Dutch architecture firm MVRDV has released the first look at the design for its contribution to the new master-planned Mission Rock neighborhood in San Francisco. Called The Canyon, the craggy tower was created in collaboration with the local Perry Architects and inspired by the natural rock formations found throughout California. The 23-story, 380,000-square-foot tower references both San Francisco’s urban grid and its hilly natural landscape, bringing down craggy forms to the flat waterfront, and will feature a variety of offices, residences, and an abundance of open terraces. The Canyon is part of a four-building development being jointly planned by MVRDV along with Studio Gang, WORKac, and Henning Larsen. Each firm was brought on early in the so far 12-year planning and design process to collaboratively devise an overall scheme for the 28-acre site (previously being used for parking), as well as individual buildings that are intended to fit together yet remain each studio's own. SCAPE is also creating a five-acre park for Mission Rock. The neighborhood is being developed by Tishman Speyer in collaboration with the San Francisco Giants, whose ballpark will be set in dialogue with the new towers akin to the approach taken by the Rams and the Colorado Rockies elsewhere. The Canyon is designed to be an entry point to Mission Rock and the “fracture” in its design makes it so that the northeast block acts as a separate building with its own entrance while remaining connected to the other amenities in the tower. The intent, according to MVRDV co-founder Nathalie de Vries was to create a “dynamic design with a great vibe.” Mission Rock is scheduled to break ground in 2020. MVRDV principal Fokke Moerel will be leading the morning keynote, "The Skin is the Message," at Facades+ LA on November 14.
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The 16-story, 675,000-square-foot Dock 72, the S9 Architecture-designed addition to the Brooklyn Navy Yard has officially opened after construction began back in 2016 and the zig-zagging complex topped out in 2017. WeWork, the once fast-growing co-working company that reportedly may run out of cash as soon as next month, will anchor the building by taking over 220,000 square feet of office space. The coworking company will employ its signature open-plan office designs and, and tapped the local Fogarty Finger Architecture and Interiors to design the building's slew of community amenities—such as a health center, basketball court, juice bar, and a roof deck. In addition, the firm commissioned four artists to create murals throughout. With a stacked massing that references boat hulls, Dock 72 is part of the largest edition to the Navy Yard since World War 2 and the first ground-up office development in Brooklyn in 30 years. The Class-A office project is also expected to help the Navy Yard add 10,000 additional jobs by 2021, according to the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, Boston Properties, Rudin Development, and WeWork. The focus of the Navy Yard development has been on tech, and the partners in the building are hoping to invite a variety of startups, software developers, and hardware manufacturers to the Navy Yard. The building features 14-foot windows with a stepped, staircase-reminiscent pattern across the facade meant to express the internal circulation to onlookers outside. It was also designed above the predicted 100-year floodplain—especially important given Dock 72's waterside location—and has various energy-saving features, such as efficient insulation and HVAC systems, which the owners and developers claim will reduce its energy costs by as much as 14% compared to LEED baseline. In addition, Dock 72 features its own app which will allow tenants to order food, reserve their spot for amenities, and enter the building. Dock 72 is part of a $1 billion expansion to the Navy Yard which includes various design and manufacturing businesses, film and TV studios, grocery shops, and a new ferry stop. The Navy Yard also announced a $2.5 billion expansion master plan to spruce up transit access and street-level functionality for pedestrians and cyclists.
After four months of work behind closed doors, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is finally ready to reopen its main Manhattan museum to the public on Monday. Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) in collaboration with Gensler, the multi-phased renovation and expansion adds one-third more gallery space to the institution’s 80-year-old complex on West 53rd Street and integrates it more seamlessly with the public realm. Since MoMA’s debut in its iconic, Philip L. Goodwin- and Edward Durell Stone-designed home, the museum has been physically inching closer and closer towards Sixth Avenue. Three individual extensions by Philip Johnson (1964), Cesar Pelli (1984), and Yoshio Taniguchi (2005) attempted to modernize the museum and keep it competitive, while also giving it increased room to display its permanent collection and rotating exhibitions. But these changes—in sheer size—pale in comparison to the massive new addition by DS+R and Gensler. The MoMA’s new David Geffen Wing came into existence following the demolition of the American Folk Art Museum and the construction of Jean Nouvel’s 53 West 53 in its place. The 950-foot-tall apartment tower next door now houses three levels of gallery space that adds an additional 11,500 square feet per floor to the older, eastern galleries—all of which are now connected and configured in a single loop. A central blade stair, visible from the street below, reveals activity and circulation within the building while signaling the separation between old and new. According to Charles Renfro, a partner at DS+R, the minimal and spacious design wasn’t meant to be a big, heroic gesture but help expand the museum naturally. “In order to make MoMA’s curatorial vision possible, our architectural intervention had to be quite stealthy in a lot of ways,” Renfro told AN. “We knew we couldn’t overwhelm those different building projects that have happened over the past almost 100 years, so we tried to work within the DNA of MoMA to advance a new concept of detail that reflects the 21st century.” Built out over the last three years, the $50 million renovations and $400 million expansion increased the museum's total footprint to 708,000 square feet. Approximately 165,000 square feet of that space is brand new, 40,000 square feet of which is used for galleries. Renfro said the design team was charged with making a more consolidated, borderless exhibition space that would help create a clear narrative within the museum and allow the curators to showcase various art disciplines. “The vision was to dissolve the media divisions that have guided the curatorial position since the beginning, merging up painting and sculpture with photography, film, design, and architecture,” he said. “We’re not service architects by any stretch of the imagination, but with MoMA what we’re trying to do is breathe a new kind of life of possibility into its curatorial direction.” These ideas of mixing and mingling materials—just like the art—extend down into MoMA’s new main lobby space as well. Its formerly dark and crowded front door on 53rd Street received a much-needed makeover by the design team in an effort to make it more welcoming and less confusing for visitors. DS+R and Gensler added a thin, stainless steel entrance canopy (supported by only a few cables, giving it a cantilevering appearance) to the facade to signal its presence on the street. They also introduced a glass curtain wall to make for a broad, light-filled lobby. As patrons walk by, they’ll be able to see the installations hanging from the double-height interior or on the walls of the adjacent street-level galleries. From the exterior, people will also get a new perspective of the 5,950-square-foot flagship museum store, which was sunken one level and is now accessible via a grand staircase. The floorplate cutout is a design move that adds new dimensions of depth to the museum’s public-facing spaces. Apart from any crowds inside, passersby should be able to see right through the lobby to 54th Street. The new ground-level galleries, like the lobby itself, will be free to the public.
Pittsburgh's Green Streets
Pittsburgh launches its own International Center of Excellence on High Performance Buildings
Last month on September 12, the United Nations Economic Council on Europe (UNECE) and the Green Building Alliance (GBA) signed an agreement launching the Greater Pittsburgh International Center of Excellence on High Performance Buildings. Pittsburgh is the second city in the world to participate in the program following New York City’s Building Energy Exchange, and will join a network of sustainability experts in an effort to reduce the effects of climate change and “distill best practices in design, construction, training, and policy into scalable solutions.” As one out of five commissions of the United Nations, UNECE works to improve access to clean energy and help reduce greenhouse emissions in order to meet Sustainable Development Goals as outlined in the Paris Agreement. Founded in 1993, GBA works to advance innovation in the built environment by “empowering people to create environmentally, economically, and socially vibrant places.” “Of all the approaches to addressing the world’s climate challenge, improving the energy performance of buildings stands out. Beyond reducing our carbon footprint, this action will enhance quality of life, reduce energy bills, improve health, create jobs and encourage innovation,” said Scott Foster, UNECE director of Sustainable Energy, at the launch ceremony. The Center will follow the UNECE’s Framework Guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings and will be a collaboration between regional partners, including the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. In following the framework, the Center will conduct training programs for design professionals, host discussions, and advocate for local and state policy changes regarding building codes and energy regulations. Pittsburgh has been well on its way to meeting these goals already. In early September, Pittsburgh's Mayor Bill Peduto introduced legislation that would require all government buildings to be net-zero energy efficient, just weeks after the city released its first energy benchmarking report. Pittsburgh also has the world’s largest 2030 District, which strives toward 50 percent reductions in energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions by 2030. "The International Centers transform how we build cities, from the materials we use to building design and construction, to the policies that set new standards for the future," said GBA executive director Jenna Cramer in a statement. Both GBA and UNECE hopes the Center will unite the area’s most influential developers, business leaders, and policymakers to “dramatically advance sustainable solutions.”
Creating beautiful, enduring and successful places
The U.K. launches a National Design Guide—but why?
The U.K. has released a National Design Guide to help “create beautiful, enduring and successful places.” The guide was published at the start of the month and unveiled by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, however, for all the “good design" the guide preaches, it is at odds with Jenrick’s actual policies. To architects and designers, the principles outlined in the document will seem run-of-the-mill, even perhaps a little patronizing. But the guide is not for them; rather, it intends to ensure that all those involved in a project are on the same page. The focus of this design guide is on good design in the planning system, so it is primarily for:
- Local authority planning officers, who prepare local planning policy and guidance and assess the quality of planning applications;
- Councilors who make planning decisions;
- Applicants and their design teams, who prepare applications for planning permission; and
- People in local communities and their representatives.
Context – Enhances the surroundings. Identity – Attractive and distinctive. Built form – A coherent pattern of development. Movement – Accessible and easy to move around. Nature – Enhanced and optimised. Public spaces – Safe, social and inclusive. Uses – Mixed and integrated. Homes and buildings – Functional, healthy and sustainable. Resources – Efficient and resilient. Lifespan – Made to last.The guide also takes into account the contemporary context we find ourselves in and looks to the future: “We expect continuing change as a consequence of climate change, changing homeownership models and technological changes. It is likely to emerge and embed in society rapidly.” Furthermore, there is an added focus on inclusion and community cohesion, defined respectfully as: “Making sure that all individuals have equal access, opportunity and dignity in the use of the built environment;” and “A sense of belonging for all communities, with connections and trust between them. Diversity is valued and people of different backgrounds have the opportunity to develop positive relationships with one another.” However, for all this positive rhetoric—which will hopefully make some impact—the guide is undermined by Jenrick’s latest policy to allow homeowners to add up to two stories to their house without having to get planning permission. This is part of the Conservative party’s push to "build up not out," and essentially allows homeowners to do what they want irrespective of their neighbors' objections, provided the building meets council guidelines and building regulations. Subsequently, it seems bizarre for the guide to talk about scale, height, relation to surroundings, and design quality, the latter of which will be most lacking as a result of such a policy. The guide also appears to feature mostly low-rise schemes and genuine examples of suburban sprawl with a straight face, the antithesis of building "up." “Publishing new design guidance alongside plans to extend permitted development rules, which allow projects to sidestep vital quality and environmental standards, just doesn’t make sense,” remarked RIBA President Alan Jones. “Although increasing permitted development rights is a step in the right direction, they will still be subject to heritage and conservation areas and viewing corridor type constraints,” Vaughn Horsman, design director at the British practice Farrells told AN. “And whilst it supports wider densification, by the time the tangle of other constraints get overlaid, there is still very little available land and air space available for growth in London. Meaning more still needs to be done.” Moreover, the design guide also seems to focus solely on housing. It has admittedly come from the Housing Secretary, but alternative typologies could at least be acknowledged, particularly as the industry moves towards adaptive re-use. Despite this, the guide has been for the most part warmly received by the profession. Teresa Borsuk, a senior adviser at the London-based Pollard Thomas Edwards, told the Architects’ Journal:
[The guide] is a sound piece of work aimed at planning officers, councillors, applicants and local communities. And a lot of it is not new. But what a difficult time for its launch – with everything else going on just now; climate change, affordability, targets, undersupply, Brexit…Speaking in the same article, Richard Dudzicki, director of Richard Dudzicki Associates, meanwhile called for an “anarchic version of the National Design Guide”:
I started reading the National Design Guide thinking to myself this is not a bad idea, but I quickly thought of the successful places I love; Farringdon in the 90s or Peckham now. They do not fit in the government’s ‘10 simple rules to good design’. The truth is very little good design or successful placemaking will fit in this dull, grey, pragmatic framework. It is about interventions. Predefining spaces will lead to failure; failure of design, failure of place and failure to create a society. Architecture as a profession should be calling out for more. In this profession, we read the brief, rip it up and throw it out of the window and try to come up with a new idea. Let’s have an anarchic version of the National Design Guide.Finally, the guide concludes by saying that it could be altered after the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission publishes its final report in December this year. This could likely cause groans in the profession: the Commission’s re-appointed cochair, Roger Scruton, has previously voiced his distaste of modernism, and in particular, architects Norman Foster and Mies van der Rohe. "The words 'beautiful' and 'ugly' are dangerous when referring to architecture — they expose personal bias, when our industry is more restricted than ever, by budgets, political and technical constraints," Horsman added. "Urban homes at the scale we need today will struggle to fit everyone’s view of ‘pretty’ –having our work, almost degraded, to such terms is frustrating. "How would ministers feel about a public vote on whether they’re too ugly for the job?” The report can be found in full online, here.
Like Wikipedia, but Better
Society of Architectural Historians launches redesigned open-access Archipedia
The definitive online architectural encyclopedia, SAH Archipedia, was launched by the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) in 2012 as a free resource highlighting the built environment across the United States. Two weeks ago, the SAH and the University of Virginia Press (UVA Press) announced a redesigned, open-access website complete with a brand new mobile platform developed with Rotunda, the press’s digital imprint. When SAH Archipedia first launched, the website included 8,500 building entries accompanied by histories and thematic essays drawn from the Society’s Buildings of the United States (BUS) books. By 2017, the platform had grown to host content from all 50 states. The archive's newest iteration incorporates peer-reviewed scholarship into its collection of histories, photographs, and maps of over 20,000 structures and places throughout the country. The entries now include scholar-written, peer-reviewed narratives, lesson plans designed for K-through-12 educators, as well as precise geospatial coordinates and metadata containing tags for firms, periods, styles, materials, and types. “For me, one of the most exciting parts of the new SAH Archipedia is something most users will never see: the back end of the website,” said SAH editor Gabrielle Esperdy in a recent press release. “This isn’t just a powerful content management system, it is a true authoring platform that has the potential to foster new forms of scholarly collaboration and makes it easier to create curated collections of entries, such as the buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright or automobile service stations or showrooms.” Some specific examples of thematic essays that are featured include Native American Architecture in Virginia, Women and Delaware Architecture, and even Beer and Breweries. The website also features place-based essays as overviews of architecture in specific states or cities. You can also filter the results to show a map of buildings near your current location. Archipedia is a fully collaborative project and features the work of hundreds of individuals. SAH has received major support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Graham Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In the years to come, SAH is planning on expanding the project to include global architectural content.
Billed as the “Factory of the Future,” BIG’s latest design for the San Pellegrino production plant at San Pellegrino Terme, Italy, gives the company even more reason to celebrate its 120th anniversary. A groundbreaking ceremony for the $100-million campus took place on September 27, alongside BIG releasing a batch of new views of the project. “Today we lay the first stone of the future factory that will officially launch us toward the future,” said Frederico Sarzi Baga, managing director of the Sanpellegrino Group. “The philosophy with which the new structure is created best represents the values of the brand and the commitment of the ‘Made in Italy’ ambassador company.” BIG’s design provides views of the Alps of Bergamo, with clean, modern lines offsetting the rugged natural landscape—a perfect metaphor for the blend of old and new that makes up the company, which has bottled its mineral water at the source since 1899. BIG’s approach imitates classical Italian architecture, with hints of inspiration from local vernacular motifs—exposed concrete arches and glass surfaces forming arcades and piazza-style spaces for gathering. The implementation of a new road system and access bridge will reduce the local area’s traffic congestion by tourists and workers alike, combined with a number of initiatives aimed at bolstering the company’s dedication to sustainability. “Like the mineral water itself, the new San Pellegrino Factory will appear to spring from its natural source, rather than imposing a new identity on the existing complex, creating a seamless continuity between the environment of production and consumption, and preparation and enjoyment,” said Bjarke Ingels in a statement about the groundbreaking. The factory will include 30,000 square feet of new production space to accommodate the anticipated increase in demand in the near future. Other features include renovated offices and changing rooms, a new cafeteria, a fitness center, and of course, exhibition-style areas to accommodate tourists. The project, which presents a radical transformation of San Pellegrino Terme and the surrounding area, is scheduled to be completed by 2022. BIG was first awarded the sprawling 4.3-acre project back in 2017, and it looks like the design has remained consistent since then.
Joel Silver, the producer behind blockbusters including The Matrix, Lethal Weapon, and Die Hard, has been living large with his family in a 26,000-square-foot-home in Brentwood, a tony neighborhood on the Westside of Los Angeles. As the director is currently seeking a smaller home elsewhere in the L.A. area, he recently listed the home with Judy Feder of Hilton & Hyland and Kurt Rappaport of Westside Estate Agency for $77.5 million. Named Casa de Plata (Spanish for “House of Silver”), the home was built in 2003 and is one of the last buildings designed by Ricardo Legorreta, the late Mexican architect responsible for Pershing Square in Downtown Los Angeles and the San Antonio Public Library. Like the majority of Legorreta’s other work, the design of Casa de Plata is inspired by the colorful, minimalist homes of mid-century architect Luis Barragán, while adding a bit of whimsy and surrealism of his own, including glass brick walls and ziggurat-like ceilings. The home also includes a substantial circular atrium with a retractable skylight, a 30-foot-tall family room with hydraulic doors, and a home theater with tiered seating for 20 people. Many of the materials throughout the home were imported from Mexico, including the dramatic limestone flooring in the entryway. The five-acre property includes an English maze garden, a sunken basketball court, a swimming pool, and an outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven. If the property sells for the listed price, Casa de Plata would nearly double the Brentwood price record of $40 million set in 2014 and would become one of the most expensive properties sold west of the 405 freeway. Silver has invested in other architecturally-significant properties, including the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Storer House in the Hollywood Hills, which the director sold in 2002 for $2.9 Million.
Venice Runner 2038
Germany selects a team for the Venice Architecture Biennale, but what about the U.S. Pavilion?
The German Federal Ministry of Interior, Building and Community has announced the curatorial team for the German Pavilion for the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale in 2020, which will take place May 23 through November 29. Following the recommendation of a jury chaired by Peter Cachola Schmal, director of the German Museum of Architecture, the ministry has selected team “2038” to move forward with their concept of how we'll live in the next decade. The concept is described as a “review from the future,” in which society looks back from the year 2038, “because everything ended up okay,” according to the curators. In this speculative view of the future, architects helped build success by answering “the great questions of our time” and standing up for the “common good” by focusing on systemic solutions. The concept is expected to be presented in detail in early 2020. The team consists of curators Arno Brandlhuber, Olaf Grawert, Nikolaus Hirsch, and Christopher Roth, and was chosen due to the project’s “representation of future-oriented solutions for relevant social, ecological and economic problems,” according to Anne Katrin Bohle, Secretary of State at the Federal Ministry of Interior. But with the announcement of the German Pavilion, it leaves us on this side of the world wondering, when will the United States reveal their selection? A source familiar with the bureau at the U.S. Department of State that manages the biennale selection alongside the National Endowment for the Arts told AN that the lack of information on such matters could possibly be related to the backlog in issuing grants as a result of the last government shutdown. While the United States government has gradually increased the amount of financial support given to presenters up to $325,000 (including $125,000 to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice), it is stated in U.S. Dept. of State application documents that “Past experiences have shown that the overall cost of mounting an exhibition of this scale is considerably higher than actual U.S. Government funding that can be provided through this grant.” Organizers could expect the need to raise up to another $700,000 to complete a successful bid. With the Venice Architecture Biennale only seven months away, given the amount of time and effort such fundraising requires, the indecision on announcing the selection is hardly fair to the organizers, and mounting a pavilion on such short notice could prove to be an impossible task.
World's Largest, At What Cost?
55 construction deaths confirmed at the $12 billion Istanbul Airport
Architects’ Journal and Construction News have collaborated on an investigation into the construction safety issues at Turkey’s new $12 billion Istanbul Airport, a project that resulted in an official death toll of 55 over its four-year build-out. While it’s recently come to light that there were substantial human rights violations happening on-site, this new report contributes further evidence that’s even difficult to read. It details the individual stories of several migrant workers who witnessed these deaths firsthand, as well as insight into the horrible living and working conditions there. Considered the largest airport in the world at 818 million square feet (25 percent larger than Manhattan), the Istanbul Airport has been lauded as one of the greatest engineering feats of the last two decades. It was developed by a joint venture group called iGA, which includes several large Turkish contractors and other international companies. The airport’s design has also won numerous awards thanks to a large-scale design effort by three British firms: Grimshaw, Scott Brownrigg, and Haptic Architects, as well as Oslo-based practice Nordic, and two Turkish firms Fonksiyon and TAM/Kiklop. Phase one of the project opened in April with three runways and 15 million square feet of terminal space. The remaining three phases are expected to be completed by 2025 and together will accommodate up to 200 million passengers annually. Though the Istanbul Airport boasts these extreme numbers, the human cost of building the mega-structure can never outweigh its prominence on the world’s stage, according to those interviewed by AJ and Construction News. The report describes two horrific deaths, as well as primary accounts of the bed bug-ridden workers’ accommodations, the lack of running water on site, and the mistreatment of laborers by construction management. Some were silenced for simply asking about the number of screws needed for a roof panel.
After protests broke out in September of last year where Turkish police used violence against the workers, the situation drew international attention and received criticism from Human Rights Watch. With more eyes on the scene, it was confirmed this January that 55 people had died during construction, though AJ has found that the actual number could be as high as 400 or more. Over the last few months, the architecture firms involved with the airport have continued to promote the project despite rumors of the workers’ conditions. Posts have gone up on social media, design work has been exhibited, and the projects have been entered for further awards. AJ questioned whether this was ethically appropriate given the deaths on-site, posing the question, “What do the workers who endured life in ‘the cemetery’–as the project was nicknamed–think of the involvement of the international architects?” Eyal Weizman, founder of Forensic Architecture, told AJ the profession has a major problem in its constant push for publicity and larger-scale megaprojects. Global contemporary architecture, he said, exists in a disturbing “pharaonic dimension.” “These projects are made mainly for the affluent sections of society and are built by a poorer migrant workforce under grueling conditions and schedules,” said Weizman. “A building like this should be a monument or a memorial. It should be dedicated to the casualties that its architecture and its delivery demanded.”
#Turkey: Unions report 38 people died building the new Istanbul airport.Behind the glass and steel of President Erdogan’s newest mega-project, 30 construction workers and a union leader are sitting in jail for protesting poor working conditions https://t.co/NnUASIrSx1 🇹🇷 pic.twitter.com/l6TvubHk5z — Human Rights Watch (@hrw) October 29, 2018
It Takes a Village
Selldorf Architects completes new a Zambian school for the 14+ Foundation
Selldorf Architects has completed a 30,000-square-foot school in the Mwabwindo Village of Zambia, the second of its kind in the rural community. Built through the non-profit 14+ Foundation and designed as a multi-building education center, the Mwabwindo School gives over 250 students, ranging from preschool to 7th grade, the chance to learn in a safe and welcoming environment with a vision inspired by the scattered trees of the Central African Plateau. According to the architects, the center’s unique layout—built like a village—was prompted by the tall, individual trees in the savanna that protect people and animals from the oppressive heat and heavy rain seasons. As a nod to these natural shading structures, Selldorf integrated a 23-by-23-foot corrugated metal canopy over the series of mud-brick classrooms, all of which are situated around a courtyard and internal “street.” Joseph Mizzi, president of Sciame Construction and co-founder of the 14+ Foundation, told AN that it took over 150,000 bricks to build the structures, and each brick was handmade by local masons and fired using earth from the region. Based on the foundation’s work building the Chipakata Children’s Academy in nearby Lusaka, Zambia, in 2015, leadership wanted locals to be heavily involved in the construction process this time as well. “Our experience is that when parents of the school children and community members become integral to the building process, it allows them to feel more proud of the end result and more respectful of what the school stands for,” said Mizzi. In total, the Mwabwindo School contains eight classrooms, an art space, a library, support structures for storage, and a six-unit cluster of housing for teachers. It also features a community vegetable garden and playing field for the kids. In the near future, the center will include expanded teachers' housing and dormitories for students. The 14+ Foundation was started by Mizzi and Zambian-born stylist Nchimunya Wulf in 2012 in an effort to enhance education in the rural communities of Africa where most students have to walk over four miles each way to school every day. The Chipakata Children’s Academy, designed by Susan Rodriguez of Ennead, Frank Lupo, Randy Antonia Lott, and Nat Oppenheimer of Silman Engineering, is located in the same jurisdiction as the Mwabwindo School. With the two now open, there are four total schools in the village; the other two are run by the government. Mizzi said the new projects give children across the entire village better access to the personal education they deserve. “In addition to serving the students at both our schools, we’re also addressing a bigger issue within the larger community by reducing the teacher-to-pupil ratio,” he said. "At the Mwabwindo School, there are around 25 to 30 children in a classroom." The Mwabwindo School has already won numerous architectural awards both for its design and for its commitment to sustainability. Like the children’s academy, which dually features an angular, lightweight roof structure, the architecture isn’t supposed to be attention-grabbing but instead functional and beautiful. The village itself already runs on 100 percent renewable energy, so Selldorf specified solar panels and integrated a rainwater collection system into the community garden. While students will learn how these green resources are used on-site, they will also focus on arts-based programs at the school. It was recently announced that artist Rashid Johnson is working with the foundation on a site-specific mural with the help of students, expected to be completed next spring.
Designing Space for Space in Space
Living in space is the answer, but what was the question?
In early September of this year, I was at a conference at an aviation museum in Seattle, to lend some architectural context to ideas about long-term living in space. The folks at the Space Studies Institute (SSI) had invited me to talk about some of the research on NASA’s 1970s proposals to build huge rotating cities in orbit from my book, Space Settlements, as part of a panel on habitat design. This conference was commemorating two anniversaries; it had been 50 years since the Apollo 11 moon landing, and 50 years since Gerard O’Neill, a Princeton physics professor—and the leader of the 1970s NASA work—had asked a question of his freshman intro students: “Is the surface of a planet really the right place for an expanding technological civilization?” The answer they arrived at, after much study, was “no,” and they started to imagine the technical details of living elsewhere. My interest in this question has as much to do with history and culture as it does with getting down to the details of execution. “Why do we make space and live in it?” is a question worth asking, whether on Earth or off of it. But, while the conference itself was a fascinating two days of discussion, I was surprised to find that almost everyone there considered O’Neill’s (and my) questions to have been settled long ago. Why, the other panelists seemed to wonder, would anyone even ask “why” humans should go and live in outer space, when we can instead talk about “how?” And so that was the subject of the next two day’s conversation. 50 years on from Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s historic flight—the culmination of almost a decade’s worth of work and about $150 billion in 2019 dollars—that “how?” seems easier than ever to answer. As of writing, it costs Elon Musk’s company SpaceX about $1,500 to launch 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). That’s down from about $43,000 for the same kilogram on the Space Shuttle in 1995. With new vehicles about to come online from SpaceX, NASA, and Jeff Bezos’s spaceflight company Blue Origin, these costs will only continue to go down. Two other factors are driving a new renaissance of plans for living and working in space: The discovery of new resources, and the confirmation, in the United States at least, that those resources can be put to use. The discovery of long-suspected ice in craters at the Moon’s poles was announced in 2018 by an international team of researchers using data from an Indian Lunar satellite. Water in space is useful, not least because living things require it to stay alive. But, once it’s been cracked apart with the cheap and plentiful solar electricity available there, it can become rocket fuel. “Water is the oil of space,” said one panelist at the SSI conference, George Sowers, formerly chief scientist with Lockheed Martin and the United Launch Alliance, now a professor of practice in space mining at the Colorado School of Mines. In 2015, the lobbying efforts of two asteroid mining startups were vindicated when Congress passed the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act into law. This new interpretation of the 1967 international Outer Space Treaty allowed private individuals and companies to engage in “exploration and exploitation” of water and other resources on the Moon, in the asteroids, and on other planets. These same two startups, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, later failed and were acquired by other companies. But the former CEO and cofounder of Planetary Resources, Chris Lewicki, was onstage at the SSI conference to talk about future successes. “If we make money in space, space settlement will happen,” said Lewicki, “it’s just us continuing to do the things we’ve always done.” This trifecta: low launch costs, a supply chain of matter and energy that’s already there, and a legal framework that can guarantee ownership of those resources, is the backend behind a new wave of proposals for architecture in space. These forces will keep that space wave going long after this post-Apollo nostalgia dies down. Earlier this year NASA awarded $500,000 to AI SpaceFactory, “a multi-planetary architectural and technology design agency, building for Earth and space,” for their MARSHA project. MARSHA successfully demonstrated an ability to use in-situ resources—Martian soil (or regolith)—to 3D print the outer shell of a habitat for four humans. The European Space Agency (ESA) Moon Village concept has been in development for most of this decade. Norman Foster, who has also designed for Mars, contributed design work to the Moon Village project in 2016, and SOM released information about its own Moon Village work earlier this spring. And of course, Bjarke Ingels is in on it, too. His firm, BIG, is making plans for a Mars simulator complex outside Dubai, and Ingels told the online design journal SSENSE that this work is a case study for a future Mars city. There’s beginning to be a long history to the notion that designing space for humans in space is a task that requires not just engineering, but architecture as well. At the inception of the Soviet Soyuz project in 1957, chief designer Sergei Korolev was unhappy with the capsule interiors that his engineers were drawing. The only architect working for the Soviet space program at that time was a woman named Galina Balashova, who was designing their office spaces. Korolev hired Balashova to redesign the habitable spaces of Soyuz, and later the space stations Salyut and Mir. Her work is still orbiting today as part of the International Space Station. On the other side of the Space Race, the Americans hired industrial designer Raymond Loewy to do the interior fit-out for Skylab. Famously, he was the one who talked them into adding a window and suggested that the best place for it would be next to the zero-gee “dining table” on the station. Back on Earth, the Space Architecture Studio and Research Lab, founded by the late Yoshiko Sato at Columbia GSAPP, now continues at Pratt under the guidance of Michael Morris, Sato’s husband. For over 30 years, the University of Houston has hosted the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture. The chief space architect for AI SpaceFactory’s award-winning MARSHA design was Jeffrey Montes, an alum of the GSAPP studio. And Suzana Bianco, a graduate of the Houston program, was a copanelist at the Space Studies Institute conference in Seattle, presenting her New Venice habitat design. In technical circles within space science, the design of a total system—with launch capability, flight modules, crew or cargo space, and recovery—is known as an “architecture.” But in most of the presentations about various technical architectures for space travel and space settlement in Seattle last month—Bianco’s presentation being a welcome exception—there was little talk about the value that architects bring to those systems. No one knows space like architects do, and these threads that connect the (still largely speculative) work taking place in outer space today with the history of architectural space on Earth are too often neglected by those working in the field. Alongside all of this talk about “how?” the other question haunting the space settlement work being discussed at this conference and elsewhere was “who?”—as in “who will pay for all of this?” Even as the costs and barriers to entry drop, there is still uncertainty about the ways in which value might be designed into the projects that will help people live in space. Whether the users of the systems under design by these space architects are tourists, miners, hotelkeepers, or simple explorers, the question of “who?” is intimately tied up in the “why?” The architect Cedric Price famously asked, “Technology is the answer, but what was the question?” Maybe architects are the designers best positioned to ask, and even answer, these questions about space.