All posts in West

Placeholder Alt Text

Let Them Loiter

Loitering takes center stage in Los Angeles
Taking up space, it seems, is among the most actively policed crimes in America today. Sidewalk infrastructure prohibits extended stays through the punitive additions of spikes and dividers, cafes are inviting so long as one exchanges their stay for the purchase of food or drink, and the browsing experience in retail settings is regularly guarded. The library and the park, in fact, are the last few public places today where a person can while away time without paying a price, and even these two are threatened by diminishing public investment. An exhibition just held at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (LAMAG), set within a public park of its own, reappraises the concept of loitering to define it as a necessary—and, sometimes, even beautiful—part of the human experience. Curated by Ciara Moloney, Loitering is Delightful presented the work of ten Los Angeles artists who "respond in varying ways to the joyful possibilities of slowing down." One of the first pieces visitors encountered, for instance, was Untitled (Municipal Boxes), a plywood platform and set of furniture pieces from Lauren Davis Fisher that visitors were encouraged to interact with. The artist noticed that the gallery's concrete architecture, including Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House on the other side of the park, had an imposing effect on visitors and hoped to counteract this experience with an installation made entirely of wood, a material known to have a generally inviting tactile quality. Quite literally, the piece's presence in the center of the gallery put loitering on the center stage. A series of rooms featured elegant pencil drawings and dioramas of imaginary neo-classical buildings fabricated by artist Milano Chow that recalled a bygone era of architectural design that openly embraced fantasy, delight, and open-ended contemplation. Their highly detailed draftsmanship encouraged the viewer to linger in the gallery space, getting lost in their ornamentation, and, hopefully, losing track of time. At the end of the exhibition was a bulletin board covered by a slew of post-it notes answering the question "Where do you like to loiter in Los Angeles?" Answers included L.A.-centric responses such as, "my car," and "Zuma Beach," while the majority of others gave evidence to the fact that parks and libraries truly are the last few places a person can truly feel they are not unduly taking up space. Loitering is Delightful was on display from October 31, 2019 to January 12, 2020.
Placeholder Alt Text

Industrial Design

LOHA designs a live/work complex for L.A.'s Arts District
In the Arts District of Los Angeles, across the street from Row DTLA, there will soon be a live/work project to meet the demands of the burgeoning neighborhood. Development company Camden Property Trust, the owners of a three-acre property at the intersection of Alameda and Industrial Street, has gotten the green light from the City of Los Angeles to transform the site of a former industrial building into a 482,000-square-foot, mixed-use development designed by local firm Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects (LOHA). The five-story project will include 346 live/work apartments, a restaurant on its ground floor, and 25,000 square feet of office space throughout. The design, simply named “Industrial,” will no doubt stand out among the relatively unremarkable actual industrial buildings surrounding it, starting with pronounced cutouts that reveal metal cladding treatment behind a dark brick facade. The distinct materiality of the project is a nod to the contextural buildings in the neighborhood as well as its manufacturing history. The cutouts have the added effect of forming a dynamic, undulating street front with landscaped courtyards along Industrial Street. "This destabilization of a solid front additionally erodes away from an impression of density despite the building’s form extending the length of the block," the firm explained. The facades of the building's interior courtyards, and other facades not facing the street, will be defined by hanging gardens and wall murals, and the narrow site of a rail spur that once ran along the property's longest axis will be reactivated in the form of a landscaped amenity space for the building's residents that will terminate at a new restaurant. The project is the latest in a string of mixed-use projects slated for the quickly developing Arts District, including EYRC Architects' proposal for Produce L.A., OFFICEUNTITLED's AVA LA Arts District, and other projects from firms including Herzog & de Meuron and Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG).
Placeholder Alt Text

Hacking the West Coast

Hacker Architects marries contextualism with material efficiency

The origins and guiding principles of Portland-based Hacker Architects stem from the six years founder Thomas Hacker spent working for Louis Kahn, an architect who knew how to match dramatic siting with phenomenal material palettes. Hacker has since retired, but the firm has expanded to a staff of over 60 people and continues to treat each project as an opportunity to mix contextualism with the latest in efficiency and sustainability. The firm is known for its innovative uses of cross-laminated timber, a favorite because of the material’s quick renewability and capacity to function as a carbon sink; the firm also employs a wide range of locally sourced materials to reduce waste and incorporates passive heating and cooling methods whenever possible.

Hacker Architects’ leaders feel they are in service to the public and have become specialists in the design of libraries, museums, and other cultural institutions. The handful of private buildings they’ve designed, however, are no less representative of the firm’s dual interests in siting and materiality. Inspired by local history, natural scenery, and the imperative to reduce our carbon footprint, Hacker Architects sets examples for the industry with every project.

Lakeside at Black Butte Ranch

Surrounded by the scenic Cascade mountain range and the Deschutes National Forest in Central Oregon, Lakeside adds a sprawling recreational and dining complex to the rustic-modernist resort atmosphere of Black Butte Ranch. The project used a $11.5 million budget to replace an aging pool facility with a 15,000-square-foot design that heightens the experience of transitioning from the rugged outdoor landscape to the calming resort.

Douglas fir is the primary structural component for the project, while the interior and exterior are almost entirely clad in locally sourced cedar, a material in common use in the Pacific Northwest because of how it gracefully weathers. The firm envisioned the building as an “aperture for the site,” framing views that might strengthen connections between the ranch and the vast landscape beyond.

Bayview/Linda Brooks- Burton Library

Replacing a branch library dating from 1969 in the historically underserved neighborhood of Bayview in the southeastern portion of San Francisco, the Bayview/Linda Brooks-Burton Library was completed in 2013 and designed to be an open and inviting space for the community it serves. Many of the library’s design gestures are a nod to the neighborhood’s African and African American past, including the street-level window walls adorned with illustrations of the area’s history, the kente cloth–inspired exterior paneling, and the space allotted throughout the library for works by local artist Ron Moultrie Saunders.

The firm designed the library to look inward, with a courtyard at the center large enough to host events; thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows that surround it, the courtyard provides generous natural light and views throughout the interior spaces. The library contains several environmentally efficient features that helped it achieve LEED Gold status, including passive ventilation and air-filtration systems in the exterior walls, embedded photovoltaic arrays, and a green rooftop that filters stormwater runoff using native grasses and perennials.

Berwick Hall

When tasked with creating a permanent home for the Oregon Bach Festival, an annual event in Eugene, Oregon, that celebrates the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, Hacker Architects combined an office space with a double-height rehearsal room acoustically designed to function like the musical instruments that it contains. A wood panel system made of tongue-and-groove Accoya boards allows the tops of two of the rehearsal space’s walls to bend in a way that provides abundant natural light from above while also preventing excessive audial buildup in the lower portion of the room.

Visually distinct from the cubic rehearsal space is the office bar, a lower-slung, redbrick building designed to match the older buildings on the University of Oregon campus. Many of its windows are operable, permitting natural ventilation while reducing the demand on the building’s active heating and cooling systems.

Sunshine Canyon Residence

One of Hacker Architects’ few residential projects—as well as one of the firm’s smallest, at 2,200 square feet—the Sunshine Canyon Residence was built in the hills outside Boulder, Colorado, to replace its client’s previous home, lost in the Fourmile Canyon Fire near the site in 2010. To preserve the landscape, the majority of the house is supported by narrow steel columns that minimized the amount of construction work on the site. Given that the house is in a cold climate that receives an abundance of annual sunlight, its windows face south to maximize solar gain and reduce the need for active heating.

The materiality and formal simplicity of the home were inspired by the abandoned mine shafts, rusted steel mining structures, and naturally occurring granite bordering the site that resurfaced after the fire. The majority of the exterior is clad with corrugated steel and untreated Ipe, both of which are designed to patina over time, like the nearby mining equipment. The interior is lined with clear vertical-grain fir that recalls the trees on the site while subtly changing in shifting daylight.

Placeholder Alt Text

Warehouse Wins

LTL blends past, present, and future in the Telluride Center for the Arts

When New York firm LTL (Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis) won the bid to convert Colorado’s Telluride Transfer Warehouse into the Telluride Center for the Arts in the spring of 2017, the community embraced the step for the thriving local arts scene. The forthcoming state-of-the-art venue will host a wide range of cultural and artistic programming in the ski town. In addition to two stories of flexible exhibition space, the center will have a 100-seat media room for screenings and live broadcasts on a basement level, and a rooftop bar and cafe will take advantage of the building’s panoramic views of the San Juan Mountains.

Built over a century ago during a mining boom, the original two-story structure housed offices and livestock for the Telluride Transfer Company, which transported mining goods in and out of the town before it became a gas station and storage facility. The warehouse ceased to operate after a buildup of snow caused its roof to collapse in 1979, and for the next 40 years, it remained a roofless ruin, a sandstone skeleton of four walls and boarded-up windows with a cottonwood tree growing through its floor.

LTL’s design for the renovation pays homage to the warehouse’s decay, setting a multilayered timber structure within the original stone walls. Just beyond the entrance, a great hall will feature a retractable skylight with a tree growing beneath it in homage to the warehouse’s former derelict state. The new building will use the original windows and a glass ceiling to preserve the feeling of the open-air ruin.

“The Transfer Warehouse transforms the space through a creative engagement between old and new, past, present, and future, between flexible and highly calibrated spaces,” said LTL partner David Lewis in a statement. “Overall, the project aims to amplify the future of Telluride by cultivating a dynamic relationship to its past and supporting its present, evolving needs.”

The finished arts center will be free to enter and open to the public daily. While construction is not slated to begin until 2021, some public programs have already been held in the existing warehouse, a testament to this tiny mountain town’s dedication to making engaging and accessible art a priority.

In the meantime, Telluride Arts, the nonprofit behind the project, has gained control of the site from the city and a developer. The organization also had to go through a review by a historic arts commission. Both the approval of the design and the necessary transfer rights have been granted, and Telluride Arts will undertake a capital campaign to realize the project.

Placeholder Alt Text

Ice Cold

Alaska’s Cold Climate Housing Research Center is rethinking how the Circumpolar North builds

The Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) describes itself as “an industry-based, nonprofit corporation created to facilitate the development, use, and testing of energy-efficient, durable, healthy, and cost-effective building technologies for people living in circumpolar regions around the globe.”

Aaron Cooke, the architect who leads the Sustainable Northern Communities Program at the CCHRC in Fairbanks, Alaska, is at the front lines of helping northern communities in developing solutions for homes in extremely cold climates. Cooke spoke to Matt Shaw, AN’s executive editor, and Stephen Zacks, AN contributor, about technologies and prototypes being developed to conserve energy, recycle heat, rethink building envelope systems, stabilize homes situated on melting permafrost, and ensure supplies of fresh air. As the communities of the Circumpolar North adapt to climate change, their solutions hold lessons for carbon-neutral designs in the temperate zone while providing a pointed message about post-colonial regional design.

The Architect’s Newspaper: What are the main areas of research for the CCHRC?

Aaron Cooke: Our largest program is the Building Science Research program, which deals with testing and researching the suitability of different techniques and products for the physical environment and cultural environment of circumpolar peoples. We also have a design program, the Sustainable Northern Communities program, that aims to take some of the building research and find real-world or holistic building applications. We design prototype homes that we test with occupants living in them for various periods of time. Then we have a smaller program called Policy Research, which aims to aid policymakers and governmental entities but also looks at the code amendments that northern communities need to consider. Most northern places have small populations, so they don’t have their own building code; they’ll take a building code from the temperate region and add amendments specific to the physical environment in Alaska and the Circumpolar North. Between those three programs, we try and stay at the forefront of regional design for the Arctic and subarctic climates.

Can you talk about the challenges of the extreme terrain and cold weather in the north?

The north has two primary challenges that it has to face constantly. We have an antagonistic physical environment that is very hard on buildings. Oversights in detailing or failures to plan small appropriate details in construction do not fail small in the Arctic: They always fail big, because it’s a zero-forgiveness environment. But in addition to our physical environment, the north has always faced a postcolonial problem. Every Arctic country in the world is governed by a capital city that is not in the Arctic—and that goes for Russia, Canada, Alaska, everywhere. So, there’s underrepresentation in the design field, and in policy and building code. Importing technologies, assumptions, and best practices from the temperate zone without thorough vetting causes us as many problems as our physical environment does. The idea of what a home—or a public building or a school—looks like and how it should behave is often based on temperate models, and we then have to retroactively make them Arctic. There have been famous attempts to make an architecture for the north, but there's been very little impetus to create an Arctic architecture from the north. It generally comes at us from the south, and we have to manage it somehow.

Are there things that you’re learning from traditional methods of conserving heat that go into your research, or is the group mainly developing new technologies?

It’s generally developing new technologies, but it’s also giving a platform for traditional wisdom, because people have lived here for a very, very long time and have come up with innovative ways of building in the north. You’re trying to make traditional communities aware of new technologies applicable in a harsh physical environment, and then you’re also trying to be receptive and a good listener when people are saying what has worked or hasn’t worked in the past. As an example, we did an eight-sided house for a community in the Yukon–Kuskokwim Delta of Alaska called Quinhagak. It was a very windy place: Although it only got about 24 inches of snow a year, the snow would drift in houses to the point where you couldn’t get out of the windows or in the door. We did some pretty complex wind drift studies, and we came up with this eight-sided house. We went out to the community to see if they were interested in building a prototype there to test it, and they were. We gave an analysis of winds, vector diagrams of how we thought the snow would self-scour away from the house, and I remember being in the community building and saying, “This is the shape I think that would be best for this region.” Someone stands up and said, “We used to make our houses that shape, we used to know that. It’s only in the last 50 years that we’ve started making square boxes, and [snowbanks] started drifting in.” Some things we’re discovering, and some things we’re remembering, I guess.

What are some of the new technologies you’re developing or working with? Are they materials-based or are they wall sections?

I’d say a very large bulk of our work could be divided into three fields. One is envelope design: We need warmer envelopes, and we need materials that go together in wall design differently. Arctic villages often don’t have heavy equipment, so you’re trying to find materials that can be constructed without cranes or trucks, or any of the things that we assume are going to be on job site. We also are looking at how things are transported when we choose our construction materials. When I was in architecture school, I never once had a class on sourcing materials. We assumed that the materials are going to show up at site; we’d choose them based on how they perform once they’re assembled.

In our region, about 40 percent of overall construction costs are in shipping. But we don’t take a course on how to choose materials based on how they ship, and the shipping companies are smart: The barge season is short, the air strips are short, and if something’s heavier than it is big, they charge you by weight. If something’s bigger than it’s heavy, they charge you by volume. If the barge gets delayed, you don’t build next month, you build next year. Most of our economics can be boiled down to how we get our materials to site and how we select them based on their appropriateness for shipping. In envelope design, a big part is to create a materials package that can be shipped and easily brought to a very remote location.

Besides envelope design, we work quite a bit with foundation design. The Arctic is one of the fastest changing regions in the world. There are a million models, and they all contradict each other, but one thing is for sure: We have a lot less sea ice than we used to, and that is creating unprecedented coastal erosion that is forcing our communities to relocate. Land that has been permanently frozen since the last ice age is melting in very unpredictable ways and causing massive foundation failures. It’s not hypothetically happening sometime in the future, it’s happening to us now. Those are very expensive problems, so foundation design is something that we’ve been working quite hard on. One of the easiest things to get funding for is how to design foundations for the degradation of permafrost. The third tier of what we research is mechanical systems: how to provide heat. We’re always looking for heat that is more efficient, heat that is more clean and reliable. That’ll never go away, no matter how much global warming occurs. The Arctic will always be one of the colder places on the earth, and we’ll always have a winter in which we need heat somehow.

Are there solutions that you’ve come up with, or ideal systems that you’ve developed?

A paradigm shift has happened in foundation design in the Arctic during my short career. When I was studying to be a specialist in northern design, the basic rules for permafrost foundation design were if the ground’s frozen, keep it frozen, and if it’s thawed, keep it thawed—that’s foundation design in the Arctic. In the 1960s and ’70s and ’80s, when they were putting more modern and larger buildings in the Arctic, as we were urbanizing, most of the building failures were because the building was leaking heat into the ground around the base of the foundation and melting the permafrost, creating a sinkhole. The building then had this foundation failure, and that was why most of the emphasis was on keeping the ground frozen through installation. But now the permafrost is melting even if we do everything right. Even if we perfectly thermally isolate our building from the thermal regime of the soil, it’s still melting out from under us in many circumstances, and the circumstances aren’t something that we’re able to easily predict. Since the research center is focused mostly around housing, we want adjustable foundations that the occupant can adjust without specialized knowledge—very simple mechanical foundations that can be leveled as the ground drops away or floods or heaves.

What does that look like?

It can be as complex as a kind of a Buckminster Fuller–style space frame, where you’ve got triangulated points that can be hand ratcheted, or it can be as simple as car jacks on top of columns that are pounded into the ground. We’ve tested no fewer than a dozen types of adjustable foundations. We’re mostly looking at threaded rod and things that can be jacked with a cheater bar in a circular motion or with what’s basically a glorified wrench. We haven’t given up on trying to keep the ground frozen. For larger buildings, we’re still using thermosiphons and technology that takes advantage of state change and chemicals that have a boiling point around 32 degrees Fahrenheit so that they can move heat away from the ground. We’re also looking at ground source heat pumps—or geothermal, as it’s commonly called in the Lower 48—to move heat from the ground to the house for cooling in the summer and heating in the winter.

What does fieldwork look like? Is it mostly working with communities, or testing experiments?

It’s both. Almost every year we’re building a prototype home somewhere with a local construction force. We train the local carpenters on new construction techniques. Living in an experimental house means there needs to be quite a bit of follow-up. We try to make a good, close relationship with the occupants so when there are problems with technology, they can call us, and we can get on a plane and head out there. I always require a resident of the experimental home to be on the crew, so that they fully understand the systems that are different than the rest of the houses in the village. That way, we have an above-average success rate with new technology acceptance and more pride in the construction. It’s like Habitat for Humanity for building scientists.

What are the main differences between the prototypes and traditional buildings?

The prototypes always have an envelope that we’re testing that’s different than a two-by-six wall or a structural insulated panel, which are the two most common types of walls out there already. They always have a foundation type that we’re trying to test, whenever we know that the ground is going to be volatile. We’re also looking for new mechanical systems, because rural Alaska is by and large an economically depressed region. There are large rates of poverty and overcrowding. We’re always trying to lower the heating bill and create efficient mechanical systems and healthy indoor air quality, while lowering the amount people have to pay for fuel.

Are you going out to sites and living in extreme conditions yourself?

Oftentimes when we’re building a house in the summer season, and we’re in a village that’s small enough that there’s no real lodging, we’re just sleeping on the gym floor at the school while school is out and building with the local crew. This summer, we oversaw the building of 13 homes for a community that’s relocating entirely because their original community site’s falling into the ocean now that there’s no sea ice anymore. The fall storms have been eating about 80 feet of shoreline a year, and they’re being forced to relocate the entire community. In that case, when we were building the first prototype home over there at the new community site, there was nothing there. We were just basically camping and getting our water and dealing with our own waste, and trying to stay warm through the season. Sometimes it’s a very remote field camp, and then other times it’s just hanging out at the school at night.

Is there an ideal wall section that you’ve developed at this point—or if not, what are a few examples of improvements?

One thing that almost all Arctic and northern walls need to have in common that makes construction more challenging is you absolutely need a complete thermal break in the walls. That flies in the face of every stud wall we’ve ever built. Generally, a stud wall has a structured component, and then in between the structural components is insulation. But that means, of course, that the structure is leaking heat. At the inside, the two-by-fours are in the warm; at the outside, the two-by-fours are in the cold. That might get you through the winter in the temperate zone, but it absolutely doesn’t work in the Arctic. We’re always trying to make sure that nothing that touches the inside of the thermal envelope is also touching the outside of the thermal envelope. We’ve done walls where we’ve used two-by-four studs and then had a gusset plate made of something like PVC or OSB that holds the cladding up, and then we fill it with something so that the stud doesn’t reach all the way through the thick wall. We were looking at spray-applied polyurethane for a while; you can spray past the stud and make this adobe kind of shape as a way to avoid thermal bridging of materials. The double-wall that could all go up at once added efficiencies to the framing of thick-walled structures. We’ve also looked at an older Canadian technique, recently updated, which involves reframing a two-by-four wall, sheeting the entire outside of the wall in rigid installation, and lapping the joints, not allowing any of the framing to touch the outside of the wall. This is called the REMOTE wall technique, and it would be a good fit for temperate regions with hard winters too.

What are the main challenges to energy-efficient retrofits of existing buildings?

The retrofits are a large part of our work. When you create a giant impermeable coat over your old building, the first thing that almost always happens is your indoor air quality suffers. When we do retrofits today, we’re always trying to approach indoor air environment and thermal comfort at the same time, because the understanding now is that a lot of times when you add R-value to a wall, you’re tightening the house, and you’re going to have to come up with a mechanical solution to address ventilation and fresh air.

Are heat-recovery ventilation technologies a method for bringing in fresh air and ventilating moisture without losing heat in the process?

Certainly there should be no such thing as waste heat in a place this cold, and heat recovery ventilators have been one of the technologies that have made the most progress in the last ten or 15 years.

What is a heat-recovery ventilator, exactly?

It is a method of solving the problem of fresh air being colder. You’re in a house, it’s very cold outside—say it’s 30 degrees below zero outside—and you don’t want to open your windows. You want to keep all the heat that you possibly can in your building. What that means is the carbon dioxide goes up, and anything your furniture is off-gassing becomes more concentrated. You’re not getting the air changes that you need to be a healthy human when you’re scared of the cold air coming into the house.

There’s a branch of mechanical engineering that is concerned with taking your wonderfully warm but dangerously dirty indoor air and allowing the wonderfully clean but dangerously cold outdoor air to rob the heat from it without mixing with it. That’s the question: How do we steal heat from our used air and then get it out of the house so that we can get fresh, clean air inside, but have it be warm enough that people will use that system?

The prototype in Anaktuvuk Pass looks strikingly different than other approaches. Is there a break from the past that you’re exploring, or is there a radically new wall section that you’re trying out there?

It was a wall section that we had not tried before. Anaktuvuk Pass is fly-in only. They have no roads or barge delivery. Construction costs are extremely, prohibitively expensive there. We had been working with a spray-applied polyurethane applicator to see if we could create a wall that was a two-by-four steel structure that would be built inside out. We put the interior sheeting on the stud, and then we’d spray foam out and keep spraying past the foam to create that thermal break. The look that you see there—they’re a kind of dumpling, adobe look—is all based on the thermal requirements. It’s pretty far north. The other thing is that the residents there wanted to try a building where the foundation was on the ground. We use that polyurethane foam to create a raft, and the raft basically floats on the permafrost and bridges it if any movement occurs. The spray foam comes in barrels and expands to 30 times its size when it comes out of the gun. We can fit the barrels on the plane, and we can fit a lot more R-value per cubic foot on that plane because it’s going to expand once it gets to the site.

Can you talk about any problems that you might anticipate in the crafting of policy around the Green New Deal mandates meant for temperate regions that could have a potentially harmful effect on you?

Ten or 15 years ago, there were a lot of adaptations that needed to be made for, say, a LEED system when it finally came north. The research center tries to incorporate environmentally conscious building practices into everything we do—we’re the farthest north LEED Platinum building in the world. There are certainly things that don’t apply: There was a time when permafrost was considered a wetland by professionals from the temperate zone, and in the south, you can’t build on a wetland. Here that would mean you couldn’t build on 70 percent of Alaskan soils—think about a land area bigger than the state of Texas that you’re not allowed to build anything in. Simple things like that. The other thing is the passive house ideal: Getting to 90 percent off fossil fuels in the Arctic is possible, but for the last 10 percent, the returns are just not there. Ninety percent has to be good enough, and then we have to realize that sometimes our heating is going to have to come from somewhere else.

For all the theories of architecture and design, and all the isms out there—Classicism and deconstructionism, and all the isms that exist—I believe in regionalism in architecture because I live in a place where it’s necessary. Regionalist architecture manifests itself when and where it’s most necessary. It’s no mistake that it tends to be in places like deserts and the Arctic, places where if you ignore regional inputs to design, you ignore them at your peril. Your building will fail.

In your collaboration with the Royal Danish Academy, how did their experience in extreme environments and yours overlap or inform each other?

I try to work in a pan-Arctic sense because we are all trying to solve similar, difficult design problems, but we’re doing it alone because the polar region is spread-out with a lot of different governments involved. The centers of design learning are also very far from us. There is no accredited degree in architecture north of 60 degrees latitude in North America. You’ve got to go south to get your degree, and then come north and unlearn quite a bit of what you learned in school. The Royal Danish Academy’s Architecture and Extreme Environments program recognizes this, and it does a very good job of engaging underrepresented regions in design discourse.

I can remember taking my first construction methodology course while I was getting a master’s degree in Ohio, and we were talking about foundation design, and the professor—who was a very good professor, a good architect—was teaching us about how to get our foundations below the frost line. It was my first year of school, and I asked, “What do we do when we can’t get below the frost line?” He said, “Well, don’t build there. That’s a bad site.”

So, we have this familiar problem. We want to engage universities in our design growth. We want young, smart people to care about this place and move here or return here and practice architecture here. But again: Every university that is interested in saving the Arctic is located outside the Arctic, and this is a textbook postcolonial problem, right? We get approached by universities all the time; it’s very in vogue right now to save the Arctic. The icecaps are melting, polar bears are going extinct—there are plenty of reasons that Lower-48 universities are suddenly interested in us, and we need them. We need the attention of the young designers who want to solve some of the difficult problems we have. But the question is always, are you willing to send your studio here, or are you going to try and solve the problem from South Florida?

University architecture programs, from our small rural perspective, bring a lot of resources. The unspoken worry in Alaska is that we are very far from the rest of the world. A lot of disaster relief funding is federal. It’s been undeniably challenging that we’re the first part of the world to be dealing with these massive community shifts due to climate change, but it’s also good to be at the beginning of the process. The instant the rest of the population has to deal with it, too, there’s not going to be any money left to move tiny little Alaskan villages. Once New Orleans and San Francisco and Manhattan have a climate change problem, that’s the end of our help. We’re trying to figure out how to handle these moves now, and what we’re going to do when the resources to handle them get diverted to larger population centers. That’s the Arctic problem.

Placeholder Alt Text

Farm-to-Visitor center

Olson Kundig celebrates history and food at Oregon's Tillamook Creamery
  In the summer of 2018, Olson Kundig unveiled a sleek, 42,800-square-foot home for the Tillamook Creamery’s visitor center, an attraction in Tillamook, Oregon, that hosts up to 10,000 visitors per day. Part museum and part food hall, the new space celebrates the agricultural heritage of the area, along with the farmers and products of the dairy co-op. The building’s palette of pale wood and dark steel was an abstracted, contemporary interpretation of traditional barn architecture. “We designed the opportunity for visitors to make a connection between the food on their plates and the story behind it,” said Olson Kundig principal Alan Maskin.
Placeholder Alt Text

Rebar Reframed

Matt Johnson exhibits construction equipment as sculpture at Blum & Poe
Much of the work produced by Los Angeles-based sculptor Matt Johnson attempts to speak to both the fields of art and architecture by marrying the material language of the latter with the playfulness of the former. An untitled exhibition of his work currently on display at L.A. gallery Blum & Poe demonstrates the artist's ability to take seemingly banal elements familiar to the construction industry—traffic cones, cinder blocks, bricks, rebar—and reconfigure them into works that question balance, efficiency, bureaucracy, and the general feeling of safety we ascribe to the built environment. Johnson's fourth solo exhibition at Blum & Poe features eleven sculptures, each of which present fragile, precarious figures out of the most durable materials available in the building industry. This combination of materiality and precarity presented by Johnson recalls the work of modern and contemporary sculptors, including the spindly figures of Alberto Giacometti, the metal balancing acts of Alexander Calder, and the multimedia assemblages of Peter Fischli and David Weiss. Like those artists, Johnson employs few tricks to summon his materials into their seemingly impossible positions. “No illusions are cast,” the press release states, “the objects are carved actors on a set, executing their performances, restricted only by their painted, wooden, physical existence.” A few of the sculptures on display even manage to bring a sense of personality and narrative to the inert objects that make up their compositions. One sculpture, titled 1 block with 2 bricks and 2 bricks cantilevered on 1 bar, can be read as the embodiment of a millennia-long competition between clay and concrete in the building industry—or, speaking more generally, between two distinctly opposing methods of potentially arriving at the same final result. This and other pieces are, according to the gallery, “organized information, like subatomic particles, atoms and elements, molecules and compounds, glued by gravity, and magnetic polarity, surfing in a sea of electrical conductivity.” The exhibition will be on display until January 11, 2020.
Placeholder Alt Text

Activating the Urbane Village

Architects and designers redefine the ski town in a tech-utopian Utah community

How do you translate a “TED meets Burning Man” vibe into the design of a year-round property—as the investors behind Utah’s ski slope–adjacent Summit Powder Mountain are attempting to do in their 10,000-acre, billionaire-friendly planned mountain community? Summit, a company that organizes meetings, talks, and events with innovators and entrepreneurs, is discovering the difference between putting on a weekend conference and opening a permanent settlement: The latter requires a balancing act between vision, pragmatics, and the somewhat unpredictable dynamics between the individuals who choose to settle in such a place. The trick is to create a population density that can support amenities like restaurants, grocery stores, and public gathering areas. But what comes first, these amenities or homes for people to use them?

According to Benjamin Anderson of OFFICEUNTITLED, the architecture firm that finished the design of the development’s 2017 master plan and some of its buildings, the community has greatly benefitted from the addition of both 60 micro-condos in the village’s heart from millennial hospitality experts Selina and a ring of larger homes sited around the urban periphery. In keeping with Powder Mountain’s investors’ desire to escape a “whatever you build, I can build something bigger” mentality, owners of the larger homes are allowed up to 5,000 square feet each. While 5,000 square feet would feel enormous to most people, for billionaires, the limitation might require Spartan restraint—yet on average, homeowners usually choose floor plans of approximately 2,000 square feet. Combining a more rural sense of space around the larger homes and a more urban, closely packed experience facilitated by the micro-condos will, the planners hope, create enough density for year-round inhabitants to successfully activate the village. MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects, Olson Kundig, Marmol Radziner, Studio Ma, JVA Arkitekter, and Tom Wiscombe Architecture are among the architects who have signed on to design some of Summit’s buildings.

The developers behind Summit Powder Mountain wanted to include “as broad a sociodemographic spread as possible,” Anderson said. However, Selina’s 250-to-300-square-foot micro-condos, which were initially envisaged as lower-income housing on the mountain, have starting prices of $300,000, according to the Wall Street Journal. This disparity between vision and execution may make it impossible for the micro-condos to find their intended owners.

“Like a lot of master plans, it’s a bit of a living, breathing thing. We had to build in a tremendous amount of flexibility in each parcel,” Anderson said. “The last two years have been focused on developing that community and periphery inside and outside of the core that facilitates the development of the larger buildings.”

In an attempt to create dynamic urban density, the micro-condos are sited very close to Summit Institute, which hosts several winter events for year-round residents and serves as the organizational hub of the broader Summit community. It is here that events such as “Open Source Weekend” and “Winter Jam,” which features talks by some of the industry leaders who own property within the community, are held. The cost per adult for the three-day Winter Jam is $1,395, not including lodging.

The recent addition of housing is meant to meet the development’s goal to have at least 50 permanent, year-round residents, with a constant influx of visitors from the nearest town, Eden, as well as points beyond. Luckily, public transit options are available: There is currently bus service from several points on the mountain into Eden, as well as a connector line from Eden to a train in Odgen, which links to Salt Lake City. The intellectually curious and the luxury-ski-inclined alike can enjoy the evolving urbanism of this experimental mountain village.

Placeholder Alt Text

Saint Joseph the Worker

Wooden interiors and copper cladding create intimate worship space outside Salt Lake City

West Jordan, a suburb of Salt Lake City, is the home of Saint Joseph the Worker parish, a Catholic community that commissioned Salt Lake City– and Los Angeles–based architecture firm Sparano + Mooney to design an intimate chapel to accompany the church that the same designers finished in 2012. The materials of the new building, which opened in the summer of 2019, express the historic trades practiced by the local immigrant community that founded the church, as in the copper cladding, a nod to the nearby Kennecott copper mine. The design is meant to sit lightly on its natural environs—the thermally isolated chapel is passively heated and cooled—while daylight filtered through a rectilinear opening in the roof reestablishes a connection to the world outside.

The 470-square-foot Chapel of the Mines uses Douglas Fir timber cladding to add further warmth to the interior, in a nod to the adjoining church. Hanging globe lights and similarly-styled pews also extend the connection between the two structures, despite the difference in their forms and facades.

Placeholder Alt Text

Sawtelle Me Five Stories

Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects designs a mixed-use campus in West Los Angeles
Sawtelle, a low-rise district on the West side of Los Angeles, is about to receive a new development that is sure to change the neighborhood. Real estate development company CIM Group is behind the five-story, mixed-use complex set to rise on the 2.6-acre plot designed by local firm Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA) on Santa Monica Boulevard between Stoner and Granville Avenues. Construction on the project has already topped out and is expected to be completed within the next two years. The project will include subterranean parking, 16,600 square feet of ground-floor retail, and 154 apartment units on its top four floors. The project will include many amenities for its residents, including co-working spaces, a community lounge, a pool deck, and a gym. The housing section will be broken up into units of varying sizes, from studios to three-bedroom single-family homes. “This building is the final piece of a significant infill development that is bringing much-needed housing to West Los Angeles," said Shaul Kuma, cofounder & principal at CIM Group. "We believe the community will benefit from quality housing and community-serving retail located along a major transportation corridor and in proximity to jobs.” Much like the KFA and Le0ng Leong-designed LGBT Center several miles East on Santa Monica Boulevard, the site of the new development will be broken up into several distinct buildings. The project was designed in the style of a campus to ensure that every unit can receive sunlight and unobstructed views of the city while also responding to its context by visually breaking up its massing through cuts, twists, and rotations. All of the housing units will feature floor-to-ceiling windows that can be read as vertical bands from the street, effectively making the building seem even more substantial at first glance. Large cuts in the massing will both signify the entrances to the retail spaces on the ground floor through the creation of built-in canopies, and will further define each building's roofline to create a dramatic street presence. LOHA has been behind several apartment buildings across Los Angeles in an effort to densify the city's housing, including a porous supportive housing project in South Los Angeles and a top-heavy tower in Hancock Park.
Placeholder Alt Text

No Keating

Keating designs luxury apartment tower for L.A.'s low-rise Miracle Mile
Los Angeles-based architecture firm Keating unveiled a $400 million luxury apartment tower for the east end of Miracle Mile on Wilshire Boulevard, the famous street that boasts cultural institutions like LACMA, La Brea Tar Pits, and the Peterson Automotive Museum. Set next door to the historic Sontag Drug Store building, 5411 Wilshire features a curvilinear design perched on a multi-story parking podium. The project is being developed by the Marks family which has owned the 84-year-old building since 1968. According to Keating, they decided to revamp the site and renovate the Sontag Drug Store ahead of the Purple line subway extension that's slated to open blocks away in 2023. “There are going to be a lot more people [in the neighborhood]," Walter N. Marks III told the Los Angeles Times. “Industry follows people, my grandfather used to say.” Standing 42 stories tall, the glassy 5411 Wilshire will include 371 units of luxury apartments, 56 of which will be set aside for affordable housing. Keating envisions the design of tower as a nod to the Art Deco-style luxury residential towers that can still be found a few miles east on Wilshire Boulevard. While most buildings in the neighborhood do not exceed 50 feet, the proposed tower would rise nearly 521 feet tall with a sky deck located at the very top. The residential complex will also feature 15,000-square-feet of ground-floor retail, along with a slew of other amenities. It will house a bowling alley, a VR gaming room, a golf simulator, a yoga studio, as well as a dog-grooming space, a demonstration kitchen, a wine-tasting counter, and a billiard room. Studio-MLA, led by landscape architect Mia Lehrer, will design a private garden set above the retail and parking space. Tenants will be able to drop their cars off at an automated valet system, located behind the building's main entrance in a nod to the spatial organization typical of buildings on Wilshire Boulevard. Keating will also revitalize the adjacent Sontag Drug Store—also an Art Deco structure—complete with its original signage, materials, windows, and awnings. A restaurant and café, as well as retail space, will outfit the interior. The Marks family aims to complete the renovation and construction by 2023.
Placeholder Alt Text

Pods for People

Perkins and Will proposes compact sleeping units for L.A.'s homeless
The Los Angeles office of Perkins and Will has set their sights on the smallest imaginable scale for a modular sleeping unit built for the city's growing homeless population. In response to the mayor's A Bridge Home initiative, a city-led project focusing on creating transitional emergency shelters, the firm's Innovation Incubator team designed the prefabricated Dome unit in an effort to offer a higher level of dignity and sophistication than typically found in U.S. shelters. "We want it to feel residential, not institutional," said Yan Krymsky, a design director at Perkins and Will, in a statement. "It sends a message that people care." Each Dome unit is seven feet wide and six feet deep to provide 42 square feet of space per person. It features a lockable wardrobe, a standard power outlet, a frame for a twin bed, an optional kennel area for a 30-pound pet, and an operable canvas tarp for privacy. Designed with low-cost, quality materials that make each unit feel like a temporary little home, the firm estimates that individually, they could cost as little as $4,749 to build. Locker fabrication company Shield has already been tapped to manufacture them. “Solid surface is low maintenance and resists scratching," the team said, "while wood accents give the unit a residential character." If desired, the units can be combined to allow couples or families to share a larger set together. According to Perkins and Will, the most challenging part of the Dome project was making the units feel dignified and structured when in use while at the same time, flexible enough to collapse for storage and redeployment across the city. A typical 53-foot-long flatbed truck, for instance, can carry up to 32 units when collapsed. A number of other Los Angeles-based firms have developed concepts for homeless housing alternatives, such as Brooks + Scarpa and Michael Maltzan Architecture, and several shelters have already been completed through the A Bridge Home program. As the city with the largest number of homeless residents in the United States, The Dome units present a potentially more expedient option for emergency shelter than other temporary housing structures currently proposed for the city. A prototype of a Dome unit is currently on display at the Architecture + Design Museum (A+D) in Los Angeles until January 12.