The following is an abridged version of an open letter by Chicago architect and urban planner Marshall Brown, which was originally presented at the The Design Competition Conference by the GSD and the Van Alen Institute. It follows a previous comment by the author for AN about the state of design competitions in the 21st century. It is in direct response to the Guggenheim Helsinki Competition, which attracted 1,715 submissions before the winner was announced yesterday. My Dear Colleagues, I would like to extend sincere congratulations for your recent achievements and the recognition it has brought to your practices. I suppose you may be wondering about the cause for this letter since, at least that I can recall, we have never formally met. One year ago I wrote an essay for AN that criticized the current state of architectural competitions. It concluded with the melodramatic, yet also sincere invitation for likeminded architects to join me in “early, complete, and permanent retirement” from such contests. In the meantime I have mostly managed to follow through on my retreat from the design competition industry, despite several invitations from colleagues to collaborate. Instead of speaking negatively about the Helsinki contest, I would like to speak to the finalists, in hope that some of us might grow in the process, or at the very least, avoid undermining each other in the ways that architects too often do. In 2009 I worked briefly with J. Max Bond, David Adjaye, and Phil Freelon on the competition for the National Museum of African American History, until Max Bond’s untimely passing, after which I withdrew from the project. In 2012, my team was a finalist in the Navy Pier Centennial competition in Chicago, after which I consulted with the winners, James Corner Field Operations. But for various reasons, and despite some measure of success, participation in both of these contests, among others, left an assortment of bad tastes in my mouth. Without airing too much dirty laundry in public, I will say that I trace many of the problems to the nature of design competitions themselves: Competitions create a culture that devalues our labor. Competitions often cultivate animosity among colleagues. And competitions often preference spectacle over substantive architectural development. Your contest is an interesting case, since it involves an American institution staging a competition for a private building on public land in a European country. After examining the Competition Conditions, I found it evident that the competition is not for an architectural commission. The only prizes explicitly guaranteed to the winners are bragging rights and a small stipend. I look forward to being corrected if necessary, but the following passage from page 8 in the conditions seems to disclaim any obligation or commitment of the organizers to build the winning proposal: “A decision on whether to proceed with the construction and development of the museum is expected to be brought to the City of Helsinki and the State of Finland for consideration following the conclusion of the competition and the public announcement of the winning design.” So it appears that yours is actually an ideas competition and marketing campaign that might inspire a building project by someone, somewhere, sometime, in the future. Okay. Fine. The winners will receive enough money to recoup some portion of their actual costs. The rest will console themselves with whatever prestige falls from the brief afterglow of the whole spectacle. As I wrote last year, many architects don’t care that competitions are bad business. That discussion has been well covered by others with deeper knowledge of professional practice, and is not the point of this letter. I am only trying to ask: Where does it all end? How much of our careers and lives are we willing to give? How far will we bend for the ever more limited promise of increasingly uncertain rewards? Despite my early retirement, I had a recent reengagement with the competition industry. Against better judgement, I attended the final presentations for a major design competition in Chicago. It was a closed session for the organizers and a few members of the political and design communities. As usual, each team presented their requisite manifestos, slides, and video animations. I found the entire show to be excruciating, not because of the design proposals, but because of the architects’ performances. Their faces were a mixture of desperation and barely masked contempt for their self-imposed captivity. At one point I found myself head down, ears covered, and overwhelmed by the pathos of the whole scene. One contestant from a well-established Chicago firm actually stripped to reveal a t-shirt with their project logo. Free t-shirts were provided for all in attendance. I left the building that night feeling personal shame, not disappointment in those other architects, after realizing that I had subjected myself to the same indignities on a similar stage just two years ago. At the time I had felt privileged and honored to sit alongside so many accomplished and notable professionals like Bjarke Ingels, Martha Schwartz, and James Corner. But only after witnessing a similar scene from the outside do I now realize that I was just another sad prisoner in the lineup. So what is the end game? You will all submit your projects. After the submissions, you will likely be asked to give public presentations. These performances could be broadcast to the entire world. The jury will meet and hand down their decision. Prizes will be awarded. Critics will pass judgement. Some of you will receive more prestigious academic appointments. A museum may be built. Another blockbuster competition will probably be announced later this year. And we will all move on. Yet while writing this letter I have begun to imagine other endings to the story: What if you had decided not to complete your projects? What if you had completed the projects, but staged a group exhibition instead of handing them over? What if you had insisted on renegotiating the terms of the competition before submitting? What if you had all just walked away? Some will accuse me of being cynical, sanctimonious, overly judgmental, or naive. They may be right on all counts. But in my own defense, these words come from a colleague who has been where you are at this moment, and wishes that he could have sooner had the resolution and foresight to turn from this path we architects are expected to follow. As I wrote one year ago: “The old argument that competitions drive architectural innovation is no longer credible. Developers, cultural institutions, and government agencies have mastered the use of design competitions as publicity campaigns. Their claim of searching for the best ideas is just an alibi that unfortunately continues to seduce too many of our best talents… The real justifications are simple. Developers and institutions gain fantastic and relatively affordable publicity from the mad traveling circus of design competitions. By helping them attract financing and donors, we encourage the proliferation of these sham exercises where enormous projects are fully rendered without contracts, necessary approvals, or even clear programs.” From what I have been able to surmise from a brief examination, the GHDC submits fairly well to this assessment. But most of you probably knew this from the beginning, and soldiered forth regardless of the real odds or evident risks. Therefore I conclude this letter with thanks for your time, an open invitation to respond, and two simple words: Good luck. MARSHALL BROWN
Posts tagged with "BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group":
Last week another point was scored for social media as the de rigueur disseminator of architecture with the opening of Rem Koolhaas' Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow’s Gorky Park. As new media takes over old, images of Facebook’s new headquarters by Frank Gehry hit Instagram first, the announcement of BIG replacing Norman Foster at Two World Trade Center came through on Wired, and it may have reached its natural apex with the Garage designed by OMA. The first images of the museum flooded Instagram several hours before the June 10 press event—the museum officially opened on June 12. Feeds from photographer Iwan Baan—@iwanbaan—Nadine Johnson PR, and of course Garage’s own account @garagemca, all captured the guts and glory of a building that still seemed to be finishing up construction. A more traditional press event with architect Rem Koolhaas, museum founder Dasha Zhukova, museum director Anton Belov and Garage chief curator Kate Fowle complimented the social media onslaught. The team sat under a giant mosaic from the building’s previous life as the 1960s pre-fabricated restaurant Vremena Goda where OMA cleverly (when are they not?) retained the generous interior spaces and replaced the exterior with a translucent polycarbonate enclosure. Koolhaas, like Gehry, seems to be returning back to his early projects for inspiration, utilizing low-cost materials for both economical reasons and to subtly subvert expectations of taste. Now, that off-the-shelf approach applies to media and storytelling. By revealing the project via a purely visual medium like Instagram, Koolhaas liberates the architectural narrative from the traditional modes of transmission much like he has altered our preconceptions of what types of buildings materials can be used for and to what purpose. These well-known architects are not the only ones taking charge of their own narratives via social media and using those platforms to create exposure that might not otherwise occur. Los Angeles–based Warren Techentin of WTA created the La Cage Aux Folles installation in the courtyard of experimental gallery Materials & Applications. Collective posts on Instagram led to digital coverage in before appearing in print. Leave it to OMA to most seamlessly integrate old and new media (intentionally or not) to build a narrative for the Garage Museum, an institution positioned to transform from an outpost of the art world to one that spawns its own curatorial efforts.
The biggest architecture news this week was obviously the unveiling of Bjarke Ingels' design for Two World Trade Center. The dramatic departure from Norman Foster's original proposal envisions the tower as a series of stepped volumes that gesture toward One World Trade. But does the step-ladder design—easily climbable by giant monsters like King Kong—pose a safety risk for New Yorkers? One petitioner is pleading with Ingels to change the design. Shortly after the scheme was unveiled, AN sat down with Ingels to discuss the project, Foster's previous design, and the World Trade Center redevelopment thus far. We failed to ask the architect if the new building would just be "a staircase for monsters" as concerned citizen Caragh Poh puts it in her Change.org petition that urges Ingels to reconsider his supposedly monster-friendly design. "Though you have designed this building with wonderful reasons in mind, such as completing the framing of the memorial, bringing an even more enhanced skyline to the beautiful city of New York, creating a physical symbol of healing and togetherness, there is one glaring oversight," she wrote. "Your building makes it easier for King Kong to climb." Poh readily admits that she does not have the solution, but suggests turning the building upside down might do the trick. But maybe Bjarke Ingels doesn't want a solution—could this have been all part of his plan? Hear us out: Back in 2011, Bjarke dressed up as King Kong for halloween with BIG's Daniel Kidd going as the Empire State Building—and there's photographic evidence. With this eery reality now staring us in the face, we decided to reach out to BIG to see if Two World Trade Center was, indeed, tailor-made to be a staircase for King Kong. We're waiting to hear back. As of press time, 30 concerned people had signed the petition. You can view the petition and sign for yourself here.
In late 2005, Norman Foster unveiled his design for Two World Trade Center—an 88-story tower capped in four diamonds to direct the eye down toward the 9/11 Memorial, which, at the time, was still years from completion. Then, the World Trade Center site was still in the design phase, and Bjarke Ingels was a little-known architect from Denmark. But in the decade since, Ingels' rise has been nothing short of meteoric. Now, Wired has the story that proves what has been reported for months: the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) will replace Foster + Partners at Two World Trade Center, the second-tallest of the cluster of towers in Lower Manhattan. The 1,340-foot-tall skyscraper is being developed by Silverstein Properties and will serve as the joint headquarters for Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and 21st Century Fox. If BIG’s building does, in fact, rise, then the final tower at the 16-acre site will have been designed by a firm that did not even exist when rebuilding began. With BIG’s growing portfolio of push-the-envelope architecture, the easy assumption for Two World Trade was that the building would step into the complicated—and politically fraught—site and loosen its buttoned-up, corporate aesthetic. If the redesigned tower accomplishes that, then it certainly does so gently. From the memorial, the 80-story tower takes cues from its neighbors, Three World Trade and Four World Trade, with an uninterrupted glass curtain wall. (Santiago Calatrava’s soaring Transportation Hub creates a brief stylistic rift along the crystalline campus.) But from every other vantage point, the tower appears like a staircase—or a classic mid-20th century Manhattan ziggurat-style building. The structure's massing appears as a series of seven, 12-story boxes that climb upward, stepping toward SOM's One World Trade next door. “On one hand it’s about being respectful and about completing the frame around the memorial, and on the other hand it’s about revitalizing downtown Manhattan and making it a lively place to live and work,” Ingels told Wired. "From Tribeca, the home of lofts and roof gardens, [Two World Trade] will appear like a vertical village of singular buildings stacked on top of each other to create parks and plazas in the sky," Ingels said in a statement. "From the World Trade Center, the individual towers will appear unified, completing the colonnade of towers framing the 9/11 Memorial.” BIG's involvement with the project came about after James Murdoch, Rupert’s 42-year-old son and a 21st Century Fox executive, reportedly expressed concerns over Foster’s design. James Murdoch was looking to create a more open-plan work environment. And BIG has experience doing just that—the firm recently presented designs with Heatherwick Studio for a sprawling Google headquarters complex comprising a series of glass canopies. At the World Trade Center site, BIG's main assignment was to take the spirit of a Silicon Valley, open-air campus and squeeze it into a Manhattan skyscraper. On a practical level, that's no easy assignment. But through generous setbacks, the building offers space for heavily planted gardens that at least serve as a nod toward the corporate campuses on the West Coast. Or so it would seem; Wired reported that the gardens are “supposed to evoke varying climates, from tropical to arctic.” But this is New York, not California, so by December all the gardens might lean toward the latter. Underneath these gardens, on the tower's cantilever reveals, are digital news tickers that will display headlines from the news giant operating inside. https://vimeo.com/130120622 Among the other challenges for BIG in redesigning Two World Trade was working within existing realities of the World Trade Center site—and a foundation structure that had already begun construction. The tower’s foundation is already set according to Foster's plan and includes air vents from the neighboring transportation hub. The new tower is also aligned along the axis laid out in Daniel Libeskind's master plan. When it came time to sell BIG's new design to the developer and client, Silverstein and Murdoch were initially skeptical. “I hadn’t seen a building like this beforehand, I hadn’t considered a building like this before, and certainly there was nothing down at the Trade Center to indicate that this would be a trend for tomorrow,” developer Larry Silverstein told Wired. Rupert Murdoch apparently agreed, but after the philosophy of the building was explained—and Ingels is a talented storyteller—Silverstein and Murdoch were on board. The architects behind the World Trade Center’s other three towers—David Childs, Richard Rogers, and Fumihiko Maki—all gave their blessing as well. News Corp. and 21st Century Fox recently signed a non-binding letter of intent to build Two World Trade, which brings the project closer to reality. And if all goes according to plan, Murdoch’s media empire should be setting up shop in Lower Manhattan as soon as 2020.
Bjarke Ingels opens this addition to his high school with a parkour video of a kid jumping off the walls
Since Bjarke Ingels graduated from Old Hellerup High School near Copenhagen, he's obviously become a bit of an architectural sensation. But that doesn't mean Ingels is too cool for school, specifically his former high school. In 2013, the architect created an undulating recreation center for the school's central courtyard that has a ribbed, almost cathedral-like wood ceiling. At the courtyard-level, the structure forms a a man-made hill where students can hang out between classes. And that was just the start of it. https://vimeo.com/117414392 As soon as that project was completed, BIG got to work on a two-story addition for the school which just wrapped construction. The new arts building provides a connection between the snazzy recreation center and the school's soccer—er, "football"—fields. BIG said the new space is intended to mesh with its first project, but not copy it. So where the rec center is primarily concrete with some wood finishes, the new building has wooden walls and concrete floors and ceilings. The building meets the street from underneath the existing fields, which it lifts up by two stories. The building's roof extends the fields, creating a so-called "green carpet for informal activity." The result looks quite similar to Kiss + Cathcart's Bushwick Inlet Park pavilion in Brooklyn. BIG also proposed a similar trick in its Smithsonian master plan. “My high-school, formerly introverted and dispersed, has become open and integrated through two focused interventions. Even though each phase is autonomous and complete – their introduction in to the mix has completely reconfigured the sum of the parts," said Ingels in a statement. "Like a catalyst or an enzyme–once inserted–all the surrounding substance transforms into something completely new.” Since this is the Bjarke Ingels Group, the announcement of the building's completion of course comes with a flashy video (up above). So you can watch as "'free-runner" Bjarke Hellden backflips through the school.
Hot Tub Design Machine: New York's Van Alen Institute launches its annual auction of out-of-the-box architectural experiences
If you have ever longed to explore nature with your favorite architect or discuss the built environment in your bikini, now you'll have the chance. Well, for a few bucks, but in the good name of architecture. The Van Alen Institute has launched its online auction of Art + Design Experiences to coincide with its Spring Party, going down this Wednesday in Lower Manhattan. The auction list boasts exclusive and out-of-the-box experiences with top critics, famed architects, and professionals in the arts and design fields. Some of the more compelling items, or activities, to bid on, include: —A Fire Island hot tub roundtable with architect Charles Renfro at his mid-century modern beach house. —Testing the smoke ring generator at Copenhagen’s new waste-to-energy power plant with Bjarke Ingels. —A helicopter ride on Norman Foster's personal helicopter through London’s skyline, including the architect’s own icons. —A bird watching expedition in an iconic urban park with Jeanne Gang. —Joining Sotheby’s chairman Lisa Dennison for her daily salon blowout ritual as she offers tips on building a blue-chip art collection, followed by a personalized tour of MoMA's permanent holdings. Visit the auction site to check out and bid on the offerings. Bidding closes on Wednesday, May 20. Get your digital paddles ready.
Google trumped (for once) by LinkedIn, leaving Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick swoopy plans in limbo
Mountain View, California's city council has decided that LinkedIn and not Google will be able to develop the majority of its North Bayshore area, leaving Google's ambitious plans by Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick in jeopardy. According to Silicon Valley Business Journal, LinkedIn will be able to develop 1.4 million square feet of the 2.2 million square feet of the area's available commercial space, leaving Google with enough room for only one piece of its four-part plan. “I’m not sure how I make any of this economically viable with one building,” David Radcliffe, vice president of real estate and workplace services for Google, told the council. Google's four structures were to be draped in glass canopies and connected by walking trails. plazas, community gardens and oak groves. Now they may face the same fate as Google's former plans for a new Leed Platinum campus in Mountain View's Charleston East area by Ingenhoven Architects and SHoP Architects, which were proposed in 2012 and 2008, respectively. According to public documents, LinkedIn's plans (left), designed by Studios Architecture (the firm that, ironically, designed the building that currently serves as Google's main headquarters) call for six office buildings, a new theater, health club, and a retail street. LinkedIn's rectilinear site plan is much more conventional than Google's looping, twisting, and intertwining complex would have been. Most of the office buildings would surround a public space called "The Green." According to the Business Journal, the decision does not approve LinkedIn’s project, rather "it merely gives the company the green light to turn in formal plans." So this saga isn't over yet.
Bearing a not-coincidental resemblance to his Vancouver House project, the Taper collection of fittings and bathroom accessories is Bjarke Ingels' first foray into the home interiors market. For plumbing manufacturer Kallista, it's also the initial design collaboration with an architect on a suite of products. At a launch party in New York City for the collection, Ingels described how he developed the design. "The sculpted shape of Taper translates from the geometry of the pipe and sculpts the flow of water to the hands or body," said Ingels. The lack of overly complex and multi-piece components throughout the collection was born out of the "holistic strategy of creating one simple shape transition that offers a lot of character without excess," he continued. The faucet's flow rate is 1.5GPM; the showerhead is 2.0 GPM. The collection includes towel and tissue holders, and is available in three standard finishes and nine special-order finishes.
A few weeks ago AN noted that the Norman Foster–designed 2 World Trade Center might finally rise after all these years. The New York Times was reporting that Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and 21st Century Fox were in talks to lease half the building for a joint headquarters. If it were to happen, wrote the Times, Murdoch's team might bring in a new architect to update Foster's design. Now it's looking like that is exactly what's going to happen—and it's going to happen in an, ahem, BIG way. The Wall Street Journal is now reporting that the media companies, along with developer Larry Silverstein, have tapped Bjarke Ingels to redesign the building. Given BIG's reputation for twisting, torquing, pyramidal forms, it's safe to say that the new design will be far from Foster's diamond-topped glass tower. But, at this point, all we know is that the building is expected to retain the size and height of the original plan—roughly three million square feet and 1,270 feet tall. The foundation, after all, has already been built, so any new tower would rise from the same footprint. "The planned 2 World Trade Center tower would have plenty of room, as the companies would occupy about half of the building," reported the Journal. "But the existing design was deemed problematic because it wasn’t considered ideal for studio space at the base—it was designed with bank-trading floors in mind—and because of the amount of infrastructure on the ground-level related to the PATH train station at the site, the [people familiar with the design] said." If financing is secured for the project, and 2 World Trade Center is ultimately finished, it would mark the complete rebuilding of the 16-acre site.
The Holcim Foundation has announced the three winners in its Global Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction. The international competition, now in its fourth year, celebrates projects that "deliver tangible benefits to local communities." This year, the winners will collect a total $350,000 between them, and each walk away with a trophy. Take a look at the gold, bronze, and silver winners below. Gold Prize Articulate Site, Colombia By Mario Fernando Camargo Gómez and Luis Orlando Tombé Hurtado of Colectivo 720 From the architects:
This project for a public park centers on creating spaces around and above a series of water reservoirs. Architectural form takes inspiration from the site’s history, surrounding topography, and structure of the existing tanks and pools, resulting in an intervention with minimal environmental impact. Special attention is given to water management, using recycling technologies involving rainwater and grey water harvesting through simple systems for irrigation of the park.Silver Prize Post-War Collective, Sri Lanka By Milinda Pathiraja and Ganga Ratnayake of Robust Architecture Workshop From the architects:
With the aim of reintegrating former soldiers into post-civil war society, young men from underprivileged backgrounds are trained in building techniques through their involvement in the construction of public buildings – such as this Community Library. The slender building sits lightly in the landscape and wraps around an inner courtyard, taking full advantage of cross ventilation and daylighting. Rammed-earth walls and recycled materials reduce the building’s ecological footprint.Bronze Prize The Dryline, New York City By BIG, One Architecture, and Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners From the architects:
The Dryline (or BIG U) project addresses the vulnerability of New York City to coastal flooding and proposes a protective ribbon in Southern Manhattan. The master plan uses a raised berm to create a sequence of public spaces along the raised bank at the water’s edge. The infrastructural barrier incorporates a range of neighborhood functions and as a result offers multiple design opportunities, fostering local commercial, recreational, and cultural activities.
The construction-watching site Field Condition recently got to step inside New York City's most anticipated new building. Yes, of course we are talking about Bjarke Ingels' pyramid-like W57 that is scheduled to open next year. As we have written recently, the structure has topped out and its enclosure is well on its way, but we're just now getting a sense of what things will look like inside. Field Condition wrote: "A grand stair is centrally located in the lobby and brings residents up to the courtyard space, while sheltering the mail room tucked underneath. The courtyard's landscape design will employ a gradient of plantings to evoke a range of spaces, from a meadow to a shaded forest. In addition to the large central courtyard, amenities for the residents include a basketball court, pool, gym, cinema room and golf simulator." While the interiors are far from complete, the courtyard is all framed out, as are the apartments' terraces that fit inside the building's sloped facade. Head on over to Field Condition for more pics inside Bjarke's unique addition to New York City.
A jury of architects, landscape architects, critics, educators, and planners has named the 35 winning projects of this year's AIA New York Chapter Design Awards. "Each winning project, granted either an 'Honor' or 'Merit' award, was chosen for its design quality, response to its context and community, program resolution, innovation, thoughtfulness, and technique," the AIA said in a statement. "Submitted projects had to be completed by members of the AIA New York Chapter, architects/designers practicing in New York, or be New York projects designed by architects/designers based elsewhere." Take a look at the winning teams in the projects and urban design categories below. Honor Awards Ennead Architects Rethinking Refugee Communities
From the architects: "Can refugee settlements be a benefit to the host community rather than a burden? How can shared resources be employed to benefit both populations as well as foster a more sustainable solution? These questions arise when rethinking a new type of refugee settlement design process that fosters shared infrastructure, resources and economic exchange between incoming refugees and local residents. By creating spatial opportunities for the two populations to develop a beneficial relationship, refugee settlements can enrich the opportunities available to refugees creating more sustainable solutions during the refugees’ displacement."The Living Hy-Fi Queens, NY
From the architects: "Hy-Fi offers a captivating physical environment and a new paradigm for sustainable architecture. In 2014, we tested and refined a new low-energy building material, manufactured 10,000 compostable bricks, constructed a 13-meter-tall tower, hosted public cultural events for three months, disassembled the structure, composted the bricks, and returned the resulting soil to local community gardens. This successful experiment offers many possibilities for future construction."MERIT AWARDS BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group Project: Smithsonian Institution South Mall Campus Master Plan Location: Washington, DC CDR Studio Governor's Cup Pavilion New York, NY OBRA Architects Church in the Arctic Tana Bru, Norway raad The Lowline New York, NY