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Make Your Voice Heard

How can architecture criticism give everyone a seat at the table?
As Christopher Hawthorne moves on from the Los Angeles Times and as new forms of criticism proliferate, we asked the architecture community what the role of the critic is today, and what it might be missing. What do you see as the role of the critic in architecture today? Why is it important? What aspects of architecture are not being addressed today by critics? What are the problems with criticism today? Here are the responses we received from those who felt that architecture criticism is inherently political and should be approached as such, from across the country and abroad. How can women and people of color be included in the conversation when the field has typically buried their voices? This article was originally published in our May print issue, and was preceded by a selection of answers from architecture critics themselves and those who thought that the internet has fundamentally changed the field. Nolan Boomer Arts critic and editor of Take Shape. “At the core of architectural criticism is the realization that setting is not the backdrop of humankind’s story, but actually a character that shapes its plot...some of the best criticism appears in other genres like fiction and poetry, but it often isn’t considered as such.” Alice Twemlow Head of Design Curating and Writing Masters at Design Academy Eindhoven and professor of design at The Royal Academy of Art, The Hague. “If you take architecture to be less about individual buildings, and more about the structural, political, and conceptual framing of the shifting relationship between public and private space, (which I do) then the role of the architecture critic merges with that of the social critic and, in that respect, is immensely important. When that framing is thoughtful and brilliant, she should make sure we hear about it; and when the framing is uninformed or unfair, she should also make sure we hear about it. She should remind us of the past, respond to the current situation, and anticipate or lead future moves. She should advocate for the right of every public citizen to access the aesthetic and practical benefits of the built environment whilst being protected from it failings and harmful effects. And if that sounds like hard work, and that it encroaches on the territory of urban planning, social politics, environmental science, ethics, and philosophy, that’s because it is, and it does.” Mitch McEwen Assistant professor at Princeton University School of Architecture and partner of A(n) Office. “Architecture has made so many heroic and visionary claims, and also failed so many people for so long. The architecture critic can sort through these claims and failures and new potentials, both for us and for a wider public.” Mark Foster Gage Principal of Mark Foster Gage Architects and the assistant dean of the Yale School of Architecture. “I think there is an old notion of a critic who tells you if something is good or not. This is outdated and it probably comes from [Gene] Siskel and [Roger] Ebert on television, watching movies—‘thumbs up’ and ‘thumbs down.’ Here the critic is an arbiter of taste. It’s not helpful: it’s about judgment rather than a new opening of discussion. It’s a closure, stopping conversation cold. Once you call a movie bad, why discuss it? I believe a critic is a person that opens people’s eyes as to WHY certain things are notable in various disciplines (or outside of them). A critic should be opening conversations, prompting curiosity, and inciting interest. I also think it is the responsibility of the critic to focus on contemporary work and issues—‘the new’ is always in most need of support and discussion, especially among those who feel intimidated or uncomfortable about it. This is what the critic is supposed to do, make it possible to bring more people into the conversation about any type of work. They are stewards of curiosity and interest, not judges of success or failure.” Enrique Ramirez Writer and architectural historian based in Brooklyn. “This question presumes that criticism is important to the discipline and practice of architecture. To say so is to admit to a certain kind of hubris. Criticism is not needed, for no matter if critics decide to take on the mantle of an investigative magistrate and try to shed light on a particular issue, to watch different actors scurry about once their particular malfeasances become exposed, to say: ‘Aha, Architecture...YOU’VE BEEN CAUGHT’...this is criticizing, but is it criticism? I used to think, ‘Yes, it is.’ It’s not. An architectural critic may tell you, ‘Look at this building ...Modernism is EVIL!’ or ‘Postmodernism is TRITE!’ or ‘Everything coming out of UCLA or Michigan is MAGENTA and CORNFLOWER BLUE!’ Okay, but so what? If that is the mode of engagement that architectural critics prefer, then I want no part of it. As critics, we need to look at colleagues in other fields to see how they advocate for the cultural relevance of their object of inquiry, for this is at the heart of criticism. Architectural criticism seems stuck in a kind [of] mode that conflates ‘criticism’ with ‘criticizing,’ one that privileges the dressing down of a building over everything else. Architecture lives in the world at large, and as critics, we need to state how this is the case.” José Esparza Chong Cuy Associate curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. “I believe that an informed public opinion of what needs to be celebrated and denounced is more important than ever. Contemporary life is shaped by so many invisible mechanisms that need to be exposed to the day-to-day eye. There are so many things at play regulated by sociopolitical, economic, and environmental factors in the spaces we inhabit that we need to have thought out critical positions to be able to act accordingly, both socially and professionally. Having a better understanding of these invisible mechanisms could potentially open new ways of operating. Moreover, I believe that all critical mediums should make an attempt to cover rural environments. It is clear that city-living is not the only option, but critics should make an effort to cover stories about rural life and the rural landscapes to connect the practice or architecture to these settings as well. We tend to forget how interconnected the rural and urban contexts are, and the critic should use its platform to inform how one setting feeds off the other and vice versa.” Bika Rebek Founding principal of Some Place, and an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia GSAPP. “A master of expansive writing reaching all fringes, and perhaps my favorite critic is Karl Kraus. While architecture is just one of his wide-ranging interests, his writing is personal, angry, funny, extremely timely and unconcerned with the consequences. Contemporary architectural criticism would benefit from this fearlessness and sense of humor. With more pointed controversy, critics could attract wider audiences and become part of an age-old dialogue, spinning the web further through the lens of our time.” Jesse LeCavalier  Designer, writer, and educator whose work explores the architectural and urban implications of contemporary logistics. He is the author of The Rule of Logistics: Walmart and the Architecture of Fulfillment, assistant professor of architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and the Daniel Rose Visiting Assistant Professor at the Yale School of Architecture. “Foucault’s appeal to a kind of criticism focused on curiosity, attention, stewardship, and imagination remains, for me, an appealing statement about the potential role of the critic: ‘I can’t help but dream about a kind of criticism that would try not to judge but to bring an oeuvre, a book, a sentence, an idea to life; it would light fires, watch the grass grow, listen to the wind, and catch the sea foam in the breeze and scatter it. It would multiply not judgments but signs of existence; it would summon them, drag them from their sleep. Perhaps it would invent them sometimes—all the better. All the better. Criticism that hands down sentences sends me to sleep; I’d like a criticism of scintillating leaps of the imagination.’ While thoughtful and perceptive engagement with buildings will always be important, I feel like now more than ever we need to develop an expanded understanding the larger forces shaping the built environment, from our own consumer choices to larger policy transformations, their implications, and ways to engage them.” Kate Wagner Creator of McMansion Hell and a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University researching concert hall design in transition from late- to post-modernism. “Architecture is inherently political on its own! While the city is relevant to the building, we should avoid using the city as a crutch.” Fred Scharmen Teaches architecture and urban design at Morgan State University’s School of Architecture and Planning. His first book, Space Settlements, will be out later this year. “I saw a joke on Twitter the other week that said: ‘Every academic discipline has another academic discipline which watches them, occasionally making sarcastic comments.’ For architecture, criticism gets even weirder, because this shadow discipline is supposed to do at least two more other things: it’s meant to be internalized, so architects should be working and self-critiquing at almost the same time; and it’s also supposed to be outward-facing, to explain what’s going on inside the discipline to an external audience. So somehow we’re all meant to be our own worst and best critics, hecklers, and narrators, all at once. This situation is messed up.” Peggy Deamer Professor of architecture at Yale University, an architect practicing in New York, and content coordinator of the Architecture Lobby. “The role of the critic is to inform both the public and the discipline about what aesthetic, economic, cultural, or social value is potentially embedded in that discipline and point out examples that are good or bad in relation to that potential. Critics aren’t identifying the connection between how we in the discipline work—with illegal, economically naive, sexist, and formally myopic protocols—and the poverty of what we are asked to work on (rich peoples second houses; the occasional private institution) and the consequent lack of respect and financial stability.” David Grahame Shane Adjunct professor in the Urban Design program at Columbia GSAPP. “Architectural criticism is not important as there is so little architecture of quality produced today by large firms or clients to consider. Look at Hudson Yards or the World Trade Center, and weep. The profession is BIM-ed and value-engineered to death. Public commissions and competitions that once gave openings to critics and young firms have disappeared along with small bookstores and magazines. Chat rooms and the academy remain as hermetic critical fortresses with their own private codes and handshakes. Sadly public intellectuals and critics are a disappearing breed, dying off in the new architectural ecology, occasionally spotlighted by museums as avant-garde and remote insights. It’s not a pretty picture, but surely in the future people will regain a sense of shared communities in the city and countryside and a new breed of architectural critics and architectural practice will re-emerge.” Michael Sorkin Architect, author, educator and founding principal of Michael Sorkin Studio. “The critic’s duty is resistance!  As the country careens toward full-on fascism, its environment assailed and warfare looming, we must defend the social architectures of civility and not lose ourselves in the artistic weeds.  A critic who fails to assail Trump, supports him.” Kelsey Keith Editor-in-Chief of Curbed. “Architecture as a study and as a practice has done a lot to isolate itself. I think that the built environment matters so much because it affects and influences people in the places they live. I speak not as an academic or as a critical theorist, but as someone who genuinely loves all this, wants it to be better, and believes that end is achieved in part via criticism. An architecture critic’s role in society today is to contextualize—whether the point is to educate, or entertain, or satisfy some curiosity: ‘Why are A-frames suddenly so popular again? Why is it important to preserve the work of a rare woman project lead from a midcentury architecture firm?’ Most critics are too busy broadcasting their own well-formed opinions to actually listen to the zeitgeist. Dialogue is important, but so is listening to others—as a knowledge-gathering tool or when their perspectives differ from your own.” Abdalilah Qutub (Abdul Qutub)   Co-founder of Socially Condensed Fully-Built Enviromemes. “The role of the architectural critic today goes beyond the immediate issues surrounding a building, but also includes the larger ethical practices and impacts in which the participants in the architectural field might be involved. There are two main themes that are not really being fully addressed today: Workers’ rights issues and the overwhelming whiteness of the field. The dominance of white men now only further keeps alive the whiteness of the field that has been passed on by previous generations. Recent efforts within the #MeToo movement and the allegations that have recently come out against Richard Meier further reveal some of the underlying power structures in the field and how they are being abused. Criticism alone is not going to solve these problems without the provocation of direct action from the architectural and associated fields (strikes, demonstrations, and protests).” Nicholas Korody Co-founder of the experimental architecture practice Adjustments Agency, co-curator of the architecture store domesti.city, and editor-in-chief of the architecture publication Ed. “The role of the critic today is first and foremost to draw attention to the architecture of architecture—that is, the ways in which ‘architecture’ is not a given, but rather something constructed and therefore mutable. Within the discipline and profession, we take for granted that certain things, from exploitative labor practices to rampant sexism and even assault, come with the territory. They do not have to. Alongside this, we accept with little criticality the complicity of architecture with capital, with the end result that not only do we now design only for the select few, we also help fuel the conversion of our cities into playgrounds for speculative finance. This relationship is historically specific, and the role of the critic is to both point this out and to imagine alternatives. Critics today tend toward the myopic. They see a form and not what’s behind it: labor relations, environmental degradation, capital accumulation, displacement of people. Every act of construction has cascading effects far beyond the building site. Critics must contend with this. Broadly speaking, it is a conservative field. Many supposedly liberal or even leftist critics are in fact advocating for a maintenance of the status quo, which is a violent position to take. There are far too few voices demanding truly radical change within the discipline. Criticism is itself a form of practice, a way of imagining possibilities where others see none. Integral to that is looking far beyond the discipline, far beyond buildings. Most importantly, critics must take positions—albeit ones capable of change—and fight for them. Political neutrality does not exist. A good critic loves architecture so much they despise everything about it.” Ana María León Trained as an architect, León is a researcher and architecture historian at the University of Michigan. “Critics link the discipline not only to a broader audience, but also to larger concerns that often escape architecture’s purview. If good histories take a critical view of the past, good critiques are able to historicize the present. Our current political moment urgently needs more critical voices. Critics are still overwhelmingly white, male, and Western. This is not to say that white, male, Western critics are unable to look beyond their own identities, but representation matters, and a diversity of voices tends to insure a diversity of opinions and points of view. I would love it if say, The Architect’s Newspaper reached out to critics in South America, Africa, Asia, and asked them to review events and buildings there for a broader public.” Eva Franch i Gilabert Architect, educator, curator, founder of Office of Architectural Affairs (OOAA), current executive director of the Storefront for Art and Architecture and future director of the Architectural Association. “A critic is the historian of the present, or the present future, or as Reyner Banham’s intellectual biography points out, of the immediate future. To understand the power of architecture, unveil it, and transmit it to a larger audience is the most benevolent image of the critic, but the most seminal and most needed is to allow the field to find positions beyond obsessions; to position design culture in relation to the most important issues affecting contemporary culture and the built environment. Any critic needs to go beyond the cliché, the commonplace assumptions behind good design, and understand radical, powerful designs that are able to produce more equitable societies. A critic that is able to read beyond press releases, instant gratifications, three minute impressions of what should be and help us all imagine what actions, ideas, and form could be. The problems with criticism today are the same as the ones with architecture: it is extremely hard to go beyond client-oriented work, to produce designs that question the status quo and the forces at play. The making and buying of history in the PR age is an issue to be investigated thoroughly. It is extremely hard for editors, critics, and architects to keep a critical distance. While this might not be any different than in times past, at least I think there is now a more transparent understanding of sponsored articles, and the influence and power of certain lobbies. The real difficulty of being a critic is that we do not have editorial structures that support criticism in its full flesh. As in many other fields false criticism, sensationalism, scandalous headlines, ...are more in vogue than rigorous - maybe less sensationalist- forms of criticism. The problem is that bad criticism is more profitable in terms of business models; good criticism needs of idea models, less business models....”
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Goooooooooal!!!!!!

Soccer stadium and music venues coming to Lincoln Yards development along the Chicago River
A new entertainment complex is coming to a former strip of industrial land along the north branch of the Chicago River. Live Nation has partnered with Sterling Bay to create a year-round entertainment district within a proposed 70-acre north branch development project, Lincoln Yards. This announcement occurs one week after Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts revealed that a United Soccer League team and stadium will be the central focus of the entertainment complex, the Chicago Tribune reported.   The complex delivers three to five entertainment venues along with a reported 20,000-capacity soccer stadium. Each of the smaller venues will range from 100 to 800 seats. Beverly Hills, California-based Live Nation is on board to book and manage events, as well as fund construction.  Pending city and zoning approval, Sterling Bay plans to begin construction within 18 months. A corporate parent of TicketMaster, Live Nation adds cache to the complex. No other retail tenants or partners have been announced. The complex is proposed on the former site of the A. Finkl & Sons steel plant site, a steel mill that operated along the Chicago River in Lincoln Park for 112 years before being demolished in 2016. Amazon representatives were spotted at the site last fall, sparking speculation that the 28-acre tract of land could be proposed for the coveted HQ2. The Lincoln Yards site also includes a former fleet management complex Sterling Bay purchased from the City of Chicago, as well as other smaller pieces of land along the river. Renderings released by Sterling Bay for the entertainment complex reveal a series cantilevered pavilions, along with a sloping, horseshoe shaped soccer stadium. The entertainment complex complements other aspects of the Lincoln Yards development, which will be mixed-use retail, office and residential with an extension to the 606 trail.
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Keeping up A-Pier-ences

New renderings revealed for Tribeca’s Pier 26 revamp
Construction on the $30 million renovation of Tribeca’s Pier 26 is slated to start up this summer, and the Hudson River Park Trust and landscape architects OLIN have released a new batch of renderings of the project’s final design. The Hudson River Park Trust went before Community Board 1’s Waterfront, Parks & Resiliency Committee last Tuesday and revealed their finalized design for transforming the 790-foot-long concrete pier. While OLIN had released glimpses of the pier’s programming before (including a playground with two enormous sturgeon-shaped jungle gyms for kids to climb), the latest design incorporates many of the features that the local community had hoped for. A gentle grass lawn and more wildly-planted “forest” area with indigenous trees will guide visitors from the western edge of Hudson River Park, towards the two child-sized soccer fields in the middle of the pier. The fields will be covered in a blue net to stop stray balls from flying into the Hudson River, and surfaced with a plastic grid capable of draining. Further west will be a lounge deck with steps adjacent to scrubby, dune-like landscaping. OLIN has designed a tiered tidal pool planted with native flora at the pier’s westernmost tip, as well as a wooden esplanade that zigzags across the length of the pier. The walkway will rise 15 feet in the air at the tip of Pier 26, giving guests a full view of both New Jersey across the river, as well as the tide pool below. OLIN will be using Kebony for the path, an engineered sustainable softwood. Planned for the space between Pier 26 and 25 is the Estuarium, a two-story, Rafael Viñoly Architects-designed education center. Only $10 million of the center’s required $50 million has been raised so far. While no start date has been set for the Estuarium’s construction, it could imperil the pier’s 2020 opening date; the site chosen for the sturgeon playground will be used a staging area during the education center’s construction (sorry, giant metal fish fans). Construction on the underside of the pier will run from this summer until next year, followed by the work on the structure's topside.
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Ballin'

Rafael Viñoly Architects may bring New York City’s first soccer stadium to the Bronx
Rafael Viñoly Architects is set to design New York City's first soccer stadium. Related is spearheading the 26,000-seat Bronx project, which will be the future home of the New York City Football Club. Similar to Hudson Yards, Related's mega-development on Manhattan's Far West Side, the stadium will be constructed over rail yards by the Harlem River in the South Bronx. While a deal for the site hasn't been finalized, YIMBY got its hands on the preliminary renderings for the RFP, which Related submitted with Somerset Partners. Somerset Partners is working on a major project on an adjacent lot, a development with nearly 1,300 units of market-rate housing along 1,200 feet of the river. Given soccer's popularity in the five boroughs, it's surprising that the Bronx stadium will be the city's first. The renderings right now make the toilet seat–shaped arena look more like a massing diagram than anything, but the design is sure to evolve if the city accepts the developers' proposal. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) reached out to Viñoly's firm and Related for comment, and both declined to share any more details on the project. The stadium will be joined by affordable housing in a project the developers are calling Harlem River Yards.  The New York City Football Club's new home and the 550 units of housing will be joined by a medical facility, retail, and an 85,000-square-foot park. Related and Somerset would lease the 12.8 acre property for $500,000 annually for 99 years, and invest $125 million total in sitework and a planned waterfront park. Harlem River Yards is expected to cost $700 million in total, and it's slated for completion by 2022.
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SHoP 'til you Drop

Gensler takes over from SHoP on Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena redesign
Gensler has replaced New York firm SHoP Architects on the design for the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. SHoP had revealed its designs for the Cleveland Cavaliers' basketball stadium, known as "The Q," in December 2016. Work was scheduled to begin on the $140 million project the following year; however, work was delayed for a number of reasons. A spokesperson for Gensler confirmed to AN that Detroit-based stadia specialists Rossetti, who worked with SHoP on the original project, remain involved. Renderings given to AN by Gensler show the arena's overall design is mostly unchanged. Gensler's design team will come mostly from its Washington D.C. office and be spearheaded by Ryan Sickman, who holds the position of Firmwide Sports Practice Area Leader at the firm. Len Komoroski, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena CEO, commented that Gensler was "well-positioned" for the "extensive transformation" of the 24-year-old arena. "Their experience and global foot print are a great match for this project and the image of Cleveland that will be projected around the world from The Q" he continued in a statement, adding: "The project is off to a great start and we look forward to seeing this unique, impactful transformation come to life." Surprisingly, another collaboration between the two firms wasn't on the cards, despite Gensler and SHoP having previously worked together on the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island, another stadium revamp. The former was completed almost exactly a year ago today. In 2013, SHoP's design for a New York City F.C. stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park was given the boot amid opposition. "I like the idea of a soccer venue in New York City… What I'm not crazy about is the fact that they want to take public park land in the process," said New York City Comptroller John Liu at the time regarding plans to plonk the 25,000-seat stadium on up to 13 acres in the park. After scouting the Bronx, Columbia University and Belmont Park in Nassau County, and failing to secure a stadium site, New York City F.C. is still on the hunt for a home. Despite only being 22 years old, the Quicken Loans Arena is one of the oldest facilities in use on the National Basketball Association circuit. SHoP's design featured a new glazed facade which stretches the stadium’s footprint closer to the street edge. This fenestration reveals an undulating arrangement of what appears to be wood panels which, given their location well inside the facade and north-facing orientation, don’t seem to serve any shading purpose. Aside from aesthetics, entrance and exit gangway areas will witness an increase in space, thus aiding circulation—a necessity considering The Q hosts more than 200 events every year.
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ESCR OK

Key Manhattan community board declares support for massive east side resiliency project
Last night the design team behind the massive flood barrier park on the east side of Manhattan presented updated designs to the public at a meeting of Manhattan's Community Board 3 (CB3), whose board ultimately approved the designs. Representatives from One Architecture and Urbanism, Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects (MNLA), and the Mayor's Office of Recovery and Resiliency discussed their proposal at P.S. 20 on the Lower East Side in front of an auditorium generously peppered with community members who would be some of the park's local users. The overall goal of the plans, which are officially known as the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (ESCR), are to prevent catastrophic flooding while improving the quality of and access to parkland along the East River from Montgomery Street on the Lower East Side to East 25th Street. East River Park already occupies most of that stretch, so plans will improve existing parkland but add roughly 11 linear blocks of green space. The preliminary designs (PDF), a collaboration between the city, One Architecture, MNLA, AKRF, and Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), were reviewed by CB3's parks committee on March 15 and presented to the full board yesterday. Readers can learn all about the proposal here. Mathew Staudt, senior designer at New York's One Architecture, told the assembly that the team hoped to rely on flood walls and traditional levees, plus earthen levees as space allows, to minimize the use of functional but not-too-pretty movable gates that can close to protect inland areas from rising waters. The flood protections are built to oppose a 100-year coastal storm in the 2050s, a model that assumes 2.5 feet of sea level rise over the next three-plus decades. Carrie Grassi, deputy director of planning at the Mayor's Office of Recovery and Resiliency, noted the ESCR is also shooting for Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) accreditation. Park access played a big role in last night's discussion. Per community feedback, the team adjusted the design of the Delancey Street pedestrian bridge, subbing a sloped walkway for a ramp-and-stair set and widening the path. On East 10th Street, the team is creating a new bridge with ramps and stairs. The adjacent playground will retain its equipment, but the firm is adding a grade change and new planting to help with flood control. Trees, explained MNLA Principal Molly Bourne, will be saved in large groves, and the firm is looking to create a new forest for the park. Although the project timeline stretches into 2024, stakeholders have until 2022 to spend $335 million in federal money, so the team hopes to move to final design stage soon. The project is also supported by over $400 million from the city. The audience mainly sought clarity on some of the finer points of the design, like the size and location of the ballfields (Bourne said there will be the same amount of active recreation space but MNLA has rotated the soccer field). Like any major public improvement, the proposal takes time to be critiqued and adjusted, but the ESCR is approaching some significant milestones. The draft of the project's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is due this July, and its lengthy public review (the ULURP, short for Uniform Land Use Review Process) begins the same month. Final design proposals should be ready by winter. If the ULURP goes smoothly, shovels are slated to hit the ground in spring 2019, and the project should wrap by the end of 2024.
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Club Goals

Nashville’s new $250 million soccer stadium takes shape
Nashville, Tennessee, received an early Christmas present last year, in the form of a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion club. Nashville was one of 12 cities with ownership groups vying for four possible expansion clubs, and on December 20, MLS made the announcement that the music city would be the first to be awarded a new team. Though the official announcement happened in late December, Nashville has been working toward a new team for well over a year. This includes plans for a completely new stadium. Early designs for the 27,500-seat stadium surfaced mid-2017, with plans to position the pitch in the Fairgrounds, home to the Tennessee State Fair, located in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood. While details about the stadium are still being worked out, HOK will lead the design, adding it to the long list of stadiums the international firm has worked on in recent years. The road to a new professional soccer team and the subsequent stadium has been a long one for Nashville. The 12 other cities attempting to secure an expansion team included Detroit, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and St. Louis, just to name a few in the region. While the bid has garnered popular support from the city and state, not everyone was pleased with the proposed placement of the stadium. In late 2017, before Nashville had been awarded the expansion position, a local lawyer filed a lawsuit against Metro Nashville. The suit alleged that the city had violated its charter by proposing a stadium at the Fairgrounds, a park which is designated for the annual state fair and other public events. Just days before the official MLS announcement, a court sided with the defense and dismissed the case, helping pave the way for the team’s new home. While the stadium is expected to cost around $250 million, an additional $40 million will be spent updating the Fairgrounds, which are in need of numerous infrastructural improvements. A tentative timeline has construction beginning by the end of 2018, with the team’s first season starting in 2020. During construction, the grounds will remain partially open in order to continue hosting fairs, public markets, and events. Since 2004, 14 teams have joined the MLS. Nashville will be the 24th team in the league, which hopes to be up to 28 teams in the near future. For this round of expansion, Nashville set itself apart by pointing out that it had played host to a number of well-attended international matches in recent years. Though the club has not announced official colors, a logo, or even a name, the city council will soon be reviewing the stadium plans for approval. With the already-expressed support from the mayor, that process is expected to go well. Who knows? It may be only a matter of time before the sound of soccer chants, accompanied by steel guitars and fiddles, spill out of honky-tonks across the city.
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Seaport San Diego

San Diego port transformed by $1.5 billion development
The Port of San Diego is being redesigned with entertainment—and resiliency—in mind. The $1.5 billion, 70-acre waterside development, officially dubbed Seaport San Diego, will transform a hodgepodge of tourist spots, parking lots, and a fish processing plant into a mixed-use entertainment destination crowned by a 500-foot-tall observation tower, The Spire, whose metal-clad central column looms over the surrounding cityscape in conceptual renderings. Gondolas will surround The Spire's core, and a VR program will take visitors back a millennium to experience the San Diego area pre-European arrival. The innovations are below ground, too. Scientists predict that sea levels will rise one to 3.4 feet by 2100, but some project the Pacific Ocean to rise as much as ten feet—a change that would devastate a coastline that's home to three-quarters of California's 39 million-plus residents. Consequently, Seaport San Diego's engineers are building the development in what is essentially a bathtub: Parking will be sited 20 or 30 feet underground, and design features from entrances to the electric system will be conceived with an eye towards sea level rise. The site also sits near a newly-discovered earthquake fault, so engineers are building seismic precautions into the development as well. The development team will break ground in 2021, and construction should wrap in 2024 or 2025. The development, which includes bustling the Seaport Village site, will also include a marine-focused charter school and a 178,000-square-foot aquarium designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). This is not the only major development afoot in or near California's second-largest city. In October, Populous unveiled its design for a modular 10,000-seat North American Soccer League (NASL) professional soccer stadium for northern San Diego County. Nearby, cement company Lehigh Hanson is converting a disused gravel mine into a Millennial-focused housing development.
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Open Oculus

Kinetic, retractable petals cap new landmark stadium in Atlanta
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Brought to you with support from
When the Georgia Dome opened in 1992, its Teflon-coated fiberglass fabric roof was considered a modern marvel, stretching more than 395,000 square feet and weighing just 68 pounds. Atlanta's domed stadium hosted an impressive roster of sporting events in its 25 years of use, including three NCAA Men's Final Fours, two decades of SEC championships, two Super Bowls, two NBA seasons and an Olympics. Today, its new sibling, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, offers perhaps more impressive engineering accomplishments and promises to draw impressive sporting events to the city. Completed in August 2017, the multi-purpose venue is officially the first LEED Platinum-certified professional sports stadium in the United States.
  • Facade Manufacturer Bird Air (ETFE); Canam Structures (steel fabrication); Alpolic (composite metal panels)
  • Architects HOK
  • Facade Installer Bird Air (specialty contractor); HHRM (construction manager); Hannah Solar and Radiance Energy (solar panels)
  • Facade Consultants Buro Happold; Hoberman; EcoWorks Studio (sustainability consultant)
  • Location Atlanta, GA
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System ETFE roof pillow system; vertical single-layered ETFE film and cable net
  • Products adhered frit ETFE membrane; custom 4-layer ETFE roof pillows; composite metal panels by Alpolic
Among other industry-leading features, Mercedes-Benz Stadium is notable for its kinetic roof structure. While other stadiums with retractable roofs must allocate additional land for the entire roof assembly to open horizontally off the stadium, Mercedes-Benz Stadium offers an innovative space-saving solution by breaking down the geometry of the roof into eight triangular petals which retract in a radial fashion. The petals are composed of three layers of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) membrane fabricated into air-inflated “pillows” involving more than 143,000 square feet of membrane. The lightweight material was selected for its durability and translucency. Each petal cantilevers approximately 200 feet inwards towards the center of the stadium on 16 secondary trusses which spring from four 720-feet-long primary steel trusses. This primary steel frame spans to concrete “mega-columns.” Nested within the steel framing of the oculus is the world’s largest media wall, an immersive six-foot-tall, 360-degree HD display covering over 63,000 square feet. Unrolled, the video board would stretch three football fields long.   HOK worked with an integrated team of engineers from the start, coordinating information with a robust digital toolset that included digital modeling software. Custom algorithms and parametric modeling tools integrated the stadium’s complex geometrical layout with tens of thousands of pieces of information about the roof structure and its behavior and movement during various load scenarios. The project ultimately generated over 18,000 sheets of steel shop drawings, and during peak fabrication involved 32 factories in the U.S. and Canada making and delivering steel pieces simultaneously. The facade of the project is composed of insulated metal panels and a transparent ETFE facade, which has been marketed as a “window to the city” offering seamless visual connection to the surrounding context. ETFE in the wall assembly was fritted in a range of coverage from 20 percent to 70 percent in response to solar orientation. The composition of the angular wing-like wall panels abstractly reference the stadium’s National Football League team, the Atlanta Falcons. Beyond the Falcons, the stadium flexibly hosts Major League Soccer franchise, and is expandable for major events that the Georgia Dome used to host–Super Bowls, NCAA Final Four Basketball tournaments, FIFA World Cup matches, and major concerts and performances. To accomodate geometric differences between a soccer pitch and football field, lower level seats are retractable and an automated curtain system attached to the roof structure comes down to bring soccer fans close to the pitch. Several impressive planning decisions beyond the facade contributed to the stadium's LEED Platinum certification. Design elements of the building envelope which contributed to the stadium’s LEED Platinum certification include integrated rooftop solar panels, improved daylighting from use of ETFE, and passive cooling benefits from the retractable roof. Gus Drosos, technical principal of HOK's Kansas City office, said the consistency of the attachments of the ETFE system throughout the project and detailing of complex corners were specific successes of the building envelope design that offered valuable insight into working with ETFE and might carry over into future ETFE projects.
Additional insight into the design and construction of Mercedes Benz Stadium will be offered at the upcoming Facades+ Atlanta, where a panel of architects from HOK, EcoWorks Studio, and tvsdesign will deliver presentations in a session titled, "Designing MBS: Secrets of the Mercedes Benz Stadium." For more information on the Facades+ conference series, along with registration information, visit Facades+.
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Home Run Derby

Goooooaal! The best sports architecture of 2017
Soccer fields, ballparks, and football stadiums are all designed to direct attention towards a central spectacle, but that doesn’t mean they all have to follow the same playbook. In a year where cities tried to integrate their stadiums into the surrounding urban fabric, developers and designers demonstrated new ways of thinking about how we imagine sports architecture. Designing for sports means thinking not only about withstanding the elements and the wear and tear of massive crowds, but also make sure the project stands the test of time. 2017 saw stadiums go to new, sometimes weird places, all made possible through creative engineering. Below are some of the best sports architecture projects that AN has written about this year. The Rams' Stadium dapples in the sun The swooping, biomorphic shape of the new L.A. Rams stadium is pierced by 20 million holes. Even though the whole thing is clad in metal panels, the breezy, HKS-designed arena will let fresh air blow through, hopefully solving at least some of the “hellish” conditions of the current coliseum. HOK’s oscillating Georgia Dome replacement A viral story about the Georgia Dome’s failed implosion couldn’t overshadow the opening of its replacement, HOK’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Crowned by an iris-shaped roof that can open or close in only nine minutes, the stadium features a host of innovative engineering applications that make it what it is. The multi-use, LEED Platinum certified stadium has certainly been recognized for it, too. The Oakland Raiders are leaving (to) Las Vegas Putting aside the Raiders’ controversial move from Oakland to Las Vegas, the stadium proposed for the team’s new hometown is light, airy, and undeniably football-centric. A step up from the 50-year old concrete coliseum that the Raiders share with the Oakland A’s, the approximately $2 billion project will focus solely on one sport. While the project broke ground just last month and is on track for the NFL’s 2020 season, that means three years of tension between fans while the Raiders are still in Oakland.* Bending it like Beckham in Miami This year new renderings were released for the stadium that soccer star David Beckham hopes will draw a pro-soccer team to Miami. After feedback over an initially bulky design, Populous unveiled plans for an open-air stadium with a soaring superstructure topped by a canopy. The most ground-breaking part of the stadium is that it won’t break ground on any parking lots, encouraging spectators to use the nearby Metrorail, waterways, and even a shuttle service from stadium-owned parking garages that could be built further away. Los Angeles goes European with their latest soccer stadium The Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) teamed up with Gensler earlier this year to release their plans for a “European-style” soccer stadium where steeply stacked seating arrangements would put fans closer to the field than a traditional layout. Newly-christened as the Banc of California Stadium, the open-air stadium is ensconced around the edges by cavernous glass sections that will both keep viewers dry as well as house the lighting system. A focus on upscale interior finishes might not be the first thing that comes to mind when discussing a soccer stadium, but the LAFC hopes that these restaurants and commercial spaces will draw non-fans to the area as well. Tampa’s new-old skatepark wins over critics Skaters were outraged when Tampa demolished the Bro Bowl, a concrete skatepark that boarders had been tagging since 1978. Part of the city’s redevelopment of the Central Avenue drag, a compromise was reached where an exact replica of the park was built a few hundred feet away, with the original site being turned into a sculpture garden for works portraying prominent members of the African American community. With both Tampa’s African American community and the skaters up in arms at first, both sides have come to embrace the new developments.
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Windows 2049

Microsoft reveals renderings for its new Silicon Valley campus upgrade
Microsoft has gone big and broken ground on its new Silicon Valley headquarters, with a sustainability-minded plan to modernize its Mountain View, California outpost. The 32-acre campus might seem small when compared to the company’s sprawling, 500-acre flagship location in Redmond, Washington, but Microsoft’s pursuit of a net zero non-potable water certification under the Living Building Challenge will make them the first tech company to totally reuse non-potable water. The redevelopment plans come as WRNS Studio replaced SOM early last year as Microsoft’s designers of choice. The redevelopment is leaning hard on a green modernization, with Microsoft pursuing LEED Platinum certification for all of its new buildings, committing to the WELL Building standards for the interiors, and integrating cross-laminated timber (CLT) throughout all of the new buildings to cut material usage. In trying to meet their water-use reduction goals, and acknowledging California’s limited groundwater availability, the campus will feature rainwater catchments and an on-site wastewater treatment plant so that drinkable water can be recycled for other uses. Because the campus is next to Stevens Creek, the tech giant is also introducing a 4-acre, occupiable green roof solely planted with native species. Rooftop solar panels will also help cut the campus’s energy usage, while the buildings will let natural light in through their uniformly large windows. Not to be outdone by the main, Seattle-adjacent campus, the project will also include an underground parking garage topped by a soccer field and a new athletics facility, while returning the former parking lots to nature. Besides modernizing the office space of their 2,000 San Francisco Bay Area-employees, the new campus will feature a renovated dining hall, new theater, conference center, and a “Microsoft Technology Center.” Microsoft has provided a full fly-through video of their plans below. The new Mountain View campus plan increases the existing 515,000-square-foot campus to 643,000 square feet, and comes amidst the recent opening of Apple’s new space-aged campus nearby. Similarly, Microsoft's renovation of its main headquarters in Redmond, announced at the same time as its Silicon Valley campus, feels like a direct response to Amazon’s city-hopping HQ2 plans. Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus is on track to re-open sometime in 2019.
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Giddy Up

BIG unveils first pro sports stadium for Austin
Austin Sports & Entertainment, together with New York–based Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and Austin-based STG Design, has released a first look at plans for its 1.3-million-square-foot, multipurpose collection of interlinked stadiums. The new East Austin District bills itself as Austin’s first pro-sports stadium and will host workspaces, convention space, retail, medical facilities, and a huge music arena. Anchored by a 40,000-seat stadium designed for soccer and rugby games and a connected 15,000-seat multipurpose arena, East Austin District will be a loose collection of buildings covered by a shared, latticed rooftop. The checkerboard roof, taking inspiration from the Jefferson Grid, will segment each area by function while still allowing visitors to experience a variety of indoor and outdoor programs. Resembling enormous, overlapping shingles, the red photovoltaic roof will allow the district to be self-sufficient, and eventually export electricity to the rest of eastern Austin once the infrastructure is in place. “Like a collective campus rather than a monolithic stadium, the East Austin District unifies all the elements of rodeo and soccer into a village of courtyards and canopies. Embracing Austin’s local character and culture, the East Austin District is a single destination composed of many smaller structures under one roof,” said Bjarke Ingels, BIG's founding partner. Although each building greatly differs in function, they’re united through all-wood interiors that reference Austin’s characteristic barns and porches. Eight outdoor courtyards are interspersed throughout the district, further highlighting the connection to Austin’s porch and patio culture. Expected to be used throughout the year, the outdoor spaces will host public parks and plazas, food trucks, and smaller concerts. While BIG’s plans for East Austin District are still conceptual, Austin Sports & Entertainment has been pushing to raise funding for the project, although they have declined to disclose the projected cost. If successful, the district would be built over the site of the annual Rodeo Austin with the event moving to the development’s secondary arena. “We are in active discussions with leading global sports and entertainment organizations, including our partner Rodeo Austin as well as various corporations, to serve as anchors to accelerate the goals of the Spirit of East Austin Forum,” said Sean Foley & Andrew Nestor, co-managing partners of Austin Sports & Entertainment, in a statement. If investors for the project can be found, construction is expected to begin in 2018 and finish by 2021.