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Game Changer

At the end of September Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced an ambitious $5 billion plan to provide 20,000 affordable homes in the city over the next five years, despite the national credit squeeze and the collapse of the local housing market.

Dubbed “Housing That Works,” the mayor’s multi-income, mixed-use plan seeks to create or preserve homes for low and moderate-income families (that is, making less than $90,000 per year) to be located near Metro Rail stations and bus routes in an effort to address the city’s housing crisis.

"This is the least affordable big city in America," Villaraigosa said, acknowledging the widening gap between the number of units available for high-income families and the dwindling options for those at the low end of the spectrum. The plan falls under the direction of the mayor’s office and according to Jonathan Powell, a representative from Villaraigosa’s office, is “already going into effect.”

Funded by a mixture of public sources—including the LA Housing Department, the LA Housing Authority, the LA Community Redevelopment Authority, Affordable Housing Trust Funds, and county, state, and federal funds—as well as private sector loans, the plan consists of broadly drawn proposals for an array of issues, from streamlining the city’s entitlement and permitting processes, to providing housing for larger numbers of LA’s homeless.

The plan includes a “Sustainable Communities Initiative,” which will create 20 environmentally friendly neighborhoods near transit nodes. These mixed-use, multi-income developments are intended to link affordable housing for low- and middle-class workers with easier access to centers of employment.

Stuart Magruder, an architect and founder of the LA-based Studio Nova A, points out that the plan, reminiscent of the European model that locates people closer to where they work, shop, and go to school, is reliant on more effective transit systems than currently exists in Los Angeles. “We’ve got to decide to go forward on all cylinders on both issues—developing denser communities and building more transit,” he said.

Carol Schatz, president and CEO of the Central City Association, likewise supports building around transit corridors, but her enthusiasm is tempered by the plan’s mixed-income component, which she says does not provide developers with necessary incentives to defray the cost of subsidizing the low-income units. “The first version of the plan was not workable,” she said. Among the incentives she suggests are a reduction in the number of required parking spaces per development. Schatz is also skeptical about the availability of funding in the face of the current financial crisis. “There is no housing market to speak of. It’s really ugly out there,” she said.

Administratively, the mayor’s plan includes a mixed-income housing ordinance, requiring developments over a certain size to contain an as-yet undetermined percentage of affordably priced units. The ordinance requires passage by the city council and final approval by the mayor. According to Powell, the council intends to pass the ordinance by the end of 2008.

The mayor’s plan also seeks to streamline the city’s convoluted entitlement and permitting process, which can involve 12 different departments, with the so-called “12-to-2 Development Reform Plan.” Under “12-2,” the planning department will become the single point of contact for the entitlement phase of new projects, while the building and safety departments will handle the construction phase.

Los Angeles has the nation’s largest homeless population, numbering over 44,000. The mayor's plan increases rent subsidies, in the form of Section 8 vouchers, for the chronically homeless and creates 2,200 “permanently supportive housing” units that will move homeless people from revolving-door shelters into permanent housing.

Additionally, the plan seeks to redevelop blighted housing projects, beginning with the gang-infested Jordan Downs housing project in Watts, hoping to replicate the successful resurrection of the Pico Aliso complex in East Los Angeles.  

The obvious question is how the weighty financial framework of such a large proposal will be lifted into place given the turbulent economic climate. Mayor Villaraigosa has already secured one nonprofit investor: Enterprise Community Partners has pledged $700 million to the plan.

Still hopeful that the recent congressional bailout package will ease constricted credit markets and allow “Housing That Works” to move forward, Powell pointed out, “It’s the financing that’s slowing down. The demand for housing, office, and retail space in Los Angeles is not slowing down at all.”

With no timeframe as to when results would begin to materialize, Powell noted that the mayor’s office was moving quickly to implement the various steps of the plan. “There’s really no better time than right now, in the middle of a crisis, for us to show some leadership,” he said.

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Artecnica’s Showroom Opens in LA
The socially-reponsible design squad at Artecnica opened their first showroom in Los Angeles last night and designers, architects and artists thronged the simple white storefront in appreciation. Well, and for a glimpse of flower-power designer Tord Boontje during his second-ever visit to LA (even though he's been working with Artecnica for ages). Gracious hostess Tahmineh Javanbakht greeted guests near the bar, her neck layered with chains, charms, beads and bangles to glamorous effect, while Rose Apodaca presided over a pop-up version of boutique A+R in the back. Freya Bardell told us about luring high-heeled ladies down to the LA River during the Frogtown Art Walk. Modernica's Frank Novak loved the wares but couldn't take the stratospheric decibel-level of the DJ much longer. We speared cheese and strawberries with Metropolis' Jade Chang while reminiscing about the caviar parfaits we'd put away at the media dinner for Philippe Starck-designed XIV the previous night (the food had far outshined the decor). An adorable Boontje was thrilled to see his Midsummer Light Tyvek cut-outs deconstructed, colored and decoupaged by local elementary school kids, thanks to non-profit LA's Best—and we have to say, some of them were really good! While Boontje talked about his ongoing collaborations with founder Enrico Bressan—including his new Witches Kitchen, scarily appropriate for its pre-Halloween release date—we couldn't help but be distracted by the PDA pair of Adam Eeuwens and Rebeca Méndez, nuzzling near Boontje's Come Rain Come Shine light. We suppose an evening of "design with conscience" could be a turn-on for some...
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XI International Architecture Biennale
Rockwell Group with Jones/Kroloff
Martin Perrin

The Arsenale

The theme was “Out There” but the experience was over the top as the leading lights of the profession plus a smattering of young up-and-comers from around the world produced a heroically-scaled display of performance architecture.

By Julie V. Iovine

To make sharp critical observers out of his audiences, German playwright Bertolt Brecht inserted blackout moments into scenes. The 11th International Architecture Biennale offered its own alienation effect in a dark-as-pitch room—a forecourt to the vast two-mile long Arsenale exhibition space—featuring an installation by Rockwell Group with Jones/Kroloff involving towering interactive screens where scenes from architecture’s favorite movies (Cleopatra,The Fountainhead, A Clockwork Orange, etc.) as complex XY-axis projections leapt up in response to the crowd moving through. This Hall of Fragments set a seductive stage for the subsequent installations commissioned from 24 architecture practices by Biennale director Aaron Betsky. The brief was to show architecture “beyond building,” that is “revelatory, utopian, and critical.” Visitors marched past a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade of gargantuan works: elegantly embalmed prototyped extrusions by Asymptote; Coop Himmelb(l)au’s Oz-like Feed Back Space first envisioned in 1969; and Zaha Hadid’s brand-perfect acid green furniture/architecture. Most breathtaking in this sequence was Frank Gehry’s Ungapatchket, a three-story timber model of a Moscow hotel that the architect is designing, slabbed over with clay in the spirit of Cai Guo Qiang’s ephemeral Rent Collection Courtyard figurines shown in New York last winter, but originally exhibited in the Arsenale in 1999.

Even if you had not already been over to the Giardini, the other part of the Biennale dedicated to national pavilions and their individually curated exhibits, and seen the Estonian’s big yellow “pipeline” providentially and ominously running down a gravel slope to the steps of the Russian pavilion, you might have questioned the relevance of the Arsenale’s fabulously blousy installations. The European press has already come down hard, especially on the nudes brought in by French architect Philippe Rahm in an effort to demonstrate space-making through convection air currents instead of walls. The concept was certainly clever, and might have been enough for an art installation, but it cannot pass muster at an architecture fair if it doesn’t actually work. Betsky tried to make an end-run around buildings that “just stand there” in favor of architecture that inspires and “transforms one’s perception of one’s world.” And while there was plenty of food for thought about the latest way to turn data into structure, from artist Matthew Ritchie & Aranda/Lasch’s scale-less, fractal-turned-structural-doily to M-A-D’s AirXY, which replicated the technology of Hall of Fragments with LED lights instead of movies, many of the installations looked as if they could too easily end up as catalog fodder for the amusement of galleristas.



Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Iwan Baan

The urban problems that preoccupied some architects—the lives of singletons for the Dutch collective Droog; the pile-up of unrecyclable and ghastly plastic toys for Greg Lynn—didn’t seem global enough. Pros at performance architecture like Diller Scofidio + Renfro did not disappoint with a video installation that mashed up interviews with gondoliers in three different Venices—Italy, Las Vegas, and Macau—along with anyone’s belief in authenticity of place. UNStudio, too, satisfied with a slitheringly stunning rendition of a villa fit for Zoolander that served as a screen for footage from an Alexander McQueen fashion show.

But as one continued down the vast Arsenale where in the 12th century, entire battleships could be built in a week, the impression that today powerful minds were bent to far less mighty tasks was hard to ignore. Ten months ago when Betsky set to work, presidents and vice presidents had not been nominated, Georgian borders had not been crossed, and hurricanes both natural and financial had not rocked our foundations. Now that they have, architects working in high concepts rather than hard realities seem somehow passé.
 


 


 
 

Arsenale Interrota

By Anne Guiney

After the machined perfection of so many of the Arsenale’s massive installations, the drawings of Roma Interrota provided the show’s first real jolt. The recreation of a 1978 exhibition of the same name was inspired by the 1748 Nolli Map of Rome. The drawings show the eternal city reimagined by 12 architects, including Aldo Rossi (pictured), Paolo Portoghesi, Robert Venturi, Leon and Robert Krier, and Colin Rowe, who were themselves monumental practitioners in the 1970s. The reinstallation was an eye-opener for a new generation, including Casey Jones and Reed Kroloff, who collaborated with David Rockwell on the video installation Hall of Fragments. For them, the juxtaposition provided a revealing contrast in the ways architects look at cities. “It has the stillness of a time capsule,” said Kroloff, “and it’s amazing to see how radically the tools of expression have changed.”

The original Roma Interrota was organized by then-mayor of Rome Giulio Carlo Argan, and took as its premise the idea that since the publication of Giovanni Battista Nolli’s famous New Plan for Rome, planning in the city had been stymied and destructive. Argan asked architects to start where the 230-year-old plan left off and dream of what the city could be. Revisiting the new reinstallation at the Arsenale, Argan wrote, “It is comprised not of proposals for urban planning, naturally, but of a series of gymnastic exercises for the imagination whose course runs parallel to that of memory… [Here] are hypotheses for the Rome which would have resulted had man continued to imagine it and not to plan it (badly.)”

 





Belgium's curators David van Severen and Kersten Geers commemorated a missed centennial—the country first entered the Biennale in 1907—with after the party, an installation whose main components are confetti and mostly empty rooms.
Martin Perrin

Giardini

At the mouth of the Grand Canal, the city’s largest public garden is dotted with 35 national pavilions and a series of outdoor installations. Inside, a few curators showed how architecture can indeed be pushed “beyond building,” with results ranging from poetic to pragmatic.

By Anne Guiney

By taking the Biennale’s theme “Out There—Architecture Beyond Building” as more guideline than directive, curators of more than 30 national exhibitions in the Giardini found expansive and fertile ground for their ideas. Expansive enough, in fact, to encompass almost anything. Freed from the physical limitations of building, architecture could relate to everything.

The two most prevalent (and often intertwined) ideas curators explored were politics and the environment, but the work ranged from the poetic approach of Japan’s Junya Ishigumi, who created a dreamland of flower-structures, to Russia, whose installation of a competitive architectural chess game could be read as a mirror held up to contemporary politics.

Perhaps the most immediately satisfying project was not in a pavilion, but running between two. Estonia put a real-scale gas pipe on the ground between the German and Russian pavilions to represent a Gazprom proposal to build the Nord Stream pipeline connecting the two countries through the Baltic Sea. It was wonderfully concise in its ability to make a political argument physically manifest, and to raise questions about issues from regional power dynamics to environmental damage.


GERMANY
martin perrin 


POLAND
Eric holm


SWITZERLAND
martin perrin
 
 

Poland’s curators took the seldom-sexy idea of recycling and gave it some style by repurposing their pavilion as the Hotel Polonia, complete with beds. Inside, there were a series of photographic triptychs showing a building as it looks today and then one that Photoshops it into the future. A 2004 basilica becomes a fantastic water park, since after a while the only people attending church would be tourists anyway, so why not? Likewise, a university library is rebranded as a mall, and cheekily, a Foster-designed building became a convincingly ominous jail. The mixture of solid ideas and a light touch led the jurors to award it the Golden Lion. 

Germany, too, drew attention to the use and abuse of nature, though without the humor of its neighbor. To highlight the way we often squander our resources, the curators did some squandering of their own: The neoclassical German pavilion’s portico was lit with 32 massive spotlights, which gave it an unfortunate eerie glow, and each visitor passing underneath felt their heat. The physical sensation made an effective point, and while there was a notice inside that team members were reducing energy consumption to offset the 50,000 kilowatts of electricity the piece will ultimately consume, the choice seemed dubious. A second inadvertently funny moment was an indoor grove of apple trees under Gro-lights, fed by an IV-like sack of radioactively bright liquid that suggested nothing more than Soylent Green.

Japan’s curator Junya Ishigumi took a very different stance on the issue of our relationship to nature, and imagined a world where architecture was not set in a landscape but inextricably a part of it. The seemingly blank white walls of the pavilion were covered with dozens of drawings of greenery-clad structures in different scenarios, and outside were a series of delicate glass greenhouses filled with flowers. Its dreamy beauty made it a favorite, but the ideas it raised were really no more far-fetched than much of the more ecologically-minded work in the Italian Pavilion.



 


Ryan Reitbauer

U.S. Pavilion

By William Menking

When word first went out that the theme of this year’s architecture biennale was “Out There: Beyond Building,” I suspected that Aaron Betsky would take a more formalist approach and not include the kind of social activism that has recently engaged an increasing number of architects frustrated by a sense of impotence in the face of the country’s crumbling infrastructure and frayed social fabric. I turned to Teddy Cruz, whose housing proposals for Hudson, NY, we’ve covered in AN, and he started a conversation with Pratt Institute’s Deborah Gans. Soon the team also included Andy Sturm of the PARC Foundation and Aaron Levy of the Slought Foundation, two non-profits often involved with architects pursuing alternative practices. There seemed to be an opportunity to provide a counterpoint to the main exhibition with something that focused more on new approaches to engaging with communities and shaping local infrastructure.

Time was not on our side: We had only four months to conceive, develop, design, ship, and install everything down to the guestbook to Venice. Right at the start, Leanne Mella, with years of experience as a biennale coordinator and with the State Department, warned me, “I’ve done exhibits in Africa, and it can be a difficult place to mount an exhibition, but Venice is tougher!” and then she joined our team, an unbeatable vote of confidence.

Our goal was not modest: We were basically trying to develop and encourage an architecture culture that doesn’t yet exist in the United States. And while we included efforts like The Heidelberg Project, where abandoned houses in Detroit have been encrusted by recycled refuse collected in the neighborhood, or Kyong Park’s New Silk Road video montage, the impulse was to provoke new thinking about architecture, not to feature art projects.

While some of the work we decided to include (and that you may have read about in the last issue of AN) was very critical about aspects of American culture and the built environment, some of it was equally proactive about our problems, because they are in fact hard to believe. The reality is that in the last 25 years, this country hasn’t really invested in our infrastructure, and so a lot of the projects in the pavilion looked at that rather than at buildings in order to make a connection between an architectural sensibility and a larger social infrastructure. Finally, I believe that architects are by and large urbanists who love cities and want to make them function better, and the projects we chose to include represented a range of ways to do just that.

 


 

Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Wei Wei
Martin Perrin

Experimental Architecture

Inside the Italian Pavilion, 56 exhibits showed the range of experiment across the spectrum, from Lebbeus Woods’ drawings to architecture’s future as seen through the I Ching. With a tone set by the early, ground-breaking work of masters like Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Coop Himmelb(l)au, the work suggests that the spirit of the new is alive and engaged.

By Anne Guiney

The Italian Pavilion in the Giardini promises an overview on the state of progressive practice in architecture, and while it certainly delivers, it does so in a way that is alternately provocative, satisfying, and dispiriting. Curator Aaron Betsky chose to devote the building that once housed the host country’s installation (now relocated to the Arsenale) with the work of 55 experimental firms, many of whom are younger, like MOS, NL Architects, and LOT-EK, and seven of the avant-garde’s old school, most now prolific builders, including Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Morphosis. Most of the masters pulled work from their archives—Zaha Hadid’s drawings were particularly spectacular, and a reminder of her extraordinary talent. A noteworthy exception was Herzog & de Meuron, who teamed up with Ai Wei Wei, their collaborator on the Bird’s Nest in Beijing, and made a simple but beautiful installation from the bamboo poles so prevalent on construction sites in China.


NL Architects


MA0/Emmeazero
courtesy the architects
 
 

Almost all of the work on display is drawn from projects that were underway long before the Biennale, and Betsky has grouped like with like. Teddy Cruz’s cross-border work in Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego is catercorner to FAST’s planning and community organizing project in the Arab-Israeli town of Ein Hawd, while Field Operations’ large-scale and long-term efforts in landscape urbanism share a room with the Colombia-based Husos’ engaging Proyecto Cali, which wonderfully manages to include the restoration of a habitat for Monarch butterflies, an exhibitions building, and a soap opera called Butterflies and Passions.

One of the more striking things that emerges from the contrast Betsky sets up between the old-new and the new-new is the preoccupation with creating a more socially engaged practice over form-making, and the use of different means to tell a story. Along with Husos and its racy telenovela, AOC developed a Monopoly-based board game to help Venetians rethink their shrinking city, and J,P:A Jones Partners put together a Marvel-style comic book projecting 50 years into the future of Dubai. CUP’s intentionally crude Xeroxed posters diagram a link between sneakers and poverty, while Urban Think Tank’s colorful wall of posters from Caracas, Venezuela is as suggestive of a vibrant public realm as any in the show.

Yogi Berra, as usual, had it right: The future ain’t what it used to be, and utopia as we know and love it is in fairly short supply in the pavilion. One of the more provocative pieces calls the very idea into question: Abitare editor Stefano Boeri and a student team took on the eco-enthusiasm so prevalent in the pavilion and beyond and ask what it would really be like if nature once again was deeply integrated into our cities. Boeri’s Sustainable Dystopias presents three scenarios—the city of energy devices, the city of vegetable surfaces, and the city of wild animals, each of which pushes the proposal to its logical conclusion and points out the pros and cons. As neat as it might sound, the piece argues, there’s also a downside to having elk and moose wandering through protected greenbelts in a city. NL Architects also presents cut-n’-paste what-if scenarios in Virtual Realities that are a little uncomfortable, in spite of their humor. The ice caps are melting? Let’s make one out of trash, since there’s plenty of that! The two projects stand in marked contrast to the visually appealing yet thin suggestion represented by ma0/emmeazero’s Footprints, whose vision for new types of public space seems more grounded in the possibilities of Photoshop than in a meaningful sense of how people use city streets and parks.

It’s Planning Time

Creative Time, the renowned public art organization, has been hired to create a public art masterplan for Louisville, Kentucky, a first for the organization. Announced yesterday, the $50,000 commission will likely call for temporary and permanent installations, as well as bricks and mortar projects, such as pedestrian bridges for a new parks system currently being designed by Philadelphia-based firm WRT. “We’ve been called on to advise on public art projects around the country, so we recently decided to develop a consulting arm,” said Meredith Johnson, a curator and producer with Creative Time. “We think it will broaden our impact on the field.”

Based on the recommendations of the Mayor’s Committee on Public Art, the city of Louisville issued an RFQ for the masterplan. Creative Time prevailed over two other finalists, the names of which the city declined to release. “They were a perfect match. They didn’t want to recycle the plan of another city. They want to create something unique for Louisville,” said Jesse Levesque Bishop, a member of the committee. The yearlong study will identify sites, funding strategies, timelines, and partner organizations, and is expected to include regional, national, and international artists and designers.

The city’s art scene has attracted national attention in recent years due to projects like the 21C Museum Hotel, designed by Deborah Berke, and REX’s now delayed Museum Plaza skyscraper.

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Governors Island 2.0

The fine folks over at the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation announced yesterday that the design team for Governor's Island has officially begun work on its tripartite master plan for the former Coast Guard outpost off the tip of Manhattan. As with most large-scale government projects, the agency is seeking public comment to inform the designs, but this time out they've gone the extra step of doing online outreach.


At the center of this effort is a blog. Launched in May, it has primarily chronicled the goings on on the island this summer. But now that it's over, it will shift gears to a news site, according to the agency, in advance of a completed master plan next spring. Officials hope that readers will post their reactions to any announcements in the blog's comment section, thereby providing an immediate and democratic response to the evolving project.

Further into the realm of Web 2.0 interactivity, the agency has set up a special photo booth where people can have their picture taken and then digitally superimposed onto renderings of the West 8/Rogers Marvel/Diller Scofidio + Renfro/SMWM proposal. The photos are then posted on their very own Flickr page. The booth will be up fro two upcoming Saturdays, September 20 and October 6, at the ferry terminal on the island.

The agency has also posted a more traditional survey at http://tinyurl.com/govislandsurvey, and for the technophobes out there, the design team will host information workshops next weekend, on September 27 and 28, which include a two hour tour. Interested parties should RSVP to ecavanagh@empire.state.ny.us for workshops at 10:15 a.m., 12:45 p.m and 3:15 p.m.

“We want as many people as possible to give us their ideas for the future park on Governors Island,” Leslie Koch, president of GIPEC, said in a release. “With the Governors Island blog, online survey, Flickr and more, we are using the web in new and innovative ways so that everyone can provide their thoughts about what activities they would like to experience here in the center of New York Harbor.”

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Gehry and the Ancient Arts
The three-story timber buttress of familiar forms rising midway through the Arsenale was already pretty impressive on the first day but then a guy showed up and set up shop in the corner to hammer out clay tiles, the 1,000 year old Venetian way, that will ultimately—in two weeks—clad the entire structure.  The process of covering the wood armature in clay is also the first step usually used in making a bronze cast a la the Statue of Liberty. And so naturally we are wondering who’s in the market for a really big Gehry paperweight. 
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We Have A Winner, Or Not?
Gerding Edlen and ZGF's sail-like design for San Diego's new Civic Center.
Courtesy ZGF

Throughout this fall, two developer-architects were to vie to design San Diego’s new four-block downtown Civic Center Complex—including a new City Hall—with a budget of at least $600 million. Developer Hines of Houston was paired with architect Cesar Pelli, and developer Gerding Edlen with architect Zimmer Gunsul Frasca (ZGF), both of Portland.

But on August 15, Hines withdrew from the San Diego competition after an independent financial analysis from Jones Lang LaSalle, commissioned by the city, showed the Hines plan was more costly (an estimated $784 million over 50 years) than Gerding's ($628 million over the same time period), even though it was less ambitious.

Both developers submitted plans to the city to raze the current 1960s-era buildings and replace them with new city offices while re-opening the street grid interrupted by the current configuration of government buildings. Gerding's proposal offered an eye-catching, 500-foot-tall City Hall building with a sail-like design topped with wind turbines, as well as more than 2 million square feet of private development on the surrounding blocks, all built over three phases. “This is first and foremost a place making endeavor,” said Tom Cody of Gerding Edlen. “The site now has an oppressive inertia. It’s a void in the livable urban fabric of San Diego." Hines went more conservative (a valid strategy given San Diego’s past budget difficulties), with a simple four-story glass City Hall looking out on a plaza with an accompanying office building.

But while Gerding Edlen and ZGF are now the lone candidates for new construction, they’re not assured of winning the job. Jones Lange LaSalle also identified five additional low-cost options such as continuing to lease and renovate the city’s existing facilities, or building a city hall outside of the downtown area. Yet Jones Lang LaSalle found both the Gerding and Hines proposals saved the city more over the 50-year time frame.

“I’ve always said our biggest competitor was the do-nothing alternative,” says Cody. “The city has been in a rut with that development for decades.”

Last year Gerding Edlen won the U.S. Green Building Council’s inaugural Leadership Award for its sustainable developments in Portland and Los Angeles. The company made its name on the Brewery Blocks re-development project in Portland, which transformed the former Blitz-Weinhard brewery into a multi-block shopping, office, and housing development, all LEED-rated. ZGF, a past winner of the AIA national firm of the year award, has designed large institutional projects in Portland like the Oregon Convention Center, the MAX light rail line, and a major recent expansion of the Portland International Airport.

Although their city hall design seems to resemble a ship’s sail, which would recall San Diego’s extensive maritime history, ZGF’s Doss Mabe insists it was unintentional.

“The shape is driven partly by sustainability concerns: maximizing the ability to bring light deeply into the floor plates but minimize the west sun,” he explained. “Normally in San Diego there’s not enough wind (for turbine generation), but the shape of the building will cause a difference in wind pressure on the west and east side that causes the wind to flow at a higher speed. We didn’t talk about sails while we were working on the design.  But any time a building creates its own metaphors, that makes us feel like we’re hitting or connecting with people.”

The San Diego City Council is expected to vote on the final plan by November, after receiving an official recommendation from the City Center Development Corporation, the city’s urban renewal agency. 

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Slow Architecture
Jensen Architects' colorful welcome pavilions were created from reclaimed shipping containers, each topped by a full-size, galvanized-steel windmill.
Courtesy Slow Food Nation

Over Labor Day weekend, San Francisco hosted a blow-out celebration of the Slow Food movement, and architects showed up for the party.

Hailed as the largest festival of American chow in history—some called it the “Woodstock of food”—the event was the offspring of Slow Food, the 19-year-old organization that has become a global force for sustainable food culture. Showcasing local tastes, products, and agricultural innovations, the first-ever event drew more than 50,000 visitors to venues throughout the city.

As they hungrily sought out California merlot, charcuterie, and sauerkraut, visitors also found fresh architecture in the form of pavilions built pro-bono by fifteen local firms, tapped by organizers to integrate gastronomy with green design.






courtesy slow food nation
 
Aidlin Darling Design’s chocolate pavilion (top) used hundreds of shipping pallets to evoke the cacao harvest. Visitors shopped for local wares at Civic Center (middle), while the Taste pavilion hosted most of the architects’ new designs (below).
 
 

Participating architects varied from giants like Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which designed a “soap box” for farmers to share stories, to smaller practices like Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects, which contributed a bread pavilion, complete with baking area and museum. Also pitching in were socially-motivated firms like SMWM, which built a water station made from recycled water bottles, and also developed the event’s Civic Center master plan. Other participants included David Baker + Partners, who with CCS Architecture designed the festival’s outdoor vendor stalls and eating area, and Jensen Architects (designer of the welcome pavilions), Winslow Architecture (wine pavilion), and Ideo (compost exhibit).

Most of the temporary structures were erected inside a 50,000-square-foot pavilion called Taste, located at Fort Mason, the cultural center on San Francisco’s northern waterfront. There, the reigning design mood was one of critical earnestness. Architect Cary Bernstein designed a charcuterie pavilion, for instance, that displayed the history of meat production through paintings and photography, to educate visitors about the interdependence of food and health. With photomurals of ranches and graphics of chicken feed, Bernstein illustrated the principle that “whatever the animal eats, we eat.” Her pavilion was designed with re-use in mind; even the artworks were re-purposed for permanent display in local restaurants.

Events at other venues reiterated this holistic theme. At City Hall Park, Mayor Gavin Newsom devoted over a quarter-acre to a “Victory Garden,” designed by John Bela, co-founder of the artists’ and designers’ collective REBAR. Modeled on the homegrown vegetable gardens tended during World War Two, the pleasantly unmanicured space demonstrated small-scale food production, particularly backyard farming within the city limits (a movement that will get a boost this year when the group Victory Gardens 08+ gives away 15 free starter gardens in San Francisco).

The scale and enthusiasm for this first-time festival—all major events were sold out well in advance—were not only a testament to a growing respect for environmental interdependence, but to architecture’s role as part of the conversation.

Landscape architect Kevin Conger, of CMG, who assisted with the City Hall garden, noted that “getting our food production closer to the consumer is essential, both so we understand where food comes from, and also so we reduce the carbon footprint of production and shipping.”

Beyond backyard gardens, Slow Food’s use of green materials—reclaimed lumber, hay bales, recycled berry crates, bundles of native California tule reeds—showed that good design can be an essential part of our low-carbon diet.

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Paul Byard, 1939-2008


COURTESY PBDW
 
 

Paul Spencer Byard leaves a remarkable legacy as both designer and defender of public-spirited architecture. As a young lawyer for the New York State Urban Development Corporation, from 1969 to 1974, he helped develop 30,000 units of low- and moderate-income housing. Later, as an architect, he artfully shaped some of the city’s newest landmarks and revived its old ones—first at James Stewart Polshek & Partners, and then as partner at Platt Byard Dovell White. And as director of Columbia University’s graduate preservation program, he showed a new generation how to learn from the past. Three colleagues spoke to AN about this eloquent and spirited advocate for architecture, who died at his Brooklyn home, at age 68, on July 15.

Charles A. Platt, partner
Platt Byard Dovell White Architects
My first partnership, Smotrich & Platt, designed the offices of Edward Logue and the Urban Development Corporation. There was on the staff a bright, cheerful young lawyer, with a handkerchief flopping out of his breast pocket, who took me aside and asked if I would design a special window in his office wall. Which I did, sneaking it by the very watchful Ed Logue and his entire architectural staff, and we got it built. So not only was I Paul’s partner, but I was also his architect.

Paul had left the firm Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts to work for the UDC, which was an amazingly hopeful organization. I can’t tell you how hopeful we were for the architectural and social expectations of the UDC. And that was one of the ideals in Paul’s later life: that the profession would return to those optimistic days and purposes. He was very ambitious for architecture.

I was on the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission beginning in 1979. Jim Polshek practiced before the commission, and was often importantly represented by Paul. I remember one project in the Village, which was a little postmodern and forward-thinking for its time. Paul was the partner responsible for the project, which was not approved instantaneously. He came to me for advice—something architects before the commission apparently aren’t allowed to do any more—and that was when we began to talk architecture to each other again.

Preservation with a capital P didn’t exist in those early days. I think Paul felt very strongly, even as a lawyer at UDC, that the preservation of buildings of value was terribly important. Like many of us who had lived through the age of urban renewal, Paul learned from the mistakes of the past. He felt preservation played an exemplary role in our lives, that it profoundly affected our understanding of our society.

Gregg Pasquarelli, principal
SHoP Architects
Paul Byard was my first studio professor at Columbia’s GSAPP, in the fall of 1990. I had decided to pursue a joint degree in preservation and architecture, and Paul assigned three projects in the South Street Seaport. As anyone who has gone to architecture school knows, the first semester of studio is both exhilarating and terrifying, and as a student who had recently left a job on Wall Street to venture into the world of design, it was more the latter for me. Paul patiently guided me through everything from installing a Mayline to complex ideas about context, zoning, and aesthetics. 

A week or two before our final review, I was very much doubting myself. Paul said to me, “Gregg, if I could change my life and leave law at 37, you can change your life and leave banking at 26. And in fact, I think you should consider leaving preservation to focus on architecture,” he added. “Your job will be to try to make buildings that people will want to preserve someday in the future.” Those words, and his encouragement, have never left me.

Rosalie Genevro, executive director
Architectural League of New York
Paul Byard loved the art of architecture, the creativity and complexity inherent in the act of making. “The reason we have our art is like the reason we have hands, to take hold of pieces of our world and make them meet our needs,” he wrote in an introduction to the Architectural League’s catalogue for its exhibition on the Renzo Piano Building Workshop.

For many, Paul’s public persona was so tied to his exquisite facility with language that his affinity for the making of architecture could be surprising. But it was an essential part of his view of the world; it manifested itself not only in his professional work but playfully in projects like his shading devices made of sails, and a table made of extruded aluminum, built for his house in Maine.

Paul’s insistence on understanding the art of architecture in all its fullness and significance—as the most characteristic and meaningful activity of homo faber—will reverberate in the League’s programs and with all those he came in contact with for a long time to come.

Editorial: Tilting Toward Windmills

Blame it on Photoshop, but when Mayor Bloomberg made a remark about the possibility of incorporating turbines into some local monuments, the local press went nuts: Pictures depicted the Statue of Liberty’s torch as a windmill, and the Empire State Building’s spire sported one, too. Never mind that even within those same remarks, made at the August 19 National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, he added that an off-shore wind farm would be a lot more practical, and that conservation is the most important piece of all; the cut-and-paste frenzy was on, followed quickly by predictable backlash to the oddball idea.

Behind the brouhaha and funny pictures, however, is a very solid idea: that sustainability and infrastructure are deeply connected. It is one of the fundaments of PlaNYC 2030, the Bloomberg administration’s scheme to make the city greener and cleaner, and the rallying cry of groups including the Regional Plan Association, the Center for an Urban Future, and the American Society of Landscape Architects. Recycling is important, and reusing shopping bags may get you into heaven a little faster, but two of New York’s greenest features are its density and its public transit network.

There is clearly momentum in the effort to bring infrastructure and sustainability to the fore: The same day Mayor Bloomberg was testing the wind on turbines, the city’s Economic Development Corporation released a Request for Expressions of Interest for projects that could increase New York’s capacity to generate renewable energy. A few days before, he had joined the U.S. Conference of Mayors in calling for renewed investment in urban infrastructure, as the group released a report on the economic benefits of such an investment. “The federal government is not investing enough in our infrastructure,” Bloomberg said, “and when it does, it’s not investing wisely.”

It is unfortunate timing, then, that the Independent Budget Office also released a report [PDF] on August 14 that breaks down the subsidies the MTA receives from the city and state. It looks as if the shiny idea of wind power may have overshadowed a more prosaic but crucial one: mass transit. The city’s contribution to the authority’s operating expenses has hovered around $194 million (in constant 2007 dollars) since 1994, though ridership, fares, and tolls have risen dramatically. Meanwhile, contributions to the capital budget have gone from about $200 million in the mid-1990s to $106 million today. This decrease in particular is surprising, since new development—and higher densities—typically cluster around public transit. The mayor is a fan of the extension of the 7 line to 11th Avenue, which seems central to the success of all of the various developments in Midtown West, especially the Hudson Yards. The mayor’s enthusiasm for trying new ideas to make the city more sustainable is great, but we hope one of the most valuable tools we have in that effort doesn’t get forgotten: the subway.

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After Industry

Editorial: Tilting Toward Windmills

Blame it on Photoshop, but when Mayor Bloomberg made a remark about the possibility of incorporating turbines into some local monuments, the local press went nuts: Pictures depicted the Statue of Liberty’s torch as a windmill, and the Empire State Building’s spire sported one, too. Never mind that even within those same remarks, made at the August 19 National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, he added that an off-shore wind farm would be a lot more practical, and that conservation is the most important piece of all; the cut-and-paste frenzy was on, followed quickly by predictable backlash to the oddball idea.

Behind the brouhaha and funny pictures, however, is a very solid idea: that sustainability and infrastructure are deeply connected. It is one of the fundaments of PlaNYC 2030, the Bloomberg administration’s scheme to make the city greener and cleaner, and the rallying cry of groups including the Regional Plan Association, the Center for an Urban Future, and the American Society of Landscape Architects. Recycling is important, and reusing shopping bags may get you into heaven a little faster, but two of New York’s greenest features are its density and its public transit network.

There is clearly momentum in the effort to bring infrastructure and sustainability to the fore: The same day Mayor Bloomberg was testing the wind on turbines, the city’s Economic Development Corporation released a Request for Expressions of Interest for projects that could increase New York’s capacity to generate renewable energy. A few days before, he had joined the U.S. Conference of Mayors in calling for renewed investment in urban infrastructure, as the group released a report on the economic benefits of such an investment. “The federal government is not investing enough in our infrastructure,” Bloomberg said, “and when it does, it’s not investing wisely.”

It is unfortunate timing, then, that the Independent Budget Office also released a report [PDF] on August 14 that breaks down the subsidies the MTA receives from the city and state. It looks as if the shiny idea of wind power may have overshadowed a more prosaic but crucial one: mass transit. The city’s contribution to the authority’s operating expenses has hovered around $194 million (in constant 2007 dollars) since 1994, though ridership, fares, and tolls have risen dramatically. Meanwhile, contributions to the capital budget have gone from about $200 million in the mid-1990s to $106 million today. This decrease in particular is surprising, since new development—and higher densities—typically cluster around public transit. The mayor is a fan of the extension of the 7 line to 11th Avenue, which seems central to the success of all of the various developments in Midtown West, especially the Hudson Yards. The mayor’s enthusiasm for trying new ideas to make the city more sustainable is great, but we hope one of the most valuable tools we have in that effort doesn’t get forgotten: the subway.