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Laying it on Thick

The Naturalis Biodiversity Center boldly stands out with red travertine and concrete
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The Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, the Netherlands, houses one of the world's largest collections of zoological specimens and geological samples—counting over half-a-million for the latter. Beginning in 2015, Rotterdam-based architectural practice Neutelings Riedijk Architects led a significant expansion of the facility to accommodate the merger of the Zoological Museum and National Herbarium into the Biodiversity Center. The 215,000-square-foot expansion consists of two distinct volumes; a set of four staggered rectangular masonry blocks, and a soaring 120-foot-tall atrium of prefabricated concrete panels and ellipse-shaped windows that encloses a monumental stairwell rising to each floor of the expansion.
  • Facade Manufacturer Bakker Natuursteen Hibex St. Gobain Schueco
  • Architect Neutelings Riedijk Architecten
  • Facade Installer Bakker Natuursteen J.P. van Eesteren
  • Facade Consultant Aronsohn J.P. van Eesteren Abt Hibex
  • Location Leiden, Netherlands
  • Date of Completion October 2019
  • System Schueco FW60+ Schueco FWS50
  • Products Red Persian Travertine Concrete with marble aggregate
To the design team, stone proved to be the clear material choice for a museum dedicated to natural minerals, the final result is intended to resemble stacked geological layers. The stone is Red Persian Travertine, sourced from Iran by supplier Bakker Natuursteen, carved into rough blocks of ashlar at their Portuguese factory, and arranged on-site in a stretcher bond format. There are two standard dimensions for the stone blocks; approximately three-and-a-half by one-and-a-half feet and three-by-one feet. They are held in place by a facade system custom-fabricated by Bakker Natuursteen. To break up the imposing mass of the stone facade, the architectural team collaborated with fashion designer Iris van Herpen to develop a sinuous frieze of 263 panels molded from concrete and fine white marble aggregate. The four custom-designed friezes are located towards the cornice of each rectangular block and are ringed by narrow bands of flat-surfaced concrete and marble aggregate. Van Herpen interpreted the abstract forms into a series of drawings in the same vein as her body of work, with a draping design echoing the theme of geological strata, forming an abstract impression of fossilized archeological shapes. This effect was achieved by first translating van Herpen's original 2D drawings into 3D-files and translating grey shading to physical depth. After that, the 3D-file was uploaded to a CNC-milling machine. "The CNC machine milled the negative of the design of the 3D high relief out of the molding material," said the design team. "Finally the concrete was poured into these molds and the concrete elements were mounted on the structural walls on-site by means of specially developed stainless steel anchors." The facade treatment of stepped stone and concrete-and-marble continues on the southern elevation where it is enclosed by the cuboid atrium, which also bridges the expansion to the preexisting campus. The prefabricated white concrete panels of the atrium range in thickness from approximately one-to-two feet, and are hoisted onto a steel structural system separate from the body of masonry. Within the atrium, the outward boldness of the prefabricated panels is softened with a lightly detailed oak dressing.    
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IP Man

Unknown Works uses 3D scanning to replicate fish and chips shops in Chengdu
The London and Hong Kong-based design and research studio Unknown Works has used 3D scanning to help create a compact fish and chips shop called Scotts TKL with a folding facade in Chengdu, China. Inspired by the aesthetics of the United Kingdom’s distinctive “chippies,” the firm used Lidar scanning and photogrammetry in various fish shops, including the original Scotts in York, to capture details down to the joinery, wallpaper, and salt shakers. From these scans, the studio generated point clouds which were then processed to form models that were sent to contractors—who normally specialize in making Disney mascots and Marvel film sets—to create CNC molds that were later hand-finished. The molds were cast in white glass-reinforced plastic which join together to make a sleek facade. Since the shop is only 345 square feet, Unknown Works placed the various facade components on axes so that they can swing out when Scotts TKL is open, creating more usable space and opening the restaurant up to the street corner. Tables fold down from within the walls. Unknown Works was inspired by the idea of “Shanzhai,” a word which describes, in the words of the firm, “the act of copying and imitation that is so often indiscriminately directed at Chinese commerce.” By reimagining the distinctively British chippie for China using scans of shops back in the U.K., the studio hopes to encourage a broader dialogue about cultural exchange and the dynamics of how the U.K. and China relate to one another. Unknown Works has used 3D scanning throughout their practice, including animations inspired by the theorizations of the artist Wassily Kandinsky. 
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Drawn Futures

Installation artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov unveil their architectural influence at the Tchoban Foundation
“During the renaissance a lot of artists did everything,” says Emilia Kabakov in a video released by Berlin’s Tchoban Foundation Museum for Architectural Drawing. And she and her artistic collaborator Ilya Kabakov have done just about everything. Pioneers of installation art, the U.S.S.R-born, U.S.–based duo’s work, as well as Ilya’s earlier solo projects, have become seminal examples of conceptual and spatial practice in the annals of contemporary art.  Installation work and architecture often have shared affinities—not only by virtue of being architectonic in nature but also often installations must be planned and built, relying upon architectural know-how and construction practices. As with buildings, installations nearly always begin as something else: drawings, texts, or models. The Kabakovs’ illustrations and maquettes are now on display at Tchoban Foundation in an exhibition titled In the Making: Ilya & Emilia Kabakov. From Drawing to Installation that opened this past month and will remain on view until February 23, 2020.  On display are watercolors and drawings for The Toilet (1992), one of the first installations that Ilya and Emilia embarked on together. Ramshackle public toilets housing all the details of an ad hoc apartment were first exhibited next to the Fridericianum museum for Documenta IX in Kassel, Germany. There are also drawings of The Red Pavilion which was shown at the 1993 Venice Biennale, and the Palace of Projects, a 23-foot-tall spiral structure packed with 61 smaller installations over two levels, on permanent display at the Zollverein in Essen, Germany. Unbuilt works are also featured, like The Vertical Opera, which was meant to be performed at the Guggenheim. Ilya Kabakov is one of the most prominent Soviet-born artists to reach global acclaim. Living within the Soviet Union until 1987, early in his career he spent around half the year illustrating children’s books as an “official” artist, using the rest of his time to develop his other projects, such as the pioneering installation The Man Who will Fly into Space From His Apartment. In the 1970s and 80s, he was a central figure to the unofficial Moscow Conceptualism movement. He began collaborating with Emilia in the late 1980s and they later married. Since then all their projects have been realized together. Their work is distinguished by its elaborate construction of interior spaces, at once fantastic and realistic, with various furnishings, knickknacks, letters, and other objects from daily life. Their walkable spaces, which they term "total" installations, evoke the peculiar lives of imagined occupants, connecting issues of memory and personal narrative with grander utopian ideals. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJ8Rj7wIe4s&feature=youtu.be
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Hazardous Materials

Official inquiry says renovation responsible for deadly Grenfell fire
An 856-page document of a government-led inquiry into London’s Grenfell Tower fire states that the materials used on the building, including those from a 2016 renovation by Studio E Architects, failed to meet regulations and accelerated the fire which killed 72 people in June 2017. The news follows a 2018 report by fire specialists BRE Global which claimed that the fire wouldn’t have spread so readily in the 43-year-old concrete tower block before it was renovated. The latest report released last Wednesday stated that the aluminum composite cladding added in 2016 was the “principal reason” for the blaze rapidly consuming the building, going on to say that it acted as a “source of fuel” and was further assisted by flammable insulation and materials around windows. In addition, Architect’s Journal reported that “the ‘decorative’ architectural crown of the tower also played a ‘significant role in enabling the fire to spread around the building.'” The cladding was made by the U.S. company Arconic and the fire is believed to have been sparked by a faulty Whirlpool refrigerator. The inquiry’s report also criticizes the “gravely inadequate” response by the fire brigade. However, Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, disputed this characterization to the BBC: “The truth is that the fire spread the way it did because it was wrapped in flammable cladding," he said. "The firefighters turned up after that had happened, after the building had already been turned, in reality, into a death trap." Wrack went on to explain that while "nobody is trying to avoid scrutiny...we think that the ordering of the inquiry is completely back to front.”  Following last week's report, lawyers suspect the chances of criminal charges being brought in relation to the fire have increased significantly, according to The GuardianThe second phase of the inquiry will investigate how the inadequate design and construction, which was in violation of existing regulations, was allowed to have happened. Former judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick who led the inquiry stated that he will also look into "what was and should have been known" about the particular dangers posed by thermoplastic polymers within the construction industry and those responsible for setting fire safety standards in the central government. Following this initial report, Moore-Bick has issued a series of proposals to shore up fire safety for towers in the U.K. 
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Let the Asian Games Begin

Archi-Tectonics designs major urban project for the 2022 Asian Games

For the 2022 Asian Games, the biggest multi-sport event second to the Olympics, New York-based architecture firm Archi-Tectonics has designed a net-zero sports park in Hangzhou, China. The 116-acre development, named Hangzhou Asian Games Park, was designed in collaboration with !melk Landscape Design and Thornton Tomasetti structural engineering. It is the largest project to date for Archi-Tectonics, representing over two million square feet of facilities woven together across a mile-long park, including two sports stadiums, fitness and visitor centers, a shopping mall, and 140,000 square feet of wetlands.

Winka Dubbeldam, the founder of Archi-Tectonics, has said that the design of Hangzhou Sports Park intends to fuse its landscape and building facilities as a way to anticipate its long-term use after the games take place three years from now. In an effort to reduce waste, the earth excavated during construction will be transformed into artificial hills throughout the site. 

The two sports stadiums are the most prominent features on either side of the park, one a 5,000-seat golden cylinder for tennis tournaments and the other a field hockey arena with a parabolic roof. The two stadiums are connected by a sunken shopping mall marking the center of the site, designed with a green roof that blends into its park surroundings. Described by the firm as a “below-grade retail valley,” the mall interacts with the preexisting Yiyang Road and River.

Hangzhou Asian Games Park broke ground in July 2019 and is scheduled to be completed before the Asian Games take place in September of 2022. To oversee the project, Archi-Tectonics opened its third office at the Architectural Design and Research Institute at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou (its first two are in New York and Amsterdam). In addition to the sports park, the Asian Games project will also bring new metro lines and inner-city railways.

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Unionize-Nation

Section of Architectural Workers sets up union efforts in London
The first union for architects has been founded in London. The Section of Architectural Workers (SAW) aims to improve the toxic design culture of overwork and address issues like stagnating wages, discrimination, and industry-wide attitudes towards mental health.  SAW operates within the United Voices of the World (UVM), a relatively young but influential union based in London with 3,000 members. According to the Architects' Journal, a SAW spokesperson said some of its members had been working 60 hours of overtime per week, while others hadn't taken a weekend break for four months. The union is supported by many architects and administrators in the field, including notable alumni of the University College London Bartlett School of Architecture Thandi Loewenson, Jane Rendell, and David Roberts. They describe the unionization as a "landmark moment in the ethical production of the built environment."  The industry has steadily felt the pressure to take on big-ticket, ground-up built projects with low-risk profiles to compensate for tight competition over projects and wages. Kate Macintosh, a London-based architect and union member, told AJ that the "toxic system" has penetrated the profession since 1979. "Those rights have been steadily eroded to the point where one in three of the workforce are on zero-hours contracts and typically work 25 hours a week.”  The culture of overwork trickles down even to unpaid interns, who often work from 9 a.m. to well into the evening—sometimes past midnight—consistently. This year’s Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Junya Ishigama, made headlines after the press discovered the architect solicited unpaid interns to assist in its fabrication. Subsequently, it was revealed just how widespread the practice was. Not only was the inquiry illuminating of the lack of pay but also the degree of overwork even the youngest in the profession are expected to take on. An internship job posting for Lot-Ek also announced this in plain language last March:
 
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Alleged email from Lot-ek Architecture & Design New York, March 2018. The office have been approached for comment - #arch4all #archishame

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While architectural workers have attempted to unionize before and other varieties of unions like the construction-sector UCATT have tried to attract architects to join them, no effort has ever come to fruition quite like SAW. The breadth of professionals enveloped and supported by SAW, from architects to BIM technicians and cleaners, are using this platform to help support each other and therefore support their industry from top to bottom.  “It will transform the environment in which we work, encouraging and empowering us all to step up and speak out to confront systemic social injustices and inequality, climate breakdown and biodiversity loss,” said SAW, asserting that unionization will allow architects and their firms to focus on the projects that really matter, rather than who stays at their desk the latest.
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Block it Out

LEGO opens their block-inspired C.F. Møller campus in Denmark
  LEGOs aren’t just for the amateur builder. With the LEGO Group’s opening of its new campus in Billund, Denmark, the company has added to their growing list of architectural standouts. Two years ago the Danish toy brand opened their expansive BIG-designed LEGO House to the public, which included playrooms, a LEGO store, outdoor playgrounds, galleries, and restaurants within a complex of stacked blocks. The new building, which opened Monday, is the first phase of a C.F. Møller-designed campus project that will wrap up in 2021. Altogether the completed project will be 580,000 square feet and house over 2,000 of the company’s employees in Billund, a small town in Denmark's Jutland region. The LEGO House alone is expected to bring in 250,000 visitors every year to a town with a population of only 6,000.  As an international toy company, LEGO Group put forward a playful design prompt for the campus. The House's design is an obvious ode to the famous brick shape of the LEGO toys, cast-concrete LEGO bricks are interspersed on the facade, and a yellow brick-like structure sits on top of the buildings in another less-than-subtle reference.  “The team has worked hard to create a workspace that reflects our values and instills a sense of fun," said Niels B. Christiansen, CEO of the LEGO Group, in a statement. “Our mission is to inspire children so it’s important we provide our talented colleagues with an environment that is playful and inspires creativity and innovative thinking.”  The LEGO Group was intentional about reflecting its sustainability focus in the new campus. Half of the building’s energy will be sourced from the solar panels on the parking garage’s roof, and materials were chosen to minimize the building’s carbon footprint. “In the same way you build with LEGO bricks, we took elements our people love and brought them all together to create something unique," explained Anneke Beerkens, senior workplace anthropologists for LEGO Group. “For example, employees told us that they wanted the freedom to choose an environment that suited them best for whatever they were working on, but also liked to stay close to teammates. So we built team ‘neighborhoods’ which are a mix of individual and collaborative workspaces designed to create a caring environment where people can do great quality work.” 
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Linked up

The Wrong gets online exhibitions right
Art exhibitions tend toward the physical, a fact made no more obvious than by the ever-growing count of international biennials; every year, artists, architects, curators, designers, and all manner of hangers-on set off to Venice or Lisbon or São Paolo or Seoul. Jet fuel is burned, lukewarm Prosecco is drunk. In an era that traffics in data, what might be the digital answer to the brick-and-mortar biennial? The Wrong is perhaps one of the right responses to this question. Founded in 2013 by David Quiles Guilló, the online biennial has showcased thousands of artists as part of its radically open exhibition format. Any artist or curator might submit an exhibition, and The Wrong will continue adding them to its directory until the very last day of the biennial.  Living in an off-the-grid home in Alicante, Spain, Quiles Guilló may seem like an unlikely candidate for running a global biennial of net art, but perhaps this is what best embodies The Wrong: de-centered and democratic by definition, one need not be near any global art center—or have the means to reach it—to participate fully in the exhibition. “The Wrong wants to make it easy for curators and artists to exhibit their work, and for the public to enjoy it,” Quiles Guilló said. “Everything I work toward is to achieve this premise.” He is quick to stress however that The Wrong is not designed in opposition to the IRL biennial. “I believe the wrong is a complement to all the already existing events and biennials, a different experience for curators, for the artists, and for the public.” That said, as infinite as an exhibition like the Venice Biennial might feel, The Wrong has them beat. “It’s so vast there is no way you can visit it all,” Quiles Guilló explained, “which mirrors the infiniteness of the digital space.” Artist (and AN contributor) Alice Bucknell, who is exhibiting as part of the pavilion Too beautiful to be real, noted that in contrast to the Venice Biennale or art fairs, there is a “divergence,” perhaps a positive one, between The Wrong and its physical siblings. “There’s an inherent hierarchy informed by the spatiality in traditional biennials and fairs—it conditions your experience of them whether you notice or not,” she said, adding that most art biennials or fairs also have been run in more or less the same way since their inception. “With The Wrong there’s no hierarchy in terms of how you navigate. There are no central pavilions or national pavilions like Venice, there is no up-and-coming sector like Frieze or Basel. There are no costs.” That said, she pointed out that the exhibitors lean heavily toward Euro-America, though this appears to be improving. The Wrong has also attracted its fair share of showy names over the years amid myriad others, such as Marisa Olson and Elisa Giardina Papa. The Wrong’s official landing page is all text, composing many, many links to its various “pavilions.” Bucknell described this design as a “romantic, quite nostalgic idea of the internet as a digital village where you can travel in any order.” In the age of the infinite scroll and the algorithmically organized news feed, where users spend time on just a handful of monopolizing websites, The Wrong brings pack a long-gone Geocities era of the internet with raw hyperlinks and seemingly infinite discovery. “Media today is consumed almost 100 percent based on algorithms, so you only consume something related to what you consumed yesterday, and it is quite hard to break the spell,” said Quiles Guilló. “The Wrong does not use any algorithms, nor compile data from its visitors, so it is a new opportunity to access art and ideas that are not on your regular online diet.”  The Wrong opens its fourth edition to the public on November 1. To attend the opening party, click “Going” on the Facebook event and start commenting.
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How many Utopian Hours are in a day?

A city making festival in Turin asks citizens to dream bigger
From October 18 through 20, students, architects, planners, politicians, and hordes of normal citizens all descended on Turin, Italy, to engage in talks, panels, workshops, and exhibitions at the third annual Utopian Hours festival. The name is a clever play on words; pulling the “nostra” from the middle of Torino Stratosferica, the nonprofit cultural body behind the event, results in “ours,” making the actual name of the festival more about imagining a utopian future for ourselves during that time. This year’s festival was held on the multipurpose campus of the Lavazza Coffee headquarters, offering ample space for the quickly growing event. Even before one entered La Centrale, a towering power-plant-turned-events-space, visitors were met with freestanding didactics featuring snippets of the ideas to expect within. Once inside, a sprawling exhibition floor presented visions of possible future Turins from local studios, as well as a series of low-cost placemaking interventions intended to be dropped in neighborhoods around the city. Upstairs, the festival’s organizers had set up a retrospective for the 100th birthday of Paolo Soleri, curated by Emanuele Piccardo, that tracked the Turin-born architect’s career and evolution in his thinking. Of course, civic engagement and the exchange of ideas were a central goal, and each of the festival’s three days began with activities to get participants involved. On Friday, that meant kicking off the event with a “Circular Economy Workshop” intended to make visitors brainstorm ideas for creating a more “circular,” sustainable Turin. On Saturday, Play the City started the day with an interactive workshop on using play and games to reimagine urban areas (the group would return with a presentation on their work in Amsterdam on Sunday), followed by a workshop on designing for the Turin of 2030, with the youth and elderly of the future in mind. Sunday changed things up with the chance to grab a more intimate breakfast with Jan Rudkiewicz of Werklig, the studio behind Helsinki’s rebranding; participants were encouraged to ask him about the intersection of culture within a city and institutional projects. The line-up was top-notch, as speakers from all over the world offered lectures and panels in both Italian and English. That included two mayors: Chiara Appendino, the mayor of Turin, who spoke at the “How is the Turin of our desires?” panel, and the current architect-turned-mayor of Bratislava, Slovakia, Matúš Vallo, who sat in conversation with Feargus O'Sullivan of CityLab for “How To Become The Mayor.” The shift in perspective throughout the festival, from discussions of institutional, top-down approaches to city-making, to how activists can make local, small-scale changes and advance their causes with grassroots support, provided comprehensive examples of how urban activists made people power work for them. Other discussions of note included a lecture from architectural photographer Iwan Baan on how to change one’s perception of the city, and how he approaches his work. Patrik Gustavsson of the Amager Bakke Foundation discussed the path to funding and ultimately realizing the skiable Copenhill in Copenhagen. AN web editor Jonathan Hilburg sat in conversation with Laurie Hawkinson of Smith-Miller + Hawkinson and Emily Bauer of Bau Land on how to “Make New York Livable Again,” no small task. With a mandate that big, the panel leaned heavily towards the topic of climate resiliency and flood mitigation; literally keeping the city livable. While New York is an international city and the myriad problems it faces are present in every large city, the task of informing a European city about the particulars of our own issues proved refreshing, if not daunting. One of the couldn’t-miss talks followed shortly after, as Alfredo Brillembourg of Urban-Think Tank (U-TT) delivered a fiery rebuke to the “one-size-fits-all” approach taken by many architects and urban thinkers today. Brillembourg ran down a list of the hyper-site-specific interventions U-TT had taken around the world in the last 20 years, including a cable car system through the slums of Caracas, Venezuela, and resident-led housing densification in the poorest parts of South Africa. Complementing the Soleri exhibition upstairs was what might be considered the centerpiece talk of Utopian Hours, “Paolo Soleri. From Turin to the desert,” a deep dive into the late architect’s utopian vision and thought process. Perhaps the most interesting additions to the festival, and the ones that elevate it above similar conferences, are the urban explorers. Three speakers who had never been to Turin before were invited to the city four days before the rest of the guests had arrived and given the chance to walk the city. Then, over separate days, they relayed what they had learned to festivalgoers and offered suggestions on what the city could do better. All three speakers were accompanied by flashy videos Torino Stratosferica had produced, tracking each urban explorer as they meandered around the city. Why were the urban explorers so important? Their inclusion lent the festival an “on-the-ground” feel, one of lived-in experience. It’s easy to research a place, but much more difficult to actually tackle it firsthand. Utopian Hours managed to draw an enormous crowd of engaged, thoughtful attendees who weren’t afraid to offer up questions or their own take on the material. The suggested €5 ($5.50) admission fee probably helped lure in curious passersby, and that’s certainly a good thing. Let’s hope the Utopian Hours festival make a fourth appearance. AN is an official media partner of Utopian Hours.
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The French Connection

Coldefy & Associés and RDAI win design competition for the National Pulse Memorial & Museum
French firm Coldefy & Associés with RDAI and the Orlando-based HHCP Architects have won the international competition to design the National Pulse Memorial & Museum in Florida. The tripartite design beat out the other five shortlisted entries which included heavy-hitting global firms like MVRDV, MASS Design Group, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro.  Announced today by the onePULSE Foundation, team Coldefy’s memorial and museum master plan will be dedicated to the 49 angels—those who lost their lives—and survivors of the horrific shooting that occurred at the LGBTQ+ PULSE nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016. French artist Xavier Veilhan, dUCKs scéno, and landscape design practice Agence TER will collaborate as part of the design team, while Laila Farah, professor of women’s and gender studies, as well as peace, justice and conflict studies at DePaul University, will serve as a consultant on the project.   Thomas Coldefy, principal of Coldefy & Associés, called the opportunity a beautiful, collective adventure. “This is a deeply meaningful project that reminds us how much architecture and landscape can influence our behavior and have an impact on our community,” he said in a statement. “Together, we have an opportunity to reclaim a place from terror and darkness and create a new reality, one that brings people together in celebration of joy and love.” The decision to choose Coldefy’s design, which was selected by a jury of onePULSE community members and civic leaders, was based on a month-long commentary period in which victims' families, survivors, first responders, and the public expressed their views on each entry. Led by Dovetail Design Strategies, the competition was launched in March and concluded with today’s design release. A father of a Pulse angel noted how Coldefy’s vision for the masterplan physically lit up what’s been—for three years—a dark part of the city. “The Museum has a lightness in design, but captures what the Pulse museum should be: A place to educate and bring a message of hope to the world,” he said. “...That protruding light up to the sky sends a signal to the world inviting them to come see what Pulse represented.” Towering above Orlando’s upcoming SoDo neighborhood, the open-air museum structure will spiral up and above the memorial site, allowing visitors to climb to the top, where light will illuminate the entire structure at night. The existing nightclub will remain on-site but will be sliced in half, making room for an intimate pathway through the building. A reflecting pool featuring a rainbow-colored basin will surround the club and a gathering space at the back of the memorial will provide moments of respite or quiet conversation.  The design team will also revamp West Kaley Street where the memorial and museum is located, bringing in more room for walking, biking, and public transit. Accessibility will be at the heart of the infrastructure design.  Coldefy is expected to work with the onePULSE Foundation and the community over the next year to refine the design.
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Delinquent in Dubai

We need to tell America’s best story in the Middle East
With Expo 2020 Dubai only one year away, we are at a crisis point to create a world-class pavilion to represent the best of the American people at the first World Expo in the Middle East. Architecturally brilliant US pavilions had been globally admired during America’s Cold War foreign policy efforts. As an architect and documentary filmmaker who filmed America's abandonment of World’s Fairs through poor architectural design efforts in Face of a Nation, it is vitally important for me to share how a disintegration we’ve ignored for decades negatively impacts our American image abroad and endangers our hopeful vision of democracy. The story of our U.S.A pavilion captures the commercialization of our national interests. The defunding and abolition of a strategic part of our foreign policy, the United States Information Agency (USIA), in 1999 marked the end of design excellence as a tenet of representing the American people at important public diplomacy events. Our research documents the failures of when privatization totally takes over our public interests. Why is federal funding necessary for design excellence? Other countries demonstrate that they know the value of these events by paying for their own pavilions. Despite Reagan’s promise for “the energy and genius of the American people” at Expo ’92 in Seville, Spain, Congress blocked funds for the U.S.A Pavilion and we axed our American architect. The State Department scrambled to find “two exhibit buildings in moth-balls” for a makeshift pavilion the Spanish press maligned as “the American bra.” But architects know this message is most profoundly delivered through architecture. Congress eliminated the USIA (responsible for U.S.A. Pavilions overseas) in 1999 after we thought we had won the Cold War—ending public-sector support and beginning the battle of ‘who should pay.’ Debacles at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo and 2015 Milan World Expo are evidence enough that pure private-sector funding is a recipe for trouble. Shanghai’s U.S. Pavilion locked visitors inside and wasn’t even designed by an American architect! The richest country in the world didn’t raise enough to pay for Milan’s U.S. Pavilion, so the American companies who created it suffered significant financial losses. Diminishing World’s Fairs as “just trade fairs” and lauding public-private sector partnerships, the federal government has forced the private money to pay for our international exhibitions for the last 25 years. But public-private partnerships only work when the public sector pays as well. Other countries believe World’s Fairs are more than “just trade fairs,” with an important public diplomacy role, by engaging people around the world. More than 60 years after the USIA’s founding principles were defined "to understand, inform and influence foreign publics" about American ideas and values, our practice appears to be antagonizing the world instead. Rather than “winning hearts and minds” with face-to-face communication in “the last 3 feet,” our generation is tweeting, chatting, or cyber-bullying each other over thousands of miles. Most people don’t know the potency of our senses in the brick and mortar world. Architects use design excellence to kindle the viewer's emotions; a powerful persuasion without words. Innovative design captures futuristic visions of hope, effecting optimism and industry for generations to come. Awe-inspiring examples of the power of World’s Fair architecture influencing people for hundreds of years include the Crystal Palace and the Eiffel Tower. Our film follows the late Jack Masey, a U.S. foreign service officer/behind-the-scenes genius whose vision shaped the most innovative U.S.A. Pavilions from USIA’s early years. These pavilions inspired nations with a better idea about who we are as a people; including the setting for the 1959 Kitchen Debate, Buckminster Fuller’s Expo ’67 geodesic dome (inspiring Disney’s Epcot), and Davis Brody’s Expo ’70 air-inflatable—the largest in the world, where the Apollo 11 moon rock was shown. By the late 20th Century, U.S. trade interests had unconsciously projected a corporate, consumer image of American values and culture. The 21st Century saw the development of the internet, social media, and new digital platforms for people to communicate in cyberspace. These realms convinced many that international gatherings like World’s Fairs were costly, wasteful, and obsolete. No one anticipated they might become “virtual spaces” to spread false narratives about America. Going to the World’s Fair with design excellence is not only a chance to defend our American image in “real space,” but an opportunity to engage the world in the wonder we inspired when we did things right. American design excellence must be used to deflect the attempts to diminish our democracy. We must tell our story better to the world. It took a bipartisan Congress to underestimate the importance of design. It will take bipartisan Congressional support to fund and fix it. Special appropriations through Congress were essential to do things right during the Cold War, and federal funds are critical again to safeguard our vision of democracy. Because architecture reflects who we are. If we ignore what we see, we lose sight of our own vision. What keeps our dream alive? Going to the World’s Fair with our best American design talent might make all the difference. Mina Chow, AIA, is a documentary filmmaker, founder and principal of mc² SPACES, and an adjunct associate professor at the USC School of Architecture.
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Soaring Above Sydney

Zaha Hadid Architects and COX Architecture unveil Australia's future largest airport
Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) and COX Architecture are slated to officially design a new airport in Western Sydney, Australia. After winning an international design competition featuring 40 firms, the London-based practice and local Sydney studio will together lead the charge in creating a sustainable transportation hub for the burgeoning region surrounding Parkland City. Known officially as the Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport (WSA), the $5.3 billion project is expected to become a catalyst for growth in Western Parkland City, one of the capitol’s new three urban centers (Greater Sydney is officially broken up into three cities). It will be built out in four expansion stages, the first of which will be completed by 2026 and will serve 10 million passengers annually.  According to the design team, the vision for the upcoming terminal takes cues from the lush Australian bush: WSA will be a low-lying greenfield airport with nature-filled interiors. Vertical gardens featuring local flora will line the walls, slatted timber ceilings will undulate overhead, and ample daylight will spill in from outside during the day. David Holm, project director at COX, and Cristiano Ceccato of ZHA explained the 4,398-acre site will have an “unmistakable regional identity.” “The design is an evolution of Australian architecture past, present, and future,” said Ceccato in a press release. “It draws inspiration from both traditional architectural features such as the veranda, as well as the natural beauty of the surrounding bushland.”  ZHA/COX beat out five other shortlisted teams in the competition for the airport bid. Among them were Foster + Partners, Gensler, Hassell, Pascall+Watson, and Woods Bagot. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, it wasn’t just the highly-localized design that won over the jury, it was the way ZHA/COX presented the importance of the customer’s experience as they journey through the terminal. As the airport expands using modular-based construction, it’s expected that the facility will be able to accommodate up to 82 million passengers a year by 2060—outpacing every other airport in Australia.  These numbers coincide with the increased population of Sydney’s greater metropolis as well. In the next 20 years, it’s estimated that Greater Sydney will likely become home to 9 million people. By the time all of the sections of the airport are complete, Parkland City itself will boast well over 1.5 million, according to the Greater Sydney Commission.  Construction is slated to begin in 2022.