Posts tagged with "Columbia University":

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Archi-Tron

As architecture grows more technical and technologically dependent, it can become harder for designers to navigate the sea of new programs and computer code. Columbia University GSAPP professor David Benjamin is here to help, offering a panel discussion Monday night about the future of computing and design, “Post Parametric 2: Demo.” The program is the second event in a series that brings expert programmers and researchers together, providing a unique opportunity for architects to learn from people outside their profession. “The first event last fall, "Post Parametric 1: Data," focused on how our new era of massive data might affect computing and design,” Benjamin said in an email. “Monday’s event involves five innovators demonstrating new technologies and speculating on the future directions for computing and design.” The event, which is co-sponsored by the Columbia Department of Computer Science, aims to enliven dialogue about the relationship between computation and design. Benjamin believes that by creating a sustained discussion about issues of technology, a complex, insightful dialogue will develop. The subject matter of the discussion will address current technologies but will primarily look to the future by bringing upcoming innovations to the table. “By future, I mean near future,” Benjamin said. “The series addresses how we might be designing in architecture in ten years.”
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Manhattanville Ho!

Last month's court victory for opponents of Columbia University's new campus in Manhattanville was not necessarily a defeat for the school's planned 17-acre expansion, and not only because appeals remain. With roughly 94 percent of the area under its control, Columbia has said it plans to continue work on the campus, despite its insistence that it cannot be completed as planned without full control of all buildings therein. Last night, Columbia officials outlined their current approach to Manhattanville for the first time since the ruling at a hearing in Harlem on the future of eminent domain in the state (more on that in Issue 1!). After an hour-and-a-half of grilling the ESDC—the state agency responsible for pursuing eminent domain on Columbia's behalf— State Senator Bill Perkins, in whose district the project lies, set his sights on Marcello Valez, the head of construction for the Manhattanville project at Columbia, and Maxine Griffith, a former planner who is now in-charge of government affairs at the school. The pair were evasive on many issues surrounding eminent domain and the court case—technically, they are responsible for neither—but they outlined their utility, demolition, and construction work that has been ongoing for a few months now. Most notably, 3229 Broadway continues to come down. It was the former building of Ann Whitman, one of the last remaining hold outs who eventually sold to the school in 2008 because she said she could no longer afford to fight. Her plot and an adjacent gas station will soon become home to the Jerome L. Greene Science Center, a major neuroscience project that, at the corner of 129th Street and Broadway, is supposed to be one of the new campus' centerpieces. Work will also soon commence on an art building also on the block and, perhaps most importantly, the entry to the subterranean "bathtub," that, World Trade Center-style, will house most of the campus' infrastructure. The bathtub remains a crucial piece of the Manhattanville puzzle because it is part of the justification for seizing the remaining properties. "If the basement can't connect, it would be difficult to see how the project could move forward," Griffith said, arguing the campus would be much less pedestrian friendly and community accessible with trucks idling on the street and HVAC spewing into the air. (A member of the Coalition to Preserve Community, a local opposition group, argued it was all a planning ruse, with the school fully able to build around the holdouts.) As for timing, Valez said that, despite the court case, everything remains on time, which is part of the reason construction work must continue on those properties controlled by Columbia. (That and the donors are old and would like to see something built while they're still alive, Griffith admitted somewhat cheekily.) As for architecture, Renzo Piano is nearing completion on final designs for these two buildings according to Victoria Benitez, a university spokesperson in attendance last night, though no renderings are yet available. She declined to say whether the Genoan architect would be designing the rest of the buildings on campus or whether some might go to other firms.
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Man of Metal

Last night Rafael Moneo, Madrid-based architect and Harvard Graduate School of Design professor, kicked off Columbia’s third annual conference on architecture, engineering, and materials with a keynote lecture on his Northwest Corner Building, a new interdisciplinary science facility between Chandler and Pupin halls. This year’s conference is titled Post Ductility: Metals in Architecture and Engineering, and though Moneo’s building isn’t scheduled to be completed until the fall of next year, there may not have been a better time to discuss its materials or its contribution to the campus. Unfinished, the building can be seen as the engineering marvel that it is, with 300 tons of structural trusses enabling it to float above the gym beneath it. (Here's a video we posted of them being installed.) Fitting neatly with the conference’s theme, Moneo’s discussion of interpreting what McKim, Mead, and White would have wanted for a New York campus in this century presented the building as less of a departure and more of an entrance. To critics who would say the building doesn’t meld with the university’s architecture, he cautioned, “Use of a material doesn’t guarantee the true continuity you are looking for.” The Post Ductility conference runs through Friday and will conclude with a discussion by GSAPP dean Mark Wigley, and Werner Sobek, Steven Holl, and Matthias Schuler. Next year's conference theme is slated to be Polymers: Plastics in Architecture and Engineering.

In Turner We Truss

My In Detail article in the current issue covers Rafael Moneo's Northwest Corner Building at Columbia University. In addition to filling the final vacancy in the 1890 McKim, Mead & White master plan, the building had to bridge a subterranean recreation center with a 120-foot clear span. In answer, Moneo—along with executive architect Davis Brody Bond Aedas and structural engineer Arup—designed the building's steel framing system as one big truss, with diagonal members bolstering the perimeter moment frame. The majority of the gravity loads, however, are supported by three gargantuan trusses that run the length of the building four levels above the street. These trusses are so big and heavy that Turner Construction had to assemble them on site, on a shed built above the sidewalk, and then slide them into place. The above stop-action video was also assembled by the construction manager, documenting its elegant solution to this seriously heavy erection.

Sachs on Sustainability

Jeffrey Sachs, the charismatic director of the Columbia University Earth Institute, gave a moving speech last night at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation on the environmental problems that are unique to our time. Sachs, free-market economist turned green evangelist and a special adviser to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, spoke on the objectives of the Institute: ending extreme poverty, maintaining the health of the ecosystem, promoting peace and shared prosperity, and advancing humanist aesthetics. Personally, it made me feel like we are at a point where each of our actions counts, especially in our role as architects, designers, and planners. Technology has allowed us to sew great damage, but it may also enable us to heal the planet. Much of Sachs’s talk dealt with what he calls “eco-tectonics,” that is the changing economic plates. The rise of Asia, or the “rise of the rest” as Fareed Zakaria calls it in The Post-American World, enabled by the new technological capacity of developing countries, is not only accelerating the human impact on the environment, but filling in power gaps. Using the current financial crisis as an example, Sachs explained how everything can go wrong in a world in which we don’t fully comprehend the interactions of the different mechanisms at play, were interconnectedness is playing a stronger role than ever, and chain reactions make local problems global. When he pointed out that the presidential campaign was focused on Middle Class voters, who were decisive to win the election, and poverty issues were hardly tackled, I couldn’t help but translate it to our profession: Architecture, like politics, is focused on those able to make the commissions, and not on those who really need of clever and groundbreaking ideas delivered on a low budget. In a profession that is crowded by battles of egos, and where formally adventurous buildings compete to stand out, there is a need for deeper thought and less aimless aesthetics. We are living in a time in which technology and communications make it possible for a designer in New York to extrude a nearly ready made skyscraper in the middle of Beijing, disregarding any possible impact that it may have not only to the immediate surroundings, but also on the environment. It is a time in which the architectural profession needs to re-examine how it applies global solutions to regional contexts, and in the same way be mindful about the local affecting the big picture. What does building green truly mean? Sustainability is not just about adding solar panels to old designs and using solvent-free paints. Truly green design requires understanding the intricate social, economical and political interactions as well as the physical conditions of our cities to prepare them for the overpopulation of the future. Even though we have learned from the disasters of tabula rasa projects of the 60s and 70s, it is not a matter of romanticizing existing conditions, which is often are unacceptable, but a question of sensitive political, cultural, and aesthetic action and interaction as an essential part of responsible practice.