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Healthy Interest

Wellness design is spreading across hospitality architecture and beyond

Fifty years ago, the term wellness—if it was used at all—essentially meant “not sick.” Then, throughout the ’80s and ’90s, the rise of gym culture and workplace wellness snowballed into an explosion of fitness boutiques in the early aughts. In city centers and upscale suburbs today, specialized fitness boutiques such as SoulCycle, PureBarre, Barry’s Bootcamp, and FlyWheel are nearly as ubiquitous as Starbucks. Combined with the rapid expansion of “health” branded grocery stores, an uptick in haute athletic wear, and a plethora of juice and smoothie companies, not to mention the surrounding media buzz, wellness has become not so much a trend as a booming industry.

Hotel conglomerates took note about a decade ago, assuming that the same kale-juice-chugging travelers frequenting SoulCycle and Whole Foods would want to stick to their wellness routines on the road. In 2010, Wyndham acquired TRYP, a subset of hotels that offers amenities like in-suite fitness equipment, healthy snacks, and an “energetic fitness center.” In 2012, Las Vegas’s MGM Grand introduced 41 “Stay Well” rooms featuring wellness amenities such as  aromatherapy and air purification systems and access to Cleveland Clinic programs for “sleep, stress, and nutritional therapy.” In 2014, InterContinental Hotels Group launched EVEN Hotels with six locations in Norwalk, Connecticut; Rockville, Maryland; Times Square, Midtown East, and Brooklyn, New York; and Omaha, Nebraska. EVEN Hotels not only boast athletic studios, but also in-room personal training, group classes, and the Cork & Kale™ Market and Bar for healthy snacks. The branding, though aggressively green-washed, is apparently successful: Six more EVEN Hotel properties are slated to open in the next few years.

In 2017, fitness companies flipped the script. Luxury fitness brand Equinox recently announced it will open its first hotel in New York’s Hudson Yards development in 2019 with plans to open a second location in Los Angeles soon after. Equinox operates nearly 80 clubs in nine cities in the United States, with additional locations in Toronto and London, with approximately one million members overall. Although sources wouldn’t disclose which architects worked on initial designs, the revealed rendering shows a massive tower, expected to be home to a 60,000-square-foot “super gym” with indoor and outdoor pools in addition to the hotel.

Equinox isn’t alone. Chicago’s Midtown Athletic Club, a tennis-and-fitness center established in 1970, is adding a 55-room boutique hotel on top of its facilities. Evanston, Chicago–based DMAC Architecture spearheaded the design of the addition and the redesign of the existing structure to create a 575,000-square-foot complex that will have 15 indoor tennis courts; four pools (including one that converts to an ice rink in winter); one full-size basketball court; several studio fitness spaces for yoga, Pilates, boxing, and spinning; locker rooms; retail and dining options; outdoor and lounge recreational spaces; as well as other hotel amenities such as meeting and banquet rooms, deluxe suites, and a penthouse presidential suite. “Rather than being 98 percent hotel with 2 percent amenity, [the Midtown Athletic Club] will be 96 percent amenity and 4 percent hotel,” said Dwayne MacEwen, founder and principal of DMAC architecture. “There are three floors of primary club space, with the third being an all-glass in-between space with the lobby, and the hotel component occupies floors four and five,” he explained. MacEwen emphasized that the prevailing design directive is to create something “intimate and choreographed,” eschewing a “big-box-gym atmosphere.”

Designing for wellness rather than merely fitness or hospitality involves a careful consideration of social and nonsocial areas. MacEwen and his team crafted specific spaces for conversation, like the monumental staircase on the second floor; spaces for solidarity, like the meditation room; and spaces for “being together, alone,” like the lounge. “We didn’t want to over program any one room—when you do that no one hangs out there—but we wanted to create an emotional impact through our use of materials, sense of compression, lighting, and wayfinding,” he said.

This strategy continues through the exterior of the landmarked building: The Midtown Athletic Club is located at a busy intersection in Bucktown, and MacEwen was cognizant of its impact on the neighborhood. “People choose to live in the city for a reason,” he said, “so we wanted to give something back to the urban street experience. It is more like an urban island oasis; you feel like you are a part of the city because you can see the traffic and feel the energy, but there is a solitude and quietness to it as well.” The Midtown Athletic Club hotel and renovation is set to be complete early this summer.

As hotels increase the amount of fitness and wellness offerings on deck, boutique fitness brands also feel obligated to provide key hospitality tenets—most importantly, forging a community with and among their members. Principal Chad Smith of Desbrisay & Smith Architects in New York has been working with boutique fitness brand Barry’s Bootcamp since 2012, both designing its studios and contributing to its branding. It is no coincidence that the tagline on the Desbrisay & Smith Architects website is “causing communities.” “We look at the organization of the space, as well as its touch and feel, and explore how the patrons come together and what happens before and after a workout,” Smith explained. This isn’t just “Kumbaya” feel-good vibes. “Boutique fitness companies want their communities to form a gang, not only because it has material impacts on their health and wellness, but [because] it increases retention so the businesses make more money.”

There is no singular approach when it comes to organizing spaces that make people feel as though their intraclub relationships are springing up organically. When Smith worked on CrossFit company I.C.E.’s New York location, he started by examining where and how clients interacted. “In CrossFit, people hang out and talk to each other in the workout space, so we wanted it to be chic and luxurious, very Manhattan,” he said. “Basically we thought, ‘If you had to pick a classic New York space to work out in, something that’s durable and glamorous, what would you choose?’ The obvious answer is Grand Central Station, so we picked up on its material cues, such as brass and dark blue paint.” But behind these sleek walls and floors, there is a lot going on: sound isolation, floating, spring reinforced acoustic floors, and superinsulated windows and walls.

Not only are these technological elements crucial for spaces like Barry’s Bootcamp, where 25 people run on 25 treadmills simultaneously within a mixed-use building, but they are also needed for when people sit completely still.

Meditation centers—that is, places where people go to sit and experience a guided meditation—are still new to the built wellness environment. When designing the Inscape Meditation Center in Manhattan, Archi-Tectonics founder Winka Dubbeldam spent months focusing on a seamless experience for clients. “It demands a different type of precision,” she explained. “If you meditate in all kinds of positions—walking, sitting, lying down—then you are very aware of yourself and the space around you. A few things became quite apparent. I wanted to create a continuum, an immersive environment: Walls and ceilings become one in the Dome; there is clean purified air; there is perfect sound and lighting. All the senses are soothed.”

Inscape has two meditation rooms: The Dome room is a large ellipse, while the Alcove room is smaller and wrapped in textural cloth. Both rooms feature color therapy lights, a smooth transition between the ceilings and walls, and carefully curated sound. “When we first soundproofed the space, we over-perfected it,” Dubbeldam said. “It was too soundproof! It actually hurt my ears. So we had an acoustics engineer come in and soften it and add a small amount of white noise to achieve a more comfortable silence.” The lighting was designed to avoid any pinpointed spots of light; rooms are equally lit, each with a soft horizon line around the Dome room where distracted meditators can focus their gazes and regain their senses of calm.

To achieve this level of design, Dubbeldam created a full-scale prototype in a warehouse in Brooklyn and meditated in it with Inscape founder Khajak Keledjian, who also founded the clothing boutique Intermix. “I see design as a process, a series of tests to achieve moments of precision,” Dubbeldam said. “It looks super simple, but it takes massive amounts of design and engineering. I really feel like that is where architecture should go, and, in our case, is going.”

Evan Bennett of New York–based Vamos Architects concurs.“Environments are shifting dramatically as technology shifts,” he explained. Bennett recently completed Honeybrains, a concept cafe in New York’s NoHo district that serves up information on brain health alongside healthy food options and a honey-focused retail section. Owned by two siblings—one who worked in neurology—the cafe features circadian lighting by Ketra disguised in a clever ceiling-light baffle. “We were careful not to have direct lighting, but instead created a honeycomb pattern that could reflect light off of the interior paneling,” Bennett said. “It lets us hide the track lighting, the AV system, and a projector up there as well.” Bennett admits that spending 30 to 40 minutes in a circadian-light-controlled system might not have major effects on one’s health, but he believes in Honeybrain’s mission to become a platform for discussing brain health and the possibilities of design that straddles the intersection of health and technology.

Though the wellness trend will play itself out and change over time, people-centric, health-focused design will endure in hospitality architecture. Combined with our current propensity toward mixed-use spaces and advanced technology, building boundaries will continue to blur—not only between hotel and gym, but across industries of all kinds.

Want more on wellness? Read how it's influencing the workplace too.

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Sounds Good

Studio Gang will design enormous, acoustically-attuned domes for the National Building Museum
Studio Gang will install a human hive in the halls of the National Building Museum this summer. The Chicago- and New York–based studio will erect thousands of wound paper tubes to create three domed rooms, the tallest of which will stretch 60 feet into the air. The tubes, a sustainable building material, range in height from a few inches to ten feet. The installation, aptly named Hive, will anchor the D.C. museum's Summer Block Party, a series of temporary commissions inside its Great Hall. Previous participants include James Corner Field Operations (2016), Snarkitecture (2015), and BIG (2014). “When you enter the Great Hall you almost feel like you’re in an outside space because of the distance sound travels before it is reflected back and made audible,” said Studio Gang founding principal Jeanne Gang, in a prepared statement. “We’ve designed a series of chambers shaped by sound that are ideally suited for intimate conversations and gatherings as well as performances and acoustic experimentation. Using wound paper tubes, a common building material with unique sonic properties, and interlocking them to form a catenary dome, we create a hive for these activities, bringing people together to explore and engage the senses.” The firm's installation will compress the capacious Great Hall, with its imposing Corinthian columns, into intimate spaces for conversation, playing musical instruments, or cooperative building activities for children (and adults so inclined). The tubes also feature reflective silver exteriors and vivid magenta interiors, creating a spectacular visual contrast with the Museum’s historic nineteenth-century interior. Hive will be on view from July 4–September 4, 2017. Check nbm.org for more information about the exhibition and related programming.
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Honorary Royal Architectural Institute Fellowship, Too

Jeanne Gang is designing her first project in Canada, a mixed-use tower in Toronto’s Yonge + St. Clair
Chicago architect Jeanne Gang has been hired to design her first project in Canada, a residential tower in Toronto’s Yonge + St. Clair neighborhood, with retail space at street level.
The client is Slate Asset Management, which owns ten properties in the neighborhood and is working to rejuvenate it with public art, vibrant streetscapes, and first-rate design. Slate and Gang’s office, Studio Gang, announced this month that the residential tower will be at the southwest corner of Yonge Street and Delisle Avenue. The project is the latest in a series of high-profile commissions by Slate, including an eight-story mural by international street artist Phlegm. The tower will be Studio Gang’s first building in Canada, and it’s part an effort by Slate to reimagine Yonge + St. Clair. Known for her Aqua Tower in Chicago, one of the world’s tallest buildings by a woman-led design team, Gang received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award in 2011. She has been named to receive an honorary fellowship from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada in May. The ceremony will be part of the Institute’s Festival of Architecture in Ottawa from May 24 to 27, and Gang will give the festival’s keynote address. “Yonge + St. Clair is on its way back. Having occasion to bring Studio Gang’s first project in Toronto to the neighborhood signals to the rest of the city that we would like to create something special here,” said Brandon Donnelly, Vice President of Development at Slate Asset Management, in a statement.
“As our practice’s relationship with Canada grows, we’re excited to explore Toronto and to understand the unique DNA of the Yonge + St. Clair neighborhood,” said Gang. “We hope to design a building that will strengthen relationships within the neighborhood and the city.”According to the development team’s announcement, Studio Gang will work with Slate to organize a “public consultation” this spring to gather community input before making a design submission to the city. According to the developers, the final building will be primarily rental, with retail space at grade, in keeping with Slate’s long-term vision for the area. While the design for the building has not been finalized, Donnelly said, a couple of decisions have already been made.“It’s not going to be a typical all-glass tower,” he said, citing a need to introduce material variety into Toronto’s skyline. “We want to push boundaries in terms of sustainability and building efficiency, which means we are thinking carefully about the building envelope and its materials.” The Studio Gang commission will be the first ground-up tower in the area by Slate, which controls all four corners of the intersection of Yonge and St. Clair.The decision to commission Studio Gang was made after a selection process that emphasized design methodology, site context, and Slate’s aspirations for world-class architecture and a fresh vision.
Yonge + St. Clair is a transit-rich area with a subway and dedicated streetcar tracks, but it is also a short walk from some of the city’s most admired neighborhoods and a ravine system that offers direct access to quiet green space. The juxtaposition of natural and built environments is expected to serve as inspiration for the project. “There is a hill that crests at Yonge + St. Clair, which means the... site acts as both a pedestal and a view terminus from way uptown,” said Donnelly “The challenge will be to develop a building worthy of being showcased, but we feel confident that we have the right team in place to do just that.”
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Rolling on the River

City of Chicago asks architects to envision future of riverfront
A group of architectural firms will work with the City of Chicago to develop design concepts for a substantial new portion to the Chicago's quickly developing riverfront. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD), and the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) announced the launch of the Chicago Urban River Edges Ideas Lab. The participating firms include David Adjaye, James Corner Field Operations, Perkins+Will, Ross Barney Architects, Sasaki, Site Design, SOM, Studio Gang Architects, and SWA. “Following the successful completion of the latest sections of the Chicago Riverwalk and with a number of riverfront developments in progress across the city, including the planning process for the North Branch Industrial Corridor around Goose Island, now is the perfect time to engage the architectural community to help us create new river edge guidelines,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Each of the listed firms has extensive experience with designing award-winning riverfronts, public spaces, and parks around the world. The Ideas Lab will gather new concepts from the firms while engaging the local and global community for feedback. Each of the firms will submit more formal design proposals by June 2017, which will then be displayed to the public during the second Chicago Architecture Biennial. The information gathered throughout the process will also be used to inform the city’s riverfront design guidelines, which are planned to be released in 2018. Along with the physical exhibition, WSP Parsons Brnckerhoff, with support from Comcast, will produce digital exhibition components that will include augmented and virtual reality experiences (viewed via cell phones). Additional installations using California company Owlized's virtual reality technology will also be developed. The Chicago Urban River Edges Ideas Lab will be funded by the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and Comcast. The announcement by the city came as the Mayor, along with Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, hosted an 18-mayor conference on to discuss the future of urban waterways. The conference, held in downtown Chicago, included input from Jeanne Gang. “On behalf of all of the firms participating in the Ideas Lab, we’re honored and excited to get to work. Chicago’s rivers are an amazing landscape and waterscape that can connect our neighborhoods, enliven our civic life, and provide solace, all at the same time,” said Carol Ross Barney. Ross Barney Architects, along with Sasaki, were responsible for the design of Chicago’s current Riverwalk
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Rowin’ on the River

Studio Gang completes a second public boathouse along the Chicago River

As the first snow of the season fell, a large crowd gathered along a quiet bend in the South Branch of the Chicago River. Jovial groups of teens, community members, and public officials were all there for the opening of the Eleanor Boathouse at Park 571 in the South Side neighborhood of Bridgeport. The boathouse is the second designed by Studio Gang Architects and the final of four boathouses planned for the Chicago River.

The boathouses are part of a much larger movement within the city to connect the public with the underutilized river. Though the river is still heavily polluted—two half-sunken boats can be seen up river from the Eleanor Boathouse—the city is quickly improving its resources along the shore. The boathouses specifically provide space for rowing teams to train, kayaks to be rented, and people to directly access the water.

“The Eleanor Boathouse supports the larger movement of ecological and recreational revival of the Chicago River,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at the opening. “For too long, Chicago residents were cut off from an asset in our own backyard. So today, we are transforming our rivers from relics of our industrial past to anchors for our neighborhoods’ futures.”

Like Studio Gang’s earlier iteration, the Eleanor Boathouse takes its form from the rhythmic movements of rowers. Divided into two structures, undulating rooflines allow for clerestories, which bring soft light into the project. The lofty interior of the 13,171-square-foot boat storage structure can hold up to 75 boats for use by several rowing teams, clubs, and organizations. The other structure is a 5,832-square-foot field house that contains a multipurpose community room, main office, open seating area, restrooms, and showers, and can accommodate 57 “erg” machines, which simulate rowing movements for training purposes. A dark zinc facade wraps most of the project, while one face of the boat storage building is a custom green gradient window screen.

While Chicago’s winters can be brutal, the boathouse is already under heavy use. Rowing teams train in the river nearly year-round and there is also classroom and activity space for after-school and community programs. “This connects us to the origins of the city. The river is the first reason that the native peoples and eventually Fort Dearborn were settled here,” said Studio Gang’s Managing Principal Mark Schendel at the opening. “And it is that potential to come back to that amazing resource and put citizens back on the water. It is the type of project, as architects, we love to do.”

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Incoming Insectarium

Jeanne Gang unveils new interiors for the American Museum of Natural History
This morning, architect Jeanne Gang of Chicago-based Studio Gang and exhibition designer Ralph Appelbaum unveiled their latest designs for the new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation. Focusing on the museum's interior spaces, Gang and Appelbaum shared plans for the new Insectarium, Butterfly Vivarium, Invisible World's Immersive Theater, and newly revealed Collection Core. The 21,000-square-foot glass-walled Collection Core will form the heart of the center, housing 3.9 million specimens, or approximately 10 percent of the museum's specimen collection. It will feature observation areas so visitors can see scientists at work, storage spaces, rare collections, and other items previously not on view. "We started with what's already there," said Gang. "The Collection Core is located right there in the building, but no one can see it. By extending it and working with Ralph [Appelbaum] we could make it something people can experience and show more of the museum's content." In the Insectarium, the first museum gallery dedicated to insects in more than 50 years, and the new permanent Butterfly Vivarium, a combination of live species and interactive, high-tech exhibits will help educate the 5 million people who come through the museum each year. In addition to the new education facilities, which will include learning labs, classrooms, and age-specific zones, the 9.520-square-foot Invisible Worlds theater will recreate authentic science visualizations to illustrate organisms and processes that are too small, too fast, or too distant for humans to perceive in real life. Slated to open in 2020, the 235,000-square-foot center has generated a buzz with its organic, futuristic design, inspired by glaciers and canyons. To achieve this unusual design, Gang and her team created a model out of a block of ice. "It was a freezing winter and the software tool was too slow so we got this block of ice and poured hot water from a tea kettle into the block and that helped inspire the form," Gang said. "We've also been working with a lot of scientists and this became a way we could easily digitize and represent the design." Gang cites "flow" as a guiding principle for the overall renovation and addition. The Gilder Center will contribute to better wayfinding throughout the museum, which is notoriously difficult to navigate. Thirty new connections across the 10 existing buildings will enhance visitor experience and allow for the curators to offer better storytelling. "It's very much an "innie" building," Gang told AN. "It draws people into the exhibits, into the other buildings, and into the park itself." Additionally, the project is on track to receive LEED Gold with natural lighting and heat and water saving strategies. "The verticality of the space is the key sustainability feature because it's providing natural light deep into the museum and we can also use the verticality to create displacement ventilation so that the natural stack effect can occur," Gang said. Technology and flexibility were integral to the design with interactive media displays, micro cameras, and more. "Nothing here will be frozen in time," explained museum president Ellen V. Futter. "The design has the ability to constantly evolve in accordance with how we as people change the way we learn and encounter new information."

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Sebastian Marroquin

“Architecture saved my life”: Pablo Escobar’s son is a good architect now
Sebastian Marroquin grew up in Medellin, Colombia, as Juan Pablo Escobar, the son of legendary drug kingpin and leader of the Medellin Cartel, Pablo Escobar. As a kid, Marroquin enjoyed time at “Naples,” a 20-square-kilometer (eight-square-mile) ranch that included swimming pools and a zoo filled with millions of dollars’ worth of exotic animals. “I’ve never been to Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch,” he told The Independent. “But I doubt it had anything on Naples.”  While accompanying his father for years evading the police and rival gangs, young Sebastian saw the perils and pitfalls of the criminal life and has since started a new life as a successful architect. Senior Editor Matt Shaw sat down with Marroquin to discuss his path to architecture, what he learned from his father, and what he hopes to accomplish for Colombia in the future. What do you think of shows like Narcos? I don’t like them. They are telling lies about my whole life. They don’t know anything about us and that’s for sure. They don’t even know who was my father’s favorite soccer team. Let’s focus on architecture. Architecture is more fun. This is the first interview of my life we are talking about architecture and not about my father. How did you get started in architecture? After my father’s death, my mother, my sister and I went to Mozambique at first and the idea was to stay there in Africa but we only stayed for five days. We couldn’t find any place to stay and study and there was no future for us there so then we decided to move to Argentina. I made the decision to be an architect when I was out of jail there. My mother was still in jail, and I was fighting very hard to set her free. I spent too many nights waiting for an answer from the Department of Justice in Argentina, and a lot of time passed and nothing happened, so I started to think about what I’m going to do. That is when I decided to study architecture. I studied at the University of Palermo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Architecture saved my life because it gave me the possibility to believe that even when something is demolished new things can come out of that and architecture really helps to know how to think not only about architecture but also about life. What inspired you to choose architecture? My grandfather on my mother’s side was a woodworker. He made a lot of furniture and he was also a designer. Also on my father’s side, we have a lot of artists. Some of my aunts are really good at painting and making stuff with their hands and I believe that is where, in a way, I found love in design and architecture. It was also because my mother is an interior designer—in the past we had a lot of properties and a lot of buildings and my mother was involved in the design process, and I was always keeping an eye on that. So I liked what I saw. I liked the process of designing and these projects. I found architecture to be a refuge for me in those days that I didn’t have too much to do or think about, because we were waiting for the justice answer. I have really found very good and close friends inside the architectural world. I feel very passionate about…I really enjoy being part of the community. What kind of architectural projects do you do? I have two big mansions designed and built in Colombia, and one in Argentina. These are the places I have been working on. They are already finished. The houses are big, one is around 3,000 square meters (33,000 square feet), and the other is about 1,100 square meters (10,000 square feet). One of them even has a bakery in it. For the first house that I built in Colombia, I didn’t even know who the client was. It was a mystery. There was a request, and they sent me the photographs, the plans, the coordinates, and everything that I needed to design the house. I never went to the place where the house is built. I don’t even know where it exists. When it was complete, they called me and I found out that the owner was one of the guys who, in 1988, put 700 kilos of dynamite in my house. It was a miracle that we survived because I was with my mom and my little sister there. It was the first car bomb in Colombia’s history. So I built the house for the guy who ruined mine. It was a way for them to ask for forgiveness and in a way to understand us. They knew who I was from the beginning. It was weird and it was a clear opportunity and it was clear that a lot of things have changed in Colombia and that is a great example of how things have really changed now. People want to make peace. It affected me in a positive way. In this story in particular, through architecture, I found a way to complete my past. I ended up building a house for them. They gave me also the opportunity to be an architect because if I didn’t have that opportunity I wouldn’t have more photographs to show to other people so they can believe me as an architect. Today, I am designing a free, public wellness center and water therapy facility for a small town in Argentina. The workers and the families from the town were willing to give me a projec...a complex with a lot of pools and water for kids. It’s not a spa just for a few people; it is a big public place. I only did the design for it, however, because I’ve been working on my second book about my childhood and my father, so I had to leave the architecture for a couple of months to deliver this book if possible. How does your father’s legacy affect your career in architecture? Houses are not what I choose to do, but it’s not very common for me to get work as an architect because of my father and things like that. It doesn’t allow me to participate in architecture as much as I want. People know that I have talent as an architect but they want to choose some other guy without my father’s history. So it’s really difficult for me to find a job. We are finally working on a building that will be my first building in Colombia, in Medellin. I have a house here but I don't have a building yet. That’s where I plan to do the next building. In the past, I worked with very well known architects in Argentina. One of them is Roberto Busnelli and the other one is called Daniel Silberfaden. Roberto had a book published that featured his projects, including one that I brought to his office because it was big and he had a big studio that could realize the project. We won the competition and finished the project with the help of a European architect. When the book was published, my name was not on the project. They gave credit to the European architects who worked three days on it but forgot me. So I found out that maybe this is everywhere. It's a shame that people judge me because of my father’s past and not what I do or what I'm capable of. That’s one of the main barriers that I find every day as an architect. I don’t want to be a coke dealer. I know how to be a coke dealer, but I don't want to. I don’t want to be a millionaire again if I have to be paying my father’s debts. I have had the opportunity to pass on that, I don’t want to repeat that story. There is a lot to learn from the past and from my father’s story. Were you around when they were building La Catedral, the prison your father designed for himself? Did you ever see any of the construction of that as a kid and admire it? The construction guys sent my father updates of the construction of the La Catedral in the mail and I would see the men bring in the photographs and videos and instructions. From the beginning, a criminal building his own prison was very awkward because people got upset that it was happening in Colombia. But my father said, “This is a place where I want to be. This is a place where I’m going to be. This is the place where I’m going to be in prison. I’m going to pay for the designs and design how I’m going to escape from my own prison.” I believe that in a way my father was also an architect, he was very clever. He was just an architect for his own convenience. There was a Sunday my father took me to airplane fields and in the middle of the jungle, we were standing on the airfield and he asked me, “where is the airfield?” I couldn’t see it, and he said, “You are standing in it.” I couldn’t see it because I was looking at a house in the middle of the runway and there was no way the plane could land because it would crash against the house. He took a walkie-talkie and told one of his friends to move the house. It was on wheels. When the airplanes from the DEA (US Drug Enforcement Agency) were searching with satellites looking for hideouts, they couldn’t find anything because there was a house in the middle of what was a possible airfield. The planes can use it—just move the house. That’s why he was a great architect because when you visited the house, it worked. It had the bathrooms, the shower, everything. If the police went to the house, it would function perfectly. I believe that a lot of things from architecture I learned from my father and especially places to hide. He used architecture to hide. Is that what you do today? A lot of people ask me to do that because Colombia is not a safe country and people don’t trust banks, so every work of architecture I offer the client a possibility of "Do you want to have a secret place in your house like a panic room or something like that?" People say, “Yes, I would love to have the son of Pablo Escobar show us how to hide.” As the son of Pablo Escobar, I know how to hide! Your father built housing for the people living in slums. Is that something that affected the way you think about architecture? Yes, he wanted to make 5,000 units of free housing for the families who were living in a garbage dump in Medellin. In the early 80s, he built almost 1,000 houses and then the government, they were jealous and they seized all the land and stopped the project. That’s one of the reasons why my father started fighting against the establishment. They didn’t want him to help the poor. That encouraged me to think more and try to assist the people or Colombia, the poor people of Colombia. There are a lot of families that live in the country who don’t have lights or water in their houses. It is not about luxury, it is about dignity. I am doing a project to house the poor in Argentina, but I would love to do that in Colombia. What would you like to do next? I would love to something related to Colombia’s nature. We have a tremendous amount of green here in Colombia. We have a lot of jungle and a lot of beautiful places that are rarely seen. I would love to do a hotel that really respects the environment. We have a lot of paradise and I hope we can build some things like that if we have Colombia enjoying peace.
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Critical Thinking

Our 12 top building reviews of 2016
The Architect's Newspaper strives to bring you candid and insightful takes on top projects from across the U.S. Here we've gathered some of our best reviews, which range from critical to commending and everything in between. (See the rest of our Year in Review 2016 articles here.) World Trade Center Transit Hub by Santiago Calatrava Architects & Engineers Santiago Calatrava’s WTC Transit Hub opened with much anticipation and mixed reviews. AN reached out to New York’s architects, designers, and engineers to hear their thoughts on the structure. One Santa Fe by Michael Maltzan Architecture Architect Michael Maltzan describes his One Santa Fe as an example of “anticipatory architecture”—exercises in form making that endow architecture with the power to productively shape urban policy, planning, and the city at large. Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) by Diller Scofidio + Renfro It is impossible to visit the new BAMPFA without inducing comparisons to DS+R's The Broad, even though the two museums—one budget-minded, one blockbuster—share few common approaches and features. 3595 Broadway by Magnusson Architecture and Planning 3595 Broadway’s non-confrontational formal language visualizes critical conditions about how Columbia University positions itself when speaking to their ivy-league-educated audience in their Manhattanville and Medical Center buildings in comparison to the public around their 3595 Broadway building at 148th street. The Salt Shed by Dattner Architects and WXY There's a collection of buildings in a city that always strike one as other, as something not easily reduced to the events of inhabitation. One example in downtown Manhattan that testifies to this quality is lower west side’s new Salt Shed. The Whitney by Renzo Piano Building Workshop A year after the initial “wait and see,” it is time to call the Renzo Piano–designed Whitney building what it really is: An architectural tourist trap. Pico Branch Library by Koning Eizenberg Architecture (KEA) The Pico library branch doesn't privilege one side of its park over the other, and its experiment in neighborhood connectivity is most significant in this spirit of quiet assertion—that a building can possess a multitude of functions, but is only successful in doing so if it remains a place of enjoyment and discovery for everyone. Gordon Parks Arts Hall by Valerio Dewalt Train Associates (VDTA) The University of Chicago features an impressive collection of buildings by notable architects: Holabird & Root, Frank Lloyd Wright, Eero Saarinen, Mies van der Rohe, César Pelli, Rafael Viñoly, Jeanne Gang, and more. In October 2015, Chicago–based Valerio Dewalt Train Associates (VDTA) joined these prestigious ranks with their Gordon Parks Arts Hall, the latest addition to the University of Chicago Laboratory School. The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) by J. Max Bond of Davis Brody Bond, Phil Freelon, David Adjaye, and SmithGroupJJR The NMAAHC truly delivers something that few pieces of architecture can: It is a cascade of metaphors for collectivity, but is also in harmony with its content and program. Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center of Columbia University Medical Center by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) Nearly four decades since Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio began the collaboration that today is DS+R, with the Vagelos Center they have completed their most perfectly resolved building, an amalgam of their interests and the lessons learned from earlier projects. Vessel by Thomas Heatherwick When Thomas Heatherwick unveiled his design for a new public landmark called Vessel at Hudson Yards, questions abounded. What is it? What will it do to the neighborhood? And what does it say that Stephen Ross, the president and CEO of Related Companies, the primary developer of Hudson Yards, is financing the entire $250 million piece by himself? Center for Character and Leadership Development (CCLD) at the Air Force Academy by SOM Sited next to Walter Netsch's virtuosic 1963 Cadet Chapel, the CCLD is an artful study in conflict avoidance, restraint, and strategic power projection.
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Take Me to the River

Five proposals highlight potential for a new park in Milwaukee’s Inner Harbor
Five teams are vying for a chance to design a small park in Milwaukee’s evolving Inner Harbor. The small two-lot site is just a small portion of the nearly 1,000 acres of waterfront which the city hopes to eventually transform. The Take Me to the River competition, initiated by the non-profit Harbor District, Inc., is the latest push to raise public interest in the mostly post-industrial landscape. Milwaukee’s harbor is still a working harbor but much of it is unused. Vast tracts of the land surrounding the harbor are either filled with abandoned industrial buildings or are contaminated brownfields. In recent years, some these structures have begun to be dismantled and the land remediated. One of the most significant additions to the area is the University of Wisconsin School of Freshwater Sciences, a leading research facility in the Great Lakes. Recently teams of architects—including Chicago-based Studio Gang, Toronto-based DTAH, Vancouver-based PWL, and Denver-based Wenk—weighed in on the harbor as part of a Harbor District-led design charrette. Though that charrette was not intended to produce buildable proposals, this latest competition does hope to create new public space for the area. The small site for the Take Me to the River competition is situated at the intersection of Greenfield Avenue and the Kinnickinnic River. Each of the five teams participating provided proposals that range from an extensive reshaping of the shoreline to interactive designs. The participating teams and their projects include:
  • SmithGroupJJR and TKWA UrbanLab – Welcome to the River
  • MKExTEN (Vetter Denk Architects, Ten X Ten, and Design Fugitives) – Urban Flashlights
  • La Dallman Architects and Alfred Benesch Engineering – Waterlily Landing
  • Quorum Architects and Ayres Associates – Slosh Park
  • UWM Inner Harbor Team (UWM, City as a Living Laboratory, Creative Lighting Design, SEH) – Access/Engagement/Education
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One Hundred

Studio Gang reveals images of new St. Louis tower
Chicago firm Studio Gang has released images of their new tower, "One Hundred" at 100 North Kingshighway Boulevard in St. Louis, Missouri. Backed by developer Mac Properties, the project is Jeanne Gang's first in the city and will look over Forest Park, rising above 350 feet. “In a climate with four distinct seasons, we wanted to make it possible for residents to enjoy the different views and natural changes in light over the course of the year,” said Gang, founding principal of Studio Gang in a press release. “By experimenting with the geometry of the facade and refining the apartment layouts, we were able to make every apartment into a corner unit perched above the park and city.” One Hundred's serrated and inwardly sloping facade (repeating every four floors) creates terracing, some of which will be shared among tenants. A green roof podium will be available on the sixth floor and further greenery will be used for the collecting and storing of rainwater. Meanwhile, other amenities include parking and an assortment of retail outlets at street level. “The Central West End is an extraordinary, architecturally rich neighborhood that has evolved over many decades,” said Eli Ungar, founder of Mac Properties. “In planning a development for this exceptional site, we selected Studio Gang for their commitment to thoughtful, sustainable development and to a design that both honors the history of a community and contributes to its continued evolution.” One Hundred is due to break ground next year, with completion pinned for 2019.
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Ozark Oppertunity

Studio Gang to design Arkansas Art Center expansion
The Arkansas Arts Center (AAC) has announced Chicago-based Studio Gang Architects as the design architect for its next building project. Studio Gang was selected from a field of five finalists that included Allied Works, Shigeru Ban, Thomas Phifer, and Snohetta. “Designing a re-envisioned Arkansas Arts Center is a truly exciting commission,” Studio Gang founder Jeanne Gang said in a press release. “Its extraordinary collection, historic MacArthur Park setting, and rich mix of programs present a unique opportunity to redefine how the arts can strengthen local communities and surrounding regions. We look forward to working closely with the AAC to discover how architecture can enhance the Center’s important civic and cultural mission by creating new connections between people and the arts in Little Rock and beyond.” More than just a renovation and expansion of the museum's current building, the project is expected to completely change the way the museum is used and interacts with the surrounding downtown. “This project is about more than just addressing the physical issues of the current building. It requires rethinking how the AAC fits into the downtown fabric,” said Todd Herman, executive director for the AAC. “How can we best serve the community, and how do the AAC and MacArthur Park connect to other social and cultural nodes in downtown Little Rock? We want to do more than build; we want to transform the cultural experience.” The AAC was founded in 1960 and has a permanent collection with a heavy emphasis on drawing, watercolors, and other works on paper. This includes works from Rembrandt, Picasso, and Degas. The museum also possesses the largest U.S. collection of drawings and watercolors of early 20th century French Neo-Impressionist painter Paul Signac. The next step in the $65-million project will be to select a local architect to collaborate on the project. According to the museum’s website, an RFQ will be issued this month for that position.
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UChicago

Facade tuning with Studio Gang
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The Campus North Residential Commons at the University of Chicago offers a model of student housing that provides living arrangements for all undergraduate years, organized around large social spaces called “housing hubs.” The 400,000 square-foot commons project is positioned at the edge of campus and provides a new portal bridging the academic community with the surrounding neighborhood of Hyde Park. The project aligns with the university's ongoing 20-year plan to create more on-campus housing for undergraduate students and was awarded to Studio Gang and Mortenson Construction, who worked collaboratively as a design-build partnership, after an intensive four-stage competition process. The facade of the building is expressive of its internal programming, which features a range of residential units radiating outward from three-story, 100-person, central common spaces that aim to foster interactions and exchanges between undergraduate students of all ages. Younger students are positioned closest to the hub, while older students enjoy apartment-like amenities on the ends of the building. The stacking of these spaces produces a dynamic compositional grid that is picked up within precast panel cladding geometry through a series of angular and curvilinear spline profiles. Todd Zima, Design Principal at Studio Gang, said an in-slab hydronic radiant heating and cooling system was chosen early in the project to maximize user comfort: "Our distinct mission was enhancing and improving the community of the student body that was going to live in the building, therefore enhancing their academic success. Comfort was a huge element of that, which led to this radiant system." The system relied on an air tight construction assembly, which the team achieved through a continuous 3-inch thick spray foam moisture barrier cladding applied outboard of the structural slab.
  • Facade Manufacturer International Concrete Products (precast panels); Contract Glaziers Inc (curtain wall)
  • Architects Studio Gang
  • Facade Installer International Concrete Products (precast panels); Contract Glaziers Inc (curtain wall)
  • Facade Consultants Quast Consulting and Testing, Inc.
  • Location Chicago, IL
  • Date of Completion 2016
  • System Concrete and Steel Frame
  • Products Custom Shade Grilles designed by Studio Gang and manufactured by CGI; Precast Concrete by International Concrete Products; K&K Iron Works (Steel Fabricator); Metal Panels: RLS 9000 wall panel system by All American Ext. Solution; Shuco UCC65 by Contractor Glazier Inc; Moisture Barrier: icynene md-c-200tm spray on insulation
The facade materiality grew out of an analysis of the University of Chicago's Neo-Gothic architectural context which incorporates thick limestone carved ornate facades. Precast concrete was chosen for its aesthetic qualities, and ability to be replicated through the use of molds. Over 1,000 precast panel shapes were installed on the facade, and were optimized for manufacturing to be highly repetitive. The architects say over 80% of the building features panel shapes that were replicated from the same formwork. The other 20% included unique shapes custom fit to unique conditions near ground level and around corners. Emily Licht, a Design Team Member at Studio Gang, led the facade development team. She developed a “facade tuning tool,” using Excel to evaluate complex formulas comparing the relationship of openings to room sizes. Beginning with a Passive House standard of 60-percent solid to 40-percent open, openings in the facade were adjusted to balance user comfort, light, and ventilation code requirements while managing solar gain based on orientation to ensure the radiant system would perform optimally. Licht said data, size, and exposure would go into the tool, and information about shading would come out: "The tool was very effective in showing how solar heat gain could be reacted to by the specifics of the facade." Zima described this optimization process as a "make or break" design problem where the failure of the performance of the facade would lead to a failure in the performance of the heating and cooling system. Natural ventilation was achieved through in-swinging windows to allow the full area of the opening to provide ventilation into the room. These operable windows are demarcated on the facade by a custom patterned metal panel which doubly functions as a solar shading device and guard for fall protection. The architects worked with an environmental engineer to calculate the different needs for each room and used custom patterning of the grills and frit glazing to diminish the solar heat gain. To integrate the use of these operable windows with a broader agenda of reducing energy reduction, the architects integrated hundreds of sensors at pre-planned points in coordination with a software and communications group on campus who are working to produce a visual interface that displays real-time data on energy usage. This system will provide instant feedback for students using the building to understand how their activities impact energy use. Weather monitoring systems on campus provide notifications to house leaders appropriate days for a natural ventilation mode, who then are able to make adjustments to the building's radiant heating and cooling system. An early facade panel mockup looked at coloration and finish of the precast material, while a full-scale mock-up looked at systems integrations with the building envelope. Licht said in addition to providing a look at the full facade system detailing, the mock-up allowed all of the trades to practice assembly of the building components: “It was an amazing experiment in everyone getting in on the process together and seeing how they would work during construction." The mockup compiled the most unique conditions of the project into one mashup of the building, involving a diagonal portion of the facade, a straight portion of the facade, a horizontal lintel, curtainwall, vented operable window, and more. Zima said the mockup was "intended to be a training device, but served all purposes of the project from client review to sub-contractor coordination for an 'assembly line' style design-build construction process." A circular groove located in the middle of a plaza created by the residential buildings received bench-sized sculptural pieces of concrete that originally acted as cradles for the shipment of precast units to the site. Zima refers to this as a nice "residue" of the construction activity. Zima concludes, "We're very proud that the facade—in many ways—tells the story of this project and what it is accomplishing.” He said this project represents the university's desire to change their relationship with the neighborhood, evolving from a cloistered typology that traditionally separated the “purity” of academics from the “grittiness” of the city. "What our project does most successfully is that it makes a main entry point a place to gather before passing through into a new version of the University of Chicago.”