Search results for "metro"

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Beyond Gridlock
The first place entry in the professional category, MMs Transit, designed by Joshua Stein, Aaron Whelton, and Jaclyn Thomforde with Jacob Brostoff.
Courtesy the designers

On March 21, The Architect’s Newspaper and the Los Angeles–based Southern California Institute for Future Initiatives, a program of SCI-Arc, announced the winners of their open ideas competition, A New Infrastructure: Innovative Transit Solutions for Los Angeles.

Inspired by LA County Measure R—a half-cent sales tax hike passed last November that promised up to $40 billion in transit funding for the city—the competition offered architects, engineers, and planners a chance to rethink LA’s transit infrastructure from a neighborhood scale and from far-reaching, system-wide perspectives. The contest attracted 75 proposals from around the world, providing a refreshing look at a set of problems all too often met by sighs of weary futility among transit professionals.

Most of the winning schemes took a big-picture approach to reintegrating this famously far-flung city. The professional winner Más Transit (pictured above), by Joshua Stein, Aaron Whelton, and Jaclyn Thomforde with Jacob Brostoff, proposed a system in which high-speed regional and local rail would be seamlessly linked via a raised infrastructure above the city. The design would cluster nodes of density around its inventively layered network, while making San Diego less than an hour away by train. The student winner, Ryan Lovett, tackled transit issues in concert with rezoning to incorporate work, production, and living into the same dense districts, a simple development strategy that solves multiple environmental problems.

Many of the best ideas to emerge from the competition were repeated across the spectrum. The second-place student winners, Alan Lu and Yan-ping Wang, proposed a modular mobile transit vehicle, which, like one proposed by Lovett,could travel both on and off a track. Meanwhile, the third-place professional winner, Osborn’s Mag Luv proposal, also integrated high-speed rail with local mass transit systems, including zip cars and other individually-oriented transit technologies, converging on 12 centers of transportation and activity.

Several of the top prize winners—like Ben Abelman, Vivian Ngo, and Julia Siedle’s Freeways Are For Trains—proposed using LA’s existing freeway system as a base from which to build new transit and dense urban development. Others, like Fletcher Studio’s Infrastructural Armature, looked at merging transit with other existing infrastructure, like water and sewer networks, from which “infrastructural tentacles” could grow. Roe Goodman’s honorable-mention-winning student proposal suggested transit stations that could double as neighborhood centers, offering markets, bike storage, and other amenities. NBBJ’s Green Tech City scheme, which won a professional honorable mention, proposed linking new stations within a greenbelt, accompanied by zoning in the area to encourage the burgeoning green-tech sector in the city.

Among the organizers’ special selections was Odile Decq’s eye-popping Fast, Fluid & Free, which proposed an electric-car transport system modeled on free bike-sharing systems developed in Europe, along with mixed-use linkages spanning the freeways with parks, commerce, and car and bike stations. Wes Jones’ The Answer Is Not Mass(ive) Transit took a contrarian approach, suggesting that instead of resource-intensive infrastructure, planners consider small-scale solutions like the Elov, a pod-like electric vehicle that fits into less space than a smart car and reduces the volume of traffic by serving the same number of occupants in only one quarter of the space.

Outside of new ideas, the competition encouraged conversations among transit players, designers, and community leaders, who don’t speak together enough when transit decisions are made. The jury included architects Thom Mayne, Eric Owen Moss, and Neil Denari; but also Aspet Davidian, director of project engineering facilities for the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority; Cecilia V. Estolano, chief executive officer of CRA/LA; Gail Goldberg, director of planning for the City of Los Angeles; Roland Genik, urban planner and transit designer; and Geoff Wardle, the director of advanced mobility research at Art Center College of Design.

Most agreed that the discussion about transit in the city needed to better tap into the design and urban planning fields. But they also argued that the whole issue needed rethinking from a coordinated, regional perspective. Mayne pushed for a change in how we see the city at large, while Denari pressed for proactive—not reactive—planning, and Goldberg pushed for more long-term thinking. Moss pointed out that Measure R only detailed rail and road improvements, but not how such improvements would affect the city. He deplored a city balkanized by local politics, without an overall vision. “We’re known in LA for experimental architecture,” he said. “But when it comes to urban planning, we’re about as meek a place as there is.”

And now, the winners.

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If You Build It, We Will Post (and then re-post)
Sorry, this post was accidentally erased last week. Finally, the public events for AN's New Infrastructure competition have ended! (there's one more at the AIA/Mobius Conference in June, but that's not exactly public..) The final event- also one of the last at GOOD magazine's space at 6824 Melrose Avenue, which is moving down the street in the coming months (more details to come as they emerge)-  included a workshop led by Metro planner James Rojas, in which the audience was asked to build their own transit systems out of found materials like beads, legos, wooden and foam blocks, plastic figures, chess pieces, and much more. The ideas, concocted in just minutes, were stunning in their beauty and creativity, revealing a public desire to make LA's transit systems more efficient, user-friendly, and most of all fun. A few schemes incorporated transit along the LA River, with trains, boats, and (in one case) jet packs running on the along the existing infrastructure. One plan incorporated public plazas around transit stops as well as a system of car and bike sharing to supplement public transit. Another aligned itself along two concentric circles united by a long spine to increase efficiency. And quite a few incorporated green space into the system, changing development to increase park and wildlife space, lowerering auto-friendly space,  encouraging local work and production, and reducing the need for transit in the first place. The event also featured an intelligent, and sometimes contentious, panel inspired by the winning designs, and by the future role of transit in LA. Led by design goddess Alissa Walker, its participants included urban designers John Chase and Simon Pastucha, LA METRO officials Rojas and Michael LeJeune, and architect and SCI-Arc Graduate Director Ming Fung. Debates raged over how great a role the public should play in transit decisions and how much power METRO should have in development. But most agreed that planning and transit should be developed together, not on in reaction to each other.  Chase and Pastucha have pledged to make their way through all 75 entries to the competition, sorting them by category and culling for the best ideas. Good luck guys!
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Comment: Worlds Away
Canadian architect Clive Grout has designed the U.S. pavilion for Shanghai's 2010 world expo, but the project may not be built.
Courtesy Clive Grout Architect

In May 1956, a young federal employee named Jack Masey was asked to create a pavilion for an agricultural exposition in Afghanistan. The United States embassy in Kabul had been lobbying for a pavilion ever since it learned that the Soviets and the Chinese were planning large shows of their own. With the fair scheduled to open in August, Masey had just three months to create a pavilion that would help the U.S. outshine its Cold War rivals.

Masey, an army veteran and graduate of Yale’s architecture school, contacted Buckminster Fuller, creator of the geodesic dome. Within days, Fuller had drawn plans for a 110-foot-diameter building, which was fabricated in the U.S. and airlifted to Kabul. There, it was erected by Afghani workers, who, according to Masey, were visibly proud of their involvement. (By contrast, the Soviet and Chinese pavilions were built by imported technicians.) Thousands of Afghans visited the dome, which contained a working TV studio and other displays of American know-how. A photo taken in the pavilion during the fair shows a group of young men in traditional garb, suitably agog.

Masey tells this tale in his new book Cold War Confrontations: US Exhibitions and Their Role in the Cultural Cold War (Lars Müller Publishers, 2008). The book, coauthored with Conway Lloyd Morgan, couldn’t be more timely.

Next year, the eyes of the world will be on Shanghai, where the Chinese government will host a world exposition (informally called a world’s fair) from May 1 to October 31. Nearly 200 countries are building pavilions, many by important architects chosen in national competitions. The host city will try to match the showmanship of last summer’s Beijing games, and, unlike the made-for-television Olympics, the expo will likely attract tens of millions of Chinese visitors.

But whether the U.S. will be at the fair is still an open question. Under a misguided 1999 law, the State Department is prohibited from spending money on international expositions. Last year, the department authorized a private group, headed by Washington, D.C. lawyer Ellen Eliasoph and California amusement park executive Nick Winslow, to solicit donations for a privately funded pavilion. Last fall, unable to find sponsors, they abandoned their quest. Now they are trying again, and the Obama administration, according to Winslow, is rallying behind them.

Meanwhile, Clive Grout, a Canadian architect chosen by Winslow and Eliasoph, has designed a U.S. pavilion that may or may not get built. Time is running out. “The U.S. government can only commit to participating in the Shanghai Expo if the necessary funding from the private sector can first be secured,” a spokesman for the U.S. Consul General inShanghai confirmed by email last week.

That the United States wouldn’t attend a giant international gathering, at a time when so much is at stake in U.S.–Chinese relations, seems unimaginable. Sadly, though, it is not unprecedented. The U.S. embarrassed itself with a tacky pavilion at the Seville expo in 1992 (timed to the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ first voyage, with the U.S. meant to be the guest of honor). It ignored the next expo (in Hannover, Germany, in 2000), insulting a crucial ally. At the insistence of Toyota, whose retired chairman conceived the 2005 expo in Aichi, Japan, the U.S. did have a pavilion. But the building’s creators, who had to rely on corporate funding, put more thought into the VIP suite (where those sponsors could entertain clients) than into the main event, a film about Benjamin Franklin.

If the U.S. pavilion for Shanghai gets built, it, too, will have a lavish VIP suite, Winslow said. The exhibition will be by BRC Imagination Arts (the company behind the Franklin movie in Aichi). The building is by Grout, who designed a number of pavilions for the 1986 Vancouver Expo, and went on to masterplan the 2002 Swiss Expo.

According to Grout, the pavilion he has designed for Shanghai—where the theme is “Better City, Better Life”—will be “a celebration of an American metropolis in 2030, focusing on health, sustainability, and community.” The 60,000-square-foot building will employ “a very contemporary vocabulary of metal and glass,” he said. The glass will be covered in a decorative film made by 3M, a sponsor of the pavilion. Grout is waiting to see which other companies give money, so that—if there’s time—he can incorporate their products into the design as well.

As his clients scrounge for handouts, Grout is collaborating with a Chinese architecture and engineering firm, which is creating working drawings even as design development continues. “We are under tremendous pressure,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of time to study or investigate. I’m just focused on the fact that this is going to open in May of 2010, and we’ve got to get it into the ground. Until somebody tells me different, that’s my responsibility, to keep it alive.” He added: “We don’t yet know how much money is going to be available. It’s not the way to create a crackerjack pavilion.”
 


Fuller's dome landed at Expo '67 in Montreal, where the Soviet hammer and sickle made a definite statement.
Courtesy Lars Müller Publishers
 

That is a far cry from Masey’s day, when pavilions were symbols of national pride and funded by the government. Masey’s employer, the United States Information Agency (USIA), made its first foray into exhibition diplomacy with barge- and truck-borne displays touting the Marshall Plan, helping to win the hearts and minds of western Europeans, and it participated in hundreds of large expos and small trade fairs over the next five decades. According to Masey, it was the USIA that gave Fuller, George Nelson, Charles and Ray Eames, Ivan Chermayeff, and Thomas Geismar their first peacetime commissions.

Among the highlights of Masey’s tenure was the American National Exhibition in Moscow in 1959. Best known as the site of the “kitchen debate” between Nixon and Khrushchev, the fair attracted 2.7 million visitors during its six-week run. The interest of Soviet citizens was, according to observers, palpable.

Even more poignant is the tale of the 1956 exhibition in Brussels. Though the fair had an atomic energy theme, the U.S. chose to present its human side in a stunning circular building by Edward Durell Stone. (Among other exhibits, there was a fashion show organized by Jackie Kennedy’s sister, Lee.) A separate building was designed to house an exhibition on race relations in America. The goal was to counter Soviet claims that the United States, with its history of segregation, was in no position to lecture the Soviets on human rights. Called Unfinished Business, it depicted progress being made toward racial equality.

The show created a furor at home, with Senator Herman Talmadge of Georgia writing to Secretary of State John Foster Dulles that the pavilion represented “an unwarranted invasion of the rights and prerogatives of the states of the south,” where “segregated society has proved to be in the best interest of all races concerned.” The exhibit was replaced with one devoted to public health, which Masey calls “an unworthy end to one of the most successful examples of architectural propaganda ever attempted by the United States.”

But there were to be other successful U.S. pavilions, at Montreal in 1967 (a giant Fuller dome) and Osaka in 1970 (a fascinating, inflatable building). Indeed, since at least the 19th century, world’s fairs have produced important architecture, as the assumed temporariness of the structures frees designers to experiment. (Both the Crystal Palace and the Eiffel Tower were built for international expositions.) Recent fairs have been filled with estimable structures, from MVRDV’s startling Dutch pavilion in Hannover to Foreign Office Architects’ Spanish offering in Aichi. In Shanghai, expect great things from Denmark’s BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group), Italy’s BiCuadro, and Spain’s Miralles Tagliabue EMBT. England’s pavilion was designed by Thomas Heatherwick, chosen in a competition over Zaha Hadid and London Eye designers Marks Barfield.

But the U.S. no longer turns to its top talent. Ironically, Shanghai officials commissioned Yung Ho Chang, head of the architecture program at MIT, and Edwin Schlossberg, a prominent New York exhibition designer, to create their pavilion for Shanghai. Chinese business leaders have chosen American experts to sell themselves on their own home turf. 

Congress should immediately end the ban on public funding for international expositions, and allocate the $100 million or so it will take to build a pavilion worth texting home about. Jack Masey, 85 and still working, might have a few ideas.

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Comment: Worlds Away
Canadian architect Clive Grout has designed the U.S. pavilion for Shanghai's 2010 world expo, but the project may not be built.
Courtesy Clive Grout Architect

In May 1956, a young federal employee named Jack Masey was asked to create a pavilion for an agricultural exposition in Afghanistan. The United States embassy in Kabul had been lobbying for a pavilion ever since it learned that the Soviets and the Chinese were planning large shows of their own. With the fair scheduled to open in August, Masey had just three months to create a pavilion that would help the U.S. outshine its Cold War rivals.

Masey, an army veteran and graduate of Yale’s architecture school, contacted Buckminster Fuller, creator of the geodesic dome. Within days, Fuller had drawn plans for a 110-foot-diameter building, which was fabricated in the U.S. and airlifted to Kabul. There, it was erected by Afghani workers, who, according to Masey, were visibly proud of their involvement. (By contrast, the Soviet and Chinese pavilions were built by imported technicians.) Thousands of Afghans visited the dome, which contained a working TV studio and other displays of American know-how. A photo taken in the pavilion during the fair shows a group of young men in traditional garb, suitably agog.

Masey tells this tale in his new book Cold War Confrontations: US Exhibitions and Their Role in the Cultural Cold War (Lars Müller Publishers, 2008). The book, coauthored with Conway Lloyd Morgan, couldn’t be more timely.

Next year, the eyes of the world will be on Shanghai, where the Chinese government will host a world exposition (informally called a world’s fair) from May 1 to October 31. Nearly 200 countries are building pavilions, many by important architects chosen in national competitions. The host city will try to match the showmanship of last summer’s Beijing games, and, unlike the made-for-television Olympics, the expo will likely attract tens of millions of Chinese visitors.

But whether the U.S. will be at the fair is still an open question. Under a misguided 1999 law, the State Department is prohibited from spending money on international expositions. Last year, the department authorized a private group, headed by Washington, D.C. lawyer Ellen Eliasoph and California amusement park executive Nick Winslow, to solicit donations for a privately funded pavilion. Last fall, unable to find sponsors, they abandoned their quest. Now they are trying again, and the Obama administration, according to Winslow, is rallying behind them.

Meanwhile, Clive Grout, a Canadian architect chosen by Winslow and Eliasoph, has designed a U.S. pavilion that may or may not get built. Time is running out. “The U.S. government can only commit to participating in the Shanghai Expo if the necessary funding from the private sector can first be secured,” a spokesman for the U.S. Consul General inShanghai confirmed by email last week.

That the United States wouldn’t attend a giant international gathering, at a time when so much is at stake in U.S.–Chinese relations, seems unimaginable. Sadly, though, it is not unprecedented. The U.S. embarrassed itself with a tacky pavilion at the Seville expo in 1992 (timed to the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ first voyage, with the U.S. meant to be the guest of honor). It ignored the next expo (in Hannover, Germany, in 2000), insulting a crucial ally. At the insistence of Toyota, whose retired chairman conceived the 2005 expo in Aichi, Japan, the U.S. did have a pavilion. But the building’s creators, who had to rely on corporate funding, put more thought into the VIP suite (where those sponsors could entertain clients) than into the main event, a film about Benjamin Franklin.

If the U.S. pavilion for Shanghai gets built, it, too, will have a lavish VIP suite, Winslow said. The exhibition will be by BRC Imagination Arts (the company behind the Franklin movie in Aichi). The building is by Grout, who designed a number of pavilions for the 1986 Vancouver Expo, and went on to masterplan the 2002 Swiss Expo.

According to Grout, the pavilion he has designed for Shanghai—where the theme is “Better City, Better Life”—will be “a celebration of an American metropolis in 2030, focusing on health, sustainability, and community.” The 60,000-square-foot building will employ “a very contemporary vocabulary of metal and glass,” he said. The glass will be covered in a decorative film made by 3M, a sponsor of the pavilion. Grout is waiting to see which other companies give money, so that—if there’s time—he can incorporate their products into the design as well.

As his clients scrounge for handouts, Grout is collaborating with a Chinese architecture and engineering firm, which is creating working drawings even as design development continues. “We are under tremendous pressure,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of time to study or investigate. I’m just focused on the fact that this is going to open in May of 2010, and we’ve got to get it into the ground. Until somebody tells me different, that’s my responsibility, to keep it alive.” He added: “We don’t yet know how much money is going to be available. It’s not the way to create a crackerjack pavilion.”
 


Fuller's dome landed at Expo '67 in Montreal, where the Soviet hammer and sickle made a definite statement.
Courtesy Lars Müller Publishers
 

That is a far cry from Masey’s day, when pavilions were symbols of national pride and funded by the government. Masey’s employer, the United States Information Agency (USIA), made its first foray into exhibition diplomacy with barge- and truck-borne displays touting the Marshall Plan, helping to win the hearts and minds of western Europeans, and it participated in hundreds of large expos and small trade fairs over the next five decades. According to Masey, it was the USIA that gave Fuller, George Nelson, Charles and Ray Eames, Ivan Chermayeff, and Thomas Geismar their first peacetime commissions.

Among the highlights of Masey’s tenure was the American National Exhibition in Moscow in 1959. Best known as the site of the “kitchen debate” between Nixon and Khrushchev, the fair attracted 2.7 million visitors during its six-week run. The interest of Soviet citizens was, according to observers, palpable.

Even more poignant is the tale of the 1956 exhibition in Brussels. Though the fair had an atomic energy theme, the U.S. chose to present its human side in a stunning circular building by Edward Durell Stone. (Among other exhibits, there was a fashion show organized by Jackie Kennedy’s sister, Lee.) A separate building was designed to house an exhibition on race relations in America. The goal was to counter Soviet claims that the United States, with its history of segregation, was in no position to lecture the Soviets on human rights. Called Unfinished Business, it depicted progress being made toward racial equality.

The show created a furor at home, with Senator Herman Talmadge of Georgia writing to Secretary of State John Foster Dulles that the pavilion represented “an unwarranted invasion of the rights and prerogatives of the states of the south,” where “segregated society has proved to be in the best interest of all races concerned.” The exhibit was replaced with one devoted to public health, which Masey calls “an unworthy end to one of the most successful examples of architectural propaganda ever attempted by the United States.”

But there were to be other successful U.S. pavilions, at Montreal in 1967 (a giant Fuller dome) and Osaka in 1970 (a fascinating, inflatable building). Indeed, since at least the 19th century, world’s fairs have produced important architecture, as the assumed temporariness of the structures frees designers to experiment. (Both the Crystal Palace and the Eiffel Tower were built for international expositions.) Recent fairs have been filled with estimable structures, from MVRDV’s startling Dutch pavilion in Hannover to Foreign Office Architects’ Spanish offering in Aichi. In Shanghai, expect great things from Denmark’s BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group), Italy’s BiCuadro, and Spain’s Miralles Tagliabue EMBT. England’s pavilion was designed by Thomas Heatherwick, chosen in a competition over Zaha Hadid and London Eye designers Marks Barfield.

But the U.S. no longer turns to its top talent. Ironically, Shanghai officials commissioned Yung Ho Chang, head of the architecture program at MIT, and Edwin Schlossberg, a prominent New York exhibition designer, to create their pavilion for Shanghai. Chinese business leaders have chosen American experts to sell themselves on their own home turf. 

Congress should immediately end the ban on public funding for international expositions, and allocate the $100 million or so it will take to build a pavilion worth texting home about. Jack Masey, 85 and still working, might have a few ideas.

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Decor Out the Door
In addition to their scholarly and artistic value, many historic houses and period rooms are the rescues of the nascent preservation movement. On view since 1938 at the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY), two 1880s Aesthetic Movement rooms from the Rockefeller Mansion on 54th Street are finding new homes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at the Virginia Commonwealth Museum. MCNY deaccessioned the rooms as a part of its renovation, led by Polshek Partnership. The dressing room will go to the Met, as a part of their chronological sequence of period rooms, currently being reinstalled. The bedroom will go to Virginia, the home state of Catherine Arabella Duvall Yarrington Worsham, the woman who commissioned the firms Pottier & Stymus and Sypher & Co. to design the rooms. Shortly after their completion, Worsham sold the house to John D. Rockefeller, who kept the interiors intact. In 1937, John D. Rockefeller Jr. gave the two rooms to MCNY and a third to the Brooklyn Museum.

Doomsday for MTA

New Yorkers looking for a legislative express to rescue the flailing Metropolitan Transportation Authority got the bureaucratic equivalent of a garbage train this morning, as the MTA made good on threats to pass a budget and four-year capital plan marked by daunting service reductions and fare hikes.

In a series of 12-1 votes, the agency’s board approved the so-called “doomsday plan” that would slash service on train and bus lines and raise the monthly unlimited MetroCard’s cost to $103 from the current $81, among other desperate measures taken amid continued gridlock in Albany, where state legislators were still toiling to reach an agreement that would bolster the MTA’s budget.

On that front, the most powerful person in state government, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, kept pushing for a compromise among the state’s lawmaking bodies in the last hours before the vote. In February, the assembly appeared set to pass a plan to add tolls to East River bridges, along with a payroll tax to keep MTA capital projects alive. But the state senate, under fledgling majority leader Malcolm Smith, let that plan stall, and Silver has struggled to emerge as the straphanger’s hero.

“We’re trying very hard to reach a negotiated settlement,” Dan Weiller, a spokesperson for Silver, told AN yesterday. “Both the speaker and Malcolm Smith have said they may not make tomorrow’s deadline, but the MTA has said there’s a little wiggle room.”

In voting to turn a contingency budget into an operating plan, the MTA has strongly signaled that time’s up. The plan axes two subway lines—the Z, serving much of northeast Brooklyn from Bushwick to the Queens border, and the W to Astoria. Throughout the boroughs, 35 bus lines would also disappear, in addition to punishing weekend service cuts across the system. As New York’s transit-riding population keeps growing, and job centers disperse from midtown Manhattan, the cutbacks could well harm productivity and hamper access to jobs.

Yet Senate Democrats, new to the majority this year, did not organize to support either a previous plan spearheaded by former MTA chief Richard Ravitch or Silver’s compromise proposal, which lowered bridge tolls from their recommended level to around the cost of a subway ride. Said one transit advocate, insisting on anonymity due to ongoing discussions with the legislature: “Smith, who’s trying to say it’s all about MTA accountability, really can’t get the votes.”

Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the advocacy group Straphangers Campaign, argued that Silver could bring lawmakers around to his way of thinking, even after the MTA’s vote. And how might he do that? “The way he can direct any major expenditure,” Russianoff told AN. “The power of the purse. He says to them, ‘You want your annual appropriations?’”

At this stage, Silver’s political gamesmanship is the last recourse for New Yorkers who’ll otherwise have to dig deeper into their pockets for $2.50 for a single ride beginning May 31.

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Announcing Winners: A New Infrastructure
An image from the winning entry, Mas Transit, by Joshua G. Stein/RadicalCraft, Aaron Whelton/AAW Studio, and Jaclyn Thomforde with Jacob M. Brostoff
Stein/Whelton/Thomforde/Brostoff

On March 21, SCI-Arc's SCI-FI program and The Architect’s Newspaper announced the winners of their open ideas competition, A New Infrastructure: Innovative Transit Solutions for Los Angeles.

The competition, inspired by LA County Measure R—a half-cent sales tax hike that promises up to $40 billion in transit funding for the city— attracted 75 proposals from around the world. It offered architects, engineers, urban planners, and students a chance to propose new ideas for the city's transit infrastructure. Their entries focused on specific rail extension projects in the city and also take a look at larger-scale, interrelated planning challenges.

The competition jury included architects Thom Mayne, Eric Owen Moss, and Neil Denari;  Aspet Davidian, director, Project Engineering Facilities, LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority; Cecilia V. Estolano, chief executive officer, CRA/LA; Gail Goldberg, director of planning, City of Los Angeles; Roland Genik, urban planner and transit designer; and Geoff Wardle, director, Advanced Mobility Research at Art Center College of Design.
 

PROFESSIONAL WINNERS

First Prize
Más Transit: Joshua G. Stein/RadicalCraft, Aaron Whelton/AAW Studio, and Jaclyn Thomforde with Jacob M. Brostoff

Más is regional high-speed rail for Los Angeles with a landscape to match. Promoting dense, organic development, it diversifies the communities in the built environment, making travel less necessary, easier and more predictable, and bypassing roadway congestion through a new raised infrastructure. Looping around the city, with connections to subways and buses, Más links local and inter-regional commuting; providing frequent service that will also sync up with the California High Speed Rail network. San Diego via más is less than an hour away, including transfer times; San Francisco is less than three hours away.

 

Second Prize
Infrastructural Armature: Fletcher Studio: David Fletcher, Dylan Barlow, Ryan Chandler, Daniel Phillips, Tobi Adamolekun

Recognizing the vital role that mobility, water, and sewage will play in Los Angeles' future, the city must begin to invest in a core armature of new bundled infrastructures which will allow the city to survive the impending reality of peak water and peak oil.  The city must reorganize along the matrices of transportation, water and sewer networks, and grow infrastructural tentacles out into the world to ship and receive.

 

 

Third Prize
Mag Luv: Osborn: Holly Chisholm, Kate Harvey, Armen Isagholi, Takeshi Kobayashi, Michael Pinto, Jared Sopko, Esmeralda Ward, Yuju Yeo

The scheme proposes eroding a portion of the freeway and supplanting it with a new object, mode, and form for adoration—Mag Luv. The high speed magnetic levitation peripheral train appropriates freeway, right of way, and “dream space” to become the mega structure of the Los Angeles transit system. The loop circumnavigates the city providing 12 hubs of activity, transportation, and power production.
 

HONORABLE MENTION: PROFESSIONAL

 

Mobility on Demand: RSA: Dwight Bond, Diane Tadena, James Wong

A combination of rail, light-rail, smart cars, bike share, and different bus systems will provide easy connections in and between cities. Multiple vehicle types provide users with choices among combinations of cost, comfort, and functionality. A commuter might choose to ride the train to work, pick up a smart car to attend a meeting, go to the gym, or pick up groceries before going back home. In creating a dense commercial and residential environment to support and foster the inevitable expansion of the transit system, the scheme also investigates alternative development strategies that are adaptable to the ever-changing conditions of our urban culture.

 

Green Tech City: NBBJ: Harry Bairamian, Hrant Bairamian, So Eun Cho, Tony Choi, Scott Hunter, Byoung Kweon, Anthony Manzo, Nnamdi Ugenyi, Jonathan Ward, Tim Zamora

This scheme created green-tech districts along the Westside expansion corridor stretching from downtown to Santa Monica. The plan likened itself to a living organism, including a Skeletal System composed of new green districts between stations; a respiratory system that included a 2.5-mile green park along the length of the transit system; and tendons, which were linkages to the community, like freeway bridges, human-scaled densities, walkability plans, urban parks, and agricultural zones.

 

Go Mixed-Modal: Tom Beresford

In 2000, LA Metro gambled that it could increase both ridership and transit efficiency by making a bus a little more like a subway: The Metro Rapid. Mixed-modal goes even further to suggest that any bus has the potential to go “local,” “rapid,” or “express” at coordinated points along its route to flexibly serve transit demand. A bus may go “express” by entering grade-separated express lanes shared with planned or existing rail modes, with the help of new frictionless electric power-transfer technologies and hybrid rail/road drive surfaces. The mixed-modal project offers a vision of what the Expo line might look like if it operated as the “trunk” of a regional transit tree with “branches” extending up and down existing Metro Rapid lines.


 

STUDENT WINNERS

First Prize
Glocalizing Los Angeles: Ryan Lovett

The physical separations between places of work and play have become outdated and burdensome. Meanwhile the divide between commercial, residential, agricultural, and manufacturing zones have become so exaggerated that the infrastructures needed to connect and sustain them crumble in lack of upkeep and congestion. In conjunction with newer, faster transit systems, this plan proposes a simple development strategy that collapses the distances between all the elements needed to support our lifestyles by suggesting that workplaces, as well as production of food and goods, be within walking distance.
 

 

Second Prize
Modular Diffusion: Alan Lu, Yan-ping Wang

In a car, the passenger can go from any given point to another in one continuous trip.  To achieve this level of mobility in tandem with an increase in roadway capacity, we introduce a mass transit system based upon a Modular Transit Vehicle (MTV for short).  This modular system would allow passengers to (1) board from a wide range of street stops, (2) travel along the freeway, and (3) take the freeway exit closest to the destination and drop passengers off there, all in one ride.

 

Third Prize
Freeways Are For Trains: Ben Abelman, Vivian Ngo, Julia Siedle

This team believes that Los Angeles need not invest in a “new” public transportation system but transform its existing transportation system of freeways into “trainways.”  By taking over “freeways” with rail tracks, a comprehensive expansion of the LA Metro will respond to the projects that are indicated in Measure R and will commence at a much lower cost due to taking advantage of the rights of ways established by the freeway.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: STUDENT

Feeding Community and the Gold Line
Roe Goodman
University of British Columbia

If we are to develop along a freeway we need to keep in mind that the surrounding residential neighborhoods need to access the train in a way that encourages a shift away from car dependency. This entry proposes a string of micro-scale infill developments along a bus line that feeds into the Eastside Transit Corridor. Positioned along newly developed commercial corridors, stops have waiting rooms that store bikes, serve as markets, and create a center of community.
 

 

Interstate 10
Tim Do, George LaBeth, Randy Stogsdill
SCI-Arc

This scheme proposes a reconsideration of the existing freeway corridor as a multi-function transit corridor. The existing freeway would be retrofitted with a new structure that over a series of stages adds layers of public and environmentally friendly transit options. As this second tier becomes more populated, greenscaping is added, converting the freeway corridor into a vibrant public space.

 

Cross-Link/Cross-Program
Minjeong Gweon
Cal Poly Pomona

Los Angeles’ current subway network relies too much on a centralized spoke-network approach. A more effective subway system should also include cross-linkages. This subway design project looks to develop a new cross-link between the existing red line (which connects Hollywood and Downtown) and the future purple Westside Extension line. The proposed connecting line would add three new stops: the first at Santa Monica Blvd. and Highland Ave, the second at Santa Monica and Fairfax, and the third at La Cienega. The connecting point to the red line would be at Hollywood and Highland, and the connecting point to the future purple line would be located at the Beverly Center.


  

ORGANIZERS' SELECTIONS

Fast, Fluid & Free: ODBC/ Odile Decq

This project takes advantage of LA’s polycentric character, developing a grid of multimodal transit systems, articulated on different levels within the existing city. On the scale of the city, the plan proposes a Free Car Transport System, on the model of free bike systems largely developed in Europe today. Electric cars will be available for hire throughout the city. Other proposals include Smooth Jumps over Motorways: stations that combine the urban proposal of green park links between the two sides of the freeways by building a station over them, and containing contain carparks, commerce, Free Car and Free Bike  stations.

 

The Answer Is Not Mass(ive) Transit: Wes Jones

Instead of the massive, resource-intensive, and inflexible infrastructure that results from top-down approaches to planning, this proposal argues, why not consider a flexible, pragmatic, small-scale, bottom-up approach? Introducing the Elov, a small, pod-like vehicle that fits into less space than a smart car and reduces the volume of traffic by serving the same number of occupants in only one quarter of the space. Because of its light weight and micromotor efficiency, the Elov can be charged overnight using home outlets, further reducing the required infrastructure.

 

EVENTS

Friday, March 27, 2-4 pm
A New Infrastructure Discussion:
Competition Winners and METRO Transit Officials
Metro Headquarters
Windsor Room, 15th Floor
One Gateway Plaza
Los Angeles
 
Thursday, April 2, 7-9 pm
A New Infrastructure Discussion:
Transit And The City Panel Discussion
MAK Center at the Schindler House
835 North Kings Road
West Hollywood

Tuesday, April 14, 7-9 pm
A New Infrastructure Discussion:
Transit and The Community Panel Discussion
GOOD Space
6824 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles

Friday, June 26, 1:45-3:15 pm
A New Infrastructure Discussion:
Architects And Transit Panel Discussions
AIA Mobius/ Dwell Conference
Los Angeles Convention Center
1201 South Figueroa Street
Los Angeles


Sponsors for A New Infrastructure include AECOM, Arup, and Sussman/Prezja. The project is also funded in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles' Department of Cultural Affairs.

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Grand (Central) Slam for MTA
Donald Trump’s Grand Central Tennis Club may see its last baller this spring. According to the Daily News, the tony courts, long frequented by politicians, celebrities, and tennis pros, will be closed to make way for a new rest area for Metro-North conductors and train engineers. Trump has leased the space from Metro-North for 30 years, paying $4 a square foot, about 4% of the average Grand Central going rate.

The courts, above Vanderbilt Hall on the third floor of the terminal, are in a once-unoccupied attic area that allegedly served as a ballroom until it was converted to CBS broadcast facilities in the late 1930s. (The first episodes of “What’s My Line?” and Edward R. Murrow’s “See It Now” were broadcast there.) In 1965, Hungarian immigrant Geza A. Gazdag founded Vanderbilt Athletic Club in the space, building two courts on the former soundstage and converting the broadcast studio to a lounge. A year later, he put in a 65-foot indoor ski slope next to the courts.

After it changed owners in 1970, the club underwent a $100,000 Dorothy Draper redecoration. Though some reports indicate the commuter railroad could open a new tennis club that would earn several times what Trump has paid, it remains to be seen if the new employee lounge, to be equipped with bunk beds, lockers and showers, will retain any of Draper’s modern baroque stylings.

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In The Swim
Not your parents' waterfront: 184 Kent Avenue, a conversion of the former Austin Nichols warehouse, will include landscaping and a promenade.
Courtesy Scape

New York’s waterfront building boom has been a bonanza for developers, but the resulting public space has often been a letdown: monotonous promenades, rigid bulkheads, ever-present guardrails, and nary a spot to quaff a beer.

And so after getting an earful from landscape architects, developers, and environmental engineers, the City Planning Commission has drawn up its first waterfront public access zoning overhaul in 15 years, aiming for higher-quality public space that’s more flexible and sustainable. The outlines of the plan, which was the subject of a March 4 public hearing, have been widely embraced as a badly needed update to the existing code.

“In super-broad stroke, it’s a great step forward,” said Roland Lewis, president of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. “In New Jersey, a lot of their esplanade functions as a front yard for luxury condominiums. This new addition to the zoning code is a step away from that. They’re trying to make the waterfront a communal resource for all of us.”

Toll brothers' new northside piers condo complex in williamsburg includes new waterfront landscaping and a pier.
COURTESY FXFowle
 
 

The main thrust of the 117-page amendment is to break down the uniform quality of many new waterfronts and allow for more creative uses of the edge. “In standard New York City zoning, there is one water’s edge, and it has to have a 42-inch-high railing,” said Donna Walcavage, principal at EDAW and landscape architect for Williamsburg’s Northside Piers complex, designed by FXFowle. By contrast, the new code permits a variety of edge options such as boat launches, get-downs, and tidal areas. Other improvements include more meandering pathway configurations, moveable seating, and fewer visual barriers. The plan also dispenses with an unimaginative list of plants that had been deemed fit for waterfront use, and allows landscape architects to make their own more sustainable choices that include native plants. “It’s much easier to create an ecosystem that responds to water,” Walcavage said.

Under the new code, developers would have the option to transfer public waterfront land to the Parks Department, and make annual payments to the city for site maintenance. The North 5th Street pier and esplanade at Northside Piers is the first transfer of this kind, which would seem appealing to developers, who also get to transfer the public space liability. In return, the Parks team is brought into the design process at an early stage. “To get our plan approval, we had to come to an agreement with the city about the transfer of the whole waterfront,” said David Lee, project architect at FXFowle. The result is theoretically a public space more tightly woven into the open-space fabric of the city.

While many designers support the plan’s goals, some wonder whether the amendment’s fine-grained design standards are the best way to achieve them. “I think the biggest concern about these regulations is that they’re incredibly prescriptive,” said Elena Brescia, partner in the landscape architecture firm Scape, whose waterfront design for Williamsburg’s 184 Kent Avenue, next door to Northside Piers, is now under construction. “It’s design by calculation. A certain number of benches are required per square foot, a certain number of trees are required per square foot,” she said, concerned that the result may not add up to the intended effect. “Even though there may be a boat launch thrown in, much of what is prescribed here is about having the same experience everywhere.”

On the bright side, the new rules do encourage the holy grail for many waterfront boosters: more cafes. “They’re allowing for more flexibility, and more commercial viability on the waterfront,” Lewis said. “It’s remarkable how few waterfront eateries there are in New York City. It’s almost shocking.”

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A New Infrastructure: Jury Convenes/Winners Saturday
It finally happened! The jury for the AN/ SCI-Arc design competition A New Infrastructure: Innovative Transit Solutions For Los Angeles met at SCI-Arc on Monday to pick the winners. They selected from 75 professional and student proposals from the U.S., U.K., Estonia, Italy, and France. The winners will be announced this Saturday at 2pm at SCI-Arc (960 E. 3rd Street, Los Angeles), followed by a panel with the jurors and an exhibition of the top proposals. The event is open to the public. Jury members included Thom Mayne, Eric Owen Moss, and Neil Denari, along with Aspet Davidian, the Director of Project Engineering Facilities at LA METRO; Cecilia Estolano, Chief Executive Officer of CRA/LA; Gail Goldberg, Los Angeles Director of Planning; Roland Genik, Urban Planner and Transit Designer; and Geoff Wardle, Director of Advanced Mobility Research at Art Center College of Design. And after seven hours, two meals, hundreds of discussions, and over 150 boards (ranging from highly practical to intensely surreal), the group picked its top choices. Hats off to them for their herculean effort! Come downtown on Saturday to see the winners and to enjoy the festivities!
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Data Decor
Mensa Moltke
All photos courtesy SFMOMA

When you first hear the premise behind much of Berlin-based architect Jürgen Mayer’s work, it seems like a joke. Most of it, explains the text to his eponymous show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), comes from an investigation of data protection patterns: those sets of numbers, shapes, letters, or symbols used on the insides of pay slips and IRS envelopes to hide the information inside. The patterns, writes SFMOMA’s architecture and design curator Henry Urbach, “recapitulate important properties of architectural surfaces—such as the way boundaries control movement and visibility across space—while providing a contemporary language of ornament.”

It’s no joke. This “language of ornament,” inspired by what appears to be a random exploration, has led to some of the most intriguing formal designs in the world. Clients in Europe have embraced the conceptual practice of his firm, J. Mayer H., and built or are building over 35 of his projects, which move the already tenuous line between fine art and architecture that much closer to the side of art.

At first look, the presentation of his work seems equally ridiculous. Three huge, white, abstract plaster sculptures that slightly resemble dogs sit among a crisscross of floor and ceiling graphics, projected images of Mayer's work, and video clips of these protection patterns, all accompanied by buzzing, race-car-like noises. As you linger, the impact of the work seems to grow in significance.


Stadthaus scharnhauser park

The most obvious connection comes from the videos of the work itself, beamed from openings in the sculptural installations that, it turns out, are themselves giant versions of the data patterns. The slideshows capture misshapen architectural forms such as the fractured, off-kilter Court of Justice in Hasselt, Belgium; the mushroom-like Metro Parasol in Seville, Spain; and the web-like Mensa Moltke, a student canteen at the Karlsruhe University in Karlsruhe, Germany. Images of some of his sculptures, like his wavy green blob called beat.wave for the Pulse art show in Miami, are difficult to distinguish from the architecture.

Shots of the buildings and sculptures are mingled with images of the data protection patterns, also projected and warped, on small TVs built into the sculptures and drawn on the floor and ceiling. If you listen carefully, the abstract patterns inform the hectic sounds around you. Every part of the show is made up of these patterns, which infuse and overwhelm the senses.


Danfoss universe

They also make the point that this formal investigation, while perhaps random, has the capacity to create and warp just about anything. Mayer is a master at studying and manipulating pure form and pattern, and the potential outgrowths of this investigation seem endless. They produce designs made possible with today’s sophisticated building and computer technologies. With the help of engineering firms like Arup, which contributed to several of his structures, they also showcase the fantastic structures that this combination can create. In Mayer’s architecture, this investigation of data patterns epitomizes a desire for new, integrated ornament, and crystallizes in built form the chaos of our times.

The show, like most architecture exhibitions, is hemmed in by the limitations of trying to capture an art best experienced in person. But its array of media provides ample inspiration to begin thinking about the possibilities of Mayer’s work. If this degree of thought can go into a building’s envelope, imagine how Mayer’s talent could transform buildings as integrated systems, or conceive of whole urban environments.

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iToldya So
So it turns out they've finally approved designs for the Apple Store in Georgetown. As we speculated, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson came up with a perfectly appropriate glassy-historicist design, as they already have in places like Soho and Boston. The thing is, after a year-and-a-half of deliberating over designs for the project, and rejecting four previous proposals, what the Old Georgetown Board approved looks suspiciously like what was presented 18 months ago. It's basically the same as the previous proposal from February, except that columns were added to the entryway to make it not quite so glassy. And we thought New York was bad. (h/t ArchNewsNow)
What a difference a month makes. (Washington Post)