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The Wight Stuff
Inside the studio of Chicago’s Wight & Company
Three generations of Wight & Company have operated in the Chicago area for over 75 years. With a main office in the western suburb of Darien and an outpost downtown, the company employs over 175 architects, engineers, and builders. Even with this long history, Wight continues to evolve, and in recent years it has seen major changes. Perhaps the most drastic of these changes happened in late 2015 when renowned Chicago architect Dirk Lohan joined the office and brought his entire firm of Lohan Anderson with him. With the addition of Lohan, the company is now venturing in new directions while bolstering their existing repertoire.
As Executive Vice President, Director of Design Kevin Havens put it: Wight is a “design-lead design/build practice.” While the company does not yet build everything it designs, the underlying goal is to recapture some of architecture’s legacy as a field of master-builders. In this, Wight and Lohan found a common value.
Having studied and worked under his grandfather Mies van der Rohe, Lohan maintains a sense of urgency when it comes to architects being in control of the building process.
“That aspect of Wight & Company was of great attraction to me,” Lohan told AN at Wight’s downtown office. “I have had practices with interior designers and planners, but never any engineers or construction managers. At Wight we have structural, mechanical, a sustainability group. I have always wanted to have an office like this.”
While such a large firm has many moving parts, the downtown office where Lohan’s studio is situated is a more intimate setting where a great deal of the design happens. Located in the landmarked Powerhouse Building, snugly flanked by numerous rail lines the building used to power, the office feels like those of many other, much smaller firms. The periodic deep rumbling of passing commuter trains and an occasional leaky roof make the space somehow endearing.
Such an established firm has a history filled with stories and experiences that inform and guide the practice as a whole. In this, Lohan brings another set of connections to the past, which includes more than just his kinship to Mies. With his own extensive portfolio of notable projects, including the much-lauded McDonald’s corporate campus in Oak Brook, Illinois, Lohan has distinguished himself as an architect in his own right. Yet, one can’t help but feel they are somehow closer to Mies himself when speaking to Lohan. In his slight German accent, Lohan recounts a proud moment that took place early in his career when speaking about Wight’s work on courthouses. Lohan recalled the first courtroom he designed at the famed Chicago Federal Plaza. “I came with a green card to the United States in 1962. At the time, it took five years to become a citizen. So, in 1967, after five years at Mies’s office, I detailed this courtroom. I was sworn in in that same courtroom with 150 other new citizens. Somebody told them that I, as a young designer, had designed this interior and I should be the spokesperson. So they made me come up to judge and say some words in front of everybody, in my own space. Those kinds of projects don’t come around too often.”
Will County Justice Center Joliet, IllinoisSoon to the be the tallest building in downtown Joliet, a large suburb of Chicago, the Will County Justice Center is designed to be more than just a courthouse. With a focus on literal transparency, the center is defined by a large civic square wrapped on two sides by the building’s wings. Programs are arranged in such a way as to give the public maximum access to the justice system while maintaining the high level of security needed in a court of law. The Will County Justice Center represents a long history of Wight & Co.’s experience with civic institutional work. 353 N. Clark Street Chicago 353 N. Clark Street was added to Wight & Co. portfolio with the merging of Lohan Anderson, Lohan’s former office, into the company. The 45-story tower is situated in the River North Neighborhood of Chicago, just north of the loop. The tower represents the direction in which Wight & Co. is hoping to move under Lohan’s leadership: While Wight has extensive experience in institutional and public projects, Lohan has specialized in high-end private projects for much of his career. Mies van der Rohe Business Park Krefeld, Germany With the addition of Lohan to the Wight & Co. leadership, new avenues opened up to the office. As part of an invited competition, Lohan worked on a design for the adaptive reuse of a former power plant, which once served an industrial park designed by his own grandfather, Mies van der Rohe, in the 1930s. Now renamed Mies van der Rohe Business Park, the new building will be used for performances, large gatherings, meetings, and exhibitions. Though not in the same language as the Bauhaus-style white buildings surrounding it, the building is a protected landmark. The design intervention works to be sensitive to the building’s historical context, while updating it for contemporary uses. Hotel Arista Chicago Designed by Lohan Anderson as part of a larger master plan in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, the Hotel Arista will soon be joined by several other buildings designed by Lohan as part of the Wight and Lohan team. The Hotel is the first piece in a larger “urban” center, known as CityGate, in the western suburb. The 144-room hotel was designed to use and waste less, achieving the hotel industry’s Green Seal certification, as well as being the first LEED-certified hotel in Illinois.
The offices of the Los Angeles Design Group (LADG) are located on a sleepy street in Venice, California, that even on cloudy days looks a bit sun-bleached. There, a few blocks from the ocean in a diminutive storefront open to the street, one can find Claus Benjamin Freyinger, Andrew Holder, and their small team of designers charting a unique trajectory in what one might call “disciplinary architecture.”
“[Things like] structure are always subordinate to the [disciplinary] agenda we are trying to pursue,” Freyinger said, describing a vibrant grid of project views organized neatly along the main studio wall. He continued, “We are trying to work against the understanding of a building as a collection of integrated systems, one piled on top of the other.” Which is not to say that the firm does not consider structure or systems, but rather that it focuses instead on subverting the all-too-easy tendency those components have of making themselves apparent in the final work. Instead, LADG explodes the building process horizontally and explores each component—drawing, model, and detail—individually, in pursuit of “what happens when each idea develops independently of hierarchy,” as Holder put it.
After 13 years, the firm has produced a compellingly diverse collection of work ranging from installations to interiors to complete structures, swapping disciplinary and professional focus with each project.
The Kid Cambridge, Massachusetts
The Kid Gets out of the Picture, installed at Loeb Library at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 2016, was developed in concert with architects First Office, Hirsuta, and Laurel Broughton / Andrew Kovacs for Materials & Applications. The contemporary interpretation of an English picturesque garden is based on priest and artist William Gilpin’s travel sketches, which LADG mined for symbolic and literal inspiration in its attempts to explore “topics left unfinished by the picturesque.” With the installation, the designers explored “clumps,” the collections of heterogeneous objects and plants used by picturesque designers to organize their compositions. Here, the designers arrange a collection of plaster-coated, plywood-rib-framed drapery atop wooden-beam and stacked-block bases.
Surefoot Santa Monica Santa Monica, CA
The interiors for Surefoot Santa Monica are a creative solution for an abstract programmatic challenge: Create a storefront for a shop with no inventory. The ski-boot store acts as a fitting room mostly, where patrons pick out and get sized up for new custom-made ski boots produced off-site. The firm toyed with the formal complexities of lofted and faceted finishes for the project, creating a collection of object-like surfaces that act independently of one another. Gable-shaped plywood display walls—punctuated by boxed-out display cases—hold forth under a billowing plaster tent.
Oyster Gourmet Los Angeles
The Oyster Gourmet is a mechanical kiosk designed to house a champagne and oyster bar in L.A’s Grand Central Market. The structure’s operable walls fold up and down via hand crank, creating an awning for the bar below when fully extended. The structure is made out of plywood ribs, canvas cloth, and steel supports. But the built form of the mollusk-shaped eatery is but one manifestation of the kinetic kiosk—the pink-hued worm's eye axonometric and gray-scale floorplan drawings are also of merit.
Armstrong Avenue Residence Los Angeles
The Armstrong Avenue Residence is a 1,894-square-foot renovation of an existing split-level house in Los Angeles. The charred cedar-clad “upside down house” is organized with a top-floor living room located above an unceremonial set of bedroom, study, and garage spaces. The setup ensures the living areas have the best view of a nearby reservoir, which can also be seen from a cyclopean bedroom window that has been torqued to be in line with the water feature. The inset bay window is mimicked along the back of the house via Marcel Breuer–inspired massing, creating a house that steps out in parallel with the scrubby hillside behind.
From China to Long Island, see Gluckman Tang’s recently completed and on-the-boards projects
The clean, white-walled exhibition space, the now-preferred one for displaying art, did not materialize overnight, as Mark Wigley and others show in their histories of exhibition design. Sheetrocked walls with smooth, joint-compounded planes, set inside an old industrial building with clear polyurethane wood floors, exposed beams, and metal straps, can be traced back to the 1980s.
One of the first interior spaces to show the power of these minimalist white-walled spaces was likely the Dia Art Foundation at 548 West 22nd Street in Chelsea, New York, designed in 1985. This space was designed by Richard Gluckman, who can—as much as any other architect—be credited with creating spaces influenced by the minimalist art of the period.
His firm, now Gluckman Tang Architects (Dana Tang, who has worked in the office since 1995, became his partner in 2015), has built on this minimalism-inspired base of design ideas with 22 employees that design scores of major projects. In the last three years they have become a truly global practice with important projects on three continents. Gluckman Tang always seems to have an impressive portfolio of museums, galleries, and institutional projects on the boards. It, like any firm, doesn’t realize all of its commission or competition entries, but it is clear that it is a firm that institutions trust to create an appropriate and workable spaces, like: the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea, and the Zhejiang University Art and Archaeology Museum in China. Gluckman, whose first major New York project was a townhouse for Heiner Friedrich and Philippa de Menil in 1977, has also built on this foundation to create scores of lofts, private homes, and other residential projects since the 1970s. Gluckman Tang seems to have hit a sweet spot as an office with a manageable number of employees and a reputation that ensures that they will continue to interview with enviable clients offering desirable, even glamorous, commissions. William Menking
Dineen Hall, Syracuse University College of Law Syracuse, New YorkDineen Hall is a new 200,000-square-foot facility that anchors Syracuse University’s West campus expansion with a distinctive five-story state-of-the-art building for the College of Law. A central atrium at the main level visibly linking the core elements—a library, a celebratory space, a ceremonial courtroom—is positioned beneath a green roof that creates a seasonal outdoor terrace, with the skylit vertical axis introducing natural light throughout the building. The iconic ceremonial courtroom will be visible from inside and outside the building, signifying the law school’s inherent accessibility and transparency. De Maria Pavilion Long Island, New York This is the second Gluckman Tang–designed single-artist exhibition structure on this Long Island estate (the firm created the earlier Noguchi Garden Pavilion in 2004). A board-formed concrete interior frames a selection of Walter De Maria works, and is naturally lit by a large skylight and window-wall. A brick exterior references the 1920s garden wall. Zhejiang University Museum of Art and Archaeology Zhejiang Sheng, China This facility is a teaching museum that supports research and study of the arts on a campus for Zhejiang University. The contemporary design alludes to various aspects of traditional Chinese architecture and garden design. It brings together three major elements—public exhibition, art study and storage, and academics. The museum’s entry and lobby overlook a garden along a canal to the south. The four-story academic wing has its own entry facing the new campus to the north, and contains the library, auditorium, classrooms, seminar rooms, study centers, conservation lab, and education center.
This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.
A native Floridian, Allan Shulman grew up in Fort Lauderdale, completed his postgraduate studies at the University of Miami, and has since settled in Miami. It’s no surprise then that he describes his firm, Shulman & Associates, formed in 1996 with wife Rebecca Stanier-Shulman, as a “regional design studio” (emphasis on studio).
Shulman though, draws influence from a variety of locations, all urban: New York and Paris—he worked briefly in both—and Tokyo, where he studied for a year at Waseda University while taking a break from his undergraduate program at Cornell.
Shulman’s main focus, however, is Miami Beach, a city that has been at the forefront of his academic interests and throughout his career as an architect and professor of architecture at the University of Miami. With the Nolli Map in one hand and new urbanist principles in the other, Shulman described the city as the “perfect laboratory” for learning how to “use typologies as a basis for new design ideas.”
A fascination with public space and semi-private networks, as well as an engagement with the urban environment are defining aspects of Shulman’s approach to work. “We start by thinking about how we can expand, engage, and integrate into the public space and existing networks,” he said. “We always try find one or more elements of the project that achieves that.”
Betsy-Carlton Hotel 1440 Ocean Drive, MiamiBridging the 1938 art deco Henry Hohauser hotel to its new addition by Shulman is a silver sphere that disguises a pedestrian connection between the two buildings. The elliptical enigma transforms one of the many circulation arteries that run through the building’s site into public art. A cafe extension on the building’s side has the same impact: Triangular in plan, the cafe enhances the east-west alleyway that takes pedestrians from Española Way to the ocean by utilizing a landscaped roof deck as an amphitheater for poetry, also aligning with the hotel’s historic mission of cultural programming. Billboard Building 3704 Northeast 2nd Avenue, Miami A pertinent example of Shulman’s philosophy can be seen in the Billboard Building in Miami’s Design District. Situated roughly 10 feet away from the elevated I-195 that heads to Miami Beach, the project sees a three-story 1920s commercial building joined to a sleek 90-foot-tall addition. Cabana Bay Beach Resort Universal, Orlando The 1,200-key hotel employs a post-war aesthetic prescribed by Universal Orlando Resort. “As architects, the challenge was to make the language feel new again and to avoid being purely retro,” said Shulman. A central plaza-pool deck (once a necessity for the post-war vacationing class) is enlivened by amenities such as play and picnic areas, ping pong tables, and sand pits. Children can play as parents monitor from their balconies, all of which look into the space. Jugofresh Wynwood Walls Wynwood, Miami Located in the warehouse complex of Wynwood Walls—an area that features a coterie of industrial buildings covered in murals—is an outlet for juice and food bar Jugofresh. Sacrificing space to the public, Shulman proposed opening up two garage doors at either end of the building to activate a plaza once blocked from the street. A folding glass wall blurs boundaries further and creates a “breezeway” that features a wall of fans—an alternative Shulman pursued to avoid air conditioning the space. Jugofresh now uses the wide floor plan to host yoga classes and other activities. Inside, almost every shade of green abounds, employing a color palette as vibrant as its exterior (which couldn’t be changed).
Violet Crown Jewels
No two projects from Austin-based Miró Rivera Architects look alike
As Austin has become the hippest city in Texas (to the excitement of millennials everywhere), its architectural scene has also become the liveliest, with Miró Rivera Architects, the Texas Society of Architects architecture firm of the year for 2016, as one of its shining stars. The practice began when Juan Miró—born in Barcelona and educated in Madrid—was working for New York City firm Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman Architects, and was dispatched to Austin to oversee construction of an opulent villa commissioned by personal computer magnate Michael Dell. When the Dell House was completed in 1997, Miró realized he preferred the sunny Hill Country—with its passably Mediterranean climate—to Manhattan. Much like another émigré, the Viennese architect, Rudolf Schindler, who was sent to Los Angeles in 1920 by his boss, Frank Lloyd Wright, to keep tabs on a then-under-construction mansion for oil-heiress Aline Barnsdall, Miró decided to go out on his own afterward using the connections from the Dell House to get commissions (and crucially at first, also to get a steady teaching gig at the UT School of Architecture). Three years later, he was able to coax his Puertorriqueño brother-in-law, and fellow Gwathmey Siegel alum, architect Miguel Rivera, to join him and the firm was officially established in 2000.
As would be expected from a firm begun by transplants with such sophisticated pedigrees, the approach is decidedly cosmopolitan. This contrasts in an interesting way with the typical emphasis on formal regionalism espoused by the best-known modern architects in Texas, like O’Neil Ford and his spiritual descendants, Lake|Flato. These regionalists take inspiration from pre-industrial, rural buildings and tend to use specific local materials like limestone and brick. Miró Rivera’s projects, with their markedly varied, but always starkly modern appearances, appear almost to be the work of multiple firms, much like the multi-faceted Eero Saarinen. According to Rivera, the firm seeks to create an architectural vocabulary or iconography drawing from a variety of sources specific to the requirements of each commission. In this way, each project gets its own identity, but through the same analytic process, and through this dialectical exercise, the local becomes cosmopolitan.
Chinmaya Mission Austin, Texas
An educational center and worship space for a Hindu spiritual organization is an unusual program for central Texas—not known for accommodating a large South Asian immigrant population. Although strict budget constraints precluded the traditional stone temple the clients initially hoped for, the architects were able to devise a vocabulary of forms that could be built of inexpensive materials, but still recall typical Indian architectural typologies specific to the school and temple. Simple strategies, like alternating the colors of the metal roof panels and building a stone precinct wall of limestone slabs that could be individually sponsored as part of the fundraising effort, combined pragmatism and poetry.
Pedestrian Bridge Lake Austin, Texas
This bridge connects the main house on a property facing Lake Austin to a separate guesthouse. Its structure is made of several 80-foot-long, 5-inch diameter welded steel tubes that arc gracefully over a watery inlet separating the two buildings. The deck and sides of the bridge are made of half-inch steel rebar wrapped around the tubes. These common elements combined in an unexpected way evoke wetland plants growing on the site and transform what could be an intrusive element into a symbiotic, almost invisible link.
LifeWorks Austin, Texas
This headquarters was built for a nonprofit organization that helps at-risk children and families reorient their lives through educational programs and counseling. The architects physically suggested the organization’s mission by orienting it outward and opening it up to the neighborhood. The building is aligned to the edge of its site along a curving street with parking set to the rear. A continuous, three-story colonnade runs along this front-facing elevation. Its columns are slightly askew, an oblique reference to the organization’s clients, who come seeking support and assistance.Another design element doing double duty is the mix of three different exterior cladding materials, which alludes to the organization’s three cornerstones: counseling, education, and youth development.
Circuit of the Americas Del Valle, Texas
The 1,500-acre Circuit of the Americas, just outside Austin, is the first purpose-built Formula 1 racing facility in the United States. For this project, the architects were commissioned to design a 9,000-seat main grandstand, a 27-acre Grand Plaza, a central greenspace with a 14,000-seat outdoor amphitheater, and a 251-foot-tall observation tower. (A specialist German firm designed the super curvy track itself.) Naturally, the team looked to cars and auto culture for formal design cues. This is perhaps most clearly expressed in the band of sinuous red pipes shrouding the observation tower, the most prominent element on the site. According to Rivera, the idea for them came from watching the endless taillights of cars in the evening commute on the notoriously crowded Austin freeways winding their way through the city.
Chris Cornelius, founder of Milwaukee-based studio:indigenous, knew what he wanted to do when he started graduate school at the University of Virginia. His goal was no less than to develop an architecture that is based in the timeless worldviews of Native Americans. For the past decade, that goal has been unwavering, and has led to award-winning built and unbuilt work.
Cornelius is a member of the Oneida Nation, and the stories and traditions of native peoples are a key part of his identity. Every project by studio:indigenous starts with an intensive investigation of the narratives surrounding the client’s needs. Often working for Wisconsin tribes, Cornelius’s designs depart from the all-too-common iconographic motifs built on many reservations. (There is more than one turtle-shaped building in the Oneida Nation.) Rather, the work is consciously produced outside of a specific style and without direct reference to native architecture or symbolism. Instead of relying on historical sweat lodge structures for the sweat lodge-changing room at the Indian Community School of Milwaukee, Cornelius repurposed the stones that are used in the ceremonies held in the steamy sacred spaces as a base for the design. In the Oneida Veterans Memorial, on the Wisconsin Oneida Reservation, the long history of the Oneida’s service to the United States is manifest in the scaled timeline stretching though three acres of prairie grass.
“I realized at some point along this journey that I am not going to tie into anything stylistically,” said Cornelius. “I had to be able to trust myself. Most important to me, first and foremost, was to be a good architect. The Native American thing is not going to change; it’s who I am. So I have allowed my voice to express itself. That has turned into an aesthetic that is latent to the process.”
Cornelius works through complex drawings and models, producing images and forms that embody the narratives of his projects. The drawings, which have been recognized with multiple architectural and artistic awards, are intricately layered with colors, lines, and shapes. While times were slow during the recession, this drawing technique became an outlet for his continued research into articulating native narratives into formal operations. A series of drawings, entitled Radio Free Alcatraz, is a study of the Native American Occupation of Alcatraz Island in the late 1960s. A self-initiated project, Radio Free Alcatraz imagines that Native Americans never left Alcatraz and were planning to build a university on the island. Other similar projects formalize small pavilions based on the Oneida calendar.
Yet it is not only Native clients that have found value in studio:indigenous’s design approach. The focus on culture resonates with many groups that have strong cultural identities. studio:indigenous has worked with communities throughout Milwaukee, and found that the techniques translate across cultures and traditions. In every case, though, Cornelius sees the work not only as an embodiment of stories and traditions of the past, but also as the development of a contemporary story.
“The architecture is part of the current story,” Cornelius said. “What is it that we want to make or achieve? The stories haven’t necessarily changed, but the characters have.”
Indian Community School Milwaukee, WI
The true genesis of studio:indigenous came about through a collaboration with Antoine Predock for the Indian Community School, just outside of Milwaukee. Completed in 2007, the goal was to help ensure that the architecture was an accurate translation of the cultural values of the 11 Native Nations represented in the student body. The pre-kindergarten-through-eighth-grade, 150,000-square-foot school also serves as a community center for the Native American population of the Milwaukee area.
Radio Free Alcatraz San Francisco, CA
A speculative look at the occupation of Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay, Radio Free Alcatrazimagines a new Native American University, part of the occupiers’ original plan. Through complexly layered drawings, sketches, and multimedia, the speculations are put on paper to be reflected upon. Historical, contemporary, and speculative forms and information are blended together in each drawing to produce a new understanding of the island and its possibilities.
Sweat Lodge Changing Room Milwaukee, WI
Known as the “Grandfather Stone,” the Sweat Lodge Changing Room for the Indian Community School of Milwaukee takes the form of a stone used in sweat lodge rituals. The gray form is meant to appear as if it had emerged from the earth and has always been in its location.
Oneida Maple Sugar Camp Oneida, WI
“tsi? watsikhe? tu-nihe,” or “The Place Where They Make Maple Sugar,” is an 800-square-foot project designed for the Oneida Tribal School in Oneida, Wisconsin. Along with providing the infrastructure to boil maple sap down to syrup, the building is an observational device. The ventilation cone provides a view of the “seven dancers”—the Pleiades—when the constellation is directly overhead during the Midwinter Ceremony.
Moon Domicile Conceptual
The Moon Domicile series is based on the moon calendar of the Oneida Nation. Each moon cycle throughout the year is associated with a specific ceremony or ritual. Each of the domiciles is formalized through these traditions, as well as the natural weather phenomena of each time of year. The narrative surrounding the Moon Domicile is ambiguous about whether each of the small projects would be created by human, animal, or other.
Agent of Change
From affordable housing to parks, inside the versatile Fort Lauderdale-based Glavovic Studio
When Miami clients want a high-profile designer, they often bring in architects from New York and London simply because marketing demands signature international brand names. The developing streetscape of Wynwood, Miami’s Art District, has buildings by scores of important architects from every city but Miami.
But the city has its own, often-underappreciated talent. For example, there is Fort Lauderdale-based Glavovic Studio and its founding principal Margi Glavovic Northard, who has the resume of an architect one would usually find practicing in New York or Los Angeles: She was educated at SCI-Arc, taught at UCLA, and worked for Smith-Miller+Hawkinson in New York before opening her own practice. In Los Angeles, Northard met Robert Mangurian who told her to “go to a place where you can make a difference.”
Taking this advice, she started her Florida firm in 1999. The local projects she cobbled together make her someone who should be better known outside Florida. Northard, who is from South Africa, brings a global perspective and ambition into her practice that attempts to link local ideas, traditions, and needs with a broader international perspective. She said she admires the way Canadian Frank Gehry arrived in California and worked with the local vernacular to create truly revolutionary designs.
But, unlike Herzog & de Meuron, for example, who practice in the small city of Basel and won the prestigious Miami Art Museum (now Pérez), she does not just pitch glamorous cultural projects. “We are part of the local community that wants to be part of a larger conversation, and we are able to connect them to a global conversation,” she said. Indeed the firm focuses on local public housing, community centers, parks, and libraries because Nothard believes architects are, as she put it, “cultural change agents and facilitators.” She made the conscious decision to design affordable housing because she believes affordability is a broader notion than just low income.
At one affordable housing project, Kennedy Homes, Nothard claimed to have expanded the discussion “from affordable to affordability.” The design work, she asserted, is about “creating change” with a commitment to design buildings that are “direct experiences.” She said that she was asked to design a gazebo and “ended up doing an artist center for the community” that has enriched the town and region. It would be a sign of Miami’s maturity as a design center, something boosters point to, for her to be given a project in Wynwood, Brickell, or on Collins Avenue.
Young Circle Arts Park Hollywood, Florida
This 10-acre cultural center is located in downtown Hollywood, Florida. Its park immerses visitors in native landscapes and offers visual and performing arts programming and community activities. Two buildings include the Visual Arts Pavilion, which provides classrooms, a glass blowing studio, metal studio, painting studio, exhibition program, and support facilities, as well as the Performing Arts Pavilion, which contains a stage and lawn seating.
Kennedy Homes Affordable Housing Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Kennedy Homes is a 132-unit LEED Gold affordable housing project poised at the gateway to the City of Fort Lauderdale. Its living spaces are spread into eight residential buildings, with three community buildings housed in renovated structures, providing a gymnasium, library, and meeting and leisure rooms. The 8.5-acre site is developed as an expanded green space within an urban landscape.
Girls' Club Collection Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Located on a quiet street on the northern edge of downtown Fort Lauderdale, Girls’ Club is an artist studio, a gallery, a foundation, and a quasi-public space. The 1984 masonry building has a reconfigured facade layered with light, color, landscape, and enigmatic materials that employ local craft techniques and industrial references.
Sunset Hammock Tamarac, florida
Sunset Hammock, a public art project in Tamarac’s Sunset Point Park, renders moments in time through increasing intensity and color. It explores the expansiveness of the Everglades through the study of wetland topographies and tectonic forms.
Small Lot, Big Deal
L.A.-based Heyday Partnership bets on a new form of Angeleno housing
Heyday Partnership’s offices are located in a 1908 mercantile structure in Los Angeles’s Arts District that doubles as the storefront for the fictitious Paddy’s Pub in the television show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There, at the end of a long hallway tucked behind the recognizable building, brothers Kevin and Hardy Wronske spend their days designing homes in a post-industrial, daylit hangar filled with study models and custom-made furniture.
Their firm, founded in 2001, has quietly churned out projects across Los Angeles that exploit the city’s “small-lot subdivision” ordinance, a tweak to the zoning code made in 2005 allowing existing single family lots to be subdivided into smaller parcels, developed, and then sold off as traditional, freestanding homes. Small lot homes are helping to fill in L.A.’s “missing middle” housing by packing many residential units onto infill lots in some of the city’s most desirable neighborhoods. The small lot arrangement, however, considered too timid by die-hard urbanists and a complete affront to neighborhood character by suburban-leaning luddites, has struggled with unpopularity among the media and general population since its inception. As a younger, open-minded cadre of thoughtful designers like Heyday begin to emphasize the architectural potential of this real estate model, will a new form of vernacular Angeleno housing take root?
Heyday’s business model is betting on it. It’s actually pretty simple: Kevin, a licensed architect trained at the Southern California Institute of Architecture and Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, and his team design the houses while Hardy, a graduate of University of Southern California Price’s Dollinger Master of Real Estate Development, acts as developer and manages the construction of each project. The brothers have a revolving fund set up that pumps money from recently completed projects into new endeavors, creating a closed loop of design, development, and construction.
Projects like the firm’s Auburn and Rennie homes, two recently completed developments, are typical of Heyday’s body of work in that they operate comfortably at the intersection of L.A.’s zoning code and high design, shaped alike by mundane setbacks and delineated by obviously modernist tropes. Further, these projects, sleek as they might appear, are actually totally by-the-book explorations of what is allowed by the zoning code and are expressly pursued by Heyday without requiring controversial spot-zoning or variances.
Rennie Venice, CA
Heyday’s Rennie is located in Venice, where ambient oceanside temperatures make outdoor living easier than in other inland parts of L.A. Heyday’s goal was to accomplish the added density without sacrificing the traditionally Californian indoor, outdoor living arrangement. “We wanted the house to feel like a typical home with pieces carved out to literally bring in the outside. The large balcony is wrapped in the exterior cladding with a large cutout that looks like it’d be a window opening but is actually just open air.” For these units, a giant glass door connects the living room to the sunken courtyard.Buzz Court Los Angeles, CA
Buzz Court, HeyDay’s 2012 six-home, four unique floor plan complex was the first small lot development to win an American Institute of Architects award. Each home, approximately 1,600 square feet with three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms, has LEED Platinum rating and features a six-turn interior-driving path linking the homes along the ground level. Kevin describes the project as being “rooted in figuring out how to have double loaded parking on a site only wide enough for single loaded parking. The solution was to rotate the garages so the backup space could overlap and then connect all the units with a serpentine driveway.” A secondary result of this arrangement is an increase in the number of exterior walls being available for day-lighting and ventilation so that units have windows on three sides instead of two, as would traditionally be the case on such a tight urban lot.
Auburn Los Angeles, CA
The firm’s most recently completed project, Auburn, is a six-home complex featuring three floor plan types, each with 1,650 square feet. Located up the street from Buzz Court, this project is on a through lot with entrances to the complex at either end of the long, narrow driveway connecting the patch of hillside. Kevin described the project, where he is a resident himself, as “a multi-family project wearing a single family facade. It is very L.A.—the city absolutely needs more housing and density but doesn’t want to admit to itself that the suburban dream has to evolve.” Units feature garage-level guest rooms and utilize Spanish tile accents to mark chamfered window surrounds along otherwise white stucco walls.
Everlee Los Angeles, CA
Everlee, currently under construction, utilizes a central, straight run driveway to fulfill parking requirements. Heyday organized seven units orthogonally on either side of the driveway, allowing buildings on the ends to shift in geometry as they meet the more steeply angled street-edge. Expected to be completed this fall, Everlee is intended to be a family-oriented development. “I recently read that Eagle Rock is where Silver Lake hipsters move to when they have babies. While it obviously isn’t that simple, these homes are in a good school district so they’re designed with families in mind,” said Hardy. Heyday designed closets and vaulted ceilings above bathrooms as “lofted nooks and crannies to use as storage space or fort building.” The units also all have patio areas, with several containing as much as 300 square feet of outdoor space to supplement the tight site’s lack of backyards.
Taryn Kinney and Michael Morrow’s eponymous architectural practice, kinneymorrow, is one of several small, reasonably new studios that should gain enough momentum to redefine the staid Houston architectural scene in coming years. What sets this cohort apart from its peers is the intellectual rigor of its design methodology. Rather than slapping together a collage of materials and boxy shapes—the kind that typically passes for modern architecture in the Houston market—kinneymorrow’s designs arise out of a careful analysis of the program. These initial studies almost intuitively take the form of a diagram, with shades of the Beaux Arts era esquisse, a rapidly drawn sketch containing the big idea (or ideas) that guides the project to completion. Coupled with this is an unusually pronounced contextual sensitivity that is all the more remarkable considering that Houston, table-flat and sprawling messily over the Gulf Coast plain, is by no means considered a city where architecture has served its traditional role of spatially defining the urban environment or of even making a mark on public consciousness. These two tendencies produce thoughtful, modest, and witty projects that—despite their oft-diminutive size and small number—are immensely satisfying on many levels.
Both Kinney and Morrow are graduates of Rice University, studying there in the late 1990s and early 2000s when it was headed by the Swedish polymath Lars Lerup, perhaps best known as a writer of marvelous essays that speculate in a simultaneously poetic and bemused fashion on the current state of the contemporary city. In 1994, Lerup described Houston in the essay Stim and Dross, (required reading for all Rice students at the time): “The European metropolis-without-crowds has skipped westward while radically transforming itself into a new creature: leaner, meaner, and more superficial, but harder to catch, at once simpler and less bearable to live in.” kinneymorrow, now about a dozen or so years out of school, is doing the hard work of turning such ideas into an architecture inflected by the experience of living in this ephemeral city and it is exciting to see.
Austin Studio Austin, Texas
This support space for an artist’s studio was plugged into an existing prefabricated metal shed in a rustic outpost just west of Austin, Texas. It measures 12.5-feet-wide by 25-feet long and contains a small kitchen, bathroom, living area, and sleeping loft. The building is conceived as a didactic tool to explain the artist’s process as a printmaker. The site slopes to one side, necessitating a tall concrete foundation, which the architects extruded up an extra three feet past the level of the floor to form a structural wainscot around the inhabitable spaces. Into this concrete, they inserted a set of the artist’s wood blocks, corresponding to different colors and shapes used to make a single print. After the concrete cured, the blocks were removed and the relief images around the base of the building record the artistic process. The new building, with its taut, vertical proportions clad in corrugated metal siding, is a foil to the long, low shapes of the existing studio and its extension. The artist uses red as a signature in her prints and it appears sparingly as an accent in the otherwise all-white, concrete space.
Decatur Street House Houston, Texas
Here, Kinney and Morrow were commissioned to remodel a double shotgun house built in 1894 located in the Old Sixth Ward, a compact community in the shadow of downtown Houston that contains the largest collection of 19th century architecture in the city. Since the Old Sixth Ward is designated as a protected historic district, the exterior elevations of buildings cannot be altered. The architects, who also live and work in this neighborhood, focused their interventions on the interior instead. The existing long and narrow plan consisted of two rows of four interconnected rooms with no hallways. In the new plan, the service areas including kitchen, bathrooms, and closets are arranged along the western side of the house, thus retaining the longitudinal logic of the shotgun house, but adapting it to the desires of contemporary clients. The entire eastern side is left open for living and dining areas with three new sets of double French doors opening to a new outdoor deck and a new, giant seven-foot square window at its farthest reach that entices with a distant view of a pocket garden. Space is articulated with level changes and subtle variations in proportion, rather than with walls and doorways as in the former plan. To accommodate the larger dimension of these living areas and bedrooms, the architects simply extruded the shape of the existing house to the rear building line of the lot.
Kane Street Office Houston, Texas
For another project in the Old Sixth Ward, the architects negotiated the purchase of a 751-square-foot house built sometime in the 1880s—positively ancient by Houston standards—that was to be relocated from its original lot to make way for a new structure. Remarkably, Kinney and Morrow were only the house’s third owners. Its plan, a double shotgun, like that of the Decatur Street House consisted of two rows of three interconnected rooms. Through some investigative detective work and relying on a single photo of the house from the 1970s, they discovered that the center room along the western half of the house was originally a semi-enclosed porch. They restored it along with the missing front porch on the house’s street-facing, north elevation. In the eastern three rooms, the configuration was left unaltered, and the architects chose to make a radical intervention by running a row of giant, black-stained plywood work desks through openings cut through the walls between the rooms. This unites the three rooms and also introduces an intriguing ambiguity in scale, proportion, and color inside the otherwise all-white studio work space.
East 21st Street House Houston, Texas
A second project in Sunset Heights revels in the small scale. The architects were commissioned to rework a diminutive 750-square-foot house built in 1890 as one of the original farmhouses on the tract before it was subdivided. The house, which is 22-feet-wide by 26-feet-long, is a miraculous survivor and the architects could not bear to see it get scrapped. Therefore, the design scheme was to use the existing house as the module and replicate it twice more to accommodate the new program of an increased number of bedrooms and a larger living area oriented to a majestic pecan tree in the back yard. The exterior of the old house with its hipped roof, waterfall siding, and bit of ginger-breaded porch will remain essentially untouched, while the new modules, connected by low, flat-roofed hyphens will retain the square plan and pyramidal roof—but will have modern, minimal detailing to indicate their place as successors to the originals.
River Walk This Way
Inside LMN Architects, the studio designing major urban projects from San Antonio to Vancouver
Awarded the 2016 AIA National Architecture Firm Award in December 2015, LMN Architects is having a moment. Perhaps most well known for its large urban projects—convention centers, performing arts centers and urban infrastructure—the Seattle firm has worked out of its downtown Seattle office in the 1959 international style Norton Building for the past 30 years. Founded in 1979, LMN is a one-studio firm with close to 150 employees. Its 40,000-square-foot office spans two-and-a-half floors.
“We believe the best way to comprehensively understand a space is to build physical models,” said LMN partner John Chau. “Models don’t lie...That’s why we like this building. It allows us to have spaces to do that.” The LMN office is mainly an open plan with downtown views, column-free studio spaces, model building areas, and conference rooms. A lower floor hosts LMN’s in-house digital fabrication shop. There’s a dual gantry CNC mill that LMN built about a year ago that features two cutting machines on a single cutting bed.
LMN discussed the challenges of building in the future: With less available land, sites will get smaller, necessitating building more efficiently and vertically to accommodate denser layers—more people, more infrastructure, and more ecology in the same space. “We no longer are just simply architects,” said Chau. “The need for all of us to collaborate more, communicate more, is even more critical—it’s important to know what the city council is thinking about, what its leads are. And it’s going back to being very informed citizens—we have the gift, ability, and the responsibility to help solve a lot of issues that arise.”
Tobin Center for the Performing Arts San Antonio, TX
The performing arts center opened late 2014—an effort to reinvigorate the 1926 San Antonio Municipal Auditorium designed by architect Atlee Ayres that had become outdated. “We built a new auditorium, but rotated the geometry to create a new outdoor space and new entry to the San Antonio River Walk,” said LMN partner Mark Reddington. LMN kept the historic facade and added a new structure, clad in a textured metal veil. The shroud encloses the auditorium and filters the light in different colors and angles. The interior lobby hosts custom tiles that curve in plan and section—each row shifts, creating a negative volume.
Inside the main concert hall, a perforated wood fascia backlit with LEDs allows for an array of colorful effects. The hall can hold up to 1,738 seats and 2,100 people with a flat floor setup. The performance hall also contains the first gala floor system in the U.S. The seats sit on motorized platforms that can fold over, creating a flat floor that can be used for other types of events like rock concerts. Inside the performing arts center is a 295-seat studio theater and the outdoor plaza facing the San Antonio River can hold up to 600 seats.
University of Iowa Voxman Music Building Iowa City, IA
Opening October 2016, the new 180,000-square-foot music school for the University of Iowa will replace the previous one sited along the Iowa River that flooded in 2008. LMN moved the new building 50 feet up the hill, orienting it with the center of the college town. The mostly glass exterior building will hold a 700-seat concert hall, a recital hall with 200 seats, and rooms for pipe organs, classes, rehearsal areas, and faculty. “We wanted to create a building that was an extension of the public experience of the street, so that people could wander in, go to a performance at the music school, or students could come in and visit a professor,” said Reddington.
The building’s small footprint necessitated going vertical, stacking up to five stories of isolated music rooms. LMN developed a theatroacoustics system, a high-performance ceiling system that optimizes acoustics while hiding some of the structural elements such as speakers, microphones, fire sprinklers, and stage lights. “[The theatroacoustics system] was actually a money saving move,” said LMN partner Stephen Van Dyck. “They’re all put together in one gesture. It kind of becomes transcendent beyond any one of those individual pieces,” said Reddington.
Vancouver Convention Centre West Vancouver, BC, Canada
After a series of false starts and shifting sites, LMN knew its design for the west addition to the Vancouver Convention Centre would finally happen if Vancouver won the 2010 Olympic Winter Games bid. The project was included in the bid as the media center. When the architects saw the front page of the Vancouver Sun with the winning news, they knew they would get the green light. “That’s how we knew it was real,” said Chau. The 1.2-million–square-foot convention center addition was completed in 2009. It occupies 22 acres—14 acres on land, eight acres over the water—of what was once a brownfield site.
The convention center boasts a six-acre green roof with 240,000 bees producing honey for the convention center restaurant. The interiors feature local British Columbia wood. The project also supports the maritime harbor ecosystem. “It’s linked into the landscape, habitat, and shore system,” said Reddington. “There’s a marine habitat that goes around the edge of the building and underneath.” LMN used the concrete loading dock as the infrastructure to support a reef, said Van Dyck.
Sound Transit U Link University of Washington Station Seattle, WA
LMN designed the University of Washington light rail station and surrounding open space that opened in March 2016. The boarding platform can accommodate up to 1,600 people. “We had to link in all of this stuff—a bridge, a bicycle pathway, a head house, escalators, stairs, and then the station block underground that is 500 feet long,” said Reddington. Perhaps the most challenging, but rewarding, part of the project was designing the smoke chamber. “For fire requirements you have to create a big smoke chamber,” said Reddington. “If there is a fire somewhere, it helps isolate the fire so people can get out and not have smoke running all the way through the entire station.”
LMN worked with Seattle artist Leo Saul Berk, who created “Subterranium,” an installation made with nearly 9,000 square feet of custom deep blue metal backlit panels that wrap the smoke chamber. The panels tell the story of the site’s geology. “By integrating a lot of things into a single system, you have the capacity of one system to solve many problems—like a smoke enclosure that is now the main sculptural expression of a subway station,” said Van Dyck.
Make No Small Plans
Inside the diverse practice of Chicago- and Philadelphia-based PORT Urbanism
It is sometimes difficult for people who encounter PORT Urbanism’s work to know whether the projects are hypothetical or practical urban proposals. Despite this confusion, PORT would tell you that all of its work is practical, if not sometimes fantastic.
With small offices in Chicago and Philadelphia, PORT Urbanism fits into a niche of designers that are not typical urban planners and not strictly architects. As its name would suggest, it works at the urban scale, engaging with city governments and large-scale developers to envision near and far futures for public spaces.
AN visited the firm’s Chicago office, which seats four in a small space on the ninth floor of the Burnham and Root–designed Monadnock Building. The office walls are plastered, floor to ceiling, in bright renderings, small models, site photos, and marker-laden site maps. Partner Andrew Moddrell and two employees make up the Chicago office, while the Philadelphia office is comprised of partner Christopher Marcinkoski and one other employee. Moddrell and Marcinkoski started PORT in 2012. With the support of academic positions at the University of Illinois Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania, they were able to practice on their own terms.
Despite PORT’s small size, it is no stranger to large and complex projects. After being chosen from a request for proposal for a Denver park design with Denver-based Independent Architecture, a NIMBY battle ensued. The project was eventually moved and redesigned for a new park in a neighborhood with a community that appreciated the project. PORT is now moving forward through design development with an improved plan.
Presented at the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the Big Shift envisioned adding a new coastline and additional land east of Millennium and Grant Parks in downtown Chicago. While dismissed by many as too far-fetched, the project struck a chord with critics and the public. “If we had proposed putting an island in Lake Michigan, then nobody would have cared,” Moddrell said. “But when we ground it in the precision of an infrastructural hierarchy and proposed repositioning of Lake Shore Drive, extending boulevards, and turning Grant Park into a Central Park, and pitch it with a straight face, it is not just architects screwing around for other architects.” Moddrell stands by the idea, however grandiose, as a serious, though speculative proposal.
Carbon T.A.P. (Tunnel Algae Park) New York, New York
Winner of the WPA 2.0 competition, the Carbon T.A.P. envisions a carbon-harvesting algae park attached to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. The speculative project proposes to use carbon dioxide released by cars passing through the tunnel to feed algae that can be used to produce oxygen, biofuels, bioplastics, nutraceuticals, and agricultural feeds. Linked to the algae production is a large-scale public space in the form of a swinging bridge. Part of the rationale behind the project is that with the introduction of an innovative industrial infrastructural typology—carbon-reducing algae farms—a new civic infrastructural typology can be realized.
The Big Shift Chicago, Illinois
The Big Shift was originally conceived as an entry to the Art Institute of Chicago’s show Chicagoisms. It was developed further for the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial. The Big Shift proposes to move Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive east and add hundreds of new acres of land in order to expand the city’s downtown and produce hundreds of new acres of park along the lake. Making no small reference to Chicago’s history of reconfiguring its lakeshore, which was mostly fabricated after the 1871 fire, the Big Shift aims to produce trillions of dollars of new real estate. Despite its large upfront infrastructural costs, the plan highlights the advantages of a lakeside park that is three times the size of the current park and of 30 new city blocks of tax-paying, job-producing real estate.
City Loop Denver, Colorado
City Loop is a $5 million public park planned for the City of Denver. Comprised of a continuous ribbon of program and activity space, the Loop is designed to encourage healthy lifestyles and active play. A series of tubes, colorful paths, and diverse activity pods stretch over the half-mile loop, providing for every age group and taste. Along with physical health, the park aims to promote social and cultural well-being as a civic and community space. The full team working on the project is PORT, Denver-based Indie Architecture, Indianapolis-based Latitude 39, Boulder, Colorado–based engineers Studio NYL, Denver-based metal fabricators JunoWorks, athletics consultant Loren Landow, and Tulsa, Oklahoma–based contractors Site Masters Inc.
Goose Island 2025 Chicago, Illinois
In an ongoing collaboration with Chicago developers R2, PORT’s Goose Island 2025 addresses the large industrial Goose Island on the near North Side of Chicago. A planned manufacturing district, Goose Island is now in the middle of a quickly developing part of the city. The island itself, though, has seen little development due to its designation as a planned manufacturing district and the city’s lack of an overall vision. R2 and PORT’s plan looks at the possibilities of the island as it continues as a place of industry, as well as anticipates a future in which some of its land may become available for other programs.