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Morty's Home

Tongva Park in Santa Monica is Californian through-and-through
What goes into a park? We dug into the parts and pieces of landscape design to explore and illustrate the forces, material histories, and narratives that hide beneath the surface. This article is the first of three such deep dives, which includes The Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Hunter's Point South Park in Queens, New York. All illustrations were done by Adam Paul Susaneck.

Santa Monica’s Tongva Park is a true product of Southern California. It certainly has a physical connection to its context—its hills and outlooks are packed with soil from construction sites in the area; its irrigation water sourced from the local runoff recycling facility; its plants were grown in regional nurseries—but in less tangible and more sociopolitical ways, too, the park bears the mark of the Golden State.

Tongva, which opened in 2013, was funded under California’s now-defunct tax increment financing (TIF) laws. The first of their kind in the U.S., California’s TIF laws went into effect in 1952 with the passage of the Community Redevelopment Act, which set a precedent nationwide for how infrastructure might be financed. Many states have since imitated the approach to establish the funding mechanisms behind massive—and often controversial—projects, including Chicago’s Navy Pier and New York’s Hudson Yards. Tax increment financing lets municipalities borrow money for developments in areas designated as “blighted” with the assumption that the developments will generate higher property-tax revenue as land values rise. Critics have argued that TIF programs have been abused to subsidize luxury developments that do little to improve the quality of life for local residents, and in 2011, while work on Tongva was well underway, then-governor Jerry Brown dissolved California’s TIF program, making the park part of the state’s final wave of TIF-backed projects.

The park benefits from Southern California’s crazy-quilt approach to urbanism, where the wealthiest communities of the Los Angeles region have remained independent cities, enabling areas like Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Santa Monica to invest tax revenue within their borders without sharing with the city of Los Angeles that surrounds them. Cities where the median home price is less than Santa Monica’s, ($1.6 million, more than twice the median home price for Los Angeles) may not be able to spend so lavishly on their parks.

California comes through most tangibly in the park’s siting and the aesthetic decisions by the park’s designer, James Corner Field Operations (JCFO). JCFO incorporated several beloved trees that were already on the site into an arroyo-inspired plan that orients visitors toward spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and a beach that stretches out casually, with an air of West Coast chill, just across the street.

Funding

The park was entirely publicly funded using TIF. The City of Santa Monica bought 11.6 acres of land from the RAND Corporation; besides the park, housing was built on the site and Olympic Drive was extended through it. The city spent $53 million on the property and another $42.7 million to design and build the 6.2-acre park, which includes a small area across Main Street in front of Santa Monica City Hall.

Plants

Tongva hosts more than 30,000 plants of more than 170 species, and more than 300 trees from 21 species, most grown in seven nurseries across the state; the farthest is in Watsonville, less than 300 miles up the coast. Some trees traveled even less distance: Morty, a Moreton Bay fig tree, and the Three Amigos, a group of ficus trees, pictured below, along with several palms, were preserved and rearranged on the site to fit into the new landscape. The park mixes native and non-native drought-tolerant species in zones modeled on three California ecological communities (coastal scrub, chaparral, and riparian), creating a landscape that feels familiar but avoids cliché.

Buildings

The steel cocoon-esque pavilions, pictured below, and play structures were fabricated by Paragon Steel in Los Angeles.

Furniture

Custom furniture was designed using Forest Stewardship Council–certified jarrah wood, a variety of eucalyptus usually grown in Western Australia. Off-the-shelf benches from Landscape Forms were also used.

Art

Weather Field No. 1, by Chicago-based artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, comprises a field of 49 stainless steel poles with weather vanes and anemometers attached.

Hardscaping

Aggregates in the hardscaping came from pits in the nearby San Gabriel Valley. Walls have California Gold rocks.

Water

Plants are irrigated by water from the Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility. Stormwater from the park is also collected in bioswales, and water features recirculate potable water in closed systems.

Transit

Tongva integrates into regional transit in some of the usual West Coast ways—there are bikeshare stations and scooter access—but it’s also just a block away from one of the Los Angeles area’s biggest transit initiatives: the LA Metro Expo Line expansion. The nearby Santa Monica Station opened three years after the park and was a part of a broader regional plan, whereas Tongva was part of a separate Santa Monica–specific urban plan.

The region’s ubiquitous car culture is also present. Tongva sits at the southern tip of the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway, which extends up the shore to Big Sur, San Francisco, and beyond, and Olympic Drive, a local three-lane street, was extended along the park’s southeastern edge.

Land

The site was previously home to the RAND Corporation headquarters, which have since relocated to a neighboring block. Housing developed by the Related Companies was built on the opposite side of the Olympic Drive extension.

Infill/Terraforming

Before being cleared for Tongva, the site was dominated by the RAND Corporation’s parking lot. To create the park’s lookouts, which rise in points to 18 feet and provide views to the Pacific Ocean, infill soil was taken from construction sites around the city, tested to ensure safety, and sculpted to create accessible slopes for the site.

Project Delivery

JCFO was selected through an international competition in which 24 teams participated. After JCFO won, there were five community workshops over six months, and the scheme was presented to six review boards and commissions before site work began in 2011. Although the scheme began as a design-bid-build project, the city turned it into a design-build project midway through the process to try to speed delivery after California revoked its TIF laws.

Maintenance

The City of Santa Monica spends just under $100,000 annually on basic maintenance, plus about $20,000 annually on tree work and $10,000 annually on custodial work.

Security

Although there is no operational security technology in the park, Santa Monica has used some unorthodox activity-based surveillance strategies. After squatters set up informal camps on the park’s western corner, city agencies arranged for a food truck to occupy that area, which has since discouraged people from living there. And on top of regular maintenance costs, the City of Santa Monica spends about $330,000 annually on “ambassadors” who staff the park, answering questions from visitors and keeping an eye on activity.

As is standard in many U.S. parks, Tongva closes at night; its hours are from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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National Park, No Service

Gateway National Recreation Area among top endangered places in U.S.
The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) has released its Landslide 2019: Living in Nature report, which highlights 10 landscapes across the United States currently in danger due to climate change. One of those threatened places is the Gateway National Recreation Area (GNRA), otherwise recognized as the entrance to the New York Harbor which spans from Jamaica Bay in Queens to Staten Island and Sandy Hook, New Jersey.  Nearly 27,000 acres of islands, ponds, marshes, meadowlands, and historic structures make up the GNRA, which was designated by Congress as a U.S. National Recreation Area in 1972 and is managed under the National Parks Service (NPS). Ten million people visit the area each year to swim, hike, camp, boat, bird watch, and fish, making it the fourth-most popular national park. It’s no secret that the coastline of the New York metropolitan region, which was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, has long been located in the way of potentially perilous weather. Particularly susceptible to flooding and sea-level rise, the GNRA, and residential neighborhoods around it, have suffered due to lack of, or slow, planning for the effects of climate change.  But that’s recently changed. After the storm hit exactly seven years ago, there have been significant reconstruction efforts and moves to buffer the city's shoreline from future catastrophic events. In August, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) would build a $616 million seawall along Staten Island that will double as a multi-use elevated promenade. The project is a result of the ACE’s on-going study of coastal storm risk management in the New York-New Jersey Harbor. An interim report on its initial findings was released last February.  Despite this state-backed effort, it’s possible that there will be little support from the federal government in combating climate change. On Monday, President Trump announced he would pull the U.S. from the Paris climate accord. And last week over 400 local elected officials, including 13 from New Jersey, pressured Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pass legislation that prioritizes top deferred maintenance issues within the National Parks Service’s looming, billion-dollar maintenance backlog. If passed, the Restore Our Parks Act and the Restore Our Parks (S. 500) and Public Lands Act (H.R. 1125) would invest up to $6.5 million over five years in national parks across the country—effectively bolstering them in the face of future inclement weather.  As the AH Herald reported, the GRNA alone currently suffers backlogged problems amounting to $123,286,570. Because of its size and unique makeup—connecting two states and three separate “units” as they’re called—the challenge of upkeep is monumental. In Brooklyn, the GRNA extends from John F. Kennedy International Airport to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to Shirley Chisholm State Park, which is currently under development and will be the largest state park in New York City by next summer. Floyd Bennet Field, the former airfield listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is also included in the Jamaica Bay Unit, alongside Canarsie Pier, Fort Tilden, Breezy Point on the Rockaway Peninsula, and Jacob Riis Park, the beach and boardwalk outpost built by Robert Moses.  In the Staten Island unit of the GRNA, Fort Wardsworth, Miller Field, and Great Kills Park on the southeastern shore of the borough are at risk, while in the Sandy Hook unit in New Jersey, Fort Hancock, and Sandy Hook with its seven well-used beaches, salt marshes, and holly forest, are also in need of repair. 
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Flating Stacks

Wolfgang Tschapeller suspends over 100,000 books in new Cornell library
Cornell University’s much-anticipated Mui Ho Fine Arts Library is finally open in Ithaca, New York. Set within a 27,000-square-foot industrial building from 1911, the $16.9 million reading and learning space boasts four levels of floating bookshelves holding over 100,000 volumes.  The project was envisioned by Austrian architect Wolfgang Tschapeller, head of his eponymous Vienna-based firm and a graduate of Cornell’s master’s in architecture program. Alongside New York City studio STV—the architect-of-record, Tscahpeller completely revamped the interior of the historic Rand Hall, a three-story, steel-and-masonry structure primarily used for printing and, in more recent decades, as architecture studios. In order to upgrade the building for the 21st-century, the design team had to secure its exterior envelope, replace the roof, and add thermal insulation. Thanks to these changes, as well as the integration of new double-glazed windows, the project is expected to reduce energy in Rand Hall by 70 percent. On the interior, Wolfgang Tscahpeller Architekt and STV removed the third floor and reinforced its original cross-beam skeleton so they could input the suspended steel mezzanines where all the books would be stacked, according to Metropolis. The entire renovation took a total of 18 months.       An open reading room takes up significant space on the ground-level but beyond the books, the library is also a hub for art and architecture students to create. There is an 8,300-square-foot lab on the first floor with a material practice center featuring a makers space, a small-tool repository, as well as wood, metal, and digital fabrication shops. This dual utility of the library, both as a place where students can read and build, was one of the most important aspects of the renovation.  “Thus, we have two factories in one building,” said Tscahpeller in a statement. “One factory is for the material, and one is the factory for thought and concepts—both wrapped by Rand Hall to one interacting volume.”   Meejin Yoon, dean of Cornell’s College of Art, Architecture, and Planning (AAP), said this is also what she loves about the project. “The production of new knowledge, ranging from scholarship to research and fabrication and making, tying those activities together as all forms of new knowledge is exciting.”   The library is seamlessly connected via the second and third floors to Milstein Hall next door, a 2011 project designed by OMA for Cornell’s architecture department. The completion of the state-of-the-art structure spurred a number of improvements for the arts campus over the last decade which concluded this year with the Rand Hall renovation. Like the green roof atop Milstein, the library will activate its roof deck with outdoor installations in the warmer months. 
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Let the Asian Games Begin

Archi-Tectonics designs major urban project for the 2022 Asian Games

For the 2022 Asian Games, the biggest multi-sport event second to the Olympics, New York-based architecture firm Archi-Tectonics has designed a net-zero sports park in Hangzhou, China. The 116-acre development, named Hangzhou Asian Games Park, was designed in collaboration with !melk Landscape Design and Thornton Tomasetti structural engineering. It is the largest project to date for Archi-Tectonics, representing over two million square feet of facilities woven together across a mile-long park, including two sports stadiums, fitness and visitor centers, a shopping mall, and 140,000 square feet of wetlands.

Winka Dubbeldam, the founder of Archi-Tectonics, has said that the design of Hangzhou Sports Park intends to fuse its landscape and building facilities as a way to anticipate its long-term use after the games take place three years from now. In an effort to reduce waste, the earth excavated during construction will be transformed into artificial hills throughout the site. 

The two sports stadiums are the most prominent features on either side of the park, one a 5,000-seat golden cylinder for tennis tournaments and the other a field hockey arena with a parabolic roof. The two stadiums are connected by a sunken shopping mall marking the center of the site, designed with a green roof that blends into its park surroundings. Described by the firm as a “below-grade retail valley,” the mall interacts with the preexisting Yiyang Road and River.

Hangzhou Asian Games Park broke ground in July 2019 and is scheduled to be completed before the Asian Games take place in September of 2022. To oversee the project, Archi-Tectonics opened its third office at the Architectural Design and Research Institute at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou (its first two are in New York and Amsterdam). In addition to the sports park, the Asian Games project will also bring new metro lines and inner-city railways.

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Above and Beyond

NOMA Conference 2019 prepared architects to engage with a more diverse future
It was the first time Malaz Elgemiabby had attended the annual conference of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA). But it turned out to be like going back to her childhood in Sudan, being surrounded by architects, designers, and builders who looked like her, and who cared as deeply as she does about community participation in design. “In Sudan, architects are women,” Elgemiabby told AN. “So I used to build buildings when I was a kid. As women [in Sudan] your responsibility is to build the houses, to design, to assess the needs of the community.” Elgemiabby went to architecture school at London Metropolitan University, seeking out its program for its emphasis on community participation in design. She first went to work in the Middle East, where she also earned a master's degree in interdisciplinary design from the Qatar campus of Virginia Commonwealth University. She moved to Cleveland three years ago to work as an architect. After doing some projects that she’s quite proud of in the city, Elgemiabby launched her own firm, ELMALAZ, earlier this year in Cleveland. But it’s also been a bit lonely at times, being an architect on a mission to bring communities into the design process. “[In Cleveland] I’m one of the few who are advocating for this type of approach to architecture,” Elgemiabby said. “I come [to this year’s NOMA conference] and I find not only a lot of black and brown architects, but I also find people who are excited about the same mission. This was really great. It’s always nice to grow your tribe.” Growing that tribe, of course, has been NOMA’s goal all along, ever since twelve African American architects founded the organization during the 1971 AIA National Convention in Detroit. This year’s annual conference, in Brooklyn, attracted a record attendance of over a thousand participants for five days of programming, including service outings, seminars, keynote lectures, student design contests, and the usual networking and socializing. Overall, NOMA membership has grown 30 percent in 2019, under the leadership of NOMA president and HOK principal Kimberly Dowdell. The organization now has more than 1,400 members, organized under 30 professional chapters and 75 student chapters across the country. Under Dowdell, this year NOMA established a new tiered corporate membership program for large and small firms that wish to support the organization—and also gain access to discounted consulting from NOMA’s curated pool of experts in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Dubbed the “President’s Circle,” founding members include AIA, NCARB, Enterprise Community Partners, Cuningham Group, Shepley Bulfinch, Gensler, HOK, and Perkins & Will. But growth and progress for NOMA still come in the context of the Sisyphean task of making architecture more representative of the communities it serves. Out of 115,000 or so architects licensed in the U.S., only an estimated 2,299 are black. That context was made even more somber this year with the loss of one of NOMA’s giants, Phil Freelon, who passed away in July. NOMA renamed its annual professional design awards in his honor. Zena Howard worked with Phil Freelon for well over a decade. So it was fitting that this year’s NOMA conference programming included her delivery of the J. Max Bond Lecture, organized annually by the New York Chapter of NOMA and the AIANY Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Howard’s talk focused on the notion of “Remembrance Design,” which emerged over the past few years through her work with Freelon and others. Now principal and managing director of the North Carolina office at Perkins+Will, Howard used some of her firm's recent projects to illustrate remembrance design in action. The examples varied in scale and scope from the 1.1-acre Sycamore Hill Gateway Plaza in Greenville, North Carolina, to a 30-acre design process covering Miami’s Overtown neighborhood, to a 1.3-mile “linear museum” along the Crenshaw Boulevard transit corridor in Los Angeles. All were historically black neighborhoods, typically scarred by racially-discriminatory redlining and later the era of urban renewal and the construction of the interstate highway system. In short, remembrance design is a way of using architectural discovery as a healing process to unearth, unpack and honor painful histories in neighborhoods that have traditionally been disinvested and neglected—or worse yet, bulldozed and paved over—by the worlds of architecture, urban planning, and real estate. “It’s about engaging people who have historically not been engaged,” Howard said. “First engaging with these communities, there’s a lot of hurt. I once thought to myself you have to go get a psychology degree or something. It’s difficult sometimes to hear. But over time, you realize that the pain a lot of people have, they have to release that, you sort of have to provide an outlet for it. A lot of it at first is just listening.” Howard spoke about how that deep listening process turns architecture into more than just a design process; it elevates architecture into a healing process. It can even make the architect’s job a little easier in the end. Once you move past the pain, Howard said, some participants from the community will actually feel inspired enough to start sketching themselves. “Even if you can’t get people really to talk about something, they can sketch something, they can draw,” Howard said. “It becomes therapeutic in a lot of ways. Once you get passed that threshold you really start moving fast towards design solutions that they’re a part of.” That depth of community engagement resonated with many NOMA members, from Elgemiabby to NOMA National Board Member and SOM senior urban designer Tiara Hughes, whose childhood neighborhood in St. Louis is now a baseball field. “I understand what [Howard] was referring to that there’s trauma and feelings and emotions that we have to deal with collectively as a group,” Hughes told AN. And it certainly resonated with Dowdell, who was partly inspired to become an architect by growing up among vacant homes and boarded-up commercial corridors in Detroit. “The kind of engagement that Zena [Howard] and her team has done or is doing, I think that’s probably standard practice for a lot of architects here [at the conference],” Dowdell said. Dowdell is hopeful that more and more of those kinds of projects will come up as the U.S. and especially its cities become more and more diverse. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts people of color will become a majority in the U.S. by 2043. Dowdell views NOMA’s work as preparing architecture for that future. “We all have to be more conscious of the fact that more and more clients will be people of color, more and more government officials—people with more power,” she said. Of course, in bringing good design to more diverse places that have historically been neglected or harmed by earlier periods of development, the conversation naturally turns to how good design can risk putting new pressure on market conditions, pushing up property taxes or rents and pushing out the very residents who participate in these design processes. Howard brought up the example of Hogan’s Alley in Vancouver, British Columbia, as one where the residents and elected officials are looking to a community land trust as a policy intervention to protect those residents the project had in mind as end-users. “The thing [Howard] also mentioned, rightly so, was the thing that design can’t solve: the political and economic conditions that need to be grappled with to effectively prevent gentrification and the negative effects of gentrification,” Dowdell said. “I think reinvestment is fine, but I think when it starts to displace people who have had a stake in that community for years, decades, generations, that’s going to be problematic.”
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Goodbye History, Hello Hamburger

Fringe Cities is a poignant study of urban renewal, and its aftermath, in the small-American city
The narrative of mid-century urban renewal is not unfamiliar; under the guise of slum clearance, vast tracts of America's architectural heritage were razed with entire communities (often of color) displaced and warehoused in deleterious expanses of public housing. There is no dearth of imagery or literature stemming from the era, ranging from Jane Jacobs's grassroots campaign against the all-powerful Robert Moses to the implosion of St. Louis's infamous Pruitt-Igoe tower blocks. However, often missing from dialogue on the subject is the integral role that federal policy and financing played in the reshaping of the American city, specifically outside of major metropolitan centers. Opened in early October at New York's Center for Architecture, the MASS Design Group-curated exhibition Fringe Cities: Legacies of Renewal in the Small American City, is an impressive historical and photographic survey examining the scope and rationale of urban renewal efforts across 100 "fringe" cities—defined as a small urban area with under 150,000 residents located at least 30 miles away from a major metropolitan center, which, are in many circumstances, still attempting to ameliorate conditions cemented by mid-century planning. The exhibition opens with a broad outline of federal urban policy over the course of the ongoing century, roughly beginning with programs associated with Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, then the plateau and decline of national funding and policy following Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society, and present day's irregular growth cycles, facilitated by lopsided regulation. Strengthening the linear narrative of the timeline is a collection of renderings and illustrations produced by contemporaneous architects and designers depicting idyllic post-clearance scenes, tools to convince a skeptical public of the supposed extensive benefits of urban renewal. The strongest curatorial tool at the initial juncture of the exhibition are aerial images of 42 of the MASS-identified "Fringe Cities," overlaid with blotches of red that highlight areas slated for demolition and reconstruction in the strain of automobile-centric developments and zoning. This method—which is similar to cartography appraising the damage of World War II bombing campaigns—effectively conveys the disproportionate scalar impact such efforts placed on small urban centers, which in many circumstances altered them beyond recognition within the span of a few years. For the purposes of the exhibition, MASS honed in on four specific case studies: Easton, Pennsylvania; Saginaw, Michigan; Spartanburg, South Carolina, and Poughkeepsie, New York. "Being urban in form but offset from more diverse economic centers, these places were particularly ill-equipped to design, administer, and implement meaningful redevelopment strategies, and they were less resilient economically to rebuild in its wake," said MASS Design Group associate Morgan O'Hara. "Urban America was not always as polarized as we see today, and it is an important narrative to understand these changes, and the role of both policy and design decisions in contributing to the disinvestment of these Fringe Cities." If the first floor of the exhibition is geared towards a top-down perspective of urban renewal, the second-half of Fringe Cities brings the topic to street-level with a collection of historic photographs of long lost downtowns juxtaposed with desolate contemporary scenes. One significant inclusion is that of Iwan Baan's extensive imagery from Poughkeepsie. More importantly, MASS effectively dives into the work that grass-roots organizations have done, in lieu of federal, state, or even municipal funding, reversing or at least halting the economic and demographic decline that the selected cities have experienced for decades. On this final note, MASS presents the current urban moment as both a challenge and opportunity for architects and designers that requires community engagement to avoid the pitfalls of heavy-handed planning. O'Hara concluded, "In order to accomplish this, it is imperative that designers reach beyond their precise contracted purview to create effective community partnerships, as an outgrowth of this critical understanding: that designers cannot understand or attend to the full range of local needs without embedded, long term community decision making." Fringe Cities: Legacies of Renewal in the Small American City Center for Architecture 536 LaGuardia New York, New York Through January 18, 2020
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Soaring Above Sydney

Zaha Hadid Architects and COX Architecture unveil Australia's future largest airport
Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) and COX Architecture are slated to officially design a new airport in Western Sydney, Australia. After winning an international design competition featuring 40 firms, the London-based practice and local Sydney studio will together lead the charge in creating a sustainable transportation hub for the burgeoning region surrounding Parkland City. Known officially as the Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport (WSA), the $5.3 billion project is expected to become a catalyst for growth in Western Parkland City, one of the capitol’s new three urban centers (Greater Sydney is officially broken up into three cities). It will be built out in four expansion stages, the first of which will be completed by 2026 and will serve 10 million passengers annually.  According to the design team, the vision for the upcoming terminal takes cues from the lush Australian bush: WSA will be a low-lying greenfield airport with nature-filled interiors. Vertical gardens featuring local flora will line the walls, slatted timber ceilings will undulate overhead, and ample daylight will spill in from outside during the day. David Holm, project director at COX, and Cristiano Ceccato of ZHA explained the 4,398-acre site will have an “unmistakable regional identity.” “The design is an evolution of Australian architecture past, present, and future,” said Ceccato in a press release. “It draws inspiration from both traditional architectural features such as the veranda, as well as the natural beauty of the surrounding bushland.”  ZHA/COX beat out five other shortlisted teams in the competition for the airport bid. Among them were Foster + Partners, Gensler, Hassell, Pascall+Watson, and Woods Bagot. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, it wasn’t just the highly-localized design that won over the jury, it was the way ZHA/COX presented the importance of the customer’s experience as they journey through the terminal. As the airport expands using modular-based construction, it’s expected that the facility will be able to accommodate up to 82 million passengers a year by 2060—outpacing every other airport in Australia.  These numbers coincide with the increased population of Sydney’s greater metropolis as well. In the next 20 years, it’s estimated that Greater Sydney will likely become home to 9 million people. By the time all of the sections of the airport are complete, Parkland City itself will boast well over 1.5 million, according to the Greater Sydney Commission.  Construction is slated to begin in 2022. 
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Obligatory Akira Reference

The Japan Society bridges Olympic games past and future at Made in Tokyo
Fifty years of change can totally transform any city and nowhere is that more evident than Tokyo, a mega-metropolis that’s constantly redefining itself. Made in Tokyo: Architecture and Living, 1964/2020 at the Japan Society in Manhattan makes the comparison between where Tokyo has been and where it’s going stark, easy to understand, and perhaps, hopeful. With the 2020 Summer Olympics fast approaching, Made in Tokyo—curated by Momoyo Kaijima and Yoshiharu Tsukamoto of Atelier Bow-Wow with Japan Society gallery director Yukie Kamiya—presents the Tokyo of 1964 and 2020 side-by-side to examine how the city has evolved and where it could go in the future. Historical changes in Tokyo’s architecture are inextricably linked with its political, economic, and social fortunes and the exhibition uses the 1964-through-2020 timeline to tease out the way these factors have shaped the city. Tokyo is rife for densification and because of that, new typologies make the most use of vertical space. At an October 11th talk at the Japan Society, Kaijima and Tsukamoto pointed to a driving school on top of a grocery store as just one way the city fosters the combination of disparate ideas. Made in Tokyo spotlights the city’s versatility and how the past and forthcoming Olympic games have and will affect six public and private architectural categories: stadium, station, retail, capsule, office, and home. The Japan Society and Atelier Bow-Wow have assembled an impressive collection of materials drawn from public and private archives, as well as from over 30 architectural studios. That includes two central, stadium-shaped enclosures featuring materials from the 1964 and 2020 games assembled around each for easy wayfinding; a life-sized segment from a capsule hotel, helpful for providing scale to those who have never been to one; archival drawings; photographs and architectural models by Kenzo Tange and Kengo Kuma; video fly-throughs; and a virtual tour of exemplary Tokyo projects lead by Atelier Bow-Wow. “In the 1960s—15 years after the end of World War II, Japan grew with great productivity and enthusiasm,” said Atelier Bow-Wow in a press release, “various urban institutions were created and young architects were allowed to creatively contribute to diverse architectural designs. Now, in contrast to those times, there is an incentive for large capital and organization towards mass-redevelopment. Through this tremendous turnover of city spaces and transitions of urban institutions we will showcase the evolution of life in the city of Tokyo.” Made in Tokyo will run through January 26, 2020, and will be accompanied by a host of lectures, film screenings, discussions, and art performances.
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Tinsel Town Facades

Gensler's Michael Volk and Olivier Sommerhalder discuss Facades+ LA and the trends reshaping their city
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From November 14 to 15, Facades+ LA will bring regional, national, and international leaders of the AEC industry to Southern California for the fifth year in a row. Hosted by The Architect's Newspaper and co-chaired by Gensler's local office, the conference is split between a full-day symposium and a second day of hands-on workshops. Conference keynotes include MVRDV principal Fokke Moerel and Rojkind Arquitectos principal Michel Rojkind. Other participants at the conference symposium and workshops will include Access Industries, Belzberg Architects, Christopher Hawthorne, CO Architects, FreelandBuck, Front, Gensler, Griffin Enright Architects, Grupo Anima Mexico, HGA, John Fidler Preservation Technologies, Morphosis, Neme Design Studio USA, Omgivning, PATTERNS, RDH, Rios Clementi Hale Studios, Walter P Moore, Trammell Crow, Sasaki, Shubin Donaldson Architects, Spectra Company, Studio NYL, WJE, and Zahner. In this interview with The Architect's Newspaper, Gensler principals and conference co-chairs Michael Volk and Olivier Sommerhalder discussed their firm's recent work and the architectural trends reshaping Los Angeles. AN: Gensler is the largest architectural and design practice in the world. How does this breadth of scale impact design at the regional level? Michael Volk & Olivier Sommerhalder: As an integral part of our firm’s philosophy, our 50 global offices practice as though we are one firm, and we have set up our infrastructure to fluidly support this behavior. We bring our global knowledge and a very deep bench to bear on every endeavor, from large scale international work to regional and local projects. Our dimension is such that it allows us to have in-house expertise in many relevant disciplines, including facade experts, and we bring this capability to the table wherever needed, at any time, making us nimble and innovative designers who add value to our client’s projects. What exciting projects is the Los Angeles office up to, and are you demonstrating any concepts tested at your research institute? In our Los Angeles office, as in all our offices, we are extending our thinking on building design to the scale of shaping the future of cities. At the forefront of this is a design that addresses energy, climate, and housing concerns. Like many things in design, we are finding, however, that low tech and simple solutions are most impactful and meaningful in addressing these issues. Projects such as our office building C3 in Culver City and upcoming projects now on the table for mixed-use and residential high rises downtown and in the Hollywood area are returning to simple passive solar and ventilation techniques, as well as significant integration of public and private green space, to reconsider the “First Principles” of their typologies. Living with nature and consuming less energy and water, while at the same time being in closer proximity to intellectual, economic and recreational capital, are among the positive aspects of urban life research shows to be most valuable and sustaining. Los Angeles is in a certain sense maturing as a city. What do you perceive to be the most interesting trends within the region today? Los Angeles is indeed maturing, and at the same time it’s dimension and urban condition make it an ideal city to be a testing ground for new urban innovations. Housing, density, and mobility are the leading topics, alongside climate change and energy considerations. These topics are often seen hand in hand leading to development in the city. For example, with the expansion of Metro-rail corridors, mixed-use and higher density projects are naturally emerging, bringing with them an integrated, urban lifestyle of live/work/play within a short radius that is somewhat new to Southern California. As another example, long-standing neighborhoods now connected by mixed-use corridors and transportation, are evolving into multi-faceted hubs, rather than the single-use bedroom communities they traditionally have been. This has had the consequence of shrinking the typical radius of commuting and the positive synergistic effect of an organic mix of programs supporting a vibrant daily life, increasing economic and cultural offerings within a denser fabric. Another surprising observation that may seem counter-intuitive considering Southern California’s envied climate: Over the past few years Los Angeles’ built environment seems to have rediscovered the connection to the outdoors. The mainstream has adopted outdoor patios for restaurants, the workplace has begun an extension of the workspace to the outdoors, and new apartment buildings and condominiums have generous balconies and roof terraces. This once-forgotten, but obvious, benefit is having a big impact on the design of buildings, envelopes, and landscapes. Which materials do you believe are changing facade practices in terms of design and performance? The most exciting material, surprisingly, is landscape. Projects like Second Home in Hollywood by Selgascano, and our projects for One Westside, Epic in Hollywood and several mixed-use and residential high-rises we are currently working on in the city are (re) introducing landscape as a major building and space-defining element. The notion of biophilia as a driving conceptual element has emerged internationally in the last years in places like Europe, South East Asia and significantly in Singapore. Now, in Los Angeles, we are beginning to see this design thinking taking place. Landscape as a design element is now becoming foreground - as it can and should in our climate, not just background as it often has been. More conventionally, timber and wood are also emerging on the horizon, not only as a primary structure but also as an envelope. Our project for the Headquarters of the company Alexandria in Pasadena includes a unitized curtainwall made of white oak with a second skin of wooden sunscreens. Further information regarding Facades+ Los Angeles can be found here.
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Plus Pollution

Plus Pool floats a light sculpture to raise awareness of NYC's water pollution problem
Nine years ago, New Yorkers were promised a floating, self-filtering pool on the East River, but all they've gotten so far is a floating light sculpture. Plus Pool Light has been installed, temporarily, in place of Plus Poola floating outline one quarter the size of the original proposal, consisting of LED lights that change color depending on water quality.  “It’s about having people look at something beautiful and coming here if they want to learn more,” said Archie Lee Coates IV, a partner at New York-based Playlab and a cocreator of the public pool proposal. But, as he also told The New York Times “It’s been incredibly difficult, painful and exhausting,” navigating the red tape and blockades associated with publicly funded projects in NYC.  Plus Pool (or +Pool) was conceived in a brainstorming session amongst Coates and his design friends Jeff Franklin, Dong-Ping Wong and Oana Stanescu back in 2010. The concept began with the frustration that New York City residents are constantly within walking distance of water, but live largely cut-off from it. The Hudson and East Rivers remain too polluted for safe swimming, and public beaches often take over an hour to get to. While waterways in several other major metropolises have been cleaned up in the interest of the public as well as tourists, like the Seine in Paris, New York’s rivers have been unswimmable for over 70 years. Plus Pool would use a state-of-the-art filtration system to help people reclaim their rivers for recreational use, and even strengthen campaigns to keep the waters clean.  In response to the passing of the Clean Water Act, many liquid assets in NYC were adopted as Superfund sites by the government, but sites like the Gowanus Canal remain in deplorable condition, as the city has yet to adequately update their storm surge systems—a system so inadequate that a 2018 NYT article titled “Please Don’t Flush the Toilet, It’s Raining,” drew viral reactions. All of that intake affects the ecosystem of the East River, and therefore the light show of the Plus Pool Light. When the quality is at an acceptable level, the LEDs shine turquoise-blue, but as sewage and bacteria levels increase, the lights shift to pink. This real-time quality indication comes from data collected by on-site sensors as well as an algorithm developed by researchers at Columbia University and the tech firm Reaktor While Plus Pool has been compared to other “Instagrammable” public projects like The High Line, this environmentally sensitive project may be more about addressing the physical effects of human degradation of the environment than reclaiming leisure space. The Light installation has already turned public attention towards the water by offering an unflinching visual representation of urban pollution, and in the era of Instagram and visual storytelling, potentially generating more attention for realizing the Plus Pool project.  Plus Pool Light will be on view off of Lower Manhattan’s Seaport District until January 3, 2020.
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After Stonewall

Three takes on how New York’s queer nightlife spaces have evolved
This year, New York’s Pride celebrations revolved around a single bar: The Stonewall Inn at 53 Christopher Street. In the late 1960s—before the Stonewall Riots of 1969 made the site historic—the windows would’ve been blacked out, the doors kept closed, the inside kept dark and smoky until bright lights flashed on as a warning for an impending police raid. Now the bar is dressed in dozens of rainbow flags and sponsorship banners from Brooklyn Lager and Sky Blue, and in 2016, it became the first LGBTQ site to be designated a National Monument. As the jewel in New York’s queer history crown, the Stonewall Inn shows how the visibility of LGBTQ venues has changed over the past fifty years. “Bars have long been a key social aspect of gay life,” said Andrew Dolkart, cofounder of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, a group that documents significant buildings from New York’s queer history. “At a time when it was very difficult for gay people to find each other, bars served that purpose. There weren’t really alternative places where people could congregate and meet each other.” Many of the sites documented by the LGBT Historic Sites Project are no longer extant; the buildings remain but the inhabitants and businesses that gave them their character have since moved on. Any and every kind of building has the potential to transform, if temporarily, into a queer space: The Gay Activist’s Alliance, formed in the aftermath of Stonewall, hosted meetings and parties in an old firehouse at 99 Wooster Street in SoHo before an arsonist’s fire evicted the group in 1974. In 1983, the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion on Sixth Avenue was transformed into the Limelight, a disco club, before becoming a David Barton gym. In the late ’70s, the disused buildings at the Christopher Street Piers permitted men the privacy to sunbath naked or seek sex in the crumbling buildings, before the area was redeveloped in the mid-’80s right as AIDS was ravaging the city and performing an erasure of gay history and memory. “One of my favorites was the Starlite Lounge in Brooklyn,” Dolkart said. “It was a black-owned gay and lesbian bar that saw itself as the oldest nondiscriminating bar in New York, and when it was closing there was a little demonstration in front.” Patrons felt the closing of the Starlite to be a particularly hard loss, because, as Dolkart pointed out, “People have this tendency to think that gay bars and gay culture are white culture.” A lifelong resident of New York, Dolkart has witnessed first-hand the evolution of LGBTQ nightlife and the venues that accommodate it, “from places that were closed or enclosed, where you couldn’t tell what was going on inside unless you were gay.” Around the ’80s is when he noticed a change, with “bars with large windows that were very public. I think that has been an enormous change, that gay bars aren’t hidden anymore.” The changing character of New York’s architecture has accommodated this increased visibility, as vast sheets of glass have become the skin of the city. Take two of the city’s most visible hotel monoliths: The Standard East Village on Cooper Square (upon its opening, the building received nicknames including the Giant Shampoo Bottle and the Dubai Dildo), and its West Side counterpart, The Standard High Line in the Meatpacking District, with its wall of windows through which pedestrians can watch hoteliers having sex against the glass. This February, Angela Dimayuga opened the queer-friendly spot No Bar under the East Village Standard, a windowed venue with the option of opening up to the street front. At The High Line Standard, the rooftop bar and club Le Bain invites queer Meatpackers to dance in the open air. As queer spaces become more publicly visible, they also blend more homogeneously into the city’s landscape. “Gentrification is the removal of the dynamic mix that defines urbanity,” Sarah Schulman wrote in The Gentrification of the Mind, her book chronicling the erasure of gay life during the AIDS epidemic and the concurrent development of New York. During that time, New Yorkers saw Time Square’s adult cinemas and stores cleared away, health authorities began padlocking New York’s gay saunas as a preventative measure at the height of the AIDS crisis, while the Meatpacking District—where clubs like The Anvil and The Manhole turned the neighborhood’s industrial grunge into a fetish aesthetic—began its transition to a luxury address. While the glass and steel of contemporary New York favors transparency over privacy, there are those for whom queer nightlife will always be sought in shadowy spaces that offer obscurity, secrecy, and (hopefully) debauchery. Ladyfag, the queer party organizer who is responsible for many of New York’s most popular queer events, including Battle Hymn and Ladyland, is less interested in these new, glitzy venues. “I prefer a dirty basement with a low ceiling,” she said. “You want to go to some plush hotel and sit on a banquette? Go ahead.”
 
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Battle Hymn tonight...Cause damn I missed you NYC! #battlehymn

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Part of the appeal of Ladyfag’s parties is their transient nature, appearing in previously undiscovered spaces and always moving. “I like to create my own connection with a space, with my crowd,” she said. “That way, when they come there, they think of it as that party or that space that I created as opposed to something in a bigger picture.” Holy Mountain, which Ladyfag held at Slake on 30th Street for four years, exemplified her parties’ punk, trashy experience: The narrow staircases were always gridlocked, the air-conditioning regularly failed, and the lighting was mercifully low. “Everybody told me it will never work because it’s on 30th Street and nobody wants to go to Midtown,” she said. “And they’re right. But it worked, everybody loved it.” The party eventually moved to Brooklyn when Slake was bought for redevelopment. Queer nightlife has a knack for finding such disused venues, bringing them to filthy life for a year or two, and then slinking off as the development teams approach. Being so short-lived, such parties and venues become instantly mythologized. Andrew Durbin’s 2017 novel MacArthur Park reads as a nostalgic ode to the Bushwick nightclub Spectrum at 59 Montrose Street, which had only closed one year prior to the book’s release. Spectrum—where coats were checked into garbage bags and thrown onto a pile in a corner while sweat dripped from the so-low-I-can-touch-it ceiling; where you were discouraged from lingering on the street out front because the venue wasn’t, strictly speaking, legal—instantly became the epitome of the grungy, DIY sensibility of Brooklyn’s queer nightlife, a sensibility which welcomed a nostalgia for itself even as it was happening. For Ladyfag, who got started when no one wanted to come to Brooklyn to party, the tables have turned. “Now everyone’s in Brooklyn,” she said, “and I’m like, I’m going to go back to Manhattan.” In the past ten years, nothing has affected queer nightlife more than social media. When Ladyfag first moved to New York in 2005, social media hadn’t yet dominated our lives. “We had the internet, but we didn’t have that constant knowing where everyone is at all times,” she said. “If you didn’t go out, you were alone. It was a totally different New York.” The rise of social media—specifically dating and hookup apps—significantly changed queer people’s reliance on bars and parties to find each other. “People don’t have the need to go to bars as much,” Dolkart said. “Like other commercial places, the internet has really taken over. Bars were not only social spaces, they were spaces where people met for sex, and then on to meet people to go home with. That’s kind of petered out.” As bars could no longer solely rely on the promise of sex to entice patrons, the rise of drag culture offered an alternative drawcard. Drag has always been a fixture of LGBTQ venues, but as RuPaul’s Drag Race jump-started a resurgence of the art form, it underwent its own Brooklyn renaissance. The drag performer Untitled Queen discovered Brooklyn’s drag scene in 2012. “All of these creatives descended into this nightlife scene,” Untitled said. “I think we romanticize ourselves as dirty punk, but there really were a lot of people experimenting and trying new stuff out. At the time, the bar scene became really hungry for drag.”
This experimental drag scene congregated in warehouses in Greenpoint and Bushwick, bars such as Metropolitan, Tandem, and Sugarland, and parties like Bath Salts at Don Pedro, a venue that Untitled remembered being “disgusting. There was old carpet and all the performers did lots of stuff with food and blood and alcohol. It was a very liquidy, gross show, and it was awesome.” In 2012, Untitled Queen performed at the first Bushwig, a drag festival cofounded by drag performer Horrorchata. Bushwig initially took place at Secret Project Robot, another Bushwick venue that has since disappeared. “That was an art gallery space, very DIY,” Horrorchata said. “I don’t even know how we did three years there because by the second year it was just so big.” Now in its eighth year, Bushwig takes place at the Knockdown Center, the festival’s home for the past four years, an immense converted warehouse space with huge windows and masses of outdoor space. “I think for some people they imagined it would lose its edge, and it has not at all,” Untitled said. “The family and the door opens wider, and people still feel the same energy.” To define a space as queer comes, more than anything else, from those who inhabit and transform it. “I think a queer space for me is if the promoter is queer, the event is queer,” Horrorchata said. “For example, at Knockdown, whenever we have Bushwig, we have a meeting with security and make sure there’s no gendering, no ‘Mrs.,’ no ‘Ma’am.’ It’s super nonbinary. We try to educate them and let them know this is going to be a queer space for the next weekend, and these are the rules.” Ladyfag’s events invite the same openness. “Queer to me is still this radical kind of gayness,” she said, “and in a queer space, if you call it a queer space, you’re making a statement of inclusivity.” In 1994, on the 25th anniversary of Stonewall, Dolkart took part in a conference on gay space. “There was an interesting conclusion that was reached at the end of the day, that there were no gay spaces, with the exception of bathhouses. There were no gay spaces, there were spaces that gay people put to use. And I like that. I think that our site is very much about that. It’s about places that gay people have made their own, and with nothing unique about the design of those places—whether it’s a bar or a theater or an apartment—they’re the types of spaces that you find in New York but that gay people have made their own.”
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Ring Around the Genosie

The new Parco del Polcevera will revitalize the site of the Genoa bridge collapse
The Italian city of Genoa is getting a new park district at the site of last year’s deadly bridge collapse, as Parco del Polcevera will be located under the new Renzo Piano-designed replacement bridge set to open April of next year. The Italian architect donated the new bridge to his home city after the original Riccardo Morandi bridge collapsed last August, tragically killing 43 people. The design team for the accompanying urban renewal project consists of Italian architecture firms Stefano Boeri Architetti (SBA) and Metrogramma, as well as Dutch landscape architects Inside Outside. The design features a 5,150-foot-long red steel ring that will bisect Piano’s bridge, providing an elevated walking and cycling path through the valley area. A red wind turbine tower will punctuate the landscape at nearly 400 feet tall and provide the adjacent area with a source of renewable energy. At ground level, the park will consist of several parallel, typographically distinct zones that reflect the rich and diverse plant life of Genoa, along with recreational facilities, riverfront promenades, and industrial, office, and retail spaces.  The project is as much about the urban green space as it is revitalizing the city’s economy. “The Parco del Polcevera will become a new centre," described SBA in a statement. "All around it, the district will be reborn, understood as a community of life, relationships and exchanges. The BIC buildings in the Green Factory area, the New Forts and the ex Mercato Ovaivicolo become new hubs of productivity and innovation, essential ingredients for a sustainable rebirth also from the economic-financial point of view as studied in depth by H&A Associati.”  The Morandi Bridge was an important transportation link for the city, connecting Genoa to the northern cities of Milan and Turin and beyond to southern France. The urban renewal park project offers to revitalize an industrial area badly hurt by the collapse, which left 600 people homeless and isolated an entire neighborhood. Parco del Polcevera is meant to be a catalyst for growth and sustainable innovation in the still-recovering city as well as a memorial to the victims of the Morandi bridge collapse. At the park’s center will be the installation Genova in the Woods by artist Luca Vitone, dedicated to the lives lost in the accident. “A welcome to the world that crosses it and reaches Genoa from a network of infrastructure that stretches from east to west connecting Italy to Europe, parks perched on vertical walls, workers and noblewomen, singers-poets and naval engineers. A Superb City, even though it is afflicted by poignant melancholy; beautiful, even if in the harshness of its everlasting contradictions. A city of steel and sea, sculpted by wind and tragedy, but always able to stand tall,” said SBA founder Stefano Boeri.