This year’s Monterey Design Conference (MDC), held from October 25 through 27 was hot and crowded. With over 900 registrants, the main hall was packed, and the overflow lounged in comfortable chairs in the chapel. There was music around the campfire, and for the first time in my memory, marijuana smoked openly. The bar was in full swing. It was the "partiest" MDC in ages. As David Hecht, the new chair of the MDC committee told me, they hoped that each participant could find their own theme—this time, it felt like “Humility Not Spectacle.” Many architects mentioned inspirations, teachers, and mentors. On Friday, October 25, the first headliner was Alberto Kalach of TAX/Taller de Arquitectura X in Mexico City. He set the tone with humor, humility, self-effacement, and beauty. As Kalach said, “We are the canvas of the planet” and advocated reconnecting vegetation and water systems to create integrated cities. Kalach moved on to show some of his best-known projects, including his own office building and his controversial "hanging" library in Mexico City (a concept recently mimicked by the renovation of Cornell's Mui Ho Fine Arts Library). Like much of Kalach's work, it felt as if the structure has grown out of the garden. Every project Kalach shared integrated nature in a way most Californians advocate, but don’t often achieve in practice. Mark Cavagnero, one of the luminaries of the Bay Area scene, linked his personal story to his architectural one. Edward Larrabee Barnes was Cavagnero’s mentor and early employer, and Barnes was one of Marcel Breuer’s students. Cavagnero knew some of Breuer’s Connecticut homes as a child, as well as the Torin Building, where Cavagnero’s father worked. These early lessons in what Cavagnero calls “the long, low line” still hold. Cavagnero’s presentation was humble and precise, similar to his buildings. One of my favorite Cavagnero projects is the subtle renovation of the Oakland Museum of California, originally designed by 20th-century modernist Kevin Roche. Cavagnero inserted alterations that could be easily identified yet support the original concept. While most of Cavagnero’s horizontal buildings have very developed ideas about space, light, and a limited palette, he is just beginning to apply his reductive and horizontal approach to larger scales. The San Francisco Public Safety Campus he designed with HOK looks a little tough. More recently, with SOM, he has helped turn the bland Moscone Convention Center into something more distinctive. Following this lecture was the surprise announcement of the 2019 Maybeck Medal, bestowed to another San Francisco modernist, Jim Jennings, who received a well-deserved standing ovation. Saturday’s first speaker, Yvonne Farrell of Grafton Architects in Dublin, Ireland, stole the show. Along with her partner Shelley McNamara, Farrell has picked up the modernist mantle and moved it forward with gentle good humor. Although their powerful buildings are not exactly humble, they read as humane. Farrell cited Jørn Utzon as one of her influences, beginning with his porch in Mallorca. One of Farrell's main themes was architecture as the new geography, the container of our lives. Like Cavagnero, she does not use context as a pattern for replication but as inspiration for new forms, shaped with light and space. Saturday’s second headliner, Brian MacKay-Lyons, is another architect of place. One of his memorable phrases was “buildings hung from the horizon.” Although his approach is very different from Cavagnero’s, he faces a similar challenge. How does one scale up? MacKay-Lyons sticks to some of his basic ideas of framing views and seeing light and air as free. But his larger buildings, although derived from place, don’t feel tucked in the way his smaller buildings do. He also cited Charles Moore as an influence. Moore seemed to hang over much of the conference like a guardian angel. Bob Harris of Lake|Flato knew Moore in Austin and mentioned the sparkle in his eye. More than the other presenters, Harris focused on his practice, how it was organized, and emphasized the value of collaboration. One of the core values of Lake|Flato’s practice is restraint, and this came across at a variety of scales. Charles Moore’s former business partner in San Francisco, Donlyn Lyndon, talked about their early years together at a session with architect and historian Pierluigi Serraino. Moore wanted architecture to create new kinds of spaces that enhanced the sense of place. It was a kind of humble position that he staked out. But as Lyndon said in his presentation, “he held onto the pencil,” which meant control. In addition to showing Moore’s hedonistic exuberance within his own small Orinda house, Lyndon presented images of the Hubbard House (1959) in Corral de Tierra. Lyndon also said something critically important about Moore: “He was thinking about the movement of the body,” a key thread in the work. Over drinks afterward, longtime MDC committee member David Meckel of California College of the Arts joked, “It was well into day two before we saw any parametric design!” That sums up the 2019 Monterey Design Conference pretty well.
Posts tagged with "conferences":
In November 2019, voices from the spheres of architecture, design, political science, cybernetics, sociology, urbanism, and curatorial practice assembled in Riga. Standing alongside a delegation of over four hundred from, and fresh to, the Latvian capital, Architecture of Migration—the first international conference of its kind—sought to open a fissure within which architecture in its broadest sense could be discussed through the lens of migration. “The world today is characterized by movement, speed, networks, connections,” declared Dina Suhanova and Dagnija Smilga. “It is a globe of constant circulation.” Against this backdrop, Suhanova and Smilga, both Riga-based architects and co-organizers of the event, advocated for their own understanding of architecture; an understanding that is quiet in its radicality. In their reading, architecture cannot be reduced to an inhabitable building. It is a system – the physical infrastructure of space, intangible connections, and a medium and prerequisite for movement. A central aim of the conference was to push recognition that architecture operates through, beyond, and without borders, that it is, and always has been, a natural process with varying social and spatial consequences. “Think of [this conference] as an exploded axonometric!” Smilga explained to the delegates. Organized around four scales: “The Nordic-Baltic region in the Crossroads of Global Mobilities”, “The Ecosystem of the Baltic Sea region: A Space Shared?”, “Beyond Intersections of Urban and Rural”, and “Current Responses to the Baltics in flux,” discussions were distilled from global concerns to regional conversations. These four chapters were bound together by a single spine: To build a platform for common understanding and to isolate opportunities between divergent actors. At the heart of this approach was a desire to seek out and identify future scenarios for the development of the "Baltic Space," a physical and conceptual territory encompassing Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Baltic Sea. The most evident pan-national parallels were drawn between the Nordic and Baltic regions, something not altogether unexpected given the area’s distant and recent past. Beginning formally in the 1990s, the Nordic Council (a body that fosters cooperation between Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and the autonomous islands of Åland) set its sights firmly on closer collaborations with the Baltic nations. This has resulted in an influx of investment. Coupled with a diversification of populations, closer ties with the Nordics has led to a gradual identity realignment. Nordic-Baltic relations go further back, however. In 2016, architects Jurga Daubaraitė and Jonas Žukauskas passed along a text written by the Lithuanian geographer and geo-politicist Kazys Pakštas. (Daubaraitė, Žukauskas, and Smilga were part of the nine-strong curatorial team that presented the first Baltic Pavilion at the 15th Biennale Architettura in Venice.) Published in English in 1944, The Baltoscandian Confederation envisioned a new supranational entity, eponymously named, comprising what we know today as Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. Pakštas prefaced this prospect with an urgency masked as an observation. “We are living in turbulent, but nevertheless interesting times,” he wrote. This decade has proved to be similarly turbulent for Europe and the region. In 2014, Russia illegally annexed Crimea and the E.U. discontinued regular bilateral summits as a result. Russia was excluded from the G8. Sanctions were initiated. For the Baltic states, each of which territorially border the Russian Federation (Lithuania does not border Russia’s western border, it does border the Kaliningrad Oblast) and stand as the easternmost flank of the European Union, recent events have heightened focus on what it means to be in the ‘East’ and what it means to be in the ‘West.’ And they are not alone. The Nordic region—Sweden, Norway, and Finland in particular—have also started to raise an eyebrow eastwards. In 2018, the Swedish government (diplomatically “neutral” and not a member of NATO) reissued a document titled If Crisis or War Comes (Om krisen eller kriget kommer), an informational pamphlet indicating that planning for the defense of the realm had been resumed after decades of demilitarisation. Many opportunities center on the Baltic Sea, and so follows tension. The Baltic is today considered less of an aquatic ecosystem (although it is, and is rapidly approaching the status of an oceanic dead zone) and more of a pool of infrastructure, movement, and mobility. If it had come to pass, Pakštas’s Baltoscandia would have likely become a nation of significant economic and geopolitical influence. From the low-lying lands of middle Europe to the arctic territories of the far north, the federation would have encircled and controlled access to the Baltic Sea. People of different cultures and languages would have been united under one aegis to form, in Pakštas’s own words, a “zone of smaller nations of common cultural interests and mutual sympathies.” In March 2004, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania became members of NATO. In May of the same year, they joined the European Union and become the first and so far only former states of the Soviet Union to have joined either supranational organization. Architecture of Migration opened with a discussion on this theme: the Nordic-Baltic region as a territory at the crossroads of global mobilities. During the opening session, a conversation took place between Kirsten Ritchie (Gensler), Ieva Ilves (adviser to the President of Latvia for Information and Digital Policy), and the researcher Justinien Tribillon (cofounder of Migrant Journal, a publication that culminated with its sixth volume earlier this year). Faced with a question on the role of national identity at a moment increasingly shaped and influenced by supranational forms of governance, Tribillon said: “I’m wondering what the [nation] state of tomorrow will look like, and therefore what the identity of tomorrow will look like.” The greater part of the conversations that took place were along similar lines. The discussion was fluid and underlying themes were often reminiscent of ideas that were put forward by the late sociologist and political philosopher Zygmunt Bauman. In 2016, in what was to be his final television interview, a conversation on Al-Jazeera centered on the mass migration and movement of people. Bauman contextualized the perceived ‘migration crisis’, as it was unhelpfully labeled at the time, as part of a crisis of fear and uncertainty. Exponential inequality, dysfunctional economies, increasing concern for the climate, the smelting of governments and institutions—their decreasing dependability, authority, and ability to follow through on their promises—have all contributed to the murky mess that we presently find ourselves wading through, he argued. With no single solution in sight, Bauman was pressed by the interviewer to contemplate a way out of the soup. His retort was simple; he advocated for empathy. “But,” he asserted, “and that is a big but, unfortunately [...], there is no instant solution. Dialogue is a long, long process.” Room for dialogue on issues as urgent, muddling, and wide-reaching as migration remain as hard to find today as they were in 2016. Architecture of Migration made enormous inroads to carve out space for discourse. It was, in many ways, a show-and-tell, a presentation of case studies that oscillated around themes of borders, land, identity, and geopolitics. Alongside presentations by architect and historian Ignacio G. Galán, architect and educator Sille Pihlak (PART), architects Petras Isora and Ona Lozuraityte (AIL), urbanist Keiti Kljavin, and urban researcher Mike Emmerik (Crimson Architectural Historians), Irene Stracuzzi’s project The Legal Status of Ice articulated the diplomatic firestorm currently faced by the Arctic region. At the center of a contentious territorial dispute, Canada, Denmark, Norway, the United States, and Russia all have claims (the latter laid theirs by planting a titanium flag on the seabed 14,000 feet below the North Pole, aided by a robotic submarine). Closer to home, Ivan Sergejev presented the Estonian town of Narva, where he is currently Chief City Architect. As one of the leading minds behind Narva’s European Capital of Culture 2024 bid, which it ultimately lost to Tartu, Sergejev took delegates through the latent potential that can be harnessed by way of conceptual projects. As Estonia’s most eastern township, only meters from the country’s border with Russia, its Russian-Estonian citizenry came together under the auspices of the bid and new life was injected into a place that, in recent years, had suffered from a post-industrial slump. A propositional presentation by Markus Schaefer, a partner of the Zürich-based studio for architecture, strategies, and research Hosoya Schaefer, put the concept of "Deep Urbanism" onto the table. Using Switzerland as a point of reference, Schaefer described a discipline of relationships that generate a complex system of people and their culture acting on equally as complex territories. For Schaeffer, cities cannot be seen as a solution to achieve a sustainable existence. Rather, they should be considered as a form of cultural technology that, in the same way as all technologies tend towards, can have both beneficial and adverse effects. The inherent and multifaceted depth of the city—a place of interaction and transformation, plus—must be recognized and, in so doing, utilized. Smilga and Suhanova had made clear their reasoning for the conference from the beginning. “We both believe that performing in the field of architecture is part of building surrounding culture,” they declared. Through the lens of architecture, a discipline and practice fundamentally tethered to the ways we live, work, move and belong, came an event that embraced an open-ended understanding of the topic it was seeking to address. The (perpetually) turbulent times that we are each a part of demands us to listen to one another more closely, and with more generosity. As we all move into the third decade of the new millennium, Architecture of Migration proved that space to exchange and reimagine the transforming and transformative role of architecture has a crucial role to play in the most formidable challenges—and opportunities—that we face. James Taylor-Foster is a writer, editor, and curator working in the fields of architecture, design, e-culture, and technology. He is the curator of contemporary architecture and design at ArkDes, Sweden’s national center for architecture and design, in Stockholm. He moderated a discussion at the Architecture of Migration conference.
Brought to you with support fromNow in its seventh year, the Facades+ Conference in Los Angeles was held on November 14 in the California Ballroom of the L.A. Grand Hotel and offered a wide range of lectures, symposia and networking opportunities for top professionals from the worlds of design, fabrication and construction. The subjects addressed over the course of the conference were sprawling to suit a wide range of interests yet unwaveringly focused on the importance of high-performance envelopes in the growth of cities, civic pride, and the reduction of the industry’s carbon footprint. The day began with an opening keynote lecture from Fokke Moerel, a partner at Dutch firm MVRDV, whose personal focus is on global public and cultural works, transformations, and interior design. Moerel's lecture, The Skin is the Message, elaborated on the unique challenges the firm has met developing unique facades in the pursuit of uncompromised architectural expression. Crystal Houses, for instance, featured an entirely transparent ground-floor glass facade made to appear like the brickwork common of buildings in its area of Amsterdam. By developing a novel technique for combining glass bricks, glass window frames, and glass architraves, the firm challenged the structural and aesthetic limits often assumed of the materials to “offer the store a window surface that contemporary stores need, while maintaining architectural character and individuality, resulting in a flagship store that hopes to stand out among the rest.” Moerel then highlighted the luxurious facade of the Bulgari flagship store MVRDV designed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which was developed in collaboration with Technical University Delft, with Tensoforma as the facade production team. To achieve the illusion of overscaled marble, Glass-Reinforced Concrete (GRC) was cut into a marble-like pattern, with its crevices filled in with resin and illuminated with LEDs. After her lecture, AN executive editor Matt Shaw joined Moerel on stage to moderate a discussion on the relationship between criticality and sense of humor present in the firm’s facade designs. A four-person panel, Reducing the City’s Carbon Footprint through Facade Design, elaborated on the role high-performance envelopes can play in the global initiative to reduce the industry’s carbon emissions. Given that the global building floor area is expected to grow to approximately two-and-a-half trillion square feet by 2060, more than double the current worldwide building stock, Fabian Kremkus of CO Architects advised members of the audience to “be willing to learn and get into the science” of sustainable construction techniques. The moderated conversation that followed considered how building manufacturers could develop methods that reduce material extraction, site demolition, manufacturing emissions, and the need for active heating and cooling within large-scale buildings. Michel Rojkind provided the afternoon keynote speech titled Transmutation: From Digital Design to Local Fabrication. “Where does craft sit in a world,” Rojkind asked the audience, “ruled by technology, and where digitized, mechanized fabrication is becoming more sophisticated?” He then elaborated on how he has employed hand craftsmanship “to slow things down” in his own practice, most notably with the Foro Boca concert hall in Veracruz, Mexico. Using a concrete facade “able to withstand and respond to the harsh conditions of the site,” the concert hall was constructed by a team of local dedicated craftsman.
For anyone who has attempted to drive across Los Angeles during rush hour, the future of urban mobility might not seem bright. Yet the organizers of CoMotion L.A. 2019, a two-day conference held this past November 14 and 15, provided both a progressive and realizable vision for what may come to an audience of over 2,000 people. Held at ROW DTLA, a recently-opened 30-acre complex in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles, the third annual CoMotion L.A. brought together global leaders, including Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti, Moovit CEO and co-founder Nir Erez, Deputy Mayor for Mobility for the City of Lisbon, Miguel Gaspar, and President of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, Matt Petersen, to discuss the newest forms of mobility and share their thoughts on a future that's less reliant on cars. The keynote conversation held on the first day, Reinventing Mobility, Transforming Place, elaborated on how the expansion of public mobility options might have a positive impact on real estate and civic space, and how we navigate through cities. Moderated by Frances Anderton, the host of KCRW’s Design and Architecture (DnA) show, the panel brought Grimshaw Architects' partner Andrew Byrne, chief marketing officer of REEF Technology Alan Cohen, and Chief Design Officer of the City of Los Angeles Christopher Hawthorne together to imagine how the static elements of Los Angeles’ infrastructure might be transformed into dynamic hubs of activity. Anderton and Hawthorne exchanged examples of successful pedestrian zones in the city’s history, while Byrne and Cohen shared how recent projects from their respective firms brought pedestrian infrastructure into the 21st century. On the second day, several 90-minute workshops were held for participants to imagine the future of urban mobility more intimately. Designing for Sustainability and Life Cycle Management, for example, shared visual aids and in-depth solutions to reducing the large carbon footprint associated with short-distance urban transit. Meanwhile, The Age of Automation panel, moderated by L.A. Times writer Russ Mitchell, brainstormed how vehicular autonomy might increase the speed, efficiency, and safety of urban travel while also debating the associated financial risks of investing in new technology. While the conference was taking place, a live demonstration of some of the same innovations being discussed was displayed on dedicated “new mobility” lanes that connected ROW DTLA and the L.A. Cleantech Incubator. These lanes provided a full half-mile of space for visitors to try out the latest in new mobility for themselves, including smart shuttles, electric scooters, e-bikes, hydrogen-powered vehicles, and other methods of clean-energy transportation. Though some of these vehicles had the air of concept designs, we all might be seeing them in common use throughout American cities in the very near future.
From October 18 through 20, students, architects, planners, politicians, and hordes of normal citizens all descended on Turin, Italy, to engage in talks, panels, workshops, and exhibitions at the third annual Utopian Hours festival. The name is a clever play on words; pulling the “nostra” from the middle of Torino Stratosferica, the nonprofit cultural body behind the event, results in “ours,” making the actual name of the festival more about imagining a utopian future for ourselves during that time. This year’s festival was held on the multipurpose campus of the Lavazza Coffee headquarters, offering ample space for the quickly growing event. Even before one entered La Centrale, a towering power-plant-turned-events-space, visitors were met with freestanding didactics featuring snippets of the ideas to expect within. Once inside, a sprawling exhibition floor presented visions of possible future Turins from local studios, as well as a series of low-cost placemaking interventions intended to be dropped in neighborhoods around the city. Upstairs, the festival’s organizers had set up a retrospective for the 100th birthday of Paolo Soleri, curated by Emanuele Piccardo, that tracked the Turin-born architect’s career and evolution in his thinking. Of course, civic engagement and the exchange of ideas were a central goal, and each of the festival’s three days began with activities to get participants involved. On Friday, that meant kicking off the event with a “Circular Economy Workshop” intended to make visitors brainstorm ideas for creating a more “circular,” sustainable Turin. On Saturday, Play the City started the day with an interactive workshop on using play and games to reimagine urban areas (the group would return with a presentation on their work in Amsterdam on Sunday), followed by a workshop on designing for the Turin of 2030, with the youth and elderly of the future in mind. Sunday changed things up with the chance to grab a more intimate breakfast with Jan Rudkiewicz of Werklig, the studio behind Helsinki’s rebranding; participants were encouraged to ask him about the intersection of culture within a city and institutional projects. The line-up was top-notch, as speakers from all over the world offered lectures and panels in both Italian and English. That included two mayors: Chiara Appendino, the mayor of Turin, who spoke at the “How is the Turin of our desires?” panel, and the current architect-turned-mayor of Bratislava, Slovakia, Matúš Vallo, who sat in conversation with Feargus O'Sullivan of CityLab for “How To Become The Mayor.” The shift in perspective throughout the festival, from discussions of institutional, top-down approaches to city-making, to how activists can make local, small-scale changes and advance their causes with grassroots support, provided comprehensive examples of how urban activists made people power work for them. Other discussions of note included a lecture from architectural photographer Iwan Baan on how to change one’s perception of the city, and how he approaches his work. Patrik Gustavsson of the Amager Bakke Foundation discussed the path to funding and ultimately realizing the skiable Copenhill in Copenhagen. AN web editor Jonathan Hilburg sat in conversation with Laurie Hawkinson of Smith-Miller + Hawkinson and Emily Bauer of Bau Land on how to “Make New York Livable Again,” no small task. With a mandate that big, the panel leaned heavily towards the topic of climate resiliency and flood mitigation; literally keeping the city livable. While New York is an international city and the myriad problems it faces are present in every large city, the task of informing a European city about the particulars of our own issues proved refreshing, if not daunting. One of the couldn’t-miss talks followed shortly after, as Alfredo Brillembourg of Urban-Think Tank (U-TT) delivered a fiery rebuke to the “one-size-fits-all” approach taken by many architects and urban thinkers today. Brillembourg ran down a list of the hyper-site-specific interventions U-TT had taken around the world in the last 20 years, including a cable car system through the slums of Caracas, Venezuela, and resident-led housing densification in the poorest parts of South Africa. Complementing the Soleri exhibition upstairs was what might be considered the centerpiece talk of Utopian Hours, “Paolo Soleri. From Turin to the desert,” a deep dive into the late architect’s utopian vision and thought process. Perhaps the most interesting additions to the festival, and the ones that elevate it above similar conferences, are the urban explorers. Three speakers who had never been to Turin before were invited to the city four days before the rest of the guests had arrived and given the chance to walk the city. Then, over separate days, they relayed what they had learned to festivalgoers and offered suggestions on what the city could do better. All three speakers were accompanied by flashy videos Torino Stratosferica had produced, tracking each urban explorer as they meandered around the city. Why were the urban explorers so important? Their inclusion lent the festival an “on-the-ground” feel, one of lived-in experience. It’s easy to research a place, but much more difficult to actually tackle it firsthand. Utopian Hours managed to draw an enormous crowd of engaged, thoughtful attendees who weren’t afraid to offer up questions or their own take on the material. The suggested €5 ($5.50) admission fee probably helped lure in curious passersby, and that’s certainly a good thing. Let’s hope the Utopian Hours festival make a fourth appearance. AN is an official media partner of Utopian Hours.
It was the first time Malaz Elgemiabby had attended the annual conference of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA). But it turned out to be like going back to her childhood in Sudan, being surrounded by architects, designers, and builders who looked like her, and who cared as deeply as she does about community participation in design. “In Sudan, architects are women,” Elgemiabby told AN. “So I used to build buildings when I was a kid. As women [in Sudan] your responsibility is to build the houses, to design, to assess the needs of the community.” Elgemiabby went to architecture school at London Metropolitan University, seeking out its program for its emphasis on community participation in design. She first went to work in the Middle East, where she also earned a master's degree in interdisciplinary design from the Qatar campus of Virginia Commonwealth University. She moved to Cleveland three years ago to work as an architect. After doing some projects that she’s quite proud of in the city, Elgemiabby launched her own firm, ELMALAZ, earlier this year in Cleveland. But it’s also been a bit lonely at times, being an architect on a mission to bring communities into the design process. “[In Cleveland] I’m one of the few who are advocating for this type of approach to architecture,” Elgemiabby said. “I come [to this year’s NOMA conference] and I find not only a lot of black and brown architects, but I also find people who are excited about the same mission. This was really great. It’s always nice to grow your tribe.” Growing that tribe, of course, has been NOMA’s goal all along, ever since twelve African American architects founded the organization during the 1971 AIA National Convention in Detroit. This year’s annual conference, in Brooklyn, attracted a record attendance of over a thousand participants for five days of programming, including service outings, seminars, keynote lectures, student design contests, and the usual networking and socializing. Overall, NOMA membership has grown 30 percent in 2019, under the leadership of NOMA president and HOK principal Kimberly Dowdell. The organization now has more than 1,400 members, organized under 30 professional chapters and 75 student chapters across the country. Under Dowdell, this year NOMA established a new tiered corporate membership program for large and small firms that wish to support the organization—and also gain access to discounted consulting from NOMA’s curated pool of experts in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Dubbed the “President’s Circle,” founding members include AIA, NCARB, Enterprise Community Partners, Cuningham Group, Shepley Bulfinch, Gensler, HOK, and Perkins & Will. But growth and progress for NOMA still come in the context of the Sisyphean task of making architecture more representative of the communities it serves. Out of 115,000 or so architects licensed in the U.S., only an estimated 2,299 are black. That context was made even more somber this year with the loss of one of NOMA’s giants, Phil Freelon, who passed away in July. NOMA renamed its annual professional design awards in his honor. Zena Howard worked with Phil Freelon for well over a decade. So it was fitting that this year’s NOMA conference programming included her delivery of the J. Max Bond Lecture, organized annually by the New York Chapter of NOMA and the AIANY Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Howard’s talk focused on the notion of “Remembrance Design,” which emerged over the past few years through her work with Freelon and others. Now principal and managing director of the North Carolina office at Perkins+Will, Howard used some of her firm's recent projects to illustrate remembrance design in action. The examples varied in scale and scope from the 1.1-acre Sycamore Hill Gateway Plaza in Greenville, North Carolina, to a 30-acre design process covering Miami’s Overtown neighborhood, to a 1.3-mile “linear museum” along the Crenshaw Boulevard transit corridor in Los Angeles. All were historically black neighborhoods, typically scarred by racially-discriminatory redlining and later the era of urban renewal and the construction of the interstate highway system. In short, remembrance design is a way of using architectural discovery as a healing process to unearth, unpack and honor painful histories in neighborhoods that have traditionally been disinvested and neglected—or worse yet, bulldozed and paved over—by the worlds of architecture, urban planning, and real estate. “It’s about engaging people who have historically not been engaged,” Howard said. “First engaging with these communities, there’s a lot of hurt. I once thought to myself you have to go get a psychology degree or something. It’s difficult sometimes to hear. But over time, you realize that the pain a lot of people have, they have to release that, you sort of have to provide an outlet for it. A lot of it at first is just listening.” Howard spoke about how that deep listening process turns architecture into more than just a design process; it elevates architecture into a healing process. It can even make the architect’s job a little easier in the end. Once you move past the pain, Howard said, some participants from the community will actually feel inspired enough to start sketching themselves. “Even if you can’t get people really to talk about something, they can sketch something, they can draw,” Howard said. “It becomes therapeutic in a lot of ways. Once you get passed that threshold you really start moving fast towards design solutions that they’re a part of.” That depth of community engagement resonated with many NOMA members, from Elgemiabby to NOMA National Board Member and SOM senior urban designer Tiara Hughes, whose childhood neighborhood in St. Louis is now a baseball field. “I understand what [Howard] was referring to that there’s trauma and feelings and emotions that we have to deal with collectively as a group,” Hughes told AN. And it certainly resonated with Dowdell, who was partly inspired to become an architect by growing up among vacant homes and boarded-up commercial corridors in Detroit. “The kind of engagement that Zena [Howard] and her team has done or is doing, I think that’s probably standard practice for a lot of architects here [at the conference],” Dowdell said. Dowdell is hopeful that more and more of those kinds of projects will come up as the U.S. and especially its cities become more and more diverse. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts people of color will become a majority in the U.S. by 2043. Dowdell views NOMA’s work as preparing architecture for that future. “We all have to be more conscious of the fact that more and more clients will be people of color, more and more government officials—people with more power,” she said. Of course, in bringing good design to more diverse places that have historically been neglected or harmed by earlier periods of development, the conversation naturally turns to how good design can risk putting new pressure on market conditions, pushing up property taxes or rents and pushing out the very residents who participate in these design processes. Howard brought up the example of Hogan’s Alley in Vancouver, British Columbia, as one where the residents and elected officials are looking to a community land trust as a policy intervention to protect those residents the project had in mind as end-users. “The thing [Howard] also mentioned, rightly so, was the thing that design can’t solve: the political and economic conditions that need to be grappled with to effectively prevent gentrification and the negative effects of gentrification,” Dowdell said. “I think reinvestment is fine, but I think when it starts to displace people who have had a stake in that community for years, decades, generations, that’s going to be problematic.”
With Climate Week NYC coming to a close, the Built Environment Symposium was a fitting finale, gathering together political bodies, industry professionals as well as architects and designers to speak openly about their collaborative efforts to make New York City a greener place. The third panel discussion in particular, “New York City’s Climate Mobilization Act: Significantly Reducing Building Emissions,” brought together preeminent voices working to address the environmental impacts of New York’s buildings. Melanie La Rocca, commissioner of the Department of Buildings (DOB) sat down with Jason Vollen, director of architecture for Metro New York at AECOM and Christopher Toomey, vice president of major projects at McKinsey & Company to discuss the importance of addressing the costs of the built environment, and why pieces of legislation are invaluable to instituting rapid change. With 67 percent of the city’s emissions stemming from its buildings, the need for action is acute, and the mayor’s office has accentuated the urgency by implementing Local Law 97, a mandate that all buildings over 25,000-square-feet comply with aggressive carbon caps by 2024. The very building the panelists sat in, the Midtown Manhattan office of host firm AECOM, is one such building that will fall under the new jurisdiction. Local Law 97 is the first of its kind to make the financial penalties for non-compliance so significant that building owners will have to address the issues head-on. Fines start at $268 per metric ton over the predetermined limits (based on a building’s size and class) and additional fees are added for non-submittal of records, as well as false or flawed reports, all on an annual schedule. Hopefully, these financial roadblocks will incentivize building owners in ways that previous legislation has only wagged fingers. This regulation doesn’t just apply to new buildings, but all buildings in New York City. That’s roughly 50,000—and this measure has sparked controversy as older buildings will have to invest in major renovations, as many did not incorporate energy efficiency in their original designs. Aged technologies like boilers and old-fashioned window glazing will need to be replaced, likely at a great initial cost to those landlords. The panelists talked very seriously and practically about the realities of retrofitting all these spaces. “We could build an entire industry around retrofitting structures,” Toomey said, adding that there are studies that speculate that this would necessitate the creation of up to 140,000 new jobs. However, the bureaucracy involved in clearing thousands of new buildings in the next four years in advance of the “penalty stage,” where non-complying structures will be fined heavily for carbon use, is intimidating even for the DOB: “We don’t want 20,000 applications coming in 2023,” said La Rocca. To avoid this, the DOB, architects, and project managers are encouraging companies to act now and stay ahead of the curve for not only the 2024 benchmarks but the 2030 ones as well. “No one wants to be an SUV in a Prius world,” said Vollen, “It would be an embarrassment down the line.” Architects like Vollen are encouraging high-profile companies to handle their compliance measures sooner than later with a leading mindset—to both leverage their names as well as allow for more time to design creative, innovative solutions to emissions targets rather than hasty adaptations. While the panelists all acknowledged the risks and experimentation needed in NYC’s fight to lower emissions, La Rocca closed the discussion, saying, “This is an opportunity for us all to reimagine what we do.”
AN reports from New Cities Summit in Montreal, an international conference on new technology that shapes cities
Today in Montréal, 600 designers, architects, geographers, technology experts, entrepreneurs, and policymakers convened for the New Cities Summit, a forward-looking conference hosted by the New Cities Foundation. The Summit tries, through the lens of technology, to put a finer point "innovation," "urban change," and "economic growth," often-nebulous concepts that nevertheless drive the design and governance of our cities. Speakers, panels, round-tables, and workshops focus on using new technology to engage visitors in "thirdspaces" (where people neither work nor live), boosting the sharing economy through new (and old) means of engagement, finding solutions to a global affordable housing crisis, placemaking, and public art are held over a two-day period, followed by site visits around Montréal. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) attended the summit when it was held in Dallas, in 2014, but this is the first time AN is attending the event internationally. Follow @archpaper in Montréal for live updates on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat (archpaper). The opening panel, "The Age of Urban Tech," moderated by Estelle Métayer, founder and principal of Competia, featured four city leaders in the private and public sectors: Chiara Corazza, managing director of the Greater Paris Investment Agency; Anil Menon, president of Smart and Connected Cities and the deputy chief globalization officer at Cisco (a conference sponsor); Alexandre Taillefer, managing partner of XPND Capital and the founder of Téo Taxi; and Ivy Taylor, the mayor of San Antonio, Texas. Métayer opened with a broad question on the role of technology in the 21st century city, and panelists, despite their mostly tech-centric backgrounds, were keen on both the appeal of (and limits to) apps and hacks. At each fork in the discussion, the panelists turned back to the importance of using technology to enhance existing communities. "The best and worst thing is that people are focused on technology. [The] focus should be on urban experience, not on the technology. Technology should be invisible and should maintain and enhance the quality of life," Menon noted. Speaking of her city, Taylor explained that "people are the heart of cities we serve." San Antonio, population 1.4 million, is seventh largest city in the U.S. and is 60 percent Latino. She emphasized that closing the digital divide, especially though education and neighborhood engagement, is key to not leaving the most vulnerable residents behind, especially in an an era where cities compete directly with one another for resources and capital. Building on Taylor's observations, Taillerfer underscored the importance of adapting technology to current users with a homegrown example: A taxi company on east side of Montréal receives 90 percent of its calls via an old-fashioned phone. In that district, only twenty percent of residents use smartphones. Education and access can bring users up to speed on smartphones, but the current means of calling the taxi must be consistent with the current knowledge base. Taillefer urged participants to be wary of the role of corporations in shaping public tech projects. "A lot of innovations require a lot of capital, so cities have to be careful about the deals [we] sign with corporations. Tech," she declared, "is fun, but we need to take into account the lives of citizens." Sharing information transparently is key to having that fun and sustaining trust. Taylor noted that when body cameras for police officers were introduced in San Antonio, at first there wasn't enough communication about the new technology. Consequently, public misunderstandings and resentments arose around the cameras. "We're still on front end of conveying public what access to information will be, how quickly information will be processed," said Taylor. For all the conversation around anti-union sentiment in tech, Menon grounded the discussion in the importance of sustaining local entrepreneurs while engaging labor unions. "Unions represent the current middle class who are deeply suspicious of new tech because it's seen as replacing jobs." Public and private-sector unions, he argued, need to establish new ways to work with corporations. He cited Germany as an example of a country that has both strong economic growth and union representation. For all the barriers, there was profound optimism among panelists that cities will look radically different in the next five to ten years because of new technologies. Corazza, Taylor, and Taillerfer highlighted public transit innovations as a key locus of innovation (Taillerfer: "I dream of the day you pay $250 per month for access to multimodal, anti–private car transit for everything) while Menon cited video internet and, surprisingly, liquid biopsy, a form of data collection to detect and treat cancer. Who knew?
MIPIM, the world’s largest and most important real estate and development convention, conference, and meeting attracts nearly 25,000 people to Cannes every year. But like the Venice Biennale, or Saloni di Mobile in Milan, there are virtually no Americans in attendance at this international meeting. MIPIM is primarily a development gathering, and, while the United States is the strongest economy in the world with $534 billion in total real estate transactions, $91 billion in foreign investment in commercial property, and $104 billion in residential sales purchases by foreign buyers, American developers and cities seem immune to the attraction of foreign capital. But MIPIM is also a meeting about the physical development of the city and while there are many European architects in attendance there are only a handful of U.S. architects in Cannes. A meeting with the Berlin architect Jurgen Mayer H. it is clear that three days spent at the fair an architect can meet with dozens of future and potential clients both private and civic. There are pavilions by nearly every moderate-sized city (Lyon, Brussels, Palermo) and large cities (Istanbul, Paris, Mexico City) in the world-except from North America. It may be that America is large enough to be a self-supporting internal market but our myopia leaves billions of potential development dollars on the table. We seem more interested today in building walls than bridges.
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.
In September the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) gathered high-minded designers, developers and engineers for a conference in Shanghai. CTBUH, which often partners with AN on conferences, including our own Facades+ events, invited me to serve as a special media correspondent for the conference, held September 16–19. I spent most of the time conducting video interviews with the symposium guests, which we'll post here on the AN blog as they become available. For now, here' a quick overview of the topics discussed. The theme of this year's conference was “Future Cities: Towards Sustainable Vertical Urbanism.” It was an especially relevant topic given the venue—held in the elegant, SOM-designed Jin Mao Tower, the conference looked for lessons (and warnings) in the kind of supertall, super-dense development that turned the Lujiazui area of Shanghai's Pudong district from farmland into a world financial center in just 20 years. Symposium presenters tackled sustainability from several angles. Matthew Clifford, head of energy and sustainability services for North Asia at JLL, stressed building operation and management is as important as design when it comes to energy use and building performance. Cathy Yang, manager of Taipei 101, recounted how “greening” the 101-story building did not turn a profit until the initiative's sixth year, but then made up for it in just three years. The Taiwanese supertall remains the largest LEED Platinum–certified building in the world. Jianping Gu of Shanghai Tower Construction and Development espoused the benefits of the “stereoscopic” form of his building, which at 2,073 feet is set to become the tallest building in China upon completion next year. “If you compare Shanghai Tower to Taipei 101, Petronas Towers, those were all isolated," Gu said. "There were already two towers in the vicinity when we started. We had to pay particular attention to harmonizing with those buildings. We consider this an issue of sustainability.” But towering, monumental architecture may not be for everyone. David Gianotten, an OMA partner heading the firm's Hong Kong office, told me OMA gets so many briefs seeking “iconic” design that the word has begun to lose its meaning. “If everything's special, then nothing's special,” he said. That debate continued onto the conference floor, where developers discussed how China's third- and fourth-tier cities should embrace the tall building boom—or whether they should at all. On the conference's final day, Mun Summ Wong of Singapore-based WOHA talked about the psychological environment of horizontal cities, and how tall buildings should better embrace the human scale. “The idea is to inject more urban life into the high-rise city,” Wong said. “We introduce horizontal movement in the high-rise building because it changes the dynamic. When you talk to the people next to you in an ordinary high-rise, it is considered rude. But in the street, you talk to people, build relationships and bonds.” Similarly, Yang Wu of the Bund Finance Center warned of the risks of homogeneous skylines. “When I open my eyes in the morning and I am in Shenzhen, I still think I am in Shanghai because they look the same,” he said. “[China is] duplicating buildings and the mistakes of the West. There is focus on building bizarre and tall buildings but ignorance of the connotations–resulting in cold buildings for cold cities. As a developer, I call on architects: you need to have your own independent ideas that bring vitality.” You can read more about the conference on CTBUH's website. Check back here as we post video interviews.
AN and Enclos' Facades+ PERFORMANCE is only one week away! Register today to join hundreds of like-minded professionals from across the AEC industry as they converge on Chicago from October 24th-25th to discuss the most exciting breakthroughs in high-performance building enclosures. The response has been overwhelming and there are just a few seats remaining, so don’t miss your chance to be part of this groundbreaking event! Be there for hands-on technology workshops and in-depth discussions of the tools and techniques that are forcing a paradigm shift in the way high-performance architecture is conceived and constructed. Form lasting professional connections with leading innovators from across the industry through our unbeatable networking opportunities. Set new standards for performance in your professional practice. The future of architecture begins at Facades+, so sign up today before the clock runs out!