Posts tagged with "California":

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Van Alen's Climate Council takes a road trip to study climate change

The hot July sun hit the grooves of the farmland barreling past our bus windows as we approached Bowles Farming Company in Los Banos, California. Envisioning sunburns and muddy hikes through the furrows, we—the two dozen landscape design, engineering, and architecture professionals that make up the Van Alen Institute Climate Council—were about to visit the farm as part of a three-day expedition in Northern California to consider how design thinking could impact the way this farm and farms like it plan for climate change. Van Alen launched the Climate Council in 2018 as a platform for practicing design professionals and climate change aficionados to convene for twice-annual, three-day expeditions in regions across the U.S. Through tours, discussions, social gatherings, and hands-on charrettes, our trips provide members with a congenial setting for learning and reflection away from the hectic pace of everyday business. Right at the beginning of this inaugural trip, the Climate Council’s expectations contrasted dramatically with the realities of modern agriculture. Instead of weathering watermelon fields, we found ourselves in a comfortable boardroom. Farm executives welcomed us with cut melon samples and a PowerPoint presentation of the farm’s history, challenges, and technology. Over the soft hum of air-conditioning and with his adolescent son beside him, Cannon Michael, the farm’s president and CEO, shared the impressive facts of his large-scale operation: 11,000 acres, 14 crops, and six generations. Bowles has an advantage that it shares with a small group of farms in the area: Their history of utilizing water from the San Joaquin River provides senior rights to surface water. But with that seniority comes an increased responsibility and stewardship. Their on-staff agronomist schedules crop irrigation daily with care for every drop, logging and adapting to changes in climate on the spot. Michael proudly told us of the precision and care that Bowles uses to manage its water supply amid California’s mounting water crisis. “In times of drought, farmers are often blamed for overusing water,” Michael said. “The reality is, it’s not in a farmer’s best interest to waste water, as we only want to use the exact amount that the crop needs—improper water management has a negative impact on crop production. California is an expensive place to do business, and we must carefully monitor all our inputs and costs, water being a primary one of them. It is also a fact that producing the food and fiber we all rely on every day takes water. Where these products are produced is of critical importance. Not all farms are held to high standards of environmental and ethical production—California leads the way in the world.” Bowles’s commitment to precision and innovation unraveled the Climate Council’s anticipated mission and sent us on a new track of questioning in the days that followed. After visits with a strawberry farmer, a food distribution company, a tomato processing plant, and more, we started asking: What if cities had intricate systems dedicated to tracking inputs and outputs as accurately as these farms? We had set out on our trip thinking we would consider how design could impact the future of food production and distribution, but instead, we realized that cities had at least as much to learn from modern agricultural practices. Van Alen Climate Council Twice a year, the Climate Council travels to the same region—the first visit for exploration, the second for strategizing and discussing pressing climate issues using an interdisciplinary, systems-based approach. We offer professional advice to our partners and hosts, and aim to share lessons learned with other regions, both through further council travel and via members’ professional practices. The council’s purpose is rooted in Van Alen’s mission as a design organization that seeks to understand and demonstrate how design can transform cities, landscapes, and regions to improve people’s lives. The council also provides support and funding for Van Alen’s broader climate-related work. For more than a decade, we have created cross-disciplinary design and research projects that investigate issues of climate change across the country, from the sinking Lower Mississippi River Delta to the hurricane-battered eastern coasts. We are presently working in Greater Miami to help communities protect themselves from rising sea levels, using a design approach to make the region more socially equitable and economically resilient. In selecting the inaugural topic for the Climate Council to explore, co-chairs Claire Weisz and Mark Johnson commented, “We wanted to look at food as the first subject with this council. It’s all-encompassing. It’s something designers don’t get to talk about very often but that ultimately impacts us.” Even designers who work in cities have a vested interest in learning more about the role of agriculture in our society. At a panel conversation during our program, Mary Kimball, the director for the University of California, Davis’s Center for Land-Based Learning (and a partner in developing the council’s California program), reminded us that more than two-thirds of Sacramento’s regional farmland specialty crop jobs are in urban environments. Even though we typically associate agricultural jobs with rural labor, food distribution and packaging centers require resources that are almost always located in urban environments. So much of the food economy surrounds people in urban spaces every day, but we just don’t see it. Similarly, many of the challenges that farmers face in today’s economy are relevant to city dwellers. Time is of the essence On our first day in California, council members met David John, the business strategist at General Produce Company, a distribution center located 10 minutes from the central business district of Sacramento. As we walked through dozens of icy storage rooms, John told us that from the time of arrival to the time of departure, almost all of the fresh fruits and vegetables are present in the facility for less than 48 hours. The center runs 24/7, with days off only on Christmas and New Year’s. When asked about the built environment of the facility, John said that many of the workers adjust rooms or shelving as needed with changes in supply, but that it is difficult to allow for changes because they take time away from moving product. This distribution center, like a vital transit system in a big city, cannot take a day off. We surmised that systems thinking, like that used in transportation engineering, could be used to create more flexible environments in food distribution centers, along with more adaptable storage facilities. The berry farmer’s dilemma Following a brief meeting with the president of the Strawberry Commission of California near Salinas, our council climbed through coastal strawberry fields owned and operated by Tom AmRhein of Naturipe, Inc. AmRhein presented us with a pressing issue that berry farmers are facing in the area: The median home value in Salinas is more than $400,000. With minimum wage for farm laborers at $11 an hour, an enormous gap exists between the incomes of berry pickers and the supply of affordable housing in the area. As a result, AmRhein said that as many as five different families may share a home together in the valley, bringing housing density to the level of some of the nation’s biggest cities. As we downloaded our findings from Tom, the council considered what kind of affordable housing solutions could designers, working with migrant communities, dream up for rural laborers and their families. Moreover, with climate change making weather patterns and farming yields more unpredictable than ever, what kind of housing solutions would provide stronger, more stable, and adaptable shelters in this harsh environment? What’s next? When asked about innovation in agriculture, our program collaborator Kyeema Zerbe, deputy director of the UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food & Health (IIFH), said, “The IIFH prides itself on making uncommon interdisciplinary connections to catalyze innovation across food, agriculture, and health. Collaborations like those with Van Alen help facilitate exploration of systemic issues and view prevailing challenges from new local and regional perspectives. By delving into the intersections between design, agriculture, and innovation, we can begin to imagine a safer, more sustainable and secure food system.” Van Alen believes that climate change is an all-encompassing phenomenon. In such politically divided times, the organization seeks opportunities where designers can work under the partisan radar to generate true collaboration between cities and their surrounding regions, inviting professionals from all backgrounds to innovate. The Climate Council’s experience in Sacramento is an example of how nontraditional collaboration and open-mindedness can lead to enlightened discovery. And it’s just the beginning. On its third day in California, Climate Council members huddled pensively around drafting tables at the UC Davis Department of Landscape Architecture. Over the hours of charrette that followed, they revisited the issues that arose during this trip: How could farm feedback loops inform urban design? What role does governance play in the lack of balance of inputs and outputs in major cities? How can interdisciplinary design professionals enhance the security and resilience of existing rural communities that support our farm industry? Together, we started envisioning answers to these and other questions and made plans to return to Sacramento in early 2019 with design concepts to address them. When we go back, we intend to continue our conversations with local farmers, community members, and other stakeholders. We know there are opportunities for collaboration and implementation; we just need time together. We are onto something.
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California's Orange County Museum of Art to open satellite location while Morphosis builds

The Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) in Santa Ana, California, is planning to open a new temporary gallery space in the South Coast Plaza Village on November 3 as work on a new 52,000-square-foot facility by Morphosis gets underway. The temporary facility—dubbed OCMAEXPAND-SANTA ANA—will be located in a former retail space in the Victor Gruen–designed shopping mall and will host five seasons’ worth of exhibitions between this fall and 2021 when the new museum opens. This year’s inaugural season will feature exhibitions by the artists Kathryn Garcia, Valentina Jager, Alan Nakagawa, Mariángeles Soto-Díaz, Rodrigo Valenzuela, and Ni Youyu and will be on view through March 17, 2019. Todd D. Smith, director of OCMA, said in a statement, “As we build our new home at Segerstrom Center, we have a unique opportunity to broaden our programs and our reach—OCMAEXPAND is a guiding principle, an umbrella term, for the museum during the transition.” Smith went on to characterize the pop-up museum and its new name as “a call to action for the organization. It’s meant to push us to think differently and more creatively about how we engage audiences today and into the future.” Cassandra Coblentz, senior curator and director of public engagement for OCMA, explained further, “Our goal is to create a dynamic space for artistic innovation, experimentation, and dialog.” The museum plans to do this by focusing exhibition on artists and topics relevant to California and the Pacific Rim, a major initiative the institution has undertaken in recent years. The Morphosis-designed complex will begin to rise nearby at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts—a cultural complex that includes an existing concert hall and reperatory—starting in 2019. Morphosis’s plans call for 25,000 square feet of dedicated exhibition space, 10,000 square feet of multipurpose, educational, and performances spaces, and a sculpture terrace with capacity for 1,000 occupants. The striated, wind-swept complex is being designed in virtual reality and will ultimately leave close to 70 percent of the surrounding site open for public use. 
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Against all odds, California is building a high-speed train line

After years of political wrangling, regulatory delay, and economic uncertainty, California’s $100-billion high-speed rail (HSR) project is finally under construction. Though the project has more than doubled in cost and is now over 11 years behind schedule, the California High Speed Rail Authority, a public agency tasked with planning, designing, building, and operating the 300-mile route, has broken ground on a variety of key construction initiatives since 2016. The agency is currently working on 20 sites scattered across five central California counties in an effort to build a 119-mile proof-of-concept route between Bakersfield and Madera by 2022. Among the multifaceted works underway are the 3,700-foot-long Cedar Viaduct that will carry high-speed trains over State Route 99 in Fresno, and the 4,700-foot San Joaquin River Viaduct that will span the San Joaquin River to the north. The aerial alignments are test runs for the types of layered sites the authority will have to build over in more densely populated centers. Here, where temperatures can reach 110 degrees during the day, workers are laying rebar for structural columns, balancing new concrete slabs on elevated spans, and acquiring new properties to complete the future rail alignment. Roughly halfway between the two ends of this initial route, the Dragados-Flatiron Joint Venture Precast Facility outside of Hanford is currently under construction, as well. The precast concrete factory will supply girders and precast slabs for the bullet train project when it opens in 2019. Ultimately, the facility will produce roughly 1,300 different types of beams and nearly 500,000 precast slabs for the rail line. Bruce Fukuji, principal at Albany, California–based Urban Design Innovations, is an architect working to develop transit-oriented community guidelines for sites across the state that will be impacted by the new route. In a statement, Fukuji explained that his goal was to “focus regional economic activity [and] attract public and private investment to stimulate the regeneration of station areas.” Fukuji added, “We are linking locally desired projects with potential cap-and-trade funding [and are] setting up the opportunity for local communities and disadvantaged communities to benefit from collaborating with us and our partner agencies.” Though far from the state’s major urban centers now, when the full route is completed in 2033, it is expected to carry over 30 million passengers each year on trains traveling between 110 and 220 miles per hour.
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Suicide barrier controversy envelops Golden Gate Bridge

Forbes recently reported on the controversy surrounding a suicide barrier that will be installed on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. The barrier is projected to cost $211 million of public money, which some say is too high, while others say that the landmark's iconic appearance should not be changed. The barrier will consist of a net extending 20 feet horizontally out from the bridge's deck, held up by steel members painted the same color as the bridge's main structure. The net will be about 20 feet below the bridge deck's top surface, so anyone falling onto it would still sustain injuries, but much less severe ones than they would receive from a fall to the water below. The Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District, the authority responsible for overseeing the barrier's construction, refers to the net as a "deterrent," and says that similar structures have been successful in hindering suicides related to other structures around the world. According to Forbes, the bridge is the second most popular suicide destination in the world, and the LA Times has reported that dozens of people die from jumping off the structure every year. Forbes also reported that the $211 million bill is almost three times the original $76 million estimated price for the project. The barrier should be in place in 2021.
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Lance Bass loses bid to buy original Brady Bunch home

It’s been a tough week for Lance Bass. On Friday, the former NSYNC bassist tweeted that he was overjoyed when he thought that his offer had been accepted on the original Brady Bunch house, made famous by the hit ‘70s show. Almost immediately, he was as low as he had been high—he was informed that a “Hollywood studio” was willing to pay anything to claim the house and that they would be the new owners. Bass narrated the drama as it unfolded over various social media accounts: This morning the LA Times reported that Discovery Inc. Chief Executive David Zaslav broke the news on an earnings report conference call that the company had bought the house and was planning a project involving it with HGTV, one of their subsidiaries. Details about the project have yet to emerge. According to the Times, the show was shot on a studio lot, not in the Studio City, California, house. Only the exterior was actually used. In what may come as a disappointment, the interiors never resembled those depicted on the show, but, according to photos on the realtor Douglas Elliman's site, they have been maintained in period style. The sellers apparently wanted to find a buyer who would maintain and preserve the iconic house in lieu of developing the 12,500-square-foot lot. According to CNN, the sale price has not been announced, but the starting price is listed by Douglas Elliman as $1.885 million.
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Historic California ghost town sold on Friday the 13

As luck would have it, the ghost town of Cerro Gordo near the Mojave Desert 200 miles north of Los Angeles sold to a group of L.A.-based investors on Friday the 13th. The price was $1.4 million. The 300-acre town is located east of the city of Lone Pine on the western slope of the Inyo Mountains and comes complete with twenty-two structures, including a hotel, saloon, museum, chapel, several single-family homes, and an eight-bed bunkhouse, according to the Los Angeles Times. Silver was discovered in the hills surrounding the site in 1865, according to sources, prompting a rush of prospectors to the area. At its height, the town of Cerro Gordo had a population of around 5,000 and its steady stream of silver-loaded mule trains was known as the “Silver Thread” connecting the high desert communities to L.A. The town quickly dwindled in size and significance after the collapse of silver prices in 1877. More recently, the ghost town was owned by a private family that has opened up the site for tours and visitors. In selling the property, the owners were looking to secure a buyer who would continue the practice. The group of like-minded buyers includes investors with backgrounds in hosteling, public relations, marketing, and entertainment. The hope is that the town can continue to welcome visitors and potentially expand to include new uses like overnight accommodations as well as arts and social programming. Brent Underwood, founder of youth hostel HK Austin and one of the buyers for the project told SFGate, "We want to maintain the historic nature of the property while introducing amenities that will allow more people to enjoy this piece of American history. We have spent a lot of time with the current owners and caretaker to learn the history of the place. I've read all the books I can find on the town. I can't express our excitement to be able to continue the care of this beautiful location." The sale comes as off-beat destinations grow in popularity among the Millennial demographic, with vintage, historic, and recreational marijuana-themed accommodations among the most sought-after. Investors in L.A. and other major cities are taking note of the trend, and fanning out into rural and wilderness areas in search of new opportunities.
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Gensler-designed soccer stadium in California brings fans close to the game

The new Gensler-designed Banc of California Stadium opened for its inaugural Major League Soccer season in late April, ushering in Los Angeles’s first new open-air sports and entertainment venue since the debut of Dodgers Stadium in 1962. The 22,000-seat arena is designed with intimacy in mind: No seat in the stadium is farther than 135 feet from the field, with those closest sitting just 12 feet from the action. The arrangement of steeply raked seating and close proximity to the game is meant to create a closer connection between players and fans in the manner of European-style gameplay, according to Gensler.
The buoyant-looking complex is built on a concrete base and is topped by slender, 45-foot-tall steel section canopies. Draped between these structural elements are 190,000 square feet of translucent ETFE fabric to provide cover from L.A.’s sometimes brutal sun while still allowing enough sunlight through so that grass can grow on the pitch. The complex—chock-full of pedestrian-oriented plazas, viewing and celebration terraces, and restaurants—connects directly to newly landscaped areas designed by Studio-MLA.
Banc of California Stadium 3939 S Figueroa Street Los Angeles Tel: 323-648-6060 Architect: Gensler
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Dreyfuss + Blackford's historic power station conversion breaks ground in Sacramento

The $50 million Powerhouse Science Center, a Beaux Arts style power plant redevelopment project in Sacramento, California, has broken ground. Helmed by Sacramento-based Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture (D+B), the project takes the riverfront power station and reimagines it as regional science and educational center. Some of the redevelopment includes rehabilitating the former Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Power Station B, a power station sitting on the banks of the Sacramento River. The renovation aims to highlight the original use of the building, as well as the technological advances of energy production in the early 20th century. “In 1912, the PG&E Power Station B brought a backup source of electricity - something very new and technologically advanced - to the Sacramento region,” said Jason A. Silva, a design principal with D+B, in ENR California. “This concept of advanced technology is what inspires the placement and concept of the Powerhouse Science Center.” The original structure was designed in 1912 by architect Willis Polk during Sacramento’s recovery from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and was once the largest power plant north of San Francisco. It closed in 1954 and was declared a Superfund site in 1986 due to a high concentration of heavy metals in the soil. The adaptive reuse project covers 53,100 square-feet, including 22,800 square-feet of new space, to convert the structure into a Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) center. There will also be a two-story addition that protrudes from the east side of the power station, containing main circulation, classrooms, offices, a café, and a 120-seat planetarium that rises above the building. Further work is being done to the building envelope, which is undergoing stabilization of the existing reinforced concrete and steel. A new intermediate floor will be added inside the historic structure for additional exhibition space. All of the renovations for the center are aimed towards a LEED Silver rating. The project is scheduled for completion in 2020.
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A feast of architectural ducks abound in the latest edition of "California Crazy"

The third edition of Jim Heimann’s California Crazy from TASCHEN asks what happens when you build out a new city in the car-crazy age of the early 20th century. The result? A freethinking (and wheeling) design style that cut ties with the past and dropped giant owls, ice cream cones, and hot dogs across the desert landscape. Southern California, according to Heimann, has always been a land of roadside attractions, movie lots, amusement parks and attention-grabbing style. The rebar-and-plaster animals made for movie sets gradually became larger as roadside businesses, looking for ways to lure in customers whizzing by at high speeds, constructed buildings to be seen from a distance, but also act as attractions in and of themselves. The access to cheap land and loose (or no) zoning let builders in the 1920s and beyond build increasingly fantastical buildings as well as mini-golf courses and life-sized recreations of historically famous buildings. The core premise was always to entertain and attract, even if the results drew scorn from architectural critics. But over time, the conglomeration of “buildings that look like other things” across Hollywood and Los Angeles created their own architectural vernacular, one that eventually spread east to cities like Las Vegas. California Crazy also includes David Gebhard’s essay, in which he defines the relation this language has to the automobile and “normal” domestic architecture. The original version of California Crazy was published in 1980, but our fascination with fanciful architecture seems like more than a passing fad. Buildings like NBBJ’s Big Basket or the giant chest of drawers in North Carolina continue to draw attention, and in California Crazy, Heimann breaks down exactly why we still find them so intriguing.
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Morphosis unveils striated, sculptural design for Orange County Museum of Art

Morphosis has unveiled renderings for a new 52,000-square-foot facility for the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) in Newport Beach, California.

The new museum complex has been in the making for decades under various designs by several architecture firms; the current proposal represents the third design put forth by the Culver City-based architects. The Morphosis-designed proposal, once built, will increase exhibition space at OCMA by 50 percent, compared with the museum’s current location, according to the Los Angeles Times. Plans call for the complex to include: 25,000 square feet of dedicated exhibition space, 10,000 square feet of multipurpose, educational, and performances spaces, and a sculpture terrace with capacity for 1,000 occupants.  The proposal aims to stitch together an existing cultural campus in the Pacific Ocean-adjacent enclave that already contains a concert hall and repertory among other uses by activating and extending a grand pedestrian plaza located on the site with a monumental staircase inspired by the steps at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, according to Thom Mayne, principal and founder of Morphosis.  The museum, tucked into a hillside beside the staircase, would connect a lower plaza marked by a vertically oriented, Richard Serra-designed sculpture with the new sculpture plaza located atop the stairs. The upper plaza will hold another large sculptural element, according to the renderings. A linear tree promenade will extend horizontally from the upper plaza over the southern edge of the site, cantilevering over ground floor areas. Under the current proposal, roughly 70 percent of the site will be left open or contain public outdoor spaces.  Inside the complex, a variety of multi-functional public spaces like a public amphitheater and flexible gallery spaces will invite the public into the building. Renderings of these spaces depict multi-story volumes framed in glass and striated paneling, with sky-bridges and monumental stairs carving through many of the spaces.  The striated, shape-shifting structure will among be the final components of the arts complex in the city and is being planned with a future 10,000-square-foot expansion in mind. As such, its design will reflect the urban nature of the complex site, according to the designers. Plans call for OCMA to vacate its existing facilities this fall, with temporary facilities opening in 2019 nearby. Construction on the new museum is slated to begin in 2019 with the complex expected to be complete by 2021. 
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California could require all new homes to install solar panels

On Wednesday May 9, the California Energy Commission will vote on whether or not to require solar panels on new homes. The standard is expected to pass and would apply to all single and multi-family homes up to three stories tall as of January 2020. Exceptions will be made for shaded structures or in situations where it is impractical to install panels and offsets can be used for other solutions, such as re-charging batteries like Tesla’s Powerwall. Homes will not have to reach net-zero status (that is, relying completely on the solar panels for all energy), but is still expected to San Francisco already requires solar panels on all new buildings under 10 stories tall—statewide about 15 to 20 percent of new single family homes rely on solar energy. As California is the world’s fifth largest economy, the massive sales-boost that would result in this measure should not only lower the cost of solar panels in the state, but across the U.S. Installing solar panels will make it approximately $25,000 to $30,000 more expensive to build homes than those built under the 2006 code. However, homeowners are expected to save $50,000 to $60,000 over 25 years. While some have pointed out that this could make California’s housing shortage situation even more dire by raising housing costs, the energy–saving benefits (and California’s increasingly wealthy population) may outnumber the naysayers. This is the most recent of California’s sustainability measures as it continues to push toward a more environmentally friendly future, including filing a lawsuit against the EPA from lowering vehicle emission standards.
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Kanye West reveals Axel Vervoordt home collaboration during tweetstorm

Divisive rapper Kanye West has been on a tweeting spree lately, and just dropped a series of photos from the Hidden Hills, California, house that West has been collaborating on with Belgian interior designer Axel Vervoordt. West had been taken to task earlier in the day by Twitter users after the rapper professed his love for Donald Trump (and earned a retweet from the president in the process). In response, and to prove that he wasn’t in the “sunken place,” West released a suite of photos of his and wife Kim Kardashian’s 15,000-square-foot home, currently undergoing an interior renovation. Vervoordt’s influence can definitely be felt throughout; the designer is known for his use of light, raw materials, and a washed-out color palette to highlight a space’s structural qualities. The polished concrete floors, vaulted ceilings, and long sightlines will likely highlight West’s art once the renovation is complete (it's estimated that West and Kardashian have already spent $20 million on the project). While the team-up might seem like an odd choice, West and Vervoordt seem to have formed a bond based on art. West recently interviewed the designer for The Hollywood Reporter, and repeatedly expressed his admiration for Vervoordt’s ability to evoke emotion from a space. “It was an immediate connection,” said Vervoordt. “I could feel that you were really in love with things. Even if people think we come out of two different worlds, the act of meeting makes one another stronger. You were so spontaneous, totally true and intense. Now we're working on a house together, and I've learned from you because you have great taste. We talk about things, we change things.”