A fledgling plan to bring high-speed rail (HSR) service to the Pacific Northwest region of the United States and parts of southwestern Canada is moving closer to becoming a reality.
The Urbanistreported that this week, the Washington State Legislature introduced legislation that would create a new interstate high-speed rail authority for the region that could begin to take the first steps toward making the Cascadia Rail plan a reality. According to The Urbanist, the new rail authority would be in charge of coordinating high-speed rail efforts across Washington, Oregon, and Canadian jurisdictions while also setting requirements for contracting operations and other issues. The authority would also be responsible for ensuring that the trains and routes selected for the project could deliver service at 250 miles per hour, a key stipulation for making the project economically viable across the region.
The authority would also provide a singular contact point for communities along the proposed routes and would handle the preparation of environmental impact reports at the federal and local levels.
A preliminary plan for the Cascadia Rail service was unveiled in 2018 that proposed a coastal line connecting Portland, Oregon, with Vancouver, Canada. The plan includes an eastern spur connecting Spokane, Washington, with Seattle.
The plan has support from the Washington State business community as well as a growing set of local officials who see the prospect of reliable, high-speed rail service as a key way of reducing automobile traffic along Interstate-5 while also helping to address growing transportation emissions across the region.
Several high-speed rail plans are making progress around the country, including in California, where the nation’s first true high-speed rail network is currently under construction. After years of planning and partisan bickering, the controversial plan is finally in full-swing and a line running through central California between Bakersfield and Madera is expected to open by 2022.
Along the Florida coast, the privately owned Brightline route made its debut this year connecting West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Though the train is not truly a high-speed rail corridor—it runs at top speeds of roughly 80 miles per hour—the train has cut travel times between the two cities by over an hour. The line is expected to expand to serve Miami and Orlando by 2020.
All Aboard Florida, the company that owns and operates Brightline, is also moving toward a second train venture connecting Las Vegas, Nevada, with the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. The company recently purchased XpressWest, a struggling venture that was aiming to deliver service between the two cities following the Interstate-15 corridor, Urbanize.LAreported. Like the Florida line, however, trains will not exactly run at high speeds; projected service is expected to begin in 2022 and will run at around 92 miles per hour.
This might sound like a good bit of progress—and it is—but recent rail development in the United States pales in comparison to the many ambitious rail projects under construction around the world.
China, for example, plans to build over 2,000 miles of true high-speed rail lines in 2019 alone. That’s enough track to connect Philadelphia to Phoenix.
Metropolitan Atlanta is undergoing something of an urban moment; new developments and towers are cropping up across the city at a dizzying pace in tandem with public parks, pedestrian zones, and new transit lines. Initiatives such as the BeltLine and The Gulch promise a discernible shift from the car-centric planning that has been the city's course for decades.
On January 16, Facades+ Atlanta will bring together the leading architectural firms executing projects within the city, including Beck Architecture, Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, HKS Architects, Duda|Paine Architects, and John Portman & Associates (JPA).
In anticipation of the conference, AN interviewed JPA's conference co-chairs Gordon R. Beckman, principal and design director, and Pierluca Maffey, principal and vice president of design, to better understand a city in flux and the storied firm's role within this transformation.
The Architect's Newspaper: Atlanta is undergoing a period of incredible growth that is reshaping the physical character of the city. What do you perceive to be the most interesting facade and structural innovations in Atlanta today?Pierluca Maffey: Just like people in many other cities in the U.S., Atlantans are rediscovering the advantages that urban living means to everyday life. The idea of buying a big house with car garages that look like hangars is shifting towards the purchase of more efficient spaces possibly near or well connected to public spaces and activities where human interaction occurs and social experiences unfold. This is the sociological change at the base of the new urbanism that is shaping many cities in the U.S. Share more space instead of owning it; share a mean of transportation; share experiences instead of having exclusive ones and so on. Even the workplace is based on sharing more knowledge to spark innovation, and the hospitality business is doing the same by transforming exclusive hotel lobbies into urban hubs where people and events take place.
In that sense, Portman was way ahead of its time when in the early '60s, while America was abandoning every downtown to escape in the promise land of suburbia, he invested in redeveloping downtown Atlanta. Designing, developing and promoting the heart of the city was and is the best way to build the identity and the culture of a town. The less risky route of urbanizing more land in the outskirts of an older city is far more devastating to the development of a community. Today, we see people demanding for a higher quality of urban living and the administrations and the developers must cater to this “new” idea of a city, one in which people can feel safe to occupy and live during the day and night. Unfortunately, Atlanta does not have the same density as other important cities in the U.S. however, it is moving in the right trajectory to attract the new generations of citizens. Capitalizing on some of the major assets that the city owns like Georgia Tech and the busiest airport in the world, the city is becoming a hub for many industries, and it is attracting a cosmopolitan population that will enrich the experience and the development of this city. These newcomers, like myself, are bringing in new ideas and demanding more updated public space throughout the city.
The results are visible in many recent projects around town, from large to small, where the leading factor is no longer the efficiency and the return on investment, but the public demand for better public spaces and streetscapes where the building facades represent the edges like walls in a house. Unfortunately, the demand for cars is still high because the public transportation grid quality is still very weak but hopefully it will change in the future with the right policies and a good collaboration between public and private partnerships on how to address traffic and development in the city.
Gordon R. Beckman: It's a great time to be in Atlanta. The last two or three generations seem to have found a renewed interest in urban living and its associated benefits, culturally, socially, and environmentally. The result has been an influx of people, an influx of ideas, and a necessity to increase opportunities for living and working. This is a huge plus for the city as it demands increased density, further defining edges between private and public spaces resulting in a more walkable place-oriented city fabric.
Building enclosures fulfill numerous roles, the most basic being to separate us from the elements, but they also form a significant part of the building identity and in the best cases they integrate ideas and ideals of energy to boost occupant comfort while minimizing energy consumption. Importantly, they also become the enclosure system for the public realm and the public spaces of the urban environment. Atlanta, as most cities are, is composed of multiple distinct neighborhoods. As a result, there are numerous projects throughout the city both planned and completed that are unique in their image, form, and enclosure systems.
A key part of Tech Square, the JPA-designed Coda project, derives out of the idea of creating a public open space within the urban block. Its elegant glazed exterior wall defines the street edges, is modulated to define a pedestrian scale at the street and, together with the data center and historical Crum and Foster building, define the inner public space. High-performance glazing together with view glass in a unitized curtain wall contributes to the expectation of LEED Gold status.
Historic preservation is gaining in popularity in Atlanta. How do you perceive this trend altering the city, and how can architects embrace it?LM:Historic preservation is a must. Buildings of the past represent a culture and decisions that were taken at a certain time by people who came before us. That said, when a building loses its main purpose, I see an opportunity for us to reinvent that same structure and breathe new life into it without losing its richness and history. A lot of structures were torn down in the past decades, and that was the trend around the nation. Perhaps it was not the best thing to do, judging with today’s mentality, but we can’t change that anymore. What we can do is preserve what we have today and what was left from before.
Our 230 Indigo is a repurpose of the first office project designed by Portman in the '60s. We converted the first nine floors into a hotel and preserved the rest as an office. The massing composition of Coda was all based on the 1926 Crum and Forster building. It was a priority to preserve the structure as a jewel and that led to a decision to create active space around it and place all the higher structures away from it to create a neutral background for its classical unique architecture.
I am glad that the developers and designers are preserving a lot of the industrial structures bringing new life into them. Ponce City Market and Krog are the best examples we have in town, but there are many more done by other developers and very good architects who understand the richness and responsibility of preserving older structures. What I really do not like is new developments and designers promoting new buildings to look like industrial warehouses. That is tricking the customers, just like giving them a fake 1500 Tuscan Villa in the outskirts of a U.S. metropolis.
Atlanta's skyline is defined by your firm's projects. Can you expand on the relationship your firm has cultivated with the city? LM: Like many other cities in the U.S., Atlanta has seen the exodus of the middle class towards suburbia. The fact that Atlanta has no natural boundaries like mountains or water that could constraint its sprawl in the territory caused the “explosion of the city” into many other satellite cities. At a moment in which Downtown Atlanta lost most of its economic force and middle class, Portman decided to reinvest in the city and never left its core. The office never left downtown, and the investments that were made through the years into what is now a large master plan were able and still can bring millions of visitors to the city. The design aesthetic adopted at an era when brutalism was spreading around the world is seen today as very stark and not inviting. The decision to create an alternative to the open public space offered by the streets was a way to provide safety for people and businesses that were catering to the visitors coming to the conventions and to the fair held by America’s Mart and the Georgia World Congress Center. It is understandable how today we see those solutions as unfavorable to the evolution of the activity and safety of public open spaces however, they provided a viable solution at the time they were conceived and are still significantly successful today with thousands of people meandering through the food court of Peachtree center and the atriums of the Hyatt Regency and Marriott Marquis. Today Ponce City Market and Krog Street offer the more appealing “food hall,” but the concept is the same: an introverted world where the public space is privately owned and managed. We still can’t take a stroll down the street looking at shops and choose a restaurant out of hundreds available like you would do in Europe.
Coda is opening to the city again and it reflects the current city culture. We deliberately created an open plaza easily accessible from two major streets and widely open to the sidewalks. It's a place for gathering and connecting with other people. It's still a privately owned and managed place but exposed and available to everyone to experience. That said, the owner decided on building an adjacent food hall to energize the outdoor space and activate it throughout the day. We are still far from the great public urban space seen in other cities in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world, but those are not developed by private companies. Those public spaces are built by the administrations and they reflect the culture of the society at a particular time. We might not be there yet, but we are certainly ready to play our part in designing them.
GB: Atlanta has a rich and varied architectural legacy. Our founder John Portman contributed to the vast array of projects that define this city. He recognized that for Atlanta to remain a vital urban place, the energy of the urban core needed to be maintained through comprehensive economic planning, as seen in the offices and hotel of Peachtree Center. At the time these projects were being executed, the city was blighted by suburban flight that challenged the primacy of urban living.
Portman and his internal public squares recognized the need for public spaces within the city. Now, our practice is seeking to blur the boundary between interior and exterior. The contrast between the Marriott Marquis and the new Coda project demonstrate this idea in a powerful way.
Atlanta is on fire with its growth, with the metropolitan area projected to grow to nine million residents by 2040. This exponential growth means more work, more housing, more cultural projects, more urbanism, transportation systems, infrastructure, and so on. The future vision of the city largely rests on Atlanta's community of architects, planners, and developers.
Further information regarding the Facades+ conference can be found here.
Now in its third week, the partial government shutdown is proving extremely tough for not only direct federal employees but also outside contractors who work with and rely on funding from U.S. agencies. In New York alone, that means big-name organizations like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and smaller businesses helping with capital construction efforts throughout the five boroughs. It’s estimated that over 50,000 federal contract employees in the New York metropolitan area are out of work and pay with no end in sight. While some organizations aren't running at all, others are still forcing people to work but without hope of immediate reimbursement. For example, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on Sunday the MTA could lose up to $150 million each month in federal funds as long the shutdown remains. This would halt major track repair work still ongoing after Hurricane Sandy and further construction on the Second Avenue Subway, according to the New York Post. This would happen because the General Fund, managed by the U.S. Bureau of Fiscal Service, is currently compromised, meaning companies working on state and city projects sponsored through the Federal Transit Administration’s capital investment grants program will see a slow-down in reimbursement. New York will be forced to pay out-of-pocket for the above subway improvements and work on the Select Bus Service lines, among other things.
Because most public building and infrastructure construction projects in New York City are managed and funded by local government agencies, work will carry on. But that doesn’t mean it will all run as smoothly as expected. As weeks pass on, it will likely become increasingly difficult to import the necessary building materials selected for these construction projects. This is not only because of President Trump’s trade war but because of international shipping delays and a slow-down in safety checks through other agencies. The Federal Maritime Commission is closed and cannot smoothly regulate cargo clearance or port activity. In addition, hazardous materials being imported into the United States might be held up as all port investigators within the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission have been furloughed. What’s more, the Commerce Department can’t process requests from manufacturing companies who want an exemption from Trump’s metal tariffs. These are all big issues for U.S.-based manufacturers that can’t plan for the year ahead if they don’t have an accurate estimate of how much important imported materials will cost them and how long those products will take to reach them. Trump plans to make a televised, prime-time address tonight to discuss what he calls a humanitarian crisis at the U.S. Southern border. It’s unclear whether he’ll give an actual timeline for getting the government up and running again, though he’s repeatedly said he won’t cancel the shutdown until Congress gives him the full $5.6 billion needed to build his border wall. Until then, contractors in every city and state will have to make do with potential delays and money coming from their own bank accounts.
The aged elevated highway that famously borders downtown Seattle along its waterfront is set to officially close this Friday as part of the city's multi-pronged tunnel replacement project. The two-mile Alaskan Way Viaduct, also known as State Route 99, has blown past its recommended lifespan and has long been considered a major hazard to the city and its drivers.Its upcoming closure marks the beginning of a new transportation system for the whole city, but the saga leading up to this point has been harrowing. After a 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Seattle in 2001, causing widespread panic about the then 48-year-old highway’s structural safety, the city and state began more seriously studying options to replace the viaduct. The Washington State Department of Transportation settled on a plan in 2004 that would include the build-out of a shallow, six-lane tunnel, but opposition soon arose over the project’s exorbitant cost and lengthy proposed construction timeline.After years of arguments, the most dangerous part of the highway, which sat south of downtown, was eventually demolished in 2011. Two years later, Seattle began making way for the tunnel, but the boring machine used to burrow the tunnel’s diameter broke down four months into its 1.7-mile journey underneath the city. It took another two years to repair the machine and digging began again in late December 2015. Despite more setbacks, including a large, unexpected sinkhole, the tunnel boring project was completed in spring 2017. It’s expected to open up to vehicular traffic in four weeks. Next steps include the demolition of the remaining standing viaduct and the construction of a street-level boulevard along its footprint. Dubbed the New Alaskan Way, it will line the edge of Elliot Bay. Once that's complete, the entirely revamped highway system will stretch northbound in two directions starting from Seattle’s major sports stadiums, CenturyLink and Safeco Fields, which are situated south of downtown. The SR 99 tunnel route begins adjacent to the arenas and runs northeast underneath the city toward a northern portal near Seattle Center, the home of the Space Needle. Drivers will be able to bypass downtown through the tunnel or the waterfront street-level surface highway or simply exit onto city streets.The decision to build both an underground highway and an elongated boulevard is an unconventional approach to mid-century transportation replacement projects. Cities around the country are currently grappling with similar situations revolving around dilapidated infrastructure, but Seattle’s struggle has been on the global stage for quite some time. After all, the Alaskan Way Viaduct should have come down decades ago when experts first saw signs of damage.It’s interesting to see a major metropolis, one sitting at sea level no less, choose this multi-project plan that for years created a mess of construction chaos and citywide debate. Though the pedestrian-friendly New Alaskan Way will likely do wonders to connect downtown Seattle with its industrial waterfront—a much-needed intervention—at a total of $3.3 billion it’s hard not to see this decision as both a big win for the city's future and a big burden for its present.
Late last week, Transbay Joint Powers Authority officials in San Francisco approved plans to repair a pair of fractured beams that were discovered at the now-shuttered Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects–designed Transbay Transit Center last fall.
The plan calls for the installation of four sets of new steel reinforcing plates to shore up the failing members, The San Francisco Examinerreported. The peer-reviewed repair plans were approved in late December by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), a transportation agency that works across the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. MTC’s preliminary investigation concluded that the issues with the fissured beams were linked to the presence of welding access holes that had been cut into the beams to facilitate their installation. In all, four beams will be reinforced under the repair plan: the two fractured beams spanning over Fremont Street and a pair of corresponding but uncompromised beams located on the opposite side of the building.
According to the report, the steel plates will be bolted together above and below the areas where the fractures occurred on each beam. A date for reopening the center has not been set, but authorities are at work on a construction schedule for the repairs. A further update to the plans will be presented to the board of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority later this week.
The $2.2 billion transit center opened to much fanfare in August 2018 but closed just a few weeks after its debut because of the construction faults. The transit center spans three blocks and is capped by a 5.4-acre park designed by PWP Landscape Architects. Thornton Tomasetti is the design engineer for the project.
The center has been closed for over 100 days and commuters have gone back to using a temporary bus depot that had been in operation during construction for their daily transportation needs.
The New York Outsider Art Fair, which displays "Self-Taught Art, Art Brut, and Outsider Art," will bring Kambel Smith's hand-made sculptures to the public for the first time. Smith, a self-taught artist, has carefully created models of major buildings of Philadelphia.
The models, while highly detailed, are made from cardboard and other materials salvaged from the trash. Many of them are large, carefully constructed objects in their own right. According to the Outsider Art Fair, "[t]hese large-scale works now require more than half the family's home in Germantown, Pennsylvania, to store."
The 27th New York Outsider Art Fair will take place January 17-20 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City.
Three groups in Atlanta are proposing to cover portions of the city’s congested downtown highways with deck parks, or green spaces built over highly-trafficked roadways. Riffing off the recent rails-to-trails developments found in New York such as the High Line or Hudson Yards, these park-like platforms would attract newcomers and new development to Atlanta’s urban core while still allowing cars to continue crossing underneath.According to the Wall Street Journal, several schemes are underway to reimagine Atlanta’s notoriously crowded interstates with deck parks. One proposal, dubbed The Stitch is being touted by Central Atlanta Progress (CAP), a nonprofit community development organization that works to improve and preserve the downtown area. If built, the 14-acre park plan would span the I-75 and I-85 Downtown Connector from the Civic Center MARTA Station to Piedmont Avenue, creating a series of urban plazas and corridors for walkable and recreational space as well as special programming surrounding Emory University and the Georgia Power headquarters. Mixed-use residential projects, restaurants, retail, and medical buildings are also envisioned for The Stitch. Though it seems like an ambitious undertaking—creating a new elevated public space with room for future tall construction—projects like this have been done before. In 2012, the 5.2-acre Klyde Warren Park was completed over the Woodall Rogers Freeway in Dallas, Texas. The city is currently constructing another one near the Dallas Zoo designed in collaboration with OJB Landscape Architecture. Similar initiatives set over abandoned infrastructure have also been erected over the last decade like Atlanta’s own Belt Line, boosting real estate values and enhancing green spaces in underutilized areas.The WSJ notes this is a growing trend. Nearly 30 cities around the U.S. have suggested deck park developments in recent years. Given Atlanta’s rising population and booming downtown development, it looks like the leading Southern city is on track to level up as an urban hub. Georgia already boasts the nation's largest tree canopy in a major metropolitan area, so adding serious acreage to downtown seems like a logical next step. And because Atlanta didn’t secure Amazon’s HQ2 bid, creating one or multiple deck parks in the city center could actually be a viable way to charm tech companies that want dynamic urban environments for their young employees.Besides The Stitch, another plan under consideration in Atlanta is a $250 million proposal for a 9-acre deck park covering Georgia State Route 400. Buckhead Community Improvement District (BCID) and Rogers Partners Architects + Urban Designersreleased renderings of the project in 2017 and announced a planned groundbreaking for 2020. Over the last year, the BCID has been busy raising money for the project. In another section of the city, it's rumored that Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy is looking to build a deck park along North Avenue at the I-85 and I-75 interchange in order to better connect Midtown Atlanta with Georgia Tech. Further details on the idea have not yet been released.
At a 12:45 p.m. press conference Thursday afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled plans to prevent the 15-month-long L train shutdown that was set to begin on April 27.
Seated between a panel of engineering experts from Cornell and Columbia Universities and representatives from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Cuomo repeatedly touted the innovative nature of the proposed solution—as well as his success in building the new Mario Cuomo Bridge.
After Hurricane Sandy struck New York City in 2012, the Canarsie Tunnel that runs between Manhattan and Brooklyn was flooded with salt water. The L line, which ferries 250,000 riders a day between the two boroughs, still requires extensive repairs to fix the corrosion caused by the storm. The concrete bench walls lining the tunnel were damaged, as were the wires and other electrical components embedded behind them.
The MTA was scrambling to implement alternatives for commuters, including turning an east-west stretch of Manhattan's 14th Street into a dedicated bus lane, but it now looks like the planning was for naught. The new scheme presented by Cuomo, a joint effort between the governor’s engineering team, WSP, Jacobs Engineering Group, and the MTA, restricts the slowdowns to nights and weekends.
Instead of removing and rebuilding the tunnel’s bench wall, and the components behind it, only the most unstable sections will be removed. Then, a fiberglass wrapper will be bonded to the tunnel’s walls via adhesive polymers and mechanical fasteners. A new cable system will be run on the inside of the tunnel via a racking system and the old wiring will be abandoned. New walkways will be added to the areas where the bench walls have already been or will be removed. Finally, a “smart sensor” network of fiber-optic cables will be installed to monitor the bench wall’s movement and alert the MTA to potential maintenance issues.
Governor Cuomo hailed the move as innovative, saying that this cable racking system was commonplace in European and Chinese rail projects but that this would be the first application in America. He also claimed that the fiberglass wrapping would be a “structural fix”, not just a Band-Aid, and that it was strong enough to hold the new Mario Cuomo bridge together. To increase the system’s sustainability, floodgates would be added to the First Avenue station in Manhattan and the Bedford Avenue station in Brooklyn.
After the presentation was complete, Cuomo passed the microphone to MTA acting chairman Fernando Ferrer, who said that the agency would be implementing the changes immediately. Still, skepticism over whether the MTA would be able to implement the plan quickly bubbled up from the members of the press in attendance and on social media. Because this method of tunnel repair has thus far been untested in the U.S., the question of whether the MTA would be able to find skilled workers to implement the plan was raised. Cuomo, for the most part, brushed the concerns off, claiming that each piece of the repair scheme has been conducted individually before.
MTA Acting Chairman Ferrer: "Why wasn't this approach considered earlier?" Because the process had never been applied to a rehabilitation project. In other words, the MTA is extremely unimaginative? Such a rehab project has never been needed afaik, period pic.twitter.com/XctpO6tLW9
If the L train repair plan proceeds as scheduled, one track at a time will be shut down on nights and weekends for up to 20 months. To offset the decrease in service, the MTA plans on increasing service on several other train lines, including the 7 and G.
Maps are cool, maps are fun, maps show us things in the world that we couldn't otherwise see. Over at The Pudding, Matt Daniels has extruded block-by-block population data for some of the world's major cities to give viewers fine-grain insight into population distribution across the core and metro areas. New York, with Manhattan at the center, resembles a geyser just before gravity intervenes, while nearby but less dense locales like Philadelphia, D.C., and Boston look like a teenager's cheekbone in a Clearasil ad. (No shade towards the Northeast Corridor, I swear!)
Daniels copped the data from the Global Human Settlement Layer and processed it using Google Earth Engine. For areas like India and China where population counts are unreliable, the data appears a little noisy in map view. A detailed explanation of the data gathering and manipulation is available here.
Curious to see your city in bars? Head on over to Human Terrain.
h/t City Observatory
Foster + Partners revealed renderings of the much-anticipated Lusail Iconic Stadium, an 80,000-seat soccer venue that will house the opening and final games of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.The project, commissioned by Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, will be situated within the center of the up-and-coming Lusail City, an under-construction modern metropolis set nine miles north of Doha. The British firm designed the centerpiece structure to mirror the ancient Arab craft of bowl weaving. It will feature a shimmery, gold palette wrapped around a slightly undulating exterior and a saddle-form retractable roof that will float above a concrete seating bowl. According to the architects, the stadium will boast a highly-efficient energy saving system, a requirement for FIFA World Cup constructions. Since Qatar’s climate is so intense, the building will help cool players and fans. Solar canopies will also hover over the parking and service areas to produce energy for the stadium and power the surrounding buildings.With Lusail Iconic Stadium, Foster + Partners joins the star-studded roster of studios that have designed projects for the tournament, including Zaha Hadid Architects and its controversial stadium in Al-Wakrah, which is near completion. Fenwick Iribarren Architects, a Spanish firm, is building a modular, 40,000-seat stadium made of repurposed steel shipping containers. After the tournament, the arenas are expected to be reused by the cities in which they’re built. The seats within Lusail Iconic Stadium, for example, will be removed and the structure will be used as a community space with room for shops, cafés, athletic and education facilities, as well as a health clinic. The project is slated for completion in 2020.
Move over Minecraft—a new video game is letting aspiring gallery designers build their own art worlds. In the massively multiplayer online (MMO) game Occupy White Walls (OWW), players can build their own galleries, raise in-game cash by ticketing other players for entry, and expand their art collection using an algorithm that learns what type of art the player enjoys.
OWW’s developers claim that with a toolkit of 1,762 and counting distinct architectural components, players can build any type of gallery they’d like, from MoMA PS1 to classical European art museums. Every gallery can be placed in its own specific context as well, from the urban metropolis to the middle of an infinite void.
Players will need to not only place art, which ranges from 18th-century pieces to contemporary works, in a pleasing place to view it, but need to control for lighting, viewing angles, the appropriate frame, and more. In an interview with Rock Paper Shotgun, developer StikiPixels described their approach as taking the introverted, thoughtful world of gallery design and turning it into a social experience. Everyone’s creations can be patronized by real-world players who can buy the art on display and fuel further expansion.
Another goal of OWW, according to the developers, is to broaden players’ artistic horizons without breaking the bank. Players are given options of (real world) pieces to display, and the game’s art discovery AI, DAISY, will give recommendations on future works that can be approved or dismissed. As DAISY gives more recommendations, the AI refines its suggestions across the entire player base.
OWW is currently available for free through the game distribution platform Steam as of November 14. The game is still in the early access phase and may change before its official release, and the developers are soliciting feedback on how they can improve the experience.