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A South L.A. Homecoming

Destination Crenshaw celebrates the culture of South Los Angeles as it parades down the community’s main drag
A long drive through Los Angeles, a city famed for both its car culture and the superlative diversity of its residents, will take you through a generous number of officially designated ethnic and cultural enclaves: Little Tokyo, Chinatown, Little Ethiopia, Persian Square, Historic Filipinotown, Olvera Street, Little Armenia and neighboring Thai Town, and Koreatown, a district so large and so dense that it comprises an entire major neighborhood and surrounds a separate ethnic enclave in the form of Little Bangladesh. But as pointed out by Marqueece Harris-Dawson, a Los Angeles City Council member who represents District 8 in the western section of South Los Angeles, this sprawling patchwork of city-christened cultural districts omits one of L.A.’s largest, oldest, and most established communities: that of Black Angelenos. “There’s nothing in L.A. that officially designates [a cultural district] for the group that’s been here the longest outside of Native Americans,” Harris-Dawson told The Architect’s Newspaper. “Black people founded the city of L.A.” (Harris-Dawson is referring to the Pobladores, the group of 44 settlers, half of whom were of at least partial African descent, who established the city in 1781.) That’s all set to change, however, with Destination Crenshaw, a project spearheaded by Harris-Dawson that broke ground along Crenshaw Boulevard in the South L.A. neighborhood of Hyde Park this past February. Spanning 1.3 miles—or 2.6 miles, if you're counting both sides of the street—along an over-12-block stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard’s historic commercial core, Destination Crenshaw will entail infrastructural and lighting improvements, facade rehabilitation, landscaping, community gathering spaces, “unapologetically Black” public art, and more. It’s easiest thought of as an open-air linear art and history museum celebrating South L.A.’s African American community. Slated to feature over 100 permanent and rotating street-side artworks from established and emerging Black L.A.-based artists, Destination Crenshaw will be an experience that has some of the narrative-driven qualities of a museum but is ultimately rawer, more dynamic, and liberated from the constraints of four walls. The project was born from urgency as a direct response to community uproar surrounding the expansion of the Los Angeles Metro Rail system. The Crenshaw/LAX Line, an under-construction $2.1 billion light-rail line that will run at grade along this stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard, has long been a source of apprehension for residents and community leaders, particularly with regard to the impact that a major transit project could have on local small businesses, homeowners, and the fabric of the community. Transit-spurred gentrification was and still is a major concern. Yet some, including Harris-Dawson, have come to view the arrival of the Crenshaw/LAX Line, which includes two new Metro stations bookending Destination Crenshaw, as an opportunity to create something new. And that something has ultimately taken the form of a streetscape unlike anything that’s been attempted before. “When you simplify it, we’re just building a platform to showcase and grow the things that already come out of the Black community,” said Harris-Dawson. “What we’re doing isn’t rocket science—except for the amount of art, because that’s quite unprecedented.” In addition to implementing long-sought infrastructural improvements, including bike racks, additional parking, and new, “culturally stamped” sidewalks, Destination Crenshaw will, in the words of Harris-Dawson, use public art and design to illustrate “the story, culture, and roots of this neighborhood in a way that you can hear, see, touch, and feel so that it actually reflects where you are.” Funding for the $100 million project has come from a range of sources, including private backers, the City of Los Angeles, the State of California, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which contributed $15 million earmarked for a large, Metro station–adjacent park at its northern end. To aid in envisioning a dynamic solution that would protect and support Black-owned businesses along Crenshaw Boulevard while also introducing new elements spotlighting South L.A.’s profound global cultural influence, Council District 8 turned to the Durham, North Carolina–based branch of Perkins and Will. Leading the Destination Crenshaw design team is Zena Howard, a protégée and colleague of the late Phil Freelon. Most notably, Howard served as senior project manager for Freelon Group on its work alongside Adjaye Associates at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. (Perkins and Will acquired Freelon Group in 2014, five years before Freelon’s passing.) “Our practice focuses on using the built environment to bring to light and support communities and their untold stories,” said Howard, who is currently managing director of Perkins and Will’s North Carolina office. “And oftentimes these are communities that have been disenfranchised or otherwise marginalized or divided.” “There really isn’t a true precedent for this,” Howard added. “There are some projects that are in the same ilk—people cite the High Line and other things—but there are none that tell a consistent story that had not really been put forth, and that are community-driven and inspired in the way that this is.” The opportunity for extensive community engagement and collaboration with a vast and diverse number of partners was immensely appealing to Perkins and Will. “It excited us…[as] a way to have architecture partner with so many different aspects of our community, culture, and society to help bring this story to light,” Howard explained. “We were up for doing something that had never been done before.” Crucial to the engagement process was working alongside Destination Crenshaw to form a diverse, multigenerational design advisory council or, as Howard referred to it, an “‘A’ team of thought leaders, artists, and people who have lived in the community for decades.” Among the 20-person-strong community partner team is gardener, artist, and community activist Ron Finley; Amanda Hunt, director of education and senior curator of programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Felicia Filer, public art division director for the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs; filmmaker and activist Ben Caldwell; and street artist ArcherOne. Rapper, activist, and Crenshaw native Nipsey Hussle was also intimately involved in the planning and advisory stages of the project before his death in March 2019. These are “people on the front lines of Black L.A. art culture,” Harris-Dawson said. “Some of them are artists, some are curators, historians, community organizers, and urban planners. But they all have some tie together…and they’re real community stakeholders.” “We chose them because you have to have real authoritative pushback when people design something that does not reflect you,” Harris-Dawson added. The unifying design narrative that emerged from the monthslong charrette process was “Grow Where You Are Planted.” Praising and encouraging endurance against all odds, the design uses African star grass as a central motif. Moving south to north along Crenshaw Boulevard, Destination Crenshaw is divided into four distinct thematic nodes, or “lenses,” that together tell the story of Black Los Angeles’s past, present, and future. Each node features small parks, interactive installations, and, of course, an abundance of public art. Commencing at the planned Hyde Park station, at Slauson Avenue and Crenshaw, is the “Improvisation” node, which was inspired by Hussle and celebrates the spirit of creativity and ingenuity in the face of limited resources. Beginning at 54th Street is the “Firsts” section of Destination Crenshaw, which uses the story of Biddy Mason, one of L.A.’s first female Black landowners, to spotlight numerous other trailblazing individuals and events that came from or took place in South L.A. At 50th Street is the start of the “Dreams” node, which was inspired by the life and career of pioneering African American architect Paul R. Williams, and includes the Crenshaw Wall, a mural-clad 800-foot wall/canvas that dates back to the 1970s. Around the planned Leimert Park station, on Vernon Avenue, Destination Crenshaw concludes in the spirit of “Togetherness,” which, as Howard explained, is “about the ability of this community to come together to celebrate, to resist, and to mourn in times of happiness and protest.” This northernmost section of the project will include its centerpiece, Sankofa Park, a large, open public space straddled by an overlook structure whose form takes its inspiration from the symbol of the mythical Sankofa bird, which flies forward while also looking backward. In addition to Sankofa Park and a multitude of pocket parks punctuating Destination Crenshaw, landscape design firm Studio-MLA is overseeing a major tree planting effort. Nearly all the trees along this stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard were removed by the city in 2012 to make way for the space shuttle Endeavour as it was hauled 12 miles through the streets of L.A. to the California Science Center. Although trees were replanted in other areas of the city that the shuttle traveled through, Crenshaw Boulevard has remained woefully barren. “This is also an environmental equity project,” said Howard, referencing the landscape design. “We are also reforesting, bringing back 822 trees to beautify this boulevard and to make it a humane place to be.” As Kenneth Luker, the project’s lead design principal with Perkins and Will, explained, one of the main challenges in conceiving Destination Crenshaw revolved largely around scale. “How to create a unified experience across such a large urban landscape was challenging when we consider how many other components of the urban context need to coexist with this project, such as the Metro, Crenshaw Boulevard, and many private landowners,” Luker said. “The ‘connective tissue’ of our concept was designed specifically to unite this urban landscape of multiple pocket parks, art installations, and exhibits.” Beyond the interventions by Perkins and Will, Destination Crenshaw is also investing in a facade improvement program for existing small businesses along the corridor, starting with soul food restaurant Dulan’s On Crenshaw. This is important, Harris-Dawson pointed out, because “we want these businesses not only to survive with the new train coming but to thrive.” With an estimated completion date in early 2021, Destination Crenshaw is scheduled to greet riders of the Crenshaw/LAX Line when that project wraps up around the same time. And while concerns linger over how the new presence of mass transit will play out in this pocket of South Los Angeles in the near future, Destination Crenshaw will have at least already made a bold and beautiful mark in a community whose cultural influence—in visual art, music, and film—spans the world but has never been officially saluted in its own backyard. “While this project can’t resolve all of that,” said Howard, referring to the potential for transit-oriented development and real estate turnover resulting from the new Metro line, “we can mark this area culturally with icons, art, architecture, and landscape design that speaks to and memorializes this community and their contributions regardless of any change that may happen later.”
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Easy As She Goes

Construction sites across America are reopening, but concerns linger
The novel coronavirus pandemic isn’t showing signs of abating at the time of writing, but construction sites across the U.S. are slowly beginning to reopen. Non-essential construction in most major American cities was put on pause about a month ago, with Boston leading the charge and implanting a freeze on March 17. New York State followed two weeks later on March 30, though a carve-out for “essential” work allowed the construction to continue for bridges, hospitals, affordable housing (including affordable housing attached to luxury condo towers), homeless shelters, and other exemptions. Construction is an industry known for cramming people together in enclosed spaces for prolonged periods, a particularly volatile combination when trying to prevent the spread of infectious disease. Now, though, cranes and cement trucks are slowly rolling back onto city streets, but not without extra precautions meant to curb the spread of coronavirus. As the New York Times notes, 5,200 construction sites in New York City are reopening while trying to grapple with the question of how to protect their workers. That includes taking temperatures before entering a job site, maintaining a six-foot distance from others, and wearing masks even when not necessarily needed. Handwashing stations are being added to construction sites as well, and tools are reportedly being sanitized when not in use. The Times also reported that labor groups are pushing the city for 24-hour construction, which would space out workers over the course of the day. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that such suggestions will be implemented; even during the worst parts of the pandemic to-date, construction workers voiced their fear over working in unsafe conditions, and the shift to industry-wide change could be a long one. Still, companies are trying to tackle the problem from all angles, including using artificial intelligence and cameras to enforce social distancing. Meanwhile, work is picking up again elsewhere too. Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh is reportedly meeting with industry groups to figure out how to safely restart construction, while work is still going on in California, as Governor Gavin Newsom never implemented the same kind of rigorous shutdowns seen elsewhere. Still, as long as coronavirus poses a threat, how we view construction may change. An increased use of assembled-off-site modular options, lengthier project timelines, and sparser sites could be the new industry norm.
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With biennials and triennials paused, it’s the perfect time to rethink their place
2019 was another banner year for architectural biennials and triennials. With roots in world fairs and art biennials, the architecture –ennial as a circuit has been expanding on every shore: Chicago, Oslo, Grand Rapids, Seoul, Cleveland, Istanbul, and Columbus, Indiana, were but a few places that hosted architecture and design exhibitions last year. With so much variety in geography and content, it might be worth asking what, exactly, constitutes an –ennial. First, they are disciplinary events hosted outside of museums, and are temporary, itinerant, ever-evolving. Perhaps more importantly, –ennials, at least, those we will examine here, are performances trying to demonstrate why architecture and design matters to a variety of publics, how, as a discipline, architecture hurts and heals, and where the benefit to host cities might be in the future. Or maybe they are just expensive culture festivals manufactured to drive tourism and bolster civic “brand identity.” It’s complicated—and getting more complicated as we continue through the current pandemic. In her book Biennials/Triennials: Conversations on the Geography of Itinerant Display (Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, 2019), Léa-Catherine Szacka positions –ennials as agents for change operating within the architectural discipline. Over 175 pages, she works to define the “geography of itinerant display” that typifies the –ennial while exploring its “agencies” and effects. She approaches this task in two ways: by erecting (or improvising) a conceptual framework with which to better understand the –ennial phenomenon, and by engaging six of its leading exponents in a series of interviews. Szacka highlights a number of milestones in the development of the –ennial, none as pivotal as establishment of the architecture sector of the Venice Biennale in 1979. The subsequent exhibition in 1980, with its indelible sense for pageantry, built to a kind of global explosion in events by the 1990s. Today, the geography of –ennials is indeed vast, with a program on every continent (yes, even Antarctica). Here in Columbus, Indiana, where we are surrounded by marvels of postwar modern architecture and design, we created Exhibit Columbus in 2016 to explore architecture, art, design, and community through alternating symposia and exhibitions. While we don’t consider Exhibit Columbus a typical –ennial, but rather a project that both investigates the design legacy of this place and presents new ways to engage and care for our community. The copies we have of Szacka’s little volume in the office are filled with Post-It Notes and marginalia; surely, others working in this arena—or those aspiring to—will be glad that the book is saddle stitch bound, as they’ll be flipping back through it for weeks and even in two-to-three years time, when constructing the next exhibition (or project). Architects, planners, and civic leaders should find equal value in Szacka’s study as a reflection on the discipline and practice of architecture, planning strategies, and the creation of city-wide events. I, myself, view the book as a kind of exhibition in itself. A punchy preface by Martino Stierli, MoMA’s chief curator of architecture and design, directs the reader—or “visitor”—to Szacka’s excellent introduction, which, in turn, gives way to a timeline (de rigueur for any exhibition), leading to the main event—the interviews. On the way out you can glimpse the bibliography that underpins the whole enterprise, but which, according to Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley, among the handful of curators Szacka interviews, no one will bother to consult (more on that later). And where the credits should be, there is instead a dazzling photographic array. Yes, there are 30 pages of color images culled from Instagram, beginning with “prehistory” (Aldo Rossi’s 1979 Teatro Del Mundo) and eventually crossing over into history (i.e. the launch and popularization of Instagram at the beginning of the 2010s). When it’s all over, you’ll probably spend a lot of time thumbing the pages of images and seeing how many of the Instagram usernames you recognize. It would be easy to criticize the inclusion of Instagram, the same way that we critique each biennial or triennial. But Instagram is as much a part of the performance and response to any –ennial or exhibition today as a catalog, if not more so. Here in Indiana—deep in the Heartland—we know how important it is to have a digital presence that is clear, smart, and visible to folks who may never actually attend our symposium or visit our exhibition and remarkable small city. A smart Instagram account is a critical part of an event’s success, functioning as an exhibition listing, map, a repository for criticism and commentary, and time capsule all in one. In the introduction to her book, Szacka takes a long view of the –ennial, beginning with the 1895 Prima Mostra Internazionale d’arte della città di Venezia. But the real work gets going as she sets up the connections between the –ennial paradigm and Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle (published in 1967, around the time when the professionalization of the “curators” first occurred). Debord bemoaned “a world dominated by entertainment events, and commercially driven tourism,” which certainly seems to sum up the –ennial rather well. Architectural exhibitions are at once conceived as places of exploration, speculation, review, and even formulas for generating new knowledge. At the same time, they are directly tied to cultural tourism, civic boosterism, and urban redevelopment; in a word, capitalism. It isn’t always easy to grasp the particular goals of each –ennial, and certainly they are each created for different purposes. Szacka acknowledges that her book is not a full-fledged, critical reassessment of the role of –ennials (and I agree such a reassessment is needed), but it nonetheless acts as a provocatory first step in this direction. She approaches the subject using three points of criteria: format, space, and content. These terms are explained in some detail along with a kind of preemptive conclusion that seems strangely placed, i.e. before the actual interviews. As a framing device, it is unclear, and besides, Szacka’s terms rarely inform the structure of the interviews. What makes the book so accessible, then, is that one need not fully grasp, or accept, Szacka's framework to enjoy the interviews, which are the real draw here. Her interviews sparkle with interest because of their candidness, variety, and complexity. Szacka has a long-standing stake in the historicization of –ennials (her previous monograph examined the events leading up to and including the 1980 Venice Architecture Biennale), and so she makes for an ideal interrogator. I often found myself just as interested in her questions as the answers of her interlocutors. All but one of the six interviews revolve around the logistical problem of curating a large-scale exhibition, yet they never grow stale or repetitive. Nevertheless, I found the selection of interviewees to be somewhat narrow; for example, I would have also appreciated hearing from Beatrice Galilee and her shifting role from curating the Lisbon Triennale to working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and beyond. Indeed, some of the interviews seem more geared to insiders who possess a knowledge of which curator or theme appeared at this or that –ennial. Yet, in spite of these occasional moments, I never felt left out of the conversations. While most interviewees reflect on their work with an uncommon candor, I was most drawn to Colomina and Wigley. Perhaps it was their brashness and honesty about their own work, or maybe it was their unblinkered take on the state of the field and their dismissal of the whole genre of writing that fills the pages of –ennial catalogs (“Nobody reads it”). Certainly, their criticisms of the shortsightedness of –ennials and their commissioners—vis-à-vis material and labor expenditures—are valid. Now more than ever, we need for –ennials to become stronger and smarter “disciplinary agents” in the field, whose interventions might cause us to consider our audiences and communities in new ways. In this vein, Sarah Herda’s interview ends the book on an optimistic note, pushing curators and architects to believe in their ideas so firmly that they are willing to defend them even at the risk of the ideas collapsing in on themselves. This notion of risk taking is so very important to –ennials! If we are to use –ennials for bettering the profession, and therefore our cities, we need to create more spaces where risk taking and even failure can be rewarded. Speaking for myself and my team at Exhibit Columbus, we have embraced the idea of experimentation and risk-taking. After the event’s first iteration in 2017, we moved our focus away from notions of commercialization in the design market to community and local benefits. In the subsequent 2019 edition, we tried to find ways for each of the installations to have deep connections to different communities throughout our small city of 55,000 citizens, and more widely, North America. At the same time, we leveraged the context of Columbus as a place in the middle of this country that deserves global attention. Our greatest risk is the nucleus of our whole project: That a place in Indiana has a history that matters to the future as much as it did to the past. We see it as a kind of model for others to understand and present cultural heritage for future generations without being nostalgic. In her concluding remarks, Szacka poses a pressing question: Can –ennials act as spaces for activism? We think so here in Indiana. Here’s hoping that, pending the outcome of the pandemic, Szacka is able to continue her studies into the –ennial. Richard McCoy is the Executive Director of Landmark Columbus Foundation, which produces Exhibit Columbus.
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Governmental Green

Zaha Hadid Architects tapped for ultra-sustainable CECEP headquarters in Shanghai
London-based Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) has revealed that it will build the new Shanghai headquarters for the state-owned China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group (CECEP) after the firm’s superlatively sustainable design was selected as the winner of an international design competition. The 2.3-million-square-foot project—a park-like “mixed-use urban campus” anchored by three interlocking office towers with integrated thermal mass—will take root at a riverside parcel near the Yangpu Bridge and serve as a showcase for a wide array of renewable energy technologies and conservation-minded features. They include rooftop and facade-integrated photovoltaic cells that feed into an on-site microgrid that will enable the campus to reduce its energy usage by 25 percent; a thermal ice storage cooling system whose use will be minimized by extensive external shading; rainwater harvesting; a waste heat recovery system; non-resource-intensive, biophilic landscaping design, and an advanced building management system that will “continually monitor the interior environment and automatically react to changes in internal conditions such as variations in temperature, air quality, natural daylight, or number of occupants.” What’s more, construction of the campus’s buildings will rely heavily on locally produced prefabricated components that, per ZHA, “will reduce the project's embodied carbon and also support the local economy while procurement will prioritize the use of recycled materials.” With “sustainability embedded into every aspect of its design and construction,” the project is aiming for a 90-point score in China’s Three Star Green Building Rating system—the highest number of credits ever achieved for a building in Shanghai. In addition to the office high-rises, the Huangpu River-facing compound will serve as a dining, shopping, and recreation destination encased by an ample amount of public green space. This “echoes CECEP’s commitment to environmental education by creating vital new public spaces for its staff and neighbouring communities to enjoy the natural world,” according to the company. This hearty communal spirit, however, doesn’t extend to all aspects of the project considering our new surface-paranoid reality. As ZHA noted, access to the office towers and other spaces will be controlled by no-touch biometric security systems that render contact with shared surfaces by CECEP staff and visitors completely moot. The CECEP campus is ZHA’s second major Shanghai project following Sky SOHO, which was completed in 2014.
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Anything but LAC-luster

Finalists in the LACMA Not LackMA protest design competition unveiled
The Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA, an activist group riled by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor’s revamp of the Los Angeles County of Museum of Art (LACMA) and the “catastrophic impact” it poses on the 110-year-old institution and L.A. culture at large, has unveiled the six finalists in its LACMA not LACKma international design competition. A juried protest competition of sorts, launched last month in search of alternative proposals to Zumthor’s highly contentious $750 million plan, the proposals solicited by the Citizens’ Brigade—28 in total were submitted—were required to imagine corrective “solutions that would expand gallery space rather than shrink it, and use less rather than more land, while providing a home for the collections and services needed for their care.” To be clear, the Citizens’ Brigade, a collection of design professionals, art experts, and the general public, isn’t staunchly opposed to demolishing some buildings on LACMA’s 1960s-era Wilshire Boulevard campus to make way for a new one. It is, however, concerned about the overall diminishing, growth-prohibiting effect that the redesign will have on the museum’s collections. “The design fails the collections, which will be stored or dispersed to other locations,” explained the group, noting that Zumthor’s vision also “consumes too much land and costs an extravagant price per square foot” while doing away with curator services and the on-site library. Proposals submitted to the competition fall under two categories; the adaptive reuse-focused Existing Buildings and Ground Up, which entails entirely new and more appropriate designs. Three finalists were chosen from each category. As the competition website states: “We are not proposing that any one of them be built as is, but simply suggesting that the public, the museum board, and the County Board of Supervisors view them as possible starting points for developing alternatives that truly capture people’s eyes, hearts, and minds, and showcase LACMA's collections in a practical and architecturally stimulating environment.” The six finalists, which will each receive $1,500 in prize money provided by an anonymous backer, were selected by a jury that included Aaron Betsky, architecture critic and newly instated director of the Virginia Tech School of Architecture and Design; author, critic, and co-chair of the Citizens’ Brigade, Greg Goldin; Joseph Giovannini, an architect who also serves as architecture critic for the Los Angeles Review of Books and co-chair of the Citizens’ Brigade; William Pedersen of New York-based firm Kohn Pedersen Fox; educator and architect Winka Dubbeldam; Los Angeles-based architect and activist Barton Phelps, and former LACMA curator J. Patrice Marandel. “We at The Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA are impressed with the creativity, sensitivity, and passion these international architects brought to their ideas, as well as the generosity of their considerable time and effort,” said Giovannini in a statement. It’s now in the hands of the public to select an overall winner from each category via online voting. Each winner will receive an additional $500 prize. Voting is open until May 15. An additional nine submitted proposals considered as “Ideas of Merit” will also be shared on the competition website in the coming days. HILLACMA: TheeAe (The Evolved Architectural Eclectic), Hong Kong (Ground Up)
“TheeAe (The Evolved Architectural Eclectic) considers Los Angeles’ diversity when proposing the museum as ‘a new cultural platform that connects people from different walks of life,’ by simultaeneously offering enclosed cultural spaces and an open, sculpted, outdoor landscape. The tall building (five levels plus garden roof) combines an undulating facade along Wilshire Boulevard to the south with ‘hill’ element sloping into the park on the property’s north side. The jury remarked that the dramatic hybrid design would make it a ‘destination building’ cleverly designed to sustain the urbanity of Wilshire on one side while extending the bucolic nature of the park on the other. ‘The Wilshire facade becomes a kinetic wall, imparting a strong urban experience that changes as you drive by, which is how most Angelenos experience the city,’ noted the jury. ‘The back facade, a built hillside, is a landscape event that adds a surprising new participatory dimension to Hancock Park. This will be a hill you want to climb.’”
LACMA Wing: Coop Himmelb(I)au, Vienna (Ground Up)
“Emphasizing ‘an architecture that combines functionality with aspiration,’ Coop Himmelb(l)au designed three main elements: landscape plinth and two, three-level ‘floating’ gallery wings. Public circulation on ramps connecting the volumes would be encased by expressive amorphous forms whose openness to the outside refreshes the museum visiting experience. These public spaces are accessible without a ticket to the museum, but windows into the galleries are meant to entice people inside. The jury appreciated the curatorial flexibility of generous gallery spaces, with 22-foot floor-to-ceiling heights, the possibility of mezzanines and intimate galleries, and open floor plates. ‘This entry combines issues of great efficiency with moments of drama,’ noted the jury. ‘The ‘bubbles’ offer exciting spaces that celebrate the public realm while connecting to straightforward, practical, functional galleries in the wings.’”
Reimagining/Restructuring: Saffet Kaya Design, London (Existing Buildings)
“Replacing the 1986 building, Kaya Design proposes ‘to preserve the best elements of the past while creating a more contemporary, multi-use alternative space.’ An elevated volume that respects the scale of the existing structures has solid walls on three sides for curatorial flexibility, then opens to the north with an all-glass façade. Circulation into the entrance is through a gentle ramp/walkway leading into the lobby that directs visitors to the other buildings on other floors—the ramps equalizing the importance of all adjacent floors. The new structure is reserved for exhibition space on six above-grade levels, including the interior of the spiral element. ‘This design achieves a considerable service to the campus, making the east campus more coherent than it’s ever been,” said the jury. ‘The biological form of the spiral—as ancient as seashells and hurricanes—gives value to the floors it connects.’”
Re(in)novating LACMA: RUR Architecture, Reiser + Umemoto, New York City (Existing Buildings)
“Reiser + Umemoto’s aim was ‘to create a coherent, retroactive masterplan that builds off the campus’ prior successes and seeks to engage and reinvigorate the full breadth of LACMA’s collection.’ The three-pronged approach includes adding new elements in and around the original 1965 buildings, binding them into a new whole. The Cone sits within and atop the Ahmanson; The Bar, an elevated gallery building, transects the campus from north to south, offering an appropriately scaled Wilshire entrance and new gallery space; The Cluster replaces the 1986 building with a series of interior pod-shaped galleries, as well as exterior exhibition space on a reimagined plaza level. ‘The architects found a way to make the plaza into a connective tissue and strategically make the existing buildings work as an ensemble,’ said the jury, which also commended the clear circulation that employed new interstitial spaces to move people through the building’s interior spaces.”
Tabula LACMA: Barkow Leibinger, Berlin, with Lillian Montalvo Landscape Design (Existing Buildings)
“This ‘reconstitution’ is an unusual hybrid of old and new, as it maintains the scale and context of the original LACMA buildings by reconstructing them with modern, sustainable materials, then interconnecting them with a new plinth form punctured by courtyards. Barkow Leibinger—working with landscape designer Lillian Montalvo—stresses this would ‘provide spaces for art, delight, and public encounter.’ The jury thought this flexible, spacious design addressed the changing role of museums by including a good amount of shopping, cafés, and event venues that urbanize the spaces and engender a lively environment. ‘There’s a powerful idea of using the area around the pavilions to create a whole new programmed space,’ according to the jurors. They enjoyed the rediscovery of the inner plaza and could ‘imagine these would be great spaces to be in, as well as fun to discover.’”
Unified Campus: Paul Murdoch Architects, Los Angeles (Ground Up)
“To create greater institutional cohesion, Paul Murdoch Architects took a holistic approach to the entire LACMA campus and its relationship to the cultural institutions flanking it. The design, according to the architects, is ‘expressive of LA in its openness, multiplicity of urban, natural, and cultural connections, and abundant use of controlled natural light.’ The jury noted how this horizontal skyscraper—an on-axis version of the neighboring tower across Wilshire—corresponds to the urbanism of the area. ‘It restores the continuity of the Wilshire Boulevard streetfront with a respectful attitude by placing the narrow part of the building facing the street and the broad side framing the park.’ The east glass façade offers a strong, complementary visual connection to Hancock Park and the La Brea Tar Pits, and the west ̧facade forms a long public plaza bordered by BCAM and the Resnick Pavilion, uniting the two campuses.”
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In appreciation of Sally Byrne Woodbridge
In the era of Google Maps and Wikipedia, that print was once how architecture news and criticism circulated has mostly been forgotten. The death in late November 2019 of architectural historian and journalist Sally Byrne Woodbridge went unnoticed even in the San Francisco Chronicle. As a longtime correspondent of Progressive Architecture, Woodbridge kept the Bay Region’s architects visible nationally, exposing its readers to a broader slice of work than usually made New York City-centric editors’ maps. As the main curator–compiler of a series of guides to its architecture, she explained the region to itself. Her books on Bernard Maybeck, John Galen Howard, and Bay Area houses gave depth to that broad and discerning overview. Sally Byrne was born in Evanston, Illinois, in 1930 and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. She studied art history at Duke, graduating in 1951, then went to the Sorbonne as a Fulbright Scholar. While in Paris, she met John Marshall Woodbridge, returning with him to Princeton and working at the art library while he finished graduate school. Sally and John’s circle at Princeton included Charles Moore, Donlyn Lyndon, and William Turnbull—who together went on to later found MLTW, of Sea Ranch fame—and Hugh Hardy and Norval White. They were lifelong friends of James and Pamela Morton. As Dean of St. John the Divine Cathedral, James Morton restarted its construction and initiated its art program. Sally and John married in 1954. John finished at Princeton in 1956. Moving to San Francisco, he worked initially with the architect John Funk. They became friends with his colleague Albert Lanier and his wife, the artist Ruth Asawa. Through her, Sally met the photographer Imogen Cunningham. Moving to Berkeley, they raised a family in the 1912 house that John Galen Howard, U.C. Berkeley’s first campus architect, designed and built for himself. While John worked as an architect and planner for SOM in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., Sally took up her career as a journalist, critic, and historian. Although they divorced, Sally and John remained good friends and writing partners. John married the poet Carolyn Kizer, winner of a Pulitzer in 1985. Sally never remarried, living on Vine Street in North Berkeley with her daughter Pamela Woodbridge and her son-in-law, the cinematographer Elliott Davis, as neighbors. The final edition of their guide, San Francisco Architecture, designed by Chuck Byrne, appeared in 2005. Bay Area Houses, for which Sally was editor and a contributor, appeared in 1976. Monographs on Bernard Maybeck (1992) and John Galen Howard (2002), two giants of early 20th-century architecture in the Bay Region, followed. She contributed to the Historical American Buildings Survey in California and organized exhibits on architecture. At Progressive Architecture, Sally covered the region’s architecture with critical and historical awareness. Coming of age in Paris and Princeton, hers was a cosmopolitan, even existentialist sensibility that saw how the best work here reflected the wider world, including Finland and Japan’s hybrid modernism, yet was attuned to such attributes of place as terrain, climate, light, view, fabric, and pattern. As Pierluigi Serraino noted in NorCalMod, modernism here varied across a wide spectrum. Lewis Mumford’s “region apart” was never really true, nor was the idea of “critical regionalism” quite accurate. Some architects here agreed. Others were wary of the designation. Sally Woodbridge dealt with the region by considering the history—Maybeck and Howard were products of the Beaux-Arts system, but both designed buildings here that looked back to Arts & Crafts and picked up on the Bay Region’s artisan tradition. She also stayed open to everything that arose here. The countermovement around Archetype, with work by Andrew Batey, Mark Mack, Steven Holl, and Jim Jennings, and the postmodern, anticipatory classicism of Thomas Gordon Smith, was a rebellion against a too-narrow view of what the region was and what it could achieve. A close friend of Charles Moore, she saw his work embrace such developments as Pop Art, Bobbie Stauffacher Solomon’s super-graphics, and the environmentalism-as-art practiced by Larry Halprin. As she observed and wrote, the region was in constant ferment, viewed from within. Woodbridge also leaves her son Lawrence and four grandchildren. Her daughter Diana, who worked with the San Francisco architect Jeremy Kotas, died in 2002. John Woodbridge died in 2014. John Parman is an editorial advisor to The Architect’s Newspaper and a visiting scholar at U.C. Berkeley’s CED.
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Steel City Gems (Hold the Fries)

Virtually tour Pittsburgh’s architectural treasures with the Carnegie Museum of Art
Despite the dire circumstances of the moment, coronavirus-prompted lockdowns provide us with the chance to get to better know our cities and the buildings that populate them. Streets are a little less busy, sidewalks a whole lot less crowded, and, for some, regular daily schedules are largely thrown to the wind, giving way to more time for long, socially distant rambles to scope out and admire works of architecture familiar and unfamiliar. With the customary hustle and bustle of cities suspended indefinitely, opportunities to appreciate and document the built environment while getting a little fresh air have never been greater. Ireland-born Raymund Ryan, curator at the Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA)’s Heinz Architectural Center, is taking advantage of this intermission by getting to better know his adopted city of Pittsburgh, where he has lived since 2003. He’s doing so by retracing the steps first taken by the University of Pittsburgh professor of art and architecture history Franklin Toker in his 1986 book Pittsburgh: An Urban Portrait. Photographs taken during Ryan’s Toker-inspired walks around Pittsburgh are being shared as part of Storyboard, CMOA’s online journal whose fourth issue, per the museum, features “reflections from our staff and members of our community on ways that their lives and work have been affected by the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic.” steelworkers building in pittsburgh depicted in a social media tweet Ryan’s contribution, titled An Architectural Tour of a City on Pause: Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle, tackles the first of seven chapters featured in the first edition of Toker’s book. (A revised edition was published in 2009.) “Because the book was published in ’86, you can imagine a few things have changed,” Ryan told AN. “A few buildings are gone and, of course, there are some new buildings. But by and large, it still captures the spirit of the city.” “I'm on Instagram a lot, and when the museum closed I realized I needed to get some walks in during the day,” Ryan said when asked about the origins of the project. “And I had this strange idea: I would take my copy of Toker’s book—which is now on its last legs—and follow his footsteps.” While Ryan, armed with a smartphone and wearing a comfortable pair of Timberland boots, still has quite a ways to go before completing the full Toker architectural tour, his jaunts so far have yielded a myriad of historic and contemporary local architectural gems centered around the erstwhile industrial hub’s skyscraper-studded downtown core. “I’ve got two of his chapters covered now,” added Ryan. “Let’s see how long this lockdown goes on for, and we’ll see if I can get through the entire book. Although I probably won’t make it out to the suburbs. But for the downtown neighborhoods, I hope to get it all done.” Ryan, who, as a relatively recent transplant to close-knit and linguistically challenging Pittsburgh, is the unique position of being both an architectural insider but an outsider wrote in an introduction to the project:
The most cherished guide books have a voice that allows readers to feel like they are being ushered by an empathetic expert. What comes across in Toker’s writing is an understanding of the urban structure of the city paired with his insight into multiple aspects of buildings that we think we know, or that we have somehow overlooked. He is alert to minor as well as major works, and open to obscure as well as famous architects.
Pittsburgh’s wealth of landmark architecture makes it a rich and somewhat unsung city to explore by foot with the express purpose of gawking at buildings—admirers of Gothic revival are in for a real treat—no matter what Frank Lloyd Wright may have once said. Above is a handful of sites featured in Pittsburgh: An Urban Portrait to be revisited and photographed by Ryan during his COVID-era constitutionals around the Steel City. You’ll find more of Ryan’s photos, accompanied by snippets of critical commentary pulled from Toker’s book, at the Storyboard website.
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Can America’s colorful head shops survive the corporatization of cannabis?
For more than 50 years, the primary—indeed, only—architectural, public acknowledgment of cannabis in the United States has been the ubiquitous head shop. Emerging from 1960s counterculture and dedicated to selling paraphernalia relating to the consumption of both tobacco and cannabis, the latter has been the head shop’s true raison d’être. Hence, for most of its history the head shop has—perhaps uniquely among storefront retail—walked a very fine line between legality and illegality. This survey of head shop storefronts across the United States, compiled by CLOG x Cannabis contributor Marshall Ford, illustrates this point well. While head shops remain largely small-scale, independent enterprises, a common set of design characteristics can be found that hearken back to the counterculture origins of the type and acknowledge the illicit product which historically could not be openly sold. However, as the legalization of cannabis continues its march from state to state, one wonders whether this aesthetic will survive the corporatization of cannabis which is sure to come. The newest issue of CLOG examines this threat, in addition to the origins of both the medical and recreational use of cannabis, new delivery methods, legalization in the U.S. and abroad, police enforcement, and cannabis’s growing acceptance in the wellness industry. The issue also includes an interview with a high-end cannabis distributor, investigates the world of drug testing, and takes an up-close look at a new hemp farm. CLOG When they began appearing in the 1960s, head shops were legally mandated to only sell products for use with legal substances. This influenced a tradition of delightfully surreptitious shop names and bright, far-out signage welcoming potential customers to a safe space, while staying within the law. From the cartoon apple with marijuana leaves as stems gracing the sign at Adam’s Apple in Chicago, to the simple block-lettered neon sign at The Fitter in Boulder, Colorado, the tradition of odd, cool, freeform, blocky, colorful lettering spelling out fun (and hardly clandestine) shop names has offered sanctuary for those searching for the sub- and counterculture for half a century. Recreational weed’s rolling legalization is slowly transforming the stigmatized head shop into a foundational element in the American cultural landscape. As this continues, older shops like Adam’s Apple, Captain Ed’s in Van Nuys, California, or Pipe Dreams in San Francisco begin to take on a reputation less like the ubiquitous, fluorescent-lit vape shop, and more akin to Vesuvio Café, The Bitter End, and other cultural institutions from the same generation, now celebrated for their embrace of the societal other in times of great change. And their signs remain lit, as a lively beacon for those possibly searching to get stoned, but definitely looking for something different.
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Postponed Pavilion

Serpentine Pavilion won’t open this year
The 20th Serpentine Pavilion will not open this year as planned. Designed by South African firm Counterspace, the pavilion will open in 2021 instead of 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic–related disruptions. Counterspace is led by three architects all born in 1990, making them the youngest to ever design a Serpentine Pavilion, which is designed for the Serpentine Galleries in London’s Kensington Gardens every summer by an architect or team that has not built a major work in the United Kingdom. The team will move forward, although more slowly, with the original idea of assembling the structure in different locations across London and eventually bringing together the pieces in Kensington Gardens. The team wanted to engage marginalized and/or migrant communities across the city in producing and enjoying the pavilion. The pavilion had been scheduled to open June 11, 2020, and a new opening date has not been announced.
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Round and Round and Round...

BIG’s spiraling Audemars Piguet extension rises from the Swiss landscape
The Bjarkes Ingles Group (BIG)-designed museum for historic, high-end watchmaker Audemars Piguet’s campus in Vallée de Joux, Switzerland, is now complete, and the spiraling form gradually tapers from the ground while managing to integrate the surrounding landscape on top. Part museum and part watch workshop, the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet was intended both as a place to highlight the company’s 200-year culture, as well as let guests watch artisans restore historic timepieces. The approximately 27,000-square-foot pavilion subtly rises from grade along a clockwise (an obvious pun) rotation, with the load-bearing glass walls supporting the structure and eliminating the need for interior columns. BIG rimmed the top of the curve with a perforated brass mesh, that turns into shaded clerestory windows at the top of the spiral to modulate the amount of light and heath the museum receives during the day. The exhibition space, designed by German firm Atelier Brückner, follows the building’s curved form to guide visitors to the collection’s centerpiece, the Universelle, an astronomical watch built by Audemars Piguet in 1899 that remains their most mechanically complex piece. Around it are 299 others from throughout their collection, with the company’s other astronomical watches given special spherical display stands reminiscent of astronomy instruments, and arranged like planets. Other didactics include mechanical models of how watches work, and DIY stations where guests can try their best to build their own watches. Also set inside the spiral are two watchmaking workshops; inside the Grandes Complications workshop, it takes eight months for workers to assemble a single 648-piece watch, while in the Métiers d'Art, visitors can watch gems being set. Apart from the new addition to Audemars Piguet’s campus, the museum connects to the watchmaker’s recently renovated original workshop, which was first opened in 1875. The “historical house” was restored by local Swiss firm CCHE, who also collaborated with BIG on the museum. The workshop is now home to the company’s archives, their foundation, and a new restoration workshop for revitalizing historic timepieces. CCHA also clad the walls in authentic, period-appropriate wood taken from nearby houses dating back to that period. The Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet is set to open to the public on June 25, 2020.
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Drop the Bomb

Architecture Billings Index bottoms out to historic lows
In a somewhat unsurprising turn of events, especially given the special report the AIA released on April 10, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) for March 2020 is painting a dire portrait of the state of architectural services demand. Whereas the ABI in February 2020 painted a rosy picture of demand at 53.4 (50 is the baseline and represents no change, higher numbers represent an increase and lower numbers a decrease), March billings came in 33.3. This 20.1 swing is, according to the AIA, the largest downturn ever recorded in the ABI’s 25-year history. Even the 2001 recession only pushed demand down by 9.4 points, while the housing crash in 2008 decreased billings by 8.3 points. Inquiries into new design contracts didn’t fare much better, falling from 52.0 in February to 27.1 in March. Also unsurprising were the regional breakdowns; the Northeast was obviously hit the hardest—falling to 38.4—thanks to construction freezes in New York, Boston, and other major cities. The Midwest and South both fell to 44.2, while the Western states saw the lowest drop, with billings only dropping to 45.3. Industry-wise, contrary to what one would first assume given the dour predictions on the housing market from last month’s HDTS Special Report, residential design demand, falling to 43.3, didn’t actually fare the worst. Institutional projects, typically where firms gravitate towards during times of uncertainty due to their long timescales and stability of their clients, fell to 46.9, while commercial and industrial projects fell to 41.9. The firms surveyed by the AIA painted accordingly less-than-optimistic pictures of their future operations. Most of them are cutting back on expenses to deal with the slowdown in work and uncertainty about the global economy: 53 percent of firms have put a hiring freeze in place, while an additional 15 percent are thinking about one, while 32 percent reported freezing staff salaries, and another 12 percent has cut them. According to the AIA, on average, firms expect revenue to drop 17 percent over the next three months. Overall, 36 percent of the firms surveyed “predict that it will have a serious to devastating impact,” which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. We’ll have to wait for the April ABI to be released for a more detailed prognosis, but in the meantime, the AIA has assembled a business continuity guide to help firms navigate the post-COVID-19 landscape.
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Intermodal Intensive Care

Carlo Ratti’s container-based intensive care pods deployed in Turin
Just several short weeks after Carlo Ratti Associati first unveiled the prototype for a plug-in biocontainment pod fashioned out of a shipping container, the first working unit has been deployed to a makeshift emergency center in Turin, Italy, where it is now fully operational. The Piedmont region is among the areas of Italy hardest hit by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and hospitals in the capital of Turin and in other northern cities have struggled to accommodate an influx of gravely ill patients. Dubbed CURA (short for “Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments”), the open-source design was conceived by visionary architect, inventor, and educator Ratti—a Turin native who also founded his namesake design firm in the city—and colleague Italo Rota in collaboration with a lengthy list of partners, many of them specializing in medical equipment, engineering, and healthcare logistics and design. They include Humanitas Research Hospital in Milan, engineering firm Jacobs, the MIT Senseable City Lab, British construction management firm Projema, Dutch electronics giant Philips, and Turin-based medical consultant Dr. Maurizio Lanfranco to name just a few. Packed with the requisite equipment (beds, respirators, monitors, and on), the swift-to-deploy CURA pods are meant to ease pressure on overwhelmed hospitals and, thanks to the presence of top-flight biocontainment equipment, offer the same safe environment as standard isolation wards but in a field hospital setting. The inaugural unit was approved for use by the World Economic Forum (COVID-19 Action Platform and Cities, Infrastructure, and Urban Services Platform) and financed by the Italian bank UniCredit. Carlo Ratti Associati elaborates on the design and function of CURA pods in a press statement:
Each unit is hosted in a 20-foot intermodal container, repurposed with biocontainment equipment. An extractor creates indoor negative pressure, complying with the standards of Airborne Infection Isolation Rooms AIIRs. Two glass windows carved on the opposite sides of the containers are meant for doctors to always get a sense of the status of patients both inside and outside the pods. Also, this would potentially allow external visitors to get closer to their relatives in a safer and more humane setting. Each pod works autonomously and can be promptly shipped to any location around the world, adapting to the needs of the local healthcare infrastructure.
As Lloyd Alter, somewhat of an expert on the subject of intermodal steel boxes, wrote last month for TreeHugger, standard shipping containers are tight—perhaps a little to tight to accommodate very fluid and sometimes chaotic emergency care activities. Initial renderings made the CURA units appear deceivingly spacious. When outfitted with beds and bulky equipment, the real pods do look to be a wee bit on the cramped side but not prohibitively so. One wonders how much room there will be to comfortably and safely navigate the pods when filled with a small handful of doctors and nurses. As mentioned, the first-to-deploy CURA pod has been installed at a Turin field hospital located within the historic city’s Officine Grandi Riparazioni (OGR), a late 19th-century industrial complex that was only just somewhat recently saved from decades of advanced decay and transformed into a bustling innovation and cultural hub. While a majority of coronavirus field hospitals have popped-up in gargantuan venues like convention centers and stadiums, OGR, at over 376,000 square feet, is also certainly not lacking in square footage. As for the temporary emergency medical facility housed at OGR, it began to take shape on April 6 as an initiative of the Genio Infrastructure of the Italian Air Force, Protezione Civile, and the Crisis Unit of the Piedmont Region. In addition to the newly installed CURA pod, the 95,000-square-foot hospital includes 92 patient beds. Since CURA first launched in March, more than 2,000 firms and individuals have expressed interest in either collaborating on or reproducing or shipping container-turned-intensive care units per Carlo Ratti Associati. The firm notes that with the first unit now in operation, additional shipping containers are being modified to CURA specifications around the world including in Canada and the United Arab Emirates.