After delays of almost a year, Staten Island's giant Ferris wheel is finally back on track. Earlier this month, the aggrieved parties reached a deal in court that allows construction on the New York Wheel to move forward. The New York Wheel hired Holland's Mammoet-Starneth to design and engineer the 630-foot-tall North Shore amusement, which sits steps away from the ferry drop-off in St. George. According to the Staten Island Advance, the company left the job on May 26, 2017, and it filed for bankruptcy five months ago. The New York Wheel fired Mammoet-Starneth from the job soon after. The two entities started mediation in March, but they weren't able to come to an agreement in court—until now. Among its key provisions, the new agreement vacates the lawsuit between the two companies and lets the New York Wheel hire a new contractor to finish the job. It has selected American Bridge and ARUP, the construction company and the massive engineering firm, respectively. Per the agreement, the New York Wheel has until early September to scrounge up financing for the venture—and it can cut loose from the deal if it can't find the money. So far, the company has raised $400 million of the wheel's $580 million estimated cost from investors, but at this point the New York Wheel is mum on how much of that money has been spent. On the New York Wheel's website, S9 Architecture and Perkins Eastman are listed as the architects behind the project. The wheel is supposed to be a supposed to be a draw for New Yorkers and tourists alike, many of whom are predicted to descend upon the adjacent Empire Outlets, the city's first outlet mall. SHoP Architects is designing that complex, which is slated for completion this fall.
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The rise of autonomous vehicles (AVs) is inevitable and—depending on who you ask—they’ll either eliminate car crashes and save the environment, or muscle out pedestrians from the street, steal our personal data, and create biblical levels of gridlock in our cities. But despite the divide over how the technology should be implemented, the common thread that runs between apostles and bashers alike is the belief that cities, planners, and architects are woefully unprepared for the changes self-driving cars will bring. In November 2017, the AIA held an event centered on the topic, "Anticipating the Driverless City,” and the furor seems justified following the death of a pedestrian at the grille of an autonomous Uber car. “Planners think in 30-year increments, and autonomous vehicles are already hitting the streets today,” Nico Larco, co-director of the Sustainable Cities Initiative at the University of Oregon, said. “Urban planners should be terrified.” Larco’s not wrong. Only a few states even have regulations for driverless cars, let alone ideas for designing a future without parking. With Ford launching self-delivering pizzas in Miami, Google’s Waymo rolling out an autonomous ridesharing service in Arizona, and driverless taxis making inroads in cities all over the world, architects and planners will either need to look ahead or be stuck in triage mode. Sam Schwartz, former New York City Traffic Commissioner from 1982 to 1986 and founder of his eponymous traffic and transportation planning and engineering firm, has categorized the potential futures as “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” The “good” A utopic self-driving car scenario would have driverless cars constantly circulating and on the prowl for riders, while providing “first mile, last mile” access to and from souped-up mass-transit corridors. If AVs truly take off and replace a sizable portion of manned cars on the street, then parking lots, garages, and driveways—not to mention thousands of square feet of on-street parking per block—would sit vacant. Walking, cycling, and autonomous (electric) buses would feature heavily in a multi-modal transit mix, and streets would narrow as bioswales and strips of public parks replaced parking spots. There has been movement on designing for that future; FXCollaborative, HOK, Arup, KPF, and other prominent firms have all put forward scalable designs for reclaiming the urban fabric. Speculation has already forced public officials in Pittsburgh to put together plans for integrating self-driving cars into the city’s fabric by 2030, and developers in New York are building flexible parking garages that can easily be converted for other uses. However, the key to actually enacting any of these schemes lies in large-scale government intervention. Without a concerted top-down reclamation and conversion of unused streets, AV-centric zoning policies, or renewed investment in mass-transportation options, cities will never be able to integrate AVs into their infrastructure. The largest hurdle to achieving the “good” future isn’t technological, it’s political; even self-driving evangelists have conceded that a laissez-faire approach might result in increased traffic on the road. The “bad” Uber, Lyft, Google, and a raft of competitors are already jostling to bring self-driving taxis to market so that these companies won’t have to pay human drivers. Under the guise of preventing traffic fatalities—there were nearly 40,000 lives lost in the U.S. alone in 2017—the big players are lobbying all levels of government to allow their AVs on the street. If vehicle miles traveled per person in AVs were allowed to increase without intervention, society could slide into an ugly scenario. This dystopic outcome would see mass transit hollowed out by a lack of funding and pedestrians shunted out of the streets in the name of safety. Studies have already shown that existing ridesharing services increase congestion and cause bus services to deteriorate, and if commuters get fed up with slow commutes and turn to ridesharing services, mass transit options could be sent into death spirals due to decreased revenue. Driverless cars are often touted as being spatially efficient, especially as they can join each other to form road trains—tightly packed groups of vehicles moving along optimized routes. But considering how much space on the road 40 bicycles or 40 commuters in a bus would take up, the flaw in that thinking becomes self-evident. Even if artificial intelligence can route traffic more effectively than a human, putting more cars on the road offsets the gains in speed by decreasing the amount of space available. Although computers might be great at coordinating with each other, the external human element will remain a wild card no matter what. Well-planned cities that prioritize walkability and ground-level experience would place pedestrians over passengers, but a worst-case scenario could see cyclists and walkers forced to wear locator beacons so that AVs could “see” them better, while hemmed in behind fencing. The “ugly” The worst driverless car scenarios take Le Corbusier’s famous claim that “the city built for speed is the city built for success” to heart. The high-speed arterial thoroughfares Corbusier envisioned in The Radiant City were realized in the destructive city planning policies of the 1950s and '60s, but municipalities have spent heavily to correct their mistakes 50 years later. Much in the same way that widening roads actually worsens traffic, if planners and architects ignore or give deference to driverless cars and continue to prioritize car culture in their decisions, congestion, gridlock, and withered public transit systems are sure to follow. The adoption of self-driving technology will likely birth new building typologies with unique needs, from centralized hubs where the cars park themselves to AV repair shops. As futurist Jeff Tumlin, principal and director of strategy at Nelson/Nygaard, points out, self-driving cars aren’t a new concept. Their lineage can be directly traced to ideas introduced by GE at the 1939 World’s Fair, but this is the first time that the technology has caught up with the vision. Planners and politicians have had 80 years to grapple with solutions; they can’t afford to take any longer.
Few buildings are as quintessentially British and Brutalist as Robin Hood Gardens, a London housing estate designed by Alison and Peter Smithson in the late 1960s. And now, remnants of the complex are heading to Italy, where the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) will present a facade section of the demolished icon as part of the Venice Biennale. (It's actually a return to Venice for the late architects, who displayed billboard-sized images of the under-construction buildings at the Biennale in 1976.) The Robin Hood Gardens housing block has never been far from the center of the debate of social housing since the Smithsons first unveiled plans for a concrete mass of residences linked by "streets in the sky." And now that it's being demolished to make way for a new development—all while cities around the globe struggle to house growing populations—that controversy is more in the news than ever. Though Peter Smithson himself expressed his regrets about the failures of the design, Robin Hood Gardens found a legion of supporters, if not strictly for its Brutalist design, then for its place within the conversation about urbanism. In fact, an all-star lineup of contemporary architects including Richard Rogers, Robert Venturi, Toyo Ito, and the late Zaha Hadid, came together to protest the buildings' demolition. When it became clear that plans would move forward, the V&A stepped in—on the urging of London firm Muf architecture/art—to acquire a nearly 29-foot high by 18-foot-wide by 26-foot-deep cross-section of the housing complex. The museum will be presenting a fragment from the estate at the Pavilion of Applied Arts in the Sale d’Armi in the Arsenale, from May 26 to November 25, 2018. The segment will be displayed on a scaffolding system designed by Arup, the firm that engineered the original Robin Hood Gardens, while a film by artist Do Ho Suh will document the structure. Additional documents and interviews will give context to the social history of the complex. ‘The case of Robin Hood Gardens is arresting because it embodied such a bold vision for housing provision yet less than 50 years after its completion, it is being torn down," said pavilion curators Christopher Turner and Olivia Horsfall Turner in a joint statement. "Out of the ruins of Robin Hood Gardens, we want to look again at the Smithsons’ original ideals and ask how they can inform and inspire current thinking about social housing."
Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) is facing community backlash over recently unveiled plans to bring a double-pronged, mixed-use tower to Vauxhall, South London. As reported by the Architect’s Journal, the building was submitted for local council approval in December, but has caught the public’s ire over the 53-story and 42-story towers that would rise right on the bank of the River Thames. Linked by an 11-story base, the Vauxhall scheme would hold 257 apartments and 618 hotel rooms across the two towers, as well as seven floors of office space in the base and retail at the ground level. Both the towers and the base will feature a glass curtain wall overlain with a unifying exoskeleton-like façade that stretches and decompresses as the building rises, exposing uninterrupted glass near the top. It would also become the tallest building in the emerging Vauxhall area, with the taller tower potentially topping out at about 607 feet. It would be ZHA’s first major mixed-use residential building in the United Kingdom, and the studio sees it as a “breakthrough project,” according to the Architect’s Journal. Local critics see the development as a “two-fingered salute.” The site had previously won permission for a pair of 41- and 31-story towers designed by London’s Squire & Partners, and residents, as well as non-profit groups, are gearing up to contest the development. “Although these buildings are better designed than the Squires ones, this application is attempting to add more height by stealth,” architect Barbara Weiss told the Architect’s Journal. ‘The River Thames is becoming a canyon and the price to the skyline of Boris Johnson’s liberal approach to tall buildings is becoming increasingly clear.” Other than the project’s height, advocates are also outraged over the lack of specific affordable housing promises, the decrease in residential units from the prior Squires plan, and the projected traffic congestion the project would cause. Compounding the controversy is that the ZHA towers would rise next to the iconic Vauxhall bus station, which was designed by ARUP in 2005 and now faces demolition only 13 years later. ZHA has for their part, pushed back against the controversy and claimed that fears of congestion or shadows were without merit. Jim Heverin, ZHA’s director, told the AJ that the studio was still in talks with the project’s developer over finalizing the number of affordable housing units. ‘When we came onto this scheme, it was right that we looked at the heights,’ said Heverin. “We evolved the scheme to create a new public square. Our scheme takes less land on the ground but is higher. There is a lot more density coming into this area. Our project fits within a master plan that has been looked at by Transport for London.” The soaring Vauxhall towers plan would seem to fit well with ZHA head Patrick Schumacher’s fondness for density and what the Guardian has called a propensity for “neoliberal privatization schemes.”
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced the 19 finalists in three categories for the MTA Genius Transit Challenge today. Winners will be declared in early 2018 and will receive up to a $1 million genius award (or the profit of 363,636 card swipes, according to the New York Times). The MTA assembled a panel of technology and transportation experts to review the 438 submissions, narrowing it down to 64 and then 19. During phase two of the competition, the final contenders refined and elaborated on their original submissions. The three categories are: to improve signaling, to identify strategies to better deploy subway cars, and increase communications infrastructure. Each submission in these categories was reviewed on “its ability to fulfill the Challenge’s core objectives, whether it could be implemented in a rapid timeframe throughout the Subway System, innovativeness, and cost-reasonableness.” With the recent release of the RPA’s newest plan, we can only hope at least a few improvements are made, genius or otherwise. FINALISTS IN THE SIGNALS CATEGORY AECOM: Intelligent Alignment of Service Delivery to Customer Demand Alstom: Train-Centric Peer-to-Peer CBTC Ansaldo STS: Video Odometry, Heads-Up Display and Augmented Reality Arup: Acorn: Autonomous Car Operating Rail Network Robert James (Individual): Connected Vehicles & Ultra-Wideband for Communications & Location Metrom Rail : Positive Train Control System based on Ultra-Wideband Siemens : Dramatically Accelerate Communications-Based Train Control Deployment Thales Group: Several Integrated Ideas to Accelerate Communications-Based Train Control Deployment Thales Group: Next Generation Positioning: Autonomous Train Car Platform FINALISTS IN THE CARS CATEGORY Alstom: Upgrades to Improve Subway Car Reliability Craig Avedisian (Individual): Modify Cars to Enable Trains to Have 4 More Cars Bombardier: Modular Car Concept Utilizing a Common Vehicle Platform CRRC MA: Technology-Advanced Cars with Shorter Vehicle Lifecycle CSINTRANS: Open Information System to Improve Operations Efficiency & Customer Communications Faiveley (Wabtec): Newly Developed Brake Control System FINALISTS IN THE COMMUNICATIONS CATEGORY Alcatel-Lucent (Nokia): Standards-Based Trackside Private LTE Network with an IP/MPLS Backbone Alstom: Multi-Service High Capacity, Flexible Network Bechtel: The Big B: Semi-Automated Robotic System Transit Wireless: Dedicated LTE Network to Connect Trains to Tunnel Entrances and Trackside Radios The MTA Genius Transit Challenge Finalist Judges Sarah Feinberg, Former Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration Daniel Huttenlocher, Dean and Vice Provost, Cornell Tech Charles Phillips, CEO, Infor; Former Co-President and Director, Oracle Kristina Johnson, Chancellor-elect, SUNY Nick Grossman, General Manager, Union Square Ventures Eliot Horowitz, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, MongoDB Balaji Prabhakhar, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Stanford University Joe Lhota, Chairman, MTA Pat Foye, President, MTA Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim, Managing Director, MTA Janno Lieber, Chief Development Officer, MTA
2017 Best of Design Award for Temporary Installation: Living Picture Architect: T+E+A+M Location: Lake Forest, Illinois Living Picture wraps a playful array of lightweight aluminum frames with digital imagery on vinyl to produce an immersive outdoor theater on the grounds of the Ragdale Foundation. The project digitally re-creates elements from Howard Van Doren Shaw’s 1912 design for the original Ragdale estate: low limestone walls, columns topped with fruit baskets, and a lush landscape of trees and hedges that once formed the proscenium, wings, and backdrop. By reinserting images of these historic elements among the trees and buildings of the current Ragdale estate, the project blurs the boundaries between past and present, stage and proscenium, reality and artifice.
"This project translates some of the most forward-looking ideas about the post-internet and digital images and applies them to a larger scale environment. It is good to see people thinking about how we react to and perceive images (and architecture) in the 21st century."- Matt Shaw, Senior Editor, The Architect's Newspaper (juror)Structural Consultation: Brian McElhatten and Jorge Cobo, Arup Acoustical Consultation: Ryan Biziorek, David Etlinger, and Rosa Lin of Arup Fabrication Consultation: Shane Darwent Project Manager: Reid Mauti Project Manager: Tim McDonough Honorable Mention Project: Big Will and Friends Designer: Architecture Office Location: Syracuse, New York and Eindhoven, the Netherlands This installation redraws the popular Morris and Co. wallpaper “Thistle” (designed by John Henry Dearle) into an inhabitable visual environment. The designers suggest that wallpaper’s collapse of illusion and material are a problem where multiple forms of knowledge must meet. Live performances bridge the installation with its surroundings. Honorable Mention Project: Parallax Gap Architect: FreelandBuck Location: Washington D.C If most ceilings imply shelter, defining the limits of the room, others suggest the opposite: extension beyond concrete limits. This winning proposal for the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s “ABOVE the Renwick” competition curates a historical catalog of notable American architectural styles and renders them through 21st-century technology and visual culture—a dose of trompe l’oeil.
London-based designer Thomas Heatherwick is now facing conflict of interest questions after it was revealed that he was listed as the sole founding member of the Garden Bridge Trust, the charity responsible for organizing the nearly $268 million Garden Bridge project (which was canceled in April), and also participated in some of the trust's meetings and decisions. Previously, Heatherwick had denied any affiliation with the charity and insisted in media appearances that he was "just the designer." As first reported by The Architect’s Journal, Heatherwick, the bridge’s chosen designer, is not only listed as the only founding member of the Garden Bridge Trust, advocating for the creation of the trust, but also actively promoted the selection of some of its leaders, and lobbied and fundraised for the project locally and abroad. According to the studio, the founding member status is an honorary title bestowed upon Heatherwick. Still, questions remain as to whether the design contest held by Transport for London (TfL), the project’s original client, was held in good faith, as Heatherwick’s proposal ultimately ended up winning, and whether the procurement process was fair. Questions have also arisen over how approximately $62 million was spent on the project before it had even broken ground. Proposed as a public-private partnership in 2012 and backed by then-mayor of London Boris Johnson, the Garden Bridge would have spanned 1,200 feet and connected the city’s South Bank and Temple area to the north. Covered by over 270 trees and approximately 100,000 plants, the bridge would have also featured a frilled, arcing superstructure that actress Joanna Lumley, an early advocate of the project, compared to the mountain gardens of Malaysia. Despite the oasis-like nature of the project, questions over how funding for the pedestrian-only bridge would be raised had dogged the development since its conception. The bridge officially became a private project in 2013, with the newly-formed Garden Bridge Trust responsible for private fundraising and running the Garden Bridge once it was completed. Despite the trust raising over $92 million in private funds, Sadiq Khan, the newly elected mayor of London, declined to contribute more than an earlier pledge of $80 million, after costs had ballooned from an initial $80 million to the final $268 million. With questions over how openly accessible the bridge would be, as well as the ultimate benefit to the public, the controversial development was canceled. A Garden Bridge Trust spokesperson told The Architect’s Journal, "‘Thomas Heatherwick’s role as a Founding Member means that he is one of the 12 company Members of the Charity, all of whom hold collectively a small number of powers limited by the Companies Act 2006. The position of Founding Member has no special power or rights attached to it and is simply a title.” Similarly, a spokesperson for Heatherwick Studio told the Journal, "It’s well known that the studio’s role on the Garden Bridge was first as paid designer, and second as voluntary advocate." However, British politicians are calling for a full accounting of the process and how the funds were used.
2017 Best of Design Awards for Building of the Year – Northeast: Mass MOCA, The Robert W. Wilson Building Architect: Bruner/Cott Architects Location: North Adams, Massachussetts MASS MoCA breathes new life into a 17-acre industrial complex built in the late 1800s. The pioneering adaptive reuse project was completed in three phases, initially opening to international acclaim in 1999. The third and final phase, Building Six (the Robert W. Wilson Building), is the realization of Bruner/Cott Architects’ 25-year master plan, which continues MASS MoCA’s “museums within the museum” concept. The two buildings, a combined 130,000 square feet of undeveloped space, provide areas for video, film, and multimedia exhibits, as well as events, workshops, and storage. The buildings’ massive size, along with the complex’s interlocking courtyards, bridges, and walkways, offer the opportunity to experiment with open spaces, structural elements, and connections. Within inserted galleries, existing elements are woven into the new, resulting in a transparency that encourages collaboration. “It’s refreshing to see an approach that embraces the existing buildings and not only finds new, dramatic spaces to exhibit art, but creates new spaces where none previously existed.” —Morris Adjmi, principal, Morris Adjmi Architects (juror)
While tech giant Alphabet recently announced it would develop 12 acres of Toronto waterfront into a smart-city-technology testing ground, a similar undertaking has already begun 12 miles south of Boston. Developer LStar Ventures has big plans to turn this 1,500-acre site, dubbed Union Point (formerly South Weymouth Naval Air Station), into a “smart” development that will specially cater to technology companies. On the surface, the project is an eco-friendly exurban development with a leafy, bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly mixed-use master plan. In addition to offering housing, retail, residences, restaurants, three million square feet of office space, and eight million square feet of commercial development, Union Point would connect to Boston—and its booming tech industry scene—via a nearby MBTA commuter rail. Boston-based Elkus Manfredi and Watertown, Massachusetts–based Sasaki are master planning Union Point and working with engineering firms such as Arup, Vanderweil Engineers, and VHB on a range of sustainable features, including natural, on-site wastewater treatment systems. However, where Union Point really sets itself apart is in its information technology infrastructure. The city will lay the foundations for its tenants to use its streets and buildings as testing grounds for smart city technology. In addition to omnipresent wi-fi, “Union Point will have a site-wide fiber-optic cabling system to support commercial tenants, building assets, and IoT [Internet of Things] systems,” said David Wilts, associate principal and digital master planning leader at Arup. In other words, companies will be able to install sensors to collect data on air quality and building performance, and even be able to set up public digital signage. In this way, Union Point could easily support smart city ventures similar to Chicago’s Array of Things sensor network or New York City’s LinkNYC towers. The first stage of development is a $25 million sports complex designed by Elkus Manfredi and Sasaki that will feature multiple fields, including a rugby pitch, playground, park, restaurant, and renovated gymnasium. Including this complex was crucial in the two-year process of getting local communities on board with the development; its fields will be available to the three nearby towns at reduced leasing rates. Technology, however, is a notoriously fickle thing to design into a project. For example, the video-call screens installed in Korea’s smart city mega-development Songdo are already obsolete. But Union Point hopes to avoid that by only laying the groundwork for its tenants. “LStar Ventures aspires to be the leader in the practical application of technology that we know, that we can imagine, and that is beyond today’s imagination,” said David Manfredi, founding principal at Elkus Manfredi. “That is why the armature that we create must be flexible, durable, and adaptable over time.” The Boston-area is no stranger to smart city developments, as the 45-acre Cambridge Crossing tech hub was also unveiled this year.
The Architect’s Newspaper will be hosting its Facades+AM conference in Seattle on December 8th at the Motif Seattle Hotel. The latest installment in AN’s ongoing conference series, Facades+AM will bring a total of three sessions and nine speakers to Emerald City–based Architecture Engineering and Construction industry professionals. The conference is co-chaired by Stephen Van Dyck, partner at LMN Architects (LMN), and will feature a bevy of Seattle-specific discussions led by some of the region’s best-known architects, designers, and engineers, including Van Dyck, Maurya McClintock of McClintock Facade Consulting, and Jim Graham of Graham Baba Architects. The morning’s panel presentations will cover three topics: cross-industry innovation, facade design for the Washington State Convention Center Addition project, and the role of historic preservation in Seattle’s ongoing construction boom. The first panel will be moderated by Van Dyck, who explained to AN that the discussion will center around the way in which Seattle’s tech-heavy economy is resulting in a collection of emerging architecture industry–adjacent technologies. The discussion will include presentations from Dan Belcher, developer with McNeel, Andry Bridge, Director of R&D with Janicki, and Choong Ng, co-founder of Vertex.AI, and will delve into synergistic technological developments coming of out the city’s most fruitful architecture and technology partnerships, like new advances in digitally-guided tooling and fabrication methodologies. The morning’s second panel discussion will zero-in on the Washington State Convention Center Addition project, for which LMN is serving as associate architect. The 1.5 million-square-foot addition to the Washington State Convention Center will usher in one of the world's first vertically-organized convention centers. One of the major challenges for the design team on the project will be to integrate the sprawling 15-story structure into surrounding areas while also promoting energy efficiency and social incubation, according to Van Dyck, who will also moderate this discussion. He will be joined by various members of the project team discussing each speaker's respective role in the project. Panelists for the discussion will be Peter Alspach, principal at ARUP, Maurya McClintock, founder of McClintock Facade Consulting, and Kate Rufe, architect at LMN. The morning’s final discussion will highlight Seattle’s ongoing growth dilemma, which is pitting high-rise residential growth and the city’s urban renewal against historic preservation efforts, many of which are aimed toward adaptive reuse, like Olson Kundig's renovations to the Seattle Space Needle. From the ongoing issues over changes coming to Lawrence Halprin’s Freeway Park, to plans for reusing the city’s iconic Key Arena and LMN’s own renovation and expansion to the Asian Art Museum, Seattle is packed with controversial, inspiring, and thoughtful historic preservation approaches alike. The adaptive reuse-focused panel—moderated by Jessica Miller, principal at LMN—will feature presentations from Blair Payson, principal at Olson Kundig, Michael Aoki-Kramer, managing principal at RDH Building Science, Inc., and Jim Graham, co-founder of Graham Baba Architects who will discuss their own firms’ preservation-related projects. For more information on Seattle’s Facades+AM conference, see the conference website.
In conjunction with designers FXFOWLE, !melk, and Arup, Amtrak announced last week that it had chosen a final preferred concept for the plaza surrounding Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. In the 107-page proposal, Amtrak called the area around the station a “sea of driveways,” and laid out steps the company was taking to modernize the transportation hub. Following up on an earlier call for input that Amtrak had put out in July, the final proposal comes after months of town hall meetings with Philadelphia residents. The new 30th Street Station will anchor the $6.5 billion 30th Street Station District Plan, an 18-million-square-foot, 35-year redevelopment of University City, the riverfront neighborhood surrounding Drexel, the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Medicine, and several other higher education institutions. 30th Street Station itself is only one piece of the puzzle, with other teams planning concurrent schemes for separate parcels, including SHoP Architects' and Netherlands-based landscape architects West 8’s Schuylkill Yards project. With an estimated 11 million riders passing through every year, and with Amtrak expecting that number to double by the time the 30th Street Station District Plan wraps up, any tweaks to the current station have to accommodate that increase. Besides serving Amtrak trains, 30th Street Station is the heart of Philadelphia’s regional SEPTA rail, and the new proposal better integrates the two disparate systems. A new ground-level entryway to the West Underground Concourse on the plaza was revealed, creating an underground connection to the SEPTA subway and trolley station. One of the biggest concerns that Amtrak has tried to address is how isolated the station is from the street. While 40 percent of the surveyed area around the station was classified as pedestrian-friendly, not all of it is connected to anything else or intuitive to navigate. Creating several pedestrian-only zones, the new proposal calls for the installation of rounded benches, planters and fountains designed to subtly delineate between plaza and parking lot. The west portico and southwest section of the plaza will also be converted into car-free green spaces. One minor change that should make a huge difference in the traffic patterns around the station is the creation of a distinct taxi pick-up zone at the east portico near the train platforms, and a drop-off zone on the west side. A 220-unit bike station will also be coming to the site, complete with lockers and bicycle rentals. Amtrak is currently searching for a “master developer” to actualize their proposal, with construction slated to begin in 2020 and finish sometime between 2025 and 2030. Read the full proposal here.
London-based Grimshaw Architects, Arup, and Leicester-based Haley Sharpe Design (HSD) have jointly released renderings for what will become the largest botanical garden in the world. Located near Muscat in Oman, the park will cover over 1,000 acres and house only native species from across the country. Planned for the foothills of the Al Hajar Mountains, the site of the future Oman Botanic Garden is 328 feet above sea level and was selected for the dramatically twisting ridges and crags of the existing landscape. Elevated pathways will cross over simulated river valleys, mountains, and desert landscapes below. Visitors will be able to walk through all eight of the country’s natural habitats recreated in one complex. Two separate but linked glass enclosures will hold the more sensitive Northern Biomes and Southern Biomes separately from the others. Representing Oman’s sensitive Northern Mountains region, the Northern Biome will present visitors with a humidity and temperature-controlled facsimile of a terraced mountain scrubland. To the south, the Southern Biome will house a misty, self-contained green forest from Oman’s Dhofar region. Both biome buildings are long, sinuous glass greenhouses that mimic the hills found nearby. Despite being made nearly entirely of glass, the neighboring conservatories have been oriented to passively shade occupants during the day, with additional active shading in place to keep guests comfortable. Other than the carefully managed ecosystems at the heart of the Oman Botanic Garden, the park will also hold a visitor center in addition to research and education facilities. The LEED Platinum project has paid special attention to the water needs of the site as well. In a region of the world where water concerns are a very real issue, Arup was able to design systems optimized for plant irrigation with the least amount of waste possible. Together Arup, Grimshaw, and HSD have provided full services for the Oman Botanic Garden, from master planning to construction design. The project is set to break ground sometime in the near future.