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Keep Austin Robotic

ACADIA is coming to Austin for 2019, and here's what to expect
Stephen Mueller interviewed Kory Bieg, one of the conference chairs for the upcoming ACADIA conference in Austin, Texas, from October 24-26, to discuss the themes and events you can expect at this year’s gathering. SM: Why is ACADIA an important forum? KB: ACADIA is for a range of audiences. ACADIA started as a conference focused on education but has become increasingly engaged with practice. The research being carried out by both academics and practitioners has narrowed and the work from both has become entangled. You will see attendees from software, fashion, and product design companies at the workshops and the conference proper, working alongside Ph.D. students and full-time faculty. ACADIA’s mission is also to support student participation, so they have increased their effort to encourage students to submit their work and attend. Faculty who are part of large research groups—like those from Michigan, Cornell, and MIT in the U.S., or groups from abroad, like ICD in Stuttgart or ETH in Zurich—often send students to present on behalf of their team. It’s a good platform for them to find their way into a more permanent academic setting or a more specialized field in architecture. You and your co-authors mention in the introductory text for the conference proceedings that the “last decade was about unified and specialized areas of research,” and that now we are in a period defined by “ubiquity” and “autonomy.” Can you elaborate on some of the major trajectories and trends you are seeing? What’s changing? We think we are at a crossroads in computation. For the last ten years, we have seen big advancements in fabrication and the use of robotics. Recently, however, we are seeing a renewed interest in design theory, whether it be “the post-digital” or “the second digital turn.” We took a step back to think of why that might be, and what it might mean moving forward. In part, we believe the return to theory is a result of digital technologies becoming “ubiquitous.” Not only do you see fabrication technologies in big universities, but you can now find laser cutters and 3d printers in libraries, high schools, commercial box stores, and in everyday use at firms. On the other hand, you have more cutting-edge practices, like Zaha Hadid Architects or UNStudio, building in-house skunkworks innovating with and developing new technologies internally. Some employees are hired specifically for this purpose. We saw these new computation-oriented roles as becoming so specialized that they had almost become new disciplines—a kind of “autonomy” within the discipline of architecture. For this year’s theme, we see “ubiquity” and “autonomy” as two parts of a cycle, where innovation in computational design and technology begins in these autonomous groups of specialists, followed by more widespread adoption, universal access, and finally ubiquity of use. This happens at a large scale within the discipline, but also with individual researchers who silo themselves away for a while, only to emerge with some novel idea that they are ready to integrate with other people’s research. That is how the field evolves. The cycles of “ubiquity” and “autonomy” oscillate between the differentiation of individual positions and the forging of new research communities. In this framework, do you see new autonomous collectives emerging? It’s our goal to find autonomous projects and introduce them to the world. Our workshops this year are being taught by somewhat autonomous computational teams housed within successful architecture firms—groups from UNStudio, Zaha Hadid Architects, Grimshaw, HKS-Line, Morphosis, SHoP, and Autodesk. They are all interested in the overlap of technologies. UNStudio will run a workshop on the overlap of architecture and fashion. Grimshaw is working with Fologram and using the Microsoft Hololens, an AR technology, to help fabricate an installation without the use of conventional construction documents. We also have SHoP Architects using AR and robotics, and Zaha Hadid Architects using machine learning to help generate form. There is such a strange array of approaches to computational design offered in the workshops, that if their ideas start to spread, our field is in store for some interesting times ahead. Academic settings can incentivize autonomous modes of research, and in professional settings we often see niche developments serving as marketable advantages through proprietary or branded offerings. Among the diverse authors with niche approaches, is there an ethos toward the maintenance of autonomy, or do you see a proliferation of shared techniques? We are seeing an increase in the culture of sharing at ACADIA among its constituents. Morphosis, for example, is leading a workshop that is literally sharing their design method. I think most offices would consider this proprietary intellectual property, but Morphosis sees value in sharing it. Patrik Schumacher, of Zaha Hadid Architects, shares his ideas freely, and would be happy with more parametricism in the world. These offices mark a post-autonomous moment. This will also be an interesting question for the closing panel on our final conference day, where we will have a group of academics discuss the conference theme. We have invited people who represent very different approaches to architecture and design, including Ian Bogost, a game designer and author, Michelle Addington and Marcelyn Gow, who are both material experts but with different agendas, and Neil Leach, one of our discipline’s leading theorists. Kathy Velikov, the president of ACADIA, will moderate. Collaboration with machines and virtual selves promotes a certain type of autonomy while forging human/non-human partnerships. If computational collaborations are the new air that we breathe, how do you and the contributors see authorship changing?? Machine learning and AI are happening whether we like it or not. Because they operate somewhat autonomously from their creators—they are designed to run loose—there is no functional need for a sole author anymore. We are really at the beginning of AI/machine learning applications for architecture. There is a group of artists in Paris (Hugo Caselles-Dupré, Pierre Fautrel, and Gauthier Vernier) who sold a piece of AI-generated art at Christie's for $432,000, which proves there is public interest in what AI can produce, but there has also been some blowback. Critics have argued that because they are selling a piece that wasn’t generated solely by them, the value is inflated. But they were the authors of the software that created the piece, so who is right? It’s a controversial time. You’ve lined up some impressive keynote speakersThom Mayne, Dominique Jakob, and Harlen Miller—how would you characterize the mix? Why are these voices important now? We thought it was time, especially given the theme, to pick three practices that represent “architecture with capital A,” and to see how they have been using computational design tools, overlapping technologies, and cross-disciplinary collaborations within their office for built work. UNStudio, Morphosis, and Jakob + MacFarlane produce very unique projects and they each use technology explicitly, but also, differently. What parts of the conference are open to the public? Thom Mayne’s keynote lecture is open to the public and will be at the LBJ Auditorium on Thursday, October 24th at 6:15 pm. There will also be an exhibition of Morphosis Architects’ work opening on Friday night at 7:45 pm. This event will also include an exhibition of work produced during this year’s workshops and the peer-reviewed project posters. What else does the conference hope to change, or enable? I hope the conference encourages people to start looking at other disciplines for knowledge and expertise that we do not have within our own field and to further the progress that has already been made by overlapping ubiquitous technologies. I hope we continue to share knowledge between academia and the profession in a way that improves access to new tools, techniques, technologies, and ideas.
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Carbon Canceled

A built environment symposium closes out Climate Week NYC 2019
With Climate Week NYC coming to a close, the Built Environment Symposium was a fitting finale, gathering together political bodies, industry professionals as well as architects and designers to speak openly about their collaborative efforts to make New York City a greener place The third panel discussion in particular, “New York City’s Climate Mobilization Act: Significantly Reducing Building Emissions,” brought together preeminent voices working to address the environmental impacts of New York’s buildings. Melanie La Rocca, commissioner of the Department of Buildings (DOB) sat down with Jason Vollen, director of architecture for Metro New York at AECOM and Christopher Toomey, vice president of major projects at McKinsey & Company to discuss the importance of addressing the costs of the built environment, and why pieces of legislation are invaluable to instituting rapid change.  With 67 percent of the city’s emissions stemming from its buildings, the need for action is acute, and the mayor’s office has accentuated the urgency by implementing Local Law 97, a mandate that all buildings over 25,000-square-feet comply with aggressive carbon caps by 2024. The very building the panelists sat in, the Midtown Manhattan office of host firm AECOM, is one such building that will fall under the new jurisdiction.  Local Law 97 is the first of its kind to make the financial penalties for non-compliance so significant that building owners will have to address the issues head-on. Fines start at $268 per metric ton over the predetermined limits (based on a building’s size and class) and additional fees are added for non-submittal of records, as well as false or flawed reports, all on an annual schedule. Hopefully, these financial roadblocks will incentivize building owners in ways that previous legislation has only wagged fingers.  This regulation doesn’t just apply to new buildings, but all buildings in New York City. That’s roughly 50,000—and this measure has sparked controversy as older buildings will have to invest in major renovations, as many did not incorporate energy efficiency in their original designs. Aged technologies like boilers and old-fashioned window glazing will need to be replaced, likely at a great initial cost to those landlords.  The panelists talked very seriously and practically about the realities of retrofitting all these spaces. “We could build an entire industry around retrofitting structures,” Toomey said, adding that there are studies that speculate that this would necessitate the creation of up to 140,000 new jobs.  However, the bureaucracy involved in clearing thousands of new buildings in the next four years in advance of the “penalty stage,” where non-complying structures will be fined heavily for carbon use, is intimidating even for the DOB: “We don’t want 20,000 applications coming in 2023,” said La Rocca. To avoid this, the DOB, architects, and project managers are encouraging companies to act now and stay ahead of the curve for not only the 2024 benchmarks but the 2030 ones as well. “No one wants to be an SUV in a Prius world,” said Vollen, “It would be an embarrassment down the line.” Architects like Vollen are encouraging high-profile companies to handle their compliance measures sooner than later with a leading mindset—to both leverage their names as well as allow for more time to design creative, innovative solutions to emissions targets rather than hasty adaptations.  While the panelists all acknowledged the risks and experimentation needed in NYC’s fight to lower emissions, La Rocca closed the discussion, saying, “This is an opportunity for us all to reimagine what we do.” 
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Detroit Design

Detroit Design 139 showcases how Detroiters are reshaping their neighborhoods
Detroit has always been a design-forward city, a fact made official back in 2015 when they were designated a UNESCO City of Design, the only in the United States. A center of architectural innovation, futuristic automotive design, boulevards meant to rival the Champs-Élysées, and one of the U.S.’s foremost collections of art, the city in recent years has gotten more attention for its bankruptcy, corruption, and mass foreclosures and vacancy.  But, as Olga Stella, executive director of Design Core Detroit, a partner organization which “champions design-driven businesses and their role in strengthening Detroit’s economy,” points out, “Detroit is not and never has been just one thing.” Throughout its expansive 139 square miles, many are working to create neighborhoods and a city that works for them. Design doesn’t just happen at the rarefied scale of a Beaux Arts museum, it happens in and by communities who work to create a city they want to live in. These projects are being celebrated at the second iteration of Detroit Design 139 (DD139), a serial exhibition co-organized by the City of Detroit, Design Core Detroit, and developer Bedrock. Members from each organization, as well as nine others, served on the advisory board. The projects were selected by a jury of design notables, both from Detroit and other cities, including New York City Public Design Commission executive director Justin Garrett Moore and Detroit-based equitable development strategist Lauren Hood. With the main showcase at street level in downtown Detroit in a Bedrock-owned building, as well as at three partner locations throughout the city, celebrates 70 projects under five thematic headings that, according to the organizers and jurors, embody DD139’s 2019 theme of "Inclusive Futures".  “All of us working on design problems and projects should be holding ourselves to higher standards,” said Melissa Dittmer, Bedrock’s chief design officer, of the ethos of inclusion ostensibly showcased in the exhibition, which features projects built in the last two years or to be built in the next three. The projects were laid out rather blandly like a well-executed science fair or a real-life PDF, with posters along temporary slatted walls and the occasional model or video. Stella said that, historically, “In a city that doesn’t have a lot of capital [the question of] ‘how are we going to pay for it?’ was guiding decisions, not design solutions,” noting that it was a developer-driven process, with Maurice Cox, Detroit’s outgoing planning and development director. (Cox was also on the advisory committee of DD139.) Dittmer says there was a need for new building to begin “prioritizing the process as much as the outcomes,” something many of the projects exhibited; for example a cafe-laundromat combo, The Commons, designed by the local firm LAAVU in a process which founder and chief design officer Kaija E. Wuollet explains, began by collectively creating a strategic plan to inform the design, building, and operations. The choice in amenities was guided by neighbor requests and they act as not only a space in their own right, but a revenue stream for the non-profit MACC Development, which provides literacy programs, coworking space, artistic opportunities, and other community resources right within the building. This was a recurring theme: neighborhood-focused and neighborhood-led design solutions are a strength of Detroit now and could be what shapes the city's future. But, another recurring theme that the MACC project implies is that due to a dearth of government support, many private organizations have had to pick up the slack. That said, some public programs were featured in the exhibition, perhaps among the most noteworthy for designers, the Michigan ArcPrep program, a public school architecture initiative led by the University of Michigan's Taubman College. Even restaurants were in the exhibition. In community engagement workshops, residents in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood expressed a desire for more places to eat and more Black-owned businesses. With the help of a Motor City Match grant, Norma G’s was opened by Lester Gouvia. Kaitlynn Hill, one of the project’s architects from Hamilton Anderson Associates, said she saw this as “a community-based project,” as much as a commercial enterprise. Other Detroit mainstays made the cut for the exhibition. The legendary Pewabic Pottery, whose distinctive glazed tiles that adorn high-rise facades and fireplaces alike are still made in small batches in Detroit, had recently undergone an expansion with the help of inFORM Studio. While the expansion added more workspace, it also helped Pewabic—which is organized as a non-profit—further advance their public mission. Like the original 1903 structure, this new building is close to the residential street. In addition to a shop, museum, and classroom space, there is also an open courtyard with a large mural that hosts events or allows passersby to come in and chill for a bit. In addition, Pewabic goes into communities with portable kilns, keeping design heritage alive and inviting others to participate in it. Many cultural projects were featured, including a skatepark-slash-sculpture park and public mural initiatives. One particularly intriguing project highlighted was the Detroit Historical Society’s Detroit 67, which investigated the legacy of Detroit’s 1967 rebellion in a “community engagement” project by collecting oral histories, producing an exhibition, and providing grants to “placemaking” projects. Some of the projects include an LGBT-focused community garden, an outdoor theater space focused on the Black, Latinx, and Arab communities of Detroit, and a memorial to those who lost their lives around the time of the uprising. There were a number of environmentally-focused projects, both grassroots and large scale, a balance and comparison that was interesting to see. Some included academic research on stormwater management interventions, the Zero Net Energy Center, rain gardens, and an upcycled windmill Projects with international design pedigree also appeared: David Adjaye and New York’s Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates have designed a pavilion and other structures for the Ralph C. Wilson Centennial Park, which, when it’s open, will be part of a network of riverside parks and greenways in an area that was once home to abandoned manufacturing plants. The park is currently overseen by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy However, on a tour through the Dequindre Cut, a rail-trail connected to the riverfront, on a Sunday when it was clearly being enjoyed by many, it was mentioned by an employee of the Conservancy that many houseless people formerly lived on the trail. In fact, this was mentioned many places, but inquiries made into where those people went and whether these “inclusive” projects accounted for housing access for those they were displacing remained mostly unanswered. While houselessness is declining in Detroit and new projects like the short-term housing Pope Francis Center (not exhibited) are on their way to reality, police have also been known to sweep away the belongings of the houseless, even in the dead of winter. If this park is for everyone, what about those who called it home?  In this second iteration of DD139, the choice was made to include projects from other UNESCO Cities of Design, like Saint-Étienne, France, and Montreal, which are using design to address many of the same challenges faced in Detroit. The organizers hope that this can help create a dialogue and show the fact that Detroit, though a unique situation, is not alone, and that everything from new elder caregiving studies in Singapore to canal projects in Mexico City could help Detroit think through its own unique challenges. However, how every project fit in seemed unclear. A project, the Ruth Ellis Clairmount Center, to help give homes and resources such as jobs and healthcare to houseless youth and those at risk of houselessness, especially LGBTQ+ kids who make up as much as 40% of this country’s houseless population, are undeniably necessary, ameliorative projects. However, on the poster for a banal mixed-use and mixed-income housing development the description of why the project is inclusive reads: “The project has gone through extensive design iterations, city vetting, and community engagement processes to ensure it captures neighborhood feedback. Meetings around the community were offered in both English and Spanish, with translators and/or translation equipment at every meeting, making it as accessible as possible for community members.” Is this not the bare minimum we should expect? Pair that with the bare minimum in architectural quick-build tastelessness by the Philadelphia firm SITIO and one has to wonder what sort of definition of “design” is at play here.  Some projects are more design-y than others. Pewabic Pottery, the Symbiotic Landscape watershed restoration, a digital mapping project that proposes using architectural and urban interventions to fight Detroit’s “digital divide”—these all make design part-and-parcel of their mission, and they're realizing that mission. An entrepreneurship incubator or a bakery in a mixed-use development, Core City, which some Detroiters I spoke with expressed distrust of, might be interesting, or at least tasty, but is it necessarily a “design” solution? Is a building in and of itself using design to address these so-called civic challenges, let alone being inclusive by and through design? This vagueness of mission and indeterminate take on the role of design in some projects points out a bigger issue. The project’s main sponsor and proponent, one of the three partner organizers, Bedrock, has undeniably reshaped downtown Detroit, perhaps in ways, some residents might see as for the better. From the design-forward Shinola Hotel to the forthcoming first foray by the fast-fashion retailer H&M to the revamp of the 475-foot-tall Book Tower, a magnificent and delirious example of early 20th-century architecture that has sat unoccupied for a decade, downtown Detroit is increasingly lively (and increasingly expensive). And, fitting with the exhibition's theme, “Creating unique, inclusive experiences through real estate is Bedrock’s mission,” claims a Bedrock press release. Yet, as the Detroit Free Press has recently revealed, Bedrock has gotten huge swaths of downtown property at little cost, with many incentives and tax breaks, and with an unheard of lack of financial oversight. Also, Bedrock has leveraged their power to strong-arm Michigan’s OSHA into looking away from their safety violations while “lecturing” inspectors on how to do their jobs. Is creating buildings without protecting working people inclusive? In addition, while Bedrock has been touting their successful bid to redevelop the site of the so-called “fail jail,” turning this long-vacant lot into usable space, this deal was negotiated with Wayne County by allowing Rock Ventures, another Dan Gilbert organization and Bedrock’s parent company, to construct that county’s jail, presumably without sullying Bedrock’s name. How can one claim to not only celebrate inclusive design but create "inclusive experiences," while supporting the creation of one of the United States’ most powerful and inarguably racist tools of social and mortal death?  Perhaps the theme, "Inclusive Futures", says it all: a virtuous-sounding word like “inclusive” can itself often be so inclusive as to be virtually meaningless, a rhetorical throwaway. Because what is “inclusion”—and what “inclusive futures” are possible—without equity, without reparations, without an effort to shift the balance of political and economic power? While many grassroots projects and even larger scale ones featured in DD139 are compelling, worthy, and deserve the spotlight, with the ongoing efforts of the exhibition’s primary sponsor Bedrock to stymy state oversight, build jails, and get land cheaply, you wind up not only with misplaced good intentions—you get design washing. DD139 is on view in Detroit through September 30th. You can read more about the projects here.
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A Post-Maria Mission

Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz on why Puerto Rico needs the help of more architects
Less than two years after Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, the politics behind its recovery and rebuilding efforts have come to the forefront of national news again and again. In recent weeks, two FEMA officials were indicted and arrested for taking bribes, committing fraud, and using federal funds for personal gain.  It’s a massive relief, but one that wasn't too surprising to Puerto Ricans who knew the money set aside for post-hurricane recuperation was being mismanaged by the federal government. One Puerto Rican, an internationally-renowned architect who served as a liaison between the private sector and FEMA for the past two years, has been very vocal about this.  “I’ve been trying to explain that Puerto Rico has been unfairly cast out as the most corrupt place in the U.S,” said Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz, founder of the San Juan- and Miami-based studio Álvarez-Díaz & Villalón. “And most of the attacks have been labeled towards local people. But this news is a silver lining and basically what I’ve been saying for the last year.” Álvarez-Díaz told AN that only a sliver of the $92 billion promised by President Trump last year has been managed locally. “Some of the people in FEMA were forcing local people to hire companies from the mainland that were not necessarily the right fit for what we are trying to do in our rebuilding," he said. "If you don’t use them they said, they would not refund the investment.”  Now that the news is out that ex-FEMA deputy regional administrator Ahsha Tribble had allegedly taken bribes from the Oklahoma City-based energy company contracted to restore the island’s power grid, it’s not crazy to think that other projects there have been subject to corruption as well. Álvarez-Díaz, who has been busy promoting the resiliency of the Puerto Rican people and making the case for more help, said the key to stopping this is three-fold: to get more locally-based architects and companies involved in the rebuilding process “to ensure it’s done in a very localized manner,” encouraging mainland architects to help out, and lastly, educating the next generation of Puerto Rican architects.  “We don’t have enough people on this island to do the work that needs to get done,” he said. “In Puerto Rico, there are less than 600 licensed architects out of 3.2 million people, but there are 15,000 licensed engineers. We need more help.”  Álvarez-Díaz’s firm practices in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, New York, and Florida. As the founder and co-chair of the local chapter of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), and a board member of both Invest Puerto Rico and the ENLANCE Project Corporation of the Caño Martín Peña, two governor-appointed positions, he’s keenly aware of the island’s poor reputation and is constantly working to change it. His studio recently completed what’s been touted as the most resilient structure in Puerto Rico. Completed this summer, Renaissance Square is a $35.5 million mixed-income affordable housing project located in San Juan’s Gold Mile financial district. Though construction began years ago and was only 80 percent done when Maria hit, not a single window was broken. It was built through a public-private partnership between the Department of Housing, developer McCormack Baron Salazar, Citi Community Development, and Hunt Capital Partners. Of its 140 units, 60 percent were reserved for low-income families and there’s currently a 1,500-person waiting list to get a space. The demand is high. “Materials can be scarce here on the island and because there’s so much construction, the perception of lack creates a false sense of inflation, so people just want to use the cheapest materials instead of the best ones,” said Álvarez-Díaz. “We aim to convince the next group of developers that doing sustainable housing projects like this is actually profitable.”  Creating awareness is Álvarez-Díaz’s main mission. That’s why he’s also urging the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to use its influence to spread the knowledge that Puerto Rico is looking for outside assistance. He wants a chunk of next year’s AIA convention to be dedicated to educating architects on working in disaster zones, helping them connect with companies or organizations that need help, or advocating on behalf of equitable recovery efforts. “The AIA traditionally tends to be inside out instead of outside in,” he said. “Many architects aren’t invited to the table where big government decisions are being made and therefore are forced to talk among themselves about how to make things better. Local engineers are very successful in putting the word out there that Puerto Rico needs a lot of licensed engineers, experienced contractors, and developers. The more engineers we bring in and the less the amount of architects we attract, the more likely it is that we will miss an opportunity to create a holistic architectural vision for Puerto Rico.” The AIA already has an initiative set in place like this, its formal Disaster Assistance Program. But the goal of the program, which has certified architects for 47 years, isn’t for professionals to get more paid work, said an AIA spokesperson. Instead, it’s to provide technical expertise on development, planning, and policy, coordinate with local agencies, advocate for Good Samaritan legislation, and train for and share lessons on post-disaster building safety assessments—all things Álvarez-Díaz sees as good, but still not enough.  “We need to make sure this isn’t just about disaster recovery,” he said. “That’s the first step out of a three-step process. Once that’s done, we have to plan a whole island for the next 100 years. It’s not every day you can start from absolute scratch and benefit the next four generations of Puerto Ricans. I see the island as a kind of guinea pig for post-disaster development. Other places could one day learn from our successes and failures.” 
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Desert Devastation

Border wall construction could destroy 22 archaeological sites across Arizona
A new 123-page report by the National Park Service (NPS) has detailed the potential loss of ancient artifacts at the southern border as the United States continues to construct an extensive border wall. The culmination of a project conducted by NPS archaeologists at Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the report highlights up to 22 endangered archaeological sites along a short stretch of the wall's path. The report, obtained by The Washington Post via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), is especially significant because of its authorship; the internal report shows concern coming directly from a sector of the federal government. The Organ Pipe Cactus area, which is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, received U.S. National Monument status in 1937. The area covers 330,688 acres of desert land southwest of Phoenix, and the 11.3-mile strip along the border has already seen significant physical damage from increased traffic of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents using all-terrain vehicles. The proposed plan to replace the existing 5-foot-tall vehicle barrier with a 30-foot illuminated steel wall has the potential to cause irreparable damage to archaeological fragments spanning the area’s 16,000 years of inhabitation. Concerns also stem from the ecological implications of dropping such a towering structure in a designated biosphere reserve. Environmentalists have repeatedly fought the federal government’s plans to run the wall through protected areas like the this, citing impositions on wildlife migration and the neglect of critically endangered species. Of particular concern is the Quitobaquito Springs area, an oasis 200 feet from the barrier that is inhabited by a number of threatened and declining species. The identification of these risks comes at a time when CBP is scrambling to complete 500 miles of barrier before the 2020 election at the request of President Trump. As the president continues to share the wall’s progress on social media, his administration continues to fight off lawsuits over construction on protected lands. Construction on the Organ Pipe Cactus reserve-area border wall officially began last month, as construction geared up for part of a 43-mile fence span that also cuts through Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Regufe. Kevin Dahl, Arizona’s senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, described how the time constraints are eliminating steps in the careful process of protecting Arizona’s archaeological sites: “Archaeology takes time, and they have a deadline,” Dahl told The Washington Post. “Putting a wall there is insane. This is just one more reason why ramming this wall through, using illegal, unconstitutional money, is damaging to these public resources. We’re destroying what the wall is supposed to protect.”
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Taking Titles and Stealing Views

Central Park Tower tops out to become the world's tallest residential building
The 1,550-foot-tall Central Park Tower is officially the tallest residential building in the world. After topping out earlier this week, the Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture-designed structure now stands nearly complete at 217 West 57th Street, higher than any of its neighbors on Manhattan's Billionaire’s Row.  It’s the second project on that strip of premiere Midtown Manhattan real estate from Extell Development Company, the minds behind Christian de Portzamparc’s One57. The latter project became the first supertall condominium on the street in 2016. Since the original unveiling of that design in 2005, over eight similar projects have popped up and are now either finished or under construction along or near West 57th Street. As the latest to top out, Central Park Tower has broken the height record set by Rafael Viñoly’s 432 Park Avenue, with 131 floors. Though largely residential and boasting 179 luxury condos, Central Park Tower—with its glass-clad facade and stainless-steel, pinstripe-like fins—will feature a seven-story Nordstrom flagship store at its base and three floors of amenities for apartment owners. Spanning a total of 50,000 square feet, these areas include an outdoor terrace with a pool, a wellness center with an indoor pool, and a ballroom and cigar bar on the 100th floor (without a pool, sorry).  At 300 feet above the street, the tower cantilevers slightly to the east and then nearly all the way up to the top floor, allowing views of Central Park from the north-facing apartments. Looking up from the park below, the building has the appearance of a series of extremely thin, elongated towers stacked closely to one another. That design move was intentional to maximize those (multi)million-dollar views. Together, the sections created a textured look that gleams during the daylight in different ways. Despite its fancy features, the supertall project might suffer a similar sales fate like the other towers on Billionaire's Row. It’s been widely reported that 40 percent of the seven buildings in the area are unsold simply because they are too expensive and the Midtown market isn't as favored as some Lower Manhattan or even Brooklyn developments. There's one sign, though, that this could be changing: 220 Central Park South by Robert A.M. Stern recently passed $1 billion in sales according to 6sqft, largely thanks to the close on its $238 million penthouse by hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin. Until Central park Tower hits its expected sellout of over $4 billion, 220 Central Park South will remain the most expensive residential building in the United States.  In an interview with Justin Davidson published this week in New York Magazine, Gordon Gill said that, apart from being another competitive project on Billionaire's Row, Stern’s building posed another challenge for the architects from the beginning. It sits directly in front of Central Park Tower and boasts closer views of the sprawling landscape below. 
“It’s like being at the theater; if everyone’s in rows trying to see the stage, nobody can see anything at all,” said Gill. “The solution is to stagger the seats. When we moved the tower off-center to get better retail spaces, we discovered an opportunity to capture incredible direct and oblique views. That’s why the building is stepped and staggered in every direction — north, south, east, and west — walking all the way up to 1,550 feet. If you look at this building from a distance, it has a strong ethos and a sense of stability. On the other hand, there’s a lot of movement. The trick was managing all that activity without getting overly effusive.”
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A Country is Not a House?

Letter from the border: Architecture is more than walls
“I’ll bet you live within four walls” is one of the most frequent comments I get from proponents of building a wall along the southern border as a critique of my creative and activist endeavors against wall construction. The comments can be quite vile. Here is one comment (since deleted) on the YouTube posting of my recent TED talk,
"Thank you so much Ronald Rael! I'll come find your home and simply open your door, sit down and make myself at home! Pay rent? Nah essay! Rent is taxes homie! Permission to enter your home? Nah bendayho! I don't need permission to enter your home! You don't see the need for Mexicans to get permission to enter the United States! What's that? You'll call the cops? You snitch! What's that? You'll force me out of your home?! That's wrong to deport me outside of your walls that hold up your roof and prevent anyone from getting in!”
In addition to making an actual threat to my own personal home and property, something no immigrant I have ever met has done, he is mocking the variations in the Spanish language (“essay” is ese, a slang way of saying dude, “homie”, is someone from your hometown, and bendayho, I'm assuming, is pendejo, a word used to describe an imbecile, but literally means “pubic hair”). It might be futile to pen a response to such comments, but as a professor of architecture, it got me thinking… why do so many make a parallel between a country, and a house, when it comes to making an argument for the border wall? A quick internet search, thinking about the ridiculousness of this reaction—that if we build walls to enclose our house (which my TED Talk critic correctly notes are also often used to structurally support a roof), doesn’t it make sense to build walls around our country, and if so, what about a roof? This led me to an article in the New Yorker that suggested, in sarcastic response to the construction of walls, that we should also build a roof over our country! I’ve always been fascinated by utopian and dystopian architectural projects that challenge the conventions of our built environment, which is perhaps why I’ve been interested in the border wall. When thinking about mega-roofs, architect Buckminster Fuller’s proposal for an enormous dome to be constructed over a portion of Midtown Manhattan comes to mind. He suggested it would save 80 percent of energy costs and snow removal costs, so perhaps the proposal for a nationwide roof structure has its merits? The Sheats-Goldstein Residence, an experimental house designed in 1961 by John Lautner, was comprised of an enormous roof with no walls enclosing the main living space that connected to the exterior terrace and pool. Instead, the interior was defined and protected from the elements by a curtain of forced air, like those you might have experienced if you’ve ever entered a big box store. Construction on this incredible house began in 1961, the year that President Kennedy was inaugurated, the Peace Corps was established, and the first man went into space, a time when it seemed mankind could overcome impossible barriers but also the same year the Berlin Wall began construction (and we all know what happened to that). Many years later, the Sheats-Goldstein Residence was enclosed with a nearly invisible and retractable glass facade, as there were several impracticalities to not having a barrier between inside and outside that house, despite the balmy Los Angeles weather. However, the luxurious glass wall wasn’t necessarily installed for security, and certainly it wasn’t out of practicality—an inexpensive concrete wall may have been more practical, but would undermine the original concept of the house as well as the architect’s original intent of openness and connection. Perhaps in alignment to Lautner’s vision for how one defines the confines of a house, Franklin Delano Roosevelt laid out a concept for hemispheric security not beholden to a limited view of border fortification. Roosevelt said, “What I seek to convey is the historic truth that the United States as a nation has at all times maintained opposition—clear, definite opposition—to any attempt to lock us in behind an ancient Chinese wall.” With this in mind, what might Lautner and Roosevelt think of a 1,954-mile-long concrete-and-steel wall surrounding our house? Obviously neither would have thought it to be a necessity or practicality, nor perhaps in alignment with the original intent of the architects of our country. I wonder what they would think about a 3.8-million-square-mile roof? Economics professor David Youngberg points out the problems with making analogies between “my country” and “my house” and the two uses of the possessive pronoun “my”—one of which is possessive and the other, associative. While one may own a house, we do not own our country, we merely live in it. A country is public space. With this in mind, should we think about our country like we do our house, and does it need walls? If we agree with the argument, that if we live by surrounding ourselves at home with walls, therefore we should also surround our country with walls, then perhaps let’s take that argument further, and not forget other components of what makes a secure home in addition to the roof. For example, the floor, a basement perhaps, central heating… how about other components of the house, like a refrigerator, with healthy food for everyone in our house to eat or a comfortable bed and a warm place to sleep? What about a medicine cabinet accessible to everyone in the house! A porch and a welcome mat, to welcome neighbors are also important features in a house (clean your feet before coming in)! Surrounding our house, we enjoy a verdant garden and appreciate nice neighbors, and we lend tools to our neighbors, a cup of sugar, and we want our neighbors to prosper—do we really want to be the only nice house in the neighborhood? How about a neighborhood watch program? Don’t we want our neighbors to look out for us just as we look out for them? What about reliable plumbing to provide clean water? In our houses, we need a system that takes our bodily waste and delivers it to a place where it can be processed safely. Can you imagine the problems that would arise for everyone if we dumped it in our backyards, or our neighbor’s yard? Fresh air? Some of us have a heating and air conditioning system in our house that not only keeps our climate under control, but also filters the air, providing a place to live with comfortable, clean air. We don’t fill our house with pollution—we enjoy clean air inside our houses, and we probably all wish the air inside was as clean as the air outside, and vice versa, because we like to open our doors and windows to let the outside in—it helps keep our house fresh. Perhaps a house is not a country, but if we are to make that analogy, here are some thoughts of things to do rather than build that wall: Build that plumbing, and ensure safe, clean and reliable drinking water! Build that ventilation system, and ensure that no one remains out in the cold and breathes fresh air! Build that medicine cabinet, so that everyone’s heath in the house is cared for! Build those roofs, to make certain that everyone protected from the elements! Build those bedrooms, so that everyone has a place to rest their head at night! Build that floor, so we are all on an equal plane and a level playing field! Build that porch, and lay out that welcome mat! Build that neighborhood, so that everyone in our global community has a house that ensures safety, security, and neighborliness across our own property lines! A couple more thoughts; we also don’t shoot guns inside our house, and certainly not at other people in the house. We also do not lock up neighboring families from other houses inside our house for indefinite amounts of time, or separate our neighbor's children from their parents and keep them in cages inside our house if they came knocking at our door seeking help. —Ronald Rael, Oakland, September 7, 2019  
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Something Something Radiohead

wHY Architects' new youth center in East Palo Alto will center the community
The work of Los Angeles based firm wHY Architects is known for its simplicity, attention to detail and ethical sourcing of building materials. As the renderings indicate, these sensibilities were all employed in the design of the nearly-completed East Palo Alto Youth Arts & Music Center (YAMC), also known as the EPACENTER. The building will bring much-needed public programs to East Palo Alto, California, which has recently started to shed its notorious public-safety profile. The project was first made possible thanks to the San Francisco-based John & Marcia Goldman Foundation, which purchased the post-industrial marshland site for $3.5 million, with the intention of developing a facility for underserved members of the community. The site is across the street from the recently-built Ravenswood Family Health Center and down the street from College Track, a nonprofit which offers programs to grade school students in the community. wHY Architects was invited to design a multiprogram building on the site in Summer 2015, under the condition that they engage with the area’s youth demographic during an initial eight-month collaborative design process. According to the firm, these engagements were carried out to “build trust and establish expectations for the YAMC, and more importantly, to effectively identify and harness the creative discussions and engagements into the final design.” Additionally, wHY Architects developed the design for the 24,000-square-foot building in collaboration with Hood Design Studio, a social art and design practice founded in Oakland, California. Like many of wHY Architect’s public projects, EPACENTER is altruistic in nature: its programming will address the issue of gentrification by offering spaces for the preexisting community to foster creative production, while many of its building materials are upcycled industrial elements found around the city. As Palo Alto Online expressed during the early phase of its construction, “The center will be an enormous boon for the community, not only as a safe and peaceful space in a city known for its high crime rates, but one where residents struggling against a rising tide of external forces—gentrification, climbing rents, new office buildings—can celebrate and maintain their city's culture as it is today.” The exterior of the building will have a bold presence, including a thick wooden roof structure and boldly colored tilework, while its interior will be airy and light-filled, complete with inviting built-in seating and shaded outdoor spaces. The project is scheduled to wrap up in 2020.
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Get Paid Faster with Core ePayments
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Nothing harms an architecture firm’s operations more than slow or unsteady cash flow. In fact, 82% of businesses fail because of cash flow mismanagement. Late payments and aging accounts receivable cause problems for firms of all sizes. Small to medium-sized firms often don’t have enough liquidity to ride survive long periods of negative cash flow, and larger firms have higher overhead costs and bigger payrolls to manage. When money flows into a firm slower than it flows out, the firm risks financial collapse.

Archaic payment processes limit firms

One of the top reasons architecture firms struggle with cash flow issues is an archaic payment process. While many other services have switched over to automated and digital payment processes, architecture firms have been slow to make the transition. Much of the industry still relies on manual invoicing – printing, reviewing, stuffing envelopes, paying for postage and following up on payments. That’s why BQE has partnered with Stripe, the industry leader in online payments, to launch its new ePayments feature, which allows BQE customers to easily accept credit card payments on their invoices.

Core ePayments will grow your business

BQE users have long been asking for the ability to accept payments from their customers via credit cards and ACH, and for the functionality to complete their payables within the Core application. We released BQE Core ePayments to solve your most critical step-the last mile-so your business gets paid. Using ePayments doesn’t mean you have to stop accepting traditional payment methods, like checks. In fact, Core ePayments is a great addition to any payment system you already have in place. The easier you make it for your customers to pay you, the more likely you are to get paid. For those who have already moved to an electronic payment system, this new integration means you won’t have to use a third party system to accept payments, and then perform the additional steps to enter the payment in Core. Now you can reduce the disconnect for your end-user, in terms of when the payment is received vs when it was entered in Core, and improve your cash flow.

Safety and security are our top priorities

We partnered with the best of the business in online payments (Stripe) to make sure you and your clients receive the highest security and safety standards during and after the transaction. The entire process, from start to finish, is entirely traceable and secure. Once a transaction is completed, we automatically record the payment in Core to keep your Accounts receivable up to date and provide a secure paper trail. Here’s how the ePayments process works on your customers’ end:
  • Step 1: Your customer receives an automatic invoice
  • Step 2: After clicking on the “Pay Now” button, your customer will be redirected to a payment page where they can securely enter their credit card details. They can choose to pay partially or in full.
  • Step 3: The customer’s credit card will be charged for the amount they entered and a payment record will automatically be created in Core. The money will be removed from your customer’s bank account within 24 hours.

What is Stripe?

Stripe is a world-class, leading payment processing platform that allows merchants to accept credit card payments on their websites. Stripe is safe and secure, operating in 25 countries and powering more than 100,000 businesses. While PayPal is one of the oldest names in the books for online payments, Stripe has been making waves for intrinsically encouraging good security. When credit card data is entered into your payment form, the information is never sent to your server. Instead, it’s sent directly to Stripe. This is important because it means that:
  • You’re automatically PCI compliant (because you don’t handle any sensitive card data on your servers)
  • You’re more secure (because a security break of your servers won't result in any stolen credit card data)
  • You won't store credit card data on your servers (again, avoiding PCI compliance fees and security concerns)
We’ve partnered with Stripe so you can ensure your business and clients receive the highest security and safety standards.

How the integration works with Core

Core ePayments makes sending invoices and getting paid online painless. Here’s how ePayments works in three simple steps:
  • Step 1: Core users can create a new account Stripe, or use existing credentials (if they already have a Stripe account).
  • Step 2: Once you set up your Core ePayments account, you will have the option to turn on the “online payments” option for invoices. This adds payment options to any emails you send from the application, with the invoice attached. It also adds a “Pay Now” button to the actual invoice.
  • Step 3: When your customer clicks on either of these payment options, they’re sent to a payment page where they can apply the full or partial payment to the invoice.
The module syncs with BQE Core, so you can automatically invoice clients and expedite reconciliation. And you have full control of the entire process because you can choose which credit cards you want to accept. Who has time to wait for checks then keep track of depositing them? Archaic processes will hold your business back. ePayments by BQE Core does the payment collecting for you!
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Bio Season

A Walter Gropius biography and Bauhaus study paint rich portraits of the period
Walter Gropius: The Man Who Built the Bauhaus By Fiona MacCarthy Harvard University Press List Price: $35.00 Bauhaus Goes West: Modern Art and Design in Britain and America By Alan Powers Thames & Hudson List Price: $40.00 “When Walter Gropius arrived in London on 18 October 1934, he was treated like a creature from another planet.” That first impression, the first sentence in the first chapter of English architectural historian Alan Powers’s enlightening study of the reception of the Bauhaus in Britain, has long prevailed. Historians have tended to see the short period that Gropius and fellow Bauhäusler Marcel Breuer, Lucia Moholy, and László Moholy-Nagy spent in London as a relatively fruitless layover on the Bauhaus’s posthumous westward march to North America (and have ignored the fact that many prominent figures also went eastward to the Soviet Union or Palestine). The New World was a land of opportunity for modernism as the United States succumbed to the genius of Gropius, whom Tom Wolfe later—riffing on Paul Klee—satirized as the movement’s “silver knight” in his 1981 book From Bauhaus to Our House. If Britain was unmoved, America was transformed, or so the oft-told tale would have it. Powers’s book is one of two new major studies that tell a different story. Gropius’s new biographer Fiona MacCarthy reports that Gropius—whom she met a year before his death—“looked back on his years in London with a kind of exasperated fondness,” while Powers argues that Britain was a far more consequential chapter in Gropius’s development as an architect than has ever been acknowledged. Gropius founded the Bauhaus in 1919 in Weimar, but after the school lost the confidence of the local state government, it moved into its iconic modernist buildings in Dessau, only to be chased away again six years later by the local rise to power of the Nazi Party. The school eked out a final year in an abandoned telephone factory in Berlin until its third director, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, read the graffiti on the wall and closed the school under pressure from a government now under Hitler’s command. Exile was already a condition of the Bauhaus long before the diaspora sought to re-create, in vastly different circumstances, from Moscow to Harvard, something of what had been lost. For more than a generation, American architectural historians have set out to debunk in exhibitions and books the powerful myths of the Bauhaus’s international reincarnation that Gropius himself—with enormous help from Swiss historian and polemicist Sigfried Giedion—continually nurtured. This year the Bauhaus is celebrating its centennial, and the jury is out on whether the scholarly work of those revisionist contemporary historians is being advanced or slightly eroded. Post–Cold War Germany has a vested tourism interest in promoting the myth that all of modernist design emanated from the crucible of the Bauhaus—new museums are opening dedicated to it in Weimar and Dessau—and many of the myriad publications that accompany the festivities have set out to recharge the magnetic power of the Bauhaus as a lodestone to attract credit for almost anything modernist, especially steel architecture and metal furniture. But recent scholarship has shown just how complex and contradictory the school was during its 14-year existence as a laboratory for the most varied experimentation, and scholars continue to try to resist the pull of the Bauhaus as an easy-to-remember moniker and marketing device. Among their myriad achievements, one joint contribution of MacCarthy’s and Powers’s books is to reopen the question of what the Bauhaus diaspora brought to the U.K. and what the English sojourn contributed to Gropius’s formation, but in both books, the American part of the story feels a bit like an afterthought. One of the dangers for those writing a biography of anyone who was at the Bauhaus is that it is tempting to treat that place as key to understanding their subject’s artistic biography from beginning to end. This reductive assumption is perhaps somewhat excusable with “the man who built the Bauhaus,” since even in America, as MacCarthy notes, Gropius kept an address book with a separate section for Bauhäusler, and set the powerful myth of his Bauhaus in motion with the 1938 show he curated at the Museum of Modern Art, intended more as a reanimation rather than a postmortem. MacCarthy is best known for her prizewinning biography of William Morris, and elements of her own biography pop up from time to time when she explains why a new biography of Gropius—a 1,200-page, two-volume account was published in 1983—is needed. She recalls a visit with Gropius to the extraordinary apartment house-cum-commune in Lawn Road near Hampstead—a modernist building designed by Wells Coates that opened in June 1934, a few months before Gropius’s emigration—as the spur that determined her to be his posthumous apologist. She writes in conscious emulation of Nikolaus Pevsner’s Pioneers of the Modern Movement: From William Morris to Walter Gropius, published in 1936, when Gropius had decided to leave for Harvard. But MacCarthy doesn’t ruminate—as Alan Powers’s book helps us to do—on what it means that a radical building like Coates’s was built in anticipation of the Bauhaus master’s arrival, not after it. MacCarthy’s appraisal of the evolution of modern architecture and design seems hardly to have advanced beyond Pevsner’s bromides in claims such as, “Without Walter Gropius’s broad-based approach to industrial designing as first developed at the Bauhaus, there might not have been an architect-designer as fluently imaginative as the American Charles Eames.” Don’t pick up The Man Who Built the Bauhaus—a great read, suitable for the beach, which Gropius and other Bauhäusler loved, from the banks of the Elbe to Cape Cod—to bathe in Gropius’s architecture. MacCarthy has little understanding of architecture, no sense of the role that others, including Adolf Meyer and Breuer, played in Gropius’s most successful designs, and only a weak sense of his international role in the 1950s and ’60s, after he arrived in America. Despite the fact that he spent over half of his professional career in America, this period takes up only a quarter of this hefty volume. There are not even mentions of such key works as the U.S. Embassy in Athens, opened in 1961. This review could be quickly filled with a list of absences of key aspects of Gropius’s career, or misunderstandings, such as the Bauhaus building being constructed of “prefabricated concrete walls,” or the roof of Gropius and Breuer’s Frank House in Pittsburgh (1939–40) hosting a dance floor (it is in the dining room two floors below). But this churlish assessment is to miss the point. MacCarthy’s aim lies elsewhere. In her book, we are offered an account of the sentimental journey of one of the most influential architects and pedagogues of the 20th century. The themes are of loss and absence, of the long shadow cast by Gropius’s failed first marriage to Alma Mahler and his longing for greater contact with their daughter, Manon; of the loss of the Germany he had known; of life in exile; and the troubling lack of connection with his adopted daughter, Ati (who married John M. Johansen). All this has been painstakingly and empathetically reconstructed from private letters and interviews, and finally, after the book ends with a very moving passage, MacCarthy sees Gropius as having spent his whole life fighting against that very “architectural soullessness, the despoliation of nature, the denial of community…and capitalist greed” that is still commonly held to be the legacy of modernism among Britain’s particularly virulent anti-modernists, led in recent years by Prince Charles. In the acknowledgements she offers another element of her motivation for this impressive commitment of five years of research and travel: namely, to counter Gropius’s reputation as a cold-hearted modernist and “reveal Gropius as a man of considerable passions and tenacity.” Little concrete argumentation is offered for the supposed positions in defense of nature and against capitalism by the designer of New York’s Pan Am Tower, but one goes away with something of that connection to Gropius, the man, who so moved his new biographer 50 years ago. Bauhaus Goes West will be an eye-opener for historians and general readers alike. Powers’s main achievements are to reveal the extent to which strains of modernist experimentation existed in England before the arrival of the German and Hungarian émigrés from the Bauhaus, and also to argue convincingly that many of the key elements of their later work in America were influenced by experimentation in Britain. In a rich weave of documentation and little-known images—as opposed to the oft-reproduced photography offered in the Gropius biography—we are offered a nuanced and subtle context for the handful of years spent in London by Gropius, Breuer, and Moholy-Nagy—each of whom is given a chapter. They arrived in a country where, Powers argues, “there was a greater endorsement of a broad range of Modernism among an older generation than has been supposed,” and where a broad range of German modernism, notably the work of Bruno Taut and Erich Mendelsohn, was recognized as equally as important as the work produced at the Bauhaus. Even more important Powers underscores the radical changes that took place in modernism in the 1930s. He shows that the “romantic and regional turn in the second half of the 1930s,” in which Gropius and Breuer took part, was evident in a greater embrace of timber and structural fieldstone walls in both works that have long been part of the canon, such as Breuer and F. R. S. Yorke’s Gane’s Pavilion of 1936, and works that are great discoveries, such as a wood house by Gropius in Kent. It was in Britain that Breuer began to experiment with bent laminated plywood, which would be crucial to the transformation of American timber architecture after he joined Gropius in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But Powers does not restrict himself to a handful of famous designers. He has researched an impressive roster of lesser-known Bauhaus émigrés and of British students who had attended the Bauhaus, and most important, he studies the work of a number of female designers, such as Enid Marx, little known outside—or even inside—Britain. Marx later wisely remarked that “the strength of the Bauhaus was not in the profundity of its technical training, but in the atmosphere of enterprise and experiments in all the arts which it managed to create.” Bauhaus Goes West is as impressive for offering a history of British textile experimentation during this period as for fully depicting a corpus of architectural statements that make it clear that modernism’s contribution to the 1930s in Britain was much more impactful than is generally acknowledged. The impact was not simply in formal terms, but also in the way that different Bauhaus figures offered different paths to explore, notably Moholy-Nagy, whose interest in the biological underpinnings of design dovetailed with scientific research in England, where the botanist A. G. Tansley coined the word “ecosystem” in 1935. As Powers notes, then, as now, “everyone finds the version of the Bauhaus they are seeking.” Barry Bergdoll, cocurator of the 2009 Bauhaus exhibition at MoMA, teaches architectural history at Columbia.
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Forced Labor, Forced Out

A new group of experts wants to eradicate modern slavery in the built environment
This article appears in the September print edition of The Architect's Newspaper.

The 2018 Global Slavery Index estimated that 24.9 million people around the world are enslaved in forced labor. Although the practice underpins much of the global 21st-century building economy—for example, the index noted that of all imports to the United States that are at risk of being produced under conditions of modern slavery, timber was the fifth largest by value—its invisibility to many in the U.S. has kept the issue from attracting widespread professional attention.

But as consumers become more concerned with where their pants are being made, who grows their coffee beans, and their electricity use, it’s reasonable to expect them to demand that the architecture they inhabit is realized without slave labor, too. The U.S. garment industry—which last year imported $47 billion worth of slave-produced pieces from China, India, Thailand, and Vietnam, among other countries—has been slowly responding to awareness around its corrupt supply chains, and the New Canaan, Connecticut–based Grace Farms Foundation (GFF) wants the building industry to be next.

The design world was recently clued in to the grave issue of labor justice when the late Zaha Hadid said she had “nothing to do” with the hundreds of migrant workers who died on the construction sites of World Cup facilities in Qatar. Many were outraged. Ambassador (ret.) Luis C.deBaca, a senior justice adviser at GFF with expertise in disrupting contemporary slavery and a Robina Fellow at Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, said the initial activism that stemmed from controversial megaprojects in the Gulf States shed light on a broader problem in the industry.

“For many in the human rights community, Hadid’s tone-deaf response to the plight of those workers laboring on World Cup projects not only symbolizes the profession’s abdication of responsibility,” C.deBaca said, “but is proof of an ivory-tower nihilism that undercuts architecture’s claim to leadership in designing for community as opposed to wealth.”

C.deBaca is part of an expanding working group of high-profile construction and design professionals, scholars, human rights experts, and industry association leaders gathered by Sharon Prince, GFF president and cofounder, and AN editor-in-chief Bill Menking. To address exploitation in building supply chains, the two brought together many of the principals of the firms that designed and built Grace Farms to educate the industry and develop better practices. They aim to create a LEED-like score sheet to evaluate forced labor’s role in buildings and products, as well as guidelines on how to infuse antislavery language into design briefs, competition rules, contracts, and more.

“It is time to recognize our responsibility,” Prince said, “and subsidizing construction projects with forced labor on job sites is only half of the slavery issue. Illuminating forced labor in building material supply chains, that design teams specify, has not yet begun. We must turn our attention to the built environment and eradicate modern slavery’s permanent imprint.”

To do this, the team is promoting total transparency from the ground up (and even from below the ground; 4 percent of forced labor occurs in the global mining industry, per the International Labour Organization). Brad Guy, former chair of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Materials and Resources Technical Advisory Group, recently joined GFF’s initiative. He’s also a member of the AIA Materials Knowledge Working Group and is developing a pledge that will try to channel interest in the environmental and social impact of building materials. This includes spreading the word on the “dirty dozen”: bricks, copper, electronics, fiber and textiles, glass, granite, gravel, iron, minerals, precursor chemicals, tin, rubber, steel, and stone. He said these often-specified materials are at risk of being sourced unethically on job sites around the world.

“I’m pretty sure that most people would not consciously choose to purchase these building products if they were the product of forced or child labor,” Guy said. “The core of an architect’s standard of care is the health, safety, and welfare of the public, and the point of incorporating human rights as a fundamental criterion in the production of buildings and materials is for that reason.”

According to Nat Oppenheimer, executive vice president of structural engineering firm Silman, highlighting a tight list of materials can help clarify how much easier it has become to track their origins. “It can change the frame for the design community, hopefully motivating others to ask about other materials and start doing their own research, which in turn may spur further innovation on tracking technology and the creation of new clean versions,” Oppenheimer said.

Though the Grace Farms Foundation Architecture + Construction Working Group, as it’s officially called, has been active for only a year, its efforts are moving forward quickly thanks to the diligence of its members and, in part, because there is already substantial awareness out there. “We’re seeing increasing government regulation around the world, whether in specific modern slavery legislation, such as in Australia and the United Kingdom, or in broader business and human rights initiatives coming out of the European Union and the United Nations,” said C.deBaca, who led the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons during the Obama Administration. “Anyone doing projects overseas or who has multiple offices, or even who sources materials from outside of the U.S., needs to know about this problem.”

So the team is busy spreading the news. Oppenheimer and C.deBaca will present their work at the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering Congress in New York this September, while Deborah Berke, also a member of the working group, is planning a spring series of discussions on the topic at the Yale School of Architecture. Hayes Slade, 2019 president of AIA NY, and Benjamin Prosky, AIA NY executive director, will host a meeting to discuss existing antislavery laws and the more than 45 ethical product and materials certifications or reporting mechanisms that can be applied in the U.S. alone.

“As architects, it’s impossible to look at our work from the products selected to the job site to the completed project and not think about how it all came together,” said Slade. “We are also at a point where information is more readily available and so our expectations and aspirations for transparency are increasing.”

It’s an achievable goal, Prince believes, to get more people on board and boost consciousness of the issue in a short amount of time. She says it will take a serious communication and organization strategy, and that’s why the more experts involved, the better.

“This is an opportunity for industry leaders to use their design and construction wherewithal for significant humanitarian effect through the material procurement and specification process,” Prince said. “And we want to find new projects to test this on. Perhaps Amazon’s new HQ2 in Crystal City, Virginia, is a good place to start since they have distinctly made a commitment to responsible sourcing and developed one of the most sophisticated data platforms that could be tuned to illuminate and audit the building material supply chain. We’re looking for that kind of dedication.”

Sydney Franklin is a member of the GFF Architecture + Construction Working Group, of which AN’s editor-in-chief William Menking is a cofounder. Read more about the group's efforts to end modern slavery in architecture here

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This Year's Best

TWA Hotel, Snøhetta projects, The Shed top TIME's World's 100 Greatest Places
TIME Magazine’s second annual list of the World’s 100 Greatest Places is here and several major, recently-opened cultural marvels secured top spots—two of which were just completed by Norweigan-firm Snøhetta. Put together by the editors and correspondents at TIME, as well as a handful of industry experts, the following parks, hotels, restaurant, and museums were voted highest because they exhibited four key factors: quality, originality, sustainability, innovation, and influence.  It’s interesting to note that only two principals of big-name firms that designed the projects below have made the TIME 100: The Most Influential People list in recent years: Liz Diller (2018) and David Adjaye (2017). The only architect to make the list this year, Jeanne Gang, didn’t have a new piece of architecture up for consideration among the World’s Greatest Places 2019. Not a single Bjarke Ingels Group project made the cut either.  Though it’s not clear why they weren’t chosen, it is possible to guestimate which soon-to-be-finished works across the globe might catch an editor’s eye in 2020 based on this year's finalists. See the TIME’s full list here and AN’s shorter, what-you-must-know version below to learn more:  The Shed New York City By Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group New York’s newest 200,000-square-foot art center only opened in April but it’s been one of the most talked-about building in Hudson Yards. Situated on West 30th Street and surrounded by new glass towers, the kinetic structure features a 120-foot-tall retractable outer shell covered in ETFE panels. It boasts eight different levels for rehearsals, large-scale exhibitions, and events, as well as live music, dance, and theater performances. According to DS+R, The Shed embodies the architecture of infrastructure.  All Square Minneapolis, Minnesota By Architecture Office Austin-based firm Architecture Office created a stand-out space in Minneapolis for the nonprofit/restaurant All Square. Unveiled in September 2018, the 900-square-foot, neon-lit eatery provides the formerly incarcerated with a place of employment and continuing education. The civil rights social enterprise was started by lawyer Emily Turner and has bragging rights to the best craft grilled cheese sandwiches in town. The Gathering Place Tulsa, Oklahoma By Michael Van Valkenburg Associates  Imagined by billionaire philanthropist George B. Kaiser, The Gathering Place is a 66.5-acre riverside park situated two miles from downtown Tulsa. It opened to the public last September and has since welcomed over 2 million people. New York-based landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh and his team transformed a slate of land next to the Arkansas River into a veritable green theme park of activities for adults and children. It’s the largest public “gift park” in U.S. history; 80 philanthropic donors funded the construction of the park and created an endowment to secure its future.  Ruby City San Antonio, Texas By David Adjaye Associates Officially set to open this October, the 14,000-square-foot Ruby City holds the 800-piece art collection of the late Linda Pace, artist, philanthropist, and heiress to the Pace Foods salsa fortune. Constructed with a sparkling, rose-tinted concrete exterior made in Mexico, the museum complex includes a series of open galleries with sculptural skylights that bring the sun into the interior spaces. The project was created in collaboration with local firm Alamo Architects.  TWA Hotel Queens, New York By Lubrano Ciavarra Architects Flanking the backside of Eero Saarinen’s historic midcentury modern TWA Flight Center, the new TWA Hotel is a glass-clad, dual-structure composed of 512 sound-proof rooms, a rooftop infinity pool, and a 10,000-square-foot observation deck that looks out over incoming international flights. Guests started arriving at the Jet-Blue adjacent site in May to enjoy the recently-renovated terminal, completed by Beyer Blinder Belle, and its newly-opened dining options. The ultra-energy-efficient hotel also houses 50,000 square feet of underground events space.  Central Library Calgary, Canada By Snøhetta and DIALOG Snøhetta’s Central Library takes up 240,000 square feet of space in downtown Calgary and stands six stories tall. One of the many design elements that make the public building so attractive is its gleaming facade made of white aluminum and fritted glass, as well as the way it straddles an active rail line. On the inside, a massive oculus and sinuous wooden stair system give the 85-foot-tall atrium a light and airy, yet dramatic feel. The public project opened last November The National Museum of Qatar Doha, Qatar By Ateliers Jean Nouvel Qatar’s highly-anticipated National Museum came online in March and is part of a recent construction boom in the country as it prepares for the 2022 World Cup. Designed to mimic Qatar’s desert rose sand formations, the 430,000-square-foot institution stretches in a series of interlocking discs across a portside site in downtown Doha. The galleries inside tell both the story of the desert's natural history as well as the country’s evolution, cultural heritage, and future. Xiqu Centre Hong Kong, China By Revery Architecture  Hong Kong’s new opera house is covered in 13,000 curved aluminum fins arranged in a wave-like fashion—a design move inspired by the delicacy of theater curtains. Though the architecture itself is shaped like a box, the cladding gives it a texturized appearance that’s almost psychedelic to see up close. The cultural space, which opened in April, includes a 1,073-seat theater that floats above an interior plaza used for exhibitions and performances.  V&A Dundee Dundee, Scotland By Kengo Kuma As the second outpost of London’s Victoria and Albert Design Museum, the staggered, concrete facade of the V&A Dundee is a stark contrast to its historic sister site and makes it stand out amongst the industrial waterfront near downtown Dundee. Kengo Kuma inverted two pyramids for the outline of the structure, some of which juts out into the River Tay, to both evoke Scotland’s craggy, cliff-edged coastline and the shape of a ship on the sea. It opened its doors last September with a set of permanent exhibitions on Scottish design.  Statue of Unity Gujarat, India By Michael Graves Architecture & Design and sculptor Ram V. Sutar Standing 597 feet tall on an island in the Narmada River, this bronze statue is a larger-than-life replica of India’s first deputy prime minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. It was completed last November and since then, visitors have flocked to the western India state to climb the statue for unparalleled views of the nearby mountain range. Soon, its base is slated to become a resort.  Under Lindesnes, Norway By Snøhetta Finished in March, Under doubles as a partially-underwater marine biology research station and an ultra-exclusive restaurant. Snøhetta’s sunken “periscope” design dives 16 feet below the North Sea and features a 36-foot-long, 11-foot-tall window wall in the dining room. The exterior is clad in concrete, but the interior boasts other materials such as oak and terrazzo.