Posts tagged with "SOM":

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China’s Belt and Road Initiative is tying the world together—but what's the end game?

In addition to the more infamous killing and pillaging conducted by its various hordes, the Mongol Empire, first led by Genghis Khan and later by his grandson Kublai, brought nearly all of Asia, much of the Middle East, and some of Europe under a unified system of trade and commerce in the 13th century. Consolidating ancient Silk Road mercantile connections, it brought currency into widespread use and generally sought win-win trade deals with conquered territories. While that empire faded by the mid-14th century, it gave the world a precursor to the modern-day state of China, which has embarked on its own ambitious—and, to some, unsettling—quest to link a considerable portion of the world through trade.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched in 2013 by Chinese president Xi Jinping, includes hundreds of infrastructure projects financed and constructed in part or in whole by Chinese entities in lands far beyond China’s borders. Projects include ports, airports, rail lines, utilities, industrial centers, highways, and even entire new cities and urban sectors. “Belt” refers to roads and railways while, paradoxically, “road” refers to sea-lanes; together they aim for nothing less than the unification of almost all of Asia and Africa.

The initiative segments the globe into “corridors” and involves differing levels of participation from host countries. There is no official count of participating countries, but estimates range from 60—covering nearly all of Asia—to well over one hundred. The BRI’s six main economic corridors include the New Eurasian Land Bridge, the China-Central Asia–West Asia Economic Corridor, the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor, the Bangladesh–China–Myanmar Economic Corridor, the China–Mongolia–Russia Economic Corridor, and the China–Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor.

Analysts estimate that trade generated by the BRI reached $117 billion last year. The total estimated cost, by 2027: up to $1.3 trillion. Whether that investment will pay off for China remains to be seen. Chinese banks and companies hope to profit from loan payments and contracts; the Chinese state hopes to benefit by opening markets and gaining influence. The World Bank estimates that the BRI could reduce transportation times on many corridors by 12 percent, increase trade between 2.7 percent and 9.7 percent, increase income by up to 3.4 percent, and lift 7.6 million people from extreme poverty.

Consisting largely of heavy infrastructure, these projects are unlikely to result in lavish Xanadus to stoke the architectural imagination. With the exception of some impressive new cities and city districts, such as Port City in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and some choice high-speed rail stations, BRI projects include workaday structures like cargo terminals, highway bridges, and the odd potash plant. The BRI recalls past geopolitical initiatives, like the Marshall Plan, by which the United States revived, and benefited from, Europe’s economy after World War II. But the BRI dwarfs the Marshall Plan, which comprised $13 billion of investment, or around $100 billion in today’s dollars—much less than BRI’s trillion-dollar scope.

As arguably the biggest collection of construction projects in human history, the BRI offers ample opportunities for architects, contractors, engineers, and other designers. Many, if not most, of the firms involved are Chinese concerns with close ties to the state. They include state-owned enterprises like China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) and China State Construction Engineering Corporation, the world’s third-largest shipping company and largest construction company, respectively. Both are massive enterprises with numerous subsidiaries, and though they are publicly traded, they ultimately answer to the Chinese Communist Party.

In many ways, this effort to build soft power through hard infrastructure extends a domestic development strategy that China has followed for the past two decades. Itself a developing nation not long ago, China has built up its own ports, roads, and railroads in order to unify its national economy and give its manufacturing sector—which comprises 20 percent of the world’s output of goods—access to global markets.

The Chinese government optimistically refers to the BRI as a 21st-century Silk Road, one that harmoniously links economies and increases prosperity for dozens of countries and billions of people, representing up to 60 percent of the world’s economic output. China pitches these projects to host countries as tools of economic development. Analysts say that success, for China and BRI partners alike, depends on far more than concrete and steel. The onus falls on host countries to make use of China’s largesse. Efficient trade relies on everything from effective local governance to the mobility of workers to the mitigation of environmental impacts. In the case of partners like Belarus (sometimes referred to as Europe’s last dictatorship) whose governments are unstable, corrupt, or underdeveloped, reforms may pose greater challenges than does the development of megaprojects.

In many cases, benefits to host countries have not materialized. Many projects use little local expertise or labor; rather, they are boons for Chinese engineering firms, construction companies, and suppliers such as steel and concrete manufacturers. Once built, they take on a nearly colonial tenor, moving raw materials out of host countries and moving Chinese goods into them. And no matter how economists feel about BRI projects, the initiative has already alarmed environmentalists. The number and physical size of projects promise to remake urban landscapes, alter—and destroy—natural landscapes, and consume untold millions of tons of natural resources, building materials, and fossil fuels. Chinese environmental laws and practices are also notoriously lax compared to those in the U.S. and Europe. In 2017 the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) issued a report documenting BRI projects’ numerous incursions into sensitive habitats. WWF identified “high impacts” throughout nearly all of Southeast Asia and “moderate impacts” in BRI corridors in Central Asia. BRI projects have also been associated with increases in the use of coal for power production in many host countries. 

Beyond environmental effects, even when host countries own their assets, they are indebted to Chinese financiers. Reports indicate that many countries cannot pay off construction loans, leaving them indebted to China indefinitely. Many projects have turned into white elephants. Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Sri Lanka was designed to accommodate one million passengers per year. Though fully operational, Mattala currently serves zero passengers, while also servicing $190 million in debt to Chinese banks. Having been a relatively poor, developing country so recently, China likely understands the pressure points of the Myanmars and Mozambiques of the world better than any other global power does.

The Center for Global Development estimates that as many as eight countries involved with the BRI are already at risk of debt distress. Some countries are in debt to China by a factor of as much as 20 percent of their GDPs. Others are now approaching BRI proposals more gingerly than they might have when the program launched. Malaysia recently canceled $22 billion in BRI projects; other countries, particularly Kenya and Mozambique, are pushing back against proposals and renegotiating deals. Ultimately, economic domination via financing may not be a great strategy—flush with cash though they may be, Chinese banks want returns on their investments no less than Western banks do. Then again, even if they aren’t repaid, the Chinese state might still get what it wants in the form of global influence.

In other words, the BRI is as much a geopolitical experiment as it is an economic development strategy.

Josh Stephens is contributing editor to The California Planning & Development Report and author of the forthcoming The Urban Mystique: Notes on Los Angeles, California, and Beyond.

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SOM unveils design for Disney's new Manhattan headquarters

Disney is coming to Lower Manhattan’s west side. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill has unveiled its vision for the media company’s new 1.2-million-square-foot headquarters in the burgeoning Hudson Square. Slated for the former City Winery site, the Silverstein Properties project will be located three blocks above the busy thoroughfare of Canal Street. 4 Hudson Square will take cues from the surrounding industrial-scale brick structures that populate the area. It will be comprised of three tower buildings—the largest standing 320-feet-tall—that will all emerge from a 10-story podium. Taking up an entire city block, it will be a massive project with a large floor plate featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and an exterior grid of green terra cotta tile and anodized aluminum panels. The project will mimic the punched windows and facade materials of the other local buildings nearby. A series of setbacks will also define the upper floors of each structure, creating various terraces over a total of 19 stories.  Hudson Square, once the printing press capital of New York City, boasts tons of textured and aged buildings that each exude a strong presence—something the team at The Walt Disney Company wanted to embody in its contemporary office space. Set to hold up to 5,000 employees, 4 Hudson Square will be a major addition to the neighborhood when completed. Disney officials estimate its construction will wrap up in four years after the current building is demolished. The ground floor of the project will be outfitted with retail and restaurants and will serve not just Disney staff, but the public as well.  Amenity-rich office buildings with ample communal public space are increasingly being pitched as attractive lures for the Manhattan neighborhood, which is undergoing a major corporate-led redevelopment. Many tech and media companies, including Squarespace, Horizon Media, and several design firms have claimed space in the neighborhood. Disney’s move to Hudson Square from their Upper West Side location seemingly cements the area's future as a corporate campus. The headquarters will be one of the first large-scale, ground-up projects in the neighborhood and will be built on track to receive LEED and WELL Standard certifications.  Gensler is set to design the interiors for Disney while SCAPE will take on the exterior landscape.
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Living in space is the answer, but what was the question?

In early September of this year, I was at a conference at an aviation museum in Seattle, to lend some architectural context to ideas about long-term living in space. The folks at the Space Studies Institute (SSI) had invited me to talk about some of the research on NASA’s 1970s proposals to build huge rotating cities in orbit from my book, Space Settlements, as part of a panel on habitat design. This conference was commemorating two anniversaries; it had been 50 years since the Apollo 11 moon landing, and 50 years since Gerard O’Neill, a Princeton physics professor—and the leader of the 1970s NASA work—had asked a question of his freshman intro students: “Is the surface of a planet really the right place for an expanding technological civilization?” The answer they arrived at, after much study, was “no,” and they started to imagine the technical details of living elsewhere. My interest in this question has as much to do with history and culture as it does with getting down to the details of execution. “Why do we make space and live in it?” is a question worth asking, whether on Earth or off of it. But, while the conference itself was a fascinating two days of discussion, I was surprised to find that almost everyone there considered O’Neill’s (and my) questions to have been settled long ago. Why, the other panelists seemed to wonder, would anyone even ask “why” humans should go and live in outer space, when we can instead talk about “how?” And so that was the subject of the next two day’s conversation. 50 years on from Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s historic flight—the culmination of almost a decade’s worth of work and about $150 billion in 2019 dollars—that “how?” seems easier than ever to answer. As of writing, it costs Elon Musk’s company SpaceX about $1,500 to launch 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). That’s down from about $43,000 for the same kilogram on the Space Shuttle in 1995. With new vehicles about to come online from SpaceX, NASA, and Jeff Bezos’s spaceflight company Blue Origin, these costs will only continue to go down. Two other factors are driving a new renaissance of plans for living and working in space: The discovery of new resources, and the confirmation, in the United States at least, that those resources can be put to use. The discovery of long-suspected ice in craters at the Moon’s poles was announced in 2018 by an international team of researchers using data from an Indian Lunar satellite. Water in space is useful, not least because living things require it to stay alive. But, once it’s been cracked apart with the cheap and plentiful solar electricity available there, it can become rocket fuel. “Water is the oil of space,” said one panelist at the SSI conference, George Sowers, formerly chief scientist with Lockheed Martin and the United Launch Alliance, now a professor of practice in space mining at the Colorado School of Mines. In 2015, the lobbying efforts of two asteroid mining startups were vindicated when Congress passed the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act into law. This new interpretation of the 1967 international Outer Space Treaty allowed private individuals and companies to engage in “exploration and exploitation” of water and other resources on the Moon, in the asteroids, and on other planets. These same two startups, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, later failed and were acquired by other companies. But the former CEO and cofounder of Planetary Resources, Chris Lewicki, was onstage at the SSI conference to talk about future successes. “If we make money in space, space settlement will happen,” said Lewicki, “it’s just us continuing to do the things we’ve always done.” This trifecta: low launch costs, a supply chain of matter and energy that’s already there, and a legal framework that can guarantee ownership of those resources, is the backend behind a new wave of proposals for architecture in space. These forces will keep that space wave going long after this post-Apollo nostalgia dies down. Earlier this year NASA awarded $500,000 to AI SpaceFactory, “a multi-planetary architectural and technology design agency, building for Earth and space,” for their MARSHA project. MARSHA successfully demonstrated an ability to use in-situ resources—Martian soil (or regolith)—to 3D print the outer shell of a habitat for four humans. The European Space Agency (ESA) Moon Village concept has been in development for most of this decade. Norman Foster, who has also designed for Mars, contributed design work to the Moon Village project in 2016, and SOM released information about its own Moon Village work earlier this spring. And of course, Bjarke Ingels is in on it, too. His firm, BIG, is making plans for a Mars simulator complex outside Dubai, and Ingels told the online design journal SSENSE that this work is a case study for a future Mars city. There’s beginning to be a long history to the notion that designing space for humans in space is a task that requires not just engineering, but architecture as well. At the inception of the Soviet Soyuz project in 1957, chief designer Sergei Korolev was unhappy with the capsule interiors that his engineers were drawing. The only architect working for the Soviet space program at that time was a woman named Galina Balashova, who was designing their office spaces. Korolev hired Balashova to redesign the habitable spaces of Soyuz, and later the space stations Salyut and Mir. Her work is still orbiting today as part of the International Space Station. On the other side of the Space Race, the Americans hired industrial designer Raymond Loewy to do the interior fit-out for Skylab. Famously, he was the one who talked them into adding a window and suggested that the best place for it would be next to the zero-gee “dining table” on the station. Back on Earth, the Space Architecture Studio and Research Lab, founded by the late Yoshiko Sato at Columbia GSAPP, now continues at Pratt under the guidance of Michael Morris, Sato’s husband. For over 30 years, the University of Houston has hosted the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture. The chief space architect for AI SpaceFactory’s award-winning MARSHA design was Jeffrey Montes, an alum of the GSAPP studio. And Suzana Bianco, a graduate of the Houston program, was a copanelist at the Space Studies Institute conference in Seattle, presenting her New Venice habitat design. In technical circles within space science, the design of a total system—with launch capability, flight modules, crew or cargo space, and recovery—is known as an “architecture.” But in most of the presentations about various technical architectures for space travel and space settlement in Seattle last month—Bianco’s presentation being a welcome exception—there was little talk about the value that architects bring to those systems. No one knows space like architects do, and these threads that connect the (still largely speculative) work taking place in outer space today with the history of architectural space on Earth are too often neglected by those working in the field. Alongside all of this talk about “how?” the other question haunting the space settlement work being discussed at this conference and elsewhere was “who?”—as in “who will pay for all of this?” Even as the costs and barriers to entry drop, there is still uncertainty about the ways in which value might be designed into the projects that will help people live in space. Whether the users of the systems under design by these space architects are tourists, miners, hotelkeepers, or simple explorers, the question of “who?” is intimately tied up in the “why?” The architect Cedric Price famously asked, “Technology is the answer, but what was the question?” Maybe architects are the designers best positioned to ask, and even answer, these questions about space.
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Design firm turns Hudson Yards towers into sex toys

New York-based design studio Wolfgang & Hite is taking a more intimate approach to critiquing the development boom in Hudson Yards. The studio’s newest project, XXX:HY, casts the controversial West Side development in a whole new light. A self-described “luxury real estate dildo experience,” the project presents a series of pink silicone sex toys modeled after Hudson Yards’ most iconic sites. Wolfgang & Hite specializes in interior architecture, exhibition design, and art production. In the past decade, the firm has completed a number of commercial, residential, and studio projects from Atlanta to Copenhagen. While the phallic undertones of skyscrapers may be old news, the inspiration for XXX:HY came from one particular comment by architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable in 2008. In a Wall Street Journal review of Hudson Yards proposals, the 87-year-old Huxtable remarked that “Skidmore, Owings and Merrill's most conspicuous contribution is a pair of skyscrapers that look, in profile, alarmingly like sex toys.” While Huxtable never lived to see these buildings in all their not-so-subtle glory, Wolfgang & Hite has paid a grand tribute to the late critic by reducing SOM’s skyscraper (known as 35 Hudson Yards) to Huxtable’s interpretation—a hot pink silicone dildo. The collection includes a clitoral stimulator modeled after Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s The Shed as well as a ribbed butt plug mimicking Thomas Heatherwick's Vessel. All items were created at 1:100 scale and fit neatly into a base formed from a similarly scaled model of the entire 28-acre development. “There’s a lot to love in NYC’s recent building boom, but the city and developers have been jerking each other off for decades, so naturally we wanted to join in the fun… Masturbation is a great metaphor for the latest wave of development in New York City,” Wolfgang & Hite said in a statement about the project. “Architects design dildos all the time. We wanted to put these buildings to the test.” In a move to make its statement even more provocative, Wolfgang & Hite has gifted a full set of XXX:HY prototypes to the New York City Department of City Planning and Stephen M. Ross, chairman and founder of The Related Companies. "Sex does the body good. After the fiery criticisms of Hudson Yards this year, we thought city officials might need a healthy outlet for working through some of that guilt,” the firm said in a public statement.
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SOM's Tianjin CTF Finance Centre meets the breeze with a biomorphic form

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For what will be the eighth-tallest building in the world when finished in Tianjin, China, later this year, SOM didn’t want to do a by-the-numbers glass facade. Which is good, because the designers couldn’t have even if they wanted to—the Tianjin CTF Finance Centre’s convex and concave surfaces, along with its tapered shape, meant to help shed the wind loads bearing on such a tall building (it will eventually reach over 1,700 feet), demanded an original solution.
  • Facade Manufacturer China Southern Glass Jangho
  • Architect SOM RLP (Executive Architect)
  • Facade Consultant Arup
  • Location Tianjin, China
  • Date of Completion 2019
  • System Custom unitized curtainwall
  • Products China Southern Glass IGU Jangho low-iron laminated glass
The building’s biomorphic form, reminiscent of the pistil of a hothouse flower, suggests it could have used curved glass panels, but it doesn’t—the client wanted something less risky. The architects instead chose flat glass panels—about 11,500 total—from China Southern Glass (CSG Holding Limited). The vision glass comprises Insulated Glass Units with heat-strengthened, laminated, low-iron outer lites, a double-silver, low-e coating, and tempered, low-iron inner lites. Spandrel panels are made of low-iron laminated glass. The use of flat glass panels meant that the designers had to get a bit more creative with the mullions to cover the doubly curved surfaces. They turned to an adaptable mullion system from Jangho, a major Chinese curtain-wall manufacturer, that could take over some of the formal gymnastics. In total, only 476 unique glass panel types were needed. The design team also wanted to find a way to minimize the window-to-wall ratio to reduce solar gain and increase insulative value while still providing ample daylight. They ended up with V-shaped mullions that are almost 11 inches wide on the exterior and narrow to a much smaller profile on the interior. The building’s taper gave each floor a different shape; therefore, the exterior panels fit differently around every level, which meant that the mullions couldn’t easily be arranged in perfectly continuous lines up the building. Rather than trying to approximate vertical stripes with the mullions, the designers staggered them to create a snakeskin-like effect that reads as organized but organic, a reflection of the flexible thinking required to erect this giant.
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SOM shows off the sustainable potentials of robotic fabrication

For the Chicago Architecture Biennial opening on September 19, SOM debuted a concrete pavilion called Stereoform Slab to showcase the latest in material and manufacturing technology. As much as 60 percent of a building’s carbon footprint can result from the creation of concrete slabs, according to SOM. By developing new fabrication methods and integrating robotic construction, the firm reported that a 20 percent reduction in material use and waste equaled an equal reduction in carbon output. The fluid form of Stereoform Slab, designed as a full-scale abstraction of the single-story concrete bays you might find in a high-rise, was built in partnership with McHugh Construction, the developer Sterling Bay, Denmark-based Odico Construction Robotics, and Autodesk. Using robots, Odico fabricated EPS foam molds which were shipped from Odense, Denmark, to the U.S. “The shape is formed of a specific, but simple class of geometry—the ruled surface,” the interdisciplinary research team behind the project at SOM said in an email. “This formal constraint is derived from the nature of the fabrication method itself, a hot-wire spanning an eight feet width at the end of a seven-axis robotic arm.” While one might have seen this "constraint" as just that, a restriction, the designers said they saw it as a way of offering “geometric freedom,” and also enjoyed the high fabrication speed. While new technology has allowed for designers to conceive of “more sustainable and expressive structures,” the resulting complexity often makes them hard to realize with conventional construction techniques. “The impetus for Stereoform Slab, however, was to prove that emerging approaches to fabrication using advanced robotics could help close this gap, and that this type of formwork could augment more conventional concrete forming systems without adding additional cost to construction,” the SOM team explained. Odico used a proprietary technology called robotic abrasive wire cutting, which allows for the rapid creation of polystyrene formworks—reportedly at up to 126 times the speed of traditional methods. “Because of this advantage, formworks can be produced at very low cost compared to conventional timber formwork molds," said Asbjørn Søndergaard, chief technology officer of Odico, "which is the critical enabler for realizing more advanced, structural designs that save material through more intelligent use of material." SOM isn’t doing away with the human hand entirely, and they said that “This type of advanced fabrication is about augmenting human labor in order to expand design freedom and the potential to actually build what we can imagine and create with more advanced digital design methodologies” Though certainly smaller than a tower, working closely with the robotic manufacturers and with a firm, McHugh Construction, that focuses on high rises means that the Stereoform Slab has more in common with a construction prototype than a pavilion. The Stereoform Slab will be up until January 5th, along with a bench produced by the same process at the Chicago Athletic Association.
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SOM unveils a new look for Kansas City's $1.5 billion airport terminal

It’s been a long road for those involved in Kansas City’s mega-plan to upgrade its outdated international airport, but the process is moving along In late 2017, a proposal by Skidmore, Owings & Merril (SOM), put together in collaboration with the Maryland-based Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate, was overwhelmingly approved by the local city council, but less than a month later, things seemed to have gone awry. AECOM and local firm Burns & McDonnell announced their counterproposal for the new Kansas City International Airport (KCI) project after their scheme had been previously passed over earlier in the year after officials became frustrated with Edgemoor’s lack of clarity over how they would fund what was seen by some as unnecessarily expensive design moves.  Burns & McDonnell sued to overrule the developer’s selection, but its efforts were in vain and the only real consequence was a significant trim to the budget for the KCI project. Now, two years later, Edgemoor and SOM’s plans have been finalized and the design is a bit flatter than originally proposed.  Using feedback collected from local residents and stakeholders over the last year, the team revealed new renderings last week during a business session meeting with the Kansas City city council. The one-million-square-foot project is still scaled back as was previously unveiled last August, but the ideas are much more clear and include further details.  Slated to be built on the site of KCI’s demolished Terminal A building, SOM’s single-terminal structure will combine the three existing terminals into one H-shaped design. It will feature a smooth, flat roof with skylights spanning the two-story check-in area, as well as narrow, clerestory windows in the public corridors. Floor-to-ceiling windows will light up the 39 gates within the terminal, also providing views of the surrounding airfield, with room for the building to expand to up to 50 gates. The design team will use warm, natural materials such as native wood and stone on the ceilings and walls respectively, paying homage to Kansas City’s welcoming atmosphere, according to officials. An indoor fountain will be integrated into the retail and dining “cul-de-sac,” which includes a small bevy of planters and seating for relaxing on before a flight. An interactive display detailing the history of Kansas City and the airport will be set aside in a corridor as well. On the other side of the terminal's entrance, a 6,300-spot parking garage will provide travelers with easier access to the main building.  The revamped KCI is expected to open in four years ahead of the NFL Draft, which Kansas City is set to host in April 2023. The $1.5 billion project broke ground in March of this year. 
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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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SOM will join O'Hare expansion with two new $1.4 billion concourses

It’s official: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has been selected to design two, $1.4 billion satellite buildings at O’Hare International Airport to pair with Studio Gang’s plan for a new Terminal 2. As the runner up in the competition to secure the site’s new Global Terminal project, the veteran, Chicago-based firm will still be able to cement their vision within O’Hare’s upcoming mega-expansion with their connecting concourses spanning a total of 1.2 million square feet. Slated to break ground in 2022, the structures will be built west of Terminal 2 and link to it via underground tunnels. It’s not completely clear yet what SOM’s design will entail, since Chicago’s Department of Aviation, which announced the news this week, didn’t release any additional design renderings. It is expected, however, that SOM’s buildings will match the tone and palette chosen by Studio ORD Joint Venture Partners (the multi-pronged team led by Studio Gang) for the core concourse. This mean’s SOM’s original proposal, which was designed in tandem with Ross Barney Architects and Arup, and inspired by the airport’s original name, Orchard Field, likely won’t be fully realized. Despite this, the tall glass walls and nature-infused interior in the firm’s initial competition entry might still be integrated somehow into the light-filled and timber-clad architecture of Terminal 2. Jeane Gang said in a statement that all collaborating firms will work together to make a space that “captures the unique culture of Chicago.” Of the other three firms who were shortlisted in the competition, SOM’s appeared to be the most complimentary to Studio ORD’s design. While Terminal 2 is expected to be a rather dramatic piece of architecture with an airy, timber-clad interior, the satellite structures might be as well, albeit smaller and thinner. The proposals by the losing group of finalists, Santiago Calatrava, Foster + Partners, and Fentress Architects, shared these similar qualities but they didn’t the advantage of being a hometown studio.  Expected to be complete by 2026, the transformational Global Terminal project is part of former mayor Rahm Emanual’s O’Hare 21 initiative, a push to modernize the 75-year-old O'Hare International Airport and upgrade its passenger experience and commercial offerings. By replacing the current Terminal 2 with the new $8.5 billion spaces by Studio ORD and SOM, the airport will nearly double in size from 5.5 million square feet to 8.9 million square feet. 
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Leading women working in facade design address industry's challenges

We surveyed the leading women in the facade design and manufacturing industry and asked: What do you find most interesting about facade innovation today? What are you working on now and what do you think we will see in five years? Their responses, organized into six categories, offer an informal cross section of the challenges facing the facade industry—climate change, security—and of a coming multi-material revolution in facade design.
  • Topic Legend

  • Heading toward decarbonization
  • Technological change
  • Inspiration
  • Special Projects
  • Material innovations—laminated glass and stone
  • Trends in facade design
Emilie Hagan Associate Director, Atelier Ten Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time and facade innovation presents an exciting way to take action. Over the next 12 years, we need to make big changes to reduce global emissions worldwide and within the built environment. Implementing innovative designs that balance embodied carbon reduction, energy performance, and life cycle is one way to make a difference. We are now testing the global warming potential of facade options by comparing pairings of cladding material and insulation that offer the same thermal performance. We’re looking at materials like polyiso, spray foam, and mineral wool, as well as ceramic tile, terra-cotta tile, and GFRC tile, which all vary greatly in terms of their life span, global warming potential, resource depletion, and acidification. Nicole Dosso Technical Director, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Beyond materiality, our 35 Hudson Yards project is emblematic of a collective process between the architect, developer, fabricator, and supplier. New Hudson Facades and Franken-Schotter, who quarried, supplied, and fabricated the Jura limestone used in the facade, helped to drive improved energy performance as well as optimize the geometry, manufacturing, and material selection. The return of materiality to the facade is a departure from the monolithic slick glass facades that have dominated the image of the super tall tower for the last two decades. The approach of combining materials pays homage to the historic fabric of New York City facades, which predominantly fancied the use of stone, brick, and terra-cotta. Doriana Mandrelli Fuksas Partner, Studio Fuksas The quality of projects over the last 20 years has grown a lot, and nobody and nothing prevents us from thinking that the creation can continue to expand. I have a positive vision of the future, a future made up of large infrastructures: of museums, of innovative workplaces, of spaces dedicated to new technologies, of spaces where people can meet. The Shenzhen Airport has the skin of a honeycomb-shaped beehive. No one knows where it comes from, but clearly it is variable from every point of view and changes with every change of light, internal or external. Imagining a facade seems too simple, but complicated, too. I let it arrive as the last stage or last section, from the center to the outside. At the end of a path inside the building, of a cinematographic montage that leads to discover what you want to see, the facade arrives. Unexpected, scandalously irreverent. Pam Campbell Partner, COOKFOX Architects One of our projects, One South First in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, uses large-scale, 3-D-printed molds to create pre-cast facade panels. We designed several variations of panels to respond to specific solar orientations; beyond the facade’s shape, the finish and crisp edges were particularly important, creating an interplay of reflection and shadow on the building’s surface. Odile Decq Founder, Odile Decq Studio Glass is a material that can solve in one all the questions an architect faces when designing a facade today: lighting outside and inside, protection from too much solar heating, isolation from the cold, providing a multiplicity of aspects, colors, textures, inclusion, and more. I’ve always said: if steel was the material for building innovation at the end of the 19th century, glass is the material for the end of the 20th century. From the beginning of my career I have been fascinated by glass evolution and the way facades have been modified thanks to this fantastic material. Its various qualities, its treatment, and its plasticity are what I am searching for in terms of innovation today. My research today is oriented toward sensible facades that can be joyful and sensual at the same time. Elena Manferdini Founder, Atelier Manferdini In particular, our office proposes an alternative language for traditional facades, based on vibrant color schemes and geometric patterns, along with augmented reality applications, whose aim is to engage new subjectivities. Passivity is the dominant state of today’s subject, who, conditioned to consume images, confuses them with reality; but our work suggests that a new breed of reactionary subjectivities is now possible. These imaginative facades become a political space for nuance and personal participation. Facades, even when buildings are privately owned, are important for the city at large because they are inevitably the background of our public imagination. Any facade language strategy is by default political because it negotiates how the privacy of human interactions comes to terms with a surrounding social and cultural context. Andrea Love Principal and Director of Building Science, Payette I am working on a tool to look at the impact glazing has on summer comfort to complement the Glazing and Winter Comfort tool we developed a few years ago. We’re also doing life cycle assessment of the typical facade systems we use to understand their embodied environmental impact. We are continuing to explore new ways to leverage simulation tools to understand performance and drive design on several projects across our office. The thing I find most interesting about facades today is the increase in attention paid toward their role in building performance and occupant comfort. Whether it is a high-performance facade for passive survivability for resiliency or consideration of the embodied carbon impact, I find it exciting to see how we as an industry are embracing the important role that facades play.
Jennifer Marchesani Director of Sales and Marketing, Shildan Group When Shildan introduced terra-cotta rainscreen to the United States market 20 years ago, the panels were red, small, and flat. Now our capabilities are amazing. We just completed the Sentry Insurance Building in Steven’s Point, Wisconsin, designed by Flad Architects, with the largest terra-cotta rainscreen panels in the world (10 feet long). We are seeing a trend toward complex terra-cotta shapes unitized in curtain walls on high-rise buildings. Custom 3-D shapes and curved terra-cotta elements are gracing more buildings, adding a complexity in production and systems, but resulting in unique, one-of-a-kind facades. Stacey Hooper Principal, NBBJ This is a time of revolutionary technology and digital fabrication, which is propelling imaginative industry partnerships to realize more complex, efficient, and high-performance building facades, built faster than ever before. This sea change will be pushed along by stricter codes, accountable system performance, and reduced market shares for curtain wall systems that don’t pursue meaningful change. Valerie L. Block Architectural Marketing Consultant, Kuraray America, Inc. I have seen more laminated glass used in facades over the past 20 years. There are several reasons for this, including building code requirements for impact protection of openings; blast and security requirements for exterior glazing in certain building types and locations; and a desire to incorporate minimally supported glass systems, where a concern for post-breakage glass retention has led to the specification of laminated glass. I have seen a growing concern over security. Architects working on K-12 and higher education projects are designing facades to resist intrusion, and in some cases, to provide ballistics resistance in the event of an active shooter. Tali Mejicovsky Associate, Facade Engineering and Building Physics, Arup I am most interested in designing for net zero energy and innovations that push for best performance. Some ideas include the use of FRP framing, thin glass in conventional assemblies, and designing for disassembly and recycling.
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SOM and MIT shoot for the Moon with design for lunar village

While NASA is researching 3D-printed habitats for the Moon and Mars, the European Space Agency (ESA) has tapped Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to envision a theoretical lunar city. The Moon Village, which SOM will masterplan, design, and engineer, not only reflects the collaborative nature of the ESA’s mission but also lays out a plan—and base of operations—for space exploration past 2050. As Israel prepares to potentially land the first privately-funded spacecraft on the Moon, the Moon Village would take a decidedly more multinational approach and could be used by future science missions or even space tourists. Set up along the rim of the Shackleton crater on the Moon’s south pole, which receives continuous sunlight for nearly all of the lunar year, the Moon Village would rely on solar power to generate electricity. The possibility of water ice inside the crater itself, which is always shadowed, would provide the colony with another potential resource to tap. “The project presents a completely new challenge for the field of architectural design,” said SOM Design Partner Colin Koop. “The Moon Village must be able to sustain human life in an otherwise uninhabitable setting. We have to consider problems that no one would think about on Earth, like radiation protection, pressure differentials, and how to provide breathable air.” How did SOM design around those tight constraints? The village’s modules would all inflate or deflate depending on their programmatic needs. Each structure would be about three-to-four stories tall and contain living quarters, environmental controls, life support systems, and workspaces. Eventually, 3D-printed regolith shells could protect the modules from radiation, fluctuations in temperature (although Shackleton crater has a more consistent temperature than other parts of the Moon), and dust. Modules would be clustered and linked through pressurized tunnels to provide easy transportation between them. A series of in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) experiments could help determine how to best use the Moon’s natural resources. Oxygen and possibly rocket fuel could be generated from the nearby ice, and food could be conceivably grown in the environment. The Moon Village has been envisioned as a three-stage development that would eventually create a long-term, sustainable Moon community. The first phase, the master plan revealed on April 9, used near-future technology; but, as Fast Company pointed out, the Moon Village would still be reliant on international cooperation, and that’s far from assured right now.
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AIASF Awards highlight game-changing Bay Area designs

The American Institute of Architects, San Francisco chapter (AIASF) has announced the award recipients of its 2019 AIASF Design Awards program. This year, the group is honoring projects located throughout the San Francisco Bay Area as well as in other parts of the country in architecture and interior design categories with special awards highlighting projects that excel in historic preservation, community infrastructure, urban transformation, and other areas. 

Included in the list of winners this year are Aidlin Darling Design's In Situ restaurant at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Saint Mary's Student Chapel by Mark Cavagnero Associates, and the Rain installation in Washington, D.C., by Thurlow Small Architecture + NIO architecten, among many others.

The 2019 AIASF Design Awards program was juried in New York City in partnership with the AIA New York. The jury deciding the awards program includes Katherine Chia of Desai Chia Architecture, Stefan Knust of Ennead Architects, Jason Long of OMA, Susan T. Rodriguez, and Kim Yao of Architecture Research Office.

See below for a full list of winners:

Architecture

Honor Monterey Conference Center Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

Ridge House Mork Ulnes Architects

Roseland University Prep Aidlin Darling Design

Saint Mary's Student Chapel Mark Cavagnero Associates

Merit

The Amador Apartments jones | haydu

Tree House Aidlin Darling Design

Citation

Kua Bay Walker Warner Architects

SoMA Residence, Artist Gallery + Studio Dumican Mosey Architects

The O'Donohue Family Stanford Educational Farm CAW Architects

University of California, Merced, Pavilion at Little Lake Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Interior Architecture

Merit In Situ Aidlin Darling Design

Citation

Confidential Financial Services Firm Gensler

Studio Dental II Montalba Architects

El Pípila Schwartz and Architecture

Commendations

Commendation for Historic Preservation

Lodge at the Presidio Architectural Resources Group

Commendation for Urban Design

Hunters Point Shoreline envelope A+D

Commendation for Social Responsibility

El Pípila Schwartz and Architecture

Special Commendation for Commitment to Community Spaces

901 Fairfax Avenue Paulett Taggart Architects + David Baker Architects

Special Commendation for Sustainable Community Infrastructure

Half Moon Bay Library Noll & Tam Architects

Special Commendation for Urban Infrastructure Enhancement

Rain Thurlow Small + NIO architecten Special Commendation for Urban Transformation 1100 Ocean Avenue Supportive Family and Transitional-Aged Youth Housing Herman Coliver Locus Architecture