Posts tagged with "Grace Farms":

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A new group of experts wants to eradicate modern slavery in the built environment

This article appears in the September print edition of The Architect's Newspaper.

The 2018 Global Slavery Index estimated that 24.9 million people around the world are enslaved in forced labor. Although the practice underpins much of the global 21st-century building economy—for example, the index noted that of all imports to the United States that are at risk of being produced under conditions of modern slavery, timber was the fifth largest by value—its invisibility to many in the U.S. has kept the issue from attracting widespread professional attention.

But as consumers become more concerned with where their pants are being made, who grows their coffee beans, and their electricity use, it’s reasonable to expect them to demand that the architecture they inhabit is realized without slave labor, too. The U.S. garment industry—which last year imported $47 billion worth of slave-produced pieces from China, India, Thailand, and Vietnam, among other countries—has been slowly responding to awareness around its corrupt supply chains, and the New Canaan, Connecticut–based Grace Farms Foundation (GFF) wants the building industry to be next.

The design world was recently clued in to the grave issue of labor justice when the late Zaha Hadid said she had “nothing to do” with the hundreds of migrant workers who died on the construction sites of World Cup facilities in Qatar. Many were outraged. Ambassador (ret.) Luis C.deBaca, a senior justice adviser at GFF with expertise in disrupting contemporary slavery and a Robina Fellow at Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, said the initial activism that stemmed from controversial megaprojects in the Gulf States shed light on a broader problem in the industry.

“For many in the human rights community, Hadid’s tone-deaf response to the plight of those workers laboring on World Cup projects not only symbolizes the profession’s abdication of responsibility,” C.deBaca said, “but is proof of an ivory-tower nihilism that undercuts architecture’s claim to leadership in designing for community as opposed to wealth.”

C.deBaca is part of an expanding working group of high-profile construction and design professionals, scholars, human rights experts, and industry association leaders gathered by Sharon Prince, GFF president and cofounder, and AN editor-in-chief Bill Menking. To address exploitation in building supply chains, the two brought together many of the principals of the firms that designed and built Grace Farms to educate the industry and develop better practices. They aim to create a LEED-like score sheet to evaluate forced labor’s role in buildings and products, as well as guidelines on how to infuse antislavery language into design briefs, competition rules, contracts, and more.

“It is time to recognize our responsibility,” Prince said, “and subsidizing construction projects with forced labor on job sites is only half of the slavery issue. Illuminating forced labor in building material supply chains, that design teams specify, has not yet begun. We must turn our attention to the built environment and eradicate modern slavery’s permanent imprint.”

To do this, the team is promoting total transparency from the ground up (and even from below the ground; 4 percent of forced labor occurs in the global mining industry, per the International Labour Organization). Brad Guy, former chair of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Materials and Resources Technical Advisory Group, recently joined GFF’s initiative. He’s also a member of the AIA Materials Knowledge Working Group and is developing a pledge that will try to channel interest in the environmental and social impact of building materials. This includes spreading the word on the “dirty dozen”: bricks, copper, electronics, fiber and textiles, glass, granite, gravel, iron, minerals, precursor chemicals, tin, rubber, steel, and stone. He said these often-specified materials are at risk of being sourced unethically on job sites around the world.

“I’m pretty sure that most people would not consciously choose to purchase these building products if they were the product of forced or child labor,” Guy said. “The core of an architect’s standard of care is the health, safety, and welfare of the public, and the point of incorporating human rights as a fundamental criterion in the production of buildings and materials is for that reason.”

According to Nat Oppenheimer, executive vice president of structural engineering firm Silman, highlighting a tight list of materials can help clarify how much easier it has become to track their origins. “It can change the frame for the design community, hopefully motivating others to ask about other materials and start doing their own research, which in turn may spur further innovation on tracking technology and the creation of new clean versions,” Oppenheimer said.

Though the Grace Farms Foundation Architecture + Construction Working Group, as it’s officially called, has been active for only a year, its efforts are moving forward quickly thanks to the diligence of its members and, in part, because there is already substantial awareness out there. “We’re seeing increasing government regulation around the world, whether in specific modern slavery legislation, such as in Australia and the United Kingdom, or in broader business and human rights initiatives coming out of the European Union and the United Nations,” said C.deBaca, who led the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons during the Obama Administration. “Anyone doing projects overseas or who has multiple offices, or even who sources materials from outside of the U.S., needs to know about this problem.”

So the team is busy spreading the news. Oppenheimer and C.deBaca will present their work at the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering Congress in New York this September, while Deborah Berke, also a member of the working group, is planning a spring series of discussions on the topic at the Yale School of Architecture. Hayes Slade, 2019 president of AIA NY, and Benjamin Prosky, AIA NY executive director, will host a meeting to discuss existing antislavery laws and the more than 45 ethical product and materials certifications or reporting mechanisms that can be applied in the U.S. alone.

“As architects, it’s impossible to look at our work from the products selected to the job site to the completed project and not think about how it all came together,” said Slade. “We are also at a point where information is more readily available and so our expectations and aspirations for transparency are increasing.”

It’s an achievable goal, Prince believes, to get more people on board and boost consciousness of the issue in a short amount of time. She says it will take a serious communication and organization strategy, and that’s why the more experts involved, the better.

“This is an opportunity for industry leaders to use their design and construction wherewithal for significant humanitarian effect through the material procurement and specification process,” Prince said. “And we want to find new projects to test this on. Perhaps Amazon’s new HQ2 in Crystal City, Virginia, is a good place to start since they have distinctly made a commitment to responsible sourcing and developed one of the most sophisticated data platforms that could be tuned to illuminate and audit the building material supply chain. We’re looking for that kind of dedication.”

Sydney Franklin is a member of the GFF Architecture + Construction Working Group, of which AN’s editor-in-chief William Menking is a cofounder. Read more about the group's efforts to end modern slavery in architecture here

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2016 Building of the Year > East: Grace Farms by SANAA

The Architect’s Newspaper (AN)’s inaugural 2013 Best of Design Awards featured six categories. Since then, it's grown to 26 exciting categoriesAs in years past, jury members (Erik Verboon, Claire Weisz, Karen Stonely, Christopher Leong, Adrianne Weremchuk, and AN’s Matt Shaw) were picked for their expertise and high regard in the design community. They based their judgments on evidence of innovation, creative use of new technology, sustainability, strength of presentation, and, most importantly, great design. We want to thank everyone for their continued support and eagerness to submit their work to the Best of Design Awards. We are already looking forward to growing next year’s coverage for you.

2016 Building of the Year > East: Grace Farms by SANAA

Architect: SANAA / Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa Location: New Canaan, CT Submitted by: Grace Farms Foundation

The River, SANAA’s undulating creation for Grace Farms, seeks to marry the nature of its 80-acre New England estate with architecture in an effort to foster the formation of intentional communities that collaborate for good. Made with 203 individually curved glass panels and an anodized aluminum roof, the River’s unusual form follows the property’s natural slope and blends seamlessly into the landscape. Guided by Grace Farms’ dedicated programming in the areas of nature, arts, justice, community, and faith, the structure weaves together five enclosed volumes: an amphitheater-style sanctuary; a library; a commons dining room with tables hewn from trees felled on site; a tea pavilion; and a partially submerged, multipurpose court.

Executive Architects Handel Architects

Project Director Paratus Group Glass Roschmann Steel & Glass CRICURSA Roofing Zahner  Landscape OLIN

Honorable Mention: Building of the Year > East: The Kathleen Grimm School for Leadership and Sustainability

Structural Engineers: Desimone Consulting Engineers Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Location: Staten Island, NY

As the first net-zero energy school in New York City and among the first worldwide, the Kathleen Grimm School exposes structural elements to celebrate its energy efficiency and foster environmental consciousness and awareness in all building users.

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SANAA's Grace Farms wins Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize

Japanese firm SANAA has been awarded the Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize (MCHAP) for 2014/15 for their Grace Farms project in New Canaan, Connecticut. The MCHAP prize seeks to recognize the "most distinguished architectural works built on the North and South American continents." The founders of SANAA, Kazuko Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, were awarded $50,000 at the prize ceremony yesterday evening at the Illinois Institute of Technology's S. R. Crown Hall in Chicago where Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was also in attendance as co-chair. The prize money will go toward funding research and publication (the exact subject, of which, seems to-be-determined). SANAA's winning project, Grace Farms, opened in October last year. The building, known as The River, features a ribbon-like, undulating roofscape that meanders through its natural context. With a glass facade on either side and being elevated by stilts, the roof appears to float through its surroundings. The River attracted 50,000 within the first six months of it opening, with visitors taking part in architectural tours, community dinners, lectures and discussions, concerts, athletics, and worship services and just simply exploring the 80-acre site. In addition to Grace Farms, the finalists for MCHAP comprised the following:
  • Weekend House by Angelo Bucci, São Paulo, Brazil
  • UTEC Campus by Grafton Architects, Lima, Peru
  • Pachacamac Museum by Llosa Cortegana, Lima, Peru
  • Tower 41 by Alberto Kalach, Mexico City, Mexico
  • Star Apartments by Michael Maltzan, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Stan Allen, MCHAP Jury President, said in a press release, "As a jury, we were looking not only for buildings of exceptional quality, but also for buildings that contribute something new to the discipline. We were very impressed by the high quality of the work coming from such a wide variety of cultures. There may be a global architecture culture today, but each place we visited had its own identity and every project responded to a specific context. As a jury we also observed common themes: All of the projects, even those in urban areas, engage with landscape; they all embrace architecture as a force for change; and finally, all of them find a delicate balance between innovation and the history of the discipline." While SANAA took the main prize, Tommy Kyung-Tae Nam and Yun Yun from the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan were announced as winners of the recently established student award. Nam and Yun claimed the Taubman College Burton L. Kampner Memorial Award for their (a)typical office project which was developed with the guidance of Faculty Advisor Adam Fure.
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You'll want to be in New Canaan on October 9 for the opening of SANAA's Grace Farms pavilion

Today, the Grace Farms Foundation announced artworks by contemporary artists that will be unveiled for the October 9, 2015, opening of the SANAA-designed pavilion at Grace Farms in New Canaan, CT. The works are a textile work by Olafur Eliasson, an outdoor sound installation by Susan Philipsz; photographs of SANAA’s Grace Farms models by Thomas Demand; and a mural by Teresita Fernandez. Grace Farms is a 75-acre open space with programming focused on nature, arts, community, justice, and faith that will include the purpose-built, 86,000-square-foot multi-use building that snakes through the surrounding woodlands, wetlands, and meadows. The landscape includes walking trails, picnic areas, an athletic field, and food from community purveyors. It was designed by SANAA in collaboration with Philadelphia–based landscape architecture firm OLIN. The list of artists was made in consultation with Yuko Hasegawa, Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. “Collaborating with Grace Farms Foundation and SANAA on this project has been highly rewarding,” stated Hasegawa.  “The concept of Grace Farms is unique.  I believe it will serve as a great example of how art, architecture, nature, and meaningful programs can all come together to inspire people.” Eliasson will also produce another site-specific light-based installation, and Beatriz Milhazes will build a collage, both of which will be unveiled in spring 2016. Eliasson explained why he is excited to work at Grace Farms: “I was moved by Grace Farms’ vision of an inclusive, non-commercial space to create a work of art that resonates with the architecture, the surrounding parkland and the people who breathe life into it. My work will offer visitors an ephemeral experience dedicated to embodied spirituality.”