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Coming In On the Ground Bloor

Toronto’s first Herzog & de Meuron-designed building could be this 87-story skyscraper
Herzog & de Meuron has been commissioned by Dutch real estate development companies Kroonenberg Geoep and ProWinko to design a mixed-use supertall tower at the northwest corner of Bloor and Bay Streets in Toronto’s Yorkville neighborhood. The glass-encased, ultra-slender 87-story skyscraper will be the first building to be designed in Canada’s most populous city by the Pritzker Prize-winning Swiss firm. (Toronto-based Quadrangle is serving as project architect.) If completed as proposed today, the tower—at 1,063 feet—would stand as the tallest residential building in Canada, although at least one slightly lankier planned project is a bit further ahead in the development process. The project also slightly edges out a Hariri Pontarini Architects-designed supertall, also planned for Toronto, announced earlier this year. Kroonenberg Geoep and ProWinko purchased the parcel at 1200 Bay Street, currently the site of a 1960s-era commercial mid-rise,  in 2016 for $86.75 million. Speaking to Bisnow shortly after the sale, Jordan Karp, senior vice president of Paracom Realty Corp., mentioned at the time that the two developers were aiming to transform the site  into a top office property for the upscale retail-heavy Mink Mile section of Yorkville, which is centered on Bloor Street. That approach, however, has apparently shifted as Herzog & de Meuron’s design appears to be primarily residential. Per a media release, the toothpick-thin tower’s bottom sixteen floors will be dedicated to offices and retail space. Above this will be 332 condominium units, ranging from one-bedrooms to multi-level penthouses, spread across 64 floors accessible by a quartet of dedicated elevators through a triple-height private lobby on Bloor Street. A “private amenities level” will provide a buffer between the lower commercial floors and the residential floors above. The top three floors will be home to a sky lounge, restaurant, and rentable event spaces, all of which will no doubt come equipped with stunning panoramic views. “Providing diversity in the proposed program is an important component of the building’s approach to sustainability and enhancing the vibrancy of the local community,” reads the announcement, noting that the residential floors will be “characterized by generous daylight through the floor-to-ceiling operable windows which provide natural ventilation.” “The proposal is a layered expression of the vertical structural elements, interior glazing (thermal envelope), exterior timber roller shades and an outer layer of transparent, open-jointed glass," the announcement goes on to explain. “The effect is a building which at times appears transparent and expressive—revealing the scale and activity within the building; and at other times, the reflective outer layer of glass gives the building an abstract quality, emphasizing its dramatic proportion.” While this is the second Toronto project to be developed by ProWinko, it’s the first for Kroonenberg Groep. “This is an iconic block in the neighbourhood and Toronto at large. We have an opportunity to deliver a project that sets a new benchmark for design and strives to give something back to the city,” said Lesley Bamberger, owner of the latter company. Meanwhile, four provinces over in British Columbia, Herzog & de Meuron is also heading up the revamp of the Vancouver Art Gallery, which is the firm’s first project in Canada.
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LEVEL UP

Does architecture have a framework for applying material innovation?
There is a slide I like to show at the beginning of the architecture courses I teach that provides an overview of the last hundred years or so in design and technology. In the left column, a car from the beginning of the 20th Century (a Ford Model T) is poised over a contemporary car (a Tesla). The middle column contains a similar juxtaposition, showing a WWI-era biplane and a modern-day stealth fighter (an F-117A). In the right column, Walter Gropius’s 1926 Bauhaus Dessau building is seen next to an up-to-date urban mixed-use building. The punch line, of course, is that the two buildings—separated by roughly 100 years—look basically the same, whereas the cars and planes separated by the same timespan seem worlds apart. What is the reason for this? Of course, a lot has changed in architecture in the last century, but many of those changes have happened at the material or technological level. In the close to two decades I’ve been practicing and studying architecture, I’ve had the fortune to work on many different types of buildings using many different types of material. I’ve worked with rammed earth at Rick Joy’s Tucson, Arizona, office, mass timber at LEVER Architecture in Portland, Oregon, and even built a museum in Los Angeles and a house in the Hamptons using FRP composites while at Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Each of these experiences—spanning different building typologies in different locations—has given me some perspective into the use of non-conventional materials in architecture, and about innovation in architecture in general. They have also shown that “material” and “technology” cannot be easily prised apart; even BIM is fundamentally a technology about managing materials and only secondarily about coordination and documentation. (In the following text, I will use them interchangeably.)

What’s Lacking and What’s Needed

What I’ve come to believe is that architecture lacks a rigorous framework for understanding, analyzing, and applying material innovation. While there is no shortage of sources for material inspiration in architecture—look no further than the cottage industry of coffee table books devoted to concrete, wood, and brick—a more complete discussion of material application is generally absent. Sources generally neglect one or more crucial considerations that directly correspond to viability in practical architectural usage. By material innovation, I mean the development and application of materials and/or their technologies that lie outside conventional, codified construction techniques. Fantastic new technologies are being developed all over the world in various industries that may hold immense potential to improve our built environment. And yet, technology seems to come to architecture slowly. Notable exceptions include the mass timber being used throughout the Pacific Northwest or, to a lesser extent, carbon fiber, like that used at Apple’s Campus II and retail stores. These materials can seemingly offer striking new forms and architectural experiences, increase construction efficiency, and reduce environmental impact. A more complete analytical framework for understanding architectural innovation could help assist those who currently work in the building professions as well as those currently outside it. In my experience, many promising technologies and/or materials are hampered by a lack of familiarity with the long and complicated building process; indeed, those wishing to enter into the relatively opaque nature of building and construction from the outside will face numerous obstacles—gaining an understanding of the building codes is just the first of many.

Applying an analytical lens

The framework I propose in my new book Composite Architecture (Birkhauser Architecture) is structured on three cornerstones of understanding: (1) architectural purpose or ambition, (2) AEC process, and (3) life-cycle perspective. The first, architectural ambition, follows from the premise that there is an incredible diversity of distinct and valid architectural ambitions that varies with uses, users, location, designers, and builders. This differentiates architecture from other products where the uses may be narrower and the goals more self-evident. The second cornerstone is a good grasp of the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) process, which, with its many different stakeholders, contributors, and constituents, can appear convoluted to outsiders; understanding where a material or technology fits into that collaborative process is crucial. The third cornerstone is an expanded life-cycle perspective that measures the impact of any material or technology from its genesis to its end-of-life (or, indeed, afterlife). Within such a view, any accounting of building materials or technology will have to factor in development, installment, use, and disassembly. The three cornerstones presented here form a mutually reinforcing framework upon which architectural innovation can be studied, tested, and applied. A declaration of intent sets the cycle in motion, grounding all subsequent discussions about the suitability of any design, material, or technology. Furthermore, this context of ambition frames the communication for all the constituents and collaborators on a project. Any prospective material or technology soon faces distinct challenges and opportunities as it runs up against considerations of (A) feasibility, (B) design and engineering, and (C) construction. In the feasibility phase, it is subjected to cost analysis and building codes, while efficient means of coordinating design, engineering, and fabrication parameters play a part in determining its viability. Even if viability is established, it can still be overturned by contractors for reasons of experience or logistics. Assuming our material or technology has provided enough value up until this point, it must still be scrutinized according to its process of composition and development, regimes of operation and maintenance, and, finally, the potential for disassembly and reuse (its life-cycle).

Making a Case

Let’s now apply the framework to a case study material—mass timber. As an alternative to structural concrete or steel, mass timber structures present many potential benefits. The most oft-cited benefit is ecological or environmental: Mass timber—an umbrella term for standardized wood-based building products including CLT, DLT, NLT, glu-lam, and mass plywood among others—is a renewable resource that represents a potential reduction in embodied energy or carbon footprint. This may be particularly true when compared to alternative constructions using steel or concrete, but these benefits are diminished or non-existent when measured up against those using light wood (stick) framing. The onerous structural demands of mass timber present another problem, and it has diminishing benefits in geographic regions distant from sustainably managed forests (where transporting the material and/or unsustainable resource management would negate some of the initial/embodied benefits). Moving onto the feasibility phase, mass timber faces challenges from existing building regulations. The majority of current building codes in most U.S. jurisdictions allow for mass timber construction in only a limited number of cases. While this is changing quickly, due in part to concerted lobbying efforts by those in the timber and wood industry, it remains a significant hurdle to obtain a building permit for mass-timber constructions outside of limited building typologies in those jurisdictions. But additional benefits to mass timber use can be found in the construction phase, due to its ability to be partially prefabricated off-site. Again, this compares favorably with certain building types in certain situations, and less favorably in others. The visual and aesthetic benefits of exposed wood accrue in the design and operational phases, provided that regulatory codes for the building typology proposed do not mandate the fire protection of exposed wood surfaces. This is the case in certain building types and sizes, negating any aesthetic benefit to mass timber in those scenarios. This brief and concise application of the framework to the case of mass timber immediately yields several salient conclusions: In projects where certain ecologic ambitions are present; local material stocks are well-managed; jurisdictional building regulations are permissive; the alternative structural materials would be concrete or steel but not light-frame wood; there are available suppliers and installers, and a certain aesthetic is desired, mass timber may be appropriate. So we can immediately ascertain the situations in which mass timber would be a meaningful, feasible, and effective vehicle to advance a certain ambition. But we can also quickly understand where the obstacles lie that would prevent wider-scale adoption of this technology and how to address them. For instance, advocates of mass timber need to address regulatory constraints, develop resources among suppliers and contractors in suitable locations, and argue for a prioritization of the specific ecological benefits it contributes.

Facilitating Innovation

This analytical framework can be applied to any material or technology—as indicated above, the two are often joined at the hip—to gain insights into its applicability, potential, and specific points of challenge within architecture and construction. Hopefully, it will help engender a more complete and sophisticated discussion of architectural materials and technology, both new and existing. For instance, while mass timber is currently enjoying its moment in the sun, other materials like plastic find themselves on the opposite, downward end of the fashion cycle. The issue may be a misapplication of properties to appropriate uses. Durability and resistance to environmental degradation, which is a property of many types of plastic, is perhaps grossly inappropriate in single-use applications such as packaging or grocery bags. But that same property of extreme durability can be game-changing in the right applications. For instance, in civil infrastructural applications such as bridges and tunnels, the expanded durability and higher strength of advanced polymer composite materials should bear consideration—especially in comparison to materials with shorter lifespans and/or greater maintenance costs. The expanded perspective of a life-cycle assessment may illuminate benefits for certain non-conventional materials. For example, the extreme strength-to-weight properties of composite materials can provide novel architectural experiences, such as those achieved in the Apple buildings, and can benefit the projects where those ambitions are present. In any case, the goal of the analytical framework proposed here is to help facilitate the development of material innovation in architecture. With a more complete and comprehensive analysis, we can begin to contribute to a more meaningful assessment of the suitability of new materials and technologies in our diverse building culture. No analytic framework is ever complete, and the one that I am proposing is no exception. Each building and project team will have ambitions or considerations that are outside of those outlined here. However, the three-cornerstone method described above should provide a rough schema for coordinating development among those who do, and hope to, contribute to a more innovative future of building. This is relevant now, as much as it ever has been, given the changing nature of what, how, and why we will build in the future. Quang Truong is principal and cofounder of Polytechnica and the author of Composite Architecture: Building and Design with Carbon Fiber and FRPs (Birkhauser Architecture, 2020). Prior to founding his own practice, he worked at LEVER Architecture and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, among other firms.
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En Plein Air

Outdoor art spaces that are now open for socially-distanced summer enjoyment
Over the past several weeks, a modest of trickle of museums and cultural institutions have slowly and cautiously begun to reopen their doors with coronavirus safety measures firmly in place while others announce tentative plans to reopen later this summer or in the fall. Others remain shuttered indefinitely. For those who aren’t quite ready to venture indoors in the (limited) company of fellow museum-goers, standalone sculpture parks and outdoor art spaces affiliated with museums remain a viable alfresco option in which social distancing is perhaps made a bit easier. Plus, these spaces are a great way to enjoy beautiful summer weather and get some exercise while easing back into public places that aren’t the local pharmacy or supermarket. Similar to indoor museums, however, not every sculpture park and outdoor art space across the board has reopened or announced a reopening date—like with all coronavirus-related restrictions, it all really depends on geography along with other factors. Just north of New York City in the Hudson Valley, for example, Art Omi is currently open to visitors at a smaller capacity than normal while just 90 minutes south, the perennially popular Storm King Art Center remains closed until further notice. Many of these now-open spaces have adjusted operating hours and rules and restrictions (i.e. shuttered cafes and restrooms) to keep in mind before heading out. Below is just a sampling of sculpture parks and outdoor art spaces currently open across the country. We will continue to add to this list as other major venues reopen or partially reopen their grounds. Art Omi—Ghent, New York Spread across 120 acres, Art Omi, a sculpture and architecture park in Columbia County, New York, is now open daily from dawn to dusk although all indoor facilities are closed and public programming has been cancelled until further notice. To prevent an unsafe influx of visitors, parking is extremely limited. For those who do manage to snag a spot, face coverings will be required in the parking lot and on trails (if passing other visitors.) Art Omni also requests that visitors practice social distancing and refrain from touching surfaces. Currently on display are works by Nari Ward, Steven Holl, Robert Grosvenor, Virginia Overton, Sarah Braman, and David Shrigley, among many others. Besthoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art — New Orleans The New Orleans Museum of Art’s 11-acre Besthoff Sculpture Garden reopened to visitors on June with at 25 percent capacity with special hours for seniors and the immunocompromised. Visitors are asked to don face coverings and observe social distancing measures while admiring works by such artists as Frank Stella, Katharina Fritsch, Henry Moore, and Louise Bourgeois. Meanwhile, the rest of the museum is open for virtual visits. deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum — Lincoln, Massachusetts The 30-acre grounds of the deCordova Sculpture Park—the largest of its kind in New England—is open to the public but reserved timing/day passes are required to gain access to prevent overcrowding. All buildings will remain closed until further notice. The Glenstone — Potomac, Maryland The Glenstone, the free and tricky-to-get-into private contemporary art museum in Potomac, Maryland, will reopened its sprawling, 300-acre campus as an “outdoor-only experience” for the duration of the summer on June 4. (No firm reopen date has been announced for the Charles Gwathmey- and Thomas Phifer-designed buildings that house a bulk of the museum’s collection.) As always, reservations are strictly required on the days the museum will operate (Thursdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) while various additional safety measures have been instituted including the requirement that visitors wear face coverings and enjoy the grounds in groups of five or less. All indoor amenities, including bathrooms, will be closed to the public so go before you, well, go. Al fresco highlights of the museum include sculptures and installations by the likes of Jeff Koons, Richard Serra, Ellsworth Kelly, and more. Lynden Sculpture Garden — Milwaukee Milwaukee’s lush 40-acre Lynden Sculpture Garden reopened on June 1 for “free social distance walking” daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (The grounds are closed on Thursdays). Guests are encouraged to wear face coverings and arrive in groups of nine people are less. Bathrooms and indoor facilities remain closed while all guided visits and group tours are cancelled until further notice. Michigan Legacy Art Park — Thompsonville, Michigan Located on the grounds of Crystal Mountain Resort, the woodsy 30-acre Michigan Legacy Art Park, home to over 40 permanent sculptures and 2 miles of secluded trails, is open, as always, to visitors every day of the year (with some safety-related tweaks.) As the park writes: “One of the best things about our 30 acres of outdoor wilderness and our miles of hiking trails is that you won’t encounter crowds. It’s not uncommon to wander through our forest and never see more than a few other people, or none at all. Our park is designed to give you and your family peace and quiet, with multiple trails and routes that you can select yourself. #SocialDistancing is already built into our plans.” Olympic Sculpture Park — Seattle While the Seattle Art Museum remains closed until further notice, the museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park—at nine acres, it’s the largest green space in downtown Seattle—remains open to the public with various safety measures in place. Socrates Sculpture Park – Queens, New York Nestled along the East River in Astoria, Queens, Socrates Sculpture Park remains open along with other New York City public parks during its regular hours (9:00 a.m. to sunset). The New York City Parks Department requires that visitors observe various safety practices while in the park including donning face coverings.
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Not So Fast

When are museums in the U.S. reopening?
With infection and mortality rates of COVID-19 seemingly declining (or at least, this first wave of it), cultural institutions, many of them desperate for revenue and fearful of being forced to remain shuttered forever, are slowly gesturing towards reopening to the public. Of course, the museum-going experience will look very different once they do, with temperature checks at the door, new capacity restrictions, touchless payment, and the removal of cafes and other eating areas. While the Metropolitan Museum of Art, seemingly a bellwether for New York City museums so far, has announced that it’s shooting for a mid-August reopening, other institutions in less-affected cities around the globe are have already begun reopening. When can you expect your favorite museum to reopen? Check out our curated list below and plan accordingly; or, if an arts or design institution you care about will remain closed, check out our collection of virtual museum tours. AN will follow this with an article with more information on international museums. The San Antonio Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Tampa Museum of Art in Florida have all already reopened, likely owing to their locations in states that have been pushing to get things “back to normal” a bit faster than elsewhere. Of course, some Texan museums and galleries aren’t rushing things; Ruby City in San Antonio remains closed only months after its official opening, and the Menil Collection in Houston won’t let visitors into its buildings until sometime later in the summer. The Boca Raton Museum of Art in Florida is reopening today, but the ICA Miami, which is offering livestreams of its exhibitions, remains closed with no reopening date in sight. Other Miami museums are reportedly aiming to open back up in September. One major reopening delayed by the COVID-19 crisis is the Rothko Chapel in Houston, which ARO is renovating. The contemplative art space and surrounding campus were originally slated to open again in June, but that’s been pushed back to September 13. If you can’t wait to get your fill of meditative, art-focused chapels, the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin has put together a 24/7 livestreamof Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin. Back in New York City, the Museum of Modern Art is trying to reopen sometime between July and September, according to director Glenn Lowry, albeit with an enormous reduction in staff and the possible abandoning of its plans to rotate its exhibitions more frequently. The Cooper Hewitt, as a Smithsonian museum, has canceled all planned programming through July 1 and has not announced a reopening date yet. The Museum of Arts and Design has similarly avoided putting put a potential reopening date. On the West Coast, the Getty remains closed and has canceled all programming through August 31 but is reportedly researching how best to reopen. Hauser & Wirth’s downtown Los Angeles location will tentatively try to reopen in June (visitors will need to make appointments ahead of time), while the Broad Museum, also in L.A., hasn’t announced a reopening date yet. SFMOMA, which also recently saw a painful round of layoffs, has no plans to reopen any time soon either. Somewhat ironically, even as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is being torn down, the museum’s outdoor, interactive sculptures remain open to the visiting public.
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Still Alive

Still Lives brings architectural photography to life under lockdown
The novel coronavirus pandemic has forced millions around the world into self-imposed isolation, with normally itinerant architectural photographers keenly feeling the sting. Unable to visit new projects due to construction slowdowns and restricted travel, photographers Scott Hargis in Oakland, California, and Mike Kelley, in Los Angeles, channeled their restlessness into an experimental remote photography project they hoped would capture a slice of pandemic life. The result is Still Lives, a series of charmingly low-res portraits featuring home interiors from half a world away. Each of the homes was "shot" via webcam. The duo worked with the available natural light and objects in their subjects’ homes, directing them over the web before taking a screenshot of the final composition. Apart from the challenge involved with “directing things in reverse” over the internet, Hargis and Kelley welcomed the opportunity to take looser, more lively photos—something they said they don't often encounter in their line of work. Who signed up to be a part of Still Lives? According to Hargis and Kelley, it actually wasn’t hard to find willing participants. After combing their networks of friends, colleagues, architects, and interior designers, the duo were able to expand the project through word of mouth until they had shot a broad cross-section of diverse homes around the world. In one photo, an unhoused woman emerges from a tent in Oakland; in another, a couple relaxes in their high-rise apartment in Manhattan; in yet another, two children play in a pink tent in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. “The webcam is an equalizer,” said Kelley. Everyone has one, and the generally poor quality and non-invasiveness of staging a remote photo shoot meant that subjects were much more willing to open up and let Kelley and Hargis see aspects of their everyday life. It also encouraged participants to get silly, up to and including one person in New Zealand who let a horse wander through their home, or a family tossing oranges back and forth, lending a sense of kinetic energy to the series that architectural photography often lacks. On the more serious side, Still Lives also gave Kelley and Hargis a chance to document our time in intimate and relatable detail, including the boredom, homeschooling, play, meals, and other facets of living through a global health crisis.
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Doing the Rounds

John Ronan Architects reveals circular new headquarters for Chicago Park District
Chicago’s John Ronan Architects (JRA) has revealed its distinctive design for what will be the new home of the Chicago Park District (CDP). The two-story circular building—an “iconic shape befitting an important civic institution” wrote JRA in a press release—will not only serve as administrative headquarters for the CDP but also include a fieldhouse, a somewhat Chicago-specific building type that anchors many city parks. Fieldhouses—there are more than 240 spread across Chicago, many of them historic—are essentially community hubs that offer recreational and cultural programming and often include public gyms, auditoriums, and for-rent event spaces ideal neighborhood gatherings. JRA’s CDP headquarters/fieldhouse will be situated in Park 596, a new 17-acre public transit-adjacent green space planned for the Brighton Park neighborhood on Chicago’s southwest side. JRA is overseeing both the design of the park (in collaboration with landscape architecture and urban design firm site design group) and the new building, as the firm explained, will be set into the park as a park-organizing centerpiece in lieu of on its periphery. This is intended to lend the building a “dignified presence” much like the city’s sizable stock of historic fieldhouses. A park path will lead straight to—and through—the circular building, marking the division between the CDP offices and the fieldhouse, which will include a large gymnasium, group fitness area, function room, locker facilities, and teen area. The path will be flanked by two interior courtyards, which will, per JRA, “bring light and air into the center of the building and create outdoor meeting, recreation and relaxation space for headquarters and field house staff.” Office space will be organized by alternating segments of enclosed meeting rooms and offices and open collaborative workspaces. As for the park itself, it will include both grass and artificial turf playing fields to the west of the structure; a “more naturalistic landscape treatment informed by the Park District’s sustainability vision” will extend to the east of the new building and provide its foreground according to JRA. There will also be a playground with a spray pool. Construction is slated to kick off in early 2021.
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Power Play

Low-carbon neighborhood takes root at former power station site on San Francisco waterfront
What was once one of San Francisco’s filthiest industrial sites, the old Potrero Power Generating Station at Potrero Point, is on track to be redeveloped as a new 29-acre neighborhood—a “mixed-use modern metropolis” as one local news outlet has dubbed it—complete with 2,600 residential units (30 percent earmarked for lower-income residents), abundant public green space totaling six acres, retail, restaurants, a YMCA, educational and childcare facilities, and more. As reported by Bisnow, the sprawling waterfront mega-development in the city’s Dogpatch neighborhood will also include 1.5 million square feet of “office and life sciences space” and a 250-room boutique hotel located within the bones of the old Unit 3 Power Station (a natural gas-burning steam turbine), which developers plan to leave standing at the site along with other adaptive reuse-targeted structures. Construction on the Potrero Power Station Mixed-Use Project (PPS)​, which received a unanimous blessing from the San Francisco Planning Commission earlier this year followed by an enthusiastic green light from the city’s Board of Supervisors, is set to kick off as soon as late summer, pending pandemic-prompted delays. Developer Associate Capital, which purchased the site for $86 million in 2016, is spearheading the ambitious project while Perkins and Will is overseeing the master plan for what it calls a “ sustainable, resilient neighborhood that embraces wellness.” The Potrero Power Generating Station was first established in the late 19th century and significantly expanded and modernized over the decades. Following years of outcry from community activists over pollution, in 2010 Governor Gavin Newsom ordered that the facility be closed for good. After over 100 years in operation, it was taken offline by energy provider NRG Energy early the following year. At the time of the facility’s closure, the Unit 3 Power Station, built in 1965, was one of the oldest power plants still operating in California. While vestiges of the waterfront site’s industrial past, including a 300-foot-tall smokestack, will, as mentioned, remain for a bit of gritty-historic oomph (at the request of area residents per Bisnow), the ground-up neighborhood that will take shape in the coming years couldn’t be any cleaner. As recently detailed by Smart Cities Dive, the development could potentially include on-site thermal energy plants, in which waste heat from commercial buildings is captured and used for space and water heating needs in the community’s residential buildings. The neighborhood will also eschew car usage in favor of extensive bike and cycling trails and a shuttle system that will provide frequent access to the nearest BART station. There will be parking for private vehicles (925,000 gross square feet of it per the Planning Commission) but the neighborhood’s primary thoroughfares will largely be car-free. All buildings will meet or exceed LEED Gold standards. “It’s been a very thoughtful and intentional plan for a mix of uses," Geeti Silwal, an urban planner and principal at Perkins and Will, told Bisnow. “It’s an opportunity to see how neighborhoods can be planned and developed to be complete communities.” Nonprofit preservation group SF Heritage has applauded the decision to preserve and breathe new life into many of the old power facility’s historic structures, many of which played an integral role in the growth of industry in San Francisco in the early 20th century. “In addition to providing much-needed affordable housing and open space, the project includes a big win for historic preservation,” wrote the group earlier this year. Work on the Potrero Power Station Mixed-Use Project will take place over six phases and span an estimated 16 years.
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Off the Rails

Coronavirus capital cuts could derail de Blasio’s affordable housing plan
Even more bad news for New York City: Housing advocates are sounding the alarm over the damage the nearly $1 billion in cuts to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s (HPD) capital budget will do to the city’s affordable housing prospects. The novel coronavirus pandemic has decimated the city budget, to the point that Mayor Bill de Blasio recently proposed borrowing up to $7 billion from New York State to cover the city’s operating expenses—a move explicitly banned after similar measures brought NYC to the brink of collapse in the “bad old days” of the 1970s. Without a federal bailout or a tax increase on top earners (something the mayor has balked at in the past), it looks like austerity is on the table for the next fiscal year. The cuts follow others made to municipal departments like the DDC, which was compelled to freeze all public design work (including projects that were already under construction), and the Department of Parks & Recreation, which has seen a dreadful reduction in park maintenance. In HPD's case, its budget will be hobbled by a reduction of 40 percent; the mayor has proposed cutting $583 million in 2020 and $457 million in fiscal year 2021. As with public design work, a once relatively stable source of income for architects, affordable housing design is also looking more precarious. Aside from the uncertainty this brings to firms looking to shore up their portfolios with longer-term projects, developers told Politico that the cuts could kill affordable housing buildings that have been in the works for years. For instance, HPD’s loan program for supportive housing, through which the department partly finances its projects, funds developments with at least 60 percent of the units set aside for the homeless or disabled and was expected to deliver 1,000 units this year and 1,500 in 2021 alone; now those projections are up in the air. More concerning is that HPD has stopped issuing “soft commitment letters,” which affirm that a developer is set to receive city funding. Without that written commitment, affordable housing developers are having a much more difficult time luring in outside investors. With groundbreakings pushed back, those same projects are also at risk of losing investors who were angling for low-income housing tax credits but have been spooked at the uncertainty now involved. Any delay in affordable housing construction or the preservation of existing units could endanger Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York 2.0 plan, which in 2018 bumped up its goal of creating or preserving 300,000 housing units by 2026 from the original 2014 plan’s 200,000-unit target. It’s estimated that the combined 2020 and 2021 cuts to HPD’s budget would ultimately prevent 21,000 fewer affordable units from becoming available. More importantly, the current pandemic has greatly exacerbated housing insecurity among city renters, and slashing the availability of affordable units will be certain to cause ripple effects down the line.
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Review Redux

Here are even more end-of-year student exhibitions to peruse
A little over a week ago, we published a roundup of end-of-year school exhibitions that had made the transition to online formats. Only later did it occur to us only that the use of the modifier “best” to describe the student projects contained in those showcases was a little ill-advised. After all, some schools have been quicker to the punch than others, so we’ve made another pass, scanning the web for even more virtual displays with equally strong design projects. California College of the Arts Architecture The CCA’s student showcase is emphatically not an exhibition, but rather “a portal for discovery,” according to a statement on the site. Disclaimers aside, the work, which spans architecture, furniture, fine arts, and humanities and studies concentrations, can be easily browsed thanks to the filter option. One such filter? “Curator's Picks.” Cornell University College of Architecture, Art, and Planning The small sampling of work that Cornell AAP has made available online is weighted to the school’s undergraduate program, which consistently tops national rankings. The New School's Parson School of Design Parsons recently launched a web-based iteration of its annual spring exhibition. It gathers work from eight different programs, ranging from architecture and interior design to lighting design and product design. One could easily spend an afternoon browsing this diverse set of projects, but you might want to start with the B.Arch and M.Arch galleries. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Architecture In reproducing its traditional student exhibition, Rensselaer Architecture prized verisimilitude over flashier, web-specific bells and whistles. The virtual gallery reproduces its physical counterpart, which is typically held in Greene Building, the school’s main hub. In a poignant touch, student work is even “pinned” to display boards. USC Architecture USC Architecture’s Virtual Expo is one of the most comprehensive online galleries we’ve seen. Student work from across the school's programs—architecture, landscape architecture, building science—is all faithfully rendered in large-formal slideshows.
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In Response

Letter to the Editor: Minnesota AIA leaders on the murder of George Floyd and destruction in the Twin Cities

We grieve and protest the murder of George Floyd.

We see the soul-deep exhaustion and pain of the Black members of our architecture community and of our broader communities.

And we realize the weight of this hurt is not just because the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer was so inhumane, so merciless—it is because of the ever-evolving and unrelenting racism in daily life; the layers of disrespect, discrimination, and degradation built up over years, decades, generations, and centuries. As a predominantly White profession and organization, and as individuals, we recognize that through our own actions and inactions, through our own lack of care and courage, we have contributed to this exhaustion and pain.

We own our responsibility for doing too little in the past and needing to do so much more in the future to address the systemic inequities that pervade all aspects of life and work in Minnesota, including the practice of architecture.

People matter more than buildings. This must always be so.

We are also saddened by the destruction happening in the cities we love. We know, better than most, that buildings are extensions of people. Buildings are designed—by architects—to serve particular human needs. Buildings are designed—by architects—to protect the health, safety, and welfare of those who enter them and those whose neighborhoods they become woven into.

Nearly 300 businesses have been damaged so far, some of them destroyed completely. We know Lake Street. We know University Avenue. They are the connective tissue of the Twin Cities—vital and vibrant in the way “Main Street” is for smaller towns. We know that the areas of West Broadway, Penn Avenue, and other affected sites in our neighborhoods include the restaurants, bars, barbershops, convenience stores, grocery stores, nonprofits, health clinics, libraries, and cultural centers that are as much a part of our home as our own front steps.

We are angered by the mounting evidence that many of the violent actions and indiscriminate destruction of the past week appear to have been led by White instigators, some from outside our state, whose intentions are to leverage the righteous fury of Minnesotans for the purposes of fueling broader chaos and extremist causes.

Our brokenness is on display to the world. Peaceful and sustained appeals to our shared humanity and our moral compass following the deaths of Philando Castile, Jamar Clark, and so many others did not change us enough. If the video showing five excruciating minutes of George Floyd dying and the destruction of the built environment we feel such responsibility for does not change us, what will?

“Architects believe they can change the world.” When this is said, it is often with cynicism. Yet, there is another way to say it: “Architects believe we can change the world.” What comes next in the wake of all that has happened depends upon us shedding our cynicism and lifting up what we already know: that the best of the built environment, the best of any product, system, or community, has always been the result of deep collaboration; and that the more diverse, equitable and inclusive the collaboration, the more creative and lasting the solutions. Instead of architects assuming we know what is right and jumping in to assert our experience, expertise, and good intentions, we need to step back, listen, and be ready to learn, unlearn, and adapt.

Rebuilding what’s been lost is impossible—and it’s the wrong goal. The buildings, systems, and relationships that existed before came about through design and construction. Before rebuilding, the architecture community must join with others in rethinking, reimagining, and redesigning what’s next. Together, we can change our communities and ourselves for the better. But this will only be true if we reckon with our shared history, if we keep our hearts from hardening, and if we move forward with resolve and humility.

 Karen Lu, AIA, NOMA, and Mary-Margaret Zindren, CAE. Karen is the president of AIA Minnesota and Mary-Margaret is the EVP/Executive Director of AIA Minnesota, AIA Minneapolis, AIA St. Paul, and AIA Northern Minnesota. The leadership of all AIA chapters in Minnesota stand united in this message.

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Shell-shocked

Daniel Fernández Pascual awarded 2020 Wheelwright Prize
The Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) has named Daniel Fernández Pascual, a Spanish-born, London-based architect, urban designer, educator, and researcher as the recipient of the 2020 Wheelwright Prize. Now in its eighth year as an international open competition, the Wheelwright Prize, which first originated at Harvard GSD in 1935, is a research travel-based grant of $100,000 that funds globe-trotting proposals put forth by “extraordinary early-career architects.” Fernández Pascual’s winning proposal, Being Shellfish: The Architecture of Intertidal Cohabitation, examines the architectural possibilities of the world’s diverse intertidal zones—murky, muddy, and mysterious coastal areas that are covered by high tide and left fully exposed during low tide. For millennia, different cultures have turned to intertidal zones as a vital source of not only sustenance but for different building materials such as waste shellfish shells and seaweed. With Being Shellfish, Fernández Pascual will examine how these materials can be better used in contemporary architecture as a sustainable, circular alternative to ecologically destructive materials like concrete. “Being Shellfish is an invitation to envision a paradigm shift in coastal ecology and architecture; an exploration to think like a mussel, see the world from the lens of an oyster, or explore the built environment like a cluster of dulse,” as Fernández Pascual explained his proposal to AN. Considering the travel-intensive nature of the prize and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Fernández Pascual will approach his research in two separate phases. During the first phase, he’ll initiate contact with local sources and embark on whatever research can be performed remotely with each proposed case study. At a later point, Fernández Pascual will commence his travels to coastal communities that have rich waste shell and seaweed material cultures in Denmark, New Zealand, Chile, Zanzibar, China, Taiwan, Turkey, and Japan. Both remotely and on the ground, Fernández Pascual plans to “look at historical and contemporary innovations, such as seaweed thermal insulation and waterproof roofing, as well as the use of waste shells used as cement-less binding agents, cladding, and flooring systems in different parts of the world.” “With current travel restrictions, I proposed to continue some of the ongoing conversations in the different sites remotely until the actual consequences of COVID-19 are more clear,” explained Fernández Pascual. “There needs to be a lot of work done beforehand, and this can also be a good moment to approach researchers, foragers, and growers from afar to start strategising the fieldwork.” “The conversation with elderly craftsmen working with a type of tabby concrete made without cement in Taiwan, and sedef mussel shell inlay artists in eastern Turkey are perhaps the places where I will start the journey when possible," he added. Fernández Pascual’s fascination with coastal ecosystems—particularly the threat to them—came early in life as a child growing up in Spain in the 1980s and 90s. “I was always perplexed by the sheer amount of coastal developments, wherever we would go on family holidays,” he said. “Those were the years that inherited the built form of mass tourism promoted during the Franco dictatorship and which eventually led to a second wave of real estate speculation; a boom, which urbanized, and destroyed, invaluable parts of the Spanish littoral for the construction of second homes and tourist resorts. The fact that most structures were so close to the seafront was something I could never entirely grasp, and I guess, always stayed as a personal interest, to understand how we could inhabit the coast differently.” Intertidal zones are a subject that Fernández Pascual has explored before through CLIMAVORE: On Tidal Zones. This long-term, site-specific project was initiated through Cooking Sections, a research-based London practice co-founded in 2013 with Alon Schwabe that, using video, installation, performance, and mapping, “explore the systems that organize the world through food.” Cooking Sections has exhibited at venues across the world including at the U.S. Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. Upcoming solo exhibitions will be held at Tate Britain and SALT Istanbul. Being Shellfish will “extend and expand ongoing investigation on ecosocial coastal innovations in the intertidal zone” as initiated in CLIMAVORE. “In some places like Taiwan, oyster shell ‘cement’ is an old practice to repurpose waste into the construction industry,” Fernández Pascual explained. “Although the practice is in decay, there are certainly ways in which it can be revisited. Similarly, seaweed has been used in roofing and thermal insulation across multiple geographies, from the Mediterranean to the North Sea. They can all reduce the amount of cement used in binding agents, as well as other construction materials from petrochemical origin. But a lot of work is yet to be done to meet current standards. What is important for our practice, Cooking Sections, is how we see these construction systems as closed loops that integrate food infrastructure with material production and architecture.” Stateside, Cooking Sections is currently at work on a project in which oysters are being used as a tool to better understand “the complexity of these coastal ecosystems,” said Fernández Pascual. “There is still a lot to learn, but what is important is also to understand the interconnection with larger political, environmental, or economic events, from oil spills to land subsidence or the extraction of fossil fuels in the Gulf of Mexico. That can give us clues to think of other materials that can help think of alternative scenarios.” This year’s Wheelwright Prize received more than 170 applicants. New York-based architectural designer Bryony Roberts and Brazilian architect Gustavo Utrabo were named as finalists alongside Fernández Pascual for their respective proposals. “The potential for an investigation to play out so globally, and to draw in sites that offer such specific contexts, is rare, while the relevance of this topic and the care with which Daniel has organized his research agenda make me confident that this work will have a profound and widespread impact,” said Sarah Whiting, dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture at Harvard GSD, in a statement. Whiting also served on the 2020 Wheelwright Prize jury. Fernández Pascual holds a Master of Architecture from ETSA Madrid, a Master of Science in Urban Design from TU Berlin and Tongji University Shanghai, and a PhD from the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, University of London.
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Sitting Pretty on Pico

Grimshaw unveils a new arts complex at Santa Monica College
The Los Angeles office of British architecture firm Grimshaw has revealed plans for a 21,000-square-foot arts complex at Santa Monica College (SMC), a junior college with an enrollment of over 30,000 students. The building, described as a “factory of creativity,” will take rise on what's now a surface parking lot on the corner of 14th Street and Pico Boulevard at somewhat of a remove from the college’s main campus, which is bounded by 16th and 20th Streets. As a press release notes, Grimshaw’s output of late in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia has been heavy on college and university projects, with 57 percent of the firm’s completed buildings in 2019 falling under the science and learning banner. The arts center at SMC continues this trend and with a distinctly Californian twist:
“Celebrating the temperate weather of California, Grimshaw’s design is comprised of three distinct volumes that are linked through external, shaded areas providing ample opportunities for informal teaching and gathering in open-air weather protected courtyards. The external circulation and gathering areas drastically reduce the need for air conditioning, minimizing the overall energy use of the new complex and further supporting Grimshaw’s sustainability mission.”
Each of the three volumes is dedicated to a different purpose or “arts education pillar” as Grimshaw puts it: student studios, teaching spaces, and workshops. Each volume, separated from the neighboring single-family homes by a landscaped buffer, is encased by a perforated metal screen that will “act as a backdrop for the life of the building: the artwork.” Another key design feature is a spacious entrance plaza that will “generate opportunities for programming such as exhibitions, potential media screenings, or impromptu gatherings.” “Working alongside the arts faculty of SMC to design a building that bolsters their visionary take on the importance of the arts in an evolving entrepreneurial landscape has been inspiring and energizing,” said Andrew Byrne, managing partner at Grimshaw’s L.A. studio, in a statement. Construction on the new facility is slated to kick off during the first half of 2022, and be ready for the 2024 academic year. North Carolina-headquartered Little Diversified Architectural Consulting will serve as architect of record on the project. Grimshaw maintains an active and growing presence in and around in L.A., taking on two high-profile, transportation-related projects in the city in recent years including the Metro Airport Connector project and the master plan for Union Station, both in partnership with Gruen Associates.