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Color Blind

Playwright Oren Safdie takes on racial tensions of national architecture
There is no shortage of drama in architecture. In a constellation of anticipation and suspense, developing design projects—particularly large works planned for the public realm—are keenly followed and critiqued, both eruditely by architecture's opining class of professional critics and casually by the hoi polloi. Buildings then emerge unashamedly in full public view, like weary exhibitionists whose once dare-devilish exploits have long since become a dull routine. And occasionally, even the destruction of architecture signals a kind of performance. While the recent tragedy at Notre Dame was not quite what Hugo had in mind, that conflagration's rapid dissemination through print and digital media underscores the 19th-century novelist's insistence on architecture as an endangered—yet formidable—protagonist. This histrionic capacity of architecture unsurprisingly extends to—or perhaps emanates from—the academy. In a fashion of education quite unlike most others, students of architecture are constantly engaged in a highly choreographed presentation of their work, resulting in a highly public (and sometimes traumatizing) cycle of humiliation and praise. The dramatics that unfold in the architectural academy are well known to playwright Oren Safdie, who, before embarking on a writing career that has spanned nearly three decades, earned a master’s degree at Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. And while pursuing these studies may have initially been an endeavor to maintain ties with the family business (the playwright's father is Moshe Safdie), Oren's experiences in architecture school clearly impacted his writing. Indeed, one of Safdie's earliest plays, Private Jokes, Public Places, detailed a young architecture student's final presentation which, thanks to the presence of some big and obnoxious egos on the jury, spiraled horrendously out of control (staging the play has become a kind of annual tradition at architecture schools around the world). Some years later, in The Bilbao Effect, Safdie's satirical pen revisited architecture, this time with a decidedly more macabre stroke. In Bilbao, we see the fallout that occurs when the play's starchitect-protagonist, Erhardt Shlaminger, is blamed by a Staten Island resident for the death of his wife, who—unable to reconcile herself with the formal qualities of a new Schlaminger tower in her bailiwick—is driven to suicide. Safdie's latest project, Color Blind, returns once again to architecture and its potential for drama and (perhaps unwanted) spectacle, but this time in the context of race. The play, which was debuted in a read-through at the University at Buffalo, is a fictionalized account of the jury deliberations surrounding the selection of an architect for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C., Designed by David Adjaye, the NMAAHC was completed in 2016. Color Blind, on the other hand, is very much a work in progress. Nevertheless, the early drafts are further evidence of Safdie's acute awareness of the tensions and contradictions that underlie architectural culture and production, and the ability of these to yield highly theatrical—and sometimes excruciatingly uncomfortable—moments. The play invites its audience into the usually sealed-off space where critical decisions about architecture are made. There, we are introduced to six fictional jurors who will decide the shape of the first institution dedicated to African-American history on Washington's National Mall. This motley crew is composed of a diverse set of players whose exchanges hover between guarded diplomacy, heartfelt confessions, and downright acrimony. The imagined jury includes the future museum director and his assistant, both of whom are black. The former is the staid elder statesman, the latter, a fiery and plainspoken woman who speaks her mind. Also present is the museum's Korean-American treasurer, who is meek and wise. Rounding out the committee is a highly neurotic community organizer (Jewish), as well as a pedantic architecture critic, and a folksy but established starchitect (both of whom are white). The racial and ethnic backgrounds of the characters are worth noting because they foreground the competing experiences and prejudices that contextualize each juror's vision for the museum. In this sense, Color Blind is aligned with Private Jokes, Public Spaces, and The Bilbao Effect; all three recognize architecture as not just a silent protagonist, but as a dramatic vehicle for exposing broader contradictions and conflicts embedded in architecture—some, occasionally, not too deep below the surface. Color Blind relies heavily on popular stereotypes about race and ethnicity—and the conflicts these imply—to drive its plot forward. As such, scattered throughout the jury's deliberations over the six finalist museum proposals are somewhat formulaic monologues: an emotional harangue on the experience of being a single mother on welfare (black assistant to the director); a frenzied, confessional tirade riddled with liberal guilt (Jewish community organizer); and a demure complaint—in broken English—about the perils of over-achievement (Korean-American treasurer). These cliches render Color Blind's dramatic trajectory for the most part predictable, and Safdie's later drafts would certainly be helped by the addition of nuance and moments of surprise. Still, the play's overall agenda deserves our attention. In a profession that maintains a track record on inclusivity that is shameful—about 2 percent of registered architects in the U.S. are black—and in a nation where xenophobic and racist hostility in both discourse and action appear at alarming levels, the play's vision is both timely and telling. With Color Blind, Safdie's desire to lift the veil that renders the process of architectural production bewildering to outsiders, and his portrait of the conflicts that lie just beneath the veil's surface could, in the end, do more than give credence to the dramatic possibilities latent in architecture. When finished, the new play has the potential to instigate a critical dialogue about uncomfortable issues that extend far beyond architecture but are undeniably relevant to the field. Mustafa Faruki was the 2018-2019 Peter Reyner Banham Fellow at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning. He is the founder of theLab-lab for architecture. Color Blind was presented by undergraduate students at the school in a live reading. The event was followed by an informal discussion with Safdie and was held in connection with The Whiteness of American Architecture, a day-long symposium examining the racial discourses underlying "American Architecture" movements from independence up to the first decades of the 20th century. Color Blind has been selected as a finalist in the Kernodle Playwriting Competition at the University of Arkansas and will be presented again in a staged reading by the Architecture Foundation in London this fall.
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Weld-To-Do

Beleaguered Transbay Transit Center to reopen in July
Nine months after cracks were discovered in two structural steel beams of the Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects–designed Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco, the transit hub will finally reopen on July 1. However, busses won’t roll through the $2.2 billion terminal until the end of the summer; at first, only the 5.4-acre rooftop park will be open to the public. The repair plan announced in January appears to have worked, and, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, the building was declared safe by a panel of engineers yesterday. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which covers the entirety of the San Francisco Bay Area, had determined that welding access holes in the two cracked beams had been incorrectly cut during construction, resulting in stress fractures. After the city paid $6 million in testing and $2.5 million a month in security for the closed center, contractors decided to reinforce the two affected beams, and two untouched beams they connect to, with steel plates. Although the three-block-long transit center is safe to occupy again, the interior was stripped during the repairs and workers need more time to reinstall the ceiling and column coverings. Bus drivers, who had previously been picking up and dropping off passengers at a satellite terminal on Folsom Street a block away will need to be retrained as well. So in the meantime, fitness classes will resume on the transit center’s roof and pedestrians can once again explore the park. Still, there’s no news on the progress to bring rail to the complex’s basement, which was built to accommodate high-speed trains but remains empty. No timeline or budget has been agreed upon for a BART and Caltrain extension to the Transbay Transit Center, although politicians and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, the independent agency responsible for bringing rail to the station, have agreed upon the need to do so.
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Stringing It Together

Lorcan O'Herlihy renovates Detroit's African Bead Museum
The Detroit office of Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects (LOHA) has unveiled its initial phase of a small-budget, big-ambition renovation of one of the city's most remarkable cultural institutions: the MBAD African Bead Museum, an independent exhibition space devoted to African material culture and art. The museum comprises three townhouses and a 6,000-square-foot backyard sculpture garden that together stretch across almost a whole city block. Founder, owner, artist, and self-styled visual storyteller Olayami Dabls uses rocks, mirrors, wood, and iron to create sculptures that are parables for the development of African and African-American history and culture. According to its website, Dabls created the museum to help visitors better understand the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement through his sculptures and his collection of African objects. The African Bead Gallery, a museum store, is as intriguing as the sculptures: trays of beads are the forest floor to strung beads and artifacts from the collection that cover the walls and overhead displays. Outside, the facade is covered in Dabls's colorful glass-and-mirror mosaic murals. As beautiful as it is, the museum's physical space is in serious disrepair. One of the townhouse's roof has collapsed, and the exterior walls are precarious. Over time and if funding permits, LOHA will reinforce the structure internally and build galleries, a new entrance, and a landscape within the new envelope. The initial $100,000 renovation zeroed in on augmenting the museum's exhibition space and performing urgent repairs. LOHA turned a run-down storage room into a 600-square-foot gallery and community events space that will allow for more exhibitions from the museum's collection, plus work from artists in Detroit and beyond. Beyond the new gallery, improvements include new heating and electrical systems, new windows, and a public restroom. "For the first time in 17 years, we will have a space where we can engage the community through storytelling programs and make the museum available to the people who need a gathering space," Dabls said in a press release. "This adds a whole new dimension to our plans for the future." A celebration of the renovated gallery is planned for June 22. This round of renovations was funded by crowdsourced donations via a campaign in partnership with Allied Media Projects. Subsequent renovations are contingent on more fundraising. The museum is already looking to add a main entrance, a central gallery, new admin facilities, and a fund for visiting artist residencies.
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Second Home for Second Home

SelgasCano designs coworking jungle for Los Angeles
Second Home, the London-based workspace company, is designing a Los Angeles offshoot with longtime architectural partner SelgasCano. The new-ish startup is poised to open in September and compete with other big names like Soho House and WeWork by nature of its cultural programming and wellness focuses. All cultural events will be open to the public, and the space will even allow local charities and neighborhood groups to use conference rooms free of charge. These inclusivity measures have the potential to breathe fresh air into the elitist luxury workspace arena—the website has a tab labeled “social impact”—not only culturally, but also physically. The spaces will be surrounded with thousands of plants and trees. Entrepreneurial duo Sam Aldenton and Rohan Silva opened their first space in East London in 2014. Their unconventional ideas about design—from hanging hats from the ceiling for muffling sound to large swaths of colored glass fittings—attract eccentric creative types from all sorts of industries. Second Home Hollywood will be more than just a workspace of colorful couches and succulents, as SelgasCano plans to integrate an outpost of the acclaimed Libreria bookstore within it, as well as an auditorium, cafe, and restaurant. All these amenities will be open to the public, giving more and more individuals and companies access to “sneak peaks” of the new 90,000-square-foot urban campus. SelgasCano has designed all but one of the Second Home campuses, but this one is specific to the Los Angeles architectural vernacular in ways that depart strictly from the more high-rise, corporate-leaning designs that can be seen at Second Home Clerkenwell, for example. The L.A. campus is inspired by the city’s iconic 20th-century bungalow court residences, with the 60 one-story oval buildings of the campus, called studios, fitting in with the horizontality of the surrounding environment off Sunset Boulevard in East Hollywood. All of the structures are connected by a continuous yellow roof plane, and the gardens surrounding the campus are lush and colorful, taking advantage of the Southern California climate, and open to views with wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows. Second Home is also bringing a new architectural trophy to its new city—SelgasCano’s 2015 Serpentine Pavilion, which will be used as an events space. The Madrid-based practice also has many other accolades under its belt, including a residency at MIT and exhibitions at the Guggenheim and MoMA in New York, the Venice Biennale, and the Akademie der Kunste in Berlin. Its work is acclaimed for embracing environmentally conscious materials and technologies, abundant color, and social impact priorities—all facets that can be seen in its work alongside Second Home. As workspaces continue to skyrocket in popularity (and price—a resident membership at Second Home starts at £450, or around $572) smart wellness decisions and cultural collaboration are rising to the forefront of design decisions. How the next generation of creatives and entrepreneurs will work, socialize, and network is being tinkered and reconfigured as the workspace industry continues to grow around the world.
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The Colour Palace

Kaleidoscopic Dulwich Picture Gallery Pavilion lands in South London
What if, when on his Grand Tour, John Soane didn’t go to Italy, but to West Africa? What if, instead of going to Venice, he went to Lagos? This was the question Dingle Price, co-founder of London studio Pricegore, posed when pitching the idea for a pavilion adjacent to the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the oldest purpose-built gallery in England, designed by Soane. The result is The Colour Palace, a gloriously colorful timber structure that nestles between Soane’s 202-year-old building and a residential street. Price and fellow Pricegore cofounder Alex Gore do not hail from West Africa. Such inspiration came from artist and designer Yinka Ilori, who collaborated with the studio for the project. Now based in London, Ilori drew upon markets in Lagos where he was raised. “I wanted to encapsulate the memory of color I have from those markets,” Ilori told AN. “Selling fabrics, color was everywhere.”
And at the new pavilion, color is indeed everywhere. When approaching it, hints of a cacophony of color can be spied: pink tips pop out above the park’s perimeter wall; beyond the trees, glimpses of blue and red can be seen through the green. Closer inspection reveals thin, cuboid timber louvers (there are more than 2100) painted in green, yellow, blue, pink, red, and orange. The result makes the facade shimmer from the outside, blending the different tones in the process. Triangles and circles—motifs prevalent in Ilori’s work as a furniture designer—have been painted on the outside, causing the pavilion to look like a party hat. There’s an overriding sense of fun. But the kaleidoscopic baptism doesn’t end there. The giant party hat sits on four five-and-a-half-feet-wide bright red concrete columns—unpolished and raw, they rise up from the earth. A pink elevated walkway traces the structure’s perimeter, and a blue timber internal support structure keeps it all up. “Our work is very Euro-centric, Yinka’s is very West African,” Price explained. “We wanted to mix the two.” Ilori and Pricegore drew upon two precedents: an image of men carrying a thatched roof in West Africa and caryatids in Athens supporting the Parthenon's entablature. “Building in landscape, we wanted to lift the structure off the ground and retain the open sense of a garden,” added Gore. The pavilion, with its 1,560-square-foot base, is open on all four sides. Circles and triangles may adorn the exterior, but the square was most important to Pricegore, who deemed the shape essential to maintaining the structure's relationship to the adjacent Soane-designed gallery. Soane used a strict orthogonal regime to conceive the gallery's plan. So, too, has Pricegore, although the firm has offset the pavilion 45 degrees to the gallery to create a more welcoming dialog to visitors, allowing the various colors of the louvers to gradually change upon approach. Gore continued: “The pavilion is accessible to everyone. A child can enjoy this as much as an art critic.” The Colour Palace is the result of a partnership between the Dulwich Picture Gallery and the London Festival of Architecture. The pavilion is open to the public until September 22, 2019.
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A Quiet Place

Tadao Ando's first New York building creates high-end tranquility
Tadao Ando’s first building in New York is quiet. At least, that’s the way the Pritzer Prize–winning architect wants it to be perceived. Located in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood, the newly-completed 152 Elizabeth is Ando’s latest luxury residential project, and though it only has seven home inside it, is slated to subtly stand out amongst its neighbors. While the idea of being quiet and sophisticated is reflected in its simple yet elegant design scheme, the 32,000-square-foot building quite literally is engineered to be noise-proof; it’s a “sanctuary” for its inhabitants, according to Ando.  Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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Cooper Troopers

Cooper Hewitt celebrates 20 years of National Design Awards with 2019 winners
The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum has announced its 2019 National Design Awards winners, choosing to honor 11 designers and studios who are using design to improve the world for the better. The program was launched in 2000 by the White House Millennium Council and has celebrated a wide variety of architects, designers, and advocates ever since. This year’s winners are as follows: Lifetime Achievement: The San Francisco-based graphic designer Susan Kare was recognized for her decades of contributions to modern icon design. Kare, the creative director of Pinterest since 2015, is responsible for many of the original Mac’s classic icons and typefaces. Susan Kare Design has worked for brands such as Facebook, IBM, Microsoft, and other titans for the last 25 years. Architecture Design: Fresh off the completion of the Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland, last year, Thomas Phifer was recognized as the 2019 Architecture Design award winner. Phifer, currently the William Henry Bishop Visiting Professor of Architectural Design at the Yale School of Architecture, is the founder of Thomas Phifer and Partners. Interior Design: San Francisco’s IwamotoScott Architecture took home this year’s Interior Design award, as the Cooper Hewitt cited the firm’s willingness to integrate conceptual research into its realized projects. Landscape Architecture: SCAPE Landscape Architecture was recognized for its numerous projects (and master plans, and research) that combine landscape architecture with living ecology. SCAPE works across all scales but its use of regenerative landscapes and public outreach is deeply embedded in the firm's process no matter the size of the project. Design Mind: Patricia Moore, author, designer, and expert on how peoples’ tastes and preferences change as they age, was honored with the Design Mind award. The Cooper Hewitt singled out Moore’s travels across North America from 1979 to 1982, wherein she disguised herself as an older woman to understand the challenges associated with living as an elderly member of society. Corporate & Institutional Achievement: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s D-Lab seeks to bring design and engineering thinking to the problems faced by those living in poverty. Founded in 2002, the lab now runs 20 interdisciplinary courses leading projects run by, and for, people living in poverty. Communication Design: Typeface designer Tobias Frere-Jones was recognized this year for his innumerable font contributions that are used every day, including “Interstate, Poynter Oldstyle, Whitney, Gotham, Surveyor, Tungsten, and Retina,” according to the Cooper Hewitt. Fashion Design: American fashion designer and founder of an eponymous fashion house Derek Lam was recognized for his relaxed, yet refined, take on sportswear. Lam’s work has been shown all over the world, including at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Museum at FIT. Interaction Design: Ivan Poupyrev has worn many hats over his storied career and has always brought a multidisciplinary approach to interaction design. This year, Poupyrev was recognized for his work in blending digital and tactile interfaces and advancing more equitable interaction solutions. Poupyrev is currently the director of engineering at Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group. Product Design: The Portland-based Tinker Hatfield was recognized for his four decades of contributions to Nike, during which he worked on the iconic Air Jordan sneakers, among numerous other celebrity collaborations. Hatfield is currently the vice president of creative concepts at the company, and continues to push for, and develop, boundary-pushing athletic shoes. Emerging Designer: The nonprofit Open Style Lab, a studio launched in 2014 as a public service project at MIT, took home this year’s Emerging Designer award and a cash prize intended to accelerate its development. The New York–based Lab is dedicated to designing wearables for everyone, regardless of disability, and its portfolio includes wearable technology, accessories, and novel textile research and applications. It appears that the Cooper Hewitt has increased the stringency of its awards eligibility requirements this year; individual nominees must have at least ten years of experience under their belt, up from seven last year, and Lifetime Achievement nominees now require at least 25 years of experience, up from last year’s 20. To be eligible for the Emerging Designer category, nominees must possess less than eight years of professional experience.
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Spark Something

Portman Architects starts new era with Atlanta's CODA at Tech Square
A 755,000-square-foot tech facility in Atlanta embodies the latest evolution of the city as a hub for innovation and creativity, and also stands as a symbol for the changes happening at the firm behind it. John Portman Architects, newly dubbed Portman Architects, designed CODA at Tech Square in collaboration with Georgia Tech to be a tech hub with one of the largest data centers in the Southeast. It’s no surprise that as the firm transitions into partner-based leadership and new work in tech-centric architecture, it also pushes forward an evolved identity. CEO Jack Portman, son of the late John Portman, told AN that this project is the next big step in the company’s 66-year story. “Each evolution of our firm has been a motivation to create anew,” said Portman. “My father created the super atrium, then modern mixed-use developments, and he was the first to move his firm and work overseas in China. CODA is one of these evolutionary points in our firm’s history. We’re back in Atlanta and looking to advance the future of design.” Portman Architects is currently working on three projects in Midtown Atlanta—north of downtown and east of the university. CODA is the first building completed in what will be the city’s T (tech) Zone. At 21 stories, the glass-clad, L-shaped building features room for 3,500 tech employees, as well as students and faculty, and is designed around a series of six, three-story vertical atriums that connect various wings. One of its defining design moments is the white spiral staircase—the tallest freestanding, helical stair in the world—which links the building’s “Collaboration Core.” According to Luca Maffey, vice president and design director of CODA, the piece of interior infrastructure allows views past the end of the city and it only takes a few minutes to climb to the top. The staircase, which is located right near the facade, also overlooks the grand piazza that cuts through the center of the site. Maffey said this outdoor living room-like space is already attracting people to the building. “Atlanta is known for great, internal and insular spaces, largely thanks to Portman himself,” he said. “CODA really opens up to the public and the streets with this plaza and with its transparency. It’s now a reference point for not only navigating Midtown but it also is a destination in and of itself.” Portman Architects integrated almost 40,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space on the ground floors in order to enhance that indoor-outdoor connectivity. A surprising exterior column that resembles a martini glass extends from the lower levels of the building and punches the plaza below. The entirety of CODA’s lower half also sits in dialogue with a historic, 1920s building on the site. Major design moments such as this elevate what could have been a boxy office structure with a glass curtain wall. Instead, these moves activate the efficiency of the site both in a sustainable aspect and in its circulation. Developed by Portman Holdings (the development company also started by John Portman), CODA is the first project Portman Architects has ever done for Georgia Tech, the largest tenant in the building. Other tech companies are starting to fill in the rest of the spaces, while others are finding a way to be next to CODA, Jack Portman says. “The 1.5 million square feet of expansion happening at tech square is the result of the excitement created by the design of CODA,” he said. The firm recently started construction on the adjacent Anthem Technology Center, which features a cluster of four towers connected at the core. Unlike CODA, not all the atriums will be connected, but the buildings will circle around a staircase that goes up to the top floor. Overall, the architecture is quite different—sections of the structures feature varied materials and textures, while CODA is pinstriped, calm, and elegant, Maffey said. “On the bottom half of the building, we wanted something that was more active and played with the light more,” he said. “The cladding has small folds of silver metal that will interact with the sun as it changes throughout the day.” Portman Architects is currently designing a “sibling” for the Anthem Tech Center which includes another building with three, interlocking facades. All of these high-profile local projects in Tech Square coincide with major changes happening at the firm. “Ten years ago, my father started to think about how his firm would continue to evolve once he stepped down,” Portman told AN. “He then created a partnership that better represented our motivation for working as part of a team, giving credit to everyone involved. The name change also helps differentiate buildings that we design now versus what he worked on.” Along with a new name comes a new visual identity for the firm as well. Portman Architects’ new logo is a six-point star, or a spark, which pays tribute to Portman’s old signature. Maffey noted the spark also alludes to the company’s history sparking change in the field of architecture. He now believes the firm is positioning itself to ignite more innovation in the future. “The firm’s evolution has also been in this crescendo mode,” he said. “Right now the energy in our office is higher, the average age of our employees is younger, and we’re pursuing new technologies to create our architecture. There’s also no singular approach to the way we work, and we’re more collaborative than ever. Everybody here is a Portman Architect.”
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Seeking Stability

Reports claim fire has left Notre Dame structurally unsound, needs reinforcing
More woes have surfaced for Notre Dame. Architect and former UNESCO official Francesco Bandarin reported in The Art Newspaper that the cathedral is structurally unsound following the fire that destroyed its roof and spire this April. The architecture's complex structural system, comprising an array of flying buttresses, columns, and counterweights, was designed to function as a cohesive whole, but after this spring’s tragic blaze, which led to a partial collapse of the vaults, the building is “not stable and urgently needs reinforcing." Bandarin wrote that a model, developed by engineer Paolo Vannucci at the University of Versailles, showed that Notre Dame’s walls could collapse if confronted with wind speeds over 55 mph. For reference, the cathedral could previously handle winds exceeding 130 mph. While much focus has been given to the lost Viollet-le-Duc–designed spire (itself a 19th century reconstruction), Bandarin said Notre Dame's most urgent need is reinforcing both the walls and rib vaults in order to support the new roof, which the French Senate just ordered to be rebuilt as close to the original as possible.
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Nail Free

First dowel-laminated timber building in the U.S. set to open in Des Moines
A four-story mixed-use structure in Des Moines, Iowa, will be the first building in the U.S. to be constructed with dowel-laminated timber, an all-wood mass timber product that is held together without nails, glue, or fasteners and can be assembled with friction-fit wood connectors. Designed by Neumann Monson Architects, the 65,000-square-foot building, which houses shops, restaurants, and offices, is made from pre-fabricated 8'x20' DowelLam panels by StructureCraft, along with spruce glulam beams and columns, and precast concrete. DowelLam can reportedly be created in an array of custom profiles and is easily handled by CNC equipment. The architects reported that working with the easy-fit prefab panels allowed for faster construction with fewer workers. Not just structural elements, the panels will also remain exposed on the building in order to contribute to its overall aesthetic. In addition, the architects estimated that the timber construction “sequestered” around 280 tons of carbon and doesn’t run the risk of “off-gassing” chemicals like other glue-based mass timber products like CLT. Mass timber has been featured prominently in new construction as people are searching for alternatives to steel and concrete, with proponents touting its environmental benefits, among other positives. For example, Foster + Partners' sprawling plans for a new Silicon Valley neighborhood integrate mass timber throughout the site. People have been building bigger with it as well. This year a 280-foot-tall Norwegian tower claimed the title of world's tallest mass-timber structure. Mass plywood panels, another mass timber technology, were also recently approved for use in buildings as tall as 18 stories. StructureCraft reported other projects in North America are also putting the dowel-laminated product to use, including the Lake|Flato–designed Center for Conservation at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and a regional airport in British Columbia.
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We Will Not Let Hate Win

Six big-name teams shortlisted for National Pulse Memorial and Museum
MVRDV, Studio Libeskind, and MASS Design Group are among the six finalists shortlisted to design the future National Pulse Memorial and Museum in Orlando, Florida. The organizers behind the international design competition, the onePULSE Foundation and Dovetail Design Strategists, announced the teams yesterday after a two-month search that brought in 68 submissions from 19 different countries. The architect-led multidisciplinary groups will move onto the second and final stage of the competition later this year, where they will propose a concept design for the memorial and museum to honor the survivors, first responders, and the 49 members of Orlando’s LGBTQ+ community who lost their lives in the horrific shooting at the PULSE nightclub on June 12, 2016.   Check out the finalists below: Coldefy & Associés with RDAI, Xavier Veilhan, dUCKS scéno, Agence TER, and Professor Laila Farah; Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rene Gonzalez Architect with Raymond Jungles, Inc.; heneghan peng architects, Gustafson Porter + Bowman, Sven Anderson, and Pentagram; MASS Design Group, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Sasaki, Sanford Biggers, Richard Blanco, and Porsha Olayiwola; MVRDV, Grant Associates, GSM Project, and Studio Drift; Studio Libeskind with Claude Cormier + Associés, Thinc, and Jenny Holzer According to the onePULSE Foundation, these teams provided the strongest credentials, relevant experience, and most compelling statements on how architecture can embody the organization’s mandate: "We will not let hate win." “Three years after the tragedy, the world continues to stand in solidarity with our community and in support of the 49, the survivors and the first responders,” said onePULSE Foundation CEO Barbara Poma in a statement. “This is reflected in the significant response to our competition announcement and the interest from architecture and designers from around the world.” Susanna Sirefman, owner of Dovetail Design Strategists, dually noted the global response. “We were thrilled with the thoughtfulness of all submissions we received,” she said. “But we felt that these six finalists best understood the urban complexity and scale of the project, and their illustrated responses best embodied the six keywords we generated from early surveys on the memorial: People want it to stand for love, hope, unity, acceptance, courage, and strength.” The onePULSE Foundation has already laid out a clear vision for the site, which will include utilizing the original nightclub in some way, as well as introducing a 30,000-square-foot museum, an elongated landscape, and an urban design strategy to connect the site to the city’s downtown. Dubbed the Orlando Health Survivors Walk, the connection will lead people north to the SoDO district to other local spots that were involved in the aftermath of the tragedy including a nearby hospital and performing arts center. Over the next few months, the design teams will meet with onePULSE leadership, a victim liaison, and a survivor to help inform their proposals. The Orange County Regional History Center in Orlando will hold a public exhibition of the designs in early October and all schemes will be available for public view and comment on the onePULSE design competition website. The winning team will be announced later that month.
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Jail Simulator 2019

AECOM chosen to oversee design-build of Rikers replacement towers
A joint team of AECOM and the Philadelphia-based construction consulting firm Hill International has been tapped by the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) to oversee the design and construction of the four borough-based jail towers that will replace Rikers Island. The pair was awarded a $107.4 million contract to administer the four teams that will build the new jails, one team for each location. Once complete, the four new jail towers will each be expected to hold approximately 1,500 beds, as well as rehabilitative and reentry programs, counseling, educational, and health components, as well as community space, at a total cost of $8.7 billion. If the new jails in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan move ahead, they would be the city’s first design-build projects. The DDC issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a Program Management Consultant team in October of 2018 for the borough-based jails project. AECOM touts that the company is no stranger to building correctional facilities, and the company’s broad architecture and engineering experience makes it a good fit for design-build, where the architects and builders work in tandem to realize the project. The AECOM-Hill team will work off of a framework first devised by Perkins Eastman, which, along with 17 subcontractors, laid out the potential sites and space requirements for the replacement jails. Their final determination was that the city should refurbish existing buildings or build new jails close to the central courthouses in each borough so that inmates could easily make their court appearances. Of course, the plan hasn’t been without its detractors. All four jails are being moved through the Uniform Land Use Review Process at once in an effort to close Rikers as fast as possible, but residents have been pushing back against erecting new jails in their neighborhoods, and clashing with carceral activists. At the time of writing, four community boards have voted against the plan (Community Board 1 rejected building a 45-story jail tower at 125 White Street on Tuesday), although their votes are nonbinding.