Posts tagged with "California":

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Against all odds, California is building a high-speed train line

After years of political wrangling, regulatory delay, and economic uncertainty, California’s $100-billion high-speed rail (HSR) project is finally under construction. Though the project has more than doubled in cost and is now over 11 years behind schedule, the California High Speed Rail Authority, a public agency tasked with planning, designing, building, and operating the 300-mile route, has broken ground on a variety of key construction initiatives since 2016. The agency is currently working on 20 sites scattered across five central California counties in an effort to build a 119-mile proof-of-concept route between Bakersfield and Madera by 2022. Among the multifaceted works underway are the 3,700-foot-long Cedar Viaduct that will carry high-speed trains over State Route 99 in Fresno, and the 4,700-foot San Joaquin River Viaduct that will span the San Joaquin River to the north. The aerial alignments are test runs for the types of layered sites the authority will have to build over in more densely populated centers. Here, where temperatures can reach 110 degrees during the day, workers are laying rebar for structural columns, balancing new concrete slabs on elevated spans, and acquiring new properties to complete the future rail alignment. Roughly halfway between the two ends of this initial route, the Dragados-Flatiron Joint Venture Precast Facility outside of Hanford is currently under construction, as well. The precast concrete factory will supply girders and precast slabs for the bullet train project when it opens in 2019. Ultimately, the facility will produce roughly 1,300 different types of beams and nearly 500,000 precast slabs for the rail line. Bruce Fukuji, principal at Albany, California–based Urban Design Innovations, is an architect working to develop transit-oriented community guidelines for sites across the state that will be impacted by the new route. In a statement, Fukuji explained that his goal was to “focus regional economic activity [and] attract public and private investment to stimulate the regeneration of station areas.” Fukuji added, “We are linking locally desired projects with potential cap-and-trade funding [and are] setting up the opportunity for local communities and disadvantaged communities to benefit from collaborating with us and our partner agencies.” Though far from the state’s major urban centers now, when the full route is completed in 2033, it is expected to carry over 30 million passengers each year on trains traveling between 110 and 220 miles per hour.
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Suicide barrier controversy envelops Golden Gate Bridge

Forbes recently reported on the controversy surrounding a suicide barrier that will be installed on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. The barrier is projected to cost $211 million of public money, which some say is too high, while others say that the landmark's iconic appearance should not be changed. The barrier will consist of a net extending 20 feet horizontally out from the bridge's deck, held up by steel members painted the same color as the bridge's main structure. The net will be about 20 feet below the bridge deck's top surface, so anyone falling onto it would still sustain injuries, but much less severe ones than they would receive from a fall to the water below. The Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District, the authority responsible for overseeing the barrier's construction, refers to the net as a "deterrent," and says that similar structures have been successful in hindering suicides related to other structures around the world. According to Forbes, the bridge is the second most popular suicide destination in the world, and the LA Times has reported that dozens of people die from jumping off the structure every year. Forbes also reported that the $211 million bill is almost three times the original $76 million estimated price for the project. The barrier should be in place in 2021.
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Lance Bass loses bid to buy original Brady Bunch home

It’s been a tough week for Lance Bass. On Friday, the former NSYNC bassist tweeted that he was overjoyed when he thought that his offer had been accepted on the original Brady Bunch house, made famous by the hit ‘70s show. Almost immediately, he was as low as he had been high—he was informed that a “Hollywood studio” was willing to pay anything to claim the house and that they would be the new owners. Bass narrated the drama as it unfolded over various social media accounts: This morning the LA Times reported that Discovery Inc. Chief Executive David Zaslav broke the news on an earnings report conference call that the company had bought the house and was planning a project involving it with HGTV, one of their subsidiaries. Details about the project have yet to emerge. According to the Times, the show was shot on a studio lot, not in the Studio City, California, house. Only the exterior was actually used. In what may come as a disappointment, the interiors never resembled those depicted on the show, but, according to photos on the realtor Douglas Elliman's site, they have been maintained in period style. The sellers apparently wanted to find a buyer who would maintain and preserve the iconic house in lieu of developing the 12,500-square-foot lot. According to CNN, the sale price has not been announced, but the starting price is listed by Douglas Elliman as $1.885 million.
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Historic California ghost town sold on Friday the 13

As luck would have it, the ghost town of Cerro Gordo near the Mojave Desert 200 miles north of Los Angeles sold to a group of L.A.-based investors on Friday the 13th. The price was $1.4 million. The 300-acre town is located east of the city of Lone Pine on the western slope of the Inyo Mountains and comes complete with twenty-two structures, including a hotel, saloon, museum, chapel, several single-family homes, and an eight-bed bunkhouse, according to the Los Angeles Times. Silver was discovered in the hills surrounding the site in 1865, according to sources, prompting a rush of prospectors to the area. At its height, the town of Cerro Gordo had a population of around 5,000 and its steady stream of silver-loaded mule trains was known as the “Silver Thread” connecting the high desert communities to L.A. The town quickly dwindled in size and significance after the collapse of silver prices in 1877. More recently, the ghost town was owned by a private family that has opened up the site for tours and visitors. In selling the property, the owners were looking to secure a buyer who would continue the practice. The group of like-minded buyers includes investors with backgrounds in hosteling, public relations, marketing, and entertainment. The hope is that the town can continue to welcome visitors and potentially expand to include new uses like overnight accommodations as well as arts and social programming. Brent Underwood, founder of youth hostel HK Austin and one of the buyers for the project told SFGate, "We want to maintain the historic nature of the property while introducing amenities that will allow more people to enjoy this piece of American history. We have spent a lot of time with the current owners and caretaker to learn the history of the place. I've read all the books I can find on the town. I can't express our excitement to be able to continue the care of this beautiful location." The sale comes as off-beat destinations grow in popularity among the Millennial demographic, with vintage, historic, and recreational marijuana-themed accommodations among the most sought-after. Investors in L.A. and other major cities are taking note of the trend, and fanning out into rural and wilderness areas in search of new opportunities.
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Gensler-designed soccer stadium in California brings fans close to the game

The new Gensler-designed Banc of California Stadium opened for its inaugural Major League Soccer season in late April, ushering in Los Angeles’s first new open-air sports and entertainment venue since the debut of Dodgers Stadium in 1962. The 22,000-seat arena is designed with intimacy in mind: No seat in the stadium is farther than 135 feet from the field, with those closest sitting just 12 feet from the action. The arrangement of steeply raked seating and close proximity to the game is meant to create a closer connection between players and fans in the manner of European-style gameplay, according to Gensler.
The buoyant-looking complex is built on a concrete base and is topped by slender, 45-foot-tall steel section canopies. Draped between these structural elements are 190,000 square feet of translucent ETFE fabric to provide cover from L.A.’s sometimes brutal sun while still allowing enough sunlight through so that grass can grow on the pitch. The complex—chock-full of pedestrian-oriented plazas, viewing and celebration terraces, and restaurants—connects directly to newly landscaped areas designed by Studio-MLA.
Banc of California Stadium 3939 S Figueroa Street Los Angeles Tel: 323-648-6060 Architect: Gensler
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Dreyfuss + Blackford’s historic power station conversion breaks ground in Sacramento

The $50 million Powerhouse Science Center, a Beaux Arts style power plant redevelopment project in Sacramento, California, has broken ground. Helmed by Sacramento-based Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture (D+B), the project takes the riverfront power station and reimagines it as regional science and educational center. Some of the redevelopment includes rehabilitating the former Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Power Station B, a power station sitting on the banks of the Sacramento River. The renovation aims to highlight the original use of the building, as well as the technological advances of energy production in the early 20th century. “In 1912, the PG&E Power Station B brought a backup source of electricity - something very new and technologically advanced - to the Sacramento region,” said Jason A. Silva, a design principal with D+B, in ENR California. “This concept of advanced technology is what inspires the placement and concept of the Powerhouse Science Center.” The original structure was designed in 1912 by architect Willis Polk during Sacramento’s recovery from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and was once the largest power plant north of San Francisco. It closed in 1954 and was declared a Superfund site in 1986 due to a high concentration of heavy metals in the soil. The adaptive reuse project covers 53,100 square-feet, including 22,800 square-feet of new space, to convert the structure into a Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) center. There will also be a two-story addition that protrudes from the east side of the power station, containing main circulation, classrooms, offices, a café, and a 120-seat planetarium that rises above the building. Further work is being done to the building envelope, which is undergoing stabilization of the existing reinforced concrete and steel. A new intermediate floor will be added inside the historic structure for additional exhibition space. All of the renovations for the center are aimed towards a LEED Silver rating. The project is scheduled for completion in 2020.
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A feast of architectural ducks abound in the latest edition of “California Crazy”

The third edition of Jim Heimann’s California Crazy from TASCHEN asks what happens when you build out a new city in the car-crazy age of the early 20th century. The result? A freethinking (and wheeling) design style that cut ties with the past and dropped giant owls, ice cream cones, and hot dogs across the desert landscape. Southern California, according to Heimann, has always been a land of roadside attractions, movie lots, amusement parks and attention-grabbing style. The rebar-and-plaster animals made for movie sets gradually became larger as roadside businesses, looking for ways to lure in customers whizzing by at high speeds, constructed buildings to be seen from a distance, but also act as attractions in and of themselves. The access to cheap land and loose (or no) zoning let builders in the 1920s and beyond build increasingly fantastical buildings as well as mini-golf courses and life-sized recreations of historically famous buildings. The core premise was always to entertain and attract, even if the results drew scorn from architectural critics. But over time, the conglomeration of “buildings that look like other things” across Hollywood and Los Angeles created their own architectural vernacular, one that eventually spread east to cities like Las Vegas. California Crazy also includes David Gebhard’s essay, in which he defines the relation this language has to the automobile and “normal” domestic architecture. The original version of California Crazy was published in 1980, but our fascination with fanciful architecture seems like more than a passing fad. Buildings like NBBJ’s Big Basket or the giant chest of drawers in North Carolina continue to draw attention, and in California Crazy, Heimann breaks down exactly why we still find them so intriguing.
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Morphosis unveils striated, sculptural design for Orange County Museum of Art

Morphosis has unveiled renderings for a new 52,000-square-foot facility for the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) in Newport Beach, California.

The new museum complex has been in the making for decades under various designs by several architecture firms; the current proposal represents the third design put forth by the Culver City-based architects. The Morphosis-designed proposal, once built, will increase exhibition space at OCMA by 50 percent, compared with the museum’s current location, according to the Los Angeles Times. Plans call for the complex to include: 25,000 square feet of dedicated exhibition space, 10,000 square feet of multipurpose, educational, and performances spaces, and a sculpture terrace with capacity for 1,000 occupants.  The proposal aims to stitch together an existing cultural campus in the Pacific Ocean-adjacent enclave that already contains a concert hall and repertory among other uses by activating and extending a grand pedestrian plaza located on the site with a monumental staircase inspired by the steps at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, according to Thom Mayne, principal and founder of Morphosis.  The museum, tucked into a hillside beside the staircase, would connect a lower plaza marked by a vertically oriented, Richard Serra-designed sculpture with the new sculpture plaza located atop the stairs. The upper plaza will hold another large sculptural element, according to the renderings. A linear tree promenade will extend horizontally from the upper plaza over the southern edge of the site, cantilevering over ground floor areas. Under the current proposal, roughly 70 percent of the site will be left open or contain public outdoor spaces.  Inside the complex, a variety of multi-functional public spaces like a public amphitheater and flexible gallery spaces will invite the public into the building. Renderings of these spaces depict multi-story volumes framed in glass and striated paneling, with sky-bridges and monumental stairs carving through many of the spaces.  The striated, shape-shifting structure will among be the final components of the arts complex in the city and is being planned with a future 10,000-square-foot expansion in mind. As such, its design will reflect the urban nature of the complex site, according to the designers. Plans call for OCMA to vacate its existing facilities this fall, with temporary facilities opening in 2019 nearby. Construction on the new museum is slated to begin in 2019 with the complex expected to be complete by 2021. 
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California could require all new homes to install solar panels

On Wednesday May 9, the California Energy Commission will vote on whether or not to require solar panels on new homes. The standard is expected to pass and would apply to all single and multi-family homes up to three stories tall as of January 2020. Exceptions will be made for shaded structures or in situations where it is impractical to install panels and offsets can be used for other solutions, such as re-charging batteries like Tesla’s Powerwall. Homes will not have to reach net-zero status (that is, relying completely on the solar panels for all energy), but is still expected to San Francisco already requires solar panels on all new buildings under 10 stories tall—statewide about 15 to 20 percent of new single family homes rely on solar energy. As California is the world’s fifth largest economy, the massive sales-boost that would result in this measure should not only lower the cost of solar panels in the state, but across the U.S. Installing solar panels will make it approximately $25,000 to $30,000 more expensive to build homes than those built under the 2006 code. However, homeowners are expected to save $50,000 to $60,000 over 25 years. While some have pointed out that this could make California’s housing shortage situation even more dire by raising housing costs, the energy–saving benefits (and California’s increasingly wealthy population) may outnumber the naysayers. This is the most recent of California’s sustainability measures as it continues to push toward a more environmentally friendly future, including filing a lawsuit against the EPA from lowering vehicle emission standards.
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Kanye West reveals Axel Vervoordt home collaboration during tweetstorm

Divisive rapper Kanye West has been on a tweeting spree lately, and just dropped a series of photos from the Hidden Hills, California, house that West has been collaborating on with Belgian interior designer Axel Vervoordt. West had been taken to task earlier in the day by Twitter users after the rapper professed his love for Donald Trump (and earned a retweet from the president in the process). In response, and to prove that he wasn’t in the “sunken place,” West released a suite of photos of his and wife Kim Kardashian’s 15,000-square-foot home, currently undergoing an interior renovation. Vervoordt’s influence can definitely be felt throughout; the designer is known for his use of light, raw materials, and a washed-out color palette to highlight a space’s structural qualities. The polished concrete floors, vaulted ceilings, and long sightlines will likely highlight West’s art once the renovation is complete (it's estimated that West and Kardashian have already spent $20 million on the project). While the team-up might seem like an odd choice, West and Vervoordt seem to have formed a bond based on art. West recently interviewed the designer for The Hollywood Reporter, and repeatedly expressed his admiration for Vervoordt’s ability to evoke emotion from a space. “It was an immediate connection,” said Vervoordt. “I could feel that you were really in love with things. Even if people think we come out of two different worlds, the act of meeting makes one another stronger. You were so spontaneous, totally true and intense. Now we're working on a house together, and I've learned from you because you have great taste. We talk about things, we change things.”
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Gehry Technologies’ accelerator takes architecture start-ups from zero to sixty

Meet the incubators and accelerators producing the new guard of design and architecture start-ups. This is part of a series profiling incubators and accelerators from our April 2018 Technology issue.  Trimble-owned Gehry Technologies (GT) launched a three-month design-and-technology-focused accelerator program called ZeroSixty that is geared toward helping a new generation of innovators revolutionize project delivery across the AEC industry. The accelerator program will help start-ups based out of its Marina del Rey, California, offices to “build and scale” their services by connecting new entrepreneurs with “people, networks, and technologies,” according to the company. The effort is aimed at turning back the increasingly common trend among mega-projects of being over budget and behind schedule. ZeroSixty comes three years after software developer Trimble purchased GT in an effort to integrate and disseminate innovations in technology-driven project delivery across its various platforms. GT was originally founded in 2002 by Frank Gehry and his team at Gehry Partners to adapt techniques from the aerospace and automotive industries and apply them to the firm’s most complex building projects. In the years since, the group has worked on a variety of challenging projects across the world for various high-profile architects, including the Beijing National Stadium with Herzog & de Meuron and the Louvre Abu Dhabi with the Ateliers Jean Nouvel. ZeroSixty was founded by German Aparicio and Lucas Reames, both GT veterans, earlier this year and is currently accepting applications for its first cohort of companies. “The idea is to help entrepreneurs scale their products and services by leveraging our past experiences, field expertise, and client base while continuously seeking to innovate,” Aparicio said. The GT team has always been at the forefront of this niche within the AEC industry, including back in the early 2000s when, working on the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, they were among the first to utilize virtual reality visualizations for on-site construction. Now, Trimble and ZeroSixty seek to build upon this legacy by focusing on new AEC-related applications for emerging technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and data analytics. “These technologies offer the opportunity to provide greater insights using a data-driven approach to project delivery and increase the quality and efficiencies of our industry,” Aparicio explained. With ZeroSixty and its no-equity support for emerging practices, Trimble has its eyes firmly set on building the future. Aparicio added, “These technologies promise to create services on the web that can be used on demand to automate everyday tasks so designers, project managers, contractors, and facility operators can focus on the more interesting or important part of their everyday lives.”
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Solar panels get a much-needed design makeover

Let’s face it: no one has ever characterized a solar panel as being particularly attractive. In fact, they’re eyesores. While the environmental and business cases for photovoltaics are relatively easy to make, their aesthetic dimension has long been a losing proposition. “In states like California, solar is half the price of the local utility, even without subsidies,” explained Ido Salama, co-founder of Sistine Solar. “At the same time, it feels like all solar products look the same: they come in either black or blue, and, while solar panels work great, many people would describe them as ugly. At the very least, they look out of place on a roof,” he added. Rather than attempting to convince people to appreciate solar for what it is, Salama and company set out to build a solar panel that appeals to their sense of aesthetics instead. To that end, Sistine Solar introduced its SolarSkin technology—described on the company’s website as “solar with curb appeal”—in 2013 when its developers won the renewables track of the MIT Clean Energy Prize. Since launching SolarSkin, the company recently introduced its online Design Studio platform to allow anyone to design, customize, and price a solar installation.

How it works

Developed by MIT engineers, SolarSkin is a thin film specially coated with ultra-durable graphics and integrated onto high-efficiency solar panels. The technology employs selective light filtration to simultaneously display an image and transmit sunlight to the underlying solar cells with minimal loss in efficiency. The product is available in any number of colors and patterns, is compatible with every major panel manufacturer, and is available for both new and existing roofs. The end result is essentially a kind of camouflage for the typically drab photovoltaic panel. Sistine Solar’s new SolarSkin Design Studio is an online tool that allows architects, designers, and homeowners alike to design and order a customized solar system from a desktop computer or mobile phone. With a $99 refundable deposit, end users will receive a preliminary system design using LIDAR mapping, a detailed panel layout, guaranteed production figures, a realistic rendering, (where suitable image is available), and guaranteed delivery within 90 days. The Design Studio is intended to get customers more excited about solar, according to Salama. “Homeowners appreciate the transparency, customizability, and especially the ability to match their solar panels to their roof,” he said. “Architects and designers love it because for the first time, they have a product that allows them to showcase solar in a way never before possible—integrated, congruent, harmonious." In spite of the improvement to aesthetics, however, solar technology still faces a number of challenges in terms of market transformation. “Soft costs is one barrier,” he said. “Solar is so complex because every municipality has different rules when it comes to permitting solar.” Noting that it may take one to three days to physically install and wire up a solar system, Salama points out that it can take up to three months to get a permit. “If soft costs could be reduced—like streamlining the permitting process—we would see a radical transformation in adoption,” he suggested. Of course, affordable storage is an ongoing issue with solar technology. “When solar and storage become more economical than buying from the local utility, we will see a huge shift towards distributed generation and plenty of homeowners cutting the cord,” Salama predicted. Now that solar panels are eligible for a makeover, however, there’s one less hurdle to overcome—making the future of solar technology a little more attractive.