For Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter, associate dean at Woodbury University School of Architecture, director of WUHO Gallery, and co-founder of [WROAD], architectural practice and education are inextricably intertwined. Wahlroos-Ritter, who joins moderator Alexander Korter (CO Architects) and co-presenters Michael Fox (Cal Poly Pomona), Quinyun Ma (USC), and Neil Denari (UCLA) in a panel on "Facade Education: Preparing Future Practitioners for True Performance" at next month's Facades+ LA conference, first taught at Cornell University after her work as project architect on the Corning Museum of Glass attracted the school's attention. That initial seminar, on the innovative use of glass in building envelopes, helped her carve out a professional niche in the field and also led to an appointment at Yale. At the time, recalled Wahlroos-Ritter, Yale did not offer courses like hers—neither classes on glass, specifically, nor on the intersection of architecture and engineering more generally. "That has changed a lot, [especially] when I think back on when I went to school," she said. The contemporary accreditation process, for one thing, "has elevated the need for systems integration," explained Wahlroos-Ritter. While in the past it had not been unusual for students and faculty from other disciplines to consult on student work, she said, "to rely on engineers to complete a project is new." Her students' relationship to technology like the performance simulation platform Autodesk Ecotect Analysis has also evolved since Wahlroos-Ritter began teaching. "Students are conversant with Ecotect as part of learning BIM," said Wahlroos-Ritter. "That's something I'm seeing more and more in curricula." Meanwhile, students gain hands-on experience in fabrication by building mock-ups of building envelope components. "I think in some ways the academy is leading that part of the conversation," said Wahlroos-Ritter. "Students are learning tools that aren't necessarily part of the trade. Many senior architects don't have the skills these students do." Wahlroos-Ritter relishes her job molding young minds. "For me, one of the exciting moments is the epiphany where students begin to see systems as an intrinsic part of design" rather than something to consider as a postscript, she said. "I talk about Louis Sullivan a lot. He considered the building a living, breathing organism—then everybody forgot about it, of course. I think there's a renewed appreciation for the role building systems can have in the perceptual narrative of a building." Catch up with Wahlroos-Ritter and other facade educators, designers, fabricators, builders, and researchers at Facades+ LA January 28–29. Register today on the conference website.
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Facades+ Los Angeles co-chairs Kevin Kavanagh and Alexander Korter hope to shake things up when the acclaimed conference series returns to Southern California in January. Senior associate and associate principal, respectively, at CO Architects, Kavanagh and Korter have rethought the event in terms of architecture as process—a theme that also captures their personal approach to design. "Architecture is about managing and manipulating various drivers and influencers in order to enhance and inform design inspiration," explained Kavanagh. "It's a creative discipline, but a lot of the external drivers—cost, quality, owners' preferences—are as much a part of the design process. They shouldn't be looked at as restrictions, but are ultimately things to work off, that will make [the design] better." In other words, said Korter, Facades+ LA's content will revolve around "bringing process into [architecture], bringing performance into it as an equal partner in designing good, long-term sustainable buildings." The structure of the event reflects this approach. For the day-long symposium, Kavanagh and Korter worked to balance keynote presentations—which Korter characterizes as "more inspirational, design-driven in traditional terms"—with panels—to be "much more discussion-based, topic-based, and maybe less about case studies." Questions posed to and by the panelists may include, for instance, how owners view high-performance facades, and how best to make full and good use of available data streams. "The presentations look backwards, because they're about work that's been accomplished," added Kavanagh. "With the panels, we're asking, 'What's next?' We're taking it out of design and asking, 'What should facades do?'" "If the presentations are an inspiration and the panels are about areas of interest—very specific points of view—then the workshops are all about implementation," explained Kavanagh. "The ideal is that the attendees get something very concrete that they can take right into their day-to-day practice." The workshop offerings on day 2 of Facades+ LA will include deep dives into subjects including commissioning; what role facades play in boosting environmental performance; narratives of project execution; and the development of low-cost, high-performance curtain wall systems. Kavanagh and Korter quip that their relaxed yet dynamic approach to architecture (and conference planning) may not immediately appeal to Type-A AEC industry professionals. But in the end, they remain convinced that a fresh take will benefit all Facades+ LA participants, from architects to fabricators, builders, engineers, building owners, and academics. "Hopefully there is a little bit of chaos that will make it more fun, a little looser," said Kavanagh. For more information on Facades+ LA, visit the conference website. Check back often for up-to-date information on the symposium agenda and workshop offerings.
The NEXT Conference, sponsored by the AIA San Francisco, just concluded its first year, and The Architect’s Newspaper was there moderating two panels. Day one convened in a historic bayside dock transformed into a children’s Exploratorium. We moderated a session on the urban planning concept of "Placemaking" that featured David Burney, Jennifer Wolch, and two "makers," Anisha Gade and Sue Mark of the firm Marksearch. This relatively new way of thinking about planning, particularly marginalized and rapidly transforming the space of the city, is making inroads into city planning circles and art academies and joining these two practices. David Burney just launched the first academic Placemaking program in the country at Pratt Institute and described how the practice is training students to link policy to the use and ownership of public space. Jennifer Wolch Dean of the College of Environmental Design at Berkeley was more critical and nuanced about Placemaking. She wondered what happens when the makers leave a place and move on to another site? Might this practice inevitably be, Wolch wondered, just another gentrifying agent in an already rapidly changing neighborhood? The two Placemakers Gade and Mark presented their latest North Oakland project, Communities Crossing, that attempts to “reveal a community in search of its identity.” Follow-up questions debated various aspects of the practice but left the gentrification issue unresolved on the table. The audience and panelists from earlier sessions seemed thrilled to be in the company of other practitioners, so the harder questions about the long-term impact of the practice were not addressed. The second day of the conference moved to the sagging modernist San Francisco County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park. In a session labeled "Business," we moderated a panel, Architects & Social Media, with Kenneth Caldwell, Amanda Walter, and architect Mark English. Caldwell a communications consultant to architects argued that designer featured profiles in traditional or “earned” media are difficult to come by and that today most architects would be better served to have a social media strategy targeted to their existing networks. This he considers professional “owned media.” But he argued content in these media streams should be delivered personally to key those contacts nurtured over many years. Walter was more direct. She wrote the book Social Media in Action: Comprehensive Guide for Architecture, Engineering, Planning and Environmental Consulting Firms, which is the bible for design firms trying to figure out marketing. Water claimed they should “consider what issues and challenges their potential clients are looking for online and then develop and share content that helps them." Mark English, a San Francisco architect who specializes in single-family homes and entertainment projects, spends 10 hours a week promoting his practice on various social media sites. He also claimed that he has gotten four major projects in the last year from his personal blog posts and other media posts. This session had a flurry of audience responses and questions to these media professionals from both older architects trying to understand this media landscape and young designers just starting out and wanting to know how to position their firms. Created by the earned media, this panel highlighted the difficulties of owned media. The NEXT Conference was lightly attended and suffered from being staged in two venues (each with its own problems) across the city, but hopefully the organizers will learn from this first event and give San Francisco the professional conference it deserves "NEXT" year.
A prominent Los Angeles foodie with a taste for architecture tipped us off that Eric Owen Moss’ steel-wrapped Waffle building would soon be the home of a new restaurant. But don’t expect any breakfast items on the menu. We’re told that the plan is for a high-end, 24-seat chef's table–style joint. Ask the sommelier for the corkage fee on BYO-syrup.
Cao Fei: Shadow Plays The Mistake Room 1811 E. 20th St., Los Angeles Through November 21, 2015 Cao Fei’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, Shadow Plays, features a chaotic conglomerate of contemporary urban forms in Chinese life. Focusing on the obscurities, Fei’s work offers a surreal sideways glance at China’s rapid development. Utopian and dystopian universes exist in her video and “Second Life” artworks, representing the hypothetical extremities to which China is susceptible as a product of growth and potential collapse. Pop-culture references punctuate Shadow Plays, intertwining developmental, cultural, psychological, and economic shifts in her home country. Fei adds an overriding sense of playfulness to the situation. The almost childlike arrangement and oversaturation of components makes the dystopian undertones of her work all the more disturbing, amplifying the fact that, like children, we are all perhaps powerless to the external forces being exhibited on and in China today.
Going to the AIA/LA Design Awards is a totally different experience when you’ve been on the jury, as I was this year. For one, you get to see the entire spectrum of the awards program, the behind-the-scenes production and the staging of what seemed like a thousand projects flashing before you in a darkened room. Not only do you have the heavy responsibility of judging all of these, but also you then have to champion and defend the ones that really speak to you. There was a lot of debate and discussion—and even some yelling and throwing of chairs involved. And probably way too much caffeine. The best part about being on the jury was to finally see and meet the people behind all the winning entries, whether unbuilt Next LA projects, where propositions about cities and buildings moved the bar a few notches higher, or the built projects that make people think twice about what architecture is and can be, was gratifying beyond simple description. Of course, in the back of my mind, were all those projects that didn’t make the cut, some of my personal favorites. Overall, what I came away with was an excitement about the state of architecture right now. While it might seem obvious, the awards remind you that there are so many different ways of thinking about and doing this, so many ways of shaping environments that impact people on multiple levels. From the awards ceremony at the Aratani Theater in Little Tokyo, the crowd shuttled and walked—I think Alissa Walker, winner of the Design Advocate Award, did in fact walk—to the dinner reception at the A+D Museum’s new digs in the adjacent Arts District. If I had to measure the awards in decibels, the loudest cheers and applause definitely went to Sarah Lorenzen, Chair at Cal Poly Pomona, who won the Educator Award. “I guess it’s good to be a teacher,” joked AIA/LA president Ted Hyman of ZGF Architects, who presented the Presidential Awards. One of the best moments of the night had to have been Steven Ehrlich’s heartfelt and genuine speech after he was presented with the Gold Medal. He spoke to the core of the discipline and profession. “At every step in my practice I’ve been blessed with the most talented and congenial collaborators and courageous clients that anyone could wish for,” said Ehrlich. His speech was all about “we.” And truly, that’s what design is all about.
We live in a listicle age. Why write an article when you can clump a few names together and call it a trend? So when Los Angeles Magazine listed six women who have changed the face of Los Angeles architecture, which included one dead AIA Gold Medalist and two New Yorkers, it was bound to create outcry. Brava to the three local gals who made the cut, but let’s celebrate all the women of the L.A. architecture and design scene. When local schools put one lady on the lecture series and pat themselves on the back, we know more needs to be done for gender equity.
With backing from developers Related California, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is moving forward with a new residential tower project at 1500 Mission Street and South Van Ness in the Bay Area of San Francisco. Reaching 39 floors, the tower will hold 560 apartments which will each have an average area of around 730 square feet, replacing the Goodwill Industries currently on site. According to The San Francisco Business Times, 112 of the 560 units are expected to be designated affordable housing spaces available at below the market rates. In an effort to retain the site's heritage, the scheme plans to incorporate the Coca Cola Bottling Plant Clock Tower into its design—a pre-existing feature that was iconic to the site. Also included in the project will be 24,000 square feet of retail and 450,000 square feet of office space of which the clock tower would be integrated into one of the entrances.
A skinny hotel is set to rise in Downtown Los Angeles’ historic core. Designed by Buffalo, New York–based Adam Sokol Architecture Practice (asap) for developer Lizard Capital, the new Spring Street Hotel will tower 325-feet over the street and feature 176 guest rooms. At 28-stories, the design introduces tallness to an area that's currently mid-rise area, but not for long. Renderings of the project, which was recently submitted to the Los Angeles Department of City Planning, shows a tower sandwiched between two historic structures. The design offers a conservative grid up until the halfway point. Things get squirrely once the building clears the height of the adjacent buildings: the facets appear and the geometry opens up to reveal large interior volumes, which could associated with the planned 3,310-square-foot rooftop bar. Other amenities include a 6,100 square restaurant, 1,570 square feet for retail, and a 1,250 square feet conference center. The Spring Street Hotel is expected to break ground late next year and is aiming for a 2017–18 opening.
When the discussion for Los Angeles Recreation & Parks to give Live Nation the contract to manage The Greek Theatre were scuttled earlier this year, it was unclear what would come of the proposed modernization of the 5,900-seat venue by Rios Clementi Hale Studios. Word from inside the office says the project is moving forward with new designs to come, even as Pennsylvania-based SMG looks poised to win the event management contract.
News broke last week that Apple plans to move into another spaceship of a building, the Central & Wolfe Campus in Sunnyvale, California designed by HOK. The Silicon Valley Business Journal reported that the company leased the 777,000-square-foot building just a few miles from its Norman Foster–designed, doughnut-shaped HQ and praised the curvilinear design for its non-box-like silhouette. The HOK and Landbank project, which has been on AN’s radar since 2014, uses its curves to give employees (Apple will house up to 4,000 here) better visual and physical access to the outdoors. The 18-acre site includes 9 acres of ground-level open space with 2 miles of outdoor trails and 90,000-square-foot rooftop garden. There are no plans as yet for a viewing platform for the curious public. “It was critical that every major design element that went into the campus had to raise the user experience bar. In this case, the ‘users’ include companies, their employees, surrounding communities, and Mother Nature,” Scott Jacobs, CEO of Landbank, told AN Back in May 2014. In the same piece, Paul Woodford, HOK's senior VP and director of design, noted that the firm had to challenge preconceptions about what is “leasable, efficient, and excitable.” The bet paid off. The Apple lease does raise the question of whether the HOK design will remain part of the deal. Real estate reporter for the Journal wrote: “One caveat: It’s unclear whether the project will be built according to that design, from architecture firm HOK, or if Apple and Landbank will want to modify it in some way. At this time there’s no indication it will change substantially, and indeed Landbank has made the signature look a key selling point, with a website that highlights the out-of-the-box design.”