Posts tagged with "Google":

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Google Arts & Culture introduces the immersive Bauhaus Everywhere collection

Bauhaus is architecture. Bauhaus is costume design. Bauhaus is textile design. Bauhaus is furniture. Nearing the end of the celebrated design school's centenary, it has never been more clear that Bauhaus is everywhere, and Google Arts & Culture’s newest collection aims to make this revelation concise, user-friendly, and available to anyone with access to the internet.  Developed in collaboration with Bauhaus Dessau and six other partners including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the IIT Institute of Design, Bauhaus Everywhere is an online collection that educates visitors through interactive and immersive technologies ranging from animated video to augmented reality. The project has digitized over 10,000 objects, artworks, and virtual tours of iconic buildings through 45 digital exhibitions covering the vast perspectives of the Bauhaus's life, pedagogy, and practice.  The first stop on the journey is through five animated videos in the form of minimalistic cartoons drawn using basic geometry and a primary color palette. “Take a look around, chances are there is a boxy building around that was inspired by the Bauhaus," the second video states, demystifying some of the movement's key characteristics and how we engage with its influence today. Keep scrolling and you will come to an introduction on what the Bauhaus is, and some insights from Dr. Claudia Perren, Bauhaus Dessau’s director, on her top ten favorite pieces from the museum’s collection.  Bauhaus Everywhere includes many glimpses into the institution that continues to guide the attitude and aesthetics of students within contemporary culture through inspirational “How-tos” such as “How to Dress Like a Bauhaus Student” and “How to Decorate your House, Bauhaus-Style.” One section titled, “What Was It Like To Study In the Coolest School Around?” provides an imaginative guide into student life from the application process, registering for classes, landing your first work-study job, meeting your teachers, and of course, going to the legendary parties. “You want to go to Bauhaus? Then show us what you’ve got. Put together a portfolio of samples of your work and send it to Mr. Gropius. He’ll decide if you have the aptitude…” the project reads.  Alongside street-view explorations of built sites such as the Moholy-Nagy House and the Gropius House, you can also explore unbuilt homes in 3D, or if you have the Google Arts & Culture App, in augmented reality. By examining “sketches, scribbles, and vague descriptions” Google has also created AR models of three visionary buildings including the Rundhaus by Carl Fieger and Marcel Breuer's Bambos.  Other highlights include profiles of some of the key teachers, a section dedicated to the roles women played at the school, a Google Earth tour of Bauhaus-inspired sites around the world, and high-res closeups of paintings by Wassily Kandinsky, Oskar Schlemmer, and Carl Marx, to name a few. As Walter Gropius famously stated, “Our guiding principle was that design is neither an intellectual nor a material affair, but simply an integral part of the stuff of life, necessary for everyone in a civilized society.” Bauhaus is Everywhere goes to great lengths to prove his point. 
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Google reveals the future of its San Jose Transit Village

In a San Jose, California, community meeting on August 22, Google revealed its plans for the San Jose Transit Village. The mile-long village along the former industrial area west of Highway 87 is anticipated to house 5.5 million square feet of office space for the tech company, 3,000 to 5,000 housing units, a combined 500,000 square feet of space for retail, culture, and education, and 15 acres of green spaces. The proposed plan holds the potential to provide employment for 20,000 to 25,000 people.  The project's goal is to create an urban hub centered around people rather than cars, with paths connecting various plazas and green spaces in Google’s (and planners SITELAB Urban Studio's) Framework Plan. At the heart of the village is the extant Diridon Station, which has become one of the largest transit hubs on the west coast. The station not only services San Jose but also functions as a transit hub for Santa Clara County and Silicon Valley. As part of the San Jose Diridon Station Area Plan, the stop is planned to incorporate a VTA light rail and BART extension to the available services. Google and Trammell Crow, a Texan private commercial real-estate developer and investor, have spent over a year acquiring privately owned land in the area. Last November, Google negotiated the sale of 10.5 acres of publicly owned property around Diridon Station for $109.87 million. Google's proposal offers a complete transformation of the area and an exchange of the traditional closed-off corporate tech campus design for an open concept plan that welcomes the community.  Alexa Arena, Google's director of real estate development, insisted that both Google workers and San Jose residents want to emerge from the station directly into a vibrant city. San Jose’s director of economic development, Kim Walesh, agreed with Arena’s sentiments, and told Mercury News, “They have designed a district that meets their office needs but that is going to feel like an extension of the downtown...and like a very high-quality, regular urban area, I think that must be a first.” The Framework Plan map released at the San Jose meeting provides a clear idea of the company’s vision. As for the design, the intention is to preserve some of the industrial characteristics of the San Jose neighborhood in the north portion of the village and focus on local retail and landscape in the south.  Following the current plans for project development, Google will receive feedback from the San Jose residents and refine their plans for city application in October. San Jose’s City Council will then formally review the project and take a final vote in fall of 2020, potentially allowing for a portion of the project to open by 2024.
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Autodesk invests in prefab home startup to help with disaster housing

Autodesk is making a bet on the future of prefabrication for disaster housing with an investment in FactoryOS and the company’s California-based “Rapid Response Factory.” In addition to allowing the startup to begin experimenting with constructing post-natural disaster homes on the factory floor, the funding will reportedly allow the Bay Area startup to create a Factory Floor Learning Center that will focus on housing policy in partnership with UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation. FactoryOS founder Rick Holiday explained to Fast Company that after several major natural disasters in California, like the recent forest fires, he received requests to build disaster housing; however, the company was not equipped to meet that demand, nor to build the smaller homes required. Thanks to the investment from Autodesk, Holiday told Fast Company that FactoryOS is “going to explore if [they] can create a standardized unit that could be used for supportive housing, or could be stitched together to create a small-to-medium to a larger-sized building after a natural disaster quickly.” FactoryOS has been able to streamline homebuilding through vertically integrating the construction process and creating a factory floor that can be used in all weather by union labor while easily integrating digital design and manufacturing. They claim that this precision has allowed them to reduce waste over traditional construction by as much as 40 percent, and costs by over 30 percent. The company believes that prefabrication could be a major answer during this time of national housing crises, when productivity in construction is not only stagnating but decreasing. At the moment, FactoryOS reports that they can create four-to-six apartment units in a day, however, with their continued growth and the addition of the Rapid Response Factory, they are hoping to bring that number up to as many as 16 units in 2021. According to Fast Company, this new deal will also require intensive data collection and tracking of social impact metrics, as well as environmental impact and cost. FactoryOS, which previously received an investment from Alphabet, has also just received an influx of cash from a Citigroup-funded incubator focused on affordable housing, according to The Verge's weekly newsletter.
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How Baidu Maps turns location data into 3-D cityscapes—and big profits

Level 3, number 203. Turn right 10 feet. Go straight for 15 feet. The best way to experience data's strong grip on everyday life in China is to open up Baidu Maps, a mapping app by China’s biggest search engine company, and walk around a shopping mall for one afternoon. Inside the building, a network of Bluetooth beacons, Wi-Fi modems, and satellites from a global navigation satellite system whir and ping through the air and the ionosphere to determine your precise location. The map on the Baidu app tilts to reveal an elaborately modeled 3-D cityscape.

The resolution of Baidu Maps is stunning: Entire cities are modeled in 3-D. Within public buildings, the floorplan of each building level is precisely mapped. As I stand inside the Taikoo Hui Mall in the city of Guangzhou, China, I search for a store within the mall. Baidu Maps reveals which level the store is on and how many meters I need to walk. Strolling through the mall with the app tracking my location with a blue dot on the screen, life starts to feel like a virtual reality experience. The difference between the map's 3-D model and the reality beneath my feet is smaller than ever. The 3-D model makes an uncanny loop: Virtual models were used by architects and designers to design these spaces, which now unfold on a messy plane between real space and screen space.

China now has its own tech giants—Alibaba, JD.com, Tencent Holdings, and Baidu—homegrown behind the Great Firewall of China. Like their American counterparts, these companies have managed to surveil their users and extract valuable data to create new products and features. Baidu began as a search engine, but has now branched out into autonomous driving, and therefore, maps. The intricacy of its 3-D visualizations is the result of over 600 million users consulting the app for navigation every day or using apps that rely on Baidu Maps in the background, such as weather apps that rely on its geolocation features.

The tech company, like its counterparts such as Google, take advantage of multiple features available in smartphones. Smartphones possess the ability to determine users’ positions by communicating with an array of satellites such as GPS (Global Positioning Service); GLONASS, Russia’s version of GPS; or BeiDou, China’s satellite navigation system. Such satellite systems are public infrastructures created by American, Russian, and Chinese governments, respectively, that enable our phones to determine users’ precise longitude and latitude coordinates. The majority of apps and services on smartphones rely on location services, from food delivery to restaurant reviews. However, satellite navigation systems are still imprecise—they are often a few meters off, with anything from the weather to tall buildings affecting accuracy.

However, smartphones contain more than satellite signal receiver chips. A slew of other sensors, such as accelerometers, light sensors, and magnets are embedded in the average smartphone. In 2015, Baidu invested $10 million in IndoorAtlas, a Silicon Valley startup that specializes in indoor mapping. The company's technology is at the forefront of magnetic positioning, which allows indoor maps at 1-meter accuracy to be created simply by using an average smartphone. This technology relies on the Earth's geomagnetic field and the magnets in smartphones. By factoring in the unique magnetic "fingerprint" of each building based on the composition of its materials, such as steel, a building's floor plan can be mapped out without any data provided by the architect. However, this strategy requires user data at scale; multiple user paths need to be recorded and averaged out to account for any anomalies. Gathering large amounts of data from users becomes an imperative.

Floorplans aside, magnetic positioning is not the only dimension of user location data collection that allows data to become a spatial model. As people drive, bike, and walk, each user generates a spatial "trace" that also has velocity data attached to it. Through such data, information about the type of path can be derived: Is it a street, a sidewalk, or a highway? This information becomes increasingly useful in improving the accuracy of Baidu Maps itself, as well as Baidu's autonomous vehicle projects.

The detailed 3-D city models on Baidu Maps offer data that urban designers dream of, but such models only serve Baidu's interests. Satellite navigation system accuracy deteriorates in urban canyons, due to skyscrapers and building density, obscuring satellites from the receiver chip. These inaccuracies are problematic for autonomous vehicles, given the "safety critical" nature of self-driving cars. Baidu's 3-D maps are not just an aesthetic “wow factor” but also a feature that addresses positioning inaccuracies. By using 3-D models to factor in the sizes and shapes of building envelopes, inaccuracies in longitude and latitude coordinates can be corrected.

Much of this research has been a race between U.S. and Chinese companies in the quest to build self-driving cars. While some 3-D models come from city planning data, in China's ever-changing urban landscape, satellite data has proved far more helpful in generating 3-D building models. Similar to Google's 3-D-generated buildings, a combination of shadow analysis, satellite imagery, and street view have proved essential for automatically creating 3-D building models rather than the manual task of user-generated, uploaded buildings or relying on city surveyors for the most recent and accurate building dimensions.

None of this data is available to the people who design cities or buildings. Both Baidu and Google have End User License Agreements (EULAs) that restrict where their data can be used, and emphasize that such data has to be used within Baidu or Google apps. Some data is made available for computer scientists and self-driving car researchers, such as Baidu's Research Open-Access Dataset (BROAD) training data sets. Most designers have to rely on free, open-source data such as Open Street Maps, a Wikipedia-like alternative to Baidu and Google Maps. By walling off valuable data that could help urban planning, tech companies are gaining a foothold and control over the reality of material life: they have more valuable insights into transport networks and the movements of people than urban designers do. It's no surprise then, that both Baidu and Google are making forays into piloting smart cities like Toronto’s Quayside or Shanghai's Baoshan District, and gaining even greater control over urban space. No doubt, urban planning and architecture are becoming increasingly automated and privately controlled in the realm of computer scientists rather than designers.

In Shoshana Zuboff's 2019 book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, she examines how tech companies throughout the world are employing surveillance and data extraction methods to turn users into free laborers. Our “behavioral surplus,” as she terms it, becomes transformed into products that are highly lucrative for these companies, and feature proprietary, walled-off data that ordinary users cannot access, even though their labor has helped create these products. These products are also marketed as “predictive,” which feeds the desires of companies that hope to anticipate users’ behavior—companies that see users only as targets of advertising.

Over the past several years, American rhetoric surrounding the Chinese “surveillance state” has reached fever pitch. But while China is perceived to be a single-party communist country with state-owned enterprises that do its bidding, the truth is, since the 1990s, much of the country’s emphasis has been on private growth. Baidu is a private company, not a state-owned enterprise. Companies like Baidu have majority investment from global companies, including many U.S.-based funds like T. Rowe Price, Vanguard, and BlackRock. As China's economy slows down, the government is increasingly pressured to play by the rules of the global capitalist book and offer greater freedom to private companies alongside less interference from the government. However, private companies often contract with the government to create surveillance measures used across the country.

The rhetoric about the dangers of Chinese state surveillance obfuscates what is also happening in American homes—literally. As Google unveils home assistants that interface with other “smart” appliances, and Google Maps installed on mobile phones tracks user locations, surveillance becomes ubiquitous. Based on your location data, appliances can turn on as you enter your home, and advertisements for milk from your smart fridge can pop up as you walk by the grocery stores. Third-party data provider companies also tap into geolocation data, and combined with the use of smart objects like smart TVs, toasters, and fridges, it's easy to see why the future might be filled with such scenarios. Indeed, if you own certain smart appliances, Google probably knows what the inside of your home is like. In 2018, iRobot, the maker of the Roomba vacuum, announced that it was partnering with Google to improve the indoor mapping of homes, and now setting up a Roomba with Google Home has never been easier. Big tech companies in the U.S. would like us to believe that surveillance is worse elsewhere, when really, surveillance capitalism is a global condition.

Over the past 30 years, cities around the world have been the locus of enormous economic growth and corresponding increases in inequality. Metropolitan areas with tech-driven economies, such as the Shenzhen-Guangzhou-Hong Kong corridor and the Greater Bay Area, are home to some of the largest tech companies in the world. They are also home to some of the most advanced forms of technological urbanism: While Baidu may not have every single business mapped in rural China, it certainly has the listing of every shop in every mall of Guangzhou.

The overlap between cities as beacons of capital and as spaces where surveillance is ubiquitous is no coincidence. As Google’s parent company, Alphabet, makes moves to build cities and as Baidu aggressively pursues autonomous driving, data about a place, the people who live there, and their daily movements is increasingly crucial to the project of optimizing the city and creating new products, which in turn generates more wealth and more inequality. Places like San Francisco and Shenzhen are well-mapped by large tech companies but harbor some of the worst income gaps in the world.

The "smart city" urbanism enabled by surveillance and ubiquitous data collection is no different from other forms of development that erode affordable housing and public space. Reclaiming our cities in this digital age is not just about reclaiming physical space. We must also reclaim our data.

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Google creates neuroaesthetic experience for Salone del Mobile

This past week in Milan during Salone del Mobile while designers were showing off their latest furnishings, Google was putting on its own exhibition. Following up on last year’s Softwear exhibition, in which the company teamed up with Li Edelkoort to envision a more comfortable, integrated hardware future, this year the tech giant built out three rooms in the Spazio Maiocchi for a show called A Space for Being. A Space for Being explored the ways qualitative senses could be understood with quantitative metrics. Google collaborated with Susan Magsamen of the International Arts + Mind Lab at Johns Hopkins University's Brain Science Institute to develop a design installation that explored the possibilities of neuroaesthetics, or the brain’s and body's responses to the aesthetic world. Visitors lined up around the block to be adorned with a wristband that collected biometric data while they explored the rooms' various furnishings, colors, lights, music, scents, and textiles by Google’s Ivy Ross, Muuto’s Christian Grosen, and Reddymade’s Suchi Reddy. At the end of their walkthroughs, attendees were given synopses of their bodies’ responses to the various spaces, helping them see in which context they were most at ease. While this kind of data-driven neuroaesthetic approach is still in its nascent stages, one could imagine a future when data-driven design becomes more normal, especially in settings like healthcare. Even for those who might balk at the idea of collecting this kind of information to create something so subjective as an interior, the results show that design has a profound impact on us, our biology, and our wellbeing. For more on the latest in AEC technology and for information about the upcoming TECH+ conference, visit techplusexpo.com/nyc/.
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Google plans move into Los Angeles's Westside Pavilion mall building

Google will be moving to the building currently known as the Westside Pavilion shopping mall in West Los Angeles. Last week Hudson Pacific Properties and Santa Monica, California–based real estate investment company Macerich announced that the tech company would move into One Westside, as the property is known, after a substantial renovation. Gensler was tapped to convert the mall into 584,000 square foot of state-of-the-art office space, and the redesigned structure will include terraces, flexible interior layouts, and folding glass walls to connect the inside to out. This is not Google's first site in the Los Angeles area. The company recently moved into a large timber warehouse in Playa Vista and maintains branches in Venice and Irvine. Gensler has plenty of experience in this arena, having done numerous office spaces for tech companies, including a home for NVIDIA in Santa Clara, California, that won a 2018 Best of Design Award. One Westside has a prime location thanks to Los Angeles's ever-expanding public transit network, with the Expo Line light rail’s Westwood/Rancho Park station a five-minute walk away. The renovation is scheduled to be finished in 2022 when Google will begin a 14-year lease.
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Google fills a historic timber hangar with its sleek new Los Angeles office

The Spruce Goose, a derogatory nickname for the Hughes H-4 Hercules, only flew once, but the largest plane ever built (entirely out of wood, to boot) continues to live on in pop culture ephemera. The plane has found a permanent home in Oregon’s Evergreen Aviation Museum, but the Los Angeles hangar where the Spruce Goose was built is getting a second shot at life. Under the timber hangar’s four-story-tall roof, ZGF Architects has completed a voluminous open office for Google that celebrates the building’s aeronautical heritage. Inside the 450,000-square-foot Playa Vista space, ZGF has restored the building’s historic Douglas fir “spine,” a series of curved ribs that support the ceiling, using wood salvaged from the hangar. Any leftover wood was used for furniture throughout the office. The Spruce Goose hangar was the largest timber building in the world when it was completed, and ZGF and engineers Arup mostly kept true to that legacy by scattering wooden finishes throughout and leaving the ceiling exposed. An enormous ship-like structure at the office’s core anchors the circulation routes and staircases to each floor, and according to ZGF, creates a “unique building-within-a-building design.” The hangar had largely laid dormant until Google took it over as a tenant, though in the past it’s served as a soundstage for films like Titanic and Avatar. In renovating such a cavernous space, ZGF punched skylights throughout the 750-foot-long building’s roof to maximize the amount of incoming daylight. The office space also features plenty of aviation-themed conference rooms, a fitness center, cafes, a 250-person event space, and aerial boardwalks that connect the first, second, and third floors. A “perception sculpture” made up of 2,800 hanging steel balls has been installed in the central atrium, that, when viewed from a specific angle, reveals the airy shape of the Spruce Goose plane. The references to Howard Hughes’s and the site’s place in aviation history is also celebrated throughout with placards and stories about the building, the Spruce Goose, Google, and L.A. Although Google has approximately 1,000 employees in the city, it’s unclear how many will work out of the Spruce Goose office. ZGF is no stranger to designing for tech giants and is currently part of the team renovating Microsoft's Redmond campus. “Los Angeles is an ideal home for Google’s newest office,” said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was on hand for a tour of the building over the weekend. “Our city is a hub of innovation, creativity, and homegrown talent that shaped the aerospace industry in the past and that’s redefining the tech sector today. “Expanding Google’s presence in Playa Vista connects an historic building with our dynamic future, a site that will serve as a hotbed of scientific excellence and economic success for years to come.”
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Waymo faces tech hurdles as self-driving taxi deadline looms

As the technology propelling autonomous vehicles lurches forward, car companies have been struggling to make the leap between fundamental research and a marketable product. After an Uber test car struck and killed a woman in March of this year, the ride-sharing company abruptly shut down their self-driving program in Arizona. Now Waymo, the Alphabet-owned self-driving car company that had pledged it would launch a fleet of autonomous taxis in Arizona by the end of 2018, has reportedly been running into issues of their own. According to The Information, residents of Chandler, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, have become fed up with Waymo’s testing. The year-long process has seen cars stop without warning while making right turns at a T-shaped intersection, and sources have told The Information that the human safety drivers stationed in the passenger seat have routinely been forced to take manual control of the car. As with most other autonomous vehicle companies, Waymo uses safety drivers to take over when the car is in an unsafe or illegal position; the disengagement rate, or how frequently the human driver needs to take over per miles driven, is generally indicative of how well a self-driving car can move around on its own. The cars in Chandler have been deployed within a geo-fenced area–a location with GPS-defined boundaries–around Waymo’s office. Even in this small area, residents have complained that the abrupt stopping at intersections has caused them to nearly rear-end the test cars or to illegally drive around them. Waymo wouldn’t comment specifically on The Information’s report, but a spokesperson has said that Waymo’s cars are "continually learning" and that "safety remains its highest priority." The company hasn’t backed down from its ride-hailing plan either, though it may be some time before a truly autonomous taxi service hits the streets. Waymo plans to station a human chaperone in each taxi, and the cars will operate within a set area where the streets have been thoroughly mapped. Early adopters will (maybe) be able to hail a ride in Waymo’s fleet of autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans at the end of the year, but the company eventually hopes to roll out 20,000 electric Jaguar-built SUVs by 2020.
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San Francisco considers banning employee cafeterias

To the chagrin of downtown delis, pizza joints, and taquerias everywhere, tech companies in San Francisco have found yet another treasured urban tradition to disrupt: lunch.  Specifically, in recent years, as San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood has been transformed by the arrival of sizable offices for Twitter, Uber, Google, and others, street life in the area has fizzled. The culprit, critics say, are the free lunches often provided by tech companies to their employees, one of the many perks used to lure new hires and build team morale. A potential side effect, however, is that office workers no longer go out to eat as often as in the past, and the shift is threatening to upend the livelihoods of businesses that have traditionally catered to the nine-to-five crowd. In response, San Francisco Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Ahsha Safaí have introduced a new city ordinance that would ban start-up style “employee cafeterias” from new office developments. The bill would aim to curb employers from providing free or tax-free food to their workers on a regular basis but would have no effect on the 51 cafeterias currently in operation across the city. Safaí told The San Francisco Chronicle that the ban was about instigating a cultural shift, adding, “This is about getting people out of their office, interacting with the community and adding to the vibrancy of the community.” In a statement, Peskin explained the motion would also hold companies accountable for the promises they made while pursuing approvals from the city. He said, "Many of these companies touted the boost their employees would have on our local economy, only to provide everything from round-the-clock gourmet catering to dry-cleaning on-site.” The measure, if passed, would be the second such initiative in the region, following a precedent set by nearby Mountain View. There, the municipality forbade Facebook from subsidizing employee meals as part of a recent expansion in a bid to get the tech company to engage economically with the local community.  Michael Kasperzak, the former Mountain View mayor who helped craft the 2014 ordinance told The Chronicle, “It really was geared more around trying to make sure we didn’t have 400,000 square feet of office space with people that never left the building.”

The initiative has not been expanded to include other businesses yet, but could potentially apply to a new 595,000-square-foot, tent-like headquarters Google, BIG, and Heatherwick Studio are planning in the city. There, designers have proactively included plans for publicly-accessible cafes and dining areas that would be shared with Google employees. 

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is due to take up its proposed ban later this year. 
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Thom Mayne's mentoring program is featured in showcase at Pratt

The educational mentorship program spearheaded by Morphosis principal and co-founder Thom Mayne headed into its third semester this year. For sixth graders at Hall Elementary School in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the Thom Mayne Young Architects program was a chance to receive an architectural education and access to design software via after-school classes led by Pratt Institute architecture students. Tonight, Mayne himself will host a closing reception of their final projects from last semester at Pratt Institute's Higgins Hall, beginning at 6pm. Founded in 2017, the Thom Mayne Young Architects program was spurred by Mayne's participation in President Barack Obama's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. Mayne partnered with TurnAround Arts, a 2012 program launched by Michelle Obama and the president's committee to bring arts education to the bottom five percent performing public schools, which includes Hall Elementary. The sixth grade students have been working on a site close to home–their own classrooms. Their design prompt is to create a "beautification proposal" for their classrooms. In the course of the 12-week program, students learn about design thinking, architectural design fundamentals and computer design, aided by the donation of Pixelbook laptops loaded with design software by Google. Beyond design skills, the program also includes lessons about photo editing, branding, marketing, and budgeting. The exhibit, which opened on February 12, closes on Saturday, February 17.  
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Google and BIG propose one million square feet of offices in Sunnyvale

Google has been on an expansion tear lately, and has announced plans to follow their recently approved Mountain View, California housing development with a new campus in neighboring Sunnyvale. The one-million-square-foot project will be called Caribbean, and sees Google teaming up with Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) yet again for a pair of terraced office buildings for up to 4,500 employees. The city of Sunnyvale is no stranger to Google, as the tech giant has been consolidating land purchases throughout the year and most recently paid $21 million for a five-acre plot in the Moffet Park area on December 22nd. BIG and Google are also familiar partners, as the firm has been involved with both the Charleston East campus and speculative designs for the northern Mountain View residential project. Their latest collaboration will involve two five-story office buildings, each featuring green roofs with paths that gently zigzag atop stepped floors. Each building will connect these paths with the ground level and encourage the building’s melding with the street. Renderings show that these paths could be used for a variety of activities, from biking to skating, and that any floor of each building should be accessible from outside. Although each office building will be clad in a floor-to-ceiling glass curtain wall, they differ slightly in their typology. While one is boxier, with easily distinguishable steps and clearly defined plazas and gathering areas, the other resembles a cascading hillscape with organically defined curves and valleys. From the ground level, the offices’ landscaped terraces clearly evoke cliff faces or natural slopes. The future 200 West Caribbean Drive will be 505,000 square feet, while the nearby 100 West Caribbean Drive will be slightly larger at 538,000square feet. Other than BIG, Clive Wilkinson Architects has been tapped to design the interiors, while OLIN Landscape Architects will be responsible for the landscape design. A project this large will require a number of approvals from the Sunnyvale city government, and the project is only just beginning to work its way through the process. Google expects to move employees into the finished buildings in 2021. Of note is that the city has mandated that all of the utilities, sewage systems, hydrants and streetlights will need to be relocated and upgraded, which will falls under the city of Sunnyvale’s design guidelines.
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A tiny start-up partners with Peterbilt to roll out self-driving big rigs

As of 2015, over 70 percent of all freight transported in the U.S. was moved by truck. That represents a whopping $726 billion in gross revenues from trucking alone, and each year, trucks haul everything from consumer goods to livestock over billions of miles in the United States. All of those numbers are growing—so much so, that according to the American Trucking Associations, the industry is running into a major driver shortage. Long hours, days away from home, and the stress of driving 80,000 pounds at 70 miles per hour is not for everyone, but one company is hoping to make the task easier through automation. Embark, a small startup based in Silicon Valley, is led by a number of engineering school dropouts. Its goal is to develop affordable semi-autonomous semis using neural-net–based deep learning technology. By developing hardware that can be fitted onto existing truck models, and software that learns as it goes, Embark has quickly and cheaply developed some of the most promising autonomous vehicles in the world. “Analyzing terabyte upon terabyte of real-world data, Embark’s DNNs have learned how to see through glare, fog, and darkness on their own,” said Alex Rodrigues, CEO and co-founder of Embark, in a statement that coincided with the introduction of the technology this spring. “We’ve programmed them with a set of rules to help safely navigate most situations, safely learn from the unexpected, and how to apply that experience to new situations going forward.” Rather than try to replace drivers, or redesign the trucks or roads, Embark is focusing on working with what already exists. Collaborating with Texas-based truck manufacturer Peterbilt, Embark is retrofitting the popular 579 semi models with sensors cameras and computers that can read existing roads and take over driving tasks from long-haul drivers. When the trucks must navigate more complex urban settings, the human driver takes back command. This focus on solving the open-road problem, instead of the entire range of driving situations, has streamlined the development process. Currently Embark is one of only three companies permitted to test autonomous 18-wheeler semis on the highways of Nevada (the other two companies being Freightliner and Uber). With the Peterbilt collaboration and a recent announcement of $15 million in additional financing, Embark has become one of the leaders in the race to automate transportation. While Google, Tesla, and a slew of other car companies target the finicky consumer market, Embark has its sights squarely on a market struggling to keep up with demand. With hundreds of billions of dollars at stake, and billions of pounds of freight being moved, it seems only likely that it will be the self-driving truck, not sports car, that we will be seeing on the road sooner rather than later.