Search results for "Detroit"

Placeholder Alt Text

RIP Gunnar

Remembering modernist architect Gunnar Birkerts
Latvian-American modernist architect Gunnar Birkerts died at the age of 92 on August 15, just as his legacy is beginning to be reevaluated by contemporary architects and historians alike. Based in the Detroit area for over 40 years, Birkerts designed distinctive buildings in the central United States and taught studios and seminars as a professor at the University of Michigan. His work was characterized by an experimental attitude toward materials, an intuitive approach to space planning, and an uncommon keenness for innovation in the use of daylight. Riga, Latvia’s National Library of Latvia (NLL), Birkerts’s last and greatest building, was completed in 2014 after about 25 years of work on the project. The NLL is a marvelous culmination of his career. Its completion was doubly special because Birkerts—born in Riga and the son of Latvian folklorists Peteris and Merija Shop Birkerts—had long been committed to the maintenance of his nation’s cultural heritage. Birkerts’s renown peaked between the mid-1970s and the mid-1980s, when he completed a group of buildings that broke open the increasingly stale forms and material palette of modern architecture. These buildings diffused light on matte surfaces or refracted it from polished materials to reduce the glare that too often plagues sheer glass buildings. Birkerts was one of many “displaced persons” who arrived in the U.S. after World War II. He emigrated here after an architectural education at the Technische Hochschule Stuttgart, in Germany, and eventually settled in the Detroit area. Birkerts worked for Eero Saarinen in the early 1950s, as his firm was developing a laboratory-like working method driven by model building and materials testing. He later left the Saarinen office for Minoru Yamasaki’s—also in the Detroit area—where he contributed to that firm’s decorative embellishment of modernism. He often cited Eero and “Yama” as the two most profound influences on his approach to architecture. He left Yamasaki and formed a partnership with Frank Straub in 1962, then founded his independent firm Gunnar Birkerts & Associates in 1964. Even after most of his former colleagues at the Saarinen office—Kevin Roche, César Pelli, and Robert Venturi, among others—had departed for more cosmopolitan locales on the East and West coasts, Birkerts stayed in Detroit because he wanted to remain independent of any particular cadre or school. This individualist spirit was Birkerts’s key bequest to the generation of architecture students and office associates he guided. Because of his individualism, Birkerts was perfectly suited to the Detroit area, with its history of tinkerers, innovators, and entrepreneurs. “We may have been building Ferraris,” Birkerts said in a 2015 interview, “but we were doing it in a garage,” suggesting that the polished, industrial design–like aesthetic of his buildings was not mirrored in his office environment or working method. Indeed, in his later years, Birkerts expressed skepticism about the rising importance of digital design in architecture, believing that it distanced architects from the intuitive, the experimental, and the handmade. Loose sketching and conceptual metaphors occupied an increasingly central position in his creative process during his later years. These attitudes caused him to lose favor in the style- and technology-obsessed culture of the late 20th and early 21st century. Rebuffing the flamboyance of postmodernism and the structural exaggerations of High Tech, Birkerts spent those years laboring on several unrealized megaprojects in Italy, and on unjustly overlooked U.S. work including the Frank Lloyd Wright–infused Domino’s Farms development in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Later designs show Birkerts’s ability to deftly integrate motifs from the national romanticist and art nouveau buildings of his home city without descending into pastiche. Despite these unusual ingredients, he remained staunchly committed to modernism. But his was not the dogmatic International Style of earlier architects. Instead of codifying rules, Birkerts continued modernism’s intuitive tradition of individual expression. We can still learn much from his example.
Placeholder Alt Text

Just in Time

Detroit's Shinola Hotel unveils new renderings
It has been 11 months since ground was broken on the Shinola Hotel in Downtown Detroit. Detroit-based real estate firm Bedrock and Detroit-based watch company Shinola have just released new renderings of the forthcoming project. Expected to be completed in late 2018, the hotel will fit into two existing buildings and additional new infill buildings along a quickly-developing stretch of Woodward Avenue in Downtown Detroit. New York-based Gachot Studios and Detroit-based Kraemer Design Group worked together on the design, which includes 130 rooms and ground-floor retail. Rather than a completely new structure, the hotel is being built into two existing buildings, 1400 and 1416 Woodward Avenue, with three new infill buildings connecting and extending the footprint of the two. When completed, each of the interlocked buildings will maintain a varied material and color palette along the street facade to better match the surrounding city fabric. Bedrock has been responsible for some of the most ambitious recent development in Downtown Detroit. Co-founded by Detroit native and Quicken Loans owner Dan Gilbert, Bedrock is the developer behind the proposed 52-story SHoP-designed tower, which is scheduled to break ground this week. Shinola is also well known in Detroit for its Detroit-first business model. Initially started as a watch company, it now produces leather goods, bicycles, and, most recently, audio equipment. Shinola has been vocal about bringing small industry back to Detroit and providing jobs for the city’s residents. Additionally, the leather and many of the components for Shinola products are made in the United States and assembled in the company’s Detroit factory. The company has not been without its critics. Some have pointed out that since the watches are made with inexpensive quartz movement, instead of self-winding mechanical movement, they are decidedly overpriced. Others have noted that the Texas-based parent company of Shinola simply chose to open shop in Detroit for marketing reasons. In 2016, the Federal Trade Commission also had something to say about the company’s marketing, ordering it to stop using the phrase “Where America is Made,” as certain watches it sells are made of materials produced 100% outside of the United States. Despite these criticisms, the company has been praised by the likes of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, who have both purchased watches. Shinola has also played a role in shaping Detroit by opening a leash-less dog park, and donating four large building clocks to the City of Detroit, to be installed at cultural institutions. Ironically, the retail space of the new hotel is not planned to include a Shinola store. Even so, when the project opens in approximately one year, there will be no mistake about the lifestyle and brand the company is promoting in America's Comeback City.
Placeholder Alt Text

Athens of the Prairie

Columbus, Indiana…Don’t call it a comeback
Columbus, Indiana, is known for its legacy of midcentury, late modern, and postmodern architecture, most of which was commissioned by industrialist J.I. Miller and his pals in the 1950s, 60s , and 70s. While it is true that Miller is a “Midwest Medici” and  hugely influential on the town’s success, it is best to understand the town’s design legacy not as a series of architectural “gems” that mark the passage of time like a museum—eight National Historical Landmarks and a collection of over 50 notable works by important architects—but rather as the embodiment of a living system of socio-political values that have come to define the town. It is often said that all political systems are most successful at a small scale: Their progress is most palpable and their systems less corruptible. In Columbus, this can be seen in the town’s almost-impeccable history of public-private partnerships, where a group of leading businesspeople and community leaders realized what could be seen as the American industrial capitalist dream—and along with it—at least a part of the modernist architectural project. Recently, a group of patrons (who of course know Miller and his legacy) and world-class arts administrators have come together to continue this tradition of design and community. This exhibition, called Exhibit Columbus, is a town-wide festival of design, including five large-scale architectural installations by winners of the inaugural “J. Irwin and Xenia Miller Prize;” a series of small design interventions along the main downtown commercial corridor; and several pavilions designed by local universities and high school students. This could be read as another “biennial,” or “Design Week” alongside the growing list: Seoul, Venice, Oslo, Chicago, Lisbon, Vienna, Eindhoven, Ljubljana, New York, London, Miami, Mexico City, Shenzhen, Beijing, Stockholm, and Milan. However, the first biannual Exhibit Columbus proved to be something different. For starters, the original name “Columbus Design Biennale” was abandoned because, according to Director of Landmark Columbus Richard McCoy, "we wanted to put Columbus’s history on display rather than explore the current trends in design." This perfectly demonstrates how the primary focus of the event is not on engaging global discourse, but continuing and re-aestheticizing the design culture of the place by connecting the residents of the town. This might prove to be the best lesson from Exhibit Columbus: How to engage with the heritage of a place while pushing forward cutting-edge design. In this context, the word “continuing” is particularly important here, as it would be easy to look at this as a “revival” or a “renaissance,” where the legacy of Mr. Miller is exhumed from the grave by a new generation of design-minded leaders. However, the truth is that this mentality never really left, it has been influencing the town quietly ever since the first notable building was built. Columbus is an exception. It has a thriving economy with the highest percentage of its output as foreign exports, as much as 50 percent, according to the Washington Post. It has not seen the Rust Belt-ification of many of its neighboring towns, because local Fortune 200 company Cummins Inc., an engine manufacturer, has somehow managed to remain an industrial giant in the American Midwest and abroad. (It is said that Mr. Miller was the first American to go to China when it opened up trade with the west.) Because the town never descended into a post-industrial dystopia, strong ties to the community and the spirit of collaboration and design excellence also never went away. The underlying phenomena of “The Columbus Way,” a community-based collaborative spirit, was always there—there was never a lack of leadership in the town, or a strong sense of community. It just needed to be re-aestheticized. This idea of continuation is best seen in one of the Miller Prize installations. Oyler Wu’s Exchange is sited at the Irwin Conference Center, which is currently owned by Cummins and used for corporate hospitality, but was originally completed in 1954 by Eero Saarinen and Associates as a flagship branch of the Irwin Union Bank and Trust. The one-story banking hall pointed toward a new type of modernist space unbound by walls and conventional banking architecture, such as cages for the tellers. Instead the new open-planned bank was bound by glass walls. It would be easy to stop here and draw a connection between the white, contemporary forms of the 2017 installation—digital fabrication aesthetics made in L.A. and assembled onsite in Columbus—and the glassy Saarinen bank building, and read it as a sort of new language for Columbus: Less midcentury modern and more digital tectonics as a metaphor for a small Midwestern hamlet turned globalized 21st century networked town. However, there is more to the story than that. In fact, the entire site is less about Saarinen than about a series of urban encounters and transactions that have left that plaza the perfect place to manifest and aestheticize the continuation of the community spirit of Columbus. Oyler Wu chose to build its pavilion around a series of three decommissioned drive-thru bank teller canopies, citing the legacy of Saarinen and “Euclidean geometries, solid-void relationships, and tectonics.” However, these canopies were not designed by Eero Saarinen, but rather by local architect Frank Adams in the 1980s. In fact, when the bank was completed in 1954, the site next to it was still Harrison Motors, an auto dealership. Later, as part of a 1966 Dan Kiley–led landscape extension, three manned teller booths were added in the adjacent lot after it was purchased from the car dealership. It wasn’t until 1973 that a three-story office building was completed by Saarinen’s protégé Kevin Roche of Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates. In the 1980s, the teller booths became pneumatic drive-up stations and the Adams canopies were added. A later renovation was completed by Columbus architect Todd Williams. Considering this more complicated history of the site, it makes the most recent addition to the site, the Oyler Wu pavilion, even more poignant. It is not just Oyler Wu and Saarinen in a clean past-present relationship. It is a literal and figural continuation of myriad complex issues and histories in the town. It—and Exhibit Columbus—is an extension and re-aestheticization of something that never left. The canopies, walls, and benches of The Exchange almost grow organically out of the existing structures, continuing the evolution of the site from an autoyard to a car dealership to a bank to a conference center and then finally to a small urban parklet. Not only does the form continue to complete the implied volumes of the canopies, but it updates the use of said structures into a viable place for urban respite along a main pedestrian thoroughfare. It is certainly a new aesthetic for Columbus, as Oyler Wu’s style comes through in the welded steel forms that mingle with CNC bent steel tubing. Transparent volumes capture space that is suspended in the air, allowing us to see what was already there, but in a new frame—like Exhibit Columbus itself. So what is the impact of Exhibit Columbus and its continuation? For the locals, it is about education and a re-engagement with the design heritage and legacy. But the exhibition can't escape being relevant globally, and it has much to offer as a living, urban laboratory. If we look to some of the more forward-looking design events: The 2017 Shenzhen Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture and its examination of the urban villages in the hyper-local yet hyper-global context of Shenzhen, The Istanbul Design Biennial 2018 and its questioning of the biennial as a site of education, and the Open Design School at Matera European Capital of Culture 2019, where the curators will try to start an academy that they hope will harness the after-effects of a global cultural event in order to invigorate one of the poorest regions of Europe. Some may not want to admit it, but Columbus is now back in its rightful place in discussion with these large global cities, as it has been historically for both design and business reasons. Today, Exhibit Columbus shares DNA with all of the aforementioned projects. How does it uniquely engage with the local community? What will be its immediate and long-term impact on the community, the economy, and the students of the town? What can we learn from Columbus’s attitude about design and community? What new forms of knowledge might arise, or what new forms of design can come from such an important and rich context? What are the new challenges Columbus faces as its demographics change and what opportunities are there to incorporate these new identities into the heritage of the place? Exhibit Columbus is positioned to be a unique voice among many voices in the cultural events sector. Based on the reactions from the community at the opening, and the sustained efforts of McCoy and his team over the duration of the exhibit, it has revived the design heritage of Columbus. “There was a hum that emerged from the exhibition,” Columbus resident Mary Harmon told AN, “What I have really loved is that there was something for all ages, interests ..........ranging from tots to the elderly and those with a knowledge, curiosity and fondness for art and architecture to those who could care less, but felt happier just walking by and seeing the people out and about.” Of course, it can still be improved upon, and it will be a site to watch for those interested in how cultural production can interface with a local community, and even become an integral part of it and its mission to make a place better through architecture and design. Thanks to Will Miller and Enrique Ramirez for their editorial support on this essay.
Placeholder Alt Text

The Others

Emerging practices subvert Chicago Athletic Association in Unsolicited Sideshow programming
If you missed the month-long exhibition of the Unsolicited Sideshow in Chicago, it is not too late to be a part of the most subversive portion of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. While the initial exhibition may be over, the programming for the Sideshow continues with the monthly Tank Takeovers at the Chicago Athletic Association. The next event will take place this Friday, November 10 with a “site-specific, immersive light, and sound installation.” The Unsolicited Sideshow first opened with a pop-up exhibition of 11 young architecture practices, literally running alongside the main attraction of the Chicago Architecture Biennial just a few blocks away at the Chicago Cultural Center. For the Tank Takeovers, the Sideshow’s organizers brought together designers, performance artists, and poets over the past months to explore the contemporary conditions of "otherness,” normalcy, and taboo, as they pertain to art, culture, and architecture. In its third installment, this month’s Tank Takeover will take the form of an installation entitled Reverberations. The Tank, the former pool at the Athletic Association, will be filled with projected LED light, “plush puddles of color that spill out onto the floor," and spatial collages activating custom screens. A rotating ensemble of musicians will engage the space, responding and interacting with the installation with experimental music. Presented in collaboration with Detroit and Cincinnati-based firm SUBSTUDIO, the event will include animations by Marc Governanti, and music curated by Zohair Hussein, with fabrication handled by Thomas Dewhirst + Lynn A Jones. The November Tank Takeover will take place at the Chicago Athletic Association on November 10 from 6pm to 10pm. The final Tank Takeover will be on December 8, and will be presented by Portland, Oregon-based Office Andorus in the form of an architectural fiber installation and a dance party.
Placeholder Alt Text

#Winning

AIA announces winners of the 2017 Innovation Awards
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has announced the winners of their 2017 Innovation Awards. This annual recognition by the AIA's Technology in Architectural Practice Knowledge Community honors architects and designers for the implementation of new practices and the innovative use of technology in the built environment. The awards are divided into five categories: Stellar Design; Project Delivery & Construction Administration Excellence; Project Lifecycle Performance; Practice-based or Academic Research, Curriculum or Applied Technology Development; and Exemplary Use in a Small Firm. The four winning projects for 2017 include: The Bahá’í Temple of South America, designed by Toronto-based Hariri Pontarini Architects, is honored for Stellar Design. Located on the outskirts of Santiago, Chile, the design of marble and glass paneling focuses on the interplay and reflection of light, both within and outside of the temple. These glass panels were developed specifically for this building through machine-to-machine fabrication technology in order to create their irregular shapes and unique light-capturing qualities. During the day, natural light reflects into the dome-shaped glass structure, creating a stellar lustrous performance. At night, the opposite happens, the light from inside the temple reflects towards the majestic outside landscape of the Andes Mountains. The temple demonstrates innovation through its material, technological and structural composition, which is designed to withstand extreme earthquakes, a reality of the area.  The Yard at The Chicago Shakespeare Theater, designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture in collaboration with CharcoalBlue and Bulley & Andrews, is also recognized for Stellar Design. The design features an electrochromic facade clad in tinted transformational glass, which is designed to adjust with the outside light, becoming more opaque during daylight hours and clearing up as the sun diminishes in the evening. This technology serves to alleviate the effects of glare and heating from natural light, which reduces energy needs for cooling inside of the building. The performance venue also allows for reconfiguration and flexibility to accommodate different performance types with audience sizes ranging from 150 to 850 people.  Garden Village, designed by Nautilus Group and Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects, is recognized under the Project Delivery & Construction Administration Excellence category. Located in Berkeley, California, the design is admired for striking an impressive balance between dense, yet open community living. Constructed entirely through modular building technology, the apartment complex is composed of 18 detached buildings connected by a network of walkways and garden areas. Two module types compose the entire project, with every detail refined in full-scale mock-ups as in the automobile industry, allowing for cost savings. This high-density living situation is focused on sustainability and community bonds–no parking spots are provided for the residents, but instead, bike parking, discounted transit tickets, and on-site car-sharing services are made readily available. The individual building rooftops also serve as urban farms and produce up to 16 tons of harvest every year. The Reality Capture Workshop of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture is recognized for their project in Volterra, Italy, under the Practice-based or Academic Research, Curriculum or Applied Technology Development category. This workshop-style initiative provides a unique international research experience for students and professionals working with innovative reality capture technologies such as 3-D computer modeling, laser scanning, drone and camera capture of historical architecture in the ancient city of Volterra. No winners were chosen for Project Lifecycle Performance and Exemplary Use in a Small Firm. This year's jury was chaired by Matthew Krissel, AIA, partner at KieranTimberlake, and included Tyler Goss, innovative development manager at Turner Construction; Paola Moya, Assoc. AIA, CEO and principal at Marshall Moya Design; Jeffrey Pastva, AIA, project architect at JDavis Architects; and Brian Skripac, Assoc. AIA, vice president and director of virtual design and construction at CannonDesign.
Placeholder Alt Text

YAP-ee

Meet the finalists for the 2018 MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program
The finalists for the 2018 Young Architects Program (YAP) have been announced by the Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1. Each year, 30 young practices are nominated by deans of architecture schools and editors of architecture publications for a chance to compete to build a temporary outdoor installation in the courtyard of MoMA PS1. After a portfolio review, the initial group of 30 is culled down to five firms, who are asked to submit initial proposals for the project. This year’s finalists are LeCavalier R+D, FreelandBuck, OFICINAA, BairBalliet, and Jennifer Newsom & Tom Carruthers. The 2017 winner of YAP was Jenny E. Sabin with her project Lumen, which employed a web-like woven canopy made of photo-luminescent and solar-active yarns that collected  and emitted light. Learn more about each of the 2018 finalists below. BairBalliet BairBalliet is a collaborative effort between Chicago-based Kelly Bair and Los Angeles-based Kristy Balliet. BairBalliet’s work was presented as part of the US Pavilion for the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennial. Along with co-founding BairBalliet, Kelly Bair is the principal of Central Standard Office of Design and is an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Architecture. Kristy Balliet, principal of Balliet Studio, is currently faculty at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) and an associate professor at The Ohio State University’s Knowlton School of Architecture. Through both speculative and built work, the team explores precedent and form in two and three dimensions. FreelandBuck The bi-coastal FreelandBuck is led by David Freeland and Brennan Buck. Freeland is currently a faculty member at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), and Buck is a faculty member at the Yale School of Architecture. FreelandBuck’s work ranges from residential and commercial through urban and institutional projects, with an emphasis on complex digitally-fabricated geometries. Jennifer Newsom & Tom Carruthers Jennifer Newsom and Tom Carruthers make up the Minneapolis-based art and architecture practice DREAM THE COMBINE. As installation artists and licensed architects, the team has produced numerous site-specific installations in the United States and Canada.  Each project explores concepts of reality, perception, material, and often social and cultural constructs, such as race and metaphor. LeCavalier R+D New Jersey-based LeCavalier R+D is led by Jesse LeCavalier. Currently an assistant professor of architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, LeCavalier is the former Sanders Fellow at the University of Michigan, a Poiesis Fellow at the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU, and a researcher at the Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory. With a focus on contemporary spaces of logistics, LeCavalier is the author of  The Rule of Logistics: Walmart and the Architecture of Fulfillment. OFICINAA Ingolstadt, Germany-based OFICINAA is a collaboration between Silvia Benedito and Alexander Häusler. With a wide range of work in different mediums and scales, OFICINAA draws on its principal’s diverse backgrounds to produce work that covers multiple facets of design. Benedito’s work often focuses on atmospheres and microclimate landscapes, while Häusler’s background is in sculpture and installation work. Together, they have produced everything from urban planning projects and architecture projects to installations and videos. The judging panel this year included: Glenn D. Lowry, Director of The Museum of Modern Art; Klaus Biesenbach, Director of MoMA PS1; Peter Reed, Senior Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs; Martino Stierli, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design; Barry Bergdoll, Curator of Architecture and Design; Sean Anderson, Associate Curator of Architecture and Design; Jeannette Plaut and Marcelo Sarovic, Directors, CONSTRUCTO, from Santiago, Chile; and Pippo Ciorra, Senior Curator, MAXXI Architettura, of Rome, Italy. The winner will be announced in early 2018.
Placeholder Alt Text

Faux Facades

Michigan's Mcity selects startups to test self-driving technologies
A tech haven located on the northern campus of the University of Michigan is redefining Michigan's ‘Motor King’ reputation. Mcity is a 32–acre complex designed to mimic urban and suburban city environments. Complete with painted building facades, dummy pedestrians, bike lanes, roads and highway ramps, the controlled laboratory environment eliminates real-world risks and serves as a unique testing ground for vehicle and urban transportation technology. The combination of physical and virtual alteration possibilities within this ‘fake-city’ allow both for current real-life simulations as well as testing for speculative future mobility scenarios. The ability to replicate human-scale urban and suburban environments is vital for conducting tests to enhance current road safety and to plan for our evolving urban future. The facility is involved in numerous research projects, including testing data collection and management systems, studying interactions between motor vehicles and bicyclists, enhancing pedestrian detection and avoidance technology, and improving intelligent parking guidance system. Having access to a state-of-the-art testing facility such as Mcity provides tech companies with unparalleled development opportunities in their work and research. This fall, five emerging startups have been selected to work at Mcity alongside students at the University of Michigan's TechLab. Tome, based in Detroit, works on enhancing bicycle-to-vehicle (B2V) communication within the urban sphere. CARMERA, based in New York and Seattle, are experts in street-level intelligence focused on creating real-time 3-D maps and scene reconstructions vital for autonomous vehicle performance. RightHook, from San Jose, California, specializes in safely simulating harsh conditions to test the resiliency and performance of automated vehicles. Zendrive, of San Francisco, California, aims to increase driver safety through smartphone data collection. PolySync, from Portland, Oregon, builds software infrastructure and tools to develop autonomous vehicle functions.
Placeholder Alt Text

BID CITIES

A revealing look at how cities bid for Amazon's new headquarters
On October 19, Amazon received 238 proposals from cities and regions in 54 states, provinces, districts and territories across North America, all vying to be the home of HQ2, the $5 billion, 50,000-employee co-headquarters the company wants to build over the next two decades. A decision is expected sometime in 2018. Bidders were asked not to divulge details of their proposals, but information has leaked out about many of them. Baltimore officials held a news conference at the waterfront site they’re touting, saying, “This must be the place.” The District of Columbia identified four possible locations and created a hashtag: #ObviouslyDC. Birmingham, Alabama placed giant Amazon packages all over town. New York City lit up the Empire State Building and other landmarks “Amazon orange.” While much of the news coverage has focused on some of the more publicity-seeking stunts by cities and locales, it is worth sifting through the news to consider how the urban landscape is being imagined and parceled off for a single corporate giant. Some bidders don’t meet Amazon’s criteria for consideration, such as having a metropolitan area of at least one million people or zoning to build up to 8 million square feet of office space. Others are making strong cases for why they should be chosen by combining their forces with other locales. Overall the bids reveal a glimpse of how seriously some cities are taking the chance to host Amazon, and what they believe the strengths of their metropolitan areas are. Some cities put all their eggs in a single basket, offering up a single site within their city boundaries. Boston offered Suffolk Downs, a soon-to-close horse racing track in East Boston, and touted its concentration of leading colleges and universities. “Boston sells itself,” Mayor Martin Walsh was quoted as saying in The Boston Globe. “We have world class colleges and universities. We’re the youngest city per capita in America.” Baltimore offered the 235-acre Port Covington redevelopment area south of downtown. An independent citizens’ group offered a second site in midtown Baltimore, including land currently occupied by the state penitentiary, a proposed Innovation Hub, and State Center, a government office complex. Dallas extended a transit-oriented development surrounding a proposed $15 million Hyperloop terminal that will run between Dallas and Houston. New Jersey offered an 11.5–acre riverfront site in Newark as well as tax breaks worth up to $7 billion. Practice for Architecture and Urbanism would be the master planner for the project, working with Michael Green Architect, TEN Arquitectos and Minno & Wasko Architects and Planners. Surprise, Arizona, the Grand Canyon State’s “newest emerging city,” made an unlikely bid for the Amazon project by offering 100 acres of prime downtown real estate, Bizjournals reported. Offering big city amenities but also a “blank canvas waiting to be painted,” the municipality west of the Phoenix metro area boasts sports training facilities for national teams, a college stadium that hosts professional football games, and a foreign trade zone already being developed by international corporations. The bid sets aside the 100-acre site beside its civic center with the intention of having Amazon “help to create the culture of downtown.” In case Amazon isn’t content with creating a new downtown from thin air, the municipality also offered up the suburban town of Prasada nearby that also has 100 acres of vacant, highway-adjacent land that can be used. Surprise joins Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler, Tempe and Tucson, Arizona as cities making bids for the HQ2 project in the state. Other cities proposed a range of sites, suggesting that their cities were more than equipped to handle the space and tech needs of a headquarters like Amazon. Washington, D. C. proposed four locations for Amazon HQ2: the Anacostia Riverfront, Capitol Hill East; Shaw-Howard University, and NoMa-Union Station. Another promising site would have been the RFK stadium property, but as a federally owned property, leasing terms require that the land be used for sports and recreation, so it wasn’t offered. New York City identified four potential sites: Midtown West, Long Island City, the Financial District and the Brooklyn Tech Triangle, which includes DUMBO, the Brooklyn Navy Yards and downtown Brooklyn. Philadelphia proposed three locations: Schuylkill Yard, uSquare and the Navy Yard. Chicago offered 10 potential sites and an incentive package that could be worth $2 billion.  The sites are the “Downtown Gateway District,” which includes space in the Willis Tower and the Old Post Office; the endangered Helmut Jahn-designed James R. Thomson Center; two separate sites along the Chicago River’s North Branch; the now booming Fulton Market in the city’s West Loop neighborhood; the Illinois Medical District; a 62-acre site along the Chicago River’s South Branch; the now vacant site of the former Michael Reese Hospital in Bronzeville, and two sites outside of the city at the former Motorola global headquarters in Schaumberg and the soon-to-be former McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook. Huntington Beach and Long Beach in California offered three sites: the Boeing campus in North Huntington Beach,  the World Trade Center in Long Beach, and a site next to the Long Beach Airport. Another set of cities, perhaps due to their size, offered a regional package, either by applying to be part of a regional headquarters or teaming up with nearby cities and even across international borders to put together an offer. Omaha, Nebraska does not meet many of the company’s stated requirements, but it submitted a bid in the hopes that Amazon may choose to break up the project over multiple cities. If not, city leaders expressed the hope that their bid will be a chance to put the city in front of Amazon executives, and those of other tech companies, for the possibility of future investments. Missouri offered three sites: Columbia, St. Louis and Kansas City, with a Hyperloop transit system connecting all three. In Kansas City, Mayor Sly James purchased 1,000 items on Amazon, leaving reviews and product videos for many of them. Each review included not-so-coded language about the advantages of living and working in Kansas City. Buffalo and Rochester, New York, submitted a joint proposal offering the metro corridor between the two cities. The Buffalo-Rochester team highlighted the region’s contributions to technological research in many fields relevant to Amazon–among others, RFID technologies, drones, and software development. They also highlighted the corridor’s ties to businesses and universities just across the border in Canada. Detroit-Windsor, Michigan and Ontario, Canada teamed up to submit an international bid that presents unique opportunities for Amazon in terms of hiring and wages. Amazon would have more flexibility in building a staff with the option of hiring either Canadian or U.S. employees. There is also the possibility that Amazon could save on wages thanks to the exchange rate. Currently, one U.S. dollar is worth $1.26 in Canadian currency. Finally, another set of city bids crafted multi-nodal offers across multiple cities or scattered sites within city borders rather than proposing a single-site headquarters. In the San Francisco Bay area, the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, Richmond, Concord, and Fremont joined forces to make one bid. The San Francisco portion of the bid offers up the Candlestick Point and San Francisco Shipyard, a stretch of land called “Southern Bayfront” running down Mission Creek to Candlestick Park, and another area in the South of Market district for the development. In Oakland, the Uptown Station, 601 City Center, and Eastline Development sites are offered. Concord is providing the decommissioned Concord Naval Weapons facility, a 2,300-acre site includes 500 acres slated for a potential first phase of the project. Richmond is offering a new research and development facility on the University of California, Berkeley campus that could potentially serve as a brain hub for the tech giant. Fremont is offering a 28-acre parcel at a transit stop that is zoned for 1.8 million square feet of commercial development. The combined regional bid includes adding 45,000 housing units to the area. In Los Angeles, leaders with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation are offering a dispersed, nine-site proposal. The specific sites have not been disclosed, but according to the Daily News, areas of the San Fernando Valley’s Warner Center complex, Cal Poly Pomona’s campus, and sections of Santa Clarita are up for grabs. Sites in Long Beach are also potentially included as part of the proposal. Colorado pitched what Governor John Hickenlooper described to 9 News as a “collaborative community that works to solve our own problems,” adding that with Colorado, Amazon would be “not just getting a site. They’re getting a community.” The proposal was generated by the Denver Economic Development Corporation, a private entity that works across the nine-county metropolitan area surrounding Denver. The bid involves eight sites across the state and an unspecified number of tax incentives, which Hickenlooper described as being “1/20th” the amount of incentives offered by other states and municipalities. Outside the melee of bidding, at least two cities made a point of announcing they weren’t submitting a proposal. In Texas, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff wrote an open letter to Bezos stating, "The public process is, intentionally or not, creating a bidding war,” and “blindly giving away the farm isn’t our style.” Rather than jump through hoops to try and attract Amazon’s attention, Little Rock, Arkansas, took the opportunity both to graciously decline and promote itself. In a full-page ad taken out in The Washington Post, which is owned by Bezos, the Arkansas capital of 200,000 penned a “Dear John” letter to announce its intention not to place a bid. “Amazon, you’ve got so much going for you, and you’ll find what you’re looking for,” read the letter. While Little Rock was a long shot, unable to meet some of the company’s requirements, it’s also the home of one of Amazon’s largest rivals, Walmart. Arkansas was one of only seven states that did not have a jurisdiction bidding for the new headquarters. The others are Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming. Additional reporting for this article was provided by AN editors Matthew Messner, Antonio Pacheco, and Jackson Rollings. 
Placeholder Alt Text

block by block

Experimental glass block tower by MOS debuts at Chicago Architecture Biennial
facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
AN caught up with co-founders of MOS Architects, Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample, and Seattle-based artist and designer John Hogan. The group collaborated with structural engineer Nat Oppenheimer of Silman Engineering to develop a prototype of an interlocking structural glass block. The work is part of Vertical City, a central installation at the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, where sixteen "towers" respond to one of architectural history's most significant competitions: the 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower. Curated by Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, the towers will remain on exhibit in the Sidney R. Yates Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center through January 7, 2018.
  • Facade Manufacturer John Hogan Designs
  • Architects MOS Architects (Project Team: Michael Meredith, Hilary Sample, John Yurchyk, Nile Greenberg, Mark Acciari, Michael Abel, Paul Ruppert, Fancheng Fei.)
  • Additional Project Support Columbia University GSAPP, Princeton University School of Architecture, and College for Creative Studies Detroit
  • Facade Consultants Nat Oppenheimer, Silman Engineering (structural engineering)
  • Location Chicago, IL
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System load bearing glass block w/ aluminum support
  • Products soda-lime-silica glass hot-cast in custom manufactured graphite formwork
Called “& Another (Chicago Tribune Tower),” the project is an orderly stack of three types of modular block units rising to approximately sixteen feet tall. A custom-milled aluminum plate system interfaces with the glass block wall every two courses, providing lateral bracing. The assembly creates a translucent effect, blurring the legibility of the tower’s structural core. "We would like this to be a real building," said Michael Meredith. "This is a full-scale mockup of a 16-foot-tall glass wall. We didn't know what we were going to get at first. It was all a big experiment." The office tapped into technical Ph.D. papers and engineering research utilized in MVRDV's recent glass block project and looked into precedents from offices like Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Michael Meredith said the aesthetic qualities of the glass are what pique most visitors’ interest, but expects the work will spark a deeper conversation about architectural history. The installation pairs the repetitive, rational, and modular thinking of Ludwig Hilberseimer, best known for his ties to the Bauhaus and to Mies van der Rohe, with “one-liner” tectonic jokes—tower as a fluted column, a skyscraper with crenellation, etc.—in the manner of Adolf Loos who submitted a “joke” entry to the original 1922 competition. The tower sits just shy of sixteen feet, remaining "unfinished," with a final course of blocks scattered on the ground below. The glass blocks were handmade, so ensuring the assembly stayed vertically true was a primary concern to the project team. A "peg registration" system—precisely located bumps and divets—was incorporated into the formwork to assist in stacking the modular units. Despite this planning, Hogan said the group was not sure how much tolerance the individual units would have. The solution was to incorporate CNC-milled aluminum plates to provide a rigid template for the glass walls. "Engineering a system that basically gives you a reset every two courses was the best way for us to be confident the tower would stand straight." The glass block manufacturing process lasted only six days and resulting in 750 blocks from three distinct forms. The team used soda-lime glass, one of the most prevalent types of glass available, accounting for about 90% of manufactured glass today. For Hogan, the project is a continuation of techniques picked up at Alfred University in Western New York, a top-notch casting facility with what he calls “an incredible collection of scrap graphite” (an ideal material for hot-casting glass). Hot-casting is a process that involves pouring molten glass into a form. Graphite is an ideal form material as it can be removed almost immediately after the pour, whereas other materials require the glass to cool completely prior to removal—a lengthier process that is inherently more labor intensive.
Hogan said despite the fast timeframe and limited budget, the creative process was fluid and not predetermined from the start. "The lack of pressure MOS put on themselves to have a predetermined idea of where this thing is going and what it might become is something that aligns well with how I work." So what’s next now that the "mock-up" is complete? Hogan continues to “scale up” his efforts and will be completing a rooftop exterior screen installation later this year in Seattle. He credits this repetitive modular design approach as a way to continue working at a larger architectural scale. MOS Architects and Hogan plan to collaborate on future projects as well. "For me, this is just the beginning of a conversation," said Hogan. "The potential for building larger structures or any number of facade systems with this approach is something we are very excited about. Everything is automated and precise today, so the handmade qualities of building materials have become increasingly relevant.”
 
Placeholder Alt Text

D is for Design

Detroit kicks off seventh annual Design Festival
As this dust settles in Chicago after the opening of the second Chicago Architecture Biennial, things are picking up in Detroit for the seventh annual Detroit Design Festival (DDF). This year’s festival runs from September 26 through September 30 in venues all over the city. Named the United States’ only UNESCO City of Design, Detroit has a long history of creative production spanning from design through fabrication and manufacturing. Hosting this year’s event is the Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3). DC3 is an economic development organization focused on encouraging and connecting the city’s growing creative community. The center is a partnership between Business Leaders of Michigan and the College for Creative Studies. Every day of the festival is filled with public programming. From studio visits and gallery openings to lectures and workshops, the festival hopes to reach the widest audience possible. Some highlights include Eastern Market After Dark, the Design Village, Light Up Livernois, Hamtramck Design Showcase and Designer Putt Putt. The Design Village will take place at the Ponyride Studio in Corktown, and will present the work of Detroit designers and makers for sale on Friday and Saturday. Light Up Livernois will explore the future of Detroit’s historic fashion district, while Hamtramck Design Showcase, will be a self-guided design tour of the city within a city. Designer Putt Putt is exactly what it sounds like. Inspired by similar events in London and Los Angeles, five designers were selected to design and install fantastical putting greens at Eastern Market. The designers, who were chosen through a competition include Indigo Carr, O2, ROSSETTI, Nick Tilma and Stephan Busscher, and Ciara Lindon. The public will be able to play the course during the Eastern Market After Dark and Light Up Livernois events.
Placeholder Alt Text

Second Chance

Yamasaki is reborn in Detroit
Nearly eight years after closing shop, noted Detroit-based Yamasaki will be reborn with a new headquarters in the recently renovated Fisher Building. Founded in 1957 by Minoru Yamasaki, the firm survived after his death in 1986 until 2009. Now under the leadership of Robert Szantner, one of Yamasaki’s long-time employees, the firm will reopen with other former employees who were able to buy the firm's intellectual property out of receivership. Yamasaki is responsible for such iconic projects as the World Trade Center, Seattle’s Rainier Tower, and the Federal Reserve Bank. After graduating from New York University and working for Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, designers of the Empire State Building, Yamasaki moved to Detroit where he would eventually found his own firm. Throughout his time working in New York and Detroit, Yamasaki narrowly avoided being sent Japanese internment camps with the help of his employers, despite being born in Seattle. Once established, Yamasaki also became one of the few architects to grace the cover of TIME magazine. The new iteration of the firm hopes to build on the legacy of the famed architect and take part in Downtown Detroit’s recent construction uptick. Five of the 12-person firm formerly worked directly under Minoru Yamasaki in the original firm. “The marketplace has provided us with an opportunity to bring back the Yamasaki name to its roots,” said Szantner in a press release. “Detroit is about to grow in every way, including vertical. That fits into the experience of our professionals with urban projects of all types, so we want to play a role in the transformation of this city, as we have in so many projects here and around the world, while always being based in Southeast Michigan." The new Yamasaki headquarters will take up 3,000 square feet of the Joseph Nathaniel French and Albert Kahn-designed Fisher Building. Listed as a National Historic Landmark and included on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the Fisher Building recently underwent a multi-million-dollar redevelopment. “We are reinterpreting Yama’s values, that we learned from him,” explained Szantner, looking to the firm's future. “Simplicity in design, the use of sustainable materials, buildings that enhance social interaction – those are all qualities that buildings need now, with new applications.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Instagram Eavesdrop

Globular zoos, air-filtering musicians, and other updates from the architects of Instagram
At The Architect’s Newspaper, we’re plain addicted to Instagram. Sure, we love seeing Brutalist concrete through “Inkwell” or “Ludwig” filters, but there’s also no better place to see where architects are getting their inspiration, how they’re documenting the built environment, and where they’ve traveled of late. Below, we bring you some of the best Instagrams of this past week! (Also, don’t forget to check out our Instagram account here.)

The Chicago Architecture Biennale kicked off on September 16, and there are lots of costumes. Ana Prvacki and SO-IL collaborated on "L'air pour l'air," a sculptural performance in which wind musicians wore air-filtering enclosures meant to "clean the air that produces the music" like the plants in the surrounding conservatory.

Meanwhile, at Exhibit Columbus, IKD's Conversation Plinth plays a central role with its concentric wooden platforms hosting performances, programs, and public dialogue on the plaza outside an I.M. Pei-designed library. Before heading to Chicago for preliminary festivities, renowned architectural photographer Iwan Baan paid a visit to Yale's Skidmore, Owings & Merrill-designed Beinecke Library (1963), which is covered entirely in panels of translucent marble restored last September. Okay, okay. At this point we've done too many bouncy castle posts. Instead, here's another Never Built New York gem over at the Queens Museum, via our friends at Archtober: Samuel Friede's 1906 proposal for a globular zoo at Coney Island. It contains elephants, a restaurant, and a 50,000 room hotel (#practicalspending). Joseph Grima, former director of Storefront for Art and Architecture and founder of Space Caviar, geared up for IdeasCity New York in Sara D. Roosevelt Park – a New Museum initiative that has previously hosted events in Detroit, Athens, and Arles. Musician David Byrne of Talking Heads fame will give the closing keynote. Landscape architecture dream team SCAPE has been selected as to participate in Resilient By Design's Bay Area Challenge. Their team, Public Sediment, partners with Arcadis, the Dredge Research Collaborative, TS Studio, the UC Davis Department of Human Ecology and Design, the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, and the Buoyant Ecologies Lab. One last Chicago Architecture Biennial post and we're done (for now). Best for last: the long-awaited collaboration between artist Nick Cave and architect Jeanne Gang turned out to be as colorful and wild as expected, entitled Here Hear Chicago. Performers wearing Cave's well-known "soundsuits" meandered through a Studio Gang-designed set of buoys, scored by composer Kahil El’Zabar. For a video sample, head over to our Instagram.