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Ruby City is an oddity. Sited in a formerly industrial zone south of Downtown San Antonio dotted with islands of gas stations and fast food signs, and abutting a neighborhood known for its artist community, the 14,000-square-foot contemporary art center designed by Adjaye Associates is, by nature of its history, location, and design, a study in contradictions. In 2007, the late Linda Pace, daughter of salsa and hot sauce magnate David Pace, reached out to David Adjaye with a sketch of Ruby City, which she envisioned as a center to present her then 500-piece-strong art collection to the public. An artist herself, Pace would draw her dreams after waking up and have these sketches fabricated into sculptures (the institution's inaugural exhibition includes a work by Pace that renders the word STAY in fake blue flowers). Pace’s idea for Ruby City came during one of these nocturnal fantasias, when she envisaged a complex of towers and minarets in blazing red. Pace met Adjaye shortly before her death from breast cancer to discuss the project, and 12 years later, the building is finally opening. The result is far from a collection of windowless spires but is still, as Adjaye told Texas Monthly, “very shy.” On approach, my initial impression was of a thick-shelled aardvark or beetle, the building’s heavy stone massing and brilliant red color standing in stark contrast to the sea of parking lots nearby. The red, terrazzo-like concrete used to form the facade has been rightly celebrated by critics ahead of the building’s opening; the material was fabricated by Pretecsa, a company based outside of Mexico City, and is also strategically deployed in custom curbside bollards and benches in the sculpture garden. In person, its rich color is true to the photos. Despite the fortress-like street presence, Adjaye has tried to make Ruby City feel inviting. The way the entrance canopy gently lifts from the building and cantilevers over the plaza like the opening of a cave lends some much-needed lightness to the massing, a touch that’s mirrored on the reverse side, over the parking lot. Part of the inward-facing design is practical, as anything built in southern Texas must defer to the elements. To combat the harsh sun, two layers of curtains, one blackout and one shade, have been installed across the windows in all three of the building’s central gallery spaces; the building will be open only four days a week, with the blackout curtains otherwise drawn to protect the collection. Ruby-tinted steel grates, resembling crenelated brick from the ground, have been installed across every skylight to protect against monster hail. Once inside, it becomes clear that Adjaye Associates and executive architects Alamo Architects took great strides to enliven what could have become just another set of white-walled galleries. Flourishes abound. Pulls and fixtures were all designed in-house at Adjaye’s office, as were the molcajete- and metate-inspired benches and reception desk textured in rough, crinkled concrete. Faceted skylights brighten the steep, lengthy staircases, which are specifically designed to block the view of the second floor until visitors nearly reach the landings above. What at first seems to be a straightforward path through two extra-tall exhibition spaces (the third is currently ensconced in blue felt for an installation of Isaac Julien’s Stones Against Diamonds video, which will run for two years) actually meanders and reveals plenty of side passages and nooks with alternate views of the route just traveled. Similarly thoughtful, unexpected details are everywhere: an “eyelid” panel juts away from the building over a window on the second floor to direct views downward to the sculpture park; a conference room centered on a pair of doors taken from Pace’s bedroom is clad in timber; the adobe-colored concrete plaza extends inside to the reception area and into the elevator; a triangular cutout hidden in the overhang above the entrance looks to the sky but is only visible from directly below, Adjaye's James Turrell moment; a central gallery tall enough to comfortably, surprisingly, fit 16-foot-tall sculptures typically reserved for outdoor installation. These moves all spice up an interior that can still feel, at times, a bit too staid. There are now 900 drawings, paintings, videos, and mixed-media pieces in Ruby City’s collection, as the Linda Pace Foundation has combined its holdings with Pace’s personal acquisitions. Exhibitions will draw only from the permanent collection, and will likely rotate every two years, with the kickoff show, Waking Dream, presenting a twisted take on domesticity from international and local artists from the building's opening on October 13 through 2022. Combined with strategic views of Chris Park, a one-acre landscape of palm trees and bamboo groves down the street that is dedicated to Pace’s late son, from the double-height side corridor before entering the galleries proper, there’s enough discovery in both the art and the building to keep visitors coming back. In the end, the gestures add up, turning what could be a simple experience into something more multifaceted.
After four years of development, Soho House, the London-based members club aimed at those in the arts and media, has finally completed Soho Warehouse in the southern portion of the Los Angeles Arts District. The private club represents the third Southern California outpost for the company, the first being Soho West Hollywood, completed in 2014, followed by Little Beach House Malibu two years later. Soho Warehouse is set within a seven-story, 110,00-square-foot building completed in 1916, which, as of four years ago, was the home of a rehearsal studio for local musicians (its tenants were reportedly “blind-sighted” by the news that they must evict to make way for the exclusive club). With the aid of Soho House & Co.’s in-house design team, the building’s former loading dock was reimagined as a private garden, its humble rooftop made way for a pool and cabanas, and its hallowed floors were retrofitted with luxury amenities including restaurants, communal areas, and 48 hotel rooms, three of which are “party-sized suites.” The design of its interior spaces was imagined as a mix between the industrial, turn-of-the-century details of the original building and the mid-century design history of Los Angeles, while an 18-foot-wide mural by local artist Paul Davies acts as a centerpiece for the dining area of the rooftop space. The completion of Soho Warehouse reflects one of many transformative developments that have taken place in the Arts District in the last few years—which was an affordable neighborhood for local artist as recently as ten years ago—as luxury developments by architects including Bjarke Ingels Group, R&A Architecture + Design, and Herzog & de Meuron are currently in the works, all within blocks of the private club. Following committee approval and a minimum annual fee of $2,160, one may gain access to Soho Warehouse, set to become officially open to its members on October 14.
In the middle of Hayden Tract, the Culver City, California, neighborhood famed for its collection of Eric Owen Moss-designed buildings, the UCLA Margo Leavin Graduate Art Studios celebrated its long-awaited opening with a private dinner for artists, colleagues, and students on September 26. The project is a major restoration and expansion of the university’s former graduate art program’s studio building, transforming the 21,000-square-foot warehouse into a 48,000 campus. The project was set into motion in 2016 when Margo Leavin made a lead gift of $20 million, the largest gift ever made by an alumna to the arts program. Designed by Johnston Marklee, a local architecture firm known for its understated designs and attention to detail, the facility includes a multipurpose gallery, 42 graduate studios, classroom spaces, interior courtyards, and a loft for the program’s artist-in-residence. "During the project’s development,” UCLA reported, “the architects engaged with students and faculty to best understand their needs and design a highly functional building that engenders a creative community.” One of the innovative spatial features to come out of this engagement is the close relationship between large communal facilities and smaller, more intimate private studios. The building was designed for LEED Gold certification and is notable for its addition to the old building’s exterior with a smooth, cylinder-patterned concrete facade, which, according to the architects, “eliminate[s] the need for waterproofing and insulation, and minimize[s] the construction footprint and waste.” In addition, the semi-outdoor nature of many of the building’s spaces within provides a passive heating and cooling system suited to the relatively temperate environment of Southern California. “Innovative building systems and elemental materials are distilled towards a holistic and efficient structure,” explained Johnston Marklee, “rather than adding layers of sustainable technology.”
Mend the East End
Washington University in St. Louis and Sam Fox School receive a KieranTimberlake revamp
Just west of St. Louis’s Forest Park sits the compact urban campus of Washington University in St. Louis. At 124 years old, the Olmsted-designed masterplan has undergone several major changes, but nothing as dramatic as the recently-completed, 18-acre transformation of its East End. KieranTimberlake and Michael Vergason Landscape Architects (MVLA) led a handful of experts in the sweeping $360 million effort, which included the introduction of an expansive new park, an addition to the famed Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, and five new structures, one of which is the new face of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. AN spoke with James Kolker, university architect and associate vice-chancellor, over email about the project. He said the milestone has been a decades-long dream in the making to cover the site, which was previously lacking comprehensive character and full of surface parking lots, with a green landscape and sustainable stand-out buildings that will lead the university into its next 100 years. “Seeing the Ann and Andrew Tisch Park filled with people lounging, eating, snapping photos, enjoying art, and gathering movable chairs together to host a class, continue to delight,” said Kolker, “and are evidence that the variety of activities, both as a place and a campus thoroughfare, make the east end a great campus for all.” When originally planned in the late 1800s, the site was projected to be a park-like “front door” that connected the campus to Forest Park, but the popularity of cars led to cement flat blocks and walking paths being installed. The goal of the reimagined landscape, Kolker explained, was to make the Danforth Campus more open and accessible to the public and university students. Opened this week, Tisch Park now serves as the centerpiece of the East End while Brookings Hall, the Collegiate Gothic landmark atop the newly-landscaped hill, greets students as the home of undergraduate admissions. On the southeastern edge of the site is Weil Hall, the new 80,760-square-foot main entry to the six-structure Sam Fox School, which also includes the newly-renovated and expanded Kemper Art Museum. The latter structure, originally designed in 2006 by Fumihiko Maki, features a 34-foot-tall polished, stainless steel facade that, through a pleated surface treatment, reflects movement around campus. KieranTimberlake nearly doubled the space for the display of the museum’s permanent collection with the 2,700-square-foot double-height gallery for post-war and contemporary art. In addition, the team worked with MVLA to design and reinstall the Florence Steinberg Weil Sculpture Garden. The exterior of Weil Hall complements the museum to the north in its use of translucent glass and vertical aluminum fins. Instead of mirroring activity outside the building, the facade allows views inside to its state-of-the-art studios, classrooms, and digital fabrication labs. The design team added many energy-saving elements into Weil Hall as well, including a two-story green wall to regulate temperature and clean and filter the air. According to James Timberlake, principal of KieranTimberlake, these major moves reaffirm the private research university’s commitment to the arts. “The design of Weil Hall is about fostering intentional interaction among disciplines in a flexible, open, light-filled space that inspires scholarship, creative research, and bold experimentation,” said Timberlake in a statement. “This was an opportunity to give new life and purpose to the Danforth Campus by putting the vitality of the art and architecture programs on view front and center for all to see.” By far the most disruptive but innovative intervention that the design team made to the campus was placing an underground garage directly beneath Tisch Park. Large enough to accommodate 790 vehicles, electric charging stations, and more, the below-grade building by KieranTimberlake and BNIM features high ceilings and access to natural light. Should automobiles ever become obsolete, the university has contingency plans to convert the garage into classrooms and labs. The East End transformation also includes the build-out of a glass-clad pavilion that provides space for the school’s environmental studies program and the office of sustainability, as well as a new welcome center and hall for the department of mechanical engineering and materials science. Another structure by Perkins Eastman will house computer science and engineering when it opens in 2021.
Future of Flats
U.K. Housing Minister discovers 3D architecture
U.K. Housing Minister Esther McVey is making headlines after announcing her seemingly personal, and shocking, discovery of "3D architecture." In a panel discussion with Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi and northern minister Jake Berry, McVey said, "If we have this new way of doing it, 3D architects... 3D visionaries... doing it with it on a computer," an immediately and widely mocked statement alluding to the discovery of three-dimensional architecture and digital tools in the architecture profession. Twitter user Kendy Crush pointed out, constructively, that “Esther McVey is 52. She was 15 when AutoCAD was first released.” The groundbreaking rendering software was released 37 years ago and has since given rise to an entire ecosystem of digital rendering and BIM tools that are standard across the industry today. The verbal fumbling was mocked by everyone from casual observers to U.K. government elites, and even Financial Times architecture critic Edwin Heathcote asked his Twitter followers, “The Tories are going to introduce 3D architecture. How have we lived without it for so long?”
McVey is the 9th Housing Minister and currently serves Boris Johnson’s conservative government. Clearly there are some gaps to be filled between knowledge of a field and leadership within it.
This is fucking brilliant. The Tories are going to introduce 3D architecture. How have we lived without it for so long? https://t.co/0BOTUtYYaP— edwin heathcote (@edwinheathcote) September 30, 2019
Second Home, Third Space
AN tours the SelgasCano-designed Second Home coworking space in Hollywood
The 21st century’s profusion of freelancers, start-ups, and frequent travelers has ushered in the era of the co-working space. With more than 19,000 such spaces now operating around the world, co-working has become an attractive alternative to renting expensive traditional office spaces and the isolation of working from home. Companies like WeWork, Phase Two, and The Wing have tried to anticipate the needs of a growing nomadic workforce, yet co-working remains a developing phenomenon, and there is still much to learn about the kinds of environments that best support the practice. One company that seems ahead of the curve is Second Home, whose recently opened campus in East Hollywood, Los Angeles, proves that its competitors have some catching up to do. Every seat within the 90,000-square-foot complex feels like the best place to open a laptop and get to work, while a wide range of public services makes the company’s fourth outpost feel especially welcoming. In 2017, Second Home purchased a four-acre property on the corner of North St. Andrews Place and De Longpre Avenue and hired SelgasCano, the Madrid-based architecture firm that has designed its other locations, to develop its first campus outside of Europe in an impressively short amount of time. One of the creative challenges the site presented was an existing courtyard building by legendary “architect to the celebrities” Paul Williams. Completed in 1964, the colonial revival building, which once housed offices and events for the Assistance League of Southern California, is notable for its glamorous exterior, circular staircase, and central courtyard. SelgasCano gutted the building while incorporating these three elements into its design. From the street, visitors pass through the formal facade to enter what feels like a different world: a low-slung, columnless lobby with a dizzying array of tropical plants, extruded tubular furniture pieces, and a mobile coffee cart. Beyond this space is the courtyard, which has been charmingly reimagined as a casual workspace, restaurant, and public event space shaded by a canopy of trees. The space will soon host all events currently held at the SelgasCano-designed Serpentine Pavilion, which Second Home purchased and transported from London to the grounds of the La Brea Tar Pits. In an effort to distance itself from other co-working companies, Second Home has made the lobby and courtyard spaces accessible to the public without membership. But the real showstopper is beyond the perimeter of the Williams-designed building: Sixty office spaces with acrylic walls and lemon-yellow rooftops carpet the rest of the site, connected to each other by pathways that meander through a forest of over 6,000 trees and shrubs. Each office space is lined with outward-facing desks underneath a yellow, steel-braced ceiling festooned with the ductwork of a central air conditioner (it comes as a mild disappointment that the windows are inoperable, ruling out the option of passive heating and cooling). When walking the yard’s labyrinthine paths, one is somehow able to forget just how closely the site abuts a Home Depot and a massive Target currently under construction. Accessed via the original grand staircase, which contrasts with a translucent egg-like chandelier designed by SelgasCano hanging at its center, the second floor of the Assistance League building is divided between an outdoor lounge and 37 additional office spaces. While the rooms here are finely detailed, with orange carpeting that climbs up walls to reach waist height and entirely transparent top halves, they lack the lower-level offices’ immediate connection to the outdoors. From the lounge, one is afforded the most idyllic vantage point on the site: The lush courtyard is visible from one side, while on the other is the sea of office pods in front of the Santa Monica Mountains. Given its commitment to inclusivity and creative adaptation to its site, Second Home Hollywood sets a new standard for the co-working building type; its creators should not be surprised if they feel other companies looking over their shoulders as the industry continues to discover its potential.
It’s that time again! AN has rounded up another list of the top architecture, design, and art exhibitions open or opening over the next couple of months. The exhibitions below dive into the lives of lesser-known figures in architecture, uncover hidden histories and explore the importance of identity and place. Check them out below: Revealing Presence: Women in Architecture at the University of Illinois, 1874-2019 Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 500 East Peabody Drive Champaign, IL 61820 September 26 through October 12, 2019 Mary Louisa Page was the first woman to earn an architecture degree in the United States in 1878 from the University of Illinois—the school offered its first architecture course ten years prior. Revealing Presence showcases the breadth of work that women have contributed to the built environment through a chronological presentation of historical data and images. Spanning the course of 145 years, the show reveals the growing representation of women in the architectural profession over time through the inclusion of a timeline illustrating the increasing number of female faculty and students at the University. Women currently comprise over 40 percent of architecture graduates. Marc Yankus: New York Unseen ClampArt 247 West 29th Street Ground Floor New York, NY 10001 October 3 through November 16, 2019 Marc Yankus is a New York-based photographer with over 40 years of experience capturing historic buildings, streetscapes, and abstract compositions found when one looks closely at the built environment. In his sixth solo show at ClampArt, Yankus exhibits a series of photographs that continue his investigation into the buildings of New York City. Through his expert use of Photoshop, the artist removes all of the distractions that come with urban life—traffic, pedestrians, and noise—providing a glimpse into a New York “unseen.” The result is a collection of prominent city buildings seemingly frozen in time. Housing Density: From Tenements to Towers The Skyscraper Museum 39 Battery Place New York, NY 10280 On view through December 2019 This new exhibition at the Skyscraper Museum takes a look at the history of residential development in New York City throughout the twentieth century. By examining the approaches to private, public, or publicly-assisted housing, the guest curators Nicholas Dagen Bloom and Matthias Altwicker aim to sort out the different meanings of density over time and how they have shaped the ways residents live in the city today. Given contemporary debates on infilling NYCHA projects and up-zoning neighborhoods, the exhibition hopes to inform some of these discussions by offering a clear illustration of urban density through historical projects. Some of the projects examined include models of communities such as Tudor City and London Terrace, early NYCHA projects such as the Queensbridge Houses, and large-scale postwar projects such as Stuyvesant Town. Resident Alien: Austrian Architects in America Austrian Cultural Forum New York 11 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022 September 25 through February 17, 2020 Curated by Stephen Phillips and Axel Schmitzberger, Resident Alien, explores the cultural contributions of Austrian-American architects on modern, postmodern, and digital design culture over the past century. The exhibition is organized into five form-driven categories—Cloud Structures, Aggregate Self-assemblies, Media Atmospheres, Primitive Domains, and Urban Terrestrials—as a way to investigate how bicultural heritage has informed formal, technological, and psychoanalytic architectural discourses. Architects and designers that will be featured include Rudolph Schindler, Victor Gruen, Hans Hollein, Coop Himmelb(l)au, and Frederick Kiesler, among 27 others. Lucy Sparrow’s Delicatessen on 6th Rockefeller Center 45 Rockefeller Plaza New York, NY 10111 October 1-20, 2019 Presented in partnership with Art Production Fund as part of the “Art in Focus” Public Art Program, Lucy Sparrow’s interactive installation is opening at Rockefeller Center this week. The British artist has become well known for her felt art pieces and this exhibition marks the sixth installation in her felt shop series. The installation is set to resemble a New York City “upscale deli” with every item—from chocolate to fruit, cheese and fish—all handmade out of felt. All of the items in the fine food shop will also be available for purchase. Off the Wall: Harold Mendez The Raymond and Susan Brochstein Pavilion at Rice University 61 Main Street Houston, TX 77005 September 21 through August 24, 2020 Rice University’s Public Art series “Off The Wall” has commissioned a series of site-specific installations by recent graduates of the Core Residency Program at the Glassell School of Art. Each installation is scheduled to be on view for a year on the south wall of the Raymond and Susan Brochstein Pavilion, a modern structure designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners. The inaugural artist in the series is Harold Mendez, an artist whose work integrates photography and sculpture as a way to explore identity, place, and geography. Mendez received his MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago and has since been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, MoMA, and the Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia, among others. Entre Deux Actes (Ménage à Quatres) 1014 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10028 November 6-8 at 7:00 PM November 9-10 at 5:00 PM Co-commissioned by Performa and 1013 and co-produced with The Kitchen, this collaboration between artist Nairy Baghramian and choreographer Maria Hassabi will be inhabiting a Fifth Avenue townhouse for five nights this November. The building, originally built in 1906, will serve as the stage for an intimate performance that takes cues from the qualities of the domestic environment. The work aims to "probe the interplay of architecture and gender while teasing out fantasies," according to The Kitchen.
San Francisco’s Mission District was a very different place when radio station KQED first began operating within its fortress-like headquarters on the corner of Mariposa and Bryant in 1992. What was once a quiet, working-class neighborhood became one of the most desirable in the city, now distinguished by Michelin star-rated restaurants and multi-million-dollar townhouses. KQED has made drastic changes within the last 27 years as well. “This used to be an organization that created content and broadcast it out,” said John Boland, president of KQED. “Now there’s much more interaction. We think of ourselves as a community convenor as well as a program producer.” In response, KQED recently reimagined how its building might interact with its context with the help of local firm EHDD Architecture, with a renovation that is, essentially, a new building on the same site. Because KQED recently paid off the mortgage of its headquarters, a thorough reconstruction on the same site was determined to be cheaper than relocating. The blank white facades will be replaced by a glassy corner entrance flanked by generously sized office windows to the tune of $91 million. Within the entrance lobby will be an amphitheater-like staircase and a 26-foot-tall media wall, all of which will be accessible to the public. “We want to peel up the facade and invite people in,” said Rebecca Sharkey, a principal at EHDD Architecture. “KQED told us from the start they want to make themselves more visible to the community and open up about what public media does.” The working interior will receive a significant transformation as well, including technical studios updated for the 21st century, a larger newsroom, a skylit atrium on the second floor and a rooftop terrace above the corner entrance which will offer views of the Mission District and beyond. The only elements of the original building that will stay in place are the elevator banks, parking structure and television studio, which will be retrofitted to accommodate public events. “The idea,” Sharkey explained, “is to keep the things that we can while scraping away the rest of what’s there and reconfiguring it.” Construction is planned to start next July, at which point all 425 employees currently working within the headquarters will be relocated in Downtown San Francisco, and is expected to take two years to complete.
One Month of Design
AN rounds up all the must-see events happening this Archtober
Archtober is just days away and AN is here to get you ready by rounding up all the must-see events beginning October 1. Organized by the Center for Architecture, the month-long design celebration is now in its ninth year and there’s so much to see and do. Ample new building projects have popped up throughout New York since last October, which means this is your chance to tour some of the most talked-about spaces in town. Not only that, but there will be plenty of after-work lectures, panels, workshops, films, conferences, and special events you can attend every day. Sales go fast, so purchase tickets to Archtober events today. Here’s our breakdown of 2019's can't-miss activities: Buildings of the Day tours One Vanderbilt Architect: Kohn Pedersen Fox October 3 Building 77 Contemporary Renovations by Marvel Architects and Beyer Blinder Belle October 8 Solar Carve Architect: Studio Gang October 10 Hunters Point Library Architect: Steven Holl Architects October 11 Moxy East Village Architects: Rockwell Group and Stonehill Taylor October 16 Statue of Liberty Museum Architect: FXCollaborative October 23 Bronx Music Hall Architect: WXY Architecture + Urban Design October 24 MoMA Renovation and Expansion Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler October 25 121 East 22nd Street Architect: OMA New York October 29 Lectures + Panels: Building Better Cities with Crowdfunding Organized by: Syracuse Architecture October 1 Cocktails & Conversation: Marlon Blackwell & Billie Tsien Organized by: AIA New York October 4 Shohei Shigematsu & Atelier Bow-Wow on the Past & Future of Tokyo Architecture Organized by: Japan Society October 11 Daniel Libeskind: Edge of Order Organized by: Pratt Institute October 15 NOMA '19 Conference Organized by: nycobaNOMA October 16-20 Breaking Ground: Architecture by Women Organized by: The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, The Cooper Union; Beverly Willis Architectural Foundation; Phaidon October 18 A History of New York in 27 Buildings with Sam Roberts & Alexandra Lange Organized by: Museum of the City of New York October 21 Extra Tours: Architecture and the Lights of Gotham: Nighttime Boat Tour Organized by: AIA New York; Classic Harbor Line Multiple Dates Behind-the-Scenes Hard Hat Tour of the Abandoned Ellis Island Hospital Organized by: Untapped New York October 19 VIP Tour of the Woolworth Building Organized by: Untapped New York October 5 Special Events: Opening of Fringe Cities: Legacies of Renewal in the Small American City Organized by: Center for Architecture October 2 Architecture of Nature / Nature of Architecture Organized by: The Architectural League of New York October 3 World Cities Day Organized by: UN-Habitat October 31
Detroit has always been a design-forward city, a fact made official back in 2015 when they were designated a UNESCO City of Design, the only in the United States. A center of architectural innovation, futuristic automotive design, boulevards meant to rival the Champs-Élysées, and one of the U.S.’s foremost collections of art, the city in recent years has gotten more attention for its bankruptcy, corruption, and mass foreclosures and vacancy. But, as Olga Stella, executive director of Design Core Detroit, a partner organization which “champions design-driven businesses and their role in strengthening Detroit’s economy,” points out, “Detroit is not and never has been just one thing.” Throughout its expansive 139 square miles, many are working to create neighborhoods and a city that works for them. Design doesn’t just happen at the rarefied scale of a Beaux Arts museum, it happens in and by communities who work to create a city they want to live in. These projects are being celebrated at the second iteration of Detroit Design 139 (DD139), a serial exhibition co-organized by the City of Detroit, Design Core Detroit, and developer Bedrock. Members from each organization, as well as nine others, served on the advisory board. The projects were selected by a jury of design notables, both from Detroit and other cities, including New York City Public Design Commission executive director Justin Garrett Moore and Detroit-based equitable development strategist Lauren Hood. With the main showcase at street level in downtown Detroit in a Bedrock-owned building, as well as at three partner locations throughout the city, celebrates 70 projects under five thematic headings that, according to the organizers and jurors, embody DD139’s 2019 theme of "Inclusive Futures". “All of us working on design problems and projects should be holding ourselves to higher standards,” said Melissa Dittmer, Bedrock’s chief design officer, of the ethos of inclusion ostensibly showcased in the exhibition, which features projects built in the last two years or to be built in the next three. The projects were laid out rather blandly like a well-executed science fair or a real-life PDF, with posters along temporary slatted walls and the occasional model or video. Stella said that, historically, “In a city that doesn’t have a lot of capital [the question of] ‘how are we going to pay for it?’ was guiding decisions, not design solutions,” noting that it was a developer-driven process, with Maurice Cox, Detroit’s outgoing planning and development director. (Cox was also on the advisory committee of DD139.) Dittmer says there was a need for new building to begin “prioritizing the process as much as the outcomes,” something many of the projects exhibited; for example a cafe-laundromat combo, The Commons, designed by the local firm LAAVU in a process which founder and chief design officer Kaija E. Wuollet explains, began by collectively creating a strategic plan to inform the design, building, and operations. The choice in amenities was guided by neighbor requests and they act as not only a space in their own right, but a revenue stream for the non-profit MACC Development, which provides literacy programs, coworking space, artistic opportunities, and other community resources right within the building. This was a recurring theme: neighborhood-focused and neighborhood-led design solutions are a strength of Detroit now and could be what shapes the city's future. But, another recurring theme that the MACC project implies is that due to a dearth of government support, many private organizations have had to pick up the slack. That said, some public programs were featured in the exhibition, perhaps among the most noteworthy for designers, the Michigan ArcPrep program, a public school architecture initiative led by the University of Michigan's Taubman College. Even restaurants were in the exhibition. In community engagement workshops, residents in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood expressed a desire for more places to eat and more Black-owned businesses. With the help of a Motor City Match grant, Norma G’s was opened by Lester Gouvia. Kaitlynn Hill, one of the project’s architects from Hamilton Anderson Associates, said she saw this as “a community-based project,” as much as a commercial enterprise. Other Detroit mainstays made the cut for the exhibition. The legendary Pewabic Pottery, whose distinctive glazed tiles that adorn high-rise facades and fireplaces alike are still made in small batches in Detroit, had recently undergone an expansion with the help of inFORM Studio. While the expansion added more workspace, it also helped Pewabic—which is organized as a non-profit—further advance their public mission. Like the original 1903 structure, this new building is close to the residential street. In addition to a shop, museum, and classroom space, there is also an open courtyard with a large mural that hosts events or allows passersby to come in and chill for a bit. In addition, Pewabic goes into communities with portable kilns, keeping design heritage alive and inviting others to participate in it. Many cultural projects were featured, including a skatepark-slash-sculpture park and public mural initiatives. One particularly intriguing project highlighted was the Detroit Historical Society’s Detroit 67, which investigated the legacy of Detroit’s 1967 rebellion in a “community engagement” project by collecting oral histories, producing an exhibition, and providing grants to “placemaking” projects. Some of the projects include an LGBT-focused community garden, an outdoor theater space focused on the Black, Latinx, and Arab communities of Detroit, and a memorial to those who lost their lives around the time of the uprising. There were a number of environmentally-focused projects, both grassroots and large scale, a balance and comparison that was interesting to see. Some included academic research on stormwater management interventions, the Zero Net Energy Center, rain gardens, and an upcycled windmill. Projects with international design pedigree also appeared: David Adjaye and New York’s Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates have designed a pavilion and other structures for the Ralph C. Wilson Centennial Park, which, when it’s open, will be part of a network of riverside parks and greenways in an area that was once home to abandoned manufacturing plants. The park is currently overseen by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. However, on a tour through the Dequindre Cut, a rail-trail connected to the riverfront, on a Sunday when it was clearly being enjoyed by many, it was mentioned by an employee of the Conservancy that many houseless people formerly lived on the trail. In fact, this was mentioned many places, but inquiries made into where those people went and whether these “inclusive” projects accounted for housing access for those they were displacing remained mostly unanswered. While houselessness is declining in Detroit and new projects like the short-term housing Pope Francis Center (not exhibited) are on their way to reality, police have also been known to sweep away the belongings of the houseless, even in the dead of winter. If this park is for everyone, what about those who called it home? In this second iteration of DD139, the choice was made to include projects from other UNESCO Cities of Design, like Saint-Étienne, France, and Montreal, which are using design to address many of the same challenges faced in Detroit. The organizers hope that this can help create a dialogue and show the fact that Detroit, though a unique situation, is not alone, and that everything from new elder caregiving studies in Singapore to canal projects in Mexico City could help Detroit think through its own unique challenges. However, how every project fit in seemed unclear. A project, the Ruth Ellis Clairmount Center, to help give homes and resources such as jobs and healthcare to houseless youth and those at risk of houselessness, especially LGBTQ+ kids who make up as much as 40% of this country’s houseless population, are undeniably necessary, ameliorative projects. However, on the poster for a banal mixed-use and mixed-income housing development the description of why the project is inclusive reads: “The project has gone through extensive design iterations, city vetting, and community engagement processes to ensure it captures neighborhood feedback. Meetings around the community were offered in both English and Spanish, with translators and/or translation equipment at every meeting, making it as accessible as possible for community members.” Is this not the bare minimum we should expect? Pair that with the bare minimum in architectural quick-build tastelessness by the Philadelphia firm SITIO and one has to wonder what sort of definition of “design” is at play here. Some projects are more design-y than others. Pewabic Pottery, the Symbiotic Landscape watershed restoration, a digital mapping project that proposes using architectural and urban interventions to fight Detroit’s “digital divide”—these all make design part-and-parcel of their mission, and they're realizing that mission. An entrepreneurship incubator or a bakery in a mixed-use development, Core City, which some Detroiters I spoke with expressed distrust of, might be interesting, or at least tasty, but is it necessarily a “design” solution? Is a building in and of itself using design to address these so-called civic challenges, let alone being inclusive by and through design? This vagueness of mission and indeterminate take on the role of design in some projects points out a bigger issue. The project’s main sponsor and proponent, one of the three partner organizers, Bedrock, has undeniably reshaped downtown Detroit, perhaps in ways, some residents might see as for the better. From the design-forward Shinola Hotel to the forthcoming first foray by the fast-fashion retailer H&M to the revamp of the 475-foot-tall Book Tower, a magnificent and delirious example of early 20th-century architecture that has sat unoccupied for a decade, downtown Detroit is increasingly lively (and increasingly expensive). And, fitting with the exhibition's theme, “Creating unique, inclusive experiences through real estate is Bedrock’s mission,” claims a Bedrock press release. Yet, as the Detroit Free Press has recently revealed, Bedrock has gotten huge swaths of downtown property at little cost, with many incentives and tax breaks, and with an unheard of lack of financial oversight. Also, Bedrock has leveraged their power to strong-arm Michigan’s OSHA into looking away from their safety violations while “lecturing” inspectors on how to do their jobs. Is creating buildings without protecting working people inclusive? In addition, while Bedrock has been touting their successful bid to redevelop the site of the so-called “fail jail,” turning this long-vacant lot into usable space, this deal was negotiated with Wayne County by allowing Rock Ventures, another Dan Gilbert organization and Bedrock’s parent company, to construct that county’s jail, presumably without sullying Bedrock’s name. How can one claim to not only celebrate inclusive design but create "inclusive experiences," while supporting the creation of one of the United States’ most powerful and inarguably racist tools of social and mortal death? Perhaps the theme, "Inclusive Futures", says it all: a virtuous-sounding word like “inclusive” can itself often be so inclusive as to be virtually meaningless, a rhetorical throwaway. Because what is “inclusion”—and what “inclusive futures” are possible—without equity, without reparations, without an effort to shift the balance of political and economic power? While many grassroots projects and even larger scale ones featured in DD139 are compelling, worthy, and deserve the spotlight, with the ongoing efforts of the exhibition’s primary sponsor Bedrock to stymy state oversight, build jails, and get land cheaply, you wind up not only with misplaced good intentions—you get design washing. DD139 is on view in Detroit through September 30th. You can read more about the projects here.
Last week, Foster + Partners and the nonprofit Cleveland Clinic announced their new design for the Luye Lilan Hospital on Shanghai’s New Hong Qiao International Medical Center (IMC) campus. The design promises to challenge the “traditional hospital model” in order to provide patient-centric healthcare that ultimately will help “improve recovery times”, according to a September 19 press release. Ben Scott, a partner at Foster + Partners, said that, “The Shanghai Luye Lilan Hospital offers an opportunity to create a new world-leading blueprint for healthcare in the future, integrating the latest technology and patient-centric care in a flexible facility that is immersed in nature.” Indeed, the first rendering released shows a glossy, tiered X-shaped structure surrounded by lush greenery both on the roof of the building and cascading down the terraces and into the surrounding context. The rich landscaping is informed by the “wealth of evidence” that points to the fact that access to green views and ample natural light both improves recovery times and provides a more pleasant workplace experience for medical professionals and staff. The low verticality of the design was intended by Foster + Partners to establish a more intimate and domestic space that helps patients feel more at home in their surroundings and less mentally burdened by the medical environment. Another feature that stands out in the rendering is a full-height open atrium which the firm expects to make wayfinding more intuitive, reduce travel time for patients and staff, and maximalize interconnectivity between all groups of people involved in the hospital. The architects hope that the building’s form will lead to modular planning, and an increased flexibility in the programming of spaces as the integration of new technologies becomes inevitable. Aside from being flexible in its programming, the building’s design aims to promote collaboration between the separate departments as well, by integrating social spaces for meetings and research for the staff instead of keeping them segregated. The hospital will house world-leading specialists in fields such as cardiology, urology, digestive disease, and oncology.
The Sprawling Starfish
Beijing opens its gargantuan new airport by Zaha Hadid
It’s official: Zaha Hadid Architects' massive design for the new Beijing Daxing International Airport (PKX) is open to the public and expected to see up to 45 million passengers a year, with hopes of accommodating 72 million by 2025. Envisioned by the late Hadid herself, the sprawling “starfish” structure is now considered the largest terminal building in the world at 7.5 million square feet. It was built in less than five years in an effort to relieve air traffic from the nearby Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK), a 2008 design by Foster + Partners. Located at the opposite end of China’s capital to the south, PKX sits on the outskirts of the Daxing District. Earlier today at 4:23 p.m. in China, the first commercial flight took off from the airport and headed to Guangzhou. Six other domestic flights departed from the four runways on site before 5 p.m. Over the coming weeks and months, several flight routes will be transitioned from PEK to PKX while some airlines, like British Airways, will move their entire Chinese operations to Daxing. In total, the airport is currently slated to handle 630,000 flights annually. AN previously reported on the terminal’s sweeping interiors and its many signature-Zaha design moments. From the curved white walls and ceilings to the slick, polished floors, the airport is arguably one of the most visually complex in the world. It features radial skylights that extend out from the center of the structure down the length of its legs. A copper-colored skin clads the airport’s roofs and from above, it truly looks alien. From the inside, it takes on almost a new-age modernist tone. The airport's grand opening comes just days before the 70-year anniversary since the founding of the People’s Republic of China.