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Canadian Cut-Outs

Michael Maltzan Architecture reveals variegated new dorms for the University of Toronto
The University of Toronto (UT) recently unveiled a proposal for the Harbord Residence, a 10-story graduate dorm building designed by Los Angeles-based firm Michael Maltzan Architecture, with local firm architectsAlliance serving as the architect of record, for the St. George campus north of Downtown Toronto. Currently pending approval from the University Council, the proposal would provide housing for over 200 graduate students as well as much-need social and study spaces for the 180-acre campus. “One of the things we wanted the architect to do for us was to have the ground plane be a more welcoming place for the broader community—for our neighbours and other U of T community members to come in,” said Anne Macdonald, the university’s assistant vice-president of ancillary services, according to a press statement. “As you go up the building, there are different levels of community-building, with shared spaces and private spaces upstairs.” The ground floor would contain a food court and retail space, while the upper floors would host common lounges, meeting spaces, and quiet study rooms which, according to the university, would be designed to accommodate group work. While clad in red brick to blend into its relatively squat surroundings (representing a rare deviation from the firm’s penchant for all-white facades), the Harbord Residence is also designed to stand out, most notably through the addition of a gestural window layout on its narrowest elevation that contrasts the overall rectilinear geometry. The building will be further integrated into the campus by physically sharing its amenities with those of The Graduate House, a neighboring dorm building completed by the Los Angeles-based Morphosis in 2000, via an underground pedestrian tunnel and a sky bridge on the third level. If approved, construction on the Harbord Residence would break ground this fall and be completed by the end of 2022. The firm was commissioned to design the dorm as a part of the university’s ‘Four Corners' strategy,’ which intends to add approximately 2,500 units of housing to the campus over the next 15 years.
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1948–2020

Moss, Mayne, Holl, and more remember the late Michael Sorkin
Michael Sorkin, inimitable scribe of the built environment and leading design mind, passed away in New York at age 71 last Thursday after contracting COVID-19. Survived by his wife Joan Copjec, Sorkin leaves behind an invaluable body of work, as the following tributes—from friends, colleagues, peers—readily acknowledge. This is the first of a two-part series; the second can be read here. Eric Owen Moss, principal, Eric Owen Moss Architects: Michael Sorkin, Where are you? In sight of the invisible. Loyal to that cause. Michael the critic. Michael the urbanist. Michael the politico polemicist. Michael the architect. Michael the sardonic humorist. Homeless and everywhere at home. Educating the educators. Colleague’s definition. Friend’s definition. Redrawing the criticalurbanistpolicoarchitecthumorist’s map. In perpetuity. So those in arrears can follow. If they can. Michael, where are you? Eating at Rosa? Laughing together at the prima ballerina and the qb? Someone once told us, “the sun also ariseth.” Just not today. Love you. Thom Mayne, founding partner, Morphosis Architects: In the eighties when we were all starving, Michael would put me up in his apartment where I would occupy an unforgettable Pesce Feltri chair while we talked late into the night about the subject we both loved—architecture. Exhausted and enfolded in the wings of that chair, I would sleep and then awaken as though no time had passed before we were at it again. His voice, then as it was yesterday, was incisive and fearless and sometimes stinging. He challenged me repeatedly with words I often didn’t want to hear. But I trusted him—his comments were clearly coming from a place of generosity and honesty and commitment to his project which was, finally, about social justice. He spoke of our awesome responsibilities, he spoke relentlessly of the power of architecture to change lives, he never stopped insisting that we must never stop fighting—for what we believed in, for a resistance to the status quo. His prodigious intelligence combined with his obvious love of humanity gave his words a rare gravitas and power. Finally, I ask myself why I am thinking about that room, that chair, that time, and I realize that it’s the gift of connection with people that made Michael so special. I’m thinking about that chair, those hours, that mind, and I, like every single person I’ve spoken with these last few days, am undone, feeling lost in a fog of sadness whose edges I can’t quite find. Steven Holl, principal, Steven Holl Architects: The shocking tragic news that Michael Sorkin was taken out by COVID-19 is unbelievable—tragically surreal. I had known Michael for over forty years. He invited me to an event on New Year’s Eve when I first arrived in New York City. He was a very rare architect of deep intellect and sharp wit. He was a champion of remarkable urban visions, and like our close friend Lebbeus Woods, he had fearless convictions about architecture. Michael was a character like Cervantes’s Don Quixote in the best way. I remember him saying, “I may not achieve all my visions, but I will die fighting for them.” Let’s pay attention to this tragic moment in humanity. As Malebranche said, “attention is the natural prayer of the soul.” Deborah Gans, founding principal, Gans Studio: I have been revisiting Michael’s responses to our troubles, both immediate and looming, Katrina and Jerusalem, climate change and global violence. There is always the razor-sharp text that lays bare difficult truths with their ethical demands and their physical consequences for architecture and planning. But then there is most often a drawn proposal, filled with exuberance, for our way out. He was this binary as a person—as committed to optimism as to confrontation with injustice, as joyful in his being, as devastating in his wit. Through his writing, we understand the precariousness of New Orleans; but then, through his inspired design for a neighborhood of inhabited levees, we are hopeful. In crystalline prose, he dispatches the ethical follies of the Israel-Palestinian impasse, with its competing narratives of suffering, ownership, environmental stewardship, holiness, diaspora, and nationality; but then, in signature pink plans, he imagines a green armature for a new Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, and we ask ourselves, “Why not?” We need him now to help us unpack the rhetoric of an urbanism of distance and a city of essential services, and all the political dimensions of the plague that took him. We also need the plan that he would have given us to take back our cities after this deluge. Of that plan, we can be sure of one thing—it would be green, democratic, and joyful. Achva Benzinberg Stein, landscape architect: “Dahling,” Michael often said to me, “stop complaining and get to work.” And that is what he always did. Working at living as well as he could, teaching through mentoring, encouraging, opening our minds to new ideas and new ways to implement them, writing so very eloquently using his special language, laced with nuances, built with rich vocabulary, evidence to his immense knowledge in many fields. When we met once in 1994, most of his work at that time was speculative. But he trusted in the power of a good concept to convince people to act. If money was needed to pay his helpers who depended on him, there was no question of what was to be done. “Dahling, you will see everything will be covered sooner or later. The main thing is not to be afraid." And that was his way in design, playing with objects and forms and never afraid to try or to admit failure, inventing solutions to any problem that entered his mind with incredible humor, with a love of people, with deep concern but strong belief in the potential embedded in the collective, in the City. Farewell, my soul brother. I miss you terribly. Lesley Lokko, dean of the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City University of New York: I met Michael Sorkin once, briefly, at a conference in Johannesburg exactly a decade ago. It was at one of those post-event dinners where everybody meets everybody and the conversation was brief. I was a bit starstruck. We didn't exchange contact details and were never in touch again. Nine years later, he put my name into the hat for a new dean at City College's Spitzer School of Architecture. In the three short months since I've been “on seat,” as we say in West Africa, we met a handful of times at faculty meetings or occasionally in the corridor. Three weeks ago, he quickly organized a dinner with the Israeli filmmaker, Amos Gitai, simply because I mentioned, in passing, that I was a huge fan of his work. “I'll get you guys together for dinner.” And he did. It was a brilliant dinner and Michael, although “off the wagon,” was a brilliant host. It was the last time I saw him. Through the tributes that have flooded into my inbox over the past few days, I now understand that generosity, acumen, and the immensely social ability to foster—and retain—the trust, affection, and respect of so many widely dispersed and unrelated people was not only his hallmark, it was the man. It's a cliché but, like most clichés, it's rooted in truth: You don't realize what you have until it's gone. Harriet Harris, dean of Pratt Institute School of Architecture: Thankfully, there are no easy words for a difficult man; one who challenged architects to grow some proverbial ethics, to stand up for others, to even stand up for themselves, and to resist the spatial crimes of unbridled neoliberalism. I will remember Michael because he gave me and others permission to use architecture as a form of poetically charged, social protest. Few educator-practitioners have done this, in truth. I will not forget the debt I owe him. His impatience with the debilitating conventions of the canon super-charged our conversations, disrupted debates, and endeared him to students who were otherwise pressed up against the electric fence that divides practice from academe. Michael insisted that there were 250 things we architects should all know about architecture, but perhaps there is only one thing to know about Michael: we are a much-diminished community without him. Mike Davis, writer, activist, and urban theorist: Michael Sorkin died today of coronavirus in an overcrowded hospital and it is a shattering loss. If some people consider me an “urban theorist” it’s only because in 1992 Michael conscripted me to write a chapter in his volume Variations in a Theme Park. His ideas have had an immense influence in shaping my own. He was by any measure the most important radical theorist of city life and architecture in the last half century. New Yorkers old enough to have been Village Voice readers in the 1980s when he was the paper’s architecture critic will never forget the war he waged against mega-developers and urban rapists like Donald Trump. Or how in Whitmanesque prose he weekly sang the ballad of New York’s unruly, democratic streets. At a time when postmodernists were throwing dirt over the corpse of the twentieth century, Michael was resurrecting the socialist dreams and libertarian utopias that were the original soul of architectural modernism. When the peoples’ city was under attack he was inevitably the first to march to the sound of the guns. And then…his devilish glee, his kindness, his soaring imagination, his 50,000 volts of creative energy…. I’m drowning my keyboard in tears. Michael, you rat, why did you go when we need you most? Dean MacCannell, emeritus professor, Environmental Design & Landscape Architecture, University of California, Davis: Death suddenly snatched Michael Sorkin away from us. But we can’t let him go. He was in our lives in too many ways. There are so many points of attachment no amount of time can undo them. Michael was a teacher to us all—not just those fortunate enough to be enrolled in his seminars and studios. When he asked me to work on problems I knew little about—as he often did—he always overlooked my ignorance and demanded that I work with him. He was an architect beyond architecture. He knew exactly how to create the openings that would draw me fully into his schemes. Michael was enormously learned across many fields and disciplines, but he wore his learning lightly and deployed it strategically with a wicked sense of humor. He wrote beautifully, giving form to our consciousness an instant in advance. Michael left behind his belief in the future promise of urban life together—creatively re-imagined. Unfinished work for the rest of us, and the necessary tools to do it: an unshakable confidence in humanity; in our capacity for self-governance; our ability to realize other enlightenment ideals; and to create a beautiful common ground. Thank you, Michael. We’ll try to do our best, but dammit, it would be so much easier if you were still here to guide us. Eyal Weizman, founding director of Forensic Architecture and professor of spatial and visual cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London: Locked down in stunned, helpless isolation with the exit sign switched off, I heard that Michael had died, without a warning or a goodbye. The contemporary prophet of public space and urban conviviality died in a hospital—one of the last places where physical proximity is still possible, indeed, unavoidable. The virus diagrams the kind of social interaction that Michael championed in a vibrant city that had now nearly totally closed down, the price of human contact having become too high. On the evening when the horrible message arrived, the people of our London neighborhood, seeking some form of communion, stood each at their window to clap for the medical workers like those who were by Michael’s side in his last days, risking their lives to try to save his and ours. Michael was our family friend—Alma, my daughter, was spoiled being his goddaughter—and so we were at our window, simultaneously sobbing, clapping, and hitting pots with wooden spoons, giving Michael the send-off we thought he’d appreciate. The rest of the mourning must be done in isolation—and my heart goes to Joan who cannot benefit from the proximity of those that loved them dearly. Michael was also my architectural godfather. In a number of small but crucially corrective interventions, he put me on my path. He read my books when they were still drafts, giving comments, helping find titles and publishers. Only a few weeks ago he took the time to campaign for me when I was not allowed to travel to the United States, just as he often did for others less privileged. We met in 1994, when, as a young admiring student at the Architectural Association (AA), I was one of those campaigning for him to be the new director of the school. When Michael finally won the vote and got the post, he decided to decline it, opting instead to pursue his own singular path: he set up his studio; founded the research organization Terreform and the publishing imprint UR (Urban Research); and became the Director of Graduate Design at the City College, where he was Distinguished Professor. In short, he constructed on his own a polymorphous entity through which to realize various aspects of his wide urban visions. At the same time, he continued to advocate his ideas in a stream of essays and books, and to sketch them in numerous visionary schemes and drawings. (Many of the latter are still unpublished, but Joan assures me that they will be coming out soon.) Drawing on the vocabulary of 1970s New York activism, he expanded the spectrum of architectural and urban action: sit-ins, town-hall-meetings, petitions, appeals, the writing of codes and bills of rights. Learning from his struggles with the kind of New York developers that now run the United States, he brought his sense of urban justice, and feisty activism to Palestine, Northern-Ireland, and the U.S.-Mexico border. Since architecture was part of the problem, it owed a certain debt, and Michael encouraged architects to pay up by inventing solutions. In 1998, an impish trickster, Michael seduced a group of Palestinian and Israeli architects and other intellectuals to a conference on occupied and segregated Jerusalem at a lake-side villa in Bellagio, Italy. It was here that I first met Suad Amiry, Rashid Khalidi, Omar Yusuf, and Ariella Azoulay. We listened together as Michael insisted, more optimistically than most of us, that we could use architecture to do something about this injustice, although he understood that, by itself, unaccompanied by the fundamental political changes we must all struggle for, architecture could do very little. His subsequent book projects on Palestine—The Next Jerusalem, Against the Wall, and Open Gaza—demonstrate what he meant. He was right, at a time when the grip of architecture tightens all around us, when the builders of walls, towers, and digital surveillance systems are in charge, and when authoritarianism is using the global health emergency to encroach on our civil liberties—we all need to channel something of Michael and continue the fight. He will now bring his to gods and angels. Go on Michael, give them hell! Andrew Ross, professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University: When I moved to New York in the late eighties, I got into the habit of seeing the city through Michael’s eyes, and I suppose I always will. Already a unique kind of critic, he then turned into a doer, which I especially admired. We worked together in various ways, but most memorably on two competition juries. The first was for a Public Space project associated with the Atlanta Olympics. The aggressive charm with which Michael lobbied fellow jury members on behalf of his picks won me over. I became his willing accomplice, and we went all in for the most audacious entries, knowing full well that, in the real world, the odds of them being greenlighted were slim. Many years later, we both had the idea, independently, of mounting an alternative to the competition for the proposed Guggenheim Helsinki, and so we joined forces to see it through. In sheer expenditure by firms all over the world, the official competition was the most labor-intensive and costly ever seen. A true bonfire of the vanities. Ours was run on a budget of five thousand euros and operated more like a think tank for ideas for infusing arts and urbanism. The whole thing brought out the best in Michael—his fierce distaste for architectural elitism, his appetite for popular quality, his spontaneous fellow-feeling, and, yes, his legendary sense of mischief, now so sadly extinguished. Daniel Monk, George R. and Myra T. Cooley chair in peace and conflict studies at Colgate University: When Michael Sorkin died last week, he left behind the draft of a work—a soon-to-be published volume of essays in honor of Mike Davis—that we had been editing together. In it, Michael records his own first encounters with the national mall in Washington, D.C. In these memories of “the American agora,” he presents the immanent logic of the mall’s development, amounting to a perpetual betrayal of its promise. If, as so many others have already noted, Michael could always adopt the standpoint of hope, good humor, and mischief in the face of despair, this is because he knew that it is precisely in broken promises that a regulative ideal—the demand for political freedom he always championed—was being kept alive, despite our collective efforts to close our eyes and pretend otherwise. Charles Waldheim, John E. Irving professor of landscape architecture at Harvard's Graduate School of Design: I was fortunate to know Michael Sorkin as a public intellectual, as a personal role model, and as a friend. His loss leaves an enormous void in the heart of the city and in those of us who have committed our lives to understanding it. Michael brought a journalist’s eye and a critic’s wry wit to writing about the city, describing it as a collective social construct and a set of lived experiences. His insightful prose cut through layers of accumulated capital, both economic and cultural. His wildly imaginative design propositions for intervening in the city double as a form of cultural criticism, revealing the archeology of power structures, class construction, and collective resistance. Most contemporary discourse on the design of the city has atrophied into one of two mutually exclusive and ultimately inadequate narratives. On the one hand, our discussions of the city devolve into an exclusive preoccupation with policy, participation, and governance as disconnected from its spatial and cultural contexts. On the other hand, our accounts are equally often constrained to the description of individual sites, projects, and protagonists as architectural singularities lacking any meaningful connection to the collective. Describing the city as a collective cultural project was Michael Sorkin’s great gift to us. Who among us will take up that project now?
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Green Genes

Gregor Mendel’s historic greenhouse will get a 21st-century reboot
Prague-headquartered architecture and urban design studio CHYBIK + KRISTOF has unveiled plans to resurrect a historically significant yet long-forgotten greenhouse on the grounds of the 14th-century Augustinian Abbey at St. Thomas Church in the Czech city of Brno. The original greenhouse, which was destroyed by a storm in the 1870s that left only the foundations intact, was where the church's green-thumbed abbot Gregor Mendel famously tinkered around with pea plants. Mendel’s history-altering experimentation, which involved cross-breeding different types of peas to achieve different desired traits, gave way to the birth of modern genetics and the rules of heredity. A devout priest in the then-Austro-Hungarian Empire studiously cultivating and breeding peas in an abbey greenhouse over an eight-year span (1856 through 1863) didn’t have an earth-shattering impact at the time. However, after Mendel’s death in 1884, his published experimental findings on plant hybridization gained widespread recognition within Europe’s scientific community. Several years into the 20th century, the humble Augustinian friar-cum-scientist, who also extensively studied apiculture and meteorology, was finally recognized posthumously as the father of modern genetic science. Located in the middle of Brno’s historic old city, the Augustinian Abbey of St. Thomas has long celebrated its somewhat surprising role in modern science. The Mendel Museum, an institution of Masaryk University in Brno, opened in 2007 and is a popular draw among visitors. To commemorate Mendel’s upcoming 200th birthday in 2022, a reimagined 21st-century version of the long-lost greenhouse will once again monastery grounds. Tapping into archival materials of the site and directly influenced by Mendel’s own work, CHYBIK + KRISTOF’s structure, surrounded by the monastery’s lush gardens, will stand on the original foundations of the greenhouse—not an exact replica but a considerate design that’s “reminiscent” of the 19th-century building. As the architects described in a press statement:
“Integrated in the structure and left visible, the preserved foundations are at the basis of the architects’ reinterpretation – echoing the orientation, shape and distinct roof of the greenhouse. While the trapezoidal volume is identical to the original edifice, the reimagined supporting steel structure seeks inspiration from Mendel’s three laws of inheritance – and the drawings of his resulting heredity system. Likewise, the pitched roof, consisting of a vast outer glass surface, reflects his law of segregation and the distribution of inherited traits, and is complemented by a set of modular shades.”
While sheltered, the greenhouse will have fully open sidewalls to avoid visual barriers. Beneath the structure, buried underground, will be an innovative heat pump system. Adjustable, integrated blinds will help to promote natural ventilation and shading during sweltering Czech summers. Versatility is key as the greenhouse will serve a variety of purposes as a sort of garden pavilion and highly scenic venue for pop-up exhibitions, lectures, conferences, small concerts, and the like. “The concept of the redesigned greenhouse is deeply rooted in the work of Gregor Mendel,” said Ondřej Chybík, founding partner of CHYBIK + KRISTOF. “The nodes and branches constituting the steel supportive framing are in direct dialogue with his laws of inheritance, in particular that of hereditary segregation. Building on this notion as well as Mendel’s original drawings, the resulting, highly complex structure pays homage to his legacy. Laid bare by the transparency of the glass roof, the edifice both embodies and exposes his undeniable contribution to modern science.”
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Tighe-ing the Neighborhood Together

Tighe Architecture designs a steeply arched complex in newly developing portion of Los Angeles
Los Angeles-based firm Tighe Architecture recently received approval for its Barranca, a mixed-use, six-story building in the newly developing western edge of Lincoln Heights, one of the oldest neighborhoods on the east side of L.A. The project is across the street from Fuller Lofts, former industrial buildings adaptively reused into loft apartments and retrofitted with a distinctive metal rooftop by local firm Brooks+Scarpa. Developed by 4Site Real Estate, the project will replace 12 existing low-rise structures with a single 200,000-square-foot building that will house a 100-bed hotel, 100 apartment units, and commercial retail on its ground floor intended to revitalize the formerly industrial, underserved stretch into a pedestrian-oriented neighborhood. To resolve the project’s presence as one of the largest buildings in the area while occupying the entire western end of a city block, Barranca was designed to appear as two distinct yet still connected buildings. The hotel constitutes the southern side of the project, which is distinguished by steep archways rendered in an off-white texture and large windows with metal accents that, together, are reminiscent of a castle wall. According to the firm, the hotel side was designed by taking “classical staples and reintroducing them to an area in need of a fresh new vision for an emerging neighborhood.” The northern portion is relatively demure in a grey and black palette that contains apartment units (five of which will be affordable housing) and corresponding amenities that include two courtyards, shared offices, a lounge, and a swimming pool tucked away on the third level. A wealth of greenery will be added to the perimeter of the site, a much-needed amenity for the predominantly concrete neighborhood. Barranca represents the third mixed-use building Tighe Architecture has designed for 4Site throughout Los Angeles, following 2300 Beverly and 2510 Temple. The firm has also made a name for itself locally by designing other, similarly striking affordable housing projects with limited budgets, including La Brea and Sierra Bonita.
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Nobody Puts Getty in a Corner

Jacob Jonas The Company spotlights architecture through dance
The mingling of soft bodies and hard architectural structures is a guaranteed way to generate high-contrast, memorable photos, and the Los Angeles-based dance company Jacob Jonas The Company (JJTC) is certainly using that to their advantage. The company, which blends contemporary ballet with breakdancing and acrobatics, has been collaborating with photographers, other dance companies, and institutions to draw attention to each structure. Aside from putting on live shows, JJTC also functions as a production company for commercials and other visual projects; the #CamerasandDancers initiative grew out of what founder Jacob Jonas described as “Instameets.” Creatives gather in cities around the world and take photos, so Jonas extended the idea to pair photography influencers with dancers and use architectural icons as the backdrop. After the fifth shoot, the Getty Museum reached out to the group to stage a meetup, and now JJTC puts on about one a month (each photo series takes about three-to-six months to stage). The company has produced over 50 collaborations and is still actively soliciting photographers, dancers, and venues to work with. Part of the inspiration came from #emptymet, both an Instagram hashtag and series of tours the Metropolitan Museum of Art stages to take visitors through the museum sans people. As Jonas mentioned, it’s a great way for people to experience cultural institutions in a new light, where one can focus on the structure itself without worrying about being jostled. For what it’s worth, #CamerasandDancers has also come to the Met itself, staging a shoot in the soaring Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates-designed Sackler Wing that houses the Temple of Dendur and faces Central Park. Because each shoot is choreographed in entirely empty buildings without an audience, what the public sees is carefully controlled; the photography and dance itself are equally as important in creating the final image. Of course, while juxtaposing dance with historic structures isn’t new—see Gerard & Kelly’s sumptuous Villa Savoye show from last year, or Solange’s Getty installations—JJTC’s work has taken on a new poignancy at a time when most, if not all, of these institutions are now closed.
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Unsung Hero

In tribute to Michael McKinnell, the Heroic architect behind Boston City Hall
On Friday, March 27, British-American architect Noel Michael McKinnell died of pneumonia after testing positive for COVID-19. He was 84. McKinnell, who was born in Manchester, England, received his initial architecture training at the city university, first traveled to the United States on a Fulbright Scholarship. He studied for his master’s in architecture at Columbia University, which he completed in 1960. At Columbia, he encountered the German architect Gerhard Kallmann, who would soon become a mentor figure. After hearing about a public competition to design a new city hall for Boston, the pair developed a design that drew on elements of the contemporaneous Brutalist movement. They were announced the winners and opened a Boston office in 1962. Their joint practice continues to this day, with a rich portfolio of largely institutional buildings. Yet the firm—and McKinnell—remains associated with Boston City Hall, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary last year. The following tribute reflects on McKinnell’s complex relationship to the building.  We first met Michael McKinnell and Gerhard Kallmann in 2007 at the outset of the Heroic project, our effort to document Boston’s late twentieth-century concrete buildings, which had become largely unloved. At the time, Boston City Hall was broadly vilified, dismissed as obsolete, and in danger of being demolished. Even in such a moment of threat, Michael was surprisingly open to the idea of his building changing. Far from upholding the original design as a masterwork fixed in time, he explained to us that he felt it needed “younger ideas” and that whatever modifications were in store for its future, they should be “bold and self-confident.” Younger ideas were part of his thinking from the very start. When he and Gerhard won the competition among 256 entries, Michael was only 26 years old—landing perhaps the most important public commission of the era. Later, as the world was exploding in the protests and civic unrest of the 1960s, this fearless young man explained the design for its enormous lobby to a reluctant City Council as an ideal setting for the democratic staging of dissent. Naive or not in his political idealism, to him it was always the “people’s building.” To us, Boston City Hall reflected the era’s aspirations to invest in the civic realm and the desire to represent a new political order for a New Boston. Michael and Gerhard sought to ingrain these ideals into the building’s DNA, embedding their faith in public life into the matter of its concrete. It would be a framework open to change, as they later wrote, a “robust armature” meant to “engage successive generations of the citizenry in [its] embellishment, decoration, and adornment.” Our relationship with Michael, which began with distant admiration, grew over a dozen years into friendship. We interviewed him multiple times, gaining a deeper understanding of his work and personality. Starting as an exhibition and later forming a book, we had originally conceived of the Heroic project as a way to recast the public conversation surrounding concrete architecture. In large part because of Michael, the center of these efforts soon shifted from documenting buildings to preserving the voices of those who designed them and the civic aspirations that shaped them—a legacy of ideals rather than a mere history of matter. Those same dozen years also allowed us to witness a transfiguration in Michael. While we came to know him late in his life, we most often talked about the beginning of his career, before he and Gerhard had fully formalized their shared practice which produced distinguished buildings across decades. He easily re-inhabited that youthful vision—in our eyes, he only got younger as we spoke candidly about his early principles and failures. Boston City Hall itself underwent a similar transformation. Endangered by one mayor in the early 2000s, we watched with admiration as the building was being feted by another on its fiftieth anniversary in 2019. The event echoed with Michael’s rousing words, delivered in that same enormous lobby, about his undiminished hopes for City Hall’s future. But it was Michael’s own humor that reminded us of the fragility of modernist voices like his, and of their need to be heard again. When the Getty Foundation selected Boston City Hall for a prestigious grant to prepare a conservation management plan (or CMP), Michael was quick to congratulate the team, and then quipped: “I am now in search of a CMP for myself.” Michael always seemed keenly aware of how the legacies of people, ideas, and buildings were interwoven in time. His final comment in the Heroic interview was on the aspirations of the era to make “something that would endure,” and of the hubris of imagining Boston City Hall as worthy of becoming a ruin in five hundred years. “The making of architecture is imbued with hubris,” he said, “because we challenge our own mortality.” In City Hall, we recognized, he had challenged his. If the building lasted—if the hopes cast into its concrete could be fully realized—so would he. Warm and gregarious, fascinating and funny, incisive and generous, Michael’s reminiscences were always imbued with meaning. One joyful highlight was a lunch he and his wife Stephanie Mallis invited us to in their Rockport home in 2018, accompanied by the architecture critic Robert Campbell. Sitting with a distant view of the ocean, we shared stories and toasted to lost colleagues over the course of four hours on a beautiful summer Tuesday. The camaraderie, too, seemed like it could go on forever. Noel Michael McKinnell was born on Christmas Day in 1935 and passed away last Friday afternoon at the age of 84. Through our friendship with him, what began as a fascination with a past era became a commitment to transmit a living set of ideas. We labeled them “heroic” for their civic aspiration, and as a way of acknowledging the hubris that characterized so many of those ambitions and the figures who advocated for them. But Michael’s lofty ideals were always tempered by his youthful energy and his mischievous sense of humor. If we ever got too serious, he liked to rib us a little. With a glint in his eye, he would delight in proclaiming: “They used to call me Brutalist. Now I say ‘I’m Heroic!’” Chris Grimley, Michael Kubo, and Mark Pasnik are authors of Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston, published by The Monacelli Press in 2015. Grimley and Pasnik are principals at the architecture and design firm OverUnder. Kubo is an assistant professor at the University of Houston.
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Today's Hotel, Tomorrow's Hospital

From parking garages to parks, these are the pop-up medical facilities of the COVID-19 pandemic
As American cities brace for a steep influx of patients suffering from or suspected to be infected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the sprint is on to make up for a woeful dearth of available hospital beds. Per American Hospital Association data, there are 924,000 staffed hospital beds in the country, and more than two-thirds of those are usually occupied. And while the total number of additional hospital required during this mounting pandemic varies day by day, place by place, the only conclusion is that an impossible amount of more beds is needed. To make up for the narrowing availability, temporary hospitals have been erected or are in the process of being erected in some unlikely places. These urgent acts of emergency-level adaptive reuse, many of them spearheaded by city agencies, intergovernmental organizations, healthcare providers, the National Guard, and the Army Corps of Engineers, have taken root on fairgrounds, in football stadiums, in motels, and in Central Park. Not all of these converted spaces, however, are being used to treat COVID-19 patients, although many will. Some will provide housing to nurses and doctors, some will act as quarantine units, some will house the homeless, and others will serve as fully functional overflow hospitals dedicated to providing care to patients suffering from ailments that aren’t the coronavirus. To offer assistance in these conversions, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has even formed a special task force which will release a comprehensive report in early April to help guide decision-making. “This is a race against time for healthcare facilities to meet bed surge capacity needs” said AIA Academy of Architecture for Health president Kirsten Waltz, AIA, ACHA, EDAC, LEED, who is the director of facilities, planning, and design at Baystate Health in Springfield, Massachusetts. “This task force will help inform best practices for quickly assessing building inventory and identifying locations that are most appropriate to be adapted for this crisis.” Below are some of the different buildings and facilities being adapted across the country to serve new purposes during the coronavirus outbreak.

Convention centers

Boasting boundless and easily adaptable floor space, robust loading docks for moving in and out a high volume of equipment and gear, high-powered ventilation systems, and more than a few ADA-compliant bathrooms, convention centers are natural places to establish temporary hospitals. Manhattan’s Jacob K. Javits Center, normally one of the busiest convention centers in the United States, was one of the first to undergo the transformation into a sprawling, nearly 3,000-bed capacity overflow hospital operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (The Army Corps of Engineers, the New York National Guard, and a team of civilian staffers can be credited for the rapid turnaround.) A large number of other convention centers across the country are either being eyed as potential makeshift medical hubs or are currently being converted into them including the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Detroit’s TCF Center, McCormick Place in Chicago, the Baltimore Convention Center, the Los Angeles Convention Center, and the Santa Clara Convention Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

Parking garages

While many hospital parking structures are now home to drive-though coronavirus testing sites, in at least one major medical facility, Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center, beds are being moved into a parking garage to treat those potentially infected by the novel coronavirus at a safe distance from other patients.

Sports fields/stadiums

Originally and still largely used as a military term, field hospitals get their name from their strategic location on wide-open spaces in close proximity to sites of mass injuries and casualties such as, well, battlefields. Twenty-first-century field hospitals are now being erected on battlefields of a different kind that normally see a different sort of frenzied combat: football. CenturyLink Field, home to the Seattle Seahawks, is being converted into a large temporary treatment center by the Army and will be dedicated to treating patients with ailments not related to the coronavirus so that beds in overwhelmed Seattle area hospitals are freed up for those suffering from the deadly respiratory disease. Elsewhere in hard-hit Western Washington, another 200-bed field hospital will be erected on a turf soccer field in the Seattle suburb of Shoreline. Relatedly, football pitch-bound field makeshift hospitals are now somewhat de rigueur in countries like Brazil. A section of the famed Billie Jean King Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows, Queens–in better times, home to the U.S. Open—will also be covered into a 350-bed auxiliary medical center by New York City Emergency Management.

Decommissioned hospitals

Shuttered hospitals, many of which have never been closed in the first place, are coming back to life due to the coronavirus pandemic. A wide number of bed-equipped, recently closed medical facilities—including the old Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Illinois, San Francisco’s California Pacific Medical Center, and Laurel Regional Hospital in Maryland—have already or will potentially reopen to accommodate a surge of COVID-19 patients or patients in need of other types of urgent care in overburdened areas.

Dorms/college campuses

With students at an overwhelming number of colleges and universities dismissed from attending in-person classes for the rest of the academic year, an ample amount of available real estate has suddenly opened up. As COVID-19 first began to spread across New York City, New York University pledged to make available some of its now-vacated dormitories for COVID treatment-related purposes if needed. Student housing at New York’s expansive system SUNY and CUNY public colleges could also be potentially turned into emergency medical facilities, quarantine units, and/or temporary housing for healthcare workers. While dorm rooms can be easily retrofitted into treatment spaces, college and universities are also considering converting or already have converted other on-campus facilities into field hospitals. The McCormack-Nagelsen Tennis Center at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, and Liacouras Center at Temple University in Philadelphia, are two examples of non-dorm collegiate spaces that will serve a new purpose during the pandemic.

Central Park

Plenty of strange, sometimes disturbing sights can be seen within Central Park. None, however, quite match the surreally sobering heights of witnessing volunteers erect a tent-based respiratory care center in the middle of New York City’s backyard. Said facility, which will have a capacity of 68 hospital beds and also include an on-site morgue, was established this past weekend in Central Park’s East Meadow by humanitarian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse in partnership with Mount Sinai Health System to “provide care for patients seriously ill with COVID-19.”

Fairgrounds

Generally only used at a very high capacity for a few weeks of the year, fairgrounds over a vast amount of space with the needed infrastructure—electricity, water, various buildings, arenas, parking lots the size of a small town—already in place. The Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose, California, for example, will take advantage of this advantageous arrangement and temporarily house members of the region’s sizable, highly vulnerable homeless population during the pandemic. Elsewhere in California, the Orange County Fairgrounds are being mulled as a potential site to accommodate overflow from established medical facilities in the area; it’s a similar story at the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio. Outside of California, the massive Washington State Fairgrounds are being considered as an emergency medical site about 30 miles south of Seattle in the city of Puyallup. In Florida, where the virus is on the verge of exploding in certain areas, a 250-bed facility is already under construction at the Miami-Dade Fairgrounds. In several states, fairgrounds and their parking lots are already being used to host drive-up coronavirus testing sites.

Hotels and motels

Hotels and motels are perhaps the most versatile and, due in part to low occupancy rates brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak, the most readily available spaces to repurpose during a pandemic. Providing privacy, some level of comfort, and isolation, they can be used to treat non-critical patients recovering from the COVID-19-related illnesses, quarantine patients suspected to be infected, house exhausted, high-risk healthcare workers on the frontlines (in sometimes deluxe accommodations), and provide a temporary safe haven to vulnerable populations like the unsheltered. Officials in various cities including New York, Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, and Oakland, California, have leased hundreds, even thousands, of hotel and motel rooms to be used in various capacities in the coming weeks, with the Army Corps of Engineers working to identify and then convert many of them into fully functional temporary medical facilities. Many, of course, have their own ideas as to which specific hotels should be used.
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Change Your View

LAMAS builds practice through perspectives
The following interview was conducted as part of “Building Practice,” a professional elective course at Syracuse University School of Architecture taught by Molly Hunker and Kyle Miller, and now an AN interview series. On October 31, 2019, Anna Korneeva and Irmak Turanli, students at Syracuse University, interviewed Wei-Han Vivian Lee and James Macgillivray, principals of Toronto-based architecture office LAMAS. The following interview was edited by Kyle Miller and AN for clarity. Anna Korneeva and Irmak Turanli: After studying your projects and observing what you were working on with students while teaching here in Syracuse last year, we see a strong relationship between your practice, research, and teaching. How do you work across these three areas and how do they benefit each other? James Macgillivray: There is an economic relationship between practicing and teaching. I think people who teach and practice are more willing to take risks with competitions and even with private clients. You can present things that are more conceptual because you always know that it's not the only job. It's important to point out that this is a condition from which many of the practices you are interviewing benefit. It also creates opportunities to apply our academic research in our professional work from time to time, effectively allowing us to transcend simply providing a service. We can test design concepts in a client-based situation… if they don't land, they can be offloaded to our academic research. For example, at the beginning of Townships Farmhouse, the client was very interested in agricultural buildings, farmhouses, and barns. So, initially we had an academic response… we looked at the history of those building types and researched how they worked. Whether or not we apply that research is separate from the value the research has for us in an academic context. Wei-Han Vivian Lee: It’s also important to note that these three areas don't always overlap. We’re always doing research, and we try to inject that research into our professional projects as much as is possible. But practice is more often the outlier. There's a clearer alliance between our design research and the work our students produce in classes we teach. James: Beyond practice, research, and teaching exists our hobbies. Sometimes our hobbies inform these other three areas. Regarding hobbies… both of you have different interests and backgrounds. Vivian, we know you have a background in painting, and James, we know you’re interested in film. How are these hobbies and your unique backgrounds folded into your practice? Vivian: I studied Painting as an undergrad. My undergraduate thesis used painting as a medium to explore perspective construction methods in architectural representation. As projects come to us, there's a constellation of maybe four or five things we are interested in and looking to incorporate… whether it’s film, representation, or any number of other interests. To be honest, I'm not sure we even have a game plan when we start working on a project. Sometimes it’s liberating to know that we don’t have to force certain interests or aesthetic ambitions into each project. We let the defining features of each project emerge naturally and over time. James: And it can either be instrumental or a matter of taste. It can just be something that gives a certain style. Regarding my background, I did two theses on film. One was at the undergraduate level at Princeton, where I studied under P. Adams Sitney and Alessandra Ponte. Then I did another film thesis at Harvard with Preston Scott Cohen. Since then I've been writing academic research papers on film… not "operative criticism" but literally film history, film criticism, film technique, etc. I also completed a research and teaching fellowship at the University Michigan that featured film as a primary topic of interest. At that point, after I got it out of my system, we did a bunch of studios that were dealing with optical or "op" art and architecture. Op art was a way to address film as a method of engaging optical aspects of architecture… we were interested in exploring how architecture produces different effects as you walk around it, rather than simply look at it. This particular interest has found its way into more than a few of our projects. So, there are ways that my interest in film comes in, but mostly it's something that occupies my time in the background, something that we do in our spare time. We recently traveled to Greece to go to a film festival in the middle of the Peloponnese… Vivian: James also makes films… weird experimental films that are actually now mostly family films. James: But they don't screen anywhere. This reminds me of a show we’ve been watching recently. In "Terrace House," a Japanese reality TV show, there's a character Shohei who insists that he's going to be equally good at every single thing he does. So, he's a carpenter, an actor, a chef… and it drives the other members of the house crazy. They can't deal with the fact that he wants to do several different things at the same time. Sometimes we're like the character on “Terrace House,” which is not necessarily a good model to follow. To Vivian’s point about an intentional lack of overwhelming coherence across our work… either by circumstance or because of our personalities, the capital P, Project is not something that we were interested in pursuing. We tried, but every time we did a new rendering, we were interested in testing a different rendering style. We’re comfortable with a consistently evolving aesthetic and set of interests. Why did you decide to start your own firm? Was it an ambition, or was it born out of necessity or something else? Vivian: After graduate school we both thought we would work our way up in an office, and maybe become partner at whichever firms we were at. We started working together in 2008, and the recession did impact us. I actually quit my job at SHoP because I started another firm together with two female colleagues of mine. We had a lot of work in Williamsburg. This firm lasted for six or eight months, and then the recession hit… and that was the end of most of our commissioned projects. Around this time, Monica [Ponce de Leon] became Dean at the University of Michigan and she was looking to hire new lecturers at Michigan. Fortunately, I received an eight-month teaching contract at University of Michigan, thinking that I would move back to New York immediately afterwards. James continued working at Peter Gluck and Partners in New York through all of this. But long story short, the eight-month teaching contract gradually evolved into a tenure-track position. What I realized was that when you begin teaching, you can essentially be a graduate student again. You can initiate your own projects and start thinking about architecture from other vantage points that are not solely practice-based. So, the practice was, in part, born out of this realization. You are very experimental with tools of production. For example, the food cart for the Stop Night Market project experiments with a marble texture, where you were mixing liquids to achieve a marbling effect. In other projects, you’ve experimented with hydrographics and thatching. What is the inspiration and idea behind these handcrafted production techniques? How do they help you during the design process? Vivian: We've always been interested in things that are indeterminate or messy, where one can’t quite figure out the exact processes executed to accomplish the overall assembly. Having come from SHoP, I felt pretty versed in digital fabrication and thinking about the assembly of parts. When I started teaching, I was interested in revisiting vernacular oral traditions through the new lens of contemporary technology. I was very interested in materials reacting to control imposed from an external source. James: When we started working with hydrographics it was the first indication to us that the digital could be something that was not smooth and could have something in common with things like marbling and other processes that were indeterminate. Some of this was a reaction against the version of digital that we came up with. When we were in school it was during the first wave of digital technology being applied and mastered in practice. But there was no way into that digital work because it was so smooth. It evaded engagement by being completely worked out and completely seamless. We wanted something that was a little bit broken and appeared to have cracks in it. Vivian: I will add one more dimension to this. There was something really laborious about the way digital output was realized and made physical in the early 2000s… especially at the scale of temporary installations. While working at LTL and SHoP, I contributed to installation designs that were the assembly of many parts. The infinitely unique components in the digital environment simply made for an increasingly complex process of physical assembly. So, expediency is another thing that was interesting in relation to traditional crafts. As much as they're indeterminate, they're messy and fast. There's a relationship to labor that seems more interactive, rather than demanding the human laborer to act like a super precise, fast robot. We have a few questions about Townships Farmhouse. We know that the client for the house is an artist who paints the landscape around the site. How is it different to work with clients who are involved in art and architecture? Did her interests affect the concept and design of the house? Vivian: The client is an artist and her husband studied agriculture and is a farmer. She's also been collecting work produced by emerging Canadian artists. That commission was in part related to their interest in fostering young talent. James: The working relationship with the client was very, very good. It was a very unorthodox sequence of design in relation to how a project would typically develop. We went all-in on 100 percent schematic design for two schemes, which we developed to a significant degree of specification. It's much more than what we would do in schematic design now. Each scheme was represented through many drawings and a quarter-scale model. Through conversation around these two schemes we arrived at the configuration that was eventually built. Vivian: The reason there are two schemes is that she was very interested in a design that related to the context. The brief called for [the] design of either a farmhouse or a barn, two types of buildings that are very common in that area. Each scheme is our take on the barn or the farmhouse, both of which we conceptually reinvented. The barn scheme was built. We uncovered an old courtyard barn typology, and repurposed its form as a landscape and view framing device. Did you face any significant difficulties during the design or construction process of Townships Farmhouse? James:  In Quebec there’s an interesting situation where, in the middle of summer, at the peak of any kind of ability to build, they have a two-week construction holiday where all works seizes on all construction projects. So, in the most productive time they take two weeks off… even most engineering and architectural firms take those two weeks off. So, they found out a way to be more productive in winter and remain unburdened by weather. Vivian: The project had a very unique schedule. Over the course of almost two and a half years, we were doing design work in Revit. When it came time to build, we really understood every aspect of construction in great detail. The house had to be wheelchair accessible, and even the foundation was cast to make sure that all the different depths of finishes were completely flush. Everything was fully resolved prior to construction. The contractors were very helpful throughout the process and we had a very good working relationship with them, in part because we had such a complete drawing set and a long time to discuss everything with them. Nowadays, we're involved with a lot of projects that people want fast-tracked, and they don't want to decide on a contractor until after the bid process. In Townships Farmhouse, collaborating with the contractor early in the process made it easier for us to draw the project exactly as it would be built. What has been the most rewarding aspect of practicing architecture? Vivian: There is satisfaction in the relationship we have with our employees. They bring a lot of ideas to every design decision which really enhances the overall project. It is very rewarding to have the privilege of having employees.
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greener pastures

Arquitectura Anna Noguera swaddles a Barcelona sports center in plants
Spanish studio Arquitectura Anna Noguera recently revealed its Sports Center—or Polideportivo—in Turó de la Peira, one of nine of the particularly dense and diverse working-class neighborhoods that comprise Barcelona’s hillside Nou Barris district. A transformative infill project that blends “urban regeneration with green infrastructure,” according to the architects, the Sports Center reconfigures and reactivates two separate, increasingly decrepit neighborhood recreational features—a multiple-purpose sports court and a public swimming pool—by combining them within a single, ultra-sustainable structure with the court up top and the pool below. Partially wrapped in a hydroponic green facade and half-buried into a grassy slope that spans two streets, the roughly 47,000-square-foot building brings a lively and generous splash of color to the otherwise concrete-dominated environs of Turó de la Peira—“an urban landscape of hard pavement, concrete walls and total absence of vegetation,” as a press statement released by Arquitectura Anna Nogueraputs it. The design was selected by Barcelona City Council in a 2014 open architectural competition where it was “valued for its landscape integration of a singular greened building in an interior urban block and its commitment to sustainability and respect for the environment.”  Worked kicked off in November 2016 and concluded in 2018. Oriented for passive energy use, the building relies on natural cross-ventilation and lighting—this is aided by a series of skylights and sensor-monitored lateral windows—to keep its interior cool, comfortable, and well illuminated. Thermal insulation also helps to regulate the building’s temperature while the green screen facade, irrigated via rainwater collected on the roof and stored in a basement cistern, also helps to shade the building and “create a bioclimatic space.” On the rooftop, a photovoltaic solar array generates 95.534 kilowatt-hours of clean energy annually. And important for a environmentally sensitive public facility where the main attraction is undoubtedly a particularly nice-looking heated swimming pool, the building features an innovative aerothermal heat recovery system. In terms of building materials, prefabricated cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels and polycarbonate were used throughout the building, an intriguing choice, particularly in the swimming pool area. CLT was chosen, per the architects, for “its good mechanical performance, its adequacy to the environment of the pool, its lightness and consequent savings in the foundations, and its short construction time of eight weeks.” As the firm explained, the trifecta of wood, natural light, and vegetation, both surrounding and cladding the building, “provides a warm atmosphere, away from the coldness of other similar facilities.”
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Winnipeg Up

Michael Maltzan Architecture’s billowy Inuit Art Centre set to open this fall
Winnipeg, the capital and largest city of the Canadian province of Manitoba, has an outspoken indigenous culture that represents over 12 percent of its population. To reflect that heritage, the city broke ground in the spring of 2018 on the Inuit Art Centre (IAC), a 40,000-square-foot addition to the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) that, when completed, will become the largest exhibition gallery in Canada devoted to indigenous art. Designed by Los Angeles-based firm Michael Maltzan Architecture, in collaboration with local Associate Architect Cibinel Architects Ltd., the IAC connects to the southern edge of the original museum building designed by Gustavo da Roza in 1971 and will also provide a lecture theatre, research areas, a visible art storage vault, and additional facilities for an expanded studio art and educational program for the local community. An expansive, light-filled gallery on the top floor will house over 13,000 Inuit carvings, textile prints, and other artworks provided by WAG and the Government of Nunavut. The design centers on the Inuit Vault, a double-height storage area visible from the outside with a shelving system that parallels the curvature of the envelope. The interior will be accessible to curators and scholars to offer an even more intimate relationship with the museum’s impressive collection. Stephen Borys, the Director of WAG, hopes that the addition will inspire the local community to engage with the country’s rich cultural heritage. “We’ll be able to connect a classroom in Winnipeg to a classroom in Rankin [Inlet] or Iqaluit,” Borys told CBC. Prior to designing the addition, Michael Maltzan joined WAG Director Stephen Borys on a trip to the north Canadian province of Nunavut to learn more about Inuit communities and the unique landscaping that serve as their background. According to a press statement, the resultant design “draws on the ephemeral qualities of northern environments that celebrate historic and contemporary Inuit art and culture.” The all-glass ground level appears to effortlessly support the sculptural walls of the upper floors, which were designed to subtly reflect the Nunavut landscape and feature organically-shaped skylights that will suffuse light throughout the columnless gallery space. The Inuit Art Centre is currently under construction and is expected to be open to the public in the fall.
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Everyone’s here!

Eight architects design 16 buildings for the Greenwich Design District in East London
Up until the turn of the millennium, Greenwich Peninsula in East London was a noxious swamp long forgotten by the capital. That all changed in 2000, however, with the coming of the Millennium Dome designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership (today Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners). Since then the peninsula has been the go-to place for architectural statement-making. After the Dome opened, the Emirates Air Line cable car from WilkinsonEyre was completed in 2012, while 2017 saw another big name—Santiago Calatrava—touted for bringing a twisting triad of towers there (though plans have since gone back to the drawing board). More recently though, a different approach is being tested; instead of opting for a starchitect to aid the peninsula’s regeneration, eight architects have been chosen to design 16 buildings for a new quarter known as the Greenwich Design District, located just a stone’s throw away from the Dome. The team comprises six London-based studios: 6a Architects; Mole; Architecture 00; HNNA; Adam Khan Architects and David Kohn Architects (DKA), as well as Spanish studios Barozzi Veiga and selgascano. All have been tasked with designing offices and workspaces for those in the fields of design, art, tech, food, fashion, craft and music. But—and here’s the kicker—neither studio was allowed to see what either one was doing and neither knew what the final use of the building was going to be with exception of one building, a food hall. (One architect told me that iPhone images of projects were, however, shared at the pub). “We wanted architects who would look at the project through a very individual lens, even though they would work from the same brief,” said Matt Dearlove, head of design at Knight Dragon, the developer behind the project. “We felt they would bring a great sense of individuality to their buildings.” “The guidance was minimal, but practical,” added Hanna Corlett, the District’s master planner and founding director of HNNA. With the exception of the food hall building, the brief to each architect was the same: Heavy workshops were to be located at the ground floor, with lofty, well-lit studio spaces on the top, and flexible studio spaces between. The responses to this brief have been varied, as one expects the developer, Knight Dragon, hoped would be the case. Each studio, however, applied a similar language to each building. This is most apparent with 6a’s two buildings, essentially twins, which both employ a sloping, diagrid facade inspired by American artist Richard Artschwager’s “precise surfaces and pop geometry.” “If you do two buildings and one is better than the other, shouldn’t you just do the better one twice?” said Tom Emerson, co-founder of 6a. With no immediate context to draw on, David Kohn instead chose the history of European guild districts. Sculptures within niches on the facades of his studio’s two buildings harken back to the guild districts in cities such as Venice and Antwerp where facades would be decorated with symbolic figures related to the organization. Both of DKA’s building facades face the street on the site’s eastern edge, so a communicative facade was in order: “The northern building would be the first thing people would see upon arriving, so the oversized colonnade on the ground floor offers a welcome visitors to the site, and a large illuminated sign on the roof continues this welcome to the wider city,” Kohn told AN. Selgascano, meanwhile, took a different approach, albeit still using its signature translucent building skin. Taking center stage in the site is a food hall, which has been shaped like a caterpillar, using a structural metal frame that facilitates the opening and closing of certain parts of the roof. Another adjacent building will provide workspaces for fast-growing businesses. The Madrid-based firm wasn’t the only one to make use of a translucent façade. Architecture 00 wrapped both of its buildings with a mesh—think the Seattle Public Library, only much smaller. The mesh, in turn, reveals both buildings’ floor plates and stairs and creates a covered sports court at the top of one building. The Design District’s predecessors, the Dome and cable car, have had mixed reviews—and that’s being generous. The Dome almost failed before it started as politicians threatened critics over bad press. Then it opened and things got worse. “You could blow it up,” suggested Boris Johnson, then editor of The Spectator. However, the Dome has since turned its fortunes around and is known today as the O2 Arena, one of the most popular music venues in the world. Such success is unlikely to come to the Design District, but it should be hope to the eight architects that good design on the peninsula does eventually reap its rewards.
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Fancy Delancey

The International Center of Photography settles into its new home at Essex Crossing
At the end of January, the International Center of Photography (ICP) opened its new integrated center at the rapidly constructed Essex Crossing mega-development on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The new center, a three-story, 40,000-square-foot arts center by SHoP Architects with an interior designed by Gensler, is the ICP’s third home and the first to house both its educational facilities and curatorial spaces since its original location on Fifth Avenue. Essex Crossing is a six-and-a-half acre site located on the southern border of Delancey Street master-planned by SHoP Architects and was built on land formerly razed for urban renewal efforts and left vacant for half a century. The bulk of the redevelopment consists of mixed-use towers—ICP is located at the podium level of one of the projects—but is studded with several publicly accessible venues such as the new home of the Essex Street Market. SHoP's design runs through the entire block, with a glazed facade on the east elevation and one of patterned aluminum for the service entrance to the west (the western facade covers a blank wall, lending the illusion of a brise-soleil and breaking up a monolithic street presence). The ground floor houses a cafe and largely serves as a point of circulation for the galleries, library, and the school above. The ICP’s new central gallery is a double-height space defined by a concrete-and-metal material palette and is flooded with natural light from the eastern glazed facade. The entire exhibition room is ringed by a catwalk which provides a top-down viewing perspective of the hall while simultaneously lined with smaller works. A multimedia gallery located on the third-floor functions as both a curatorial and event space. As an educational institution, the ICP hosts programs, courses, and workshops for over 3,500 students annually. Facilities include darkrooms, shooting studios, digital media labs, amongst others. The focal point of the educational amenities is a double-height library of metal-and-wood framing accessible to both members and guests. The COVID-19 outbreak has, unfortunately, also led to the temporary closure of the ICP and its inaugural exhibitions; Tyler Mitchell:I Can Make You Feel Good; CONTACT HIGH: A Visual History of Hip-Hop; James Coupe: WarriorsThe Lower East Side, and Selections from the ICP Collection. While the Center will be closed for the foreseeable future, thousands of images and interviews from its collection have been made available to the general public online.