If fully constructed, NEOM could be the next Dubai, but with far more advanced technologies and an urban ecosystem built from scratch that would rival every major metropolis in the world, at least according to MBS. But the truth is that NEOM might not be fully realized due to the reported corruption that exists within the Saudi government. Right now, many countries are hesitant to do business there because of it. Even architects and major leaders in the field who previously committed to and served on NEOM's advisory board are flat-out refusing to work with the country anymore. Located on the very edge of Saudi Arabia where the Red Sea meets Egypt, Israel, and Jordan, NEOM features a masterplan that’s rather inconceivable and extremely expensive, but construction is already underway and an airport has already been built. Here are some of the consultants’ big ideas: flying taxis to take residents to work, robot maids to clean peoples' homes, beaches with glow-in-the-dark sand, cloud seeding to bring rain to the hot desert, a hologram faculty teaching at leading local schools, a robot dinosaur island that serves as a tourist attraction, and state-of-the-art medical facilities where scientists will work to “modify the human genome to make people stronger.” Last but not least, MBS wants to build an artificial moon that would light up the city at night. While that could be accomplished with drones, one of the more nefarious ideas proposed by MBS himself is the constant surveillance of NEOM's citizens through facial recognition technology and a legal system operating outside the bounds of Saudi Arabia's courts. Regardless of whether it gets built, it’s interesting to note that the proposal for NEOM was dreamt up by a team of U.S.-based consulting and management firms. The WSJ discovered that Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Company, as well as Oliver Wyman, were working on the project. Their recommendations go beyond urban planning and include a slew of economic incentives and legal systems that NEOM could utilize to both lure residents and keep them there. In addition, the expert advisory group also provides plans to relocate the over 20,000 people that already inhabit the region. How and when these out-of-this-world ideas will come to fruition is unclear, but we do know that the Crown Prince wants things to move quickly. NEOM's first phase of development is expected to be completed by 2025, but it remains to be seen whether there will be any flying cars.
There are 16 economic sectors identified to be the key drivers for #NEOM’s future economy. As #NEOM reaches an advanced stage of development, these sectors are expected to generate an estimated annual income of $100 billion. pic.twitter.com/j2Jqj9eNys— NEOM (@NEOM) October 25, 2018
Who says the post–Guggenheim Bilbao era of bombastic, sculptural buildings is over? The spirit of the ’00s lives on in the results of twin competitions for a pair of large cultural buildings in Xingtai, a city of more than one million people in northern China. Coop Himmelb(l)au's winning design for the Xingtai Science and Technology Museum resembles a daring cantilevered sandwich, while Snøhetta went with a somewhat more subdued design for the Xingtai Grand Theatre. The news was announced last week by the China Building Centre (CBC), the group that organized the competition. Himmelb(l)au’s design includes a lot of the firm’s signature moves—a soaring cantilevered roof, undulating surfaces, rippling skins, and colliding geometries—but the scheme bears more than a passing resemblance to other layered rectangular buildings that band a public landscape in between two thickened slabs. The Xingtai renderings call to mind Mecanoo’s recently completed National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts and OMA’s never-built Agadir Convention Center. It looks like this sandwich will have more of a filling than the Mecanoo building, though—Himmelb(l)au’s renderings show the middle as lush, rolling parkland. Snøhetta’s design goes for fewer formal gymnastics than Himmelb(l)au’s but still features a bit of flash. Its main component appears to be a long curved plaza that turns into a ramp that follows the twist of a shimmering facade behind which a soaring atrium awaits visitors. The organizers have not yet announced a timeline for construction.
Have you heard of NEOM? The futuristic city-state rising on the northwestern corner of Saudi Arabia? The Wall Street Journal recently uncovered more details on the $500 billion desert destination that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) wants to create. The ambitious project, which aims to transform 10,000 square miles of desert into “the world’s most liveable city,” hasn't been a total secret. MBS has been promoting it since 2017. But the WSJ’s findings on what NEOM would truly consist of, based on a review of 2,300 pages of documents on the plans, offers the best glimpse inside it. We’re talking about a place of extreme automation, surveillance, and wealth meant to attract large Western companies, help diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy, and decrease its financial reliance on oil.
Gluckman Tang has converted Walter De Maria’s former home and studio, a 1920s-era Con Ed substation on Manhattan’s East 6th Street, into a second location for the Brant Foundation. The renovation of the Colonial Revival structure, which is fronted by amber-colored brick, casement windows, and a limestone base, included the restoration of historic details as well as the sensitive insertion of contemporary infrastructure. The most dramatic of these interventions brings an aquatic touch to the building: To provide additional daylighting for gallery spaces, the design called for the grafting of a 120-square-foot skylight, which doubles as a reflecting pool on the building’s fourth-floor terrace. At first glance, the skylight might appear to be glass—the design team’s initial choice—but research done in collaboration with structural engineers from Silman showed that the material would require secondary structural support that would partially obscure the opening. According to Gluckman Tang project manager Edowa Shimizu, “It was determined that acrylic, a material often used for aquariums, had the structural characteristics necessary to support the weight of the reflecting pool without any visible secondary structure.” The design team placed the skylight within an existing girder bay, maximizing its size while avoiding the need to introduce significant loadbearing elements. For the production of the 12-foot-4-inch by 13-foot-8-inch acrylic tray, the design team turned to custom aquarium design firm Okeanos Aquascaping. On its own, the 4-inch-thick tray weighs 21/2 tons, and that figure doubles when the vessel is filled with 600 gallons of water. As could be assumed, placing a 5-ton pool of water above an art gallery in a century-old building required an intricate mesh of waterproofing details. The tray was craned into place on top of a concrete curb matted with a 3/4-inch-thick neoprene pad that allows for a 5/8-inch thermal expansion in any direction. Prior to the installation of the neoprene, the concrete was covered with a liquid-applied waterproofing membrane produced by Kemper System. The tray is bounded by a powder-coated steel frame, which is in turn held in place by a series of adjustable tightening bolts. From the interior, the skylight is visible through a rectangular opening paneled with lightly colored wood. The opening is outfitted with a motorized solar shade as well as an edge-lit acrylic light fixture developed by Flux Studio.
The Princeton University Art Museum has acquired nearly 5,000 drawings from the estate of renowned American architect Michael Graves. A massive player in the postmodern movement, Graves famously wrote, “Architecture cannot divorce itself from drawing, no matter how impressive the technology gets. Drawings are not just end products: they are part of the thought process of architectural design. Drawings express the interaction of our minds, eyes, and hands.” The university gift from the estate is emblematic of his interest in and mastery of draftsmanship, including all types of media from ink and pencil to watercolor washes. Graves began his career at Princeton in 1964, embarking on a nearly 40-year teaching career that led to his becoming a member of the New York Five—his early work was marked by the modernist style of anti-historicist theory and white, geometric form. Graves was witness to the "countercultural" architecture style that emerged as modernism became more and more criticized for its blandness, a movement that encouraged historical reference, color and heft. Graves went on to design the poster child of the postmodern, the Portland Building, in 1982. The donated drawings by Graves include pieces in all three categories he identified as part of the design process: the “referential sketch,” the “preparatory study” and the “definitive drawing.” In the wake of technology overtaking the architectural drafting process—when programs like AutoCAD, Revit, and Rhino became ubiquitous—Graves continuously argued for the importance of the sketch as a building block for brainstorming, process and concept connection between mind, and hand. Graves’ drawings aren’t only of buildings or for architect’s, though. As a member of the Memphis Group, he designed products and furniture still renowned today, like the Alessi “whistling bird” kettle, that were conceived on paper. His designs, unlike many of his contemporaries, maintained an affordable price tag. When he collaborated with retail giant Target, the tagline associated with his household products became “good design should be affordable to all.” For new generations of art, design and architecture students at Princeton, access to these drawings by a modern master will be invaluable. The drawings are expected to be a great tool for faculty at the university, making the museum even more of a relevant venue for students to observe and research this not-so lost art in the profession. The museum is also free and open to the public, allowing for greater access to the body of work beyond its previous home in the Graves estate, or even just the student population. The Princeton University Art Museum has a rich history, collecting art objects since 1755, and Princeton is one of the oldest collecting institutions in the country. Graves' nearly half-century connection with the university and its arts institutions makes the gift a fitting one, allowing the drawings to energize students and scholars for years to come.
For the Origen Festival in Riom, Switzerland students in the Masters of Advanced Studies in Architecture and Digital Fabrication program at ETH Zurich, guided by researcher Ana Anton, 3D printed nine unique, computationally-designed columns with a new layered extrusion printing process developed at the university over the past year and a half. ETH students and researchers created nine unique, 9-foot-tall concrete columns that came together as an installation titled Concrete Choreography. The arrangement of undulating columns served as an environment for dance performances. “The columns create the stage and set for the artists to dance in between, in front, around, to hide, climb and interact in many ways with this unique, monolithic architecture,” explained Anton. “Each column has its own particular expressivity and dynamics, just like the dancers.” The students used an automated, formwork-less process, called Concrete Extrusion 3D Printing (CE3DP), a printing method that continuously deposits and extrudes concrete in .2-inch-thick layers to create complex geometries. Anton has been experimenting with the process for a year and a half, as part of an interdisciplinary collaboration between ETH's Digital Building Technologies and the chair of Physical Chemistry of Building Materials. Anton says that for the column’s nine unique forms, “students worked towards finding unique designs suitable to this fabrication method, meaning more fluid geometries locally detailed using material-driven ornament,” going on to say that the geometries they worked with are only possible because of the high-resolution printing of CE3DP. ETH’s Digital Building Technologies lab claims this method comes “with the advantage of precise, digitized shape customization [that is] ideal for the creation of freeform shapes that would be impossible to produce with any other technology on the market.” CE3DP also has the added advantage of being fast; the columns each took just 1.5-to–2.5 hours to create. According to Anton, “The forest of columns should work both as performance space but also as an outdoor installation which invites visitors to explore the garden before and after the dance.”
Imagine arriving at the Sheep Meadow in Central Park intending to lie on a blanket in the warm afternoon sun, as you have done many times before, only to find that there is no sunshine anymore. It has been blocked by a new tower just to the west more than twice the height of any building around it, including the 55-story Time Warner Center several blocks away. You look around and notice that more than half of the 15-acre lawn where you used to bask in sunlight is now in shadow. The greatest urban park in this country is directly threatened by those who see it only from a distance. Just as Capability Brown cleared long vistas in front of grand estates, new Excessively Tall buildings turn Central Park into a landscape framed from above. As a result of these new giants, in a few years Central Park may well be unrecognizable and barren—like much of our environment, dying off and becoming extinct. Our built environment, one that we architects designed, will have mortally damaged an Olmsted and Vaux masterpiece. The irony is that the new Excessively Talls (ETs), jacked up on stilts or interspersed with large and repetitive mechanical voids to increase their height over adjacent buildings and secure desirable park views, may ultimately lose their picturesque vistas. These multimillion-dollar investments may be responsible for the measured obliteration of New York City’s world-renowned park. Developers whose new, faster construction methods have accelerated the emergence of a building type catering to the superrich have now launched insidious advertising campaigns showing off the “new” New York: a thicket of gleaming skinny towers. None of these projects have affordable units. Their ads boast park and river views from altitudes of 600 feet and higher (not all ETs are Supertalls, defined by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat as towers measuring over 984 feet high). But the parks they showcase, Central Park first among them, will continue to exist in name only. No bucolic pasture will remain in the Sheep Meadow, the carousel will be too cold to enjoy, the ball fields unplayable (grass dies in the dark), Wollman Rink gloomy and windy, Tavern on the Green in shadow all afternoon. The New York City Marathon’s slowest runners will be greeted at the finish line not by waning sunlight but by a giant shadow, courtesy of the latest addition to the Upper West Side, a forthcoming tower designed by Snøhetta on West 66th Street, less than 600 feet from the park. The new ETs—many completed along 57th Street, now aptly nicknamed Billionaire’s Row—are also beginning to touch down wherever there is a view for sale and zoning doesn’t limit height, such as the remaining landing strip of underdeveloped properties between First and Second avenues with potential views of the East River and Long Island, and, most recently, on axis with St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where Gensler has designed a tower. Has anyone considered that natural light would no longer stream through the church’s stained glass? Whatever happened to protecting our heritage and neighborhoods with sensible planning and human-scale development? ETs are catastrophic energy hogs, far worse than typical urban residential construction. Exaggerated floor-to-floor heights and full-floor apartments create a worst-case scenario for energy efficiency. Superskinny towers also have far more structural steel and concrete than is required to bear gravity loads because of the need to resist outsize wind loads. Local infrastructure (water, sewage, and power) is compromised, or service cut, because of the time needed to pump and discharge water and waste. And consider life-safety issues—how long will these buildings take to evacuate in an emergency, factoring in the time it takes to navigate multiple elevator banks, to rescue people in distress? But the impact of ETs spreads far beyond their physical footprints, especially when they appear in numbers. Sophisticated software can conduct shadow studies on the cumulative effect of more than one ET on a city block. The East Side will soon have two towers between 62nd and 63rd streets, one fronting 2nd Avenue and the other on 3rd. Surrounding apartments left in their shadows will need artificial light all of the time, increasing demand on the power grid and our dependence on fossil fuels. And then there is the wind. While data retrieved from the study of a single ET may show that it has no negative effect, the cumulative wind tunnel effect produced by multiple ETs will quite possibly create impassable and turbulent streets, with vicious downdrafts caused by the Bernoulli effect (increased turbulence, or downdraft, as the wind hits a large facade). The developers of these projects and some of our elected officials, unfortunately for us, have ignored the neighborhood residents affected. The public review process has become virtually nonexistent. Gone are community reviews, special permits, and even cursory notification to neighbors. The only way to find out how big these buildings are is by exhausting a Department of Buildings zoning challenge, then moving on to the Board of Standards and Appeals (Article 78), and finally, issuing an injunction. By then, the as-of-right ET will likely have entered construction, or worse, be built. All is not bleak, as there are new regulations limiting the use of glass on tall buildings, thanks in part to the monitoring efforts of the Audubon Society, which has reported that millions of birds fly into such buildings every year because they can’t recognize a mirrored image. That may help. Not since Central Park was practically devastated by neglect during the Beame administration in the mid-1970s has it been so direly threatened, but this time the danger is from without, not within. ETs and other out-of-scale development also place community and public gardens, pocket parks, and playgrounds at risk. It’s time for New Yorkers to rise up and insist on new restrictions to stop the indiscriminate abuse of light and air that could suffocate the city’s parks and their adjacent neighborhoods. To be sure, our skyline is rapidly changing, and there will be consequences, but the potential for irreversible damage demands a moratorium. To insist on more insightful planning is not “NIMBYism”—it is the professionals taking charge. Page Cowley is founder of the New York architecture practice that bears her name and serves as chair of Landmark West!, a New York preservation nonprofit, as well as cochair of the Manhattan Community Board 7 Land Use Committee. Peter Samton was managing and design partner of the New York architecture firm of Gruzen Samton, aka IBI/Gruzen Samton, and is a past president of the New York Chapter of the AIA. He now serves on Manhattan Community Board 7 Land Use and Preservation Committees. Daniel Samton practices architecture as Samtondesign in Harlem, has worked at KPF and Gruzen Samton, specializes in sustainability, and is a certified passive house designer.
The Venice Variations: Tracing the Architectural Imagination Sophia Psarra UCL Press List price: $45.00 Sophia Psarra’s The Venice Variations fulfills a dreamy mission of aggrandizing the titular city’s history and beauty while recognizing its fragility and potential demise because of climate change and overcrowding from tourists and their marine vehicles. The beautifully designed book sets up the over-thousand-year-old city as paradigmatic but atypical. Social and physical analyses add to a discussion of its awesome historical architectural development and two contemporary works that the city inspired, Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities (1972) and Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital (1964). These projects exhibit an intensity of imagination commensurate with Venice’s idiosyncratic character. Psarra’s book points to the city’s republican governance, worldwide trading patterns, and physiognomy, especially its islands, as evidence of its fundamentally deindustrial nature, positioning its regeneration as an example worth following. Of course, Venice’s architectural importance has always been obvious: Books on Vitruvius were printed there, and Palladio’s thinking and buildings take central stage in its heritage of interwoven islands and structures. The irregularity of the city’s urban fabric introduces variability within an organic whole. Psarra deals very carefully with the history of Piazza San Marco and its central position in civic and religious interpretations of the city. Its architects, Sansovino, Longhena, and Palladio, orchestrated their contributions to this special communal space to create specific views for the public to experience. The piazza accommodated many Venetian citizens and their commercial interests, as well as cultural rites—the author titles this chapter “Statecraft,” but the square welcomed stagecraft, too. Religious processions led by clergy and the Doge marked many occasions. Illustrations of the piazza and its surroundings by the author abound; these educational aids are present to a fault. Italo Calvino makes his Invisible Cities mysteriously visible in print, a feat of vivid invention. This is a novel where plot is overtaken by expansive, thought-provoking fabrications. The merchant Marco Polo describes 55 cities as fantastical constructions to Kublai Khan, who rejoices in his empire. Our two protagonists, Khan and Polo, differ greatly: The former seeks order in his possessions, while Polo “seeks not-yet-seen adventures.” Invisible Cities attracted postmodern architects with its playfulness. The book juxtaposes images of lightness and coherence with images of entropy—disorder and ruin are the fascinations of our two protagonists. Although Polo refuses to discuss Venice, he provokes thoughts of it intermittently, and the city haunts the book. There is a play of numbers showing Calvino’s attachment to the Oulipo group of mathematicians, and he includes Polo’s descriptions and his and Khan’s dialogues and the number of combinatorial rules. Psarra shows some brilliance in this interpretation of mathematical patterns that few, including this author, fully comprehend. Though not an expert in mathematics, Psarra certainly seems to manage these complex concepts in the book. While architecture demands knowledge of mathematics, I wonder if there are architects who might appreciate the math of Invisible Cities as conveyed in The Venice Variations. As the last project Psarra visits, Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital leaves a heavy imprint on the mind. Unlike the architect’s typically isolated buildings, Venice Hospital is meant to fit in with existing neighboring structures. Le Corbusier’s imagery is pertinent for understanding that of contemporary Venice. If Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore lies at the front of the city, the hospital would have marked its back door. The completed project would have been as radical as the first modern designs of the avant-garde—especially in its entrance from beneath, which recalls the Villa Savoye and the later National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo. Psarra also explores the hospital’s affinity with mat buildings as described by Alison Smithson. In fact, Venice Hospital’s place in the realm of architectural history lies in the province of Team Ten, with a neat precedent in Shadrach Woods’s Berlin Free University. The project engaged Le Corbusier’s attention for over nine years; after the master’s sudden death, Guillermo Jullian de la Fuente continued the work. Psarra tells the tale well: how the horizontal layout of the design sets up pivoting squares and nurse stations on the first floor and how the aggregation of cells flows horizontally to merge with the city. As in other signature buildings, Le Corbusier develops a system of squares and golden-section rectangles, which gives geometric logic to the spaces.
For the past two decades, Austin has emerged as a tech industry hub. Giving the well-entrenched Silicon Valley a run for its money, the so-called "Silicon Hills" region has consistently drawn in a slew of upstarts and established companies like IBM, Google, Amazon, Apple, and Intel, seeking out new outposts. Setting up shop in the Texas Hill Country, just west of Austin, these blue-chip giants have taken advantage of the city’s progressive and creative position. This mutual evolution has helped make this state capital one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. Joining the party is governance software solutions brand SailPoint. The rapidly-expanding company called on the Austin branch of major architecture firm Perkins + Will to outfit its new 65,000 square foot, four-floor office with an apt, yet subtle, nautical aesthetic. Read the full story on our interiors and design site, aninteriormag.com.
Eight out of the 42 venues slated to host next summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo will be brand new. All were designed by Japanese architects, and it’s one of the rare times that the biennial sporting event isn’t banking on the brand recognition of a foreign-born design team for one of its main buildings. In fact, most of the architecture is old; 25 venues are already existing thanks to Japan’s plans to repurpose a number of the buildings constructed for the 1964 Summer Olympics, the last time Tokyo hosted the Games. Though Kengo Kuma’s timber-clad Olympic Stadium will be at the center of the sprawling citywide sporting campus, the other slew of structures—most of them inspired by Japanese tradition—will also put Tokyo’s architecture on the world’s stage. Take a look at some of the buildings that are coming up for 2020, as well as the ones that will return to the spotlight: Olympic Stadium Architect: Kengo Kuma Capacity: 68,000 Sport: Opening/Closing Ceremonies, soccer, track and field After almost of decade of controversy over the design of the Olympic Stadium, Kengo Kuma’s vision is nearly complete. An all wood-and-steel structure, it broke ground in December 2016 on the site of the former National Stadium which was demolished the year prior. Kuma’s design was criticized upon release, many citing its similarity to Zaha Hadid’s defunct proposal for the project, which she won in 2012. Hadid’s proposal proved too costly, so the Japanese government decided to rebid the site in late 2015, asking designers to partner with local contractors who could estimate costs and timing. Kuma won in a partnership with several major groups including the Taisei Corporation and Toyo Ito. Olympic Aquatics Center Architect: Yamashita Sekkei and Cox Architecture Capacity: 15,000 Sport: Swimming, diving, synchronized swimming Scheduled for completion in February, the Aquatics Center features a distinct and thin roof supported by four bare pillars that rise from the ground level. Its four angular all-glass facades appear to have a rib-like pattern going from end to end, drawing the eye upward to focus on the trapezoidal-shaped platform atop it. The entire 828,800-square-foot arena, located in the North Tokyo Bay, is raised on a podium and is expected to weigh 7,000 tons. Ariake Arena Architect: Kume Sekkei Capacity: 12,000 Sport: Indoor Volleyball Volleyball made its Olympic debut in 1964, coincidentally the last time Tokyo hosted the Summer Games, and the future Ariake Arena was a major part of the city’s 2020 bid. Situated in a northwest corner of Tokyo Bay next to the Ariake Tennis Park, the almost-complete project features a convex roof design that’s unlike any other venue in the athletic event. Resembling an inverted crest wave, the silver-structure boasts incredible views of the bay outside its front door. Olympic Village Architect: Unknown Capacity: 17,000 athletes Tokyo’s Olympic Village will be located on the Harumi Pier, which is at the physical center of the Heritage and Tokyo Bay venue zones—the two areas where the venues have been allocated for Tokyo 2020. Spread out over 33 acres, the village will contain 22 buildings ranging from 14 to 22 stories, as well as two 50-story residential towers. It’s another controversial project: locals are concerned about the site’s functionality after the Olympics are over. Plans call for some 5,650 apartments to be built in the next five years, which has the real estate market worried. Branded as the Harumi Flag community, the development will include commercial space, parks, and a school on the pier as well. More interestingly, it’s supposed to be the largest hydrogen-powered development in the world. Ariake Gymnastics Center Architect: Nikken Sekkei Capacity: 12,000 Sport: Gymnastics Located in Tokyo’s Koto Ward just steps away from the Olympic Village, the Ariake Gymnastics Center will feature more wood than any other venue in its bowl-shaped design. Construction is set to finish in October on the one-million-square-foot, low-lying structure which, according to the Japan Times, includes slanted walls as a nod to the engawa verandas found on traditional Japanese homes. The central element of the architecture is a massive, 394-foot-long-by-295-foot-wide wood roof that arches over the building’s core. The exterior includes a series of crisscrossed wooden poles that stretch from the overhang of the roof to the plaza below. Here's a rundown of the older venues that will host an event for Tokyo 2020: Yoyogi National Stadium Architect: Kenzo Tange Capacity: 13,000 Sport: handball Built: 1964 Known for: Its parabolic roof design and for inspiring Frei Otto’s design for the Olympic Stadium in Munich. Nippon Budokan Architect: Mamoru Tamada Capacity: 41,000 Sport: Judo Built: 1964 Known for: Its octagonal shape and pointed roof that references Mt. Fuji., as well as a concrete lower half that looks like a Brutalist version of a traditional Japanese temple. Sapporo Dome Architect: Hiroshi Hara Capacity: 41,000 Sport: Soccer Built: 2001, for the 2002 FIFA World Cup Known for: Its metallic exterior and futuristic form, as well as for boasting the first retractable pitch in the world. Tatsumi International Swimming Centre Architect: Environment Design Institute Capacity: 3,600 Sport: Water polo Built: 1993 Known for: Its space frame roof and all-white exterior cladding, that folds over the glass and concrete building to create curved frames for views. Tokyo Big Sight Architect: AXS Satow Size: 1.1 million square feet Sport: Planned to host wrestling, fencing, and taekwondo, but will now be the main media center Built: 1996 Known for: Its four inverted pyramids clad in titanium that together house a convention center. Izu Velodrome Architect: Gensler and Schurmann Architects Capacity: 1,800; 4,300 with temporary seating Sport: Track Cycling Built: 2011 Known for: The silver drum-shaped building holds the first 250-meter-long indoor track made of timber in Japan.
Over ten days this past spring, a privately funded group named We Build the Wall hurriedly constructed a segment of the proposed United States–Mexico border wall in Sunland Park, New Mexico. The rapid erection of this so-called “gift to America” shocked nearby communities and the project served as a startling proof of concept for emerging wall construction technologies. Developed under the auspices of the Trump administration’s border wall request for proposals, these are the products of a technological arms race to improve the speed and efficiency in which national security infrastructure can be delivered. The segment is the first product of what will surely become a growing list of building technologies developed as part of the xenophobic border wall project. These technologies will shape project delivery expectations, methods, and outcomes in the borderland and beyond as the building industry and the built environment inherit securocratic technologies developed in the shadow of the wall. As construction companies attempt to curry favor with the administration, there has been an uptick in patent filings for construction systems and project delivery methods explicitly tied to border wall construction. In 2018 alone, there were three such patents filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), including designs for a border wall built of shipping containers, a “power-generating border wall,” and a “multifunctional solar-powered barrier wall,” which included financing instruments its inventors argued would allow the wall to pay for itself. Fisher Sand & Gravel, the North Dakota company responsible for the construction of the wall in Sunland Park, holds a patent (through its subsidiary, General Steel & Supply Company) for a proprietary “concrete forming system” designed to expedite border wall construction. Claiming the technique would allow completion of the entire border wall within six years and under budget, Fisher was one of six companies picked to build a wall prototype in Otay Mesa, California, after the Trump administration’s RFP for border barriers in 2017. Fisher’s concrete-forming patent describes a novel process which capitalizes on modified construction equipment to rapidly form and cure extensive, continuous, cast-in-place concrete panels. At the core of the proposal are modified excavators adapted to traverse mountainous terrain equipped with “quick connect” arm couplers capable of positioning massive steel formwork. The excavators and steel forms, per the patent’s argument, eliminate the need for numerous, labor-intensive ties and bracing that more typical concrete construction would require, while also eliminating the transportation costs and potential breakage associated with positioning individual precast panels. The steel formwork can be rotated on three axes, controlling for pitch, yaw, and roll, allowing endless adjustments in “attitude, position, and/or orientation," in rugged borderland terrain. The flexible system allows operators to control the wall section of the barrier, facilitating wall designs of equal thickness, tapered “triangular-shaped” walls, or “any other orientation or configuration." Patent drawings show a veritable army of excavators choreographed to position alternating sections of steel formwork with military discipline. As the wall is poured, the edges of completed freestanding sections are incorporated as formwork for infill panels, allowing a nonstop rhythm of pouring and curing along the line. In a self-assured video extolling the virtues of its method, Fisher boasts that its wall, covering the entirety of the land border with Mexico, will protect the U.S. for 150 years to come. A Customs and Border Protection (CBP) test team evaluated the construction of Fisher’s prototype in Otay Mesa and noted that—along with all concrete prototypes—the proposal would face “extensive” challenges in construction. Its concrete design having failed to procure the elusive border-wall contract, Fisher incorporated much of the same proprietary technology and delivery protocols into a modified steel design. Videos online show Fisher’s technique for construction of a steel bollard fence using a similar process to the one outlined in the concrete-forming patent. Workers first prepare a trench and position a fleet of modified excavators around the site. Instead of positioning metal formwork, the vehicles are outfitted with a custom trussed hanger spanning 56 feet on which workers hang prefabricated sections of bollard fence. The vehicles then position the long sections, drop them into the trench, level and align as necessary, and fix the bollards in a poured concrete foundation. Unlike the concrete-forming method, which requires excavators to be positioned on both sides of the fence, the steel fence can be erected with machines working from one side only. During demonstrations, the company pointed out that the construction process would not breach the international boundary. According to Fisher, the bollard-fence hanging system is “patent-pending,” though no record of a new application from Fisher Industries or subsidiaries is yet available on the USPTO database. A remarkably similar design for a “bollard fence” was filed by Neusch Innovations in December 2018 and may be related. Company executive Tommy Fisher relentlessly promoted Fisher’s steel design as a faster, cheaper, and better alternative to other techniques, a bold triad of claims given the realities of the construction industry. The Republican donor has aggressively targeted this message to conservative outlets like Fox News, largely gaining the support of border wall advocates, and even Trump himself, whose fervor for the wall Fisher consistently praises. Trump has allegedly tried repeatedly to influence the public bid process by pushing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to award Fisher the contract, as yet to no avail. Fisher, meanwhile, has demonstrated his construction technique to politicians in Arizona, claiming the tests prove his company capable of building 218 miles of the border wall in one year. Despite the USACE’s negative appraisal of the design and Department of Homeland Security officials’ negative views of the company, Fisher eventually found a partner to build the steel assembly in the privately funded, pro-wall, conservative nonprofit We Build the Wall. Fisher construction crews descended on Sunland Park over Memorial Day weekend, armed with specially equipped excavators and prefabricated bollard steel fencing. Construction was reported complete ten days later, with about a half-mile of barrier constructed in the formerly pristine environment. The shocking speed of construction, enabled by Fisher’s proprietary methods and equipment, obscured the project’s significant damage. The new border wall, although built on private property, abuts federal property, and its locked gate blocked entry to the American Diversion Dam, a critical piece of national infrastructure. The International Boundary and Water Commission, the agency that manages waterways on the U.S.–Mexico border, has ordered the gate to remain open to allow for operations and maintenance at the dam. Additionally, to create a relatively horizontal cross-section for the border fence appropriate for the company’s method, Fisher filled an existing deep arroyo with 200,000 cubic yards of soil. The effects of this extensive terraforming within a fragile desert ecology are unknown, as the company did not perform an environmental impact assessment. Scientists speculate that much of the disturbed soil was heavily polluted from nearby industry and will precipitate into the Rio Grande, sending more pollutants downstream, mostly into Mexican farms. While we as architects might resist the border wall itself, we must also respond to the myriad advances in the construction industry which have matured in its wake. Efficiencies must not be gained at the expense of human dignity or lives.
Park stewards at the Hudson River Park Trust have just revealed preliminary renderings for a new public beach in Manhattan's Meatpacking District. The five-and-a-half acre site used to be a parking area for the sanitation department and adjacent salt shed, but in a few years, it will be a recreation area with a kayak launch, sports field, picnic areas, and a marsh. James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) is the New York-based landscape architecture firm behind the design, while hometown firm nARCHITECTS is doing park buildings. The soon-to-be park was first announced in February of this year, and in about 18 months, the beach on Gansevoort Peninsula will open to the public on the banks of the Hudson River at the end of Little West 12th Street. While there will be ample opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, the Hudson River is still too gross to swim in (but who knows, great strides in cleanliness could be made by the time the park is complete). From the renderings, it appears the new beach will rise alongside artist David Hammons' recreation of the demolished Pier 52, Day’s End. This is far from the only project on the Trust's plate. The organization cares for a four-and-a-half-mile greenway on the river and is now shelling out an estimated $900 million for capital projects that include Pier 57, by Youngwoo & Associates, as well as Pier 26, which features a playground designed by OLIN and an ecology center from Rafael Viñoly. In addition, construction on Pier 55, the overwater park on piers, designed by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects and go-to artist for the hyper-wealthy, Thomas Heatherwick, is well underway. The new beach will also be a stone's throw away from the Whitney Museum. This is not the first Manhattan beach as some outlets have claimed, however, not counting pre-contact or New Amsterdam times. As recently as the 1980s, during the construction of Battery Park City, New Yorkers donned bikinis and sunned themselves on the sandy construction site just north of Manhattan's southern tip. At the same time, art organization Creative Time hosted multiple annual editions of Art on the Beach which brought large-scale public art to the desolate area. Today, way uptown, there's a semi-secret sandy beach at Inwood's Swindler's Cove, thanks to a New York Restoration Project initiative to restore shorelines in the area.
Manhattan's Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum is hosting an exhibit on Willi Smith, the first solo show for the late fashion designer who was best known for his distinctive 1980s streetwear looks. Willi Smith: Street Couture, borrows its title from Smith's best-known collection, where he brought music and multimedia art together to enhance the presentation of the garments he debuted in 1983. That collection, part of the WilliWear line he started with Laurie Mallet in 1976, was sold through a showroom designed by artist and architect James Wines. Wines founded SITE, the firm that famously kitted out the BEST Products stores with form-breaking facades that defied the typical big-box typology.This time around, Wines is designed the exhibition, along with the Ingelwood, California–based poly-mode, a communication design studio. The exhibition will feature photos of the store, along with dozens of other outfits, patterns, and artwork by Smith and peer-collaborators: dancer-choreographer Dianne McIntyre, video artist Juan Downey, and Keith Haring, known for his bold line murals. This is the first time in 30 years that much of Smith's oeuvre has been shown to the public. “Willi Smith cared about ‘style over status,’” said Alexandra Cunningham Cameron, curator of contemporary design and Hintz Secretarial Scholar at Cooper Hewitt, in a prepared statement. “Clothing was simply a tool for him to disseminate ideas about personal freedoms beyond class, beyond gender, beyond race, while still having fun. He shows us that true collaboration, and the inclusivity it requires, is not a marketing gimmick or token gesture, but a way of thinking, of making and of life.” Along with Cunningham Cameron, curatorial assistants Darnell-Jamal Lisby and Julie Pastor organized the exhibition. Smith, who was born in Philadelphia but worked in New York City, died of complications from AIDS in 1987. He was 39. Programming for Street Couture, which opens in March of next year, will include a talk series around race and fashion organized with another Smithsonian institution, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C. Willi Smith: Street Couture opens March 13, 2020, and will run through October 25. More details on the exhibition can be found on the Cooper Hewitt website.
The Garment District store, above and at the top, was the opposite of a polished Manhattan showroom—it resembles the utility room in a big building styled in monochrome grey. The pipes, chain link fencing, hydrants, construction and demolition waste, and manhole covers doubled as clothing racks and lent the space a grittiness which matched Smith's oversized, softly exuberant collection meant for everyday people. The showroom office, meanwhile, took a cue from SITE's deconstructed buildings via a glass-topped work surface supported by white bricks, broken and scattered at the far corner. Piles of bricks on a dolly added a decorative touch.