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America Last

“Great” construction projects in America? Starchitects say: look elsewhere

A strange thing has been happening at some public architecture talks lately, perhaps you’ve noticed. Over the course of otherwise hopeful and positive discussions covering amazing new projects from around the globe, at some point, usually toward the end of a talk, conversation turns to the current state of American building and infrastructure. And, it's safe to say, people are not happy. Sometimes, the presenter will rip off the bandaid, as Thom Mayne of Morphosis did at a recent Facades+  talk in Los Angeles, when he said, “I hate to be negative, but there’s not much going on in this country architecturally,” before adding, “[But] if you look at architecture around the world, it’s startling…It’s unbelievable, the research [taking place]—I just came back from Shenzhen [China] and I’m looking around [at the skyline] there wondering ‘is there anything left for me to do?’” Other times, a perplexed-sounding audience member will ask what it seems many in attendance had been pondering privately: “Why can’t we build like this here?” 

 It’s a debilitating question that really only has one answer. And although, even when speaking bluntly, everyone tries their best to truth-tell without offending, but the writing is right on the projection screen—building big in America simply isn’t what it used to be, and we don’t know what to do about it.

 “The United States is falling behind,” architect Moshe Safdie explained to a packed room during a recent keynote talk at Palm Springs Modernism Week when asked why the inventive array of projects he had just presented are mostly located outside the United States. “Around the world, the competition [for bold infrastructure] doesn’t stop,” he said, half-jokingly, “until you land at Kennedy or LAX.” 

 To prove his point, Safdie pointed out further that although the Hudson Yards development in New York City is the largest privately-led construction project in the country by square footage, it is easily dwarfed in terms of vision by countless projects around the globe of a similar or larger size. 

 He’s right. Hudson Yards is a dime a dozen as far as global mega-projects are concerned. Safdie’s own Raffles City development in Chongqing, China, for example, might be roughly two-thirds the size of Hudson Yards, but it is going up in less than one-third the time and is almost entirely designed by a single architecture firm—Safdie Architects—with P&T Group International Ltd. serving as architect of record. Safdie’s own portfolio of recent work shows that while New York occasionally will build an elevated billionaire citadel, Chongqing, Singapore, and other cities have tasked his office with erecting bold new structures designed for working people and the public at large, all without sacrificing design quality. 

 Safdie explained that one possible reason why American projects no longer lead the world in terms of size or scale might be due to a “lack of urban initiative,” the type of sustained and calculated political and managerial energy necessary for bringing to life the types of large-scale and lasting projects that have transformed other countries around the world in recent decades. 

It’s a sentiment echoed by Rem Koolhaas, who, when recently asked about the prevalence of NIMBYism in America, explained, “I think you can divide the world into one part that is eager to change and doesn’t have hesitations about things changing, and another part that is totally nervous about change and actually aspires to a kind of stability.” Koolhaas added, “As an architect, every one of your efforts is impacted by this. In the end, however, architecture is always controversial because it proposes to make things different than they are.”

 Perhaps nowhere is this truer than in the realm of high-speed rail (HSR), where American decision makers across all levels of government have persisted in remaining tethered to auto-centric planning, condemning the nation to antiquated transportation for at least another generation. A recent article in The New York Times covering the ongoing debacle with California’s tragic HSR project, for example, brings this condition into sharp relief with the following line: “California’s High-Speed Rail Authority…was established 23 years ago. During that time China has built 16,000 miles of high-speed rail.”

 America has built none. But America’s last-place finish doesn’t end with rail or with deteriorating airports; it includes city-building, too, as Safdie pointed out. Much of America is suffering from some form of housing crisis, whether it’s so-called Rust Belt cities struggling to retain residents or coastal cities that can’t figure out how and where to build new housing fast enough. While American cities have doubled-down on onerous building restrictions and lengthy bureaucratic reviews, politically polarized state and federal governments have worked at cross purposes, too, failing to enact bold plans and avoiding future-oriented thinking at almost all costs. The overarching legacy of redlining, racial segregation, and income inequality has placed a stranglehold over American cities, as well, contributing to intense gentrification when development does occur and debilitating displacement when it doesn’t. Over the last decade, it has become clear that America's public health, land-use, and transportation policies are all woefully out of whack, and the result is stifling the abilities of a generation of well-trained architects and engineers eager to build a better nation. Meanwhile, the world’s urbanizing areas have embraced building vertically, have expanded transit of all sorts, and have worked to enact bold planning initiatives that over a generation have remade the face of global urbanism in the name of interconnectedness, density, and place-making.

 In Europe, for example, France is currently enacting its “Le Grand Paris” plan, a vision that will stitch together the Paris city center with its inner and outer ring suburbs to bring together an urban region of 10 million inhabitants. The plan includes a €30 billion public transit expansion initiative that will create a network of regional transit routes connecting suburbs with one another as well as sizable new investments in social housing, parks, and other equity-minded initiatives.

 But it’s not just Europe. 

 Cairo, Egypt, is building a new $45 billion capital city that, when completed, will become the largest purpose-built capital city by population in the world.

 In India, the country’s largest infrastructure project, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, aims to connect the nation’s political and economic capitals with a 900-mile long conurbation made up of 24 urban “nodes.” The plan aims to urbanize 14 percent of India’s population—180 million people—over the next 30 years and will take $100 billion in investment to realize.

 In South America, Argentina’s so-called Belgrano Plan will bring $16 billion in rail expansion to 10 of the country’s neglected northern provinces and will create up to 250,000 new housing units and 1,100 childhood education centers. 

 Saudi Arabia is building new mega cities from scratch, as are China, Singapore, Nigeria, Mauritius, and countless others. 

 None of these projects are perfect socially or environmentally-speaking, to be sure, but one thing they do not lack is vision.

 If it feels like the most impressive work is taking place in other countries, that’s because in many ways, it is, and international architects know perhaps better than anyone else the truth of that reality. Even more, the hesitation, hedging, and hand-wringing that accompanies talk of the current state of American infrastructure and urban vision indicate that the problem runs deeper than a mere lack of funding or risk-averse clients. 

Whether it’s California’s flailing HSR project, the nation’s intractable housing crises, or even, the sad, dispirited political discourse surrounding the Green New Deal—a potentially transformative plan that is barely supported by the party that conceived it—it is clear that America has a crisis of vision, a failure of political will, and perhaps most alarmingly, no real interest in solving its own problems. Look at the Salesforce Transit Center debacle in San Francisco, Elon Musk’s substandard and retrograde transit ideas in Los Angeles and Chicago, and the steady stream of failing bridges and tunnels across the country for further proof. Even Amazon’s HQ2 extravaganza, a year-long publicity stunt by the world’s richest company that wrung billions in incentives from some of the most desperate cities around the country, rightfully withered on the vine. What’s going on here?

 As Safdie quipped, “We were promised infrastructure!” But the truth is that it’s just not happening in America anymore.
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Mindful Memorials

Svigals+Partners on designing for 21st-century loss and gun violence
Memorial projects seem to be coming online at a faster pace than ever before due to the fatal events our country has experienced in the last three years. Such rapid production of commemorative architectural spaces appears to immediately bring healing and hope back to the communities and victims where these tragedies have occurred. While it’s more important than ever to honor the countless lives lost from social violence, terrorism, and natural disasters, to Svigals+Partners, the process of memorial creation, sometimes slow and complicated, exposes the heart of the design. The firm recently released renderings of a new memorial garden dedicated to victims of gun violence in New Haven, Connecticut. Led by the company’s Director of Art Integration Marissa Mead and Associate Principal Julia McFadden, the (tentatively-named) Healing Memorial Garden will soon be built at the base of West Rock, a monumental boulder that bounds New Haven. Born from the vision of Marlene Miller Pratt, a school teacher whose son was shot and killed over 20 years ago, the landscape is the result of her many years spent advocating for a communal place to remember her child’s life. She connected Yale University's Urban Resources Initiative and other mothers who’ve suffered similar losses to jumpstart her long-awaited vision. After countless hours of community engagement, Mead and McFadden, the latter of whom was responsible for the redesign of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, discovered that this particular memorial effort has further embedded into them the value of listening. AN spoke with the architects about modern monument design and why they herald conversation and collaboration as the foundation of memorial creation. AN: What drew you both to get involved in this project? Julia McFadden: When this came our way, I was working on a side project—a competition entry for the Sandy Hook Memorial, a tragedy that also resulted from an act of gun violence. I believe experiential design and public art define what a memorial is today, two things Marissa and I specialize in, so this, along with our personal interests, was important to us. I’m also particularly attracted to social justice issues and concerned about the allocation of resources that create economic segregation in neighborhoods, such as unequal community policing. That method was actually born in New Haven and then dropped nationwide, which led to more disproportionate levels of communities of color being sent to jail. Marissa Mead: I’m also interested in creating meaningful environments for people by engaging them in the process and helping to tell stories. As director of art here at Svigals, I aim to create places where we want to be and places where we’re inspired. This has been an ongoing process of raising awareness in the area both about the memorial and education on gun violence. AN: Prior to rethinking designing for school safety at Sandy Hook, had either of you been involved in projects that were birthed out of community tragedy? MM: No, but at our firm, we’ve developed over time a very inclusive and collaborative process for the early stages of our building projects. That’s been hugely successful in school projects. We learned we have to get people together to listen to each other from the start. They need to feel heard and comfortable to share opinions. That’s how we get them to hone in on most important aspirations for the school. AN: What do you both think are the challenges of designing memorials for 21st-century loss? JM: Our impulse to memorialize is a very human kind of thing we’ve seen throughout history. We want to recognize and pay our respects to losses that have occurred by leaving teddy bears and heart balloons at the site of car accidents and house fires. I’m not sure we as a society fully understand what that impulse is all about, but the history of commemorating death is obviously evident with cemeteries and grave sites, which are static tributes. Nowadays, we see through working with people like Marlene that people want these memorials to be interactive.   Today’s memorials dedicated to these types of loss are different than say, memorials around war. Those are typically planned as we expect death from war. I think historically Maya Lin’s Vietnam War Memorial shifted the purpose of what a memorial could serve since the deaths exceeded what was initially projected. The challenges of designing around tragic events today are that we’re constantly trying to balance transitory commemoration versus more permanent sculptures set in place. To me, what leads us to build a permanent memorial is the communal need to remember something for a longer period of time. There must be a recognition that there’s a lesson to be had for current and future generation in memorializing this subject. It must find greater purpose and promote a larger message that has meaning for a broad range of people to tap into some larger universal themes. AN: What about designing memorials that honor America's harsh past years after the fact? MM: A hurdle in highlighting more historic issues is that perceptions may be challenged. People should be encouraged to recognize that the history they’ve learned may be incomplete. It takes some time to get past the layers of defensiveness and/or shame and arrive at acknowledgment. Acknowledging the past is a mechanism that helps us more fully understand the present, so we can begin collectively to heal from painful, even catastrophic, events. In the case of the Newport Middle Passage Port Marker Project, which I’m helping with, a driving reason to create a memorial is to bring stories to light which have been previously hidden. Newport, along with nearly all other major ports in the eastern U.S., has not publicly acknowledged how the city built its staggering wealth. Rhode Island alone participated in the trafficking of over 100,000 enslaved individuals, and the proud historic buildings of Newport were made possible by the trade of human beings. But these truths are not at all evident in the city. It’s an incomplete history, which leads to an incomplete understanding of the continuing impact that slavery has on our communities. A theme repeated in the visioning workshop I helped lead for the Middle Passage committee is that injustice is not was. There is work to be done. AN: We’ve noticed many memorial projects announced in the last year, some of which have fast-paced construction goals. What do you think about this newfound attention to both memorial commissions and competitions? JM: To me, the process is and can often be the point of memorial making. If a project moves too fast or doesn’t get the right input, you’re going to miss some major opportunities and the memorial will have a stifled response that isn’t fully formed. The best memorials create a visceral bodily experience that doesn’t depend on reading a plaque. You feel something because your senses are engaged, and I think it takes a long-term input process to solicit the needs of the community you’re designing for. With the Healing Memorial Garden, we’ve been really conscious about what you’d see, hear, feel, and smell on the site. Through a variety of design components, we want people to connect to the memorial through both their head and their heart. MM: That’s not easily achieved if we don’t know the emotions people want to be expressed through the design. If the design happens in a vacuum, it’s the wrong design. It’s short-changing that front end of memorial making which really is so critical. I truly believe grief compels people into action—they want to be involved. While the final, completed memorial might be the ultimate goal, the journey to get there is healing in its own way. That’s why I think when a memorial project comes online, the commissioning team would start a qualifications-based solicitation process of designers, instead of a full-fledged competition. That way designers are chosen based on their merits and experience, as well as their knowledge of a community, and willingness to truly understand what those people are going through.
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SAVE THE EGG

Historic Oklahoma City “Egg Church” is in danger of being demolished
The Egg Church. The Church of Tomorrow. An “honest architecture” that’s forever contemporary. Since its opening around Christmas in 1956, these are a few phrases that have been used to describe First Christian Church, a historic, organic modernist building in Oklahoma City. Designed by the then-young local firm, Conner & Pojezny, the 32-acre project quickly became a state treasure and was lauded as a major engineering feat by Life Magazine, Newsweek, and Architectural Record. The dramatic, concrete domed church—which has a mid-century Jetsons look—is newly in danger as its current owners aim to sell it to a buyer with plans to demolish the community icon. Oklahoma’s News 4 reported that dozens of demonstrators crowded outside First Christian Church last week in protest. Those in attendance included the executive director of Preservation Oklahoma and members of Okie Mod Squad, a group led by one of the church's architect's granddaughters, Lynne Rostochil. Representatives told News 4 they’re worried the building might be knocked down once it's successfully sold; the property went on the market in 2016 and only recently snagged attention from buyers when the asking price was drastically lowered from $8.2 million to $5.65 million. The broker behind the sale hopes it'll become a mixed-use development.  Many mid-century structures around Oklahoma City have come under threat in recent years. One of those was Founders National Bank, a Bob Bowlby–designed structure that boasted two, 50-foot exterior arches, It was leveled last October. Like R. Duane Conner and Fred Pojezny, who designed First Christian Church, Bowlby came out of an era in which architectural education in Oklahoma was transforming the industry. Bowlby studied at the University of Oklahoma under the direction of famous American architect Bruce Goff who was internationally known for his expressive, organic designs and for creating an innovative program with the school’s architecture department. Because of Goff's widespread influence, as well as the work coming out of Oklahoma A&M where Conner and Pojezny graduated, the city benefited from a slew of forward-thinking pieces of architecture, many of which have just surpassed or are nearing historic-designation age, meaning they’re potentially endangered if not in use. In order to protect First Christian Church, a Change.org petition started by Okie Mod Squad has been circulating that urges city council members to officially landmark the building, a designation that would require future development on the site to go through a public approvals process. Rostochil noted in a February post that thought the building was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011, this “in no way protects it from being demolished.” The move only now qualifies it for tax credits to repurpose or restore the structure.   The efforts of the “Save the Egg” protestors have resulted in a city council meeting happening on Tuesday, according to News 4, where local lawmakers will discuss whether or not the church can potentially be declared a landmark. If identified as such by the Historic Preservation Commission, then the new buyer would not be able to make significant changes to its original design without prior approval from the city's Historic Preservation Commission. The protections would include the entirety of the Edgemere Park property, not just the iconic, egg-shaped main sanctuary. Conner and Pojezny designed three additional structures on the church’s campus, including a four-story education building and a small fine arts complex known as the Jewel Box Theatre, the city’s oldest, continuously-operating community playhouse. It took the architects three separate tries over several years to come up with the current design for the $2.1 million development, which the church’s renowned minister, Bill Alexander, wanted to be a “Church for Tomorrow.” In an old newspaper clipping cited on Okcmod.com, the design team said they aimed to take a “decided departure from conventional church construction” by building an “honest architecture” that would make it forever contemporary.  For residents in Oklahoma City, not only does First Christian Church reflect the history and character of the region’s modern architectural landscape, but it also serves as a place of spiritual solace and refuge in tough times. In October of 1995, families gathered there after a terrorist struck a downtown federal building, killing 168 people and injuring over 600 others. The bombing remains one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in U.S. history and to many locals, First Christian Church stands as a memorial to community healing.
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Second Life

Peter Eisenman’s Cidade da Cultura buzzes back to life
On a recent early morning visit to Peter Eisenman's Cidade da Cultura I found not one, but two cafés open and buzzing with the chatter of government administrators and entrepreneurial types getting ready to start their workdays. In Spain, and in particular in Galicia, the northwest region where Cidade is located, cafes are the most reliable measure of civic life. Even the smallest village will have its one café-bar (it is common for the same establishment to function as both), where Galicians gather to share gossip and life stories (Galicians are great storytellers). It’s not entirely unreasonable to refer to Cidade as a village—it is after all a “city” of culture, its site, at 173 acres, larger than the Vatican. And like any city, it has had its share of political and economic imbroglios. Not too long ago, the project was left for dead after failing to meet promises to be “the Bilbao of Galicia,” an iconic building that would bring both cultural and economic success to the city and region. In 2015, an article in La Voz de Galicia, a regional newspaper, declared that “not even the Apostle can save it,” alluding to the reputed burial place of Saint James in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The old city is an important Catholic pilgrimage site, second only to the Vatican, and Cidade da Cultura was supposed to be another stop for the couple of million visitors that make their way to Santiago de Compostela every year. Indeed, in 2015 it seemed that only a miracle could save the project. Galicia’s government commissioned this ambitious six-building project in 1999 when Spain was going through a real estate boom (Spain is divided in autonomous regions, and so it’s the regional government that makes budget allocation decisions). But by the time the first two buildings opened in 2011, the boom had ended and the project was an easy target—why build such a large, expensive complex when resources are scarce? Construction of the project was eventually halted, leaving behind four largely empty buildings and two “caries,” or cavities where the two missing teeth should be. But Cidade is no longer empty and things are looking up. There are many outdoor events in the fair weather months between April and September, the surrounding ramped surfaces of the roofs forming a kind of amphitheater for the performances in the center. And all year round there are employees from both public and private entities working in Cidade, the people that keep those two cafes in business. When I met with Cidade’s director Ana Isabel Vázquez Reboredo, she reiterated what she had previously stated in interviews since she started in this position two years ago, that her goal is to make Cidade into a resource for the entire region of Galicia, not just the city of Santiago de Compostela where it’s located. Santiago de Compostela is the famous pilgrimage city, and Cidade has become a kind of architecture pilgrimage for students and architects. A new highway entrance promises to make the project more accessible to national and international visitors. Cidade is now a fifteen-minute drive from the airport, and from there, Madrid is a one-hour flight and Paris and London only two hours away. Twenty years on, two of its buildings remain unbuilt, but both its plaza and the four buildings already completed are vibrantly inhabited. There are many outdoor performances in the fair-weather months between April and September, the surrounding ramped surfaces of the roofs forming a kind of amphitheater for the performances in the center. There are also employees from both public and private entities working in Cidade, the people that keep those two cafés I mentioned earlier in business. The project is being used, but much of the original programming has changed. For example, the “Hemeroteca,” or newspaper archive, had originally been given its own building but is now housed in the library. What was originally the Hemeroteca is now the “Centro de Emprendemento,” a business incubator facility. And how does the architect feel about this? In a recent conversation with Peter Eisenman in his office in New York, he was excited to see the spaces in his project utilized in new ways. “The idea of the project was always to offer a framework for new cultural ideas that are constantly emerging,” he said. The project is a case study in the complexities of a large project that has to negotiate local, regional, and international socio-cultural and socio-political concerns. Is the project benefiting the people already living in Santiago de Compostela? Can the region of Galicia feel ownership of this project even though it’s tied so closely, in both location and design, to one city? And how do you get there? One westernmost coastal town in Galicia, Finisterre, was the Roman Empire’s “end of the earth,” and even today getting there still feels like a pilgrimage, completed only by the most faithful. The undulating hilly landscape that makes Galicia so picturesque is also what makes it impossible to get anywhere in a straight line. The A-9 highway wraps around the Gaiás hill where Cidade is located like a ribbon, and driving to it I felt like I was engaged in some baroque dance with it, moving around it in arcs at one hundred kilometers an hour until finally arriving, if not at the end of the earth, at the culmination of a worthy pilgrimage. Maria Sieira is an architect based in New York City. She worked for Eisenman Architects on the Cidade da Cultura during its design development. Currently, she teaches architecture at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and in the Compostela Institute summer program in Spain.
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Nano-scale Interventions

Rogers Partners reveals a futuristic factory for the Brooklyn Navy Yard
A 150-year-old shipbuilding factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard is getting ready for a second life as the East Coast headquarters and production center for the nanotechnology company Nanotronics. Rogers Partners has revealed plans to convert the Navy Yard's two-story Building 20 into a manufacturing hub by slotting flexible “pods” behind the building’s historic brick facade. The renovation of the 34,000-square-foot building will gather spaces for design, engineering, and fabrication under one roof. Nanotronics aims to create an all-in-one platform for product development and to speed up the traditional research and development approach. Rogers Partners worked around the spatial constraints of the long, narrow industrial building by clustering pod spaces around the boundary walls, leaving the center of the building open. A two-story public gathering space will run the length of the building and leave the jumble of historic beams and trusses exposed, while a figure-eight of second-story catwalks will crisscross the gap. At 300 feet long and only 88 feet wide, the design team kept the center of the ground-floor clear to leave as much space for circulation as possible. The milling and assembly spaces, and technology, sales, and development offices have been laid out on the first floor. The second floor will hold offices for Nanotronics’s upper management as well as the engineering and design groups; the upper-level pods have been skewed and rotated to carve out walkways on top of the workspaces below. Why use a modular pod system? The need for climate-controlled and soundproofed workspaces, combined with the building’s tight programmatic requirements, meant that the fabrication components had to be isolated from the office spaces, and vice-versa. The new Building 20 is only one piece of a rapidly growing Navy Yard revitalization, as the campus is on track to double in size by expanding production facilities vertically. Rogers Partners expects the $11.4 million renovation of Building 20 to be completed within a year.
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MALLrats

Jennifer Bonner’s MALL isn’t afraid to break out of the box
MALL stands for Mass Architectural Loopty Loops or Miniature Angles & Little Lines, among other variations. Just like its ever-changing moniker, MALL’s work is constantly shifting. Founded by Jennifer Bonner in 2009, the Boston-based studio develops collections of projects that iteratively build from one to the next. As a graduate of Auburn University’s Rural Studio and Harvard Graduate School of Design—where she currently serves as faculty—Bonner channels her love of the American South and uses her teaching to experiment with new typologies and invent new modes of architectural representation. Her colorful, out-of-the-box approach to design is just one of many reasons why she is named one of AN Interior’s top 50 interior architects. AN associate editor Sydney Franklin spoke with Bonner about stepping away from tradition and what’s next for MALL. AN Interior: What would you say are the driving forces behind your aesthetic project? Jennifer Bonner: As you probably noticed from looking at my work, each of the projects are very different formally. At MALL, we begin by working on a conceptual and intellectual project first, and the formal emerges out of these considerations. I am against producing an overall “MALL aesthetic” and much more interested in many architectures. Yet within a single project, the process I’ve set up for my office is to work through many iterations around singular ideas—never discarding any, but creating a cute collection. You can see these collections in the work of Domestic Hats and Best Sandwiches. The latter is a colorful spatial experiment questioning how architecture might stack, in which we are interested in reimagining the extruded midrise office tower. AN: So these collections allow you to explore multiple new typologies? JB: Each of my larger conceptual projects has the potentiality to question paradigms, which is what I’m most interested in. Take the roof forms in Domestic Hats and Haus Gables, a single-family house opening this month made from one of the original Domestic Hats models. I believe the roof plan can be an instigator of space rather than using Le Corbusier’s free plan and Adolf Loos’s raumplan. Here I was looking to expand different roof typologies, which is a topic I dove into while teaching at Georgia Tech. AN: You’re also keen on expanding your use of unique materials, textures, and colors in your formal projects. JB: Yes, I really want to keep pushing the boundaries of materiality. I’m currently working on this through a project called Faux Brick, a distant cousin to the Glittery Faux-Facade study I developed in 2017. In preparation for this year’s Bauhaus Centennial, I’ve studied a pair of houses by Mies van der Rohe in Germany where I argue that authentic bricks are used as a fake structural strategy. In this project, we’re trying to figure out how the rendering and other representational techniques involving bad bump maps and bad meshes might create new faux-brick facades. AN: How has your experience teaching and living in different places like London, Istanbul, Los Angeles, and Boston informed your work? JB: As someone who has one foot in academia and one foot in practice, it has been exciting to absorb all of these cities into the way I imagine architecture. Having grown up in Alabama and recently living in Atlanta, I have decidedly made an effort to work on architecture in the American South. It is not by accident that my first architecture, Haus Gables, is located in Atlanta. AN: For Atlanta, Haus Gables is a really avant-garde residential design. It’s made of cross-laminated timber and features quirky exterior and interior finishes. How were you able to make it so different? JB: It’s completely self-funded without a traditional client—so my partner and I have taken on all of the risk. It was important for me that the design be as radical as possible in my first built work, and not diluted by many external factors. Radical, however, does not mean there wasn’t a fixed budget (which there certainly was). Throughout my career, I’ve worked with several clients associated with the public realm, such as institutions and galleries, but that kind of client is different from, say, a client who wants you to design a house. AN: So you want to design and develop your own projects too? JB: I wouldn’t call myself a developer just yet. But I’ve always been into what John Portman did in Atlanta in the 1960s as an architect who both developed and found financing for his projects. By doing this, he was able to produce a new typology, the super atrium, which I’m not sure he would have been able to accomplish so early in his career if he had faced typical constraints.
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Return of the 49%

Public Practice helps architects and planners in the U.K. engage the public
“Attention: The fire alarm system is about to be tested. You do not have to leave the building. When all testing is complete, you will hear a further message.” In the local council buildings in Greater London, the fire alarms are tested every Friday at 3 p.m. The seventeen associates of the independent nonprofit Public Practice have learned this by now, a few months into the nonprofit’s associates program. The participants are selected and placed at public planning offices in the region and meet up every two weeks, one hosting the rest of the group on a rotating schedule. These Fridays mean mutual exchange—of everything from recent research to the nuances of office culture. This morning they arrived at a mildly postmodern conference room at Epping Forest District Council for tea and instant coffee. Semi-rural Epping sits at the northeastern end of London’s longest tube line, six public transit zones and a brisk walk from central London. Ione Braddick, a young architect who was selected as an associate in the first Public Practice cohort a few months ago, has taken that route here every morning since. “Much of the work comes down to persuading people that a local council thinking about design is even a good thing,” she told AN. This is also the main argument behind Public Practice. It works as a broker between organizations and people. On one end are local councils, planning authorities, transportation agencies, regional actors, and publicly owned development companies, and on the other are a new generation of designers looking to work in public planning. The first cohort of seventeen associates was picked and placed in new, strategic roles in April 2018. After a year, the hope is that they have gathered unique experiences, and also have built collective knowledge and networks between planning institutions. When Public Practice was founded around a year ago by Pooja Agrawal and Finn Williams, it was on a basis of a series of clear observations: Four decades ago, 49 percent of all architects in the U.K. worked in the public sector. Today, only 0.7 percent do. Since the financial crash in 2008, local budgets for planning and development have dwindled. Planning authorities are struggling to stay relevant counterparts to strictly commercial interests. Nearly half of them have no in-house design capacity at all. Epping Forest was one such authority, until Braddick was placed here as a pioneer for the yearlong program. Some of Braddick’s new Epping workmates have joined in around the table. Veneered walls and a lavender carpet frame the conference room window, which overlooks the far end of High Street, with a Tesco Superstore, a gas station, an Indian restaurant squeezed between coffee franchises, and a gothic revival church farther down. One block away, terraced-houses line private cul-de-sacs and at the horizon sit a dozen golf courses and a royal forest. Much of what is happening here since Braddick arrived is happening for the first time. “You realize one of the things we architects are worst at is explaining why design is important,” she said. Braddick used to work at a small architecture firm and enjoyed it. She led housing schemes from sketch to the construction site, instructed on the placement of bricks and the depth of mortar joints. But she found herself thinking: “Of all the things in architecture, buildings were maybe the one I was least interested in.” She was more drawn to the ways people use the city and its structures. At her new workplace in Epping Forest’s public sector, she leads the council’s new “Implementation Team,” negotiating and reviewing larger projects, which in Epping’s case means 50 units or more. Plans for the expansion of Harlow and Gilston Garden Town are now on her table. “It’s like jumping into an entirely new career. Not only, as with any new job, trying to learn to use the printers and who everyone is and what everyone’s name is. You’re also trying to learn about whole democratic processes, decision-making and get a strategic understanding of an area that you, quite often, don’t know very well.” Public Practice’s cofounders Agrawal and Williams, who share a background at reputable architecture schools and award-winning offices, themselves left the private sector to work for local authorities a few years ago. They would like to see more architects follow suit. And, more importantly, they have noticed that the British public sector struggles to attract—and maintain—the competence and knowledge that urban planning requires. They thought they would have to work very hard to get local councils on board, but they have already received more inquiries than they can handle from all over the country. To the planning and development industry, Public Practice offers a resource pool that the field could not otherwise reach and at a lower cost than the go-to temporary consultants. For the associates, the program offers a prestigious and hands-on role with a huge potential impact alongside a tight-knit community of like-minded colleagues. The Public Practice cohort meets regularly and spends a tenth of their time on common research and development. The project is supported financially by regional and national actors, private as well as public. That the associates are placed in a wide spectrum of contexts, from Epping to the City of London and everything in between, is part of the idea. It is also a precondition for the exchange that everyone can visit each other without spending half a day traveling. Public Practice is looking to branch off to other regions with enough critical mass but, for the first cohort, London’s outer ring road is more or less the limit. For Ei-Lyn Chia, another associate in the cohort, the London metropolitan region is also as far as her design work stretches. She used to do strategic planning with a private firm working on schemes which, she points out, ended up on a shelf. “I wanted to get things done. That’s why I applied here,” she said. She is now getting used to the view from City Hall’s glass cocoon by the Thames. Her morning commute goes to Greater London Authority (GLA), run by Mayor Sadiq Khan. Braddick jokingly describes where Chia works as “the brain of London.” Chia agrees that the job deals with the city on a macro scale, but added: “Local councils are the real experts, who really understand local conditions. But ideas have to be carried through policy level and political decisions and Braddick fills in, urging for design skills to be present at every stage of planning, also, when projects are proposed, procured, reviewed, executed. That is not the case today.” Along with two other Public Practice associates, Chia spends her research days exploring how industrial intensification can coexist with things like offices and housing. “Since the topics you work within the public sector are so multifaceted, it allows you to reach out to people in different disciplines, without it being weird,” she said, adding, “We’re allowing conversations to happen between people who wouldn’t otherwise have spoken to each other.” That also applies to dialogues within, and between, the public sector’s different actors. One of the advantages of Public Practice, they have realized, is that seventeen people from different authorities regularly get together in the same room. It is a rare thing. Most of the roles in which the associates have been placed are also positioned in between two different departments of an organization—which is intentional, said Chia. “With one foot in each door, that person, in effect, allows teams to transfer information in new ways. Most of the associates have an architecture background and are at the start of their careers, with a stray example of one with 25 years of experience in local planning. Some have expertise in strategic planning, others in digital infrastructure or placemaking and public relations. What they all have in common is that they were drawn to the Public Practice model and, in tough competition with ten times as many applicants, have been placed where they can contribute the most during a year. In a similar way, the organizations they now work for also applied to be part of the network. It is not a matter of just filling vacancies. Epping Forest and the GLA both had to present a case for a new role that they saw a strategic need for and were willing to offer resources for. On an intense day last spring, two hundred applicant architects and almost forty aspiring partner organizations gathered for workshops, talks, and interviews. According to Agrawal and Williams, it is this rigorous selection and matching process that is the key to the initiative actually working. Almost all 32 London municipalities say they need more urban design and planning expertise on the payroll, but have difficulties recruiting them. That is the gap that Public Practice is aiming to address. And what they are looking for in the applications, apart from talent and training, is humility, and the capacity to listen and to learn. “Attention: All testing and engineering work on the fire alarm system is now complete. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.” “I’m hoping to stay,” Braddick said, knowing what she would like to get out of her one-year placement. To see what she can contribute takes more than twelve months. And she hopes Epping Forest District Council sees the value in making a role like hers permanent. People around her are already talking about how things are designed, not just about parking quotas, profitability, and unit ratios. “‘Does it have a sense of place?’ people would ask, out of habit,” she said. “Well yeah, somewhere really shit can have a sense of place—but we want it to be a good place, don’t we?” Already trying to define what “good” is, is a successful start, she argues, and worth the effort. Two weeks later, someone else will have the group visiting them at their workplace. The participants say it is thanks to the Friday meet-ups with their Public Practice colleagues that they had a smooth transition to a new working environment. When they see each other, they exchange new knowledge and concrete tips, but also share their experiences open heartedly. “Sometimes it’s all about leaning against someone and going, ‘Ah, what a week…I need a drink!’” Braddick and Chia said, “and the next time, it’s, ‘Something happened—it’s amazing!’” A new cohort of Public Practice Associates will be starting placements in April 2019 in London, the South East, and the East of England. In the near future, the model is set to be expanded to other UK regions—perhaps also abroad. This is a translation of an article previously published in Arkitekten, the news magazine of Architects Sweden.
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New Work for Newark

Riverfront Square will stitch Newark, New Jersey’s tech corridor together
Could Newark, New Jersey, be the Northeast's next big tech hub? It already boasts the region's most advanced fiber-optic network and serves as home to digital giants like Audible.com, an Amazon company. No wonder it was a top contender for HQ2. Though it didn’t win the bid, one major project that’s been in planning for three years could raise the city’s status to the next level. An upcoming development in the heart of downtown Newark promises to be a vital, mixed-use community for innovative companies. Riverfront Square, envisioned by local firm Lotus Equity Group, will be built steps away from the Passaic River and feature up to 2.3 million square feet of office, residential, hospitality, cultural space, and more within the city’s burgeoning tech sector, the Broad Street Corridor. Lotus has tapped TEN Arquitectos, Michael Green Architecture, Minno & Wasko, and Practice for Architecture & Urbanism (PAU) to design individual buildings for the 12-acre site as part of a masterplan by PAU. Built out in seven phases, the project will sit atop the old Newark Bears baseball stadium, which will be demolished later this year to make way for the first housing structure, a curved linear building built over a five-story, mixed-used base clad in brick. Designed by PAU, the elongated structure will be set at the edge of Riverfront Square along the Essex Freeway.  In an interview with AN in 2017, Vishaan Chakrabarti of PAU said the city lacks a "connective tissue" to link its many cultural and educational institutions together. Riverfront Square, he said, will be a sort of "renaissance for Newark" with a focus on tech. Initial renderings reveal the first four phases of construction, which will add 1,300 workforce housing units and half-a-million square-feet of commercial office space to the site. Phase 1 of construction is set to break ground this summer. At the core of the development will be a mass timber building, touted as the tallest of its kind in the United States, by Vancouver architect Michael Green. The 12-story office structure appears in renderings to be three separate structures, but in reality, the building features a continuous floorplate connected by a full-height atrium. With 500,000 square feet of office space, it will also include ground floor retail, a café, and restaurants to help ignite what the developers want to become a 24/7 district. It will be built on the site’s southwestern corner. David Linehan, Lotus’s architect and development manager for Riverfront Square, said setting up a sustainable environment to benefit Newark (and lure people in) is a key component of the project, one that the city understands and is committed to backing. “It’s difficult to get newer products and ideas like using mass timber for large-scale projects through current codes, especially in New York,” he said. “For Newark, we’re working with the State of New Jersey to take a look at existing codes that allow timber to be used at this level. The city sees it as an opportunity to be at the forefront of what’s clearly going to be a major part of the future construction industry in the U.S.” During the second phase of construction, four rectangular towers will be raised at the southern edge of the site along Broad Street. Enrique Norten will design the buildings, which will be offset slightly from each other in order to maximize light, air, and views of New York’s skyline. They’re likely to feature a metal panel and glass facade. Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects will provide a plan for the site's green spaces, which will turn a very urban, concrete area into a nature-filled leisure and cultural retreat for residents and local workers. The landscape will aim to increase downtown's connection to the adjacent Newark Riverfront Park, an on-going landscape development that received an award-winning initial design by Lee Weintraub in 2013. James Corner Field Operations is slated to create an additional 15 acres of space for the park in the coming years. 
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A Social Network

SPORTS activates an alley in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee
A bright-green installation now snakes through a formerly-dingy and disconnected alley in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee. Designed by Syracuse, New York–based practice SPORTS, City Thread activates the 6,200-square-foot walk-through with 500 feet of linear steel that doubles as public seating. The project was born out of an international design competition, Passageways 2.0, in which architects were asked to envision a piece of contemporary urban infrastructure that would activate an alleyway in the Southern city’s core. Organized by River City Company, a local nonprofit economic development company, the program was the second iteration of a successful 2016 competition that imagined pop-up pieces in Chattanooga as well.  SPORTS won Passageways 2.0 last summer, and with it, the chance to build City Thread as a permanent installation in the 300-foot-long passage known Cooper’s Alley off 7th Street in downtown Chattanooga. Led by Molly Hunker and Greg Corso, the award-winning, multidisciplinary practice collaborated with NOUS Engineering and Metal Arts Foundry on the project, opening the completed, zig-zagging structure last November. It’s now being marketed as a piece of “art-as-infrastructure” and a series of “urban rooms” that support a range of social activities, formal programming, and casual hangouts. To create City Thread, SPORTS was limited to a small budget of just $100,000 and asked to design around fixed elements within the alleyway such as AC units, grease traps, doors, vehicle access lanes, and fire hose hookups. The firm circumvented these barriers by building an adaptable installation that utilized a “kit of parts system of design and construction.” With only six formal elements—straight pieces of steel and five different corners, SPORTS created a seamless volume that conforms to the specific clearances in the alley. The result of City Thread is a new kind of city block for Chattanooga, one that puts pedestrians first and gives way to informal and planned opportunities for social connection. Hunker and Corso told AN in an email that Chattanooga, a city that’s known as a rising tech hub, is keen on building urban infrastructure that encourages both digital and personal connectivity. The “Gig City” is most famous for having the first publically-owned broadband network, a move that spurred economic development and boosted job creation nearly nine years ago. City Thread almost seems like a visual, tactile model of the ultra-fast, fiber-optic internet. It’s another kind of winding network that physically connects locals to one another.   “There’s unbelievably strong support for creative projects, like this one, that bring people together,” said Hunker and Corso. “It’s been particularly exciting to see this new public space come alive with various different activities, and to see the various interpretations of the space by different people.” SPORTS was recently named AN’s 2018 Best of Design Award winner for Young Architects. Established in 2010, the firm has designed and constructed both large- and small-scale architectural installations around the country. Both Hunker and Corso currently teach architecture at Syracuse University.
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Painted Furniture

Artist Leslie Wayne reveals What’s Inside her inner world
A new exhibition by New York–based artist Leslie Wayne explores everyday spaces and how, through alternative modes of representation, we can see those environments in a deeper light. What’s Inside, now on view at New York City's Jack Shainman Gallery through March 30, features Wayne’s newest collection of paintings that detail basic domestic scenes like messy closets, busy bookshelves, and broken windows. These disheveled objects evoke a German Expressionist perspective, according to the artist, and unveil Wayne’s political and personal anxieties through singular depictions of an inner world that’s “not quite right,” but can be fixed. AN spoke with Wayne via email about the layered inspiration behind What’s Inside, and how color, both in architecture and in painting, can manipulate the emotions of its viewers. She also explains why studying art that highlights buildings or interior design can ultimately strengthen a person’s appreciation for the built environment. The Architect's Newspaper: Your current collection seems to build off your previous window pieces for Free Experience. Can you explain why you decided to continue that project and how this show takes those previous themes to another level? Leslie Wayne: As an abstract artist, my whole career, I’ve been wanting to bring representation into my work, but I didn’t quite know how it would manifest itself given the idiosyncratic way I use paint. Those first window paintings gave me a way to do that. Conceptually, they allowed me to express my feelings and ideas about the world around me, about the current state of affairs, as well as my own personal life, by using domestic architectural forms as a motif and as a kind of organizing principle. I realized that my abstract paintings always kept you on a threshold—of what was visible, and what was beneath and behind the surface that you could never quite completely see or understand. Architectural thresholds can operate in much the same way. By making a painting of a doorway that is just barely cracked open, or a window that is boarded up, I’m keeping you on that threshold. So actually, I’m still exploring the same thing, only in a more pictorial way.    AN: Why did you choose to focus on normal interior objects and spaces? What draws you to imagining these details in a new way? LW: I’m drawing largely on my immediate surroundings—the armoire in my bedroom, the tool chest in my husband’s studio, and my bookshelves. While the forms as furniture are universal, their contents are autobiographical, and they tell you a lot about what makes up my life. In the beginning, the idea of creating a painting of a closet was just a response to my need to move on from an earlier body of work. But then the idea of closets became more interesting to me as types of containers. Containers, not just of clothing and everyday objects, but of things we hold dear, or secrets we want to keep. And then came the paintings of drawers and bookshelves, containers that hold evidence of your life—books you’ve read, music you listen to, materials you use for work, etc. And on a purely formal level, closets, shelves, and window frames provide an interesting platform for different kinds of architectural motifs, which as a painter is great because it’s just an endless source of visual information. AN: Your work is very colorful and tactile. What do the different colors and the way those hues bring a tangible quality to your paintings say about these mundane architectural spaces you depict? LW: Color is loaded with emotive power, much the same way that music is. It can be used to express tremendously strong feelings, but, because of that, you’re in danger of being manipulative and clichéd if you go too far. It’s tricky. You want to seduce the viewer but not knock them over the head with it! Most people, when they’re thinking about architecture they’re thinking about the facade and the overall shape of a building or an architectural detail. They’re not considering the way in which a building is a container and a shelter and how the design and the color of an interior space can determine the way you feel when you go inside of it. We were in Mexico City recently and went to the house of Luis Barragán. It was very interesting to see how he used color to visually block out certain spaces and establish an overall feeling of a room. Yellow walls made you feel warm and welcomed, pink walls gave you a sensation of joy and anticipation. I loved that. For me, when I’m painting, I try to use color to do much the same thing, to convey a sensation. AN: Why is it valuable to look at architecture and interiors through the alternative lenses of painting or photography, rather than being in the space itself? LW: I would say that it’s valuable to look at architecture and interiors through the alternative lenses of painting or photography in addition to being in the space itself. There’s no substitute for having a direct experience of an architectural space. But I think we take those spaces for granted. And those of us in dense urban environments usually have our heads down (or buried in our cell phones!) when we’re walking rather than looking up and noticing what tremendously rich details are on buildings all around us. It’s valuable to reconsider what those spaces mean to us and art can take you there through the poetry of metaphor and illusion. If you’ve ever been taken by a Fra Angelico painting for example, like The Annunciation, then perhaps next time you’re inside a space that has vaulted ceilings you’ll be reminded of the painting and become aware of the ceiling’s elegance and structural integrity. Or a Dorothea Lange photograph of a young sharecropper’s log cabin can make you really feel what it must mean to live in a structure of such simplicity. Bernd and Hilla Becher spent their lives documenting industrial architecture and brought the simplest most overlooked structures, like water towers, into the realm of the sublime. We look at these things every day, but art helps us see them more deeply. See Wayne’s new show, What’s Inside, at the Jack Shainman Gallery at 513 West 20th Street, New York, New York.
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Take a Walk

Artist Eric N. Mack lets textiles take over the room at the Brooklyn Museum
Eric N. Mack’s paintings and sculptures assemble sundry found materials with traditional media to establish a complex dialogue between material and subject that questions existing definitions of form, function, and style. Following solo exhibitions at Albright-Knox in 2017 and Simon Lee Gallery in 2018, Mack was invited to transform the Brooklyn Museum’s Great Hall with a site-specific installation of his textile-based works. The result, Eric N. Mack: Lemme walk across the room, invites a discussion on the fundamental components of aesthetic vision and the mercurial relationship between visual culture and everyday life. Positioned at the intersection of art, fashion, and architecture, Mack’s work reveals an array of unexpected connections and contradictions. A discussion with the artist on the installation and his practice provides a glimpse of his creative processes and wide-ranging interests. The Architect’s Newspaper: Were you responding to specific elements of the classical architecture of the Great Hall? Eric N. Mack: Yes. The space has no corners. So, I felt like I wanted to build a painting structure that would embrace this architecture, that would be contingent on the architecture, and would change the way that people engage in the space and see the space from a given vantage point. But I chose the fabric because it was slightly transparent, so it wasn't about opaqueness, or an immediate opaque gesture, but rather a gesture that deals with transparency in the space. So I was thinking about an overlay or patterns that could flatten out as a decorative point, but through their depth create some markers of distance and closeness. AN: In a lot of your past interviews and articles on your work, the authors always talk about how you grew up in Washington, D.C., and went to the National Gallery all the time because your parents worked there, and I thought it was really fascinating that your dad built vitrines and was an interior designer for the exhibitions there. Did that have any impact on your process for creating this work? EM: I mean I think there's a lot about…generous museum experiences. And how those moments really resonated with me, not necessarily just at the Brooklyn Museum but any museum experience. I'm just thinking about an exalted moment of viewing artwork. Some of the most dynamic experiences had to do with really feeling the length of the room and really understanding the impact of my body in the space as a viewer. Almost like a dream—like a way of seeing an artwork that is almost in between installation [and painting] or something like that. So you end up really focusing on this moment of engaging points of measurement or exchange between you and the artwork. AN: Yeah, that sort of leads to my next question, which is about the title; obviously it's an imperative for you to follow along the boundaries of the white, horizontal paintings, but it also sounds like a larger, more conceptual grounding for the entire installation, and maybe a specific aspect of your practice, in a way. Would you say that's a correct reading or is there another reason you felt that title was the most appropriate? EM: When I choose a title there are probably at least four different ways that point me to that place again and again. First, I wanted there to be almost a performance prompt for the viewer. But it also has this personalized position in which people have to determine whether it's about me or it's about them. And maybe it's about both of us. [It’s also about] questioning frameworks, breaking down frameworks and creating new ones that are maybe less familiar. But I also love that [the title] almost alludes to a runway show, at the base of it. The fact that there will be a personal impetus for a runway show or catwalk show. And that's something that I'm still unpacking. AN: You also have a very strong collagistic impulse. Why do you find it necessary or how would you describe it? EM: I think this show deals in collage in many ways…I think garments are naturally related—or congruent—to collage. The intention around stitching or the suture ends up being a possibility for a felt, dynamic place of legibility. It ends up being a space that is specifically about the reconstruction of form, and maybe a critical deconstruction in a way, for the moment of reconstruction. So, there are several different points that I think speak to a linked or connected language. A lot of times I feel like the properties of a work have to be turned inside out to understand what they are presently, and what they were. So, I think to be able to show that I think is a really generous end or offering to the viewer. AN: So this question may or may not be interesting, but when I went, there was a guard standing right in the middle of the installation. Do you have any thoughts or feelings about that? I assume you didn't have too much say over their presence. EM: That's awesome, I like that. I mean, I think the guards are people that are usually supposed to be invisible. I just think that all the corners are super active, so it's not a place where they could necessarily… AN: Disrupt anything. EM: Exactly. AN: But I still felt their presence still as I was moving through. EM: Me too, actually. Yeah, that's always an equation that could easily be overlooked. Even by the viewers themselves, the fact that there are people who could potentially be experts in the work besides the artist, the security guards—if they're paying attention, [and] I'm sure they are. AN: Did you use any specific elements to the large collage on the right wall specifically for this show? Or was it kind of an assemblage you already had? Kelis stands out to me. EM: Yeah, she's amazing. AN: I mean Kelis is associated with New York, but not all of the elements are. EM: Exactly. And I love that because it's really about a time and space. I mean I talked about them before as hyperlinked material images. But there's a lot of ways to read it. There's a kind of elegy to Phoebe Philo, Céline. The title is Tartan Film Strip from 1987 Till Recent. And thinking about the space of the grid as being the space of representation first and then it also being a place for points of reconnection, dislocation, or rupture, basically. AN: Yeah, which is a very painterly concept I feel like. I know you're a painter. EM: Definitely. I move forward or away from those… AN: Traditions? EM: Yeah, or that definition, all the time. But yeah, I think the narrative of the piece generally has to do with points of comparison. Somehow below the horizon line there's a lot more vintage materials. Some of the images are from Interview magazine from 1987. AN: Which is the year you were born. EM: Exactly, yeah. There are these archetypal ways that these women were being photographed, that fashion existed within the image but it was mostly about their gaze and their contact. AN: How they were presenting themselves. EM: Exactly. I mean like Janet Jackson definitely—the album called Control is very much about one's authorship in [their] control of their career, their bodies. AN: Do you ever put in personal effects? Was there a picture of you? EM: Yeah. It’s from the first time I went to Europe and I was 14. But it also sits on the opposite end [of the collage] as Isa Genzken, an image of a sculpture she made [Slot Machine, 1999–2000]. And that was kind of a point of validation for me, with her portrait—there was definitely a way and a manner to the work that I feel like could relate to Isa's work. And I didn't want to diminish that or go away from it, but perhaps use it as content. Isa's last show [Isa Genzken: Retrospective (November 2012 – March 2014) at the Museum of Modern Art, New York] was also sponsored by Céline. AN: Oh really? I didn't know that. EM: And I always loved that because I felt like they’re adjacent. Like, there's these two adjacent industries that end up supporting one another in various ways that are highly aesthetic. Eric N. Mack: Lemme walk across the room is on view at Brooklyn Museum through July 7.
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Welcome to the Big D

Facades+ Dallas will dive into the trends reshaping Texas’s largest metro area
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Texas is adding more people per year than any other state in the country, and with nearly 8 million residents, the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area is the largest urban area in the state. On March 1, The Architect's Newspaper is bringing together architecture and development firms located within the metropolitan area for Facades+ Dallas, a fast-paced dialogue focusing on the region's tremendous growth and the projects reshaping it. Participants include 5G Studio Collaborative, CallisonRTKL, Harwood International, Merriman Anderson Architects, the CDC, L.A. Fuess Partners, Ibanez Shaw, Omniplan, DSGN Associates, Buchanan Architecture, Shipley Architects, Urban Edge Developers. Lauren Cadieux, associate at 5G Studio Collaborative, and Michael Friebele, associate at CallisonRTKL, are co-chairing the conference. In the lead up to Facades+ Dallas, AN sat down with Friebele to discuss trends within Dallas and CallisonRTKL's ongoing projects in the area and across the world. The Architect's Newspaper: To begin with, what facade-led projects are CallisonRTKL up to in Dallas and Texas as a whole? Michael Friebele: We are an interesting office in that we have a long-standing local reach here in Dallas-Fort Worth but also a broad depth of work around the globe. We often find it most interesting for us to take the international experience and find ways to apply those lessons throughout our work back home and likewise in the other direction. The collaboration between offices across CallisonRTKL really makes this possible.

From a conceptual standpoint, our work on a vertical campus in Downtown Dallas took cues from many lessons we have learned abroad, from site response to contextual integration, and paired these attributes with an evolving corporate business model. Ultimately, the concept was shaped around an affordable housing project just to the east of the site, maintaining a view corridor through the gesture of a loop that ultimately became a symbol for the company’s programmatic model. It is one in a line of projects coming up in Texas that we are excited about.

From a facade standpoint, our hospitality group is working on a Grand Hyatt Hotel in Kuwait that is currently under construction. The facade concept of self-shading finds a balance between the harsh climate of the region and the demand for expansive views. The pitch results in the natural placement of photovoltaics with the underside of the bay providing a highly transparent opening with minimal direct solar heat gain. The same team recently completed the core and shell of the Maike Business Center and Grand Hyatt in Xi’an. Here, two towers were linked by a belt truss to limit lateral loads while serving as a critical program link between the hotel and office towers. The facade was a simple extruded, serrated form linked in the middle by a vertical screen that emphasizes the composition.

I am working currently on the design of two China-based projects with quite a range of scale between them. OCT Chengdu is on the larger side with a dominant facade facing a key convergence of traffic in the city. The facade plays into that movement with a series of fins that peel upward to reveal the activity of the mall behind, thus activating what is traditionally a hard face. We have been working further to optimize this system. This project is currently under construction and should be complete in a few years. On the other side of scale, we recently began work on an Audubon Center in Zhengzhou. The concept is about tying program and landscape together underneath an observation ring. We have been working with Thornton Tomasetti on realizing the ring as a completely unsupported element over the waterfront with full height curved glazing that reveals the public behind, as if the visitor were a part of the facade experience. The Zhengzhou project will start in construction in a few months and be complete by the middle of next year.

AN: What unique opportunities and challenges are present for architects and designers in Dallas?

MF: Mark Lamster summed it up well in a Dallas Morning News article from April of 2016, "Dallas Architecture is a joke (but it doesn't have to be)."

In my opinion, the potential in Dallas is to be proactive rather than reactive toward challenging and evolving typologies but with that comes a certain degree of investment and risk. We can take lessons from two organizations that I believe have had the most impact upon the city in BC Workshop and Better Block. Both groups have been recognized for their innovative approaches to typologies and community engagement. The Cottages at Hickory Crossing is a noted example on the city’s south side.

An engagement of our value as architects and designers to all parties involved in a project, from developer to community, is key, but change will also depend upon us stepping out and trying something without permission. As Dallas further evolves, there is no better place to test and experiment, but we have yet to really commit to that, beyond few examples. In all, it is really getting back to our fundamentals of why we practice this profession and to search for its meaning once again.

AN: Which ongoing Dallas developments do you perceive to be the most exciting in terms of facade innovation and overall impact on the city?

MF: There have been some noted transformations in Downtown Dallas, from work by Architexas on the Joule Hotel, to Merriman Anderson’s work on the Statler Hilton, all the way to more recent conversions of 400 Record by Gensler. Each of these, among others, have defined in many respects the process of historical rehabilitation in Texas, but also have transformed the program in all cases. Almost overnight, there is a developed rhythm toward respecting the past and redefining the urban realm. The Statler and 1401 Elm represent the largest and most challenging cases of preservation in the city. Statler was many years in the making. Historical innovations during the 1950s proved quite challenging in the rehab of the building. The results of maintaining such a celebrated form and period in the rehab are nothing short of a feat. 1401 Elm is currently undergoing its makeover, with the marble currently off-site for rehab. It has stalled a few times during recent years but hopefully, it will become a major contributor once again.

Both projects are a glimpse into a city that is continually working to value its history more and more by the day. With our first panel, we hope to shed further light on this discussion.

Further information regarding Facades+ Dallas may be found here.