The presentations and activities at this year’s ACADIA (Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture) conference gave attendees a glimpse of potentially disruptive technologies and workflows for computational architectural production. The conference was held this year in Austin from October 24 through 26 and was organized by The University of Texas School of Architecture faculty members Kory Bieg, Danelle Briscoe, and Clay Odom. The organizers collected papers, workshops, and projects addressing the theme of “Ubiquity and Autonomy” in computation. Contributors reflected on the state of architectural production, in which digital tools and methodologies developed in the boutique, specialized settings at the fringes of the profession a generation ago have now become commonplace in architectural offices—while at the same time, new forms of specialist computational practices are emerging which may themselves soon become mainstream. While each participant grappled to position themselves in the cyclical and ever-advancing framework of technological inheritance and transference, the most encouraging efforts can be described in three categories: Expansions, subversions, and wholesale disruptions of the computational status quo. The expansionists claimed new technological territories, enlisting emerging and peripheral technologies to their purposes. The subvertors sampled the work and scrambled the workflows of their predecessors, configuring novel material applications in the process. Disruptors actively sought to break the techno-positivist cycle, questioning the assumptions, ethics, and values of previous generations to leverage computational design and digital processes to advance pressing and prescient political, economic, and ecological agendas. Expansionists appropriated bleeding-edge technologies, or those newly introduced to the discipline, to stake new terrain in design and construction. The conference was the first of its kind to host a dedicated session on the use of Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) in design. This machine-learning system pits two forms of artificial intelligence against each other—one AI acts as the creative “artist,” generating all the possible solutions to a given task, while the other acts as the “critic,” selectively editing and curating the most appropriate responses. After training the networks on archives of architectural imagery, panelists put the GANs to work on evaluative and generative design tasks, alternately generating passably authentic floor plans, building envelopes, and reconstructed streetscapes. The workshop sessions, hosted by a suite of computational research teams from several architectural offices, demonstrated possibilities for adopting emerging technologies with familiar platforms, adopting and adapting tools like Fologram and Hololens to more familiar software platforms and fabrication methods. The subvertors, familiar with the expected uses and applications of given tools, would offer intentionally contradictory alternatives, short-circuiting established workflows and celebrating the unintended consequences of digitally enhanced platforms. A project from MIT researchers Lavender Tessmer, Yijiang Huang, and Caitlin Mueller entitled “Additive Casting of Mass-Customizable Brick” is a good example of the subvertors’ approach to interrogating workflows, enlisting precision-equipment for low-fidelity effect. As the current state-of-the-art in custom concrete formwork employs costly and time-consuming workflows to task CNC routers or robotic arms with milling, the MIT project is a critical alternative. Instead of shaping the mold, the project mobilizes the mold, achieving a wide variety of sculptural concrete “bricks” using standard cylindrical forms wielded by a robotic arm, while leveraging the ability of liquid concrete to self-level. The molds are shifted to preset positions while the concrete sets, allowing the sequential states of self-leveled concrete to intersect in complex geometries. The process is surprisingly delightful to watch, as the robot controls seven molds simultaneously like a drummer with a drumkit. The unexpected combination of high- and low-tech recalibrates possibilities for the robotic craft. Other researchers swapped out expected materials to produce unexpected results. Vasily Sitnikov (KTH) and Peter Eigenraam (TU Delft) teamed with BuroHappold to produce IceFormwork, a project that uses milled blocks of ice as the unlikely forms for casting high-performance fiber-reinforced concrete. Ice, the team argued, is a preferred, environmentally neutral alternative to industry-standard EPS foam molds, which produce a vast amount of waste. Ice molds, the team demonstrated, are easy enough to make (with some help from a reliable water source and a repurposed refrigerated ISO container). Airborne particles suspended by the ice-milling process are harmless water vapor, unlike the dangerous foam dust requiring ventilation equipment and other protective measures. When it comes to de-molding, the ice can simply be left outside to melt. While these investigations showcased new ways to hack the assembly process of cast building elements, their choice of concrete as a material contradicted a growing consensus in the panels; that designers should actively seek alternatives to the glut of concrete in the building industry, given the high ecological cost and high carbon footprint of concrete manufacturing in the context of an accelerating global sand shortage. Daniela Mitterberger and Tiziano Derme (MAEID/University of Innsbruck) offered one of the more radical alternatives with their project “Soil 3D Printing.” The team is using hydrogels—non-toxic, biodegradable adhesives—as binding agents injected into loose soil, to form alien landscapes of networked, earthen structures that portend a near-future where biocompatible, organic additive manufacturing processes restructure geotechnical landscapes and planetary geology. The provocations of the disruptors—who radically repurpose computational tools beyond perceived disciplinary constraints—raised profound questions about the potential for design technologies to enable and enact larger societal transformations by lining up global supply chains, material economies, and non-human constituencies squarely in their sights. Jose Sanchez (Plethora Project/Bloom Games/USC), in the presentation he gave while accepting the Innovative Research Award, presented his work leveraging computation and game design to critically examine and transform economic and ecologic realities. Sanchez has developed a series of game environments which force players to navigate wicked problems in contemporary cities, to confront the complexities, contradictions, and paradoxes of urbanization, logistics, and manufacturing. Sanchez described the continued focus in his work on efforts to "optimize for the many"—as opposed to the few—in a period of increased economic inequality, re-assessing the predominant use of digital technologies over the past few decades to enable complex mass-customized assemblies. Sanchez, in his own work, and in projects like Bloom with Alisa Andrasek (Biothing/Bloom Games/RMIT), has been exploring the potential of digital technologies to disrupt mass-production models through high-volume production of serialized and standardized “discrete” architectural components. In a similar vein, Gilles Retsin (UCL/Bartlett) argued for a reconsideration of the labor practices and digital economies enmeshed in, and implicitly supported by, a building industry that has not yet come to terms with automation. By focusing on the ability of digital tools to combat material waste, Retsin argued, a generation of digitally savvy architects have ignored the potential of automation to address wasted labor. Through speculative research and small projects, Retsin is hoping to disrupt the building industry, increasing the capacity of architects to design and implement new platforms for project delivery which can combat exploitative practices. As expansionists pointed out where to look for the next big advancement, subvertors demonstrated how existing tools could be used differently. Disruptors were some of the few to ask—and answer—why. Stephen Mueller is a founding partner of AGENCY and a Research Assistant Professor at Texas Tech University College of Architecture in El Paso.
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Fond of me Lobster?
WERK Arkitekter and Snøhetta’s maritime center will bridge land and sea
WERK Arkitekter and Snøhetta recently released visuals of a new maritime community center on the coast of Esbjerg, Denmark. Lanternen (or “The Lantern” in English) is described by WERK as a building that will “reflect the forces of the sea and create a connection between the city and the water.” As its name suggests, like a lighthouse, Lanternen will sit facing the sea, illuminated from within. “Our vision is to create a building where the rational and the poetic meet in a symbiosis. A symbiosis between the movements of the sea, the migration of light, and the low-key and every day,” wrote Thomas Kock, creative director at WERK on their website, “A symbiosis between spatial experiences and practicality. A symbiosis between the fine and the raw, social and sporting.” The building will create space for multiple water sports clubs, training facilities, and workshop and social spaces which will be broken down into two central areas: The “Hall” and the “Social heart.” The ground-floor Hall has direct contact with water and will provide space for tools and equipment. The Social Heart is located on the floor above and will encourage social activity through a common terrace space. Lanternen was the winning bid for the building’s design competition and was selected for “combining the desire for a fascinating and innovative architecture with high functionality and the intention to create a framework that supports community.” The structure's circular form creates a “house with no backsides,” according to the design team, and is intended to feel open and inclusive to all members of the community whether they are an experienced diver, a student, or passerby. This feeling is emphasized by the building’s many windows and central open-air terrace arranged around its round massing. Clad in timber, the facility is designed to evoke the “geometry and craftsmanship of boats” not while also setting it apart from other buildings in the seaside town. Of course, Snøhetta is no stranger to designing 360-degree timber community buildings that interface with a body of water. The center is slated to open in 2021.
Controversial street-spanning element of LACMA redesign approved
However controversial Peter Zumthor’s redesign of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) may be to the general public, the L.A. City Council has a track record of unanimously siding with the Pritzker Prize-winning architect and the museum. Though the majority of the building’s elements have already been approved during the multi-year design phase, a City Council vote on December 3 officially gave permission for the project to span over Wilshire Boulevard, allowing the design’s most ambitious feature to remain intact, according to City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield. LACMA director Michael Govan, as well as Councilmembers David Ryu and Herb Wesson Jr., additionally expressed their interests in preserving the design for the museum as is. Govan has commented that, in its current form, the design is more open and contextually-sensitive than its predecessor, while spanning over Wilshire to connect to the Purple Line station that is set to be completed in 2023. Ryu commented that the proposed design will ensure LACMA remains a symbol for the city and “a showcase for the world to see and enjoy.” Several speakers at City Hall, however, expressed concerns with the current proposal. The $117 million the county is awarding to the project, the potential safety issues associated with the portion of the building spanning Wilshire Boulevard, as well as the fact that much of the plan was not adequately disclosed to the public during the schematic design phase, have been the subjects of recent criticism. LACMA responded to these are other public concerns in their FAQ, stating that “the environmental impact review has shown that the crossing poses no hazards to motorists, traffic patterns, or pedestrians,” and that “without the new building, the County would be facing a minimum of $246 million in basic repairs for the aging buildings.” Construction is set to begin early next year, coinciding with the opening of the adjacent Renzo Piano-designed Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, and is scheduled to be completed in 2023 in coordination with the completion of the new Metro station across the street.
Budapest’s new mayor, Gergely Karácsony, has moved to block the construction of Hungary’s New National Gallery, due to the SANAA-designed building’s supposed “enormous impact on its environment.” Elected in October on a green platform, the Mayor has expressed his concerns over the building being built on “one of Budapest’s few and very precious green areas,” and construction has since stalled on the $277 million project. On November 5, Budapest’s General Assembly backed Karácsony’s proposal to halt the centerpiece of the Liget Budapest Project, which is said to be Europe’s “largest and most ambitious urban cultural development.” Construction on the House of Hungarian Innovation, a new $110 million science museum, has also been suspended. The entire project was slated to be fully completed by 2023 and included a Museum of Ethnography, House of Hungarian Music, and an expanded zoo. The National Museum Restoration and Storage Centre opened to the public earlier this year. While many residents shared the Mayor’s concerns about the environmental impact, project organizers have defended the construction. “The new buildings are not being constructed on green areas but are instead replacing parking spaces and long-outdated buildings planned to be demolished,” László Baán, director of Budapest’s Museum of Fine Arts, argued, according to The Art Newspaper. He has also stated that the green space in the park will actually increase by five percent. The New National Gallery was due to begin construction in early 2020 with the goal of closing the Hungarian National Gallery in Buda Castle and dividing the collection between the Museum of Fine Arts and the New National Gallery. Because the project is being funded by the central government, negotiations with the mayor will continue, and he has even suggested alternative sites in Budapest where he believes construction will not damage the environment.
Going, Going, Gone Green
2019 Best of Design Awards winners for Green Building
2019 Best of Design Award for Green Building: Galenas Medical Cannabis Cultivation Facility Designer: Urban Green Design Location: Akron, Ohio The Galenas Medical Cannabis Cultivation Facility is a pharmaceutical-grade environment that meets highly technical specifications and a holistic sustainable design that enhances its community. The structure emphasizes passive design, integrates all systems to maximize efficiencies, is designed to achieve LEED Platinum, and creates a renewable energy ready–facility that incorporates a full-roof photovoltaic array to achieve net-zero energy. Prefabricated construction and segmentation of the programmed spaces improve operational efficiencies and performance. The $3 million, 10,000-square-foot building provides a better quality product with greater yields, using 90 percent less water and 35 percent less energy than other cannabis facilities, while the aesthetics brand the facility as a flagship for the company. MEP Engineer: Engineered Building Systems Structural Engineer: Van Deurzen and Associates Civil Engineer: Infrastructure and Development Engineering General Contractor: Summit Construction Director of Cultivation: Alexander Jones Honorable Mentions Project Name: 370 Jay Street, New York University Designer: Mitchell Giurgola Project Name: Tree Pittsburgh Headquarters Designer: GBBN Editors' Picks Project Name: Greenport Passive House Designer: The Turett Collaborative Project Name: Marvin Gaye Recreation Center Designer: ISTUDIO Architects
“We are in pursuits of an idea, a new vernacular, something to stand alongside the space capsules, computers and throw-away packages of an atomic/electronic age,” Warren Chalk, member of former British architecture studio Archigram once said. Chalk's quote epitomized Archigram's outlook and approach—daring, brave, looking firmly into the future, and slightly tongue-in-cheek. Archigram and its contemporaries of similarly brilliant names (Ant Farm, Superstudio and Archizoom) have since been canonized as being part of an elite group of supposedly Avant-Garde architects. But if that was the crème-de-la-crème of 50 years ago, what is the equivalent today? Re-imagining the Avant-Garde, on show at Betts Project in East London, might have the answer. If you want to see some good drawings, this is the place to go—not surprising given the star-studded exhibitor list: Ant Farm, Pablo Bronstein, Peter Eisenman, Sam Jacob, OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen, Jimenez Lai/Bureau Spectacular, and Aldo Rossi, to name a few, are all on show and none disappoint. Neither do the smaller studios: UrbanLab, WAI Think Tank, Warehouse of Architecture and Research (WAR), and Office Kovacs. Those exhibited are either mentioned in or have contributed to a special edition of AD Magazine which takes the same name as the exhibition at Betts Project. British duo Matthew Butcher and Luke Pearson, both academics, writers, and designers guest co-edited the magazine and co-curated this exhibition. "Avant-Garde" used in relation to architecture today brings to mind the work of Archigram et al., all of who sprouted from the fervent experimental ground of the 1960s and ’70s. It's through this moment in architectural history which Re-Imagining the Avant-Garde attempts to frame contemporary architectural practice and thought. So how does the historical and contemporary sit next to each other? Rather comfortably, it turns out. As images and models, all arguably fall under the umbrella of Pop Architecture; British critic Reyner Banham's definition holding true. Take Belgium firm Office Kersten Geers' Border Wall, for example. The studio helped popularize the collage style of architectural representation a few years ago and it's a useful medium for Border Wall. Here it is employed to highlight tensions between territories—in this case, a walled forest in the middle of a desert divided by a fence. The desert landscape is a blurry image, while the tree trunks are conveniently hidden, all of which consequently obfuscates any sense of scale, adding a layer of ambiguity to the piece. Other exhibitors reference the Avant-Garde architectural canon explicitly, like WAR for example, who projects its architecture through a comic strip akin to the drawings of Archigram. L.A.-based Office Kovacs, run by Andrew Kovacs, meanwhile provides a palimpsest of readymade architectural artifacts in Miniature maze, a work that draws on the archive of affinities found in Kovacs' blog of architectural b-sides. As these works are displayed next to photos of Ant Farm's famous touring truck, and with other ’60s radicals in mind, it's evident that the contemporary practices on show are producing work that is just as visually arresting as their predecessors. But what's the difference between then and now? "Yes, ’70s utopian groups have influenced us—it's obvious, no? The difference is that we work out there in reality," Benjamin Foerster-Baldenius of the Berlin-based raumlabor told AN editor-in-chief William Menking in his article for the issue of AD Magazine. Like all good exhibitions, Re-imagining the Avant-Garde provokes more questions. Is this the Avant-Garde reimagined? Why are we being asked to re-imagine the Avant-Garde in the first place, is it the hope of stumbling upon another wave of Avant-Garde architects? Very few, if any, realize they are part of an Avant-Garde, even if they have Avant-Gardist ambitions (see Chalk's quote). The term is, for the most part, applied through a historical lens. We only realize there was an Avant-Garde once it has been and, sadly, gone. We might even find that the more we search for an Avant-Garde, the more it will evade us. When Abbot Suger worked with his Master Masons on the Basilica of Saint-Denis in 12th-Century France, he probably didn't expect the Gothic-style church he commissioned to end up defining the built landscape of Medieval Europe. Far less did Suger realize that he was part of an architectural Avant-Garde (or equivalent seeing as the phrase emerged some 700 years after). Defining a historical Avant-Garde imposes restrictions on a supposed contemporary Avant-Garde. Also writing in the same issue of AD Magazine, critic Mimi Zeiger argues that "The work of Italian radicals Superstudio [and others] provides endless fodder for appropriation," which is the case with much the work on show at Betts Project. Furthermore, the elite Avant-Garde club which Butcher and Pearson refer to is essentially an all-white gentleman's club. "Re-imagining the avant-garde might seem celebratory at first but unless radically re-contextualized and critiqued, it can be a trap. Old biases and omissions are reinforced: canons crystallized, hierarchies hardened, patriarchal practices protected," adds Zeiger. In light of this, instead of aspiring to be part of an Avant-Garde, today's architects should forget about the term altogether and strive to make a more sustainable planet. Much as how Chalk imagined building for an "atomic/electronic age," a similarly forward-thinking vision will surely prove to be Avant-Garde in time. Re-imagining the Avant-Garde runs through December 21.
Andrea Steele's L10 Arts and Cultural Center will bring integrative cultural space to Brooklyn
Set inside Enrique Norten’s towering residential project in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, the upcoming L10 Arts and Cultural Center will bring together multiple mainstay institutions like the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), the Brooklyn Public Library, and 651 ARTS. The 32-story triangular 300 Ashland Place already boasts several pieces of booming retail on the property, including a Whole Foods Market 365 and an Apple Store. But the addition of a 50,000-square-foot space owned and operated by the city will ensure the building, designed by TEN Arquitectos and Andrea Steele Architecture in 2017, features more than stop-and-shop amenities. The Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) and NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) aim to make it a community gathering place and give 651 ARTS—which teaches African Diaspora-inspired contemporary dance, theater, and music—its first dedicated permanent home. “For both visitors and residents alike, Fort Greene is a destination for arts and entertainment, and I’m thrilled to celebrate the addition of this new community space and all it has to offer,” said NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett in a press release. “The opening of the L10 Arts and Cultural Center officially marks the completion of the entire BAM South Tower project, which has brought invaluable affordable housing, jobs, and community and public space to the neighborhood.” BAM South Tower, as 300 Ashland Place is referred to here, stands on a pivotal corner near downtown Brooklyn and in between the residential neighborhoods of Fort Green and Park Slope. Located near BAM’s other buildings within the Brooklyn Cultural District—a city-led invested area—it’s a central spot with its own public plaza to connect people crossing into either community. The uniquely-shaped site was previously a parking lot but was later transformed via a collaboration between the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Two Trees Management. Andrea Steele Architecture, which recently acquired the New York office of its longtime partner TEN Arquitectos, has designed individual spaces for each institution within the L10 Arts and Cultural Center. For BAM, a new education center will be built, as well as a reading room where the public can access its 150-year-old collection. 651 Arts will get its own affordable dance studios and performance space, while a new branch of the Brooklyn Public Library will open for locals. In time for its 20th anniversary, MoCADA will receive a new gallery and performance space. According to Andrea Steele, the project embodies Brooklyn’s burgeoning civic landscape: “The design elevates the public walk to connect the community to new resources,” she said. “While the exterior landscaped terrace has already become a vibrant destination and venue for dance performances, concerts, markets, and festivals; the new cultural spaces will bring critical activation and extend the public realm within, resulting in a 360-degree panorama of city life.” The L10 Arts and Cultural Center broke ground today, and with the project's expected completion in winter 2021, the BAM South Tower project will be fully realized.
A Line in the Sand
Kisawa Sanctuary will be a 740-acre resort 3D-printed with local sand and seawater
Benguerra Island, a small body of land off the coast of Mozambique in southeastern Africa, is about to become the site of an ambitiously-constructed luxury resort. Spread across 740 acres, Kisawa Sanctuary will feature 12 generously-sized bungalows, each of which will be set on a private acre of land with amenities including accessible beachfronts, swimming pools, massage huts, and extensively-shaded areas. In addition to the private areas, there will be four restaurants, tennis courts, water sports facilities, and two bars. The design of the buildings throughout the resort was inspired by traditional Mozambican dwellings and will be decorated and furnished with pieces made by local artisans. Developed through a partnership between entrepreneur Nina Flohr and the Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies, a Mozambique-based nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of the local subtropical ecosystem, Kisawa Sanctuary will be 3D-printed using a combination of local sand and seawater to reduce material waste on the site. To develop the structures for Kisawa, according to Condé Nast Traveler, “a computer-generated design is sent to a 3D printer, where it's divvied up into layers. The printer's nozzle then draws in the desired material—in the case of Kisawa, a sand-and-seawater mortar—and pipes it out to create the structure from the bottom up.” Other elements on the site will be constructed with minimal waste to ensure the resort “has a light touch on the land but a deep engagement with nature” in an effort to compete with other eco-tourism destinations around the world, such as El Mangroove in Costa Rica and The Resort at Isla Palenque in Panama. “We’ve used design as a tool, not as a style,” Flohr explained to Traveler, "to ensure Kisawa is integrated, culturally and environmentally, to Mozambique.” Construction of the resort is scheduled to be completed by the middle of next year, and staying there is expected to set visitors back a minimum of $8,124 USD per night.
Dubai is now home to what is claimed to be the world’s largest on-site 3D-printed building. The 31-foot-tall, two-story government agency was printed in on-site three weeks using a single printer developed by the Boston-based Apis Cor, which has previously garnered attention for their sub-$10,000 printed home and for winning NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge along with SEarch+ for their Martian housing proposal. To realize the 6,889-square-foot structure, Apis Cor moved its automobile-sized printer, which is powered by custom software, around the construction site with a crane, along with the help of three workers. Each wall was printed using a mix of locally-available common products like cement and gypsum, along with proprietary materials the company has developed. Steel rebar was added to reinforce the walls and the foundation was laid using standard construction techniques and insulation, while the roofing and windows were added by workers as well. Apis Cor noted that working unsheltered in the harsh climate required “extensive R&D,” and the team had to develop a process and mix of materials well suited to the changing conditions. (Moscow State University of Civil Construction also lent help with structural modeling.) Despite the severe and shifting environment, Dubai has become a center of experimentation in 3D printing, for construction and in other industries such as medicine. The city aims to have 25 percent of its buildings created with 3D printing by 2030. However, Apis Cor says that its tech is adaptable to other climates and it will be heading to Louisiana and California next to build affordable housing; a use for 3D printing which many claim will be cheaper, faster, and stronger than traditional methods and that has been the focus of other startups such as the Texas-based ICON.
Starry Night All The Time
Adjaye Associates unveils a tightly-balanced public plaza for Sydney
David Adjaye and contemporary Aboriginal artist Daniel Boyd have unveiled their design for a new public plaza in Sydney’s Central Business District. Adjaye Associates’ first project in Sydney, the new building and plaza will be located at 180 George Street, the site of Lendlease’s Circular Quay Tower designed by Foster + Partners. Following a competitive expression of interest process, the City of Sydney announced Adjaye and Boyd will design the public square, a community building, and a public work of art, all three of which will be built by Lendlease and then handed over to the city as a public asset. “Rooted in lost history, the new Sydney Plaza is about the meaning of place, heritage, and identity,” stated a recent press release. “An attempt to uncover, layer, and celebrate the Eora origins of this part of coastal Sydney, the project is about reconciliation of cultures...and aims to articulate dialogue around the complex relationship colonizers have to their indigenous communities.” Referencing the dwellings of Australia’s early European settlers, the new public building will take the form of a pitched roof house with fluted exterior cladding, a symbol of shelter and respite in the context of the city’s busy streetscape. It is expected to be used as a flexible, multipurpose space with room for an open plan cafe, meeting spaces, gallery, and garden terrace. Adjaye stated that he hoped the space would become a “place for people to connect, recharge, reflect and take a pause from the rhythm of a fast-transforming city,” according to The Sydney Morning Herald. Boyd’s monumental perforated steel sculpture will jut out above the building and adjacent plaza, filtering light onto the public space below through multiple-sized apertures inspired by Aboriginal dot paintings. 65 feet tall with only minimal support, Boyd’s structure visually appears as a ceiling to an outdoor living room. Sydney’s Director of City Planning, Graham Jahn stated, according to ArchitectureAU, that “This is an incredibly powerful work because it’s so unusual. It’s a public square but it’s also a room within the city. It has wonderful ambiguity and the potential for an incredible presence in the evening.” The project is anticipated to be completed by 2022.
The much-maligned Lincoln Center home of the New York Philharmonic is finally getting a major redesign. After over a decade of stalled plans—Norman Foster was selected to revamp the hall in 2005, and more recently Thomas Heatherwick was to design the refreshed home for the Philharmonic—a new design team has been announced. Now called David Geffen Hall after the music mogul of the same name infused $100 million into the project, Toronto's Diamond Schmitt Architects will oversee the interior architecture with the help of the acoustics firm Akustiks, as well as Fisher Dachs Associates, and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects will reimagine the concert hall’s public spaces. The $550 million project, of which around $360 million has already been spent, will move the stage forward 25 feet and will eliminate the proscenium. New seating—reduced down by over 500 seats to 2,200—will be wrapped around the performers, more in line with contemporary concert hall building practices in what the Philharmonic described as a “single-room concept.” The seats will also be oriented towards the stage, which they currently are not. The hope is to turn a hall that The New York Times recently described as “acoustically and aesthetically challenged” and “ugly” into a more intimate space with better sightlines and a more balanced sonic experience. Once finished, it will feature a flexible arrangement with natural finishes and curvilinear wood forms. The Philharmonic also says that accessibility will be improved and there will also be a “Lightwall” wrapping three sides of the building’s top interior. The acoustic performance of the concert hall has been criticized for decades (it originally opened in 1962 and was renovated in 1976) and so the architects are resurfacing walls and introducing other alterations to improve the sound quality. The footprint, and Max Abramovitz–designed facade, will remain in place. The public spaces will also be significantly reimagined. The lobby, which Billie Tsien told the Times had “all the charm of an airport terminal,” will double in size and get a “media streaming wall” to show ongoing concerts in real-time. Additional bars and restrooms will be added, along with a new "destination" restaurant. The box office will be relocated and a new welcome center will be created. In addition, office space on 65th Street and Broadway will be made into a “Sidewalk Studio” for classes, community activities, and performances, and the north facade will be used for site-specific art installations. The upper tiers of the building will gain 11,000 square feet of office space. Construction is expected to begin in full in May 2022, with the Philharmonic playing a truncated season that will begin in November of that year, before the hall closes again the following May. With the help of prefabrication, the Philharmonic hopes to complete its overhaul by March 2024.
Restoring the Ruins?
Russia and Syria announce joint project to restore ancient city of Palmyra
Earlier last week, Russian and Syrian officials announced that they would team up to restore the National Museum of Palmyra. Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, oversaw the signing in Damascus between the Hermitage, Institute for the History of Material Culture of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM). Located in the northeast of Damascus, Palmyra contains the monumental ruins of what was once a great oasis city in the Syrian desert nest known for being one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the architecture of this civilization often combined Greco-Roman and Persian influences with local traditions. However, the site had been targeted for deliberate destruction by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and in 2014, much of the city and nearby historic religious buildings were damaged. Over the course of 2015, ISIL (also referred to as ISIS) destroyed the ancient Lion of Al-lāt statue, The Temple of Baalshamin, The Monumental Arch, and the Tower of Elahbel, among many other historic sites. A statement posted on the Hermitage’s website states: “Both agreements are a tangible step in the significant development of museum and research ties between Russia and Syria,” according to The Art Newspaper. The goals of the agreement include a collaborative effort between the Hermitage and the National Museum of Oman to restore 20 Syrian antiquities from Palmyra, followed by the later restoration of the city as a whole, which is still suffering from the damage created by ISIL. Representatives from UNESCO, DGAM, and the Aga Kahn Foundation will also form an advisory group for the campaign and work with the Hermitage to restore the selection of artifacts. Piotrovsky said that restoring the museum is the first step and is “of particular value for the entire complex,” but reiterated that the ultimate goal of preserving the ancient city will be quite a process and, “we are preparing for the day after tomorrow, it’s not yet possible to do anything tomorrow.” However, this is far from the first attempt at preserving Palmyra's history; numerous attempts have been made to scan and recreate the structures and artwork found there, including creating a digital archive.