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Border Dispatch

Inside the U.S. government’s simulated border patrol installations
AN has partnered with El Paso, Texas–based AGENCY to bring readers Border Dispatches, “an on-the-ground perspective from the United States-Mexico border.” Each month, the series explores a critical site or person shaping the mutable binational territory between the two neighboring countries. While architects commonly use mock-ups of custom elements, construction details, and assemblies to gain confidence over the future prospects of experimental endeavors, the national security complex amplifies this logic at a much larger scale: building entire mock infrastructures and city-scale installations to test and refine its operations, procedures, and footprint. Among the many replicas of critical infrastructure populating a growing number of law enforcement training sites in the United States, the port of entry (POE) is an increasingly common typology, used for training U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and related forces in the duties of facilitating and managing the various flows of people, vehicles, and goods which enter and leave the country. In the annals of security training, the port is an archetypal and enduring site, a frontline where the oft-competing interests of international commerce and national security collide. Since the establishment of the U.S. Customs Service School of Instruction at the Port of New York in 1935, ports have been a fertile testing ground for young customs officers and border agents to learn their crafts in situ, embedded amid the swirling complexities of life at the edge of sovereign territory. Interstate boundaries belie similar dynamics, with port-of-entry training a common feature of state patrol academies as well. Over the years, security officials have conducted tests to improve efficiency at mock ports of entry. In a multinational security experiment hosted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2004, participants from 18 countries worked through a debugging session for the use of e-Passports, document readers, and facial recognition devices in a makeshift simulated port in Morgantown, West Virginia. Fitting the artificially smooth, fictionalized setting, each participant held simulated travel documents from the nation of “Utopia.” Recently, this pre-collection and efficiency strategy has broadened its scope at operational ports to include the capture of Bluetooth wireless signals from travelers’ portable electronics, which the CBP gathers in order to—per official statements— issue wait-time updates to would-be travelers. The recent Laredo POE Mobile Query Pilot program distributed clearance operations to arriving busloads of simulated travelers, using “smartphones paired with a peripheral to perform document reading and biometrics capture.” With current projections focusing on further streamlining operations and securing territory “between ports of entry,” this extension of port security space continues to spread. Meanwhile, the security objectives of the port site itself have diversified and intensified, with a growing host of initiatives and technologies coming together under one roof. In the first week of September 2001, reflecting a growing dissatisfaction with what was seen as a fragmented operational environment at the nation’s ports, the U.S. Congress began requesting funding to build a port of entry training facility at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) site in Glynco, Georgia. In the following week, the attacks of 9/11 put all of the nation’s ports of entry at an elevated Level 1 alert. Shortly after, border security efforts were consolidated under the newly formed CBP. Officers at ports would be assigned new, broader security roles. The ports and their simulations would need to adapt. FLETC partnered with CBP to construct the mock port, integrating new security directives while building on a history of port simulation on site. As early as 1998, the Immigration and Naturalization Service was using mock stiles at the FLETC site to test systems for tracking foreign-visitor travel through ports of entry. Construction was completed in 2003. The 22,600-square-foot facility boasted “state-of-the-art computer systems” and “primary and secondary inspection points for pedestrian and vehicular traffic,” complete with license plate readers and radiation monitors to acquaint trainees with the layered logistics of port screenings. Since beginning operations, trainees have used the simulated environment for a wide range of practical exercises, conducting mock vehicle searches, training canine units for human detection, and simulating treasury enforcement operations with the use of role players and computer tracking. In 2007, it was common practice for trainees to enter the FLETC port simulation environment after initial training at their assigned real-world POE. In a kind of mirrored urbanism, their environmental awareness would be augmented and accelerated at the mock port, seen as a kind of interchangeable extension of and stand-in for any of the over 300 real-world sites, only for the trainees to return to their home posts for duty. The mock port has been somewhat of a calling card for FLETC and a focus around which other simulated developments continue to aggregate at the center. A 200-acre counterterrorism training environment including “rural and urban neighborhoods, buildings, and roadways” sprawls nearby. A former dormitory was converted to resemble a federal building for training. An intermodal site was built in the complex, where students train for emergencies interfacing with other forms of vulnerable infrastructure; buses, trains, aircraft, and subway systems dot the site. With an increase in demand for CBP port agents, a planning proposal in 2015 included increased training capacity at the mock port site, expanding “simulation areas and laboratory and practical exercise areas” for trainees. While the FLETC port site specializes in the required training for CBP port agents and other federal agencies, other simulated port environments expand the breadth of security training offerings, along with the types of sites and constituencies they engage. The HAMMER Federal Training Center in Richland, Washington, reportedly designed by the U.S. State Department, hosts a 1,000-square-foot mock port of entry, decked out with a “vehicle inspection pad, radiation portal monitors, and sealand cargo containers.” Training exercises here focus on law enforcement searches of containers for possible threats or smuggled material. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory uses “a series of mock port-of-entry configurations” to conduct mock-inspection exercises, anticipating and resolving emerging threats. PNNL works in concert with the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office to conduct studies in how to improve radiation-detection technologies and procedures to eliminate false positives and improve detection response. At times, it seems, the simulated environment cannot match the fidelity of its real-world counterpart, and training takes over operational port sites. Multiple agencies recently converged at the Ysleta POE, in El Paso, Texas, for hazardous material (HAZMAT) training simulation. Trainees responded to a mock battery-acid contamination scenario, in which three role-playing victims were affected by defective forklift batteries in transit on an 18-wheeler. CBP partnered with the DHS’s Office of Science and Technology to construct a mock air POE to test prototypes for biometric exiting strategies at airports in 2014. The experiments were later conducted in real-world airports. The Nogales Port of Entry has hosted a number of mock disasters and counterterrorism drills, including at least one role-playing suicide bomber. Since 2014, the CBP has been authorized to partner with private-sector interests to construct and improve POEs. The federal agency is allowed now to accept donated real estate to construct or expand its operations at ports, in a bid to expedite the retooling of this critical security infrastructure. The architectural and operational experiments conducted in the nation’s parallel network of simulated port urbanisms prevision this next generation of border stations. We imagine these new sites will be a different kind of test-bed—where real estate speculation and commercialization of the port as commodity will create a new layer of managerial complexity at our nation’s borders.
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All Aboard

Florida's Brightline makes private, high-speed transit a reality
The United States, let alone Florida, is not known for its widely accessible and comprehensive regional mass transit networks. Bucking this trend, on January 15, the state inaugurated Brightline, a private passenger rail between the cities of West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale that shaves 30 minutes off the time required by car. While the distance between the two cities is not great, with the train journey taking just 40 minutes, the Brightline has reintroduced private commuter rail to the United States for the first time in decades. Although Brightline currently only operates between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, it is slated to expand to Miami and Orlando by 2020, utilizing 240 miles of track carving through densely populated Southeastern Florida. While not part of the current proposal, All Aboard Florida has suggested that Tampa and Jacksonville could be linked to the Brightline network. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Zyscovich Architects are designing the stations located in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. All of the stations share a material palette and design aesthetic, while conforming to their individual environments. At the cost of $3.1 billion, Brightline promises to transform commuting between Miami and Orlando to a relatively minimal 3 hours, taking an hour off the drive time. According to Next City, the new rail service could take upwards of 3 million cars off of South Florida roads, with the potential to capture up to 20 percent of travel between the two cities, two of the most visited cities in the United States. The introductory fare between West Palm and Fort Lauderdale is $10, a bargain considering the amenities aboard the train, which include leather seats, free WiFi, power outlets and bike racks. As reported by USA Today, the Brightline will prove operationally profitable if it captures just 2 percent of the 100 million annual trips between Miami and Orlando. Fortress Investment Group, the parent company of the Brightline, is hedging that its investment in new transit hubs will increase property values surrounding stations as well as revenue generated by real estate development. Forrest Investment Group is already building more than 800 high-priced rentals at its Miami station and close to 300 in West Palm, in tandem with new skyscrapers dedicated to commercial and retail functions. While Brightline is based in Florida, its model of privately-funded and operated high-speed rail is replicable across the country. According to Modern Cities, Brightline is considering implementing its concept in similar urban corridors to those in Southeastern Florida, with the possibility of new links between Atlanta and Charlotte or Houston and Dallas. With the Trump administration’s recently leaked draft infrastructure plan emphasizing financially independent public transport systems, Brightline could prove to be a successful model for expanding rail service to millions of Americans while spurring high-density development in sprawl-ridden metropolitan areas.
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Not On My Block

Residents fight subway elevators, citing terrorism concerns
New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) might be in a highly publicized “state of emergency” over its failing infrastructure at the time of writing, but much less attention is paid to how much it falls short in meeting federal accessibility guidelines. Only 24 percent of New York’s 472 subway stations are accessible overall; a fact not lost on disability advocates. But a recent New York Times article highlighted a case of community-based opposition to new elevators that would make a downtown station more accessible. Only blocks from the World Trade Center complex in Manhattan, residents on Broad Street have been trying to push back against a $20 million pair of elevators that would connect to the J/Z Broad Street station on their block. The elevators are a concession on the developer Madison Equities' part, in exchange for an extra 71,000 square feet of buildable area at the 80-story, mixed-use tower at 45 Broad St. Urbahn Architects will oversee the project. The elevators will provide access to a subway line that only has five accessible stations out of a total of 30. However, at a Community Board 1 meeting last month, approximately 270 residents of 15 and 30 Broad Street had signed a petition opposing what they called “dangerous structures.” Residents cited terrorism concerns, specifically a fear that the glass elevator booths would turn into shrapnel if a bomb went off. But disability activists have called the fear a thin veil for NIMBY-ism. “It’s total NIMBY,” Edith Prentiss, president of Disabled In Action, told The Times. “It’s ‘Don’t affect my property values, don’t affect my — I love this — my iconic view.’ I can understand that they paid a lot of money, I’m sure, but that does not abrogate my civil rights.” As the back-and-forth over elevators at this particular stop continues, so do several lawsuits brought against the MTA by a coalition of disabled residents and advocacy groups. The lack of elevator-accessible trains directly contradicts the Americans with Disabilities Act, but the MTA has claimed that bringing such service to every station would be an undue financial burden. For its part, the agency has responded that they are already spending $1 billion to bring 25 stations into compliance and that overhauling the entire system would cost $10 billion. As the NYC subway system runs 24 hours a day, and because retrofitting a station typically modifies how service runs there for several months, any planned upgrades will likely stress the already straining subway service even further. Still, with some of the deepest and highest subway platforms currently inaccessible to disabled riders, and as funding for much-needed MTA fixes are up in the air, it remains to be seen whether these concerns will be addressed in the near future.
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Train Talk

Here are key takeaways for architects from Cuomo's 2018 State of the State address
If everything goes according to the governor's plan, New York City could get a new subway line to Brooklyn, and a new park in Jamaica Bay. Today New York Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined plans for 2018 and beyond in his State of the State address. Over the course of 92 minutes, the 56th governor of New York unspooled a long list of major projects and new investments, many of which could shape the cities we live in, change how commuters get to work, and add to what we see when we step away from the city outdoors. Citing the Red Hook waterfront's "untapped potential," the governor wants to study the possibility of a subway from Red Hook, Brooklyn to lower Manhattan. Red Hook, a low-slung, low-lying, largely low-income waterside neighborhood, still hosts shipping operations, but in the past two decades, artists and other creative types have flocked to the area and opened up restaurants, galleries, and interesting shops—with chains like IKEA and Fairway fronting the harbor. Despite the influx of new residents and businesses, the neighborhood has remained relatively sedate, in part because it's so hard to get to by public transportation. To spur growth, Governor Cuomo is asking the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to improve transit access by relocating the shipping industry industry. The move, Cuomo said, will revert the waterfront to "more productive community uses" that could enable the MTA to add an underwater subway tunnel to lower Manhattan. The Port Authority would have to move the 80-acre Red Hook Container Terminal about two miles south to the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. In 2012, the port handled only 110,000 containers annually, a paltry load compared to the three million containers processed by nearby ports. While the terminal provides roughly 100 jobs, it has been operating at a loss since the mid-1990s. As recently as last year, though, the Port Authority said it did not have plans to develop or sell the site. Politico noted the Red Hook plans bear strong resemblance to a study AECOM produced on South Brooklyn that proposed a 1 train extension to Red Hook. AECOM executive Chris Ward was the Port Authority executive director, but quit in 2011 due in part to his fraught relationship with Cuomo, who was sworn in that year.

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The new subway tunnel wasn't the only one on the governor's mind. Cuomo floated a tunnel for vehicles under the Long Island Sound to connect Long Island with Westchester County or Connecticut. He also pledged to accelerate the L.I.R.R. modernization project, announcing the state would kick $6.6 billion towards adding new rail lines and fixing up stations up and down Nassau and Suffolk counties. All of those L.I.R.R. trains terminate at the beleaguered Penn Station. The governor didn't hesitate to fire shots at the busiest—and arguably most miserable—transit depot in the U.S. "I call it the seven levels of catacombs," he said. Cuomo emphasized the need to rebuild Penn Station, citing ongoing construction on the conversion of the James A. Farley Post Office into the Moynihan Train Hall as one way to relieve capacity on the overburdened station, which receives trains from New Jersey and Long Island. He even invoked the state's ability to seize land for public projects via eminent domain, a veiled shot at Madison Square Garden, the arena and venue across from Penn Station that some experts say should be converted to transit uses only. The subways were another hot spot in the speech. The governor proclaimed funding to fix the broken-down subway system must be provided "this session." His comments on funding follow a New York Times investigation on the subways' performance that revealed political indifference at the state and local level prompted overspending on splashy new projects at the expense of routine maintenance. "We can't leave our riders stranded anymore, period," he said.

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The governor also touched on another controversial project only a few blocks away. Late last year, stakeholders reached a compromise on the lawsuit-plagued Thomas Heatherwick–designed Pier 55 in Hudson River Park on Manhattan's West Side, and plans for the development are moving forward. Cuomo said a full completion plan for Hudson River Park, which will stretch from West 59th Street to Battery Park City, will roll out this year. Cuomo also unveiled the third round of investments in the New York State downtowns. First introduced in 2016, the Downtown Revitalization Initiative gives select cities and towns all over the state and gives them $10 million apiece to invest in their core commercial districts. This latest round allocates $100 million for development, and the Regional Economic Development Councils will select the cities. There were some curveballs, too. The governor revealed plans for a new, 407-acre state park on Jamaica Bay, a wetland estuary which sits between Brooklyn and Queens. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) reached out to the governor's office for comment on the park but has not yet heard back.
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Ticket To Ride

Toronto delivers its largest subway expansion in decades
Toronto opened the largest expansion of its subway system in decades on December 17th, after years of construction and delays. The massive infrastructure project serves as a link between the city's northern suburbs and its urban core, with the new six-stop extension of Toronto's Line 1 passing through Toronto's municipal boundary into the York region, the area adjoining Toronto's northern border. The 5.3-mile extension of the Spadina Line adds six unique stations, bringing the system total to 75. Each station is designed as a standalone piece and features contextual artwork that reflects the surrounding neighborhood. By matching architects with artists early on in the visioning process, Toronto officials hoped that the station's site-specific designs would give residents a sense of ownership and connection to the new spaces. Will Alsop’s aLL Design, Foster + Partners, and Grimshaw Architects were among the firms selected to design the stations. The Spadina Line extension is intended to spur high-density development in Toronto’s northern suburban periphery. The City of Vaughan, at the terminus of the Spadina line, is taking the lead in this redevelopment by transforming the area around the station into a mixed-use district with Diamond Schmitt Architects and developer SmartCentres. The Toronto Star reports the forthcoming 100-acre Vaughan Metropolitan Centre will feature Diamond Schmitt's 55-story Transit City and the 14-story KPMG tower. In total, the City of Vaughn estimates that the development will one day be home to 25,000 residents, and support 11,000 jobs. According to CBC News, the $3.2 billion project should add an additional 36 million annual train trips, while reducing the number of car trips by 30 million, and reduce congestion across the city. The subway's costs will be split evenly between the City of Toronto, the York Region, and the Province of Toronto. Overseeing the Spadina Line strategy is the outgoing chief executive officer of the Toronto Transit Commission, Andy Byford, who will assume control of the New York City Transit Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority body responsible for handling New York's subways, before the new year.
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By Hand

Purini's visionary drawings get their due in two shows
Two noteworthy shows only begin to redress our neglect of an important figure in the Italian avant-garde architectural scene of the 60s­­ and 70s. In his short introduction, Kenneth Frampton writes, “In all the various aspects of his long and productive career, Franco Purini …is both known and unknown.” These shows, Franco Purini: In the Space of Drawing: Reason and Imagination, at Cooper Union, curated by Steven Hillyer, and Drawings of Invention at the Center for Architecture, curated by associate professors Giovanni Santamaria and Charles Matz, sponsored by the School of Architecture and Design at NYiT, present an extraordinary selection of the multi-faceted drawings of this prolific and indefatigable architect. The sensitive yet incisive drawings on view represent contemplative, intimate meditations on the origins and meaning of urbanism and architecture. Seen in relation to his projects, whether realized or not, they provide insights into design process and general philosophical posture of this soon to be better-known architect. Purini, like others of his generation, utilized drawing–the old-fashioned method–pen or pencil in hand–to give form to their ideas. These “Visionary Architects” deployed graphic means to express their hopes for a new approach to architecture, each developing his or her own language to generate images that would lead to new modes of thinking about our built world and its relation to nature. Their goal was to suggest the capacity of architecture to become a vehicle for apprehending the force of history and to suggest possibilities for a better future. Many of these works on paper, such as those of Michael Webb and Ron Herron of Archigram, were never intended to be realized. In Purini’s case, he maintained a steady habit of drawing that nourished and spurred his astonishingly prolific production. One can detect profound correspondences between his drawings and related buildings such as Torre Eurosky. And the graphic works reiterate his approach that is characterized by a bold clarity and punctuated by unexpected elements that provoke a new reading of the project. Despite the recognizable hand and eye, one notices several modes of expression. Particularly beautiful are the drawings that conjure panoramic or distant projections of small urban areas set within a larger landscape, such as the drawing for Terracina. This elegant rendering reveals how territory and topography contribute to an understanding urban issues. Many also function on a poetic level - somewhere between a literal exposition of a theme and possible inflections or permutations of a concept. In drawings such as Landscape and Sky – we see a simple bifurcated scape. The sky is activated by what are to be read as clouds, wiggly forms straining towards geometry. A detached grid floats mysteriously across the sky above an area below designated as earth, a plane incised by a network diagonals, some of which are perspectival and others implying an enigmatic functional system. Thus, he has connected the natural and the built environment in a way that suggests their fragile and necessary connection. More importantly, he has isolated the most elemental conditions confronting an architect embarking on design. A quiet drama pervades the drawings echoed by their terse titles–The Biographic City, House in the Sky, The Distant City. etc. Each focuses on a single quality or theme. In At the Beginning of Everything (Al Principio di Tutto) one of the denser, more assertive drawings, Purini has deployed a kind of composite collage technique in which fragments suggesting natural rock formations work in dramatic counterpoint to grids and geometric elements. We see a nature from which the language of architecture begins to emerge, revealing his past concern with the rationalism of Terragni inflected by his personal poetry. House in the Sky presents a series of striated levels on which are posited various basic formulations for dwellings – a mono unit represented with door and window, a vertical multi-unit suggested by 20 small square perforations, and a low-rise horizontal unit. The black space in which they reside is punctuated by piers that contribute to the profound sense of geometry moderated by small areas of greenery. Many of his generation explored the possibilities of the Megastructural, as seen in such seminal iconic works as Superstudio’s Continuous Monument. Terrence Riley in The Changing of the Avant Garde: Visionary Drawings of the Gilman Collection from which Purini is noticeably excluded, makes a distinction between the “Megastructuralists” and the emerging postmodernists whom he feels supersede them. “In megastructures a new generation saw potential for the transformation of culture,” which he believes ultimately imploded and was replaced with a postmodern eclectic world of “poetry, psychology, and memory….with a full complement of architectural manifestations: ruins, dreams and monuments. ” For Purini, various themes emerge and are revisited in an ever-evolving progression. They range widely, encompassing many aspects of architectural expression, and it would be inaccurate to think that he would allow one theme to fall into oblivion. The drawings then, become important documents of his ever-transmorgrifying thoughts about architecture, a vision that embraces new technology while reasserting the necessity for an understanding of history. What we see in these shows are not stand-alone drawings. Each participates in a larger series or permutations of a theme. Each represents a clear, chiseled thought that reverberates and provokes further investigation and contemplation.
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Space Settlements

NASA’s bold space habitats inspired a generation of designers
This is an excerpt from a forthcoming book, Space Settlements, about the architectural, historical, social, and science-fictional contexts surrounding NASA’s efforts to design large-scale human habitats in orbit during the 1970s. Space Settlements will be published by Columbia Books on Architecture and the City in fall 2018. In 1975, Big Science and the counterculture teamed up with two illustrators to design the cities of the future. But, unlike the communes and megastructures that we’re familiar with from the speculative architecture of that era, these would not be located on Earth. Stewart Brand, the publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog, and engineers at the NASA Ames Research Center both supported a project—first proposed by Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill—to build huge habitats in orbit that would house millions of people. At a Summer Study conference in what was even then known as Silicon Valley, NASA and O’Neill hired painters Don Davis and Rick Guidice to create renderings of these new worlds. Most previous plans for space stations had consisted of a disconnected series of capsules or chambers. The Summer Study habitats were large enough that they were effectively new ground surfaces, spun for artificial gravity, on which any kind of city or landscape could be constructed. NASA’s team architect Patrick Hill—of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo—specified that, in order to achieve maximum efficiency and space-saving, the buildings inside should be made from systems of prefabricated parts that could be assembled quickly, offering variety and adaptability. Beyond these constraints, the two illustrators had broad latitude to design the architecture that would be shown in the renderings. Both drew on their unique combinations of backgrounds to offer their own interpretation of the future of space occupation. Davis was originally an illustrator for planetary scientists like Carl Sagan, and had also worked on book covers for science fiction novels like Larry Niven’s Ringworld of 1970, depicting a habitat design concept not unlike the “Stanford Torus” sketched by O’Neill’s team. Davis focused on the landscape, and the challenges of creating planetary ecosystems within small closed worlds. Human inhabitation, in Davis’s paintings, touches the artificial ground lightly. To depict it, Davis drew on his fondness for Buckminster Fuller’s domes and other self-built architecture like the “Zomes” made by Steve Baer at the famous Drop City commune. Davis would have been familiar with this work as a reader of Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog, which included Baer’s “Zome Primer,” an instruction manual for building these structures out of repurposed car hoods. Other buildings painted by Davis are more reminiscent of the kind of Googie architecture related to an earlier generation of pop science fiction painters like Frank R. Paul. In an interview, Davis also admitted he would go to the library and read copies of Progressive Architecture magazine for inspiration. Guidice, on the other hand, had been trained as an architect, and had made the shift from there to commercial illustration and work promoting space exploration and aviation concepts for NASA. Guidice’s paintings take the kit-of-parts concepts from work like Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67, and remix them to create even more individuality. Reyner Banham wrote about the concept of the “Terrassenhaus,” the scheme of terracing trays that megastructural projects use to shape space, in his book Megastructure: Urban Futures of the Recent Past. Safdie used the resulting platforms as the basis for his notion of “for everyone, a garden,” combining high-rise density with a suburban Garden City ethos. In Guidice’s renderings the friendly modernist Garden Cities like Columbia, outside Baltimore, take their comfortable combination of vernacular and contemporary into new high-density suburbs in space. These speculations strike a compromised balance between the displacing conditions in space—like the unfamiliar inverted horizon, the hostile environment outside, and the small size of the habitat—and the excitement inherent in exploring and making new worlds. The speculative contemporary architecture of the 1960s and ’70s—small-scale personal construction with sheet metal, and large-scale New Towns made of reinforced concrete—is put to use to show that space is for you. The two illustrators, acting as designers, show that the architecture of the future space city can be adapted to your lifestyle, whether you’re a dropout desert communalist, or a cosmopolitan terrace urbanite. Fred Scharmen teaches architecture and urban design at Morgan State University and is the author of the upcoming book Space Settlements.
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Bus Up

MTA reveals comprehensive L train shutdown plan
Today the city and the MTA released a long-awaited plan to get riders to Manhattan during the L train shutdown. Among the many proposed transit tweaks, Manhattan's 14th Street will be transformed into a bus-only thoroughfare to keep rush hour running smoothy. In both boroughs, new bus routes and bike lanes will help ferry 225,000 daily would-be L train commuters to their destinations. The MTA is also beefing up service on L-adjacent lines, in part by opening up disused subway entrances in Brooklyn and running longer trains on the G line. There will also be new high-occupancy vehicle rules for those driving over the Williamsburg Bride, AMNY reported. The L train's Canarsie tunnel was badly damaged by flooding during Hurricane Sandy and has to be closed for 15 months so the MTA can perform extensive repairs. The closure, which will suspend Manhattan-to-Brooklyn service, is expected to commence in April 2019 and last through June 2020. During the shutdown, the L will run mostly normally though Brooklyn until it reaches Bedford Avenue, the final station before the tunnel. The MTA will increase service on the J, M and Z lines, and bus service along new routes will pick up riders at subway stations to carry them over the Williamsburg Bridge and through lower Manhattan. To carry an estimated 3,800 bus riders per peak hour, the lanes will be restricted to trucks and vehicles with three-plus passengers. The plan should alleviate residents' and business owners' fears over the effects of the shutdown. In Manhattan, a multilane crosstown busway on 14th Street between Third and Ninth avenues will supersede all regular traffic except local deliveries, while 13th Street will get a dedicated two-way cycling lane.
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Light in the Tunnel

2017 Best of Design Awards for Lighting – Indoor
2017 Best of Design Awards for Lighting - Indoor: Second Avenue Subway Lighting Designer: Domingo Gonzalez Associates Location: New York, New York The opening of this subway line, promised since 1928, was critically important. The debut of four new stations involved an effort filled with numerous compliance challenges. To create a successful lighting strategy, the designers developed custom luminaires—from bare lamp uplights to structure-engaged lensed downlights and wallwashers—to work within an unyielding architectural module. Lighting in high spaces and over escalator wellways is maintainable by a specialized scaffold system proposed and tested by the lighting designers. The installation reminds passengers of the vision that realized this dynamic new line after so many years. "The Second Avenue Subway is not a luxury project, but the design solutions are very effective and given the constraints and demands of the project, executed in a very effective and functional way that will make commuters undoubtedly happier." -Matt Shaw, Senior Editor, Architect's Newspaper (juror) Lighting Design Contributors: Domingo Gonzalez Nancy Lok Patrick Merosier Rosemarie Seeland Nelson Downend Honorable Mention Project: Body Factory Architect: BFDO Architects Location: New York, New York Body Factory encompasses a dramatically lit retail space and softly illuminated private treatment rooms. The walls of the retail space are surfaced in gray parged concrete, indirectly lit from LED striplights placed in the gaps between the panels. Direct lighting in the treatment rooms comes from large, round LED lenses recessed into the dropped ceiling.
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Sense & Senseability

How sensing technologies can reshape architecture, public health, and cities

Carlo Ratti is the founder of the Turin, Italy-based firm Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) and director of MIT’s Senseable City Lab. In both roles, he explores how technology can improve the built environment and, it follows, our lives. Recently in Turin, CRA completed the Agnelli Foundation headquarters, which employs a smartphone app to let occupants set personal temperature preferences that the building translates into individualized “thermal bubbles.” Meanwhile, the Senseable City Lab has been a steady source of data and visualization projects—such as mapping walking, running, and cycling trips in Boston and San Francisco—while dabbling in related fields like robotics. AN talked to Ratti about the opportunities and risks that wired, sensing, and smart architecture will bring.

The Architect’s Newspaper: How do you feel about the term “smart cities”? It has become very loosely defined and can refer to anything from superfast fiber-optic networks to autonomous vehicles.

Carlo Ratti: To be frank, I don’t feel that great about it. As you say, “smart city” is often used in a loose way. Also, too many times it equates to top-down approaches in the implementation of urban technological solutions—à la Masdar or Songdo. Our vision is different. When we started the Senseable City Lab at MIT and our design office Carlo Ratti Associati around ten years ago, we were interested in how our cities could become more “sense-able”: able-to-sense, sensible, and perhaps even more “sensitive.” And this has remained our main focus since then.

In many cases, that “sensing” means collecting masses of data—whether it’s trees, human movement, or ride-sharing potential—to reveal new efficiencies, solutions, or patterns.

We need to go back to the very notion of design. According to Herbert Simon, “the natural sciences are concerned with how things are…design, on the other hand, is concerned with how things ‘ought to be.’” I believe that designers must challenge what exists today, introduce new and alternate possibilities, and ultimately pave the way toward a desirable future. In this process, it is vital to get people’s input, which often happens online. In our latest book (The City of Tomorrow, Yale University Press, 2016), we call this method futurecraft.

But do you think there’s a privacy risk that comes with getting people’s input—their data? Are you concerned about surveillance?

I am very concerned—but more about what is happening in our pockets than about what is happening in our cities. Most of our activities—where we go, how we get there, what we buy, to name just a few—are recorded thousands of times every day and stored somewhere in the cloud. Who controls the data? How can we avoid data monopolies? Such questions are more topical than ever.

I would rather prefer a society where value comes not from data itself, but from what intelligence can extract out of it.

That intelligence can really benefit a society. Your projects Underworlds and Urban Exposures explore the public-health benefits of technology—something that is often overlooked in this discussion.

Both projects focus on data to provide a better understanding of human health in the city—which in turn can inspire policy action. Urban Exposures, for example, combines data from air quality measurement stations and human mobility to estimate human exposure to pollutants in a more accurate way.

Currently, it seems European cities are ahead of American cities when it comes to using technology for the public good.

It’s hard to generalize. Europe is very heterogeneous—Copenhagen or Stockholm are very different than, say, Valencia or Athens. What I often notice in the U.S. is a bias against government spending in public infrastructure—perhaps a soft version of “The Plot Against Trains” described by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker. At the same time, we will find out soon how the trillion-dollar plan by President Trump on U.S. infrastructure will be spent—hopefully not just on walls...

On that topic, new technologies are creating huge opportunity to change—and profit from—how we move within existing infrastructure. As carmakers and ride-sharing companies race to capture that market, would you like to speculate on what “mobility” will look like in 20, even 50, years?

Autonomous vehicles promise to have a dramatic impact on urban life, blurring the distinction between private and public modes of transportation. “Your” car could give you a lift to work in the morning and then, rather than sitting idle in a parking lot, give a lift to someone else in your family—or, for that matter, to anyone. As a result, a single vehicle can go from one-hour usage per day to 24 hours. Under such conditions—and increased sharing of rides—we have calculated that the mobility demand of a city could be met with just a fraction of today’s vehicles.

There could also be dystopian scenarios, however. Car transportation could become so cheap that it might drain customers from subways and buses, turning our streets into an instantaneous gridlock. The impact of autonomous vehicles will depend on the policy decisions we make. I agree with my friend Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar, when she says that “simply eliminating the drivers from cars, and keeping everything else about our system the same, will be a disaster.”

Beyond urban infrastructure, your firm is focusing on infrastructure at the building scale—interior climate systems specifically. This goes all the way back to a 2011 paper you helped author, but most recently it was the focus of your app-driven design for the Agnelli Foundation headquarters. Why this interest in temperature, occupancy, light, and energy usage?

The 2011 paper shows that a staggering amount of energy is wasted on heating empty offices, homes, and partially occupied buildings. That finding prompted a series of projects where we tried to better synchronize human presence and climate control. The Agnelli Foundation, which opened just a few months ago, is the first application of such ideas at the architectural scale. We equipped a historical office building with digital sensors that monitor variables such as temperature, lighting levels, and matched this data with occupancy information.

When a person gets into a building and sets her preferences in term of temperature or lighting, the building-management system recognizes her and automatically responds by activating the system accordingly. It generates something like a “thermal bubble,” following a person within the building as she moves across the various rooms and corridors. The final outcome is better comfort for users as well as a substantial reduction in energy consumptions—estimated up to 40 percent. When all occupants leave, the room returns naturally to “standby mode” and saves energy, much as a computer would do.

We imagine that more and more buildings will be equipped with sensor networks—making architecture increasingly able to “sense and respond.” By designing climates, we might get closer to the vision of architecture as a third skin—an endlessly reconfigurable space able to adapt to human needs.

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In Memoriam

Remembering Fred Koetter, 1938–2017
Fred Koetter died August 21 in Boston, Massachusetts, after a long period of illness. Fred’s influence was widespread as the co-author of Collage City with Colin Rowe, as an award-winning architect and urbanist, as an educator for over six decades at Cornell and Harvard, and as the dean of the School of Architecture at Yale University from 1994 to 1998, where he spent over 20 years as a member of the faculty until his retirement in 2013. Fred’s intellectual trajectory moved from a rigorous formal approach cultivated as a graduate student at Cornell to the professional demands of turning those formal tropes into real places—sites for institutions, sensitive background buildings, and urban districts. His encyclopedic knowledge rivaled that of his mentor Rowe. Unlike Rowe’s elliptical peregrinations, Fred’s comments were more terse but equally complex and layered. His projective vision and dry sense of humor made his insights uniquely surprising and always to the point. His most common critique, “Isn’t that just great,” could mean several different things depending on vocal inflection. He could equally wield a single word or add a building to a site so deftly that you would realize only much later that the comment or the architecture had completely changed the situation in which it was cast. As he said to me during a pilgrimage to see Piero della Francesca’s frescoes in Arezzo, Italy: “Look at that guy…no expression as he pierces that other guy with a spear. You really need to know what you’re doing to pull that off.” Fred had the ability to see large forces at work and to distill them into precise, concentrated, and memorable architectural solutions. Born and raised in Montana, Fred’s vision of the city remained an apparition of promise—a dynamic ensemble of peoples, histories, and unpredictable forces, which never failed to fascinate. The office and the studio culture he nourished were similarly dynamic—rambling improvisations, Popperian dialogues, that commenced between the two of us but were gradually ceded to the students as they groped their way through complex urban problems, found their own voices, reaching a broad audience of critics, professionals, and civic leaders. As Fred memorably put it to a class late one night in the streets of Helsinki: in architecture, “you have to walk your pet goldfish even when you are underwater.” When I started teaching with him 20 years ago, his work with his partner Susie Kim was expanding into larger urban projects. The globalization of the world’s economy presaged architecture’s constructive possibilities and its destabilizing effects on historic cities, ecosystems, and cultures. The more conventional notion of “place” ceased to suffice, as he and Susie chased camels across the deserts outside Cairo, saw their City Hall outside Tianjin, China, sold off to a multinational corporation at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, and were asked to fully realize cities and complexes six months from the start of a handshake contract. Koetter Kim & Associates were early pioneers in the ecological development of large sites, and remained curious about the marriage between local cultures and global aspirational changes. Sometimes on his weekly circumnavigation of the globe, after stopping by his offices in London and Boston, Fred would appear at the Yale studios looking worn. But one glimpse at the work on an eager student’s desk, and he would pump full of life, sustained by the promise of young talent, a good conversation, and the prospect of drinks and debate at the nearby Irish bar where the best ideas would be fully fleshed out. Fred and Susie demonstrated sophistication and generosity in their inclusiveness and invention. They created the operatic atmosphere of the cities they designed in their home in Brookline. As a frequent guest, I came to expect a parade of writers, architects, artists, doctors, family members, and other strays walking into the living room, or engaging me in an impromptu conversation on the way to the shower. Fred’s mind was like a city, and he encouraged and orchestrated chaos, of which he was the eye of the storm of opinions and talent. In the classroom, Fred always advocated for the most challenging student concepts, often leaving me to figure out how these could possibly be resolved. His former partner told me that Fred would come chuckling into the office the following day. Fred was a trickster. He was deliberately trying to see if I could figure out the solution more than advocating that particular path himself. He always pushed his students and colleagues toward these greater challenges, encouraging us to step beyond our imaginations’ limits. Fred gently challenged colleagues and students to think things anew. One particular criticism he made in a final review comes to mind. While the circus of critics had spent the day acrobatically twisting and turning their rhetoric, Fred made one and only one final comment on the student’s proposal for a train station complex. He related how the designs of the 19th-century English train stations, nodes in a global system that connected numerous peoples and cultures from eastern China to London, “were not designed to show where you were, but where you were going.”
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Facades+

Dutch parking garage receives lively unitized screen cladding
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Brought to you with support from
Netherlands-based MoederscheimMoonen Architects has enlivened a utilitarian parking garage with a unique wood and steel screen assembly backed by an expressive steel structure. The project was commissioned by NS Stations, a Dutch company that manages over 400 railway stations in the Netherlands. 
  • Facade Manufacturer Foreco (wooden slats); Lace Fence (Architectural Fabric)
  • Architects MoederscheimMoonen Architects (Netherlands)
  • Facade Installer Continental Car Parks (general contractor)
  • Facade Consultants Ingenieursbureau JVZ (engineering); VBI (construction)
  • Location Zutphen, the Netherlands
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System unitized wood screen on thermally galvanized steel structure with reinforced concrete floor plates
  • Products wooden slats by Foreco, custom red steel trim housing vertical LED lighting strips, galvanized steel
The design of the car park references the industrial character of its town, Zutphen, which is situated in the eastern part of the Netherlands. The architects achieved this through materiality and form. The car park—located adjacent to the town’s train station—houses 375 cars and over 600 bikes, and is structured to accommodate an extra story for future growth. Siting of the elongated building was specifically configured to facilitate pedestrian and vehicular traffic under two railway crossing points. Bookending the elongated building are two distinct formal moves. One side contains a silhouette of a gable-shaped wall that flies off the structure of the main building, referencing a traditional warehouse typology common to the area. On the opposing end, two helix-shaped ramps generate distinctive views of the building with a tiered screen wall cladding that gradually steps away from the building as cars travel up the ramp. The architects say this configuration lends the building a “markedly sculptural and dynamic appearance.” The screen wall is composed of prefabricated unitized panels composed of wooden slats arranged in two rotations and red steel bars as spaced accent pieces. In the evening, the slats reveal vertical LED lighting strips, which are used to light up the entire building.  The slats were mounted onto a steel frame in the shop, then transported to the site in batches where they were installed onto a primary steel frame which is held off the concrete floor slab structure of the parking garage. “By turning the slats in some places 90 degrees and enriching the facade with red metal strips and led lighting, a lively and playful facade with a human scale is created,” said the architects. This subtle detailing produces variations in the facade to achieve a dynamic, open surface.  As a cladding system, the slat assembly promotes passive lighting and ventilation. The screen panels are lifted above the first floor, creating a raised facade effect, and expose the canted galvanized steel structure. This also helps daylight to penetrate the ground level of the car park. The interior of the car park satisfies the most stringent requirements set by the European Standard Parking Award (ESPA), a points-based system similar to the American-based LEED system, but specific to the car park typology.