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Gulf State of Mind

Review: Jean Nouvel gives Qatar a museum that matches its context perfectly
The opening of the Jean Nouvel–designed National Museum of Qatar, in Doha, Qatar, marks another step in the country’s mission to set itself apart from its neighbors and solidify its cultural position in the world. For one to understand the motivations behind the design and construction of the newly opened National Museum, one must first understand a bit about the geopolitical context that it has been built in. Like many of its neighbors in the Persian Gulf region, Qatar has been building at a pace and level of quality that is nearly unmatched in the world. Yet, unlike the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar is not building to attract tourists or even business interests. Since 1971, when Qatar gained its full independence from the British, it has worked to distinguish itself as a fully autonomous nation. The intensity of this drive has been amplified in the past few years by a series of events and political upheavals that have isolated the small country. In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt imposed economic and political embargoes on Qatar after years of growing tension over international trade and other international relations. In an act of defiance, Qatar countered by leaving the Gulf Region’s oil cartel, OPEC. These events have led to stronger internal support for Qatar’s ruling emir, who has taken a hard line with the blockading neighbors, and solidified the country’s resolve to stand culturally and economically independent from the region. The National Museum is designed and programmed specifically to display the country’s unique culture and history to international visitors and, perhaps more importantly, to Qataris. Broadly covering the nation’s natural and political history, exhibitions reach back tens of thousands of years through the discovery of oil and natural gas off the coast in the mid-20th century to explore what it means to be Qatari. Perhaps ironically though, Qataris only make up around 12 percent of Qatar’s of 2.7 million residents. The rest are foreigners, most of which are migrant service and construction workers. It remains to be seen whether a forthcoming planned gallery covering the country’s current events will highlight the immense contribution of migrants to the past decade of development. Notably, Qatar has been criticized for the use of underpaid labor and unsafe construction practices, particularly pertaining to the many 2022 World Cup stadiums currently under construction. Recent years have seen laws passed down directly from the emir to protect workers’ rights, and while progress has been made, some human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, say there are still issues to be addressed. Whether one argues the museum’s contents show a complete image of the nation or not, the building itself has a lot to say. Like many “signature” architecture projects, it may be the architecture of museum that will be most memorable for those who visit. A bombastic tour-de-force of engineering and construction, there is little argument about the visual impact of the project as a whole. Unapologetically designed to look like the crystalized mineral formation known as a desert rose, the museum is composed of dozens of large discs. Intersecting at various angles, the discs produce the facade, roof, walls, ceilings, apertures, and structure. Enable by engineering help from Gehry Technologies and ARUP, the geometric theme and is relentlessly executed. One is hard pressed to find any public facing spaces that are not completely shaped by the seemingly random arrangement of discs. There are no columns, no rectilinear apertures, no perpendicular intersections, and no flat ceilings. In many spaces even the floor ramps and bends in a choreographed play with the walls and ceiling. All artifacts and exhibition pieces are shown in the round, while the tilting walls are filled with carefully mapped projections of artist-made films. The effect is quite successful and makes for a strong retort to those who argue that museum walls should always be flat. The museum’s galleries are organized into an irregular crescent, which produces a large Baraha (courtyard) with the help of the 20th-century royal palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani, a cultural landmark in its own right. This outdoor room provides a new civic space able to accommodate thousands. This is an important aspect of the project, considering Doha lacks similar spaces, besides the main Souq, over a mile away. The museum’s position near the waterfront is also significant. While still separated by the city’s major traffic artery and a thin waterfront parkway, many of its neighbors are government or administrative buildings, which are cut off from the city by high security fences. In stark contrast to the oft-foreboding nature of the area, the museum’s grounds include large gardens designed by French landscape architect Michel Desvigne, and includes multiple children’s play areas, large desert plantings, and a lagoon complete with a monumental fountain sculpture by French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel. Despite the formal exuberance, many of the spaces have a similar feel, in part to the limited material, color, and building palette. This is to say, once you have seen part of the project, there are few surprises. The formal complexity does not translate into complexity in plan. For the most part the entire building is one path, even if that path is varied in width and direction. Each gallery intersects with the next with no hard thresholds or transitions. Occasionally, a change in ceiling height or a slant in the floor differentiate one gallery from the next, but overall the experience is generally consistent throughout the project. This is a bit disappointing considering the innumerable possibilities the project’s formal language implies. On the other hand, this may be excusable as the expressed goal of the museum is to present a clear vision of Qatar’s past and present. Though a few more moments of unexpected shortcuts, detours, or unique spaces could have been a pleasant release from the project’s surprisingly simple plan. The few places where relief can be found from the disc organization are in the gift shops, designed by Sydney-based Koichi Takada Architects. Riffing on the theme of desert rock formations, the shops take the shape of the Dahl Al Misfir (Cave of Light), a dramatic cave system in central Qatar. Undulating contoured wood walls push and pull, providing space for lighting and shelving, while the tall spaces reach up to irregularly shaped windows and skylights, mimicking the cave’s dramatic illumination. Takada is also responsible for two cafes and a restaurant in the project that all stick closer to the Nouvel design, while still departing from the strict aesthetics of the galleries. If the intent of the National Museum is to educate the Nation of Qatar and celebrate the work of the Qatari people, the message it sends is one of a proud young nation that is finding its place on the world stage while contending with less than friendly neighbors and has been shaped by a seemingly insatiable appetite for iconic buildings designed by A-list international architects. Along with the Arata Isozaki master-planned Education City, the OMA-designed National Library, and the I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art, this latest addition to this uncanny desert menagerie raises the bar for civic iconography with its structural and metaphorical gymnastics. For all these reasons the project seems to fit into its context perfectly, and in the same sense could be nowhere else.
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Door-to-Door

A team of researchers thinks autonomous electric cars could outdo the subway
A partnership between the state-owned Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE), the London-based architecture and technology firm PLP Labs (the research spinoff of PLP Architecture), and LogistikCentrum have released a new study and report proposing a new direction for public transit. Called NuMo, for New Urban Mobility, the proposed technology allows for highly efficient, electric-powered home-to-destination transit either over existing infrastructure or on new construction. The report claims that most cities rely on a less efficient 19th-century model of public transit, where trains and buses come at times at long intervals or unpredictably and can be either virtually empty or totally packed and uncomfortable. With NuMo, autonomous electric cars would be booked through an app and come directly to your current location. From there they would take off, eventually joining other NuMo cars with passengers or cargo in a “high-speed platoon.” The electric cars could then pull off at any point to pick up more passengers for carpooling, or to bring passengers directly to their destination. One of the central inefficiencies with traditional human-operated automobiles is that they have to be spaced fairly far apart from one another when moving and be given enough horizontal space to account for the inaccuracies and shifts from people operating them. Automated cars in a NuMo platoon would be able to “move within milliseconds of one another,” staying close together, reportedly reducing lane width by over three feet, fitting two cars into a single lane. In a NuMo-designed city, there would be a central control system with automated intersection control and load balancing, as well as vehicle-to-vehicle communication, and the ability prevent stopping and congestion, potentially ending traffic jams and accidents. Within the cities, cars would travel between approximately 20 to 40 miles per hour and outside they could reach speeds of 50 miles per hour. These NuMo cars and platoons could travel on existing infrastructure in specialized lanes, including in currently underused bus lanes or roads. The cars could also accompany the development of new roads over land or underwater, becoming a transit solution and network that, much like earlier subways and bus routes, could reshape how disparate parts of the city relate to one another. Such consolidation and optimization could help return streets to pedestrians and cyclists and, the researchers claim, could result in much greater capacity than current transit options. Open to all autonomous vehicles, NuMo is a protocol designed to be introduced to cities gradually. The researchers developed models for Stockholm and Gothenburg, Sweden, while also considering larger cities like London and New York. They claim that four-person cars set to travel only one second from one another would be twice the capacity of 120 passenger buses running a minute apart, quadrupling transport capacity and reducing travel time by a third while having no extra cost over building comparable traditional transit infrastructure. NuMo’s combination of autonomous electric vehicles, infrastructure overhauls, and efficient sustainable design is, according to Lars Hesselgren, director of research at PLP Architecture, “the next best thing to teleportation.”
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Time for an Upgrade

Giant expansion coming to LAX as L.A. prepares for 2028 Olympics
According to a new environmental review document, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is poised for a large expansion that could add up to two new terminals and nearly two dozen new gates to help handle the influx of travelers headed to the city for the 2028 Olympic Games. Urbanize.LA reported that the plans call for attaching the new Concourse 0 terminal and its 11 passenger gates to the east of the existing Terminal 1 structure along the northern end of the LAX complex. A second new terminal, Terminal 9, will bring 12 new gates to the southern end of the airport, where it will be met by an extended run of a forthcoming automated people mover (APM) that is currently under construction. The Los Angeles Times reported that the expansion plans include reconfiguring existing airplane runways, including on the northern end of the airport, where earlier plans to retool runway facilities produced outcry from neighboring communities concerned about noise, pollution, and other negative impacts. The proposed runway changes involve reconfiguring the airport’s road network while maintaining the current distance from those communities. The plans come as Los Angeles World Airports, the entity that runs LAX, works to complete a $14 billion facilities upgrade plan for the airport’s existing roads, terminals, and associated transportation facilities. That plan includes a $1.6 billion Gensler and Corgan–designed terminal that will bring 12 new gates to a mid-field site capable of handling new “super-jumbo” airplanes for long-haul international flights. The project, known as the Midfield Satellite Concourse (MSC) will connect to the existing and recently-expanded Tom Bradley International Terminal via a pair of underground tunnels that will feature moving sidewalks. Along with the APM, L.A.’s transit authority is also at work adding a new light rail station to the airport that will link LAX with the county’s regional transit network. The station is set to open in 2022 and will eventually make the airport accessible via two light rail transit routes, the Crenshaw and Green Lines. Those elements, in turn, will be joined by new consolidated parking, rideshare, and taxi facilities. The preliminary environmental document for the latest round of additions only provides a general timeline for completion that is subject to further review. The plan envisions the improvements being made by 2028.
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Designing For The Void

Raymond Jungles reshapes the garden at the Ford Foundation overhaul
Ever since it was finished in 1967, the most notable feature of Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo’s Ford Foundation Building has been what is not there. At the center of the building is a 12-story, 160-foot-high void occupied by a multitiered interior garden, dense with trees, flowering bushes, and lacy ferns. The original design of the garden—by the late master landscape architect Dan Kiley—frankly never flourished, but it is now in full bloom. “For Dan, his garden was a big experiment,” said Raymond Jungles, the Coconut Grove, Florida–based landscape architect responsible for re-creating Kiley’s vision while also planting his own professional roots in the redesign. When the building reopened in March after a major two-year interior restructuring and updating, Jungles’s garden was ready for the building’s occupants—as well as the public—to wander. “I’m a designer, I have an ego, but this project wasn’t about what Raymond Jungles was doing for the space, but, rather, my desire to find Dan Kiley’s original spirit for this space,” added Jungles. “I want people to enjoy the amazing garden Dan had designed for everybody—those who work in the building, and those who pass by and come inside.” According to Guy Champin, Jungles’s project manager for the new garden, “The architecture of the building is all about its two transparent facades,” referring to the walls of windows on both the 42nd and 43rd Street sides. To preserve and indeed enhance that visual effect, Champin and Jungles have established a tree canopy using some 35 Shady Lady black olives, Jacarandas, Ficus Amstel King, and other varieties that allow visitors to see through the space, while remaining aware of a beckoning urban forest unlike any other vista in Manhattan. Rectilinear brick pathways course across the space, half of which are wheelchair-accessible. While the hardscape remains largely untouched, given the landmark status of the building, Jungles’s firm has made conspicuous visual and aural changes. In keeping with the Ford Foundation’s new branding as a decidedly all-embracing forum for “social justice,” the firm was commissioned to establish a touch and smell garden where hearing and visually impaired visitors can experience the plantings. Elsewhere, Kiley’s extant rectangular pool has now been subtly fitted with a sound element. “Water, to me, is the heart and soul of any garden,” said Jungles, “and we’ve created the sound of moving water with pumps.” And in an effort to increase the reflective qualities of the shallow body, Jungles and Champin added black dye to the water. “Normally, dye is put in to reduce the growth of algae,” Jungles pointed out, “but here it was done to create a reflective mirror. The garden space is not just about that space, but also about the buildings across the street. One of the principals of landscape architecture is to see what you can borrow and introduce from the surrounding neighborhood.” Although the 10,000 square feet of space devoted to greenery is now abloom with plant life, the process of making the landscape introduced other, subtler elements as well. All of the trees that are now taking root in soil and in planters were grown in Florida and shipped to New York. But according to Dinu Iovan, senior project manager for Henegan Construction, the contractors for the garden installation, those trees came with other forms of life, namely, anoles, small green lizards typical of subtropical regions. “They’re everywhere in here now,” said Iovan, “which is a fun, accidental, extra element. There’s even a bat somewhere in one of these trees.” By day or night, the garden beckons passersby. Grow lights illuminate the courtyard when it is dark outside and, month by month, new colorful blossoms are set to visually animate the space. Acknowledging the difficulties of sustaining a garden in a dry interior space with limited natural sunlight, Champin likened the newly grown—and still growing—space to a beacon. “It calls to you like it’s a lighthouse in the middle of the city,” he said, “glowing with life.” Architect: Gensler General Contractor: Henegan Construction MEP: JB&B Structural: Thornton Tomasetti Lighting: FMS (Fisher Marantz Stone) Irrigation: Northern Designs Soils: James Urban Landscape: Siteworks AV/IT/Security: Cerami & Associates Preservation Consultant: Higgins Quasebarth & Partners LLC Landscape Contractor: Alpine Construction & Landscaping Corp. Plant Supplier: Signature Tree & Palms
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NSFW

The Cruising Pavilion, New York maps queer pasts and futures
On the blacked-out front door of Ludlow 38, the Goethe Institute’s downtown outpost, is a plaque. In simple, sans serif, white letters it says: "THIS GALLERY CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGERY. PARENT/ADULT DISCRETION IS ADVISED." Open the door and even before you cross the threshold you’ll hear moaning. Or at least I did. I suppose timing matters—not every moment of what turns out to be Shu Lea Cheang’s 2001 video I.K.U. - I robosex has moaning. Inside, with the windows blacked out and the overhead lamps turned off, purple LED strips hidden behind walls provide the only light in the gallery, and it’s hard to make things out clearly. It hardly feels like an art exhibition but there is still a gallery attendant at the front desk, which reminds you that you do have to behave. This is Cruising Pavilion, New York, the second of three iterations of the architectural exploration of gay sex and cruising originally presented to coincide with the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale and created and curated by Pierre-Alexandre Mateos, Rasmus Myrup, Octave Perrault, and Charles Teyssou, and produced along with the Ludlow 38 curator, Franziska Sophie Wildförster. The third, and perhaps final, Cruising Pavilion will go up in Stockholm this fall. A friend and I often remark that there are no real gay bars on the east side below Delancey—or even below Houston, really—where we actually live and spend most of our time. The area is not and has never really been known as an epicenter of gay culture, the way the Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, and, as unbelievable as it may be now, Times Square have been. As far as I know, there are no regularly operating backrooms, like those you can still find in the East Village, though I’m sure there are some private spaces where people have their share of fun. Even still, those rooms-behind-the-curtain have diminished—along with the theaters, the bathhouses, and certainly the piers—all things well before my time, my time being mostly post-Grindr and long after the first rounds of the mass sanitation of New York City. The powerwashing of our streets with money and moralism continues, as if there were anything less pornographic than New York’s extravagantly boring displays of wealth. There are few things more obscene and less stimulating than the recently opened Hudson Yards. Financial hedonism rarely breeds originality, and if cash is what gets you off, it’s probably because you’re bad in bed. At the opening, the exhibition did remind me a bit of moving about backrooms—bodies bouncing like so many pinballs, everything homogenizing into a swarm—but here I was less drunk and more clothed, and, of course, there was the fear, my fear, of damaging the art (some were less cautious—outside the show someone told me a bit of plexiglass had fallen victim to an errant elbow). Inside, I saw friends, former lovers, and former one night stands. Somebody told me there were poppers in the fog machine. I’m not sure if that’s true, nor if that’s safe, but either way the impression that there could’ve been some speaks to a sense of sensuality, danger, and seediness rarely seen in architecture exhibition. Like museums and galleries, sex and chemicals promise a trip to somewhere else. Perhaps the fog should remind us of the steam of the Continental Baths, long gone, which the curators cite in their release. The Cruising Pavilion highlights the historical entanglements of what the curators call "conflictual architectures." It mines the ineluctably intertwined histories of policing, neoliberalization, right-wing moralism, homonormalization, gentrification, the AIDS crisis, and so on, to map the real past and the gaps of the present, acting as a cartography of possibilities for the queer (mis)use of space. The exhibition is a blueprint towards performances of sexual dissidence, exposing the erotic potentials lurking in hidden dark corners, or maybe even out in the open, should you only try to catch someone—or be caught—in the act. A radical reframing of the notion of "architecture," Cruising Pavilion and the artists and architects it features interrogate sex and sexuality as a way of re- and dis-figuring buildings and cities the world over. Cruising, beyond being a sexual practice, is a spatial one—a phenomenological perversion that uses vision and touch to establish a set of relationships not just between individuals, but between individuals and the spaces they move through. Queer space is produced by its users as much if not more so than by its owners and architects. Sexuality is not just decoration, though it is that too, but, as Cruising Pavilion proposes, sex is a constitutive act of architecture. Museums and galleries make themselves by making rules. They regulate where bodies go, how close and how far from objects you can get, what you can and can’t touch (in general, you can’t touch much of anything). At the Cruising Pavilion it still probably isn’t advisable to touch (it is, after all, an art show) and I doubt getting it on is officially condoned. But for those compelled by the at-once exhibitionist and elusive acts of public sex or furtive hookups, isn’t breaking the rules part of the fun? But the fog and the psychedelic lush of lights evoke another space: The club. Of course, the club, too, can be sanitized and the curators point out the “de-sexualization of disco and house music and their mutations into the official anthem of ‘happy globalization.’” The neoliberal city, like Epcot, sounds better with a soundtrack. The point of the club was and is being together, increasingly important in the AirPod era. It’s hard not to think of the recent closing of the Dreamhouse, itself a veritable ad hoc architectural carnival, home to artist studios and to Spectrum, the favorite after-hours haunt of New York City’s artists, designers, DJs—weirdos and queerdos who came together to dance and talk and screw well past sunrise. One could presumably go to the gallery on drugs, but you’d still have to watch how you acted, lest you be kicked out. Perhaps the biggest queering of space is the simultaneous sensory overload and denial, the ocular S&M that plays out, at once enticing you and denying you. You can’t touch and you can’t see, but boy do you want to. This exhibition’s a tease, which is to say, it—like all art—is about desire and discipline. Cruising Pavilion Ludlow 38 New York, New York Through April 7
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A New Millennium

A leaning Manhattan tower draws blame from both sides
The 670-foot-tall 161 Maiden Lane, a luxury condo tower on the shore of the East River near the South Street Seaport, is leaning. The question of whether contractor Pizzarotti or developer Fortis Property Group is to blame for the 58-story building’s 3-inch lean to the north, however, will be settled by a lawsuit filed with New York State Supreme Court. As first reported by Commercial Observer, Pizzarotti is suing Fortis over their alleged cost-cutting decision to drain and compact the wet soil below the site instead of driving piles before laying the foundation. As a result, the suit alleges that this “soil improvement” decision, made before Fortis was hired for the project in 2015, made completing the project difficult-to-impossible and cost Pizzarotti millions. Apart from the structural issues, Pizzarotti alleges that the two-inch drift in the superstructure from the 11th floor to the 21st prevented the installation of the curtain wall and that Fortis never provided an adequate replacement. Although the tower has topped out and work is still ongoing, Pizzarotti claims that the site is unsafe and that 161 Maiden Lane will continue to settle and shift. If that happens, the facade panels, plumbing, insulation, and elevators may all be risk of failing. Pizzarotti says that they were thus unable to finish working, and submitted their resignation from the project on March 1. Fortis shot back, claiming the leaning problem was the result of Pizzarotti’s concrete subcontractor improperly pouring the slab and failing to take the settling of the soil into account. A Fortis spokesperson also claims that Pizzarotti never terminated their contract and continued working up through this month, casting doubt on their claims that the site was unsafe. The developer went on to say that their new general contractor, Ray Builders, was already at work installing a redesigned version of the curtain wall. Fortis also claims that it has already paid out $25 million to Pizzarotti for cost overruns and that the contractor had caused 260 days of stop-work order-related delays. “This lawsuit is patently false from start to finish and nothing more than simple defamation and a desperate attempt by a failing general contractor to divert attention from the fact it defaulted on yet another New York City project,” said a Fortis spokesman in a statement. “As a number of prominent New York City developers have learned the hard way over the past few years, Pizzarotti is simply incapable of buying out, managing and completing a construction project within contractually promised timelines.” AN will continue to follow this story as it develops.
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Move It Move It

The Shed opens this Friday—take a sneak peek now
After 11 years and two mayoral administrations, The Shed (now just the name of the administering arts center, with the physical structure housing the organization having been renamed The Bloomberg Building) is nearly ready to open. On April 5, this Friday, the public will finally get to venture inside Manhattan’s newest, and largest, cultural institution. As Hudson Yards welcomes the Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group–designed multidisciplinary arts center, much has been written about the building’s central, inescapable feature. The 120-foot-tall outer shell, clad in ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) “pillows,” can extend out from the base building when needed for larger performances, covering the public plaza and creating the 17,000-square-foot, climate-controlled McCourt space. When the shell is rolled back, the 20,000-square-foot outdoor plaza can be used for open-air performances. Art is even part of the very ground below, as artist Lawrence Weiner has embedded IN FRONT OF ITSELF in 12-foot-high letters using colored pavers throughout the plaza. As Elizabeth Diller and David Rockwell have repeatedly described, The Shed was conceived with maximum flexibility in mind. The comparisons and claims of inspiration from Cedric Price’s unrealized, constantly changing 1964 Fun Palace have been overt, whether rightly or wrongly. Either way, there’s no contesting that the space represents a blank space for artists to call their own. “I see the building as an ‘architecture of infrastructure,’ all muscle, no fat,” said Diller, “and responsive to the ever-changing needs of artists into a future we cannot predict. Success for me would mean that the building would stand up to challenges presented by artists, while challenging them back in a fruitful dialogue.” Four stories of programming live inside the eight-level base building. Floors two and four hold a combined 25,000 square feet of gallery spaces without columns and with 19-foot-tall ceilings. From April 6 through June 2, the second level gallery will display Reich Richter Pärt, a combination of choir songs from composer Steve Reich set against tapestries and wallpaper, some of them room-spanning, from artist Gerhard Richter. Swinging glass doors on the eastern walls of each gallery can open them up to the McCourt, allowing the venue to add additional seating when necessary. The sixth floor holds the Kenneth C. Griffin Theater, an 11,700-square-foot black box space with a 500-seat capacity. The theater can also be split in two to host smaller shows. On the top floor are the Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Skylights, a wide, multipurpose section that affords one of the few views towards the rest of Hudson Yards, including a prominent view of Vessel. The open area features 9,500-square-feet of flexible event space, the 1,700-square-foot Tisch Lab for local artists, and a 3,300-square-foot rehearsal space. The two namesake skylights provide the entire floor with plenty of natural light, making up for the difference in ceiling heights found throughout the rest of the building—the eighth floor’s ceiling is noticeably lower. Hints of the building’s superstructure and its transforming shell are ever-present. The Bloomberg Building’s central set of scissoring escalators run parallel with the glass curtain wall and affords ample views of the shell, and the bent seam where the shell meets the adjoining tower. Inside the McCourt, the steel diagrid underpinning the ETFE facade reveals itself, creating a vastly different experience than viewing the building from outside. The High Line runs level with the windows on the second floor, reinforcing the connection to the park, strangely minimizing the feeling that the building is part of Hudson Yards proper. The Shed opens on April 5 with Soundtrack of America, a five-night concert series conceived and directed by Steve McQueen that celebrates the worldwide impact of African American music. The full lineup is available on The Shed’s website, here.
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Show Me the Money

Making money as an architect is majorly affected by where you work
Architecture is notoriously known as one of the less lucrative professional fields in the United States, especially for young practitioners. But according to a new report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where you live and work as an architect can majorly affect your annual income now and in the future. Forbes recently reported on the agency’s updated Occupational and Employment Statistics data, which reveal where architects can earn top salaries. For fully-licensed architects working full-time in the field as of May 2017, these are the average incomes found within the top 5 states: New York: $109,520 Massachusettes: $103,920 Texas: $99,580 Arizona: $95,220 California: $95,060 Alaska, of all places, provides the sixth-highest average salary to practitioners, followed by Alabama, New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Minnesota. Forbes noted that if the District of Columbia were included as a state, it would rank third. Per the Occupational and Employment Statistics data, the 2017 mean annual wage for Utah, the worst state to practice architecture in terms of earnings, was $67,520. Arkansas, Maine, Idaho, and Vermont trail behind as well, offering average salaries that, when calculated altogether, hover at $70,725. In thinking about this, it’s important to consider just how many architects work in the country. According to the report, there are an estimated 103,100 architects employed in U.S. firms. California boasts the most architects with 13,880. New York has about 12,740. From there the stats drop dramatically with Texas employing 8,730, as Illinois and Florida employing 5,140 and 4,490 respectively. While these stats offer huge insights into geographical demographics, they do not break down top earnings by ethnicity, race, gender, or age. It’s no secret that even in the highest-ranking state on this list, New York, junior architects and interns—or up-and-coming designers usually under the age of 30—receive significantly less money until they earn their licensure. Even then, in some cases, those newly-minted architects aren’t given promotions or raises. It depends on the ethics and goals of firms in which they work. For women and minority architects, the reality can be just as harsh, no matter the level. Kim Dowdell, the new president of the National Organization for Minority Architects (NOMA), recently told AN that the wealth gap in the U.S. trickles so far down that young minority students are less and less likely to pursue the profession due to the cost of an architectural education. “Many of my colleagues have really high levels of student debt coupled with comparatively low professional salaries (consider doctors and lawyers) and limited flexibility and financial freedom,” she said. “How can we as an organization motivate or incentivize people to pursue architecture knowing that compensation is a challenge and the student loan debt is higher than ever?” Pay equity is arguably one of the biggest issues in the industry today. In February, The Architects’ Journal released its 2019 report on the U.K.'s gender pay gap, which unveils all documented salaries at firms that employ 250 or more people. Legally, these large-size practices must publicly reveal their gender pay gap in an effort to spread awareness on the issue. According to the article, Foster + Partners, which employs 1,061 people, includes 36 percent female architects who earn a median pay that’s 6.9 percent lower than their male counterparts. Zaha Hadid Architects has nearly the same amount of women on staff as Foster’s office, but the median pay gap is 21 percent. Arup, the global engineering and design firm, pays its female employees 16.9 percent less. Here in the U.S., where it's not a requirement to disclose firm-wide salaries, people are beginning to think more seriously about how gaps in gender, race, and pay equity may affect the internal culture of a firm and the subsequent projects produced its employees. Last summer, Jeanne Gang revealed she had closed the pay gap at Studio Gang, becoming the first firm in the country to do so. As Gang pointed out in her Fast Company article, the pay gap is one of architecture's greatest injustices and diversity in design isn’t just about filling a quota with different faces of different colors in a single office. It’s about recognizing the value that architects of all backgrounds bring to the table, and compensating them appropriately. Like any profession, the dollar amounts for an architect's salary will differ from state to state, but the respect for the mind and skills of a designer, no matter their race, gender, or language, should be the same across the board. That, according to Gang, will truly allow creativity to flourish.
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Y'all Wanted a Twist?

Snøhetta wins competition for the Shanghai Grand Opera House
Snøhetta just won the competition for the Shanghai Grand Opera House, set to rise in the Expo Houtan neighborhood of the Chinese city. The Oslo and New York–based firm's design centers around a massive corkscrew stair that connects the theater's roof to an entry plaza that then runs down to the banks of the nearby Huangpu River. The grand public plaza and gently-sloped roof are meant to create a generous new public space in the vein of what the firm did for its Oslo Opera House. Other aspects of the Shanghai Grand resemble the Oslo project: three theaters pop through the overall roof, and a large glass wall surrounds the main lobby. The new building trades in the Oslo Opera's crisp, sculptural form for a looser, radiating geometry. Interestingly, the designers did not mention the Oslo Opera House as a related project but named several others in the firm's oeuvre. “The Shanghai Grand Opera House is a natural progression of our previous work with designing performing arts centers,” says Snøhetta founder Kjetil Trædal Thorsen in a statement. “It is a culmination of the competence and insight gained through projects such as the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, the Busan Opera House in South Korea, the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts in Canada, and the Théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers renovation in Paris. The Shanghai Grand Opera House is a product of our contextual understanding and values, designed to promote public ownership of the building for the people of Shanghai and beyond." Like Oslo, most of the building's exterior is off-white, presumably concrete, but the lobby is lined with bright red silk. There will be three theaters in the building: a 2,000-seat main auditorium, 1,200-seat second stage, and a 1,000-seat third stage. The smaller spaces are meant for less traditional shows to connect with a "younger audience," according to the designers. The project will be completed in collaboration with the Shanghai-based firm ECADI.
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Will We All Float on Alright?

OCEANIX and BIG unveil a floating city of the future at the United Nations
The UN has just unveiled a floating city. Or, at least a framework for how floating cities will be built. Throughout the 2010s, a certain set of statistics found their way into every article about urbanism. You know them. They said that a certain percent of people would live in cities by a certain year; “68% of the world's population projected to live in urban areas by 2050,” according to a recent UN statistic. However, it’s barely the 2010s anymore! The new hot stat for the 2020s was used today by the UN to switch gears and justify exploring the possibility of building floating cities:
By 2030, approximately 60 percent of the world’s population will live in cities that are exposed to grave economic, social, and environmental pressures. Further, approximately 90 percent of the largest global cities are vulnerable to rising sea levels. Out of the world’s 22 megacities with a population of more than 10 million, 15 are located along the ocean’s coasts.
Serious stuff, all discussed at today’s high-level round table in New York hosted by UN-Habitat, the UN’s coalition on affordable and sustainable housing, along with the MIT Center for Ocean Engineering, the Explorers Club, and OCEANIX, a group investing in floating cities on this new marine frontier. Bjarke Ingels of BIG—architects of the "Dryline" around lower Manhattan—unveiled his design for a prototypical floating city today, which would be made out of mass timber and bamboo. This proposal would be “flood proof, earthquake-proof, and tsunami-proof,” according to Marc Collins Chen, co-Founder and CEO of OCEANIX. The renderings show a series of modular hexagonal islands with a productive landscape, where bamboo grown on the “islands” could be used to make glulam beams. BIG envisions the cities as zero-waste, energy-positive and self-sustaining. The necessary food to feed the population would be grown on the islands. BIG has put toether a kit of parts for each part of the man-made ecosystem: a food kit of parts, a waste kit of parts. Each island would be prefabricated onshore and towed to its location in the archipelago. What would living on one of these islands be like? "All of the aspects of human life would be accommodated," according to Ingels. They would dedicate seven islands to public life, including a spiritual center, a cultural center, and a recreation center. "It won't be like Waterworld. Its another form of human habitat that can grow with its success." Oceanix City, as it is called, features mid-rise housing around a shared, green public space where agriculture and recreation co-exist. Underground greenhouses are embedded in the “hull” of the floating city, while in the sky, drones would buzz by with abandon. The systems on each city would be connected, where waste, food, water, and mobility are connected. Because the cities are towable, they can be moved in the event of a weather event.  Land reclamation (creating new land by pouring sand in the ocean) is no longer seen as sustainable, as it uses precious sand resources and causes coastal areas to lose protective wetlands and mangroves. Could floating cities be the way forward for expanding our cities as we deal with the consequences of climate change and sea-level rise?  According to the coalition, “Sustainable Floating Cities offer a clean slate to rethink how we build, live, work, and play…They are about building a thriving community of people who care about the planet and every life form on it.” Doesn't this sound a lot like the Seasteading Institute, the infamous group of libertarian utopianists who want to break away from land and society altogether? For Collins, his floating infrastructure is less ideological, and more about infrastructure technology. These floating cities would be positioned near protected coastal areas, less ocean-faring pirate states and more extensions of areas threatened by rising sea levels. "These cities have to be accessible to everyone. We can't build broad support for this without populist thinking," said Richard Wiese, the president of the Explorers Club. The first prototypes will start small, even though they are thinking big. The 4.5-acre pods will house 300 people, while the goal is to scale the system by repeating the unit until the city can hold 10,000 people. Can floating cities be more sustainable and affordable than building on land? Would they only be for the rich? Would they be self-sufficient? Would they prevent climate gentrification and curb climate migration? Or, as has been the case in the past, will the idea prove too expensive to actually build?
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Tilted Stage

Show at New York’s Abrons Arts Center combines performance and construction
A live “performance/construction site,” called TILT, at New York City's Abrons Arts Center’s Experimental Theater combines dance and architecture in the close of a trilogy from Racoco Productions. The performance’s action is triggered by the first of three balls rolling down a chute in a primitive Rube Goldberg–like pinball machine, hitting metal chimes then bouncing down a “staircase.” The set is filled with sticks and pieces of wood at first tumbling out of the second-floor door of a shed, which houses a tap dancer in a skirt. The inventive costumes are largely made of wood panel overlays and flexible triangles that are either puppets mimicking the dance or sheaths that articulate movement. Choreography by Rachel Cohen, who stars along with tap dancer Heather Cornell, with live music by Lynn Wright, shows “fantastic excavations of everyday things…quixotic choreography, absurdist visuals, and raw materials”—and even a windmill constructed by four Noh-like dancers in a nod to Don Quixote. In the lobby are elements from the production—a build your own “throne,” pinball machine, ropes, chairs, costumes, Jacob’s Ladders, building blocks—and from the first two parts of the show’s trilogy, I would and Construct, which used the same raw materials as well as dance movements. For TILT, the final chapter, designer-carpenter Bill Kennedy was brought in to re-envision and expand the set pieces. The staccato and swirling movements perfectly mesh with the construction-site aesthetic of TILT.
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Love to Build

AN Interior Top 50 designers share their favorite building materials
We surveyed the AN Interior Top 50 interior architects and designers and asked them to reveal what they love to build with. You’ll find their favorite products and materials below.
Pigmented Silver Nitrates Rafael Prieto Founder and Creative Director, Savvy Studio “As a studio we always like to experiment with materials to discover new colors and shapes. Here we work on the superposition of layers of pigmented silver nitrates and then polish them to create random effects of colors and shapes.”
Soy-Based Spray Foam Insulation Chris and Dominic Leong Partners, Leong Leong “High-performance and aesthetically uncanny, soy-based spray foam insulation is a perfect example of the type of materiality we are interested in. Commonly used for insulation, spray foam has an organic quality that is never entirely predictable. It’s a very low-fi product that has an amazing sculptural plasticity and formlessness—a kind of industrial wabi-sabi effect.”
Expanded Metal Mesh Benjamin Cadena Principal, Studio Cadena “By carefully hanging rolls of standard industrial-grade expanded mesh from the ceiling, we are able to drape it much like a fabric. By hanging the metal mesh draperies like a fabric in the space, from a distance they become more translucent and lose their harshness to great effect. By hand painting the material and using it an unexpected way, we can transform it into something else.” Tiles and Finishes by Concrete Collaborative Morris Adjmi Principal, Morris Adjmi Architects “In our interior projects, we love to use concrete for its natural character, precision, durability, economy, range of surface textures, and depth of color. It’s also environmentally friendly. Our go-to concrete provider is Concrete Collaborative for everything from terrazzo to polished tiles [Laguna] and panels, flooring [Ventura], pavers for the outdoors, and stair treads.”
Calacatta Viola Marble by ABC Stone Oliver Haslegrave Creative Director and Founder, Home Studios “Stone is a lifelong favorite material, especially honed marble. We’ve used it in nearly every element of our interiors over the years—surfaces, seating, tables, lighting, votives. Plus, we love searching for the perfect slab.” Cloudburst Concrete 4011 by Caesarstone Alda Ly Principal, Alda Ly Architecture & Design “We’re very picky about finding the right amount of movement in solid surfaces. We love when it feels natural but doesn’t go overboard. Caesarstone’s Cloudburst Concrete is a natural concrete color with a beautiful cloudy patina. The larger the slab, the more pattern is visible.” Colored Film by Solar Graphics Craig Steely Principal, Craig Steely Architecture “I’m excited about our recent experiments to create space with colored films on glass. We have been using colors and their shadows to imply architecture and create hierarchies in our spaces. I’m interested in the contrast between physical materials and colored light and shadow as space delineators.”
Roll-A-Tex (medium grain) Jaffer Kolb and Ivi Diamantopoulo Principals, New Affiliates “Roll-A-Tex is a great additive to use with paint to create a rocky surface texture. We used it in a display for Opening Ceremony as a way of setting it apart from all of its slick neighboring materials. Plus, texture helps mask surface flaws like a panacea.”
Inky Custom Glaze by Boston Valley Terra Cotta Michael Chen Principal, Michael K Chen Architecture (MKCA) “It’s the rare interior of ours that doesn’t incorporate some degree of three-dimensional or sculptural texture. We’re often looking for ways for surfaces to be more lively, and to produce a certain play of light and shadow. For that, we often look to three-dimensional ceramics. Often when the work is inside, and especially in cities, you’re confronted with spaces that are challenged in terms of natural light. It’s incredible how much dimension can be coaxed out of a fairly dark space though texture and reflectivity.”
Terrazzo by John Caretti & Co Carrie Norman and Thomas Kelley Principals, Norman Kelley “Terrazzo comes in many finishes and applications, most commonly poured and polished. This typically presents a smooth surface with a variegated appearance. For our Aesop Lincoln Park project, we wanted those attributes in reverse. Something that appeared monolithic from afar, with texture and variation up close. Instead of polishing, we opted for exposing a monochromatic palette of gray-black aggregate within a warm gray cement base. Applied with a trowel, the material seamlessly transitions the horizontal and vertical surfaces of a series of interior steps.”
Kenyan Black Marble by SMC Stone Alexander Gorlin Principal, Alexander Gorlin Architects “Kenyan Black Marble is one of my favorites for the graphically swirling veins that are especially expressive in a residential setting. I love to select the exact slab and lay out the location of the design on the slabs themselves.” Vinyl by 3M Primo Orpilla Principal, Studio O+A “When the challenge is getting the maximum visual impact, you really can’t beat vinyl. Our designers have developed a sophisticated approach to matching vinyl wall graphics to the spaces they are meant to transform—kinetic patterns for active areas like break rooms and town halls; quieter patterns for places where people need to concentrate. Vinyl is our Brand Studio’s go-to product—it can turn a wall into an abstract canvas or a giant photograph. It can travel down the wall and continue onto the floor. We use vinyl on glass-walled conference rooms for privacy and on bare concrete surfaces to make them playful. We use it to give staircases personality and to introduce color into offices that might otherwise default to neutral. And if you’re trying to hint at a cultural reference without getting too literal, vinyl is perfect for replicating indigenous art and textiles, from Finland to Indonesia.” Corian Wil Carson Design Director, 64North “One of our favorite materials is Corian because of its flexibility and the diversity of applications we can use, and misuse, it for—especially in terms of its ability to be machined or bent. Whether we are machining 2D patterns into its surface or creating more complex 3D relief, its ability to be shaped combined with its visual and haptic qualities gives us a quite rich, mutable palette to work with.”