Posts tagged with "Boston":

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Finalists announced for Boston’s new Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King memorial

A new monument dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King is coming to Boston—the city where they first met—and five teams are in the running to design it. This week, MLK Boston, the organization spearheading the effort, announced the finalists chosen for the project. The official memorial will sit in Boston Common, the oldest park in the United States, where King marched and addressed the public on April 23, 1965. Within the 50-acre space are other monuments and landmarks including the Shaw Memorial and the Parkman Bandstand. The Boston Capitol Building, the Freedom Trail, as well as the Black Heritage Trail also surround the 384-year-old site. To provide context for the new memorial, MLK Boston asked participants to create a site-specific permanent installation that would incorporate engraved phrases of the Kings’ seminal texts and speeches, and would use digital technology to enhance users’ experience. With the park serving as an everyday gathering place and home to many notable historic rallies, the memorial is meant to both inspire and engage the local community to reflect upon the pairs’ contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and the future of equality, peace, and justice in the United States. Through October 16, the public can review each of the proposals and submit feedback. All designs are also on view at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square and the Bolling Building in Roxbury. Check out the five finalists below: Avenue of Peace Yinka Shonibare and Stephen Stimson Associates This memorial walk in Boston Common will center around a towering fountain covered in a colorful mosaic. Set inside an oval reflecting pool lined with black granite, the sculpture will include the names of the pioneering Civil Rights activists as well as an olive branch design, signifying their commitment to peace. Twenty-two inscribed benches will be built along the walk and an interactive app will be available for download, telling the individual stories of King and Scott before they met in Boston, as well as their life together afterward. Boston’s King Memorial Adam Pendleton, Adjaye Associates with Future/Pace and David Reinfurt Inspired by Dr. King’s 1968 speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” this design provides a panoramic view of Boston Common via an elongated overlook made of black stone. The open structure bridges serve as handicap accessible walking paths descending from Beacon Street, while the sloped stone sculptures on the lawn provide public seating and form a radical amphitheater, according to the architects. Engraved on the surface of each stone is text from the Kings’ most famous speeches. A digital platform for mobile devices will accompany the memorial and provide additional transcripts, audio, and images. The Embrace Hank Willis Thomas with MASS Design Group This stand-out sculpture symbolizes the love and commitment that Dr. King and Coretta Scott had for each other, while simultaneously reminding visitors of the power of protest in the fight against injustice. Set atop a gentle incline, the 22-foot-high arms of the couple will be built with a mirrored bronze finish, allowing the reflection of both passersby and the surrounding park to be seen in the sculpture. People can walk through The Embrace and inspect it close up as well. The site will be split into two plazas and form an axis from the Capitol, to the Parkman Bandstand, and to Dudley Square where a proposed MLK education center may be built. Empty Pulpit Monument Barbara Chase-Riboud Set inside an undulating landscape of rolling hills, the focal point of this design is a truncated stone pyramid that forms a beacon of light at night. The towering structure is constructed out of granite and bronze and is inspired by a 17th-century wood pulpit, symbolizing MLK’s silenced voice. Visitors can walk underneath the monument via a passageway to see engraved images detailing the diaspora. On the back of the bronze sculpture will be the Kings’ most powerful quote, according to the designer, “I have decided to stick with LOVE, HATE is too great a burden to bear…” Bronze plaques with other famous phrases by the pair will be embedded into the surrounding greenery. The Ripple Effects Wodiczko + Bonder/Maryann Thompson Architects with Walter Hood The Ripple Effects showcases the impact the Kings’ leadership has had on future generations and their role in the emancipatory process in Boston, across the U.S., and around the world. Centered around two beacon towers that serve as a reminder of the couples' continuing presence, the memorial's ground rises from the plaza with terraced green spaces for seating. It would culminate in an empty, shaded platform for gathering and reflection. The bridge above would lead visitors across the Common and feature inscribed text chronicling emancipatory events from the 19th century to today. Below the bridge will be a glass wall where visitors can literally and figuratively reflect on their own role in this ongoing process of emancipation and activism.
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What is New England architecture?

New England might not garner the attention that other places get for contemporary architecture, but the region has a legacy of world-class architecture, including some great works of modernism. Two iconic monuments of modern architecture in America are in New England—Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center at Harvard and Alvar Aalto’s Baker House at MIT—along with seminal late-modern buildings such as Boston City Hall and the Yale Center for British Art. Today, many contemporary design stars have built structures across New England, including Frank Gehry, Rafael Moneo, Norman Foster, Herzog & de Meuron, Michael Hopkins, Renzo Piano, Charles Correa, Fumihiko Maki, and Tadao Ando. The finalists for a competition for a new contemporary art museum on Boston’s waterfront included Switzerland’s Peter Zumthor and Studio Granda from Iceland. The only local firm considered for the museum was the then relatively young Office dA; principals Nader Tehrani and Monica Ponce de León went on to fame as architectural educators beyond Boston. Although not unique to New England, the whole mentality of "if-you-are-good-you-must-be-from-somewhere-else" is found here. As one might expect, Boston is the center of most architectural activity in the region. Yet, despite a heroic postwar age of Brutalism, too much contemporary architecture barely rises above the level of commercial real estate. With the exception of Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Institute of Contemporary Art and David Hacin’s District Hall, much of the frantic new downtown construction features the kind of glass boxes that pierce city skylines from Dubai to Shanghai. The city’s embarrassingly named Innovation District (often called the Inundation District due to its propensity for flooding) is scaleless, overbearing, and disconnected from the soul of Boston. OMA’s new scheme for the area—which the architects gratuitously refer to as “a dynamic and vibrant area that is quickly emerging as one of the most exciting neighborhoods and destinations in the country”—is an 18-story glass cube with the dreary moniker of 88 Seaport Boulevard. One might have hoped for more from OMA’s first Boston commission. The block will offer almost half a billion square feet of office space, 60,000 square feet of retail, and a paltry 5,000 square feet for civic and cultural use. Its gimmick is slicing the building into two sections with some terracing and plantings sandwiched in between. OMA disingenuously claims this double-volume exercise “creates diverse typologies for diverse industries,” and furthermore “generates an opportunity to draw in the district’s public domain.” In short, Boston will get an off-the-shelf dystopian nightmare. However, the Engineering Research Center at Brown University by KieranTimberlake is not just another knockoff. Although flush from the controversial but triumphant U.S. Embassy in London, the Philadelphians’ latest New England project is what good contemporary architecture ought to be. The $88-million, 80,000-square-foot laboratory and classroom building is both understated and environmentally responsible. Its 22 pristine labs steer the Ivy League school into uncharted territory in nano research, energy studies, and information technology. The ERC is a triumph, especially given Brown’s decades of struggle to find an appropriate contemporary architectural voice. Recent work on the Providence campus includes an international relations institute by Rafael Viñoly—the design of which was dumbed down to mollify historic preservationists; a tepid Maya Lin sculpture; and an awkwardly sited Diller Scofidio + Renfro art center that was commissioned to show that Brown could do trendy and edgy. These common missteps are best exemplified by the university’s first competition for an athletic center. Although the competition was officially won by SHoP, the donor sponsoring it declared his dislike of modern architecture and demanded the school hire Robert A.M. Stern instead. The cutesy Georgian result is predictably bland. The ERC was ahead of schedule and under budget, and rather than treating Rhode Islanders as rubes, the architects created what Stephen Kieran calls “a nice piece of Providence urbanism.” While the firm’s great strength is diminishing the environmental impact of their buildings, the ERC also contributes a handsome facade to the campus’s traditional buildings. The fiberglass-reinforced concrete fins, the building’s signature element, impose a timeless probity worthy of Schinkel. If KieranTimberlake grows weary of being identified as the designers of the $1-billion embassy that Trump slammed as “lousy and horrible,” imagine how tired Tod Williams and Billie Tsien must be of consistently being tagged with the label “designers of the Obama Library.” Is a client choosing them because of the reflected fame? Will all new works by the New York-based architects be measured against that Chicago shrine? Yet Williams and Tsien have created a number of noteworthy academic works in New England that deserve similar attention, including buildings at Bennington and Dartmouth. Their theater and dance building at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, is almost complete. Here, the very long shadow is not cast by the architects’ own projects, but by Louis Kahn’s library across campus. Kahn’s brick tribute to 19th-century Yankee mills—and the symmetry of Georgian style—is one of the great pieces of architecture in New England. The big block of the drama building by Williams and Tsien wisely does not choose to echo Kahn but is curiously almost a throwback to the early Brutalism of I. M. Pei. It establishes a more rugged character with a marvelous texture composed of gray Roman bricks. A more satisfying Granite State structure by Williams and Tsien is a library, archives, and exhibition complex at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. MacDowell is a century-old artists’ colony where thousands of painters, writers, and musicians, including James Baldwin, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Willa Cather, have sought quiet and isolation in a collection of rustic cabins in the woods. Thornton Wilder wrote his classic play Our Town during his time here. Williams and Tsien’s sensitive addition to the colony’s 1920s library is only 3,000 square feet, cost around $2 million, and is an exquisitely crafted gem. The single-story library is constructed of a nearly black granite. Set in a birch grove created by the leading modern landscape architects in Boston, Reed Hilderbrand, this gathering place for residents appears at one with the rocky soil and forests of Northern New England. A 23-foot-tall outdoor chimney flanking the entrance plaza to the library makes reference to the hearths in all of the MacDowell studios. It also looks like a primitive stele, giving the entire ensemble an aspect that is more primal than modern. Another prominent New York architect, Toshiko Mori, has produced a simple yet elegant warehouse for an art museum in the faded seaport and art destination of Rockland, Maine. Built to house a long-time contemporary art cooperative that had no permanent collection and only inadequate facilities for exhibitions and classes, the saw-toothed clerestories at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) make reference to New England factories while bringing in what the architect calls “that special Maine light.” Like those functional structures, Mori used economical, non-custom materials such as plasterboard and corrugated zinc that wrap the exterior, embracing the lack of funds to her advantage. Despite the nod to Rockland’s working class vibe, Mori created a thoughtfully wrought sophisticated work of art on an unremarkable side street. Mori’s Japanese heritage comes through in her subtle proportions based on a 4-foot grid. The CMCA offers a refreshing contrast to extravagantly costly new museums by superstar architects—the 11,000-square-foot arts center cost only $3.5 million. Mori has crafted a museum based on flexibility rather than attitude. A summer resident of nearby North Haven, she endowed her simple statement with an air of Yankee frugality. But perhaps the most encouraging new project is the $52-million John W. Olver Design Building at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. A cooperative venture of three departments in three different colleges—architecture, landscape, and building technology—the autumn-hued, aluminum-wrapped school embodies the dynamic spirit of New England’s first publicly supported architecture program. The 87,000-square-foot studio and administrative space is the work of Boston–based Leers Weinzapfel and landscape designer Stephen Stimson, with contributions from the faculty-cum-clients. Construction Technology chair Alexander Schreyer, for example, a guru of heavy-timber structural systems, helped fashion what is perhaps the largest wood-frame building on the East Coast. The zipper trusses that span the 84-by-56-foot, two-story-high common area demonstrate the inventiveness of wood technology. The glulam trusses arrived on-site precut and were snapped together with pins. In short, the academic contributors got to show off their research and also benefit from it. In a region noted for some of the nation’s oldest and most renowned design schools, the Design Building announces the arrival of the new kid on the block. Its handsome envelope is pierced by asymmetrically placed tall and narrow fenestration as a nod to the doors of the tobacco barns that are the university’s neighbors in Massachusetts’s Pioneer Valley. From its roots as a fledgling offering in the art department in the early 1970s, design education at UMass has grown into a powerhouse. As the core of a complex of postwar and contemporary architecture, the Design Building helps to bring Roche Dinkeloo’s Brutalist Fine Arts Center into contact with a business school designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). While BIG’s work is sometimes incredibly innovative, the firm’s UMass project looks as if it might be another example of a second-tier work foisted on a boondocks location. Less flashy than its newer neighbor, Leers Weinzapfel’s Design Building is nonetheless a bold, homegrown achievement. New England’s patrimony is a tapestry of local and outside talent. A significant regional building would not be a postmodern structure in the shape of a lighthouse or a neotraditional re-creation of a Richardson library, but something like the UMass studios. Capturing the spirit of the best of New England design depends little upon reputation and huge expenditure. Rather, there is a direct correlation between realizing a quality work of art and understanding the region’s history of wresting a hard-won life from the granite earth. The challenge for successfully practicing architecture in New England is accepting an uncompromising intellectual toughness that demands respect for the eminently practical as well as the aspirational.
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Urban Intermedia at Harvard shines light on gaps in urban studies

From now until October 14, visitors to the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) can enjoy the fruits of urban research from four cities: Berlin, Istanbul, Mumbai, and Boston. Urban Intermedia: City, Archive, Narrative is the product of four years of research, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and compares and contrasts the history and growth of each city to find commonalities and differences. That four-year project was spearheaded by the GSD’s Eve Blau, who curated the show with Robert Pietrusko, as part of the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative. The exhibition is a culmination of the team’s research but is also intended to spur discussion and gather feedback on the future direction of the project. Höweler + Yoon Architecture handled the installation design of Urban Intermedia in the school's Druker Design Gallery, centered around four concrete stations, one for each city, where narratives are projected. These narratives are a combination of spatial and historical information and present open-ended stories that are meant to encourage viewers to dig deeper. These narratives delve into the three key themes that guided the research in each city: the planned and unplanned, a look into formal and informal placemaking; migration and mobility, how the residents and others move through each city; and nature and technology, examinations of each city’s infrastructure and urban ecology. Urban Intermedia has previously been on display in Istanbul and Berlin this past year, and the GSD’s Stephen Gray has added a Boston-centric supplement to the show’s Harvard homecoming. The new section in the current exhibition adds archival materials that contextualize the role of race, space, and power in Boston’s development and covers three eras of the city’s growth. Gray solicited Boston-based collections for “race and space” materials and received contributions from institutions such as the Boston Globe, Boston Public Library, Northeastern University, and Norman B. Leventhal Map and Education Center. A 33-foot-long, wooden meeting table has also been installed as a place to exchange ideas. Lectures, classes, and discussions will be hosted at the table, which will serve as a site of “active research” until the exhibition’s closing in October.

NatureStructure Sketch Workshop

What would it be like to approach the city from the perspective of an animal pushed out of its home by development, water falling during rain, or a windblown seed wanting to take root? What structures and spaces could be created or adjusted to make the city a more welcoming place for nature and wildlife? How could nature improve the urban environment if things were designed to welcome the natural world instead of seeing wildlife as unwelcomed invaders? This special event will start with a short tour around NatureStructure by exhibition curator Scott Burnham, followed by a session in which participants will brainstorm ideas for a more nature-centric city and draw on the windows of BSA Space gallery, sketching their ideas for a more harmonious relationship between nature and the city. All skill levels are welcome. You do not need to be a master sketcher to participate. Snacks, beer, and wine will be provided. Places are limited so reserve your spot today!
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Sasaki launches an incubator and hosts its second annual hackathon

Architecture and technology have always been inextricably linked, and with technology advancing faster than ever, contemporary architects have their hands full. Massachusetts-based planning and design studio Sasaki has a new initiative to help designers strengthen their skills. This past spring Sasaki launched an incubator program within its headquarters where tenants can directly interact with the firm's experts. The incubator includes a mix of tenants from a variety of industries, and Sasaki wants to leverage their interdisciplinary expertise to create an environment where teams can grow and cooperate. The incubator space is 5,000 square feet of both shared workspaces and research studio space. For the interiors, Sasaki chose to strip a former mill building back to the underlying structure, leaving the brick walls, wooden columns, and beams and joists exposed. The floorplan is open, though Sasaki has carved out several spaces for private meetings and conference calls. The Foundation has established a grant program for two-to-four teams on a nine-month fellowship, centered around four themes: climate innovation, transportation, accessibility, and placemaking. The incubator itself supports the aforementioned programming for grant teams and includes Sasaki as a design consultant for the those in the program. The Sasaki office and the Foundation have extended this spirit of collaboration to their second annual beyondAEC Hackathon. The Sasaki incubator will host this year’s Hackathon on July 20 and will encourage those in architecture, engineering, and construction to brainstorm solutions to real-world problems they’ve faced. The first beyondAEC Hackathon in 2017 drew 40 participants, including a handful of architecture students from local universities. Kyle and Jim Martin, inspired by engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti’s annual NYC-based hackathon, launched beyondAEC with the help of Sasaki. Kyle Martin says the hackathon provides an opportunity for local AEC practitioners to “foster a culture of design technology and push boundaries outside of their day to day practices.” Jim Martin added that they wanted to make space for “a culture of experimentation for participants to dive into and develop new ideas and learn from each other.” Sasaki will hold workshops to build up to the event through June and into July.
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New Boston artspace ICA Watershed designed by Anmahian Winton to open next week

The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston will soon occupy both banks of the Boston Harbor (Seaport and East Boston) as its exhibition space, ICA Watershed, opens to the public on July 4. The new extension was designed by Cambridge-based studio Anmahian Winton Architects. The 15,000-square-foot Watershed will showcase contemporary art and was built from the ruins of an abandoned copper pipe and sheet metal facility known as the East Boston Shipyard. It is accessible by water taxi, car, and public transportation, and will open every summer from late May to early October. Anmahian Winton tore down most of the Watershed’s derelict predecessor but preserved some of its iconic elements, such as the crane, monorail hoists, and railroad tracks. They also incorporated new industrial materials such as the translucent polycarbonate walls for the facade. The architects wanted to challenge the customary “white room/black box” gallery setting and introduced an unpolished industrial space for exhibiting Boston-specific artwork. According to a statement from Anmahian Winton , “a 250-foot-long slot skylight shines through new steel trusses, allowing light to wash down the richly textured concrete-and-cinderblock surface of an existing wall that had once supported the loading and unloading of rail cars running through the building.” Each of the two end walls are particularly emphasized and hold monumental hangar doors that can be raised to open up the gallery to the shipyard and harbor. The Watershed’s inaugural exhibition was created by Los Angeles-based video artist Diana Thater. Her site-specific installations transform architectural space through projected videos. Thater’s piece at the Watershed will explore themes of nature and perception through moving images, light, and color.
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Mónica Ponce de León and Oyler Wu Collaborative are among 2018 ACADIA Award winners

ACADIA, or the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture, established the ACADIA Awards of Excellence to recognize outstanding individuals and practices that think critically about the impact and possibilities of computer-aided design. This year, the ACADIA Awards recipients, including Mónica Ponce de León and Oyler Wu Collaborative, will present their work at the conference titled Recalibration: On Imprecision and Infidelity at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City from October 18–20. Dean of Princeton University School of Architecture Mónica Ponce de León won the Teaching Award of Excellence. Ponce de León is a Venezuelan-American architect who is also a renowned educator. She is the founding principal of MPdL Studio, which has officesin New York, Boston, and Ann Arbor. Prior to her deanship at Princeton, she was dean of University of Michigan’s Taubman College and a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD). The awards committee commended her for the “integration of digital technologies into architectural education.” Jenny Wu and Dwayne Oyler, partners at Oyler Wu Collaborative, were awarded with the Digital Practice Award of Excellence. The L.A.-based, award-winning firm is widely recognized for its expertise in material research and digital fabrication. The firm is known for projects such as The Exchange in Columbus, IN, the 2013 Beijing Biennale installation named The Cube, and their installations and pavilions with SCI-Arc. The partners are both currently teaching at SCI-Arc and Harvard GSD. Other awards included the Innovative Academic Program Award of Excellence, given to the Institute of Advanced Architecture Catalonia; the Innovative Research Award of Excellence bestowed upon NVIDIA robotics researcher Dr. Madeline Gannon; and the Society Award of Excellence won by Association for Robots in Architecture co-founders Sigrid Brell-Cokcan and Johannes Braumann. Check out the complete list of winners here.
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Glass and steel structure slides into iconic Boston church

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Located within the former Holy Trinity German Church, an 1877 structure designed by Patrick Keely in Boston’s South End, Finegold Alexander Architects inserted an eight-story, extruded glass-and-steel condominium residence. The Lucas preserved solely the original stone walls, tower, and arched windows of the facade and “slid” in the new residences to maintain its iconic nature within the neighborhood. Ellen Anselone, a Principal at Finegold Alexander Architects, said in a press release “the design team sought to harmoniously marry the old and the new.”
 
  • Facade Manufacturer Reynobond, ATAS, Kingspan, Kawneer
  • Architects Finegold Alexander Architects
  • Facade Installer J&S Builders (lower metal panel), CEI Composites (upper metal panel), JR Glass Inc (curtain wall)
  • Facade Consultants SGH Engineering (building envelope consultant)
  • Location Boston
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System Metal panel rainscreen, curtain wall
  • Products Reynobond ACM (aluminum composite panel) rainscreen, ATAS Versa-Lok panels, Kingspan insulated roof panels, Kawneer 1600 curtain wall
Because “the existing walls couldn’t take the weight of a new building,” Anselone told AN, “the idea was to slip this new structure inside that existing one.” Finegold Alexander Architects had the facade 3D-scanned on the interior and exterior to assist with putting the drawings together. Working with the contractors, the project team evaluated the integrity of the exterior walls and the condition of the stonework. The original stonework was primarily intact and required minimal restoration. As seen in the pre-construction photos, the original stone walls were thick enough to stand alone during construction. Finegold Alexander’s design did require some cutting down of the original window sills on the first floor to create space for new windows. It also relocated the existing stair on the street to allow for accessible entry to the building. Many iterations of intervention were considered before arriving at the final design, which is mostly an extrusion of what is seen in the floor plan. The stone buttresses are continued up into the new steel structure. In the detailing of the new construction, there is a perimeter of steel framework, constructed right up to the interior of the existing stone walls, which then the vertical steel was anchored on. The floors were then installed and braced. Above the roofline of the original church, the new structure is clad in a simple metal panel rainscreen and curtain wall enclosure. The detailing was meant to be an extension of the historic language of the facade and also create a contemporary interpretation, in opposition to mimicry. The system follows the vertical lines established in the original facade, in both the metal panel and curtain wall. There are vertical fins which jut out over an exterior balcony, reminiscent of the original buttresses but clad in the same metal panel as the rainscreen system and tied back to the new steel structure. Being an adaptive reuse project, immense coordination was required between the architect and the contractors. One of the biggest challenges was efficiently locating the waterproofing where the new construction meets the existing wall. The process was hands-on, and Finegold Alexander Architects were onsite to work out those details with the contractor. Once the windows and curtain wall were installed, everything was diligently water-tested to ensure the tightness of the building envelope.
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This digital 3-D model of Boston reveals the shadows cast by new construction

On May 8, Boston’s Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) released a digital 3-D model of the city. Built with GIS and CAD, the map encompasses approximately 129,000 buildings, each roughly outlined to indicate overall massing and height. According to the Boston Globe, the map was partially inspired by debates surrounding shadows cast on the Boston Commons by new skyscrapers, such as the nearly 700-foot-tall Winthrop Square Tower. The 3-D model uses Boston’s monthly average amount of daylight to effectively represent each building’s impact on citywide light exposure. Areas with dense concentrations of skyscrapers, primarily Downtown Boston, are depicted as casting shadow overs large swaths of the city. On the map, the function of each building within the city is graphically represented through the use of a color scheme sequenced to Boston’s zoning regulatory framework. Industrial districts, such as Marine Industrial Park, are clearly discernible from residential quarters such as adjacent City Point. Beyond the representation of each individual building’s function, the model outlines the city’s zoning districts, sub districts and special planning areas. As a coastal city, the BPDA has to accommodate for inevitable rises in sea level. To this end, the model also maps out Boston’s FEMA National Flood Hazard Areas, as well as areas that would be significantly impacted by a 100-year flood of 40 inches or more. Additionally, the model shows Boston’s entire public transport network, university system, and areas subject to urban renewal policies. While the 3-D model only includes existing buildings and those under construction, the BPDA is hoping to incorporate planned developments into the model to allow for their visualization within a larger urban context.
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Autodesk puts R&D first with its BUILD Space in Boston

Meet the incubators and accelerators producing the new guard of design and architecture start-ups. This is part of a series profiling incubators and accelerators from our April 2018 Technology issue.  Located on the first two floors of a concrete-framed former army base in South Boston, Autodesk’s BUILD Space (BUILD stands for building, innovation, learning, and design), which opened in 2016, has become one of the software company’s best tools for keeping up with architecture’s hyper-speed technology changes. The cavernous 34,000-square-foot facility, whose adaptive reuse was carried out by Boston and New York-based SGA, contains two chief components: First, it houses every piece of digital manufacturing equipment under the sun, from CNC routers and multi-axis robots to microelectronics, metal fabrication tools, and a giant crane; second, it hosts over 70 organizations and 500 people, including architecture and design firms, start-ups, and universities, who use the facilities, supported by Autodesk’s software engineers. In return, Autodesk gets to make important new contacts and learn how to position its software for the coming years. “By investigating these technologies with these teams, it gives us a view of what may be coming, and what we need to start thinking about,” said Rick Rundell, Autodesk’s senior director, who has carefully curated the community with his colleagues. “I could hire a team of 30 researchers to use this equipment,” said Rundell. “Instead, I have 500 researchers that I’ve been able to curate. They’re doing their own work, but it keeps us in touch in a way that would be much harder otherwise.” The word has gotten out, encouraging the company, with SGA, to grow the space by another floor. “We get five or six calls a week,” noted Rundell, who has hosted researchers from the Middle East, all over Europe, and the far corners of the U.S. “We only review the most promising.” To prepare the space for all this activity, SGA implemented some R&D of its own, employing carbon fiber supports to help brace the building after it made large cuts through the thick concrete floors, and using the facility’s crane to haul in extra-large items. The firm needed to install new electrical and HVAC on top of what the building already had in order to support the teams’ extraordinary infrastructure needs. Autodesk, whose Boston software team works on the building’s sixth floor (also designed by SGA), has opened a handful of similar innovation facilities, each catered to a different aspect of digital design and manufacturing. The San Francisco office, which hosts Autodesk researchers as well as independent ones, focuses on micro-factory models, the Toronto office looks at artificial intelligence and generative design, and the Birmingham, England, office centers on advanced manufacturing. “We know this is happening, but we’re seeking to learn more,” said Rundell.

Some of the residents include

Perkins+Will

The architecture firm investigated new framing systems for mass timber.

Bechtel Corporation

The engineering company explored inflatable shading devices.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT students have created self-deploying fabric canopies that can be dropped via aircraft.

Construction Robotics

This construction manufacturer is developing a system for robotically constructing masonry walls.

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For Mecanoo’s Francine Houben, observation and context deeply informs facade design

The Architect’s Newspaper’s Facades+ conference, part of a conference series on innovative building envelopes, has once again touched down in New York City. This year’s morning keynote speaker, Francine Houben of Mecanoo, delved deep into the firm’s projects around the world. The Dutch architect described seven very different projects, united by technically demanding facades that all referenced the unique history of their surroundings. Houben began with the Maritime and Beachcombers Museum on the isle of Texel, The Netherlands. The 4,000-square-foot museum punches above its weight with a facade of vertically-oriented, recycled wood planks that dapple the incoming sunlight and reference the maritime history of the island. “I’m here to tell you how I work,” said Houben. “I try to observe, I try to extend the flow of the people, how they walk through the city; how can I connect these people to the building, bring them up?” That attention to observation extends to a series of contextual facades. In discussing the Palace of Justice in Córdoba, Spain, Houben referenced the city’s extreme heat and the way that residents layered terraces to block the harsh sunlight as key factors that drove the densely-layered development around courtyard recesses. The tessellating perforations in the white glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) panels passively shade the interiors and cool occupants while also referencing historic sun shading in the region. A blending of old and new design also featured prominently into Mecanoo’s work on the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Boston. The firm’s first built projects in the U.S.–in collaboration with the locally-based Sasaki Associates–involved inserting a sinuous brick building on a triangular plot with curving historical facades in each corner. The integration of the freestanding stone facades was accomplished by convincing then-mayor Thomas Menino to purchase and expand the initial site to include two other buildings beyond the original’s single-facade scope. In between the historic remnants, Mecanoo paid homage to Boston’s history of intricate brickwork by designing snaking walls built from bricks laid vertically and in a variety of other patterns. Houben described the influence as “Boston meets the Netherlands”. Infilling with sensitivity and drawing from the surrounding environment are strong hallmarks of Mecanoo’s work. But beyond the aesthetic appeal of the firm’s facades, Mecanoo makes sure that they’re also practical and contribute to the comfort of those inside. “We always try to combine the formal with the informal,” said Houben. “The inside with the outside.”
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Architect Neri Oxman is hanging out with Brad Pitt, and the internet is going wild

The rumor mill is buzzing around the purportedly budding relationship between Boston-based architect and artist Neri Oxman and actor Brad Pitt. According to Page SixOxman met Pitt when he was referred to her for guidance on an architectural project. Since then, the two have developed what the publication called a "professional friendship." Celebrity gossip mag US Weekly took it a step further, claiming the two have been secretly rendezvousing for months, with Brad even tagging along on Oxman’s professional trips across the globe. The Israeli-American Oxman, a professor at MIT and founder of design group Mediated Matter, is known for her forward-thinking approach to architecture and design that fuses natural, biological forms with the growing capabilities of digital fabrication. Oxman has produced acclaimed pieces such as “The Silk Pavilion,” a CNC-fabricated scaffold coiled with silk thread produced by 6,500 silkworms, and “Gemeni” a solid wood chaise crafted to resemble a cocoon, adorned with cells of varying colors and rigidity. Her ventures into 3-D printed wearables also include a design for Björk's Vulnicura tour, a movable mask that mimicked the musician's own bone and tissue based on scans. Oxman’s work is exhibited widely, including at MoMaSan Francisco's Museum of Modern Art, and the Centre Pompidou. This is not Pitt’s first flirtation with the world of architecture. The Hollywood star met and befriended Frank Gehry in 2001, leading to an internship focused on computer-aided design at the international architect’s Los Angeles office. Since then, Pitt has gone on to found Make it Right, a non-profit focused on delivering environmentally-friendly housing to post-Katrina Louisiana. During this venture, Gehry designed a duplex in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, his only residential project in the state of Louisiana. While Pitt has dabbled in architecture and design, he has nothing on Oxman’s impressive record of academic and design accolades, including the 2016 MIT Collier Medal, the Textiles Spaces 2015 Award, and the 2014 Vilcek Prize. Whatever the truth about their relationship is, Oxman is probably too good for Pitt.