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The Great Architectural Bake-Off

What’s on at this year’s London Festival of Architecture
The 2016 editionof London's yearly architecture festival, themed "Community," will boast more than 200 events including talks, conferences, open studios exhibitions, and installations. Curated by director Tamsie Thomson, the festival focuses on the relationship between London's growth and the housing crisis, immigration, climate change, and technology. Having been running for just less than a week, AN takes a look at the highlights. Open Studios June 9-12: Studio McleodRIBA Incubator Open Studio and Farrells June 16-19: SCABALAckroyd + AssociatesOrdinary ArchitecturevPPR and Publica June 23-26: GrimshawAllford Hall Monaghan MorrisJohn McAslan + Partners and Cullinan Studio
Man About The House Playing at numerous venues of architectural significance across the capital, Australian comedian Tim Ross and musician Kit Warhurst's performances will to showcase the value of interacting with architectural heritage. Locations vary from Ernö Goldfinger's Modernist dwelling in Hampstead Heath (James Bond writer Ian Fleming loathed the house so much he based a villain on the architect) to Australia House on the Strand. Best to hurry as tickets for this are selling out fast but can be purchased here. Homes Not Houses: Putting Wellbeing First June 9 Public think tank The Legatum Institute's Architecture of Prosperity program will inaugurate their Housing the Mind publication with a panel discussion. The discussion will address: "How do we design new homes or regenerate in a way that maximizes individual prosperity? Are the economics of new housing developments trumping community wellbeing?" Urban housing study group Create Streets will also be in attendance to launch their latest piece of research that analysis the connection between specific components of the built environment and measurable wellbeing. More details can be found here. Futuro: 1960s Design Principles Today June 9 Visit Finnish architect Matti Suuronen's space-age dwelling, The Futuro House, faithfully restored and located on Central St. Martins' rooftop. A discussion will look at the innovative principles of '60s spatial design and what relevancy they have today in a world dominated by technology. More details can be found here. The Great Architectural Bake-off June 11 Local architects, engineers, and designers are invited to join in the festival fun by constructing distinctive, edible recreations of iconic buildings in The Great Architectural Bake-Off. Proof, that this event is worthwhile will be in the pudding. More details can be found here. Papers: Festival of the Art & Architecture of the Refugee Crisis June 12 A diverse array of people including refugee artists, musicians, poets, chefs and builders will engage in talks on the creative and urban culture which born out of Europe's refugee camps taking place at the Barbican throughout the day. More details can be found here. Nairn's Journeys + Interview with Jonathan Meades June 13 Screenings of some of British architecture critic Ian Nairn's documentaries showcase unique critique and advocacy of placemaking within the built environment. The films will be followed by a discussion between Jonathan Meades and Douglas Murphy on architecture and television. More details can be found here. Affordable for Whom? Role of the Architect in the Housing Crisis June 14 In line with the Royal Institute of Architects' (RIBA) exhibition At Home in Britain: Designing the House of Tomorrow Dick van Gameren of Mecanoo, Jamie Fobert and Ken Baikie of Peabody discuss what can be learnt Europe in relation to the British obsession with homeownership. More details can be found here. Creative Discipline June 17 How is new housing made and paid for? Should we aspire to own it, or is there another way? Bored of events tackling tough questions on the housing crisis? Fear not, this drop-in session run by London architecture firm SCABAL will feature a board game to help those in need. Participants will contribute to the game's creation and be able to spend the day asking and answering questions. More details can be found here. Open Garden Estates June 18-19 Take a tour of the social housing estates across London that are currently endangered by developers, local authorities and housing associations. The weekend-long event offers a rare glimpse into the public and private gardens of residents while providing insight into how the estates's have impacted their lives. Talks from architects gardeners and residents will also be on offer. Best to take this chance before the Housing and Planning Bill comes to fruition.... More details can be found here. The Hive June 18 - November 30 Rising 55 feet, The Hive will be glowing with a myriad of LED lights that respond to changes in its environment. The multi-sensory aluminum structure will plunge visitors into chaotic life of bees using lighting and soundscapes that react to sensors placed inside a real bee hive. The Hive is an award-winning design by British artist Wolfgang Buttress, which was the creative interpretation of the theme ‘feeding the planet, energy for life’ for the World Expo 2015 in Milan (1 May to 31 October). From June 2016, it will be re-imagined in the setting of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. More details can be found here. The House June 24 This specially-commissioned spectacle marking the 400th anniversary of The Queen's House, and its forthcoming reopening this year featuring dance, digital projection, music, narration and pyrotechnics. The production will bring together the talents of BAFTA award-winning video artist Tal Rosner, Olivier award-winner Sharon D. Clarke, multi award-winning composer Dan Jones, boundary breaking Avant Garde Dance, and German outdoor theatre company Pan. More details can be found here. The People Build June 25 Courtesy of French artist Olivier Grossetête, audiences will be able to watch and take part as temporary structures are erected from the ground through the power of the people at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Watch a time-lapse of how the event panned out in Norwich two years ago.   More details can be found here. Concrete at the Crossroads June 26 With an introduction from Joseph Watson, London Creative Director of the National Trust, Britain’s post-war townscapes are explored in three films featuring Basil Spence, Patrick Nuttgens and Jonathan Meades More details can be found here. Architecture: You Ask the Questions June 27 Razia Iqbal of the BBC chairs the headline panel discussion for this years festival. The discussion will address housing, infrastructure and heritage, to the pressures shaping London’s skyline and the city’s development over the next few years. More details can be found here. Knoc'd 'em in the Old Kent Road June 28 Frowned upon for being the cheapest street on the Monopoly Board, Old Kent Road has now been declared an opportunity area, but for whom and for what? If a talk on Peckham's possibilities doesn't entice you enough, then a "spontaneous" kazoo choir playing the classic music hall song “knock’d ‘em in the Old Kent Road" most definitely will. More details can be found here. Solid Timber House / Vertical Timber City June 28 The Solid Timber House / Vertical Timber City conference looks beyond the various individual tall timber structures emerging around the globe to the next logical development in the application of advanced timber technology: that of whole urban districts built to increasing heights & density in which engineered timber products are utilised to create truly sustainable autarkic (energy self-sufficient) communities. More details can be found here. Open City and the London Housing Crisis June 30 How can London build the homes required to house its ever-growing population? Should we be thinking of homes in terms of volume rather than floor area? Does every apartment really need a balcony? In short, how can we accommodate the spatial needs of London's residents without compromising quality of life? More details can be found here.    
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Park Wars

Chicago battles to keep George Lucas from moving his Museum of Narrative Art elsewhere

The saga of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is nothing less than epic. The proposed museum has had the distinction of raising (or lowering) the dialogue of an architectural project to the level of personal attacks and federal court hearings in two cities. The project’s first proposed location on public land in San Francisco fell through when the city refused to lease the land to the would-be private museum. That was over two years ago. The next proposal was a complete 180-degree turn with a new design and location on the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago. Since that proposal, the road has been anything but smooth, and now the entire project is threatening to move to another city, once again.

The first obstacle the project faced was the court of public opinion. Designed by the Beijing-based MAD Architects, the original iteration of the project was called “needlessly massive” and “jarringly off-key” by Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin, and “defacing the city’s lakefront as much as any teenager with a can of spray paint” by Greg Hinz of Crain’s Chicago. That is not is to say that the museum has not had its proponents. Most notably, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been outspoken in his support of bringing and keeping the museum in Chicago. (Many would say to a fault.) Other public figures have spoken in favor of the museum, including Civil Rights advocates Father Michael Pfleger and Reverend Jesse Jackson.

As MAD’s design developed, the building shrank in size and a more landscaped park by Chicago-based Studio Gang was added. This went a long way in appeasing those skeptical of the project, but it would not be enough to avoid the wrath of the museum’s most vocal opponent, Friends of the Parks (FOTP). The nonprofit public space advocacy group has taken its grievances to court, and so far has seen some success. In February, a federal judge agreed to hear the case, rejecting the city’s appeal to have it dismissed. FOTP’s argument is based on the Lakefront Protection Ordinance, which restricts and regulates building on lakefront. The ordinance states that its purpose is “To insure that the lakefront parks and the lake itself are devoted only to public purposes and to insure the integrity of and expand the quantity and quality of the lakefront parks.” The city argues that as the project has been approved by the Building Commission, the body that maintains the Lakefront Protection Ordinance, the project should be allowed to move forward.

In a response to FOTP’s lawsuit, advocates for the museum point out that the museum is planned to take the place of a 1,500-car parking lot for the NFL’s Soldier Field. This has led to an oft-repeated ad hominem nickname, Friends of the Parking (Lot). It has also been argued that all of the other museums along the lakefront, just north of the proposed site, are privately owned and run. These include the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium—all of which have notably been started with private investment from individuals.

Now entrenched in a slow-moving legal battle, the 71-year-old George Lucas is getting anxious to begin building. With construction originally slated to begin in early 2016, and completion expected in 2018, a protracted court case is making the original plan unlikely. In what is being described as a last ditch Hail Mary to keep the museum from moving to yet another city, Mayor Emanuel announced an alternative location mid-April. The new plan calls for the demolition of the Gene Summers and Helmut Jahn–designed McCormick Place Lakeside Center. The much-derided modernist convention center is part of the larger McCormick Place Convention Center and has a lease for the lakefront location through 2042. Part of the appeal of the original proposal was that Lucas was going to cover the $750 million cost out of his own pocket. It is estimated that demolishing Lakeside Center and moving the convention space into a new space would cost an additional $1.2 billion. This would involve some fancy finance work, the extension of a handful of taxes currently due to expire, and the involvement of the state legislator. If only for the reason that the Illinois state government is intractably locked in partisan gridlock, unable to make any financial decisions, most are calling this plan a long shot.

Shortly after the new site was proposed, FOTP announced that they would oppose any building on the lakefront, even if it was on the current site of the McCormick Place. In response, Mellody Hobson, a native Chicagoan and wife of George Lucas, released a statement blasting FOTP and announcing the couple was actively searching for new sites outside of Chicago. She closed the statement with, “If the museum is forced to leave, it will be because of the Friends of the Parks and that is no victory for anyone.” 

Subsequently, the City of Chicago requested that the FOTP lawsuit be thrown out by a federal appeals court on emergency grounds. The city is arguing that the normal appeals process would take too long, and the museum would most likely be relocated before the matter could be settled. 

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Studio Gang reveals latest renderings for Academy for Global Citizenship
Studio Gang Architect’s has released new renderings for their latest Chicago project, The Academy for Global Citizenship. The K-8 Charter School on the southwest side of Chicago will be a net-positive project providing all off its own power, as well as growing food for its students breakfast and lunch. The Academy for Global Citizenship, founded in 2008, has since outgrown its original building, and now is located in two buildings separated by a major street. The new project will be a single 64,000-square-foot campus made up of a series of indoor and outdoor learning environments. The design leverages the schools inquiry-based approach to education. Spaces throughout the project were imagined as flexible neighborhoods with fluid boundaries. The renderings were revealed at a benefit for the school held at Terzo Piano, the rooftop restaurant atop the Renzo Piano design Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago.
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Water World

Jeanne Gang recommends extensive changes to National Aquarium in Baltimore
The sculptural centerpiece of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the National Aquarium, would take on an entirely new look and identity under a design proposal from Chicago-based architect and MacArthur Foundation genius grant recipient Jeanne Gang.
The redesign is driven by proposed changes in the uses and “a new unifying concept for the exhibits” of the aquarium’s multi building campus, also recommended by Gang’s firm, Studio Gang, and others.
First, the aquarium’s Marine Mammal Pavilion on Inner Harbor Pier 4 would become an attraction focusing on the “Chesapeake Bay Watershed,” if-and-when the aquarium’s dolphins are no longer in residence. Aquarium chief executive John Racanelli disclosed in 2014 that the aquarium is studying the possibility of no longer exhibiting its eight Atlantic bottlenose dolphins at the Inner Harbor, adding to a national discussion about the ethics of keeping cetaceans in captivity. Second, the aquarium’s original building on Inner Harbor Pier 3 would be redesigned to offer “an expansive tour of global ‘Hope Spots,’ treasured places on the planet that are worth protecting,” and given a new circulation system visible on the building’s exterior. This would be a new and more conservation-oriented visitor experience inside the 1981 building, whose exhibits were designed to take visitors on a simulated journey around the world, from beneath the ocean to the top of the Amazon Rain Forest. Third, between the two main buildings, a narrow slip of water would support an “urban wetland” capable of attracting wildlife, increasing biodiversity, connecting the main buildings, and serving as a “new physical center for the National Aquarium campus.”
By providing outdoor educational and social spaces for visitors and the public, designers say, the wetlands project “simultaneously improves the local ecology, creates a campus identity, strengthens connectivity, and extends the aquarium's growing conservation work in the region.” Both of the existing buildings, including one of the first major aquarium structures by Peter Chermayeff and his colleagues at Cambridge Seven Associates, would be retained under Gang’s proposal.
But both would be substantially altered with internal changes and additions, including new crystalline or prismatic forms that both link and lighten the buildings visually and conceal much of the striated concrete that is visible today. On Pier 3, Chermayeff’s distinctive forms and graphics would be altered radically under Gang’s proposal, including the “signal flag” wall on the west side and the glass pyramid that encloses the rooftop rain forest. A new circulation system would be created along the western wall, where the signal flag is now.
On Pier 4, the Marine Mammal Pavilion, designed by GWWO of Baltimore and opened in 1990, would receive a similarly thorough makeover, with changes designed to reuse much of the existing building yet give it a new architectural identity to coincide with its new use and unite “existing and new building volumes” on both piers. The transformation is the culmination of a two year long design process that Gang led in her first project in Baltimore and one of her first on the East Coast. Studio Gang was hired by the aquarium along with a predictive intelligence company, IMPACTS Research & Development. Drawings, renderings and an explanatory text have been posted on the Studio Gang website, which calls the project the “National Aquarium Strategic Master Plan” and says design work was completed in 2015. The plans call for the aquarium eventually to contain 360,000 square feet of indoor space and a 37,000 square foot urban wetland.
Inside the aquarium, the posting says, Gang’s plan calls for “a redesigned circulation sequence to enhance visitor flow through the exhibits and visitor amenities.”  Gang’s plan also “creates and enriches spaces for education through a new unifying concept  for the exhibits on both piers: While Pier 3 would offer an expansive tour of global "Hope Spots," treasured places on the planet that are worth protecting, Pier 4 would become the domain of the region's spectacular natural asset, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.” Coordinating the architectural experience with the exhibits and education spaces, the proposed design for Pier 4 takes visitors on a journey through the various ecological zones of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the largest estuary in the United States and one of the most fragile. Educational labs and classrooms are integrated within both interior and exterior exhibits and enable visitors to see back-of-house functions such as a “fish kitchen.” Under Gang’s plan, the new program areas are closely tied to the aquarium's conservation work.
“By strengthening connections between urban and aquatic life, Studio Gang’s strategic master plan supports the aquarium’s future success and goals to ‘fundamentally change the way people view and care for the ocean,’” the architects say on their website. “Ultimately, the plan positions the National Aquarium as a recognized leader in national and global debates concerning water quality, conservation, healthy harbors, and the future sustainability and practices of aquariums at large.” Aquarium officials have not said for sure when or whether they are discontinuing their popular dolphin exhibit. They have said they plan to carry out the strategic plan recommendations in phases, as funding allows. The first major project they are launching is the urban wetlands and changes to outdoor spaces on Piers 3 and 4. That project is currently going through the local design review process, with Ayers Saint Gross of Baltimore as the lead designer.
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Would be the tallest in China

bKL proposes megatall tower for Shenzhen
This new proposal by Chicago-based bKL would see a 700 meter (2,297 feet) tower built in Shenzhen, China. Dubbed the H700 Shenzhen Tower, the megatall structure (megatall is greater than 600 meters according to the CTBUH) would likely become the third tallest building in the world if completed. The current tallest, Dubai's Burj Khalifa at 2,717 feet tall, will soon be eclipsed by the Jeddah Tower in Saudia Arabia, which will rise to 3,280 foot. H700 would be the tallest building in China roughly and roughly 350 feet taller than the next tallest building in Shenzhen. The recently topped-out Ping An Finance Centre, at 1,969 feet, is the current tallest building in Shenzhen and China. The tower would continue Shenzhen’s eastern expansion. The large plaza at the base of the tower would add retail, civic, and institutional programs, providing a cultural space for the Central Business District (CBD). Project diagrams show sky gardens at intermediate floors as well as the at the buildings peak. With their Wolf Point West tower in Chicago recently completed, bKL is also working on one of the tallest buildings in Chicago as Architect of Record: the Studio Gang-designed Vista Tower.
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Moon Hoon designs fingerprint tower in Seoul, Korea
Architect Moon Hoon of Moonbalsso, who's based in the Gangnam district in Seoul, South Korea, is known for his sculptural, whimsical designs like the Wind House featuring a duck-head robot shaped observatory tower to the commercial-residential hybrid project dubbed K-pop Curve. And then there is a Star Wars-inspired house. One of his latest projects, the YDP Tower, is slated for a Seoul neighborhood south of the Han River. It looks like a tube of lipstick covered with a swirling fingerprint—if we’re being sedate and G-rated—or perhaps it resembles the medieval round structures mainly found in Ireland that are thought to have been used as refuges or bell towers. (We’ll leave other associations for you to imagine.) And no, it is not an office building for some futuristic tech company, as this writer first thought after viewing the renderings for the first time. Part of it will serve as a residence for a South Korean actor. “The penthouse at the top is where the client is going to reside (four floors). “The bottom four floors will be studios for rent,” Moon Hoon said. “The building has a high piloti (surrounding buildings are three to four floors high). The first floor will begin at the neighbors’ rooftops.” The ground level is reserved for parking, with prominently-displayed stairs and an elevator. “The project aims at providing a dynamic house with a roof garden and studios with high ceilings with bare interiors so that new tenants can design it for themselves,” Hoon explained. Perhaps Moon Hoon is like a modern day Friedensreich Hundertwasser—the Austrian architect and artist who designed playful, colorful buildings like the Hundertwasserhaus, that was originally an apartment building in Vienna (and reportedly a pro-bono project for Hundertwasser). Moon Hoon is also an artist, with drawings exhibited at the Venice Architecture Biennale that won the Golden Lion Prize. On the unusual residential design, Moon Hoon said: “The client wished for a unique tower with some curves. We provided various schemes and the one with the client's fingerprint as a facade and structure won his heart. At the moment we are collaborating with structural engineers. The tower will most likely be a double skin building with a hybrid construction method—steel and concrete mix. The fingerprint facade will be a metal finish screening a curtain wall behind it...”. Currently the project is in the design development phase and Hoon expects groundbreaking will start this fall or early spring 2017.
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Go Speed Museum Go!
The 60,000-square-foot expansion is the museumms largest renovation to date.
Rafael Gamo

After over four years of construction, Kentucky’s oldest and largest art museum has
reopened. Louisville’s Speed Art Museum, now nearly twice its former size, has just finished its new North Pavilion and remodeled the interior of its 1927 neoclassical building. The addition was designed by Los Angeles and New York–based wHY with local architecture firm KNBA. Selected from an open RFQ and eight team shortlist, wHY beat out Bernard Tschumi, BIG, Gluckman Tang, Henning Larsen, SANAA, Snøhetta, and Studio Gang for the commission. This 60,000-square-foot expansion is wHY’s second new construction museum project in the United States and the first major cultural building completed by its New York office.

Although additions were made to the original museum in the 1950s, 1980s, and 1990s, it has never seen a renovation of this scale. In this latest overhaul, the museum gains more permanent contemporary and modern art spaces, multimedia galleries, a new light-filled lobby, and an improved youth art education area.


The fully fritted glass exterior of the new wing holds traditional white-wall galleries, as well as spaces left with exposed textured concrete for more flexible or unconventional art installations. The new galleries take greater advantage of natural light than the older building and have open layouts for guests to wander and explore. Newly remodeled galleries in the original building carry the theme of the new wing throughout the museum. Along with these galleries, there is a new outdoor sculpture garden and a 142-seat cinema for the museum’s new “Speed Cinema” film program.


wHY describes its design approach as Acupuncture Architecture™. This comes from its goal of activating the original structure from multiple points.  The approach included allowing the public, and in particular the neighboring community from the University of Louisville – Belknap’s campus, to experience the entire museum in new ways. To achieve this, public amenities—cafe, shop, cinema, etc.—were decentralized and made accessible both indoors and out. A suspended bridge from the new wing reaches into the original building’s Grand Galleries.



The most notable new space is the open ground level, which includes an entry hall, an auditorium with indoor-outdoor capabilities, and a bright double-height lobby. Suspended from the lobby’s ceiling, a 675-pound steel sculpture by artist Spencer Finch welcomes visitors.



The opening of the museum included a free 30-hour party with performances, discussions, and screenings. Thanks to a recent one million dollar gift from the Brown-Forman Corporation, the museum will be free every Sunday for the next five years.

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Jeanne Gang’s Vista tower in Chicago unveils interior design plans
Since Jeanne Gang's supertall Vista tower first appeared in 2014, numerous design alterations have taken place. However, the project has maintained its original form: a series of simple stacked volumes inspired by a frustum—a naturally-occurring crystal formation that resembles a pyramid with its top cut off. As the $950 million project develops, luxury interior renderings have been released showcasing some of the spectacular views the Chicago tower will have to offer. The skyscraper is staggered into three volumes that will reach 46, 70 and 95 stories, the tallest rising to 1,140 feet. As a result, the Vista tower is set to be the city’s third tallest building in the Lakeshore East neighborhood. California-based interiors firm Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) are behind the project's 406 luxury condos, none of which come cheap. A two-story penthouse apartment is may set clients back up to $17.1 million. The project is due to break ground later this year, with completion set for 2020. The mixed-use project will include retail and a hotel. Chicago developers, Magellan have already set up an inquiries page on the tower's website, where 360 degree window views can be found.
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Gordon Parks Arts Hall
Barbara Karant

The University of Chicago is often praised for its rigorous academics, its serene location in an enclave on South Side, its superb bookstores and museums, and its traditional ivy-laden, collegiate atmosphere. It is less frequently cited for its impressive collection of buildings designed by notable modern, postmodern, and contemporary architects: Henry N. Cobb, Holabird & Root, Frank Lloyd Wright, Eero Saarinen, Mies van der Rohe, SOM, Murphy/Jahn, César Pelli, Rafael Viñoly, Jeanne Gang—and the list goes on—are all represented on the campus. In October 2015, Chicago–based Valerio Dewalt Train Associates (VDTA) joined these prestigious ranks with their Gordon Parks Arts Hall, the latest addition to the University of Chicago Laboratory School.

Steve Hall


Located at the southeastern corner of the university campus, the Lab School occupies two square blocks. The eastern block is dedicated to a playing field and sports facilities, while the academic buildings sit around the perimeter of the western block. The new arts wing is given pride of place along the north side of the block—being the first thing one sees as one approaches from the north, east, or west, this VDTA addition is the new face of the South Side prep school.

Set back from the street, it faces Scammon Garden to the north and the Lab School’s central courtyard to the south. Both are important exterior spaces used for recreation and instruction, and are extensions of the Main Lobby gathering space. The Scammon Garden in particular elegantly responds to the architecture; a simple green field meets the main entrance in a ripple of concentric circles, as though the building were a stone dropped in a pond of grass.

From the north, the building appears as a long rectangular form made of Indiana limestone and glass. This continuous curtain wall is intersected by an irregular procession of rectangular masses, or “vertical solar chimneys,” which punctate the long facade and recall, abstractly, the buttresses of a gothic cathedral. The limestone carries around to the east and west facades, connecting the hall materially to its context—the Lab School’s original limestone building was designed by James Gamble Rogers in 1896—while glass-enclosed corridors connect it to the existing structures that flank the new wing on the east and west ends.

Barbara Karant (left), Steve Hall (right)


The building has spaces for music and visual and performing arts education for the middle school and high school students. Arranged along the north side of the building, all the classrooms are treated to floor-to-ceiling glass and a wash of natural light. Visual arts and music are designated to the upper two floors with studio and rehearsal spaces as well as digital media labs. On the first floor, there are classrooms for the performing arts, a formal art gallery for the display of student work, the Studio Theater, used for cinema screening, and the 250-seat Sherry Lansing black-box theater that doubles as a sound stage. According to the architects, Gordon Parks Arts Hall is a symbol of the Lab School’s commitment to multimedia literacy and “should be understood as a place where work is created by hand, and then shown to a larger, real or virtual audience using every possible media imaginable,” said Joe Valerio, VDTA design principal.

The most prominent feature of the first floor is the 750-seat assembly hall for performances, meetings, and special events. A large cylindrical drum, the hall dominates the double-height lobby and intersects the southern wall of the building, jutting out into the courtyard. It is the one interior volume that makes its presence known externally, signaling its importance beyond the arts program and for the school at large.

While the architects refer to the project as “emphatically modern” in its formal articulation and in its “seamless connection between the outdoors and the interior,” it has a distinctly postmodern flavor. The east and west facades are marked by a gabled roof profile and a fenestration pattern which mimics the adjacent neo-gothic towers of Belfield Hall. This explicit contextual gesture mixes somewhat incongruously with the north facade, a modernist curtain wall that seems to buckle under some invisible pressure—is this a nod to the deconstructivist fold, or simply a flex of the firm’s digital muscles? Either way, the historicist references and not-so-subtle collage of architectural styles suggest the building belongs to a strain of contemporary-corporate design, a neo-postmodernism, where modern architecture is no longer the primary mode of expression but rather one among many styles to reference, mimic, and embellish.

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Into the ‘Woods
Will a new stadium by HKS change the character of this L.A. neighborhood?
Courtesy HKS

A development boom is coming to Inglewood. A number of high profile projects are coming to the predominantly African-American and Latino city of 110,000 adjacent to South Los Angeles. Major urban development is underway, from the construction of a new metro rail line to the multi-billion dollar redevelopment of the Hollywood Park Racetrack with residential, retail, hotels, and a brand new 80,000-seat stadium for a recently approved NFL team’s relocation.

It’s a significant about-face for the city, which has long been associated with gang crime and its proximity to the flight paths and runways of LAX. But with this development comes concern, mainly about how these new projects will change the community. Some are worried that this new wave of development will end up displacing longtime residents—through rising property values, increased competition for local businesses, and outright gentrification.

“There is a fear now that Inglewood has been, for lack of a better term, ‘rediscovered.’ Because for many decades, Inglewood’s just kind of been here and nobody’s cared about Inglewood or thought about Inglewood one way or the other,” said Anne Cheek La Rose, a 27-year resident. She says renewed attention will inevitably result in some change. “But any thinking person, it appears to me, would understand that gentrification is not necessarily a bad thing. It is the way that it is done that can make it bad,” she added.

“I don’t think people really understand that it’s already in motion,” said Odest Riley Jr., CEO of the Inglewood-based real estate company WLM Financial. He says the big new developments are only fueling a process that been underway for years. “I have people come to me and say ‘I really want to move to Inglewood,’ and I’m like, ‘You’re already priced out. It’s too late. The houses are selling for $400,000, $500,000. You should have bought two or three years ago, when they were giving them away.’”

The redevelopment of Hollywood Park was for years seen as a catalytic project. Before the stadium was included in its scope, a mixed-use neighborhood and entertainment complex redevelopment had been in the works since 2005. After Hollywood Park was sidelined by the recession, many worried the momentum wouldn’t pick back up.

But the election of former Santa Monica police chief James T. Butts Jr. in 2011 ushered in a new political machine friendly to development and outside investment.

“Since the Mayor and Council got started, it’s been like gangbusters,” said Erick Holly, director of the Inglewood Airport Area Chamber of Commerce. He cites the 2012 deal with the Madison Square Garden Company to buy and renovate the Forum indoor arena as the jump-start to the boom.

While the stadium project and the revived Hollywood Park redevelopment are the biggest developments on the books in Inglewood, smaller projects around the new metro stations can be similarly transformative. The Pasadena-based planning and urban design firm the Arroyo Group is currently creating a downtown destination for the city: A transit-oriented plan for “the New Downtown Inglewood” that will add housing, retail, and commercial development centered on Market Street, near the new metro station at La Brea and Florence.

“That makes a whole new ecosystem of a community right there,” said Riley. “Who are those people that are going to rent right there? Who’s going to move in? They’re probably not going to be at the same income level as the people living here now.”

But Holly argued that new downtown developments only add to the city. “Those lots are dirt right now,” he said. No one will be displaced, he reasoned, but it’s hard to predict what impact hundreds of new residential units and chain retail will have.

Many claim change is needed. “Inglewood is interesting because it has a downtown that is literally unknown,” said architect Christopher Mercier of local (fer) studio. He said the city has been overshadowed by its big venues, such as Hollywood Park and the Forum, and is hoping for neighborhood-scale development. “All of those things became the brand of Inglewood, but it never had a city brand. Like you say Santa Monica or Burbank, you always picture a city. But when you say Inglewood you don’t picture a city. You picture these other things.”

While he sees the catalytic potential of the projects on the way, Mercier is cautiously optimistic about their impact. However, there’s still uncertainty about the future of the Hollywood Park site.

In mid-January, the NFL’s owners approved the relocation of the St. Louis Rams back to Los Angeles, the city the team left after the 1994 season. Rams owner Stan Kroenke and the Stockbridge Capital Group have formed a partnership to develop the stadium for the Rams and another as-yet unconfirmed NFL team. The project is expected to open in 2019.

Holly explained that the project is moving ahead, and its impact will ripple throughout Inglewood. Many potentially transformative projects are still in the pre-development stage, so it’s too early to predict their effects. But Inglewood residents are watching closely.

“I think there’s two types of people right now: We have the people who are fearful of any change—which is inevitable, change comes, and we have the people who are blindly waiting for something good to happen,” Riley said. “There needs to be a middle ground.”

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Studio Gang chosen to design U.S. embassy in Brazil
The State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) has announced that Chicago-based Studio Gang Architects has been chosen to design a U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil. This project will be part of the OBO’s ongoing Capital Security Construction Program, which has constructed 129 diplomatic facilities in the last 17 years. The Program also has 55 projects that are either in the design phase or under construction. The Studio Gang Embassy will be located in will be a multi-building campus on the existing 12-acre Chancery complex within the city’s “Diplomatic Sector.” The project will include the Marine Security Guard Residence, a chancery, support facilities, perimeter security, and other facilities for the Embassy community. Studio Gang was selected from a short list of six other offices. The State Department noted in its press release, “Studio Gang presented a strong and cohesive team approach with more than 20 years of collaborative experience executing projects with complex constraints at challenging sites.” This stage of the process was just a selection of the participating office. The design for the project will start in the coming months.
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State of the City
The fabric of New York—from shoreline to skyline—is getting a thread-count upgrade, much of it due to the success of ongoing projects like Vision Zero, coastal resiliency efforts, and a spate of new public ventures coming down the pike. In his annual State of the City address in early February, Mayor Bill de Blasio championed accomplishments from 2015 and shed light on what’s to come: New Yorkers will see projects and policies that could facilitate new commutes, provide civic and green spaces in the outer boroughs, and reshape neighborhood density via rezoning. Streets and Shores
Two large-scale, controversial rezoning proposals, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning For Quality and Affordability (ZQA), reached the City Council early February. Councilmembers heard public testimony for and against the measures, which are intended to increase the amount of affordable housing and create more interesting streetscapes in exchange for increased density in special districts. The full Council will vote on the proposals—the most sweeping zoning changes since 1961—in March.
Rezoning may change the look of the streets, and it’s almost guaranteed more pedestrians would be around to see it. Since the launch of Vision Zero three years ago, traffic fatalities have fallen annually, with a drop of almost nine percent between last year and 2014. (Although City Hall may not want readers to know that traffic-related injuries spiked by more than 2,000 incidents in the same period.)
The initiative is New York City’s version of an international campaign to end traffic-related deaths through better street design and harsher penalties for traffic offenders, and it has a record-setting $115 million budget for 2016. More than a quarter of that money (plus $8.8 million from the NYC Department of Transportation’s capital budget) will go to road improvements in Hunters Point in Long Island City, Queens, especially at busy nodes along main thoroughfares Vernon Boulevard and Jackson Avenue.
The low-lying neighborhoods are some of many flood-prone areas that will benefit from the $20 billion in climate-change-resiliency measures that launched following Hurricane Sandy. Included in that figure is a massive project coming out of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild by Design competition to protect Manhattan from rising seas. The City has selected AECOM to lead the design and build of these coastal resiliency measures, formerly known as the Dryline (and before that, BIG U). The project team includes Dewberry, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and ONE Architecture. BIG and ONE provided the original vision for the 10-mile-long project, and are now working on Phase One, the $335 million East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. That phase, which should go into constriction next year, deploys a series of berms and floodwalls from East 23rd Street to Montgomery Street on the island’s Lower East Side. Phase Two extends the project from Montgomery Street around the tip of Manhattan up to Harrison Street in Tribeca. Although those ten miles of coastline could be safer, the other 510 would still have a lot to fear from global warming. Fortunately, the Department of Design and Construction’s Build It Back RFP is having an immediate impact on those who lost homes to Sandy. By last October, the program, which rebuilds homes ravaged in the 2012 hurricane, broke ground on around 1,900 projects and finished construction on 1,200 others.
Targeted Reinvestment The recovery impetus extends beyond the property line and out into neighborhoods. In his speech, the mayor singled out three outer-borough neighborhoods—Ocean Hill–Brownsville, the South Bronx, and Far Rockaway—for targeted reinvestment. Civic architecture often heralds or spurs financial interest, and these neighborhoods happen to be the sites of three public projects by well-known architects in plan or under construction. Studio Gang is designing a 20,000-square-foot Fire Department of New York station and training facility in Ocean Hill–Brownsville in Brooklyn, while BIG is designing a new NYPD station house in Melrose in the Bronx. In Queens, far-out Far Rockaway, battered by Sandy and isolated from the rest of the city by a long ride on the A train, is anticipating both a $90.3 million, Snøhetta-designed public library and $91 million in capital funds for improvements in its downtown on main commercial roads like Beach 20th Street. On and Beyond the Waterfront In New York, a trip to the “city” is a trip to Manhattan. This idea, however, doesn’t reflect how New Yorkers traverse the city today: Older, Manhattan-centric commuting patterns at the hub are becoming outmoded as development intensifies in the outer boroughs. It’s estimated that this year bike-sharing service Citi Bike will have 10 million rides. The system is adding 2,500 bikes in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens to accommodate the increased ridership. The East River ferry service will begin this year, knitting the Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan waterfronts together in patterns not seen since the 1800s. Along the same waterway, the project that’s raised the most wonder (and ire) is the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX), a streetcar line that would link 12 waterfront neighborhoods from Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to Astoria, Queens. The project proposal comes from a new nonprofit, Friends of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (FBQX), which first surfaced in January of this year. Its founders include the heads of transportation advocacy and policy groups Regional Plan Association and Transportation Alternatives; directors of neighborhood development groups; and real estate professionals like venture capitalist Fred Wilson and Helena Durst of the Durst Organization. The full plan, commissioned by FBQX and put together by consultants at New York–based engineering and transportation firm Sam Schwartz, is not available to the public, although the company’s eponymous president and CEO shed some light on the plan with AN. “Within an area that has so many [transit] connections, what we are addressing is transit that goes north–south,” explained Schwartz. His firm’s plan calls for a 17-mile route that roughly parallels the coastline, dipping inland to link up to hubs like Atlantic Terminal and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. At a projected cost of $1.7 billion, why not choose the bus, or bus rapid transit (BRT)? The team considered five other options before deciding on the streetcar, Schwartz explained. “The projected ridership is over 50,000 [passengers] per day, while ridership for the bus and BRT maxes out at 35,000 to 40,000 per day.” Streetcars, Schwartz elaborated, can make fine turns on narrow streets, reducing the risk for accidents. They will travel at 12 miles per hour in lanes separate from other traffic, and, to minimize aesthetic offense and flood-damage risk, overhead catenaries will not be used.
Although sources tell AN that the city has a copy of the plan, City Hall spokesperson Wiley Norvell denied any relationship between de Blasio’s streetcar proposal and the plan commissioned by FBQX. (Although it’s not unusual for the city to consider the recommendations put forth by outside groups: In 2014, the city adopted many of the Vision Zero recommendations created by Transportation Alternatives.)
Norvell stated that the city’s plan calls for a $2.5 billion, 16-mile corridor that will be financed outside of the auspices of the (state-funded and perpetually cash-strapped) Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) using a value-capture model. The streetcar line’s success, essentially, is predicated on its ability to raise surrounding property values. The increased tax revenues, he explained, could be plowed back into a local development corporation, which would then use the funds to capitalize the project. Critics wonder why the streetcar is being privileged over other initiatives, such as the Triboro RX proposal, a Utica Avenue subway extension, and the not-completely-funded Second Avenue subway, that would serve more straphangers. Though a fare-sharing system could be brokered with the MTA to enhance multimodal connectivity, critics point out that the streetcar line’s proposed stops are up to a half mile from subway stations, bypassing vital connections between the J/M/Z and L. The Hills on Governors Island Are Alive and Ahead of Schedule With a growing population and growing need for more parks, the city is looking to develop underutilized green space within its borders. The Hills, a landscape on Governors Island designed by West 8 and Mathews Nielsen, is set to finish nearly one year ahead of schedule. The news coincided with the mayor’s announcement that the island, a former military base and U.S. Coast Guard station, will now be open to the public year-round. The city has invested $307 million in capital improvements to ready 150 acres of the island for its full public debut. Forty-eight new acres of parkland (including the Hills) will open this year. The Innovation Cluster, a 33-acre business incubator and educational facility that builds on the example of Cornell University’s campus extension on Roosevelt Island, will bring several million new square feet of educational, commercial, cultural, research, and retail space to the island’s south side. The Trust for Governors Island, a nonprofit dedicated to stewarding and capitalizing on the island’s assets, will release an RFP to develop the vacant land and historic district by the end of this year, and construction could begin as early as 2019.