Posts tagged with "MOS Architects":

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What is Low-resolution architecture?

44 Low-resolution houses was an exhibition of 44 models of houses by 44 architects. It was organized by Michael Meredith and was on display at the Princeton School of Architecture’s North Gallery from September 11-November 9, 2018. Seemingly simple, the show is organized by a strong conceptual framework that puts these houses into dialogue with one another. In the show, “Low-resolution” (Low-res) is posited a way of seeing objects that are not slick surfaces or gridded plans, but rather aggregated, quotidian, and loosely composed. The exhibition is divided into three parts: “first, houses that vaguely resemble houses, using familiar elements like pitched roofs, etc.; second, houses that appear to be constructed, in that one can see the construction, joints, and materials (there is a sort of cheap, unfinished quality to the work); and third, houses that are composed of basic geometric primitives-squares, circles, triangles-arranged in a non-compositional or abstract manner.” In category 1, Montreal practice Atelier Barda’s Maison Gauthiera house that vaguely resembles a house— incorporates narratives of European stables, the gabled roof, arched gateway, vestibule, cathedral ceiling, deep light canyons, and morphological and formal characteristics of Ellsworth Kelly. All of these references were implemented to achieve desired effects while not immediately recognizable as such. Abstracted figural forms escape the cliche of the sign while still holding symbolic meaning, which is a theme of the low-res. In category 2, Ann Arbor firm T+E+A+M’s A Range Life, constructed so that one can see the construction, joints, and materials, creates a feedback loop between the physical and the digital, including printed graphics on the side of the house, but also with similarly weird material approximations such as fake stone bulkheads and foam rocks. The simulations constitute a construction logic that defies the high-tech detailing and material specificity of previous generations such as phenomenologists or the digital avant-garde, as well as big service firms. In category 3, the low-resolution organization (non-compositional or abstract) group, Columbus, OH–based Outpost Office describes their Upstate House as part of a body of work about "openness," or formal and organizational strategy that generates "open systems embedded with multiplicity and/or formal ambiguity." This ambiguity and plurality could provoke new and unexpected social forms.

In this exhibition, these loose, cool compositions are displayed in a highly choreographed, rigorously designed exhibition by New York-based Studio Lin. All-white, 100-pound Bristol paper models at ¼”=1’0” scale with simple AutoCAD hatch patterns showing materials gives each house an equal footing to be compared with others. his is the paradox evident in all of Meredith’s work, where a “Low-res,” nonchalant attitude is hidden deep beneath a refined, clean aesthetic. It is likely what allows him and his practice MOS to have such a distinctive hegemony over young practices today. The problem with this approach for the exhibition is that in architecture, hardcore formalism and the way it strips away material and site sort of undermines the theoretical rigor and novelty of the exhibitions’ content, which relies on more than just massing and abstracted material representations. While this could be read as “Low-res” exhibition design, where only part of the information is available and we get the point, just not in great detail, this would be generous in its reading. IMHO, the conceptual framework of “Low-resseems to be more productive than Meredith’s previous attempt to understand this generation, “indifference.” In Log 39, he wrote an essay “Indifference, Again,” claiming that today's practitioners operate in a condition similar to those in the McCarthy era, and he cited a 1977 Artforum article. This questionable reading of today's political context and the citation of an Artforum article of that vintage left the critical judgment of "indifference" stillborn. However, the shift to the “Low-res” makes more sense in today's neoliberal, late-capitalist world where cultural production is strained by commodification and strained labor. For a group of designers who avoid conflict, “Low-res offers a way to discuss the work that can begin to categorize, understand, and create dialog between the works, rather than simply let the designers off the hook, or veer into nihilistic multivalence like indifference.

Low-res” offer a formal project that becomes extremely productive in part because of the flexibility that arises from the independence of building parts, such as walls and a roof that can be tuned to the needs of program and site, rather than a strict parti of a continuous surface, which can inhibit the finer details of plan and section. The “Low-res” architectural project shares characteristics with certain practices and efforts in both art and product design. Under a broader umbrella of "low"—in the sense of  a "low" production, not necessarily a "low" culture—we can see common threads about how to expose the process of construction or production in the avoidance of what the artist Hito Steyerl describes as "high-end economies of film production were (and still are) firmly anchored in systems of national culture, capitalist studio production, the cult of mostly male genius, and the original version, and thus are often conservative in their very structure."

We can also see this in contemporary art today in the attitude of COMP USA Live, "The original live desktop theater internet television show." The producers created a custom software that allows for a completely anarchic and disorganized aesthetic. Filmed in front of a live studio audience, the show takes place inside of a Windows 2000 desktop. While the technology behind the show is advanced, and the artists are skilled, the show comes off as something more “low-resolution,” as members of the cast are/appear unprepared. They fight with each other, and the low production value is expressed in every sense, from costumes to props and the stage itself. For Meredith, the three categories of “Low-res” point to a similar condition in architecture, one that rejects the futures where virtuosic technology is the answer—the techno-dystopias we see unfolding before us, such as gender-recognition technology—and points to attitudes that make their own ideas about how the world should be: a compositional, material, and organizational “Low-res,” where columns and parts are left articulated in construction, much like the video effects and software glitches (a result of a looseness about color-selection tolerances within the green-screen technology) are left on display in COMP USA Live.

https://vimeo.com/289594891

44 Low-resolution houses showcases some of the best designers in the world, but in the wrong hands, low-resolution seems to have the potential to devolve—or be co-opted—into a techno-dystopian uber-shabby-chic aesthetic, like in District 9, one where the sheddings of capitalism—cheap materials and trash—are recast into aesthetic objects infused with a realism and an almost survivalist fashionability. Given enough space, this kind of formal looseness starts to absorb other loose-nesses in the world, bordering on the ad-hoc or informal. For example, at the 2016 Venice Biennale, curator Alejandro Aravena, a Chilean Aristocrat born of the Post-Pinochet neoliberal order, seemed to suggest that the whole world learns from the practices of the developing world, and build cities out of trash that is disposed of by the machinations of global materialism. The Low-resolution (Low-res) project is not complete, but this show in Princeton’s gallery was a successful attempt to define a set of characteristics and conditions that define contemporary practice for these architects. And this is not easy these days. The remaining question is what causes one to be “Low-res?” How can an entire set of practices be working in this way? It could be that the aesthetics of virtuosity—perfect Grasshopper models—have been absorbed into institutions so deeply that all that is left is some new rethinking of parts as a way to slow down attention but at the same time speed up production, reducing the time spent on generating form and spending more of it looking at material and construction details. Comparing this to Aravena’s Biennale (the aesthetic project of collecting pieces, as well as the social one of helping others), we can see some similarities. Both had dramatic, hi-fidelity exhibition design. While Aravena's Biennale was first a social project that directly attempted to offer solutions to problems, Low-resolution is not. Rather, it grows from conditions underlying the context in which it is produced. Most notably, both are post-digital, Aravena's seeking low-tech solutions that might fill in where the promise of the digital utopia has fallen short, while Meredith's assessment of today's elite design practices arises from a similar condition, probably one where our experience of the digital is less about tools such as Grasshopper, and more about digital space and the feedback loop between online culture, identity politics, and the cut-paste culture of the internet, where anyone can easily piece together an online persona with some clicks of a mouse. Overall, 44 Low-resolution Houses is an important show that could serve as the start of understanding more about how we make architecture today.

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Listen to your favorite architect’s band on this designer mixtape

Last Night I Dreamt I Was a Robot Selfies on Parade Dadwhyareyousonegative No, these are not leaked track titles from Beyoncé’s next album. They are songs from Practicing Spaces, a mixtape that collects the work of other, much less well-known musicians who have one conspicuous thing tying them together: they’re all architects. Readers may know Michael Meredith of MOS Architects and Florian Idenburg of SO – IL from their work in their day jobs, but by night, these architects unleash their true passions, plug in the amp, and let the music play. Melissa J. Frost, a designer and studio instructor at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, compiled and produced the mixtape after a conversation with Eric Bunge of nArchitects made her realize that several of her architect friends had bands on the side. “Eric was saying that he tries to get together to play music with Florian Idenburg and Michael Meredith, and he still has a practice space in his basement,” Frost said. She quickly tracked down music from other figures in the field, like Michael Young, her master’s thesis advisor at Princeton, and Wendy Gilmartin, a colleague at Pomona. Some of the tracks are deep cuts that date back to youthful experimentations. Daniel Barber, now an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, closes out the tape with the oldest inclusion, a recording from the stage of Lollapalooza 1995, where he performed as part of the band Blowhole. Others are evidence that some architects are actively writing, recording, and performing music. Neil Denari’s track, Music For One, comes fresh from 2018. The tape pulls from over a dozen different acts, but they all hew to a similar aesthetic. Many are non-vocal, with electronic and guitar instrumentation and meandering song structures. “I think, like, a more instrumental or abstracted relationship to a song is inherently connected to spatial awareness or spatial perception,” Frost hypothesized. “I do think there are aesthetic connections between each person's individual song, and their individual work,” Frost said. “I think with most of them it’s extremely obvious…Michael Meredith’s kind of pared down electronic awkward sampled song really looks like their, I think they call it, their 1983 Atari-style drawings.” Frost released the tape as part of her IIIII Columns project, an online platform where she has published other work that falls outside traditional disciplinary boundaries, like a harm-reduction guide for performance venues or “a catalog of marxist modernist home goods.” The mixtape, which is being published in a limited run on physical cassette tapes, “is supposed to be kind of difficult to get ahold of,” said Frost, but she is planning a series of listening parties across the country. Frost, a musician herself, declined to include her work in the mix. “It was a little too weird to put myself on it,” she said, “so I decided not to.” To order the mixtape, visit the IIIII Columns site here. Tracklist: Michael Meredith - Dadwhyareyousonegative Tim Durfee - Selfies on Parade Eric Bunge - Cellar Kazys Varnelis - Stillwater James Graham & Stephen Nielson - Last Night I Dreamt I Was a Robot Neil Denari - Music For One Mariana Ibañez, Simon Kim - Hate 1,2 (stop the violence) Wendy Gilmartin - White Midnight Florian Idenburg - Track 12 Enrique Ramirez - Lullaby From The West Coast Sleepers Benjamin Bratton - Texture 4 George Crumb Michael Young - If it Falls Apart Alfredo Thiermann - Land in the Sky Matt Olsen - Motion Block Esther Choi - track 3 Daniel Barber - Needlefoam
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MOS Architects designs a ziggurat of foam blocks for low-income families

New York–based design studio MOS Architects recently developed an experimental model of housing using only foam blocks. The pixelated structure, reminiscent of the sturdy ziggurats from ancient Mesopotamia, is not only cheap and environmentally friendly, but, according to the architects, it can also be constructed within a few days. According to the firm’s traditional method of labeling, the Tetris-style prototype has been dubbed “House No. 12, A Foam House with 98 Blocks of Foam and 8 Doors.” MOS designed the structure specifically for low-income families who suffer from poverty and homelessness. By using expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, a lightweight and easily maneuverable material that helps insulate the shelter, they were able to construct a house that is innovative, hyper-functional, and cost-effective. EPS foam is typically used to insulate packages due to its compact yet lightweight structure. These material characteristics will provide a wide range of benefits to future homeowners, who can dwell within each unit fully protected from the outside elements. Once House No. 12 is built to full-size, its exterior will be coated with a rough cement and stucco finish, further protecting its soft, spongy center. As the name suggests, House No. 12 features 98 foam blocks and eight different entryways. It also includes an open and flexible floor plan, equipped with a spacious kitchen, living area, and bedroom. According to the architects, the layout of the prototype was inspired by a ziggurat because throughout history ziggurats have been symbols of power, domination, and protection. The massive stone temples were known architecturally for their wide, protective bases and narrow, flat tops. MOS Architects expects that once constructed in real life House No. 12 will bring hope to underserved communities who seek a safe place to live, while also representing a better way of life.
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Here is AN Interior’s first ever list of top 50 interior architects and designers

Welcome to AN Interior's inaugural top 50 interior architect and designer list, featuring emerging and established firms across the U.S. While these architects' and designers' talents certainly go beyond interior work, they are deftly pushing the boundaries of residential, retail, workplace, and hospitality spaces and cleverly reimagining the spaces we inhabit. Ensamble Studio  Boston, Madrid With a distinct focus on the process of making, Ensamble Studio leverages material technologies to produce dramatic spaces and forms. 64North Los Angeles Multidisciplinary studio 64North provides branding, interiors, website, and product design services. Architecture is Fun Chicago
As the name implies, Architecture Is Fun produces playful designs, frequently working with children’s museums; it won AIA Chicago’s 2017 Firm of the Year award. UrbanLab Chicago, Los Angeles
UrbanLab’s highly graphic design sensibility brings together smart solutions and visual identity in projects ranging from small storefronts to urban infrastructures. Design, Bitches Chicago, Los Angeles
The irreverent work of Design, Bitches employs layers of color, light, and material to build engaging interior spaces across Southern California. LADG Los Angeles
LADG produces uncanny forms and clever spaces by leveraging common construction materials.
Toshiko Mori Architect New York
The minimal interiors of Toshiko Mori belie their complexity, framing dramatic landscapes and challenging notions of craft. Young Projects New York
The formally expressive interiors and objects by Bryan Young utilize smooth geometries and refined materials.
Tacklebox’s interiors are filled with “ordinary” materials deployed in unexpected ways, recontextualizing the quotidian.
Michael K Chen Architecture New York
MKCA’s puzzle-like built-ins make the most of tiny living spaces. NADAAA New York, Boston
NADAAA’s work engages with high-tech material investigations and form finding. LOT New York, Athens
The influence of LOT’s Greek office is clear in its mellow, refined interiors and the firm’s furniture line, Objects of Common Interest. MOS Architects New York
The highly intellectual work of MOS plays on contemporary and historical architectural philosophies. Norman Kelley Chicago, New York
A self-described superficial practice, Carrie Norman and Thomas Kelley explore the concepts of play, illusion, and flatness, all within an often tongue-in-cheek understanding of historical precedent. Snarkitecture New York
It should be no surprise that a firm named Snarkitecture produces works that are often outlandish—tempered by clean, white color palettes. INABA Williams New York
Part think tank and part design firm, every INABA Williams project is rooted in an in-depth research process.
Elliott + Associates Architects Oklahoma City
Rand Elliott has been focusing the country’s attention on Oklahoman design for the past 40 years. SPAN Architecture  New York
SPAN creates high-finish spaces full of carefully chosen materials and details. Home Studios  New York
Home Studios produces polished, finely detailed commercial and hospitality interiors filled with fine wood, stone, and metal detailing. Architecture in Formation New York
AiF brings together eclectic styles for a wide range of projects, from large hospitality to urban lofts.
Only If— New York
Only If— fuses smart geometries with clever materials for striking interiors.
Ezequiel Farca + Cristina Grappin Los Angeles, Mexico City, Milan
Ezequiel Farca and Cristina Grappin draw from their collaborations with Mexican artisans and use local materials to create contextual works for high-end clients. Bureau Spectacular Los Angeles
The comic book sensibility of Bureau Spectacular delves beyond the superficial with spaces that encourage the occupants to live a less ordinary life. Barbara Bestor Los Angeles
Between her many residential and commercial projects across L.A. and her book, Bohemian Modern: Living in Silver Lake, Barbara Bestor is an influential force on Southern Californian design.
Johnsen Schmaling Architects Milwaukee
Johnsen Schmaling translates the beauty of the rural upper Midwest into site-specific residential projects.
Morris Adjmi Architects New York
Carefully proportioned spaces and forms—and a sensitivity to history— define Morris Adjmi’s elegant work.
Neil M. Denari Architects Los Angeles
Teaching at UCLA in addition to running his practice, Neil Denari is a perennial thought leader in the space where technology and architectural form meet. WORKac New York
With clever twists on typical programs, WORKac’s interiors are unexpected and playful. archimania Memphis
The progressive Memphis-based firm is taking a leading role in redefining what architecture can be in the Southeast through its numerous projects and help in redeveloping its city’s waterfront.
Shulman + Associates Miami
Shulman + Associates draw on the history, materials, and culture of South Florida to formulate vibrant, innovative commercial and residential interiors. Clive Wilkinson Architects Los Angeles
Focusing on workplace and educational facilities, Clive Wilkinson has helped define the aesthetics of contemporary creative professional and learning spaces.
Rafael de Cárdenas Architecture at Large New York
Native New Yorker Rafael de Cárdenas incorporates ’80s and ’90s glamour and pop culture into his high-profile endeavors.
Studio O+A San Francisco
The workspaces designed by Studio O+A express its clients’ stories and personalities, pushing the envelope of the modern office.
New Affiliates New York
New Affiliates works in “loose forms and rough materials” to create elegant spaces.
Biber Architects New York
James Biber approaches every project with a fresh vision, letting design and function guide the form.
Olson Kundig Seattle
With a dedicated interiors studio, Olson Kundig has redefined the Pacific Northwest architectural typology.
OFFICIAL Dallas
OFFICIAL designs bright interiors with pops of color and custom furnishings. The two-person studio also has its own furniture line.
Aidlin Darling Design San Francisco
Materials are at the forefront of and celebrated in each project by Aidlin Darling Design. Leong Leong  New York
Brothers Christopher and Dominic Leong use broad, decisive formal moves to organize space into crisp, refined interiors. Alexander Gorlin Architects New York
For the past two decades, even when minimalism reigned, Alexander Gorlin has been layering colors and patterns with great success. Craig Steely Architecture San Francisco
Craig Steely celebrates the tropical locales of his projects with interiors that reflect and embrace the native flora.
Aranda\Lasch New York, Tuscon
Truly experimental, Aranda\Lasch explores pattern and fabrications as easily as space and form.
Andre Kikoski Architect New York
Known for creating everything from architectural interiors to furniture and finishes, Andre Kikoski consistently delivers refined designs. SO-IL New York
Airy and ethereal, yet highly programmatic, the formal and material exercises by SO-IL are unmistakable. Peter Marino Architect New York
Leather-clad Peter Marino is the go-to for sumptuous interiors in high-end retail and hospitality around the world. Slade Architecture  New York
Slade’s lighthearted approach brings together form, color, pattern, and material. Charlap Hyman & Herrero  Los Angeles, New York
Bold interior forms with a refined material palette typify the work of RISD graduates Andre Herrero and Adam Charlap Hyman.
BarlisWedlick Architects New York
BarlisWedlick produces super-efficient, passive projects without neglecting aesthetics. Schiller Projects New York
Schiller Projects works through analytic research to design everything from architecture to branding.
Reddymade Design New York
Reddymade’s interiors are influenced by founder Suchi Reddy’s Indian upbringing, with lush colors, patterns, and rich materials.
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Sister exhibitions explore architectural furniture at Friedman Benda in Chelsea

Architects are no strangers to designing furniture, as they often strive for a visual homogeny throughout the interior and exterior of their built projects. At Friedman Benda in Chelsea, Manhattan, the historical legacy of architectural furniture is celebrated with Inside the Walls: Architects Design alongside its ambiguous future with No-Thing: An exploration into aporetic architectural furniture. Guest curated by Mark McDonald, Inside the Walls charts milestone furniture design across the 20th century from both domestic and international architects. The extensive survey extracts pieces of furniture designed for site-specific installations and displays them alone and with other items, drawing attention to how the designer’s influence and intent still shines through. The show’s focus might jump from piece to piece, displaying furniture by everyone from Charles and Ray Eames to Luis Barragán, but a “clarity of vision” threads throughout all of them. For example, a Frank Gehry-designed rocking chaise made from cardboard contains the same swooping curves and exploration of form as his buildings. Likewise, the collection of chairs, tables, and lighting fixtures designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, despite their simplicity, are immediately recognizable as his. Wright is inarguably the centerpiece at Inside the Walls. The show displays ephemera from across the architect’s career and presents him as an auteur. Visitors can examine the cantilevering sets of outdoor lighting fixtures from Wright’s 1914 Francis W. Little House up close, then study furniture from his 1956 Price Tower without missing a beat. No-Thing is located in Friedman Benda’s basement project space, and puts new commissions from up-and-coming studios front and center. Curator Juan García Mosqueda assembled a group showcase under the guise of a furniture exhibition, with works that implore the viewer to project personal meaning on the furniture within. This “non-dogmatic approach to object creation” is in direct contrast to the rigid visions of Inside the Walls in the space above, creating the titular “no-thing,” a work that is bestowed value by its users. A seemingly normal table built from leftover construction materials (MOS Architects) mingles with a blacked-out mirror (Norman Kelley) that challenges the viewer to see much of anything, playing with preconceived notions of what to expect from that typology. No-Thing features work by Andy and Dave (Brooklyn), Ania Jaworska (Chicago), architecten de vylder vinck taillieu (Gent, Belgium), Leong Leong (New York), MILLIØNS (Los Angeles), MOS (New York), Norman Kelley (New York, Chicago), SO–IL (Brooklyn), and Pezo von Ellrichshausen (Chile). Both Inside the Walls and No-Thing are on display at Friedman Benda at 515 W. 26th St, until February 17.
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Experimental glass block tower by MOS debuts at Chicago Architecture Biennial

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AN caught up with co-founders of MOS Architects, Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample, and Seattle-based artist and designer John Hogan. The group collaborated with structural engineer Nat Oppenheimer of Silman Engineering to develop a prototype of an interlocking structural glass block. The work is part of Vertical City, a central installation at the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, where sixteen "towers" respond to one of architectural history's most significant competitions: the 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower. Curated by Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, the towers will remain on exhibit in the Sidney R. Yates Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center through January 7, 2018.
  • Facade Manufacturer John Hogan Designs
  • Architects MOS Architects (Project Team: Michael Meredith, Hilary Sample, John Yurchyk, Nile Greenberg, Mark Acciari, Michael Abel, Paul Ruppert, Fancheng Fei.)
  • Additional Project Support Columbia University GSAPP, Princeton University School of Architecture, and College for Creative Studies Detroit
  • Facade Consultants Nat Oppenheimer, Silman Engineering (structural engineering)
  • Location Chicago, IL
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System load bearing glass block w/ aluminum support
  • Products soda-lime-silica glass hot-cast in custom manufactured graphite formwork
Called “& Another (Chicago Tribune Tower),” the project is an orderly stack of three types of modular block units rising to approximately sixteen feet tall. A custom-milled aluminum plate system interfaces with the glass block wall every two courses, providing lateral bracing. The assembly creates a translucent effect, blurring the legibility of the tower’s structural core. "We would like this to be a real building," said Michael Meredith. "This is a full-scale mockup of a 16-foot-tall glass wall. We didn't know what we were going to get at first. It was all a big experiment." The office tapped into technical Ph.D. papers and engineering research utilized in MVRDV's recent glass block project and looked into precedents from offices like Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Michael Meredith said the aesthetic qualities of the glass are what pique most visitors’ interest, but expects the work will spark a deeper conversation about architectural history. The installation pairs the repetitive, rational, and modular thinking of Ludwig Hilberseimer, best known for his ties to the Bauhaus and to Mies van der Rohe, with “one-liner” tectonic jokes—tower as a fluted column, a skyscraper with crenellation, etc.—in the manner of Adolf Loos who submitted a “joke” entry to the original 1922 competition. The tower sits just shy of sixteen feet, remaining "unfinished," with a final course of blocks scattered on the ground below. The glass blocks were handmade, so ensuring the assembly stayed vertically true was a primary concern to the project team. A "peg registration" system—precisely located bumps and divets—was incorporated into the formwork to assist in stacking the modular units. Despite this planning, Hogan said the group was not sure how much tolerance the individual units would have. The solution was to incorporate CNC-milled aluminum plates to provide a rigid template for the glass walls. "Engineering a system that basically gives you a reset every two courses was the best way for us to be confident the tower would stand straight." The glass block manufacturing process lasted only six days and resulting in 750 blocks from three distinct forms. The team used soda-lime glass, one of the most prevalent types of glass available, accounting for about 90% of manufactured glass today. For Hogan, the project is a continuation of techniques picked up at Alfred University in Western New York, a top-notch casting facility with what he calls “an incredible collection of scrap graphite” (an ideal material for hot-casting glass). Hot-casting is a process that involves pouring molten glass into a form. Graphite is an ideal form material as it can be removed almost immediately after the pour, whereas other materials require the glass to cool completely prior to removal—a lengthier process that is inherently more labor intensive.
Hogan said despite the fast timeframe and limited budget, the creative process was fluid and not predetermined from the start. "The lack of pressure MOS put on themselves to have a predetermined idea of where this thing is going and what it might become is something that aligns well with how I work." So what’s next now that the "mock-up" is complete? Hogan continues to “scale up” his efforts and will be completing a rooftop exterior screen installation later this year in Seattle. He credits this repetitive modular design approach as a way to continue working at a larger architectural scale. MOS Architects and Hogan plan to collaborate on future projects as well. "For me, this is just the beginning of a conversation," said Hogan. "The potential for building larger structures or any number of facade systems with this approach is something we are very excited about. Everything is automated and precise today, so the handmade qualities of building materials have become increasingly relevant.”
 
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Passive-Aggressive design: When sustainability radically shapes architecture

This article is part of  The Architect’s Newspaper’s “Passive Aggressive” feature on passive design strategies. Not to be confused with “Passivhaus” or “Passive House” certification, passive design strategies such as solar chimneys, trombe walls, solar orientation, and overhangs, rely on scheme rather than technology to respond to their environmental contexts. Today, architects are more concerned with sustainability than ever, and new takes on old passive techniques are not only responsible, but can produce architecture that expresses sustainable features through formal exuberance. We call it “passive-aggressive.” In this feature, we examine three components—diagram, envelope, and material—where designers are marrying form and performance. We also look back at the unexpected history of passive-aggressive architecture, talk with passive-aggressive architects, and check out a passive-aggressive house. More “Passive Aggressive” articles are listed at the bottom of the page!

Diagram

The promise of architecturally considered, environmentally conscious buildings that are more than exercises in technological prosthetics is taking shape around the world. Sustainable design can be achieved without subjugating space, form, experience, and aesthetics, concepts that often end up subservient to green concerns. Even offices are moving beyond the often-gauche addition of solar panels and sun shades to typical building typologies. To do so, form is playing an important role in achieving sustainability goals, and a new crop of spatially and formally exuberant projects is being realized. The result is a series of buildings that neither perform—or look—like anything we have seen before.

Perhaps the best test of a project’s sustainability aspirations is an extreme climate. Drastic temperature changes, remote locales, and inhospitable landscapes call for more than technological gadgetry to produce even a habitable project. Deserts in particular present challenges that push conventional designs to their limits. When New York firm WORKac began designing a guesthouse in southern Arizona with the goal of being completely off the grid, it looked to the southwest Earthship typology to start. Earthships are passive solar homes that use a combination of natural and upcycled materials embedded in the earth to create a thermal mass that keeps their interiors cool during the day and warm at night. WORKac took some of these concepts and elevated them into a unique architectural form. A simple diagram, the heart of the project is an adobe brick mass, upon which airy living spaces are cantilevered above the ground.

New York–based MOS Architects engaged the desert climate in its Museum of Outdoor Arts Element House. A guesthouse and visitor center for the Star Axis land art project by the artist Charles Ross, the project hovers just above the New Mexico desert on stout concrete piers. The house, designed to be off the grid, is built out of prefabricated structural insulated panels. By distilling the project down to its basic architectural components, a theme among many MOS projects, a clear yet expressive geometric system governs its overall shape. Rather than a central hearth, a series of modules each has its own solar chimney. The result is a naturally lit interior without excessive glazing to increase solar gain. A reflective aluminum shingle cladding counters even more of the sun’s intense rays while also playing visual games with the overall form. Views out of the project are captured through deeply inset operable glass walls at the ends of each module. The only typical sustainable technology visible is a solar array folly, situated just a few yards from the building.

On the other side of the world in another desert climate, Zaha Hadid Architects supersized its sustainable efforts. The King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) was founded in 2010 by its namesake as an independent, nonprofit research institution to investigate the future of energy economics and technology. KAPSARC will bring together researchers and scientists from 20 nations into one planned community in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Currently under construction, KAPSARC will become the main building of the campus, while formally being a campus within itself. An aggregation of six-sided plant-cell-shaped spaces, the project is a series of conditioned and unconditioned laboratories, conference rooms, lecture halls, and courtyards. Thanks to the office’s mastery of parametricism, angles, openings, and surfaces are cleverly utilized to manipulate sunlight, blocking it or allowing it into the advantage of the occupants. The modules also permit future expansion while maintaining the overall form and performance. The complex interlocking forms, and green-water-filled courtyards passively cooling surrounding spaces, echo traditional Arab courtyards buildings.

While designers strive to capture and control sunlight in the desert, in more northern climates it can be a scarce resource that is protected by code. In a city like Toronto, which averages six months of regular snowfall, new buildings can be required to allow sunlight to hit the sidewalk for portions of the day. For large projects like Bjarke Ingels Group’s (BIG) King Street development, sunlight, views, and greenspace were calculated using the latest in super-computer simulation modeling. Though the pixelated project will resemble the early diagram-driven ones from Ingels’s days with PLOT, such as the Mountain Dwelling project, King Street will be undeniably more complex. Within BIG, a smaller studio called BIG Ideas works in collaboration with Microsoft to develop predictive modeling tools for direct use by the designers. “All of the hill heights are determined by the sun and site,” Jakob Lange, BIG partner, explained. “Big Ideas created a tool for the design team to use to generate the formation of the hills. On the sidewalk, you need at least a certain amount of sunlight. The only way you can do that is to have a machine that can test every point.” The result is a seemingly haphazard stack of blocks that allow copious light and air into each unit and terrace, as well to streets and public courtyards. 

Whether through high-tech computer modeling or low-tech desert vernacular, passive sustainable design is turning a corner. No longer an afterthought, environmental considerations have stopped holding projects visually captive. With improved agency, architects are striking a delicate balance between formal, spatial experience and sustainable considerations.

—Matthew Messner

Envelope

Be aggressive and show off your passive sustainability strategy facade first.

Bates Masi Architects’ Amagansett Dunes home, a modest cottage a few hundred feet from the ocean on the South Shore of Long Island, is covered on its east and west sides with operable glass. Different-sized adjustable openings create a pressure differential that promotes natural ventilation. To modulate light through these surfaces, the firm installed canvas louvers that admit cool breezes in the summer and block cold winds in the winter.

Each tapered louver is cut from one piece of canvas and wrapped around a powdered aluminum frame, its riveted strips slightly twisted to increase their transparency. The canvas pattern, which was developed through several digital and physical models, casts dappled light and dramatic shadows throughout the house and creates a lantern effect at night.

Another dramatic facade is located at Carrier Johnson + Culture’s Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. The concrete project has achieved LEED Gold certification through a number of sustainable solutions—from drought-resistant landscaping to smart solar orientation—and is lined with a curved, south-facing stainless-steel screen that reflects solar heat while allowing in natural light. A concrete roof overhang provides additional shading for the building and an adjacent outdoor walkway serves both as a pedestrian connector and a sort of double-layered facade. A new public plaza fronts the other side of the wall.

The wall’s staggered, water-jet-cut steel panels are unique: Each one contains a gap to allow air and views and is connected to a series of steel posts. The screen’s design makes subtle references to the religious campus, employing alpha and omega symbols, images from the cosmos, and other abstract references. “It’s both an art piece and an environmental wall,” Carrier Johnson + Culture’s design principal Ray Varela said.

Halfway around the world in Tehran, Iran, Admun Design and Construction created a memorable brick facade that shields the hot sun, encourages natural ventilation, and provides privacy while allowing limited, interesting patterns of light. Inspired by the surrounding neighborhood buildings and the city’s chaotic skyline, the facade is composed of variously rotated bricks with varied apertures. The openings change size based on the views, sun angles, and external distractions. Mortar was removed by punching the bricks, and the scheme was designed using parametric software. The process was carried out by the builders through a simple coding system. A ledge was placed in the gap between the brick membrane and the outer edge to provide space for flower boxes and to give cleaning access to the windows from outside. Balconies were placed behind the brick facade.

Indeed, low-tech solutions are becoming new again, but with a clever technological twist.

—Sam Lubell

Material

Is it possible for sustainable systems to be both high- and low-tech at the same time? That’s the question architects are answering with a resounding “Yes,” thanks to advanced, but somehow simple, passive strategies that rely on new materials. One of the most publicized solutions is New York–based raad studio’s Lowline Lab, a heavily planted public space—still early in development—that will be located in a historic trolley terminal under the streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

In order to bring natural light into the space, the team is using what they call a “remote skylight,” in which sunlight passes through a glass shield to a parabolic collector, where it’s reflected and gathered at one focal point, then transmitted onto a “solar canopy,” a reflective surface underground. The technology transmits the necessary light wavelengths to enable plants and trees to grow in the underground space. A motorized optical system (likely to be powered by photovoltaics) tracks maximum sunlight throughout the day, and the solar canopy carefully distributes light evenly throughout the space.

Raad principal James Ramsey likened the system, which uses a series of relay lenses and mirrors, to both a telescope and a plumbing system. “You’ve almost treated the light as if you’ve turned it into a liquid,” he said. “It’s only geometry. That kind of simplicity is very efficient, and there’s something elegant about that.” All these technologies, added Ramsey, are still in development, so a specific system has not been finalized. He hopes to have it nailed down in the next couple of years.

French firm studioMilou’s reimagining of the National Gallery in Singapore consists of a roof and “veil” that unite two renovated historic buildings while creating a new courtyard. It’s another passive wonder that draws even, dappled light and keeps the buildings and their new public space cool. It mimics one of the oldest systems in the universe: a tree, with its thousands of branches stemming outward. The veil starts above the existing buildings and swoops down around them, filtering and softening natural light through thousands of laminated fritted glass and perforated aluminum panels, creating a filigree structure that also marks the new main entrance. All is supported by large aluminum columns, which effectively serve as tree trunks.

The goal, the French architects said, is for the roof and veil to resemble a handcrafted rattan tapestry. To execute the simple but complex form, the firm scanned the entire space and created a detailed 3-D model, working the roof and veil into the complex geometries of the space and even adjusting panels to fit and avoid the existing facade cornices. Each aluminum panel (chosen for its light weight and rust resistance) can be removed if maintenance is needed.

Meanwhile, Phoenix-based Wendell Burnette Architects’ (WBA) Desert Courtyard House uses a simple, reductive system to create a memorable space in a Sonoran Desert community near Phoenix while also being naturally sustainable. The house, which wraps around a courtyard containing volcanic rock, Saguaro cacti, and desert trees, is located in a low-lying area. It consists of about eight percent locally sourced cement (constituting the raised base) and 92 percent rammed earth excavated from the site. All of the extracted soil was used for the thick walls—none was taken away from the site and none was imported from elsewhere. The peripheral walls range from 3.5 to 18 inches thick, their high thermal mass keeping the home cool—although air conditioning can be used on particularly hot days. Another natural cooling system is the folded, wood-framed Cor-ten steel roof, which conducts heat up and out, creating a chimney effect.

The heavy, almost cave-like palette continues throughout the house, creating a unique aesthetic that Burnette said “feels ancient, primal, and modern at the same time.” He added, “You experience this as a shelter in a very elemental way.”

—Sam Lubell

For more “Passive Aggressive” articles, explore: Bjarke Ingels Group’s own tech-driven think tank, how WORKac’s Arizona House revives the super sustainable Earthship typologyMOS Architects' Michael Meredith on sustainability, and our brief, unofficial history of recent passive-aggressive design.

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AN interviews Michael Meredith of MOS Architects on sustainability

 This article is part of  The Architect’s Newspaper’s “Passive Aggressive” feature on passive design strategies. Not to be confused with “Passivhaus” or “Passive House” certification, passive design strategies such as solar chimneys, trombe walls, solar orientation, and overhangs, rely on scheme rather than technology to respond to their environmental contexts. Today, architects are more concerned with sustainability than ever, and new takes on old passive techniques are not only responsible, but can produce architecture that expresses sustainable features through formal exuberance. We call it “passive-aggressive.” In this feature, we examine three components—diagram, envelope, and material—where designers are marrying form and performance. We also look back at the unexpected history of passive-aggressive architecture, talk with passive-aggressive architects, and check out a passive-aggressive house. More “Passive Aggressive” articles are listed at the bottom of the page!

Michael Meredith is a founding co-principal of MOS Architects, whose work connects the rigor of American formalism with 21st-century biopolitics.

The Architect’s Newspaper: How does sustainability affect form?

Michael Meredith: I would say that in the last few years, formalism went from geometry-as-god to performance-as-god. If Eisenman would say, “The logic of geometry made me do it,” today people would say, “The sun angles made me do it.” It’s a narrative that played out in schools, at least.

What kind of passive design strategies do you use?

Well, a lot of our projects use the chimney effect. We love chimneys, we even gave a lecture on it. The Element House is maybe the most explicit. It is totally off the grid and has about 12 inches of insulation.

But we also implemented it in the Ordos house in 2005, as well as After Party, our MoMA/PS1 Young Architects Program installation in 2008, and some of our other more recent house proposals. It’s one of the most basic units of architecture and acts as a catalyst for both performance and form without a lot of effort, and to great effect.

How do you see sustainability today?

Sustainability has become the new default. It is hard to find anyone who says they aren’t sustainable, although that would be interesting. Nobody would say they’re not sustainable, it’s like saying they’re against ADA. It’s just a requirement nowadays. Maybe we should make a bigger deal about it, we don’t really sell the sustainability thing like some other offices would, but we do use it.

For more “Passive Aggressive” articles, explore: our feature article that features projects from across the world, Bjarke Ingels Group’s own tech-driven think tank, how WORKac’s Arizona House revives the super sustainable Earthship typology, and our brief, unofficial history of recent passive-aggressive design.

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Exploring Crown Hall and future of Emerging Voices at the Chicago Architecture Biennial

At the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the role of the horizon in architectural display and setting for events was noticeable—both in the biennial's discussions held at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) Chicago during the opening as well in the main exhibition in the Chicago Cultural Center. Here is what made instant impressions. When the dust settles, various other things will emerge, that I am sure. IIT threw a party for the biennial, as well as hosted panel discussions earlier that day. Without a doubt, Mies van der Rohe's Crown Hall is an unbeatable example (on its ideological turf) of how rigorous rules of platonic geometry still drive the photogenic nature beyond actuality, and somehow end up being free of time. The Crown Hall is not only a setting of purity in Cartesian world of grids, but also an organizational force that persists as a monolith in face of any pluralistic trends of the moment, many of them that are present at the biennial. Two discussions "crowned" the morning of that day. First, by reviewing a group of "Emerging Voices," a descriptor meant for a youngish architecture practice established by The Architectural League of New York. After  presentations by Dan Wood, Tatiana Bilbao, Michael Meredith, Florian Idenburg, Paul Lewis and Kim Yao, along with a Martin Felsen-moderated discussion, Anne Rieselbach, of the Architectural League, asked the question that was hanging in the air (paraphrased): For how long will emerging architects will still be considered emerging? Judging by the work presented, the offices owned by the panelists are well ahead in their production of some very important projects. Yet, ideologically, what is the position of supporting institutions of Emerging Voices in order to understand the advance of such highly educated architect makers, influenced by being apprentices to their "parent" architects such as OMA, Peter Eisenman, Steven Holl, Diller Scofidio+Renfro, and SANAA. Are they, the “emerging children,” still struggling to assert their own brilliance and excellence already on record? The interesting and lateral voice was Tatiana Bilbao, architect from Mexico City and the only woman on the panel, for whom the question of influence nor mentorship really seemed to matter. It is always good for the debate to see someone shake the table horizontally and get the discussion to go further. Bilbao is from what people in the North call the South. Which leads me to the observation of the second panel at IIT, moderated by Fabrizio Gallanti and titled "South-North," as an inversion to common understanding of geography. This conversation involved two architects from the “South” and two architects from the “North.” Felipe Mesa and David Barragan, spoke about how different it is to be an architect from the south, and how the south is discovering new phenomena in the last five years, such as tourism. Architecture seems to play a large role in the trend of emerging tourism in locations that were not usually visited before. The lessons from these conversations at this time seem two fold. At one end, the inclusion of the south is simply not just having south, it is about being south from the north. In terms of competence of design and construction process, there seems to be no difference, yet there is asymmetry due to different climates that impose legal regulations onto architecture. David Barragan from Quito referred to vernacular architecture in Ecuador as an escape from the curriculum of the architecture schools there that teach detail drawings made to Swiss and German standards, which no one can read and perform there. The case in point. A side discussion with Paul Lewis unfolded at the scene after these two panels. We both looked at the ceiling of IIT covered in tiles that are in square shape while the entire geometry of the Crown Hall is rectangular. It is good to remember that ideas behind pure architecture are indeed purer in geometry, and not necessarily in economy. Back at the Chicago Cultural Center, three installations stand out as direct answers to the title of the biennial: The State of the Art in Architecture. If not noted before, this title is borrowed from Stanley Tigerman’s conference held at Graham Foundation in 1977. For me two projects presented at the biennial draw attention to this topic at best: First, Nikolaus Hirsch & Michel Müller and, second, WORKac & Ant Farm. They take the aspects of the future from the past seriously into the design process of crafting them now. It is a fantastical world of day-dreaming of architecture that crosses through any statements of architects trying to do art…and fail gracefully…into the next set of ideas of what the future of art shall be, by architecture.
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MOS Architects, Michael Graves among winners of the 2015 Cooper Hewitt Design Awards

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum started awarding a yearly Design Award in 2000. The award is a jury-selected process that includes among its ten categories honors for Architecture, Interior Design, Landscape Design, and for Lifetime Achievement that has been won by architects. This year's awards were elegantly introduced by the Museum’s Director Caroline Baumann and Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. They honored MOS Architects' Hilary Sample and Michael Meredith, landscape designer Shane Coen at Coen + Partners, and Commune, the Los Angeles interior design firm. In addition, Common Ground founder Rosanne Haggerty was given a Design Mind award, Jack Lenor Larson was awarded the Director's Award, and, fittingly, the late Michael Graves (whose partners claim he told them before he died that he would win the award this year) was given the annual Lifetime Achievement award.
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AN senior editor Matt Shaw interviews MOS Architects

New York-based studio MOS's experimental projects use technology not to produce extreme digital forms, but to create scenarios for different forces to generate new and novel solutions. Senior editor Matt Shaw sat down with principals Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample in their Harlem home-studio to learn more.

The Architect’s Newspaper: How would you characterize your practice in general?

Hilary Sample: Well, I think it is still evolving—it’s not a set thing, it doesn’t run by itself. We don’t have a fixed methodology. It is unconventional and we try to make it that way on purpose. We are working through a set of problems. We have recently evolved from working on the single-family house to art-related projects and installations, artist’s studios at Krabbesholm, and now mixed use as well.

Michael Meredith: One part of running an office is to produce a culture. We’re a small group, we aren’t corporate, and we live above the office, so it’s an intimate thing. Everybody knows us, they know our kids. We interact all the time. They see our dogs. It’s literally Mom and Pop. We set up a culture where we are working on commercial projects, projects for clients that have to meet budgets and stuff, but at the same time we are making stuff for no clients whatsoever. We are a normal office too though—we have deadlines, crises, the usual.

AN: Your work incorporates a subtle sense of humor in it. How do you reconcile that with a more refined sense of good taste?

MM: It’s not one of these things where if you are one you aren’t the other. It’s more like a mannerism, where you can see the slipped keystone as a kind of sense of humor to some degree. At Solo House there was a kind of humor in a way it could be tragedy. One of the T-shapes has fallen over and becomes the bedroom. That kind of physical humor seems like part of architecture’s history. The buildings have a kind of clunkiness, so it’s kind of childish, but it also works really well, it solves the client’s needs, it stays within budgets, it’s hopefully a place between something beautiful and clunky.

HS: We are interested in refined things that can still be playful too. Lately, we have been talking about putting together a body of our work. Now that we have a history of our own, we can start to look at it more seriously and ask what the next steps are now. You know when you do something that it will work for multiple projects.

MM: If you look at Alvaro Siza, he is an amazing architect who has had obsessions about single ideas for an entire lifetime, he is still trying to work through them. It’s different, but you can put the pieces together. That is something we would strive toward, rather than the corporate model where everything is unique and different and is driven by its site and client. I get worried about that with some offices.

AN: How do you approach a new design problem?

MM: We go back to the previous work and then go from there. I think.

HS: I think that’s right. It depends on the project. Houses have house issues, Cultural projects have cultural issues. So we look at our previous work and then we start to research. It’s kind of a typical architectural process: We look at the site, the program, and the environmental issues.

We are really excited to be included in the upcoming Chicago Biennial. It’s a great group. We were in the Ordos 100, which was almost ten years ago. There are starting to be little exhibitions around that now. To be included in Chicago is great. I’m really excited that there is something like this happening in the United States. It’s a really great moment.

MM: We are doing a house at full scale in a room right next to Tatiana Bilbao and Vo Trong Nghia, a Vietnamese architect. There will be three full-scale houses and we are one of them. The Chicago thing should be interesting. It’s like a generation is starting to emerge.

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On View> Los Angeles or BUST: New exhibition features full-frontal forms

The bust, the sculptural counterpart of the portrait that dates back to classical antiquity, immortalizes not only the likeness of a person from the chest upwards, but the values of both the sculptor and the era in their concepts of beauty and nobility. An object no bigger than a head and a pair of shoulders, centuries later, is a relic embedded with cultural meaning—the preference towards an aquiline nose, for example, or a fixation with youth. With BUST, a group show on view at Jai & Jai in Los Angeles, curator William O’Brien, Jr. asked designers to apply the titular sculptural form to architecture. “Broadly speaking, the primary motivation for the exhibit is to provide a forum for the declaration of new cultures of form-making in architecture,” said O’Brien, a MIT professor and principal of WOJR. He commissioned busts by 11 firms: Andrew Kovacs, Bureau Spectacular, CODA, First Office, MILLIØNS, MOS Architects, Norman Kelley, PARA Project, Pita + Bloom, SO-IL, and WOJR (his own). The design brief asked that each practice take the notion of a basic architecture feature and reinterpret it as a figure of human scale that could be displayed on a plinth. Specifically, he was looking for individual interpretations of “characteristics associated with the facade,” according to the design brief: frontality, proportionality, symmetry, as well as anthropomorphism and zoomorphism. “The conception of a bust within an architectural context privileges certain architectural concerns—such as those related to form, figure, facade, hierarchy, orientation, exteriority, interiority—while diminishing many other architectural considerations that must ordinarily be addressed when designing buildings,” he explained. Each firm was given a relative autonomy to their approach, and in the absence of the real-world constraints typically posed by architectural-scale construction, the resulting works of sculptural abstraction lining the walls of the gallery in pantheonic rows are purely expressive. Wide variations in material and form reflect the varying mindsets. SO-IL’s Losing Face, an object of protruding surfaces shrink-wrapped in a semi-translucent plastic, brings to mind their recent Blueprint project, in which they used a similar wrapping method not to conserve the Steven Holl- and Vito Acconci-designed facade of the Storefront of Art and Architecture, but to “reinvigorate” it. Bureau Spectacular’s Contrapposto Institute cheekily takes the signature S-curve posture of Michaelangelo’s David and applies it three-story building, a tripartite stack with dangerously sloping floors. “This group represents the widest possible spectrum of contemporary architects thinking about form in new and as-of-yet-uncodified terms,” said O’Brien, with little exaggeration; other busts include a deflated Tyvek sac; a composition of mirrors and faux fur; and a humanoid bust studded with matches. “It’s my belief that the “center of gravity” of the discipline has become increasingly clouded. My feeling was that this array of contributors could help us understand the landscape of architecture-as-cultural-production ongoing today.”