Search results for "morphosis"

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Double Trouble

Jai & Jai Gallery becomes an essential hub for L.A.’s young artist-designers
Jai & Jai Gallery, a 350-square-foot exhibition space sandwiched between a barbecue smokehouse and a former vintage music store in Los Angeles’ Chinatown neighborhood, is a beacon in the city’s bustling young architecture scene. Whereas older generations strove for the empty warehouses of Culver City and Santa Monica, a new generation of designers is looking toward the inner city as a place to make and exhibit art and design, positioning galleries and art spaces like Jai & Jai as loci of experimentation for the city’s foremost millennial makers. This scene at Jai & Jai is typical of an opening night: As a heavy mix of creative young professionals gossip about their latest projects, Jomjai and Jaitip Srisomburananont, the sisters behind the gallery, hold court with potential buyers, guide new visitors toward wine, and play host to what often has more in common with a low-key San Fernando Valley house party than any staid Westside art gallery opening. Jaitip explains to The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) that though the gallery’s social importance is somewhat unintentional, it reflects a deeply personal part of who they are as individuals, saying the transformation from art space to social hub “mostly happened organically; [our events] always have that ‘Jai & Jai vibe.’ It’s just like how we treat our family: You come to our house, have a drink, see some art. Thankfully, it’s echoed through our business as well.” The Jais, as they are known by the ever-expanding social scene surrounding the gallery, keep a frenetic pace at these openings, and if you manage to grab their attention, it’s usually only for a few minutes. Mid-conversation, if you’re, say, discussing writing an article about the show at hand, Jomjai will pull out her iPhone to tap out an email (to you). She’ll then pivot to someone who looks like a prospective buyer and deliver him or her to the featured artist before moving on to someone else, maybe an intern snapping photographs or someone potentially cooking up the gallery’s next show. The Jais do this for hours, until the gallery shuts down and the party moves to one of the nearby dive bars. By the time you get home that night, you’ll likely have another email waiting for you and maybe even a press kit. It might seem cliché to focus on this aspect of the gallery first, but it reflects a larger and equally obvious truth of the Los Angeles art and architecture economy of today: It takes a lot of hard work to make things happen. This tendency is something of a common denominator for the Jais, the resident social patrons who frequent their gallery, and the exhibited artists themselves. Of those two latter groups, many are early-on in their careers and necessarily run art and design practices parallel to their 9-5 jobs. They also use their exhibited artworks to fund or support client-based commissions for their own independent practices. Many other are fresh out of school, having recently launched their own practices, or are teaching at an area architecture schools. Jomjai describes the gallery as, “More of an open forum” than an incubator, where the sibling gallerists “allow an opening for new ideas.” According to the sisters, the gallery provides young practitioners “a chance to express themselves, their ideas and theories, whether they’re artistic, academic, or architectural.” Jaitip adds, “We like to engage everyone and for us, the gallery acts as platform that lets us do that at equal levels.” Since it opened in 2012, a who’s who of L.A.’s rising stars have exhibited work on the gallery’s walls, creating a self-reinforcing narrative for the storefront as a kick-back space for the city’s young, energetic, and experimental designers. The gallery, which recently expanded into the neighboring thrift store, intentionally takes on challenging exhibitions and works with its artists to chart new terrain. In 2015, Jimenez Lai of Bureau Spectacular wrapped the interior of the exhibition space in panels of his trademark architectural cartoons, transforming the tiny space into a cave-like work of art. The work, Beachside Lonelyhearts, is carved up into a series of truncated and geometrically-shaped canvases; fragments of it can still be found in Jai & Jai’s growing archive. The year prior, Laurel Consuelo Broughton of Welcome Projects and Andrew Kovacs came together for a three-part show. Their Gallery Attachment and As-Built exhibitions took place in a parking lot across the street and inside the gallery, respectively. The parking lot show exhibited monochromatic, full-scale elements of architectural oddities while the show inside the gallery displayed a collection of measured as-built drawings made from the team’s collection of detritus outside. The duo also produced a zine to accompany and compliment their other trans-dimensional, multimedia works. Broughton told AN, “Before Jai & Jai the only spaces in Los Angeles for architectural exhibitions were institutionally sponsored. Being small and without institutional ties allows the gallery to exhibit work outside the traditional comfort zone for architecture and design,” to which Kovacs added, "Jai & Jai is an absolute asset for architecture in Los Angeles. I feel the gallery has a very open and flexible outlook that makes it possible to take risks with shows and explore new ideas." Mike Nesbit, independent artist and project designer at L.A.–based architecture firm Morphosis, has exhibited works of his “abstract-technical” art at Jai & Jai several times. His glitch-pointillist drawings and thickly-silkscreened, supersized concrete panel canvases filled the space last autumn for his Swipe show. The artist carted in massive slabs of cement coated in toothsome swipes of colored paint, lending a bit of L.A.’s abstract art bona fides to the space. And more recently, Clark Thenhaus of Endemic Architecture deployed office-based research as an exhibition titled Mind Your Mannerisms that catalogs, interprets, and manipulates San Francisco’s architectural turrets in paintings and models. Thenhaus’s show is the eighth show at Jai & Jai in the last year, with probably an equal number of gallery talks and panel discussions to support the exhibitions and promote other creative endeavors happening in the space over this period, as well. Thenhaus described the value of a space like Jai & Jai to AN  via email, saying, “The gallery enables a kind of exploratory freedom to more deeply consider and speculate on building and practice-related ideas in ways that cannot be achieved to the same level through more conventional outlets or client projects as a young office,” adding, “The value of this is, for a young practice, a way to stake an intellectual claim while also working directly on, and through, ideas related to disciplinary interests or to buildings that are yet to be fully designed or built.” If it seems like the work seems is all over the place, that’s because it is, and by design. The Jais intentionally take on challenging exhibitions and work with their artists to chart new terrain. Jaitip explains, “The main component through and through and from the beginning, has always been to engage the audience, whether they agree with the work or not.” This engagement plays out in the constantly changing gallery displays, which transform the space over and over again as the year goes on. Jaitip explained that for her, group shows like the 2014 show Chess, which showcased showpiece chess sets by a slew of designers, are the most rewarding, remarking, “To us, as gallerists, group shows are really inspiring to work on because [we coordinate] a group of people who believe in one concept and help bring them come together to tell a story. Chess and Bust were defining moments for Jai & Jai Gallery, as was Goods Used.” The gallery also timed the debut of their new online print shop with another group show earlier this year, Resolution – The Digital Print Group Exhibition, that used numbered prints of the work on display as a way of lowering the cost barrier for potential buyers. Jaitip explains, “We developed limited edition prints of these exhibited pieces to sell to a younger crowd and open up another branch for the gallery as a business and an organization that supports this type of success.” Chess sets and cartoon-caves as cutting edge architecture? In L.A., yes. That’s because the L.A. art and architecture scene is in a primal flux, not because art and architecture haven’t gone hand-in-hand here since the days of the deconstructionists and blobitects, but because in certain segments of the professional and academic architecture scene, they have become one and the same. Whether it’s the proximity to entertainment culture, the easier access to larger studio spaces, or the more readily available infrastructure for large-scale art production, L.A.-based architects are dabbling in a simultaneity of production and exhibition. Jai & Jai plays a central role in that conversation. As the Jais told me at the end of our conversation, they aim to keep working. “The goal is always to grow. Just grow, and to do that organically.”
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The Hub @ GCT

Grand Central Tech inaugurates new space for urban-focused startups
With the Cornell Tech campus (which features buildings by Weiss-Manfredi and Morphosis) and the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute rising on Roosevelt Island, and the New Lab humming away in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York suddenly doesn't seem to have a shortage of venues catering to tech start-ups. Today marked the inauguration of one more addition to "Silicon Alley." City officials and corporate executives gathered to kick-off The Hub @ GCT, a 50,000-square-foot business incubator located at 335 Madison Ave. Tech entrepreneurs and startups apply to use the space, which is run by the business accelerator Grand Central Tech (GCT). Unlike many accelerators, GCT offers its resources—office space, in-house recruiting team, access and mentoring from corporate sponsors—free of charge for one year. (Corporate sponsors include the likes of Google, Microsoft, G.E., Goldman Sachs, and IBM.) In exchange, GCT hopes to induce startups that "graduate" to rent offices in their other 40,000 square feet of coworking-style space at 335 Madison Ave. The New York Business Journal reports that last year 18 applicants were accepted from a pool of over 1,000 hopefuls. The Hub aims to host companies that are tackling urban challenges ranging from energy efficiency and public transportation. At the opening ceremony, Alicia Glen, NYC deputy mayor for housing and economic development, extolled New York City's virtues as a test bed for new urban-focused technology enterprises, saying, "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere." Maria Torres-Springer, president and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), similarly lauded The Hub's potential to work with the city, calling it another part of the "tech ecosystem we're building in New York City." The NYCEDC, who helped fund New Lab, contributed a $2.5 million grant to the Hub, which was supplemented by $5 million from Millstein Properties, who owns the building. For more details, visit Grand Central Tech's website.
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South Sea Pearl

Diller Scofidio + Renfro wins competition to design artificial island complex in China

New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) has trumped nine other studios in a competition to masterplan a man-made island in Haikou Bay, China. In doing so, DS+R beat off Foster + Partners, UN Studio, and fellow New York practice Morphosis Architects to design 250-acre plot of land.

The crescent-shaped island is officially known as the South Sea Pearl Artificial Island and is located in China's Hainan province. It will be joined to Hainan—itself a large island off the south Chinese coast—by a bridge. Chinese developer HNA Group, the group funding the project, wants to create an eco-tourism hub complete with a hotel complex, theme park, yacht harbor, and cruise ship port. The total price tag will be $1.25 billion.

"Our studio worked for a couple of months to imagine how to take this amount of land and how to consolidate all the building program in the smallest footprint possible, but also in a very natural land form," said Elizabeth Diller, a partner at DS+R, in an interview with Chinese news service CCTV. "It's a stitching of nature and culture together, so we’re very excited about that," she added. Meanwhile, Ni Qiang, the mayor of Haikou, spoke of the economic implications and what the project will mean to the island in a general sense. "This island will not only help boost local economic growth and create more jobs but also bring some of the world's most advanced concepts in urban development to China,” he said. Construction is expected to begin in 2017 and take approximately a decade, wrapping up in 2027. The other offices that competed were: Office of Architecture in Barcelona; Seoul-based Iroje Architects & Planners; Rotterdam-based KuiperCompagnons; Los Angeles-based The Jerde Partnership, Beijing-based CCDI, and internationally-based Boston International Design Group.
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South Sea Pearl

Ten firms are competing to design an artificial island complex in China
HNA Group has announced a design competition for the master plan and central buildings on a man-made island in Haikou Bay, China. The island, called the South Sea Pearl (and Nanhai Pearl Artificial Island), will be an eco-tourism hub with housing, a cruise ship port, a yacht harbor, hotels, resorts, a theme park, and more. HNA Group is the owner of several other properties in the area and across China, including the supertall skyscraper Haikou Tower due to be completed in 2020. They also own Hainan Airlines, the fourth largest airline in China. The crescent-shaped island is 250 hectares in size and located off the coast of Hainan, China, a larger island in the South China Sea with a population of 9 million. According to ArchDaily, Vincente Guallart was selected to create a strategic vision for the island. Guallart told ArchDaily the goal was to "achieve a new urban development based on ecological principles." The ten firms that will compete to design the island are London-based Foster + Partners, New York-based Morphosis Architects, Office of Architecture in Barcelona, New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Seoul-based Iroje Architects & Planners, Seoul-based UNStudio, Rotterdam-based KuiperCompagnons, Los Angeles-based The Jerde Partnership, Beijing-based CCDI, and internationally-based Boston International Design Group. Construction is expected to begin in 2017 and take approximately a decade, wrapping up in 2027.
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Pershing Square-Off

Agence Ter selected to redesign L.A.’s Pershing Square
Agence Ter was selected this morning as the winners of the competition aimed at redesigning Downtown Los Angeles’s central, 5-acre park, Pershing Square. The firm’s proposal for the city’s most historic open space aims to “get rid of trendy design approaches” that have plagued the park’s prior redesigns and to provide, as Agence Ter partner Henri Bava declared at the announcement ceremony, a “timeless design able to change with the neighborhood.” The French landscape firm’s approach is notable for the “town square” approach taken to the site, where a large canopy located at the western edge of the park will house cafés and other amenities that open onto a grassy knoll at the center of the park. Agence Ter’s proposal beat out entries by James Corner Field Operations with Fredrick Fischer and Partners, SWA and Morphosis, and wHY and Civitas. Bava announced that the agency would open a Los Angeles office to oversee the design and construction of the park. Downtown Los Angeles councilperson Jose Huizar, surrounded by a cohort of joyful politicos and city boosters, announced the winning entry in a heavily-attended morning ceremony in the downtrodden park. Councilperson Huizar told the crowd, “Of all the designs presented, [Agence Ter’s proposal] won us over, and more importantly, won over the public. We are very confident in the selection and final decision.” The four finalists were selected in December 2015 from an original pool of ten groups that presented work to Pershing Square Renew, a nonprofit partnership between Huizar and business leaders, residents, and activists administering the redesign. Those four teams presented final schemes to the public in late April. In the three weeks since, politicians, business people, and residents have provided input via public and online forums made available for comment. Agence Ter’s proposal was selected at the conclusion of this semi-public vetting process. The city’s oldest park, Pershing Square has lived through many iterations and names throughout its 150 plus year history. The winning proposal will be the third such iteration for the square in the last 100 years. The most recent version of the park was designed in 1994 Mexican Modernist architect Ricardo Legorreta. Laurie Olin was the landscape architect while Barbara McCarren designed the site’s hardscaping. A disciple of Luis Barragán, Legorreta’s scheme for the park takes a coy approach to the plaza mayor concept by using brightly-painted platonic stucco masses to frame and divide the area programmatically. These spaces include a purple campanile, small café area, seating integrated with expanses of lawn, and a large fountain surrounded by sculptural orbs. The park sits above a city-owned, five-story parking complex and has been generally unloved by the public because of it’s lack of porosity and the physical impediments resulting from the garage’s many access ramps. The rapid fire progress seen on the redevelopment of the park, a process that began only in 2013, has mirrored the transformation of the area from run-down business district to affluent enclave. A Ralphs supermarket opened in the area in 2007, the first in over 50 years. That market catalyzed a residential boom in the area and since then, Ace and Standard hotel locations have come on line, bringing with them a slew of high-end culinary and retail establishments, including a 42,000 square foot Whole Foods location that opened in November of 2015. The winning scheme, if built and ultimately successful, would cement Downtown L.A.’s status as one of the city’s distinct and vital neighborhoods. As of this morning’s announcement, however, no budget for the redevelopment has been released and a timeline for the construction of the project is still to be decided. Councilperson Huizar expressed hope that the park would be open by 2019, he and other City officials and residents are joined in their hope that this version of the park will be the one that finally sticks. Hopefully Agence Ter’s scheme won’t be wiped away twenty years from now like Legorreta’s.
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Ready for Close-Up

SCI-Arc’s spring show features 16 models from a diverse collection of architects

SCI-Arc’s Spring show, Close-up, curated by Hernan Diaz Alonso and David Ruy, opened in the usually staid SCI-Arc atrium that’s now filled with 16 prototypes designed by practitioners from across the spectrum of the architectural discipline. The prototypes explore the power of magnification in digital and physical expressions of architecture. The exhibition examines the architectural detail through the lens of technology’s impacts on “the traditions of tectonic expression….An often overlooked condition of digital design technologies is the ability to design objects through continuous degrees of magnification. The consequences of this very basic fact are more significant than we may realize. The traditional premise that some architectural ideas only reside at standardized scales of magnification at this point is nostalgic,” explained Alonso, discussing the impetus behind the exhibition. Close-up features work from UNStudio, Neil M. Denari Architects, Gehry Partners, Griffin Enright Architects, Greg Lynn FORM, Atelier Elena Manferdini, Morphosis, Oyler Wu Collaborative, P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S, and Tom Wiscombe Architecture among others. The exhibition remains open through May 29.

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Keeping it 100

Jane Jacobs: 100 and Timeless as Ever
In most cases, a century provides a round, nostalgic number. It is an arbitrary marker, offering a chance for living generations to contemplate a past beyond their firsthand comprehension. A century is not just a convenient marker for remembering Jane Jacobs. It is a crucial interval for appreciating the world she grew up in, the urban devastation she witnessed, the forces she fought against, and the future she hoped for. Even as the planning profession has roundly embraced Jacobs’s ideas, the resurrection of the American city remains a work in progress. This is not your grandmother’s city. But it may yet be. Though Jacobs passed away 10 years ago and published her masterpiece, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, in 1961, urbanists do not celebrate her for some distant, reverenced work. Contemporary movements such as smart growth, pedestrianism, public transit, New Urbanism, tactical urbanism, and the Millennial sunburst of enthusiasm for urban living all hearken back to Jacobs. Even so, the historical moment that gave rise to Jacobs is still happening, with the momentum of a nuclear meltdown still spitting out radiation, half-life after half-life. "Orthodox modernist city planning...refuses to die,” said Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture. "She did a very good job of trying to kill it, by turning attention back to city streets and the people who inhabit them." When suburbs were swelling and freeways were tearing through cities in the mid-20th century, few planners or architects recognized, or cared, that cities were dying. Planners followed the European model of Le Corbusier and the International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM), which advocated the demolition of neighborhoods and the erection of sterile towers and pointless open spaces. In the United States, this program evolved into highways, tract housing, and “urban renewal.” Jacobs celebrated life, not objects. She was eloquent, rebellious, endearing, and superficially unassuming—in part because she was a woman in a field that was, and remains, dominated by men. A tenacious activist, Jacobs not only lived her ideals but actually prevailed, staring down New York City’s infrastructure czar Robert Moses and saving Greenwich Village from the proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway. Jacobs arrived at her radicalism by looking backwards—and looking around. She uncovered the great things about cities that had been known, if not fully articulated, for millennia. She contended that “scientific” modernist planning and design was little more than a rationalization to justify the enshrinement of (white, male) egotism in the landscape. Jacobs was the real scientist, using powers of observation and deduction to describe what she saw as the natural environment in which urban humans thrived. “Her only qualifications were her eyes and her social conscience, and she started telling people there is a horrendous gap between your forms and your social ideals,” said architect Stefanos Polyzoides, a co-founder of the Congress for the New Urbanism. “The architectural profession was dominated by this idea that modern is good and everything else is rotten." (Jacobs had at least one major like-minded contemporary in sociologist William H. Whyte. Otherwise, Jacobs dominates planning like few have dominated any field. In 2009 the urban planning website Planetizen.com conducted an unscientific poll of history's 100 "greatest urban thinkers.” Out of 14,000 votes, Jacobs took the top spot with five times as many votes as the runner-up, New Urbanist Andrés Duany.) It’s almost impossible to point to specific examples of Jacobs’s influence. If anything, Jacobs signifies negation: the absence of a superblock, the highway that was never built. Or she embodies the ephemeral: the evening stroll, the chance encounter, the purchase of a bagel and coffee. “She was really about ways to experience a city rather than what a city was supposed to look like,” said Richard Sennett, professor of sociology at the London School of Economics, who knew Jacobs in her heyday. Today, it is the rare urban designer who gets to develop a city, or even a neighborhood, from scratch. In mature cities, change happens over the course of decades. By working at the level of the discrete parcel or building—for better or worse—and on projects that typically take mere years architects, rather than planners, face more ample and direct opportunities to realize Jacobs’s lessons. Fifty-five years later, architects are still debating what those lessons are. Short of Lou Reed, perhaps no one is more closely associated with Greenwich Village than Jacobs is. She is often assumed to be both a preservationist and a historicist, forever promoting bricks and brownstones—likely an unexciting prospect for contemporary designers in pursuit of the new. "Because she defended the Village…by extension she defended the historicity of the city,” said Polyzoides. Jacobs did not, however, explicitly promote a certain architectural style. By embracing diversity, she avoided the fate of her modernist nemeses. "She’s against singularity and for diversity, diversity of all kinds: economic, social, physical,” said Polyzoides. "In that sense she might be very pleased with a modern or contemporary building in a traditional street." While Jacobs may have been agnostic about how a building looks, she was anything but when it came to how it relates to its surroundings. Jacobs makes architects think about all the elements of cities that aren’t buildings. Lorcan O’Herlihy, founding principal of Los Angeles-based Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects, said that this perspective compels architects to pay attention to how buildings relate to street life and with surrounding buildings. His design process includes literal interaction: extensive community dialog through which he tries to understand a project’s role in the human environment. While non-residents may never enter a building, its influence still extends, for better or worse, beyond the property line. "It’s not only about buildings, but it’s also about engaging edges,” said O’Herlihy. "That is something that is missing in an urban context when you turn your back to the sidewalk and street." That approach calls for a level of creativity that is often considered lacking in American modern design, which Stern calls "a corporate version of the International Style." Jacobs offers an alternative. She gives architects the opportunity—perhaps even the obligation—to perceive and respond to neighborhoods as they are and not to impose placeless design theories on them. "Jacobs revered the city as the preeminent site of choice and possibility and she saw architecture’s duty as enabling, not domineering,” said Michael Sorkin, principal of New York-based Michael Sorkin Studio and author of Twenty Minutes in Manhattan. "Her gift to designers was the rejection of fixed formulas in favor of an ever-unfolding dialectic of form and life." Just as Jacobs celebrated city life, so might Jacobs-inspired designs be capable of living many lives. "The best way to honor her would actually be…systems of building that are accretive rather than rupturing,” said Richard Sennett, author and Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Cambridge University' sociology department. Sennett cited Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, who designs buildings with the intention that they will be altered and added to in time. For all of Jacobs’s focus on the “human scale” of 20th century cities, 21st century cities may be developing at a scale that makes Jacobs seem, if not precious, then at least inadequate. Jacobs has often drawn criticism for not directly addressing social issues such as segregation and poverty, instead referring to them under the broad mantle of diversity. But contemporary mega-cities in the developing world are growing at unprecedented rates. Lagos, Mumbai, Jakarta, and the like, make New York City look like a sleepy hamlet. In these cities, swelling with urban poor, the “sidewalk ballet” isn’t the most pressing issue. “Of course they’re relevant today, but they’re not the macro problems,” said Thom Mayne, principal of Morphosis. Jacobs’s attention to the street and the neighborhood “doesn’t have anything to do with the 50 percent of the world that ends up in these urban configurations." Then again, Saskia Sassen, professor of sociology at Columbia University, suggests that debates over city form and urban details obscure Jacobs’s broader contributions about urban economics. Jacobs’s 1969 Economy of Cities contends that macro-scale productivity, and indeed the capitalist ideal itself, depends on the aggregate of activities that take place on blocks and in neighborhoods. "Jacobs shows the city as an economic machine, a machine that can process all kinds of elements that are often coming from non-urban settings,” said Sassen. “[In] a suburb or a private, gated corporate office park, you have density, but you don’t have a city." Debating Jacobs’s relevance presents a thorny challenge. In many circles, she has gained as much influence, intellectually at least, as her Modernist counterparts ever did. Nonetheless, the environments that they built still endure. Appealing as they are, Jacobs’s theories remain largely untested even as, 55 years later, no one has arisen to substantially oppose or eclipse her. “The longevity of her influence is attributable to the fact she spoke all the truth in a straightforward way,” said Stern. "The profession of planning and architecture has not yet caught up with her wisdom because it is still object-fixated and open-space fixated.” If any century promises to be the Jane Jacobs Century, then, it may not be the past one: in which she spent 84 of her 90 years, wrote seminal texts, and took a wrecking ball to modernism. That may have been prelude. Rather, the Jane Jacobs Century promises to be the current one: in which the urban world from which she departed may—slowly—become more like the one into which she was born.
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Pershing Square-Off

Here’s a First Look at the Finalists Vying to Redesign Downtown LA’s Pershing Square
Here’s the first look at the four final designs by Agence Ter and team, James Corner Field Operations with Fredrick Fischer and Partners, SWA and Morphosis, and wHY and Civitas for LA’s Pershing Square. Angelenos are being invited to comment on the finalists’ proposals over the next few weeks as Pershing Square Renew, a collection of designers, business leaders, and officials civic leaders, seeks to redevelop the centrally-located, five-acre square at the heart of Downtown LA. The teams of finalists hail from an original pool of ten groups that presented work to the nonprofit in October of 2015. That grouping was reduced to four teams in December, with those finalists' final submissions are now vying for the final selection, to be announced in May. The proposals are shown below and will be formally presented to the public at the Palace Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles on April 28th at a sold out event. See Pershing Square Renew’s website for updates on further public viewings.
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Welcome to the new website of The Architect’s Newspaper
When the Architect’s Newspaper was founded in 2003, the internet was not much more than a glimmer in Al Gore’s eye. “WebLogs” had just started to pick up speed, and the social network Myspace had just hit the market, ready to take over from Friendster. Which is why it is so amazing that we managed to have the same website for the last 13 years, without a relaunch. The Architect’s Newspaper was started “in part, out of frustration that so many important architecture and design stories never find a place in the news dailies, the city weeklies, or design monthlies…We will bring you news, big and small, with a catholic sensibility about what architects and designers might consider newsworthy.” The first print issue had a story announcing the curator of the 2004 Venice Biennale, a preview of the new Morphosis design for the Cooper Union, and an article about the then-nascent “U.S.-Dutch-Austrian blob axis.” While much has changed since these early days—there is no need for two pages of event listings—the independent ethos of the paper has lived on, very much to the too-often-unsung credit of publisher Diana Darling and editor-in-chief William Menking. Both in print and online, AN has been a critical voice both in the city of New York and across the country, with four regional editions: East, West, Midwest, and Southwest. These regional papers and contacts in places like Oklahoma City allow us to cover territory often left uncovered. The in-depth coverage and analysis includes zoning measures, preservations fights, transit issues, and other political issues alongside more traditional design coverage. We also are always expanding our coverage of international issues and our engagement with the discourse that affects us all. Our new web editor Zach Edelson will continue this, while putting his own twist on what is happening today. This relaunch aims to carry on our tradition as the most authoritative architecture and design coverage in the United States in a new, contemporary format that can do the content justice. On the old website, the “news” page and a “blog” falsely divided print and web-only content into confusing silos. This will no longer be the case. Fresh, up-to-the minute coverage of architecture, cities, products, and technology will finally be showcased alongside long-form editorial content from leading authors both established and up-and-coming. We hope that the new website will more accurately convey the quality and breadth of the writing. We will also be able to feature more and larger images in a more interactive display, giving readers more visual insight into the projects we feature. The new site will also work better on mobile devices. Now is a time of tremendous growth for The Architect’s Newspaper. We have launched a series of “Late Edition” email newsletters that feature local architecture stories from each of our four regions. You can sign up for one or all of them here. We have also started AN Interior, which is a burgeoning design and culture magazine with a focus on the latest innovations in architectural interiors and products. Look for more online coverage in this area moving forward. Please bear with us as we work out the kinks, and let us know what you think of the new site. We would love to hear your feedback about how it functions and what is working and not working! Here are a few of our most recent stories that will give you a chance to test out the new site! MoMA to Close galleries dedicated to architecture and design  State of the City Why the Met Breuer matters Designing the Border Wall? Why is SHoP designing SITE Santa Fe? OE House by Fake Industries Zaha Hadid passes away How Graves, Koolhaas, and Piano would have altered Marcel Breuer’s iconic Madison Avenue museum Marina City gets landmark status Salt Shed: In Praise of the Urban Object The Memphis Movement Lebbeus Woods: Blogger
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Samantha Harris
Samantha Harris

Long before Los Angeles was stereotyped as a place that didn’t respect age or heritage, its terrain had been transformed from hillside native chaparral, oak woodlands, and riparian meadows to a regularized landscape of exotic evergreen trees, tropical palms, and green lawns. This botanical metamorphosis was spurred by Southern California’s unusual ability to grow the vast majority of the world’s plant species—given enough imported water.

By the 1950s, Los Angeles had found its own special place in garden history for having the finest, most pristine specimens of the flat, sterile, suburban yards that defined the era.

There has never been much historic consideration for the region’s subtle seasonal changes, and there have been shamefully few examples of landscape design even attempting to harness the spectacle of California’s vast poppy fields or the sculptural, shaded cathedrals found beneath our majestic native oaks. But now, four years of drought are finally forcing us to confront the limitations of these revisionist landscapes.

The Obsolescence of Canned Green Beans

Although Americans have moved on from many other midcentury values, Angelenos’ landscapes still reflect the way people wanted to live 75 years ago. How then can we update our values? The Slow Food Movement, begun in 1986 by Carlo Petrini to protest the opening of a McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps in Rome, provides a positive and applicable analogue to L.A.’s future landscape.

In recent years, more diverse demographics and lifestyles have combined with a better scientific understanding of diet and health to create a new normal in dining and an interest in rediscovering slow, local, and heirloom foods. Chefs around the world are now driven by the desire and attempt to keep local color, freshness, and authenticity in our cities. Vibrant, experimental restaurants serving regional and site-specific, farm-to-table/dock-to-dish cuisine have popped up across the nation. This way of thinking about food has crossed over to home cooking as well, with the proliferation of neighborhood farmers’ markets and the display of heirloom, organic produce and grass-fed beef as standard fare at many local supermarkets.

This groundbreaking and relatively rapid shift in the way Americans eat may very well parallel an imminent sea change in the way we consider and develop our landscapes. If canned green beans are no longer our go-to vegetable, why should exotic lawn grass continue to be our go-to landscape? Californians were among the first to embrace the Slow Food Movement; the current drought’s water restrictions are impetus for us to recognize and support a Slow Landscape Movement.

A Slow Landscape Movement would create the framework for designing regional American landscapes that are more appropriate for our times. By designing landscapes that combine performative infrastructural technology with deep understanding of regional flora, fauna, and ecosystem function—and adding a large and crucial helping of creative artistry—we can make places that not only become more authentically rooted in Los Angeles, but can help lead the way for other U.S. cities to do the same. In fact, since Hollywood will most likely export images of our most successful and beautiful “Slow Landscapes,” interest in which specific landscape “ingredients” define a region’s own characteristics would grow.

Moving away from the monotonous overuse of passé and thirsty lawn grass is a great first step. In our front yards, sidewalk parkways, and street medians, grass is little more than a maintenance headache. What if we reconceived and replanted those areas with plants more suited to our climate and resources? In addition to using less water than grass, native, drought-tolerant plants require very little maintenance. They typically need supplemental water for just one or two years until establishment, and they rarely require the excessive use of petrochemical fertilizers or pesticides. Our neighborhoods in aggregate would utilize fewer resources and provide a healthier habitat for birds and beneficial insects.

Just as important for designers, our residential streets would have more identifying character. Many of Los Angeles’s most distinctive streetscapes derive their historic identity from the use of a single street-tree species, such as the towering Washingtonia palm. If the ground cover plantings under these established trees were indigenous, the many possible combinations within the street-tree system would increase neighborhood and street-to-street differentiation. Simply removing the pervasive lawn and replacing it with better-suited understory plants would have an impact at the urban scale. The floral diversity under the trees would make it easier to understand where in the world you are at a glance, telling a more authentic and healthy story of a place.

Embracing Slow Landscapes

It is inherently false that El Niño would render such drought-tolerant Slow Landscapes obsolete. Episodic El Niño winters are as much an integral part of the California climate as sporadic drought is. These extreme climatic cycles are not an aberration requiring a dramatic but temporary solution; our landscapes are neither instant nor static, but instead ebb and flow with the amount of rainfall. Acceptance of this variability is the essence of a movement toward Slow Landscapes. We will need to reexamine our landscape values and discover together what it means to live in Los Angeles.

Temperatures are increasing, and as soil moisture and water bodies evaporate rapidly under the one-two punch of extended drought and the advance of global climate change, it will be ever more crucial for Slow Landscapes to build in resilience and acceptance of seasonal and multiyear extreme weather fluctuations.

For the Los Angeles context, Slow Landscapes will mean, in part, bringing seasonality to our gardens and stressing acceptance of the “California Gold” of summer, along with the verdant green of winter. The great landscape gardens of the world rely on the “good bones” of a strong winter garden framework to define the ephemeral beauty of plantings. In other cultures, trees and plants that change color, lose their leaves, provide fleeting flowers, or patterned winter bark are revered for the reference they provide to the life cycle.

The “bones” of our Los Angeles gardens don’t necessarily have to be organic. Our city’s staggering aesthetic richness provides abundant opportunity for designers to merge novel, locally inspired forms and motifs with the dynamic living element of our indigenous flora. Imagine sprays of Rosa californica, the delicate pink native rose, draped upon trellises influenced in form by the sinewy infrastructural exoskeleton of the concrete freeways and waterways. Or sultry bright sages, evoking the dream of the Old West, laid out in parterre geometry derived from cultural icons, such as street art, graffiti, or commercial signs and marquees.

If the drought has a silver lining, it may be that more slow and thoughtful technology and capital are being focused on urban-scale infrastructural improvements that finally hybridize ecological and cultural needs. The reality is that Los Angeles’s landscape has become an engineered environmental system that now needs to be reckoned with. Ecological issues, including soil health, heat-island effect, appropriate vegetation, habitat, and water use, collection, and recharge, all need to be weighed when considering our landscapes. True performance-based landscapes are still the minority of design projects, but this is changing rapidly. In addition, awareness of how cultural influences can and should affect our landscapes is growing.

The time is right to slow down and be ever more thoughtful in how we design and engineer our landscapes to create richer, more interesting, and more resilient spaces that are genuine and redolent of the best of an area’s native environs. Samantha Harris is a landscape architect and artist. A principal at Rios Clementi Hale Studios, she is a founding member of the studio’s Slow Landscape Initiative.

Taking cues from the Slow Food Movement, the future of landscape in the West is local and resilient, with or without a drought.

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Weiss/Manfredi’s Cornell Tech Campus building tops off
Residential towers are rising on the banks of the East River in Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. It's easy to forget that, in the middle of the river, development at Cornell University's New York City campus on Roosevelt Island is speeding ahead. The Bridge at Cornell Tech, designed by Weiss/Manfredi, topped off Monday. That building will have a partial green roof and a photovoltaic array to produce energy for campus. Stepped lawns leading up to the entrance encourage the building's program of spontaneous social interaction to spill out onto the street. https://youtu.be/PFRIKri9Y_c Along with Cornell Tech phase one buildings, the Bridge is set to open summer 2017. When complete, the 12-acre campus on Roosevelt Island will be the home of hundreds of Cornell faculty and staff, and around 2,000 students. The master plan, executed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) with James Corner Field Operations, calls for a "river-to-river" campus with 2.5 acres of public space and ten buildings that perform to a high environmental standard. The video above gives a sense of scale and layout of the development. Phase one buildings include the Bloomberg Center, an open-plan academic facility designed by Thom Mayne of Morphosis Architects. The Center, which aims to be one of the largest net-zero energy buildings in the U.S., takes its design cues from the collaborative workspaces of Silicon Valley. Handel Architects designed a student, faculty, and staff residence with an ambition to become the world's first residential Passive House high-rise.
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Architectural Criticism
Courtesy Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects

In nearly every issue, we invite architects, scholars, industry experts, and editors to candidly discuss high-profile projects, urban issues, and events in our architecture criticism column. This year, Los Angeles dominated the spotlight with its collective boom of new museums and buildings, while over on the east coast, Renzo Piano’s Whitney continued to spark conversation.

 

Princeton Train Station

Rick Joy's design for a commuter rail station in Princeton is endowed with civic importance and grace.

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Whitney Museum of American Art

Renzo Piano has not made a building to love, but one in which the art viewing experience is given priority.

 

 

UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music

Kevin Daly Architects brings the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music into the digital age.

 
 

Bill & Melinda Gates Hall

Michael Webb considers Morphosis' latest "scaly silver beast," this time at Cornell University.

 
 
 

Petersen Automotive Museum

Inspired by automotive design, the Petersen Automotive Museum stops traffic on Wilshire Boulevard.

 
 
 

Creating Community

Lorcan O'Herlihy designs housing in a precarious context.

 
 

Star Apartments

Is prefab the future for affordable housing in Los Angeles? A case from Michael Maltzan Architecture.

 
 
 

Jesuit High School Chapel

Hodgetts + Fung's first religious building creates sanctuary on Jesuit High School's modernist campus.

 
 
 

Edward M. Kennedy Institute

Rafael Viñoly's  Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston complements adjacent JFK Library.