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Infinite Suburbia

What if everything you know about the suburbs is wrong?
With 52 essays from 74 authors, Infinite Suburbia’s 732 pages comprehensively analyze the suburbs from the perspectives of architecture, design, landscape, planning, history, demographics, social justice, familial trends, policy, energy, mobility, health, environment, economics, and applied and future technologies. Organized by theme in an index that best resembles a spider’s web, the book is meant to be read in a nonlinear fashion, reminiscent of a choose-your-own-adventure novel. The editors of The Architect's Newspaper (AN) spoke with the book’s editors, Alan M. Berger and Joel Kotkin, about the future of the suburbs. Many of their analyses and provocations upend our notions of what the suburbs are and what they will become. The Architect’s Newspaper: What is suburbia and how do you define it for this book? Joel Kotkin and Alan Berger: Suburbia is generally a lower-density area outside the city core. In our approach, we look for such things as predominance of single-family housing, dependence on automobiles (particularly for non-work trips), age of housing stock, and distance from central core. This is about 80 percent of U.S. metro areas; some cities, like Phoenix and San Antonio, are predominately suburban even within their city boundaries. Within the book we have no fewer than five leading authors who define suburbia using different quantitative methods that are arguably more accurate than the U.S. Census at capturing the activities defining suburbia. What are some of the myths that surround the architecture and design community’s perception of the suburbs? Berger: Globally, the vast majority of people are moving to cities not to inhabit their centers, but to suburbanize their peripheries. I’m sure we can all agree that there are many suburban (and urban) models that are wasteful, unsustainable, and inequitable. However, despite having deep historical roots in conceiving suburban environments, the planning and design professions overwhelmingly vilify suburbia and seem disinterested in significantly improving it. Robert Bruegmann’s essay in the book reminds us that those who consider themselves the intellectual elite have a long history of anti-suburban crusades, and they have always been proven wrong. Our book, Infinite Suburbia, is built for an alternative discourse that can open paths to improvement and design agency, rather than condemning suburbia altogether. Our goal? To construct a balanced, alternative discourse to architecture and urban planning orthodoxy of “density fixes all,” and in doing so ask: “Can suburbia become a more sustainable model for rethinking the entire urban enterprise, as a vital fabric of “complete urbanization?” What were some of the most surprising or counterintuitive things you found about the suburbs when compiling these essays? Berger: One of the consistent themes in the book, and what gets me most excited as a landscape scholar, is the virtue of low density and the ecological potential of the suburban landscape. Environmentally, suburbs will save cities from themselves. Sarah Jack Hinners’s research in the book really surprised me. It suggests that suburban ecosystems, in general, are more heterogeneous and dynamic over space and time than natural ecosystems. Suburbs, she says, are the loci of novelty and innovation from an ecological and evolutionary perspective because they are a relatively new type of landscape and their ecology is not fixed or static. Kotkin: Two trends that may seem counterintuitive to urbanists have been the rapid pattern of diversification in suburbs, which now hold most of the nation’s immigrants and minorities, as well as the fact that suburbs are more egalitarian and less divided by class than core cities. What did you learn from studying some of the suburbs that aren’t the classic idyllic American suburb as we might see in the media? Berger: Not surprisingly, the American Housing Survey found that more than 64 percent of all occupied American homes are single-family structures. But in other countries, suburban contexts are anything but low density, such as along the peri-urban edges of Indian cities and those spread across China and Southeast Asia. Globally, not all suburbs look alike or follow the “post Anglo Saxon, North American model.” One fact remains, however, which is that in many parts of the world upward mobility is linked to suburban living. How do you see suburbia changing in the next few decades? Kotkin: Suburbs will change in many ways. First, they will continue to spread in those regions that have not employed strict growth controls. Denser development seems inevitable—such as The Domain [development] in north Austin—although [the suburbs] will remain largely surrounded by the single family and townhouses most people prefer. Although they already are, they will become more attractive to Millennials, who will demand fewer golf courses and conventional malls, and more hiking/biking trials and open, common landscapes. Suburbs will become more independent from the traditional city centers except for some amenities and central government services. Berger: Autonomous driving will dramatically change how we live, particularly in suburbia, where the dominant form of mobility is cars. Once there is widespread adoption of electrified autonomous cars, dramatic sustainability dividends will flourish in the suburbs of the future. This may also take the economic strain off metro mass transit systems, which can focus on service improvements within the core areas rather than stretching outward. Shared autonomous vehicles will become the preferred form of mass transit in areas not serviced by traditional buses or rail. What are the gentrification problems or other issues around the suburbanization of poverty? Kotkin: Gentrification, often subsidized by governments, is driving poorer people from city cores to closer or—in some cases—more distant suburbs. These are usually places that are either far from workplaces or have a less desirable housing stock. Yet suburbanization of poverty needs to be put in context of the massive overall population advantage of suburbs; overall poverty rates in cities remain twice as high as those of suburbs, and the pattern has not changed much in the past decade. What can designers or planners take from the book? Is there a role for traditional planning at this scale, when market forces are so strong? Berger: Readers should convincingly take away the enormous opportunity ahead in designing more sustainable and equitable suburbs and the importance of suburban fabric to the entire urban enterprise. This is systemically evident from social, economic, environmental, and design perspectives. Of course, there is great agency awaiting designers and planners in the new suburbia. We created them in the first place, so we have a responsibility to evolve the forms and forces toward more sustainable futures. Alan M. Berger is Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urban Design and co-director of the Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism at MIT. Joel Kotkin is the R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. Both are co-editors of Infinite Suburbia (Princeton Architectural Press).
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Open Housing

Milwaukee 50 years later, where the fight for fair housing continues
In the late summer of 1967, the civil rights movement was coming to a head. While it manifested around numerous issues throughout the country, in Milwaukee the fight for fair housing would be the catalyst for marches and protest that would last for months. Led by an unlikely advisor, Father James E. Groppi, son of Italian immigrants, and the NAACP Youth Council, thousands turned out for months of consecutive marches. In early 1967, the State of Wisconsin passed its first open housing law to prohibit discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing. While the law was considered a step in the right direction, loopholes involving owner-occupied multifamily properties meant most of Milwaukee’s housing was not included in the law. African Americans, living almost exclusively on the North Side of the city, were not able to move or buy property anywhere else in town. The division of the city was embodied in the 16th Street Viaduct, locally known as “Milwaukee’s Mason-Dixon line.” The bridge still stretches from the predominantly African American neighborhoods of the North Side to the predominantly white, mostly Polish, South Side. When Father Groppi and the NAACP Youth Council gathered to protest the city’s refusal to pass its own, stricter, fair housing ordinance, 16th Street would become a symbol of their struggle. The first march across the viaduct took place on August 28, 1967. About 200 demonstrators walked from the North Side to Kosciuszko Park on the South Side. There they met an overwhelming 5,000 hostile counter-protestors. The next night, marching again, 13,000 counter-protesters hurled rocks, bottles, and fireworks at the civil rights marchers. Acting to protect the marchers were the Youth Council Commandos, young men who would create human walls to shield the women and children participating from the angry South Siders and the increasingly brutal police force. Undeterred, the marches would continue for 200 consecutive nights, through Milwaukee’s frigid winter. Just weeks after the end of the marches, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. Notably, before taking up the fight in Milwaukee, Father Groppi had marched alongside King in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. In the days following King’s death, tens of thousands filled the streets of Milwaukee to mourn. By April 11, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act. Milwaukee would go on to pass even more stringent regulations later that year. Fifty years on, the city of Milwaukee is still reflecting on the events of that fateful era. The 16th Street viaduct has been renamed after Father Groppi, but the city is still considered one of the most segregated in the country. The lines dividing African Americans from whites have shifted, but are still staggeringly apparent. While the larger conversation about housing today is focused on affordability and sustainability, it is worth remembering that the simple act of wanting to live where you want is a battle that has been going on for decades.
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Shipping Out

Qatar unveils World Cup stadium made from shipping containers
Ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, host country Qatar has officially revealed that its seventh stadium for the event will be the world’s first fully modular stadium. The 40,000-seat arena will be constructed mainly from shipping containers and should be fully capable of being disassembled and reconstructed elsewhere. Announced on Sunday by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), the organization responsible for Qatar’s World Cup infrastructure, Ras Abu Aboud Stadium is the latest piece of Qatar’s $200 billion World Cup project to be revealed. The third venue to be designed for the 2022 World Cup by Fenwick Iribarren Architects, the stadium will be located on the waterfront of Doha, the country’s capital. By using modular shipping container blocks containing removable seats, concession stands, bathrooms and merchandise booths, the stadium’s layout can easily be adjusted in the future. Each of the pieces will arrive by tanker and be assembled on site. SC Secretary General H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi stressed the advantages of modular construction in a statement given to FIFA yesterday. "This venue offers the perfect legacy, capable of being reassembled in a new location in its entirety or built into numerous small sports and cultural venues. All of this in a stadium that delivers the atmosphere fans expect at a World Cup and which we will build in a more sustainable way than ever before,” he said. Because fewer materials will be needed in the stadium’s construction, and because Qatar has made integrating the newly-christened Stadium District into the fabric of Doha a top priority, Ras Abu Aboud Stadium will receive a four-star Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS) certification upon completion. GSAS is a far-reaching set of rigid green design, build and operations guidelines for cooperating Gulf countries. Qatar’s involvement with the 2022 World Cup hasn’t been entirely without controversy, however. Despite locking in big-name architects such as Zaha Hadid to either renovate existing stadiums or build modern arenas from the ground up, even FIFA’s own advisory board on human rights has raised questions over how construction workers in the country are being treated. With the country currently facing an embargo from the United Arab Emirates, building materials have also become harder to come by in recent months. Ras Abu Aboud Stadium is currently under construction and still on track for an early 2020 completion date, a full two years before the World Cup kicks off.
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Not All Bark

The lumber industry responds to the rise of mass timber
This is an article from our special November timber issue. North America’s lumber industry helped define what it means to build in the modern era. With the invention of the light balloon–frame, lumber became an indispensable resource to the quickly expanding United States in the 19th century. Over the past 150 years, the process and politics of wood have shaped a highly efficient industry that still provides the vast majority of the U.S.’s house-building material. With new technology, wood is pushing into new territories, and the lumber industry is bracing to respond to these demands. The process of harvesting lumber has dramatically changed since the industry began to standardize and organize in the late 1800s. No longer will you find any teams of two-person saws felling ancient trees or a Paul Bunyan-esque worker swinging an axe. Most of the industry became highly mechanized in the 1970s with the invention of the harvester. Harvesters, invented in Scandinavia, are tree cutting, moving, and trimming vehicles that have drastically reduced the danger and time involved in lumber work. Crawling through the forest, harvesters reach out with an articulated arm, grab a tree by the base with its nimble claw, then cut, trim, and lift the bare log onto the back of a transport vehicle. This can all be done by one operator, and during the process the tree is measured and catalogued. This entire process has added efficiency and sustainability to an industry that carefully balances a fine line of production and conservation. In North America and Europe, long gone are the days of clear-cutting forests and destroying an entire region’s ecology. While clear-cutting “slash and burn” operations still happen in parts of South America and Africa, they are due to the expanding, unregulated livestock and agriculture industries, not the timber industry. The careful regulation and scientific study of the lumber industry in the United States and Canada have led to a net increase of 1 percent of forested land over the last 50 years. That means the forests of North America are stable, with a slight increase, even as roughly 45.5 billion board feet of lumber are harvested in the United States in a single year. This is thanks to precise tree selection, sometimes using satellite imagery and GPS, and aggressive tree-growing programs. While much of the harvesting techniques have been streamlined, the politics behind harvesting have been anything but. Most notably, the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber dispute is considered one of the greatest points of trade tension between the two countries. The disagreement is directly linked to how and where lumber is coming from. In the United States, most lumber comes from the property of 11 million private U.S. landowners. In Canada, most land dedicated to lumber harvesting is owned by the government. In the interest of maintaining a healthy economy, Canadian provincial governments subsidize the industry, effectively keeping the price of lumber low and stable. This is in direct conflict with the private-market-driven prices U.S. companies charge. Over the past 40 years, a number of lawsuits and agreements have been filed and disputed between the two countries over Canada’s subsidies and the movement of lumber over the border. While this dispute is currently at an uneasy truce, the potential of new wood technologies is promising to drive the demand for lumber to new heights. Roughly 80 percent of all lumber harvested in the world is softwood. Despite its name, softwood, as opposed to hardwood, is not defined by its softness, but rather by the species of tree it comes from. Softwoods are generally conifers, such as pines, firs, and cedars, while hardwoods come from broad-leaved trees, such as oaks, maples, and hickories. Softwoods have long been used for light-frame construction, while hardwoods have been traditionally used for heavy timber construction, as well as fine woodworking due to its often-fine grain. Although the lumber industry is confident it can handle an increase in demand, there are factors that will need to be addressed. As of yet, there are few standards for producing heavy timber, CLT in particular, and legal definitions are also lacking. The industry is developing so fast that local fire codes have not been established for the material. At the same time, architects, lumber producers, and manufacturers across North America are looking to Canada and Europe for a way forward, while innovating in their own right.
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Photo Finish

HOK’s oscillating Atlanta stadium is now LEED Platinum certified
HOK’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, just became the first LEED Platinum–certified professional sports stadium in the world. The $1.5 billion project opened in August and is best known for its operable, aperture-shaped roof, but HOK and Buro Happold Engineering have also integrated a suite of sustainability features into the base design of the stadium. Replacing the now-defunct Georgia Dome as the home of the Atlanta Falcons, the 2-million-square-foot, 71,000-seat Mercedes-Benz Stadium is styled after the Roman Pantheon, as the entire arena is centered around a domed oculus. Because the building is multi-use—designed for holding football, soccer, and basketball games—and because Falcons owner Arthur Blank had wanted to build what he described as an “iconic stadium” with a retractable roof, a watertight aperture was designed for the roof. Comprising eight 200-foot-long, 450-ton blades clad in Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene (EFTE) film, the roof’s semi-transparent iris is capable of opening and closing in only nine minutes. Because every petal needs to swing into place at a different speed, not rotate like a true aperture, the roof uses an algorithm to judge how much counter-balance is needed while the blades are cantilevering out over the field. Reinforcing the centralized focus of the design is a 350-ton, six-story, ring-shaped “Halo Board” seated inside the oculus itself that’s viewable from every seat and angle. Outside, the stadium’s base is a wall-to-ceiling glass curtain wall meant to give uninterrupted views of the surrounding city as fans make their way to their seats. Eight steel and glass “leaves” radiate out from the aperture at the top of the stadium and drape down over the glass at the bottom, referencing the swooping wings in the Falcons’ logo. According to HOK, Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s LEED score of 88 points is the highest of any sports venue. Through the use of its 4,000 photovoltaic panels, the stadium produces enough solar electricity to power nine football games, or 13 soccer games. By using water-conserving fixtures and infrastructure adjustments, the building uses up to 47 percent less water than a building of comparable size. The location was also key, as the stadium is located between three MARTA bus lines and next to a forthcoming 13-acre green space that fans can use between games. The site also features electrical vehicle charging stations, bike parking, and new pedestrian paths. An incredibly complex project that required coordination between architects and structural engineers at every step of the way, the stadium still isn’t fully operational even though it’s in use. Work on the roof is still ongoing, and engineers hope to have the aperture fully functional by the time Atlanta hosts the Final Four basketball tournament in 2020. The stadium's innovative high performance facade will also be discussed more in-depth at Facade Plus's Atlanta conference in January 2018.
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Against the Grain

Is mass timber really sustainable?
This is an article from our special November timber issue. We like to blame a lot of things for climate change—namely coal and cow farts—but if we were to search for a worthy scapegoat, architects might end up looking in the mirror. The building sector is responsible for 44.6 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. And, with an estimated 1.9 trillion billion square feet to be built in the next 33 years, those emissions will not subside without significant intervention. On the flip side, for architects anyway, this means the power to reduce carbon emissions is quite literally in your hands. “No designer—I think—wakes up and says, ‘I want to make the world worse today,’” William McDonough, architect, designer, and sustainable development leader said. “To make the world better, that’s our job.” Identifying successful ways to build sustainably can be difficult in a haze of greenwashing and checklist-style certifications, but many environmental experts, architects, and scientists are looking to mass-built timber as a reliable way to reduce carbon and fossil fuel output. A recent study, “Carbon, Fossil Fuel, and Biodiversity Mitigation with Wood and Forests,” stated that using wood as a building-material substitute could save “14 to 31 percent of global CO2 emissions and 12 to 19 percent of global FF [fossil fuel] consumption by using 34 to 100 percent of the world’s sustainable wood growth.” Building with timber reduces the overall carbon footprint in several ways. First, wood is a renewable resource, and growing a tree is a low-impact method of production (i.e. it uses photosynthesis rather than a plethora of machines). Second, trees are grown in abundance all over the United States and don’t need to be imported from abroad, reducing the amount of energy expended on shipping. “Right now we harvest less than half of what we could and still be well within the threshold of sustainability,” Kathryn Fernholz, the executive director at Dovetail Partners, an environmental nonprofit, explained. “That’s not the same in every single scenario, but in general in the U.S., we have an abundance of wood.” Third, and perhaps counter-intuitively, many environmentalists believe that harvesting trees allows forests to become more efficient at carbon sequestration. The logic is simple: When a tree is harvested, it stores carbon, then when another tree is planted in its place, it also will store carbon, making that plot of land’s carbon sequestration infinitely multipliable as trees are planted, grown, and harvested. “There is a widely held belief that cutting down trees is bad and causes loss of forest, but a strong market for wood products would cause us to grow more forests,” Fernholz said. “The vast majority of deforestation is land conversion, using the land for something else like development or agriculture. We know what resources we have and we monitor them and adjust. Forestry is not in the same place it was a hundred or even fifty years ago when deforestation was an issue.” While that stance of de-and reforestation is under debate among environmental experts, across the board, timber is generally a more sustainable building material because it is a renewable resource (provided that responsible forest practices are used). This includes the energy consumed to produce cross-laminated timber (CLT) in factories, which have a carbon emissions advantage over steel because the wood does not need to be heated over 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit like steel or concrete—in fact, unless the wood is kiln dried, heat isn’t need at all. Although embodied carbon is typically measured per building, because different amounts of each material are used in different scenarios, Wood for Good, a campaign by the timber industry to promote the material, claims that a ton of bricks requires four times the amount of energy to produce as a ton of sawn softwood (wood used for CLT); concrete requires five times, steel 24 times, and aluminum 126 times. “Reporting carbon emissions for wood includes a range of different assumptions and methods,” explained Kathrina Simonen, an associate professor of architecture at the University of Washington and director of the Carbon Leadership Forum. “So sometimes it ends up negative and sometimes it ends up positive. It can be confusing.” She is optimistic, however, that research is close to resolving the differences. Responsible forestry practices are already underway, with harvest occurring on long rotations so that the forest has time to regenerate itself and care can be taken to avoid removing other plants, roots, and branches in the process. Lastly, “Wood can be a durable good, as we've seen in ancient wooden buildings like the Temple at Nara, Japan [originally built in 745 AD and rebuilt in 1709],” McDonough said. “In [wood’s] history, it is often put into a cycle of use and reuse that can take it from large numbers to smaller and smaller [components].” Its ability to withstand centuries and to be disassembled and then reassembled into other buildings and furnishings keeps it out of the landfill and in a perpetual cycle of use until it can ultimately be returned to the environment in some form. Although well over 90 percent of one-to-three-story residential buildings are already wood-built, there are only a handful of mid-rise and tall timber buildings across the United States, a result of building codes that often prohibit timber-built structures larger than four to six stories. However, thanks in part to innovative wood products, including CLT, nail laminated timber (NLT), and glue laminated timber (glulam), wood construction can be used in buildings as tall as 40 stories. A study by consulting and engineering company Poyry and the New England Forestry Foundation shows that the greatest potential for timber-built is in mid-rise (six to 14 story) buildings, as it also tends to be more economical to build with timber at that scale. According to the Soft-wood Lumber Board, over two-thirds of the square footage in the mid-rise sector could be made with mass timber. These statistics combined, in addition to the taller structures that mass timber can create, have the potential to make a sizable dent in our CO2 and fossil fuel emissions. Like virtually everything in architecture, though, it is all in the details; for timber to be sustainable it has to be done correctly, from responsible forestry practices to environmentally safe glues and binders to craftsmanship and the design itself. “It is tremendously exciting. Building with wood creates diverse opportunities—there are different species and materials that all can work,” Fernholz said. “However, it is important to recognize that some things can come from wood, but nothing replaces good design and planning.”
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All Glassed Up

First look: REX’s sleek retrofit of Brutalist 5 Manhattan West
REX has bestowed a shiny new skin on a late Brutalist office building that was, until recently, one of the ugliest buildings in Manhattan. Up until the renovation, the building was known as the elephant's foot, in dubious honor of a horrific 1980s renovation that left the elegant concrete structure clad in brown metal panels and beige paint. Now called 5 Manhattan West, the building has undergone yet another makeover, spearheaded by REX, to update its facade with the latest in form-fitting fenestration. The Brooklyn-based firm ultimately devised a pleated glass facade that ripples down the building like a stretched ziggurat to flood the large, open interiors with light. These pleats are composed of panels angling out toward each other from the floor and ceiling, a design driven by the need to mitigate the structure’s slope, which limited the leasable space along the interior perimeter. But the unique form is more than just window dressing. According to Joshua Prince-Ramus, REX's founding principal, “What’s interesting about the geometry is that the sun doesn’t hit the lower piece of glass, so we can have a building that is transparent and simultaneously energy efficient." Prince-Ramus praised REX's client, Brookfield, for its holistic approach to sustainability that centered reuse—not just LEED-level performance. "In our lifetimes, adaptive reuse is going to be the stuff from which we make 'capital A Architecture,'" he said. The pleating also complied with ADA standards for head strike, allowing for uninterrupted exterior views while maximizing tenants' floorspace, and allowed the designers to rigorously test the concrete from the 1960s, which was cast using different standards from today. The structural maneuvering honestly exposed concrete from Davis Brody's (now Davis Brody Bond) original design, a move that was especially evident on the east-west breezeway. The renovation was done with tenants in place, on a feverish nights-and-weekends schedule. Although some floors have yet to welcome new tenants like J.P. Morgan Chase and Amazon, 5 Manhattan West's common spaces and outdoor areas by James Corner Field Operations are largely complete. The squat, 1.7-million-square-foot structure features ground level retail, a two-story elevated breezeway on the southern side, and a full interior renovation, with open floor plates ranging from 86,000 to 124,000 square feet (no, that's not a typo). With ceiling heights from 15 to 17.5 feet, the super-sized office spaces allow the old-new building to compete with Hudson Yards' office spaces, which feature large, and largely column-free, interiors. Adamson served as executive architect for the $350 million project. The 5 Manhattan West re-clad slots the office building squarely into Brookfield Office Properties’ Manhattan West development. Bounded by Ninth Avenue to Tenth Avenue and 31st Street to 33rd Street, Manhattan West encompasses nearly six million square feet across six buildings.
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Lunch n' Learn

Lord Richard Rogers discusses continuity and change at landmarks lunch
On October 5, the New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation hosted its annual Lunch at a Landmark at a historic building in midtown Manhattan. As always, the event was well attended by prominent architects, preservationists, and designers, as well as experts, supporters, and enthusiasts of those fields. New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik introduced Lord Richard Rogers warmly—so much so that when Rogers took the microphone, he joked that “we should all just go home now.” Gopnik focused on Rogers’s approach to human-centric design, saying, “The core idea of liberal humanism is not that man is the measure of all things, but that all things can be measured by man and by woman.” This focus was in conjunction with Rogers’ new book A Place for all People, which further explains the architect’s approach to modernism, civic value, and urban design. Modernism is a funny word, artistically and architecturally speaking. Once the modernists dubbed themselves as such, either in a stroke of hubris or marketing genius, the rest of us were stuck with postmodernism, and even post-postmodernism. In his talk at “Lunch at a Landmark,” Rogers reframed the word, explaining: “Modernism is good architecture of its time, advanced by technology, by changes in economics, and by changes in sociology. What is happening at that time? What is the zeitgeist?” He proceeded to walk through a brief timeline of architectural works, from the primitive hut and Brunelleschi’s dome, to Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy, and Piazza San Marco in Venice, citing the different styles and renovations along the way. Through these examples he identified two types of architecture: “Architecture that is challenging, that is different, and architecture that just disappears within its current state,” Rogers said. “I’m not saying one is better than the other, but it is important to concede the two differences.” In particular, he focused on the five main iconic buildings in the Piazza San Marco, highlighting how the Renaissance elements set off Medievalism and how each building relates to the others, despite the many elements at play. In his own work, he initially found some difficultly relating architecture to its surroundings. When designing the Lloyd’s building and thinking about how it would fit in with its neighbors, Rogers was concerned. “Fifty percent of the City of London has been rebuilt in the last forty years, so what am I meant to be relating to? How do you relate to the existing conditions when you are aware that they might not be there in a few years’ time? And you mourn the fact that the buildings do not fit their purpose for any length of time—it’s about sustainability, it’s about energy, and it’s about waste of energy. One of our goals was to make the Lloyd’s building last into the next century (which we accomplished). We wanted a building that could change, that could adapt—a big flexible space. When we started designing Lloyds the height of technology was the Xerox machine. We have to interpret, or try to interpret the conflict of continuous change.” He faced a similar quandary with the Centre Georges Pompidou he did with Renzo Piano, which partially informed the building’s open layout, external structure, and the revered piazza that Rogers described as “a cross between Times Square in the 1970s and the British Museum…. A place for people, a place for all people.” Now, it is undergoing renovations to update the HVAC systems and such, but still remains a relevant structure. Rogers touched on other projects as well, from Las Arenas in Barcelona to Three World Trade Center in New York. He concluded by good-naturedly hoping that at the very least, it won’t earn a moniker of 'cheese grater,' like the Leadenhall. “Londoners are very creative with their nicknames,” he quipped. He doesn’t take it too personally though, as this is just one of many jabs at modernism endured by all top architects. “Prince Charles once said the Luftwaffe did less damage than I did…. He might be right.” We have a hunch that Rogers won’t let the royal architecture criticism affect him, or his modern buildings, too much.
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Book Launch

Mario Cucinella in conversation with William Menking, Editor-in-Chief, on Nov. 9
There was a time, perhaps forty years ago and more, when designers in this country followed the Italian architecture scene with great interest. The country was front and center when ideas and styles were communicated principally through magazines Italian like Domus, Casabella, Abitare and Contraspazio. These journals would have articles by Manfredo Tafuri, Bruno Zevi and others, but they also featured images from the country’s fertile design culture. But it has been decades since Italian architects dominated, let alone were influential, on the international architecture scene. In fact, there are only a few Italian architects known in this country today: Renzo Piano, Massimiliano Fuksas and several Milan–based industrial designers. The work of an older generation of radicals like Superstudio and Archizoom are likely better known by students today than contemporary Italian architects But Mario Cucinella is an Italian architect who may be about to better-known in this country. The Bologna–based architect (Piano and Fuksas have long had principal offices in Paris) was a student of Giancarlo De Carlo and worked in The Renzo Piano Building workshop from 1987-1992 before starting his own firm. He is now carving out a creative and productive career designing major buildings, including the Kuwait School in Gaza, developed in partnership with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. In 2015, Cucinella founded SOS, the School of Sustainability, which intends to build a culture of sustainable design methods and practices in his country. On Thursday, November 9, at 6:00pm, he will be presenting these projects at Rizzoli Bookstore in Manhattan. I will walk him through his practice, the school, and what it takes to be a successful architect in Italy.
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#Winning

AIA announces winners of the 2017 Innovation Awards
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has announced the winners of their 2017 Innovation Awards. This annual recognition by the AIA's Technology in Architectural Practice Knowledge Community honors architects and designers for the implementation of new practices and the innovative use of technology in the built environment. The awards are divided into five categories: Stellar Design; Project Delivery & Construction Administration Excellence; Project Lifecycle Performance; Practice-based or Academic Research, Curriculum or Applied Technology Development; and Exemplary Use in a Small Firm. The four winning projects for 2017 include: The Bahá’í Temple of South America, designed by Toronto-based Hariri Pontarini Architects, is honored for Stellar Design. Located on the outskirts of Santiago, Chile, the design of marble and glass paneling focuses on the interplay and reflection of light, both within and outside of the temple. These glass panels were developed specifically for this building through machine-to-machine fabrication technology in order to create their irregular shapes and unique light-capturing qualities. During the day, natural light reflects into the dome-shaped glass structure, creating a stellar lustrous performance. At night, the opposite happens, the light from inside the temple reflects towards the majestic outside landscape of the Andes Mountains. The temple demonstrates innovation through its material, technological and structural composition, which is designed to withstand extreme earthquakes, a reality of the area.  The Yard at The Chicago Shakespeare Theater, designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture in collaboration with CharcoalBlue and Bulley & Andrews, is also recognized for Stellar Design. The design features an electrochromic facade clad in tinted transformational glass, which is designed to adjust with the outside light, becoming more opaque during daylight hours and clearing up as the sun diminishes in the evening. This technology serves to alleviate the effects of glare and heating from natural light, which reduces energy needs for cooling inside of the building. The performance venue also allows for reconfiguration and flexibility to accommodate different performance types with audience sizes ranging from 150 to 850 people.  Garden Village, designed by Nautilus Group and Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects, is recognized under the Project Delivery & Construction Administration Excellence category. Located in Berkeley, California, the design is admired for striking an impressive balance between dense, yet open community living. Constructed entirely through modular building technology, the apartment complex is composed of 18 detached buildings connected by a network of walkways and garden areas. Two module types compose the entire project, with every detail refined in full-scale mock-ups as in the automobile industry, allowing for cost savings. This high-density living situation is focused on sustainability and community bonds–no parking spots are provided for the residents, but instead, bike parking, discounted transit tickets, and on-site car-sharing services are made readily available. The individual building rooftops also serve as urban farms and produce up to 16 tons of harvest every year. The Reality Capture Workshop of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture is recognized for their project in Volterra, Italy, under the Practice-based or Academic Research, Curriculum or Applied Technology Development category. This workshop-style initiative provides a unique international research experience for students and professionals working with innovative reality capture technologies such as 3-D computer modeling, laser scanning, drone and camera capture of historical architecture in the ancient city of Volterra. No winners were chosen for Project Lifecycle Performance and Exemplary Use in a Small Firm. This year's jury was chaired by Matthew Krissel, AIA, partner at KieranTimberlake, and included Tyler Goss, innovative development manager at Turner Construction; Paola Moya, Assoc. AIA, CEO and principal at Marshall Moya Design; Jeffrey Pastva, AIA, project architect at JDavis Architects; and Brian Skripac, Assoc. AIA, vice president and director of virtual design and construction at CannonDesign.
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Awards Season

AIA|LA awards highlight diverse range of practices and projects
The American Institute of Architects Los Angeles (AIA|LA) chapter recently announced the winners of its 2017 Design Awards, which recognizes practices and projects across the region in categories celebrating overall design, status as rising talent, and quality of environmental sustainability. The three award categories—Design Award; Next L.A.; and COTE—paint a picture of the diverse and multi-faceted character of Los Angeles’s architecture scene, with winners representing a broad spectrum of practice.   Design Awards AIA|LA’s Design Awards highlighted two projects in particular with top honors: The New United States Courthouse by SOM and the Crest Apartments by Michael Maltzan Architecture (MMA). Since opening in late 2016, the new courthouse has become one of the region’s premier public buildings. The iconic cube-shaped structure utilizes a 28-foot cantilever over the ground floor areas to create an open, public plaza and garden designed by Mia Lehrer + Associates. MMA’s Crest Apartments, on the other hand, is a very different sort of project. The 64-unit affordable housing project utilizes minimal ground floor structure and exuberant plantings and paving strategies to create flexible recreation spaces that double as car parking when not in use. The project was developed with Skid Row Housing Trust to benefit veterans who have previously experienced homelessness. The following projects were awarded “merit” and “citation” designations by the AIA|LA Design Awards jury:   Merit Awards Road to Awe, Dan Brunn Architecture West Hollywood, CA Hyundai Capital Convention Hall, Gensler Seoul, South Korea Oak Pass Main House, Walker Workshop Beverly Hills, CA House Noir, Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects Malibu, CA Citation Awards Helmut Lang Flagship Store, Standard Los Angeles, CA Southern Utah Museum of Art, Brooks+Scarpa Cedar City, Utah South Los Angeles Pool Renovation, Lehrer Architects LA South Los Angeles, CA Sunset La Cienega Residences, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP + Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects West Hollywood, CA Prototype | A True Starter Home, Lehrer Architects LA South Los Angeles, CA The Salkin House, Bestor Architecture Los Angeles, CA Corner Pocket House, Edward Ogosta Architecture Manhattan Beach, CA Ayzenberg Group, Corsini Stark Architects Pasadena, CA Platform, Abramson Teiger Architects Culver City, CA Desert Palisades Guardhouse, Studio AR&D Architects Palm Springs, CA The Evelyn and Mo Ostin Music Center at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, Kevin Daly Architects Los Angeles, CA Rice University Moody Center for the Arts, Michael Maltzan Architecture Houston, TX Saddle Peak Residence, Sant Architects Topanga, CA Mar Vista House Addition and Renovation, Sharif, Lynch: Architecture Los Angeles, CA 2017 AIA|LA Design Awards jurors were Gabriela Carrillo, co-founder, Taller | Mauricio Rocha + Gabriela Carrillo; Lance Evans, associate principal and senior vice president, HKS Architects; and Neil  M. Denari, professor, Department of Architecture and Urban Design at UCLA. AIA|LA Next L.A. The AIA|LA Next L.A. awards honor yet-to-be-built projects that are in the design and planning stage.  This year’s winning project—The West Hollywood Belltower—is designed by Tom Wiscombe Architecture. The project aims to redefine the vernacular billboard as a spatial, digital installation framed by a public park. The proposal was generated as part of a design competition orchestrated by the City of West Hollywood to guide the design of future billboards. The following projects were awarded “merit” and “citation” designations by the AIA|LA Next L.A. awards jury:   Merit Award Los Angeles Residence, Baumgartner + Uriu Los Angeles, CA   Citation Award St. Georges Church, PARALX Beirut, Lebanon A4H Office Building, P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S Glendale, CA Varna Library, XTEN Architecture Varna, Bulgaria Sberbank Technopark, Eric Owen Moss Architects Moscow, Russia Silver Lake Duplex, Warren Techentin Architecture Los Angeles, CA Twin Villa, Patrick TIGHE Architecture & John V Mutlow Architects Beijing, China Second House, Freeland Buck Los Angeles, CA Jurors for AIA|LA Next L.A. awards were: Mark Foster Gage, principal, Mark Foster Gage Architects; Alvin Huang, design principal, Synthesis Design + Architecture; and Julia Koerner, Director, JK Design GmbH.   COTE Award AIA|LA’s Committee on the Environment focuses on highlighting projects that “demonstrate achievement in the implementation of sustainability features” and is awarded by a panel of experts who focus on performance, systems integration, and sustainability research. For 2017, the committee awarded four projects with top honors, including the Mesa Court Towers at University of California, Irvine designed by Mithun. The project features a LEED Platinum sustainability rating, exterior circulation, and an emphasis on day-lit spaces. Other winners in the category include: the J. Craig Venter Institute La Jolla by ZGF Architects; the New United States Courthouse by SOM; and The SIX Veterans Housing by Brooks+Scarpa.   Citation Award UCLA Hitch Suites & Commons Building, Steinberg Los Angeles, CA Kaiser Permanente, Kraemer Radiation Oncology Center, Yazdani Studio of CannonDesign Anaheim, CA The jurors for the 2017 AIA|LA COTE Awards were: Ezequiel Farca, creative director, Ezequiel Farca + Cristina Grappin; Dan Heinfeld, president, LPA; and Ben Loescher, founding principal, Loescher Meachem Architects.   Other Awards At its award ceremony last week, the organization also presented its 2017 Presidential Honoree awards, which included honors for architects Design, Bitches, builders MATT Construction, and Mike Alvidrez of the Skid Row Housing Trust, among others. Those awards include: Emerging Practice Award: Catherine Johnson, AIA; Rebecca Rudolph, AIA | Design, Bitches Design Advocate, Builder Award: Steve Matt, Affiliate AIA|LA, Co-Founder, MATT Construction; and the late Paul Matt, Co-Founder, MATT Construction Community Contribution Award: Southern California Chapter, National Organization of Minority Architects (SoCalNOMA) 25-Year Award: Grand Central Market Restoration Design Advocate, Developer Award: Mike Alvidrez, Chief Executive Officer, Skid Row Housing Trust Building Team Award: Wilshire Grand Building Team Honorary AIA|LA Award: Tibby Rothman, Marketing Strategist, AIA|LA | journalist, writer, creative Educator Award: Dr. Douglas E. Noble, FAIA, Ph.D; Discipline Head, Building Science, Director of the Master of Building Science, University of Southern California, School of Architecture Gold Medal: Lawrence Scarpa, FAIA; Design Principal, Brooks + Scarpa
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Sense & Senseability

How sensing technologies can reshape architecture, public health, and cities

Carlo Ratti is the founder of the Turin, Italy-based firm Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) and director of MIT’s Senseable City Lab. In both roles, he explores how technology can improve the built environment and, it follows, our lives. Recently in Turin, CRA completed the Agnelli Foundation headquarters, which employs a smartphone app to let occupants set personal temperature preferences that the building translates into individualized “thermal bubbles.” Meanwhile, the Senseable City Lab has been a steady source of data and visualization projects—such as mapping walking, running, and cycling trips in Boston and San Francisco—while dabbling in related fields like robotics. AN talked to Ratti about the opportunities and risks that wired, sensing, and smart architecture will bring.

The Architect’s Newspaper: How do you feel about the term “smart cities”? It has become very loosely defined and can refer to anything from superfast fiber-optic networks to autonomous vehicles.

Carlo Ratti: To be frank, I don’t feel that great about it. As you say, “smart city” is often used in a loose way. Also, too many times it equates to top-down approaches in the implementation of urban technological solutions—à la Masdar or Songdo. Our vision is different. When we started the Senseable City Lab at MIT and our design office Carlo Ratti Associati around ten years ago, we were interested in how our cities could become more “sense-able”: able-to-sense, sensible, and perhaps even more “sensitive.” And this has remained our main focus since then.

In many cases, that “sensing” means collecting masses of data—whether it’s trees, human movement, or ride-sharing potential—to reveal new efficiencies, solutions, or patterns.

We need to go back to the very notion of design. According to Herbert Simon, “the natural sciences are concerned with how things are…design, on the other hand, is concerned with how things ‘ought to be.’” I believe that designers must challenge what exists today, introduce new and alternate possibilities, and ultimately pave the way toward a desirable future. In this process, it is vital to get people’s input, which often happens online. In our latest book (The City of Tomorrow, Yale University Press, 2016), we call this method futurecraft.

But do you think there’s a privacy risk that comes with getting people’s input—their data? Are you concerned about surveillance?

I am very concerned—but more about what is happening in our pockets than about what is happening in our cities. Most of our activities—where we go, how we get there, what we buy, to name just a few—are recorded thousands of times every day and stored somewhere in the cloud. Who controls the data? How can we avoid data monopolies? Such questions are more topical than ever.

I would rather prefer a society where value comes not from data itself, but from what intelligence can extract out of it.

That intelligence can really benefit a society. Your projects Underworlds and Urban Exposures explore the public-health benefits of technology—something that is often overlooked in this discussion.

Both projects focus on data to provide a better understanding of human health in the city—which in turn can inspire policy action. Urban Exposures, for example, combines data from air quality measurement stations and human mobility to estimate human exposure to pollutants in a more accurate way.

Currently, it seems European cities are ahead of American cities when it comes to using technology for the public good.

It’s hard to generalize. Europe is very heterogeneous—Copenhagen or Stockholm are very different than, say, Valencia or Athens. What I often notice in the U.S. is a bias against government spending in public infrastructure—perhaps a soft version of “The Plot Against Trains” described by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker. At the same time, we will find out soon how the trillion-dollar plan by President Trump on U.S. infrastructure will be spent—hopefully not just on walls...

On that topic, new technologies are creating huge opportunity to change—and profit from—how we move within existing infrastructure. As carmakers and ride-sharing companies race to capture that market, would you like to speculate on what “mobility” will look like in 20, even 50, years?

Autonomous vehicles promise to have a dramatic impact on urban life, blurring the distinction between private and public modes of transportation. “Your” car could give you a lift to work in the morning and then, rather than sitting idle in a parking lot, give a lift to someone else in your family—or, for that matter, to anyone. As a result, a single vehicle can go from one-hour usage per day to 24 hours. Under such conditions—and increased sharing of rides—we have calculated that the mobility demand of a city could be met with just a fraction of today’s vehicles.

There could also be dystopian scenarios, however. Car transportation could become so cheap that it might drain customers from subways and buses, turning our streets into an instantaneous gridlock. The impact of autonomous vehicles will depend on the policy decisions we make. I agree with my friend Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar, when she says that “simply eliminating the drivers from cars, and keeping everything else about our system the same, will be a disaster.”

Beyond urban infrastructure, your firm is focusing on infrastructure at the building scale—interior climate systems specifically. This goes all the way back to a 2011 paper you helped author, but most recently it was the focus of your app-driven design for the Agnelli Foundation headquarters. Why this interest in temperature, occupancy, light, and energy usage?

The 2011 paper shows that a staggering amount of energy is wasted on heating empty offices, homes, and partially occupied buildings. That finding prompted a series of projects where we tried to better synchronize human presence and climate control. The Agnelli Foundation, which opened just a few months ago, is the first application of such ideas at the architectural scale. We equipped a historical office building with digital sensors that monitor variables such as temperature, lighting levels, and matched this data with occupancy information.

When a person gets into a building and sets her preferences in term of temperature or lighting, the building-management system recognizes her and automatically responds by activating the system accordingly. It generates something like a “thermal bubble,” following a person within the building as she moves across the various rooms and corridors. The final outcome is better comfort for users as well as a substantial reduction in energy consumptions—estimated up to 40 percent. When all occupants leave, the room returns naturally to “standby mode” and saves energy, much as a computer would do.

We imagine that more and more buildings will be equipped with sensor networks—making architecture increasingly able to “sense and respond.” By designing climates, we might get closer to the vision of architecture as a third skin—an endlessly reconfigurable space able to adapt to human needs.