Posts tagged with "Barack Obama":

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Highlights from former President Obama's Greenbuild keynote

“Climate change is an existential issue,” said former President Barack Obama at the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) 2019 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo on November 20. Thousands of attendees gathered at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta to hear the keynote in which Obama spoke with USGBC president and CEO, Mahesh Ramanujam, about sustainability and affordability.  To kick off the conversation, Ramanujam asked the former president what he believes to be the “most compelling issue in the world today.” The answer? Climate change and global economic inequality. “This is one of those [issues] where you can be too late. So, I know of no other issue that is more urgent,” he explained while pointing to the huge gaps in wealth and opportunity around the world.  Citing the lack of affordable housing in California as one example, Obama said that in metropolitan areas, “building codes are so onerous that it makes construction of affordable housing almost impossible.” He anticipated some pushback but believes that the creation of sustainable building codes might also usher in an erroneous public perception of higher costs of living. “If we want to think about sustainability, we have to do it in a way that also is thinking about affordability,” he stated, according to Architectural Record The former president followed that thought by stressing the importance of empathy and active listening to the concerns of constituents, neighborhoods, or clients. “When you listen, it turns out that you get a sense of what people’s priorities are,” he said, “Then, figure out how to shape a sustainable agenda around those concerns.”  In regards to the progress of Chicago’s new Obama Presidential Center, he spoke about his experience working with architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien by emphasizing how important it is to have a diverse team. “The goal is to have people around the table who can bring to bear a set of different perspectives and correct for each other’s blind spots—including yours.”  He also praised the younger generations and what he has learned from them, including his own daughters, on the urgency of climate change and the challenges ahead. “It’s visceral, visual,” he said according to Buildings. “Those young people change the minds of their parents in powerful ways. That kind of grassroots movement, particularly among young people, is something that is always going to be key.”  At the end of the keynote, he concluded with the disconnect often present between values and actions: “I think it’s very important in our personal lives, but also collectively, to get those back into alignment, so each of us can do our part.”
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Petition aims to rename the block in front of Trump Tower after Obama

As of today, over 3,900 people have signed an online petition to name a stretch of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan after former President Barack Obama. The petition comes shortly after a portion of Rodeo Road was renamed "Obama Boulevard" by the L.A. City Council in August.

“We request the New York City Mayor and City Council do the same by renaming a block of Fifth Avenue after the former president who saved our nation from the Great Recession, achieved too many other accomplishments to list, and whose two terms in office were completely scandal-free,” wrote Elizabeth Rowin, the author of the petition.

The clear controversy surrounding the appeal stems from the fact that the famed Trump Tower occupies the block, located on Fifth Avenue between 57th and 58th Streets, which petitioners want to dub “President Barack H. Obama Avenue.” If the name change were to be approved, President Trump would be constantly reminded of the president before him, a president who Trump has falsely accused of a variety of offenses over the years, ranging from lying about his citizenship to spying on Trump's campaign.

With 3,975 signatures and counting, the MoveOn.org appeal is a little ways away from reaching its goal of obtaining 4,000 signatures total.

To the dismay of the petitioners, the City Council holds that in order to get a street renamed after an important figure, the honoree must have had a meaningful connection to the community and must no longer be alive. While Obama does not meet at least one those prerequisites, petitioners and local residents hope to deliver the online form to Mayor Bill de Blasio for approval.

The New York City Council frequently votes on street co-namings, with 164 streets renamed within the past year. In December, the council voted to co-name streets after three of New York's greatest musical icons: Notorious B.I.G., the Wu-Tang Clan, and Woody Guthrie.

h/t 6sqft
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Thom Mayne's mentoring program is featured in showcase at Pratt

The educational mentorship program spearheaded by Morphosis principal and co-founder Thom Mayne headed into its third semester this year. For sixth graders at Hall Elementary School in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the Thom Mayne Young Architects program was a chance to receive an architectural education and access to design software via after-school classes led by Pratt Institute architecture students. Tonight, Mayne himself will host a closing reception of their final projects from last semester at Pratt Institute's Higgins Hall, beginning at 6pm. Founded in 2017, the Thom Mayne Young Architects program was spurred by Mayne's participation in President Barack Obama's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. Mayne partnered with TurnAround Arts, a 2012 program launched by Michelle Obama and the president's committee to bring arts education to the bottom five percent performing public schools, which includes Hall Elementary. The sixth grade students have been working on a site close to home–their own classrooms. Their design prompt is to create a "beautification proposal" for their classrooms. In the course of the 12-week program, students learn about design thinking, architectural design fundamentals and computer design, aided by the donation of Pixelbook laptops loaded with design software by Google. Beyond design skills, the program also includes lessons about photo editing, branding, marketing, and budgeting. The exhibit, which opened on February 12, closes on Saturday, February 17.  
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Former Obama residence in Pasadena honored with commemorative plaque

The city of Pasadena, California is commemorating a residence once occupied by President Barack Obama while he was attending Occidental College in the nearby city of Eagle Rock. The apartment residence, located at 253 Glenarm Street, is being adorned with a special plaque honoring the president’s stay, which lasted from 1980 to 1981. Obama spent two years attending Occidental College before transferring to Columbia University in New York City for the 1981-1982 school year. The Dingbat-style, six-unit apartment structure was built in 1967 and measures approximately 4,418 square feet in size, according to property data obtained via Redfin. The two-story structure features an exterior gallery along the western edge of the ground floor as well as punched openings populated by sliding windows along that facade. The structure is marked by a double-height entry portal along the street-facing facade. The building will become eligible for the National Register of Historic Places next year, 50 years after its construction. Efforts to recognize the residence began during Obama’s first administration and required research assistance from Pasadena city and library employees who scoured old telephone books to find the appropriate address. On the topic of Occidental College, LAist quotes Obama as saying “It’s a wonderful, small liberal arts college. The professors were diverse and inspiring. I ended up making some lifelong friendships there, and those first two years really helped me grow up.” At an event celebrating the plaque installation, Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek told KPCC, “There is tremendous interest that there is sort of a living link between Pasadena and the President of the United States.”
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Maya Lin and Frank Gehry to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Two designers are among the 21 Americans chosen this month to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. President Barack Obama selected architect-artist Maya Lin and architect Frank Gehry to receive the medal, presented annually to individuals who have made “especially meritorious contributions” to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. The medals will be presented at the White House on November 22. “The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation's highest civilian honor—it's a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better,” Obama said in announcing the recipients. “From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way." Lin was cited in the White House announcement as “an artist and designer who is known for her work in sculpture and landscape art. She designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. and since then has pursued a celebrated career in both art and architecture. A committed environmentalist, Lin is currently working on a multi-sited artwork/memorial, What is Missing? bringing awareness to the planet's loss of habitat and biodiversity.” Gehry was described as “one of the world’s leading architects, whose works have helped define contemporary architecture. His best-known buildings include the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Dancing House in Prague, and the Guggenheim Museum building in Bilbao, Spain.” Obama’s 2016 list includes 19 living Americans and 2 who have died, and is heavy on figures from the entertainment and sports industries. Others joining Lin and Gehry include: Ellen DeGeneres, Robert De Niro, Robert Redford, Lorne Michaels, Diana Ross, Vin Scully, Bill and Melinda Gates, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Bruce Springsteen, Cicely Tyson and Tom Hanks/David S. Pumpkins.
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Obama administration releases "Housing Development Toolkit" to lower barriers to new housing

The White House has published the "Housing Development Toolkit" in a bid to allow cities meet housing demands. The paper derides the current zoning laws and red tape that stand in the way of authorities building housing, thus leading to economic inequality and high rents that take a toll on the U.S. economy. Advocating increased density (which will mean more tall buildings), faster paths to construction, and fewer zoning barriers, the toolkit will not be welcome among NIMBY protestors. However, developers, mayors, and builders may think differently. The paper outlines "actions that states and local jurisdictions have taken to promote healthy, responsive, affordable, high-opportunity housing markets," including:
  • Establishing by-right development
  • Taxing vacant land or donate it to non-profit developers
  • Streamlining or shortening permitting processes and timelines
  • Eliminating off-street parking requirements
  • Allowing accessory dwelling units
  • Establishing density bonuses
  • Enacting high-density and multifamily zoning
  • Employing inclusionary zoning
  • Establishing development tax or value capture incentives
  • Using property tax abatements
The paper also says:
Over the past three decades, local barriers to housing development have intensified, particularly in the high-growth metropolitan areas increasingly fueling the national economy. The accumulation of such barriers—including zoning, other land use regulations, and lengthy development approval processes—has reduced the ability of many housing markets to respond to growing demand. The growing severity of undersupplied housing markets is jeopardizing housing affordability for working families, increasing income inequality by reducing less-skilled workers’ access to high-wage labor markets, and stifling GDP growth by driving labor migration away from the most productive regions. By modernizing their approaches to housing development regulation, states and localities can restrain unchecked housing cost growth, protect homeowners, and strengthen their economies.
“When unnecessary barriers restrict the supply of housing and costs increase, then workers, particularly lower-income workers who would benefit the most, are less able to move to high-productivity cities,” said Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, speaking to Politico. “All told, this means slower economic growth.” “It’s important that the president is talking about it,” said Mark Calabria, director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute. “Local restrictions on housing supply are a crucial economic issue. I would say it’s one of the top 10.” A link to the toolkit can be found here.
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Obama Foundation announces seven offices to submit proposals for presidential library

The Barack Obama Foundation has announced the seven offices from which it is requesting proposals for the design of the Obama Presidential Library in Chicago. The seven firms include four New York–based offices, one London-based office, one based in Genova, Italy, and one local Chicago office. The offices named are: Picked from over 150 firms who submitted to the Foundation’s request for qualifications issued in August, the seven firms will now be asked to present designs to the President in the first quarter of 2016. If Adjaye or Piano are chosen, they will be the first foreign-based offices to design a presidential library. The selection of the perspective architects comes after a long selection process for the site of the library itself. Not without some controversy, the South Side locations were chosen out of possible sites in New York, Hawaii, and another in Chicago. Public space advocates, Friends of the Parks, argued that the library, technically a private institution, should not be allowed to be built in the city’s public parks, an issue the current Lucas Museum is also dealing with. This was overcome with the help of a deal made by Mayor Rahm Emanuel which would transfer control of the land away from the park system. Each office will submit conceptual designs for both of the possible 20-acre South Side Chicago sites: one in Washington Park and one in Jackson Park. The $500 million project will include the presidential archive, a museum, and office space for the Obama Foundation. After reviewing the proposals, the Obama family and the foundation are expected to make a decision by summer 2016, the expected completion of the project being in 2020 or 2021.
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These six groups just got $3 million each for housing, placemaking projects

President Barack Obama has announced that in tandem with a program by the National Endowment for the ArtsArtPlace America will invest $18 million in six place-based organizations, four of which focus on place-making. ArtPlace America is a national collaboration among private foundations, federal agencies, and financial institutions. Its executive director Jamie Bennett has said the money will be used to "incorporate arts & culture into their community development work." In the announcement, Bennett went on to say: “these six organizations will demonstrate the unique value that artists and arts organizations can bring to the full spectrum of community development priorities, including community resiliency, economic development, housing, open space, public health, and youth opportunity.” Each organization will receive $3 million each over the course of three years. In the last four years ArtPlace America has invested over $67 million in 227 creative place-making projects in 152 communities spreading across 43 states. The winning organizations were selected from a list of 21 and include:  Each organization is due to hold a public meeting in October to introduce the Community Development Investments (CDI) program.
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VOA to design artist housing for Chicago's Pullman neighborhood

Chicago's VOA Associates will design artist housing and community studio space in the Pullman, community group Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives announced last week, signaling another step in the resurgent neighborhood on the city's far South Side. President Barack Obama in February named the area a national monument, citing its historic significance as a formative environment for American industrial might and organized labor, including the country's first African-American union. In spite of economic decline over much of the 20th century, the neighborhood retains a handsome collection of Romanesque and Queen Anne–style architecture, as well as a strong sense of community. The new project, dubbed Pullman Artspace, includes 45 artist apartments at 111th Street and Langley Avenue near the new McDonough + Partners-designed Method manufacturing plant, a forthcoming community center, and the Walmart-anchored shopping plaza that in 2010 became the first major development there in years. Artspace is a nonprofit, national chain of art galleries based in Minneapolis. VOA's involvement is the latest news in a long process of revitalization. Earlier this year The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and AIA Chicago mulled the changing neighborhood's future in a design charrette titled "Position Pullman." Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and others have been working for years to turn around the neighborhood, successfully rehabbing dozens of historic row-homes and inviting attention—along with new investment—to the area.
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Obama foundation gears up to issue open call for architects for Chicago's presidential library

In May Barack and Michelle Obama ended months—perhaps years—of speculation over where the 44th President would site his presidential library, choosing the University of Chicago as the host of the hotly anticipated legacy project. Dozens of proposals were winnowed down to one, prepared by U of C with the help of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The Barack Obama Presidential Library—that is, the actual project—does not yet have an architect, however, and the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that a call for submissions is nigh. They quote anonymous sources saying “a very general” request will go out “very soon," suggesting the first couple and their nonprofit team of advisors on the subject do not yet have a specific designer in mind. The library, which many hope will be an economic boon for the South Side, will be based in either Washington or Jackson Parks. That decision remains controversial, and may factor into the winning design—from whomever might propose it.
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After letter-writing campaign, Senate committee backs down on massive change to TIGER program

Since 2009, the United States Department of Transportation’s TIGER program has helped realize some of the country’s most innovative and overdue urban design and transportation initiatives. Launched as part of President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package, TIGER grants have since provided funding for projects like the Brooklyn Greenway, Kansas City streetcar, and new light rail in the Twin Cities. By the numbers, seven rounds of TIGER funding have funneled over $4.6 billion into 342 individual projects around the country. (Check out Transportation for America’s map to see if there is a TIGER-backed project near you. Spoiler: There probably is.) As StreetsBlog explains, the structuring of these grants streamlined funding procedures, allowing these types of urban projects to flourish: “By working directly with cities and regional agencies, TIGER bypassed state DOTs more interested in big highway projects than enhancing transit, biking, and walking options.” But this month, the Republican-led Senate Commerce Committee moved to drastically change the program, effectively stripping bike lanes and multimodal projects from future funding rounds in favor of freight rail projects. This prompted a swift and massive letter-writing campaign aimed at urging senators to change course. The plan worked: This week, committee chair John Thune (R-SD) removed that language from the bill. Now we have to wait to see what happens next, as Streetsblog noted, “[the] bill appears to be on hold for at least another five months after the House passed another short-term extension of the current law.”
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It's official: Barack Obama's Presidential Library is coming to Chicago's South Side

Although the decision had already been widely reported by May 1, Barack Obama‘s nonprofit foundation today announced that the 44th President's library will be built on the South Side of Chicago. "With a library and a foundation on the South Side of Chicago, not only will we be able to encourage and effect change locally, but what we can also do is attract the world to Chicago," said the President on the occasion. The official decision ends perhaps years of speculation about the location of the former University of Chicago law professor's legacy project. But it officially begins speculation on who will be the library's architect, and what the ultimate design will bring to the president's longtime home.