Posts tagged with "Craig Dykers":

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Craig Dykers and Nic Rader on nature, architecture, sustainability, and everything in between

Recently Gregory Hurcomb sat down with Craig Dykers and Nic Rader of internationally-based Snøhetta to discuss some of their latest projects on the boards in the San Francisco office. Given the new SFMOMA, Hurcomb wanted to consider how they were moving forward with new and dynamic proposals that help rethink architecture’s relationship with landscape, nature, the public, and sustainability. As the firm often looks to engage the user in compelling ways through the use of vast spaces located somewhere between landscape and architecture, how do they work to create these places and think about the ever-evolving hand of the designer in relationship to the world’s ever-shifting environment.

The Architect’s Newspaper: Is there something new on the boards here in San Francisco?

Nicolas Rader: We have a project on the corner of Market Street and Van Ness, right near the office, in the heart of the downtown area. We’re working with a great client called Build, Inc., who does a lot of work and is very well respected in San Francisco. It’s a very ambitious project, a 40-story condominium tower, but to us, the most interesting part is the proposal to close down part of Oak Street where it meets Van Ness to create a new public plaza. Of course, the client has an interest in the tower, but they also really want to improve the neighborhood as a whole. It will provide an amenity that is really fantastic for the city overall.

Is the general plan to make it more pedestrianized?

NR: Yes, more pedestrianized. There will be some artistic wind canopies in the plaza as well. The intersection is incredibly windy and can be so strong that it often knocks people over. We’re currently working with engineers to figure out the structural optimization for those.

How would you say the firm approaches the idea of land and the natural? For the project here in San Francisco, we could consider the artistic wind canopies and look at wind as a natural phenomenon pushing against us. How does that connect to your design process?

Craig Dykers: Many people misunderstand our relationship with landscape. I think many people naturally assume that our work is to merge things together, to merge architecture and landscape and vice-versa. While that does occur on some projects, there are other projects where merging is the opposite of what we want to do. Sometimes you want to push back against nature. The more important issue is having a dialogue, and that is where we always begin. We always want to find out what the relationship of a condition is to a project. That could mean merging things, or it could mean ignoring them or to make a point, just so long as the dialogue exists. In that sense there is a character of understanding the invisible as well as the visible. Some of the context might be things that you can’t see: cultural context, psychological context, driven by things beyond the nature of sight, or the place itself. In addition, we do quite a good deal of branding and graphic design work as well. With identity creation, we also like to get physical, so that even our branding work very directly connects you to a place. For example, we most recently designed Norway’s new bank notes, which speak to the Norwegian coastal landscape.

Building on the connection between architecture and landscape, what would you say is your design approach? Is it cultural from the beginning, or is it more specific to the job and the client?

CD: We don’t necessarily think of ourselves as tailors but there is a certain degree of that involved.  Our projects often begin with conversations about what people might find valuable. Sometimes those conversations are internal among the design team; sometimes they are external. We often go out and talk to people in the community surrounding the site. We’ve begun many projects by interviewing people on the street. It’s always a little embarrassing to walk up to complete strangers and ask them to speak into a microphone when you’re not a TV or media journalist, but it’s important for us to hear what they have to say. We also work closely with specialists to hear what they think and we try to create something that is built around all of those understandings. Now that doesn’t mean that if someone says this we say the same thing back. We’re not just a sponge. We also have our own ideas and ways of seeing things. And that is the core of how a project begins: can we create something that is surprising and familiar at the same time?

NR: We often approach a project with questions, even if we think we know the answers. Certainly, we contribute some answers but we gather as much information from others as we can just to get a more holistic view. Then, we apply critical filters to it to better understand the best solution.

CD: Many architects today rely on a form of abstraction in their research. Mapping technologies and other ways of analyzing information are very interesting to us. But our work is always grounded in a more intuitive understanding, and a less abstract way of manipulating knowledge.

What does sustainability mean to the firm?

CD: Well, there are many types of sustainability: economic sustainability, cultural sustainability, environmental sustainability, and one of the things that we like to talk about is intellectual sustainability. How can we expect to manage nature if we can’t manage human nature? Human nature, emotions, and perspectives are all somewhat out of our control. You just have to pick up the newspaper to see all of the rivalries and polarity that exists in the world. Our work tries to create a sense of intellectual capacity through socialization. A kind of social interaction that builds awareness that will help people commit to other, more direct forms of sustainability, like environmental sustainability.

NR: In a way, I often think it’s sort of dangerous even to talk about sustainability because it’s something that should be inherent in practice and in discourse. By calling it out as something special or something separate assumes that some people choose to ignore it, which in itself is a problem. My approach is a little bit different because I don’t sit here and talk about sustainability. I wouldn’t consider myself ‘green’, or even talk about intellectual sustainability, but it’s something that I try to integrate into the way that I think and practice.

Well I bring it up mainly because I think because it is a somewhat contentious word these days, and possibly always, because there is a movement that is associated with “green” architecture. One of the noteworthy aspects about Snøhetta for me is an inherent ecological awareness and a certain connection to the earth in your projects.

NR: What I appreciate about our work and our approach is that we’re not known as “sustainability architects” or “sustainability designers.” It’s embedded so deeply into our design that there is an assumption—and a genuinely accurate assumption—that it’s just there.

CD: What you’re saying is really important. I think many people who are working with this mindset have sort of marginalized themselves. They’ve said, well, we’re not like those people over there, we’re like these people over here, and you’re either one of us or one of them. And I don’t think that’s healthy.

In some regards perhaps it is too isolationist of a stance. We’ve created a camp or a group and we’re just over there talking amongst ourselves with this singular set of concerns, these particular thoughts and ideas.

CD: And then the conversation becomes, “if it doesn’t look environmentally sustainable then it can’t possibly be,” or “if it looks good then it can’t possibly be environmentally sustainable.” Or more often, it goes in the other direction, where someone says it’s ugly, therefore it must be environmentally friendly. And on that note, I’d like to consider the notion of interactivity and the promotion of diversity in architecture. I think it does have a very large impact eventually on how we function as a society in dealing with very large complex issues, like the environmental conditions of the earth we live on. You won’t be able to solve it one building at a time, although that helps. But you also have to create a condition where people start to think differently about who they are when they walk through a city, or when they walk into a building. They are thinking about their place in this wider world that we all live in…and that is where intellectual sustainability supports environmental sustainability.

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Take a tour inside Snøhetta’s SFMOMA before it opens in May 2016

“The building is not static—it is designed to gracefully mature over time as life and art move forward together,” said Snøhetta’s Craig Dykers poetically wrapped up his opening remarks at the pre-launch event of their heralded new addition to the SFMOMA, which is slated to open May 14, 2016. These words captured well the essence of his presentation, one that focused on the new expansion as a landmark affair in the eighty-year history of the West Coast’s first museum devoted to modern and contemporary art. A development which witnessed an astoundingly successful fundraising campaign that topped off at $610 million which, in addition to covering construction costs, has more than tripled SFMOMA’s endowment. “This expansion enables us to tap more fully into the energy all around us, in a region known for its special creativity and beauty, while greatly increasing the presentations of a collection that includes remarkable concentrations of artworks that can be found nowhere else,” noted museum director Neal Benezra. A hardhat tour of the Snøhetta addition led visitors through a vastly expanded and exploded in scale and breadth building, which highlights new and unique spaces designed to house the large scale projects of modern art such as Richard Serra’s monumental sculpture Sequence (2006) and others. Soon, museum visitors will have access to more outdoor terraces that are scattered throughout the building offering exclusive and exceptional experiences of the downtown San Francisco urban cityscape. Previously a one entrance and exit museum this new building sports multiple access points and talks to current notions of porosity and an opening up of architecture as a fluid and dematerialized experience both programmatically and in the phenomenological. The focal point of the project, of course, is the eastern facade of the Snøhetta expansion, which is comprised of more than 700 individually shaped FRP (fiberglass reinforced polymer) panels fabricated by Kreysler & Associates, a local fabrication shop specializing in composites, affixed to a curtain-wall system, allowed for a much lighter structural frame because of their own lightweight nature, bringing costs down, and highlighting the technological versatility of sustainable, locally sourced materials, and digital fabrication. In celebrating the new building as a space for art, speakers at the topping off event ecstatically showed off new acquisitions their presentations and discussed the unique partnerships that allowed for these enormously expensive works to join the collection. Bob Fisher, the eldest son of Don and Doris Fisher, recounted his parents’ love affair with artwork and how they assembled over 1,100 art pieces that will become the focus point of many of the new exhibitions and offerings at SFMOMA over the next 100 years through an unprecedented public/private partnership. There was much discussion of the finances of the new building in addition to the artwork that has been added to the collection. Charles R. Schwab, chairman of SFMOMA’s Board of Trustees, focused on many of the unique collaborations and joint acquisitions of artwork through unique partnerships with other world renowned museums. Over 500 donors supported the campaign which both raised money and alongside it—the Campaign for Art has secured more than 3,000 artworks from over 200 donors, enhancing key areas of the museum’s holdings and providing visitors with a fuller, more textured view of contemporary art. In addition, the museum has added the Pritzker Center for Photography, the largest gallery, research and interpretive space devoted to photography in any U.S. art museum, and an increase in programs for children and families in the new Koret Education Center. SFMOMA will also now be free to anyone under 18, a gesture aimed at education and increasing accessibility for more kids and families to visit the space, in a time when ticket prices to exclusive culturally rich atmospheres seem to only get more and more expensive. This building sings a new song to the city of San Francisco and the world and one can only hope that more architects and designers (and most apropos developers) press forward with exceptional and forward thinking designs that help craft international and world-class destinations.
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Snøhetta to Take Philly by Storm

800px-Craig_Dykers (1) Norwegian/American firm Snøhetta has been enlisted by Temple University to design a new 350,000-square-foot library on the main campus in the northern section of Philadelphia. Craig Dykers, co-founder of the Oslo-based firm, will speak at the University during the 2013 Temple Architecture Week. Next City reported that Snøhetta has yet to release renderings, but they scored an interview with Dykers following his lecture at Temple, where he said "increasingly, universities are realizing that libraries can also be windows, gateways into the campus and immediately connected to the academic life of the place." (Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia.)
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EVENT> Collaboration: A Conference on The Art and Science of Facades, July 26-27 in SF

Collaboration: The Art and Science of Facades Symposium: Thursday, July 26, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center, San Francisco Workshops: Friday, July 27, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. California College of the Arts, San Francisco This week in San Francisco architects and engineers at the forefront of facade design and fabrication will gather to present their latest work and research. Sponsored by The Architect's Newspaper and Enclos, the first-day line-up for Collaboration: The Art and Science of Facades includes Craig Dykers of Snohetta as the keynote speaker along with presentation by leaders at SOM,  Thornton Thomasetti, Firestone Building Products, IwamotoScott, Future Cities Lab, Gensler, Kreysler & Associates, Gehry Technologies, Buro Happold and more. On the second day, participants receive hands-on practical instruction through workshops with industry leaders. Those attending both days will receive 16 AIA Continuing Education credits. One day left to register! For registration click here. Can't make it out West this week? Check out the next call for papers: AN's Facades + Innovation Conference, October 10-12, Chicago. Download PDF.
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Snohetta Takes Broadway with Times Square Repairs

While it was nearly hot enough to fry in egg in Times Square Tuesday, things have since cooled off a bit, and not simply because the temperature dropped back into double digits. Today the city's Department of Transportation began installing in the public plazas Molly Dilworth's 18-month installation, "Cool Water, Hot Island," which will not only prettify the eight newish plazas with an abstracted heat map of the city but also reflect some sunlight, making for a more comfortable experience. Meanwhile, DOT along with the Department of Design and Construction announced that it had selected Nordic knockouts Snøhetta as the lead designer for the long-term transformation of the square. The selection of Snøhetta is not exactly a surprise, as it is one of the eight firms in the city's Design + Construction Excellence program, from which DOT had already said it would make its choice because it streamlines the design process as the firms are prequalified. Yet it was Snøhetta's experience outside the city that helped win it the commission. “It is a classic New York story that reconstruction of the ‘Crossroads of the World’ will be led by a firm with an international reputation for creative vision and excellence,” DDC commissioner David Burney said in a statement. Snøhetta's preference for public art, landscape design, and sustainability may have played a role in its winning the commission. Still, the nature of the project is rather new to the firm, most of its successes having come through buildings such as the Library of Alexandria and Oslo Opera House, though both are incredibly public in their nature, so Snøhetta should prove a good, and certainly interesting fit, as its work at Ground Zero has shown. Joining the Oslo- and New York-based firm on the design team are WXY Architecture and Design, Weidlinger Associates (engineers), Mathews Nielsen (landscape), Billings Jackson Design (industrial), and Bexel (audio-visual), all of whom are Excellence program participants. The design work is just beginning, with no time line or budget yet set for its unveiling, according to a DOT spokesperson, though the plan remains to begin construction in 2012. The firms will be responsible for improving the pedestrian experience in the plazas as well as the infrastructure for the various events held in Times Square throughout the year. "Our goal is to improve the quality and atmosphere of this historic site for pedestrians and bicyclists while also allowing for efficient transportation flow for the betterment of the city,” said Craig Dykers, head of Snohetta's New York office and its co-founder. And in more Molly Dilworth news, online art gallery Art We Love is selling a series of seven prints for 15 bucks a pop.
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Salesmanship, Snohetta-Style

Just by looking at the mind-boggling New Norwegian National Opera and Ballet in Oslo, an architectural cliff on the edge of a fjord, you might think there'd be a lot of dense archibabble floating around at the firm Snøhetta.  We have been paying closer attention to them out here in San Francisco, after hearing rumors that they are in the running for the SFMOMA extension in partnership with locals EHDD. So it was doubly refreshing to hear one of the two principals, Craig Dykers, give a presentation about the firm last Friday at the AIA SF offices that was not only highly intelligible but often humorous: many choice quotes have been posted elsewhere on the Dwell blog. I started thinking about what it was that made the presentation (and the firm) seem so accessible, and came up with a few points (which I will take to heart myself the next time I am called upon for some sort of exposition). Because we all have to work at making ourselves and our ideas compelling to people who don't know who we are; and as in any business, our success depends in part on our ability to connect with clients. 1. ) A portfolio is more interesting when it shows both the most impressive projects but also examples of  humbler work. Dykers showed pictures of the Opera House and the library in Alexandria, but also photos from a small act of activism where they installed birdhouses everywhere to see how many they could put up before being stopped by authorities (they got to 42). 2. ) There are professional accolades, and then there is the reaction of the public at large. Dykers searched Flickr and YouTube to find photos  and videos that people have taken of the firm's buildings, including one (very daring) video of a stunt cyclist climbing the opera house. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWh9tO9KJ5U 3.) Show, don't tell--especially if you are saying something that everyone says. Dykers had a fun way to show the office in action: Koyaanisqatsi-style time-lapse video of  one long table where everyone comes together for lunch,  an "ampitheatre" where the whole office can gather, and an espresso machine in heavy use. He could have spent a lot of time going, "We're a very collaborative office and believe in sharing ideas," but the audience would have glazed over. 4.) Sincerity and commitment can be displayed on many levels. Talk about transparency: Dykers shared the company's salary range (entry level is $68K, while his own salary is $168K) and how they go to great lengths to keep the genders precisely balanced (the 110 staff members are 55 men, 55 women).  Whatever you may think of Snøhetta's designs,  you can't say that the firm doesn't have strong principles.