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Not Your Average Mall

Remembering César Pelli’s lost mark on the Midwest

César Pelli, the world-renowned architect who passed away in July, will likely be remembered for his largest and most recognizable commissions: the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, the National Museum of Art in Osaka, and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, among others. But unlike many buildings designed by "starchitects" these days, some of Pelli's most compelling and controversial work has fallen by the wayside of mainstream industry discourse.

In 1968, municipal leaders in the architectural Mecca of Columbus, Indiana commissioned Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to devise a masterplan that would reverse the deterioration of the city’s downtown area. Among other recommendations, SOM highlighted the need for a new shopping complex in the central part of the city—a project that would help to enliven streets and reduce consumers’ reliance on less centralized malls in the suburbs and exurbs. The city set aside two square blocks for the project, along with three additional blocks for parking, and waited for investors to take on the venture.

No bites came. After waiting in vain for property developers to take over the project, the Irwin Management Company, controlled by local businessman and head of the Columbus-based Cummins Engine Company, J. Irwin Miller, bought the lot. In order to build a state-of-the-art shopping center, Miller hired an architect still in the incipient stages of his career, a young Argentine-born man with six completed projects under his belt. César Pelli soon arrived in Indiana and made several suggestions regarding the composition of the center, including that a significant portion of the site be designed as a community gathering space.

Between 1972 and 1973, Pelli built a complex consisting of two main buildings. The first building, the Courthouse Center, named for its proximity to the historic Columbus Courthouse, housed conventional shopping mall. The other building, called “The Commons,” was connected to the first by a single glass envelope and housed a 63,000-square-foot, multi-level public space. Under 38-foot-tall ceilings, Pelli designed a 2-acre park that he compared to Italian piazzas, complete with benches, planters, and playgrounds for children. The bronze-tinted glass reflected enough light to prevent passive heat gain but also allowed for sweeping views of the street from inside. The atrial space became a popular venue for public events, with enormous structural elements and sloping roofs that towered above visitors. As locals increasingly frequented The Commons, the adjacent mall assumed “The Commons Mall” as a colloquial nickname.

The Commons represented Pelli’s first contribution to Columbus’ built landscape. The building stood alongside great modernist masterpieces by the likes of I.M. Pei, Harry Weese, and Robert Venturi—all of whom were commissioned through an altruistic program established by Miller’s foundation. The industrialist persuaded city officials to hire architects from a list of five blue-chip designers that he had assembled, agreeing to pay their top-dollar fees himself. Miller believed that high-quality buildings would help attract investment and talented engineers to the town, both of which would bolster the Cummins Engine Company’s business prospects.

César Pelli, in fact, had first visited Columbus in 1956 to tour the Eero Saarinen-designed Miller House, which was still under construction. Completed at a time when much of his portfolio consisted of buildings in coastal states, The Commons was also Pelli’s first project in the Midwest. He would go on to accept several commissions in the region during the following decades, primarily for institutional or corporate projects in urban centers and college towns. The Commons was the architect’s only built structure in the state of Indiana until 2011, when he finished the Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence, also in Columbus.

With its bulky, monolithic facades and expansive glass curtain walls, The Commons was viewed by some as a precursor to Pelli’s Pacific Design Center, which he finished in Los Angeles in 1975. The latter achieved far greater renown than the former, but their shared design cues are unmistakable. As Pelli’s career advanced and he reached the upper tiers of architectural prominence, his affinity for seamless glass designs gave way to a material approach that often included both glass and stonework—a stylistic choice more characteristic of the postmodern era. Many of his 21st-century commissions signaled a return to the glass curtain wall, a medium that has achieved greater flexibility and versatility since the 1970s. The architectural significance of The Commons weathered many of these fluctuations, so much so that it played host to the Pritzker Prize ceremony in 1994.

Eventually, in the first years of the 21st century, it became clear that The Commons and its adjacent mall were facing an upward battle against deteriorating physical conditions and increasing maintenance costs. The Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation bought the property in 2005 and began to mull over strategies for redevelopment, ultimately concluding that the retail space would have to be torn down. As part of the plan, The Commons was also almost entirely demolished in 2008, leaving only its steel skeleton and Chaos 1, a site-specific kinetic installation by sculptor Jean Tinguely. The building that replaced it, still called The Commons, was designed by the Boston-based firm Koetter Kim.

In a city where architectural heritage is both a huge point of pride for residents and the lifeblood of a burgeoning local tourist economy, Pelli’s building is one of few major structures ever to be dismantled. Much like César Pelli himself, it lives on today not only through photographs, drawings, and individual memories, but through an architectural legacy that extends well beyond walls.

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On-demand infrastructure

Robot boats autonomously bridge a gap in Amsterdam
A joint team of researchers at the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolis Solutions (AMS) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Senseable City Lab have developed what they’re calling “the world’s first dynamic” bridge. Powered by a fleet of autonomous electric boats, roundAround will connect the Amsterdam City Center with the developing Marineterrein Amsterdam, a partly decommissioned military base that is home to the AMS Institute and a living lab for urban innovation. The project will be the first full-scale application of the Roboat project, a five-year research collaboration between the two schools. Building permanent infrastructure can be costly, complex, and a time-consuming process, particularly across the highly trafficked canals of Amsterdam. Researchers envision roundAround as a quick way to build new connections in Amsterdam and increase the use of canals to alleviate congestion as the city continues to grow and change. RoundAround employs a fleet of roboats that move in a continuous circle across the canal, like perfectly synchronized Busby Berkeley aquatic number. They move along a pre-programmed route equipped with cameras and Lidar technology that can detect obstacles or changes in the water and alter course as necessary using its four thrusters. As they approach the specialized docking platform, the roboats lock into a guide rail to provide additional stability, allowing people to board or exit without stopping. The research team estimates that the system could provide transport for hundreds of people every day, along with other benefits. “Involving citizens and visitors of the area roundAround would provide the research project with valuable continuous feedback loops,” said Stephan van Dijk, head of research & valorization at AMS. The collected data will help roboats learn and further improve their performance. But Bridges are just the beginning. The roboats were designed using a modular system that can accommodate various decks to provide different services. Researchers are hoping they will one day collect and transport garbage, provide on-demand water taxi or towing service, and securely attach to create temporary platforms for performances or “pop-up” shops. Secure connections are achieved through a novel laser-guided ball-and-socket latching mechanism. Researchers are working on improvements to the latching system, which has potential applications far beyond creating secure aquatic platforms, including cargo handling, charging stations, and even docking in space. Although autonomous cars may be getting all the headlines, Amsterdam is building its future infrastructure on the backs of autonomous boats. And what begins with one "bridge" in one city may one day connect and activate waterways worldwide.
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Proactive Design

Michigan high school upgrades campus to combat potential active shooters
The K-12 team at TowerPinkster is aiming to physically slow down school shooters through its $48-million renovation and addition to Fruitport High School in Western Michigan. The 189,822-square-foot project recently garnered national headlines because of its push to enhance safety within the 64-year-old institution, which previously featured narrow corridors and cramped gathering spaces.  TowerPinkster, an architecture, engineering, and interiors firm with expertise in educational spaces, worked with the National Institute of Crime Prevention to learn the most effective ways to secure the school’s campus, which is slated to reopen in 2021. By building on 143,879 square feet of new space that connects to the older structure, the design team was able to create a two-story, curved academic wing designed to reduce the sightlines of a potentially armed attacker. Each teaching space was conceived with “shadow zones” along the door-side walls where students and faculty can hide without being seen. Shatter-proof safety film was specified to cover the few windows that do look into the classrooms. In addition, cement block “wing walls” were added to stick out next to all doors and act as further barriers.  Currently under construction, this build-out is the fourth attempt to update the school since its opening in 1963. TowerPinkster has envisioned a new set of offices, an auditorium, media center, woodshop, cafeteria, and common area for Fruitport HS as well. The entry experience is also changing. Located at the opposite end of the classroom corridors, and looking directly at the parking lot, a staff member at reception would be able to see anyone walking into the school at any given time. They would also have the ability to lock down all classrooms, the vestibule door to the office, and the office door to the school using a three-button system.  At a time when some experts are saying the key to school safety is in the design of fully transparent and inclusive learning spaces or pushing for gun reform, TowerPinkster didn’t wholeheartedly embrace breaking down Fruitport’s mid-century brick structure and replacing it with a more contemporary school. Closer attention was paid to the security strategies and, according to Matt Slagle, director of K-12 design at the firm, it was all about striking a “balance between security and a welcoming presence.” He told The Washington Post his team wanted to make the school feel open, but not too open; secure, but not as secure as a prison.  Along with adding ample barrier elements to the school’s many open spaces, the idea to include curved hallways was one of the biggest safety-increasing design moves. Fruitport’s academic wings will be crescent-shaped and short, even though they won’t appear to be so from the ground. But non-linear connection points aren’t always the smartest way to ensure protection in a highly populated environment. In 2003, it was reported that it took police over seven hours to capture a gunman that had entered a new business school building at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. SWAT team members blamed the architect, Frank Gehry, for the hide-and-seek game that ensued and for not being able to get a clear shot. And, as critics are pointing out on social media, those shadow zones and wing walls could also be taken advantage of by the shooter to more easily hide.
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Dean's List

The country’s newest architecture deans share their visions, role models, and mascots
For many architecture and design schools across the United States, 2019 marks a shift in institutional leadership. From Charlotte to Berkeley, new deans will assume the helms of some of the country’s most challenging—and exciting—programs. The deans will have the opportunity to shape design pedagogy and practice in significant ways, potentially guiding how academic institutions teach and address issues related to the built environment for years to come. But in an era of collaborative learning and community engagement, what does deanship look like? AN asked eight of the country’s new deans about their plans for the future of their schools and their discipline. Here’s what they have to say: Respondents’ answers have been edited and condensed in some cases. Vishaan Chakrabarti University of California, Berkeley College of Environmental Design A former principal at SHoP Architects, Vishaan Chakrabarti is a professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation and the founder of the New York-based Practice for Architecture and Urbanism. The Architect’s Newspaper: What is your vision for the school moving forward? Given the spatial nature of our three existential challenges—climate change, social inequity, and technological dislocation—I believe that schools of architecture are as relevant today as law schools were during the civil and equal rights era. I am keenly interested in exploring with students, staff, and faculty the questions of how to reconcile the demands of professional practice—which takes decades to do well—with the understandable impatience of many students to radically and immediately change our world in light of the environmental, intersectional, economic, and political crises in which they have come of age. How is your new school different from your previous institution, Columbia University? Because [Berkeley] is public, it serves disproportionately large numbers of first-generation college students, Pell Grant recipients, and other diverse groups relative to most private institutions. More broadly, Berkeley is part of the Pacific Rim and therefore exists at a healthy distance from the Eurocentric framework that still dominates many design schools. Harriet Harriss Pratt Institute School of Architecture Before assuming her role at Pratt, Harriet Harriss was the head of the postgraduate program in architecture and interior design at the Royal College of Art in London, where she explored new models of design education addressing gender imbalances that exist at many institutions. What is your vision for the school moving forward? The tradition of parachuting in architectural visionaries ready to superimpose their agenda and aesthetics upon an unsuspecting faculty—with little regard for the established expertise within a school of architecture— is no longer viable. The vision I have is the one I intend to co-design with the talented and dedicated educators, students, and administrators at Pratt Institute School of Architecture… What’s needed is a dean who is willing to facilitate, enable, and empower, who is committed to ensuring talented students’ and educators’ work gets the recognition and exposure it deserves, and one who will work toward ensuring the work is realized across an expanded field of professional practices and public contexts. Who would you consider a role model dean and why? Architecture’s habit of focusing upon an individual’s contribution over that of a collective does not reflect the reality of architectural practice or education. Instead, we need to recognize the achievements of collectives in shaping the most successful spatial outcomes and increase our capacity for collaboration in order to respond effectively to challenges ahead. What would you make your school’s mascot? Do we need mascots? Or actions that lead to meaningful impact? Branko Kolarevic New Jersey Institute of Technology Hillier College of Architecture and Design Previously a professor and administrator at the School of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape at the University of Calgary, Branko Kolarevic is a designer and educator with experience at multiple universities across North America and Asia. How is your new school different from your previous institution, the University of Calgary? The urban fabric and the demographics of [Newark and Calgary] are very different, as are the local economies and politics. The school in Calgary was based on graduate and postgraduate education, while the Hillier College is mostly focused on undergraduate degrees, even though we have both professional and post-professional masters degrees (and also a PhD program)… There are similarities, as both NJIT and the University of Calgary place great emphasis on research; both are in the top tier research-wise. Who would you consider a role model dean and why? My role model is late Bill Mitchell, the former dean at MIT, who was my mentor when I was a doctoral student at Harvard GSD, and who provided unwavering support throughout my academic career. I also had a privilege early on to learn about leadership from two great deans: Marvin Malecha, who was dean of the Cal Poly Pomona College of Environmental Design in early 1990s when I taught there, and Roger Schluntz, former dean of the University of Miami School of Architecture. They both radiate positive energy that is infectious and are great minds and compassionate leaders who care deeply about people around them. What would you make your school’s mascot? That's a tough one. Given that New Jersey is known as the “Garden State,” I would pick our state bird (American goldfinch) or insect (honeybee) as a mascot. Both the goldfinches and bees are designers and builders of their nests, so in my view they are appropriate mascots for a design school. Lesley Lokko The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York Beyond her training as an architect and her tenure as head of school at the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, Lesley Lokko is a Scottish-born-Ghanaian-raised writer with 12 best-selling novels. How is your new school different from your previous institution, the University of Johannesburg? Managerially and administratively, they are very different, but the hunger that drives the staff and students is very similar. Both places have a desire to say what has previously remained unsaid: that issues of class, race, gender, and power are central to architectural production, not marginal; that diversity strengthens architectural, landscape, and urban culture; that difference matters, not because it is “different,” but because it enriches discourse. Who would you consider a role model dean and why? Alvin Boyarsky [chair of the Architectural Association from 1971 to 1990]. He made the marginal mainstream and was committed to change. What would you make your school’s mascot? A chameleon. Shape-shifter. Brook Muller University of North Carolina (UNC) at Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture  Brook Muller was an associate dean of the University of Oregon (UO) School of Architecture and Allied Arts, and his work focuses primarily on design theory and ecologically responsible practice. What is your vision for the school moving forward? I seek to build a shared vision for the College of Arts + Architecture, so the idea is to shape it when I hit the ground… My priorities include (1) Introducing [students] to an expansive set of issues and asking them to assume active stances…(2) [Building] community partnership…in the arts and design…(3) Promoting interdisciplinarity and other forms of intra-college community building; (4) Assuming a proactive stance in fostering equity… (5) Pushing the boundaries of sustainability and ecological responsiveness. Who would you consider a role model dean and why? Frances Bronet, my former dean at UO, who is now President at the Pratt Institute. [An interview with Frances Bronet is on page tktk] Frances was tireless, visionary, and enthusiastic, always one step ahead. I have seen many different models of leadership; hers was predicated on building effective collaborations and trust. It was a lot of fun to walk into work when Frances was at UO. What would you make your school’s mascot? I like UNC Charlotte’s current team nickname (49ers). This name came about as the institution was founded in the late 1940s after World War II in response to rising educational demand. Focusing on the city and on opening up educational opportunities for those who are deserving—that strikes me as a beautiful pairing. Dan Pitera University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture Dan Pitera served as the executive director of the Detroit Collaborative Design Center, a community-based nonprofit located at the University of Detroit Mercy. The center’s website describes him as “a political and social activist masquerading as an architect.” What is your vision for the school moving forward? We do not need to abandon the tools of our discipline to engage a wider variety of people in a collaborative way… Working in this way is often viewed as an alternative practice. Instead, I propose that we are working to alter how architects practice. Our school of architecture will interrogate and craft methods to meaningfully incorporate community-driven practice throughout the profession. What would you make your school’s mascot? A mascot for the Detroit Mercy School of Architecture would have to amplify and celebrate our values. It would stand for justice, be inclusive, have a global perspective, be daring and be fun. After consulting several students, we came up with the Canada goose. Yearly, two Canada geese nest on a visible section of roof at our school of architecture on their daring annual journey… The geese are unaware of political boundaries of countries, cities, institutions, or buildings. They have welcomed us into their home. Sarah Whiting Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) Previously the dean of the Rice University School of Architecture, Sarah Whiting is a founding partner of WW Architecture, a practice she established with her husband Ron Witte. How is your new school different from your previous institution, Rice University? The GSD is almost five times bigger than Rice, and it has three departments and multiple programs, whereas Rice was a one-department school. At the same time, both schools are filled with extraordinary faculty and students, and both schools situate design’s importance within global culture, so they really do share a similar ethos. Who would you consider a role model dean and why? Two figures who immediately come to mind as role models include Robert (Bob) Geddes at Princeton (dean from 1965 to 1982) and Harry Cobb at the GSD (chair of architecture at the GSD from 1980 to 1985). Both did a remarkable job of building up faculties of diverse yet precise voices—resulting in specific, yet unpredictable conversations within their schools—during extraordinary moments for architectural education. Meejin Yoon Cornell University College of Architecture, Art, and Planning Before joining the faculty at Cornell in early 2019, Meejin Yoon led the architecture department at MIT’s School of Architecture + Planning. She is a cofounding principal of the architecture firm Höweler + Yoon. How is your new school different from your previous institution, MIT? [Cornell and MIT’s] overlaps are probably more interesting than their differences. Specifically, I’m thinking of the underlying social and cultural values that drive creative imagination, breadth of scholarship, and depth of research across the domains of architecture, art, and planning at both schools. Who would you consider a role model dean and why? Dean William Mitchell… I will never forget Dean Mitchell’s response when I anxiously shared the news that my students, in fulfilling a studio assignment, had caught the building on fire. He acknowledged that no one was hurt, assured me that insurance would take care of the physical damage, and concluded by sharing that experimentation means taking risks and that he was happy that I was stirring up things in the department of architecture. His level of encouragement and support for taking risks that push boundaries was profound, and I have always admired him as a role model for academic leadership. What would you make your school’s mascot? A fire-breathing dragon.
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Big Money

Alibaba cofounder set to buy SHoP-designed Barclays Center (and the Nets, too)
The cofounder of online retail giant Alibaba is buying the Brooklyn Nets as well as their home arena, the SHoP-designed Barclays Center. The Brooklyn complex is home to the Nets as well as the NHL's New York Islanders (although that team is set to split its games between Brooklyn and Nassau County, New York before its final move to a new stadium complex in 2021). Alibaba's Joseph Tsai already owns 49 percent of the stakes in the Nets—the to-be-signed deal will grant him full ownership of the team as well as the building. The deal is worth more than $700 million, but it's not clear how much of that sum is for the arena. Including the stake he already owns, Tsai is expected to shell out $2.35 billion for the Nets. The soon-to-be previous owner Mikhail Prokhorov started to acquire the Barclays Center and the Nets in 2010 and finished the acquisition in 2015. According to the New York Post, Prokhorov bought the team for $875 million and the building at $825 million, which means he's about to rake in a ton of money on his investment. The Brooklyn Paper reported that the NBA Board of Governors has to sign off on the sale before it's official, a deal which should be sealed by the end of next month. Since 2012, the 19,000-capacity Barclays Center has crowned the intersection of busy Flatbush and Atlantic avenues. The building's glass curtain wall facade is fitted with 12,000 parametrically-modeled weathered steel panels, and the sloping, concave green roof makes it easy to spot from above.
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Funding the Future

National Endowment for the Humanities awards $29 million to preservation, virtual reality projects
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) recently announced $29 million in awards for 215 projects across the country relating to all things humanities, from education programs to cultural preservation, film, exhibitions, virtual reality, and architecture.  Some highlights of the grant recipients include the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which received $50,000 for storage improvements for its collections housed at Taliesin West; the Chicago Architecture Foundation, which received $170,000 for k-12 workshops on the development of the skyscraper; and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, which received $10,000 for saving the School of Architecture design project archives. Lawrence Technological University was awarded $7,000 for improving the storage environment in its Albert Kahn library collection while the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, got $9,938 for a rare books assessment including influential texts on the history of architecture, aesthetic theory, and visual representation in European art. Old Sturbridge Village, a living museum located in Massachusetts, received $9,794 for the preservation assessment of various structures. “NEH grants help strengthen and sustain American cultural life in communities, at museums, libraries, and historic sites, and in classrooms,” said NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede. “As the nation prepares to commemorate its 250th anniversary in 2026, NEH is proud to help lay the foundations for public engagement with America’s past by funding projects that safeguard cultural heritage and advance our understanding of the events, ideas, and people that have shaped our nation. The NEH awarded these peer-reviewed grants in addition to $48 million in annual operating support that goes to the national network of state and territorial humanities councils during the fiscal year. The organization also gave grants to cultural projects South by Somewhere, a television series created in Durham, N.C., on the foodways, history, and culture of the American South, as well as to Louisiana State University and A&M College in Baton Rouge for the development of a VESPACE (Virtually Early-Modern Spectacles and Publics, Active and Collaborative Environment) project on the fair theatre in 18th-century Paris. In addition, the NEH engaged in a $1 million partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation to support the preservation of America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
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Remembrances from 2002-2015

Peter Lang on Cristiano Toraldo di Francia's 'incredible love'
Cristiano Toraldo di Francia sadly passed away on July 30. Cofounder, along with Adolfo Natalini, of the Florentine Radical design and architecture group Superstudio, Cristiano was the kind of person who was incredibly open-minded, shared a sharp sense of humor, and professed a deep love for humanity. While accolades spread across the internet following news of his passing, there was a lot to Cristiano that didn’t make it into these postings, tributes, and memorials. What might have been most lacking in all these accounts was the way he shrugged off fame and shunned formality. Yet he never wasted a moment, had infinite stamina, and to stick by him you needed to react fast and move quickly. Cristiano was a perceptive and ever-present photographer, and it is thanks to him that so many historical moments during their superlative adventure were captured for posterity. When I asked him about how he got into photography, he spoke about his father, Giuliano, who was a renowned physicist, recounting an odd story about how he was introduced to his first photo-camera. As Cristiano told me, in an interview at his house in Filottrano back in 2005, his father “…designed lenses for Ducati, at that time they made electronics—now they´re making motorcycles. They made cameras, radios. And they made a micro-camera, which anticipated the cameras of today, instead of the normal 35 mm film --24x36mm, they were using 24x18mm film, so it was fantastic. Italy was poor at the time, everything had to be reduced! Cristiano couldn’t help make a quip about the States, and while proudly acknowledging that Italian technology was inventing incredible things that were “almost too advanced for their time,” in America “everything was big—big cameras, big cars. But that camera was a jewel... Just to say that since I was a child I was initiated to the mysteries of photography—the images coming out of the acids, of the paper.” Probing further, I asked Cristiano what his relationship was to the burgeoning Florentine fashion industry in the early sixties when he was a professional photographer. “I was making family portraits at the time to raise money. In Florence, there is a big tradition around the Alinari family that besides all the city portraits,” now in the Alinari Archive in Florence, “they shot a lot of family portraits, but these were like paintings, all retouched, like Photoshop. “They were perfect photographers- so this tradition was present. I was trying to do a very different kind of photography. I looked more to the American model. A journalistic kind of picture, Diane Arbus... Not so much Man Ray or the historical ones.I became quite successful at the time. All these noble mothers came to make photos in my studio. After a while, I was asked to do fashion photography, but after a while, Superstudio started and I quit. But of course, I had all the contacts and all the people- I was friends with Oliviero Toscani for example,” who would go on to make the controversial photographic campaigns for Bennetton. With his usual irony, Cristiano pointed out that he also worked as a fashion model, for the kind of magazines that were constantly referencing architecture. It’s hard not to talk about the origins of the Italian Radical movement without getting into influences, of which there were many: “We started…” as Cristiano clarified in that same interview, “…on parallel levels, looking at Archigram, but even more we looked back at Dada and then to Pop-art that was bringing the Dada methods up to date. Fluxus—breaking boundaries and being completely interdisciplinary, fluctuating from one activity to the other. But on the other hand, Archigram had this political information as background—for which we could say maybe we were more idealistic than them. They were more pragmatic, more Anglo-Saxon.” Dan Graham connected his generation to Rock and Roll, and given the times, it is clear that music played a considerable role for Cristiano. When I spoke to Cristiano about music when we met in December of 2002, he had this to say: “When I talk about the importance of music, we don’t deny having discovered a person like Bob Dylan, or the Beatles, it was a time when popular music reached great artistic levels, Laurie Anderson, the whole group of Fluxus, back then there was a system of self-propulsion, in every field…” What is critical in understanding Superstudio is precisely this level of mixing passions that the art and architecture curator Lara Vinca Masini referred to as “contaminations.” Cristiano stabbed at this point by bringing in Aldo Rossi: “Yes the work of Rossi and others was interesting, but it was always inside a discipline with few confrontations with the world that went much faster than their own reasoning.” Getting back to the Florentine music scene, Cristiano credited his father with exposing him to experimental music when he was beginning university. In a conversation I had with him in 2005, Cristiano remarked: “My father was a scientist, and as a scientist he was traveling a lot and, in a way, disillusioned and relativistic. He was asked in 1963 to become president of the young contemporary music association. One of those members was Sylvano Bussotti,” a Florentine native, musical polyglot and noted dandy. “One was Giuseppe Chiari,” the atonal musician, close to John Cage and a member of Fluxus, “and the other was Pietro Grossi,” a Venetian electronic musician and composer living in Florence. “I remember they were making concerts of electronic music, and one concert was in the Conservatorio di Musica Cherubini which is a traditional music conservatory. And after 10 minutes of this music people went crazy.” Evidently, for this generation of young architects living in Florence in the sixties, these were incredibly stimulating years. Superstudio detoured around the traditional tools of the architect, experimenting with alternative forms of expression and representation. When Emilio Ambasz showed up in Florence around 1971, scouting for ideas for the upcoming exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape for MoMA, the young curator was seeking out experimental “environments.” These would be full-scale prototypes for living, accompanied by films serving as animated captions. Yet I wanted to know just how Superstudio produced this project, what kind of technology was used to build this elaborate environment and how did they create their 12-minute film Supersurface. The main backer for the environment was the manufacturer Print but they also had to procure other funders, due to the elevated expenses. According to Cristiano, they found the supplies they needed in Florence, the special reflective glass and the electronic components key to simulate alternating moods of day and night inside the environment. It took 15 days to manually assemble it before the show opened in New York on May 26th, 1972. The movie was instead made during the winter of 1971- 72 and it was filmed in 36 mm. “I worked on that with Sandro Poli,” the Superstudio member officially present between 1970 and 1972, “we found the music, made the soundtrack, with the professional help of a guy who made advertising for TV (Marchi Producers), who had that mentality, and in fact, we wanted it to be projected as if it would be an advertisement for the Supersurface. The first part presents in a scientific way how the thing is done, and the second one tells how happy you will be living there.” In fact, both making the environment and directing the animated film were very labor-intensive hands-on processes. I asked Cristiano what role the Italian manufacturers had in producing Superstudio’s concepts. Cristiano’s response was that these factories were mostly made up of artisans. “That is why we managed to make a series of objects from very different things and from really different materials. Most of these objects are coming out of a kind of bricolage. The factory made almost nothing—we had to find artisans who did the different parts. The industry would just put the parts together. We were doing a kind of bricolage Cheap-scape—as Frank Gehry would say—for the industries.” The Italian design industry seemed to work as an artisanal chain assembly. But what was still not clear, was why did these manufacturers get behind a group like Superstudio to make things that worked against the idea of mass consumption? Why would they sponsor designs that were against their best interests? “We thought these objects we were making were a kind of trojan horses that coming from inside the system would produce criticism, which means creativity, which means refusal, or incredible love. They were objects of poetic reaction for the people. They were not mass-produced, they were in little series, multiples, like works of art.” To this day I still think about Cristiano’s trojan horses, and his incredible love.
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Steel Yourself

Denver's Meridian 105 delivers a residential model for using salvaged materials
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Brought to you with support from
Like many cities across the United States, Denver is undergoing tremendous demographic growth with the subsequent result of intense development and densification. Jason Street Multifamily, designed by local architectural-firm Meridian 105, is a four-unit residential project located in the Sunnyside neighborhood that responds to the region's need for thoughtfully-designed and budget-restrained compact developments with a facade of salvaged stainless steel and cedar, and plaster.
  • Facade Manufacturer Western Aluminum Aria Custom Vaproshield
  • Architect Meridian 105
  • Facade Installer Aria Custom Front Range Window
  • Location Denver, CO
  • Date of Completion July 2018
  • System Custom-assembled raw materials
  • Products Salvaged stainless steel & cedar siding Vero Plaster
The development rises to a height of the three stories and is defined by jagged extrusions that house two-story solariums. The size of the homes range from approximately 1700- to- 2400 square feet. Cedar siding, treated with pine tar, wraps across the ground floor of the building, which is punctured along the south elevation by an arhythmic entrance collonade. Above the ground floor, the material palette shifts to stainless steel and matte-finished plaster. The plaster is subject to two treatments; one with Carrara marble dust for smooth surfacing, and a lime-and-sand aggregate for rougher segments. Although the steel will patinate and lose a degree of luster over time, the panels effectively mirror the plaster treatment within the concave surfaces of the extrusion, and shifts to a soft reflective glow during the evening. Due to budget constraints, Meridian 105 turned towards creative methods to reduce costs. "The stainless steel panels were available salvage from a local metals shop so we purchased them and design[ed] them into the project," said Merdian 105 founding principal Chad Mitchell. "The white Vero plaster was a product that we found at a conference in Las Vegas. We liked the smooth, glossy texture and thought it would be a good compliment to the metal surface." Salvaged raw materials form the basis of the project's facade system, which relied on straightforward assembly. The steel sheets roughly measure 5-by-10-feet and were installed to overlap along the vertical seam to reduce the costs associating with cutting the panels. The sheets hang on stainless steel standoffs which are in turn secured via blocking into the wall, and backed by VaproShield weatherproofing as a rainscreen. The use of glass is restrained and typically arranged in vertical and horizontal ribbons conforming to the internal function. However, according to Mitchell, "the glass towers that run on the edge of this feature were also difficult. We had to work with Western Aluminum to create a glass corner detail that worked with the custom angle." Meridian 105 Founding Principal Chad Mitchell will be joining the panel "Rocky Mountain Residential: Facade Design of Colorado Homes" at the Architect's Newspaper's upcoming Facades+ Denver conference on September 12.
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Soulcycle for Your Life

What do architects think about Related Companies' Stephen Ross fundraiser for Trump?
Ahead of today’s planned fundraiser for President Donald Trump in Southhampton, organized by the billionaire CEO and chairman of The Related Companies Stephen Ross, people have taken to Twitter to denounce their support of any and all things that Related owns, including Hudson Yards. Even celebrity chef José Andres, who has a new food hall inside the mega-development, took to the social media platform asking Ross to cancel the event. As this conversation grows louder and louder—and people continue to boycott companies like Equinox, SoulCycle, and Bluestone Lane Coffee (the two former fitness groups have facilities in 33 and 35 Hudson Yards respectively), it's fair to ask: Will architects join in the discussion? And if so, when? Related owns a slew of properties in the United States, from New York to Miami, as well as in London and Abu Dhabi. Phase one of Hudson Yards on the far west side of Manhattan’s opened earlier this spring to mixed reviews and is successfully attracting throngs of people who are spending countless hours and dollars shopping around the $25 billion site. The Shed, the transformative arts venue designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group, was built on city-owned property and is not directly affiliated with Hudson Yards, but no doubt the recent news may rock its fall season of already-planned performances. In fact, one fashion designer, Prabal Gurung, announced he's canceling a show that was in talks to be located at the Vessel after hearing about Ross's ties to Trump. New York Fashion Week was supposed to be hosted at Hudson Yards in the coming years.  Buildings aren’t necessarily something one can boycott or at least totally ignore. They are a basic human necessity and provide tangible shelter. But the towering monoliths at Hudson Yards weren’t conceived to shelter your average New Yorker. What’s done is done and Hudson Yards is here, and a number of prominent firms contributed to the project's first phase, including Kohn Pederson Fox, Skidmore Owings & Merill, Elkus Manfredi Architects, and Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects The next few years of construction, set to start late next year, will see the build-out of designs by Gehry Partners, Santiago Calatrava, Robert A.M. Stern, and more by Heatherwick Studio. So this leads us to ask: Like Jose Andres, artist Jerry Saltz, and other figures who've laid bare their frustrations with Ross in the last 24 hours, will architects vocalize their political views and become part of this conversation? AN has reached out to a number of firms who’ve worked on Hudson Yards and will update this story when we hear back. 
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Once Upon A Time in Hollywood

Renzo Piano crowns the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures with a sweeping glass dome
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When it opens in 2020, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, located in the heart of Los Angeles, will be the world’s premier museum dedicated to movies. Designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW), the building consists of a renovation and restoration of the 1939 May Company Department Store—now known as the Saban Building—and a new, concrete and glass spherical addition.
  • Facade Manufacturer Saint Gobain Group
  • Architect Renzo Piano Building Workshop
  • Executive Architect Gensler
  • Facade Installer Josef Gartner Permasteelisa MATT Construction
  • Facade Consultant Knippers Helbig
  • Consulting Engineer Knippers Helbig
  • Structural Engineer BuroHappold Engineering
  • Location Los Angeles, CA
  • Date of Completion 2019
  • System Permasteelisa Gartner system
  • Products DIAMANT Eckelt
The project was inspired by the capacity for cinema to transport viewers to a new world, and the architects think of the 45,000-square- foot sphere as a spaceship. More specifically perhaps, the project evokes the TARDIS—Doctor Who’s time-and-space-traveling police box that’s famously bigger on the inside than appears possible from the outside. As Mark Carroll, partner at RPBW notes, “We didn’t want it too large, because it could overpower the Saban Building. So we tried to keep it small and compact but still big on the inside.” The sphere’s two primary programs drove its design: the spacious 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater and the Dolby Family Terrace. The majority of this cinematic starship is clad with 680 precast-concrete panels attached to a shotcrete structural frame. The concrete is the visible part of a “box in a box” assembly that was designed to acoustically insulate the theater from within and from without. Behind the precast shell, a floating gypsum box completely encloses the space to provide additional soundproofing. Atop the sphere, a glass dome covers the Dolby terrace, which offers expansive views toward Hollywood to the north. The dome comprises exactly 1,500 overlapping low-iron glass shingles set over a graceful steel frame—a solution arrived at after “many interactions,” according to Carroll. Among the 146 unique shapes of shingles are glass vents, arranged at the top of the dome to help keep the open-air terrace cool. To ensure the structure stays rigid during a seismic event, cables crisscross the frame’s 4-inch structural supports, which span 120 feet across the roof and over the dome, casting dynamic shadows onto the curving facade. RPBW carefully coordinated the construction of the glass and concrete elements, which were cast with openings to attach the dome’s “egg cutter” structure. The project is the latest blockbuster building on L.A.’s Miracle Mile, joining a collection that includes RPBW’s additions to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The futuristic dome is not only an apt addition to the neighborhood but to the original structure, whose Streamline Moderne design offers an optimistic vision of the future from another era. As Piano said, “The Academy Museum gives us the opportunity to honor the past while creating a building for the future—in fact, for the possibility of many futures.”
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London Bridge is Rolling Down

Architects crowdfund to build a rolling bridge in London

Architect Thomas Randall-Page has started a crowdfunding campaign to support the construction of a unique rolling bridge in London. The project, which has been nicknamed the Cody Dock Rolling Bridge, proposes building a small-scale pedestrian span over the narrow canal of Cody Dock that flows into the River Lea, which in turn connects to the Thames. According to the crowdfunding page, the design will open Cody Dock to boats for the first time in half a century and has already received approval from the Newham Council and support from Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Randall-Page describes the project as both innovative and highly contextual. It makes material reference to the area’s history of iron production while taking certain stylistic cues from the industrial design of Britain’s Edwardian era. The most distinctive aspect of the proposed design, though, is its rolling motion. The bridge runs along a pair of twin, undulating rails that are attached to the brick walls on either side of the canal, and can roll a full 180-degrees so that its floor becomes its roof. In the latter position, the bridge’s arch can accommodate barges and other boats as they move through Cody Dock.

Compared to other operable bridges, the controls of the Cody Dock Rolling Bridge are quite simple. Teeth alongside the edge of the bridge’s frame fit into notches between teeth on each rail, enabling the entire structure to roll in a steady, gear-like motion. Counterweights are built into the rounded square frame of the bridge, which prevent it from rolling uncontrollably or getting stuck in any one position. A single cable attaches the structure’s frame to a crank handle, which a person can turn to invert the bridge.

The Cody Dock Rolling Bridge forms one link in the broader redevelopment of one of London’s industrial areas. The pedestrian bridge will connect walking and bike paths on either side of the canal, allowing easier access to new artists’ studios, exhibition spaces, fabrication workshops, and a cafe along the banks of the Lea. Proponents of the design hope that the structure will serve not only as a critical piece of infrastructure but also as a compelling landmark that will attract visitors from across the city. Now in the final stretch of their fundraising effort, Randall-Page and the bridge’s supporters hope to raise upwards of $200,000 towards the completion of the project.

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Tanked

Contested oil tanks in Bushwick Inlet Park are being demolished to make way for open space
The Tanks are tanked. The City of New York has nailed the coffin shut on one group's idea to turn massive abandoned oil tanks on the Brooklyn waterfront into a postindustrial playground. Instead, the parcel is being cleared of its industrial relics, cleaned up, and returned as an extension to Bushwick Inlet Park, the green space on the East River at the border between Williamsburg and Greenpoint. The demolition of the tanks marks a victory for area residents who want a park with ample wide-open space. For a newer group of designers and real estate professionals, however, the demolition represents a missed opportunity for a creative reuse of distinctive industrial infrastructure. For years, Williamsburg and Greenpoint residents fought for a park on the East River waterfront as the area transitioned away from its industrial roots. Many saw the future green space as a counterpoint to decades of pollution. In 2005, Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a deal with residents and area stakeholders to rezone the waterfront for residential uses in exchange for a 28-acre park. One prominent stakeholder, Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, pushed for a park with ballfields, wide-open lawns, and the spectacular view of Manhattan that goes with it. Since the groundbreaking a decade ago, the city has acquired land piecemeal and at great expense. The current controversy centers on a seven-acre parcel that supported the Bayside Oil Depot, a petrol storage facility distinguished by ten five-story tanks that loom over the south side of Bushwick Inlet. The city bought that piece of land in March 2016 for $53 million. For those who want the oil tanks to go, the infrastructure is an ugly reminder of the environmental degradation brought on my heavy industry. For others, the tanks are a canvas for postindustrial regeneration that would draw on north Brooklyn's creative reputation. Three years ago, professionals in architecture, design, and real estate banded together to propose repurposing the tanks as galleries, gardens, and an oyster farm. Group leaders Stacey Anderson and Karen Zabarsky assembled a team that includes architect Jay Valgora of STUDIO V Architecture and landscape architect Ken Smith of Ken Smith Workshop. Together, they put forth a vision called The Tanks (formerly Maker Park) that pushed back on the idea that the industrial relics needed to be eliminated for the park to be a success. Ward Dennis, a member of the Friends group and a partner at New York's Higgins Quasebarth, dismissed The Tanks as a non-starter from the get-go. "The alternative proposal has never really gotten a lot of traction in the community. Open space was the priority," said Dennis. Another issue at play in the tanks debate centers on public safety; the ground around and underneath the tanks is toxic and needs remediation. The Tanks group hired an outside environmental consultant who determined that remediation can be accomplished with the tanks in-situ, but the city contends that the tanks must be removed for a full clean-up. A NYC Parks Department spokesperson told The Architect's Newspaper (AN) that demolition work began in July.