Search results for "San Francisco"

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Deja Vu
Courtesy WRNS

Public dissent over Gluckman Mayner Architects’ modernist-style proposal for the Contemporary Art Museum of the Presidio (CAMP) recently convinced Donald and Doris Fisher, founders of the Gap, to change architects. Last week the Presidio Trust released designs by the project’s new architects (and former associate architects), WRNS, that call for less new construction, retain historic buildings that had been marked for demolition, and substantially reconfigure the art museum.

Two new buildings comprising the museum (and connected by an underground tunnel) will be relocated to sites that will soften the visual impact of new construction. The buildings have been designed to the scale of adjacent historic buildings on the parade ground known as the Main Post, and building materials have been selected to complement their palette.

One of the new museum buildings, located south of Morago Avenue, will be buried, with only about six feet of its two-story height above ground. This portion will have a flat roof, with a planted retaining wall facade and small staff entrance. The other new structure, a two-story gallery building, will have only one of those stories above ground (limited in height to 30 feet) and oriented to the Main Post grid. This gallery building will have a broad overhanging green roof with three low-pitched sections. The north facade will be transparent with vertical glazing characteristic of other Main Post historic buildings, and will face a plaza. Porches and deep roof overhangs will serve to reinforce a sense of historic continuity.

Nonetheless the most vocal opponent of the Gluckman Mayner project, the Presidio Historical Association, is still not pleased. In a press release dated February 27, association president Gary Widman said the group was “very distressed” by the Trust’s decision to still move ahead with “a massive contemporary art museum, large hotel and theater in the heart of the National Historic Landmark District on the Presidio's Main Post.” He added, “The Trust has once again ignored the broad, nearly unanimous public opposition to its proposal.”

Meanwhile momentum still exists for the museum to be moved into the city of San Francisco itself, with Mayor Gavin Newsom, as well as the city’s Board of Supervisors, supporting the move.

Last summer, the Presidio Trust had recommended the Fishers’ plan to build a $150 million museum for their collections alongside the Main Post, to be designed by New York–based Gluckman Mayner. A hodgepodge of historic buildings now stand on the site, including brick barracks from the 1890s and a Mission-style officers’ club. The Gluckman Mayner proposal was a two-story shifted glass box designed to mirror the formal geometries of the Main Post and echo the white-columned arcades of nearby barracks with vertical white mullions.

Following prolonged debate about the impact of the new museum, the San Francisco Planning Commission declared that “the design of the proposed contemporary art museum and the associated landscape plan is too stark of a contrast to the buildings and spaces that would flank it.”

In December, Donald Fisher agreed to consider major alterations, including moving to a site about 100 yards away. As for putting much of the museum underground, a spokesperson for Gluckman Mayner noted, “Don said from the start that he wanted to build a museum because he never wanted his collection to be stashed in basement storage.” He also added that it was “a bit of a surprise” to hear that WRNS, formerly the associate architects on the Gluckman Mayner scheme, was now redesigning the project.

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Kenny’s Paradise
Could it be possible that Mr. San-Francisco-architecture Kenny Caldwell is tiring of the city? He is looking into the purchase of a spectacular Frank Lloyd Wright home in Los Banos, California, an “undiscovered” Central Valley town he calls “paradise.” The house was apparently commissioned in 1954, but not completed until 1961 (Wright died in 1959). It sits in the center of 76 “rich fertile acres” of walnuts and maybe beans (or is that cotton?) with 5 bedrooms, formalized ornamental screens, a koi pond, aviary, and tractor bay. This $2,700,000 “Usonian” dream may well be Kenny’s hideaway or castaway, but I bet his friends are already making plans to visit. That is, if they haven’t had their eye on a little Usonian Automatic of their own!
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If Architects Ruled the World
In the wake of the recent presidential election, more people, including architects, have become interested and involved in local and national government. As part of the AIA’s efforts to encourage members to run for or be appointed to political offices or commissions, they recently conducted a survey tallying up the number of active members involved in politics, running the gamut from mayors to city council members and planning commissioners. The results of the survey revealed that there are at least 850 architects, making up more than one percent of total AIA membership, currently holding such posts. According to Scott Frank, Director of Media Relations at the AIA, “the survey aims to get more architects involved in the debate about the role the built environment has within the larger society as well as the smaller community.” Giving architects the opportunity to “have a seat at the table,” Frank told AN, “architects can use their design building and problem solving skills to help enlighten policy-makers on the importance of good design in planning.” The AIA is taking several measures to prod other members to follow in the footsteps of the already 850 active politicos. At the AIA’s Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference (currently taking place now in Washington D.C.) and at the National Convention in San Francisco in April, there will be workshops devoted to the importance of civic engagement for the architectural profession. If architects don’t yet rule the world, they may soon!
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Postopolis! Comes to LA
You remember Postopolis! don't you? The reality show-worthy architecture blog-a-thon that sequestered five bloggers for five days at the Storefront for Art and Architecture two years ago? Well, hold onto your laptops, kids, because Postopolis! is back and promises to be bigger, better, bloggier and more exclamation-pointy than ever before...because it's coming to LA, baby! Geoff Manaugh announced the lineup today and it's a doozy; six bloggers hailing from Sydney to San Fran (and including Manaugh himself, who we know is still an Angeleno at heart): —David Basulto from Plataforma Arquitectura and ArchDaily (Santiago, Chile) —Jace Clayton from Mudd Up! (New York City, USA) —Régine Debatty from we make money not art (Paris, France) —Bryan Finoki from Subtopia (San Francisco, USA) —Dan Hill from City of Sound (Sydney, Australia) —Geoff Manaugh from BLDGBLOG (San Francisco, USA) Postopolis! will still be sponsored by the Storefront (who had temporary digs here last year) and the lovely folks at ForYourArt as part of the LA Art Weekend. From March 31 to April 4 at a TBD location, the bloggers will post at a feverish, around-the-clock pace. Students from local architecture schools will be hired to monitor feeding tubes, administer 20 oz. Monster energy drinks on the hour and empty their bedpans as needed. In addition to the ancillary interviews, presentations, lectures, panel discussions, and slideshows that we saw last Postopolis!, Manaugh promises: "This time it will be all that plus more art, film, and music, a larger international scope, hopefully several Spanish-language events and lectures, hopefully at least one minor earthquake." We'll try our best to deliver on that last one.
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Checking In
Frames encircling fine art and fantastic views of the Hollywood Hills are trademark Philippe Starck moves for the rooftop pool of the SLS.
James Merrell

A slew of new hotels have debuted in California over the last year, riding what will likely be the last big wave of development for some time due to a slowing economy and dismal travel forecasts. They’re the lucky ones: The results from the November 2008 STR/TWR/Dodge Construction Pipeline show that 93,219 hotel rooms nationally have been abandoned in various stages of development, from preplanning to in-construction. That’s a 75 percent increase in such abandonments since 2007. Other data from the Pipeline also point to a slowdown: Through November 2008, 1,565 hotels nationally were in construction, down from November 2007, when there were 1,609 hotels in construction.

In California, most new properties were a long-time-coming response to hotel room deficits in many tourist-heavy areas. In Beverly Hills, for example, a luxury hotel had not been built from the ground up since the early 1990s, while in San Francisco, the 32-story InterContinental is the largest hotel to open in the city in two decades. Two major California cities saw massive and much-needed room additions adjacent to their convention centers: the 420-room Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, and the aforementioned 550-room InterContinental San Francisco, located near the Moscone Center in SOMA. (Los Angeles will have to wait until 2010 for its 54-story Ritz Carlton, part of the downtown development LA Live.) Across the U.S., this seems to be the case as well: The country has seen an exceptionally slow growth of only five percent in new rooms since 2001, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

This cautious expansion led to an age of conservative design for California hotels. Even the most anxiously anticipated debut in the state, the SLS Hotel—the first venture into the hotel niche from nightlife wunderkinds SBE Entertainment (famous for their Philippe Starck-designed LA bars and restaurants like Katsuya, S Bar, and XIV)—went for wit and whimsy rather than over-the-top, cutting-edge design. It’s a huge departure from the sleek, cold modernism of the recent past—think the Standard or Mondrian of the late 1990s.

A baroque moderne white-on-white palette at the SLS private lobby (top) and the hotel's rooftop pool (above), designed by philippe starck.
James Merrell

“Instead of a very sparse, modern design, the approach we took is multi-layered in color and texture and decor and accessories,” said Theresa Fatino, chief creative officer for SBE. “Guests can come back over and over and feel that same sense of discovery, these feelings of rejuvenation and delight and wonderment and surprise.” This sensation—that they’ll discover another Starck design pun, or find a new favorite dish on José Andrés’ menu—aims at bestowing upon guests a feeling of belonging to some perpetual in-crowd.

Hotel palomar by gensler with cheryl rowley
David Phelps

Starwood's aloft by rockwell group
courtesy starwood

London west hollywood by collins design
courtesy lxr

montage beverly hills by HKS Hill Glazier Design Studio
courtesy montage

While the boutique concept is alive and well—Thompson Beverly Hills and London West Hollywood both nod aesthetically to their New York predecessors—these properties have seen the same style evolution, towards warm, sumptuous luxury and a sprinkling of nostalgia.“In the LA area, there’s a trend of capturing the glamour of old Hollywood and incorporating it into a design relevant to today’s lifestyle,” said Bryan Oakes of Gensler, project architect for the Hotel Palomar in the Westwood neighborhood of LA. The Montage Beverly Hills is modeled after the Mediterranean-influenced estates that sprang up in the city during the Golden Age of Hollywood, while Hotel Palomar and the London West Hollywood reference the same period with dramatic, sparkly interiors and Hollywood-referencing art. The Thompson Beverly Hills indulges a noire-ish theme, with deep, dark interiors that are signature of the designer Dodd Mitchell. Here, black leather upholstery, black lacquered wall panels, and glossy black wood floors convey Chinatown chic.

California continues to capitalize on the renovation of its older hotels by elevating former discount motel-like properties to luxury status, said Oakes. “One of the successes of Palomar is that we took a dated 1970s building, originally built as a Holiday Inn, and elevated it to a chic four-star hotel.” This seemed to work best for new boutique operations like the Thompson Beverly Hills, which inhabits a crisp white modernist box that was once a 1960s Best Western, and the London West Hollywood, a revitalization of a tired, nondescript Wyndham Bel-Age. For the green-aspirational, a renovation could also be spun as a huge sustainable selling point: The Good Hotel in San Francisco combined two aging hotels into one eco-friendly property, complete with room appointments made from reclaimed materials and the option to contribute to a carbon offset program upon check-in.

While the hotel pool has traditionally been the place for designers to show off, a growing emphasis is focused on creative public spaces that are twists on the hotel bar. Whether these are seamlessly melded indoor/outdoor lounges or multi-functional lobbies, designers are giving guests more reasons to come out of their rooms and hang out. “Trends ebb and flow, but I think that one area that should always be emphasized is that of the social gathering space,” said David Rockwell of the Rockwell Group, who calls for public spaces that are “open, transformable, and comfortable.” He outfitted the first W’s for the Starwood chain and designed the Aloft (scheduled to roll out 500 locations worldwide over the next five years) with three major areas that encourage congregation and socialization: a communal lobby area with gaming and pool tables, the wxyz bar, and a 24-hour snack bar. The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel is broaching yet another approach: a warren of spaces blending bar, lounge, restaurant, and boutique for design retailer Moss, allowing guests to nibble and sip (and shop) in a variety of environments throughout an evening.

The Carrier Johnson-designed Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter provides a transition to the city's fun-loving entertainment district.
Courtesy Hard Rock 

One trend perfectly timed with the sagging economy is that of the discount design chain, which has swept into Southern California with the opening of two new ventures: Andaz is Hyatt’s first design hotel, and Starwood’s Aloft designed to deliver W-level accommodations at Holiday Inn prices. “One major trend in the last few years has been the recognition that the everyday traveler also appreciates a high level of design,” said Rockwell. (Aloft’s first California location is in Rancho Cucamonga). “We transformed this type of otherwise nondescript hotel into a chic oasis by using materials and amenities that are state-of-the-art, but simple and affordable.” The 257-room Andaz was designed by New York–based Janson Goldstein to give personality to the former “Riot House” Hyatt on the Sunset Strip in LA, with a variety of colorful appointments from local retailers that add high-end flavor to simple, modern rooms. (Of note to music fans: The hotel’s famous balconies, once launching pads for televisions and other after-party detritus during the hard rocking years, have been replaced with glassed-in sunrooms.)

According to trend-tracking site, 2009 national occupancy is only predicted to dip slightly, down 3.9 percent, but that’s where the discount design trend might win over guests: In a December 2008 survey of business travelers by Orbitz for Business and Business Traveler, only half of the respondents expected to travel less in 2009, but 79 percent of travelers said they have been pressured to cut costs. For those hitting the road, there still might be a few new places to write home about.

The Good Fight

This year may well be the one that California museums wish to forget. Institutions are reeling from drastically reduced endowments: The Getty Trust in December told The Art Newspaper that its endowment has lost 25 percent since last June. Meanwhile, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles was just delivered perhaps the most public blow of all: donor default. Exacerbated economic woes resulted in a massive drop in donations, forcing the museum to dip into its emergency savings. Financial strain has shuttered its Geffen Contemporary space for six months, and forced the resignation of Jeremy Strick, the museum’s director since 2001. After considering a proposed merger with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (which is partially reliant on government funds), the museum accepted a no-strings infusion of cash from arts super-patron Eli Broad, who promised to match endowment funds up to $15 million. The museum also added a CEO position, naming Charles Young, former UCLA chancellor.

The uncertainty of MOCA’s future has left many pondering the fate of architecture and design departments at museums throughout the state. But a closer look finds them faring far better than anticipated. MOCA’s architecture and design curator Brooke Hodge said she is continuing work on three planned exhibitions, as well as several major projects that are in development. The only significant change so far is to the next architecture exhibition, a survey of local firm Morphosis, which was rescheduled from its March opening to an August date. “It's too early to predict whether there will be any further impact,” she said.

The museum also recently announced a renewed agreement with the Pacific Design Center, where MOCA has had a satellite location since 2000. The space will offer expanded programming with a greater focus on architecture and design, said Hodge. "My aim is to develop an innovative and inspiring program of exhibitions that touches on important issues and developments in the design disciplines both at home and abroad,” she added. Planned for 2009 are two exhibitions exploring the intersection of craft and computation: A site-specific installation by Ball-Nogues Studio, and Boolean Valley, an installation by architect Nader Tehrani of Office dA and ceramist Adam Silverman.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s (SFMOMA) architecture and design department is in the midst of an acquisitions spree since Henry Urbach took over as curator of the department in 2006. An exhibition that closed January 4 showcased over 246 objects acquired by Urbach, as well as the decision-making process that went into each acquisition. It’s too early to know if that pace will change. If art prices go down, that might make acquisitions easier. For spring, Urbach has scheduled the first solo exhibition of the Berlin–based architecture firm J. MAYER H.

Another bright spot for architecture and design is at the Getty Research Institute in LA, which recently announced the formation of a design and architecture department. Headed by Wim de Wit and associate curator Christopher James Alexander, the department will curate the Getty’s already impressive holdings. These include Julius Shulman’s archives and the papers of architects John Lautner, Pierre Koenig, Ray Kappe, Daniel Libeskind, and Philip Johnson, as well as those of critics like Reyner Banham and unique acquisitions like the Bauhaus Papers and archives of the International Design Conference at Aspen. The first exhibition planned under de Wit’s tenure will unite many of these: a survey of California architecture from 1940-1990, tentatively planned for 2013 or 2014.

De Wit will also launch a consortium for architects to share best practices, including practical information about the economy. “These will be to meet and learn more about each other’s works and see how we can help each other,” he said, adding that he is looking forward to more collaborations like the symposium organized in conjunction with the Hammer Museum’s John Lautner show last fall.

While museums are busy saving themselves, chances are there will be less outreach to rescue endangered mid-century modern houses. A few years ago Michael Govan, then newly named director of LACMA, bandied about an interest in acquiring some mid-century architecture to help preserve it, a groundbreaking move. While LACMA has yet to deliver on such a promise, hope may lie in the strength and agility of smaller institutions: The LA-based MAK Center just added a third house to its roster, the Fitzpatrick-Leland House, designed by R.M. Schindler.

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Bank of America Headquarters, One Bryant Park by Gensler with HDLC Architectural Lighting
Courtesy Gensler



Aurora Lampworks
172 North 11th St., Brooklyn

Bonilla Dacey Design Group
1275 15th St.
Fort Lee, NJ

Brandston Partnership
122 West 26th St., New York

Fisher Marantz Stone
22 West 19th St., New York

HDLC Architectural Lighting
10 East 38th St., New York

Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design
200 Park Ave. South, New York

Johnson Light Studio
335 West 38th St., New York

Lighting Workshop
20 Jay St., Brooklyn

256 Hanover St.
Boston, MA

Office for Visual Interaction
207 West 25th St., New York

Renfro Design Group
15 East 32nd St., New York

Sachs Morgan Studio
224 West 30th St., New York

Susan Brady Lighting Design
132 West 36th St., New York


46 Greene St., New York

Boyd Lighting
944 Folsom St.
San Francisco, CA

Broome Lampshade
325 Broome St., New York

950 Bolger Ct.
St. Louis, MO

Liberty Lighting Group
100 Passaic Ave.
Chatham, NJ

Lido Lighting
966 Grand Blvd.
Deer Park, NY

7200 Suter Rd.
Coopersburg, PA

Michiko Sakano Glass
1155 Manhattan Ave., Brooklyn

O’Lampia Studio
155 Bowery, New York

5 Lumen Ln.
Highland, NY

Vision Quest Lighting
90 13th Ave.
Ronkonkoma, NY

Zumtobel Lighting
44 West 18th St., New York


scottsdale museum of contemporary art installation by studio luz with crosslink
COURTESY studio luz

“For our exhibit installation at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, we worked with Crosslink to develop a canopy with an integrated lighting system. It’s an electroluminescent film printed on fabric that’s flexible and very beautiful. They’re currently deploying the concept for military tent structures in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Hansy Better Barraza
Studio Luz Architects 

Michiko Sakano is amazing. She works on projects for the Smithsonian Museum as well as artists around the world. I believe she is one of the best glass designers and blowers in the world. Not only did she do our custom lighting at I Sodi but also vases, sconces, and even glasses for the bar.”
Josh Dworkis
Isadore Design Build 

“In addition to design, Bill Pierro is also a lighting consultant, so Lido Lighting is like one-stop shopping. He’ll come up with new products and solutions that will work for different situations. We used them to figure out the lighting in Bar Blanc and also the townhouse, and almost every project. “
Will Meyer
Meyer Davis Studio 

Aurora created very thin pancake electrical boxes that could be hidden in the historical fixtures at the Eldridge Street Synagogue, and even got them UL certified. And they got a great patination on the replicas they made.”
Jill Gotthelf
Walter Sedovic Architects

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Parade’s End
Gluckman Mayner's proposal mirrored the geometries of historic quarters along the Presidio parade ground.
Courtesy Gluckman Mayner

Dissent from the public and from preservationist groups over Gluckman Mayner Architects’ modernist-style proposal for a museum in the Presidio has succeeded in convincing Donald and Doris Fisher, founders of the Gap, to rethink the location, size, and architect for the Contemporary Art Museum of the Presidio (CAMP) they had proposed for the site at the foot of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. “The Fishers are going with [locally-based] WRNS Studio to do the redesign,” Alex Tourk, a spokesperson for the Fishers, told AN on January 20. “It’s their feeling that it would be best to go with a local firm after the new parameters were established in December.”

He added that the new design would include locating large portions of the museum underground and “significantly downsizing” the entire project, which was conceived as a work of contemporary architecture of the scale and stature of the de Young Fine Arts Museum in Golden Gate Park by Herzog & de Meuron.

Last summer, the Presidio Trust, a federal corporation established to oversee the 1,491-acre national park, had recommended the Fishers’ plan to build a $150 million museum for their collections alongside a historic parade ground known as the Main Post, to be designed by New York’s Gluckman Mayner Architects. A hodgepodge of historic buildings from five different eras now stand on the site, including brick barracks from the 1890s and a Mission-style officers’ club. The Gluckman Mayner proposal was a two-story shifted glass box designed to mirror the formal geometries of the Main Post and echo the white-columned arcades of nearby barracks with vertical white mullions.

Following a prolonged and complicated environmental impact review and public concerns that the Trust had not fully addressed the potential impact of the new museum, which is located within a National Historic Landmark District, the San Francisco Planning Commission wrote a letter to the city attorney’s office arguing that “the design of the proposed contemporary art museum and the associated landscape plan is too stark of a contrast to the buildings and spaces that would flank it.”

On December 5, Donald Fisher agreed to consider major alterations to the Gluckman Mayner design, including different materials, a reduced scale with some portions underground, and the relocation to a site about 100 yards across the road. According to a spokesperson at Gluckman Mayner, “We worked with a large amount of flexibility. We were not pig-headed, nor did we say that it had to be white masonry and glass.” He added that the design was undertaken even as the Trust was still developing its design guidelines, further complicating the process.

“The Trust was a partner in finding the site that we designed for,” the spokesperson said. “If we had all seen that a different site was a solution, we would have gone down that road.” As for putting much of the museum underground, he said, “Don said from the start that he wanted to build a museum because he never wanted his collection to be stashed in basement storage.” He added that it was “a bit of a surprise” to hear that WRNS, formerly the associate architects on the Gluckman Mayner scheme, was now redesigning the project. Calls to WRNS Studio had not been returned as of press time. Tourk said that a new scheme would be released in March.

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AIA Names 2009 Honor Awards
Grimshaw's Museo del Acero, in Monterey, Mexico, is one of nine winners in the architecture category.
Courtesy AIA

Today the AIA announced 25 outstanding projects in three categories—Architecture, Interiors, and Urban Planning—which exemplify the best work in the field to be celebrated by the 2009 Institute Honor Awards. Without further ado, here are the projects, grouped by category, along with the jury's thoughts as provided by the AIA.


The jury for the award was chair David Lake, Lake | Flato Architects; Carlton Brown, Full Spectrum of New York; Michael B. Lehrer, Lehrer Architects; James J. Malanaphy, III, The 160 Group, Ltd; Paul Mankins, Substance Architecture Interiors Design; Anna McCorvey, director, AIAStudents Northeast Quad; Anne Schopf, Mahlum Architects; Suman Sorg, Sorg and Associates; and Denise Thompson, Francis Cauffman.

Project: Basilica of the Assumption—Baltimore
Architect: John G. Waite Associates, Architects
Jury Comments:
The architects expanded the space while making it appear as if the envelope is virtually the same. The jury applauded the efforts of mending our ways to restore, respect, and give new life to buildings by significant architects who are so important to the profession.

Project: Cathedral of Christ the Light—Oakland
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Jury Comments: The project contains layers of symbolism. There is a sense of community and openness. The space shifts between heaviness and lightness. It is appropriately monumental but a reverie of light and shadow that is a gift to the City of Oakland.

Project: Charles Hostler Student Center – Beirut, Lebanon
Architect: VJAA
Jury Comments: This project uses elements in a thoughtful way to create a rich urban place. Smart use of its surfaces and resources and in keeping with the local conditions. The outdoor spaces are more comfortable because every piece of the building is leveraged to its best advantage. This could have been a monolithic program but instead the architects created an enlivened urban quarters connecting the campus to the water.

Project: The Gary Comer Youth Center—Chicago
Architect: John Ronan Architects
Jury Comments: A true landmark and beloved building. People want to be here and want it to be active all of the time. A new Modernism that uses timeless and topical ideas that look as if they will stand the test of time. Kudos to Gary Comer for giving back to his community and the architects for creating a tribute to his generosity and energy that benefits and uplifts this community.

Project: The Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life—New Orleans
Architect: VJAA
Jury Comments: This project is climate-responsive in six months out of the year in very clever ways. The architect was creative about the functions in the perimeter zones and how they interact with the campus. It changes the perception of what is the heart of the campus.

Project: Museo del Acero—Monterey, Mexico
Architect: Grimshaw
Jury Comments: This is a proud symbol and testament to the steel industry in Monterey, Mexico. The architect brought back the artistry of artifact that was industry and gave it new spirit—embracing steel being made, fabricated, and enlivened.

Project: The New York Times Building—New York
Architect: Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Jury Comments: There is an amazing serenity that emanates from the building in contrast to the chaos of its surroundings.  The building is welcoming to the human at the ground level and wears its transparency proudly. The jury liked the iconography of the building—it looks like lines of print and becomes like reading the Times.

Project: Plaza Apartments—San Francisco
Architect: Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects
Jury Comments: The architecture has become a seminal event in the residents’ lives—residents remember the date they were first allowed to move in. The architect created a series of “events” that happen in the lobby, courtyard, and in every hallway where there’s light—it’s really about optimism, hope, and change and the message that everyone is deserving of light, air, view, beauty, and proportion.

Project: Salt Point House—Salt Point, New York
Architect: Thomas Phifer and Partners
Jury Comments: I believe this house makes a statement to living in a simple and sustainable way. The owners wanted to connect with nature, tread lightly on the landscape, and be able to relax.

Interior Architecture

The jury for the award was chair Mark Sexton, Kruek & Sexton Architects; Joan Blumenfeld, Perkins + Will; Elizabeth Knibbe, Quinn Evans Architects; Arvind Manocha, Los Angeles Philharmonic Association; Kevin Sneed, OTJ Architects.

Project: Barclays Global Investors Headquarters—San Francisco
STUDIOS Architecture
Jury Comments:Very handsome, using wood and colored glass to great effect; the lighting is imaginative, and the relationship to the base building is resolved well. For a large office project, the architect showed an amazing amount of creativity and vibrancy. The lighting is frequently unexpected. The thinking about the use of light is out of the box and playful in what is not a playful project type.

Project: Chronicle Books – San Francisco
Architect:    Mark Cavagnero Associates
Jury Comments: Nice relationship to the existing structure. The jury applauded the sustainability efforts and the effort to bring light in. The reuse of the core structure space—concrete floors, etc.—is quite effective and was done in a very subtle way. On the ground floor, the building structure is revealed to great effect.

Project: The Heckscher Foundation for Children—New York City
Architect: Christoff:Finio architecture
Jury Comments: Without losing the original character of the building, this renovation transforms it. This is a difficult design problem solved elegantly. The narrow nature of the townhouse becomes a framework for beautifully composed public spaces that flow seamlessly. By linking them together the observer never has the feeling of being between the two long and dark party walls.

Project: IFAW World Headquarters—Yarmouth Port, Ma.
Architect: designLAB architects
Jury Comments: From the initial selection of a brownfield site through the design of the spaces to the selection of materials, this project is a successful example of sustainable design. The reference to wooden boat making and craftsmanship is particularly successful to the design inside and out.

Project: Jigsaw—Washington, D.C.
Architect: David Jameson Architect
Jury Comment: This project seems designed from the inside out with the users’ experience in mind. An enormous amount of thought was given to the individual users as to their experience inside the house. Natural light enters into each space in two to three different ways. Care was given to the optimal experience of moving from room to room.

Project: R.C. Hedreen—Seattle
Architect: NBBJ
Jury Comments: The richness of detailing juxtaposed against the heft of the historic concrete structure was gutsy and effective. Creating a corporate interior that has such a completely unique aesthetic is rare and wonderful.

Project: School of American Ballet—New York       
Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Jury Comments: This project floats like the dancers who use it. There is an ethereal quality of design and materials that relates directly to the users. The quality of light is wonderful. Muscular architecture; beautiful concept.

Project: Sheila C. Johnson Design Center—New York
Architect: Lyn Rice Architects
Jury Comments: The architect uses the design to display the students and their work to give the campus its identity. Nice respect of historic façade while giving the school a clearly contemporary identity.  Youthful, vibrant, dynamic! This project is hitting on all cylinders; it captures the energy of the student environment.

Tishman Speyer Corporate Headquarters—New York City
Architect: Lehman Smith McLeish
Jury Comments: The design was very well done. It pays respect to the historic design and created a Modern design that is respectful of the original space. The architecture doesn’t compete with art work; it respects it without being a white box.

Project: Town House—Washington, D.C.
Architect: Robert M. Gurney
Jury Comments: This is a terrific project! It takes the typology of town house and opens it up, creating wonderful spaces and vistas. The materials and aesthetic is new and fresh, using bold color and simple materials without being cartoonish. It is a unique and imaginative take on a well-known design problem. It is refreshing to see how a traditional town house can be transformed through bold moves by a very talented architect.

Urban Planning

The jury for the award was chair Jonathan Marvel, Rogers Marvel Architects; Samuel Assefa, Chicago Department of Planning and Development; Tim Love, Utile; Ivenue Love-Stanley, Stanley Love-Stanley; and Stephanie Reich, Glendale Planning Division.

Project: Between Neighborhood Watershed & Home—Fayetteville, Arkansas
University of Arkansas Community Design Center
Jury Comments: This greenfield development seems to fit in Fayetteville, particularly by Habitat in a scheme that truly employs innovative sustainable techniques in its management of all surfaces, integrated parking, circulation, and open space. The site plan configuration achieves a level of density balanced by usable and varied open space, and the buildings are more varied than a typical Habitat development.

Project: The Central Park of the New Radiant City—Guangming NewTown, China
Architect: Lee + Mundwiler Architects
Jury Comments: This project is beautiful and ingenious. Particularly, the attention to the existing landscape and topography as integral to the project by utilizing the existing hills as a structured landscape to return to nature, while the natural runoff becomes a body of water is a simple idea with a conceptual clarity to make it truly memorable.

Foshan Donghuali Master Plan – Guangdong, China
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Jury Comments: The plan shows a variety of uses, scales and densities and open spaces that will serve to integrate the district with the surrounding city fabric.  The proposal includes a set of guidelines for a variety of scales, heights and streetfront types that will enable implementation over time.

Project: Orange Country Great Park – Irvine, California
TEN Arquitectos
Jury Comments: The project utilizes the underlying axis of the former airport, and juxtaposed the new gorge with a sensible structure of circulation for cars and people and placement of buildings. The use of the former runway as an inspiration and opportunity as a supergraphic creates an urban poetic gesture at a larger scale.

Project: Southworks Lakeside Chicago Development—Chicago
Architect: Sasaki Associates, Inc.,  Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Jury Comments: A formidable effort and comprehensive plan for a new neighborhood with a variety of districts. These districts are composed of different grains and densities allowing for varied economies, housing types, and uses. The welcome irregularities in the plan resulting from well-considered view corridors and idiosyncrasies in surrounding fabric create a wide variety of experiences and places.

Project: Treasure Island Master Plan – San Francisco
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Jury Comments: An urban design strategy that is sustainable by its very nature.  The project employs an inventive use of solar and wind pattern that generated an urban plan with diagonal grid to protect public spaces from the inhospitable winds.  Other sustainable design strategies include an organic farm, wind turbines, location of open spaces as reconstructed wetlands.

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Green ’70s Flashback with Smiles and Shades of Blue

A recent New York Times article piqued not only a literary memory of the cult classic Ecotopia, but also a visual memory from an early work by the exemplary West Coast practitioner Craig Hodgetts.

Writing from what used to be called “Berserkley,” California, Scott Timberg begins his article with these observations:

"Sometimes a book, or an idea, can be obscure and widely influential at the same time. That’s the case with Ecotopia, a 1970s cult novel, originally self-published by its author, Ernest Callenbach, that has seeped into the American groundwater without becoming well known. The novel, now being rediscovered, speaks to our ecological present: in the flush of a financial crisis, the Pacific Northwest secedes from the United States, and its citizens establish a sustainable economy….

"White bicycles sit in public places, to be borrowed at will. A creek runs down Market Street in San Francisco. Strange receptacles called ‘recycle bins’ sit on trains, along with ‘hanging ferns and small plants.’ A female president, more Hillary Clinton than Sarah Palin, rules this nation, from Northern California up through Oregon and Washington.”

What the article doesn’t say is that in 1978 the architect Hodgetts produced a wondrous set of drawings for a Hollywood movie adaptation of the pulp classic. With plenty of savvy and pop-culture sensibility, the script was translated into awe-inspiring architectonic visuals. The drawings were exhibited and published, but alas, the project never made it to the silver screen.

We got in touch with Hodgetts to get his take on the reopening of this late-’70s time capsule. He responded via email (and supplied captions to these marvelous renderings) with wry amusement:

“Ernest Callenbach and I had distinctly different approaches. I was interested in making a popular movie with an appeal to 12-year-olds, complete with aftermarket consumables! And Ernest, with a pure, almost religious zeal, was preaching ecology. In fact, if the movie had been made—the producers had optioned the novel some years earlier—we were going to retitle it and make up our own story."

“Seems the right time for this rediscovery," Hodgetts added. "It was just 30 years too early, and yours truly could never get the film off the ground. Architects and publishers at the time were seriously not interested in the subject.”

Indeed a cultural re-examination of eco-science fiction would be a welcome development in architectural circles and beyond, since it seems we’ve been living within the dark cold-war schizoid-paranoia of sci-fi madman Philip K. Dick for far too long. And while we’re at it, why not—with a smile—revive the ecology flag from 1969, whose graphic design by Ron Cobb was proudly placed within the public domain and embraced by the environmental movement?

Maybe now is the time for a holiday blockbuster movie adaptation of Ecotopia, with lots of spin-off eco-toys for the kids (under a renewable tree, of course). And also for an alternative approach to our everyday life. Callenbach is quoted at the end of the Times article with a fitting call to action for the architect-visionaries among us: “It is so hard to imagine anything fundamentally different from what we have now,” he said. “But without these alternate visions, we get stuck on dead center.”

“And we’d better get ready,” he added. “We need to know where we’d like to go.”

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China Express
SOM's Poly Plaza building towers over Beijing traffic.
Tim Griffith

As people tuned into the Olympics this past August, they saw buildings like the evocatively nicknamed Bird’s Nest and Water Cube settling into the Beijing landscape. But what wasn’t seen so clearly by Olympic viewers were the challenges of working in this frenetic setting, and the logistics of trading design drawings with clients and colleagues over five thousand miles away. It’s a world where technology plays a central role, increasing in importance and complexity.

Without a doubt, the Chinese economy has been nothing short of miraculous over the last few years, turning a development nobody into one of the hottest markets in the world. Although new signs are ominous—a recent report in The New York Times said that housing sales in big cities this year have dropped by as much as 40 percent, and several firms told AN that commercial construction in the country is way down—China is still the place to be for Western architects, including many of California’s top firms looking for large-scale work. 

Among these entrepreneurial spirits constantly boarding flights that “would drive me nuts if I thought about it,” according to Andy Feola, president of Pasadena-based F + A Architects, technology allows the once time-eating, mundane coordination of cross-continental business to be managed electronically through innovative new data sharing, construction management, and teleconferencing technologies.

“Working on projects in the early ‘90s, we would print up designs, box them up, and then have to schlep stuff over there. People were on the plane every week, information got lost in transportation, and it was prohibitive both in terms of cost and personal life,” said Mehrdad Yazdani, principal of Los Angeles-based Yazdani Studio of Cannon Design, which is now working on a concert hall, a restaurant, and a villa as part of the huge Ordos development that is employing star architects in Inner Mongolia. “My experience now is completely different,” he said. His firm uses the FTP site CuteFTP to share documents of all sizes; it employs Smarttech’s Bridgit software for WebExing—internet conferences in which users can interactively edit the same drawing—and it uses long-distance teleconferencing technology like Skype and the Polycom System (a hardware application linked to an overhead projector, a camera, and a computer image system) to conduct videoconferences with colleagues in China.

Gene Schnair, managing partner of SOM’s San Francisco office—which is working on over 20 projects in China—noted his firm’s use of the Polycom system and GoToMeeting, which enables users in different locations to work on documents simultaneously, for teleconferencing. Morphosis, which is working on ambitious projects in China as well, uses the web-based project management system Aconex, in which the contractor in China posts drawings and images on the website for U.S. architects to review and send back with changes. For videoconferencing, the firm uses the Tandberg system, which like Polycom uses cameras and projectors to link teams over the internet. The firm’s videoconferences are further enhanced through the Cintiq tablet by Wacom, an LCD tablet imbedded in the firm’s conference tables that allows architects to instantaneously share sketches with their overseas counterparts. The firm also employs a software called Gathering Place, which displays architects’ desktops on colleagues’ computers in China.

Courtesy JWDA

Courtesy Morphosis
Joseph Wong Design Associates' BelQiao housing development (top) and a rendering of Morphosis' Giant Group Pharmaceutical Campus (above), both in the Shanghai area.

There are still more work-saving and work-enhancing technologies on the way. A company called iBeam sells to architects and construction managers a handheld camera that beams live video from anywhere on a construction site to any computer screen; it can be shared by multiple remote viewers. And IT companies like Control Group provide comprehensive electronic tracking systems; or firms can do it on their own with software likeMicrosoft’s SharePoint, which allows huge document transfers from a central repository, with version tracking, vaulting, and other tools.

And since wages are significantly lower in China, firms are able to take advantage of a technique that is more controversial: outsourcing to Chinese offices. “Before, when I hired recent graduates of Harvard or Cornell or USC, we had them pick up red marks or do area calculations or color a drawing,” said Yazdani. “Now, we have our team in Shanghai do that, and it frees up our California team to do more of the creative and design work.”

Michael Mann, a principal at Los Angeles firm DMJM Design, also praised the financial benefits of sending some work to China. “Full-on 3D animations can get really expensive here, and they’re a third of the cost in China. It allows us to not only do better visualizations, but also to send work there for our U.S. clients that is otherwise too expensive to be done,” he said. Local companies like Shanghai-based Architectural Management on Demand (AMOD) can produce scale models and renderings within days using existing documents.

Outsourcing is a controversial step in some ways, but one which some feel balances, rather than replaces, the jobs of American architects. “There is a lot of concern about outsourcing,” said Yazdani. “But it’s allowed us to do the work much faster and be more competitive in the marketplace here—as well as allowing us to focus on the things we do well.”

Freeing up creative time can be crucial in a setting that’s often described as one of the most inventive in the world. Tim Christ, a principal at Morphosis, remarked that, “The Chinese are willing to embrace new ideas that you don’t see in the U.S. now, such as really ambitious spatial relationships. There’s a progressive spirit that’s extraordinary.” Morphosis is in the middle of construction of the Giant Group Pharmaceutical Campus just outside of Shanghai. Slated for completion in spring 2009, the 258,000-square-foot campus is a sinuous combination of lifted forms spanning a four-lane highway, a massive green roof, and cantilevered shapes anchoring both ends, one of which projects dynamically over a man-made lake.

“There’s a willingness to push the envelope and explore different opportunities and directions,” agreed principal Robert Mankin, based in the Los Angeles office of NBBJ, whose firm is working on five projects in China, including a large mixed-use project in Dailian and a sports park in Hangzhou.

Still, although most firms find that China embraces innovation and has high levels of technological capability, there is sometimes discordance between how work is approached in China and in the U.S. Some, like SOM’s Schnair, have had limited success with shared platforms, since “what we’re finding is that our Chinese counterparts have AutoCAD as their basic platform. Revit isn’t implemented to the degree that it’s become a commonplace utility.”

Yazdani has had more success sharing complex modeling platforms, and explained that of all his firm’s offices, “our Shanghai office was the first that was completely Revit-ized.” As a result, he said, “we’re able to work and build on the same model simultaneously between both our California and Shanghai office, with daily communication back and forth. We confront more technological challenges when we work on local projects than we do in China.”

Courtesy NBBJ

Courtesy Yazdani Studio
A preview of NBBJ's Chinatrust Headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan (top), and Yazdani Studio's planned concert hall in Ordos, Inner Mongolia (above).

Probably the biggest remaining challenge in China rests with the implementation of an actual design. Specifically, there’s still a large gap in construction standards. Although the level of quality is “much, much better; it used to be terrible,” said Jack Bouvrie, design director at Los Angeles–based firm Nadel Architects, there are still some concerns of overall ability with local engineering and construction firms, especially in cities outside Beijing and Shanghai. Because of regulatory limitations, American architects aren’t allowed to produce construction documents or act as architect of record without a local license, so they become consultants during the construction process.

“At SOM, we’re still involved to the extent we can assure ourselves that our design is being carried out in a way that we’ll be satisfied with the outcome. It requires a watchful eye, from reviews of shop drawings to answering questions from contractors, to going out into the field for various visits. If that watchful eye isn’t there, chances are the quality will be problematic,” explained Schnair. Other firms, like DMJM, have purchased architectural engineering firms in China with Class A licenses, thereby ensuring that they’ll be in charge of the projects from beginning to end.

At the same time, projects in China—unbound by public hearings and slow approval processes—happen at accelerated speeds. That means that buildings are completed in China even before the working drawings are finished for most American projects. That much speed can compromise quality, however. As Bouvrie explained, “While I think it’s good that things get done quickly, the expectations are often unrealistic. You have a huge project, and the clients say they want to start construction in three months, and the project isn’t even designed, yet they start digging anyway. It’s really bizarre.” It can drive American architects slightly insane, as vocal clients demand completion of projects based on impatience rather than on realistic (and functional) schedules.

Overall, however, despite any challenges raised, most architects involved in China feel that their work there is worth the effort. “Some view China as an opportunity for exciting design,” said Yazdani. “But for me, the more important reason to be there is that architecture is a global proposition, and if you want to be involved in that dialogue, you need to be in China.”

And so, high-tech tools in hand, California architects continue to amass frequent-flier miles—or just travel electronically—as they pursue the profit in Chinese construction—and the dream of contributing to the next worldwide architectural sensation.

Measure for Measure

On Election Day across the country, citizens registered their votes for major changes in the White House and Congress. But change will also soon come to California’s built environment, as several major initiatives facing California transit, infrastructure, and development were approved or denied. 

On the statewide ballot, Proposition 1A passed with 52.3 percent approval, meaning a high-speed train linking San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento—and most major cities in between—could be ferrying passengers at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour by 2030. While a whopping $9.95 billion in state bonds was allocated by the proposition, development cannot continue until matching funds are secured from federal, local, and private sources. A business plan for the program was released on November 7, equating it in scale to the State Water Project, the world’s largest public water and power system, funded by a 1960 bond measure. California High Speed Rail Authority chairman Quentin Kopp called the proposition’s approval a “21st-century golden spike." 

Once funding is secured, the Authority will focus first on the LA-to-San Francisco “backbone” segment. Environmental impact reports have been completed for the route and alignments chosen, with the exception of the Northern Mountain Crossing connection between San Jose or Oakland and the Central Valley.

In Los Angeles County, another major transit proposal, Measure R, reported 67.93 percent voter approval when a 2/3 majority was needed. The 30-year, half-cent sales tax increase will fund improvements and expansions for light rail and subway lines, HOV lanes, freeways, and traffic reduction. According to Metro spokesman Rick Jager, the tax will go into effect next July, and citizens could start to see evidence immediately, since a portion of the funds will go directly to LA-area city governments. “The local return is an important element because these 88 cities will start getting their 15 percent share from the tax that’s generated,” he said, noting that many cities had plans for street resurfacing, pothole repairs, improving left-hand signals, pedestrian improvements, and bikeways. It also postpones a planned Metro fare increase to 2010.

The rest of the funds generated by Measure R will be available in 2010, when the major projects up for funding will be an extension of the Gold Line that goes to Azusa (the first six-mile extension of the Gold Line, begun in 2004, is on budget and on schedule to open in the summer of 2009), the Green Line extension to LAX, and the second phase of the light rail Expo Line stretching from downtown LA to Santa Monica. The first segment of the Expo Line’s route from downtown to Culver City is scheduled to open in 2010, and with this burst of funding, it could reach Santa Monica as early as 2013. Later, funding will become available for the Purple Line or “Subway to the Sea” extension in 2013.

In Santa Monica, the hotly-contested Proposition T, which would have limited development in the city to under 75,000 square feet annually, was defeated 55.92 percent to 44.08 percent. This was a relief to many architects and developers who had fought hard against the measure, including Gwynne Pugh of Pugh + Scarpa, who, in his role on Santa Monica’s planning commission, will address Proposition T’s concerns in the city’s new Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE), which is currently in environmental impact reviews. “The LUCE has addressed this issue by stating that there will be a goal of ‘no new net trips,’” he said. “Unlike previous plans, this will be monitored, and development phased as resources are developed such as the Expo Line.”

After Beverly Hills’ city council approved a 12-story, 170-room Waldorf-Astoria hotel and two condo buildings on the site of the Beverly Hilton in May, opposed residents gathered enough signatures to put the decision on the ballot as Measure H. After results were too close to call for several weeks, on December 2 the city certified that Measure H had been approved by 129 votes, meaning that an architectural design review and tract map will move forward as planned.

In San Francisco, Proposition B, which would have required the city to set aside 2.5 cents for every $100 of assessed value over the next 15 years for affordable housing, failed 47.4 percent to 52.6 percent. This was disheartening to housing advocates and the city’s Board of Supervisors, who strongly urged its approval to prevent what they called an “affordable housing crisis” due to budgetary concerns. Proposition B would have allocated $30 million to help house those making less than $18,000. According to housing advocate Calvin Welch, the budget currently only reserves $3 million for affordable housing. Mayor Gavin Newsom was one of the strongest opponents of Prop B, arguing that it was unnecessary.

And while its outcome did not directly impact architects, another Measure R, this one also in San Francisco, was certainly a topic of conversation for anyone working in infrastructure: This ballot initiative that would have renamed a Bay Area sewage plant in honor of President George W. Bush was soundly defeated.