Georgia Tech's Digital Building Lab (DBL) is at the forefront of AEC industry applications of emerging technologies, thanks in large part to founder Chuck Eastman’s groundbreaking work in building information modeling (BIM). New DBL director Dennis Shelden is positioning the Lab and Atlanta as a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship in the built environment technology sector by cultivating partnerships between academia and industry. On October 2-6, the DBL will participate in BuiltTech Week, a week of panel discussions, workshops, and new initiatives presented in partnership with Supernova South, the Southeast’s largest and longest-running tech conference, and BuiltTech.com. “Atlanta has all the ingredients necessary to become a leading center in high-tech applications to the built environment,” Shelden said. “Atlanta’s growth is driven by the intersection of technology development and real estate investment serving high tech.” Examples of high-tech innovation abound, such as Tech Square at the edge of the Georgia Tech campus. Tech Square is home to numerous startups, entrepreneurship support programs such as ATDC, Venture Labs, The Garage and TechSquare Labs, as well as dozens of corporate incubators. Shelden is not alone in his vision for industry transformation. Fellow Atlanta innovator, K.P. Reddy, is co-founder of The Combine and Shadow Ventures, a venture firm focused on seed investing in BuiltTech companies. The Combine is an industry leading incubator that helps traditional building industry companies launch startups and is working with the Digital Building Lab to incubate a regional BuiltTech network. “We see the BuiltTech market as one of the emerging leaders in technology entrepreneurship” said Reddy. Reddy will be leading the BuiltTech programming at Supernova South. Another BuiltTech Week collaborator is Dave Gilmore of DesignIntelligence. Prior to becoming the CEO of DesignIntelligence, Gilmore spent years in the technology worlds of Silicon Valley, Boston, and Tel Aviv, facilitating funding for startups and established firms to help their strategic growth. Gilmore said, “The industry is ripe for the sort of disruptive technology plays we’ve seen in other markets, and it’s exciting to see the local academic, research, commercial and government leadership coming together to tackle this opportunity.” What are the future models of practice for architects, engineers, and builders? How will the existing organization of the design and construction industry evolve to capitalize on new opportunities? Will outside players disrupt entrenched AEC culture or will AEC leaders learn to become more like entrepreneurs? Shelden, Reddy, Gilmore and the many innovators at DBL will be tackling these challenges head-on during #BuiltTechWEEK 2017, which convenes in Atlanta on October 2-6. This first-of-a-kind event focuses on built environment technology as an emerging high-tech market. The inaugural #BuiltTech Week will culminate in Georgia Tech’s Digital Building Lab's annual symposium on the theme of “AEC Entrepreneurship: Creating the High Tech Building Economy” on October 5-6, 2017 at The Historic Academy of Medicine at Georgia Tech.
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John Portman & Associates (JPA) has unveiled the design for a hybrid complex in Atlanta that blends classic Portmanian forms with a distinctly 21st-century approach to urbanism. The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) asked the Atlanta firm to design Coda, a 750,000-square-foot mixed-use complex with some unusual features. The development is a key addition to the school's Tech Square, a mini-neighborhood in Midtown planned in the early 2000s as a hub for education, operations, and real-world learning. To embody its future-forwardness, Georgia Tech wanted to move away from stately collegiate brick towards a glass-clad mix of education space, offices, and an open-air gathering space that ties Coda to its surroundings. Though firm founder John Portman's work defines the city's skyline, some critics maintain that his theatrical-but-insular designs do little for the city streets. Instead of reproducing the forms for which Portman is best known, for this project JPA extended a core atrium outdoors to create a public plaza and mid-block conduit to nearby development. Furnished with long, zigzagging planters that double as seating, the "outdoor living room" will parallel a multistory indoor piazza where local food vendors and two anchor restaurants should sustain the area's activity even after the office workers go home. "Those Portman atriums in Atlanta and elsewhere were the products of a different era, there were different reasons why those were built," said JPA vice president of design Pierluca Maffey. "This project is a turning point for our firm in opening up—the right thing to do now is open up to the street. We made a commitment to create a place for the people with this project." The development builds on similar context-focused developments, like the revamp of Colony Square, but it is especially well-positioned for placemaking: The nearby intersection of 5th and Spring streets, Maffey said, is the busiest by foot traffic in Atlanta. In addition to its more traditional elements, Coda, bounded by 4th, West Peachtree, and Spring streets, hosts a program not found on the typical campus. To support the high-performance computing modeling, JPA was asked to design a 63,000-square-foot vertical data center that sits behind a cherished 1920s building on the site. Prior to this project, the building's footprint was reduced by a partial demolition, but its Italianate character remained. To honor the remaining structure, the design team arranged the tower's lower massing to dialogue with the scale and proportions of the older building without swallowing it. Across the plaza, a white tulip-shaped column at the base of the tower is an homage to Portman formality, to his playfulness with shapes. "We call it the 'martini glass,'" Maffey said, laughing. "We always tell Mr. Portman his interiors are great for Gregory Peck, walking around with his martini." The reference may be vintage, but the gesture is not. Sprawling Atlanta is doubling down on density at key nodes in the center city, fostering demand for more—and better-designed—public space. There's little demand, Maffey noted, for the enclosed, monumental plazas of the 1960s and 70s, and that attitude will be reflected, he hopes, in the eventual reception of the project. "We're interested in designing the object, yes, but we're much more interested in how it ties into the ground, how this piece fits into the city."
Georgia Tech has approved a 42,000-square-foot project for their campus that aims to pass the Living Building Challenge; construction could begin as soon as this fall. The project began when The Kendeda Fund (an Atlanta-based private foundation) gifted $30 million to Georgia Tech specifically for the creation and operation of a Living Building at the school. (A Living Building has passed the Living Building Challenge's (LBC) stringent standards, which range from energy performance to social equity). The school then hosted an ideas competition and selected a joint design from Atlanta-based Lord Aeck Sargent and Seattle-based The Miller Hull Partnership. The university’s Planning & Design Commission approved the scheme in December and the project has now moved into the design development phase. Despite its approval, the project has presented some challenges due to its lack of programming specifics. A committee of faculty members from Georgia Tech has been working with the design team to refine the program and make sure it addresses the needs of the university. For now, the building program consists of offices, labs, “maker spaces,” classrooms, study spaces, and an auditorium. The program is housed in two rectangular “sheds” joined by a large atrium and featuring a west-facing porch. The structure will be a post and beam system made of locally sourced glue-laminated timbers, adhering to the LBC's strict material requirements. In order to meet the performance standards of a Living Building, the project must also produce 105 percent of the electricity it uses through renewable clean-energy means. The current scheme will use a combination of radiant pipes for heating and cooling, a custom Dedicated Outdoor Air System (DOAS) for dehumidifying the Georgia summer air, and photovoltaic panels on the roof to generate almost 300 kilowatts of electricity. As part of the LBC’s Urban Agriculture requirements, the project must set aside a certain percentage of the site for agriculture initiatives, or 12,577 square feet in this case. Philadelphia-based Andropogon Associates, the landscape architects for the project, is proposing many strategies including pollinator gardens, blueberry orchards, medicinal plants, and edible vines spread across rooftop gardens and surrounding forest to help with water drainage and shading for the building. Lastly, the building will utilize a combination of “foam-flush” composting toilets and a greywater treatment system to recycle wastewater from the building on site for use around the campus. The building is currently expected to begin construction as soon as this fall. The Kendeda Fund has set up a timeline of the project on their website to keep track of its progress through the many design and construction phases. To learn more, visit the fund's project description and timeline.
Brace yourself O.C.: It’s unclear if the battle of the Solar Decathlon will return to Irvine’s Orange County Great Park in 2017. This week the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced 16 participating teams who are gearing up for the task of designing and building a solar-powered house, but the feds have yet to announce the competition site. Hailing from colleges and universities across the United States and around the world—from Rolla, Missouri to Utrecht, Netherlands—the teams have nearly two years to develop an affordable and energy-efficient design strategy. According to the DOE, the Solar Decathlon teams compete in 10 contests that range from architecture and engineering to home appliance performance. Judges are looking for “[T]he team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.” In past years, teams had to cover some hefty research, design, construction, and shipping costs. But for one team the gamble will pay off. The winner takes home a whopping $2 million prize. (That’s a pretty huge PV array.) Homes will be showcased and on view to the public for free tours in mid-2017. The Solar Decathlon 2017 teams are:
- École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Daytona State College
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- HU University of Applied Science Utrecht, Netherlands
- Missouri University of Science and Technology
- Northwestern University
- Rice University
- Syracuse University
- University of Alabama at Birmingham
- University of California at Berkeley
- University of California at Davis
- University of Maryland
- University of Nevada, Las Vegas
- Washington State University
- Washington University
- West Virginia University
Q+A> AIA Los Angeles Educator Award Recipient Sarah Lorenzen on the future of architectural education
On October 29, Angelenos will gather for the 2015 AIA|LA Design Awards and Next LA Awards to toast the city’s best contributions to architecture and design. Every year the AIA|LA Board of Directors chooses outstanding and passionate individuals as winners of the Presidential Honoree program. AN spoke to Educator Award recipient Sarah Lorenzen. An architect, professor, and chair of Cal Poly Pomona's Department of Architecture, she reflected on the honor and shared her thoughts on the direction architectural education. The Architect's Newspaper: What does it mean to you to receive this recognition from your peers? Sarah Lorenzen: I was incredibly surprised and pleased to receive this award, especially given all the terrific architecture programs and talented faculty that reside here in Los Angeles. Even though the award is given to an individual, I see it as validation for the work being produced by the students and faculty at Cal Poly Pomona. Over the last few years we have revamped the program and made a concerted effort to showcase what we do well at our school. What have you taken from your experience and own architecture education and applied to your role as chair at Cal Poly Pomona? I had a varied education. My undergraduate degree focused on liberal studies and studio arts and I attended two different graduate programs: Georgia Tech in the mid 90s and SCI-Arc in 2003. The two programs had very different pedagogies and design interests based in part on their locations and in part on the times. My education at Georgia Tech was heavily influenced by poststructuralism, while at SCI-Arc it was all about the Information Age. During one of my final presentation Georgia Tech I remember clutching a copy of Roland Barthes’ Image, Music, Text… while at SCI-Arc Michael Speaks proclaimed, “Theory is dead. Long live architecture.” As someone that now heads an architecture program I embrace many points of view, but I try to steer clear of dogma and certainty in approach. I love a good argument and lean towards a Socratic method of teaching, but I am also keenly aware that as architects we need to take a position and be able to express that position in visual form. I would say that I am most interested in giving students a “professional” knowledge base while having them understand that this knowledge is culturally constructed and shaped by social and aesthetic biases. How do you see design education changing in the next 5, 10 years? It’s really hard to tell where we will be in 5–10 years. From the work being produced today at most architecture programs, at least here in Southern California, there seems to be a backlash against the all-digital, doom-and-gloom project. Students are digging up books that I haven’t looked at since my days at Georgia Tech. I have no objection to this renewed interest in postmodernism, as long as it is utilized as lens to investigate contemporary situations and not simply as a style to be appropriated. I am pleased to see a renewed interest in drawing in our program, especially when students take advantage of new digital tools to reimagine and reinterpret pre-digital drawing techniques. I imagine that it 5–10 years the realities of a world in crisis will hit our profession very hard. The situation to me looks pretty dire. I don’t expect that the primitive forms and My Little Pony–palette will be too long-lived. Which is too bad, the cynical side of me likes their ignorance is bliss attitude. How might design pedagogies adapt to or even lead technological advances in the field and respond to a changing urban landscape? In 1987 the Statistician George E. P. Box wrote that, "Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful." This statement certainly rings true when we see how data mining and Google Analytics now shape our understanding of the world. Technological advances of this sort are as significant to architecture as was Greg Lynn and Maya, or Frank Gehry and CATIA. Since the 1990s the use of computer-driven heuristic models has gained currency in a number of architectural schools and design firms, particularly as a means to address the changing urban landscape. Technological advances, such as those employed by data and analytics companies, offer the potential for architects to understand previously unimaginable relationships between social, environmental, and physical factors acting on a site. I well understand that there are no perfect models. For one thing the world is mutable, it will never reach a perfect balance. The models we use to represent the urban environment are, and always will be, approximations. Still, models can be helpful if we accept the fallacy of their construction. The heuristically derived models of the petabyte age can help us become aware of the problem of complexity, they can be highly creative endeavors that help us see the world in a new way, and they can help us find gaps in our knowledge about the urban environments we live and work in.
Georgia Tech announced this week that Scott Marble, adjunct associate professor of architecture at Columbia University and founding partner of Marble Fairbanks, will take the helm as the new chair of the university's School of Architecture starting July 1. Known for his expertise in digital design, Marble is an apt choice for the position whose interest in and study of new technologies in the field of architecture has been demonstrated both in his work as an academic and practitioner, which he further explored in his 2013 book, Digital Workflows in Architecture: Design, Assembly, Industry. During his forthcoming tenure at Georgia Tech, Marble will address the changing role of the architect and the necessity for a "common digital language." “It’s typical that an architect is known as a leader of big teams,” Marble said in a statement. “That’s still important to maintain, but I think the next generation is going to be less about the more historical model of the ‘master builder’ and more about what I would refer to as the ‘master collaborator.’” He will also tap his own professional network and experience "to establish a strategic and strong connection to industry that will create graduates who can become thought leaders in industry," according to the university's press release. In addition to "bridging the industry gap," he will make diversity a priority, seeking to make the program more inclusive and culturally engaged, not only in the academic setting but in thinking about the profession beyond the educational realm, where the gender divide is most apparent and troubling. Marble received a Bachelor of Environmental Design degree from Texas A&M University in 1983 and a Master of Architecture degree from Columbia University in 1986. His work has been recognized by the AIA and the Chicago Athenaeum.