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Lower Manhattan Landfill

New York City releases surprise plan to bury and rebuild East River Park
Manhattan’s East River Park, home to sprawling fields, winding bike paths, and a landscaped promenade, was badly damaged when Hurricane Sandy tore through the city in 2012 and the Lower East Side flooded. Since then, New York City officials have been brainstorming ideas to protect the park, along with the remainder of Lower Manhattan, from rising seas. The city’s latest proposal calls for burying the existing East River Park under 10 feet of landfill, before building a new one from scratch, according to The New York Times. This differs from the original plan, which aimed to push back the flood walls from FDR Drive toward the East River along the water’s edge, shielding the highway and large swaths of the LES from rising floodwaters. The meticulously-thought-out design, which took over four years to assemble, was only the first link in a series of barriers around Lower Manhattan known as the “Big U.” In September 2018, with no community input and to the dismay of inner-city residents, the city announced that the entire plan was being rejected in favor of the new project. The new, $1.5 billion proposal is not only significantly more expensive than its $760 million predecessor, but it will also destroy all trees, plant life, and infrastructure that currently exists within East River Park. Both the park’s field house and running track, which was recently revamped at a cost of nearly $3 million, will be buried beneath the soil, while the fate of the site’s historic amphitheater remains unknown. The latest plans will preserve one thing in the area: traffic. To construct the Big U, the city would have had to shut down one lane of FDR Drive every night for five consecutive years. By burying the park with landfill and soil that is delivered by barge, the new plan will cause little to no traffic disruptions. According to the Times, while local residents feel as though they are not receiving a fair trade, Parks Department commissioner Mitchell J. Silver claimed that, with the East River expected to rise over two feet within the next 30 years, burying the existing park to build a more elevated one is the only way to save the land. The new plan is scheduled to launch in March 2020, with flood protection barriers implemented as soon as 2022, though local residents are still doubtful as to whether or not the city will complete the project on time due to its history of construction delays.
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Tragedy on the Job Site

Construction is N.Y.C.’s deadliest industry, according to annual reports
Construction is one of the most dangerous occupations, especially in New York City, home to some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers. While construction accidents are commonplace, statistics collected over the past ten years demonstrate that construction tops the charts as New York City’s most lethal industry, with more injuries reported last year than any other year following the post-recession building boom, as reported in the Commercial Observer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of construction-related deaths in New York City has remained steadily high over the past few years, with a slight decrease from 21 to 20 annual deaths in 2017. The most recent construction fatality, according to the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB), occurred in November 2018, when a worker was crushed by a forklift on the site of a six-story residential condo in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. One month prior, a worker repairing the facade of a 20-story co-op in Kips Bay, Manhattan, died after a fragment of the building collapsed on top of him. Despite these gruesome accounts, there are still incidents that have yet to be reported, as the DOB only tracks deaths related to a violation of the city’s construction code, rather than tracking all work-related injuries on the job site. There are at least a half-dozen more fatalities that occurred in 2018 than the 12 cases reported by the DOB, bringing the actual number closer to 20. Although the annual death toll has remained constant in recent years, construction accidents surged significantly in 2018. According to the DOB, 761 construction workers were injured last year, which is a 13 percent increase from the 671 incidents that were reported in 2017. Due to the elevated injury rates, the City Council has implemented a number of measures aimed at protecting construction workers and reduce accidents and deaths on job sites. Among them was a law passed in September 2017 mandating construction workers to attend at least 40 hours of safety training by September 2020. The rise in construction-related accidents since then may indicate that employers are not taking these safety precautions seriously, and that the city is not doing enough to protect construction workers from deadly mishaps.
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State of Trains and Trust

High-speed rail plan for Pacific Northwest takes a step forward
A fledgling plan to bring high-speed rail (HSR) service to the Pacific Northwest region of the United States and parts of southwestern Canada is moving closer to becoming a reality. The Urbanist reported that this week, the Washington State Legislature introduced legislation that would create a new interstate high-speed rail authority for the region that could begin to take the first steps toward making the Cascadia Rail plan a reality. According to The Urbanist, the new rail authority would be in charge of coordinating high-speed rail efforts across Washington, Oregon, and Canadian jurisdictions while also setting requirements for contracting operations and other issues. The authority would also be responsible for ensuring that the trains and routes selected for the project could deliver service at 250 miles per hour, a key stipulation for making the project economically viable across the region. The authority would also provide a singular contact point for communities along the proposed routes and would handle the preparation of environmental impact reports at the federal and local levels. A preliminary plan for the Cascadia Rail service was unveiled in 2018 that proposed a coastal line connecting Portland, Oregon, with Vancouver, Canada. The plan includes an eastern spur connecting Spokane, Washington, with Seattle. The plan has support from the Washington State business community as well as a growing set of local officials who see the prospect of reliable, high-speed rail service as a key way of reducing automobile traffic along Interstate-5 while also helping to address growing transportation emissions across the region. Several high-speed rail plans are making progress around the country, including in California, where the nation’s first true high-speed rail network is currently under construction. After years of planning and partisan bickering, the controversial plan is finally in full-swing and a line running through central California between Bakersfield and Madera is expected to open by 2022. Along the Florida coast, the privately owned Brightline route made its debut this year connecting West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Though the train is not truly a high-speed rail corridor—it runs at top speeds of roughly 80 miles per hour—the train has cut travel times between the two cities by over an hour. The line is expected to expand to serve Miami and Orlando by 2020. All Aboard Florida, the company that owns and operates Brightline, is also moving toward a second train venture connecting Las Vegas, Nevada, with the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. The company recently purchased XpressWest, a struggling venture that was aiming to deliver service between the two cities following the Interstate-15 corridor, Urbanize.LA reported. Like the Florida line, however, trains will not exactly run at high speeds; projected service is expected to begin in 2022 and will run at around 92 miles per hour. This might sound like a good bit of progress—and it is—but recent rail development in the United States pales in comparison to the many ambitious rail projects under construction around the world. China, for example, plans to build over 2,000 miles of true high-speed rail lines in 2019 alone. That’s enough track to connect Philadelphia to Phoenix.
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Penguin Problems

London’s Penguin Pool should be “blown to smithereens,” says architect’s daughter
The London Zoo's Penguin Pool, an international symbol of modernist architecture, should be destroyed, claims the architect’s daughter. The pool, designed by architect Berthold Lubetkin and structural engineer Ove Arup in 1934, is a world-renowned monument to modernism for its ground-breaking use of curvilinear, self-supporting concrete slabs. The crisp, white, interlocking ramps hover over an elliptical pool, transforming the penguin sanctuary into a dramatic, entertaining, and aesthetically pleasing display for visitors. While the design is undoubtedly eye-catching, the penguins left the pool in 2004 after the birds contracted a dangerous bacterial infection called “bumblefoot," as the enclosure’s concrete ramps formed scrapes and abrasions on the penguin’s feet. Lubetkin had worked with biologist Julian Huxley on the installment to ensure that the design suited the Antarctic penguins' needs, but his efforts were rendered useless when the zoo swapped the species out for South American Humboldt penguins that prefer to burrow and could not do so given the structure and layout of the sleek, modernist structure. When the zoo announced that it had no future plans to utilize the now derelict space, Lubetkin’s daughter, Sasha, told local paper the Camden New Journal that the pool should be demolished to preserve her father’s integrity. “It was designed as a showcase and playground of captive penguins, and I can’t see that it would be suited to anything else,” she told local reporters. “Perhaps it’s time to blow it to smithereens.” The penguins now reside on Penguin Beach, the largest penguin pool on the European continent, fully equipped with a rocky, sandy beach, cozy nesting areas, a 4,000-square-foot diving pool, and a penguin nursery where baby chicks can learn how to swim. Since the penguins moved to the more accommodating enclosure some 15 years ago, the original Penguin Pool has been withering in a run-down section of the zoo. While the fate of the crumbling Penguin Pool is unknown, other modernist Lubetkin buildings still stand in north London, including the Finsbury Health Centre and the Highpoint housing blocks.
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Shedding Light on Hudson Yards

The Shed at Hudson Yards announces April debut and renamed building
For over three years, New York City has anticipated the debut of Hudson Yard’s enigmatic “Shed”: the eight-level, 200,000-square-foot art center with a massive, telescoping outer shell. On April 5, the new center will finally open its doors, hosting a variety of exhibitions, lectures, and events related to the performing arts, visual arts, and pop culture. The innovative building was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, lead architect, and Rockwell Group, collaborating architect. Its sleek, flexible, and mobile layout was inspired by the industrial past of the High Line and West Side Rail Yard, and the building’s form is intended to physically transform depending on artists’ visions. Its blueprint includes two levels of gallery space, a multipurpose theater, a rehearsal space, a creative lab, and a 9,500-square-foot sky-lit space for large-scale events. Reminiscent of a train car, the building’s semi-transparent outer shell can glide along rails onto a neighboring plaza to nearly double the building’s footprint for grandiose concerts and performances. The massive light, sound, and temperature-controlled hall can be used as a blank slate to support artists' and performers’ most creative and ambitious ideas. “We have built a home where established and emerging artists working in all disciplines can create new work in ways that we cannot even imagine,” said The Shed’s Artistic Director and CEO, Alex Poots. The venue will host an assortment of events ranging from comedy shows to concerts. The first year of programming will include lectures by filmmaker Boots Riley, a Björk concert directed by John Tiffany, and a Kung Fu musical featuring songs by Sia. The building will be named to “The Bloomberg Building” after a generous, $75 million donation from Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor who oversaw the dramatic gentrification of Manhattan’s Westside and Hudson Yards. With only three months until its launch, The Shed will go through the final phases of construction, which includes the installation of metal cladding and other architectural finishes. Correction: A previous version of this article said that The Shed's name will change, but only the building the institution is housed in will be known at The Bloomberg Building.
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Factory-Built

California is embracing prefab architecture with innovation, talent, and investment
With a long history of mass-produced housing experiments going back to the 1920s Sears, Roebuck & Co. mail-order homes, and the post–World War II suburban mass- housing experiments, California has a rich legacy of prefab hits—and misses. In recent years, a new generation of builders has arrived on the scene seeking to surpass this legacy by exploiting emerging mass-customization techniques and new technologies to streamline production. But these aren’t your grandparents’ prefab units. The days of rigid space-age designs are long gone, replaced by new designs that instead focus on diverse aesthetics and material flexibility. These new designs tend toward a pervasive adaptability that not only bolsters their widespread appeal but also helps builders meet the onerous local design restrictions that define many California communities. LivingHomes, based in Santa Monica, California, offers a variety of factory-made designs for single- and multifamily units, including models designed by prominent architects and firms such as Yves Béhar, Ray Kappe, and KieranTimberlake. LivingHomes’ designs are built by its spinout firm, Plant Prefab, which focuses on construction and assembly. Founder and CEO Steve Glenn is hoping Plant Prefab will lead the way in creating a national network of home-building factories where “homes are built like airplanes” rather than as one-off works, as is currently the case. Plant Prefab bills itself as the nation’s first sustainably minded home factory, and recently garnered a $6.7 million investment from Amazon, which is looking to expand the market for the company’s Alexa smart home technologies. Seattle-based Blokable, on the other hand, pursues vertically-integrated projects with the help of their in-house development team’s business model, which seeks to treat “housing development as a service.” By controlling planning, design, and production, Blokable is able to offer turnkey development services for local nonprofits and other housing providers at a lower cost. The firm offers standardized building systems along with customizable windows, doors, and finishes in order to meet a variety of price points. Blokable has begun the development process for a 64-unit housing complex in Edmonds, Washington. The project is a partnership between Blokable, the City of Edmonds, and the nonprofit Compass Housing Alliance. At the smaller end of the building scale, Gardena, California–based Cover is working to boost the availability of backyard Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in Los Angeles. Owing to a 2016 state law that legalized these backyard structures, Cover has developed unique zoning analysis software that can give potential clients a view of what type of ADU they can build. Cover offers sleek custom designs and uses its own modular building systems, fabricating units in a new factory in southern L.A. County. While many of these outfits are relatively new, legacy prefab designers are also making strides. Office of Mobile Design (OMD) principal Jennifer Siegal has been working at the intersection of portable architecture and housing for over two decades, pioneering a distinct approach to modular design that is flexible enough to include additions to existing buildings, as well as develop modular commercial structures. Siegal recently partnered with builder Bevyhouse and premium kitchen designer Tortoise to develop her own line of prefab ADU models and is also currently working on a modular design for the Sanderling Waldorf School in Carlsbad, California. If OMD’s continued experiments in non-housing prefab building types are any indication, factory-made structures of all types could soon make their way off the assembly line and to a community near you.
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A More Perfect Union

Amtrak plans major update for Union Station in Washington, D.C.
Last week, Amtrak announced a call for contractors to bid on a proposal to modernize and expand the railroad’s main concourse at Union Station in Washington, D.C. Union Station is Amtrak’s headquarters and the second busiest train station in the country, yet its cramped and narrow concourse has been in desperate need of a face-lift since it was built in the 1980s. While the station has retail and food options, it is plagued with long lines and overcrowding, and lacks bathrooms. Union Station, which is swamped by nearly five million passengers each year, is known for its infamous train boarding process, where riders are forced to wait on the concourse instead of the platform of their specific train. The disorganized space often creates winding lines and very confused passengers. Amtrak's project aims to double the capacity of the 70,000-square-foot space by creating a more open, flexible, and spacious interior layout. The scheme will undoubtedly modernize the space which will no longer be confined by restrictive walls, doors, and hallways. Passengers will be able to flow freely throughout the open concourse, which should alleviate congestion and minimize the stress associated with boarding and queuing. The plans also involve a generous amount of glass and natural light, which will both brighten the space as well as improve overall aesthetics and comfort. The addition of more bathrooms and a luxury, 10,000-square-foot lounge will further provide visitors with a more positive, streamlined experience. This isn’t the first time Amtrak has sought to revamp Union Station. In 2012, the railroad service unveiled a multi-billion-dollar proposal to remodel the concourse. Without proper funding, the plans were scrapped. Construction of Amtrak’s most recent vision is anticipated to begin this fall, and completion is slated for 2022. While the news may be exciting for frequent passengers of Union Station, it still will not fix Amtrak’s inconvenient boarding process.
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Tsunami in Denmark

Henning Larsen’s undulating residential complex reaches completion in Denmark
  Copenhagen-based firm Henning Larsen Architects recently finalized The Wave apartment complex in Vejle, Denmark, that features five interconnected, undulating towers that reflect in the fjord beside it. Its unique form is inspired by the dramatic landscape of the area, known for its deep inlets and steep, rolling hills, which are uncommon in Denmark. The eye-catching Wave, which stands out from the ubiquitous office buildings and historic, red brick buildings of downtown Vejle, serves as a distinctive sculptural landmark of the city. Construction of the 150,000-square-foot, 100-unit complex began over a decade ago, but it was stalled due to the 2008 global financial crisis. After a tumultuous 11 years, the rippling building is complete and has garnered widespread attention for its architectural tribute to Vejle’s local geography and cultural heritage. Even before its completion, the towers were named Residential Building of the Year by Building in 2009 and won an ABB Leaf Award and Prestigious Civic Trust Award in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Unlike the pace of construction, the apartment units are selling at a breakneck pace. According to the building’s website, three of the “waves” are already completely sold out, and only seven units remain overall. A 2,700-square-foot duplex on the top floor is still available, with an asking price of roughly $2 million.
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Do the Okeechobee

Louis Kahn’s floating concert hall finds a permanent home in Palm Beach County
Don’t count out Louis Kahn’s floating concert hall just yet. The 42-year-old Point Counterpoint II has found a new life in Florida, only a year after fears were raised that the boat might have to be scuttled. Although the speed of the 195-foot-long, 38-foot-wide boat tops out at a measly six to eight knots, the seagoing vessel has still managed to perform all over the world. The Point Counterpoint II lies flat, a stark departure from Kahn’s distinctive use of striking geometric forms in his buildings, but also includes a hydraulic-powered steel cover capable of rising 25 feet into the air, topping the barge with a center stage. The American Wind Symphony Orchestra (AWSO), founded in 1957 by Robert Austin Boudreau, has called Kahn’s maritime arts center home since 1976. Kahn and Boudreau were personal friends and discussed replacing the first Point Counterpoint (a repurposed barge incapable of independent movement) throughout the 1960s. The resulting Point Counterpoint II, designed by Kahn, eventually set sail in 1976 for a 76-city tour as excitement for the Bicentennial was reaching a fever pitch—two years after Kahn’s death in 1974. By AWSO’s 2017 tour, 91-year-old Boudreau had been looking to step down as director for some time, and without a successor lined up, he put the boat on the market. Following a bidding war to lure the boat to a new permanent home between the city of Kingston in upstate New York and a private entity in Florida, the concert hall went to the latter and has since been brought to Lake Okeechobee in Palm Beach County. Boudreau blames the high cost of towing the boat up to the Great Lakes to get to Kingston in part for his selection of the Florida bidder, claiming that it would have cost over a $100,000 to comply with the Coast Guard’s regulations. In Boudreau’s view, if the boat isn’t serving the community, it might as well be scrapped. That’s part of the reason that Point Counterpoint II will become a center for music education for local children, including those from Pahokee, one of the poorest communities in Florida. For Boudreau, who grew up on a chicken farm in Massachusetts during the Great Depression, a music scholarship was his ticket to college, and now he hopes to guide hundreds of students out of poverty and into college through music in much the same way. But maintaining the educational programming aboard Point Counterpoint II will require fundraising. This year, Boudreau has pledged $50,000 from his own pocket to kickstart an endowment. He acknowledges that he won’t be around forever, and so the maestro is looking to raise $1 million to make sure that Point Counterpoint II will continue to live on as a public institution.
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Fully Scully

Daniel V. Scully, son of historian Vincent Scully, has built an auto-inspired compound
The houses architects build for themselves often reveal much about their makers—just think of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin, or Sir John Soane’s 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The homes of architectural auteurs are testaments to their philosophies, their religions, their gods. And Daniel V. Scully’s compound in the shadow of Mount Monadnock near Dublin, New Hampshire, is a fascinating, if little known, example of a self-referential project that consumed half of its designer’s life. A slab of Vermont slate—the tombstone of the architectural historian, Vincent Scully—lies in wait on the ground for a sketch of the temple of Juno at Agrigento to be carved into it. Vincent Scully—Dan’s father—glimpsed the Greek ruin from a warship during World War II, a sighting that marked the beginning of his love affair with architecture. Another relic of the classical world on Dan’s compound is his sheet metal interpretation of the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Living and working in the shadow of a famous parent can be intimidating, but Dan Scully gamely embraced the world of architecture. He worked for Louis Kahn during the summers of his college years, and at the Yale School of Architecture, Scully was a member of Charles Moore’s socially responsible Yale Building Project class of 1970. He also joined Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s groundbreaking Las Vegas seminar, and, from then on, pop culture—particularly cars—crucially informed his design aesthetic. Scully finally settled in the mill town of Harrisville, New Hampshire, designing homes, schools, and commercial buildings throughout the Monadnock region. Scully is also something of a motor head; automobiles are integral to his vision of America as “a fast and restless place carved out of wilderness.” In 1980, he bought eight acres of land in the neighboring town of Dublin and began to create his own world of “carchitecture.” It should come as no surprise that Scully’s impact on the property was informed by his dynamic, “road runs through it” raison d’être. Today, Scully’s multistructure tableau is recognized as a notable addition to Dublin’s remarkably rich collection of American architecture. Scully’s house in Dublin is a stylistic combination of regional Greek Revival, Shingle Style, and an early 1950s Pontiac. The kitchen, for example, boasts shingles and a Greek entablature, and on the whole resembles the hood of a car, complete with a giant Chieftain emblem hood ornament. The interior walls are sheathed in corrugated metal, while the dining room table is a “roadway” inlaid lengthwise with passing lines, and a gas-pump handle caps off the stairway banister. Scully's house, within hearing range of New Hampshire Route 101, was featured in the 1987 issue of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, where it was labeled “Highway 101-Two-Lane Blacktop.” Scully’s whimsically serious work is more idiosyncratic than frivolous. His temple to the Gods of Speed faces the house down an alley lined by silver gazing balls. The heart of this didactic folly is a solid-fuel dragster, the engine of which has been replaced by a woodstove. As in 18th-century picturesque landscapes, the compound’s buildings are about memory and evoking associative emotions in viewers. This neoclassical trope continues with the garage, where Scully prepares vintage Volvos for races. Giant piston-columns composed of silver-painted, 55-gallon drums flank the main entrance, and license plates serve as frieze decoration between the metopes of the full entablature. The plates are arranged from east to west, beginning with New Hampshire and ending with California, echoing the vector of American expansion. Atop the garage—where in classical Greece, a statue of Athena may have stood as the venerated icon—is a Mobil gas pump. There are a variety of smaller outbuildings and objects that catch the eye: a 1950 Ford pickup originally bought for 50 dollars 50 years ago, a chicken-coop homage to the Quonset hut, a rusted-out truck with a snow plow attachment. A 1957 Cooper Formula 3 racing car hovers over file cabinets in Scully’s latest and perhaps final structure on the compound, the Archives Studio, a 20-by-24-foot shed wrapped in plastic roofing tiles that have been manufactured to resemble slate. Inside the shed, a 1968 Dan Scully painting of a Maserati engine faces Giambattista Nolli’s 1748 map of Rome. A 20-foot-long drafting table sits beneath a strip window that, Aalto-like, frames a view of the lake and neighboring forest. This seemingly humble cube, although reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s Cabanon de Vacances in size and function, is a nod to the Enlightenment—more Jean-Jacques Rousseau than Henry David Thoreau. The primitive hut can surely be thought of as man's earliest temple, but Scully’s Archives Studio also defers to the Yankee aesthetic of utility and thrift. After decades of work echoing the movement of cars and trains, this idyllic shack is just the place for a restless genius to contemplate his contributions to the manmade environment.
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Highway Hangover

Three deck park proposals pop up over Atlanta’s congested urban core
Three groups in Atlanta are proposing to cover portions of the city’s congested downtown highways with deck parks, or green spaces built over highly-trafficked roadways. Riffing off the recent rails-to-trails developments found in New York such as the High Line or Hudson Yards, these park-like platforms would attract newcomers and new development to Atlanta’s urban core while still allowing cars to continue crossing underneath. According to the Wall Street Journal, several schemes are underway to reimagine Atlanta’s notoriously crowded interstates with deck parks. One proposal, dubbed The Stitch is being touted by Central Atlanta Progress (CAP), a nonprofit community development organization that works to improve and preserve the downtown area. If built, the 14-acre park plan would span the I-75 and I-85 Downtown Connector from the Civic Center MARTA Station to Piedmont Avenue, creating a series of urban plazas and corridors for walkable and recreational space as well as special programming surrounding Emory University and the Georgia Power headquarters. Mixed-use residential projects, restaurants, retail, and medical buildings are also envisioned for The Stitch.  Though it seems like an ambitious undertaking—creating a new elevated public space with room for future tall construction—projects like this have been done before. In 2012, the 5.2-acre Klyde Warren Park was completed over the Woodall Rogers Freeway in Dallas, Texas. The city is currently constructing another one near the Dallas Zoo designed in collaboration with OJB Landscape Architecture. Similar initiatives set over abandoned infrastructure have also been erected over the last decade like Atlanta’s own Belt Line, boosting real estate values and enhancing green spaces in underutilized areas. The WSJ notes this is a growing trend. Nearly 30 cities around the U.S. have suggested deck park developments in recent years. Given Atlanta’s rising population and booming downtown development, it looks like the leading Southern city is on track to level up as an urban hub. Georgia already boasts the nation's largest tree canopy in a major metropolitan area, so adding serious acreage to downtown seems like a logical next step. And because Atlanta didn’t secure Amazon’s HQ2 bid, creating one or multiple deck parks in the city center could actually be a viable way to charm tech companies that want dynamic urban environments for their young employees. Besides The Stitch, another plan under consideration in Atlanta is a $250 million proposal for a 9-acre deck park covering Georgia State Route 400. Buckhead Community Improvement District (BCID) and Rogers Partners Architects + Urban Designers released renderings of the project in 2017 and announced a planned groundbreaking for 2020. Over the last year, the BCID has been busy raising money for the project. In another section of the city, it's rumored that Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy is looking to build a deck park along North Avenue at the I-85 and I-75 interchange in order to better connect Midtown Atlanta with Georgia Tech. Further details on the idea have not yet been released.
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Earthquake-Proof Engineering

Seattle boosts building codes for high-rises after study deems them at risk

Seattle is updating building codes for new skyscrapers after a shocking study revealed that the power and nature of earthquakes in the region pose a significant threat to its tall buildings, one that is worse than experts could have imagined.

The Seattle Times recently reported on results from the M9 Project, a four-year study that aimed to estimate the effects of a magnitude 9 Cascadia earthquake, revealed that the vast, sediment-filled basin under Seattle can magnify the type of ground shaking that puts high-rises at risk of collapse by a factor of two to five, which can trigger stronger surface effects than earthquakes in nearby California.

When rattled by an earthquake, the Times explained, the region's glacial-packed soils, which can extend more than four miles underground, violently shake and convulse, trapping massive seismic waves within the basin that underlies most of the city. Intense shaking like this could last for two minutes, which is four times longer than the average quake. While shorter buildings under 10 stories can withstand the earth's back-and-forth motion, tall buildings tend to whip back and forth under those conditions until they are on the verge of collapse.

As the Times reported, as a result of these findings, Seattle and its neighbor, Bellevue, plan on revising seismic construction standards for new buildings over 240 feet, or over 20 stories tall. These standards will require high-rises to be stronger and more sturdy than their predecessors, without the additional cost.

The plan to revise building codes has also raised concerns regarding Seattle’s older high-rises, many of which were constructed between the 1960s and 1990s, prior to when the dangers of earthquakes were fully understood. Older high-rises have a greater risk of major damage and collapse due to their fracture-prone welded joints, which are supposed to secure the steel frame, as well as their poorly-reinforced concrete supports. Seattle’s renowned Rainer Tower, for example, with its golf-tee-shaped base, was built in the 1970s and undoubtedly has fracture-prone welds. According to the study, buildings like that are up to five times more likely to collapse during an intense earthquake than a modern building.

In Seattle, where the seismic threat to skyscrapers is higher than in California because of the city's sedimentary basin, there have still been no attempts to research and pinpoint dangerous high-rises. While the city is taking steps forward by enhancing construction standards, retrofitting old concrete and steel high-rises may be the next necessary step. This may prove costly, but taking time to fix the underlying structure of older buildings could prevent serious levels of damage that can be catastrophic to the community.