Search results for "morphosis"

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Making Radio Waves
The initial KCRW concept model includes an ivy-screened facade.
courtesy Clive Wilkinson Architects

Clive Wilkinson Architects has won a commission to design a new building for Santa Monica-based public radio station KCRW.

The station, which is the largest public radio affiliate in Southern California, is located on the campus of Santa Monica College (SMC). Its growth over the years has forced it to scatter its facilities throughout SMC’s main campus. The new building, located on one of SMC’s satellite campuses, about a mile north of the main campus, will help the station modernize and consolidate.

The 35,000-square-foot structure, located on the site of a large parking lot off of Stewart Street, just north of the 10 Freeway, will include office and recording studio spaces. Plans are still very preliminary, but an initial concept model reveals a simple three-story building covered in a green screen of ivy.

Construction funding is subject to a bond measure due in November, and the proposed cost of the project has not been disclosed.

As part of the commission the firm will also be carrying out modifications to the SMC satellite facilities located just adjacent to the planned KCRW building, including new landscaping and a renovation of the Academy of Entertainment and Technology building.  

Other firms short listed for the commission included Gensler, HLW, Morphosis, and CO Architects.

While Clive Wilkinson Architects is known for its interiors projects, the firm, said Wilkinson, is aggressively pursuing ground-up work. Besides the KCRW building, the firm just won commissions to design a mixed- use building for handbag maker Harvey’s in Santa Ana, and to renovate the 450,000-square-foot headquarters for Finnish communications giant Nokia in Helsinki.

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Profiles in Courage: Building in Uncertain Times

It may not involve taking unpopular stances on the floor of the Senate, but building in New York right now is not for the squeamish, requiring a whole lot of confidence. The city has not proven to be entirely immune from the fallout of the mortgage crisis battering much of the country, and there is an air of caution that has been absent for years. That said, the developers we’ve spoken to in the last few months have faith that the local market is fundamentally solid. For our annual look at development in the city, we spoke to six developers whose work we have been following. They operate at radically different scales, and often in different market sectors. Each of the six has a bold take on the changes in the economy, and each will continue to build. Photography by Yoko Inoue 

Clockwise from top, left:

David Von Spreckelsen
Senior Vice President
Toll Brothers City Living
363-365 Bond Street, Brooklyn
2011 (est.)

Dawanna Williams
Founder and Principal
Dabar Development Partners

603-617 North American Street, Philadelphia
em Architecture

Jonathan Rose
President and Founder
Jonathan Rose Companies

Cooper Union,
New Academic Building, New York

Alf Naman
Principal and Founder
Alf Naman Real Estate Advisors

100 Eleventh
100 11th Avenue, New York
Ateliers Jean Nouvel

Vishaan Chakrabarti
Executive Vice President of
Design and Planning
The Related Companies

Moynihan Station
Centered on 8th Avenue and 34th Street, New York
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and others
2010 (est.)

Jed Walentas
Director of Daily Operations
Two Trees Management

Dock Street Building & Middle School, Brooklyn, New York
Beyer Blinder Belle Architects

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Profile: Jonathan Rose
Yoko Inoue

Jonathan Rose
president and Founder
Jonathan Rose Companies

When designs for Via Verde, a 202-unit, mixed-income green housing development in the Bronx were unveiled, they made headlines. The dramatically stepped design by Grimshaw, Dattner Architect and landscape architect Lee Weintraub, which varies from towers to townhouses with green-roofs and terraced gardens, demonstrated that affordable housing, sustainability, and innovative design were possible in even the most hardscrabble corner of the city. What was less apparent, however, was that the developer behind the project, Jonathan Rose Companies, has a long record of civic-minded thinking that has paid significant social, environmental, and economic dividends.

In 1989, Jonathan Rose, founder of Jonathan Rose Companies, left his family’s real estate business to found his own “mission-based” development company. “My family has been in real estate for three generations,” Rose said. “I learned the trade starting with my summers working for the family business,” referring to Rose Associates, the New York-based real estate giant that controls over 30 million square feet of property. The much smaller Jonathan Rose Companies focuses on urban infill, transit-oriented sustainable development, reflecting the interests of its founder.

Unlike many developers trained in business or law, Jonathan Rose, 56, earned a master’s in regional planning at Penn under the landscape architect Ian McHarg, a pioneer of the regional planning and sustainability govements. There, Rose learned the principles that would guide his company: “a commitment to socially and environmentally responsible development that integrates good planning into the business,” he said.

One of Rose’s first forays into green, mixed-income development, a plan for Brooklyn’s Atlantic Center, came while he was still at Rose Associates. Working with Berkeley, California-based architect Peter Calthorpe, the plan called for a mix of office, residential, and retail space at a walkable scale with passive solar design. “I talked to a number of environmental groups, and in the early 80s, anything dense or urban wasn’t considered green,” he said. “It’s amazing how much the thinking has changed.” After community opposition, the site was sold to Forest City Ratner, and the bland, down-market mall that presently occupies the site was built in its place. (Rose, with practiced decorum, declined to comment on the Atlantic Center or on the Atlantic Yards development, also by Forest City Ratner, planned across the street.)

Current projects in the company’s portfolio reflect his philosophy at work. In Brooklyn, Jonathan Rose Companies is one of the partners in Gowanus Green, the Rogers Marvel/West 8 housing development along the Gowanus Canal. Another green housing project, the Joyce and David Dinkins Gardens in Harlem, was recently completed and includes a community center and 80 units of affordable housing.

With the arrival of high density and mixed use as hallmarks of environmentalism, Rose is happy to see his philosophy moving into the mainstream. He believes that because of rising energy costs, dense, transit-oriented, energy-efficient design will become the standard. “It only makes sense. People are looking to reduce their VMTs,” he said, referring to vehicle miles traveled. He also believes the New York region is better prepared to weather the ups and downs of a volatile real estate market. “We see two ends of the demographic spectrum, seniors and younger people, who are increasingly attracted to urban areas,” he said.

In addition to the company’s standard development practice, Jonathan Rose Companies has three other divisions: the owner’s representative studio, the planning studio, and the investment studio. The owner’s representative studio works on a fee basis for non-profits, institutional clients, and private developers to select architects and other consultants, arrange financing, manage construction, and direct marketing and sales. Current projects include the classroom building for Cooper Union designed by Morphosis, the Theatre for a New Audience in the BAM Cultural District by the H3 Collaborative, and a renovation and expansion of the UN International School by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s Roger Duffy. The planning studio has been hired by the town of East Hampton to refine its 20-year development plan, and the investment studio manages the Smart Growth Development Fund, a $100 million fund that invests in socially, environmentally, and economically progressive real estate acquisition and development. This diversity of engagement with the field, in addition to the company’s social commitments, differentiates Jonathan Rose Companies from its peers, including Rose Associates. “They do very high-quality work, but we have a different approach,” Rose explained.

The company’s successes show that measured idealism in no way interferes with good business. And judging by the founder’s relaxed disposition and the company’s cheerful, light-filled office space (renovated to green standards, or course, by Weisz + Yoes), the company’s approach is a welcome alternative to the cut-throat world of New York real estate and development.

Wise Move

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Las Vegas Is Learning
Courtesy MGM Grand Mirage

Las Vegas has become a barometer for architecture, though it’s usually a little bit behind the times. It was all glamorous modernism in the 1970s, but by the 1990s, local developers here were obsessed with postmodern fancies that brought the world close, and down to size: The Venetian had its own Grand Canal, and the Paris arrived with a scaled-down Eiffel Tower, while New York, New York went so far as to put maintenance staff in uniforms like those worn by Sanitation workers in the five boroughs. At the turn of the century, developers moved toward upscale, lifestyle-oriented resorts and boutique hotels like the Wynn and the Hotel at Mandalay Bay.

Now another shift is underway: The MGM CityCenter, still under construction, is creating iconic buildings in a dense, mixed-use environment. Believe it or not, Vegas is selling urbanism—or at least a local version of it—and taking a page from cities around the world by using big-name contemporary architects to generate interest.

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Moving Time
The museum will be located on the southeast corner of the Segerstrom Center site. (Dates show when parcels were donated)
Segerstrom Center For The Arts

The Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) in Newport Beach will be packing its bags and moving about eight miles north. The museum announced in early June its plans to build a brand new building in Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts. The project will be designed by Morphosis, and it will be that firm’s first-ever art museum.

The 12-acre Segerstrom Center, which was launched in 1976 with a donation of land to the South Coast Repertory Theater by giant Costa Mesa retail center South Coast Plaza, is now home to an expanded South Coast Repertory Theater, to the 2,000 seat Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, and to a 46,000 square foot community arts plaza. OCMA’s move will finally give the center a visual arts presence, while giving the museum itself a much higher profile.

“Culture in Orange County is really centered on that site. If the museum wasn’t there it would be on the periphery of culture in Orange County,” explained OCMA director Dennis Szakacs, who joined the museum in 2003. The Segerstrom Center is adjacent to the Orange County Performing Arts Center, which contains several other cultural institutions, including Segerstrom Hall, the Samueli Theater, and Founders Hall.

OCMA has been in its current building since 1974, and underwent an expansion in 1996. Its move to Segerstrom was planned in 1998, when South Coast Plaza, directed by Segerstrom lead benefactor Henry Segerstrom, donated 6 acres to the Orange County Performing Arts Center for the Segerstrom Center’s expansion, including space for OCMA. After greatly growing its collection, its budget and its endowment and creating a master plan for its new facility, the well-respected OCMA was finally ready for the move. So the Performing Arts Center transferred 1.64 acres next to the Henry and Renée Segerstrom Concert Hall to the museum on June 6.

The new site will allow OCMA to grow from 38,000 square feet to a possible 72,000 square feet, though the final size of the new museum has not been determined. The land transfer agreement requires the museum to break ground on the new building no later than 2013 and to open the museum by 2016. OCMA’s Szakacs says he hopes the new museum will be finished before that time.

His museum’s selection of Morphosis came from an initial list of 15 firms that was then cut to 4 firms, including Tokyo-based Shigeru Ban, Madrid-based Abalos & Herreros, and Zurich-based Gigon Guyer. In the end, said Szakacs, the museum was most impressed by Morphosis’s enthusiasm about the project and its willingness “to rethink what a museum is, both spatially, conceptually, and programmatically.” Szakacs said the design for the new museum should be unveiled at the end of the summer, adding that there would be a focus on sustainability and on how people move through the museum both inside and outside.

Morphosis has been short-listed for a number of art museums, including LACMA’s recent expansion, the Denver Museum of Art, but never before gained the chance to design one.

Henry Segestrom said he was “delighted” about the addition of OCMA, which he called a “phenomenal institution” He added that the Segerstrom Center will stop expanding for a while after the new museum is built. There is an entitlement for another 1,000 seat theater on the land, but “it wouldn’t happen for another ten years,” he said.

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Q&A: SF Planning Director John Rahaim
The Seattle Library by Rem Koolhaas was built on Rahaim's watch.

John Rahaim, former planning director for the City of Seattle, assumed his duties as San Francisco’s new planning director in January. Kenneth Caldwell finds out what’s on his mind for San Francisco.

The Architect’s Newspaper: What can we do to encourage really first-rate architecture and landscape architecture and urban design in San Francisco? What can we do to achieve the goal of the contemporary building?

John Rahaim: I think highlighting good examples is one way. I think we need to have a discussion about what the key principles are, and about what makes a good urban building—which transcends architecture, in my view. 

Part of the solution might be the planning department’s being very cautious about moving projects forward that don’t achieve that good urban quality we’re all looking for. It’s hard, because historically, urban buildings were constructed with a much more limited palette of materials and a much more limited technology. So they had a uniformity that simply doesn’t exist anymore. 

What about some of the fine-grain character? What do you see as some of the greatest challenges and opportunities for the evolution of the neighborhoods, and what do you regard as the role of a tool like residential design guidelines? 

What we see on a fairly regular basis is the challenge of inserting new development that is often large in scale and contemporary in design into a traditional San Francisco context. I think the residential design guidelines have an important role, but what I don’t believe is that they should go so far as to require mimicry in buildings. 

We need to design buildings of our time. One of our great architectural challenges is to design buildings that are contemporary and that work within an urban context. I think most architects haven’t figured that out yet. But I would really like to challenge architects on that front, to design buildings that are wonderful, contemporary, exciting buildings that work on a city street. 

I think there’s a pretty broad perception that a lot of the recent high-rise architecture here is mediocre. Do you have some ideas about how we can improve the quality of those large-scale towers? 

Every city I go to, people complain that the architecture in their city is so much worse than the architecture in the city down the road. Couldn’t we do what Chicago does? Couldn’t we do what Vancouver does? And I go to Chicago and people there are saying, oh, look what’s being built here; it’s so awful. Can’t we do what San Francisco does? What’s being built in high-rise residential architecture isn’t great architecture. There are some good examples, though. I would argue that not every building should be a landmark, and that if every building tried to be a landmark, we would have no landmarks. There is a difference between building good-quality background buildings that work in an urban environment, and understanding when and how and where a landmark building should be. 

That’s why it’s important to talk about contemporary architecture that works in an urban context. How does it work on the street? How does it work on the skyline? How does the facade play off the other buildings on that street? 

It’s not our job in planning to dictate our architectural style. Sometimes we may want to go too far in that regard, and I think it’s very important not to cross that line. It’s a fuzzy line, but it’s important for us not to tell an architect how to design a building, but to tell an architect and a developer the principles that that building should achieve. 

Yet with redevelopment, and the federal government exempt from planning department guidelines, a lot of what you might want to achieve in a certain area or adjacent area… 

You wouldn’t be talking about a certain example? 

I think that one of the most dramatic new high-rise buildings is one that was exempt. [Morphosis’ Federal Building] 

Sure. But the federal government, as much as it builds, doesn’t build one of those every year in most cities. How long did it take to get that project built? That building has its own challenges in terms of the tone that it set for that particular neighborhood. But I will also say that I think it is part of the government’s job to push the envelope. 

john rahaim

The Seattle Central Library designed by Rem Koolhaas is a very controversial building. It’s essentially a giant experiment, and some parts of that experiment are not going to work. Koolhaas has a tendency to use materials that aren’t tested, are experimental. Some of those materials simply aren’t going to work. But that’s okay. 

If we can just relax about that as a society and as a city, there are advantages to having that experiment. There are things about the building that don’t work on the street; I wish it was different on some of the street frontages, but all in all, I actually think it’s an exciting new building for the city. 

The federal building here is what it is. Part of the problem is that it’s essentially an 8:00-to-5:00, Monday-through-Friday office building. If that building had other uses that activated it, I’m not sure that people would feel so strongly about it. 

What are some of the lessons from the other cities where you have worked that you can bring here? 

I think San Francisco needs to take a little bit of a step back from the conflicts and discussions about details of development projects and neighborhood plans—all of which are important. But we seem to have lost the perspective on why we’re doing all this. 

I would like to have a conversation about growth management, about how the city wants to grow, and how we should shape growth. I think Seattle has done a good job with this because of all the issues of growth management and controlling sprawl in that region. 

So often the conversation seems to be about a conflict between people who want to build something and people who don’t want it to be built. The conversation should be about how we can shape growth that benefits the city in the long run. The city will grow whether we want it to or not. 

Let’s expand on that a little and talk about regional planning. That’s a hot button and very hard to implement, but can we put our local planning efforts into a regional context? 

I must say I’m a little disappointed that I’ve not heard more of that. I think it’s important. I think the major urban centers in the Bay Area have a responsibility to accept a fair amount of growth just because of the regional issues and regional sprawl. 

Again, Seattle is a good lesson there. It certainly has not solved the regional discussion by any means. And not nearly as much as cities like Portland and Minneapolis have. 

Because of the state growth management act, King County (in Seattle) literally has an urban growth boundary, much like Portland does. We copied that from Portland. All good things in urban planning are copied from Portland, I guess. What the state growth management act forced us to do is to talk to each other at a regional level. 

There is still a tremendous amount of fighting between urban municipalities and suburban municipalities that will not accept certain minimum densities and all those things that are important to growth management. But at least they are at the table with each other. It isn’t clear to me that people are sitting at the same table here. Yet.  

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Astor’s New Angle


The spinning cube at Astor Place is about to get upstaged. Fumihiko Maki’s new building for developer Edward Minskoff, a spare diamond of glass and granite, will give the modest steel sculpture a run for its money. Maki’s project will replace the Cooper Union’s Albert Nerken School of Engineering building at 51 Astor, across the street from the school’s landmark 1859 home. It’s a big step for the school: The New York Observer reported that Cooper Union recently updated a 50-year-old agreement with the city to allow for a mixed-use building on the site to help the school capitalize on its prime real estate and continue to maintain free tuition for its 1,000 students. Minskoff signed a 99-year lease on the 51 Astor Place property, and he’s convinced that Maki’s design will draw tenants like moths to a giant, jagged lightbulb. 

“It’s hard to describe in words,” Minskoff said of the design. “It’s like a unique architectural jewel box.” Maki divided the building’s 440,000 square feet across two sections: a 13-story obsidian tower and an 11-story chunk of glass. According to the amended contract with the city, at least 40,000 square feet of the project will be devoted to education. 

Before Maki’s building goes in, of course, the current engineering building—a ho-hum study in beige brick—has to come down. And it will, as soon as the students there have a place to move their PCs and protractors. In 2003, Cooper Union hired Morphosis to design a new, purely educational building for the school. It’s an academic ant farm, a clear box coated in movable metal screens that expose its hallways and atriums to the street. When it’s done within the year, work will start at 51 Astor Place. Minskoff hopes to open the building in 2010. 


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Hammer Time
Scheme by Pugh + Scarpa
Courtesy Pugh + Scarpa

Two-and-a-half years after flooding devastated New Orleans, a home designed by Los Angeles firm Graft will break ground in the city’s Lower Ninth Ward in March, marking the construction phase of Make It Right, a highly-publicized philanthropic effort to create new homes headed by actor Brad Pitt. Designs by LA firms Morphosis and Pugh + Scarpa are also among the 13 offered for over 150 houses to be built over the next two years. New Orleans-based John Williams is serving as executive architect, with designs contributed by an international cast including Adjaye Associates of England, Constructs of Ghana, MVRDV of the Netherlands, and Shigeru Ban Architects of Japan, along with several local firms. In addition, a core advisory team consists of Graft from Berlin, Germany, and William McDonough + Partners of Charlottesville, Virginia. 

Make It Right was announced last September but given a huge financial boost when funds of $5 million each were pledged by Pitt and producer Steve Bing. An even larger publicity boost came when Pitt, a huge architecture enthusiast, assumed a large creative role in the project, personally selecting firms to participate. The results, said Pugh + Scarpa principal Lawrence Scarpa, are houses that combine innovative modern design and an ability to address displaced residents’ needs. He equates it to a modern-day Case Study House program. “There was an idea to give people an opportunity to have a new and different way to live. To provide normal people with quality design.” 

Scheme by Graft. COURTESY GRAFT

The firms were instructed to incorporate green building features into a 1,200-square-foot home to be built for about $150,000. Residents can choose their design, which has made them incredibly curious about the process, said Graft associate Neiel Norheim. Many firms modernized elements of the traditional shotgun houses that existed in the area before the hurricane. Graft’s design reinforces community, with wide stairs on the front porch that can be used for seating and a single hallway connecting the entry to the back porch, uniting the social areas. Pugh + Scarpa’s unique spatial organization is inspired by patchwork quilting, with abstract geometric shapes defining large, family-oriented areas. The exterior is shaded with inexpensive recycled wood pallets and perforated cement board screens to maximize light, while deep roof overhangs create wide porches to further insulate the interiors. Morphosis’ design, which at first appears to be a bright yellow modernization of a shotgun house, actually feels more like a boat inside. Buoyed by polystyrene foam encased in glass fiber-reinforced concrete, the foundation will actually float in high water. 

One concern from the architecture community was whether Pitt’s celebrity would eclipse the work of the designers. But Alejandra Lillo, partner at Graft, whose firm has a longstanding relationship with Pitt and was brought on during the earliest brainstorming stages, said Pitt’s commitment has actually been the driving force. “Brad is an incredible philanthropist with keen architectural vision and the determination to elevate the quality of design in this neighborhood,” she said. Scarpa agreed. “Clearly he is more than the public face of the project,” he said, noting that Pitt attended every meeting, sans entourage. 

To further spur donations and to help visualize the magnitude of destruction in this neighborhood, Graft also spearheaded a large-scale art installation called the Pink Project, where a team gradually assembled and illuminated 150 structures in a 14-square-block area to represent the number of donations needed to restore the neighborhood. The structures, which looked like giant Monopoly houses when flipped upright, were covered in hot pink Earthtex fabric to be recycled into tote bags. Stefan Beese, executive associate of Graft and executive producer of the Pink Project, said the response to the architects’ presence has been overwhelmingly positive in the community: “The residents of the Lower Ninth were very happy to see that the focus and attention was being brought back to an area that felt like it had been abandoned and was still in such need.” 

Hearst Castles

On November 6, Los Angeles City Council upheld the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the redevelopment of the 1913 Herald Examiner building on the southern end of downtown. The move effectively pushed forward the long-delayed scheme, which is being developed by Hearst Communications and—very significantly—includes construction of two nearby condominium towers by Morphosis.

The original EIR had been adopted in October 2006, but was appealed by Conquest Student Housing, a company that provides student housing at nearby USC. The November 6 council measure denied that appeal. The Mission Revival-style Herald Examiner building, at 1111 South Broadway, has been closed since 1989, when the Hearst-owned newspaper folded. According to the EIR, the renovated building will include 40,000 square feet of office space and 20,000 square feet of retail space. Preservation architect Brenda Levin, who has helped refurbish City Hall, the Wiltern Theater, and Grand Central Market, among other buildings, will oversee the building’s rehab.

Morphosis’ new towers, located on 1108 South Hill Street and 1201 South Main Street, will include a 24-story, 268-unit building on the site of the old Herald Examiner Press Building and a 37-story, 319-unit building, which will be built at the site of a former parking lot. Hearst would not release renderings, but according to the EIR both buildings will draw on the heavy structural grid of the Herald Examiner building for inspiration. For example the Hill Street building will have a concrete wall structural system, continuous concrete balconies, and exterior materials that could include terra cotta, red cement fiberboard, pre-finished sheet metal, or glass fiber reinforced concrete. The towers are expected to be completed by 2009 and 2010.

The project is also set to include a 50-foot-wide landscaped courtyard between the Herald Examiner Building and the new Hill Street building, and streetscape improvements including tree plantings, new sidewalks, and a possible new landscape median along Broadway. 

Unveiled: Cahill Center for Astronomy

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