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True To Scale

Forensic Architecture debuts its first U.S. survey in Miami
A retrospective detailing the intensive work of London-based research agency Forensic Architecture is now on view at the Museum of Art and Design at Miami Dade College (MOAD MDC). Forensic Architecture: True to Scale came online last week at the same time news broke that its studio director was excluded from entering the United States for the show’s debut night.  Eyal Weizman, the founder of Forensic Architecture, published an open letter detailing his visa denial by the Department of Homeland Security ahead of the Miami event. According to The New York Times, Weizman first received the news via email and when he tried to apply for another visa application, an interviewer at the U.S. Embassy said: “an algorithm had identified a security threat that was related to him.” The multidisciplinary collective’s work, wrote AN’s Matt Shaw, involves investigating sensitive human rights violations around the world and showing its findings in spatial visualizations such as 3D animations, virtual reality, and digital mapping.  Weizman was offered the chance to “speed up the process” for obtaining a visa ahead of the MOAD exhibition, but he refused to provide names of the people he works with or places he’s recently traveled. “Working in human rights means being in contact with vulnerable communities, activists and experts, and being entrusted with sensitive information,” he wrote in a statement. “These networks are the lifeline of any investigative work. I am alarmed that relations among our colleagues, stakeholders, and staff are being targeted by the U.S. government as security threats.”  Curated by Sophie Landres, the investigations shown at MOAD cover a range of events over the last decade that largely relate to state transgressions in the Middle East. Two projects, however, are dedicated to events in Venezuela and Chicago. Forensic Architecture’s work breaking down the police shooting of Harith Augustus in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood was already been previewed at the 2019 Chicago Biennial, but unlike the fall showcase, the Miami exhibition will feature all six videos produced by the group in partnership with Invisible Institute. Each video overlaps in six different time scales during and following the shooting.  Though Forensic Architecture has widely exhibited its work, most recently in New York for a short time during the controversial 2019 Whitney Biennial, the Miami showcase is the firm’s first survey in the United States. Two years ago, a video produced in collaboration with The New York Times won an Emmy for reconstructing a chemical attack in Al Lataminah, Syria, in 3D. The award-winning result, One Building, One Bomb, is included in the MOAD exhibition.  Another investigation on view is a never-before-seen project co-produced by the museum called Hebron: Testimonies of Violence (2018-20). It dives into the ways in which virtual reality can assist in compelling witness testimony and recreating a crime scene, according to the exhibition press release. For the project, the team modeled the death of a Palestinian man killed by an Israeli soldier in the occupied city of Hebron.  Forensic Architecture: True to Scale will be on view at Miami Dade College’s Freedom Tower at 600 Biscayne Blvd. through September 27. 
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Infrastructure Weak

Is Trump holding up NYC congestion pricing and Second Avenue Subway funding?
Congestion pricing is at the traffic-alleviating heart of a $51.5 billion funding strategy developed by New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to raise funds for upgrades and repairs that will help resuscitate the agency’s flailing, failing New York City Subway system. But the plan, which would provide the MTA with $15 billion in bond sales for much-needed funding for signal improvements and enhanced station accessibility, has appeared to have hit a bureaucratic snag. With the congestion pricing scheme slated to kick off in 2021 (although that date now seems a stretch), New York would be the first city in the United States to implement congestion pricing as a means of raising funds for public transportation modernization efforts. Although many particulars are still being ironed out by the state, toll-based congestion pricing would apply to vehicles entering Manhattan from points south of 60th Street during peak traffic hours. An additional fee would also be added for for-hire vehicle rides, which should ideally reduce the number of Uber and Lyfts on the road. As previously reported, Los Angeles County is also mulling a similar congestion pricing plan that would reduce traffic while underwriting mass transit projects. As announced last week in a press conference by Governor Andrew Cuomo, however, New York’s congestion pricing scheme is apparently being “held hostage” by the Trump administration, which must grant the plan approval—via the Federal Highway Administration—before the environmental reviews can begin. While not all of the roadways that would be impacted by the congestion plan are federally funded, many are, thus the need for a federally-mandated environmental review process. For example, as Streetsblog NYC points out, Canal Street is technically part of Interstate 78. To date, the federal government has offered the state no guidance with regard to environmental review processes, essentially putting the brakes on any forward movement for the time being. Cuomo has framed the delay as an act of retaliation for the state’s refusal to hand over data culled from the Department of Motor Vehicles to the Department of Homeland Security that would be used for immigration enforcement. “Will they hold congestion pricing hostage? Yes,” the New York Post quoted Cuomo as saying at the press conference. “It doesn’t happen without the federal government’s approval and right now, they’re not approving it.” Cuomo revealed in another press conference held this past Monday that $3 billion in federal grant funding for Manhattan’s Second Avenue Subway expansion has also been derailed by President Trump. Encompassing three new stations and two miles of tunnels, the first phase of the East Side’s forever-awaited Second Avenue Subway line opened in January 2017. The $6 billion second phase, which would stretch the line from East 96th street to East 125th Street with three new stations, is anticipated to be operational by 2027-2029. The project is currently in the preliminary design phases. Trump had previously expressed decidedly non-antagonistic feelings toward the Second Avenue Subway and its progress. The Trump administration has also delayed funding to rehabilitate a rapidly deteriorating Hudson River rail tunnel that took on significant damage during Superstorm Sandy. The tunnel project is part of Amtrak’s Gateway infrastructure initiative geared to improve rail travel along the Northeast Corridor. It was downgraded to “medium-low priority” status by the Federal Transit Administration earlier this month, “The federal government has been slow, obstinate and I think purposefully difficult whenever they can,” Cuomo told reporters last week in reference to the federal foot-dragging that's slowing crucial New York infrastructure undertakings. “It’s political extortion … and, I think, you see this across the board, and I’m not holding my breath for them to approve congestion pricing.” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed similarly waning confidence that congestion pricing will be implemented at the start of next year. He went as far as to suggest that the funding needed to fix his city’s ailing subways system will only come through if a Democrat takes the White House this November. “I am hoping that the professional folks and reason will prevail,” de Blasio recently explained on the most recent episode of WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show. “It doesn’t always happen in Washington, and if that doesn’t happen, then I am hoping for an election result that will change things in November.”
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New Affiliates on the Block

New Affiliates builds practice through scavenging
The following interview was conducted as part of “Building Practice,” a professional elective course at the Syracuse University School of Architecture taught by Molly Hunker and Kyle Miller, and now an AN interview series. On September 26, 2019, Genevieve Dominiak and Hannah Michaelson, students at Syracuse University, interviewed Ivi Diamantopoulou and Jaffer Kolb of the New York-based New Affiliates. The following interview was edited by Kyle Miller and AN for clarity. Genevieve Dominiak and Hannah Michaelson: Thanks for joining us! We know that you met in graduate school at Princeton. We’re curious to know how you two came together to start an office. Is it something that you had been planning for some time, or did it happen rather quickly? Ivi Diamantopoulou: It was quite organic for us. We started very informally. There was a project we started looking at together while working for other offices. And it made sense: it was fun and interesting and exciting, and we wanted to keep doing it. So, we had a moment of realizing this is what we wanted to do. We convinced ourselves that if the infrastructure was there, everything would work out. We had no clients, but we had insurance! It's been about three years now, and it's somehow worked out. Jaffer Kolb: Part of it was working through an inquiry into the formula of how practice works. For us, it was really about coming together as two people who are very different. Ivi had a much stronger background in practice, and I came more from curating, writing, and working on installations. We wanted to use these differences to test architecture as a variable condition that we could play around with using the small office model to combine teaching, practicing, writing, and research. But instead of trying to do it all at once, we use every opportunity to trial various combinations of our skills. From residential work to installations to warehouse conversions, your portfolio is full of very diverse projects. Do you have a unique approach to each project type? Jaffer: We really like working on different kinds of projects. Within each project, we are less concerned with typology than we are with a general approach to design. We’ve designed a lot of exhibitions and residential spaces. The projects are unique, but it’s not necessarily because they have different programs or are different types, it’s more because we bring different interests at the beginning of each project. We like those strange hybrids, which we seek out regardless of the project. Ivi: But there are differences between the exhibition projects and the residential projects. They each have very different timelines and budgets, and different degrees of openness to experimentation. For example, if we want to test a particular material application, we can do that in an institutional context more easily, because those projects are often fast and temporary. And then we can use that material again in a project that is commercial or residential, where we generally have less room to take risks and experiment. The two different speeds at which projects get developed generate slightly different approaches and opportunities. We know that you both teach. How do you balance your time between teaching and practice? And regarding your identities and the identity of your practice, do you view one of these venues as primary? Who do you consider your primary audience? Jaffer: These are good questions. We're really interested in academia and are grateful for opportunities to teach and be included in academic events such as this interview series. We both teach, but teaching is secondary to our practice. For now, neither of us are looking for full-time jobs at universities. Practice comes before teaching, at least while we’re figuring out how to run the office. Hopefully over time we can refocus our attention back and forth between the two, because we find the dialogue productive. Ivi: We come after a generation of architects that somehow managed to juggle everything at once—not only teaching and practice, but also academic administration, curation, experimental work, writing… It seemed admirable, but also overwhelming to us. We’d like to start with practice… we are invested in making it work, while maintaining a loose relationship to academia. We see it as a space where we can observe, grow, develop expertise. Jaffer: And to answer your question about what audience we're catering to or speaking to… on the one hand, we want to be recognized within our peer group and in academia, but most of our work tends to have an element of public engagement. Right now, we're putting a lot of our energy into communicating with the city and working through formats that have broader audiences. It's very difficult to make something interesting to the discipline of architecture and architects specifically, while also communicating broader principles to a larger audience. When we do our best, we're doing both. Regarding your interest in construction and demolition material waste and reuse, do you think about the second life or the material life cycle of your projects while you're designing them? Ivi: Absolutely. This is something that we have been looking at very closely, especially with exhibition design. It’s only through our ongoing involvement with these types of projects that we’re able to look closely and internalize such issues before we begin to address them through design. We recently did a show on Leonard Cohen for the Jewish Museum in New York, and at the same time were collaborating with the city’s Department of Sanitation to understand museum waste. From the outset, we looked for materials that could be taken apart and reused after the show was over. This changed both the kinds of finishes we were using and how we detailed their installation. We made sure that everything resisted wear and was easily removable. Following the exhibition, most of those materials were donated for new uses all around New York City. I’m super excited about that! Jaffer: Our reuse projects are in this really weird niche, where we're mostly looking at what architects make and how we produce waste—looking at what we produce that’s superfluous, or excessive—and to treat that as inherited material. But this work is less about responsibility and more about methodology—investigations into local economies and material flows. I don't want to pretend that we’re experts in reuse. We use these projects to think about detailing and assembly, but also to think about how architecture operates as a narrative within the city. In this sense, the second life might intersect with things like form or program as a means of perpetual reinvention.  We’d like to ask some questions about the Tunbridge Winter Cabin in Vermont. Did your experience in exhibition design influence the design of this house? Jaffer: To start, we really wanted to avoid the typical modern cabin design and be strategic about how we used framing and aperture. Those motivations come from exhibition design… thinking through perspective as an immediate visual issue. We were interested in how different events would unfold in a contained space, as a time-based medium. We coupled an idea about how one moves in a domestic environment with an idea about how to organize an exhibition relative to framed views and orientation. We were thinking a lot about landscape painting—not just about the content of the image, but about arranging landscape paintings which become interior elevations. We read that the project was designed and constructed very quickly. Did the pace of the project limit your ability to explore different ideas? What was your relationship with the client throughout the process? Jaffer: It was very fast. It was also very collaborative. Sitting together with our client, we would literally project a Rhino model on a wall and rotate around to ensure that there was no room for misinterpretation. Issues could be addressed, and problems could be solved together in real time. We did not follow the typical model of preparing polished presentations, receiving feedback, spending a week making revisions just to present again. How we work is honestly a bit messy and impromptu. We're more interested in what we can learn through collaboration with contractors, clients, and even with living artists in our exhibition projects. We understand working with others as a chance to express something about a collective, even if just for a moment. We're not here to push an agenda. Ivi: Working on the house was very fast, informal, and conversational. We didn't have the luxury to study every design detail or to iterate through thousands of options. We were lucky to work with a contractor who was a great communicator. We often joked that he was like a 3d printer—we would sketch something on site and then a day later it would be built. The process was easygoing and laid back: let's do it this way, let's try this other thing, let’s improvise. It’s a big part of how our practice was formed, in terms of our early experiences. Can you give an example of this? How did collaboration play a role in the development of the cabin? Jaffer: We didn't go in with a 70-page construction document set and ask the contractor to execute our drawings. We knew the form of the cabin and we had an idea about what the interior and exterior elevations would look like. It's not that we came with nothing, but we were trying to draw from his expertise as someone who's been working in Vermont his entire life. We had some ideas of how we wanted the project to look and how interior spaces would relate to one another, but we needed guidance from a local expert, especially when it came to details and environmental issues. One example was with the baseboards. We kept resisting certain tolerances that he insisted on given Vermont’s extreme temperatures, but in the end, we followed his recommendation. He did it as a custom inset baseboard, though. While we listened, we also never wanted to go with an easy default. Ivi: Working with him, we were able to strike a balance between an exquisitely designed house where every detail and material transition and connection is considered and precious, and a house that is durable and casual and provides a sense of comfort. It's kind of funny for us to realize that with the Vermont project, we established a standard for our practice where we leave certain things deliberately incomplete. We have a client right now—a graphic designer—who we leaned on to help lay out a pattern on a large custom millwork element of his home. We had a conversation where we told him… “You know, you do this for a living, you should just do this.” We should do this together. This is not a matter of us knowing better than anyone else. Did your interest in material life cycles, waste, and reuse inform the design of the winter cabin? Ivi: Yes, definitely. There’s a material sensibility in the cabin. For example, the baseboard material is all recycled plastic. That plastic comes in large sheets, so we were compelled to make room in the design to retrofit all off-cuts—you’ll see it pop-up between window sills and panel frames to avoid excess waste. Also, we worked to incorporate passive strategies that will enable the house to climate control itself through the winter, even going back to the windows being smaller framing devices instead of giant picture-planes. It’s a bit introverted, a bit closed. Jaffer: I would say… unfortunately, not as much as it should have. For example, there was nothing on the land when we got there. In order to make a half-mile driveway, we had to cut down a lot of trees… which is not a huge deal because there are a billion trees in Vermont. We also had to blow up a lot of ledge, but that ledge became the front porch and paving. The trees have all been milled and that wood is going to be used on the main house structure. There is a sense that everything that gets destroyed on the land to clear space for the house gets reused in the house. It's almost like a semi-enclosed material economy. But I wouldn't take credit for this phenomenon. That came from the contractors and landscapers. Where do you see yourselves in ten years? Do you hope to continue to work on smaller projects or would you like to evolve into a practice that can take on bigger projects? Ivi: I don't even know if the two of us are on the same page, but I can tell you what I hope for. I imagine that these two worlds, institutional and private; temporary and permanent, might begin to move closer to one another. I’d love to think that our ongoing affiliation with the art world and our increasing expertise in design and construction could enable us to work on projects that are larger and maybe more permanent. Jaffer: Ten years is a long time from now! The easier answer is for the next few years. Originally, I had always imagined that we would keep growing. More recently, I’m resisting the desire to grow. We are still exploring how to create an interesting form of practice. If you'd asked us this question two years ago, I would have said that in ten years, we're going to be 45 people and we're going to have large commissions. After being in this for a couple of years, I actually want to slow down and invest more time and energy into figuring out how we can do better work before we start getting more work. We’ve been concluding the interviews by asking everyone the same question… What's been the most rewarding moment as a practice thus far? Ivi: Not quitting on ourselves! Every single day we decide to not apply to work for a corporate office is very rewarding. Jaffer: I'm going to give an earnest answer: I think this moment is one of the most rewarding. I'm being very sincere. When I woke up this morning, I was thinking about how meaningful it is that our work can sustain the interest of a class, that it can sustain a close read, or prolonged attention. It’s incredibly gratifying!
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Power to the Grid

Space Popular vaults brick and wraps a thin steel grid around a modular house in Spain
In Santa Barbara, Valencia (the original, Eastern Spanish municipality, not the Western U.S. incarnation), a green grid can found rising out of the landscape. Embedded into the same stone as the nearby 758-year-old Valencia Cathedral, the grid is, in fact, a house designed by London-based studio Space Popular with local architects Estudio Alberto Burgos and Javier Cortina Maruenda. “We've never built anything in concrete, I doubt we ever will,” Space Popular cofounder Fredrik Hellberg told AN Interior. “We try and avoid it, to be honest.” It’s a statement that only ten years ago, back when Hellberg and his wife and fellow co-founder Lara Lesmes were studying at the Architectural Association, would’ve garnered odd looks from their peers. Now, however, the conversation around the most destructive material on earth has changed. So instead of building with concrete, Hellberg and Lesmes have opted for steel and brick. This marriage of the two materials, though, is not as you’d expect. Rather than employing a brick facade to mask a steel frame, almost the opposite is at play here. While steel still serves as a structural frame, it is by no means hidden. Painted green and proudly on display in the form of a grid, composed of 12-feet wide cubes, the steel is a mere four inches thick and feels incredibly delicate. The tectonic distich is completed with loadbearing Guastavino vaults that span various parts of the full structure in half and quarter-width iterations. It’s a language that is spoken throughout the house—both internally and externally, with flourishes like a brick-vaulted staircase and green trident railings dotted in every corner. “We wanted to eliminate all thresholds between the inside and outside,” Lesmes said. This objective was achieved through a semi-internal courtyard, sliding doors, and by having the gridded structure cover the entire plot, besides the pool area. The house is currently up for rent but the developer has plans to sell it in the long run. “To have a grid superstructure creates a sense of possibility—you can add a lot of awnings etc.,” Lesmes added. “Hopefully [the eventual owners] will cover the structure with plants, netting, a hammock, or fabrics to delineate shaded areas, that will create a sense of boundary.” Read the full project profile on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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Duck and Cover

Does the Hollywood Hard Rock Hotel rock, or is it a one-hit wonder?
Speeding down the asphalt behemoth of the Florida Turnpike, it’s impossible to miss the latest addition to the swampy peninsula’s flat horizon. Six shafts of fluorescent light climb thousands of feet into the sky, slicing through the Everglades’ winter fog and reducing local air traffic to the appearance of toy planes. Following the light beams to their source, I encounter what can only be an accident-inducing sight: A 450-foot tall, glass-fronted building that’s shaped like an electric guitar—unmistakeably a Hard Rock Hotel. A project seven years in the making, the new Guitar Hotel (which is, needless to say, the world’s first guitar-shaped building) is the frontrunner of a $1.5 billion extension of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The supersized instrument, designed by Klai Juba Wald Architecture, contains 638 guest suites, bringing the total room count of the resort (including the old hotel) to over 1,200. These rooms range from a 700-square-foot standard to a two-floor, 4,000-square-foot “Beyoncé penthouse” designed by Wilson Associates of Dallas. Featuring over three football fields of casino space, a 6,500-seat theatre-style concert venue, a half-dozen pools, a mall, a day-and-nightclub, and dozens of restaurants and bars, the hotel is gearing up to become a global attraction. It already was when I visited. I pulled down Seminole Way just before sunset on a regular Tuesday evening. This palm tree flanked road snakes around the old hotel and casino and then spits me out at the swanky base of the gargantuan guitar, which is flanked by lush lit tropical landscaping, water features, and bow-tied valet boys circling Lamborghinis. A broad spectrum of guests including families with hyperactive kids, solo gamblers, road-tripping bros, and honeymooners all made a beeline for the 18-acre recreational archipelago in front of the Guitar Hotel; I followed suit.  Dashing through the glitzy smoke-filled casino, I reach the poolside exit just as a bone-shaking rendition of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” erupts from both sides of the hotel. The building’s glossy façade becomes a psychedelic screen of choreographed color bursts. Miles of LEDs running horizontally along its 35 stories twinkle into ever-busier patterns as the guitar’s ‘strings’—six great shafts of light cutting 20,000 feet into the sky—pulsate maniacally to the beat. My jaw drops when I learn that this epic light show occurs twice nightly.  Becoming an international destination is a lofty goal for a building situated in the guts of southern Florida’s highway system: A cacophonous collage of roaring freeways, alligator wrestling megaplexes, smoke shops, used car dealers, RV parks, and sleepy suburbs dotted with manmade water features. But the glowing guitar’s strategic situation on the 497-acre Florida Seminole reservation is as tactical as it gets, both in its flashy design and the political sway of tribe’s global gambling empire.  Despite their nonchalant appearance, the Florida Seminoles, a group of around 4,000 (another 18,000 live in Oklahoma, having been forcibly uprooted by white settlers in the 18th century), possesses an indomitable business acumen. They hold an impressive claim to Florida’s booming gambling economy, managing six separate casinos across the sunshine state alone. Before the original Hollywood Hard Rock Hotel and Casino was erected here in 2004, the Seminoles introduced the country’s first tribe-owned gambling facility—a high stakes bingo hall—in 1979. “The Seminole Tribe of Florida has played the most important role in the origins and development of Indian gaming in the United States of any single tribe,” suggested Matthew L.M. Fletcher, professor of Law & Director of the Indigenous Law & Policy Center at Michigan State University Initially, erecting casinos on tribe land enabled Native Americans to bypass state gambling legislation across the United States, but disputes between tribes and politicians eventually snowballed into a supreme court case in 1987. This case resulted in the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which allowed Native American tribes to continue their gambling business as usual, so long as they gave a cut of their profits to the state. For the Seminoles, this equates to a hefty $350 million pay-off per year. But Florida’s increased dependency on this bonus revenue has enabled the tribe to sweeten their end of the deal, gaining exclusive rights to many of the highest-grossing casino games, including Blackjack, as outlined in the 2010 Seminole Compact At the far end of the hotel’s sprawling outdoor complex, the faint upbeat jingle of the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” wafts over a water sports pool easily clearing three football fields in length. Canoes, kayaks, and paddle-boards bobble in the phosphorescent blue water. A walking path populated with Floridian flora snakes around the active pool, leading to a state-of-the-art muscle toning outdoor gym that’s pumping the same soundtrack from the machines’ built-in speakers. The hotel sound system is impossible to escape; duck underwater and the feel good™ tunes are only amplified.  Unfurling around the active pool like a chain of seasteads is what the hotel calls the ‘Bora Bora experience’: A cluster of sixteen luxury villas with swim-up entrances, private plunge pools, and butler services that are available for hotel guests to rent for the day. Swim-up ground floor suites appear again in the new Oasis tower, a seven-story, 168-room low-rise building that slinks across the southwestern end of the complex and peeks over The Spine, an undulating covered walkway flanked by waterfalls that extends from the base of the guitar. Adjacent ‘Seminole style’ poolside chickees with TVs and fridges are another stay-within-a-stay opportunity. For those craving a beach (this is Florida, after all) there are two themed areas, complete with Floridian sand, tropical lagoon waterfalls, and plenty of palm trees. The interiors are equally glitzy: Caught between an ultra-polished cruise ship and an unspeakably upscale airport, the opulent materials, including leather, marble, wood paneling, and hand-blown glass accents around every corner collectively put Vegas to shame. The Beyoncé penthouse is the crowning jewel of this hedonistic playground. Scattered around the elegant chamber, which, in addition to featuring floor-to-ceiling marble bathrooms, boasts its own private balcony pool, and a miniature Taschen library and various texts on feminist theory—which, rather unsurprisingly, appear untouched. A secret VIP gaming room featuring blackjack and slot machines is available exclusively for celebrities, athletes, and other select guests on floor 34.  While the building’s curvaceous guitar shape is an undeniably iconic feat of engineering, there are also more subtle design elements to be commended. Nine floors of generous balconies have been cut into both sides of the guitar and staggered and set back from public view, ensuring that nobody sneaks a peak on your open-air morning shower. An inventive rigging system has been installed for facilitating the cleaning and repair of the windows and lights via telescopic tools kept on top of the building to allow for minimal visual interference for guests (although it’s no small business keeping the glass facade spotless).  The most extravagant feature here is The Oculus, a warm, glowing neon beacon located in the hotel lobby. Designed collaboratively between Rockwell Group and Mark Fuller of WET Design Group (the masterminds behind the audacious Dubai Fountain), the Oculus shares some of the same traits and runs its own multisensory mini light shows from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. Fourteen concentric panels of laminated glass create a waterfall effect from both in and outside the fountain, with eight holographic projections of various rock ‘n’ roll demigods going on at any one time. A tube of water tumbles down from the dark wood-lined dome, appearing like an alien abduction scene as it’s illuminated by LEDs from above and below. It’s the perfect place to space out after losing one too many rounds of Texas hold ’em. A cocktail bar with its own live music program is located just above The Oculus and offers trippy views down below.  Scattered throughout the building is a rotating selection of celebrity accessories from the Hard Rock’s epic 81,000 piece-strong memorabilia archive. On show during my visit was Neil Diamond’s classic thunderbird car and some choice outfits of Britney Spears and Björk, among others; the rest is kept in a vault in Fort Lauderdale. A built-in marble-floored mall that stretches 26,000 square feet offers boutique stores, caviar outlets, cigar lounges, and even an indoor miniature golf course. Around the Hard Rock complex are nineteen restaurants and 20 bars. On the other end of the mall, a heavenly escalator will whisk you away to DAER, a 44,000-square-foot nightclub and “day club” (remarkably, South Florida’s first), where the whos-who of EDM and dance let loose around a Steve Lieberman-designed LED centerpiece.  Buried in the bowels of the building is the new Hard Rock Live: a 7,000-capacity theater designed by Canadian entertainment gurus Scéno Plus and broken in with a set by Maroon 5. Sixty-five-hundred spacious seats offer unobstructed views across the acoustically pure clamshell-shaped theatre. Golden VIP couches offer nonstop cocktail service for the fortunate, but there’s not a dud seat in the house, with the back row less than 50 yards away from the stage. A dozen shows, performances, and concerts are planned for February alone (Rod Stewart fans, listen up. Then, of course, there is the gambling. The new Guitar Hotel adds 150,000 square feet of gaming space with 7,000 seats at 195 tables, effectively doubling the original size of the casino. Popular games like blackjack, mini-baccarat, and Spanish 21 are on the menu, alongside over new 3,000 slot machines and a high limit slot room. There is even a designated non-smoking section—but tucked behind drab black curtains, it’s a bit of a hard sell.  Apart from the name and the sawgrass-scented bath accessories in the suites, there’s hardly a trace of Seminole about this place. But, ask any member of the tribe and they’ll tell you they prefer it that way. The Vegas-inspired razzmatazz is all part of the Hard Rock franchise’s cultish draw, and it equals more cash in their pockets.  “The Seminoles don’t interfere with the Hard Rock brand,” explained Gary Bitner, president and founder of Bitner Group, the PR firm behind the new hotel. “It’s been that way since Jim Allen took the helm and the Seminoles began generating the bulk of the franchise profits.”  A businessman originally from New Jersey, Allen can largely be credited for the Florida Seminoles’ monopoly over Floridian gambling. He’s helmed the tribe’s gambling operations as the chief executive officer of Seminole Gaming since 2001, following stints at Atlantis Bahamas and The Trump Organization. It’s under his reign that the Seminoles acquired the Hard Rock brand back in 2007 for $906 million, beating out 72 competitors including titans of the hospitality industry, and extending the tribe’s casino empire up the East Coast and into the American heartland. Looking at Allen’s track record of designing casinos out in paradise, it becomes easy to see how the building harnesses paradisiacal escapism and exudes rock’n’roll charisma all at once, to mass appeal.  That its rooms have been almost fully booked since the building’s star-studded opening in October, which drew the likes of Johnny Depp and Khloe Kardashian, alongside an amped-up light show and event schedule planned for the year ahead, suggests the Guitar Hotel has no intentions of slowing its tempo. Its 2020 “Big Game” commercial, which featured Jennifer Lopez, DJ Khaled, Pitbull, and other high-profile celebrities on a wild race across the hotel’s lagoon-filled landscape for JLo’s “Bling Cup”—launching pineapple grenades, paddleboarding in stilettos, and even crashing a Stevie Van Zandt concert to retrieve the rhinestoned god-tier Starbucks thermos—is the latest testament to the brand’s ability to enlist pop culture and conjure the spectacular with a virtually limitless budget. While it’s fair play to criticize the very existence of a guitar-shaped luxury hotel as our relationship with the Earth grows more precarious, or find fault with the detrimental social impact of gambling, which preys on minorities and unemployed, you can walk away from a weekend at the Guitar Hotel knowing the livelihood of the Seminoles grows stronger for it. In addition to a $1,000 check paid out monthly in their name along with free college tuition, every tribe member currently receives dividends of their gambling empire paid out to around $128,000 a year. In other words, every Seminole member reaches adulthood with over $2 million in reserves. Rarely do ethnic minorities make it so big in the US — a country that built its wealth on the forced displacement, persecution and eradication of indigenous groups. At the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel, the right guys are on the winning end of your bad poker face.
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When They Go High, We Go Low

Manhattan’s subterranean Lowline park flatlines
Manhattan’s Lowline, a planned underground park project that stretched the concept of adaptive reuse to exciting and seemingly impossible new extremes, is no more. As first reported by Crain’s, funding for the estimated $83 million subterranean green space that would have been tucked deep beneath the Lower East Side within the long-abandoned Williamsburg Trolley Terminal has essentially dried up. This has forced the project to go “into dormancy” as Signe Nielsen, a landscape architect and member of the Lowline’s board of directors, explained to Crain’s. “We were unable to meet all of the benchmarks that were required, one of the most significant of which was to raise a substantial amount of money.” The Underground Development Foundation, the park’s nonprofit fundraising arm, launched two successful Kickstarter campaigns during the park’s early years, raising $150,000 in 2015 and $223,506 in 2015. As Crain’s notes, $3.7 million had been secured by the nonprofit after the project’s attention-grabbing launch in 2011—the same year that the second section of the High Line, a project that also famously harnesses New York City’s dormant transport infrastructure, opened to enormous fanfare on Manhattan’s far West Side. But public filings show that by the end of 2017, the nonprofit possessed little under $10,000 in funding. In 2016, the year that the Lowline received the formal green light from the city to proceed with the ambitious project, the foundation had $815,287 on hand. Obviously, such a visionary undertaking—one that involved reimagining a derelict subterranean space and employing emerging solar technology to reactivate it as a lush, community-centric park—came with a steep price tag. Regardless of fundraising struggles, the Lowline, which would have been New York City’s first underground park, was still slated for a 2021 opening as of last year. In a prescient 2016 interview with Fast Company, former Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen noted there was a chance that the Lowline would never be fully realized, going on to say that such a risk was ultimately positive. “This is all upside,” she said at the time. “There’s a chance to take the unbelievable advances in technology and the creative spirit of New York and harness it to create a public space that no one could have imagined.” Speaking with AN, Lowline co-founder Dan Barasch mirrored Glen's earlier sentiments on the benefits of risk-taking while also suggesting that the Lowline is, in fact, “not over” despite the current absence of a fundraising-driven pulse first reported by Crain's. “It's going to get done,” Barasch said, going on to explain that the team is open to exploring other hidden spaces in New York and beyond that are ripe for rediscovery and reactivation. And the Lowline's current home on the Lower East Side certainly isn't out of the question for future work. Barasch expressed his frustration with the de Blasio administration and the “fundamental lack of public funding” for bold, risk-taking projects like the Lowline. Barasch mentioned a greenery-filled underground park in Seoul that's quite similar to the Lowline but benefited from greater public support from the city's government. “This was a project that always needed the city to be behind it,” he said. “We're going to wait for an administration that has the imagination and capital that a project like this requires.” While the Lowline may never see the light of day under the current mayoral administration, this isn’t to say that it failed to provide the curious public with a taste of what was (supposed to) come. From October 2015 through February 2017, the Lowline team operated the Lowline Lab, a non-subterranean space described as a “long-term open laboratory and technical exhibit designed to test and showcase how the Lowline will grow and sustain plants underground.” Free and open to the public during the weekends, the Lowline Lab welcomed 100,000 visitors over the course of its existence. The lab was housed in what was once part of Essex Street Market, and is now the Essex Crossing mega-development. The idea for a public space that made use of the old Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal was first conceived as the Delancy Underground by Barasch and James Ramsey in 2009. When the Lowline launched two years later, the duo envisioned it as an obvious inverse of the wildly popular—but controversial—elevated High Line. It would, however, ultimately been an entirely different, more futuristic creature. At 1.5 acres compared to the High Line’s 6.7 acres, the Lowline would have placed a greater emphasis on innovation and technology as well as on fostering community engagement.
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The Pisa of Texas

Change.org petition seeks to save half-imploded Dallas office tower
Forget football, frozen margaritas, and the Texas State Fair. It would appear that the one thing capable of truly bringing the entire city of Dallas together is a failed mid-rise demolition. In the seconds following a much-anticipated planned implosion of the former Affiliated Computer Services tower on February 16, it became abundantly clear that 300 pounds of dynamite wouldn’t be enough to bring the dogged 11-story building completely down. Located north of downtown Dallas off of the Central Expressway, the otherwise forgettable 1970s-era office tower in question is being razed to make way for a $2.5 billion mixed-use development dubbed The Central. But the demolition went awry, leaving the building’s concrete-and-steel core standing a distinctive tilt that's not too dissimilar from a certain Tuscan bell tower. Just like that, Dallas gained itself an instant, internet-famous photo backdrop. Now Dallasonians—tongues firmly planted in cheeks—are rallying to save the half-demolished building now known as the “Leaning Tower of Dallas.” A “dank meme"-seeking Dallas resident has even launched a Change.org petition calling for the inclined tower to be bestowed with Texas Historic Landmark status as well as UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. Reads the petition:
Over the past few days, The Leaning Tower of Dallas has become the city's largest cultural icon. After making national headlines, we are finally famous for something other than the JFK Assassination. Unfortunately, the demolition will be completed soon to make way for even more hideous shops and condos for the bourgeois residents of Uptown Dallas.
As of this writing, over 900 people have signed the petition, which is directed toward Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Texas Historical Commission executive director Mark Wolfe, and noted reprieve-giver President Donald Trump, among others. In all fairness, there is some cultural significance to the Affiliated Computer Services tower. Although owned by Xerox in its final years, the building was once home to the Southland Corporation, the parent company behind one of Dallas’s greatest contributions to modern society: 7-Eleven. While obviously unserious in its intent, the petition does serve as a sort of battle cry against The Central, a dense and upscale project that will ultimately span 30 acres. As reported by The Dallas Morning News, the first phase of development will include a 17-story office tower, two hotels, two large apartment complexes, a 3.5-acre park, and 110,000 square feet of retail, entertainment, and restaurant space. Dallas architecture firms GFF and BOKA Powell are both involved in the project, as is New York-based Perkins Eastman.

Project developer De La Vega Development plans to break ground during the third quarter of this year—that is, provided that the remaining portion of the tower fully comes down when a crane and wrecking ball finish the job at some point this week.

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I Can't Thrive 55

Herzog & de Meuron reveal Switzerland’s first roadside chapel
Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron has unveiled its design for Autobahnkirche, an appropriately austere roadside chapel to be built near the small village of Andeer, alongside the A13 motorway in the firm’s home country. A major north-south route, the A13 transverses the eastern section of the Swiss Alps through the sprawling, trilingual canton of Graubünden. Along with wayside shrines, ecumenical chapels situated along long and lonely stretches of highway are fairly common across Europe, particularly in Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany, where there are nearly 50 so-called “road churches” or Autobahnkirchen. Herzog & de Meuron’s 3,000-square-foot Autobahnkirche will be the first of its kind in Switzerland. While this is somewhat surprising considering both the country’s monastic associations and its white-knuckle alpine highways, the Swiss populace is increasingly non-religious. The Autobahnkirche aims to be both a singular pit stop for motorists traveling along the A13 as well as introspection-seeking local residents regardless of their religious beliefs (or non-beliefs). Painted in the customary solid white, Herzog & de Meuron’s angular, box-shaped structure will be highly visible from the motorway as a distinctive beacon. Of the project, Herzog & de Meuron wrote:
"The idea for the chapel in Andeer had to emerge from the site alone, from the location, from the road. And we did not want to work with explicit religious signs or symbols, even less with Christian symbols such as a cross or representations of Christ. We were looking for architecture that would sharpen the perception of visitors — of the location, the natural environs, and even of the way they see themselves."
The Autobahnkirche will be comprised of four individual spaces, all of them functioning as distinct sanctuaries. One doubles as a sheltered overlook of sorts where visitors can take in sweeping views of the pastoral countryside through a massive ovoid window. The structure’s main entrance is through an airy aboveground sanctuary enclosed by walls that “just lean against each other; they lean and support at the same time,” as the architects put it in a press statement. “One of them stands upright. Almost like the wall of a choir. A simple gesture that emerged almost in play.” After descending down a staircase from the aboveground space, visitors will enter into the hushed subterranean heart of the chapel, a tunnel-like sequence of three cavernous chambers that will each serve an individual purpose while flowing seamlessly into each other. The first room will be a circular refuge for “readers” in which natural light pours in from above. Moving deeper into the underground area, visitors will find a more somber room with a reflecting wall that’s illuminated only by candle and a single skylight. “This is the most personal place for visitors; here they are confronted with themselves,” explained Herzog & de Meuron. Beyond this space is the magnificent viewing room, where the dramatic alpine beauty that envelopes the Autobahnkirche is on full display. “The deeper you go, the weaker the sounds from the motorway and the stronger the sound of your own footsteps,” writes Herzog and de Meuron. “Finally, when you reach the last room, strong daylight streams into the heart of the chapel and you see a panoramic view of the landscape, the village, and the lush green meadows and woods. Perception of the vegetation is heightened by the complementary red of a room-height pane of tinted glass. The sun, setting in the evening, shines through the red glass into this last portion of the chapel, which leads directly to the landscape outside.”     Autobahnkirche is the first building with spiritual affiliations designed by Herzog & de Meuron, although the Basel-headquartered firm did participate in a 1989 design competition for Zurich’s Greek Orthodox Church. No timeline has been made public for the chapel’s construction, or the project’s estimated cost.
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Did Somebody Say Timbah

A net-zero, cross-laminated timber apartment complex will rise in Boston
Thanks to support from the U.S. Forest Service and the Softwood Lumber Board, developer Placetailor and Boston-based architecture firm Generate have collaborated to design a carbon-neutral apartment block in Roxbury, a neighborhood in the south end of Boston. Named Model-C, the 5-story, 19,000-square-foot building will contain 14 residential units above an affordable co-working space on its ground floor. Model-C will be assembled using a cross-laminated timber (CLT) kit-of-parts and will be net-zero energy and net-zero carbon for its first decade of operation. The CLT rooftop will allow for the easy installation of solar panels, and the building’s walls will be insulated with natural mineral wool. The entire building, including bathroom “pods,” will be prefabricated in sections off-site and assembled from the ground up to reduce the need for scaffolding. Its plans have been certified by PassivHaus and meet the standards of the new Boston Department of Neighborhood Development’s “Zero Emissions Standards,” part of the city's Climate Action Plan. Once complete, Model-C will be one of the only totally timber buildings in Massachusetts, and one of the least energy-intensive buildings in America. Generate sees Model-C as a demonstration of a modular cross-laminated timber system the firm will apply to other sites in response to different topographical conditions and coding requirements. “Over the past year,” the firm's website states, “Generate has been transitioning out of the academic setting of the MIT Mass Timber Lab, and into industry by actively seeking progressive developers to deploy its first demonstration project, which they hope will serve as a catalyst in the Greater Boston area, and eventually in North America.” While mass-timber buildings are currently limited to six stories in North America, Generate is currently exploring the application of their system to buildings as tall as 18 stories tall in response to the 2021 Tall Wood building codes. The project received zoning approval last September and construction is expected to begin this June. Given the expediency of the prefabrication method developed by Placetailor and Generate, as well as the elimination of an interior framing system, the project can be completed as early as winter of next year.
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Art on Site

Barozzi Veiga to design campus for mainstay Miami nonprofit Oolite Arts
Miami nonprofit Oolite Arts has hired Spanish firm Barozzi Veiga to design its new headquarters. The 36-year-old group, formerly known as ArtCenter/South Florida, purchased a warehouse property in the city’s Little Haiti-Little River neighborhood, according to the Miami Herald, and plans to build a $30 million center boasting artists’ studios, a theater, a maker space, and classrooms for professionals and the public.  “Miami’s visual arts community has grown exponentially over the past decade, and Oolite Arts has transformed its programming to help Miami-based artists grow,” said Dennis School, president and CEO of Oolite Arts, in a press release. “Our new home will enable us to better meet the needs of both visual artists and the community.”  As the Miami Herald notes, Oolite Arts and its old headquarters on Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road Mall once helped revive a once-forgotten strip of land into a thriving commercial and cultural corridor. The nonprofit’s upcoming new space will be located at 75 NW 72nd St. runs along the Florida East Coast Railway and is slated to open in 2022. At 35,000-square-feet, the campus is expected to also bolster the largely industrial area and its surrounding community, a neighborhood that’s been growing with incoming art galleries and arts-related organizations looking for cheaper rent. News of Barozzi Veiga’s selection comes just months after the Barcelona-based studio was announced as the new campus master plan architects for the Art Institute of Chicago, an institution also located over a rail line. The firm’s most recently-completed structure, a museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, additionally dealt with train tracks.  Established in 2004 by Fabrizio Barozzi and Alberto Veiga, the international practice has won numerous awards for its cultural work including the Mies van der Rohe Award for European Architecture for its design of Poland’s Szczecin Philharmonic Hall in 2015. The duo has designed countless projects around the world and a few smaller commissions in the United States, but Oolite Arts will be Barozzi Veiga’s first building in the country.  Miami-based firm Charles Benson will serve as the architect of record on the arts center, and visuals will be released later this year. 
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A Bit Off the Top, Please

Court ruling against Upper West Side tower could take down 20 floors
A striking New York State Supreme Court ruling may force the developers of an Upper West Side condo tower at 200 Amsterdam Avenue to scale back their soaring design by 20 floors. While developments of this kind are often modified in the planning phase in order to comply with zoning regulations, this case has a twist: Construction of the 668-foot building is nearly complete. Last Thursday, Supreme Court Justice W. Franc Perry ordered that the New York City Department of Buildings revoke the building permit for the development at 200 Amsterdam as well as demolish all floors that exceed zoning restrictions. The exact number of floors slated for removal remains unclear, but The New York Times reports that it could be 20 or more, depending on the final interpretation of the zoning laws. That’s quite a trim for a 52-story building. 200 Amsterdam, designed by Elkus Manfredi, occupies the lot where the original Lincoln Square Synagogue stood. In 2013, the synagogue moved to an updated building designed by CetraRuddy right next door, and renderings of the luxury condo high-rise first appeared in 2016. UWS community activists have viewed the project with contempt over the past few years, and many celebrated the ruling as a feat for community organizing. “We are very gratified that after a long fight, the gerrymandered zoning lot at 200 Amsterdam has been declared illegal. This groundbreaking decision averts a dangerous precedent that would have ultimately affected every corner of the city,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS), in a press statement. In a statement to AN, developers SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan defended their vision for 200 Amsterdam and indicated plans to appeal the ruling:
“This ruling is a shocking loss for New York City and its residents. It defies more than 40 years of precedent in the city’s zoning laws. It also ignores the thoughtful decision of the DOB to grant the permit which was upheld by the BSA following exhaustive document review and testimony over a two-year period. Both of those decisions recognized that retroactively applying new interpretations of the city’s zoning to previously approved projects undermines the stability of the regulatory environment needed to support the investment that is critical to New York City’s economy, tax base, housing stock and services.  We will appeal this decision vigorously in court and are confident that we, and the City, will prevail on the merits.”
While the retroactive trimming of a nearly-finished tower is certainly unusual, it is worth noting that New York has seen this situation before—in 1991, a New York developer was forced to tear down the top 12 floors of a 31-story residential tower at 108 East 96th Street five  whole years after it was built. This marked the most severe consequence a New York developer had ever faced for zoning violations; the NYT reporting from 1991 claims that developers of the project repeatedly blamed the violations on an “error in a city map.” The immediate future of 200 Amsterdam remains unclear, but the potential of a partial demolition presents a unique set of challenges, especially with some of the most profitable units located on the upper floors.
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Conflicts of Interest

Cooper Hewitt director and six trustees resign over wedding controversy
Caroline Baumann, director of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, resigned from her post last week after internal controversy arose over her 2018 wedding. According to The New York Times, an investigation conducted by the Smithsonian’s inspector general dove into the amount of money Baumann paid for a custom-made wedding dress, as well as the procurement of her East Hampton, New York, wedding venue—both acquired through potential conflicts of interest in the eyes of the design museum’s governing body.  Some background: All museums under the Smithsonian umbrella are partially funded by the United States government and, like all government jobs, its employee code of conduct states that “employees shall not solicit or accept any gift from any source that is, or appears to be, offered because the employee holds a Smithsonian position or may have influence within the Smithsonian.” The probe into Baumann’s wedding began after an anonymous staff complaint was filed over concerns on two aspects of Baumann’s nuptials. In September 2018, Baumann married branding consultant John Stewart Malcolmson in a $750 silver wedding dress which investigating agents believed, according to NYT, to be a heavily-discounted price that she negotiated using her status as head of Cooper Hewitt. According to Brooklyn-based designer Samantha Sleeper who made the piece, she did not give Baumann a discount nor did Baumann request a discount, even though her dresses start at a rate of $3,000. Sleeper denied the claim that Baumann used her status to procure the gown and insisted the low-dollar amount was standard for the cocktail-style dress which she had purchased. The other issue the agents looked into involved where Baumann and Malcolmson held their wedding; a 16-acre sculpture garden on Long Island founded by textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen. The property, LongHouse Reserve, won a Cooper Hewitt Award in 2015. Per multiple sources, Larsen and Baumann are good friends and he offered up the site for her to use free of charge. NYT noted that Larsen’s nonprofit of the same name has freely used Cooper Hewitt conference rooms for board meetings, an exchange that also drummed up concern within the Smithsonian.   Baumann reportedly stepped back from her directorial role over the claims, despite opposition from the museum’s board of trustees. In the aftermath, six of its 27 members resigned over the weekend from their posts, including architect David Rockwell. NYT reported that artist Judy Francis Zankel, the board secretary, wrote in her resignation letter that the way Baumann was treated “violates every principle of decency.”  “I feel that remaining on the board tacitly condones this behavior,” she continued. Zankel went on to question whether there was a “touch of misogyny” in Baumann’s forced ousting. “Can you imagine all this brouhaha about a dress and a wedding directed toward a man in the same position?”  The specifics of these accusations are especially confusing given Baumann’s success within the institution since she started working there in 2001. After being appointed director in 2013, Baumann supervised the museum’s rebranding by Pentagram and oversaw the $91 million renovation of its Carnegie Mansion home by Gluckman Mayner Architects and Beyer Blinder Belle. Diller Scofidio + Renfro completed its internal exhibition design in 2014 and the following year, the museum’s Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden reopened to the public. The massive project resulted in widespread praise for the 123-year-old institution. Over email, the museum confirmed Baumann’s departure and announced Dr. John Davis, Smithsonian Provost, as Cooper Hewitt’s interim director: “Baumann has been a passionate voice for design, and much was accomplished during her tenure."