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COVID’s Creative Outpouring

Check out the speculative design concepts that have emerged from the coronavirus pandemic
While there are scant upsides to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, there has been a flurry of speculative solution-oriented design concepts that implore us to think a bit outside of the proverbial box and reconsider how we live, work, play, and interact with the built environment. When this is all behind us, things will likely never quite be the same. These speculative designs, as quixotic as some might seem, give us a glimpse into that altered future where public health and imaginative design are even more closely intertwined. Below are a few such design proposals to emerge in recent weeks from a range of international firms large and small. All of these concepts tackle unique topics and concerns: A more prudent use of public green space, contagion-safe produce shopping, the adaptive reuse of unorthodox spaces, and working where you live for the long-haul, to name a few. And while some might seem unconventional or outright implausible, these concepts all imagine a world where we are all safe, comfortable, healthy, productive, and able to get the help that we need.

Parc de la Distance, Studio Precht

Reminiscent of a particularly panic-inducing hedge maze, Parc de la Distance is more a pandemic-appropriate riff on a Japanese Zen garden, where park-goers would be able to enjoy a contemplative and orderly constitutional without worrying about hordes of fellow fresh air-seekers coming from every which way. Studio Precht, a small Austrian firm based in a secluded, mountainous area outside of Salzburg, elaborated on the concept, which is geared toward a vacant lot in Vienna but can be replicated on any unused patch of urban land:
“Although our ‘Park de la Distance’ encourages physical distance, the design is shaped by the human touch: a fingerprint. Like a fingerprint, parallel lanes guide visitors through the undulating landscape. Every lane has a gateway on the entrance and exit, which indicates if the path is occupied or free to stroll. The lanes are distanced 240cm [8 foot] from each other and have a 90cm [3 foot] wide hedge as a division. Along their path, people walk on reddish granite gravel. Although people are visually separated most of the time, they might hear footsteps on the pebbles from the neighbouring paths. Each individual journey is about 600m [1,968 foot] long. The height of the planters varies along this journey and gives different levels to the hedges throughout the park. Sometimes visitors are fully immersed by nature, other times they emerge over the hedge and can see across the garden. But at all times, they keep a safe physical distance to each other.”
Studio Precht envisions the concept as being a useful feature for green space-starved cities in the post-COVID era as it “offers something very unique for bustling urban areas: A brief time of solitude. A temporary seclusion from the public. A moment to think, to meditate or just to walk alone through nature.”

Hyperlocal Markets for Shutdown Realities, Shift Architecture Urbanism

Described by Rotterdam-based studio Shift Architecture Urbanism as a “self-initiated research-by-design project,” the aim of this concept is twofold: To keep fresh, nutritious, and locally grown food flowing into local produce markets while reducing the risk of spreading the virus among shoppers at said markets, which are frequently prone to overcrowding but are also often lower cost than supermarkets in many areas.
“Shift’s proposal is to keep the vital function of the fresh produce markets fully intact, even strengthening it, while at the same time minimizing its potential role in spreading the virus. For this, the large markets have to continue in a different form, place and time. Its former model of concentration has to be replaced by a model of dispersion, both in space and time. This is done by breaking down the large markets into so-called micro markets that are spread over the city and opening them up for a longer time. Instead of you going to the market, the market is coming to your neighborhood. These hyper-local markets are open at least 5 days a week instead of twice a week to further reduce the concentration of people. “The micro market’s standard spatial setup consists of a 16 square grid, aligned with three market stalls, each selling a different kind of fresh produce such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products or meat. The grid is taped on the pavement and fenced off with standard crush barriers. It has one entrance and 2 exits. In order to maintain social distancing each cell can only hold one person. In order to permit movement, the grid can only hold a maximum of 6 people. These rules are made clear at the entrance of the micro market, that has a waiting line taped on the pavement. The stalls will offer packages instead of separate products, to limit the time customers spend in the grid.”
Shift added that current restrictions on open-air produce markets vary wildly in the Netherlands from location-to-location and region-to-region.

Airport Superhospital, Opposite Office

Everything from convention centers to soccer stadiums have been transformed into temporary medical hubs during the coronavirus pandemic. Benedikt Hartl of the Munich-based Opposite Office, the same firm that pitched transforming Buckingham Palace into a co-living complex, envisioned this form of emergency adaptive reuse as also being extended to incomplete airport terminals. Under construction since 2006 with a potential completion date of 2021, Hartl sees promise in the delay-plagued Berlin Brandenburg Airport—or other underserved and non-operational airports, really—during the crisis (although said crisis in Germany has now largely passed). Hartl’s concept involves populating the uncompleted airport’s vast floor space with round modular steel cabins that serve as self-contained treatment units for patients.

“Flying was no longer in vogue even before the outbreak of COVID-19 and now the avenge of shame has given way to a deadly risk of infection. We agree that we will certainly not need this new airport in the near future,” read a press release from Opposite Office. “An advantage would be that infected people would be completely isolated at the airport area and would not come into contact with other patients. The main building alone, with an area of ​​220,000m2 [2.4 million square feet], offers plenty of space for medical (emergency) care. The existing airport offers untapped potential.”

Container Ship Hospitals, Weston Williamson + Partners

While converting seafaring vessels into floating hospitals is far from something new, a concept from London-headquartered architecture firm Weston Williamson+ Partners proposes the specific repurposing of container ships to serve a similar purpose. Well, kind of. Ideally, the containers would be unloaded at different ports in hard-hit regions and then used as makeshift intensive care units on land. “The idea came to us because we work around the world and wanted to try to encourage a global response,” firm co-founder Chris Williamson told AN in an email of the scheme, which is somewhat similar to an initiative underway in India with modified rail cars. “Many countries do not have an exhibition centre waiting to be fitted out as a hospital as we have done in Manchester and London.” “The speed at which Excel in London and GMex in Manchester have been repurposed suggest that the idea is possible and the container module is ideal for an intensive care bed and equipment for the benefit of emerging economies,” Willamson elaborated. “We have ascertained from the shipping companies that there is an available capacity of around 1,000 ships with around 3,500 containers per vessel.” Williams goes on to make clear that “patients would not stay on the ship except in circumstances where there is no place to deploy the containers” and that the container-based care units would have one of the steel doors removed and a transparent Perspex door installed in its place. The modules would also include built-in air conditioning units. “All we need is the political will to make this work and we are working with a few influential people to that aim,” Williamson said. It should be noted that, as with many shipping container-based projects, the feedback online hasn't been entirely positive.

Mobile PPS (Personal Protective Space), Plastique Fantastique

Plastique Fantastique, a Berlin-founded art collective known for eye-popping inflated installations, has created a PPS (personal protective space) for healthcare workers that can be swiftly deployed to a wide array of environments. As Plastique Fantastique explained, this “pneumatic space where doctors can treat patients in transparent protective space. It has constant overpressure, which means, the air flows only toward [the] outside of the space, not letting the virus coming inside. The clean air supply is guaranteed by a ventilator located outside or in an extra decontaminated space.” The bubbly blow-up Care Units, made from transparent polyurethane, can be attached to each to form larger contiguous spaces, and are accessed through special airlock chambers that maintain air pressure and provides medical workers with a space to prepare and disinfect before entering.

AD-APT, Woods Bagot 

With offices shuttered across the globe and workforces now operating in domestic trappings without any clear end in sight, global architecture firm Woods Bagot has envisioned a super-versatile living modular system dubbed AD-APT that “supports a range of activities throughout people’s days” while more easily accommodating “spaces for exercise, entertainment, digital collaboration, connection, and focus (without becoming isolated), alongside the traditional activities of eating, sleeping, and washing.” “While this trend has been on the rise over recent years the immediate, en masse shift to WFH exposes the benefits (and challenges) to a far wider range of the population than ever before,” explained the firm. “This will lead to significant change in people’s work habits and expectations. As more people become comfortable with working remotely, they will expect to be able to do so more often. This will change the way we design and use our workplaces, schools, and homes.” In response to this quickly changing dynamic, AD-APT enables WFH-ers to modify open-plan apartments to suit their needs whether they're in a so-called “split-shift” residence where working parents tag-team childcare responsibilities and job-related tasks or a “double desk” living environment where roommates rotate to different work-friendly spaces throughout the day. “Creating a spine of the fixed needs of a home (bathroom, entry, storage etc.) allows us to create an open and flexible apartment that can adapt to varying needs across modes, ” elaborated Woods Bagot. “The AD-APT includes a range of consistent elements which support the mode switching of the main spaces. AD-APT includes an entry porch which provides both an opportunity to meet and stay in touch with your neighbours and additional storage for bikes, coats and shoes. Beyond the entry porch the spine includes a bathroom and two flexi-booths. Around the entire apartment extensive storage is provided to allow for filing/appliance and other materials needed to blend living, working, and learning.”
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Lucky Seven

URBAN-X holds first-ever virtual Demo Day for seventh startup cohort
This afternoon, city-reimagining startup accelerator URBAN-X hosted its first Demo Day of 2020 a bit differently. In lieu of a live event—typically a sort of graduation ceremony-cum-formal group pitch session followed by a lively evening party—as normal at its Greenpoint, Brooklyn-based headquarters within the (temporarily closed) A/D/O creative hub, the MINI-founded accelerator is unveiling the work of the seven startups that participated in URBAN-X's seventh-to-date cohort group to date via an online presentation program. Like with Demo Days past, the virtual event gave each of the seven Cohort 07 companies, all fresh off of URBAN-X’s immersive 20-week accelerator program, an opportunity to publicly debut a range of “hardware and software solutions to combat the world’s climate emergency and other emerging challenges impacting cities” to potential investors, public sector leaders, and the general public. You can watch the entirety of Demo Day 07, which includes pitches from all seven Cohort 07 companies starting at 1:00 p.m. EST followed by a Q&A session. In addition to showcasing scalable and distinctly urban tech solutions to the climate crisis (an emphasis theme tied into the 50th anniversary of Earth Day), Demo Day 07 paid special mind to how nascent tech companies can respond—and are already responding—to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. And as it turns out, a handful of URBAN-X startups past and present are directly involved in pandemic response. For example, EVA, a Cohort 07 company specializing in infrastructure and airborne logistics for healthcare- and emergency-related drone operations, has already begun working with partners in Europe and New York State to deploy large modular drone docking stations that help to curb supply chain disruptions and aid in the delivery of essential supplies to pharmacies, healthcare facilities, and homebound populations. URBAN-X alumni aiding cities in their response to the pandemic include AO Air, Circuit, Food For All, GreenQ, Near Space Labs, Numina, Thrilling, and Upshift. In addition to EVA, the six other URBAN-X companies that presented during Demo Day 07 were:
  • Therma, a startup with offices in San Francisco and the Philippines that’s also currently playing a role in pandemic response, showcased its “IoT-based, 24/7 equipment monitoring solution that eliminates product loss, improves food safety, and provides data-driven refrigeration management.”
  • Toronto-based ChargeLab pitched its open software platform for electric vehicle charging that makes the process smarter, more precise, and less onerous. Per the company, the proprietary management system “enables key features like billing and energy management, ensuring more EV drivers can charge without disrupting the grid.”
  • Based in Tel-Aviv, Firmus will presented its AI-based error-curbing technology for the construction industry—an industry where, as the firm points out, companies have “increasing difficulty learning from past mistakes.” The solution “provides real-time alerts on potential errors, constructability issues and risks, based on industry's historical data and experience.”
  • Nodding to the god of the underworld, Swiss startup Hades elaborated on its automated assessment system for sewage infrastructure. Per the company: “Using deep learning, Hades automatically identifies defects in sewer inspection videos and tells engineers when and how to repair the sewers, saving time and money while protecting the environment.”
  • Metalmark, a Boston-based nanotechnology startup, presented a highly innovative solution to sometimes lethal urban air pollution in the form of “nanoarchitectured materials for highly efficient catalytic destruction of air pollutants, making clean air globally accessible and affordable.”
  • Last but not least, Brooklyn-based Unety pitched a sustainability-minded real estate financing platform that “empowers building owners and contractors with new capabilities, enabling them to make complex financial decisions and to match with the best capital providers.”
“Building creative solutions for a brighter urban life is in our DNA,” said Micah Kotch, managing director of URBAN-X . “As the need for solutions for local resilience has come into clearer focus across the world over the past weeks, we could not be more proud of the dedication Cohort 07 has shown in addressing large-scale challenges to improve city life.” Despite the challenges presented by running a hands-on startup accelerator during a global pandemic, URBAN-X will launch Cohort 08 as planned in June with a fresh batch of urban solution-oriented startups seeking to make the next big step. It will be the first cohort held completely online. “URBAN-X looks for the brightest startups creating disruptive and scalable solutions across sectors such as public health and safety, food, water, energy, construction, mobility, and more,” read a statement announcing Cohort 08. “With an existing portfolio of companies in public health and safety, paired with the unprecedented health and economic challenges resulting from COVID-19, this also includes new companies that can aid in COVID-19 response efforts and related impacts, such as solutions for first responders and those on the frontlines of the pandemic; those that support elderly, vulnerable and isolated populations; and those that ease pressures on government services.” Founded in 2016 by BMW Group-owned automobile company MINI and backed by venture firm Urban Us, each individual startup company selected to participate in an URBAN-X cohort—up to 10 companies per five-month “class” in total—is awarded up to $150,000 in seed money while being provided with invaluable in-house resources and expertise to help them further suss out and then secure funding for disruptive, problem-solving solutions for the urban built environment.
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Corona Column

What architects need to know about coronavirus small business relief programs
For the duration of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, AN will use this column to keep our readers up to date on how the pandemic is affecting architecture and related industries. This weekly article is meant to digest the latest major developments in the crisis and synthesize broader patterns and what they could mean for architecture in the United States. The previous edition of the column can be found here. It’s been three weeks since President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion relief effort meant to bring the United States economy back from the brink of disaster. Much of that measure was meant to help the country’s millions of small businesses, architecture firms among them, but the rollout of the act’s programs has been rocky and confusing, and at least one of the new programs has already run out of money. While the relief programs don’t target architecture firms specifically, many may be helpful for the many small studios impacted by the crisis, so I thought it might be helpful to write a brief introduction to the programs. There are many resources linked throughout the article, and because so much of this information is changing so quickly, we may update this article as needed. Obviously, many architects in the U.S. don’t run their own firms, but this article will focus on new resources now available for small business owners, and AN will look at options for other professionals in future articles. The two biggest programs architects running small firms need to know are the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL). Both define small businesses as having 500 or fewer employees and are also available for independent contractors. The PPP has reportedly run out of money for now, though it may be replenished if the federal government can pass more legislation. The EIDL also ran out of money and has stopped accepting applications, and may have been rationing what was left. Both programs had experienced long delays as the government was swamped with applications, so if you’re interested in them, it may be helpful to prep application materials to apply as quickly as possible should more funds open up.

Payroll Protection Program (PPP)

The PPP created forgivable loans that come with the following stipulations:
  • The loans cover 8 weeks of payroll and “most mortgage interest, rent, and utility costs,” according to the Treasury Department
  • Companies can borrow up to $10 million, though the loan will only cover $100,000 of payroll per employee. 
  • Only about 25 percent of the loan can cover non-payroll costs. 
  • Companies have to keep or rehire employees laid off or furloughed since February 15, 2020, in order for the loans to be fully forgiven, though partial forgiveness will also be offered.
  • The loans have a 0.5 percent fixed rate, and payments are automatically deferred for six months.
  • The loans do not require collateral.
  • Applications are available and are being received now, and they need to be processed by June 30, 2020.
PPP loans are administered through commercial lenders, so the easiest way to apply may be through a bank with which you already have a relationship. However, if you’re not having luck with your bank or don’t have one, financial tech companies like PayPal and Intuit’s Quickbooks are authorized to offer PPP loans and are open to new customers. The New York Times and other outlets have reported that applicants are seeing long delays both in getting the applications processed and getting their money, and the architects I have talked to have seen the same. Politico reported yesterday that the program is out of money unless the government approves more funding, but it might be possible to join a sort of waitlist for future loans. More information about PPP loans is available on a Treasury Department fact sheet, and a basic application shows what information lenders will require. Construction specialists at Pierce Atwood, a law firm, published a succinct guide to PPP in The National Law Review with more information.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL)

The EIDL is not a new program, but the CARES Act gave it more money and took away some restrictions. It’s run through the federal government’s Small Business Administration (SBA), and is meant to support businesses in areas that have declared emergencies (all 50 states have active states of emergency because of the COVID-19 pandemic). The EIDL provides low-interest loans that do not have to be completely paid back. The EIDL has run out of money and is not currently accepting applications, but the government may expand the program in the future. Application information should be available here if the program reopens. Part of what was new about the EIDL program is that the first $10,000 of the loan was supposed to be available within three days of applying and was offered as a grant called the EIDL Emergency Advance. Here are the basics about EIDL:
  • Borrowers apply directly through the SBA, not a third-party lender.
  • Applications were open through December 30, 2020.
  • Loans were typically available in amounts up to $2 million, although…
  • The New York Times reported that loan amounts may be capped at just $15,000 because of a lack of funding.
Finance reporter Stacy Cowley has written a great guide to the new small business relief programs at The New York Times that breaks down the above programs in an informative and easy to read format. Two other SBA programs offering $25,000 bridge loans for borrowers with an existing relationship with an SBA Express Lender and debt relief for borrowers with existing SBA disaster loans are also available. The SBA website has more information on those. But what should architects do with the relief funds if they get them? Esther Sperber, founder of New York-based firm Studio ST Architects, suggested that architects who do receive relief funds use that support “to do something good,” she said. “Since we have little architectural work that we can do [right now] but [may] nevertheless be paid, I would like to use this time to pay forward and help others.” Sperber applied for a PPP loan on April 6, but, as of this article’s publication, had not heard about the status of the application. She suggested that relief recipients do pro bono design work for nonprofits or offer to help related businesses apply for relief of their own. In other pandemic-related news this week, events continue to move online, including Burning Man, although the AIA completely canceled its 2020 national conference. In a sign of what may be in store for the rest of the country, New York City has stopped all public design work, not just construction. To cope with the crisis, companies and organizations are developing new technologies to monitor the state of construction and the behavior of construction workers. French officials announced that they still expect the Notre Dame Cathedral to reopen in 2024 despite interruptions to site work, and San Francisco announced last week that the city is planning on renting thousands more hotel rooms for homeless people. Iraqi architect Rifat Chadirji also died this week from COVID-19 complications at the age of 93. In news not related to the pandemic, this past week we also lost Bill Menking, AN’s cofounder and editor in chief. There is a tribute page online now, and there will be an online memorial service in the coming weeks. More information will be available soon. Be well!
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Corona Column

How architecture is exacerbating the coronavirus crisis for minorities and Black Americans
For the duration of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, AN will use this column to keep our readers up to date on how the pandemic is affecting architecture and related industries. This weekly article is meant to digest the latest major developments in the crisis and synthesize broader patterns and what they could mean for architecture in the United States. The previous edition of the column can be found here.  While the coronavirus pandemic continues to pummel the entire country, it is hitting certain populations harder than others, particularly Black, Latino, and Native American people. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the CDC released its first national data tracking race among COVID-19 patients, which showed that in March, “the percentage of Black [hospitalized COVID-19] patients (33 percent) was much higher than the percentage of African-Americans in the population as a whole.” Local data from cities and states tracking race among COVID-19 patients showed that the health disparity is even worse in certain areas: In Louisiana, about 70 percent of the people who have died are Black, though only a third of that state’s population is; “African-Americans account for…72 percent of virus-related fatalities in Chicago, even though they make up a little less than a third of the population,” according to the Times; the virus has killed more people in the Navajo nation than in the much larger state of New Mexico; and, as of Thursday, all the people who have died in St. Louis so far from COVID-19 complications have been Black Why is this the case? The answer could have something to do with architecture, particularly housing. According to public health experts, while other factors, like implicit bias in healthcare and higher rates of heart disease and diabetes, certainly play a role in the racial coronavirus disparities, crowded housing in low-income neighborhoods could be facilitating the spread of the disease and increasing “weathering,” or the wear and tear of environmental stresses on the body, which increases the severity of coronavirus cases. Urban design inequities also almost certainly play a role in transmission—even with social distancing rules in full effect, subway stations in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods in the Bronx in New York City are packed with commuting essential workers. “COVID-19 has been a magnifying glass on the weaknesses in our systems,” said Kimberly Dowdell, principal at HOK and president of the National Organization for Minority Architects (NOMA). Though racialized housing disparities are nothing new, the stark death toll of the pandemic is harshly illustrating those disparities’ effects. “There’s a saying that when America sneezes, the Black community catches a cold,” Dowdell said, pointing to an enormous wealth gap between Black and White Americans as one of the main reasons why Black people in the U.S. suffer more acutely during crises like the current one. The Brookings Institution recently reported that in 2016, the net worth of a typical white American family ($171,000) was nearly ten times greater than that of a typical Black American family ($17,150). While a variety of discriminatory policies have sowed the seeds for the current imbalance, racist urban planning has played an enormous part. Redlining, which started in the early 20th century and often continues in some form today, is a term for the once-legal practice of denying investments and bank loans to predominantly Black neighborhoods—banks would outline such areas in red on maps. The practice discouraged investment in Black-owned homes and businesses, which lost value over generations, resulting in not only a racial wealth gap but spatial disparities, as well. Many predominantly Black neighborhoods have fewer grocery stores, are closer to polluting industries, and lack high-quality affordable homes. Even after the pandemic subsides, vulnerable populations will still be at risk from the next crisis and will potentially be in even a weaker state. One answer, Dowdell said, is for communities to invest in predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods to decrease the wealth gap and increase resiliency. That kind of recovery will require a mix of policy, development, and design professionals working together, ideally with teams that reflect the communities they’re serving. “Diverse teams are really important,” Dowdell said. “Architecture should reflect the communities that they serve form a racial perspective.” Dowdell pointed to Chicago, where she lives, and where Mayor Lori Lightfoot has focused on the city’s racialized spatial inequality in her mission to eliminate endemic poverty within a generation. “If there’s a team that goes into certain communities, it would be great if there were certain people who were from that community or at least have some level of familiarity with the culture and of the community,” Dowdell said. “For example, if we’re looking at the South Side of Chicago [which is over 90 percent African American], and you don't have African-African team members, that’s a missed opportunity.” Building teams that reflect underserved neighborhoods could be more difficult after the pandemic, as the economic downturn may be harder on architects who come from those areas. “I do think that Black communities are going to have a harder time recovering,” Dowdell said. “It’s going to be a challenge for everyone, but I think that given the wealth gaps, architects of color will probably struggle to get back to where they were.” As jobs, internships, and salaries decline, even if only temporarily, as a result of the pandemic, those without a cushion of family money or who financially support loved ones could have to leave the profession for greener pastures. The racial wealth gap means that Black and other minority architects may flee in greater numbers, damaging diversity in a profession that is already overwhelmingly white. As of 2019, only 2 percent of NCARB certificate holders identify as Black or African American, and less than 1 percent identify as Latino. What can architects do? Dowdell touted NOMA’s national network as a way for architects of color to support each other and find opportunities, including the group’s new NOMA Foundation Fellowship, which offers a stipend and internship for architecture students. NOMA is launching a new weekly web series, “Stay All In for NOMA,” which will help members stay informed during the pandemic. Dowdell also suggested that architects get involved with local NOMA chapters to organize and advocate for city and state planning policies that invest in underserved neighborhoods. For those already working on projects advancing social justice, NOMA is partnering with the NAACP and the SEED Network advocacy group on the Design Awards for Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI), which will recognize excellence in those categories. “No matter what,” Dowdell said, “an architect can do something.”  In other corona news from this week, AN covered new hospitals and healthcare spaces deployed for the pandemic, and the AIA’s new assessment tool for adapting existing buildings into coronavirus treatment sites. The crisis continues to demand innovative thinking, and in Florida, autonomous vehicles are delivering medical supplies. For the housebound, we also highlighted many exhibitions you can check out from home, including robot-assisted gallery tours, a French show exploring AI and architecture, virtual Frank Lloyd Wright tours, and a virtual exhibit on a balmy shore. We picked some books to catch up on, too. Enjoy, and be well!
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Sunken Fare

CRÈME serves up some Bangkok street culture at New York’s latest Thai haunt
For the design of Wayla, a new eatery in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood, local practice CRÈME took its cues from the lively street markets that rope across Bangkok. Jun Aizaki, the founding principal of the Brooklyn-based studio, worked with a close-knit team of restaurateurs and investors to develop this multifaceted project. His infusion of objet d'art sourced from Thailand’s famous flea markets is an ode to the bustling metropolis.  Reminiscing on the design of the space, Aizaki recalls a time before social distancing, when he conjured up a unique combination of architectural elements that encourage gathering. “It’s everything we can’t do right now.” With a limited budget, he opted to play up the tenement building’s vernacular characteristics—the deliberately visible water pipes; raw, unpainted brick walls, and monolithic concrete floors. “These elements became unwittingly part of the environment, a surprise that we intentionally emphasized to distinguish the space and tie it all together.” These motifs recur throughout as an overarching aesthetic framing a myriad of community spaces. Read the full profile on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.  
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Speaking Up

Innovation in Arkansas shouldn’t be overlooked
A powerful combination of natural resources and local initiative is pushing one southern state to the forefront of architectural innovation in the country. In Arkansas, a place that’s far from the profession’s traditional epicenters in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, big things are happening. In Bentonville, Wheeler Kearns Architects just repurposed a defunct Kraft cheese factory into The Momentary, the contemporary offshoot of the Moshe Safdie–designed Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Over two hundred miles south in Little Rock, Studio Gang and SCAPE Landscape Architecture are working together to renovate and extend the Arkansas Arts Center, a 104-year-old cultural institution attached to MacArthur Park. Construction on the 127,000-square-foot project broke ground last fall. At the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, a massive research complex, the Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation is slated to come online in 2022 courtesy of Grafton Architects, and last year the school finished the country’s largest mass timber building, Adohi Hall, a 202,027-square-foot dormitory designed by a team led by Leers Weinzapfel Associates. Topographically, Arkansas varies widely from its forested and rocky northwest corner to the eastern wetlands that follow the Mississippi River. Fifty-six percent of the state is covered in forestland. From the mountainous Ozarks region in the northwest to the deep-soil Delta in the southeast, the state’s diverse wood basket supplies yield high-quality forest products, along with 27,000 jobs in paper production and wood-related manufacturing. According to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, some of the state’s largest employers include Georgia-Pacific, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Weyerhaeuser, and WestRock Corporation, each owning at least two manufacturing facilities or more within the borders of Arkansas. The timber industry is one of the state’s biggest economic drivers. The Walton family, a.k.a. the founders of Walmart, Inc., is another. The Walton Family Foundation has made it its mission to develop high-design public buildings and community gathering spaces for the state’s Benton and Washington counties, home of Fayetteville, Springdale, and Bentonville. Since Walmart made the latter its home base in 1971, it’s required all collaborators and retailers to set up shop in the area as well, thereby forcefully growing the population of the city year after year. The ripple effects of Walmart’s investment are already being felt around the state. While Adohi Hall might hold the title of America’s biggest mass timber building now, Gensler’s design for Walmart’s new timber-structured Home Office in nearby Bentonville will surpass it with 2.5 million square feet of mid-rise office space and amenity buildings. Canadian manufacturer Structurlam announced in December that it had bought an existing building in Conway, Arkansas, for $90 million and will retrofit it into a mass timber facility so that it can, in part, supply Walmart with the 1.1 million cubic feet of timber products needed for the project. Hardy Wentzel, CEO of Structurlam, said that latching onto a large-scale construction project at the start of a new site investment is a dream come true. “It really helped solidify our desire to move to Arkansas in our first U.S. expansion. I wanted to anchor my investment with a large contract and Walmart was the perfect opportunity.” Structurlam isn’t the only timber manufacturer expanding into the state. Texas CLT recently reopened a defunct laminating mill in the southwest city of Magnolia where it produces CLT products from southern pine and Douglas fir. Walmart, however, doesn’t compete with hardly anyone—especially in Arkansas. For the last six years since 2015, the Foundation has utilized its burgeoning Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program to get major firms working to reshape the region such as Ross Barney Architects and de Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop. Other firms slated to do future work include Architecture Research Office, Deborah Berke Partners, MASS Design Group, Trahan Architects, and Michael Van Valkenburgh Architects. Last summer, LTL Architects completed an early childhood education center in Bentonville and Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects was chosen to create a 50-acre cultural arts corridor in Fayetteville. The latter project will thread through downtown near the city’s recently-opened performing arts center, TheatreSquared, designed by Marvel Architects. When asked about her first impression of Arkansas and the Design Excellence Program’s work to fabricate these places with consistent new construction, Lissa So, founding partner of Marvel, said the initiative, which “seeks to preserve a sense of place by encouraging quality design of public spaces,” according its website, doesn't feel contrived. “Arkansas feels like home to me,” So told AN. “I grew up in Upstate New York and I love the close-knit community and emphasis on connecting with nature.” So sees the 50,0000-square-foot TheatreSquared—which has attracted much buzz since opening in August—as part of a cultural renaissance in Northwest Arkansas. The project embodies Fayetteville’s desire to develop its arts-related offerings and get more people interested in downtown. In 2006, it adopted a citywide master plan with zoning updates and street enhancements that enabled these goals. “Arkansas thinks of itself as the epicenter of arts between Chicago and Miami and if you look around, it feels that way,” said Jonathan Marvel, principal of Marvel Architects. “When it comes to building the city of Fayetteville itself, there’s a significant amount of attention and pride devoted to craftsmanship and ownership here.” The local design community is also rife with regional pride and uses the state’s abundant resources like timber and stone to build structures that speak to local designers’ mission-driven ambition, according to Chris Baribeau. Baribeau is the design principal and cofounder of modus studio—one of the teams behind the $79 million Adohi Hall and the university’s new corrugated aluminum Sculpture Studio. Much of the firm’s work involves designing K-12 schools for Arkansas’ rural communities, which fulfills its bent toward helping underserved populations. “There’s a real opportunity here to do something that’s meaningful,” he said. “We can prove that our approach to design and construction is actually for the betterment of people, not just about making beautiful objects or celebrating ourselves. There’s certainly a strong contingent of architects in Arkansas that believe in that ethos and work hard to make a difference here.” To many young architects like Baribeau, Marlon Blackwell is at the heart of this approach to design. Blackwell has worked in Arkansas since 1992 and is the most recent recipient of the American Institute of Architect’s highest honor, the 2020 AIA Gold Medal. If anyone has observed and influenced the changes that Arkansas has experienced in the last 30 years, it’s him. His eponymous firm’s seminal projects, such as the Keenan TowerHouse, completed in 2000, and the St. Nicholas Eastern Orthodox Church, finished just over a decade later, shaped what became a new vernacular in Arkansas, one that’s continually broken down preconceived notions of what buildings look like in the American South. To bridge the gap of recognition that the state deserves, Blackwell, like other area firms, promotes projects from other practices and preaches about the culture of working in the region. “Many of us are standing on the shoulders of great native architects like E. Fay Jones and Warren Dennis Segraves,” he said, “but the difference between our work and theirs is that we are now taking on the public realm. There are many younger firms out there willing to fight the good fight and push progressive thinking on major civic projects. It’s a continual battle, but much of our recent success has also come from an enlightened clientele.” Whether it’s the university or the Walton family providing opportunity in Northwest Arkansas or arts organizations, the public school system, or business development districts looking to invest in the state’s southern half, projects are aplenty. As part of the architectural profession, Blackwell said, it’s his responsibility to demonstrate that every one of those opportunities deserves good design. “Our mission is to provide alternative models that change the benchmark of reality for folks here,” he added. “The more examples you can point to, the more reality is improved.” Take the Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation, the focus of a design competition facilitated by the University of Arkansas. Timber is a dominant focus of study at the university’s Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, where students get to work with a cast of high-profile professors like Blackwell, who shares his passion for sustainable materials, and Stephen Luoni, who directs the award-winning University of Arkansas Community Design Center. Since Peter MacKeith, dean of the Fay Jones School, came to Fayetteville from St. Louis in 2014, he’s been working to deepen the school’s timber research program. A major part of this is the Timberlands Center, which will expand the university’s ability to undertake research projects, MacKeith said. The school already operates out of its longtime home Vol Walker Hall and the Marlon Blackwell Architects–designed Steven L. Anderson Design Center. “So much of what we’re doing across the school is emphasizing the relationship of thinking to making and the ambitions of our students have become larger in scale, tools, and techniques,” MacKeith said. “We’ve outgrown the capacities of what we can do in our existing building.” In mid-March, Grafton Architects, led by 2020 Pritzker Prize winners Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, won an international competition for the Timberlands Center, besting 68 other entries and five other shortlisted firms: WT/GO Architecture, Dorte Mandrup A/S, Shigeru Ban Architects, Kennedy & Violich Architecture, and Lever Architecture. The competition was partially funded by grants from the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities. To MacKeith, the momentum that the university has built over the last five years is due in part, because Arkansas is a small state and the school’s reach of influence extends all the way to the top. “We saw an opportunity where design education could be a benefit to the state’s greatest natural resource and my approach has been to make sure that the governor, the state legislature, as well as investors, and people at companies in Arkansas, understand that we can be part of the forest ecosystem,” he said. “Generally speaking, our students are quite concerned about the world they are going to be practicing in and living in and they want to be able to act responsibly. As a public land grant university, that’s why we work so much with people outside the corners of our campus.” It’s this open-minded ambition that is pushing a distinctive architectural agenda in the state. Chris Baribeau added that there’s an undertone of respect across Arkansas for the critical thinking and people-first attitude that local architects are bringing to projects, though he acknowledged that it’s taking some work to get that same respect on a national stage. Arkansas is speaking up.
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1948–2020

Terreform, Berke, Wines, and more remember the late Michael Sorkin
Michael Sorkin, inimitable scribe of the built environment and leading design mind, passed away in New York at age 71 last Thursday after contracting COVID-19. Survived by his wife Joan Copjec, Sorkin leaves behind an invaluable body of work, as the following tributes—from friends, colleagues, peers—readily acknowledge. This is the second of a two-part series; the first can be read here Jie Gu, director, lead urban designer, Michael Sorkin Studio “Jie, can you wiggle these buildings and make them sexy?” “Jie, can you let me have some fun?” “Jie, I had a dream last night. I think we need to try something new.” “Jie, I will be in on Saturday, leave me something not boring.” Michael, I miss the dynamic “creatures” you directed me to model. Michael, I miss the tremendous beauty of your red-colored sketches. Michael, I miss your utopian dreams for sustainable cities. Michael, I wish I could have spent more time with you. “Jie, if I go, you must use our legacy to keep going in the direction that seems best.” These were his last words to me, and they will resonate with me forever. Makoto Okazaki, former partner, Michael Sorkin Studio Like Matsuo Bashō, the most famous haiku poet of Edo-period Japan, Michael was inspired by his many journeys. The last email I received from him—on February 5th, 2020—was about a hospital in Wuhan built in just ten days to treat those infected with COVID-19. It was located within the area where we had, in 2010, designed a masterplan, what we called Houguan Lake Ecological City. In the same email, Michael expressed his disappointment over having to cancel a trip to China due to the spread of coronavirus. He was often on business trips, which took him all over the world. On one occasion, he joked to me that a secret of his happy marriage was traveling alone a lot. I took this as advice! Wherever he was, Michael would send his inspirations and sketches back to the studio in New York City. We would develop them into a design proposal—not without some miscommunication—then toss it over to him. Back and forth, until we landed on something both strange and fantastic. We were thrilled by the whole process. Michael, you’ve now left on another journey. We all miss you. Deen Sharp and Vyjayanthi Rao, co-directors, Terreform Center for Advanced Urban Research Michael fizzed with ideas, his energy always captivating and inspiring. You could walk into his office to talk about a book project that we at Terreform had underway and walk out with instructions to contact a dozen different people about three more. Somehow amid this frenzy of activity, Michael always managed to maintain a laser-like focus on the Terreform mission of producing research to achieve more just, beautiful, and equitable cities. Somehow in this flood of ideas and instructions, proposals and counterproposals, Michael would always get the project done and the book (it always ended in a book!) printed. Terreform was founded in 2005 as a place for connecting research, design, and critique on urgent urban questions and using that research in the public’s interest. UR (Urban Research), founded in 2015 as Terreform’s publishing imprint, was the vehicle to make ideas accessible and truly public. With Michael at the helm, both platforms produced an inordinate number of proposals, books, reports, articles, symposiums, and launches. All were self-initiated, and Michael, initiator that he was, has left all of us at Terreform with plenty more to do. Most urgent is completing his—and Terreform’s—flagship project, New York City (Steady) State. The project’s central proposition is that the city can take responsibility for its ecological footprint. With New York City as his laboratory, Michael led several designers and social scientists in formulating designs and policies that could catalyze metabolic changes to critical infrastructural systems. The aim was to achieve a “steady state” of self-sufficiency within the city’s political boundaries. Ever the contrarian, Michael turned to steady state economics—a radical approach in a world addicted to growth and wilfully blind to its toxic consequences—to fashion an equally radical political vision of cities as central units for ensuring social and ecological justice. NYC (Steady) State was conceived as a series of books focusing on food and waste systems, energy, and mobility as the four key systems drastically in need of redesigning. Just last month, Michael was making final edits to Homegrown, the first book in the series and one focusing on New York City’s food production, consumption cycles, and distribution systems. His devotion to the project was so fierce that even after being hospitalized he sent emails urging us to complete and publish the volume. Beyond New York, projects were incubating in and about practically every corner of the world, all guided by students, friends, and admirers of Michael's. Their ideas were seeded or sharpened in their encounters with Michael at Terreform's 180 Varick Street office, where practically every workday ended with a visitor dropping by to say hello, being introduced to the crew, and sharing ideas over drinks. Terreform’s research projects have taken us to many places and brokered many friendships. For instance, Terreform has a lively group of friends in Chicago hard at work on South Side Stories, a collective project that shines a light on activist groups in the South Side and their struggle to reposition the Obama Presidential Center from a magnet of gentrification to catalyst for equitable, evenly dispersed urban development. Set in another conflict zone, the Terreform/UR book Open Gaza will add to Michael’s already substantial contribution to the Palestinian struggle for social and spatial justice when it is published next month. Our research projects, along with UR’s many internationally focused book projects, are primarily vehicles for showing how critique and design can speak the same language. For Michael, Terreform’s unique mission lay in developing an interdisciplinary dialogue that could be embraced by theorists, practitioners, and activists alike, and enable them to share new ways of looking at and imagining the world. Even as it hewed close to the standards of the university, Terreform sought to democratize these forms of knowledge beyond it by creating an accessible platform to address urgent issues in a timely and nimble fashion. We know we can never fill the huge absence that Michael leaves us. We are nevertheless determined to carry on Michael’s enormous legacy, to complete the large number of projects that are already underway, and to continue the work of urban research for greater social justice, beauty, and equality in our cities. Click here to learn how you can support Terreform. UR books are available for purchase here. James Wines, artist and architect The tragic loss of Michael Sorkin, as both a dear friend and premier voice for urban design on the international architecture scene, is still impossible for me to accept. At 87, I thought I would have been long gone before this, and so never anticipated experiencing the shock and despair I am feeling right now. Michael’s work in design criticism, theory, history, and planning—particularly his efforts to shape the future of cityscapes—was inclusive and visionary; indeed, he was an indelible fixture in global thinking on these topics. He was one of those rare disciplinary figures whose voice was synonymous with the profession, so that it is impossible to think about the condition of architecture and urbanism today without Michael’s ideas as pivotal points of reference and beacons of wisdom. His absence is inconceivable. While the endless fruits of his creativity will remain in museum and university archives to nourish future generations, an enormous part of the communicative value of Michael’s work was his participation in public dialogues. In this sense, he was like a great musical performer who made wonderful recordings; but the full measure of his talents was best experienced in concert format. Michael played both the revolutionary thinker and the consummate public speaker, a performance unmatched in architecture. As friends, professional colleagues, and career-long skeptics concerning all manifestations of design orthodoxy, Michael and I had a bottomless reservoir of art and design issues to debate during our thirty-plus years of dialogue. In terms of primary emphasis, we were both committed to solutions for the public domain and how to best encourage interaction among people within cityscapes. I often used to comment, when introducing our appearances on symposia, that Michael took care of the larger issues in urban design while I followed up with solutions for the small stuff under people’s feet. As our discussions unfolded, this was invariably the scenario that played out: Michael would cover the master plans, civic strategies, economics, and infrastructure, and then I would insert ideas for the pedestrian amenities of walkways, seating, plazas, gardens, and play spaces. Whereas I could hold my own in the presentation of visual material, Michael’s verbal eloquence always stole the show. I can recall so many lectures and conferences where I would find myself so enthralled with Michael’s delivery that my own faculties failed when it came my turn to speak. He was the ultimate impossible-act-to-follow on any podium. Michael and I had that kind of nurturing friendship where we could meet in an explosion of discourse on some hot topic, or just sit quietly at dinner and experience the reinforcing comfort of saying nothing. Of all Michael’s many talents, the pinnacle was his acerbic wit, with which he skewered the pomposities of our profession and politics of the day. Not only was his trenchant humor invariably on target, it was always articulated in such a way that inspired the opposition to re-think an issue. It is especially ironic that Michael Sorkin—a major advocate of integrative cities and people interaction—passed away during a time of global pandemic, when millions of urban dwellers have retreated into protective isolation. For this reason, I want to end this tribute with a quote on his work from my 2000 book Green Architecture:
Michael Sorkin might appropriately be called a visionary with a heart. He has understood that, with the universal buzz about people living in cyberspace and communicating primarily through global wavelengths, this is already a reality and just another convenient set of tools that will soon be assimilated into the realm of routine. In this respect, computers are just like every other exotic technology that has nourished science fiction hyperbole and ended up as nostalgic curios in antique auctions. In designing for the future city, Sorkin has acknowledged that people are weary of looking at digital screens all day and sit-coms all night; so why on earth would they want their neighborhood to be another extension of virtual reality? The fact is that people need and value human interaction more than ever because of computer technology. In the Sorkin city, they walk, talk, sit on stoops, tend their gardens, and breathe cleaner air. Preserving this desirable reality is the basic goal of sustainability and the primary urban design challenge of the future.
Moshe Safdie, principal, Safdie Architects For several decades, Michael Sorkin has been a unique voice in architecture. In a period of competing schools of thoughts, transitioning from one “-ism” to another, his critical voice was clear and constant, unwavering, with a focus on the impact of architecture on peoples’ lives and well-being; on the principles that must sustain urban life. He spoke about morals, values and ethics as others reviewed architecture as an ongoing fashion parade. Michael’s commitment to the idea that architecture must be in the service of those for whom we build, led him to strip the discourse of architecture from jargon and private lingo; expressing ideas clearly and articulately to the general public. As a critic at The Village Voice, he reached many outside the profession. He became propagandist for architecture, both within the profession and to the public at large, expanding horizons of the impact of our built environment has on our planet. Michael was a great and passionate teacher. I vividly remember his attendance at design reviews at the GSD, where sometimes faculty comments verge on the esoteric. Michael responded with surgical precision, getting to the essence of a design, and doing so in plain-talk. In his practice, both in Michael Sorkin Studio and Terreform, he was a prolific provocateur, embracing scales from small neighborhood parks to entire cities. The studio produced numerous proposals. Alas, not enough were realized, but the impact on the current generation is profound. It is not often that we find, in one person, an architect, urban designer, educator, theorist, critic and writer. I will miss his voice, cut-off suddenly and untimely, at a time when it is most needed. I hope that the coming generation will embrace the professional ethic his life represents. Deborah Berke, partner, Deborah Berke Partners, and dean of the Yale School of Architecture Michael Sorkin was a great critic, inspired teacher, and a brilliant thinker. And happily for me, he was my friend. We would have a drink together once or twice a year and talk about New York. From old New York to the New York we loved to the New York we missed to the New York we hoped for in the future. Michael was a searing and insightful critic, all the way back to his days at The Village Voice, as well as in his many books and in his more recent criticism for The Nation. He was also an insightful teacher—he taught at Yale twice, first in 1990 as the William B. and Charlotte Shepherd Davenport visiting professor, then in 1991 as the William Henry Bishop visiting professor. He brought these same teaching skills to his strong leadership as the director of the master of urban planning program at the Spitzer School of Architecture at City College (CCNY). He was also one of the most learned and well-read people I’ve ever met. His interests were diverse and his memory was expansive. Michael argued for the greater good in every aspect of the built environment—from the smallest detail of a building to the largest gesture of a regional plan. He will be missed. His convictions, his voice, and his heart are irreplaceable. Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University I can still rerun lines in my head verbatim from some of Michael’s Village Voice pieces—especially the ones I just couldn’t stop rereading while howling with laughter. His send-up of the Charlottesville Tapes was a true classic, a teddy bear to reach for in the most desperate moments of trying to survive postmodernism. Michael was an arsonist to be sure, yet he also wanted to rebuild something of value and commitment in the place of pretension and posturing. He held out hope for all engaged in architecture to his last moments—as the bright moral light on the horizon that he was—that architecture could still be an instrument for building community. When Reinhold Martin and I looked to launch our experimental Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream project in 2011, amid the ongoing foreclosure crisis, we turned to Michael, inviting him to participate in the opening panel discussion. He offered cogent analyses of our all-too vague brief as well as suggested lines of attack for making architecture that mattered. Along the way he also offered the audience gathered at MoMA PS1 and online a very moving description of his own upbringing in Hollin Hills, Northern Virginia. Hollin Hills was a place where Americans cultivated living together, Michael said, in language that starkly contrasts with the language of intolerance that has since invaded American life, virus-like. Ironically, I think he feared this virus more than the one that took him from us. Michael left us right when we needed him most. With his lucid intelligence, sense of purpose, and biting satirical way of writing, he could cut away the flack even as he focused us on the essential. Nothing he wrote is dated, even if much of it was provoked by immediate events. To reread his pieces is to be in conversation with one of the most truly original and free-thinking minds of architecture. I can’t imagine how anyone will fill the gap, but the texts will continue to delight us and offer refreshing insights. (Think how he knew, for instance, to appreciate Breuer’s Whitney at the moment when fashionable opinion was dead-set against it.) There are many ways to spend our evenings apart at the moment. I, for one, have found a superb tonic for these dark times: pour a glass of bourbon in Michael’s memory and prop open your favorite collection of his writings. We will miss you for years and years to come, Michael. Vanessa Keith, principal, StudioTEKA Design When I came to New York City as a young architect 20 years ago, I was in search of a mentor. Coming from a fine arts background, I wanted someone who I felt was a truly great mind, who I could learn from, and who would take me under their wing. So when I met Michael while I was working on a project for the Spitzer School of Architecture at CCNY, I felt an immediate affinity. He reminded me in some ways of my academic parents and their radical lefty friends who dreamed of a better world while working on their PhD dissertations. From there, I started teaching studio at CCNY in 2002, and being invited to Michael’s UD juries was definitely a high point. He was so innovative, and he always had the backs of everyday people who don’t always get to have their voices heard. He made us think critically and differently, and he didn’t shut down ideas just because they were coming from someone younger or less “educated.” In 2007, Michael; Achva Stein, then head of CCNY’s landscape architecture program; David Leven, of LevenBetts and CCNY; and Ana Maria Duran, a good friend from grad school at Penn who was teaching at PUCE (Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador) in Quito, were doing a joint architecture, landscape, and urban design studio focused on a site in the Ecuadorian rainforest. Ana Maria invited me to lead a student charrette at the Quito Architecture Biennale, which I accepted. Once there, I received another invitation, this one to travel with the studio groups to Lago Agrio, taking Achva’s place. Again, I accepted, getting the yellow fever vaccine and some anti-malaria pills. Shivering and teeth chattering from a reaction to the injection, I jumped on the bus heading down the mountains. What a treat! We took trips up the river with local guides in canoes, avoided the areas marked “piranha,” and at a safer junction jumped into the muddy river water fully dressed in all our gear. The entire group stayed in the rainforest at a research station, saw butterflies in metamorphosis against the backdrop of oil installations, and had a jolly old time. Michael joked about making a calendar featuring scrappy Ecuadorian street dogs, the very antithesis of the Westminster Dog Show. He always rooted for the underdog, valuing the ingenuity and skills of local people and treating them with the utmost respect. Michael helped so many people, and he was so generous with his time. He was always up for coming to Studioteka and playing the role of critic for whatever we were working on in our annual summer research project. That’s how my book, 2100: A Dystopian Utopia — The City After Climate Change for Terreform’s UR imprint, came to be. Several years of in-office juries, occasionally zinging (but usually hilarious and on-point) critiques, and edits followed, and the book came out in 2017. Since then, Michael and the team at Terreform have offered incredible guidance, support and enthusiasm, helping us to get the word out, and cheering me on through each book event, lecture, publication, and milestone. More recently, we had our 2100 VR day at StudioTEKA and gave Michael, along with UR managing director Cecilia Fagel, their very first experience in virtual reality! They were dubious at first, but they were quickly among the converted. At one point in the VR tour, they were put on a plank changing a lightbulb hundreds of feet above the city, and in the end, they asked everyone to jump down. Michael demurred, Cecilia said yes, and we had to catch her! Michael was a brilliant mind, a champion of the dispossessed, and someone who fought valiantly for a just, equitable, and environmentally sustainable future. He believed in cities, in the power of collective action, and that doing better was always possible. Now we must strive to carry on without him, and push hard for the better world he laid out for us in his work. M. Christine Boyer, William R. Kenan, Jr. professor of architecture and urbanism, Princeton University School of Architecture It is too soon to bid farewell to my friend and colleague Michael Sorkin, whom I knew since we were students together at MIT. The last time we saw each other, in late January, we simply hugged each other goodbye: he was due to fly to China, I to Athens. It is indeed a silent spring now that he is gone! Yet his legacy lives on. He leaves a profound and lasting impact on public awareness, on architectural practice, on political commitment! His call to action remains. Michael Sorkin was the conscience of architecture, a visionary change-maker, dedicated educator, engaged author, and imaginative designer. He never backed down from opposing points of view. Rather, he called us all to live better in the world, to mend the city of inequity and injustice. He helped us build solid relationships through his edited books, a forum he built for voices to rise up together in solidarity. He was truly the root from which sprung our dedication to a socially responsible architecture. Michael’s pen brilliantly and humorously elevated the level of architectural and urban criticism into a new art. He was always writing for a better city yet to come. His concern was how to build a city of freedom, diversity, authenticity, participation, intimacy. Let his words speak!
“For me, writing has been the extension of architecture by other means both polemically and as fuel for my money pit of a studio. I write because I am an architect.” —Some Assembly Required (2001) “Architecture cries out for a reinfusion of some sense of responsibility to human program as a generative basis for both its ideology and its formal and technological practice, but gets it less and less.” —Some Assembly Required (2001) “[T]he new city is little more than a swarm of urban bits jettisoning a physical view of the whole; sacrificing the idea of the city as the site of community and human connection.”—Variations on a Theme Park (1991)
He pleaded for a return to a more authentic urbanity, “a city based on physical proximity and free movement and a sense that the city is our best expression of a desire for collectivity.” The goal was, and is, “to reclaim the city is the struggle of democracy itself.” And it is a struggle over contending voices!
“[T]he City is both a place where all sorts of arrangements are possible, and the apparatus for harmonizing autonomy and propinquity./ Freedom, pleasure, convenience, beauty, commerce, and production are the reasons for the City.” —Local Code: The Constitution of a City at 42° N Latitude (1993)
Michael’s critical writings on the politics of architecture live on, be they about the utopian schemes for the World Trade Center or the reconstruction of New Orleans, or the engagement of Palestinian and Israeli voices in the future of Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. He wrote about the battle for freedom, global and local responsibility, the environment, even as he addressed the milieu of architecture, making appeals for inclusion, for connectivity, for sharing, and more. In this silent spring of isolation that robs us of his voice, his pen, his friendship and humor, listen to the small murmurs arising, the tributes that come in from far and near. Witness his influence great and small. From the soil he has nourished with his commitment and action will spring forth—amid ongoing contestation—a better city. Listen to his call! This dear Michael, our Michael, is your enduring legacy.
Sharon Zukin, professor emerita of sociology, Brooklyn College and City University Graduate Center Michael Sorkin was an architect’s writer and a writer’s architect. He had a brilliant wit, a ready command of politics, history, and principles of design, and a passionate commitment to social justice. He wrote in plain English and published prolifically. He scorned hypocrisy, shunned opportunists, and acted to build a better world. Although he had peeves—venal real estate developers, corrupt politicians, celebrity architects, that tin-plated hustler Donald Trump—Michael wasn’t peevish. He could not tolerate intolerance. He was impatient with himself, but he was also a generous teacher, colleague, and friend. During all the years that I knew him (I want to write have known him), I never understood how he could travel so far, write so much, or launch so many projects with so many people and always bring them to completion. Yet his genius ranged most freely, and his rage was most keenly charged, when he wrote about ego and power in the city that he loved: New York. I admired Michael as a writer before I knew him as either an architect or a friend.  I had been a devoted reader of his architectural criticism in The Village Voice during the 1980s. At the time, New York was in transition, moving from widespread deprivation to Reaganite glamour, yuppie glitz, and localized gentrification, even as fiscal austerity penalized the Rust Belt of the outer boroughs and quarantined communities of color. Michael cut through the hype to the complicit collusion of the real estate industry and government agencies; I learned a lot from reading him. Although he and I walked the same streets—and lived in the same neighborhood, Greenwich Village—his streets were more layered than mine because he knew more, had a better eye, and directed his critiques with pinpoint clarity. Who could ever catch up with him? The elegant essays that make up the book Twenty Minutes in Manhattan—shaped by the walk from his home to his office—are my favorites in Michael’s considerable oeuvre. He starts with the stairs in the Old Law tenement where he and Joan, his wife and life-partner, lived for many years. He recounts the difficulties he has had climbing those stairs, especially on crutches after surgery, and then segues into a brief but exact description of their construction. This leads him to reflect on other, grander stairs. The long, straight flights of stairs in late-nineteenth-century industrial buildings that formed a “tectonic loft vocabulary” within the cultural syntax of New York. The elegant double staircases in the Château de Blois. The capacious stairs in the MIT dorm designed by Alvar Aalto, made wide so students would stop to talk to each other. Long before Prada stores and tech and other “creative” offices sprouted them, Michael had already taken the measure of a staircase’s possibilities. “Architecture,” Michael drops into his conversation with the reader, “is produced at the intersection of art and property.” He exhumes the grid plan from its origins in the fifth century BC and relates it to the well-known scheme for laying out potential profit-bearing plots of land throughout Manhattan. Adopted in 1811, the grid not only set New York’s major money machine in motion but also set the course for its buildings, their heights and morphologies, and, yes, the stairs inside them. Which naturally makes him consider the pitch of the treads at the pyramids in Chichen Itza, only to return, once more, to his New York brownstone. This is—was—typical of Michael in writing as in casual conversation: erudition wrapped in humor that didn’t allow pomposity. Like Jane Jacobs, whom he greatly admired, and in whose honor he founded a lecture series at the Spitzer School of Architecture, he was a citizen of both the Village and the world. Like Jacobs, too, he saw the world in the city—but he also saw the city in the world. Michael traveled constantly, giving lectures, pitching projects, taking his students on field trips to South Africa one year and to Cuba another. During his career, he wrote about many different cities. Wherever a community of architects, activists, and urban designers protested a plan, or struggled to turn back an egregious intrusion of monumentalism into a skyline or streetscape, Michael was there. You could count on him to fire broadsides, mobilize the troops, and persuade strangers to join him. A few years ago, he persuaded me and others to write a short essay for a collective book he was putting together with people in Helsinki. This group strongly opposed the city government’s plan to contract with the Guggenheim Museum, then still in its expansionist phase, to build an expensive branch on a stretch of waterfront better left for public use. With these collaborators, Michael organized an anti-competition for design ideas and made us scholars into a jury. This mobilization, echoed by the popular opposition within Helsinki, helped to sink the Guggenheim plan. (Or, at least, it forced the city council to reveal its lack of funds.) The last time I saw Michael, one month before he died, he asked me to come by his office. We talked about a Hungarian artist’s book project on luxury apartments for which we were both writing essays, dished some dirt about various cultural figures on the South Side of Chicago, and looked at the old photographs of Michael’s family on his shelves. We laughed about the double portrait of Joan and himself in front of the Taj Mahal that he had painted in Vietnam; Joan, considering it trashy, would not allow it in their home. Michael asked if I could recommend someone who could write about race and class in the neighborhoods near the University of Chicago for a book he was planning for his publishing house UR, and then asked if I would write something for yet another book he was planning, on smart cities. Although he was not in the best of health, a frailty that the virus would exploit, he still pushed forward.  He was only prevented from taking another trip—to Africa—by the emerging blockade of travel restrictions. My last email from Michael came one week later. He heard me talking about my new book on the radio and immediately sent me fan mail. This, too, was Michael: he acted on friendship. Almost twenty years ago, he and I edited a book of essays by New York urbanists where we tried to put together our abundant sorrows and critical thoughts about the World Trade Center. The words Michael wrote about the fallen Twin Towers surely apply to him. He was, in all respects, “the Everest of our urban Himalayas.”
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Brit and Determination

Completed in nine days, massive NHS Nightingale hospital opens in London
NHS Nightingale Hospital London, an emergency medical facility dedicated to treating patients infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), opened late last week within the normally conventioneer-stuffed halls of the ExCeL London exhibition center following a super-expeditious retrofit. Thanks to a herculean collaborative effort carried out by the National Health Service (NHS), the British Armed Forces, the Royal Engineers, the facilities management team at ExCeL London, private contractors, and international architecture firm BDP, the 1-million-square-foot convention center in the docklands of East London has been transformed in just over a week into what’s not only the largest hospital in the United Kingdom but, per CNBC, the largest critical care unit in the world. BDP project leads Paul Johnson, architect director, and James Hepburn, engineering principal, described the process in a statement as “a monumental team effort which has been intense and exhausting.” The makeshift facility has room for 4,000- to-5,000 ventilator-equipped beds spread out between 78 different wards, each named after a famed British healthcare figure, as well as two morgues according to The Evening Standard. The hospital is currently operating with 500 beds and will expand as needed. “It’s nothing short of extraordinary that this new hospital in London has been established from scratch in less than a fortnight, said Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, in a press statement. “The NHS, working with the military, has done in a matter of days what usually takes years.” Prince Charles, who is currently in Scotland recovering after he tested positive for COVID -19 at the end of March, opened the NHS Nightingale London via Skype on April 3. He noted: “In this dark time, this place will be a shining light.” At the time of writing, there have been 48,440 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United Kingdom and 4,934 known deaths. In addition to Prince Charles, other prominent British figures who have contracted the virus include Prime Minister Boris Johnson and a growing handful of film and television personalities, athletes, and beloved cultural icons. London's makeshift mega-hospital is the first of what are to be several NHS field hospitals spread out across England with others soon to open in Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, and Harrogate, Yorkshire. All will uniformly carry the Nightingale name in honor of trailblazing hygiene evangelist and Crimean War nurse extraordinaire, Florence Nightingale. Outside of England, NHS-operated pop-up hospitals are also in the works for Glasgow, Belfast, and Cardiff. ExCeL London’s Abu Dhabi-based owner was originally set to charge the NHS a hefty monthly sum for use of the space but has since reconsidered. While ExCel London certainly isn’t the first convention center or arena in Europe or elsewhere to be repurposed into a temporary hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic, the staggering size of the conversion and the speed at which it was completed are, as noted by Prince Charles, remarkable. Also remarkable is the all-hands-on-deck approach instituted at Nightingale London and future NHS field hospitals. In addition to helping to build-out the facilities, military personnel have been enlisted by the NHS to join civilian first responders in ferrying patients via ambulance to the hospitals. Furloughed cabin crew members with airlines easyJet and Virgin Atlantic—many of them first aid-trained and security-cleared—have also been summoned by their employers to change beds and perform non-clinical support tasks at NHS Nightingale London and other NHS field hospitals. As for the conversion of ExCeL London into the world’s largest critical care facility, Manchester-headquartered BDP has been eager to share its adaptive design approach in hopes that it can be replicated elsewhere if need be. To help illustrate how it was done, the firm has published a poster-sized, IKEA-esque instruction manual. “Delivering emergency hospital facilities in conference and exhibition centres is unprecedented, so we have been drawing on our previous experience of designing large-scale healthcare facilities including very large intensive-care units in super-speciality tertiary hospitals like Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham,” said BDP's Hepburn in a statement. “However, it is the scale, timeframe and purpose of this emergency facility that distinguishes it from any previous healthcare projects.” The firm elaborates on the nuts and bolts of the rapidly implemented design its website:
“The bed heads and service corridors were constructed from a component system that is usually used to construct exhibition stands and there was some simple reinforcement to allow services to be fitted to the walls. Minimal building intervention enabled maximum use of the building's assets. “Clinical flows determined the circulation strategy within the building. The wards are linked with a temporary tunnel across a boulevard which allows connection to the diagnostics area. Staff move from the boulevard to and from the ICU wards via the don and doff rooms, allowing PPE to be donned and doffed, which is key to infection control.”
Per the NHS, 33,000 beds in existing hospitals have been freed up to accommodate an influx of COVID-stricken patients. This is the equivalent of opening 50 new hospitals, although this comparison, as some have pointed out, is a bit weak. “These measures mean that capacity still exists in hospitals to deal with coronavirus, with the Nightingales standing ready if local services need them beyond that,” explained the NHS.
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Corona Column

The COVID-19 pandemic could change the way we make things
For the duration of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, AN will use this column to keep our readers up to date on how the pandemic is affecting architecture and related industries. This weekly article is meant to digest the latest major developments in the crisis and synthesize broader patterns and what they could mean for architecture in the United States. The previous edition of the column can be found here. This week, the COVID-19 pandemic continued to escalate across the United States, and we’re starting to see signs of how the crisis could affect manufacturing and building supply chains in the long term. While construction slows nationally, architects and manufacturers are turning their hands toward producing personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, responding to current shortages and anticipating the incredible need expected in the coming weeks as the pandemic peaks. These flexible responses could save lives, and the memory of that could spur the country to rethink how it makes things. Cities, and how residents use them, have already changed quickly. New York and Los Angeles have enacted temporary eviction bans to help people who have lost their jobs because of the economic effects of the pandemic, and state and local governments have repurposed existing structures as healthcare facilities. New York converted the Javits Convention Center into a 1,200-bed emergency hospital, and across the country, parking garages, college dorms, and even parks have been turned into pop-up medical facilities Construction freezes across the country have continued and expanded. New York has responded to the crisis by pausing all nonessential construction. Many construction sites in Los Angeles have temporarily closed, although the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is going ahead with the controversial demolition of its current home as it prepares to build its new Peter Zumthor–designed building.  Even aside from mandated site closures, there are signs that work may slow in the months after the pandemic passes. At a virtual town hall last week, representatives from AIA New York discussed how that city’s Department of Design and Construction was cutting its budget ahead of anticipated shortfalls as a result of the pandemic’s effect on the economy.  On a more upbeat note, the speakers at the AIA New York event also discussed a growing movement among architecture firms to 3D print personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. Offices and schools across the country are printing masks and assembling face shields to donate to hospitals. It’s a nice story about how architects can respond to a pressing social need, and it’s also an indication of how much this pandemic is disrupting traditional supply chains. The way the industry heals from these wounds may foster a very different system than the one we are used to. Many of the recent social distancing orders have affected manufacturers as much as construction companies. As a result of Michigan’s policy, many producers there have had to temporarily close their plants and lay off workers. The state has long been a center for furniture production—brands like Steelcase, Herman Miller, and Haworth are based in or around Grand Rapids, aka Furniture City. Katie Woodruff of Steelcase confirmed that that company has been forced to shutter most Michigan production lines for now, but that the company is fabricating critical equipment for healthcare and government needs, as well as maintaining operations in Alabama and Mexico for essential business and elsewhere in the world as possible. Not all manufacturers have had to pause. Scott Melnick, senior vice president of the American Institute of Steel Construction, said that “while the rules vary from state-to-state, many fabricators have been classified as essential businesses by state leadership or through the current CISA [Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency] guidelines, and are still working, albeit with added precautions to minimize worker exposure.” Some of these heavy industry fabrication plants are difficult to take temporarily offline. Glass manufacturers, for example, will stay open regardless of short-term demand, because float glass is deemed critical to national security, partly because it’s used by the defense industry. Float glass plants can take weeks to stop and a year, as well as millions of dollars, to restart—a story on AN will explore that next week. Some manufacturers, like architecture firms, are radically redirecting their operations to create protective equipment. About two weeks ago, New Jersey-based furniture maker Stylex began producing face masks with their sewing machines and CNC cutting equipment. Sewers are now creating 400 to 500 masks per day for area hospitals. While the masks aren’t equivalent to the much-need N95 masks, Bruce Golden, Stylex co-CEO, said that the masks are being made in accordance with government requirements for donated equipment and CDC guidelines. Stratasys, a major 3D printing and additive manufacturing company, has also pivoted to producing protective equipment. After receiving requests for face shields, the company scrambled to prototype a model that they could partially print and donate to hospitals and nursing homes. The company made their digital model available online so that other businesses and individuals can sign up to print the face shield parts and send them to Stratasys for assembly (the company asks that partners commit to producing parts for at least 100 shields). Since starting in late March, Stratasys has now produced and donated thousands of shields to hospitals and nursing homes. Others interested in printing and producing models may submit their designs for FDA approval here. The crisis has exposed the advantages of 3D printing, which allows for extremely quick responses to demand. A representative from Stratasys said that while the company could switch to injection mold manufacturing to produce the shields in greater numbers, that would require two weeks just to make the initial mold. Printing allowed the company to respond in days, and thanks to a diffused national network of printers, production could still ramp up quickly and locally as needed. These workarounds to the pandemic’s radical disruption of global supply chains could reverberate long after this crisis ends.  “For years, furniture manufacturers, and manufacturers in general, have been compelled to rethink how forces like climate change, geopolitical instability, and supply chain disruptions affect overall organizational resiliency,” Woodruff at Steelcase said. “The COVID-19 global pandemic is very likely to intensify and accelerate efforts to shift operations, and invest in digital technologies to enhance smarter supply chains and create more efficient distribution strategies.” Customers may focus on domestic goods as memories of this shock live on, or the crisis could spur a boom in diffuse, localized 3D printing networks that could nimbly respond to such disasters. Stratasys reported that a hospital in France recently bought 60 of its printers to produce equipment on site. The lingering anxieties borne by this moment could reshape the country’s approach to manufacturing for decades. Finally, if you’re looking for something to distract you while you’re cooped up inside, take a look at this roundup of architecture-related movies and shows selected by AN’s editorial staff. Be well!
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A Call to Arms

Operation PPE creates 3D-printed equipment for the COVID-19 front lines
Things right now are undoubtedly, brutally rough. And when the going gets rough, the architecture and design community gets 3D printing. As part of a sweeping grassroots mobilization effort that expands and evolves daily, architects, designers, makers, and a small army of displaced students have banded together and fired up their 3D printers to produce the personal protective equipment (PPE) so desperately needed in hospitals that are struggling to provide necessary gear to the doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is, without question, the worst public health crisis of our lifetime. The numbers are truly staggering, and for medical professionals, it is very much like a war, causing casualties and death,” said Dr. James Pacholka MD, a surgeon at Southern Ohio Medical Center, in a statement shared with AN. “No one wants to fight a battle without adequate protection and the PPE’s are our armor, so any help we get in that regard is incredible. And for people using their expertise to help us in any way that they can is honestly beautiful, and serves as a warm reminder of mankind’s goodness and generosity.” In that regard, the architecture and design community has more than risen to the occasion. The Operation PPE effort began in earnest with an SOS of sorts sent via email late on March 24 by Kirstin Petersen, assistant professor at Cornell University’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering to fellow professor Jenny Sabin, director of Sabin Lab at Cornell’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP) and principal of the eponymous architectural design studio based in Ithaca, New York. Petersen relayed the dire need for PPE, specifically face shields, at Weill Cornell Medicine, the university’s medical school and biomedical research unit in New York City. The request—initially estimated by Weill Cornell to be 20,000 to 50,000 per day in New York City—rapidly disseminated throughout multiple departments at the university. By 10:00 a.m. the next morning, Sabin, with the blessing of Meejin Yoon, dean of Cornell AAP, had reopened the school’s Digital Fabrication Lab, fired up all 10 of its 3D printers, and got to work. At the same time, Sabin spread the word to faculty, staff, and students while providing detailed instructions on the lab website. Petersen and Amy Kuceyeski, associate professor of mathematics at Weill Cornell Medicine’s Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute, also started a Slack channel to keep lines of communication open and flowing in a single dedicated space. “We were able to respond to the need right away,” Sabin explained to AN. “And what started out as just a few labs on Cornell’s campus then began to grow.” Sabin and others that have since joined the Operation PPE movement are basing their output, which includes a laser-cut clear plastic shield alongside a 3D-printed visor band that snugly fits across a user’s forehead, on an open-source design file created by Erik Cederberg of Swedish company 3D Verkstan. That design, and that design only without any major modifications, has been verified for use by Weill Cornell. The shields, which can be discarded or sanitized and reused, are made from polyethylene sheets while the visor band component is generally made from PLA or ABS, both standard 3D printing materials. PET or PETG, however, is preferred by the medical community as it’s safer to reuse and longer-lasting. Once the components are distributed, hospital staff sanitizes and assembles the face shields. Ultimately, 3D-printed PPE is meant as a temporary solution, as desperate times call for creative measures. But as far as stopgap measures go at least one medical professional, an emergency room doctor at a major New York City Hospital, gave his approval: “The 3D shields and masks being made may be very useful, and can be designed with comfort, visibility, and re-usability in mind,” he said in a statement provided to AN.

A ground-up, grassroots movement grows

While Sabin’s Digital Fabrication Lab and other labs within Cornell departments that have access to 3D printers and laser cutters quickly got to work (all with an eye toward social distancing and overall safety), Yoon sent out an all-hands-on-deck email to the school’s vast network of alumni. Within 48 hours of Petersen reaching out to Sabin, a slew of major architecture firms—Terreform, Grimshaw, Bjarke Ingels Group, Handel Associates, Weiss Manfredi, and Kohn Pedersen Fox among them—had joined the effort. Edg, a mid-sized Manhattan-based architecture and engineering firm, also sprung into action. Notably, edg made a slight but critical adjustment to the visor band allowing for a tighter and more protective fit that also enabled production to increase by up to 20 percent. Currently, edg is producing up to 100 face shields per day and plans to launch a website to connect and coordinate those looking to pitch in. “In less than four days we had this massive web of people firing up their machines, dedicating material, and donating their time and effort,” remarked Sabin. As of this writing, Cornell's on-campus labs have donated 5,800 face shields, a number that jumps significantly when also including PPE made and donated by alumni architects and their networks. “Together and in a very short amount of time, we were able to respond to a gap within the supply chain by leveraging 3D printing and a network of digital fabrication labs. On one hand, 3D printing is not the best way to make these parts, and one 3D printer isn’t going to make an impact, but when you have thousands… it’s incredible.” Students and faculty from schools including Parsons, the University of Southern California, Carnegie Mellon, and Iowa State have since joined Operation PPE. “The power of people coming together is just amazing,” said Sabin. Mitch McEwen, assistant professor at the Princeton School of Architecture and founding director of Black Box Research Group, has also played an active early role on the design and organizational fronts. As noted by McEwen, one area of focus for the team has been on the material supply chain. “How do you widen the stream of materials coming into this, and how do we get ahead of the curve on the next PPE disaster?” she said, adding that the Department of Health and Human Services has mentioned a potential shortage of PPE gowns is on the horizon. “PPE shortages have been cannibalizing the materials they already have.”

Expanding the network

Cornell AAP alumnus Jay Valgora, founder of multidisciplinary design firm STUDIO V, was among the first architects to enlist in Operation PPE and has been instrumental in helping get the word out wide and far. (His son, Jesse, an architecture student at Syracuse University, is also involved in the fabrication and material-sourcing efforts.) “Everyone wants to help and no one knows what to do,” Valgora told AN. “So it’s kind of great to not only do this—to get this equipment into the hands of medical workers who really need it—but it’s also great to give people a vehicle where they can help out and play a positive role.” Noting that his staff is now working from home remotely, Valgora said: “I can still go into the studio, which is empty now, so I went in there with Jesse and we dragged our 3D printers out and brought them home and set them up in our loft and started to print around the clock.” In addition to printing away alongside Jesse at his makeshift home lab, Valgora is teaming with Illya Azaroff, president-elect of AIA New York State, to help consolidate the growing number of different grassroots factions that have joined Operation PPE throughout the state. “We’re trying to create a larger movement to get more people involved,” said Valgora of his team-up with the AIA. “It would be great if the next step were to be to take this national.” While Valgora collaborates with AIA New York State to bolster outreach and involvement within the architecture community, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), acting as a clearinghouse, has also launched a formal intake process to better coordinate with local businesses looking to make and donate crucial medical supplies. The donations will be vetted by the Department of Health to ensure they meet safety protocols, at the scale needed for the city’s COVID-19 response. The NYCEDC has received over 1,700 queries from interested businesses in just several days. Per Shavone Williams, vice president and chief of staff for public affairs at the NYCEDC, the businesses working directly with the city to produce PPE include Makerspace NYC, Adafruit, and Brooklyn-based custom fabrication company Bednark Studios. Between these three enterprises, 127,000 face shield kits were delivered to New York hospitals this past week.

The effort out West

In Southern California, similar PPE-producing efforts are underway including one directly inspired by Sabin Lab's call to arms that's spearheaded by Alvin Huang, an associate professor at the USC School of Architecture and founding principal of Synthesis Design + Architecture. Since putting out an open call last week, Huang has brought together an initial network north of 80 people—largely USC faculty, alumni, and friends—working with 100 3D printers and three laser cutters. Students from other Los Angeles-area schools including SCI-arc and Santa Monica College have also joined the local effort as have firms including KAA Associates, ARUP, CO Architects, Michael Maltzan Architects, RCH Studios, Brooks Scarpa, and others. The gear produced by the Huang-launched campaign is being distributed to, via pickups coordinated by USC's Keck Medicine, to LAC+USC Medical Center, Keck Hospital, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and MLK Willowbrook Hospital. “I’m proud to announce we’re mobilizing our architecture, design, and manufacturing communities to utilize 3D-printing technologies,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at daily press briefing held earlier this week in which he discussed the city's larger L.A. Protects initiative. “We're getting this done by tapping into resources in our own backyard—developing prototypes and designs with USC's architecture, engineering, and medical schools. We're working with UCLA and other local universities, design schools, and architecture firms to utilize their materials and to use their expertise.” Like the effort originating at Cornell, Huang’s bourgeoning L.A.-centered network is creating and distributing protective face shields using a new design from Budman that’s been approved by Keck. The primary focus, however, is on producing 3D-printed “pseudo N95 masks,” which are also verified by Keck. N95 masks, which as others involved with the Operation PPE effort have pointed out, are not being produced at the same scale as face shield kits because 3D printers simply cannot replicate their complex design in a way that meets medical standards. “We brought this to the attention of Keck as we were concerned that we might be leading people to think they are safe when they’re not,” Huang told AN. “Keck said they were fully aware and had tested everything [...] they said these masks were not what they are using now, and they’re not a replacement for medical-grade PPE. They’re backups to the backup.” “This might be the scariest thing I’ve heard,” admitted Huang. “But Keck’s response was that this is wartime medicine, and we’re preparing for war, and in wars you need a backup to the backup. And Keck identified this as a backup that’s one level above using homemade cloth masks, bandanas, and socks.” It’s a grim assessment, for sure, but these are extraordinary times. As for Sabin, she’s looking past the bleakness and focusing on the synergetic, humane work being done by a community united by one common objective. “For me, the important thing to get out there is the network of people that have come together. The bridge, in terms of working across disciplines, has very much been the context of emerging technology, especially in digital fabrication and 3D printing,” she said. “There’s a kind of democratic space in that it is informal and bottom-up, and we’ve been able to make a real impact in that way. I think everybody’s been looking for a way to contribute during this difficult and unprecedented time, and I think this is a real and positive way to come together even though we can’t be near each other physically. And every visor, every shield, makes a difference.” For those without a 3D printer or digital fabrication skills, please see #GetUsPPE to explore other ways in which you can help.
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In the Tank

OPEN Architecture transforms an abandoned Shanghai industrial site into a contemporary art park
Along with a vast number of cultural institutions around the globe, Tank Shanghai, a sprawling urban art environment situated along the Huangpu River in China’s most populous city, has been closed to the public and upped its virtual presence in the midst of the country’s coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Just a little over a year old, this singular adaptive reuse-centered art space centered around—and located within—a quintet of massive decommissioned fuel waste tanks is back open now, and apparently ready to show off. A newly released series of photos details the transformative project, which was designed by multi-disciplinary design studio OPEN Architecture and spearheaded by karaoke-loving contemporary art collector Qiao Zhibing. Completed over the course of six years (with some significant delay), Tank Shanghai wholly transformed a formerly industrial plot adjacent to Shanghai’s old Longhua Airport while retaining five hulking tank structures that were left standing at the once-blighted 12-acre riverside site in the museum-stuffed West Bund area. Per OPEN, Tank Shanghai is one of the “world’s rare examples of the adaptive reuse of aviation fuel tanks.” Described as a “sanctuary for both people and nature” that aims to “dissolve conventional ideas of site limitations and demarcations,” Tank Shanghai’s open space-meets-contemporary-art-center approach has already proven to be popular with the public. Showing now is Chicago-based installation artist Theaster Gates’ Bad Neon, which transforms one of the tank-bound gallery spaces into a roller skating rink. For most, the art is indeed a main draw but Tank Shanghai’s park setting also attracts joggers, picnickers, and the like. “By introducing new audiences to the traditionally closed-off space of the art center, Tank Shanghai has brought unprecedented energy to the formerly industrial neighborhood and to the southwest banks of the city at large,” explained OPEN. The five tanks are connected by a lushly landscaped “Super Surface” which serves as a natural pedestrian corridor between the different major sections of the park, including an “Urban Forest, a grassy open meadow for large gatherings, and a “stepped waterscape.” By linking the site with busy Longten Avenue, the Super Surface also opens up public access to the revitalized riverfront. As for the tanks themselves, each has been retrofitted to serve a unique purpose and accommodate different programming. The first is home to a two-story nightclub featuring live music and bar; the second is a restaurant complete with an outdoor roof deck; the third is a cavernous, raw space left mostly unchanged in order to mount large installations; the fourth has been converted into a more traditional gallery space spread across three levels, each connected by a spiraling ramp, and the fifth has been converted to include two large, sheltered stages that each face sloping lawns for visitors to congregate for al fresco concerts, performances, and such. “It is an art center without boundaries, and as it continues to assimilate into the life of the city more largely,” wrote New York-founded OPEN. “Tank Shanghai will continue to facilitate and inspire the creation of more inclusive and collective cultural spaces.”
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1948–2020

Moss, Mayne, Holl, and more remember the late Michael Sorkin
Michael Sorkin, inimitable scribe of the built environment and leading design mind, passed away in New York at age 71 last Thursday after contracting COVID-19. Survived by his wife Joan Copjec, Sorkin leaves behind an invaluable body of work, as the following tributes—from friends, colleagues, peers—readily acknowledge. This is the first of a two-part series; the second can be read here. Eric Owen Moss, principal, Eric Owen Moss Architects: Michael Sorkin, Where are you? In sight of the invisible. Loyal to that cause. Michael the critic. Michael the urbanist. Michael the politico polemicist. Michael the architect. Michael the sardonic humorist. Homeless and everywhere at home. Educating the educators. Colleague’s definition. Friend’s definition. Redrawing the criticalurbanistpolicoarchitecthumorist’s map. In perpetuity. So those in arrears can follow. If they can. Michael, where are you? Eating at Rosa? Laughing together at the prima ballerina and the qb? Someone once told us, “the sun also ariseth.” Just not today. Love you. Thom Mayne, founding partner, Morphosis Architects: In the eighties when we were all starving, Michael would put me up in his apartment where I would occupy an unforgettable Pesce Feltri chair while we talked late into the night about the subject we both loved—architecture. Exhausted and enfolded in the wings of that chair, I would sleep and then awaken as though no time had passed before we were at it again. His voice, then as it was yesterday, was incisive and fearless and sometimes stinging. He challenged me repeatedly with words I often didn’t want to hear. But I trusted him—his comments were clearly coming from a place of generosity and honesty and commitment to his project which was, finally, about social justice. He spoke of our awesome responsibilities, he spoke relentlessly of the power of architecture to change lives, he never stopped insisting that we must never stop fighting—for what we believed in, for a resistance to the status quo. His prodigious intelligence combined with his obvious love of humanity gave his words a rare gravitas and power. Finally, I ask myself why I am thinking about that room, that chair, that time, and I realize that it’s the gift of connection with people that made Michael so special. I’m thinking about that chair, those hours, that mind, and I, like every single person I’ve spoken with these last few days, am undone, feeling lost in a fog of sadness whose edges I can’t quite find. Steven Holl, principal, Steven Holl Architects: The shocking tragic news that Michael Sorkin was taken out by COVID-19 is unbelievable—tragically surreal. I had known Michael for over forty years. He invited me to an event on New Year’s Eve when I first arrived in New York City. He was a very rare architect of deep intellect and sharp wit. He was a champion of remarkable urban visions, and like our close friend Lebbeus Woods, he had fearless convictions about architecture. Michael was a character like Cervantes’s Don Quixote in the best way. I remember him saying, “I may not achieve all my visions, but I will die fighting for them.” Let’s pay attention to this tragic moment in humanity. As Malebranche said, “attention is the natural prayer of the soul.” Deborah Gans, founding principal, Gans Studio: I have been revisiting Michael’s responses to our troubles, both immediate and looming, Katrina and Jerusalem, climate change and global violence. There is always the razor-sharp text that lays bare difficult truths with their ethical demands and their physical consequences for architecture and planning. But then there is most often a drawn proposal, filled with exuberance, for our way out. He was this binary as a person—as committed to optimism as to confrontation with injustice, as joyful in his being, as devastating in his wit. Through his writing, we understand the precariousness of New Orleans; but then, through his inspired design for a neighborhood of inhabited levees, we are hopeful. In crystalline prose, he dispatches the ethical follies of the Israel-Palestinian impasse, with its competing narratives of suffering, ownership, environmental stewardship, holiness, diaspora, and nationality; but then, in signature pink plans, he imagines a green armature for a new Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, and we ask ourselves, “Why not?” We need him now to help us unpack the rhetoric of an urbanism of distance and a city of essential services, and all the political dimensions of the plague that took him. We also need the plan that he would have given us to take back our cities after this deluge. Of that plan, we can be sure of one thing—it would be green, democratic, and joyful. Achva Benzinberg Stein, landscape architect: “Dahling,” Michael often said to me, “stop complaining and get to work.” And that is what he always did. Working at living as well as he could, teaching through mentoring, encouraging, opening our minds to new ideas and new ways to implement them, writing so very eloquently using his special language, laced with nuances, built with rich vocabulary, evidence to his immense knowledge in many fields. When we met once in 1994, most of his work at that time was speculative. But he trusted in the power of a good concept to convince people to act. If money was needed to pay his helpers who depended on him, there was no question of what was to be done. “Dahling, you will see everything will be covered sooner or later. The main thing is not to be afraid." And that was his way in design, playing with objects and forms and never afraid to try or to admit failure, inventing solutions to any problem that entered his mind with incredible humor, with a love of people, with deep concern but strong belief in the potential embedded in the collective, in the City. Farewell, my soul brother. I miss you terribly. Lesley Lokko, dean of the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City University of New York: I met Michael Sorkin once, briefly, at a conference in Johannesburg exactly a decade ago. It was at one of those post-event dinners where everybody meets everybody and the conversation was brief. I was a bit starstruck. We didn't exchange contact details and were never in touch again. Nine years later, he put my name into the hat for a new dean at City College's Spitzer School of Architecture. In the three short months since I've been “on seat,” as we say in West Africa, we met a handful of times at faculty meetings or occasionally in the corridor. Three weeks ago, he quickly organized a dinner with the Israeli filmmaker, Amos Gitai, simply because I mentioned, in passing, that I was a huge fan of his work. “I'll get you guys together for dinner.” And he did. It was a brilliant dinner and Michael, although “off the wagon,” was a brilliant host. It was the last time I saw him. Through the tributes that have flooded into my inbox over the past few days, I now understand that generosity, acumen, and the immensely social ability to foster—and retain—the trust, affection, and respect of so many widely dispersed and unrelated people was not only his hallmark, it was the man. It's a cliché but, like most clichés, it's rooted in truth: You don't realize what you have until it's gone. Harriet Harris, dean of Pratt Institute School of Architecture: Thankfully, there are no easy words for a difficult man; one who challenged architects to grow some proverbial ethics, to stand up for others, to even stand up for themselves, and to resist the spatial crimes of unbridled neoliberalism. I will remember Michael because he gave me and others permission to use architecture as a form of poetically charged, social protest. Few educator-practitioners have done this, in truth. I will not forget the debt I owe him. His impatience with the debilitating conventions of the canon super-charged our conversations, disrupted debates, and endeared him to students who were otherwise pressed up against the electric fence that divides practice from academe. Michael insisted that there were 250 things we architects should all know about architecture, but perhaps there is only one thing to know about Michael: we are a much-diminished community without him. Mike Davis, writer, activist, and urban theorist: Michael Sorkin died today of coronavirus in an overcrowded hospital and it is a shattering loss. If some people consider me an “urban theorist” it’s only because in 1992 Michael conscripted me to write a chapter in his volume Variations in a Theme Park. His ideas have had an immense influence in shaping my own. He was by any measure the most important radical theorist of city life and architecture in the last half century. New Yorkers old enough to have been Village Voice readers in the 1980s when he was the paper’s architecture critic will never forget the war he waged against mega-developers and urban rapists like Donald Trump. Or how in Whitmanesque prose he weekly sang the ballad of New York’s unruly, democratic streets. At a time when postmodernists were throwing dirt over the corpse of the twentieth century, Michael was resurrecting the socialist dreams and libertarian utopias that were the original soul of architectural modernism. When the peoples’ city was under attack he was inevitably the first to march to the sound of the guns. And then…his devilish glee, his kindness, his soaring imagination, his 50,000 volts of creative energy…. I’m drowning my keyboard in tears. Michael, you rat, why did you go when we need you most? Dean MacCannell, emeritus professor, Environmental Design & Landscape Architecture, University of California, Davis: Death suddenly snatched Michael Sorkin away from us. But we can’t let him go. He was in our lives in too many ways. There are so many points of attachment no amount of time can undo them. Michael was a teacher to us all—not just those fortunate enough to be enrolled in his seminars and studios. When he asked me to work on problems I knew little about—as he often did—he always overlooked my ignorance and demanded that I work with him. He was an architect beyond architecture. He knew exactly how to create the openings that would draw me fully into his schemes. Michael was enormously learned across many fields and disciplines, but he wore his learning lightly and deployed it strategically with a wicked sense of humor. He wrote beautifully, giving form to our consciousness an instant in advance. Michael left behind his belief in the future promise of urban life together—creatively re-imagined. Unfinished work for the rest of us, and the necessary tools to do it: an unshakable confidence in humanity; in our capacity for self-governance; our ability to realize other enlightenment ideals; and to create a beautiful common ground. Thank you, Michael. We’ll try to do our best, but dammit, it would be so much easier if you were still here to guide us. Eyal Weizman, founding director of Forensic Architecture and professor of spatial and visual cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London: Locked down in stunned, helpless isolation with the exit sign switched off, I heard that Michael had died, without a warning or a goodbye. The contemporary prophet of public space and urban conviviality died in a hospital—one of the last places where physical proximity is still possible, indeed, unavoidable. The virus diagrams the kind of social interaction that Michael championed in a vibrant city that had now nearly totally closed down, the price of human contact having become too high. On the evening when the horrible message arrived, the people of our London neighborhood, seeking some form of communion, stood each at their window to clap for the medical workers like those who were by Michael’s side in his last days, risking their lives to try to save his and ours. Michael was our family friend—Alma, my daughter, was spoiled being his goddaughter—and so we were at our window, simultaneously sobbing, clapping, and hitting pots with wooden spoons, giving Michael the send-off we thought he’d appreciate. The rest of the mourning must be done in isolation—and my heart goes to Joan who cannot benefit from the proximity of those that loved them dearly. Michael was also my architectural godfather. In a number of small but crucially corrective interventions, he put me on my path. He read my books when they were still drafts, giving comments, helping find titles and publishers. Only a few weeks ago he took the time to campaign for me when I was not allowed to travel to the United States, just as he often did for others less privileged. We met in 1994, when, as a young admiring student at the Architectural Association (AA), I was one of those campaigning for him to be the new director of the school. When Michael finally won the vote and got the post, he decided to decline it, opting instead to pursue his own singular path: he set up his studio; founded the research organization Terreform and the publishing imprint UR (Urban Research); and became the Director of Graduate Design at the City College, where he was Distinguished Professor. In short, he constructed on his own a polymorphous entity through which to realize various aspects of his wide urban visions. At the same time, he continued to advocate his ideas in a stream of essays and books, and to sketch them in numerous visionary schemes and drawings. (Many of the latter are still unpublished, but Joan assures me that they will be coming out soon.) Drawing on the vocabulary of 1970s New York activism, he expanded the spectrum of architectural and urban action: sit-ins, town-hall-meetings, petitions, appeals, the writing of codes and bills of rights. Learning from his struggles with the kind of New York developers that now run the United States, he brought his sense of urban justice, and feisty activism to Palestine, Northern-Ireland, and the U.S.-Mexico border. Since architecture was part of the problem, it owed a certain debt, and Michael encouraged architects to pay up by inventing solutions. In 1998, an impish trickster, Michael seduced a group of Palestinian and Israeli architects and other intellectuals to a conference on occupied and segregated Jerusalem at a lake-side villa in Bellagio, Italy. It was here that I first met Suad Amiry, Rashid Khalidi, Omar Yusuf, and Ariella Azoulay. We listened together as Michael insisted, more optimistically than most of us, that we could use architecture to do something about this injustice, although he understood that, by itself, unaccompanied by the fundamental political changes we must all struggle for, architecture could do very little. His subsequent book projects on Palestine—The Next Jerusalem, Against the Wall, and Open Gaza—demonstrate what he meant. He was right, at a time when the grip of architecture tightens all around us, when the builders of walls, towers, and digital surveillance systems are in charge, and when authoritarianism is using the global health emergency to encroach on our civil liberties—we all need to channel something of Michael and continue the fight. He will now bring his to gods and angels. Go on Michael, give them hell! Andrew Ross, professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University: When I moved to New York in the late eighties, I got into the habit of seeing the city through Michael’s eyes, and I suppose I always will. Already a unique kind of critic, he then turned into a doer, which I especially admired. We worked together in various ways, but most memorably on two competition juries. The first was for a Public Space project associated with the Atlanta Olympics. The aggressive charm with which Michael lobbied fellow jury members on behalf of his picks won me over. I became his willing accomplice, and we went all in for the most audacious entries, knowing full well that, in the real world, the odds of them being greenlighted were slim. Many years later, we both had the idea, independently, of mounting an alternative to the competition for the proposed Guggenheim Helsinki, and so we joined forces to see it through. In sheer expenditure by firms all over the world, the official competition was the most labor-intensive and costly ever seen. A true bonfire of the vanities. Ours was run on a budget of five thousand euros and operated more like a think tank for ideas for infusing arts and urbanism. The whole thing brought out the best in Michael—his fierce distaste for architectural elitism, his appetite for popular quality, his spontaneous fellow-feeling, and, yes, his legendary sense of mischief, now so sadly extinguished. Daniel Monk, George R. and Myra T. Cooley chair in peace and conflict studies at Colgate University: When Michael Sorkin died last week, he left behind the draft of a work—a soon-to-be published volume of essays in honor of Mike Davis—that we had been editing together. In it, Michael records his own first encounters with the national mall in Washington, D.C. In these memories of “the American agora,” he presents the immanent logic of the mall’s development, amounting to a perpetual betrayal of its promise. If, as so many others have already noted, Michael could always adopt the standpoint of hope, good humor, and mischief in the face of despair, this is because he knew that it is precisely in broken promises that a regulative ideal—the demand for political freedom he always championed—was being kept alive, despite our collective efforts to close our eyes and pretend otherwise. Charles Waldheim, John E. Irving professor of landscape architecture at Harvard's Graduate School of Design: I was fortunate to know Michael Sorkin as a public intellectual, as a personal role model, and as a friend. His loss leaves an enormous void in the heart of the city and in those of us who have committed our lives to understanding it. Michael brought a journalist’s eye and a critic’s wry wit to writing about the city, describing it as a collective social construct and a set of lived experiences. His insightful prose cut through layers of accumulated capital, both economic and cultural. His wildly imaginative design propositions for intervening in the city double as a form of cultural criticism, revealing the archeology of power structures, class construction, and collective resistance. Most contemporary discourse on the design of the city has atrophied into one of two mutually exclusive and ultimately inadequate narratives. On the one hand, our discussions of the city devolve into an exclusive preoccupation with policy, participation, and governance as disconnected from its spatial and cultural contexts. On the other hand, our accounts are equally often constrained to the description of individual sites, projects, and protagonists as architectural singularities lacking any meaningful connection to the collective. Describing the city as a collective cultural project was Michael Sorkin’s great gift to us. Who among us will take up that project now?