Search results for "metro"

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Maybe?

New York's public housing is in crisis. Can architects design the way out?
The Regional Plan Association (RPA) has selected architects Miriam Peterson and Nathan Rich of Peterson Rich Office (PRO) to dream up housing and maintenance strategies for New York City’s deteriorating public housing for the nonprofit planning think tank’s newly-funded chair of urban design. The joint appointment will give the pair the opportunity to build on past work that reimagined the New York City Housing Authority's (NYCHA) developments. It’s a tall order to step into a project that’s supposed to help NYCHA, the landlord for 400,000 New Yorkers, though it’s not necessarily the number of tenants that poses a challenge. The authority has been strangled by decades of under-investment, hobbled by long-running scandals, and faces an estimated $45 million backlog for repairs and capital projects. A December 2018 RPA report stated that maintaining the status quo of broken-down buildings could cost the city an additional $700 million every year that maintenance is deferred. The funding options for public housing are scarce, but nascent development plans aim to fill the gap created by missing funds at the federal level. Over the past five years, PRO has delivered concepts for building out the roofs of NYCHA high-rises and the transforming parking lots that surround the towers into units that scale to the size of two contiguous parking spaces. This time, PRO will have more financial resources and access to RPA experts at their disposal, allowing them to explore housing provision and maintenance in-depth.  While Peterson and Rich have a year to develop a book of scalable public housing concepts, RPA—not NYCHA—is PRO’s primary client. Moses Gates, RPA's vice president for Housing and Neighborhood Development, confirmed that NYCHA is not a partner on the project. He added that the no-NYCHA approach aligns with the organization’s usual M.O. of giving experts free rein to explore ideas that might not be feasible within an agency’s framework. Richard Kaplan, the architect who endowed the chair at RPA, gave the organization the funds so it could focus some of its efforts on urban design. Gates emphasized that here, and with subsequent Kaplan chairs, the architects' ideas are springboards for future action, not prescriptions. For inspiration, Rich told The Architect's Newspaper that they’re looking to London, where public (social) housing is similar in age and design to many NYCHA projects and has similarly struggled with disinvestment. But, unlike centralized NYCHA, London social housing is delivered on a borough-by-borough basis. Borough councils may act as developers, borrowing money against the value of their assets to build market-rate housing that subsidizes the upkeep of social housing units. That approach fits in with an emerging strategy in New York, where the city is entertaining plans to sell air rights and underutilized developable land in certain NYCHA projects to generate revenue for the cash-strapped agency. In a press release, the RPA stated that PRO’s mandate is to deliver ideas that will “bring NYCHA into financial solvency, while better integrating NYCHA into the surrounding communities.” Housing projects in New York are islands, separated spatially—and often socially—from their surroundings, especially in neighborhoods that are whiter and wealthier. From Chelsea to Canarsie, NYCHA stewards the largest portfolio of affordable housing within the five boroughs: If NYCHA residents had their own city, it would be larger than New Orleans, Cleveland, or Pittsburg. However, chronic mismanagement has impaired the agency’s ability to provide safe affordable housing. Last year, the New York Times reported that NYCHA officials routinely disputed the results of lead paint tests in its apartments and exposed children to the dangerous heavy metal. Elsewhere, thousands of families contend with vermin infestations and repair requests that go unanswered. The shameful conditions in the developments, as well as the opportunity to rework the modernist tower-in-the-park paradigm, make NYCHA housing a prime target for architects and planners looking for a do-good project. Most white-collar urbanists, however, have never lived in public housing, nor do they have personal connections to the projects beyond observing them from the sidewalk or reading about them in the paper. Designers also have to contend with a real fear on the part of some NYCHA residents that new development will catalyze displacement and spur neighborhood-wide gentrification. Under these conditions, how can a firm that’s best known for designing art galleries and high-end homes effectively design with, or for New Yorkers who live in public housing? First and foremost, Rich said, PRO intends to address immediate needs, like the mold that afflicts tenants in some developments and heating systems that fail in the dead of winter. This will be the firm’s first go at spearheading a community consultation, so they intend to collaborate with RPA-affiliates to help organize and guide the process.  “It’s just crucial that residents have buy-in during the process and into the project,” said Peterson. “We’re thinking about phasing, how to create a process that sets a project up for success.” RPA has a relationship with Community Voices Heard, a social justice organization primarily led by low-income women and people of color, and together they will work to facilitate connections with NYCHA residents.  NYCHA did not respond to multiple requests for comment on how it regards design proposals from outside the agency. Peterson and Rich first became interested in NYCHA after a 2014 fellowship with the Institute for Public Architecture (IPA) where they, along with urban designer Sagi Golan, thought through public housing in 9x18, a project that would infill development on NYCHA parking lots. The goal now, said Rich, is to think about incremental changes instead of jumping straight from an idea to a construction proposal. "NYCHA is a source of fascination for people in design and planning because it’s a city in a city; it’s just so big," Peterson said. "What we’re trying to do here is focus on actionable ideas."
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Walls of Air maps the myriad divisions that mark contemporary Brazil

In the post-truth age, the effective and public display of meticulously researched data is a welcome change. The Americas Society's Walls of Air exhibition is an instructive and concise mapping of the trends of urbanism, environmentalism, and economic relations, amongst many other subjects. Four Brazilian and Mexican architects curated the exhibition: Sol Camacho, Laura González Fierro, Marcello Maia Rosa, and Gabriel Kozlowski. The Americas Society’s gallery is located on the ground floor of McKim, Mead & White’s Neo-Federal 680 Park Avenue on Manhattan's Upper East Side. The gallery, in contrast to the grandeur of the turn-of-the-century mansion, is relatively stark and divided into three rectilinear spaces. The show's curatorial medium du jour are large format, ten-foot-by-ten-foot UV prints on aluminum composite material, mounted on aluminum frames. The panels are supplemented with video interviews with project researchers. The exhibition was originally displayed in 2018 at the Brazilian Pavilion at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale and began as a research project to examine and discuss the visible and non-visible walls or barriers that make up contemporary Brazil.   It is immediately apparent from viewing the cartographic drawings the exhaustive level of research undertaken to produce them. The curators partnered with a multidisciplinary team with particular expertise on the subject matter for each panel. In total, over 200 professionals, ranging from the fields of social sciences to the visual arts, aided in the project's collaborative research. This data, in some circumstances Excel sheets with over a million entries, was then visualized with a broad toolbox of software including GIS, Rhino, and Illustrator. Visually, the Brazil displayed throughout the exhibition is not bounded by national frontiers, but placed amid a fluid web of global and regional forces. Deforestation, a trend reshaping the Amazon basin, is presented as a continental issue stretching from the Andes to the river deltas on the coast of the Atlantic. Land stripped bare to the west effectively reduces the level of humidity and rainfall in other places, such as northeastern Brazil—in effect, the policies of one locality catastrophically spin outwards across the ecosystem and impact the surrounding region. A particularly well-documented aspect in Walls of Air is the mapping of commodity flows, immigrant migration, and the geography of the country's real estate market. Lines of increasing width are color-coded to specify the material harvested—bearing a fair resemblance to Charles Minard's map of Napoleon's Russian Campaign—and drive from the Brazilian hinterland to the primary trade ports in the country's southeast. The destination of each type of commodity, its monetary value, and the nation's imports are neatly placed on the side margins of the print. When juxtaposed with the concentration of real estate value in the country's southeast and the destination of immigrant groups within the primary economic centers, one can tease out the prevailing socioeconomic contours of Brazil and the geographic inequalities therein. Walls of Air concludes with an analysis of the Brazilian city in history and the present day. Beginning with Portuguese colonization in the 16th century, the curators mark every single city founded within the country since and the maritime routes that fed them. The subject is expanded upon further with the analysis of post-war urban planning, maps of manmade modifications to metropolitan topography, and data focused on acts of insurrection.

Walls of Air: The Brazilian Pavilion at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale Americas Society 680 Park Avenue New York, New York Through August 3, 2019

 
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Open/Work On View

Outpost Office explores the state of architectural education in post-revolution Ukraine
Architecture has faced many challenges in modern Ukraine: shifting narratives around cultural heritage and the legacy of Soviet architecture, predatory developers who willfully ignore planning regulations, a struggling economy, and widespread corruption to name a few. Ukraine’s state institutions of higher education often grapple with badly needed reforms, bloated by outdated bureaucracy and limited resources. But today, only five years after a peaceful revolution came to a tragic end and with war waging at its eastern border, Ukraine’s first independent school of architecture has just completed the inaugural year of its bachelor program in architecture. The newly established Kharkiv School of Architecture (KhSA) and its dedicated community of educators and students are hopeful signs of the bottom-up reforms possible in post-revolution Ukraine. In spite of the frustrating global tug-of-war over its lands, and the sobering societal struggles, a new generation of leaders are being trained to construct Ukraine’s future.  Reformation Calls for reform in post-Soviet Ukraine have been steadily building for many years but became a global focus in 2014 during the “Maidan” movement (now termed the Revolution of Dignity). Although it began in Kyiv as backlash to the former President Yanukovych's decision to reverse an EU agreement, the movement rapidly grew to multi-city protests. The protestors’ grievances grew to include Ukraine’s systematic and widespread corruption, which affects many aspects of daily life, including in higher education. As Lviv-based historian Yaroslav Hrytsak told the Kyiv Post at the time, the revolution was characterized particularly by, “young people who are very educated, people who are active in social media, who are mobile and 90 percent of whom have university degrees, but who don't have futures.” Today, the legacy of the Revolution of Dignity is a young generation that continues to work towards political, social, economic, and educational reforms. For the leaders of the KhSA, the question is how the architects they are training can be not only become responsible practitioners but the reformers Ukraine needs. One of the many positive societal shifts in post-revolution Ukraine is a growing engagement in the built environment. Young activists are leading a charge to save Ukraine’s remaining Soviet modernist architecture from destructive forces, including decommunization laws and aggressive development. Additionally, many architects are returning to Ukraine after training or working abroad and leveraging their experiences to bring visitors and new ideas into the Ukranian architectural community through workshops, forums, and other public programming. A New Model Kharkiv is an industrial city in the northeast corner of Ukraine. The country’s second largest city, Kharkiv was the first capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic before the capital was moved to Kyiv in 1934. In architecture circles, Kharkiv is perhaps best known as the site of Derzhprom, a Metropolis-like complex of constructivist towers interlinked by iconic skyways that made it the largest single structure in the world when completed in 1928.  The KhSA fronts a small square near the confluence of the Lopan and Kharkiv Rivers. Behind its sparkling white Beaux-Arts facade, the activity of the school is intense and frenetic. The lower level galleries are filled with studio spaces and exhibitions. Upstairs, the “big hall” hosts lectures and symposiums on an almost nightly basis. The basement workshop is filled with mock-ups, models, and countless meters of wood. The school rents various lab spaces to a coding academy, a VR company, and other start-ups. The greatest hub of activity is the small office on the lower floor. Inside, the young tutors and directors that run the school day-to-day meet constantly, often planning events and the school’s schedule on a weekly or daily basis. The conversation is intense, vigorous, and constant. No one in the room is over 40.  The KhSA serves a unique population—of its first class of eleven students, ten are women. The students range in age from 18-to-44, many with families and children. Everyone in the first year class is Ukrainian, but the school is in the planning stages of an international master’s program, which they hope to introduce in the coming years to attract students from around the world to study in Ukraine. The KhSA is a new type of architectural education in Ukraine. The school’s statement of purpose is to “prepare a future generation of professional responsible architects and urbanists who will implement spatial changes in Ukraine and will create a quality environment with an emphasis on modern technology solutions, community challenges, and new ideas.” A workshop earlier this summer at the school focused on rehousing some of the nearly 1.5 million internally displaced Ukrainians who have fled the Eastern conflict zone near the Russian border. The school’s founder, Oleg Drozdov, sees training architects to tackle the real-world problems of the Ukrainian context as his young institution’s mandate. Drozdov leverages relationships from his successful practice to identify organizations, municipalities, and projects that could benefit from a relationship with the school.   Open/Work To celebrate the first year of their newly established bachelor's program, program director Kuba Snopek and his colleagues decided to hold a public exhibition and architectural education symposium. Our practice, Outpost Office, was invited to lead a seminar that would work with students to curate, design, and fabricate the exhibition, Open/Work. We quickly discovered that KhSA’s first class was a prolific one. We began by asking the students to collect every single piece of work they had produced and arrange them on the floor of the big hall. Over the next few hours, our students assembled an immense landscape of work, including compositional studies, material experiments, construction details, and modest houses that concluded their studio studies. After a conversation about the work, we asked the students to sweep through the school again, gathering tools, books, posters and any other ephemera that was significant to them. We explained that we were seeking answers to a deceptively simple question: What makes an architecture school?  In many ways, our approach to this seminar and exhibition draws inspiration from previous research work on organizational and material systems of open-air markets and bazaars. Starting in 2014 as a Fulbright Fellow in Ukraine, Ashley became fascinated with architectural logic of organization, tectonics, and display methods found in Ukrainian markets. In 2016 she led “Bizarre Bazaar,” a travel seminar with students from the University of Michigan’s Taubman College to study these environments and make legible their design modalities of organization, governance, and logistics. Like all start-ups, the KhSA works with limited resources. In this spirit, the exhibition utilizes inexpensive materials typical of bazaars and markets in Ukraine—white metal grating, glossy white tiles, and generic LED lights—along with the bazaars’ highly curated organizational approach to display. The white metal grating used as the exhibition’s primary material is also erected by bazaar vendors to densely suspend their goods. Students worked collaboratively to explore organizational methods and detailing more often associated with museum storage than acts of display. Objects in the floating archive are arrayed to produce micro-narratives that celebrated significant accomplishments of their first year. The exhibition not only included student work, but items borrowed from around the school including lecture posters, books, pencils, ✖️ 's (for Ха́рків), pillows, hard hats, woodworking tools, and at least one concrete whale. Ultimately, the exhibition is a moment to reflect on a remarkable milestone before another important "first" arrives... second year.  This project would not have been possible without the supporting institutions that funded our research in Ukraine the last five years, including the Knowlton School of Architecture at the Ohio State University, University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, the Fulbright Program, the Center for Urban History of East Central Europe, and the KhSA. 
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Concrete Wrapping

Boston University's Joan & Edgar Booth Theatre takes center stage with concrete and aluminum
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Commonwealth Avenue, snaking from the Boston Public Garden through the greater metropolitan area, is no stranger to significant cultural venues and institutional buildings. Boston University’s Joan & Edgar Booth Theatre and College of Fine Arts Production Center, by local firm Elkus Manfredi Architects, joins this assemblage with an angled glass curtainwall shrouded in a scrim of ultra-high-performance concrete (UHPC) and flanked by vertical strips of metal panels.
  • Facade Manufacturer Beton Centria Sentech Architectural Systems
  • Architect Elkus Manfredi Architects
  • Facade Installer Stantec Centria Sunrise Erectors
  • Facade Consultant Gordon H Smith
  • Location Brookline, MA
  • Date of Completion December 2017
  • System Custom-designed Sentech curtainwall
  • Products Beton UHPC panels Centria Kolorshift
The 75,000-square-foot building rises to a height of approximately 57 feet and largely follows a rectangular massing. While the majority of elevations rise perpendicularly from the ground level, the north elevation is defined by a 42-foot-tall glass curtainwall tilted at a 14-degree angle. The glass panes, measuring 7-feet-by-14 feet, were structurally adhered on site and lifted into place using a custom steeling rigging system. A scrim of UHPC panels frames the primary northern elevation and folds onto the east and west elevations, a design feature intended to evoke a proscenium screen shrouding the entrance of the theater. In total, there are 83 UHPC panels measuring 14-feet by 7-feet, each weighing approximately 1,600 pounds. Tubular steel outriggers, cantilevered from the slab edge and running horizontally, serve as a platform for the concrete panels. For Beton, a Montreal-based fabricator, the project was a first in their production of ultra-thin concrete.  "Not only does the color of the UHPC concrete tie the building into its immediate surroundings—including the sandstone former Cadillac dealership, a national landmark next door—the material can also take the desired form reminiscent of theatrical fabric, unlike stone," said Elkus Manfredi Architects vice president Ross Cameron. "The engineered concrete-polymer material has three times the tensile strength of traditional concrete yet weighs half as much, so the design team pushed to use the material in these new ways, striving for ever thinner and delicate forms." Besides the entrance atrium, there are limited chances of fenestration across the rest of the building due to performance spaces within. For the remaining elevations, the design team opted for Ipe wood and aluminum siding. Produced by Centria, and treated with their Kolorshift PVDF, the aluminum panels reflect different colors depending on their exposure to sunlight—their character effectively morphs according to weather, time of day, and season. This dichroic effect is amplified along the northern corners of the east and west, where the aluminum panels were installed diagonally, producing a wave-like effect of color differentiation. The relative formality of the south elevation, along Dummer Street, is a response to the immediately adjacent residential neighborhood. Throughout the design process, the design team met regularly with the surrounding community to address their concerns. The use of Ipe wood softens this elevation and links it materially to it wooden dropside neighbors, while louvered windows provide glimpses within.  
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L.A. Transforms Itself

Before the 2028 Olympics, L.A. embarks on its most transformative urban vision in a generation
The 2028 Summer Olympics (L.A. 2028), officially known as the Games of the XXXIV Olympiad, are coming to the Los Angeles region in just nine years. The event will make Los Angeles only the third city in the world, behind Paris and London, to ever host the games three times, and could potentially cement the city’s status as a 21st-century global economic, entertainment, and cultural powerhouse. But what will it take to get there? Though L.A. 2028 has been billed by organizers and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as a no-frills affair that will make use of existing or already planned facilities—“we could do the Olympics probably two months from now,” Garcetti quipped in a recent interview—the effort has become a symbolic capstone for a variety of ongoing urban and regional metamorphoses across Southern California. This symbolic quality has transformed the Olympics from a novel pipe dream into a rallying cry for what could be the most transformative urban vision the city and region have seen in over a generation. When L.A. last held the games in 1984, city officials made history by holding the first and only Olympic games that turned a profit. The effort’s success resulted from a distributed event model that used existing university student housing and training facilities to create a networked arrangement of mini–Olympic Villages across a region spanning from Santa Barbara to Long Beach. Organizers also presented a novel media strategy for the games by fusing spectacular and telegenic installations by Jon Jerde and colorful magenta, aqua, and vermilion graphics by environmental designers Deborah Sussman and Paul Prejza with the marvel of television broadcasting, giving the impression of a cohesive urban vision for the games despite the fact that some locales were more than 100 miles apart from each other. For 2028, local officials are hoping to repeat and surpass these successes. Garcetti, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the private L.A. 2028 committee tasked with bringing the games to life have stated that unlike many recent Olympic games around the world, L.A. 2028 is designed on paper to break even, financially speaking—once again, mainly due to the lack of new purpose-built structures or venues that would be created for the event. But these verbal and rhetorical gymnastics mask the full extent of the coming transformations and underplay both the scale of the games and the effects of what L.A. will have to accomplish to make them happen. In reality, L.A. 2028 will not be possible without the completion of several key initiatives, namely, the ongoing expansion of Los Angeles County’s mass transportation network and the planned expansion and renovation of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). As part of a 50-year vision to double the size of the region’s mass transit network, Mayor Garcetti helped pass a sweeping ballot initiative in 2016 that will transform L.A.’s transportation system. Afterward, as Garcetti worked to secure the Olympic bid, he unveiled the Twenty-eight by ’28 initiative to speed up and prioritize certain transit improvements outlined in the 2016 plan so they can be completed in time for the games. In total, the plan aims to complete 28 infrastructure projects by the time the games begin. One of the new transit lines due to be completed by 2028 will connect the southern end of the San Fernando Valley, where track and field and other events are to be held at the Valley Sports Park in the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area, with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where the Olympic Village is to be located. There, the university is busy preparing to add 5,400 new student housing units. Up to 6,900 new student beds are envisioned by UCLA's latest Student Housing Plan, while up to 1,400 additional student beds could be brought online at several other UCLA-adjacent sites, as well. Though these projects are being built to help address a severe shortage of student housing, they will also ensure that when Olympians arrive to compete in 2028, their accommodations will be in tip-top shape. The southern end of the UCLA campus will connect to the forthcoming Purple Line subway extension, another project that is being sped up in preparation for the games. The line will link UCLA to Downtown Los Angeles, where many of the transit network’s lines converge. The 9-mile extension to the line was originally planned in the 1980s, but was held up by decades of political gridlock. Between UCLA and downtown, areas like West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Hollywood are adding thousands of new hotel rooms in advance of 2028. Though the region is carved up into competing municipalities that have a history of working at cross purposes, it is clear that local decision makers are readying these districts to absorb a substantial portion of the incoming flood of international tourists. For example, a current bid to extend the forthcoming north-south Crenshaw Line— which will connect LAX with the Purple Line north through West Hollywood—has picked up steam in recent months in an effort to provide a direct ride from the airport to this burgeoning hotel and nightlife quarter. L.A. 2028’s major sports park will be located at the L.A. Live complex in Downtown Los Angeles, near the eastern terminus of the Purple Line, where city officials have also been pushing for an expansion of hotel accommodations. Here, as many as 20 new high-rise complexes are on their way as the city works to add 8,000 new hotel rooms to the areas immediately surrounding the Los Angeles Convention Center, where basketball, boxing, fencing, taekwondo, and other sporting events will take place. This new district will be tied together by a nearly continuous podium-height band of LED display screens that could produce a modern-day equivalent of Jerde’s, and Sussman/Prejza’s visualizations. Just southeast of Downtown Los Angeles, the Expo Line–connected University of Southern California campus will host the Olympic media village, which will also make use of existing dormitory accommodations, including a recently completed campus expansion by HED (Harley Ellis Devereaux). Gensler’s Banc of California stadium, also a recent addition, is located nearby in Exposition Park, the home of the 1932 and 1984 games, and will host soccer and other athletic events in 2028. In the park, a newly renovated Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will be retrofit with an elevated base to allow Olympic medalists to rise up out of the ground to receive their honorifics. A trip south on the Crenshaw Line will bring visitors to the Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park, a new state-of-the-art stadium being built for the Los Angeles Rams National Football League team by Turner and AECOM Hunt that is set to open in 2020 and will host the L.A. 2028 opening ceremonies. The stadium will be much more than a sports venue, bringing together a 70,240-seat stadium and a 6,000-seat concert hall under one roof. Its total capacity for mega-events can be stretched to 100,000 people. The stadium will also serve as an anchor to a much larger, 300-acre district that includes commercial, retail, and office buildings along with residential units. This development, formally called the L.A. Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park, is expected to be twice as big as Vatican City. Its staggering expense of more than $5 billion is tempered by the fact that it relies more on private financing than many other NFL stadiums built in the last three decades, which have traditionally leaned heavily on taxpayer funds and the pocketbooks of football fans. Besides the L.A. 2028 games, the stadium is also expected to host the 2022 Super Bowl and the 2023 College Football Playoff Championships. Not far away, Los Angeles World Airports is working on a multiphase effort to bring two new terminals and dozens of new flight gates to the airport, including a $1.6 billion Gensler and Corgan–designed terminal capable of handling “super-jumbo” airplanes for long-haul international flights. The facilities are set to open by 2028 and will join new consolidated transportation hubs that will streamline private automobile, mass transit, and pedestrian traffic for the busy airport. At the end of April, the L.A. 2028 organizing committee updated the estimated cost to be about $6.9 billion, up from the $5.3 billion figure submitted in the city's bid. This still hasn't changed the expectation that L.A. will at least break even on hosting the games. These projects show that while the L.A. 2028 Olympics are being somewhat undersold by their boosters, the investments necessary to bring the games to L.A. are, in fact, quite vast. Ultimately, future Angelenos might look back quizzically at the muted rhetoric surrounding the games and the once-in-a-generation effect they will have on the region.
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Weld-To-Do

Beleaguered Transbay Transit Center to reopen in July
Nine months after cracks were discovered in two structural steel beams of the Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects–designed Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco, the transit hub will finally reopen on July 1. However, busses won’t roll through the $2.2 billion terminal until the end of the summer; at first, only the 5.4-acre rooftop park will be open to the public. The repair plan announced in January appears to have worked, and, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, the building was declared safe by a panel of engineers yesterday. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which covers the entirety of the San Francisco Bay Area, had determined that welding access holes in the two cracked beams had been incorrectly cut during construction, resulting in stress fractures. After the city paid $6 million in testing and $2.5 million a month in security for the closed center, contractors decided to reinforce the two affected beams, and two untouched beams they connect to, with steel plates. Although the three-block-long transit center is safe to occupy again, the interior was stripped during the repairs and workers need more time to reinstall the ceiling and column coverings. Bus drivers, who had previously been picking up and dropping off passengers at a satellite terminal on Folsom Street a block away will need to be retrained as well. So in the meantime, fitness classes will resume on the transit center’s roof and pedestrians can once again explore the park. Still, there’s no news on the progress to bring rail to the complex’s basement, which was built to accommodate high-speed trains but remains empty. No timeline or budget has been agreed upon for a BART and Caltrain extension to the Transbay Transit Center, although politicians and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, the independent agency responsible for bringing rail to the station, have agreed upon the need to do so.
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Fractured Future

Cracks found on L.A. Times building ahead of controversial development
In January, several cracks appeared on the exterior of the historic Los Angeles Times building in downtown L.A. While some have suggested the fissures may be due to ongoing transit construction next door, preservationists also say they could signal a larger problem—one that could threaten a controversial, mixed-use development on the site. The Times Mirror Square project comprises the restoration of the L.A. Times’s flagship building, a 1935 structure by Gordon Kaufmann, as well as a 1948 addition by Rowland Crawford—both recently landmarked buildingsas well as the build-out of two apartments towers in place of what’s now a William L. Pereiradesigned office structure from 1973. Vancouver-based developer Onni Group bought the five-building complex in 2016 and has since been through a fraught preservation battle to move the project forward. But now, the sight of cracks have people wondering what it will mean for the mega-project’s future. “Who is responsible for this?” said preservationist Richard Schave, co-founder of historic L.A. tour company Esotouric, in reference to the cracks. “It’s the $64 million question. That number refers to the cost of phase one construction on the Regional Connector project, L.A.’s massive rail line expansion. A new station is under construction next door to Times Mirror Square and the agency building it, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), may be responsible. Metro is already monitoring the cracks of the L.A. Times buildings using geotechnical sensors. Details on the severity haven’t been released yet, but some think Metro may be forced to provide data for the final environmental impact report (EIR) of the Time Mirror Square project, which is due out in a few months. Don Spivack, a former administrator at the L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency, said if the cracks on the structure are one to two millimeters, there’s nothing to worry about. “They may be cosmetic, not structural cracks,” he said. “But this complex has a tangled history due to its layered construction. Each building was individually engineered and connected to the others in ways that permitted passage between them. If some of those connections were not properly engineered at the time or modified later, the question stands whether or not this poses a risk to their preservation.” This isn’t the only issue. There’s a history of subsidence on buildings in the area when subways are built, and seismic activity has also likely caused them to move over the years, according to Spivak. The L.A. Times reported that, so far, cracks have been noticed in the cafeteria, newsroom, and the Pereira-designed garage of the complex. Visible cracks on the facade can be seen on the first floor of the Crawford Building (a.k.a Mirror Tower), and on its northwest facade at the corner of 2nd and Spring Streets, across from Regional Connector construction. While the idea that the building is sinking has sparked fear, Spivack and John Lorick, a former vice president at the L.A. Times, said it would be nearly impossible for that to be true. They also remarked on the overall neglect that Times Mirror Square had suffered under its last owner, Tribune Media. But, they said, any demolition and construction on or near the site could inevitably alter the historic structures—and Onni Group doesn't have a great track record with that.  “I was not completely surprised when I first read about the damage to the [Kaufmann and Crawford] buildings," said Lorick. "Although the reported damage was attributed to subway construction, I had always eventually expected to read about some accidental but irreparable damage to the Crawford and Kaufmann buildings during demolition or construction on the site because of the complex interconnection of the buildings and their foundations.” When asked for comment, the developer didn’t respond by the time of publication. The L.A. Department of Building & Safety told AN that once the project goes through the entitlement process at City Planning, inspectors will investigate any structural issues brought to light.
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Curatorial Platform

Architect creates app to change how exhibitions are designed
For all the advances in technology over the past decade, the experience of curating and viewing museum shows has remained relatively unchanged. Even though digital archive systems exist and have certainly helped bring old institutions into the present, they have relatively little influence over the ways museum shows are designed and shared. The normal practice is more or less “old school” and even borderline “dysfunctional,” said Bika Rebek, principal of the New York and Vienna–based firm Some Place Studio. In fact, a survey she conducted early on found that many of the different software suites that museum professionals were using were major time sinks for their jobs. Fifty percent said they felt they were “wasting time” trying to fill in data or prepare presentations for design teams. To Rebek, this is very much an architectural problem, or at least a problem architects can solve. She has been working over the past two years, supported by NEW INC and the Knight Foundation, to develop Tools for Show, an interactive web-based application for designing and exploring exhibitions at various scales—from the level of a vitrine to a multi-floor museum. Leveraging her experiences as an architect, 3D graphics expert, and exhibition designer (she’s worked on major shows for the Met and Met Breuer, including the OMA-led design for the 2016 Costume Institute exhibition Manus x Machina), Rebek began developing a web-based application to enable exhibition designers and curators to collaborate, and to empower new ways of engaging with cultural material for users anywhere. Currently, institutions use many different gallery tools, she explained, which don’t necessarily interact and don’t usually let curators think spatially in a straightforward way. Tools for Show allows users to import all sorts of information and metadata from existing collection management software (or enter it anew), which is attached to artworks stored in a library that can then be dragged and dropped into a 3D environment at scale. Paintings and simple 3D shapes are automatically generated, though, for more complex forms where the image projected onto a form of a similar footprint isn’t enough, users could create their own models.  For example, to produce the New Museum’s 2017 show Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon, Rebek rendered the space and included many of the basic furnishings unique to the museum. For other projects, like a test case with the Louvre's sculptures, she found free-to-use models and 3D scans online. Users can drag these objects across the 3D environments and access in-depth information about them with just a click. With quick visual results and Google Docs-style automatic updates for collaboration, Tools for Show could help not just replace more cumbersome content management systems, but endless emails too. Rebek sees Tools for Show as having many potential uses. It can be used to produce shows, allowing curators to collaboratively and easily design and re-design their exhibitions, and, after the show comes down it can serve as an archive. It can also be its own presentation system—not only allowing “visitors” from across the globe to see shows they might otherwise be unable to see, but also creating new interactive exhibitions or even just vitrines, something she’s been testing out with Miami’s Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. More than just making work easier for curators and designers, Tools for Show could possibly give a degree of curatorial power and play over to a broader audience. “[Tools for Show] could give all people the ability to curate their own show without any technical knowledge,” she explained. And, after all, you can't move around archival materials IRL, so why not on an iPad? While some of the curator-focused features of Tools for Show are in the testing phase, institutions can already request the new display tools like those shown at Vizcaya. Rebek, as a faculty member at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, has also worked with students to use Tools for Show in conjunction with photogrammetry techniques in an effort to develop new display methods for otherwise inaccessible parts of the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, a history and naval and aerospace museum located in a decommissioned aircraft carrier floating in the Hudson River. At a recent critique, museum curators were invited to see the students’ new proposals and explore the spatial visualizations of the museum through interactive 3D models, AR, VR, as well as in-browser and mobile tools that included all sorts of additional media and information.
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Where The Sidewalk Ends

Sidewalk Labs rolls out its mobile tracking services in Portland
Portland, Oregon, has partnered with Alphabet subsidiary Sidewalk Labs to roll out a new mobile data collection service, with the goal of tracking how people move through the city. Through Replica, Sidewalk Labs’ program that can aggregate de-identified location data from cellphones and turn it into a “digital map,” Portland will be able to more accurately track public transportation demand and the various ways in which people are getting around. According to GeekWire, the year-long pilot, which has been somewhat under the radar until this point, will cost the city of Portland $457,000. Replica works by first hoovering up de-identified location data from mobile apps, location data aggregators, and telecommunication companies, which sell location data. Using that information, combined with demographic data, Replica can create what Sidewalk Labs calls a “synthetic population” that can be used to model how real people move through any given area. The model is then calibrated against on-the-ground observations for accuracy. A new Replica model is generated every three months to show the impact of new policies and infrastructure on movement patterns. The use of Replica in Portland will be overseen by TriMet, the agency that operates mass transit in the Portland metropolitan area, the Portland’s Bureau of Transportation, and the Portland Metro. Portland’s City Council approved the use of Replica last December, but the program won’t be put in place until Sidewalk Labs provides a model derived from Replica in July that passes the bar set by all three agencies. The initial data aggregation for Replica has already begun, so that Sidewalk Labs can build its initial test population. If the Replica program is approved, the city hopes to use the data provided to measure the usage of bike lanes and public transportation, what impact for-hire vehicles are having on traffic congestion, what areas of the city are underserved transportation-wise, and what facilities are needed in public parks. Because Replica recreates commuting paths, the city would be able to track work commutes as well as where people gather during their free time, providing urban planners with an estimate of what’s actually being used. Replica has the added advantage of providing this information without the need to build surveillance cameras or take surveys, as smartphones are ubiquitous. Of course, privacy advocates have raised concerns over whether the data would truly be anonymous, and who would have access to it, concerns also raised over Sidewalk Labs’ Quayside development in Toronto. Portland has pledged that only the three aforementioned agencies would be able to use the information generated by Replica, but even they won’t have access to the entire dataset, only data returned via filtered queries. Sidewalk Labs is reportedly looking to test Replica in Kansas City and Chicago as well.
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Ready for the Troop

Johnson Favaro reimagines Beverly Hills' La Cienega Park
La Cienega Park and Recreation Center in Beverly Hills, California, is slated for a transformational new master plan by Culver City–based architecture firm Johnson Favaro. Unfolding over the next several years, the 17-acre park will gain a brand new indoor recreation and tennis center, aquatics center, community space, pre-school, as well as 12 acres of sports fields and open green spaces. Opened in 1925, the original park design was novel as it incorporated a water treatment plant with an open public green space. The plant, which was the first on the West Coast to offer municipally-softened water to the community, was designed in a Hacienda architectural style, but fell out of use as larger regional water systems took over the Beverly Hills requirements. But while the plant was discontinued, the park remained very much alive. In 1986, landscape architect Patrick Hirsch proposed a redesign of the park to shift its land use from the majority open space of the original layout to a more “active” layout that included the organized sports fields that were in demand at the time for the surrounding community. The new elements planned by Johnson Favaro continue this trend towards a more “active” parkland, as customized spaces will become more and more important for after-school activities, community gathering, and the arts. Architecture is a main focus of the master plan, with the architects at Johnson Favaro designing two new indoor facilities for the site. A 30,000-square-foot recreation center will house 3 basketball courts, 16 tennis courts (8 indoor, 8 outdoor situated on the facility’s roof), and encompass the indoor sections of the aquatic center. The 25,000-square-foot community center will accommodate multipurpose rooms, art and dance studios, classrooms for educational programming, as well as a teen center. An advanced stormwater retention system will also be installed below the park and new structures, facilitating drainage and limiting runoff. Cars will also be accommodated with two above- and below-grade parking structures located on either side of the boulevard, with space for 600 vehicles. However, the park is set to be accessible via public transit as well, with entrances within walking distance from the purple line of the LA Metro currently under construction. Construction is set to begin as early as 2021 and is expected to be completed by 2023.
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National Landing

Amazon reveals first rendering of its HQ2 in Arlington, Virginia
Amazon has released the first visual for its upcoming second home, or HQ2, in "National Landing," featuring a design by ZGF Architects. Located in Arlington, Virginia, HQ2 will include two new energy-efficient office buildings with room for community space and neighborhood retail. Spanning 2.1 million square feet, the ground-up construction is being developed by JBG Smith and will mark phase one of the online retail giant’s plan to construct a large campus fit for its 25,000 incoming employees. The entire project will be placed within Crystal City’s new mixed-use redevelopment zone, Metropolitan Park, which encompasses 16 acres of unused warehouses and empty parking lots. Not much information on the design has been released so far but, according to Amazon, the first pair of buildings at HQ2 will be LEED Gold certified and will include 50,000 square feet of shops, restaurants, and an eventual daycare center, as well as green outdoor terraces. Phase one will also feature the transformation of the Metropolitan Park area with 1.1 acres of new public open space—think a recreational park, room for farmers markets, a dog park, and more. Additionally, HQ2 will house an on-site facility for 600 bikes and an underground parking garage. Amazon says it also has future plans to construct a bike path that would connect to Arlington’s existing bike cycling infrastructure. Located in downtown Cyrstal City, an urban subset of southeast Arlington, the tech hub will also be close to existing public transportation including the D.C. Metro, Virginia’s commuter rail line, and bus lines. Over the next decade, Amazon plans to complete upwards of 6 million square feet of office space for its new Northern Virginia home. Amazon's Crystal City design comes after last year's competition in which hundreds of cities across the U.S. and Canada vied to house the tech giant's second headquarters. After Amazon decided to bring the project to both Arlington and New York City, residents and politicians in the Big Apple protested against the negotiated arrangement between the city and the corporation, leading Amazon to back out of New York and focus on its Virginia plans.
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Location, location, location

How Baidu Maps turns location data into 3-D cityscapes—and big profits

Level 3, number 203. Turn right 10 feet. Go straight for 15 feet. The best way to experience data's strong grip on everyday life in China is to open up Baidu Maps, a mapping app by China’s biggest search engine company, and walk around a shopping mall for one afternoon. Inside the building, a network of Bluetooth beacons, Wi-Fi modems, and satellites from a global navigation satellite system whir and ping through the air and the ionosphere to determine your precise location. The map on the Baidu app tilts to reveal an elaborately modeled 3-D cityscape.

The resolution of Baidu Maps is stunning: Entire cities are modeled in 3-D. Within public buildings, the floorplan of each building level is precisely mapped. As I stand inside the Taikoo Hui Mall in the city of Guangzhou, China, I search for a store within the mall. Baidu Maps reveals which level the store is on and how many meters I need to walk. Strolling through the mall with the app tracking my location with a blue dot on the screen, life starts to feel like a virtual reality experience. The difference between the map's 3-D model and the reality beneath my feet is smaller than ever. The 3-D model makes an uncanny loop: Virtual models were used by architects and designers to design these spaces, which now unfold on a messy plane between real space and screen space.

China now has its own tech giants—Alibaba, JD.com, Tencent Holdings, and Baidu—homegrown behind the Great Firewall of China. Like their American counterparts, these companies have managed to surveil their users and extract valuable data to create new products and features. Baidu began as a search engine, but has now branched out into autonomous driving, and therefore, maps. The intricacy of its 3-D visualizations is the result of over 600 million users consulting the app for navigation every day or using apps that rely on Baidu Maps in the background, such as weather apps that rely on its geolocation features.

The tech company, like its counterparts such as Google, take advantage of multiple features available in smartphones. Smartphones possess the ability to determine users’ positions by communicating with an array of satellites such as GPS (Global Positioning Service); GLONASS, Russia’s version of GPS; or BeiDou, China’s satellite navigation system. Such satellite systems are public infrastructures created by American, Russian, and Chinese governments, respectively, that enable our phones to determine users’ precise longitude and latitude coordinates. The majority of apps and services on smartphones rely on location services, from food delivery to restaurant reviews. However, satellite navigation systems are still imprecise—they are often a few meters off, with anything from the weather to tall buildings affecting accuracy.

However, smartphones contain more than satellite signal receiver chips. A slew of other sensors, such as accelerometers, light sensors, and magnets are embedded in the average smartphone. In 2015, Baidu invested $10 million in IndoorAtlas, a Silicon Valley startup that specializes in indoor mapping. The company's technology is at the forefront of magnetic positioning, which allows indoor maps at 1-meter accuracy to be created simply by using an average smartphone. This technology relies on the Earth's geomagnetic field and the magnets in smartphones. By factoring in the unique magnetic "fingerprint" of each building based on the composition of its materials, such as steel, a building's floor plan can be mapped out without any data provided by the architect. However, this strategy requires user data at scale; multiple user paths need to be recorded and averaged out to account for any anomalies. Gathering large amounts of data from users becomes an imperative.

Floorplans aside, magnetic positioning is not the only dimension of user location data collection that allows data to become a spatial model. As people drive, bike, and walk, each user generates a spatial "trace" that also has velocity data attached to it. Through such data, information about the type of path can be derived: Is it a street, a sidewalk, or a highway? This information becomes increasingly useful in improving the accuracy of Baidu Maps itself, as well as Baidu's autonomous vehicle projects.

The detailed 3-D city models on Baidu Maps offer data that urban designers dream of, but such models only serve Baidu's interests. Satellite navigation system accuracy deteriorates in urban canyons, due to skyscrapers and building density, obscuring satellites from the receiver chip. These inaccuracies are problematic for autonomous vehicles, given the "safety critical" nature of self-driving cars. Baidu's 3-D maps are not just an aesthetic “wow factor” but also a feature that addresses positioning inaccuracies. By using 3-D models to factor in the sizes and shapes of building envelopes, inaccuracies in longitude and latitude coordinates can be corrected.

Much of this research has been a race between U.S. and Chinese companies in the quest to build self-driving cars. While some 3-D models come from city planning data, in China's ever-changing urban landscape, satellite data has proved far more helpful in generating 3-D building models. Similar to Google's 3-D-generated buildings, a combination of shadow analysis, satellite imagery, and street view have proved essential for automatically creating 3-D building models rather than the manual task of user-generated, uploaded buildings or relying on city surveyors for the most recent and accurate building dimensions.

None of this data is available to the people who design cities or buildings. Both Baidu and Google have End User License Agreements (EULAs) that restrict where their data can be used, and emphasize that such data has to be used within Baidu or Google apps. Some data is made available for computer scientists and self-driving car researchers, such as Baidu's Research Open-Access Dataset (BROAD) training data sets. Most designers have to rely on free, open-source data such as Open Street Maps, a Wikipedia-like alternative to Baidu and Google Maps. By walling off valuable data that could help urban planning, tech companies are gaining a foothold and control over the reality of material life: they have more valuable insights into transport networks and the movements of people than urban designers do. It's no surprise then, that both Baidu and Google are making forays into piloting smart cities like Toronto’s Quayside or Shanghai's Baoshan District, and gaining even greater control over urban space. No doubt, urban planning and architecture are becoming increasingly automated and privately controlled in the realm of computer scientists rather than designers.

In Shoshana Zuboff's 2019 book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, she examines how tech companies throughout the world are employing surveillance and data extraction methods to turn users into free laborers. Our “behavioral surplus,” as she terms it, becomes transformed into products that are highly lucrative for these companies, and feature proprietary, walled-off data that ordinary users cannot access, even though their labor has helped create these products. These products are also marketed as “predictive,” which feeds the desires of companies that hope to anticipate users’ behavior—companies that see users only as targets of advertising.

Over the past several years, American rhetoric surrounding the Chinese “surveillance state” has reached fever pitch. But while China is perceived to be a single-party communist country with state-owned enterprises that do its bidding, the truth is, since the 1990s, much of the country’s emphasis has been on private growth. Baidu is a private company, not a state-owned enterprise. Companies like Baidu have majority investment from global companies, including many U.S.-based funds like T. Rowe Price, Vanguard, and BlackRock. As China's economy slows down, the government is increasingly pressured to play by the rules of the global capitalist book and offer greater freedom to private companies alongside less interference from the government. However, private companies often contract with the government to create surveillance measures used across the country.

The rhetoric about the dangers of Chinese state surveillance obfuscates what is also happening in American homes—literally. As Google unveils home assistants that interface with other “smart” appliances, and Google Maps installed on mobile phones tracks user locations, surveillance becomes ubiquitous. Based on your location data, appliances can turn on as you enter your home, and advertisements for milk from your smart fridge can pop up as you walk by the grocery stores. Third-party data provider companies also tap into geolocation data, and combined with the use of smart objects like smart TVs, toasters, and fridges, it's easy to see why the future might be filled with such scenarios. Indeed, if you own certain smart appliances, Google probably knows what the inside of your home is like. In 2018, iRobot, the maker of the Roomba vacuum, announced that it was partnering with Google to improve the indoor mapping of homes, and now setting up a Roomba with Google Home has never been easier. Big tech companies in the U.S. would like us to believe that surveillance is worse elsewhere, when really, surveillance capitalism is a global condition.

Over the past 30 years, cities around the world have been the locus of enormous economic growth and corresponding increases in inequality. Metropolitan areas with tech-driven economies, such as the Shenzhen-Guangzhou-Hong Kong corridor and the Greater Bay Area, are home to some of the largest tech companies in the world. They are also home to some of the most advanced forms of technological urbanism: While Baidu may not have every single business mapped in rural China, it certainly has the listing of every shop in every mall of Guangzhou.

The overlap between cities as beacons of capital and as spaces where surveillance is ubiquitous is no coincidence. As Google’s parent company, Alphabet, makes moves to build cities and as Baidu aggressively pursues autonomous driving, data about a place, the people who live there, and their daily movements is increasingly crucial to the project of optimizing the city and creating new products, which in turn generates more wealth and more inequality. Places like San Francisco and Shenzhen are well-mapped by large tech companies but harbor some of the worst income gaps in the world.

The "smart city" urbanism enabled by surveillance and ubiquitous data collection is no different from other forms of development that erode affordable housing and public space. Reclaiming our cities in this digital age is not just about reclaiming physical space. We must also reclaim our data.