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Rural Excellence

New school ties together Nebraska towns torn apart by tornados
On June 16, 2014, a tornado tore through the small agricultural community of Pilger, Nebraska, causing catastrophic damage to the village 85 miles northwest of Omaha. The tornado, one of two that hit Pilger on the same day, was part of a multi-day storm that produced more than 100 tornados across the Great Plains. The EF-4 grade storm generated winds of up to 200 miles an hour, left two people dead and sixteen critically injured, and caused the destruction of over half of the village’s buildings. As it spiraled its way from Pilger’s main street, the storm took out the clerk’s office, post office, a Lutheran church, a convenience store, and half of Pilger’s homes. Grain bins belonging to the local farmers’ co-op blew away, leaving behind mountains of soybeans and corn. The Wisner-Pilger Middle School, the only school in Pilger, also sustained heavy damage. Built in 1909, the school served K-12 students from the village until 1969, when the Pilger School District consolidated with the neighboring community of Wisner. At the time the storm hit, the Wisner-Pilger Middle School served approximately seventy-five 5th and 6th grade students, while an elementary-through-fourth grade school and a high school were located in Wisner, ten miles east. The condition of the school left the Wisner-Pilger Board of Education with contentious choices that weighed on both communities: rebuild the destroyed middle school; bring all three schools to a new building in Pilger; or combine all three schools on one campus in Wisner. “Educationally, a single-site school was the best solution,” said Darin Hanigan, project coordinator at BVH Architecture, based in Lincoln, Nebraska. BVH visited Pilger within days of the tornado hitting to explore restoration of the 1909 Wisner-Pilger Middle School but found that the damage was too extensive to repair. The decision was made to create an addition to the high school in Wisner for pre-K through 6th grade. The new school needed to be an object of pride for both Wisner and Pilger. “Rural communities get a new building once every five years—if they are lucky” said Hanigan. “They want to make a statement.” For BVH, making a statement started from the inside out. This included omitting rooms that cater to only one use and taking a look at opportunities for the structure to complement the school’s unique educational model. In the school, students spend only 20 percent of their time in their assigned classrooms—the rest is spent in flexible, sometimes multiuse spaces; the commons, located just inside the school’s entrance, serves as a gathering place but also as a lunchroom. With all students learning under the same roof, grades are able to collaborate, creating more opportunities for students to learn at different levels, and spaces needed to accommodate that. Moving throughout the building, students pass through a tactile environment with ample room to display their work. Laser-cut metal panels with designs inspired by math, language, the solar system, and local topography adorn the school. Surfaces are kickable, trackable, writable, and often magnetic. Windows are carefully placed to support educational activities, with low windows located inside reading nooks, and high windows placed in resource spaces and hallways. High windows are kept away from teaching walls to minimize glare. Windows are arranged throughout the school to accommodate views at a range of heights, whether the students are walking through the school or seated at their desks. “Students spend their time inside versus outside, so that’s where the money should go,” Hanigan said. Spaces abound with diffuse light, courtesy of a cost-effective metal screening system. BVH Architecture remained ever-mindful of the destructive potential that precipitated the need for the new school. The roof system of the band room has a hollow core integrated into the precast wall, with the band room itself set inside the school’s center. The band room has the ability to shelter every student and educator on the campus if a tornado were to pass through again.
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Staying in the Loop

Space p11 adds to Chicago’s underground art and architecture scene
“The pedway is an exquisite corpse,” said Space p11 director Jonathan Solomon of the assembly of underground spaces that make up Chicago’s Pedway, the subterranean home of the new design and architecture-focused gallery. “We are looking to encourage the many institutions above to take ownership and make the pedway a space for culture.” That notion of ownership, or perceived lack thereof, along with substandard signage, uneven maintenance and concentration of urban odors causes many Chicagoans to shame the pedway. Space p11 (‘p’ for Pedway, ‘space 11’ on the leasing plan) offers an emollient in the form of a formerly anonymous space filled with work dedicated to shared agency. This commitment to shared agency brought a series of actions to the Pedway coinciding with the debut of Space p11, which Solomon directs alongside David L. Hays. The Chicago Loop Alliance partnered with artists to work in and with the Pedway through a series of pop-up experiences, dubbed Short-Cuts, activating elements like walls and abandoned phone booths with performance, drawing, and audio installations. Space p11 opened on December 3 with Phytovision by Lindsey French, an experiment in the hierarchy of perception between humans and plants. Within Space p11, French created a space full of vegetative (not creature) comforts, including a digital video slowed to plant time and shown to a plant audience. The plants watch underneath lights in their preferred colors, red and blue, which combine to flush the gallery in magenta. “People actually think it’s a weed shop,” joked Solomon. The Chicago Pedway is a five-mile network of formal and informal underground pedestrian routes connecting forty city blocks and almost fifty buildings in the Loop. Included are both public and private along with the occasional building lobby and basement. In addition to Space p11, the Pedway houses a mix of services and amenities, including salons, dry cleaners, and a number of idiosyncratic underground bars and restaurants. The Pedway began in 1951 as a tunnel connecting the State Street Subway to the Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway, joining together what are now the Red and Blue lines of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) system. Subsequent phases occurred in 1966, connecting the Civic Center to the Brunswick Building at 69 West Washington, through the late 1980s, and in 2005, when Millennium Station was completed. An additional extension was created in 2010 to connect the portion north of Lake Street to Aqua Tower, located at 225 North Columbus Drive. While the City of Chicago manages and cleans general areas of the Pedway, it is not responsible for privately owned sections, or those managed by the CTA. The system is not tended evenly, and signage does not remain consistent, confusing infrequent users and discouraging its use altogether for some. Those looking for consistency in the architecture of the Pedway are hard pressed to do so. While the Pedway portion of an individual building often captures what’s going on above, it doesn’t often give it sublime qualities. While there is terrazzo and marble, there are also portions of the system with as much personality as a jet bridge. Like the city above, the Pedway is not perfect. Space p11 is a project of Acute Angles, Inc., the publishers of the design journal Forty-Five. The gallery is designed by Future Firm, which has subtly improved the space by adding materiality to existing elements, along with lifting the language of retail through window framing and customary signage. “p11” is scripted in neon tube above a felted black letterboard announcing the bill of fare. A custom steel sandwich board in white and chrome auto paint is displayed outside the gallery during open hours. Through March 5, Space p11 presents Coalescence, a video installation by Rosemary Hall and Alberto Ortega that seeks to stretch our engagement with the biological and social world. Space p11 55 E. Randolph Street Pedway Level Chicago Chicago, Illinois
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Painted Furniture

Artist Leslie Wayne reveals What’s Inside her inner world
A new exhibition by New York–based artist Leslie Wayne explores everyday spaces and how, through alternative modes of representation, we can see those environments in a deeper light. What’s Inside, now on view at New York City's Jack Shainman Gallery through March 30, features Wayne’s newest collection of paintings that detail basic domestic scenes like messy closets, busy bookshelves, and broken windows. These disheveled objects evoke a German Expressionist perspective, according to the artist, and unveil Wayne’s political and personal anxieties through singular depictions of an inner world that’s “not quite right,” but can be fixed. AN spoke with Wayne via email about the layered inspiration behind What’s Inside, and how color, both in architecture and in painting, can manipulate the emotions of its viewers. She also explains why studying art that highlights buildings or interior design can ultimately strengthen a person’s appreciation for the built environment. The Architect's Newspaper: Your current collection seems to build off your previous window pieces for Free Experience. Can you explain why you decided to continue that project and how this show takes those previous themes to another level? Leslie Wayne: As an abstract artist, my whole career, I’ve been wanting to bring representation into my work, but I didn’t quite know how it would manifest itself given the idiosyncratic way I use paint. Those first window paintings gave me a way to do that. Conceptually, they allowed me to express my feelings and ideas about the world around me, about the current state of affairs, as well as my own personal life, by using domestic architectural forms as a motif and as a kind of organizing principle. I realized that my abstract paintings always kept you on a threshold—of what was visible, and what was beneath and behind the surface that you could never quite completely see or understand. Architectural thresholds can operate in much the same way. By making a painting of a doorway that is just barely cracked open, or a window that is boarded up, I’m keeping you on that threshold. So actually, I’m still exploring the same thing, only in a more pictorial way.    AN: Why did you choose to focus on normal interior objects and spaces? What draws you to imagining these details in a new way? LW: I’m drawing largely on my immediate surroundings—the armoire in my bedroom, the tool chest in my husband’s studio, and my bookshelves. While the forms as furniture are universal, their contents are autobiographical, and they tell you a lot about what makes up my life. In the beginning, the idea of creating a painting of a closet was just a response to my need to move on from an earlier body of work. But then the idea of closets became more interesting to me as types of containers. Containers, not just of clothing and everyday objects, but of things we hold dear, or secrets we want to keep. And then came the paintings of drawers and bookshelves, containers that hold evidence of your life—books you’ve read, music you listen to, materials you use for work, etc. And on a purely formal level, closets, shelves, and window frames provide an interesting platform for different kinds of architectural motifs, which as a painter is great because it’s just an endless source of visual information. AN: Your work is very colorful and tactile. What do the different colors and the way those hues bring a tangible quality to your paintings say about these mundane architectural spaces you depict? LW: Color is loaded with emotive power, much the same way that music is. It can be used to express tremendously strong feelings, but, because of that, you’re in danger of being manipulative and clichéd if you go too far. It’s tricky. You want to seduce the viewer but not knock them over the head with it! Most people, when they’re thinking about architecture they’re thinking about the facade and the overall shape of a building or an architectural detail. They’re not considering the way in which a building is a container and a shelter and how the design and the color of an interior space can determine the way you feel when you go inside of it. We were in Mexico City recently and went to the house of Luis Barragán. It was very interesting to see how he used color to visually block out certain spaces and establish an overall feeling of a room. Yellow walls made you feel warm and welcomed, pink walls gave you a sensation of joy and anticipation. I loved that. For me, when I’m painting, I try to use color to do much the same thing, to convey a sensation. AN: Why is it valuable to look at architecture and interiors through the alternative lenses of painting or photography, rather than being in the space itself? LW: I would say that it’s valuable to look at architecture and interiors through the alternative lenses of painting or photography in addition to being in the space itself. There’s no substitute for having a direct experience of an architectural space. But I think we take those spaces for granted. And those of us in dense urban environments usually have our heads down (or buried in our cell phones!) when we’re walking rather than looking up and noticing what tremendously rich details are on buildings all around us. It’s valuable to reconsider what those spaces mean to us and art can take you there through the poetry of metaphor and illusion. If you’ve ever been taken by a Fra Angelico painting for example, like The Annunciation, then perhaps next time you’re inside a space that has vaulted ceilings you’ll be reminded of the painting and become aware of the ceiling’s elegance and structural integrity. Or a Dorothea Lange photograph of a young sharecropper’s log cabin can make you really feel what it must mean to live in a structure of such simplicity. Bernd and Hilla Becher spent their lives documenting industrial architecture and brought the simplest most overlooked structures, like water towers, into the realm of the sublime. We look at these things every day, but art helps us see them more deeply. See Wayne’s new show, What’s Inside, at the Jack Shainman Gallery at 513 West 20th Street, New York, New York.
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City on Stilts

First phase of Hudson Yards set to finally open to the public
Four blocks of Manhattan’s Far West Side were rezoned 14 years ago for New York's ambitious 2012 Olympic bid. After a failed attempt to secure the games, the parcel of land was awarded in 2008 to real estate giant Related Companies. Through a public-private partnership in which Related would oversee the design, construction, and long-term maintenance of the site, the group began creating what's now the largest private development in the history of the United States. Set atop a cluster of rail yards between 10th and 11th avenues, the first phase of the multibillion-dollar megaproject known as Hudson Yards is set to open on March 15, when a cohort of towers and parkland previously inaccessible to the public will be unveiled. Ahead of the much-anticipated launch date, here’s a brief look at what’s already opened and what’s coming online this spring. 10 Hudson Yards Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), this 895-foot-tall office tower was the first structure completed on-site in May of 2016 and features 1.8 million square feet of commercial space. It boasts tenants such as Coach, L’Oréal, Sidewalk Labs, VaynerMedia, and Boston Consulting Group, among others. A Spanish food hall by José Andrés will also be located in the building. 15 Hudson Yards Rising 917 feet in the sky, this residential tower will offer 285 luxury apartments and 107 affordable rentals come March. The skinny skyscraper was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) as lead architect and Rockwell Group as lead interior architect. 30 Hudson Yards This commercial tower, also designed by KPF is the tallest in Hudson Yards, stretching 1,296 feet in the air, and is set to open in March. It features the city’s highest open-air observation deck, which will be open to the public in 2020. Major media groups such as HBO, CNN, Turner Broadcasting, Time Warner, and Wells Fargo Securities, are set to move in this March. 35 Hudson Yards Also opening this spring, this mixed-use supertall tower was designed by David Childs of Skidmore, Owings + Merrill. It will house 143 condominiums, as well an Equinox Club at the base of its 92 floors. A branded hotel by the luxury fitness company will also open inside the structure. 55 Hudson Yards KPF worked alongside Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates to design this boxy, 780-foot office structure. Completed last year, it's already opened to tenants, serving as the headquarters of several law firms and financial groups. Vessel/New York’s Staircase Heatherwick Studio’s monumental work, known now as New York’s Staircase or Vessel, was commissioned to become the development’s signature work of art. As the centerpiece of Hudson Yards’ five-acre public park, designed by Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, the spiraling, copper-clad work stands 150 feet tall and weaves 2,500 steps throughout its structure. It will open to visitors starting in March. The Shops and Restaurants a.k.a. 20 Hudson Yards This seven-story structure, designed by Elkus Manfredi Architects, will contain 25 fast-casual dining options and restaurants helmed by famous chefs like Thomas Keller and David Chang. The one-million-square-foot building will also feature over 100 luxury shops and an immersive exhibition space by Snarkitecture called Snark Park. The Shed, a.k.a the Bloomberg Building This 200,000-square-foot structure features a retractable outer shell designed to open and enclose a year-round exhibition space and performing arts venue. Also designed by DS+R in collaboration with Rockwell Group, the structure sits at the base of 15 Hudson Yards and will serve as the city’s newest cultural center. The project will open on April 5.
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X-treme Construction

Extreme architecture: The great lengths (and heights) of high design
Throughout history, many great works of architecture both large and small have been made possible only through incredible feats of engineering and construction. In today’s world—where office and residential towers reach ever-increasing heights, new cities appear in an instant, and stringent safety and structural requirements make building arduous and time-consuming—architects must draw on their experience and know-how to bring innovative new projects to life. Three recent projects by American architecture firms highlight the lengths designers can go (and heights they can achieve) in pursuit of great design. Seattle Space Needle Olson Kundig The Space Needle in Seattle is a superlative building through and through. Built in 1962, the flying saucer-shaped observation tower was recently renovated by Olson Kundig and a daring team of contractors and engineers, including Hoffman Construction, Arup, Fives Lund, and Magnusson Klemencic Associates. To achieve their goal of modernizing the structure, the project team had to work delicately to make sure the weight of added and subtracted materials balanced out, while also ensuring that the majority of the new components could be transported up the needle’s two passenger elevators. Beyond these exacting specifications, crews also dealt with a job site located some 500 feet up in the air as they worked to install new panes of glass around the Space Needle’s flying saucer-shaped Top House. For the project, Hoffman and associated contractors erected a giant covered platform directly underneath the Top House to stage construction activities. The massive structure was lifted into the sky and built out from key hoist points, according to Bob Vincent, project manager at Hoffman. The platform, designed to function more or less like an oil rig deck, was used to stage construction so that workers could access the Space Needle’s Top House from below. The stage created something akin to a massive cocoon around the base of the Top House, and its associated enclosure kept workers protected from the elements. Vincent said, “With the full enclosure, the workers weren’t freezing and materials didn’t fly around too much. It kept wind and elements out, too. When we were done with the project, we dismantled the ring by bringing in all the components from the edges toward the middle.” Embassy in Chad Moore Ruble Yudell Architects A new American embassy campus in N’Djamena, Chad, by Santa Monica, California–based Moore Ruble Yudell (MRY) posed a different set of construction and site limitations. Located in a remote region of the country with a small pool of skilled labor, it fell on the design team to create a state-of-the-art building that could be constructed using locally available materials and building techniques. The approach for the technically complex and decidedly low-tech project was to blend simple finishes and off-the-shelf components with the aim of creating lively but humble buildings. The complex was erected using site-poured concrete walls and modular roof pieces, elements that helped meet the strict security and functional requirements for the embassy. The cementitious walls were then wrapped in exterior rainscreen paneling made up of thin-shell concrete and metal latticework. The lightweight panels, available in standard sizes that could be shipped easily to the site, were chosen to add color and patterning to the pragmatic buildings. In certain areas, including between the main lobby and the cafe, lightweight canopies were strung to create shaded outdoor areas and to collect rainwater. A new, centralized energy plant connected to solar panel arrays was also included in the off-the-grid project. Alexander Residence Mark English Architects While working on extensive renovations to an existing five-story cliffside home in the San Francisco Bay, Mark English Architects (MEA) was only able to deliver construction materials and remove debris via floating barge. With the closest road nearly 200 feet away from the waterfront home and accessible only by steep stairs and a cable car funicular, the design and construction team had to rent several barges to undertake the project. Located on the bayside face of Sausalito, MEA’s Alexander Residence is conceived of as a getaway spot for a client with an extensive art and furniture collection. For the renovation, MEA and GFDS Engineers worked to open up the 1970s-era home by removing some of the unnecessary interior partitions that marked its original pinwheel design. Along the lowest level, for example, facing the house’s private dock, a closed-off bedroom and living area were combined to create a studio apartment. Farther up, a home office, living room, and kitchen were united to form a great room–style arrangement with an elevated dining room, pass-through kitchen, and living area oriented around multimillion-dollar views of downtown San Francisco, Angel Island, and Alcatraz. “We rebuilt the house from inside out,” principal Mark English explained. “Everything we demoed, including the roofing, old doors and windows, and drywall, had to go out through the dock by barge.” The same was true for all of the replacement materials coming in, including new lengths of structural steel that were added for seismic resiliency and to transfer loads over some of the new window openings. For these elements, the contractors added a crane to the barge that was then used to lift the steel beams into place. English added, “We talked to two or three builders before settling on Landmark Builders. The others would inevitably bring up how difficult and expensive it would be to do this project. Luckily, we eventually found someone who thought it would be interesting to take on this out-of-the-ordinary project.”
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Ballad of the Ballot

Mayoral hopefuls talk architecture and policy before Chicago votes
On February 26, Chicagoans will go to the polls and choose one of fourteen candidates for mayor, the most seen on a general election ballot since 1901. Once Rahm Emanuel announced he would not be running for a third term and the cohort of dozens of candidates began whittling itself down, The Architect’s Newspaper began looking into the crowded field of candidates to see how they might address critical issues relating to the built environment, architecture, and historic preservation. The 2019 election is a cacophonous mix of candidates, and even with a number of familiar names from across the county and state, determining a probable winner is difficult. While former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle have shown to be frontrunners in recent polls, Illinois Comptroller Susanna Mendoza, former Chicago Public Schools President Gery Chico, and entrepreneur Willie Wilson aren’t far behind, and no candidate has been able to crack a majority. Other candidates rounding out the ballot include former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, former Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, former Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, former Alderman Bob Fioretti, State Representative La Shawn Ford, lawyers Jerry Joyce and John Kozlar, and Community Organizer Amara Enyia, who received a surge via a nod and a campaign contribution from Chance the Rapper. All bets are off if no candidate receives a majority of the votes and a runoff election is held April 2. In November, FBI agents raided the office of 14th Ward alderman Edward Burke, the longest serving alderman in Chicago, over allegations that he extorted the owners of a Burger King after they sought permits to remodel. While both mayoral candidates Preckwinkle and Mendoza have connections with Burke, it’s difficult to gauge how that association will play out at the polls. In January it was revealed that 25th Ward alderman Danny Solis was also under federal investigation for misusing his official office, and that Solis had served as a confidential informant against Burke and had worn a wire in order to deal with his own federal investigation. Chicago has a long history of political corruption and apparently intends to live up to that reputation. The next mayor of Chicago faces a number of issues connected to the built environment. The city’s tax increment financing (TIF) program, established to jump-start development in blighted areas, has been used on wealthy downtown development projects that arguably need little assistance getting off the ground. With the program running a surplus, City Council members have been calling for reform, a demand that has become increasingly louder as megadevelopments like Lincoln Yards, expected to become a new TIF district, breeze through the Chicago Planning Commission. Every candidate has spoken out on making the TIF program more transparent and accountable. Candidates have also spoken out about the need for more affordable housing across the city, with some advocating for the return of small accessory dwelling units (ADUs) as a way to increase the number of affordable homes, and others calling for an elimination of the opt-out clause of the Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO). Mayoral candidates also have Rahm Emanuel’s legacy to deal with, whether that means dismantling it or using the initiatives he created and executed during his two terms as a springboard for the future. Aligning with Emanuel and his policies could mean alienating voters who are looking for change, yet Chicago’s political web is threaded so tightly that denouncing Rahm could mean denouncing some of his powerful friends. AN contacted each of the candidates looking for answers to questions relating to public policy about the built environment. Below are the edited questions and answers provided by every candidate who responded. The Architect’s Newspaper: The Obama Presidential Center (OPC) promises to bring economic and cultural benefits to the south side of Chicago, yet the Obama Foundation will not sign a community benefits agreement (CBA), and the OPC will subtract public parkland from Jackson Park for private use. How might you as mayor work to ensure that the development will have tangible positive effects on the communities that will be impacted by its construction? Lori Lightfoot: I am pleased that the OPC will be in Chicago. It represents a significant investment in a community that needs it. Credit should be given to Jackson Park residents who have and continue to raise issues with the OPC’s impact on surrounding neighborhoods. I would work to bridge the current divides to come to an equitable and respectful solution to the remaining outstanding issues. Paul Vallas: The OPC is an exciting new development. I do believe that the Center would have provided Chicago with even greater benefits had it been sited on the west side of Washington Park where it would have been more directly accessible to CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) rapid transit and could have provided even greater catalyst activity to a neglected corner of the South Side. It is regrettable that the City has agreed to relocate Cornell Drive to accommodate the current plan. At $200 million, the relocation of Cornell is a costly undertaking for a City that is facing severe financial challenges. I would prefer to see the site altered to have the center be less intrusive on public lands, though I realize that this deal may be final—barring any actions on the pending federal lawsuit.  Bob Fioretti: We need a CBA. Period. A community benefits agreement, as well as conditions, including a new trauma center on the South Side, were aspects I asked for from the start from the project. City council agreed to a CBA on the Olympic bid. There are other properties in the area that are better suited for the OPC. Jackson Park is not the place to put it. AN: Mayor Rahm Emanuel has stated that he will block the sale of the Thompson Center by the State of Illinois over concerns that the building’s liquidation and potential demolition will disrupt Chicago’s busiest public transit hub. There have also been calls that the structure is a representation of political waste and should be demolished, and a counter argument by preservationists that the building is a masterpiece of architecture.  What do you see in the future for the Thompson Center? LL: As a lover of Chicago’s architectural history, in general, my first instinct will always be to protect historical treasures. The Thompson Center has had a checkered history and there are valid concerns about maintenance. The fight between outgoing Governor Rauner and Mayor Emanuel should be in the rearview mirror. I would welcome dialogue with the Pritzker administration to devise a plan for the building’s future. PV: The demolition of the Thompson Center would be a terrible waste. Though it has its design issues and needs work to address the years of deferred maintenance, it strains credulity to think that a sale of the center and moving state workers to other quarters would eventually produce a net savings to taxpayers. I also believe that the center is an important piece of architecture that is worthy of preservation. I think the best option may well be the redesign proposal of the center's architect, Helmut Jahn, which envisions constructing a tower on the southwest corner of the complex. Such a tower could provide a valuable income stream to the state if properly executed. BF: I’ve been to Berlin and seen other structures that Helmut Jahn has developed, and I like the Berlin design better. At $300 million it should have been sold a long time ago, and I want to listen to the purchaser and the community. If the whole community says “yes, let’s take it down,” then take it down. AN: Chicago is world-renowned as a center for architectural thought and practice, as evident by the presence of many American masterpieces and new favorites by Frank Gehry and Jeanne Gang. Yet neighborhoods are losing their historic building stock, many of it designed and built for and by average working Chicagoans. Demolition is changing the character of neighborhoods and making way for developments that could cause displacement, affecting the ability for a community to be affordable. What can we do as a city to better preserve the architectural history of working-class Chicago while also encouraging growth and development? LL: Much of the city’s history, beauty, and character is found in its neighborhoods. In my 32 years in Chicago, I have lived on the south, west, and north sides. And in that time, I have seen how our neighborhoods have changed. Sometimes for the better, as can be seen from the considerable efforts to preserve and revitalize the Pullman neighborhood, and sometimes not—as is evident in parts of the Southport Corridor and Lincoln Avenue in North Center, where historic two- and three-story buildings have given way to generic, monolithic three- and four-story condominiums. PV: More needs to be done to make certain that redevelopment in historic neighborhoods be done with as much sensitivity as possible, both to reuse as much of the historic housing stock as possible while also reducing potential blight resulting from insensitive, out-of-scale development projects. Some of this could be achieved by exploring landmarking of additional historic areas. Chicago also needs to develop more programs to spur development of the large inventory of abandoned properties throughout the city's more economically challenged areas. BF: It seems like every time we turn around another building is being demolished. I want to slow down this demolition and increase the importance of Chicago’s historic housing stock. As the former president of the Pullman Foundation, I look at what we did there in 1965 as a blueprint. The people rose up to fight the construction of an industrial complex between 111th and 115th Street and Cottage Grove. AN: In 2013, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) closed 49 elementary schools and one high school, promising students that closing underperforming schools would provide a boost in the quality of education and help liquidate CPS debt. Many of these schools remain vacant and unsold, and their closure has proven to have had a negative effect on CPS students and families. As schools sit empty, they affect neighborhood health, public safety, and economic development. How will you resolve the negative effects of school closures on students and neighborhoods? LL: We need to give communities the opportunity to improve underperforming schools before deciding on further closures. The mayor and CPS must examine the condition of each building to determine a possible future use. This must be done sooner rather than later so CPS can eliminate unnecessary carrying costs where possible, return land to the property tax rolls, or prevent buildings from deteriorating. If a building is going to be sold, then CPS should work with the surrounding community to identify future uses that can benefit the community. This could include selling a vacant school to a non-profit or for-profit affordable housing developer that will make units available for rent or sale. I envision converting some of these buildings into business incubators that are easily accessible for people on the west and south sides, and using others to provide wrap-around services, such as daycare, job training programs, ESL classes, and health care. PV: As the former CEO of CPS, I have an intimate knowledge of CPS's real estate portfolio. I lead the efforts to renovate many of those structures, most of which are solid buildings. My time at CPS was the only period in the last 40 years when CPS's enrollment actually grew, and as CEO, I never closed a single school. In that time, I also conducted the major renovations of over 350 buildings. I led the effort to purchase and restore the historic Bronzeville Armory, maintaining its exterior and interior design, while reopening it as the nation’s first public high school military academy. Sadly, Chicago is confronted with the reality of declining enrollment and something must be done with these valuable structures to again make them centers for the community. Months ago, I detailed a plan to re-purpose many of those structures, especially as centers for adult learners, many of whom are in need of career and vocational training. Significant untapped state, federal, and foundation funding could be tapped to help pay for these efforts. BF: The problem is that the black middle class is leaving, and the exodus continues. We had 150,000 empty seats at CPS. Now we have 362,000. Families aren’t going to come back until we make economic changes. I said from day one that CPS won’t be able to resell or repurpose these schools. Homelessness disrupts the atmosphere, so perhaps we transform them to help our homeless kids.
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Labiomista

Mario Botta’s sanctuary for cosmopolitan super chickens rises in Belgium
In a giant cage-conservatory in Genk, Belgium, a toucan is making eyes at me. It has flown onto a nearby perch from a giant nest emblazoned with the neon words “fertility comes from outside” to get closer to a bowl of grapes on my table. After a small, not-so-gracious jump, the bird trots over the table and takes its prize. “They’re confident, aren’t they!” says Koen Vanmechelen proudly, also tucking into the grapes. The already surreal environment is further heightened when the Belgian artist tells me that we're in a studio—something he calls “The Battery”—which is part of his "Cosmopolitan Chicken Project." We're in the Labiomista—a 60-acre complex, the 53,000-square-foot main building and entranceway of which has been designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta. Labiomista, in Vanmechelen’s terms, translates to “mixture of life” and that’s exactly what the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project (CCP) is attempting to make. The 20-year-old crossbreeding program samples chickens from across the world and naturally breeds them, creating a more diverse and subsequently stronger gene pool. As a result, places like Zimbabwe and Ethiopia where Vanmechelen has farms have access to chickens that can live longer in harsh conditions and produce more to benefit communities in need. In Genk, Labiomista showcases this work with flamboyant aplomb. The space is filled with huge chicken portraits alongside stuffed birds (that have died naturally). By the ground floor entrance, 40 stuffed chickens, native to countries across the world, reside neatly on shelves in a recessed alcove behind glass windows. Vanmechelen has found fame using naturally deceased animals as a medium, and more taxidermy with different animals, stretching beyond Genk’s typical fauna, can be found inside. The animal art is dotted around the Botta-designed “Battery”—a steel-framed building with polished concrete floors and a series of 20-foot-high windows that provides an open, flexible space for Vanmechelen. The Battery is split in two and is composed of three floors: At the western end, which is raised, is ground level storage space primed for pick-ups and drop-offs; the second floor showcases Vanmechelen’s art; the third, a mezzanine level that has an interior perimeter balcony hosts an office and more storage space. To the east, visitors will find an open-air gallery where stuffed chickens can be found and there will soon be an enclosure for (live) red junglefowl, the bird from which most domestic chickens descend. “Genk is a wounded place,” said Vanmechelen on a walk around the premises. The small city, which has a population of 65,000, was once home to a successful coal mine, but after that and a zoo that Vanmechelen visited as a child closed, there has been “20 years of nothing.” Botta has taken the site’s history and Vanmechelen’s investment as his cue. The architect has employed black, coal-like, brick to skin the building and cages, which sit on top and on the western side of The Battery, emulate the tectonics of the defunct Winterslag Colliery nearby. As for the rest of the site, Vanmechelen’s plans are edging closer to completion. The "Cosmopolitan Culture Park" will be a zoo of sorts, home to domesticated alpacas, nandus, llamas, emus, camels, dromedaries, and ostriches as well as a breeding area for chickens. The animals will be enclosed by natural elements such as a small lake, a moat, and ha-ha walls designed by Belgian landscaping firm Buro Landschap, keeping them from getting too close to visitors and vice-versa. Vanmechelen has curated a journey through the park; a one-mile-long serpentine concrete pathway traverses the park’s topography from the Botta-designed entrance (Vanmechelen calls it the “Ark”) round to The Battery. The park also accommodates large-scale sculptures from Vanmechelen and an amphitheater that will be used as a venue for talks by locals, artists, and scientists. A significant proportion of the park will also be left untouched per an agreement with Belgium’s National Parks Department and will be used to bring back wolves to the area. “People, when they come here, need to understand that it’s a place about human rights and a sustainable society,” said Vanmechelen. “The evolution of the chicken is part of human culture and everyone should be able to see that here.” Labiomista is scheduled to be open to visitors this summer.
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Holy Houston

Farshid Moussavi wins competition to design first Ismaili cultural center in the United States
London-based architect Farshid Moussavi has been selected by His Highness the Aga Khan to design an Ismaili cultural center on an 11-acre site in Houston, Texas. This will be the seventh such center in the world and the first in the United States. Moussavi's scheme was chosen over designs presented by a roster of leading architects including Rem Koolhaas, Jeanne Gang, and David Chipperfield. As home to approximately 40,000 Ismaili Muslims, Houston has one of the largest Ismaili communities in the U.S. Like the other Ismaili cultural centers around the world—in Toronto; London; Lisbon, Portugal; Vancouver, British Columbia; Dushanbe, Tajikistan; and Dubai, U.A.E.—built over the past four decades, the Houston center is intended to serve as an educational, cultural, and spiritual institution for the worldwide Ismaili community and the broader public. The centers are characterized by distinctive designs that blend Islamic aesthetic precepts and symbolism with their local contexts. The Houston center will host a space for prayer and reflection, and will offer areas for public programs, cultural exchange, and discussion. While preliminary renderings for the center have not been released, a spokesperson for the Ismaili Council told the Houston Chronicle that the Center “should be distinctly American and Texan in its approach, but expressive of Houston’s diverse cultures.” The Houston center will be located across from Buffalo Bayou Park, one of the city's main green spaces, and is seen as part of a burgeoning cultural corridor anchored by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, along with other planned public art offerings in the park. The landscape elements of the center are expected to be an integral part of the overall design, and will be led by Thomas Woltz of Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects. This will be the second U.S. project for Farshid Moussavi, who designed the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland, which opened in 2012. Her portfolio includes residential complexes, retail flagships, parks, and office towers in Paris, London, and elsewhere in Europe. In her previous practice, Foreign Office Architects, she also designed numerous award-winning projects that ranged from social housing to master plans, including the Yokohama International Cruise Terminal and the Spanish Pavilion at the Aichi International Expo. Moussavi, who is also a professor in practice at Harvard GSD, has previously taught at the Architectural Association in London, Columbia, Princeton, and UCLA. She is a Royal Academician and was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2018 for services to architecture. The design team for the center also includes Hanif Kara, co-founder of engineering firm AKT II and Harvard GSD professor, who will serve as structural design consultant, and Paul Westlake of DLR Group, who is the architect of record. The project is expected to be complete in several years, with the timeline dependent on Moussavi's design.
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There's Norway Out

Norway’s E39 superhighway will connect its coast and break a few records
A $47 billion proposal to link together Norway’s wild western coastline is the nation’s largest and toughest infrastructure project yet, according to NPR. The project's new highway would connect Oslo in the southeast to the coastal cities of Bergen, Stavanger, Alesund, and Trondheim, replacing numerous ferries with tunnels and bridges. But because of challenging geography, architects and civil engineers have been forced to develop new and inventive ideas to complete the route. After decades of building roads all over the country, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA) understands the nation's waterways, full of endless mazes of fjords and lakes, were not designed to be conquered by the automobile. And with its freezing weather and rugged mountain soil, only a select especially acclimated number of people inhabit this area of Scandinavia—a number that decreases yearly. Most attribute depopulation in these areas to a lack of accessibility. All local road transportation relies on small highways that crisscross the region’s valleys, and the only way to navigate past most waterways is by ferry, which can take upwards of 45 minutes each; in some areas, driving to the neighboring city can require three ferry trips. Mayor Martin Kleppe of Tysnes, a region of rural municipalities located on an archipelago off the coast, told NPR that, "The ferry is a beautiful trip, but it's more an obstacle than a good connection." Tysnes's population has decreased by 50 percent over the last century, a decline the project is meant to counter. But where there's a challenge, there's a solution. The renderings and video released by the NPRA for the project depict some grand ideas—suspension bridges, tunnels, underground junctions—to link all waterways, connect remote island towns, and drastically improve accessibility to the region from the rest of Scandinavia. If completed, the project would contain a number of record-breaking engineering marvels: the suspension bridge at Sognefjord, for example, would have 1,500-foot-high towers and its 12,100-foot-long span would dwarf even the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and the Millau Viaduct. But it is not all figured out quite yet. The NPRA's greatest challenge is at the Sula fjord, the deepest and the widest of them all, and an important shipping route. To cross the 3 miles of water while leaving the 66-foot-high clearance for boats to pass, engineers stand with two likely proposals. The first is a rather awkward three-tower suspension bridge. The two exterior towers would be placed on land, the center tower being anchored to the seafloor.  The second proposal is the first of its kind in the world: a submerged tunnel tethered not to the seabed below, but above to floating pontoons. While many other underwater tunnels already connect vast waterways—those of Chesapeake Bay, from Copenhagen to Malmö, and Hong Kong to Macau, for instance—one that floats could open new doors in the civil engineering world. A project of this magnitude is going to not only make a massive mark on Norway’s majestic landscape and make life easier for its residents, but it will also open the area to the rest of the world. This endeavor may put the global spotlight on the far north.
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Tolls Are Coming

Possible congestion pricing plan for Los Angeles takes a step forward
A plan to bring congestion pricing to Los Angeles County has taken a tentative step forward, The Los Angeles Times reports. In an effort to reduce traffic while also raising funds for new mass transit projects, next month the board of directors for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) will take up an initiative to study the issue. The initiative, if approved, would allow the board to assemble a panel of experts to investigate how congestion pricing might work in Los Angeles County, where The Los Angeles Times reports nearly three-fourths of commuters drive to work. According to Metro, it could take up to two years to study possible congestion pricing plans. Metro’s consideration of congestion pricing comes as the transit authority gears up for its “28 by 28” initiative, a plan that seeks to bring over two dozen transformative transportation projects to fruition before the city hosts the 2028 Olympics. The 28 by 28 plan would build-out L.A.’s planned public transportation system as envisioned by the recent Measure M initiative. The 2016 measure raised county sales tax rates to partially fund system expansions to the tune of $860 million per year. That’s a sizable chunk of what’s needed to bring many projects to life, but ultimately not enough to have them completed before 2028, hence the need for additional funding. Metro is expected to tap federal and state funding sources—including California’s gas tax funds—to fill in funding gaps for projects that include a new transit route crossing the Sepulveda Pass, the completion of the Purple Line to Westwood, and a new transit line connecting Downtown Los Angeles with the southeastern suburb Artesia. Congestion pricing could help bridge the gap for the agency, however. According to The Los Angeles Times, a recent Metro report indicates that a per-mile tax on driving could raise $102 billion over ten years and that a fee to enter Downtown Los Angeles could bring in an additional $12 billion. Metro officials claim that congestion pricing could bring in enough new funding to lower base transit fares or even make the entire system free to ride. It’s possible that with the right congestion pricing plan, Metro could make transit more affordable and useful as it makes driving more expensive and difficult in tandem.
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Chiseled Physique

Snøhetta’s Upper West Side skyscraper may have its permits revoked
New York City’s Department of Buildings (DOB) has fired a shot across the bow of developer Extell Development over 50 West 66th Street, a Snøhetta-designed 775-foot-tall tower first revealed at the end of 2017. The 127-unit residential tower, which was first announced as a 262-foot-tall building in 2015, has used a contentious zoning tactic to boost the building’s height, and accordingly, the prices it can command. The middle of the tower includes a 160-foot-tall mechanical void that does not completely count towards the maximum floor area ratio (FAR) defined by the zoning code. While the Department of City Planning had claimed that it would close the loophole in the zoning code responsible for these so-called "towers on stilts" by the end of 2018, that deadline has come and gone. The city now expects to finalize their fix by the summer of 2019. Although the DOB had already greenlit construction at 50 West 66th Street, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer announced today that Extell has 15 days to go back the drawing board and remove the unnecessary height. If Extell doesn't, its construction permit would be revoked. “This is a victory not only for the Upper West Side, but for communities all over the city that find themselves outgunned by developers who try to bend or break zoning rules for massive private profit,” wrote Brewer in a statement. A number of Upper West Side residents and City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal have been outspoken opponents of the project, which, if built, would become the tallest building in the neighborhood. It remains to be seen if Brewer’s decision will carry a precedent for similar projects that have gained extra height by stacking their mechanical rooms—a tactic also employed by the piston-like Rafael Viñoly Architects-designed tower at 249 East 62nd Street.
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Post-Prattural

Pratt exhibition looks at architecture of the Anthropocene
A show now up at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery gathers the work of over 40 architects who have considered what architecture could look like in a future world where the built environment is no longer centered around humanity. In a statement, the show's organizers referred to this new era as the Anthropocene, when "humans have been fundamentally displaced from a place of privilege, philosophically as well as experientially, and Western civilization’s traditional distinctions between nature and culture have eroded." The show asks, "What new worlds, and what new concepts of nature and culture can art and design reveal that other modes of inquiry and knowledge cannot?" Ambiguous Territory: Architecture, Landscape, and the Postnatural, which opened last December and will be on view through February 7 was curated by Cathryn Dwyre, adjunct associate professor at Pratt Institute and principal of pneumastudio, Chris Perry, associate professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and principal of pneumastudio, David Salomon, assistant professor at Ithaca College, and Kathy Velikov, associate professor at the University of Michigan and principal of RVTR. The show was organized by the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan. Exhibitors include Ellie Abrons, Paula Gaetano Adi & Gustavo Crembil, amid.cero9, Amy Balkin, Philip Beesley, Ursula Biemann, The Bittertang Farm, Edward Burtynsky, Bradley Cantrell, Brian Davis, Design Earth, Mark Dion, Lindsey french, Formlessfinder, Adam Fure, Future Cities Lab, Michael Geffel, Geoarchitecture @ Westminster, Geofutures @ Rensselaer Architecture, Harrison Atelier, Cornelia Hesse-Honegger, Lisa Hirmer, Lydia Kallipoliti & Andreas Theodoridis, Perry Kulper, Sean Lally, Landing Studio, Lateral Office & LCLA, LiquidFactory, Meredith Miller & Thom Moran, NaJa & deOstos, NEMESTUDIO, Mark Nystrom, Office for Political Innovation, OMG, The Open Workshop, pneumastudio, Rachele Riley, Alexander Robinson, RVTR, Smout Allen, smudge studio, Neil Spiller, Terreform ONE, Unknown Fields, and Marina Zurkow.