All posts in Architecture

Placeholder Alt Text

The Future of Work Work Work Work Work

Practice, Product, Protocol makes the immaterial tangible
The 2019-2020 college fellowship exhibition at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture is meant to render the invisible visible, and make the inextricable parts of architecture tangible. In Practice, Product, Protocol, on view through April 30, Jacob Comerci, Matiss Groskaufmanis, and Eduardo Mediero interrogate the demands of architectural productivity, the move to communal properties, and the collapse of urban character. As the show’s brief states, technology and cultural shifts have demonstrably blurred the lines between work and home, personal and private, and more control is being given over to third-party commercial providers. Landlords, coworking spaces, technology and financial services companies, et al hoover up personal data—so where can the profession go from here? The three fellows each probe different aspects of this new, somewhat one-sided relationship we all experience, while an open call to design a room that “considers alternative modes of cohabitation through demanial ownership, or public domain,” was realized by contributions from seven different architecture firms from around the world. Groskaufmanis’s contributions recognize the rise of intangible assets, whether they be branding, information, or management services. To visualize the myriad digital programs that have decentralized architecture, he created a speculative, virtual workspace where up to 567 employees could work on up to 288 architecture projects at once. When freed from physical constraints of the office, workers could migrate to environments only constrained by internet bandwidth; however, Groskaufmanis has also seeded his VR office with “hallucinations” of “fatigue studies, commodity forms, BIM protocols and other technologies of management” as cautionary didactics. Comerci’s work touches on similar themes, as he devised a system for conducting guerilla architecture by taking a cue from coworking companies. As middlemen landlords take advantage of economies of scale by renting floors and even entire buildings and then parceling out the space to individuals or small companies while providing amenities, Comerci has envisioned a self-contained station for working that can be easily moved. The flexible office setup, which Comerci describes as a blend between furniture design, industrial design, and architecture, can be easily assembled and disassembled for tactical interventions in the built environment. Mediero took a different, but still related approach, instead choosing to focus on Madrid, where he practices architecture as the founder of HANGHAR. Taking aim at the financial instruments such as real estate speculation, which is forcing Madrid towards a housing crisis, Mediero realized the often opaque structures of “finance capitalism” as real objects. Ultimately, these designs would be put to use in a world where financial structures and property ownership are aimed towards protecting the public rather than for accruing personal wealth. While the show is, obviously, inaccessible due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, the ideas presented in Practice, Product, Protocol presciently align themselves with the future the virus is helping to accelerate—as Phil Bernstein noted, cities, the way we work, and even ownership will be very different when this is all said and done.
Placeholder Alt Text

COVID’s Creative Outpouring

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

Parc de la Distance, Studio Precht

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

Hyperlocal Markets for Shutdown Realities, Shift Architecture Urbanism

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

Airport Superhospital, Opposite Office

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

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

Container Ship Hospitals, Weston Williamson + Partners

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

Mobile PPS (Personal Protective Space), Plastique Fantastique

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

AD-APT, Woods Bagot 

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

Forward Thinking

Ten thoughts on the future of practice
In February of this year, I gave a short talk to our Yale students about the economy and their employment prospects, suggesting that while all indicators remained strong and jobs were plentiful, it had been quite some time since our last downturn. Having seen several during my career I suggested that they would likely see a recession sometime in theirs, but cast doubt on whether we’d ever see anything as serious as 2008. If only… It’s too early to be making nuanced arguments about the future, as we face down what is undoubtedly going to be a much more serious situation in the second half of 2020. So, here are ten first thoughts about how our profession may be impacted, and potentially transformed, as a result. Choose two or three as prompts to consider the future once the crisis has passed. 1. Economics: While there are mixed reports of how hard a recession might hit the industry, it’s already clear that certain building types, particularly retail and commercial office, will fall off the profession’s radar for several years while overall the AEC sector contracts across the board. Another wave of fierce fee competition, as surviving firms fight for contracts, will ensue. Can some firms fight above the fray? 2. Demographics: If the downturn lasts more than a year, another “lost generation” of students, taking their considerable design and thinking talents into an environment that values “design thinking,” will leave the profession never to return. If the 2008 recession eliminated some of the older Baby Boomers who were unable to grasp technology and keep their firms alive, the last of the Boomers may find themselves with the same fate. But with retirement portfolios largely destroyed, will there be hangers-on? 3. Jobs: New jobs, not many. Firms will trim their excesses and dead weight, and may do some strategic replacement, meaning when the upturn comes there’s a shortage of talent, as firms don’t have the reserves to keep staff despite the very high costs of replacement. Will the talent be there to be hired? Remote work may be a desirable option to improve work-life balance. 4. Technology: The last recession saw the profession’s transition from CAD to BIM. Eleven years later there is a much larger array of tools available: big data, analytics, reality capture, computational design, machine learning (to name a few) and lots of “BuildTech” development. Some practices will embrace these tools to redefine their capabilities; others, like many in 2008, will use new technologies (like BIM) toward very old ends (making better drawings). 5. Practice methods: As the entirety of practice has demonstrated an ability to work digitally and remotely, talent networks for firms will widen beyond locale, and intensified data-based processes and deliverable will (for firms willing to experiment further) open opportunities to create new value through digital service like analytics, digital fabrication, and augmented reality/experience. 6. Practice structure: Most practices moved their work seamlessly out of the office and to their respective homes, showing that a physical office may not be essential to running a firm. A new generation of younger, digitally-facile practices, with workers and talent distributed globally, will emerge to compete with traditional incumbents. They’ll be lithe, flexible, less subject to economic dynamics, and won’t know each other as well. The design version of the “gig” economy may emerge, focused less on full projects, and more on discrete tasks. 7. Construction: Between health concerns, immigration, supply stream instability and pricing pressures, builders will turn strongly to automation on the site and prefabrication off it. The necessary tools and processes require digital infrastructure unsuited to traditional drawing and builders will find it, either from their architects or elsewhere. Government funding of projects may drive digital protocols as a requirement, and the industry would be forced toward standards, finally, as a result. 8. Talent: “Survival of the fittest” suggests that some of the best firms of this decade will emerge from the crucible of the crisis, and today’s students will watch carefully from the academic sidelines, preparing themselves for the new realities of the recovery and demanding from their educators what they think is important to prepare them for the workplace. The survivors will define that talent agenda, which is likely to be a heady mix of technological prowess, ability to collaborate directly and remotely, and flexible work style and technique. 9. Space: Some of the ineffable priorities of design will give way to more epidemiological considerations: how does this space perform in a pandemic? Are occupants more or less healthy? Can it be cleaned? Can it perform, technically, spatially, and aesthetically under new rules of interaction and social distance? 10. The City: Cities have been hardest by COVID-19, calling into question the challenges of proximity and density. If social distancing and “home stay” are regular strategies to manage pandemic, the changing nature of urban space—and the potential revival of the more spacious suburbs—are opportunities for architects to rethink and redefine fundamentals of living. There’s little doubt the post-COVID-19 world will look different—politically, economically and architecturally—than it looked in February. The duration and depth of the downturn will determine the potency of the ideas suggested above. Firm leaders are best prepared when they spend some of their current efforts managing through turbulent times toward that future, whatever it might be. Phil Bernstein, FAIA, is an associate dean and senior lecturer at the Yale School of Architecture and a former vice president at Autodesk. He spent most of his practice career at Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects. His book Architecture Design Data: Practice Competency in the Era of Computation, was published by Birkhauser in 2018. This article was originally published at the request of the AIA Connecticut.
Placeholder Alt Text

Just In Time For Summer

Plant Prefab’s latest factory-built offerings are big on sustainability, Scandi vibes
Timed to coincide with this year’s Earth Day, Plant Prefab, the sustainability-focused factory spinoff of venerable Californian prefabricated home design and development company LivingHomes, has unveiled two fresh dwellings as part of a new design partnership with modular architecture studio Koto. While LivingHomes has garnered a reputation for developing modern prefab homes designed by an array of top-flight architects including KieranTimberlake, Brooks + Scarpa, and the late Ray Kappe (plus a housing crisis-minded 2018 ADU collaboration with Yves Béhar), its teaming with Koto marks the first time the company has worked with a firm/designer based outside the United States. With offices on the southwest coast of England and in Northern Ireland, Koto took a distinctly Scandinavian approach to modular home design; clean yet cozy, earthy yet cutting-edge, and possessing a strong connection to the natural world with plenty of natural light and ventilation. Plant Prefab’s Koto LivingHomes—available in two sculptural models that seem best suited for windswept beaches and craggy hillsides—are two of the more well-composed prefab homes to hit the market as of late. The Koto LivingHome comes in two models. The larger is a courtyard-oriented four-bedroom structure dubbed Piha (Finnish for “courtyard”) that measures 2,184 square feet. Yksi (Finnish for “first) is a cantilevered two-bedroom residence—in renderings, it appears as a moody nouveau surf cottage for the British seaside—that’s roughly half the size. Per a press release, both pared-down homes embrace a “characteristic Scandinavian design” that eschews fussy design details while maximizing “light, space, and connectivity to nature” and “facilitating comfortable, biophilic living with a minimum carbon footprint.” A smaller carbon footprint is standard with all Plant Prefab-built homes, and the Koto line wants to cut that down even further. Like all customizable LivingHomes, the Koto models are built to be net-zero and include the standard sustainable bells and whistles: Super-efficient heating and cooling systems, low-flow fixtures, recycled insulation, LED lighting, smart energy monitoring systems, and so on. But with the Koto LivingHomes, Plant Prefab opted to up the ante by pledging to work, along with Koto, to ensure that homeowners orient their new homes in a manner that maximizes energy efficiency. Using as much carbon-sequestering wood in its construction as possible, Koto LivingHomes are factory-built using the patented Plant Building System, an efficiency-boosting hybrid method that combines modular units with panelized components, or “Plant Panels” that include integrated plumbing, electrical, and other necessary infrastructure. Both Koto LivingHomes are now available for purchase directly through Plant Prefab, and range in price from $419,000 to $830,400 and up. As a provider of residential housing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Plant Prefab’s factory is still up-and-running in accordance with California law.
Placeholder Alt Text

A Sibling story

French 2D builds practice side-by-side
The following interview was conducted as part of “Building Practice,” a professional elective course at the Syracuse University School of Architecture taught by Molly Hunker and Kyle Miller, and now an AN interview series. On November 7, 2019, Jessica Libby and Hao Zheng, students at Syracuse University, interviewed Anda French and Jenny French, principals of Boston-based architecture office, French 2D. The following interview was edited by Kyle Miller and AN for clarity. Jessica Libby and Hao Zheng: Have you always had an interest in architecture and starting your own firm? Jenny French: I started by studying printmaking and art history, and Anda was an architecture major. We both also studied Latin for a long time and were influenced by multidisciplinary and Montessori-like thinking very early on. Architecture became an appropriate medium for us to explore the overlap of our multiple interests. We went in knowing that there are certain models of practices that we were drawn to, and that we needed to remain agile and speculative in the approach to our work. Your partnership is the only partnership we’ve studied that is comprised of siblings. What are the advantages of having such a close personal relationship with your partner? Anda French: The anecdotal answer is that we were recently interviewed by a magazine for a piece on collaboration between family members. The article ended with my quote, "It's great because, although married partners can get divorced, sisters can't." We’ll always see each other at Thanksgiving! We call what we do “close practice.” Part of the collaboration is familial, but a lot of it comes from the kind of shorthand of our close relationship that then grows into a collective artistic vision. Another aspect… in partnerships, each person is very vulnerable. You have to trust the other person. As siblings, that trust naturally exists, and we already know each other's pressure points and weaknesses. We take the individual egos out of our conversations and operate as two people thinking together. Jenny: We don't curtail the ways that we think or talk about things. We let our entire lives filter back into architecture. There are no boundaries for where our references can come from and there's no judgment for the origin of our ideas. Probably 90 percent of the time the references are not architectural. Regarding professional aspects of practice, how do you balance the goals and demands of clients and contractors with your own goals in any given project? How do you make sure that everyone is satisfied with the process and result? Jenny: That is a typical struggle for small practices. Throughout the course of a day, we might be working on eight different things. The different audiences that we're trying to communicate with or produce things for have very different desires or requirements. Ensuring that we’re balancing these requirements is an ongoing struggle. We're always recalibrating, because we know we need to make time for the intellectual project. Anda: A good portion of practicing architecture is maintaining interpersonal relationships. Learning how and what and when to share with clients and contractors is so important. Each contributor sees the project from their own perspective and has their own values and ambitions within a given project. Jenny: The firm Kwong Von Glinow uses the phrase “smuggling in the architecture.” When you're a young practice, you're always trying to smuggle in small details or conceptual issues that you're really, really interested in and focused on. Maybe those interests and issues account for only 5 or 10 percent of the overall scope of a project, but, for many architects, its where the heart of the projects exists. We’re always fighting for aspects of projects that are most important to us to be included in the budget. And we hope that, in the end, everyone understands and appreciates the value in their own way. You’re currently working on a few housing projects. Will you continue to focus on housing as an architectural typology? What types of projects would you like to work on in the future? Anda: We often say that our interest in housing is related to our interest in civic work, which is not an association one would typically make. We are interested in typologies of housing that address different social structures. So, in some ways, in the next project that comes to us or that we seek out, we will make an attempt at tying our design approach to an existing or nascent social structure. There are only about 130 cohousing communities in the US right now. It’s an emerging and evolving typology. We're interested in participating in larger ideological conversations related to this project type. Jenny: So, it’s not housing as such, but it’s how housing intersects with nested privacies and economies, and questions about relevance that we all face. While in school, we’ve come to understand the significance of representation, and even of branding projects through representational styles. How do you relate your representational tendencies to the overall identity of your firm? Jenny: It took us a long time to take the way we literally see and the way we want to project ideas onto the world to create a legible attitude or disposition in the work. Through our representation, we hope to convey seriousness, but also levity through experimentation. There is work going on behind the scenes in our office to arrive at moments of clarity and playfulness through our particular approach to representation. Anda: Building something and then having to re-present it back to ourselves and our peers presents unique opportunities. There is a curious relationship between representation that appeals to our colleagues and representation that appeals to clients or potential clients. We've been surprised at how much those two audiences have come into alignment with respect to our style of representation. At first, we thought clients would only want to see straightforward drawings. It turns out that the drawings and images that our clients are most drawn to—like, cartoonish elevation obliques—are our favorite drawings and images as well. Jenny: To engage individuals outside of the architecture community is so important if you want to realize your projects. The way we’ve approached representation and communication has enabled us to participate in disciplinary or academic conversations, and, at the same time, communicate with and make our work legible to a broader audience. We have a few questions about Outlier Lofts, which we know is not entirely new construction. How much of the existing building was maintained? How did the history of the existing building inspire your design? Anda: There are two answers to that question. As far as the city of Boston is concerned, it's the same building, just with a third floor added. The reality is that when working on a building that is 150 years old, much of it is removed and rebuilt. There is an entirely new structure for the building—walls and floors—though we had to maintain the same floor to ceiling heights as well as the building foundation. Jenny: The building’s history definitely influenced the design. We reoriented the building in relation to the corner. Anda: Right. We actually reintroduced openings that existed in the original building that were removed in previous renovations. What’s interesting is that the building is actually a non-conforming building. Under current zoning, we could not add an additional floor. Because we uncovered that the original structure had a third floor, we were able to add it on. Intellectually that building has always existed but physically it is rebuilt. Many of your projects use bold colors, patterns, and graphics, but that is not the case in Outlier Lofts. How did you arrive at the material palette for the project? Anda: From the interior looking out, you see across 12 lanes of traffic and the city skyline. We muted the interior to set up a reverse gallery, in a sense. The windows frame the context and all of the textures and colors it contains. Jenny: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim drawings were originally in pink. This question of how the character of the built form may emerge without the literal color and all that it implies in the original drawings is important. The colors we used in Outlier Lofts acknowledge the context and play with a particular kind of preservation in the neighborhood… one that is formal, rather than representational. It’s not historical reenactment. It’s about remaining neutral and flying under the radar. Anda: Also, we were aware that we needed to convince the neighbors that our design belongs… that the building is part of the context. Maybe we’ll take more risks with the next one. The roof alone is almost scandalous! Jenny: The neutrality of the interior is exactly that. The white allows for a kind of scalessness to happen and also a kind of neutral position about the future occupants. We learned that many of the published images for Outlier Lofts incorporate virtual staging of the interior. What led you to produce images using this technique? Anda: Should we start off with the practical answer? Jenny: The practical answer is we only had one week to stage and photograph the project. We did not want to force an image of that space that’s tied to a particular client or art collection, simply for producing photographs that would get the project published in lifestyle and décor magazines. It just seemed wrong in terms of resources and in terms of the way we envisioned the project. Anda: On the ideological side, we were not interested in perpetuating contemporary consumption culture. We could have filled the units with high end furniture that caters to a particular demographic, but we were interested in telling a different story. Jenny: Instead, we came up with this idea of using virtual staging, but not in the way that realtors do to stage an apartment and sell it online. We were also thinking of the rendered interior project that can exist in and of itself. And we asked, what if you stage this like Waiting for Godot or some other way without people, playing with furniture and acting out this time scale collapse? The furniture is present but not dominant. A full complement of an ideal life would have totally overwhelmed the project. Most of the students in this class will be graduating next semester. Can you share some advice for us? Jenny: Just be willing to patch together a life for yourself… that could mean wearing multiple hats or having multiple jobs, or working for others and yourself at the same time. Be open to things that come your way. Always be open to meeting new people. Anda: It’s likely that you’ll have opportunities to work for different firms. Work for firms at each end of the spectrum. Work for an international corporate firm and work for a tiny boutique firm, and look at the people who are running the business. Ask yourself, “Which of those people do I want to be?” It really makes a difference. We just have one more question. What has been the most rewarding or fulfilling moment of your careers thus far? Anda: We’ve been very fortunate to work on projects that align with our interests. And we’ve had a lot of freedom in most of our projects. Partly because of this situation, validation, for us, is internal. We don’t often seek or rely on external validation. When we were included as winners of Architectural Record’s Design Vanguards it was unexpected. We were very happy that others were acknowledging our effort, because we have sort of existed in our own feedback bubble. Jenny: To add to that, it's particularly rewarding to receive external validation for things on which we had to take a risk. For example, the photographs for Kendall Square Garage and for Outlier Lofts… we decided to turn the task of photographing the project into a project in and of itself. We made dresses for the Kendall Square project and used virtual staging for Outlier Lofts. We hope that these extra efforts help to communicate the design agendas more clearly. But, the extra efforts were not necessarily encouraged… we had to trust ourselves. Sometimes you have to say, "Well, if this fails miserably, that's okay." Anda: At the end of the day, the most rewarding aspect of practicing is having the confidence to do those things because I get to work all day with my sister.
Placeholder Alt Text

Real, Real Madrid

Real Madrid reveals a new look at its stadium overhaul
Real Madrid Club de Fútbol, the Spanish soccer club that calls its eponymous city home, has released a first look at the $622 million overhaul of its Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. The reveal comes hot on the heels of OVG Manchester, a Populous-designed arena and the U.K.’s future largest indoor venue, also releasing renderings. Rather than building a new stadium from the ground up, Real Madrid has opted to instead rehabilitate its 73-year-old home field, originally designed by architects Manuel Muñoz Monasterio and Luis Alemany Soler. However, the latest renovation is just the latest in a long line of them, as the stadium’s capacity has fluctuated over the years as it was modernized (and a mechanical retracting roof was added in the ’90s). The project was started in 2018, and once complete, the 710,000-square-foot stadium will hold one less seat, bringing the capacity down to 81,043. In return, the venue’s height will be increased by 32 feet (10 meters), a new, shutter-like modern retractable roof will be added, and the facade, currently consisting of concrete colonnades, will be wrapped in 360 degrees of screens. The site will also gain a suite of new stores, a restaurant, and a new hotel. From the latest video released by the team on April 16, it appears that at least some of those amenity spaces will be located on the stadium’s upper floors, as diners can be seen lounging between supportive steel struts while enjoying views of Madrid’s skyline. Once complete, despite its “diminished” capacity, Santiago Bernabéu will remain Spain’s second-largest stadium. The area around the stadium itself is also being reconfigured and will become 65,000 square feet of gardens. Overall, the team hopes that the renovations will draw tourists year-round—similar experiments are going on not only in Europe but are gaining steam across America, as football and baseball stadiums shift to supplement their offerings with non-sports opportunities.
Placeholder Alt Text

Get Organized!

New Models: Report on recent student organizing at YSoA
Among students at the Yale School of Architecture (YSoA), associate dean Phil Bernstein is casually referred to as the Prophet, a tribute to his early work on BIM and his general prescience about the state of the industry. In a recent talk about the effect of COVID-19 on the architecture profession, he claimed that moments of crisis in architecture have historically to led “generational shifts,” suggesting the current crisis could “end the reign of the baby boomers” and lead to the establishment of a new normal. In this crisis, there are competing ideas of what this new normal will be. Two dominant visions exist—the business-as-usual perspective, where these events are a hiccup in an otherwise continuous sequence, and the technological positivist perspective, where moving everything online represents a leap forward in the discipline’s evolution. In our response to the present crisis and its effect on our education, YSoA students have organized around another vision: A collective organizing model based on participatory decision-making. Our advocacy for our needs as students is based in mutual support and collaboration with an insistence on equity. If Phil Bernstein is right, and this crisis will affect a generational shift, our collective process is the model for our new normal. Stretching back to the 1960s, YSoA has been regarded as the pluralist architecture school where competing ideas are invited to co-exist. Our initial student survey about the transition to online education and the administration’s handling of COVID-19 exemplified the productive messiness of pluralism. In just a few days, the survey garnered responses from around 70 percent of the student body and provided an essential place for people to reflect on their current condition. At first glance, it seemed like no one agreed on much. Even though almost all respondents said that teleworking would have a negative effect on their education, there was significant divergence as to why, or what the redress might be. Some of the respondents argued for financial compensation:
I will leave school being far more impacted by the knowledge gained by stumbling into unprompted side conversations/debates amongst classmates than I will from listening to a lecture. These invaluable assets have been robbed from us for the second half of the semester. We should receive some type of compensation for an extremely negatively altered semester.
Others were concerned about mental health:
General mental health has been compromised as all the things we seek out to help us maintain a healthy work life have been taken away. In conjunction with sustained high expectations for the rest of the semester, this will no doubt have an extremely negative affect on some students, if it hasn’t already.
Some urged patience:
This situation is not a personal attack on anyone. Our faculty is likely losing work outside of Yale; people are literally dying. We will endure hardship, but most likely not the worst of it; please maintain perspective.
And a few of the responses kept it simple:
I know you tried.
The richness of the survey responses stood in contrast to the paucity of the administration’s response thus far. From the tangle of the 150 student submissions, some general patterns emerged: A concern for the declining quality of education, a call for additional financial or physical resources, and for additional career guidance. These reflections were synthesized into a collaboratively written letter which, together with the unedited survey responses, was sent to all of YSoA on the first day of online instruction. Instead of reducing the survey responses to a lowest common denominator, our process embraced the difficult whole. Beyond sharing and framing the survey results, the letter insisted on equity and empathy:
“This letter contains many voices, but we are all unified by a single ethic—that resources be generously allocated to those most in need and most affected by the crisis in order to ensure that our education continues in an equitable way. Some of us have personal or family resources to put towards our transition to online education while other of us do not. But one thing, oft-repeated at 3 a.m. in Rudolph Hall, is doubly true in this crisis—all of us are in this together.”
The administration’s response came a little over a week later. Dean Deborah Berke’s letter restated previous commitments while rejecting proposals for equitable financial redress, health care extensions, and future facility access. YSoA offered additional lectures on professional development and the economy. Earlier on, the school had distributed laptops to some students without a computer at home. The feeling of many students, though, was expressed by a meme on a YSoA-adjacent Instagram account that summarized the administration letter as “1. Sorry 2.We 3. Can’t 4. Help 5. You.
 
View this post on Instagram
 

more like: Dear Students,

A post shared by desprit (@deskcrit) on

To continue the conversation started by the survey, dean Berke offered to meet with an elected committee of four student representatives. There was little interest in this proposal because the wider collaborative process, though rough around the edges, had proved effective in getting the breadth of student concerns heard. Sensing that the initiative to move forward would have to come from below, a group of first-year students decided to hold a ‘Zoom-Out’ to gain a wider perspective. Half sit-in and half town hall, this meeting (held over Zoom) was scheduled during studio the next day. By holding this meeting during class time, students sought to demonstrate that their response to this crisis was integral to their education. The student response put forward an alternative to top-down models of architectural pedagogy by practicing horizontal forms of consensus and solidarity. A few days after the first-year town hall, sensing that their call for representatives had missed the point, the administration asked to hold a series of discussions with students. These talks have taken place over the last few days and student participation has stayed widely collaborative, with students volunteering to voice a specific concern or to relay questions from questioners. These processes are ongoing and, like the crisis, they don’t seem to be abating soon. While this collaborative organizing happens in universities, parallel efforts are underway in the profession. The symmetry between the academic and professional settings is apparent now more than ever. Students at YSoA with partners or spouses who are practicing architects are now working side-by-side in the same home office. The move to telework in academic settings exactly follows the same move in the professional practice of architecture. The response to the crisis by Yale University, as well as many architecture firms, shifts costs onto students and workers while abdicating responsibility for these changes. In the working world, this response amplifies the precarity of the architectural worker, whose at-will employment now takes place in their own home, often on their own computer, and often with their own software. In academic settings, where students from diverse backgrounds engage in shared education, the response threatens to increase the inequity that education claims to combat, as students of means can complete projects that those without sufficient resources cannot. These situations are structural conditions and not only individual miseries. Accordingly, they deserve a collective response. The work of The Architecture Lobby, which has strong associations with YSoA, has done important work in formulating what this response may be within the profession of architecture. Our current work at YSoA puts forward a similar vision of solidarity and collective action. The previous generation at YSoA advocated for a pluralism of style and critical modes; we seek a polyphony of voices within a collective approach to organizing and architectural practice. A generational shift can’t happen soon enough. This letter, and our organizing, is animated by our remembrance of Michael Sorkin. “Don’t mourn, organize!”
Placeholder Alt Text

Stranger Than Fiction

Architectural Bestia at SCI-Arc will display the ambiguities of creative authorship
This fall, the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) will present an exhibition that attempts to draw subconscious connections between the work of several of its faculty members to potentially discover new, previously undefined methods of design practice. “Today, perhaps as never before,” the description for Architectural Bestia begins, “we share a technical language that flows from discipline to discipline, altering the paths of previously discrete branches of knowledge.” Supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, the show will bring together the design work of several SCI-Arc faculty members that have independently relied on burgeoning digital technologies, including Liam Young, Marcelo Spina, Devyn Weiser, and Peter Testa, and Lucy McRae. Their work will be embellished through an artificial intelligence (AI) visualization software program that will expose each to “a perpetual state of transformation and mutation” in a series of animations output to television screens. Over the course of the exhibition, the images will become progressively deformed to reveal the facets of the “strange beast” that is theorized to have previously laid dormant in all of the work being presented. The concept for Architectural Bestia mirrors the discoveries made by Steven Johnson in his 2001 book Emergence: The Secret Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, which attempted to lay out the history of technological and creative innovations through and the unintended interconnections of seemingly unrelated elements known as ‘complexity theory.’ Where Johnson implores his reader to “embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffeehouses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle; reinvent," and “build a tangled bank,” Architectural Bestia will perform Frankensteinian operations on carefully composed works of art and architecture to arrive at unforeseeable outcomes. In small part, Architectural Bestia will be a recreation of The Architectural Beast, an exhibition that was on display at the 2019 Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain (FRAC) Biennale in Orléans, France. Conceived by SCI-Arc director Hernan Diaz Alonso and SCI-Arc professor Casey Rehm, the exhibition transformed the original work by giving creative agency to an AI program of Rehm’s design. Architectural Bestia was originally intended to go on display April 24 but has been postponed to the fall due to ongoing coronavirus concerns.
Placeholder Alt Text

A Tree Grows in Los Angeles

Koichi Takada Architects reveals tree-like skyscraper for Downtown Los Angeles
Australian firm Koichi Takada Architects, in collaboration with MVE + Partners as the architect of record, has unveiled its latest design for Sky Trees, a 43-story tower set for the corner of 11th Street and Hill Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Crown Group, the Singapore-based developer of the project, is hoping to start construction by the end of next year and has set an estimated budget of $500 million. “It’s rare to find the central district of a large cosmopolitan city on the verge of such significant change,” said Crown Group chief executive officer Iwan Sunito in a statement, according to Urbanize Los Angeles. “Downtown is experiencing a once in a generation revival - led by the heightened convergence of tech, media, and entertainment in Los Angeles.” Seeking to stand out from the other skyscrapers in the district while considering its own relationship to the human scale, the exterior design and color palette was reportedly inspired by California’s iconic redwood trees. Sky Trees will partially wrap a 160-room hotel and 528 apartment units in a breathing green wall designed to improve the city’s notoriously low air quality. “It is our desire through a nature-inspired approach to architecture,” the firm wrote in a press statement, “to transform an old existing warehouse district into a healthy and organic neighborhood in LA.” The literal ‘branching out’ of the tower’s timber facade at the ground level is both an additional nod to the roots of a redwood tree as well as a reference to Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe’s “flying skirt” moment. The top few stories of the building continue the arboreal theme with a tree-like crown that will split off into two halves, taking advantage of the abolition of a zoning law that once mandated all buildings in Downtown Los Angeles to have flat roofs to accommodate emergency helicopter landings. The Los Angeles Times reports that Crown Group is optimistic about the project despite the current hit residential sales are taking during the coronavirus pandemic, predicting that demand will increase by the time the building is slated for completion in 2025.
Placeholder Alt Text

Can't Design for the Public Without a Public

New York City halts public design work over budget woes
New York City is still undergoing a novel coronavirus-related freeze on all “non-essential” construction, but the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) has extended that suspension to architects working on public design projects as well. In a letter dated March 26 (one day before the AIANY town hall where the issue was broached), the agency mandated that firms currently engaged in public design work “You are directed to immediately halt all services being provided, or to be provided, under your Contract (including any task orders, change orders, amendments) with DDC, including all services provided by subcontractors and/or subconsultants.” In other words, any and all firms working on public projects have been ordered to stop, and they won’t be paid for work conducted after March 26 until the pause order has been lifted by the city. While it might make sense to socially distance construction workers to halt the spread of COVID-19, architects have by-and-large moved to working remotely and are out of harm’s way. So why stop designers from designing in the comfort of their own homes? The city is anticipating a $7.4 billion drop in tax revenue for this fiscal year and next, and just today Mayor de Blasio introduced a new budget with $2 billion in cuts. The DDC oversees projects across approximately 20 city agencies and is responsible for designing everything from salt sheds, to parking garages, to police stations. However, because of budget concerns, the department was ordered by the city to suspend design work even though, as Architectural Record noted, these projects are typically funded through bonds and the money is set aside solely for their completion. This is also the first time the city has put public design work on hold, as they continued to pay architects during the 2008 recession to help bolster small businesses (this move will likely hit small firms the hardest, as they will have to reorient their resources if they want to get paid). This decision wasn’t made by the DDC, but rather came from the mayoral level as part of a wider budget review and other departments were affected as well. However, as Ben Prosky, executive director of AIANY, told AN, halting design work in such tumultuous times hurts not only architects, but engineers, the construction industry, and everyone else involved in such public projects. In a letter sent to Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on April 2, the American Council of Engineering Companies New York, American Institute of Architects New York, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, Building Trades Employers’ Association of New York City, New York Building Congress, and New York City Central Labor Council all argued against the freeze.
“Delays to work that can safely continue from our homes will further hinder our city’s recovery efforts and create challenges for middle-class New York families, including many union construction workers and MWBE architects, engineers, and general contractors. “We strongly recommend that you allow design and construction work to continue to the maximum extent permitted under New York State guidance. Furthermore, we ask that all design and construction that has already occurred be compensated.”
While the letter has yet to receive a response—likely due to the all-hands-on-deck tumult the city is facing—Prosky hopes that Mayor de Blasio will reconsider. According to him, “Design work now during a downtime means construction jobs in the future, and it will take that much longer for everyone involved to start moving things along again.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Liberally Updated

Christoff:Finio Architecture re-energizes Bennington College’s Commons building
New York-based firm Christoff:Finio Architecture (C:FA) has recently completed the restoration and partial redevelopment of the historic Commons building at Bennington College, a private liberal arts school in Bennington, Vermont. The project is the first substantial upgrade to the building since it was completed in 1932 as the centerpiece of the Bennington campus, combining learning, socializing, and dining under a single roof. “Our work clarifies the space to improve circulation throughout the building,” the firm wrote in a press statement, “while establishing strong connections between the interior life of the building and the surrounding landscape.” Bennington College first announced plans for the renovation in 2017 after addressing the many issues their signature building faced: Its primary mechanical systems and core spaces had required extensive updates, and the entirety of its 14,000-square-foot third floor had fallen into disuse in the last decade due to non-compliance with the fire code and ADA requirements. As a result, C:FA ultimately installed elevators and a new mechanical system to bring the top floor up to code, allowing for the addition of 16 new classrooms along with the Peer Learning Lab, a cross-disciplinary center designed to support peer-to-peer instruction, group collaboration, and individual study. To connect the two halves of the campus, of which the building had become the center following decades of campus expansion, C:FA renovated the building’s southern facade while adding an entryway on the opposite side in floor-to-ceiling glass that establishes a new pedestrian pathway on the ground floor. The addition increased the building’s square footage while introducing unobstructed natural light throughout its deep interior spaces, all without expanding the Commons’ footprint. Adding to the building’s centrality as a hub for academic and student life, the firm was able to include a new bookstore, a cafe and bakery, and several lounge spaces throughout. The dining hall was also doubled in size, increasing capacity from 450 to 1,000, and now sits beneath a slate-shingled wood roof that integrates lighting fixtures.
Placeholder Alt Text

Vauxhall Not Haulted

Zaha Hadid Architects’ massive London towers finally receive approval
AN announced last December that Vauxhall Cross Island, a mixed-use proposal designed by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) in south London, had received criticism from members of the neighboring borough of Wandsworth over its proposed height and location, and would be facing a public planning inquiry prior to receiving approval. Sited across from Vauxhall Underground station, the project would provide 257 apartment units, 23 of which would be affordable, along with offices, a hotel, retail space, and a new public square for the burgeoning neighborhood. Today, the Architect’s Journal reported that Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has finally approved of the towers, clearing a major hurdle that’s been in place since renderings were first unveiled in December 2017. Composed of two towers that are 605 and 495 feet tall, along with a ten-story building between them, the firm has described Vauxhall Cross Island as “a new gateway for Vauxhall” with the potential to become its new town center. While its envelope design is more subtle than others typically proposed by the firm, the project’s tapering geometry and vaulted detailing would have a striking presence in the relatively low-lying neighborhood. Although the project received local approval, a public planning inquiry from the Ministry of Housing, Communities, & Local Government over the aforementioned incongruities in scale had been holding up construction; something now resolved with Secretary Jenrick’s approval. Planning inspector John Braithwaite initially expressed concern over how the project would alter the current fabric of the neighborhood. Its construction would likely result in the demolition of the Vauxhall bus station, a pavilion designed in 2005 by ARUP Associates that has been likened to a ski jump. “Local residents would prefer that the existing bus station is retained, but they also seek the creation of a town centre with Bondway at its heart,” said Braithwaite, according to the Architect’s Journal. He additionally pointed out that the proposal exceeds the 150 meter (492 feet) limit enforced in the local plan before later acknowledging that the rule had already been broken several times for other towers proposed in the neighborhood, most notably with Kohn Peterson Fox's DAMAC Tower. “The proposed development, in architecture and urban townscape terms, would be of the highest quality and would successfully contribute to the planned cluster of tall buildings in Vauxhall,” added Braithwaite. Though it is currently without an official construction timeline, Vauxhall Cross Island will be ZHA’s first mixed-use residential and commercial building when completed.