Posts tagged with "Brutalism":

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List a Brutalist building that you think need saving on #SOSBrutalism

With 901 (and counting) documented buildings, #SOSBrutalism may be the most comprehensive database of béton brut online. Being just a collection of concrete (and more) though isn't the website's primary focus. Instead, #SOSBrutalism aims to shed light on endangered Brutalist buildings throughout the world, acting as a springboard for potential campaigns to save what it calls "our beloved concrete monsters." In doing so, buildings are indexed through a variety of categories including, date, location, typology, and search tags. The most important category is "status," which lists buildings as either "saved," "endangered," "partially saved," "partially demolished," "least concerned," and "demolished." The database is open and can be added to by anyone who emails in (you can so do here), provided images and a description are supplied. #SOSBrutalism can also be used as an educational device of sorts, as it guides users through the realms of style and the criteria it uses to define "Brutalism." Citing renowned architecture critic Reyner Banham, who described Brutalist heroes Alison and Peter Smithson's Hunstanton School (and their unrealized Soho House) as “points of architectural reference by which the New Brutalism in architecture may be defined,” named its three key elements: "1, Memorability as an image; 2, Clear exhibition of structure; and 3, Valuation of materials as found." Buildings that were included in Banham's “The New Brutalism: Ethic or Aesthetic?” have subsequently be labeled with the hashtag #Banham1966. Others built before 1955 have also been tagged #Forerunner meanwhile, aside from Banham's criteria for the style, #SOSBrutalism has prescribed its own: "Brutalist buildings are not always made of concrete. But they are always “rhetorical” in that they blatantly place the focus on their material or sculptural form," it explains. While some buildings, such as Robin Hood Gardens in East London—also by the Smithsons—and Marcel Breuer's Atlanta Central Library seem destined for demolition, the growing number of "saved" structures featured is encouraging. That said, Brutalism in Britain may be particularly challenging to save, especially given Prime Minister David Cameron's distaste for Brutalist "sink estates." "Step outside in the worst estates, and you’re confronted by concrete slabs dropped from on high, brutal high-rise towers, and dark alleyways that are a gift to criminals and drug dealers, he said at the start of the year. "The police often talk about the importance of designing out crime, but these estates actually designed it in." Despite the troubles facing some of the buildings, #SOSBrutalism is set to lead an exhibition on the style in Frankfurt next year, collaborating with the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) and the Wüstenrot Stiftung.
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Retrofitting Brutalism: Holyoke Center

[Note: Retrofitting Brutalism appears online in three articles, each highlighting a different project. To read the series introduction and explore the first project, the Boston University Law Tower, visit here. You can find our second installment, the Peabody Terrace, here.] Holyoke Center

• Date of Retrofit: 2018 projected, (original construction 1965) • Architects: Hopkins Architects (Design Architect); Bruner/Cott (Executive Architect) • Consultants: Arup Partners (mep, structural engineering); Faithful & Gould (cost consultant); Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (structural engineering); Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (landscape architect) • Project Scope: Renovation of former Holyoke Center will include much-needed modernization of the building; improved access to Harvard’s information center; enhanced landscaped plazas at north and south ends of the site; new, flexible interior spaces for events; and common spaces to attract varied constituencies within the university. • Clear window film: 3M, Solyx • Installers:  A+A Window, American Window Film

Recently renamed the Smith Campus Center, Sert’s former Holyoke Center at Harvard University is an h-shaped 10-story building offering a panoramic view of the nearby Charles River. With a crumbling exterior concrete envelope and inefficient heating and cooling system, the building is undergoing a significant renovation process spearheaded by London-based Hopkins Architects and executive architects Bruner/Cott.

Two quotations might aptly describe Sert’s dogmatic approach to campus planning and architecture, which often was in conflict with popular taste. The first, from Sert himself, proclaiming his disdain for Harvard Square’s historical colonial architecture that he partially demolished for his Holyoke Center: “Stepping into Harvard Square is like entering one of Dante’s circles of hell in terms of anything associated with human enjoyment, pleasure, or beauty.” A year after its completion, Harvard’s student journal shot back with: “The one nice feature about Holyoke Center is that it’s the one place in Cambridge from which you can’t see Holyoke Center.”

Today, the building—recently renamed the Smith Campus Center—is undergoing a major physical and cultural transformation that seeks to strengthen the Harvard community, rather than to divide it. The university has engaged the university student and faculty body through 25 focus groups to produce a collective vision for the new center. The committee organizing the reprogramming of the building has received over 6,000 survey responses.

While Boston University’s Law Tower received an addition that blended old with new, blurring the lines between Sert’s building and new construction, the Smith Center’s addition will separate itself from Sert’s architecture—a move that seems intentional. Visualizations of the addition promise relaxed spaces full of nature: A natural wood-clad ceiling and light-filled glassy expanses offering glimpses to nearby renovated leafy plazas.

It is ironic that here in the very building Sert used to set forth a modernist agenda erasing the past, a new addition and campaign by the university is on track to culturally erase his project—from the facade system down to the name of the building. “The new Smith Campus Center will embody the aspirations and values that we hold dear and seek to preserve. It will draw us together more closely, strengthening the sense of community at Harvard by encouraging spontaneous interactions among students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the broader community,” said Harvard President Drew Faust.

“We realize if we’re going to save these buildings and have another 50 years of usable life, we really have to make them better than they ever were to begin with. Because as good as they might have been in the beginning of 1960, they’re much better now than they ever were in terms of occupant comfort and ease of movement.”

 

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Retrofitting Brutalism: Peabody Terrace

[Note: Retrofitting Brutalism appears online in three articles, each highlighting a different project. To read the series introduction and explore the first project, the Boston University Law Tower, visit here. This second article features the Peabody Terrace; the third piece focuses on the Holyoke Center.]

Peabody Terrace

• Date of Retrofit: 1995, window replacement 2004 (original construction 1962) • Architect: Bruner/Cott • Project Scope: concrete envelope repairs, replacement window system, building system upgrades • Structural Engineer: Foley and Buhl Engineering, Inc., Watertown, MA • Mechanical Engineer: Zade Associates, Boston, MA • CM: Shawmut Design & Construction, Boston, MA • Windows: Custom Window, Plymouth, MA

Josep Lluís Sert’s career was born in Barcelona where, after briefly working for Le Corbusier in Paris, he went on to found numerous influential artist groups influential in the growth of modern architecture. He was exiled to New York City during WWII where he worked on several urban planning schemes for cities in South America. From this experience, he became dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, initiating the world’s first urban design degree program. 

One of his trademarks, prominently found on the facade of Peabody Terrace, are wonderfully colored panels integrated into window systems. “They’re very romantic,” said Cott. “…and surprisingly brightly colored. You can open them up and let in fresh air.” The problem was that these panels were literally the only means to temperature control in the building. All of the dwelling units, despite various solar orientations, ran off one thermostat. Tenants had no control of their heat, often using  Sert’s operable panels to cool their overheating spaces in the winter months. The units were neither air tight or waterproof, further adding to the deterioration of the building.

“That was the extent to the sophistication of what I would call the most innovative housing project designed in the past 100 years,” said Cott. “It was the work of a genius, the way he [Sert] aggregated apartment units around stair cores and skip stop elevators […] an incredibly beautiful exterior without any regard to occupant comfort.”

Bruner/Cott approached the project in the 1990s as a preservation exercise, reconstructing the 500 interior units, repairing the concrete envelope, and designing an extensive replacement of Sert’s window system. Moss said that owners will typically just cover up the issues in these types of aged buildings. “That kind of recladding approach is going to become more and more endemic, but for good modern buildings it is a real problem. Often it skips the step of understanding and then working sympathetically with the original architecture.”

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Retrofitting Brutalism: Boston University Law Tower

[Note: Retrofitting Brutalism appears online in three articles, each highlighting a different project. You can find our second installment, the Peabody Terrace, here. The third installment on the Holyoke Center appears here.]

Stationed between Harvard University and MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Bruner/Cott finds itself at arguably the epicenter of Brutalism—the Charles River where reinforced concrete towers thrived in the 1960s due to postwar campus expansion programs and the desire for an effect of stability and permanence among institutions. Bruner/Cott’s pioneering work with adaptive reuse in the 70s, along with extensive experience in managing the preservation of entire campuses of buildings—some nearly entire towns—has naturally led the firm to Boston University and Harvard University , where the architects find themselves reengaging the work of their former colleagues and teachers.

Technical complexities of renovating Brutalism bring forth a new set of preservation issues not seen in the restoration of 19th century clapboard buildings and limestone buildings—namely the cultural and tectonic baggage of exposed concrete. People often dislike concrete buildings. And concrete-formed structures are prone to sprawling and cracking since they are often reinforced and formed incorrectly. There is an art to concrete restoration that not only involves labor-intensive selective demolition, but also a precise pairing of aggregates to minimize the difference between old and new exposed finishes. “This is very fascinating work on a level that is very different than renovating a 19th century Victorian church. Modern architecture is of my time. We were around when modern architecture was new and innovative, and now we are renovating it. Its very interesting to see its faults and to be able to bring it back so it can continue for many years—hopefully many decades,” said Cott.

The following projects have much in common despite a range of nearly 20 years between completion dates. Their stories all stem from what Cott describes as a “downward spiral” of disinvestment—a familiar story that goes something like this: The building is not particularly liked by the public leading to a decline in its use, which triggers owners to stop taking care of it because of costly repairs. The building deteriorates, and its occupants hate it even more. Now demolition is on the table as a solution. The first question from these owners is often, “If we clear out the building, can we demolish it?” All of this effort is ironic for an architectural movement that made every aesthetic, formal, and structural attempt at erasure of a tumultuous past that included the Great Depression and two world wars. But Bruner/Cott sees its work as a respectful blend of preservation and correction of modernism’s faults, and “do the impossible” by making these buildings better than they ever were to begin with.

Boston University Law Tower

• Date of Retrofit: 2015 (original construction 1965) • Architect: Bruner/Cott • Project Scope: New Redstone building; total gut renovation of Tower and Pappas Library; facade restoration. • Consultants: Weidlinger Associates (structural); BR+A (mep/fp); Richard Burck Associates (landscape design); Colburn & Guyette (foodservice design); Acentech (acoustic, av); Atelier Ten (lighting); Haley & Aldrich (geotech); Nitsch Engineering (civil); Faithful & Gould (cost estimating) • Windows:  Graham Architectural Windows • Facade Installer: Sunrise Erectors

The project began with Bruner/Cott compiling a report that paired preservation principles with a development-minded approach. This became the blueprint for renovations to Sert’s Boston University Law Tower. Bruner/Cott’s message to BU’s administrators was simple and direct: “You are the stewards of an incredibly important piece of modern architecture.” In total, the architects added 100,000 square feet to Sert’s composition, which Cott said was already a generally well-defined and complete scheme. “The owners were smart enough to ask the question, ‘Can these buildings be saved?’ which is music to any architect’s ears.”

Bruner/Cott’s comprehensive renovations to the 265-foot-tall tower included building system upgrades that required the insertion of new vertical distribution chases through Sert’s concrete slabs, and a chilled-beam, passive cooling system. Building envelope repairs included the patching of more than 630 separate areas of concrete through a labor-intensive process involving sawing and chipping away at the structure to get behind reinforcement bars. New patches of concrete were carefully color matched to the existing concrete through a process of specifying matching aggregates to Sert’s original mix. The patched areas were bush hammered to match the existing finish. Cott said this method of renovation is invasive not only to the building, but its occupants: “If the owner thinks they can’t afford to move people out of the building, then all of that noise and vibration is something for the occupants to complain about.”

One of the major flaws of this building was the circulation system of the building, which relied on elevators to transport large crowds of students to elevated lecture halls in the tower. During classes, it would take 20 to 30 minutes to clear the room, which was disruptive to the academic schedule. Bruner/Cott reprogrammed the building, swapping in administration and faculty offices for the large occupancy areas, which have relocated to a new five-story 93,000-square-foot addition between the base of the tower and an adjacent library. “We made every effort to make the new construction part of the aesthetics of the original tower,” said Cott. “When you’re inside, you know the building has been renovated, but you don’t really know what is renovated and what is original.” The architects worked to maintain the historic character of the building intact through exposed, board-formed concrete finishes.

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University of Washington in legal battle over brutalist building

In Seattle,  the University of Washington (UW) is battling the city and three local nonprofits—Docomomo WEWA, Historic Seattle, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation—was discussed last Friday at a hearing at the King County Superior Court though a decision is still pending. The issue: whether the city can declare More Hall Annex, the 1961 Brutalist building on UW’s campus, a historic city landmark, and effectively stop future development plans on the site. The building is already on the national and state registers of historic places. Designed by The Architect Artist Group (TAAG) that included Wendell Lovett, Daniel Streissguth, and Gene Zema, the building was once home to a nuclear reactor for training nuclear engineering students. The lawsuit embodies the age old case between developers and preservationists, a “freedom to” vs. “freedom from” debate: the university wants to exercise their control, or freedom to develop, and for the city and three involved non-profits, it’s a case of protection, or freedom from demolition of historically significant buildings. “If the university wins it could set a precedent for exempting the UW and other state universities from local land-use laws,” writes Crosscut, an online nonprofit newspaper based in Seattle. "If the city prevails, Seattle’s landmarks ordinance could apply to buildings on campus, including the historic More Hall Annex, aka the Nuclear Reactor Building, which the UW wants to tear down but preservationists want to save.” UW is arguing this is a constitutional issue, while the city believes the UW Board of Regents must adhere to land-use regulations. The clash between the university and the city over More Hall Annex is not new. In 2008, The Seattle Times wrote a piece on the controversy, "UW building is hot, but is it historic?", that profiled a UW architecture graduate student’s plan to help save the building. After learning UW wanted to demolish More Hall Annex, she nominated it to the National Register of Historic Places. The university did not move forward on demolishing the building because of the recession. The student's application was successful. In 2009, More Hall Annex was added to the National Register of Historic Places, an unusual move as the building was less than 50 years old at the time and architects involved in the project were still alive. Yet the university re-examined its plans. In early 2015, according to GeekWire, UW hired Seattle firm LMN Architects to develop plans for a second computer science building. A draft environmental impact statement featured options exploring the More Hall Annex site. Microsoft pledged $10 million to UW to help fund the project. More Hall Annex has stood empty for more than two decades. The nuclear reactor was decommissioned in 1988 and fully decontaminated just under a decade ago.
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Use card, not concrete, to recreate Britain’s Brutalist architecture

Postwar Britain was a fervent breeding ground for brutalist architecture. That period enabled notable work from architects like the Smithsons, Goldfinger, Chamberlin, Powell, and Bon to dominate the British skyline. Many of these buildings have since been demolished. However, a few—mostly in London—remain as icons of that era. Now, thanks to Polish firm Zupagrafika, fans can construct these famed structures from card in their own home. As part of a series called "Brutal London," these cut-outs feature simple recreations of buildings such as Trellick Tower and the Barbican. Assembly is easy: simply by cut out the facades and fold the building together. All you need are scissors and glue. Richard Seifert & Partners' cylindrical Space House is perhaps a less-brutal example from the collection. The London series features six buildings; Robin Hood Gardens and the Aylesbury and Ledbury Estate are available alongside the aforementioned buildings. Additionally, each cut-out comes with an information pack outlining the technical information about the building, the year built, architects, and exact location. In case that wasn't enough, Zupagrafika also offers other cut-out architecture sets. "Blokoshkais a series of Eastern Block dwellings of which can be connected and placed within each other in a Russian doll-like fashion. Large prints of the cut-out facades (in each series) can also be purchased, although these are slightly more costly. A 27 x 40 inch print (on 200g satin paper) is priced at $30. The paper used is 100% recycled and each cut out only costs just over $5. At such a bargain, fans of brutalism may be tempted to send a pack (or ten) to Prince Charles, the man who famously lambasted the structures and architectural style in the 1970s dubbing them "monstrous carbuncles."
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Deserted socialist landmark in Montenegro given new lease on life

Concrete socialist relics in Eastern Europe usually enjoy hit-or-miss celebrity: they strike fame online or fade into derelict obscurity. One unfinished building, named the Dom Revolucije (Home of Revolution) in Nikšic, Montenegro, may be getting a new lease on life after years of disuse. Slovenian firm SADAR+VUGA, working in collaboration with Swiss practice HHF Architekten and local consultant Archicon, are re-imaging the building with cafes, park space, and more. The brutalist relic, designed by Slovenian architect Marko Mušic in the 1970s and abandoned in 1989, will be transformed into an lively urban hub containing cafés, an underground car park, pedestrian walkways, playgrounds, and a park. Initially, the building was intended to serve as a memorial to fallen freedom fighters and the socialist revolution. After 27 years of neglect, SADAR+VUGA, HHF Architekten, and Archicon were awarded the commission after their proposal won the "Competition for the Adaptation and Reconstruction for the Home of Revolution." Initially, the group contemplated completing the structure true to its original plans. However, they found that such a building would be grossly disproportional in size compared to its urban context: it would befit a city more than "ten times Nikšić's size." Instead, this design is meant to symbolize the progress the city of Nikšic has made from being a former minor Yugoslav town to Montenegro's second largest city. In the architect's words, this project will "serve the city and its residents" while being a "social activator that would represent today's changing conditions." In balancing old and new, the design will keep the original brutalist structure while adding more modern contemporary features. A new underground parking lot will keep the building pedestrian-friendly at street level. In regards to the building's program, only 10% of the interior will be climate controlled year-round. Other areas such as the promenade will be exposed to the elements, remaining open and flexible for future uses such as special events. 
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This artist uses LEGO to create Brutalist buildings

LEGO is quickly becoming an increasingly popular medium among the artisan community, with the likes of Adam Reed Tucker, Tom Alphin and others using LEGO blocks to form landmark works of architecture. Now, Arndt Schlaudraff has entered the fray with a selection of Brutalist LEGO buildings set make Modernists drool. Surprisingly, there are only 11 official LEGO Certified Professionals in the world but that hasn't stopped Berlin-based "MOC" (a popular phrase in the LEGO lexicon meaning "my own creation") artist, Arndt Schlaudraff (who hails from advertising, not architecture) from building. Schlaudraff, it seems, has a taste for Brutalist-style blocks as he has created numerous replicas of Modernist masterpieces, most notably Louis Kahn's Salk Institute (above). Using only white bricks (unlike fellow creator Tom Alphin) and aided by their orthogonal nature, Schlaudraff is able to perfect the clean finishes, crisp lines, and massing often found in Brutalist architecture. While his work (or rather, hobby) is predominantly LEGO-based, other slightly more realistic elements do enter the fray. This can be seen in the form of model motorcars and scale people being included in the photographs; however, few LEGO aficionados are likely to approve of this. That said, it could also be argued that the models intentionally detract from the LEGO-style and at times it can be very easy to forget you are looking at a LEGO building because of this. If you fancy getting your hands on a copy, think again. The shelf-life of Schlaudraff's creations is virtually non-existent as he only takes the time to photograph the models before dismantling them and starting from scratch on a new design. Despite not having an architectural background, the Berlin resident commented on how his city was once used as a playground for Modernists, something which has fed his imagination. "Someone once said that Berlin is the city where the best architects of the world build their worst buildings, which I think is really funny and also a bit true," he said in a recent interview. Speaking of architecture, Schlaudraff went on to say how Mies van der Rohe's rejuvenated National Gallery in Berlin was one of his favorite buildings. "I recently followed Bjarke Ingels on Instagram. I think his projects are super interesting," he said, adding, that Herzog and de Meuron were his "all-time favorites." Speaking of his admiration of Brutalism, Schlaudraff said he enjoyed the "sculptural aspect of Brutalist architecture." "If it’s a good Brutalist building it’s like a piece of art, a big sculpture. You can walk around and always see new views and sights which look like art. Many people just see an ugly piece of rotten concrete, but it’s so much more," he continued. "As for Modernist architecture, I like that it’s so clean. The ideas of Modernist architecture are over 80 years old, but still look recent." More examples of Schlaudraff's work can be found on his Instagram feed at @lego_tonic.
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Aggregate knowledge: Scientists at MIT discover how concrete behaves on a molecular level, could spur material advances

Suffice to say, we certainly know how concrete behaves at structural level—the material has been dominating cities and skylines since Joseph Monier invented a reinforced concrete in 1889. But until now, how the material works on a microscopic level has eluded scientists. Now, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have unearthed concrete's molecular properties, claiming their findings could lead to structural advances in the future. Traditionally, concrete uses a mixture of gravel, sand, cement, and water. In this case, a compound known as calcium-silicate-hydrate (CSH or cement hydrate) forms when the cement powder mixes with water. It essentially causes all the ingredients to solidify and become one. The phenomenon that has been baffling researchers many for years is whether concrete's molecular structure is comprised of continual bonds as found in stone and metal, or rather, as a sea of aggregate particle clumps bonded by (in the case of concrete) CSH. Researchers from MIT discovered in 2012 that during the first hour of the concrete mixing process, when CSH particles form, the size at which they form is apparently random and "not in homogenous spheres." As a result, such "diversity in the size of the nanoscale units leads to a denser, disorderly packing of the particles, which corresponds to stronger cement paste." However, the question regarding whether concrete was "considered a continuous matrix or an assembly of discrete particles" still remained. Predictably, the answer was "a bit of both." In a press release, Roland Pellenq, a senior research scientist in MIT’s department of civil and environmental engineering explained that the particle distribution facilitated almost every gap in the molecular structure to be filled by even smaller grains. This seemingly iterative process continued to the extent that Pellenq and his peers could approximate the material as a continuous solid. “Those grains are in a very strong interaction at the mesoscale,” said Pollenq. “You can always find a smaller grain to fit in between [the larger grains, hence] you can see it as a continuous material.” Pollenq did however, conclude his findings by stating that concrete could never be considered a true continuous material. This is due to the fact that grains within the CSH, unlike those in metal or stone, cannot reach a resting state of minimum energy. In other words, larger molecules can cause solid concrete to "creep" which makes the material susceptible to cracking and degradation over time. "Both views are correct, in some sense,” Pellenq concluded.
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David Umemoto’s scaled down Brutalist city scapes

Based in Montreal, architect and sculptor David Umemoto has created a number of Brutalist cubic volumes and sculptures. The forms, which derive from Brutalist principles, have been amalgamated in one work as part of a three-dimensional tessellating cube. When disassembled, the forms clearly resemble architectural elements and spaces. They can then be rearranged in any manner of compositions to create a series of both additive and subtractive volumes. Subsequently, Umemoto has repeated this process in some cases to generate modular city-scapes. Speaking of his work, Umemoto said: "This scalable modular building system is based on the theory that there is a universal order. Molecules, cycles, ecosystems, the order is the norm and chaos an accident." "Everything is connected, organized and structured; it is only a matter of place, time and scale. Thus, we can speak of a cellular system rather than modular elements that not only can be interchanged but also transformed. They obey rules in a rigid frame but with an organic development." In terms of process, the forms were created by Umemoto as reliefs using styrofoam as a placeholder for the concrete. Here the concrete, when wet, inhibits the space left within the styrofoam and once dry, can simply be removed to reveal the negative of the styrofoam form. Umemoto hasn't just used this technique for volumetric purposes, either. In one instance, a pattern using a more complex array of curves was carved onto a styrofoam sheet and impressed onto the concrete. "The work is an exploration of the patterns and codes, sometimes obvious, sometimes obscure, that govern our environment," said Umemoto.
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Developers get smart on the eventual redo of D.C.’s Brutalist J. Edgar Hoover Building

A long-standing fortress of state secrecy is under siege. The federal government is selling Washington, D.C.'s J. Edgar Hoover Building to a developer who, citizens hope, will turn the FBI's headquarters into a mixed use development. Designed by Charles F. Murphy and completed in 1975, the 2.8 million square foot Brutalist building is praised and reviled for all the reasons Brutalist buildings are praised and reviled. Despite its historical significance and because of $80 million in deferred maintenance, the building will likely be replaced with development that creates a more pedestrian-friendly streetscape. There are, however, massive bureaucratic hurdles to clear before the property can be developed. First, the congressionally-approved 1974 master plan must be revised s0 the site can be developed as a non-office building. However, the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation, the entity that created the plan, folded in 1996. Its responsibilities are now shared by the National Park Service, the General Services Administration (GSA), and National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC). The three agencies must agree on every step of the plan for it to move forward. When and if these master plan revisions are approved, the agencies can develop design guidelines for the site. The design guidelines must be adopted before developers can bid on the property because of a particular arrangement the federal government requires of this site. The GSA, the federal office responsible for securing land for a new complex, must offload underperforming assets (like the J. Edgar Hoover Building) before acquiring new ones. The developer will take a risk in buying this property because the exchange must occur before what can be built on the property is absolutely final. Finally, the developer's plans will go though the city's design review boards. Developers willing to endure a potentially Kafka-esque wait will be rewarded with prime land on the capital's most prestigious avenue.
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David Chipperfield beats Foster, KPF to convert US embassy in London to hotel

In London's high-end Mayfair neighborhood, the Brutalist United States embassy, originally designed by Eero Saarinen, has been keeping watch over Grosvenor Square for 55 years. Diplomats will soon be exiting the building, however, as developers prepare for a hotel conversion by David Chipperfield Architects. The Architects Journal reports that Chipperfield bested Foster+Partners and U.S. firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) for the job. However, there is some uncertainty as to whether Chipperfield has actually been commissioned or not. A spokesman for Qatari Diar, the company that now owns the site, refused to confirm that Chipperfield won the competition, stating: "A range of options on the best use of this important site are currently being considered." Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment has secured the remaining 939 years on the Mayfair district building’s lease and will not be allowed to alter the embassy's design as it was awarded grade 2 listing status for its historical and architectural significance and its "dynamic facade" in 2009. According to the Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), the concrete building was the "first purpose-built US embassy in Europe." The building's "dynamic facades, well-detailed stonework and consistency of detail and the innovative application of the exposed concrete diagrid" led to its protected status, the DCMS added. Occupying 225,000 square feet, the embassy takes up the entire west side of Grosvenor Square and currently has, according to Bloomberg, around 750 staff. Philadelphia-based KieranTimberlake has drawn up plans for the new U.S. embassy in Nine Elms, just south of the Thames, which is set to welcome occupants in 2017. The firm's winning design has been described by the Times as having a "moat" due to its semi-circular pond on one side. The new embassy resembles a crystalline cube and is surrounded by extensive public green spaces.