Posts tagged with "Brooks + Scarpa":

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A bold form mixes public and private spaces in Brooks + Scarpa’s latest supportive housing project

The new 52-unit permanent supportive-housing project for formerly homeless individuals, many of them veterans, designed by Los Angeles firm Brooks + Scarpa, takes its name—The Six—from military slang for a person who “has your back.” The project is Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT)’s first outside Downtown Los Angeles, and it continues the organization’s very successful run developing functional, neighborhood-scale, and formally transformative housing.

From up the street, The Six immediately impresses; the nearly scale-less stark-white block and its oversized opening to the street reveal, as one gets closer, the human scale contained within. A main skeletal stair anchors the inside of a vast courtyard and draws the eye into the innards of the building. This attention to sequence, for Brooks + Scarpa principal Angela Brooks, is something her office imparts to each project, no matter the type or size. “Where’s the threshold between the neighborhood and your house?” Brooks asked. “If it’s just a single line, that’s too thin. We want it to be deep with a sense of public, semipublic, and then finally private [spaces] along the way.”

In a careful exercise of balancing transparency and security, Brooks + Scarpa’s design lives up to sentiment “I’ve got your back” by achieving a comfortable clarity in volumes that open up and lift residents above the street and neighborhood, simultaneously providing a sense of security and privacy.

When arriving at The Six, one cuts across the front yard—past planted, open areas set back from the street—landing under an expansive overhang that encloses a security entrance and a community- and computer-room cluster. Next, one transitions into a smaller space: a lobby that shares the floor with administrative offices, a conference room, a public computer lab, and parking. The second level, accessible by an elevator from the entry or via a concealed front stair, reveals the large public courtyard perched above the street.

From the courtyard level, the apartments and their circulation balconies stack up in a “U” formation four levels above, defining the supertall, breezy space within. Also on this level, a TV room with couches, laundry facilities, and a small kitchen fills out the public common areas. The building’s fundamental volumetric and formal gestures simultaneously work with its site orientation to maximize daylighting, exposure to prevailing winds, and natural ventilation.

The areas that can be seen from the outside are the most public of the common spaces offered to residents in the project, and their placement at the front—in the window seat—allows for a shared, privileged relationship to the street and suggests a powerful shift in dependence for the folks living at The Six.

Brooks said, “We made sure to construct a sequence of spaces that help you come into the site itself.… Once you get onto the second level, you see the street again in another way.” She added that by pulling the elevator and reception desk deep into the building, the designers allow “people to have some space and time through which to walk into something, to contemplate something, to think about something, to say hello to neighbors.”

It’s this simple and thoughtful implementation of careful and confident architecture that gives The Six its strong humanity of place. It’s a rare experience in Los Angeles, where the development process and its built manifestations typically find design opportunities in disposable surface treatments or hollow stylistic flourishes. With SRHT’s dedication to quality projects and real architecture, the organization will likely achieve more breakout projects in the near future thanks to the recent passage of initiatives, at the county and city level, that allocate resources toward preventing and ending homelessness.

If The Six can be a precedent moving forward, it’s likely SRHT will continue to provide L.A. more like-minded projects that are much more than a roof overhead.

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San Fernando Valley poised to tackle homelessness with new $1.2 billion housing initiative

The San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles has a reputation as a quintessentially suburban enclave. But, as the inner-city areas of Los Angeles have begun to embrace the hallmarks of traditional urbanism—increased housing density, fixed-transit infrastructure, and a dedication to pedestrian space—the valley has found itself parroting those same shifts in its own distinct way.

One area where this transformation is taking shape is housing, specifically, transitional and supportive housing for formerly homeless individuals.

According to the Los Angeles Homelessness Services Authority, the number of homeless people in the San Fernando Valley increased by 36 percent last year. Though the increase was significantly lower throughout L.A. County overall last year, one thing is clear: The number of people without homes in the areas around Los Angeles’s urban core area is growing. A similar trend is playing out across the country. Not only are urban homeless populations being increasingly displaced out toward the suburban areas by gentrification, but greater numbers of suburbanites themselves are becoming homeless, as well, due to a fraying social net and systematic income inequality.

Dire though the situation might be, Los Angeles—and the San Fernando Valley in particular—is currently poised to make strides in re-housing currently homeless individuals living in quasi-suburban environments by building a collection of new housing projects across the city. That’s because this November, 76 percent of L.A.’s voters supported Measure HHH, the city’s Homelessness Reduction and Prevention, Housing, and Facilities Bond. The initiative will raise $1.2 billion in bonds to pay for the construction of up to 10,000 units of housing for the homeless. The victory represents a shift in collective perspective that goes hand-in-hand with changing urban attitudes: As transit, density, and pedestrianism spread, so too has a visceral awareness that the city’s homeless population has been wholly abandoned by society and that action is overdue.

The passage of Measure HHH represents an opportunity for architects to assert themselves in civic and cultural discourse at an incredibly meaningful scale. And as much as the valley has begun to accept increased density, so too is it likely to see its fair share of new transitional and supportive housing as a result.

Already, the Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT), a local affordable housing provider known for its focus on design quality, has begun to expand into neighborhoods beyond Skid Row. The organization opened a new set of apartments designed by Los Angeles–based architects Brooks + Scarpa this summer in the MacArthur Park neighborhood just west of Downtown Los Angeles. The project, called The Six, is the group’s first development with permanent supportive housing specifically for veterans. The name of the complex comes from the military shorthand, “got your six,” which means “I’ve got your back.”

The complex is designed around a central, planted courtyard and is expected to receive LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. It features solar panels on the roof and ground-level supportive services for the residents, with a large public courtyard located on the second floor. Units rise up around the perimeter of the courtyard along a single-loaded corridor and are capped by a roof terrace and edible garden. The firm also calibrated the building’s architectural massing in order to respond to passive cooling and lighting strategies and features selectively glazed exposures as well as a courtyard layout that facilitates passive lighting and ventilation.

Another project under development by SRHT is Michael Maltzan Architecture’s (MMA) Crest Apartments in Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley. Crest Apartments will deliver 64 affordable housing units for formerly homeless veterans. The building is laid out as a long, stepped housing block raised on a series of piers above multifunctional hard- and soft-landscaped areas. The long and narrow site shapes the complex such that the building’s mass steps around in plan as it climbs in height, creating vertical bands of windows aimed toward the street and side yard in the process. The ground floor of the complex contains supportive service areas as well as a clinic and community garden. The building recently finished construction and residents are beginning to move in.

The future of housing efforts in the valley is also being tackled by students at University of Southern California (USC), where a studio funded by the nonprofit Martin Architecture and Design Workshop (MADWORKSHOP) is aiming to develop a rapid-re-housing prototype to be deployed across the valley. The studio, formally unrelated to Measure HHH, is led by Sofia Borges, acting director at MADWORKSHOP and R. Scott Mitchell, assistant professor of practice at USC. The professors tasked architecture students with studying the spatial implications of homelessness at the individual person’s scale.

Ultimately, the studio, with nondenominational ministry Hope of the Valley as its client, developed the beginnings of a single-occupancy housing prototype that could be mass-produced and temporarily deployed to selected vacant sites in as little as two weeks. The cohort spent the semester meeting with officials in the city government, including the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, to work on an actionable plan for implementing their prototype. The students built a full-scale mock-up of the 96-square-foot unit for their final review and detailed plans for how the unit might be aggregated into larger configurations as a sort of first-response to help people transition from living on the streets to occupying more formal dwellings like The Six or Crest Apartments.

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Brooks + Scarpa unveils designs for new Southern California Flower Market in Los Angeles

Los Angeles–based architects Brooks + Scarpa has revealed plans for the large-scale redevelopment of the 107-year-old Southern California Flower Market in Downtown Los Angeles. The proposal aims to replace the two existing industrial structures on a 3.8-acre site at 755 Wall Street with a mixed-use, podium-and-tower complex. The proposed redevelopment would consist of a low-rise podium tower that will house mercantile facilities for the existing flower vendors along the ground floor, with between 50,000 and 60,000 square feet of office space and stacked parking above, while a second building on the site will consist of a 14-story apartment tower. That tower would include 290 apartments plus an undisclosed number of affordable units and would overlook a solar panel-topped amenity level meant for use by building residents. Preliminary renderings released for the project show a colorful, gridded tower rising out of the podium, with two of the tower’s exposures clad in what partner Angela Brooks described to Los Angeles Downtown News as flower-themed murals. Brooks went on to explain some of the inspiration for the project, telling the publication, “It's the idea of using the flower. It's going to be very modern in its design, but we’re trying to honor the Flower Market through the art.” The Flower Market was originally founded in 1909 by Japanese-American flower growers in a nearby area and moved to its current location in 1923. The Flower Mart is still owned by the descendants of that original group of owners and the proposed redevelopment scheme is part of a regional effort to preserve Los Angeles’s industrial and mercantile functions and heritage while accommodating a new and furious spurt of urban growth. The recently-revealed 6AM project by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron has similar conceptual underpinnings, with a housing tower and mercantile areas sharing the same site. The project aims to break ground in 2018.
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Four competing schemes for Downtown Los Angeles’ First & Broadway Civic Park

First there was the Grand Park, then Pershing Square decided to spruce things up with a design competition, and now four competing schemes for a third Downtown Los Angeles park were presented to the city in a public meeting this week. The proposals were from teams lead by AECOM, Brooks + Scarpa, Eric Owen Moss Architects, and Mia Lehrer + Associates with OMA and IDEO. The two-acre First & Broadway Civic Park will take over a full block in the heart of the L.A.’s Civic Center near City Hall and the Gordon Kaufmann’s Art Deco Los Angeles Times building. The overall greening of Downtown Los Angeles is consistent with its ongoing renewal. As such, each of the teams provided ample amenities in the park—canopies, cafes, music venues, movie screens—in addition to the standard fare of gardens, trees, and benches. AECOMmodel AECOM’s proposal takes iconic modernist landscape architect Garrett Eckbo’s 1946 Landscape for Living as a starting point, and then updates his California dream to be a collective experience. Hints of fifties modernism show themselves in the irregularly shaped lawn, which is framed by “The Wingnut,” which houses a gallery, and a 200-seat restaurant “The Paper Plane.” Undulating ribbons—green space above, amenities underneath—define Brooks + Scarpa's plan. The team suggests that the scheme is ecological with drought-minded plantings and integrated terraces and cisterns that lead to an expansive dry well. Hidden within the proposal is some programming sure to excite the design community: the Architecture and Urbanism Festival, a possible 3-month long curated event that would include temporary installations and public programs. Eric Owen Moss Architects, never a firm to shy away from odd forms, proposed a large cocoon-like structure dominates a rolling and grassy green space. Ready to compete with the nearby crowning towers of City Hall and the Times, EOM’s event pavilion seems equipped to screen films and host events. Mia Lehrer + Associates powerhouse team also includes OMA, IDEO, and Arup, among others. Their proposal takes food as its design driver. While the scheme shows a central paved plaza and side gardens lush with alien-ish shade canopies and mature trees, the main emphasis is on a multi-use pavilion building that includes a beer garden, a test kitchen, a restaurant, and an amphitheater. Presentation boards and models of the designs are on public display at the Department of Building and Safety at 201 North Figueroa.
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Brooks + Scarpa’s Double-Skinned Research Center

Perforated steel and translucent glass balance privacy and pop.

For their Center for Manufacturing Innovation (CMI) in Monterrey, Mexico, Metalsa, a global manufacturing firm that specializes in automobile and truck chassis, did not want just another factory. Rather, the laboratory and testing facility, located in a state-sponsored research park adjacent to the Monterrey airport, was to be a "showpiece," explained Brooks + Scarpa Architects principal Lawrence Scarpa, "not just for their clients but from a work environment point of view, and a sustainability point of view." Despite the many challenges inherent to building across the United States-Mexico border, the Los Angeles architects succeeded in delivering a LEED Platinum design wrapped in a striking double skin of translucent glass and perforated steel panels. The facility's uneven sawtooth profile is the product of both historical and contextual references. "They are an industrial company, and I always loved the old warehouses with the north-facing clerestories, designed back when there was no electric lighting," recalled Scarpa. "That was what I was thinking about before I even went to the site." His first visit to Monterrey confirmed his instinct. "The mountains there are really sharp and jagged like that—it was an immediate concept for the building," said Scarpa. Like their 19th-century antecedents, moreover, the clerestories provide daylight and allow hot air to accumulate high above the inhabited spaces, thus reducing reliance on artificial lighting and cooling. The resulting form had one major drawback, however. "The issue we were faced with was that the primary way you enter the building is from the west, so we would have a broad face in the worst possible thermal position," said Scarpa. To solve the problem of solar gain without sacrificing the sawtooth roofline, Brooks + Scarpa implemented a double skin with an outer layer composed of perforated steel panels. With a wraparound sunscreen in place, explained Scarpa, "we could have a translucent skin behind it, but could modulate light and heat gain."
  • Facade Manufacturer Kinetica
  • Architects Brooks + Scarpa, Homero Fuentes, Centro de Diseño (architect of record)
  • Facade Installer Kinetica
  • Facade Consultants SPID Ingenieros (engineering)
  • Location Monterrey, Mexico
  • Date of Completion 2012
  • System perforated steel panels, translucent glass
  • Products Tiger Drylac coated steel with anodized silver super polyester, fluted glass installed with 3M VHB tape and Dow Corning 795 structural silicone
Several factors influenced the perforation pattern on the outer skin. It began as an abstraction of Metalsa's corporate identity, said Scarpa, but evolved to respond to programmatic requirements. Perforations of different sizes and densities reflect the need for more or less privacy. Areas related to proprietary research and development are more opaque, while the office spaces cantilevered over the transparent northwest entrance benefit from the additional daylighting allowed by broader perforations. CMI's translucent inner skin of fluted glass refracts light, preventing glare from interfering with computer-based work. To prevent the occupants from feeling trapped in a windowless box, the architects carefully modulated the distance between the envelope's two layers. "When you're on the interior, it doesn't just look like a blank wall," said Scarpa. "When you're on the inside, you can't see through it, but you can see shadows move on the translucent surface." Designing for an out-of-country client is bound to produce hiccups, and the Metalsa project was no exception. For instance, Brooks + Scarpa had initially imagined that the auto giants would fabricate the perforated metal skin in-house, but turned to another supplier when disrupting the company's manufacturing flow proved cost-prohibitive. The architects nevertheless made the best of the situation, streamlining their vision to fit the situation at hand. "The technology that was available to us in Mexico is not overly sophisticated, so from the get-go we decided to take a more simplistic approach, utilizing a multi-layered skin," said Scarpa. "It was easy to construct, and it's not difficult to understand."
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Larry Scarpa on Los Angeles and the Building Envelope

With its combination of warm temperatures, low humidity, bright sun, and vulnerability to earthquakes and fires, Southern California presents a unique set of opportunities and challenges to facade designers and builders. "It's way more forgiving here than in most places," said Larry Scarpa, principal at Los Angeles-based Brooks + Scarpa. "I've been on design reviews in various parts of the country where you have to do things much differently with the building envelope. In Southern California you have a lot of freedom to explore things that you don't in other parts of the world." Scarpa and other AEC industry movers and shakers will gather in early February at Facades+ LA to discuss possibilities and trends in building envelope design, both in Los Angeles and beyond. Scarpa, who will deliver the afternoon keynote at the Facades+ conference series' Southern California debut, says that Los Angeles' temperate climate allows architects to simplify building envelopes, shifting resources from insulation and humidity control to lighting and materials. "Condensation is a big concern, but it's less of an issue here," he explained. "Generally speaking, we can be a lot less high tech with the actual wall construction. We then tend to spread it out: you still make it perform, but in a way where it's more like a rain screen." Southern California architects need not incorporate large thermal cavities, as at Herzog & de Meuron's Walker Art Center, in Minneapolis. The attendant freedom "becomes a way to deal with light in a much more significant way—how facades harvest light, or shade the building, or how you can make them function as public or private," said Scarpa. Brooks + Scarpa also use the flexibility engendered by their location to experiment with materials. "The materiality is a big thing for us," explained Scarpa. "We tend to use a lot of non-traditional building materials." The firm's Broadway Housing project, for instance, features a building skin partially clad with building blocks made from recycled aluminum cans. Benchmark Builders Showroom similarly incorporates an outer wall constructed from industrial brooms. "Because we have a certain amount of freedom here, we look to use ordinary materials in a way we're not used to seeing them," said Scarpa. Of course, Los Angeles is not all sunshine. Multiple active earthquake faults in the region place constraints on architects and builders. Earthquake codes require particular structural systems, which in turn impact the buildings' facades. "You wind up with large amounts of columns or moment frames. If you have glass or curtain walls, they're going to be exposed—you're going to see it. It's very hard to conceal it in a wall." To learn more about designing and building high performance facades in Southern California and worldwide, register now for Facades+ LA. More information, including a list of speakers and the complete lineup of hands-on dialog and tech workshops, can be found on the conference website.
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Brooks + Scarpa Propose a Flowing Interfaith Chapel Defined by a Latticework Structure

Brooks + Scarpa and KZF Design have designed a swooping, lakefront Interfaith Chapel proposal for the University of North Florida’s campus in Jacksonville. The 7,000-square-foot chapel is intended to serve a diverse array of students, faculty, and the surrounding community representing many religious beliefs. It's unique shape, built with a complex bending wooden lattice, is designed as an allegory of Justice, Faith, Hope, Charity, Prudence, and Fortitude. At the top of the chapel's spire, the wooden lattice is pinched together to form a figure-eight, symbolizing infinity, and the structure itself shades a large skylight that will wash the richly-textured interior walls with soft light. The structure's white exterior form is built to resemble a flowing wedding gown. Windows are situated to connect the inside with fundamental points of the Chapel’s surroundings such as a nearby lake, garden, and woods and to highlight celestial elements like the Polaris (aka North Star) viewable at nighttime. Two windows are even situated to offer direct views of the rising sun during the winter and summer solstices. The structure’s unique curvature is made possible by an interlaced wood lamella structural system—originally developed for industrial use due to its durability and long life. Laminated pieces of wood will be joined together at diagonal angles, creating the intricate latticework vault. The chapel also features energy efficient qualities. By allowing only filtered sunlight to enter the skylight, the roof helps insulate and protect against Florida’s intolerable heat and humidity. The building also includes more subtle energy efficient elements: operable windows offer daylight and ventilation; the building is situated to collect prevailing winds; and sun studies determined orientation of glazing. And, ultimately, the chapel enforces a deep connection with spiritual, cosmic, and natural life, giving visitors a chance to reflect and wonder about their values and placement in life and on the planet.
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What is Green, Anyway? Join Us for an Online Conversation on Sustainability

Join us for a live Facebook discussion, "What Is Green, Anyway?" Wednesday, April 18 12:00 p.m. PST, 3:00 p.m. EST You're invited to talk about sustainability with AN's West Coast Editor Sam Lubell, Angela Brooks, partner at Brooks + Scarpa, and John Stein, president of Kirei, a green materials company. The open discussion will cover what exactly makes a project green, how effective green standards are, how sustainability is driving design (and whether it should), and where green design is heading. The best part is that the questions will be all yours, answered live by our participants. To participate in "What Is Green, Anyway?," simply visit the AN Blog tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. eastern. We'll publish a post to the AN Blog before the event and you can join the discussion and ask questions of the experts live over Facebook Live Stream. You can even share your comments with your Facebook friends directly. See you Wednesday! Participants: Angela Brooks, principal, Brooks + Scarpa: A recognized leader in sustainable design and construction, Angela is responsible for overall project management and supervision of the firm’s designers and staff. She has served as Project Architect and consultant on buildings which range in scope from public and institutional projects, to mixed-use projects, single- and multifamily housing. John Stein, president, Kirei: After seeing a small sample of a new eco-friendly design material, John decided to take his experience in mainstream marketing to the green building world. His company, Kirei, grew out of that first chance encounter, and has become a leading provider of sustainable design materials to the architecture, design, and fabrication communities.
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Prominent Shortlist for Park City’s Kimball Art Center

Five noted teams have been shortlisted from a pool of 18 to renovate and expand the Kimball Art Center (KAC) in Park City, Utah. The firms include BIG/Bjarke Ingels Group; Brooks + Scarpa Architects; Sparano + Mooney Architecture; Will Bruder + Parnets; and Todd Williams Billie Tsien Architects. The center offers exhibitions as well as art classes, workshops, and other educational programs. Plans call for renovating the interior of the existing KAC and constructing a new modern building next door. Each of the proposals will be displayed using augmented reality, photography, and video during the Sundance Film Festival from January 19 through the 29 and a jury will select a winner in February once the public has had a chance to weigh in on their favorites. Construction could begin as soon as mid-2013 with the new wing opening in 2015. "We want visitors to see Park City as an important emerging arts destination, and a new building of architectural importance, with an enhanced facility for the presentation of art, will do just that,” said Robin Marrouche, the Kimball's executive director, in a statement. “In addition to the positive economic effects the project could have on the region in the long term, we want to further enrich our community, allowing us to expand our exhibition and educational offerings and provide a much needed public gathering space in Old Town." BIG's proposal calls for a twisting, stacked timber structure made from reclaimed train tracks, enclosing an interior spiral staircase and topped with an roof terrace. A sculpture garden would be included on top of the original structure. Brooks + Scarpa Architects designed a honeycomb tower called the "Kimball Cloud" that incorporates solar energy and natural ventilation. A rooftop terrace and garden is included in the new building. Sparano + Mooney Architecture also calls for timber construction, this time inspired by the Aspen tree. The new building will be covered with a photovoltaic glass screen allowing the new space to be flooded with light. Will Bruder + Partners designed a building with a colored ceramic facade that references both the adjacent masonry buildings in Park City's historic district as well as the surrounding canyons. The proposal features a rooftop terrace and a central skylight. Todd Williams Billie Tsien's proposal, dubbed a "Box of Sky and Shadow," frames mountain views and includes an exterior scrim for film projects. Check out more images of the five proposals below. Click on a thumbnail to launch the slideshow.
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Brooks + Scarpa’s Contemporary Art Museum Canopy in Raleigh

A folded canopy reinvents a former loading dock in the city’s historic Depot District

Raleigh’s Contemporary Art Museum chose its new home in the city’s Depot District carefully. Located in a former produce warehouse, the project calls attention to the city’s history of railroad transportation and red brick architecture while emphasizing its commitment to sustainability and adaptive reuse. Led by Brooks + Scarpa Architects, the project included renovation of the existing 21,000-square-foot structure and the addition of a 900-square-foot entry pavilion. The glass-enclosed lobby reinterprets the location of the original building’s loading dock with an expanded and folded canopy that announces the building’s new purpose and balances the effect of daylight on its interiors.
  • Fabricators Accurate Perforating, Alumiworks
  • Architects Brooks + Scarpa Architects
  • Location Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Status Complete
  • Materials Steel, aluminum, polycarbonate
  • Process Custom perforation design and fabrication
The architects saw an opportunity to treat the new museum entrance as a modern loading dock, a front porch that would deliver visitors into the galleries within. They began to experiment with the form of the rectilinear metal roof that originally sheltered the truck bay, expanding it and imposing a series of three folds to bend the shape skyward. The team developed a perforation pattern that shades the museum’s outdoor sculpture garden and the floor-to-ceiling glass lobby enclosure, then grows more dense to hide ductwork and sprinkler pipes indoors. Derived from the shape of flower petals, the pattern consists of three half-oval shapes with radii of 2, 4, and 6 inches. Each petal was combined with one other shape with the same radii, creating a total of 18 ovals in the pattern. These were laid out to create areas of greater or lesser density depending on the desired shading effect. While the perforated petals have 35 percent transparency, gaps between the ovals create an overall effect of 50 percent transparency indoors and 65 percent outdoors. The design team delivered shop drawings and sketches based on screen shots of Rhino files to architectural metal fabricators at Chicago-based Accurate Perforating and North Carolina-based Alumiworks. (The canopy’s top surface is composed of Polygal polycarbonate panels fabricated by North Carolina-based Jacob’s Glass.) Because the canopy’s interior slope does not match the exterior slope, transferring the complex geometry of the canopy into both top steel elevations at the intersections and into the bottom of the hollow structural section (HSS) steel substructure supporting the petal panels proved challenging. The canopy is built with steel wide flange beams, some of which are tapered and supported by the unreinforced masonry building and by three structural columns. Outdoors, perforated panels are attached to the underside of the frame and protected by polycarbonate panels installed overhead. Indoors, the perforated panels are installed beneath metal decking, insulation, and PVC roofing material. An HSS substructure suspended from the steel beams supports each assembly. While the canopy has become a symbol of the historic district’s renewal, not all visitors are welcome to its modern-day front porch. One-quarter-inch mesh between each petal shape keeps birds from roosting on flanges and steel beam supports. While the mesh allows pleasant North Carolina sunlight to filter into the museum’s courtyard, the glimpses of blue sky are also a nod to another bit of Southern porch culture—natives traditionally paint porch ceilings blue to mimic the sky, deterring mud dauber wasps from settling in.
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Best Architecture Block Ever?

Is there a better place to see contemporary homes than Venice? This weekend's Venice Art Walk and Auctions is offering a tour of one of this architecture hub's most impressive blocks: Appleton Way, where several ambitious residences have sprouted up in the last five years. The tour includes gems like the Walnut Residence by Modal Design;  Our House, by du Architects; the Yin-Yang House by Brooks + Scarpa; Ortiz Mexia's Ortiz & Wheeler Residence; Sylvia Aroth & Jeff Cook's Sylvia's Duplex; and Thomas Carson's Carson/Bettauer Residence. The block, points out Art Walk Steering Committee member (and local architect) Victoria Yust, is in an area with the largest lots in Venice; providing enough space to start from scratch (being near a nice public park doesn't hurt either). The Art Walk is also offering a tour of homes in West LA by the likes of A. Quincy Jones, Barton Myers, and William Hefner; as well as a tour of Venice homes along canals and tree-lined streets. The event, which supports the Venice Family Clinic, also includes artists' studio tours, art auctions, and lots of yummy food.  
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Scarpa is King of the World (Updated!)

[ Updated 02.08.2011: Added the interview video, a gallery of Scarpa's 502 Colorado project, and more. ] You know you've hit the big time when you're not only invited to appear on Oprah, but you're interviewed by Leonard DiCaprio on Oprah. Such is the case with Larry Scarpa, of Santa Monica firm Brooks + Scarpa, who talked to Leo about his former firm Pugh + Scarpa's  502 Colorado in Santa Monica, which DiCaprio calls the “first green affordable housing project in the country.” Whether or not that’s true, the building does include 200 solar panels on its rooftop, providing much of the building’s energy. DiCaprio doesn’t ask Scarpa about any of the 44-unit building’s other green elements (including strategic orientation, natural ventilation, co-generation, and recycled materials), but that’s okay, he'll dream about it later. At least Scarpa gets to remind stubborn developers that building green can be cheaper than conventional building. By the way, we think Scarpa, who’s already a dead ringer for Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio, has earned himself a spot on DiCaprio’s next film, Devil in the White City, about the architects of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  Wake up and get that architect an agent NOW.