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Your Glass is Grass

De Blasio cracks down on glass towers as part of Green New Deal
Days after the New York City Council passed the sweeping Climate Mobilization Act, which will impose emission restrictions on buildings over 25,000 square feet, New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed a sweeping “Green New Deal” for the city. The OneNYC 2050 initiative, which would see the city go fully carbon neutral by 2050, tackles climate change through new building codes, glass tower crackdowns, renewable energy requirements, citywide composting, investing in resiliency planning, and by supporting the new congestion pricing scheme. The $14 billion package would, combined with actions taken by the prior administration, reduce carbon emissions from a 2005 baseline level by 40 percent by 2030. A number of steps will help the city government decrease emissions 23 percent from a 2005 baseline. The city’s 50,000 buildings over 25,000 square feet will be retrofitted with more efficient technology, and city-owned buildings will be switched over to all-renewable energy sources in the next five years (the city is currently in talks to build out the infrastructure that would allow them to bring in Canadian hydropower). De Blasio also touted the potential restrictions on new towers with inefficient glass curtain walls. “Now, we’re going to take it another step because part of the problem here is that buildings got built that never should have been built to begin with if we were thinking about the needs of our Earth,” said the Mayor when announcing OneNYC 2050 on Earth Day yesterday. “Some of them you can see right behind us in the background. And so, we are going to introduce legislation to ban the glass and steel skyscrapers that have contributed so much to global warming. They have no place in our city or on our Earth anymore. “If a company wants to build a big skyscraper, they can use a lot of glass if they do all the other things needed to reduce the emissions. But putting up monuments to themselves that harmed our Earth and threatened our future, that will no longer be allowed in New York City.” The mayor went on to ding Hudson Yards in particular, claiming that many of the towers were inefficiently heated or cooled due to their glass envelopes. De Blasio’s aides were quick to point out that the administration wasn’t banning glass as a facade material outright, but that they would be imposing much rigid standards on performance or allowing developers to purchase carbon offsets instead. Mark Chambers, the city's sustainability director, touted SHoP’s American Copper Building for its smart use of high-performance glass. "The reason I’m saying ban is to emphasize the point that if a company came in, a landlord came in with the exact same kind of design that they’ve come in with in too many cases in the last—just few years, it will be rejected and they would not be allowed to build, period. That’s why I say it’s a ban. You literally will not be physically allowed to build the kinds of buildings that have gone up even recently in this town. Now, you know, there’s good examples and Mark pointed out the Copper Building, the buildings that Cornell-Technion are built to much higher standards which is a good example that you can have, you know, a modern skyscraper that works. But honestly even some of the recent ones built in this city don’t meet appropriate standards and those will no longer be allowed." That drew immediate pushback from Hudson Yards’ developer Related Companies, which told Crain's that the neighborhood was designed to meet LEED standards and that its towers were among the city’s most efficient class A office buildings. Other changes the mayor proposed included amending the city’s electrical code, enacting a citywide organics recycling program (composting), and realigning the city’s development goals with the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. Although the New York City Green New Deal was announced with much fanfare on de Blasio’s part, actual details of how these changes would be implemented were sparse. The plan will also have to pass a City Council vote as legislation and may change in the process.
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Architectural Atrocity Tourism

The Cursed Architecture Twitter feed showcases the best of the worst
What drives the internet’s (perhaps morbid) obsession with bad design? Strange angles, melting paint, oddly-placed and vaguely threatening toilets, signage that hinders rather than helps, stairs to nowhere, and misplaced windows have all caused digital rubbernecking. Whether it’s critiquing the bric-a-brac nature of suburban homes assembled by the nouveau-riche in McMansion Hell, or posting abject failures in the 1.5-million-member-strong r/CrappyDesign subreddit, the demand for “bad design” to critique seems bottomless. The worst offenders are frequently aggregated on Instagram, meme-y Facebook pages, Twitter, and listicles, repackaged and reshared failures of design for new audiences. Enter the Cursed Architecture Twitter account, which has been posting baffling, incomplete, and/or possibly haunted buildings since September of last year. When asked about where they compile their material from and why they think it has such an enduring appeal, the owner of Cursed Architecture had this to say: "I started collecting the images a couple of years ago because I thought they were funny, and later on made the account for my own entertainment. I never expected it to be so popular—or popular at all. I’m a little stunned by it, honestly. The images come from all over the Internet: house listings, DIY forums, and so on. Some are submitted to me. "We live in a very planned, sanitary, squared-off world. I think that’s why the failures are so funny, and why they resonate. So much current architecture is totally impersonal, but a bizarre mistake is the opposite. It invites the question of who did it, and why, and who thought three urinals crowded into a corner or a staircase to nowhere was a good idea. There’s something very human about that." Perhaps the collective fascination with such failures stems from the internet’s ability to give would-be critics a seat at the table, allowing anyone to weigh in. It’s also possible that when faced with overwhelmingly terrible design that fails at a basic level, everyone can put aside their quibbles and unite to make fun of it, together.
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Green Deal With It

NYC Council passes sweeping building emission legislation
Some of New York’s tallest towers are doing the most harm to the environment. Although buildings larger than 25,000 square feet only represent two percent of the city’s stock, according to the Urban Green Council that minority is responsible for up to half of all building emissions. Now the New York City Council is finally cracking down on the worst offenders, and New York will soon become the first city in the world to constrain large building emissions through hard limits. Yesterday the council passed the eight-bill Climate Mobilization Act, a legislative package that some are comparing to a New Green Deal for New York. The Climate Mobilization Act, which Mayor de Blasio is expected to sign, would set increasingly harsh limits on carbon emissions for buildings over 25,000 square feet beginning in 2024. According to the Urban Green Council, New York City produces 50 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, and buildings account for approximately 67 percent of that—meaning buildings over 25,000 square feet produce 35 percent, or about 13 million tons of carbon dioxide, a year. The legislation covering the affected 50,000 buildings will roll out in phases. This year, an Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance and an advisory board will be created at the Department of Buildings to both regulate and enforce the new standards. When the law fully takes effect in 2024, emissions from qualifying buildings will need to be reduced 40 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The Climate Mobilization Act then takes things one step further and requires that these same buildings slash their emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Why are large buildings such energy hogs? Lighting, heating, cooling, and tech requirements, combined with inefficient equipment, all constrained within leaky envelopes, have combined to create a perfect storm of waste. Retrofitting these massive buildings to use or waste less energy is projected to potentially create thousands of jobs for architects, energy modelers, engineers, and construction workers, as everything from inefficient windows to HVAC systems will need to be replaced. For those structures that can’t be brought up to code on schedule, their owners can offset a portion of their emissions by purchasing renewable energy credits. If an owner still isn’t in compliance, they can be hit with an ongoing fine based on their actual emissions versus the cap. The real estate industry had been a vocal opponent of the measure, arguing that it would place an undue burden on both it and tenants. “The overall effect is going to be that an owner is going to think twice before she rents out any space: ‘Is the next tenant I’m renting to going to be an energy hog or not?’” Carl Hum, general counsel for the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), told the New York Times. “There’s a clear business case to be made that having a storage facility is a lot better than having a building that’s bustling with businesses and workers and economic activity.” Still, those fears appear unwarranted. Part of the Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance’s job will be to work with landlords and tenants and issue variances for buildings with higher energy requirements.
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Fascist Facades

Photographs document the Italian Fascist architecture of Eritrea

Walking the central streets of Asmara, Eritrea, for the first time can be quite a puzzling experience for a foreigner. The capital city is full of structures and modernist buildings that blend Art Deco and Futurist styles. Shops and bars have signage that could easily be found in Italy: Farmacia Centrale, Bar Crispi, Cinema Roma, mixed with many in the Tigrinya and Arabic languages.

In fact, the city was planned and built in its current form during the Italian colonization of Eritrea starting in the 1890s. When the Fascist Regime took over, Mussolini set out to build an overseas empire with Asmara as the model city of his colonial expansion.

Many recognize the effects of colonization on the architectural quality of the city. But few acknowledge one of its most controversial aspects: racial segregation.

Since the very beginning, the city’s master plans aimed to separate Italians from Eritreans and enforced this when dividing the city into four separate sections: a European-only quarter in the south, an Eritrean quarter in the north, a mixed zone around the central market for both groups, and an industrial zone in the northeast.

Historically, Eritreans needed a special permit to cross into the European-only side of Asmara to go to work as housekeepers, artisans, and masons. Today, some of the local elderly still refer to the city’s center as the “Fenced Field” because one of the original Italian outposts was called Campo Cintato–or “fenced field” in Italian.

The Eritrean quarter, known as Aba Shawl, was the most densely populated in the city and largely left unplanned. Ninety years later, the effects of this lack of planning are still visible today. The construction quality of the buildings is not comparable to the rest of Asmara; some have neither running water nor bathrooms. When it rains, the streets get coated in mud because there is no stormwater drainage system. The people who live here are still poorer than inhabitants elsewhere in the city.

But despite all of this—or perhaps due to the lack of planning—Aba Shawl has become the Eritrean face of Asmara, which complements the Italian part of town.

Starting in the 1910s, Italian architects merged vernacular Eritrean elements into the architecture of the city—both in Italian and indigenous areas—and constructed a mosque, an Orthodox church, and movie theaters for the Eritrean population.

In 1938, the Fascists, intending to enforce newly drafted racial law, set forth a plan to bulldoze Aba Shawl and relocate its dwellers farther out from the city center. However, the local governor—afraid of alienating the indigenous population—stopped the plan. A few years later, Mussolini lost control of the country to the British, and Eritrea began a decade-long struggle to achieve full independence. This didn’t come until 1993, after a gruesome war with Ethiopia. Since then, the Eritrean capital has been in the process of reclamation and reappropriation of its colonial past and architectural legacy. In 2017, UNESCO declared the center of Asmara, including Aba Shawl, a world heritage site.

When asked why Asmarinos care so much about their city, a worker from its heritage office said: “These buildings might have been designed by the Italians, but it’s our grandfathers who built them, it’s us who preserved them and live in them. These buildings are our own buildings now.”

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More Than a Phase

Jeffrey Inaba digs into McKinsey’s Design Study

“I started as a commercial artist, and I want to finish as a business artist…During the hippie era, people put down the idea of business. They’d say, ‘Money is bad’ and ‘Working is bad.’ But making money is art, and working is art—and good business is the best art.”

—Andy Warhol

McKinsey & Company’s recent study on design confirms what designers have long known to be true. And it recommends all businesses do more of it. To McKinsey, design is the single most important factor for growth and should be an integral part of every organization. For it to have the greatest impact, McKinsey advises companies to make design a cyclical process instead of a single phase in a project, and dedicate the time needed to achieve good results.

On the occasion of the McKinsey Design Index’s release, AN contributor Jeffrey Inaba talked with Ben Sheppard, one of the report’s authors.

Jeffrey Inaba: It’s fascinating that companies are interested in improving their quality of design, but they aren’t sure how to go about it. The Index says, “Less than 5 percent of the companies surveyed reported that their leaders could make objective design decisions, from developing a new product to entering a new sector.” That’s a surprising realization about the state of the business world.

Ben Sheppard: In the last five years we’ve received a critical mass of questions from business leaders about design, and so we thought we needed to do a global study on what the opportunity is. They've got the highest of aspirations—they want to make the next iPhone, the next Amazon Prime—but they don’t know what actions they should take to give their companies the best possible chance at designing the best products and services.

JI: What correlations were found between design and business performance?

BS: There are two things. First is the business value of design, and second are the actions leaders should take to capture that value. On the first, there are three numbers to remember.

One: Those people who are top performers in terms of design significantly outperform their industry peers—as much as 70 percent higher shareholder return gross than their industry peers.

Two: Across the board, whether you’re doing product, physical, or digital design, good design is good for business regardless of what type of design you are doing.

Three: The study showed that the companies who are best at design were disproportionately rewarded in a given industry. Users care about the very small number of companies in an industry that are consistently making the best products and services.

These are remarkable numbers. At McKinsey we do a lot of essential science research pieces. This is one of the most statistically significant correlations we've seen in years.

The second part: Because the study was done in such a rigorous and detailed way, not only can we say at the broad level that design is the most tremendous engine for business growth, we can point out the individual actions that show the best correlation with improved business performance. This is a world first, to tie individual leaders’ actions to performance.

JI: Good. Before we get into the actions, what is McKinsey’s definition of design?

BS: For our clients, design is understanding users’ needs and then creating fantastic products and services to meet those needs; put the prototype into users’ hands and listen to what they're telling you.

JI: It must be a sea change for many companies to go from seeing design as an added cost reserved for special projects to an essential part of what they do as a business. Let’s start with the section, “More than a Feeling,” since it touches upon this paradigm shift.

BS: What we've found is that those companies that have treated design with the same rigor as they treat discussions on revenue and cost significantly financially outperformed their peers. The companies who quantified design metrics in their discussions about design outperformed their peers.

JI: Of the recommended actions, the section called “More Than a Phase” stands out as a key lesson for businesses. Design firms try to communicate to clients that paying for the hours to iterate are worth it since the added time will lead to a better, more desirable project outcome. McKinsey’s study argues precisely for this point.

BS: Yes. We have very clear evidence that those companies who just have one discrete design phase are outperformed by those companies who iterate with their end users from early strategy to postlaunch.

JI: What does McKinsey say to companies who are hesitant to invest the time in undertaking an iterative process?

BS: It's a case of investing to save. Take Disneyland, for example. The first prototype of the MagicBand [an all-in-one wristband device for Disneyland/World guests] cost 40 dollars and is made from parts from Home Depot. If you iterate early, you do so at lower cost. If you have a single design phase and decide to make all your investment at once, then if it turns out you were wrong, you’ve got a huge loss. When you talk about the risk associated with that, not just from a cost point of view, but also from a sales point of view, it’s easier to quantify why iteration is so important.

JI: “More Than a Product” observes that just about any project involves the design of a digital as well as physical side. Whether it’s a building or a car, there needs to be a digital component to a product.

BS: Traditionally, many industries thought of themselves as only physical or only digital. Now everything has some combination of digital plus physical space. We found that all the companies that historically have been very good at just hardware or just software now find the very thing that gave them success in the past is something of a burden in the future. The automotive industry is a great example of this. For decades, it was all about hardware. Now suddenly their users are saying, “We expect a great experience, from the digital apps within the vehicles themselves to the way that software integrates with the rest of my life.” That’s a real challenge for car companies. But the rewards are rich. Those companies that are able to break down the internal barriers between service design, experience design, front-end, back-end, user interface, and user experience and provide a great overall experience are outperforming their peers.

JI: How can companies take advantage of the different speeds of digital and physical production? Execution is much faster on the digital side. How can that help the experience of the physical side?

BS: It’s so much easier to iterate in a software environment than it is in a physical one. What we have found, though, is even in industries where traditionally people have thought it’s impossible to iterate, you can iterate. One example is shipping. It could take as many as ten years for a ship to go from concept to launch. In the past, there was one design, which was locked in at the beginning, because they said you can’t iterate a whole ship. Now there are two different design specifications, one that is locked early on, and a second one for software—for control and operation systems. As technology evolves and its operators’ ways of working evolve, iterations can continue to be made to those systems. When it's launched a decade later, the software is modern, intuitive, and easy to use.

JI: A McKinsey retail banking study found that early technology adopters prefer their most important transactions to occur in physical spaces. In other words, people who are deeply interested in digital technology are deeply interested in physical environments. When making important decisions, they take cues from the person they interact with and the design of the space they’re in. Are companies thinking about the design of their physical environments given that physical space becomes more consequential as our lives become increasingly digital?

BS: I’m working with a car dealership, which has traditionally been a physical environment. We hear lots of pain points with that model: Often the centers are outside of towns; you need to travel to them; the salespeople are often commission-based and that can lead to a pressurized environment. Therefore, some people hypothesized that the future of automotive was basically an Amazon for cars. It would all be digital. Different companies piloted that, and they found it doesn’t work. People want a combination of physical and digital. While you can make things more efficient by moving to digital, often, particularly for large purchases, people still want a human connection. And as you say, the physical environment can have a big effect on that experience.

JI: With the completion of the study, McKinsey has a good overview of the industries that can benefit from good design. What industries do you believe will have the greatest benefit?

BS: We’ve seen the power of design on everything from energy to consumer goods to hospitality.

We believe it’s a signal that design has come of age. Across industries, design is a priority for senior management. I don’t know a single company where creating fantastic products and services don’t matter. Frankly, if you’re not doing that, then why are you a company at all?

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The Renegades

Bruce Goff’s imaginative teaching lives on in Oklahoma
Most architecture students study design precedents or build upon knowledge gained in history courses, but one mid-century educator repeatedly told young minds instead: 
Do not try to remember.
Bruce Goff, a self-trained architect and long-time mentee of Frank Lloyd Wright, instilled this idea in his students at the University of Oklahoma (OU) during his tenure as chairman there from 1947 to 1955. Instead of copying the popular Beaux Arts and Bauhaus styles of the recent past, Goff wanted architects in training to express their own creativity and views of the world through designs that avoided architectural stereotypes and instead presented a radical future. This era of educational exploration and disruption became known as the American School of architecture. Historian and OU Visiting Associate Professor Dr. Luca Guido is the curator behind the exhibition, Renegades: Bruce Goff and the American School of Architecture at Bizzell. Now on view in OU’s Bizzell Memorial Library, it details the widespread influence of Goff’s personal teaching style and the program he built, which attracted students to the American Midwest from as far as Japan and South America. The exhibit features large-scale drawings by alumni, as well as uncovered models and writings from Goff’s students and colleagues like Herb Greene, Elizabeth Bauer Mock, Bart Prince, Mendel Glickman, and Jim Gardner, and Bob Bowlby, among others. Built from the school’s expansive American School archives, the show unveils former students' work that’s been so pristinely preserved and restored, it all looks like it was completed yesterday. Goff, who seemed to have encouraged serious attention to presentation, penmanship, and shading, left behind what Guido considers a “gold mine” of materials. Every framed assignment on view is a piece of art in and of itself—a testament to the architectural educator’s guidance. “Bruce Goff introduced a new architectural pedagogy,” Guido said, “and the School of Architecture at OU endeavored to develop the creative skills of the students as individuals rather than followers of any particular trend. The drawings represent the evidence of an extraordinary and, at the same time, little known page of the history of American contemporary architecture.” That history is one that OU is now trying more heavily to build upon. As one of just two architecture schools in Oklahoma, OU lures students from across the state, nearby Texas, and around the globe to the small town of Norman. It was considered a world-class institution during Goff’s years and still seeks to live up to that legacy today. Since becoming head of the school three years ago, Dean Hans E. Butzer has worked to re-elevate its status. “Our discussions over the past few years prove a symmetry between those defining aspects of the American School and the overarching strategic priorities of the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture,” he said. “The work of the American School of the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s may be described as contextual, resourceful, and experimental. Today, we have set the goal of graduating entrepreneurial students who design resilient cities, towns, and landscapes through the lens of social equity and environmental sustainability.” This idea is evident in the success of last year’s graduating class. As of fall 2018, one hundred percent of architecture students secured a full-time position within six months of graduation, according to Butzer. Only two, the faculty jokes, didn’t get hired. They instead went on to begin master’s degrees at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. When asked why OU graduates are so attractive to firms across the country, Butzer noted the work ethic and creative problem-solving skills they learned as students. Teaching students to speak up, stand out, and work hard can be traced back to Goff’s presence at the school and his own career as an eccentric architect who always put the client first and aimed to “go the extra mile,” according to Guido. His modus operandi was to first connect deeply with the client, ensuring the end result was strictly their vision. His objective was to never design a building he personally wanted to live in. Some of Goff’s most famous structures, the Ledbetter House in Norman, the ill-fated Bavinger House that was demolished in 2016, as well as the Bachman House in Chicago, took on forms reminiscent of Wright’s residential work—low-lying residential homes with surprisingly large interiors, cantilevered carports, and large windows—but they all displayed a curious amount of flamboyancy that was signature to Goff himself. The architecture of his early years, such as the historic Tulsa Club and the Art Deco-designed Boston Avenue Methodist Church, are celebrated landmarks in Tulsa and reveal Goff’s visual personality. Goff was also a champion of sustainable and site-specific construction; he often utilized local materials for his projects. Fittingly, Goff rejected the idea of having a personal style of architecture. Some of Goff’s mid-century work and the sketches of his students from this time seem to be inspired by Atomic Age tropes. Viewing them now, they’re so futuristic they probably seemed structurally unbuildable at the time, but the geometries that came out of the American School were forward-thinking and technically-advanced. During Goff’s leadership, architectural courses fell within OU’s College of Engineering where students were taught how to complete construction drawings and to specify materials. But in Goff’s classes, it was all about creativity. “Bruce Goff didn’t believe in critiques,” said Guido. “He wanted them completely free to propose what they wanted. The assignments were structured around abstract themes that allowed the students to express themselves in the best possible way because for Goff, there would be no little Corbusier's, no little Mies's, and even no little Goff's. He didn’t want his students to become followers of someone. He wanted them to abandon all memory of what came before them.” Renegades: Bruce Goff and the American School of Architecture at Bizzell is on view through July 29 and will turn into a comprehensive traveling exhibition this year with a stop at Texas A&M University in the fall. The OU Libraries also has plans to secure the preservation of the archives by making them part of the school's Western History Collection and digitizing select images for online research.
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New Thinking Needed

Zumthor’s LACMA proposal is an affront to L.A.’s architectural and cultural heritage

Despite gaining approval from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in April, what has already been said many times needs to be said once more: Peter Zumthor’s oil slick–inspired redevelopment proposal for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) campus is just plain bad.

Say what you will about the existing mish-mash of buildings designed by William L. Pereira & Associates and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates (HHPA) the scheme seeks to demolish, but the $650 million Zumthor proposal is simply not a suitable replacement.

Many have already delved into the (really) long list of reasons why Zumthor’s proposal leaves so much to be desired—its substandard size, inflated cost, and absurd urban configuration among the top reasons to dismiss the idea. But worse still, perhaps, is that the overpriced proposal will also destroy a vital urban cultural resource: the museum itself, as Angelenos know it.

Critics might not like to say so, but LACMA is a real place and a beautiful one, at that. The terrace sandwiched between the HHPA addition and the main Pereira building can be effervescent when tour groups, families, and aficionados converge upon it, for example. Pereira’s galleries next door are peculiar, yes, but the spaces just off the elevator, wrapped in warm wood paneling and studded with delightful details like inlaid clocks and flush-mounted wood accessory doors, are dignified and rich in a way that simply isn't found in other L.A. art museums. HHPA’s building may form an impenetrable wall along Wilshire, but when you finally find the entry, a shaded outdoor living room soothed by flowing water and the jovial sounds of the social life taking place on the terrace beyond create a public space articulated for the senses.

For better or worse, the current manifestation of the complex has existed for a longer period of time—37 years—than any other of LACMA’s incarnations. The current configuration is LACMA, it’s the LACMA that director Michael Govan inherited when he arrived from New York, and it is the LACMA he wants to destroy as he strives to leave his mark.

Though the current configuration leaves much to be desired, Govan has had to strong-arm the Zumthor project into being, weathering withering criticism of the ever-devolving proposal without pursuing any meaningful changes to the design.

Govan, of course, did downsize the proposal as fundraising efforts pushed up against their natural limits, but he has persisted in pushing a vision that is fundamentally and irrevocably flawed.

In a way, the project and the persistence in bringing it to life despite its continuing and multiplying inadequacies follows a long line of efforts to undermine the legitimacy of Los Angeles and its unique architectural and cultural history.

To put it plainly, Zumthor’s LACMA represents the latest attempt to apply a colonial mentality to Los Angeles. It follows in the tradition of slash-and-burn conquests waged by powerful men who, like Zumthor, a Swiss starchitect, and Govan, former director of the Dia Art Foundation in New York City, come to Los Angeles and see nothing but a blank slate. They land at LAX as “visionaries” blinded by their own genius to the thriving richness of everyday life here.

It’s not that they are violent and destructive men. Zumthor’s delicately reverential Kolumba Museum in Cologne, Germany, and Govan’s meticulous restoration of the former Nabisco headquarters for Dia: Beacon suggest that both are capable of thoughtful and respectful restorations. The reality is that, like many who came to Los Angeles before them, they simply don’t value the city s as a real place with a long, complex, and legitimate history.

Late modernism and postmodernism are fundamental to Los Angeles’s design history, however, and Angelenos should not let others delete them away.

The majority of people here inhabit these types of buildings in one way or another. It’s where we go to the doctor, it’s where our children go to school, it’s where we work, it’s where we learn about art. To try and minimize that aspect of Angeleno culture, to try and erase the sometimes contrived nature of late modernism or the often over-the-top pastiche of pomo, erases a fundamental aspect of who Angelenos are and how they live.

Often, outside voices serve to turn a mirror on a place, uncovering morsels of beauty from what might be considered banal to the local eye. Zumthor and Govan have failed in this regard and instead seek to erase buildings that are neither fully understood nor appropriately admired. Los Angeles has had enough of that; perhaps it’s time for some fresh thinking.

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Tell Me More

Doriana and Massimiliano Fuksas discuss their work at Facades+ New York
At this week's Facades+ New York Conference, Doriana and Massimiliano Fuksas delivered the keynote address, giving a description of how their firm designs and conceives their innovative building skins. The Architect's Newspaper sat down with them after the talk to get more in-depth insights about their approach. Check out what they had to say, and why they don't like the term "facade" in this video interview: For more information about the Facades+ Conferences, click here.
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What is a facade?

Doriana and Massimiliano Fuksas contemplate the emotions behind architecture at Facades+ New York
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As two of the foremost contemporary Italian architects, Doriana and Massimiliano Fuksas know a thing or two about the trends reshaping international architecture today. As the day-one morning keynote speakers at AN’s Facades+ New York conference on April 4, the veteran design duo spoke about their four decades of experience creating boundary-breaking projects across the globe, why the right materials help evoke positive emotions in their buildings, and why they reject the term “facade.” Over 500 AEC practitioners gathered inside the Metropolitan Pavilion to hear the Fuksases, founders of Studio Fuksas, present the details behind 20 structures that for them, define the firm’s design sensibilities and best demonstrate its vast portfolio of building typologies and structural forms. “What is a facade for us?” Massimiliano Fuksas asked the crowd. “We don’t like the name ‘facade.’ We’ve never done a facade in our lives, much less just a plan.” Fuksas explained that a building’s exterior is simply something that the architect discovers as the project concept develops with the design. He said a piece of architecture is like a sculpture that is drawn from a mass and is formed through research, trial, and error until a final work of art is realized. To Massimiliano Fuksas, the end result is something mysterious. One thing that the architects do aim to have control over is emotion. In the case of Studio Fuksas’s projects located in dense urban environments, such as the 2010 Admirant Entrance Building in the Netherlands or the 2010 Rome-EUR Convention Center, the light and surrounding contexts reflected through the glass curtain walls project a happy tone for visitors both outside and inside the buildings. They expose the buildings’ skeletal envelopes, which allow people to clearly see the structures’ raw materials. “For the convention center, we built a container using a steel structure and a double glass facade that encloses the cloud, which you can see from the outside,” said Massimiliano. Studio Fuksas’s 2009 St. Paolo Parish Complex in Foligno, Italy, though a concrete cube, still utilizes light through unique cutouts that don’t fully brighten the entire interior, but instead create a thoughtful, soft environment for reflection. Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas noted that the facade of the chapel is sliced at the bottom with a glass entrance. A visitor’s gaze moves from one side to the other side of the building in an effort to understand the windows across the various faces. Prior to designing the church in Central Italy, the Fuksases completed the massive, New Milan Trade Fair of Rho-Pero, which features pavilions of glass and mirrored stainless steel. The "veil," an undulating spinal column that covers 505,000 square feet atop the elongated building, is reminiscent of natural landscapes like waves, dunes, and hills. “Here we used a different kind of facade on the central axis,” said Massimiliano Fuksas. “When you pass through the stainless steel parts of the building to the glass, you feel happy. This is like sunshine.”   One of the most important components of Studio Fuksas’s work is sustainability. Details are designed to boost energy savings and reduce carbon emissions throughout buildings' lifetimes. Of course, this is a key aspect of designing advanced facades, and one that all of the Facades+ New York speakers showcased through their work. The Gensler team behind the recently completed renovation of Manhattan’s Ford Foundation building, along with Heintges Consulting Architects & Engineers, spoke about how to best maintain and improve the envelopes of mid-century icons. Representatives from Columbia University, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, and Permasteelisa Group discussed the newest additions to the university’s Manhattanville campus, all which have vitreous skins. Toshiko Mori, who gave the day-one afternoon keynote speech, challenged the crowd by expanding the topic of facades to the greater building envelope and the importance of the fifth facade, the roof. All these exterior elements, she explained, have a monumental impact on the performance and identity of a piece of architecture. Other symposium talks featured experts in net-zero building enclosures, climate responsive facades, and the changing international regulations in envelope construction. Juergen Riehm, founding principal of 1100 Architect, served as the co-chair of Facades+ New York and moderator for every panel.
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Going Up, Way Up

Western Europe’s tallest tower could have sheep grazing at its base
A 1050-foot-tall tower reminiscent of New York’s 432 Park could be Western Europe’s next tallest (occupiable) building—and it could be dropped into a rural Danish village of 7,000 people. The decision to build Bestseller Tower in Brande, where the building would be visible from 37 miles away in every direction, may seem counterintuitive at first—but Brande is also where the international fast-fashion company Bestseller is headquartered. To boot, it’s also the hometown of Bestseller’s founder and Denmark’s richest man, Anders Holch Povlsen. Danish firm Dorte Mandrup, no stranger to landmark projects throughout Europe, is the designer behind Bestseller Tower and has chosen a strong grid facade, as opposed to a more delicate glass curtain wall that could have disappeared into the surrounding countryside. The building will contain offices for the fashion company, a hotel, and conference spaces, while a “village” of glassy, greenery-topped retail pavilions at the tower’s base are expected to display Bestseller’s numerous clothing brands. Although Bestseller Tower will top out at over 1,000 feet, rivaling the Eiffel Tower, as planned it will only be 45 stories. Assuming the building won’t be using construction tricks such as including height-boosting mechanical voids, that means each floor will reach a whopping 23-feet-tall on average. Surprisingly, the tower isn’t facing much opposition in Brande, at least on the surface. The town council voted to approve the project last month and construction will begin this year, putting the tower on track to meet a 2023 opening. “The project has not raised any concerns or resistance from any of our municipal council board members,” said mayor of Ikast-Brande, Ib Lauritsen, when speaking to Danish broadcaster DR. “It will undoubtedly be of the greatest significance for the city of Brande, but I do not doubt it will affect the whole of Central Jutland.” That approval is likely why the project is back in the news cycle, as plans were originally unveiled back in 2017.
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Is There A Chance The Track Will Bend?

Canada hops on the Hyperloop train with Montreal-to-Toronto study
Hyperloop routes are spreading all over the world, at least theoretically. The government of Canada is the latest to get on board, as Transport Canada, the national transportation agency, put out a request for proposals (RFP) on March 26 to study the feasibility of building such a system to connect Montreal to Toronto. While no Hyperloop systems have been built yet, despite an endless string of competitions and proposals, the benefits are enticing enough that state and country governments are constantly studying the idea. By digging or elevating sealed, airless tunnels and propelling pods along on electric “skates,” hyperloop systems could hypothetically transport passengers or cargo at over 600 miles per hour. Those kinds of speeds would allow passengers to travel from Toronto to Montreal in only 39 minutes, or Toronto to Vancouver in only three hours. The system promises to be faster, cheaper, and more efficient than high-speed rail or the magnetically-levitated trains found across Asia. To better understand whether the technology can scale, the government is judging proposals on the following criteria:
  • The hyperloop concept can be transformed into a viable technology that is safe for passengers and the communities where the tubes traverse
  • The hyperloop technology cost is comparable or is significantly more affordable than conventional high-speed rail systems or developing maglev technologies
The deadline for proposals is May 10, and Transport Canada hopes to aggregate as much existing hyperloop literature as it can while receiving answers to its pressing engineering and economic concerns. Questions about the potential projects abound. For instance, are hyperloop pods intrinsically limited to carrying 28-to-40 passengers? If a train breaks down in a pressurized, no-oxygen environment, or if the power goes out, will the pods’ life support systems be able to operate on battery power long enough for the train to reach the next station? Will trains running in urban areas be forced to travel at lower speeds? Why would this system cost less than its competitors, if there's no real-world data to go on? Other than these important questions, the authority is also looking to examine whether the technology can be adapted for freight transport, and what sort of regulatory oversight would be required to manage a Hyperloop system.
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The Architect-Developer

NOMA President Kim Dowdell on the politics of Detroit and the architecture profession
Detroit is an entrepreneurial city. In its heyday, it was full of forward-thinkers who were breaking boundaries by building big business dedicated to innovation and manufacturing. That same spirit still exists in the Motor City today, though some have written off the gritty, Michigan enclave as a place of the past. Many dedicated Detroit natives are working hard to rebuild its legacy as a capital of American economic and cultural development. Kimberly Dowdell, in particular, is using her experience as an architect and a real estate developer, as well as her innate entrepreneurial drive, to change the face of urban housing in Detroit. Along with her team at Century Partners, an emerging firm in the city, she’s tackling long-standing social injustices through the lens of home ownership. She’s doing the same in her new role as president of the National Organization for Minority Architects (NOMA) by advancing representation in the architecture industry and fighting for professional equity. AN spoke with Dowdell about her unique career path, what drives her to rebuild Detroit, and why addressing architecture’s internal issues can help build stronger cities. The Architect's Newspaper: You spent time on the East Coast working as an architect and developer, and then studied public administration as a graduate student at Harvard University. What drew you back to Detroit? Kimberly Dowdell: I grew up in Detroit in the early '90s when the city was in pretty bad shape. The buildings were ghosts of their former selves, which fascinated me, but economically, Detroit was devastated. Instead of moving back after graduating from Cornell with my bachelor’s in architecture, I decided to sample cities on the East Coast (Washington, D.C., and New York), rounding it all off in Cambridge for the Harvard program. Many people ask me why I studied government since I came from a design background, but I firmly believe buildings are intrinsically part of the public realm, so it’s our responsibility to learn everything we can about how policies can work to better the built environment. In 2015, I was recruited by the City of Detroit’s Housing and Revitalization Department, where I worked closely with the Planning and Development Department, collaborating with a long-time mentor, Maurice Cox, Detroit’s Planning Director. That unique opportunity to contribute to Detroit’s resurgence ended my 14-year East Coast tour. AN: Since you’ve been in Detroit, you’ve transitioned into a more entrepreneurial role as a professional and within your current firm, Century Partners. How does your background in public service and design serve you in thinking about housing in Detroit? When I was younger, I didn’t like that Detroit looked bad, so I decided I was going to become an architect. I didn’t really see many people trying to solve the city’s big problems growing up, so I aimed to do it myself. A lot of what I’ve chosen to do in my career has been in response to things that I think are not ideal. As a kid, I actually wanted to be a doctor, which is funny now because I consider myself kind of like a doctor at the macro level. I get to help heal neighborhoods. Architects have to be knowledgeable of all the issues at hand in order to get a project done successfully. To be a developer, you also have to understand the bigger politics at play. With Century Partners, I’m able to use my design eye as I try to maintain the historic fabric of Detroit as much as possible through our projects. AN: What’s the biggest thing you’re working on at Century Partners? Detroit is well-known for its expanse of single-family homes. We’re currently looking at building out neighborhoods that are positioned to contribute to the multi-family housing fabric of the city. We’re currently fundraising to purchase commercial and multi-family buildings in Detroit’s core that will spur economic development, increase density, and create a 24/7 neighborhood. The other major project that we're working on right now is called the Fitz Forward Neighborhood Revitalization project, a city-backed, public-private partnership that will eventually revitalize over 300 parcels of land, including existing homes, open lots, and parkland, across the Fitzgerald neighborhood in central Detroit. AN: You spend a lot of time thinking about Detroit’s future and how to solve these big-picture problems. How is this mindset helpful as you start your new position leading NOMA? I’m three months into my presidency and the biggest thing I want to be really mindful of is fundraising for the organization. As a woman, I think there’s a general consensus that we don’t directly ask for money—as if fundraising is a taboo thing to do. But as president, I want to commit to doing that, which coincidently ties into my fundraising efforts with Century Partners for the commercial property and multi-family housing fund I mentioned. Money is always part of the bigger picture in architecture, but it’s a new challenge for me to think about it so directly.   AN: How could more money for your organization have an impact on architecture? I was recently possessed to say out loud in a podcast interview that if someone gave NOMA a million dollars, it could change the face of the profession. We’d have money to fuel our access-related programs like exposing K-5 students to architecture through classes and products, while middle and high school students could more deeply engage with our NOMA Project Pipeline summer camps. College students, especially aspiring architects of color, need help with studio supplies, technology, housing, transportation, and scholarships. As the first millennial president of NOMA, I’ve also begun considering how the architecture profession can alleviate the student debt crisis. Many of my colleagues have really high levels of student debt coupled with comparatively low professional salaries (consider lawyers and doctors) and limited flexibility and financial freedom. How can we as an organization motivate or incentivize people to pursue architecture knowing that compensation is a challenge and the student loan debt is higher than ever? We will miss out on some really talented people if things don’t change. This is also a diversity issue. Minorities in particular struggle with this given the wealth gap. NOMA is about getting people to believe in the power of diversity and the success of companies and organizations who support that vision. I want to make the case that investing in NOMA is investing in the future of a more diverse and equitable profession, which can help build more diverse and equitable cities. AN: So you think addressing the architecture’s internal inequalities would have a trickle-down effect on not only the way firms are set up, but how projects and cities get built? I absolutely think that there is a correlation between who is empowered to author the built environment and how that environment shapes the well-being of the community that it serves. In the words of Winston Churchill, "we shape our buildings and thereafter our buildings shape us." I believe that this statement holds true and I would add that the heightened diversity of our built environment stewards (developers, architects, builders, real estate brokers, etc.) will contribute to a more thoughtful and responsive set of buildings, spaces, and places that will equate to more sustainable cities. I believe in quadruple bottom line sustainability—incorporating financial, ecological, social and cultural priorities. While everyone in the development process has a particular purpose and role, I think that the more we see greater cohesion between those quadruple bottom line priorities, the better off our cities will be moving forward.