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The resulting MARS Pavilion prototype—including an exhibition and video of the design process—is currently on view at the A+D Architecture and Design Museum in the Los Angeles Arts District. The pavilion will be up through Saturday, October 7 and has been sponsored by CTS Cement and Helix Steel.Besides acquiring The Washington Post and Whole Foods, Jeff Bezos owns Blue Origin, a space exploration company that is intended to compete with Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The Blue Origin company motto is “Gradatim Ferociter,” Latin for “Step by Step, Ferociously.” This motto might also apply to the work of Sarafian and Culver. The MARS Pavilion by their firm Form Found Design (FFD) is the first robotically-cast concrete pavilion in the world. While it is intriguing to look at, what is more important than its image is its method of design and construction. The MARS Pavilion consists of 70 unique, robotically-cast “wishbone” shaped components that are all bolted together with an identical steel connection detail. Using the robotic precision of large ABB industrial robots, they achieved a tolerance of 1/16 inch. This is extraordinary in concrete construction, where the usual level of tolerance is ¼ inch—It’s an improvement of 400%. All the MARS Pavilion forms are derived from concrete’s most inherent quality, compression. Walter P. Moore performed a structural engineering analysis and recommended one-inch "Helix Steel" twisted fibers for reinforcement rather than traditional re-bar. This provides greater flexibility. The goal is to allow for the precision fabrication of a wide range of design components at low cost. Ron Culver described their approach as “a true digital workflow where previously unbuildable complex geometry is now feasible.” In downtown Los Angeles, for example, Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed the Broad Museum proposing many unique concrete forms. Due to cost constraints, the design had to be simplified so that only the oculus (a curved opening at the front of the building) survived the value engineering and cost-cutting process. FFD believe their approach will allow design variation in concrete with no additional cost. FFD envisions many future applications including creating economical housing solutions for developing nations. Sarafian explained, “We are interested in exploring this fabrication technique to create an easy-to-assemble housing prototype for developing countries.” The MARS Pavilion installation is on view through October 7th at the A+D Architecture and Design Museum, 900 E 4th St, Los Angeles, CA 90013, tickets are available for the closing reception here. You can follow Follow their FFD's work on Instagram @formfound_design
No Small Potatoes
L.A. developer is bringing live-work units to Downtown Boise
With the 159-unit Fowler and 37-unit Water Cooler projects, Los Angeles–based developers Local Construct are expanding their horizons by building for a growing niche of budget-conscious transplants seeking classically urban qualities like walkability and affordable density in Boise, Idaho.
Casey Lynch, cofounder of Local Construct, explained that Boise is “more progressive in terms of land-use and transportation planning” than larger municipalities, which allowed the developer to implement and expand on its existing suite of best practices.
The firm’s seven-story Fowler, designed by Holst Architecture, is a subtly zigzagging complex that includes 4,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and five ground floor live-work units that allow residents to “live above the shop.” The iron-washed brick and troweled-stucco block features gridded facades made up of punched openings that overlook the street and a central courtyard.
Local Construct also partnered with package-handling start-up Parcel Pending to create a package room outfitted with refrigerated lockers that alert residents when their packages arrive.
The developer, with The Architects Office (TAO) and Beebe Skidmore, is simultaneously working on the three-story Water Cooler apartments, which features protruding plywood-clad sections interrupted by white stucco massing. The wood-siding-clad bump-outs overhang the ground level storefront spaces, providing shelter above the building’s entrances. The building will contain seven live-work units along the ground floor, and 900 square feet of retail.
Both complexes are far into the construction process and are expected to open to tenants later this year.
Gehry’s Grand Avenue towers in L.A. roar back to life
This designer created a live-work prefab development for Detroit’s growing creative class
Detroit is full of surprises. From the Mies-designed Lafayette Park to the currently disassembled Heidelberg Project, small enclaves throughout the city challenge the perceived image of a city that has lost 60 percent of its population in the last 50 years. Tapping into this potential of small community spaces, Edwin Chan and his Los Angeles–based design practice EC3 have recently completed True North Detroit, a half-acre live-work community.
Specifically designed to cater to Detroit’s growing creative population, True North comprises nine lightweight prefabricated Quonset huts in the Core City neighborhood about two and a half miles northwest of the downtown. Core City has not seen any significant construction in over 60 years, and the area surrounding the project mostly consists of vacant lots.
“The majority of Detroit’s housing stock is either out of date or completely dilapidated,” Edwin Chan said. “Rather than being determined by ‘market demands,’ True North’s design is an inclusive and aspirational vision to create a new typology of affordable housing and to promote alternative, creative lifestyles in one of the world’s most iconic cities.”
The small complex of vaulted buildings is arranged in such a way as to provide access from the street and produce open outdoor communal spaces. Security, views, and privacy were also considered in the strategic orientation of each structure. The shape of the Quonset huts was also modified from the typical semicircular section to better serve the targeted residents.
Elongated and heightened wall space was produced for hanging art for production and exhibition. Kitchens, bathrooms, and utilities were moved into a center “island” and built out of a durable polycarbonate. Translucent and transparent polycarbonate was also used throughout to provide generous light and extra security. Radiant concrete floors, finished plywood, and other inexpensive materials and construction methods help keep the spaces affordable. The apartments range from 475 to 1,600 square feet, all with a lofted space above the kitchen area that can be used as a bedroom or additional workspace.
Even before its completion early this summer, True North received an honorable mention in the 64th annual P/A Awards in the community category. Far from the massive developments happening in the city’s downtown, projects like True North attempt to add to the city in more elegant way. As such, True North is the first of an iterative plan designed by EC3 to build on another seven acres in the neighborhood. It would seem that it is unavoidable that Detroit is going to be a testing ground for architectural and urban innovation. Projects like True North will hopefully prove that this can be a positive, and truly progressive, experience for the city.