Search results for "Public Design Commission"

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Eye of Sauron

Trial run of high-powered security scanners proposed for Seattle plaza
Smart cities, such as that planned by Sidewalk Labs in Toronto, are coming under increasing fire for their potential misuse of data gathered from their residents. Now, technology company Radio Physics Solutions (RPS) is working with Seattle-based Vulcan Inc. to install and demonstrate a scanning system across a public plaza capable of detecting concealed weapons from nearly 100 feet away. The scanning system, using a patented technology titled MiRTLE (also known as Millimeter-Wave Radar Threat Level Evaluation) developed by RPS, is proposed to operate across five workdays. If approved, RPS and Vulcan Inc. would have a 60-day window to implement the trial. In an application filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), RPS states that the system is capable of conducting over 3,000 scans of the plaza per second operating at a spectrum of frequency ranging from 71 to 100 gigahertz. While the Transport Security Administration and a high school in Texas have tested the technology, it has not yet been applied to an entirely public space. Additionally, past installations were mounted along rooftops while those for this trial are proposed at ground level. Besides concerns related to the scanning of lingering pedestrians and those with no intention of entering Vulcan’s headquarters, extended exposure to high-frequency radiation (potentially millions of scans over the course of many minutes) is not without its risks. In a statement to GeekWire, Gary King, CEO of RPS, responded to these concerns noting that RBS takes “safety very seriously, both in design and use of the product. Our safety calculations were presented to the FCC, which was completely satisfied with the safety of MiRTLE. Someone eating lunch in the plaza is very safe." While the proposal is still awaiting FCC approval, the agency has passed all of RBS's previous scanner trials.
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Political Innovation

Andrés Jaque offers an approach to "intersectional architecture"

Andrés Jaque is the founder of the New York and Madrid–based Office for Political Innovation. By exploring the expanded potential of architecture through both speculative and realized designs, the firm has received numerous accolades, including the 2015 MoMA/PS1 Young Architects Program and the 2016 Frederick Kiesler Prize for Architecture and the Arts. In 2014, Jaque’s SALES ODDITY: Milano 2 and the Politics of Direct-to-Home TV Urbanism garnered a 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale Silver Lion award. The 2011 IKEA Disobedients was the first “architectural performance” piece to enter the Museum of Modern Art’s collection. In this project, local residents were invited to hack IKEA furniture, and in doing so publicly perform their everyday private talents and determine their own lifestyles. The project suggests that not all people necessarily abide by the same normative principles or architectural dictates. Jaque is also the director of the Columbia University GSAPP postgraduate Advanced Architectural Design program.

As a member of this year’s AN Best of Design Awards jury, Jaque spoke to The Architect’s Newspaper contributor Adrian Madlener about the current state of architecture. 

The Architect’s Newspaper: What roles do architecture and urbanism play in addressing today’s global challenges?

Andrés Jaque: Architecture and urbanism have a responsibility to mediate some of the most pressing topics reshaping contemporary life: environmental degradation, mounting geopolitical tensions, and the articulation of physical and virtual worlds. There are three unavoidable facts facing society today: Climate change is forcing humanity to redefine how we engage with nature; technology is becoming increasingly autonomous, making it impossible for humanity to maintain control over its impact; and the evolving interaction society has with the offline and the online realms is blurring the distinction between what is real and what is virtual.

Attempting to set clear boundaries between these two realities requires a greater effort. Architecture plays an important role in all these issues. The field has a great capacity and responsibility in the making of facts catering to the collective sense of truth that all forces in society should now—more than ever—respect. Architecture is in the best disciplinary position it has ever been to shape the present and propose potential scenarios for the future.

AN: How can the discipline look to the past to inform the present?

AJ: As architects, we have to reflect on our practice, but also on our legacy. On one hand, we need to develop new ways to operate and respond to changing societal and environmental paradigms. On the other hand, we need to reconsider how we view our predecessors, how we understand and learn from architectural history. Just a few years ago, figures like Cedric Price, Lina Bo Bardi, the Ant Farm collective, and Frederick Kiesler were seen as marginal. Today, these unsung innovators are proving to be the best sources of information for tackling the field’s evolutionary challenges.

AN: You often say that architecture needs to incorporate knowledge from other disciplines. What are the benefits of this interdisciplinary approach?   

AJ: Architecture has the unique capacity to express different perspectives, materialities, temporalities, and scales in interventions charged with multiplicity. Whatever priorities we’re going to address, our response needs to be informed by different realities. Architecture is not an isolated practice. We have to consult other fields: science, art, technology, etcetera. In that way, the discourse around our discipline is becoming more intersectional. It’s important to understand that the design of a building or environment cannot just be accomplished with form and aesthetics alone. Different political, social, economic, and ecological implications need to be considered if a design is to be relevant. 

I defend the concept of intersectional architecture in my capacity as a practitioner and educator. My goal is to develop methodologies that can shift architecture’s interdependence on different realities into an opportunity to engage criticality and to intervene in many areas of contemporary life that are currently being disputed.

AN: Do any of your current projects exemplify the concept of intersectional architecture?

AJ: At Office for Political Innovation, we’re currently designing an experimental school. The project obliges us to simultaneously consider the daily life of its students, but also the larger context that they will occupy. On a larger scale, we’re actually structuring an ecosystem that addresses its own consumption. This aspect will also become an important resource when teaching the students about sustainability. 

We’re also currently designing a house on one of the outer islands near Corpus Christi, Texas. Our proposal offers solutions on different levels. On one hand, it’ll serve as a getaway for a Dallas-based family; on the other, it’ll collect fresh rainfall to irrigate the surrounding mangrove—an important line of defense that can combat erosion and rising sea levels. The house can accommodate the owner’s almost hedonistic desires while still ensuring the survival of its surroundings. What we’re realizing in our practice is that architecture needs to simultaneously cater to different realities within a single response. A design has the ability to address often disparate elements and perspectives.

AN: From your experience as a cocurator of 2018’s Manifesta 12 biennial in Palermo, Italy, how do you think art practice influences the way we imagine and/or create cities?

AJ: Palermo is not a city but rather a hub for the stratified relationships that tie it to distant places like sub-Saharan West Africa, Bangladesh, and the United States. These connections occur through the flow of capital and investment—that dispute the future of the city’s built environment—but also the nearby military base that foreign powers use to strike the Middle East and northern Africa. Palermo’s architecture, the dialectic between its role on a local and global level, has proved to be ineffectual in dealing with these transnational interactions.

In this scenario, architecture and art are the only disciplines that can bring heterogeneous situations together. Whether it’s the migration crisis or a personal struggle, these realities simultaneously develop on different scales. Architecture and art can mediate the evolution of these realities by introducing the values of urbanity, new forms of citizenship, and the aesthetics of inclusivity. This can only happen if such interventions take stock of what is already in place and grasp the full scope of complexity that the context might contain. To be truly impactful, the initiatives must cater to all parts rather than just the most powerful elements. An open cultural platform like the Manifesta art biennial offers architects and artists the space to test out independent action that the urgency of commercial commissions rarely provides. 

AN: How is architecture education changing?

AJ: Within the Advanced Architectural Design Program that I direct at Columbia University, students—who already have significant experience with design as a critical medium—explore new forms of practice in different contexts. They gain an analytical understanding that will allow them to intervene and apply architecture as a contemporary methodology. Various speculative exercises allow them to test out how the field could have a wider scope of influence in the future. They don’t learn a predetermined set of skills, but rather work together and with faculty to reinvent architecture as a discipline that can respond to the world’s greatest problems. 

It is crucial that they are able to translate this discursive approach when entering or reentering the profession. In our program, we’re trying to change architectural education by introducing an experimental pedagogy. Students are given the time and space to develop situated projects that address specific, real-world briefs. With its many firms, experts, advocacy agencies, and organizations, New York offers the perfect context for these investigations.

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Can't-ilevering

Morphosis unveils a claw-like hotel to replace a legendary L.A. nightclub
The Viper Room, the legendary Los Angeles nightclub cofounded by Johnny Depp (and where River Phoenix overdosed) is set to get an architecturally ambitious replacement courtesy of Morphosis Architects. After developer Silver Creek Development Co. picked up the parcel in West Hollywood for $80 million in July of this year, it was announced that a 15-story hotel would go up on the site. Last week the public was given its first look at the replacement, which features a vise-like volume “clamping” down on a more traditional, loggia-adorned tower. The proposal also sports glassy ground-level retail bordered by V-shaped concrete columns. The 200-foot-tall hotel will feature 115 hotel rooms, 31 condo units, 10 affordable units, a gym, a spa, restaurants, a pool, and a new home for the Viper Room. It’s somewhat hard to see in the rendering, but the developer wants to include an 820-square-foot digital billboard on the Sunset Boulevard–facing facade. The project’s initial reveal came at a community meeting on December 11, where Silver Creek sought to solicit community feedback and refine the design. The hotel will move next to the West Hollywood Planning Commission’s Design Review Subcommittee, and then the Planning Commission proper. No construction timeline has been given as of yet.
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Thanks for all the Flames

Egads! Here are the top architecture scandals and controversies of 2018
2018 is nearly over, and the world of architecture wasn’t immune from the deluge of drama that swept over politics and pop culture. Take a look back at the wildest stories of the year, and relive some of the outrage as the New Year rolls in. Richard Meier accused of sexual assault After a stunning New York Times expose in March where multiple women detailed four decades of harassment at the hands of Richard Meier, the architect announced that he would be taking a six-month leave of absence from Richard Meier & Partners Architects. The backlash was swift, and the AIANY announced that they would be stripping the 2018 Design Awards from Meier as well as Peter Marino, who was facing his own set of sexual harassment allegations. After Meier’s leave of absence ended in October, he announced that he would “step back from day-to-day activities” at the firm he founded in 1963. However, how involved Meier remains with the firm is still a matter of debate, as the studio announced that he “will remain available to colleagues and clients who seek his vast experience and counsel.” #MeToo rocks the architecture world After the revelations about Richard Meier went public, a debate over harassment and discrimination in the design world blew up. A Shitty Architecture Men list went live and detailed anonymous complaints about some of the biggest names on the architecture scene—before Google pulled the plug on the list over legal concerns. Still, the conversation around the gendered power dynamics typically present in architecture’s educational and professional track boiled over, and the AIA contiuned to address the topics at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2018. Asbestos makes a comeback In AN’s most outrage-inducing story of 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that asbestos was back on the menu for use in products on a case-by-case basis. The agency issued a SNUR (Significant New Use Rule) that meant the impacts of asbestos on the air and water no longer needed to be considered in its risk assessment (asbestos is a friable material and easily crumbles into carcinogenic fibers when broken). After a significant uproar online, including from Chelsea Clinton, the AIA called for a blanket ban on the material’s use. Kanye’s summer of meltdowns Kanye West had an interesting summer. After returning to Twitter with a vengeance, ostensibly to promote his new album, West hung out with conservative commentators, took a trip to SCI-Arc’s Spring Show, declared that he would be launching an architecture studio called “Yeezy Home,” and revealed a collaboration with interior designer Axel Vervoordt. AN’s readers weren’t exactly thrilled at the news, but West did manage to at least release renderings of the studio’s first affordable housing prototypes. Unfortunately, West later deleted all of his past tweets and the fate of Yeezy Home, and the social housing project, is currently unknown. The sunset of 270 Park When it was announced that Chase wanted to tear down and replace the 52-story former Union Carbide headquarters, questions abounded about when, why, and how. The 57-year-old tower was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), but much of the credit goes to SOM partner Natalie Griffin de Blois, and the news prompted a debate about her legacy in what was then a predominantly male field. Debate erupted online over whether the tower should be demolished and replaced with a Foster + Partners-designed alternative, and AN’s senior editor, Matt Shaw, penned an op-ed asking that New York not stymie progress for buildings that weren’t worth it. The trials and tribulations of the AT&T Building The saga of Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s postmodern Midtown skyscraper took yet another turn this year. In January, the lobby of the AT&T Building (or 550 Madison) was stealthily demolished. Then, in July, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted to landmark the building’s exterior, a definitive blow to the Snøhetta-designed renovation that would have glassed over the 110-foot-tall arch at the granite tower’s base. Unfortunately, owing to the work done earlier in the year, the lobby was no longer eligible for the same such protection. Then, ahead of the next round of LPC hearings, Snøhetta went back to the drawing board and released a much more sensitive scheme for restoring the tower that kept the arch, and the building’s imposing columns, intact. The AIA speaks out against rolling back license requirements Readers had an intense reaction to the AIA’s first Where We Stand statement of 2018. As the institute came out against an increasing trend of states rolling back license requirements for architects, readers were split. Would decreasing the barrier to entry increase competition, as the states claimed? Do architects really need to study for years and spend thousands of dollars in test materials to claim their certification? On the other hand, we expect doctors, lawyers, and practitioners in other highly-specialized fields to require licensing, so why should architecture be any different? Patrik Schumacher takes Zaha Hadid’s fellow trustees to court Patrik Schumacher drew scorn from the public after taking to London’s High Court in a bid to strip the other three executors of Dame Zaha Hadid's will from her $90 million estate. Zaha’s niece, Rana Hadid, artist and friend Brian Clarke, and developer and current Pritzker Prize jury chairman Lord Peter Palumbo, released a joint statement decrying the move. Before Hadid’s death, she had chosen the four to disperse her estate through the Zaha Hadid Foundation, and the non-Schumacher executors claimed that Schumacher's suit was for his personal financial gain. Schumacher responded, lamenting that his former friends and colleagues should have spoken with him first before going public with their grievances. Amazon takes Queens After a year of speculating, Amazon declared that it would be splitting up its HQ2 into two separate headquarters, dropping one in Long Island City, Queens, and the other in Crystal City, a suburb of Arlington, Virginia. The backlash against dropping a sprawling campus for 25,000 employees in New York’s already-overburdened waterfront neighborhood was swift, as city politicians and local residents criticized the $3 billion in subsidies the tech giant would receive, as well as the impact on the neighborhood. Foster + Partners’ London Tulip pierces the skyline The not-so-innocuously phallic Tulip tower in Central London made waves across the internet when it was revealed in November. Commentators and critics alike decried the 1,000-foot-tall observation tower, which balances a glass observation atrium atop a hollow concrete stem and would spring up next to the Gherkin. The icing on the cake is that the rotating pods on the outside of the glass bulb could be disruptive to the London City Airport’s radar system, meaning construction may have to wait until a full study is completed. Venturi Scott Brown-designed house suffers secret demolition When the purple-and-green, sunrise-evoking house designed by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown in Shadyside, Pittsburgh, went on sale in June, it was hoped that a preservationist would save the building. The two-bed, two-and-a-half bath Abrams House was built in 1979 and was in great condition, but it soon came to light that the new owner only purchased the home so that he could tear it down. The buyer, Bill Snyder, also owns the Richard Meier-designed Giovannitti House next door and began a secret interior demolition which he claimed was necessary to preserve the landscape around the Meier building. After the news came to light, preservationists and colleagues of Venturi and Scott Brown rallied for the house’s protection.
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Protecting Pilsen

Chicago aims to preserve the vernacular architecture in its largest Mexican-American community
The Commission on Chicago Landmarks has approved a preliminary designation for a dense array of hundreds of late 19th-century vernacular buildings in the heart of Pilsen, a working-class Hispanic community on Chicago’s near southwest side. The district, to be one of the city’s largest, is only a component of a plan seeking to broaden notions of preservation in Chicago, and it aims to protect culture and affordability in Pilsen and neighboring Little Village along with the historic built environment. The Pilsen and Little Village Preservation Strategy is meant to strengthen affordability requirements, provide new housing resources for existing residents, enact an industrial modernization agenda, and improve public and open space. These initiatives are an attempt to steer Pilsen and Little Village away from the type of development that displaces existing residents and threatens the nature of neighborhoods as seen along the 606, a 2.7-mile linear park completed in 2015 that has changed the character of Humboldt Park and neighboring Logan Square, as well as Wicker Park and Bucktown. The measures follow an ordinance in November that cleared the way for Chicago to purchase four miles of an abandoned rail right-of-way currently owned by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company for the Paseo, a linear pedestrian and bike trail first proposed in 2006. Unlike the 606, Chicago intends to follow a more careful path forward with the Paseo, taking steps to ensure that park planning will not take precedence over neighborhood-wide concerns of affordability and developer-driven teardowns. The Pilsen Historic District will intersect the Paseo at Sangamon Street, the far east end of the district. According to a report released by Cities, the International Journal of Urban Policy and Planning, monthly rent on tracts bordering the 606 increased by $201 from 2010 to 2016, double the average citywide increase of $102. During that same census period, the share of non-Hispanic whites in the population increased by 4.83 percent. The median household income of people living on property bordering the 606 jumped by $14,682, compared to a citywide $3,557. In addition to taking a proactive approach to new public space, the strategy also responds to pressure from developers looking to capitalize on the neighborhood Forbes named one of the “12 Coolest Neighborhoods around the World" because of its "streets lined with hip galleries and walls decorated with colorful murals dating from the 1970s." A strong sense of Mexican pride is articulated through the adornment of the built environment with vibrant murals, many using pre-Columbian motifs and portraits of both icons and contemporary activists to express the diasporic identity of the community. These colorful murals are at risk as buildings are bought, sold, and rehabbed, as was the case of the iconic Casa Aztlán mural that was painted over in 2017. A real estate panel targeting developers titled “Chicago’s Emerging Neighborhoods: The Rise of Pilsen, Uptown, Logan Square and Humboldt Park” is scheduled for December 12, and promises to show developers how to reposition assets in “boom” neighborhoods and capitalize on the halo effect of institutional investment. As reported by Block Club Chicago, the event faced criticism on social media, leading to a softening of the tone of the marketing materials and the addition of language addressing affordability. Included in the preservation plan is a five-year Affordable Requirement Ordinance (ARO) pilot program that will increase required affordability requirements for large residential projects that require a zoning change within a 7.2-mile area of Pilsen and Little Village. The bulk of the proposed historic district and the Paseo lies inside the ARO pilot program area. The program will up the affordable housing requirements for new developments with ten or more units from 10 percent to 20 percent, with provisions to increase the number of family size units via financial incentives. Like the citywide ordinance, developers will have to pay an in-lieu fee if they choose not to provide on-site units. Within the pilot program area, the fee jumps from $100,000 to $150,000 per unit. Working in tandem with the ARO pilot, the Chicago Community Land Trust will provide reduced property taxes in exchange for long-term affordability, with the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund, the recipient of the in-lieu fees, providing rental subsidies. Through a multi-year community-based process, the City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development is looking to modernize the Little Village Industrial Corridor as an employment center while improving economic, environmental, and social conditions. The industrial corridor runs along the Stevenson Expressway roughly from Cicero to Western and provides manufacturing jobs to Little Village residents. Concurrently listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the local historic district designation will protect the physical manifestation of over a century of immigration in Pilsen, a complex patchwork of worker’s cottages, commercial buildings, houses of worship, churches, and schools, most of which were constructed from 1870 to 1910 by Czech and Bohemian immigrants. Mexican-Americans became the predominant ethnic group in the mid-20th century, creating a network of ultra-local activism that forged coalitions between working class people across Chicago. Designation of the district unlocks multiple financial incentives for commercial and residential properties, including the 20% Federal Historic Tax Credit and the 25% State Historic Tax Credit, as well as Class L Property Tax Incentives and Preservation Easement Donations.
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Beggars *can* be choosers

2018 Best of Design Awards winners for Unbuilt - Cultural
2018 Best of Design Awards for Unbuilt – Cultural: Beggar’s Wharf Arts Complex Designer: Ten to One Location: Rockland, Maine The Beggar’s Wharf Arts Complex is at the heart of a redevelopment design vision commissioned by Rockland City Planning to revitalize the coastal Maine town’s brownfield waterfront district. Ten to One conceived of a mixed-use program that incorporates a museum, studios, educational facilities, live-work housing, commercial spaces, and a marina. At the core of the proposal, a main museum structure is set to seamlessly blend into the streetscape outside. This main building will be clad in a mushroom-shaped skin composed of cedar wood fins. A series of flexible galleries will unfurl upward through a public procession of theaters, terraces, cafes, and markets. The historic Bicknell Factory Building will be reclaimed as a continuation of the museum and house additional exhibition and event spaces. Honorable Mention Project name: NXTHVN Designer: Deborah Berke Partners Location: New Haven, Connecticut
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Building Public Trust

How the Trust for Public Land is converting schoolyards to playgrounds
The third and last case study in this three-part series related to breaking borders is an interview with Carter Strickland, the New York State director of the Trust for Public Land (TPL), regarding the TPL's Schoolyard to Playground Program. The previous interview was with Deborah Marton of the New York Restoration Project. The Architect’s Newspaper: Can you give me some background on the Trust for Public Land Schoolyards program and how it breaks down borders? Carter Strickland: Since 1996, the Trust for Public Land (TPL), has been working out of its New York City office to partner with the City of New York and its Department of Education, to transform low-performing asphalt “play yards” into multi-benefit play spaces used by the schools during the school day and the local community after school, on weekends, and on holidays and vacations—including all summer. Our work breaks down the physical border between schools and the surrounding community by unlocking fences and opening a new neighborhood park and breaks down institutional and other borders by involving the community in the visioning and design process before the park is built, and in the programming and use of the park after it is built. AN: How do you choose where to work? CS: Over the last 20 years, TPL has worked with the city to identify asphalt schoolyards that offer little in play value—mostly barren, uninspiring asphalt yards that have no play equipment except for rundown basketball courts, that shed water from their impervious surfaces to the storm sewers and retain pools of water days after rainstorms, and, because they are black asphalt and absorb the sun’s rays, are increasing the urban heat island effect. These areas are surrounded by high wire mesh fences; they have all the charm of a prison yard. Worse, they were historically locked up, only used by the school, and not available to poor communities starved for open space. We look for principals, teachers, and custodians who are ready and willing to invite the community in. AN: How has the program grown? CS: That model was pursued on a small scale initially dependent on corporate funding, with 12 sites built in the first eight years. By 2004, the city had obtained mayoral control of the school system and was open to public-private partnerships, and TPL was able to formalize its partnership in an MOU with the NYC Department of Education and the NYC School Construction Authority to renovate schoolyards. The agreement provided 2 to 1 matching funds from the City of New York for the development of five playgrounds a year for five years, a pace maintained from 2004 to 2007. Former mayor Michael R. Bloomberg launched PlaNYC, a comprehensive sustainability plan for the city that adopted a goal of having every New Yorker live within a 10-minute walk of a park. To meet this goal the city encouraged creative approaches and especially cross-silo efforts, and the program really took off. The city entered into a partnership with TPL, which would serve as the community engagement intermediary with schools and neighbors, the Department of Education (which Mayor Bloomberg got control of from the State of New York), and the Department of Parks & Recreation, which designed and built the playground transformations, and approximately 150 more part-time schoolyards were transformed into full-time community playgrounds between 2007 and 2013. The PlaNYC work wrapped up but NYC Department of Environmental Protection stepped up as a funder for parks that absorb water to meet the goals of the NYC Green Infrastructure Plan, and many councilmembers and borough presidents sought to fund these mini-parks for the benefits of their communities. Recently, New York State has funded playgrounds in central Brooklyn as part of its comprehensive Vital Brooklyn health initiative. To date, TPL has worked with the city and various funders to build 197 green playgrounds, with 15 more in various stages of design and construction. AN: What are the environmental benefits of the initiative? CS: Since 2013, TPL has designed playgrounds to include green infrastructure elements such as rain gardens and absorbent turf fields, turning each of the spaces into a stormwater capture system. This has helped the city to meet its legal mandate to reduce stormwater runoff going onto the Combined Sewer System (CSS) in NYC that contributes to Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) during rainstorms, a significant source of pollution to the nearby rivers and harbor waters. AN: Can you explain the design process? CS: TPL and its consultant landscape architects work with students, teachers, and neighbors to design a new, full-service playground for the school’s use, with new play equipment, sports fields with synthetic turf (it was determined that real grass would not survive even one week of intense use), a running track, performance areas, trees, and gardens with both flowers and places to grow vegetables. We spend five-to-ten weeks in the schools and community, with schoolchildren measuring the grounds, undertaking a sun/shade analysis, surveying the community for a recreational needs analysis, and learning about budget and other constraints. Our professionals turn this data and vision into alternative designs, which are then voted on by the school community. In this way, we transform not only public spaces but empower the community and students with knowledge and the experience of improving their neighborhood. AN: How is TPL using New York City as a prototype for work across the country? CS: The TPL Schoolyard to Playground model has been replicated in other cities in the US, including in Philadelphia, where it works with the very progressive Philadelphia water department in creating “water-smart” playground in both parks and at schools, as well as in Newark, New Jersey, and in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Epilogue Use of vacant lots for parks and community gardens is not a new idea. A March 28, 1896, article in Scientific American article titled “Cultivation of Vacant Lots by the Poor,” described prototypical gardens on New York City vacant lots intended to be a prototype for cities across the country. While the focus was on food production the social value cannot be discounted. An important difference between this work and that of the three leaders interviewed is an attitude that works across demographics and socioeconomic borders. They are opening up space and expanding attitudes about how we treat one another. This progressive move away from the anti-planning that Commissioner Silver described to an open and inclusive process is helping us move beyond postwar attitudes that created so many urban ills. Every organization is buttressed by new data, analysis, and design tools to make more public space available in the growing city. Parks Without Borders has very meaningful perceived and real physical impacts. To the extent that that streets, sidewalks, neighborhoods, and parks become more fluidly connected to the city, quality of life in neighborhoods across the five boroughs will improve. The work of NYRP in developing vacant lots and underused NYCHA property for community gardens has had a transformative impact on the social and economic well-being of underserved communities. At Trust for Public Land, opening up schoolyards has direct benefits on local neighborhoods, and engagement of kids, teachers, and principals in a design process that involves both form-making and environmental considerations will have a long-lasting impact on the people involved in the development process. The city of the future is evolving as a greener connected polis thanks to the efforts of these and other visionary leaders. Borders are opening on the city level as political rhetoric nationally suggests a grim alternative.
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To Chicago with Love

U.S. Pavilion from Venice Biennale announces upcoming debut in Chicago
The seven installations that comprised the United States's entry to the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale will make their stateside debut on February 15 in Chicago. Dimensions of Citizenship: Architecture and Belonging from the Body to the Cosmos, a series of works exploring how architecture and design respond to citizenship, will be on view for the first time outside of the Biennale at Wrightwood 659, Pritzker Prize–winner Tadao Ando’s new concrete and light-filled adaptation of a 1920s Lincoln Park apartment building. Created by transdisciplinary teams of designers, artists, and architects, the installations focus on the architectural implications of citizenship. Themes include migration, landscape, borderlands, the right to public space, the interpretation of civic monuments, and the meaning of home. The work explores these concepts through seven spatial scales: Citizen, Civitas, Region, Nation, Globe, Network, and Cosmos. The sixteenth Venice Architecture Biennale, titled FREESPACE, included seventy-one international participants and ran in Venice from May 26 to November 25. The exhibition was commissioned by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and the University of Chicago (UChicago) on behalf of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Chicago makes a strong showing among Dimensions of Citizenship’s collaborators, including curators Ann Lui, principal of Future Firm and assistant professor in the Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects at SAIC, and Niall Atkinson, associate professor at UChicago, with co-curator Iker Gil, director of MAS Studio, also of SAIC. Mimi Zeiger, independent critic, editor, curator, and educator rounds out the curatorial team. The seven individual teams are SCAPE; Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman; Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Laura Kurgan, Robert Gerard Pietrusko with Columbia Center for Spatial Research; Keller Easterling with MANY; and Design Earth. There is a Chicago presence among the teams as well, in Studio Gang, and Amanda Williams + Andres L. Hernandes in collaboration with artist Shani Crowe. On display From February 15 through April 27, 2019, Dimensions of Citizenship is the second public exhibition at Wrightwood 659, a new space devoted to exhibitions of architecture and socially engaged art made possible by Alphawood Foundation Chicago. The exhibition follows Ando and Le Corbusier: Masters of Architecture, closing December 15.
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A Tall Drink of Thai Iced Tea

Büro Ole Scheeren completes Thailand's tallest tower
Bangkok, Thailand, has added a sculptural topper to its skyline with the completion of the MahaNakhon (which means “great metropolis” in Thai), the tallest building in Thailand. The local branch of international studio Büro Ole Scheeren designed the 1,030-foot-tall tower, a glassy spire with a distinctive “dissolving” cutaway that spirals up along the length of the building. With the completion of a glass-bottomed observation deck at the very top of MahaNakhon on November 26, the 77-story tower is now officially open to the public. “The idea behind MahaNakhon was to take the life of the city and bring it up the tower in a dramatic, spiraling movement,” said Ole Scheeren, principal of Büro Ole Scheeren. “Even the very top of the tower is surrendered to the public, so there is not only a public square at the ground, but human activity rises along the pixelated shaft to the top floors of the building which are given back to the public domain. It is a project that is strongly embedded in the city and the public realm, and expressively proclaims itself as an active part of it.” The distinctive cut that snakes around the building gives it an unfinished appearance from a distance, but reveals planted terraces, balconies, and cantilevering living rooms when viewed in detail. Scheeren has described the gesture as an “erosion” of the typical rectangular form that’s meant to blur the boundaries between the interior spaces and Thailand’s tropical climate. The 1.6-million-square-foot MahaNakhon features a bit of everything in its programming, including 200 high-end condo units, 150 hotel rooms, cafes, restaurants, and retail space located at the landscaped MahaNakhon Square at the tower’s base. The crown jewel of the glass-clad building is the “Skytray,” a 15-foot-by-57-foot glass observation deck more than 1,000 feet off the ground. Visitors will be able to check out the entirety of Bangkok (and beyond) thanks to the tower’s unobstructed height. Towers with “pixelated” cutaways have been gaining in popularity in the last few years, and the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) in particular has continued to experiment with the form. MahaNakhon may have beat BIG’s Spiral to the party though, as the Thai tower was originally commissioned in 2008.
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So Sarasota

At Sarasota Modernism Weekend Paul Rudolph dazzles—for a price
Sharp winter sunlight pours over the Umbrella House on Lido Key in Florida as a group of modern architecture enthusiasts begin their morning yoga class with a sun salutation. Shadow and light battle beneath the 3,000 square-foot wooden canopy of the house, casting a latticed reflection on the pool below. Built in 1953 by the modern architect Paul Rudolph while living and working in Sarasota, the Umbrella House would become a centerpiece of the Sarasota School of Architecture: a localized architectural movement that brought the aesthetic of midcentury modernism to the beach—and keeps the tourists coming every year for a Palm Springs–inspired Modernism Weekend. Sarasota today is a characteristic American town of some 50,000 year-round residents. Concentrated around a polished 9.5-square-mile built-up downtown area, it unfurls outward into an eclectic 25-square-mile collage of gated communities, strip malls, white sand beaches, marshy swampland, and rustic cow pastures. Unlike the Sarasota of Rudolph’s time, there is ample air conditioning (some would argue too much), a plethora of open-air campuses, and a constantly expanding cluster of high-rise condos dotting the shores of downtown and Siesta Key: the once-barren strip of fine quartz sand beach where Rudolph built several of his chic micro-cabin guest houses in the 1950s. Also unique to the present is a clear, defined interest in Sarasota’s modern architectural heritage. The Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF) was founded in 2002 to bring local and international awareness to the rich legacy of Sarasota Modern. Every November since 2013, a couple hundred tropical modernism buffs make a beeline for the Sunshine State or stir from their Sarasota siestas to attend Sarasota MOD. This year’s MOD Weekend marks Paul Rudolph’s centennial, for which SAF tapped Pulitzer Prize–winning architecture critic Paul Goldberger to deliver a keynote presentation on Rudolph, prefaced by a screening of Bob Eisenhardt’s short film Spaces: The Architecture of Paul Rudolph, and a panel discussion titled “Reassessing Rudolph” featuring Rudolph experts and academics Brian Goldstein, Eric Paul Mumford, Ken Tadashi, and moderated by local architect Timothy M. Rohan. As Goldberger emphasized in his keynote lecture, the '50s architecture culture in Sarasota was a “rare moment with an extraordinary meeting of minds”—minds that, conveniently enough, came to town with a lot of money. For Rudolph, fresh out of Harvard's GSD following a two-year intermission in the navy, this meant the opportunity for hands-on building experience in his 30s, when he designed several guest houses that helped anchor the Sarasota Modern style, including the iconic curving Cocoon House and yoga-friendly Umbrella House. He even pioneered a new building typology, the lamolithic house. Made from poured concrete slab walls and a steel-reinforced roof, key features of the lamolithic house were untempered (and certainly not hurricane-proof) glass windows, a roof encased in four to six inches of crushed coral that provided waterproof insulation, and a passive cooling sprinkling system on the roof. The open plan was designed to capture the cross-winds pouring in from the Gulf. Rudolph built four out of the five lamolithic houses he had planned on Siesta Key. At their public debut, over 100 visitors came and demanded he begin building identical structures for them. Following the success of these homes, Lamolithic Industries, Rudolph’s partner in the project, pioneered a prototype of a two-bedroom home costing $8,900 that never fully materialized. While touring the lamolithic and guest houses on a three-hour trolley bus tour of Paul Rudolph’s projects on Siesta Key, it became evident that this model was meant as a base that owners could pimp out at their discretion. Swanky circular pools and exotic cactus gardens materialize underneath the lanai: Florida’s unique netted cage of a semi-enclosed garden. The contemporary extensions hit an all-time absurd in Revere Quality House (c. 1948), whose owners added a three-story modernist mansion onto the humble dwelling in 2007, courtesy local architect Guy Peterson. Sarasota has always been one of the wealthiest counties in the Sunshine State; current residents of Siesta Key, one of the most expensive areas of the city and where many of Rudolph’s commissions were realized, earn an average income of $62,000 per resident (more than twice the national average). Rewind back to Rudolph’s stint in Sarasota and the story is much the same. The influx of new residents in postwar Florida melded with a burgeoning middle class that had money to burn, plus opportunistic property developers eager to turn Sarasota into a destination point, all while reaping the state’s status as a tax haven on investment properties. This placed a large demand for infrastructure and culture to fill up this sleepy town on the Gulf of Mexico—and fast. Key businessmen-cum-patrons like Lido Shores–developer Philip Hiss were instrumental in giving the cluster of Sarasota-based architects who would later be known as the Sarasota School their first shot at building. For Rudolph in particular, this was a total boon and laid the foundation for the future of his career. But for today’s architectural enthusiasts without such deep pockets (including students) this creates an area of friction in the SarasotaMOD festivities. For cultural interest events such as these, this translates into $250 dinners, $150 trolley tours, and $30 yoga classes—or a $6,000 overnight stay in Rudolph’s Umbrella House, if you’re feeling inclined—and precludes access to the Sarasota School from a much larger, and probably much younger, audience. It is true that when most people think of Paul Rudolph, they tend to think about the radiant play of light within his Interdenominational Chapel (1969) at Emory University, the menacing melancholia of the Art & Architecture building at Yale (its ugliness, it is said, led to the arson of 1969), or that overwhelming behemoth of Temple Street Parking Garage (1963), its shadowy mass swallowing up 6 blocks nearby in New Haven—and not so much his quaint beach houses dotting Siesta Key. But it is also true that Sarasota gave Rudolph the jump-start that electrified his tumultuous career. Where patrons and projects abound, the little town on the Gulf allowed Rudolph to become a principal at Ralph Twitchell’s firm in under four years (the same firm he interned at before Harvard). It enabled him to become an independent architect, ditching Twitchell in 1958 to build two major high schools in Sarasota where he grew into his own style. Sarasota was the springboard that catapulted Rudolph into the Chair of Yale University’s Department of Architecture in 1960, where he would experience another pivotal moment of divinity and fall from grace in the now-infamous Brutalist masterpiece of the Art & Architecture Building at Yale. Although Rudolph was later condemned by critics who predicted his conservative style would be left in the dust by slick and jazzy postmodernism, he always responded best when placed in the pressure cooker. Which is why what happened nearly seventy years ago in this sleepy Floridian town feels like such a special occurrence and the ultra-steep price tag of its discovery such a shame.
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Pleateauing

Andrea Blum's sculptures make space in Philadelphia
Artist Andrea Blum's Plateau public sculpture has been moved by the University of Pennsylvania for the second time. The work was originally commissioned by Penn in cooperation with the Redevelopment Authority of Philadelphia in 2006 for an approximately 4,800-square-foot area on the edge of the university's Philadelphia campus. The work's steel and concrete pavilions created seating, tables, and light shelter for students and area residents until 2017 when the university decided to build a new dorm on the site and worked with the artist to redesign the sculpture for a new, smaller location. Then, in the fall of 2018, Penn dismantled and moved the work again, this time to a location 100 yards away from the previous site.
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Some Old Time Religion

UK housing chair blasts modernism amid ire over alleged extremist views
Conservative intellectual and chair of the UK’s new Building Better, Building Beautiful commission, Sir Roger Scruton, has come out swinging against modernism. The commission’s goal is to provide housing policy recommendations that further the beautification of new developments and foster a sense of community. The controversial scholar, who has faced calls to resign over his views on race, date rape, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and more, derided modernism as destroying the urban fabric in a speech before London’s right-leaning Policy Exchange think tank. As Scruton delivered the inaugural Colin Amery Memorial Lecture on November 14, he railed against Norman Foster, Mies van der Rohe, and what Scruton described as a “NIMBY” (not in my backyard) backlash that precluded the building of new housing in dense urban areas. Calling the housing crisis an aesthetic issue, not an economic one, Scruton posited that “the degradation of our cities is the result of a modernist vernacular, whose principal device is the stack of horizontal layers, with jutting and obtrusive corners, built without consideration for the street, without a coherent facade, and without intelligible relation to its neighbors.” Scruton claims that as opponents of these non-contextual housing projects force their relocation to the outer edge of the city, it encourages an increasing amount of “void and sprawl.” The commission chair also got in his hits against the International Style Seagram Building, calling it and all of its imitators “lamentable.” Of the Foster-designed City Hall in London, he described it as an “alien object” at the center of a “growing moral void” that intentionally excluded human-scale interaction. Modernist vernacular in general, according to Scruton, is inherently inferior to the pre-modernist style of weaving together seamless street walls with heavy ornamentation, in particular those in Victorian and Georgian styles, a refrain also gathering in popularity among white ethno-nationalists. Scruton used the speech as a chance to dismiss his critics, saying that his work at the commission had been “interrupted by the half-educated having their say first.” He may have been referencing calls from architects and Labour MPs to resign over a long history of divisive comments. In a 2001 article for New York’s conservative City Journal magazine, Scruton claimed that being gay was just as bad as smoking and knocked 10 years off of the lives of LGBTQ individuals. Just this past April, Scruton suggested that one of the 9/11 hijackers, who had studied architecture in Hamburg, was “taking revenge on an architectural practice which had been introduced into the Middle East by Le Corbusier.” Scruton’s comments on Jews in Hungary forming a “[George] Soros empire” to undermine the country’s national sovereignty, and his close ties to Hungary’s Prime Minister and hardliner Viktor Orbán, have also drawn international scrutiny. Scruton, for his part, has brushed off these criticisms as wholly unfounded and a distraction from the important work he was hired to do.