The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has completed the construction of its North Hall, the first residence hall the school has built in 34 years. Designed by RISD alumn Nader Tehrani of the Boston-based NADAAA, the six-story, 40,790-square-foot dormitory at 60 Waterman Street will house 148 freshman students of the Providence-based art and design school. While construction wrapped up in late summer, the school will celebrate its opening this Saturday, October 12, during its upcoming RISD Weekend. Along with housing a new generation of the school’s students, North Hall was designed to meet RISD’s institutional goals of lessening its environmental impact and energy use. It will use a quarter less energy than a conventional building and almost half the amount of water compared to similar-sized residential structures. The dorm’s furnishings, designed by RISD faculty members John Dunnigan and Lothar Windels, were also fabricated exclusively with sustainable materials such as bamboo plywood and European beech. The building's structure, a cross-laminated timber (CLT) and steel-frame hybrid, is the first of its kind for a residence hall in New England and further reduced the project's carbon footprint. North Hall’s completion marks the first part of a six-phase enhancement project for the school’s Freshman Quad, which will include a complex of dormitories, a dining hall, and a new fitness center. NADAAA was responsible for the 2017 master plan for the quad as well, which will link the various buildings along with the new campus extension into a cohesive space. North Hall's textured brick facade is a nod to the existing Pietro Belluschi design at RISD Beach and the residence will be connected via passageways to the other quad buildings. The residence hall is equipped with amenities for art students including studio and work spaces, galleries, and spray booth.
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Yearamid of the Pyramid
Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects plans top-heavy tower in L.A.'s Hancock Park
In the quiet Los Angeles neighborhood of Hancock Park, local firm Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA) have revealed initial plans for an 11-story, 34,000-square-foot apartment building to be developed by Metros Capital near the corner of Rossmore Avenue and Clinton Street. In order to fit 14 units on the tight, irregularly-shaped 7,000-square-foot lot, the architects had to come up with a top-heavy design scheme that would not draw excessive attention to itself within its low-slung context, which consists of several preserved, Art Deco-style apartment buildings designed in the 1930s and ‘40s. The result is a design with a series of incrementally shifting floor plates that play a few visual tricks from the street. “Passing by the tower becomes an elusive spectacle,” wrote LOHA in a statement, “seemingly narrower at the bottom if you’re facing one way and skinnier at the top if you’re facing the other.” Additionally, the building’s ground floor is set far back from the street to avoid interrupting the pedestrian-friendly character of the neighborhood, while the communal spaces are entirely located on the rooftop. The shifting section of the building was prompted by “the elongated S-curve of Rossmore Avenue, as well as the marque-like facades of nearby multi-story apartment buildings.” LOHA hopes that the building will exemplify a preferable alternative to the more common apartment building typology found in Los Angeles, of “massive floor plates that maximize the ground plane and create a sort of squat density, where buildings are tightly glued to the sidewalk." The project is scheduled to break ground early next year and be completed sometime in 2021.
Junya Ishigami’s 2019 Serpentine Pavilion has been purchased by technology firm and spa operator Therme Group, the same buyers of last year’s Frida Escobedo-designed installation. The acquisition was recently announced at the Serpentine Galleries’ Frieze Breakfast to mark the opening of Frieze London. This year is also the second consecutive year of Serpentine’s partnership with the Therme Art Program. The program’s mission is to “broaden conversations about art, technology, and architecture” through developing and realizing large-scale art projects to be exhibited in the group’s thermal baths. The company wants to challenge the limitations of conventional exhibition spaces, something the installations have been used for before—take SelgasCano's 2015 Serpentine Pavilion, which was repurposed into a flexible exhibition space in L.A. The event featured remarks by Serpentine Galleries artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Mikolaj Sekutowicz, curator and CEO of the Therme Art Program. During the breakfast, Sekutowicz remarked that “It has become incredibly important to merge nature and human architecture to overcome the environmental challenges our civilization is currently facing. As a company, we are actively searching for solutions to challenges in architectural design and city planning through art,” according to a press release. Back in June, Therme hosted an Art and Architecture workshop series with Ishigama in the pavilion, which aimed to challenge “ideas of contemporary art and architecture emphasizing their potential in reframing the ways we plan and build our cities.” There, Ishigami explained his ‘free space’ philosophy, in which he aims to seek harmony between manmade structures and those that exist in nature. Obrist elaborated on this during the Frieze breakfast saying, “His gravity-defying ‘slate roof’ has welcomed thousands of visitors to the park this summer to enjoy both the space itself and the many live and experimental performances that are programmed especially for the space. It is exciting to imagine its future life in a new environment.” Therme Group plans on exhibiting the pavilion to the public at its various resorts around the world.
Super energy-efficient social housing claims the 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize
The 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize has gone to a collection of 100 houses in Norwich, U.K. The low-energy homes on Goldsmith Street were designed by London-based studio Mikhail Riches and British architect Cathy Hawley for Norwich Council. It seems housing crises are everywhere at the moment and Britain is no exception, and the problems are compounded when you add in a "climate emergency," which the U.K.'s leading practices have formally acknowledged. The 100 homes commissioned by the Norwich Council were designed to PassivHaus standards—the gold standard when it comes to energy efficiency—in an attempt combat both problems. That means a 70 percent reduction in energy bills for residents. Better still, these are genuine council homes and not "affordable housing," able to be rented from the council directly, thus boasting fixed rents and providing tenants with extra security. Beyond this, the homes have been beautifully designed, too. Goldsmith Street takes cues from the nearby Victorian streets of the Golden Triangle district. The architects, though, do not succumb to producing another Poundbury, despite maintaining the same Victorian street widths and heavy use of brick, which has been wonderfully detailed to create a series of balconies. Garbage stores have been neatly tucked away behind bronze screens, and homes, despite being priced at social rent, aren't tight on space and provide lobby room for prams and bikes. Rooftops angle to ensure sunlight is able to enter houses in the row behind each other, and every home has its own front door and separate letterbox. Two-story houses are aligned in rows, with three-story flats situated either side. In addition to this, central terraces share a landscaped, communal walkway, meanwhile, parking facilities have been pushed to the site's periphery. Together, the homes form seven terraced blocks and compose a calm, pedestrian-friendly, low-rise estate. Mikhail Riches and Hawley were awarded the project after winning a competition back in 2008. The original plan was to sell the site to a local housing provider; however the financial crisis stalled the project and forced municipal authorities to press ahead on the development themselves. Unlike last year, when Foster + Partner's hulking Bloomberg HQ won, this year's winner is likely to be welcome, perhaps unexpected news to those in the profession. Goldsmith Street is a far cry from a glitzy office for a multinational corporation in central London, and its claim for being the best new work of architecture in Britain will hopefully spur on other councils to emulate Norwich's accomplishments. In winning the 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize, Goldsmith Street fended off competition from five other projects: Cork House: in Berkshire by Matthew Barnett Howland with Dido Milne and Oliver Wilton; London Bridge Station by Grimshaw; Nevill Holt Opera in Leicestershire by Witherford Watson Mann Architects; The Macallan Distillery and Visitor Experience in Moray, Scotland, by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, and The Weston in Yorkshire Sculpture Park by Feilden Fowles Architects. In a press release, The 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize judges, chaired by Julia Barfield, said: “Goldsmith Street is a modest masterpiece. It is high-quality architecture in its purest most environmentally and socially-conscious form. Behind restrained creamy facades are impeccably-detailed, highly sustainable homes – an incredible achievement for a development of this scale. This is proper social housing, over ten years in the making, delivered by an ambitious and thoughtful council. These desirable, spacious, low-energy properties should be the norm for all council housing." David Mikhail of Mikhail Riches added: “Goldsmith Street’s success is a testimony to the vision and leadership of Norwich City Council. We thank them for their commitment and support. They believe that council housing tenants deserve great design. It is not often we are appointed to work on a project so closely aligned with what we believe matters; buildings people love which are low impact. We hope other Local Authorities will be inspired to deliver beautiful homes for people who need them the most, and at an affordable price. To all the residents – thank you for sharing your enthusiasm, and your homes, with everyone who has visited.”
BIG Slopes to Shred
BIG’s skiable Copenhill power plant is a contradictory landmark
“Very soon it’s going to be a fact that in Copenhagen we ski on the roofs of our power plants,” Bjarke Ingels, founder of the Danish architecture practice Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), stated a couple of months prior to the completion of his firm’s Copenhill. Now, Copenhill, a new waste-to-energy power plant, has officially opened its doors after eight years (delays were primarily caused by safety approvals to occupy the roof). Beyond its hyped rooftop ski slope, the building also houses ski lifts, a ski rental shop, hiking trails, a cafe, and the tallest artificial climbing wall in the world. Copenhill, or Amager Bakke in Danish, ironically refers to the lack of hills in the southeastern Amager area of Copenhagen, a flatness that becomes apparent when one stands on the top of the 90-foot-tall “mega-brick” metal-clad building. “We do not have mountains, but we do have mountains of trash,” Ingels said. Turning away from the panoramic city views, one sees the 1,300-foot-long artificial ski slope designed in collaboration with Colorado’s International Alpine Design, the creators of many larger ski resorts around the world. The five shades of green of the ski slope surface membrane peek out from clean steam released from the nearby smaller chimneys. The gradient of green colors has been chosen to emphasize the sustainable agenda. The slope mimics—in a cartoon-like manner—a naturalistic terrain. However, the professional skiers testing it disappear within seconds, which makes the excitement of watching the skiers fade quickly. A park, designed in collaboration with the Danish landscape practice SLA, runs along both sides of the ski track. The park was planned as a manicured Nordic wilderness with the ambition of attracting natural wildlife to the building. The metal facade, which will feature crawling plants, has setbacks for birds and other animals to inhabit. While the sustainable agenda informed details like the choice of plants, it can be questioned why the same consideration has not been given to the actual building materials. The choice of nonsustainable materials such as concrete, glass, steel, and aluminum is in many ways contradictory to the ideology of the building itself. On the underside of Copenhill is Amager Resource Centre (ARC), billed as the world’s cleanest power plant. It provides 30,000 homes with electricity and 72,000 homes with heating across five municipalities, including Copenhagen. The heaviness of the technology that goes into a building like a power plant becomes very apparent when the glass elevator takes you from the ground floor up to the ski slope. An impressive interior landscape of monochrome silver-painted machines extends as far as the eye can see, and as Ingels explained, “the only design decision BIG was able to make on the inside of the power plant was to decide the color of the machinery—if it was of no extra cost.” The building in its entirety has so far cost 4 billion Danish kroner ($670 million USD) and is one of the most expensive construction projects in the recent history of Copenhagen. It is a high cost for a building that is supposed to be obsolete in the near future—plans are being drawn for a recycling system to take over all waste management. The building—with the merging of interior industry and exterior recreative space—is what Ingels describes as hedonistic architecture. Copenhill should, in his eyes, be viewed as a landmark of an ambition to use clean tech to create a better environment, quality of life, and awareness of habits of consumption. The initial ambition was to have the 410-foot chimney discharge a smoke ring made from water vapor every time one ton of carbon dioxide was released into the atmosphere. There are no rings, but at least the exhaust is cleaned as much as possible before being unleashed above the city. As a contradictory landmark—the overall agenda is to have fun while increasing awareness of consumption—the building is officially part of the ambitious goal of making Copenhagen the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025. Christine Bjerke is a Copenhagen-based architect and writer and teaches at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation.
At the heart of social housing in Mexico is a contradiction: Flimsy houses built far from city centers sit empty, while millions of Mexicans are still waiting to use publicly financed housing credits. Developers continue to replicate the much-maligned cutter-cut model to keep costs down. But how can new construction not just meet the bottom line but satisfy the needs of low- and middle-income families? That is the question Carlos Zedillo and Julia Gómez Candela set out to answer at the Research Center for Sustainable Development of the National Workers’ Housing Fund Institute (Infonavit). After several years of research and design, they inaugurated the nine-acre Housing Laboratory in Apan, Hidalgo, in November 2018. The laboratory is made up of 32 prototype homes that explore new typologies for social housing to meet the needs of Mexico’s diverse cultures and climates. Infonavit partnered with Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample of New York–based architecture firm MOS to execute the ambitious project. “For a long time, developers have built the exact same housing in the north of the country as the south, without thinking about climate or materials,” said architect Gómez Candela in an interview by phone. That’s why the same boxy, concrete block homes dot the outskirts of almost all Mexican cities. Homes as small as 325 square feet stay within the budget, but are hardly adequate for families. Mexican workers gradually build up credit with Infonavit to finance their first home purchase. Infonavit used to build housing, but since the 1990s it plays the role of financer—workers use their Infonavit loans to pay for houses built by private developers. Along the way, architects’ role in the process diminished. Gómez Candela says that as director of the research center, the Yale-educated Zedillo set out, “To get architects to redirect their attention back to social housing in Mexico.” The research center began with an exhaustive study of the state of social housing in Mexico, identifying where the supply of homes was failing to meet demand. Then they selected 84 counties with high rates of Infonavit credit holders who had not yet bought homes. The target counties represented the nine climate zones of Mexico. The research center then worked with MOS to solicit proposals from around the world, settling on 32 prototype homes for the Housing Laboratory. Architects including Enrique Norten, Tatiana Bilbao, and Fernanda Canales designed houses for the project. The laboratory was conceived in Apan, a small town two hours to the east of Mexico City. Built on land owned by Infonavit, the site’s proximity to the capital allowed frequent visits. Towns and cities like Apan, in the outer limits of the Mexico City metro area, are usually known for drab, uniform housing. The small village of prototype homes is a welcome variation. The houses include vernacular architectural styles from around Mexico, including adobe, thatched roofing, and Mexican timber, designed with the country’s different climates in mind; from the humid, tropical south to the arid, hot north. Each architect described their inspirations and reference points, from local architectural styles like the wooden cabins known as trojes in the state of Michoacan to self-constructed housing. Collaborating with MOS allowed the research center to learn from their extensive experience designing housing. The Apan Housing Laboratory shows how developers could build high-quality housing within the tight budgets of Infonavit credits. It is only natural that Gómez Candela says cost was the greatest difficulty in the international collaboration. “In Mexico, we are used to building with very little money,” she says. “With our colleagues from the United States and other countries, we kept having to say, ‘Make it cheaper!’” The extra effort was necessary to convince developers that the models are feasible. Even so, developers have been slow to adopt the ideas proposed in the laboratory. “They [developers] still think it will be more expensive to build this way, even if we showed them otherwise” says Gómez Candela. “The numbers do add up.” Most visitors to the Housing Laboratory are students, urban planners and developers. Gómez Candela and Zedillo both left Infonavit when the new federal administration entered in December 2018. But the laboratory remains open and the floor plans are available online under open access. The laboratory is the start of a long process to refocus social housing in Mexico on the experience of the residents, not just efficacy for the builder. The research center’s work is seeing results, as Mexican architects focus more energy on designing housing. Gómez Candela is optimistic, saying, “The architects we worked with have continued to champion the cause of housing in Mexico.”
West Philadelphia Born and Raised
PAU's JFK Towers will stagger over Philadelphia's Schuylkill Yards
Brought to you with support fromPhiladelphia's Schuylkill Yards is undergoing a massive redevelopment by Brandywine Realty Estate that will bring half-a-dozen new buildings, totaling approximately six million square feet, into the center of the city. Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU), is joining the fray with JFK Towers; a duo of cantilevering, offset mixed-use buildings clad in terra-cotta and aluminum. The project, which broke ground in November 2017 and is master-planned by SHoP Architects, follows a spate of railyard redevelopments around the country; ranging from the ongoing construction at Hudson Yards to the 244-acre revamp of Sacramento's former Union Pacific Railyards. In this instance, the redevelopment is located atop the former parking facilities at the adjacent 30th Street Station, rather than decking over the yards that neighbor the Schuylkill River.
terra-cotta base for the vaulted arcade and a similarly-colored polychromatic paint coating over the aluminum cladding. The west tower will be subject to a similar material treatment but in a brownish-gray hue. The fenestration pattern that will rise from the arcaded base of the two towers will be a clear nod to commercial high modernism, with ribbons of windows divided by protruding vertically-oriented fins, and is a significant diversion from the predominantly all-glass towers otherwise rising throughout the city. PAU associate partner Mark Faulkner and Brandywine Realty Trust vice president Joseph Ritchie will be joining the panel "Schuylkill Yards First Facades: Architects’ and Developers’ POV" at the Architect's Newspaper's upcoming Facades+ Philadelphia conference on October 18.As a tabula rasa, the architects enjoyed the opportunity of shaping an entirely new district that will be visibly prominent from most vantage points within Philadelphia—the east tower will reach a height of 512 feet and the west tower will stand at 360 feet—and will effectively bridge Center City to University City across the Schuykill River. "We generated the forms through the site geometry. Rail is adjacent on three sides which bifurcate the buildable area at different angles and heights informing the cantilevers and stacking," said PAU associate partner Mark Faulkner. "The breaking of our massing into low, mid, and high-rise blocks yields a playful stacking of volumes, efficiency for the complex mixed-used program, and a unique addition to the skyline that announces this important new neighborhood in the city." Although the planned towers of Schuykill Yards will dwarf surrounding structures in this corner of West Philadelphia, the design team has included several material choices that will tie the JFK towers to the city-at-large. Outside of Center City, Philadelphia is comprised of residences and small businesses rendered in often brownish-red low-rise brick and masonry. An additional influence can be found in the historic red metal coaches used by the defunct Pennslyvania Railroad headquartered in Philadelphia. The east tower of PAU's duo will appropriate this heritage with a red
Building on the Past
Controversial expansion to Ottawa's Chateau Laurier rejected for now
The owner of what’s arguably the most important historic hotel in Canada wants to expand its northwestern backside with a modern addition that’s met with extremely severe criticism online. Designed by Peter Clewes, principal of the Toronto-based architectsAlliance, the bulky, seven-story structure would bring 147 new rooms to the iconic Fairmont Chateau Laurier, a 107-year-old structure in Ottawa near Parliament Hill. Late last month, the City Council’s Committee of Adjustment rejected the request by property owner Larco Investments for a reduced rear yard setback on the addition. The denial effectively prevents them from breaking ground on the project. Built in 1912 and originally named after the First Grand Trunk Railway by then-owner Charles Melville Hays, the limestone-clad structure spans an impressive 660,000-square-feet, boasts 429 rooms, and sports a number of iconic turrets. It’s located in a section of Major’s Hill Park, a grand landscape in downtown Ottawa along the Rideau Canal. Some opponents of the expansion project say it would hinder views of the surrounding cityscape, much of which is on federal land. In the September 27 setback hearing, the committee acknowledged that these heritage features would be threatened and as one city council member also noted in the Ottawa Citizen, that the design isn’t compatible with the “shapes and materials” of the hotel. All these factors were outlined in the committee’s final decision:
“The committee is of the opinion that the approval of (the) variance would allow for a new build that does not respect the landscape and character of the heritage features of the historic properties that surround the site, specifically those of the Rideau Canal, Major’s Hill Park and the Parliamentary Precinct, in contravention of the policies currently in place for compatible design and protection of views to these sites.”But Clewes, who has attempted to explain his design decision over the last few years, said the addition was imagined with the utmost respect for the historic site. In a 2016 interview with Maclean's, he claimed the hotel’s use of limestone and deeply incised windows was considered in the new project in order to complement the existing building. “We’ve chosen to reinterpret that... but in a much more contemporary manner, which is a series of vertical windows in a somewhat whimsical pattern—some have likened it to a bar code,” he said. “What we’re trying to say is, look, the hotel is the most important building here, and we were simply trying to respond to that.” If Clewes’s proposal was realized, it would be built on the site of a former parking garage located at the rear of the hotel. To signify the separation between the historic building and its contemporary predecessor, the architect added in a glazed structure so that “there’s a very clear distinction between what is old and what is new.” But it’s not enough. Larco Investments has already secured heritage and site-plan approvals from the city council but has failed in trying to minimize the required setback for an addition to the hotel property. The reduction, according to Ottawa Citizen, would project out towards the park and “represents an increase in density on the site.” It's expected that Larco Investments will appeal the decision with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.
Hunters Point Library called out over accessibility issues
Three sections of Steven Holl’s recently opened Hunters Point Library in Long Island City, Queens, have raised concerns due to only being accessible by stairs and are now being reorganized. While the library was previously applauded for the staircase’s design, and there's an elevator, it doesn't provide access to the three, tiered levels of stacks above the lobby. The Queens Public Library has announced that it is taking steps to fix the issue, but given the project's lengthy development timeline, how could such an obvious flaw make it past the design phase? “With all the money they spent and all the years of delay, it struck me as strange," library patron Joe Bachner, told Gothamist. With the building costing upwards of $41 million, it does seem to be a big mistake that such popular sections of a library (fiction and periodicals) would exclude individuals with wheelchairs or other mobility challenges, as well as parents with strollers, and the elderly. The library does technically meet the American Disabilities Act's (ADA) requirements due to a promise that librarians would retrieve books for patrons unable to make it up the stairs—but patrons don’t always know what they are looking for when they enter a library. The search and the discovery are a part of a library’s experience—a crucial part of obtaining knowledge. This statement was met with backlash by community members on Twitter (and in the comments on our previous article about the building's opening): “A 41 million budget and accessibility wasn’t considered in a beautiful inclusive way...” posted Sinéad Burke.
As Justin Davidson wrote in New York Magazine, "Staircases can be wonderful, providing drama, seating, exercise, and hangout spaces all at once—but they must never be the only option. Holl’s design, as sensitive as it is in many ways, fails to take that mandate seriously." In a statement to Gothamist, Public Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott said, “Our goal is to be inclusive and provide access and opportunity to all.” The library plans to move the fiction stacks to another location in the library and provide the community with updates as they come.
Don't worry! If disabled people want books from those inaccessible areas (ugh fine) they'll just have staff go get them! Because they'll just never hire disabled librarians! What a perfect solution for everyone!!!— Angie Manfredi (@misskubelik) October 4, 2019
Keep Austin Robotic
ACADIA is coming to Austin for 2019, and here's what to expect
Stephen Mueller interviewed Kory Bieg, one of the conference chairs for the upcoming ACADIA conference in Austin, Texas, from October 24-26, to discuss the themes and events you can expect at this year’s gathering. SM: Why is ACADIA an important forum? KB: ACADIA is for a range of audiences. ACADIA started as a conference focused on education but has become increasingly engaged with practice. The research being carried out by both academics and practitioners has narrowed and the work from both has become entangled. You will see attendees from software, fashion, and product design companies at the workshops and the conference proper, working alongside Ph.D. students and full-time faculty. ACADIA’s mission is also to support student participation, so they have increased their effort to encourage students to submit their work and attend. Faculty who are part of large research groups—like those from Michigan, Cornell, and MIT in the U.S., or groups from abroad, like ICD in Stuttgart or ETH in Zurich—often send students to present on behalf of their team. It’s a good platform for them to find their way into a more permanent academic setting or a more specialized field in architecture. You and your co-authors mention in the introductory text for the conference proceedings that the “last decade was about unified and specialized areas of research,” and that now we are in a period defined by “ubiquity” and “autonomy.” Can you elaborate on some of the major trajectories and trends you are seeing? What’s changing? We think we are at a crossroads in computation. For the last ten years, we have seen big advancements in fabrication and the use of robotics. Recently, however, we are seeing a renewed interest in design theory, whether it be “the post-digital” or “the second digital turn.” We took a step back to think of why that might be, and what it might mean moving forward. In part, we believe the return to theory is a result of digital technologies becoming “ubiquitous.” Not only do you see fabrication technologies in big universities, but you can now find laser cutters and 3d printers in libraries, high schools, commercial box stores, and in everyday use at firms. On the other hand, you have more cutting-edge practices, like Zaha Hadid Architects or UNStudio, building in-house skunkworks innovating with and developing new technologies internally. Some employees are hired specifically for this purpose. We saw these new computation-oriented roles as becoming so specialized that they had almost become new disciplines—a kind of “autonomy” within the discipline of architecture. For this year’s theme, we see “ubiquity” and “autonomy” as two parts of a cycle, where innovation in computational design and technology begins in these autonomous groups of specialists, followed by more widespread adoption, universal access, and finally ubiquity of use. This happens at a large scale within the discipline, but also with individual researchers who silo themselves away for a while, only to emerge with some novel idea that they are ready to integrate with other people’s research. That is how the field evolves. The cycles of “ubiquity” and “autonomy” oscillate between the differentiation of individual positions and the forging of new research communities. In this framework, do you see new autonomous collectives emerging? It’s our goal to find autonomous projects and introduce them to the world. Our workshops this year are being taught by somewhat autonomous computational teams housed within successful architecture firms—groups from UNStudio, Zaha Hadid Architects, Grimshaw, HKS-Line, Morphosis, SHoP, and Autodesk. They are all interested in the overlap of technologies. UNStudio will run a workshop on the overlap of architecture and fashion. Grimshaw is working with Fologram and using the Microsoft Hololens, an AR technology, to help fabricate an installation without the use of conventional construction documents. We also have SHoP Architects using AR and robotics, and Zaha Hadid Architects using machine learning to help generate form. There is such a strange array of approaches to computational design offered in the workshops, that if their ideas start to spread, our field is in store for some interesting times ahead. Academic settings can incentivize autonomous modes of research, and in professional settings we often see niche developments serving as marketable advantages through proprietary or branded offerings. Among the diverse authors with niche approaches, is there an ethos toward the maintenance of autonomy, or do you see a proliferation of shared techniques? We are seeing an increase in the culture of sharing at ACADIA among its constituents. Morphosis, for example, is leading a workshop that is literally sharing their design method. I think most offices would consider this proprietary intellectual property, but Morphosis sees value in sharing it. Patrik Schumacher, of Zaha Hadid Architects, shares his ideas freely, and would be happy with more parametricism in the world. These offices mark a post-autonomous moment. This will also be an interesting question for the closing panel on our final conference day, where we will have a group of academics discuss the conference theme. We have invited people who represent very different approaches to architecture and design, including Ian Bogost, a game designer and author, Michelle Addington and Marcelyn Gow, who are both material experts but with different agendas, and Neil Leach, one of our discipline’s leading theorists. Kathy Velikov, the president of ACADIA, will moderate. Collaboration with machines and virtual selves promotes a certain type of autonomy while forging human/non-human partnerships. If computational collaborations are the new air that we breathe, how do you and the contributors see authorship changing?? Machine learning and AI are happening whether we like it or not. Because they operate somewhat autonomously from their creators—they are designed to run loose—there is no functional need for a sole author anymore. We are really at the beginning of AI/machine learning applications for architecture. There is a group of artists in Paris (Hugo Caselles-Dupré, Pierre Fautrel, and Gauthier Vernier) who sold a piece of AI-generated art at Christie's for $432,000, which proves there is public interest in what AI can produce, but there has also been some blowback. Critics have argued that because they are selling a piece that wasn’t generated solely by them, the value is inflated. But they were the authors of the software that created the piece, so who is right? It’s a controversial time. You’ve lined up some impressive keynote speakers—Thom Mayne, Dominique Jakob, and Harlen Miller—how would you characterize the mix? Why are these voices important now? We thought it was time, especially given the theme, to pick three practices that represent “architecture with capital A,” and to see how they have been using computational design tools, overlapping technologies, and cross-disciplinary collaborations within their office for built work. UNStudio, Morphosis, and Jakob + MacFarlane produce very unique projects and they each use technology explicitly, but also, differently. What parts of the conference are open to the public? Thom Mayne’s keynote lecture is open to the public and will be at the LBJ Auditorium on Thursday, October 24th at 6:15 pm. There will also be an exhibition of Morphosis Architects’ work opening on Friday night at 7:45 pm. This event will also include an exhibition of work produced during this year’s workshops and the peer-reviewed project posters. What else does the conference hope to change, or enable? I hope the conference encourages people to start looking at other disciplines for knowledge and expertise that we do not have within our own field and to further the progress that has already been made by overlapping ubiquitous technologies. I hope we continue to share knowledge between academia and the profession in a way that improves access to new tools, techniques, technologies, and ideas.
Triumphs in Timber
Shigeru Ban Architects completes a sprawling mass timber campus for Swatch
Pritzer Prize-winner Shigeru Ban has made a career out of pushing the limits of timber construction. This week, the Japanese architect celebrated the completion of one of the largest hybrid mass timber structures in the world. The 500,000-square-foot Swatch and Omega Campus in Biel, Switzerland took 8.5 years to build and is composed of three new buildings by Shigeru Ban Architects (SBA): The Swatch Headquarters, the Omega Factory, and the Cité du Temps, a flexible space serving as a conference hall and museum for both of the Swatch/Omega companies. While the buildings share commonalities in their function and composition, each carries its own distinct qualities. The Swatch Headquarters has a light and airy quality, with an arched, coffered canopy made of 7,700 individual pieces of engineered timber. Meanwhile, the Omega Factory presents itself as a more rectilinear, fixed structure, with exposed timber elements blending among paneled glass walls. The result is a clean, sharp aesthetic that highlights the duality of the building. The Cité du Temps acts as a crossroads for the watch manufacturing company, which operates 18 subsidiary brands, in its function as a space for meetings and exhibitions. To demonstrate this point, SBA designed the third building to intersect with the canopy of the Swatch Headquarters—here, the building becomes both a symbolic and physical link between the subsidiaries of the Swatch Group. SBA has always advocated for the use of wood in architectural design, arguing that it is one of the only truly renewable resources in construction. In addition, timber construction reduces the carbon footprint of buildings, cuts down the cost and duration of construction, and could even make tenants feel happier and healthier. In its tactical use of timber, SBA has long led the charge in sustainable design practices, tracing back to Shigeru Ban’s experiences with disaster relief efforts. A ribbon-cutting ceremony in Biel celebrated SBA’s remarkable achievement on October 3.
What is the architecture of degrowth?
The Oslo Architecture Triennale, now in its seventh iteration, has made a name for itself under the directorship of Hanna Dencik Petersson as one of the most prescient and timely showcases in the relentless stream of -iennales and -ennials, those beloved recurring art and design festivals where dreams are made. After a successful 2016 exhibition themed around migration and identity in the face of hyper-globalization, the program returned in 2019, this time examining climate change, resource allocation, and economic systems under the theme of “degrowth” with Enough: The Architecture of Degrowth. Curated by Interrobang, an architecture and engineering firm, with chief curators Matthew Dalziel, Phineas Harper, Cecilie Sachs Olsen, and Maria Smith, the exhibition is a fresh take on ecology, introducing the ideology of degrowth into architecture discourse and examining how it would help realize a more ecologically-oriented human civilization. Degrowth has recently gotten attention as a new paradigm for understanding a post-consumerist future where resource extraction and economic growth are decelerated, giving way to new social, political, and economic systems that are more harmonious with nature and the earth’s finite resources and terrain. For an exhibition, this is fertile intellectual territory to speculate on the ways in which we build, and how they can evolve in alternative worlds. It is a refreshingly positive take on politics today, as much of our discourse, in architecture and beyond, is overwhelmingly negative and aims to discount or problematize (cancel) rather than propose new ideas or provoke new thoughts. The main festival exhibition, titled The Library, was conceptualized as “a spatial infrastructure for sharing knowledge” and was organized as a series of four rooms or “collections” that featured works ranging from material samples and books to analyses of languages and economic systems. The range and breadth of types of thought experiments presented a holistic and clear vision—almost a manifesto—of what degrowth might look like as an architectural philosophy. It was not a set of solutions, but rather speculative, positive provocations on what this new area of discourse might look like. In the Library's first collection, “The Subjective,” personal identities and rituals were examined. How would life change in a degrowth world? How would we live, laugh, and love? The Aerocene backpack by the Aerocene Community is a personal, solar-powered balloon imagined as an alternative to carbon-intensive jet air travel. Helen Stratford’s Organizational Diagrams for Everyday Life is a set of schematic diagrams that redraw the rituals of a daily schedule to visualize new routines outside of the pressures of work and productivity metrics that define us today. Perhaps the most traditionally eco-friendly collection is the “Objective Collection,” which is about materials and building techniques. Like the rest of the Triennale, it attempts to take these decades-old sustainability ideas and pushes them into new places. Another Column by YYYY-MM-DD is a deployable textile column that can be filled with sand or aggregate to create a site-specific architecture to replace concrete. Multiplo by GUSTO is a simple brise-soleil made of discarded fan covers from an abandoned army base in Northern Italy. A host of other new, eco-friendly materials gave a glimpse into how resource extraction, especially fossil fuels, could be replaced by smaller-scale reuse and bio-engineering to architectural "degrowth." In the Collective and Systemic collections lie the big questions that both define a possible “Architecture of degrowth,” and are also impossible to answer now. How new collectivities and systems would be constructed is not clear in degrowth discourse at the moment, but the ideology is ripe for speculating on how we might live in a post-consumerist, post-growth society. Collective projects include Visual Ecolophonic by INDA and Animali Domestici examines and visualizes the Sami language of Northern Finland, which they describe as more in harmony than nature than most languages. ARPA by (ab)Normal is a theoretical world where artificial intelligence replaces market forces as an organizing principle. It is an important aspect to consider here, as questions about power structures and humanity’s proclivity toward violence have to be taken into consideration. The biggest questions are raised in the Systemic Collection, where entire social and political systems, networks, and environments are rethought at both the local and the global scale. This, according to the curators, is where degrowth departs from previous environmental movements. MassBespoke, a project to build quality housing out of timber, another replacement for concrete, was also on show at the Triennale. By allowing that flexibility in the system, these homes can now be personalized like custom homes. The Intentional Estates Agency (Jesse LeCavalier, Tei Carpenter, Dan Taeyuong, and Chris Woebken) is a set of real and imagined real estate models both new and old—from 19th-century utopias to seasteading—that speculate on alternatives to our current real estate metrics. In addition to the main exhibition, more than 100 events and other programming added to the degrowth chorus. Standouts included a workshop to make tote bags from recycled tote bags from previous events, as well as a spectacular, interactive performance by Rimini Protokoll that made the audience unwilling participants in the complexities and absurdities of our growth-fueled construction industry; politicians engaging in corruption, lawyers battling, financiers gambling, and precarious workers struggling. Perhaps what is the most interesting aspect of this festival are the questions about that come next. How is degrowth a helpful ideology for architecture? Can it provoke new ways of building at the individual level that can become communal and then translate into change at the systemic scale? What power structures are most susceptible to degrowth in architecture? How can the development and real estate industry be convinced to participate in this? How do democracy and degrowth interact? What would happen if the right were to take degrowth and use it as an excuse to enable eco-fascism? Conversely, what does a green, socialist utopia look like? Can every aspect of our lives be redesigned through the lens of degrowth? The answers don’t matter right now, it is the questions being raised that offer promise, and should echo through architecture at this most critical and important time for these eco-ideas.