Search results for "east"

Placeholder Alt Text

Desert Drama

Desert X AlUla announces artist lineup
The fourteen artists participating in Saudi Arabia's controversial first Desert X AlUla, a “site-responsive exhibition,” have been announced. The lineup includes artists living and working in Saudi Arabia, including Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim and Rashed Al Shashai, as well as other artists based throughout the Middle East, Europe, and North America, including previous Desert X participants such as Superflex and Lita Albuquerque. The first international exhibition of the Coachella Valley biennial has been organized along with the Royal Commission of Al-Ula and co-curated by Desert X artistic director Neville Wakefield, along with curators Raneem Farsi and Aya Alireza. It will take place in the Al-Ula area in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a region at the forefront of Saudi Arabia’s push to invite in more tourism. The large-scale installations are meant to “inspire new dialogue about the desert and reflect on themes that range from the passage of goods and ideas along the ancient incense route, the cultural memory that passage has left, and the natural resources that have shaped the region, both past and present,” according to a release from Desert X. Artists will create installations responding to the particulars of the geology, geography, history, and present of the region, with projects such as an “oasis” of date containers from Zahrah Al Ghamdi, a series of steel rings by Rayyane Tabet meant to engage with the oil pipelines in the region, and a sculpture by Nasser Al Salem that “embraces the idea of time as a continuum that connects all cultures and civilizations.” Desert X has also promised to increase public outreach programming through schools and universities. Desert X AlUla emphasizes the history of Al-Ula as a site of global connection and exchange, but it's become increasingly contentious to participate in programming in the repressive monarchy. Saudi Arabia has been accused of “sportswashing” for inviting major international boxing and golf events to the country, and pop stars like the group BTS have similarly come under fire for performing there. When asked about the pushback to the Al-Ula exhibition, artistic director Neville Wakefield told The Art Newspaper: “We live in binary times, when people are either isolationist or believe in the power of cultural dialogue. Art changes hearts and minds. Denying an entire population this opportunity is to be part of the problem not the solution.” However the choice to work with Saudi Arabia has caused issues even within Desert X. This past fall, the Los Angeles Times reported that three board members—the artist Ed Ruscha, the curator Yael Lipschutz, and the philanthropist Tristan Milanovich—resigned from the organization's board over the choice. Lipschutz told the L.A. Times that he thought the project in Saudia Arabia was “completely unethical,” noting that Desert X wasn’t just starting a “dialogue,” but receiving money from the Saudi royal family. Issues of philanthropic funding have been causing increasing friction in the world of art and architecture, whether it’s BP sponsoring the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the Sackler family donating to museums like the Met and V&A, arms profiteers serving on the boards of the Whitney and MoMA The full list of artists is: Lita Albuquerque, Manal Al Dowayan, Zahrah Al Ghamdi, Nasser AlSalem, Rashed Al Shashai, Gisela Colon, Sherin Guirguis, Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Nadim Karam, eL Seed, Wael Shawky, Muhannad Shono, Superflex, and Rayyane Tabet. Desert X AlUla opens January 31st.
Placeholder Alt Text

Gods of Dust, Rainbows, and Ohio

FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art reveals 2021 details
FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art has announced the theme and artistic team for the sophomore edition, which will run from July 17 through October 2, 2021. Entitled Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows, the exhibitions will showcase contemporary works from local and international artists across the Northeastern Ohio cities of Cleveland, Akron, and Oberlin. The theme of FRONT 2021 will focus on modes of collective healing and agency in the regional context of Cleveland’s complex industrial history. Through environmental degradation and hazards to economic transformation and precarity, FRONT 2021 will approach art as a way for a community to reckon with its own changing social landscape.  The exhibition takes its name from a poem by Langston Hughes, who spent his formative years in Cleveland: 
Two Somewhat Different Epigrams (1957) I Oh, God of dust and rainbows, help us see That without dust the rainbow would not be. II I look with awe upon the human race And God, who sometimes spits right in its face.
“This poem, a meditation on adversity and a prayer for transformation, inspires FRONT 2021’s curatorial approach. The exhibition’s title extends Hughes’ original invocation to signal a plurality of beliefs, stories, places, and people,” said the artistic team in a statement announcing the launch of the 2021 edition of FRONT. “FRONT 2021’s curatorial framework connects Cleveland’s storied past with a polyvocal present, exploring healing as an ongoing cycle of repair, spanning crisis and recovery. This approach treats the exhibition as a process of long-term change, embracing the region's range of cultures in need of attention, investigation, and care.”  The co-artistic directors are Prem Krishnamurthy, founding principle of Project Projects and director at Wkshps, and Tina Kukielski, executive director and chief curator of Art21, who will work in collaboration with the artistic team of Evelyn Burnett (ThirdSpace Action Lab, Cleveland), Courtenay Finn (MoCA Cleveland), Emily Liebert (Cleveland Museum of Art), Dushko Petrovich (SAIC New Arts Journalism, Chicago), Kameelah Janan Rasheed (artist, Brooklyn), Tereza Ruller (The Rodina, Amsterdam), and Murtaza Vali (independent curator, Brooklyn/Sharjah), as well as associate curator Meghana Karnik and curatorial assistant Lo Smith.  The artistic team has also revealed its first commission for the upcoming triennial, a public dance space in Akron designed by the Stockholm collective Dansbana!. With the success of FRONT's inaugural triennial in 2018, which included 120 international artists and over 90,000 visitors, expectations remain high for the upcoming edition. 
Placeholder Alt Text

Capitol of Capital

Softbank CEO, Tony Blair, and the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince will help build Indonesia's new capital
Indonesia is building a new $34 billion capital city that will be steered by none other than Softbank CEO and WeWork financier Masayoshi Son, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Abu Dhabi Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.  Bloomberg reported that the three will be part of a committee to conceive of and oversee construction of a new capital in the province of East Kalimantan on Borneo Island, the third-largest island in the world at 287,000 square miles. Indonesian President Joko Widodo said in August that he aimed to move the government and as many as 7 million people there beginning in 2024 to a new city spanning 632,500 acres—four times the size of Jakarta. Construction is anticipated to begin later this year with office space and homes for 1.5 million civic workers. According to Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment, the oversight committee, including Son, Blair, and the Crown Prince, among others, is meant to help boost investment for the new project and encourage other entities to give. President Widodo wants private and state-owned groups to fund 80 percent of the build, noted Bloomberg. Softbank has already committed $40 billion while companies across Abu Dhabi have given up to $22.8 billion. The rush to ditch Jakarta comes after years of overcrowding; the interior city holds 10 million people while the total metropolitan area boasts nearly 30 million people. Costly effects due to climate change have also wreaked havoc on the capital city, forcing the country to rethink its plans. It’s no secret that the city, located on the northwest coast of Java, the world’s most populated island, is sinking into the sea at a rate of 6.7 inches per year.  Flooding has become a regular issue as well. In early January, Jakarta experienced the most intense period of rainfall in the city's history. Flash flooding forced tens of thousands of locals to evacuate, displacing most, and left 66 people dead. Residents are now taking steps to sue the city's governor. Set at a higher elevation just north of Java, Borneo Island doesn’t see these types of natural disasters as commonly. East Kalimantan, for example, is a more heavily forested area and suffers from heavy rain or dry seasons as well as monsoon winds.  Government officials argue that the move isn’t just about Jakarta’s physical state, but about its economic situation as well. Congestion alone costs Indonesia an estimated $6.5 billion per year, according to Al Jazeera, which has further stymied the nation's growth.
Placeholder Alt Text

Building Bridges

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

BIG trouble in Brazil

Bjarke Ingels spotted in Brazil with Jair Bolsonaro
[Updated January 17 with a response from Bjarke Ingels] Bjarke Ingels was in Brazil on Tuesday, January 14, for a meeting with President Jair Bolsonaro, according to multiple sources (complete with photos). The summit, which reportedly took place at the Palácio do Planalto in Brasília, came at the behest of the Minister of Tourism Marcelo Álvaro Antônio, who invited the Be-Nômade (Be-Nomad) group—responsible for an eco-conscious hotel in Tulum, Mexico—and Ingels to tour several states. According to the Ministry of Tourism, the Be-Nomad group is looking into investing in sustainable tourism projects in Brazil, and the delegation visited Ceará, Piauí, and Maranhão before their meeting with the president. The group landed on Friday, January 10 and:
“During the four days in the country, investors had meetings with Minister Marcelo Álvaro and other representatives of the federal government, such as the Ministries of Economy and Environment, as well as the Civil House of the Presidency, BNDES and Banco do Brasil. The agenda revolved around Brazil's tourism potential, where the group is considering developing projects that will help boost the travel industry.”
However, encouraging sustainable growth is seemingly at odds with the approach Bolsonaro has taken in the past. The President has drastically scaled back environmental protections and enforcement, drastically sped up the deforestation of the Amazon, doesn’t believe in climate change, and has expressed support for developing nature preserves. In fact, environmental groups and American Museum of Natural History employees successfully shut out a gala honoring Bolsonaro at the museum last April over exactly those concerns. That’s before even mentioning his homophobic comments, or the decision to strip protections from indigenous Brazilians in favor of agribusinesses. “The last months have shown with jarring clarity that the social challenges of Northeast Brazil are beginning to translate into ecological challenges,” wrote Ingels in response to an inquiry from AN. “We have travelled Brazil’s Northeast region with our collaborators from Nomade Group and met with local governors and mayors, as well as the relevant ministries of Economy, Culture and Tourism and finally the president’s office to gauge the possibility of devising a holistic masterplan for the Northeastern coastal states of Brazil to create ecologically and economically sustainable development. We return incredibly encouraged with the awareness and readiness we have encountered at all levels of government across the entire political spectrum as well as across state borders and city limits to collaborate towards creating a regional masterplan for socially and environmentally sustainable communities.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Toronto Terroir

80 Atlantic is Toronto’s first timber office building in generations
A look around Toronto’s seemingly innumerable construction sites tends to reveal building materials common to many North American cities: brick and stone, steel and glass, and of course, concrete. But a new mass timber office building in the Liberty Village neighborhood points in a different direction. Designed by Canadian firm Quadrangle for Hullmark Developments, with partner BentallGreenOak on behalf of Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, the five-story, 90,000-square-foot 80 Atlantic debuted this past fall as Toronto’s first wood-frame office building in over a century. Part of a larger commercial development near the King Street corridor a few blocks north of the Gardiner Expressway, 80 Atlantic’s underground parking garage, first floor, and core were built using conventional cast-in-place concrete. The upper four stories, including an uppermost mechanical level, were built with glue-laminated timber (GLT) columns and beams that support nail-laminated timber floors. The rectangular building’s street-fronting east and west facades feature an irregular grid pattern in stone and glass, while its longer north and south aspects are fully glazed to reveal and highlight the internal timber structure. This is the second Liberty Village building designed by Quadrangle for Hullmark, following the firm’s conversion of an adjacent historic warehouse structure, 60 Atlantic, into office and retail space. According to the designers, uncovering the original post-and-beam structure at 60 Atlantic inspired the idea for a mass timber neighbor, now newly legal thanks to a 2015 change in regional building codes that allows for mass timber structures of up to six stories. “We started to imagine a modern wood office building that took all of the best parts of the old post and beam building that we uncovered at 60 Atlantic and combine it with all the modern comforts of a 21st-century office building and started referring to that concept as post and beam 2.0,” Quadrangle’s Wayne McMillan said at Toronto’s recent Building Show. According to the development team, using mass timber for 80 Atlantic also offered an important point of aesthetic differentiation as well as environmental benefit. Made from layers of treated and glued wood, GLT is fire resistant and durable and is considered more sustainable than concrete or steel. As the building industry increasingly searched for ways to to reduce both embodied and emitted carbon, advocates of mass timber forms such as GLT and its closely-related cross-laminated timber point to environmental benefits including wood’s ability to sequester carbon while growing, and to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide generated in the construction process. While mass timber has garnered significant interest abroad, including for the U.K.’s recently approved, fully timber Eco Park Stadium by Zaha Hadid Architects, its adoption for large-scale buildings in North America has been slower. 80 Atlantic is only the second mass timber building to be approved in Toronto, following 728 Yonge Street. This may soon change, as Sidewalk Labs recently proposed an entirely timber smart city on the Toronto waterfront.
Placeholder Alt Text

West by Northwest: Oregon Ways

The mythologies of Oregon’s utopian seekers still informs its design and architecture today

A few months back, while casually scrolling through some feed or another, I was struck by a series of images for a Portland-based boot company, Danner. Kicking up a faint cloud of dust with measured, deliberate steps, a lone photovoltaic maintenance worker moves across the image between parallel sets of solar trackers in a 64-acre facility in the high desert landscape just outside of Bend, Oregon. Emblazoned in bold over the image, the word “STRONGHOLD” conjured the work-boot family and the attitude of the region from which it springs. In what could pass for a Green New Deal campaign lifted from only the most heroic of WPA posters, other images from the commercial shoot evoke the photovoltaic maintenance process—a delicate operation involving technical expertise, careful stewardship, the right boots “built for comfort and stability,” and a Dodge Ram with plates reading “1932,” Danner’s date of establishment prior to relocating to Portland, where it would supply loggers with caulked boots during the Depression. From those origins spring the current slate of boot categories: work, hike, lifestyle, hunt, military, and law enforcement, producing an uneasy space where aesthetic cohesion and mythologizing coagulate in an open wound of mixed messaging between bright green and militarized versions of the future. The Danner website declares: “The Future Is Strong.”

Scenes like the above are a renewable resource in the Pacific Northwest, underwritten by a low-key utopian sense that’s as much about a “way” of doing things as it is about place. Oregon is of the American West, but not exactly the center of its mythos. In the estimation of the 1940 Federal Writers’ Project guide to the state, Oregon’s position at the “end of the trail” leveraged terminus into an exceptional charge that “inspire[d] not provincial patriotism, but affection”: “The newcomer at first may smile at the attitude of Oregonians towards their scenery and their climate. But soon he will begin to refer to Mt. Hood as ‘our mountain.’” Here, the “dismal skies” and rains of winter were merely the “annual tax” one paid for the privilege of inhabiting a state of “eternal verdure”—a cozy picture that excludes the desert land east of the Cascades mountain range and a whole host of volcanic and seismic activity lying in wait and prone to violent outbursts.

For its part, the city of Bend has recently been deemed a commuter town for Silicon Valley and is an increasingly expensive playground where brewpubs, rec centers, inner tube flotillas on the Deschutes River, and extensive parkland make their own kind of lively stronghold at the base of the Three Sisters Mountains. As in Portland just on the other side of the Cascades, there’s a rolling collision between earlier imported and newly imported visions of an affluent good life in nature that are just complementary enough to exist in tenuous détente while other narratives vie for recognition.

Upon arriving in Portland by way of a westward drive through the Columbia River Gorge, it was hard for me to escape the impression that this working landscape had been staged as an advertisement for the achievement of a kind of augmented reality just removed from the usual roiling of time. The B Reactor at Hanford, Washington, and the still-toxic ghosts of the Manhattan Project were out there somewhere, as was a Lamb Weston facility that processes 600 million pounds of frozen potato products annually, but here in this gash through the Cascades was a vision of forward movement in balance. Flanked by wind turbines running along the hill crests and with Hood’s emblematic peak directly ahead, rail and moss-lined roadways delivered a parade of works and features, from dams, locks, and spillways to waterfalls and elevated viewpoints. Some of these projects, like the Bonneville Dam, have been held up as pivotal but imperfect New Deal–era models of public hydropower administration, while The Dalles Dam is known more for its erasure of Celilo Falls, once a critical center of indigenous cultural and economic life. Such erasure and fragmentation, however, are far from the exception, as white nationalists have also long found refuge in Cascadia’s crevices and realty boards since the state’s founding in black exclusion. Here, too, the American Redoubt and various Cascadian secession movements pick up where Ernest Callenbach’s more countercultural 1975 novel Ecotopia left off with utopian search/seeking, be it for an ecotopia or a white nationalist stronghold.

As a perverse addendum to the theme of exclusion, however, Oregon’s urban growth boundaries have made for a compelling regional planning model, containing sprawl to preserve the "natural" playground and its biodiversity. In all things a kind of balance. Runaway utopian-as-utilitarian dreaming was, after all, the villain of California-born author Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1971 novel, The Lathe of Heaven, a fable of Portland’s exceptionalist attitude and the relative wealth of its natural inheritance. In this corner of the country, there was the possibility, for some, of a more comfortable—or less uncomfortable—future. Still, the novel’s status as a critique of progress or a privileged and resigned version of the same remains difficult to discern.

Storied weirdness aside, Portland is one of several metropolitan centers with the self-designation, “the city that works.” And it does, though critiques of the “sustainable city” are rolling in from those willing to cast a more critical eye toward the externalities and displacements produced through progress of this sort. Persistent NIMBY-ism and the ongoing battle over a proposed I-5 expansion amid new reports that Portland’s carbon emissions reduction progress has flatlined since 2012 suggest that the city’s climate policies are still far from where they need to be. On a more positive note, Oregon HB 2001’s move to effectively dissolve single-family zoning was the kind of course correction one would come to expect in the wake of new evidence of housing need. As with other improvements over its history—UGBs, public ownership of the coast, mass timber innovation by firms like LEVER and Hacker, ecodistricts, hydropower, cycling culture, and transit-oriented development—in paving the way for a proliferation of duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes, Oregon again models a quietly progressive version of a future.

Exemplary care-oriented building projects also come to mind, like the Seven Corners Collaborative in Southeast Portland, where Waterleaf designed a new, fully accessible colocation center for local nonprofits that provide support services for people with disabilities, along with an assistive technology lab for training, consultation, and public interface. Elsewhere, in the Lents neighborhood, a shelter in the repurposed shell of an old church forms the heart of a new “family village” campus by Jessica Helgerson Interior Design, Carleton Hart Architecture, and Corlett Landscape Architecture that’s furthering the use of trauma-informed design and concentrated service delivery for families experiencing homelessness. Also in Lents, the new Asian Health & Service Center by Holst provides a venue not only for much-needed affordable healthcare services for the area, but also a well-appointed infrastructure for community social events, all granted a generous view of Mt. Hood from the top floor. SCOTT | EDWARDS ARCHITECTURE’s Portland Mercado fulfills a similar social function for Portland’s Latinx community through a modest adaptive reuse and landscape strategy that ties an existing structure together with a series of food carts, covered outdoor space, and copious seating. Led in part by the efforts of the latter two firms along with Ankrom Moisan and organizations such as Home Forward and Central City Concern, recent supportive housing projects in the city, such as Bud Clark Commons, the Beech Street Apartments, Garlington Place, and the Blackburn Center, are also demonstrating how architecture can operate and innovate through a lens of care and playfulness rather than singular virtuosity or brute force.

This ethos also comes out in Portland’s new and renovated green spaces, such as the collaboration by 2.ink Studio and Skylab on Luuwit View Park in East Portland. The park stands as a microcosm of the city’s celebrated urban landscape innovations, complete with community gardens, dog park, skate park, event shelter, public art, stormwater treatment area, and bilingual signage to acknowledge and accommodate the diversity of new residents in the neighborhood, as well as trails aligned with distant landmarks like Mt. St. Helens, or “Luuwit,” as named in the Cowlitz language. Likewise, with Cully Park in Northeast Portland, 2.ink explored similar design elements on the site of a former landfill in an underserved neighborhood, including significant habitat restoration, a fitness course, and the city’s first Native gathering garden. Developed by the community nonprofit Verde in partnership with the city, the project engaged neighborhood residents throughout the process with outreach, employment, and education programs. 

More broadly, a host of design and planning-based initiatives work to translate reparative sociopolitical agendas into spatial terms, such as the Portland African American Leadership Forum’s 2017 People’s Plan and the more recent Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability publication on the Historical Context of Racist Planning in the city. Blocking pipeline projects and filling streets in the name of climate action, Sunrise, XR, and 350PDX also stake active claims on the city and its future, while newly constructed works like FLOAT’s Portals in Southern Oregon stage direct action pipeline resistance, countering fossil fuel extraction logics with an expansive meditation on architecture’s capacity to support multispecies reciprocity. Further, initiatives and organizations throughout the region like Columbia Riverkeeper, Sightline, Wisdom of the Elders, the High Desert Partnership, and the Ashland Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project engage in environmental care and land management through advocacy and cross-scalar collaborations, while efforts by the Friends of Trees and the city’s Green Street Steward Program involve volunteers in urban greening and bioswale maintenance. On the academic front, Portland State University’s Center for Public Interest Design was founded in 2013 to respond to the needs of underserved communities in the city and abroad and has since paired design-build work with robust community engagement processes, while the University of Oregon has launched a multidisciplinary fellowship initiative in Design for Spatial Justice, which mobilizes theory and practice in foregrounding narratives, experiences, and modes of design, political action, and biodiversity conservation long marginalized or excluded by fields responsible for the built environment.

How this expanding constellation of projects and practices might fare in an escalating climate struggle is a crucial question. With even cursory estimates of climate-induced in-migration to the region due to sea level rise alone projecting numbers in the hundreds of thousands over the next few decades, the challenge for utopia would initially seem to be one of scale. The war footing rhetoric of the GND, like that of the New Deal before it, anticipates such scales of action in the work of justice and infrastructural investment. A war footing for scaling care, however, is perhaps a more fraught and paradoxical charge, particularly as the goal would be to move beyond a narrow definition of relief as an improvised response toward the construction of more durable and equitable systems merging care with justice.

In a dysfunctional climate regime, what does it mean to position oneself as a stronghold or a refuge, or a model city? When PG&E issued its now-infamous directive to its California customers to “use your own resources to relocate” when the utility company unilaterally shut off power to nearly a million people back in October, it signaled that climate change survival would become a matter of self-reliance if left in the hands of those with no obligation for care. Against this backdrop, even a modicum of external accountability would come to appear as care and competency. As Holly Jean Buck writes, “There are plenty of scenarios where we deal with climate change in a middling way that preserves the existing unequal arrangements…[where] even muddling through looks like an amazing social feat, an orchestration so elaborate and requiring so much luck that people may find it a fantastic utopian dream.” In a global theater of sociopolitical and ecological degradation, it becomes difficult to assess the utopian potential of projects that work well within familiar registers, leading in some cases to a privileging of expediency and the reenactment of functioning models. 

But, even with the relative risk aversion, what bridges the perceived cultural gulf between the measured and occasionally errant strands of progressivism in the Pacific Northwest and the most fanciful Silicon Valley fever dreams is the recurring belief in some level of remove as a precondition for positive transformation and mastery. The right person in the right boots in the right geography, and a comfortable future is assured. The inclusion of photovoltaics in that picture is a welcome addition, but what is the future of an image like this in a present where what’s demanded is both a dissolution of the concept of human mastery over the environment and a dramatic mobilization, reorientation, and upscaling of progressive instruments closely aligned with the tools, attitudes, and systems that delivered the environment to the brink of collapse in the first place? Its violence veiled as much as romanticized, the story of a pioneer harnessing the productive power of a landscape was one promise of “the West.” As many of Oregon’s latest projects begin to suggest, there are and should be others, and the next steps are critical in defining the kind of refuge the region will become.

Placeholder Alt Text

Moving Forward

NYC launches new website outlining timeline and process for the BQX streetcar
After much uncertainty and relative quiet, an updated timeline has been announced for the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX streetcar) that would connect 11 miles of Brooklyn and Queens. The City’s Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Transportation have launched a new website detailing the proposed streetcar, along with previously released and new reports, which would run from Red Hook to Astoria and connect 13 subway lines and 30 bus routes. The BQX team proposes having at least five community board presentations and a minimum of five workshops this winter, and intend to collect public opinion on the $2.7 billion project via the new website and engage in on-the-ground outreach. There will be public hearings and the collection of comments in May and June, followed by a draft environmental impact statement in the spring of next year, with the final version to be released in fall of 2021 following public comment. Alternative options to the light rail line will reportedly be considered (the website gives the example of a dedicated bus lane). Currently, the city aims to open the line in 2029. If all goes according to plan, the city will then seek federal funding (as much as $1 billion according to previous reports) and undertake a land-use review, get the necessary approvals, and select designers, contractors, and companies to run the BQX. Funding has been a major hurdle for the streetcar. The federal government has certainly not been generous with infrastructure projects as of late, especially in areas the current administration sees as opposed to it. While it was suggested that Amazon (which was going to receive nearly $3 billion in subsidies, tax breaks, and incentives) might have footed part of the bill when they had planned to build their HQ2 in Long Island City, that option is obviously off the table. Many City Council members have questioned the price tag relative to the streetcar's projected ridership and the desperate need for upgrades to transit options elsewhere. Mayor Bill de Blasio continues to advocate for the project, however.
Placeholder Alt Text

Curved Lines

Chevalier Morales Architectes' Drummondville Library unites a community
Accoladed Montreal firm Chevalier Morales Architectes recently completed the Drummondville Public library. Set on a strategically central site in the historic Québécois market town, the new curtain wall structure serves as much more than just a standard bibliothèque. The "well rounded" building operates as a sorely needed connector that bridges a formerly isolated civic complex to Drummonville's commercial core. Making use of as much space as possible on an awkwardly-shaped plot, the project's mass snakes in different directions but ultimately finds its grounding tucked in between various preexisting infrastructures, a power-line to the east and a skating rink to the west. The two-story building's curvilinear envelope carries through into its interior where convex and concave architectural elements help foster a program of unencumbered and layered movement. The structure not only houses the city's main library but also its historic society, arts and culture, and immigration departments. Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
Placeholder Alt Text

Scrutonizing His Record

Controversial conservative architectural commentator Sir Roger Scruton dies
Sir Roger Scruton has passed away at the age of 75. Scruton, former chair of the Building Better, Building Beautiful housing commission in the U.K., died of cancer on Sunday, January 12 after a six-month battle with the disease. Scruton was born in February 1944 and studied at Cambridge. According to an interview with the Guardian, his conservative political leanings emerged when in Paris during the 1968 student protests, which he viewed as an “unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans” professing “ludicrous Marxist gobbledegook.” His career traced many ups and downs and was not without controversy. In 2016 he was knighted for his services to philosophy, teaching, and public education; two years later he became a housing adviser only to be fired one year into the job amid alleged racist comments said while speaking to the New Statesman. Scruton was reappointed, however, after it was realized his comments were taken out of context and misrepresented. As Chair of the commission, Scruton was accused of re-igniting architectural style wars, fueled by his loathing of modernism and penchant to classicism. In April 2018, as AN's reported, Scruton suggested that one of the 9/11 hijackers, who had studied architecture in Hamburg, was “taking revenge on an architectural practice which had been introduced into the Middle East by Le Corbusier.” In 1982, Scruton launched the Salisbury Review, a journal promoting and celebrating conservatism for which he was the founding editor. Later, he visited dissidents in communist Czechoslovakia as part of a series of excursions where he smuggled across books, supported banned artists, and provided courses in subjects suppressed by authorities. He was eventually caught, however, being detained in Brno in 1985 before being kicked out and banned from the country. Never one to stay out of trouble, Scruton was sued by the Pet Shop Boys after he wrongly said in his book, An Intelligent Person's Guide to Pop Culture, that the band's songs should be credited to sound engineers rather than them. In another book, On Hunting, he also discussed his passion for fox hunting. In a 2001 article for New York’s conservative City Journal magazine, Scruton claimed that being gay was just as bad as smoking and knocked 10 years off of the lives of LGBTQ individuals. Scruton had also taken fire for his close association with Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and over comments many interpreted as antisemitic and Islamaphobic. “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Sir Roger Scruton, FBA, FRSL. Beloved husband of Sophie, adored father to Sam and Lucy and treasured brother of Elizabeth and Andrea, he died peacefully on Sunday 12th January,” read a statement on his own website, posted on Sunday. “His family are hugely proud of him and of all his achievements.” Tributes have also come in from U.K. architects and the political sphere. “Deeply sorry to learn of the death of Sir Roger Scruton. His work on building more beautifully, submitted recently to my department, will proceed and stand part of his unusually rich legacy,” tweeted Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government Robert Jenrick. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, said: “RIP Sir Roger Scruton. We have lost the greatest modern conservative thinker—who not only had the guts to say what he thought but said it beautifully.” Robert Adam, director of ADAM Architecture, a firm which specializes in classical and traditional architecture and urban design, told the Architects' Journal, “[Scruton] was always prepared to argue a point in a balanced and sensible manner but was often met with prejudice and hysteria. As a philosopher, he understood that people would have different views and that this was not a matter for opprobrium but for debate. He was a great thinker and a great author and his work will have a lasting legacy but, for me, it is the principle of reasoned and courteous debate, without personal acrimony, with those with whom you disagree, that will live on.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Idea Generator

Sidewalk Labs is using machine learning to make neighborhood design smoother
Sidewalk Labs, the Alphabet subsidiary focused on urban technology, has been working on a new software tool for generating optimized city layouts. In an effort to combat the disconnect between various stakeholders in the urban planning process—architects, planners, engineers, and real estate developers—and their software, product manager Violet Whitney and designer Brian Ho have created a new computational tool that analyzes a wide array of data to automatically create thousands, or millions, of neighborhood layouts from a baseline design.  Examples of inputs and considerations Sidewalk Labs listed include regulatory concerns, street layouts, block orientations, real estate, weather, building height, and more, which can then be considered against “quality of life” measures. Using machine learning, the technology should get “smarter” over time.  Design always takes compromise. Too much density can cause traffic or an abundance of building shadows, yet too little is also no good. A lot of open space can be great, until it gets in the way of easy movement. Designers and other involved parties can consider their goals and generate many new designs to see different possibilities, which would then inspire and instruct human designers (there’s no doing away with architects just yet). The Sidewalk Labs team also wants to diminish the disconnect between the different software different parties use, from developers' Excel sheets to the powerful modeling tools used by engineers, and make communication easier.  In a digital case study, the researchers presented a plan for a two-by-two-block neighborhood that aimed for at least 45 percent open space, 49 percent daylight access, and as a proxy for density, 1.5 million square feet of floor area. While the human-led design hit the required parameters, then using the new tool, researchers were able to generate thousands of variations of that initial design, around 400 of which outperformed the original. Sidewalk Labs also suggested that community feedback might be integrated into the technology and its holistic process in the future, likely important given the pushback its high-tech timber neighborhood—accused of having all sorts of ulterior motives like corporate surveillance—has been getting in Toronto. The tool is part of a broader trend to introducing automation into design, whether on the interior scale, such as WeWork’s proprietary space-laying algorithms, or at the city scale such as emerging “digital twin” projects. For more on the latest in AEC technology and for information about the upcoming TECH+ conference, visit https://techplusexpo.com/events/la/
Placeholder Alt Text

Final call to enter the $2 million LafargeHolcim Awards

Submissions for the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design will close soon

Brought to you by:
Entries in the 6th International LafargeHolcim Awards for sustainable construction will close on February 25, 2020. The competition seeks projects by professionals as well as bold ideas from the next generation that combine sustainable construction solutions with architectural excellence. The Awards foreground projects and concepts from architecture, engineering, urban planning, materials science, construction technology, and related fields. The competition takes place in parallel across five geographic regions—each with its own jury of renowned and independent specialists. The regional juries are headed by Jeannette Kuo, Karamuk Kuo Architects (Europe), Reed Kroloff, the Illinois Institute of Technology (North America), Loreta Castro Reguera, Taller Capital (Latin America), Mariam Kamara, atelier masōmī (Middle East Africa), and Nirmal Kishnani, National University of Singapore (Asia Pacific). The main category of the competition is open to architects, planners, engineers, project owners, builders, and construction firms showcasing sustainable responses within contemporary building and construction. Projects must have reached an advanced stage of design, have a high probability of execution, and may not have started construction before January 1, 2019. In addition, students and young professionals (those 30 years or younger) may submit visionary concepts and bold ideas in the Next Generation category of the competition. Submissions may be at an early stage of design, including research and design studio work. Submissions will be evaluated according to five “target issues” for sustainable construction that aim to clarify principles for sustaining the human habitat for future generations. The winners will be announced in the second half of 2020 at Awards ceremonies in each region. The main winners will then compete for the Global LafargeHolcim Awards in 2021, to be evaluated by a global jury headed by Hashim Sarkis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, U.S.A., and curator of the 2020 Venice Biennale of Architecture. Useful Links: Video introduction to Awards: www.lafargeholcim-awards.org/video Step-by-step guide on entering the Awards: www.lafargeholcim-awards.org/guide Awards entry form: www.lafargeholcim-awards.org/enter Previous winners (more than 250 projects): www.lafargeholcim-awards.org/projects