Posts tagged with "Renzo Piano Building Workshop":

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Renzo Piano crowns the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures with a sweeping glass dome

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When it opens in 2020, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, located in the heart of Los Angeles, will be the world’s premier museum dedicated to movies. Designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW), the building consists of a renovation and restoration of the 1939 May Company Department Store—now known as the Saban Building—and a new, concrete and glass spherical addition.
  • Facade Manufacturer Saint Gobain Group
  • Architect Renzo Piano Building Workshop
  • Executive Architect Gensler
  • Facade Installer Josef Gartner Permasteelisa MATT Construction
  • Facade Consultant Knippers Helbig
  • Consulting Engineer Knippers Helbig
  • Structural Engineer BuroHappold Engineering
  • Location Los Angeles, CA
  • Date of Completion 2019
  • System Permasteelisa Gartner system
  • Products DIAMANT Eckelt
The project was inspired by the capacity for cinema to transport viewers to a new world, and the architects think of the 45,000-square- foot sphere as a spaceship. More specifically perhaps, the project evokes the TARDIS—Doctor Who’s time-and-space-traveling police box that’s famously bigger on the inside than appears possible from the outside. As Mark Carroll, partner at RPBW notes, “We didn’t want it too large, because it could overpower the Saban Building. So we tried to keep it small and compact but still big on the inside.” The sphere’s two primary programs drove its design: the spacious 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater and the Dolby Family Terrace. The majority of this cinematic starship is clad with 680 precast-concrete panels attached to a shotcrete structural frame. The concrete is the visible part of a “box in a box” assembly that was designed to acoustically insulate the theater from within and from without. Behind the precast shell, a floating gypsum box completely encloses the space to provide additional soundproofing. Atop the sphere, a glass dome covers the Dolby terrace, which offers expansive views toward Hollywood to the north. The dome comprises exactly 1,500 overlapping low-iron glass shingles set over a graceful steel frame—a solution arrived at after “many interactions,” according to Carroll. Among the 146 unique shapes of shingles are glass vents, arranged at the top of the dome to help keep the open-air terrace cool. To ensure the structure stays rigid during a seismic event, cables crisscross the frame’s 4-inch structural supports, which span 120 feet across the roof and over the dome, casting dynamic shadows onto the curving facade. RPBW carefully coordinated the construction of the glass and concrete elements, which were cast with openings to attach the dome’s “egg cutter” structure. The project is the latest blockbuster building on L.A.’s Miracle Mile, joining a collection that includes RPBW’s additions to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The futuristic dome is not only an apt addition to the neighborhood but to the original structure, whose Streamline Moderne design offers an optimistic vision of the future from another era. As Piano said, “The Academy Museum gives us the opportunity to honor the past while creating a building for the future—in fact, for the possibility of many futures.”
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Facades+ New York will explore trends reshaping international architecture

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On April 4 and 5, Facades+ is returning to New York for the eighth year in a row. Organized by The Architect's Newspaper, the New York conference brings together leading AEC practitioners for a robust full-day symposium with a second day of intensive workshops led by manufacturers, architects, and engineers. Doriana and Massimiliano Fuksas, and Toshiko Mori are respectively leading the morning and afternoon keynote addresses for the symposium. In between the keynote addresses, representatives from Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Permasteelisa, Cooper Union, Gensler, Heintges, Atelier 10, Transsolar, Walter P. MooreSchüco, Frener & Reifer, and Behnisch Architekten, will be on hand to discuss recently completed innovative projects. New York-and-Frankfurt based practice 1100 Architect is co-chairing the conference. In anticipation of the conference, 1100 Architect's Juergen Riehm sat down with AN to discuss the firm's ongoing work, the conference's program, and trends reshaping New York City's built environment. The Architect's Newspaper: It is safe to say that New York City is undergoing a tremendous period of growth. What do you perceive to be the most exciting trends within the city? Juergen Riehm: You’re right; New York City is undergoing big change and growth. I would say that one of the big drivers of that change—and one of the exciting trends—is the investment in the city’s public spaces. There has been such transformation along the waterfronts and in parks across all five boroughs, and that has really catalyzed growth. We have worked with several city agencies for many years and in different ways, including with the Department of Parks & Recreation, which has been an exciting partnership, contributing to these changes. One of the projects we currently have in design for NYC Parks is a new community center in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. There, we are designing a 33,000-square-foot community center. The facade will perform in a number of ways. Since it is a community center, we want it to be as open and transparent as possible, and it also needs to be robust and durable. The building is on track to meet the city’s new sustainability standards LL31/32 and LEED Gold. There has been so much attention on new large-scale developments like Hudson Yards or the supertall towers in Midtown, but one of the other exciting trends right now is the renewed attention on optimizing the performance of existing buildings. It is something we will address during Facades+ NYC, but there is great work happening now on restorations of historic buildings—at the Ford Foundation or the United Nations, for example—that not only addresses decades of wear and tear, but that also brings these structures up to full 21st-century performance standards. AN: 1100 Architect is based in both New York and Frankfurt. What are the greatest benefits of operating a trans-Atlantic practice? JR: Our practice has always been deeply rooted in New York—just as it has also always had an international footprint. From our earliest days, we delivered projects overseas, so it seems like part of 1100 Architect’s DNA to have an ongoing dialogue with other geographies. We launched our Frankfurt office about 15 years ago, and, as you suggest, it does bring benefits. In general, we find that it has a reciprocal sharpening effect, with each location informing the other with different materials, technologies, and delivery methods. AN: Which projects are 1100 Architect currently working on, or recently completed, that demonstrate the firm's longstanding demonstration of sustainable enclosures? JR: Well, the NYC Parks community center in East Flatbush is a good example. It’s an exciting project in many ways—including the fact that we are designing it to the City’s new LL31/32 sustainability standards. In every way, we are really pushing for optimal performance, and the high-performance envelope plays an integral role toward that end. We were recently awarded a contract with the U.S. Department of State, so we are poised to begin working on diplomatic facilities around the world, so the safety and security of facade systems will be a paramount consideration. In Germany, we are renovating a 19,000-seat soccer stadium and adding a new training facility, using an innovative and high-performance channel-glass facade. We recently completed a Passive House–certified kindergarten there, too, which involved a high-performance facade. AN: Are there any techniques and materials used in Germany or the EU that should be adopted in the United States? JR: In Germany, I find that there is a more closely integrated relationship between government, the building industry, and the architectural profession. With environmental standards, for example, the goals set by the government are quite ambitious, and it has resulted in a closely integrated process of meeting those goals. In this moment of deregulation in the U.S., it seems like a good time to consider the value of the government’s role in moving toward energy efficiency. AN: Where do you see the industry heading in the coming years? JR: By necessity, I see it moving toward higher standards of energy performance. Climate science is calling for it and the marketplace is increasingly looking for it, so the architecture and building industry will need to deliver. And as I mentioned at the start of this conversation, I also think there will be a lot of focus on updating existing buildings to enhance performance. Further information regarding the conference can be found here.
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Renzo Piano completes offices for Kum & Go in Des Moines, Iowa

Renzo Piano Building Workshop has officially completed the much-anticipated Krause Gateway Center in downtown Des Moines, Iowa. As the new headquarters for Midwestern convenience store chain Kum & Go, the six-story building features an open and transparent design that resembles a glass pagoda.  RPBW designed the 160,000-square-foot structure in collaboration with Iowa-based firm OPN Architects. Construction wrapped up late last year on the project site, situated on the north end of the city’s famous Pappajohn Sculpture Park. Thanks to its floor-to-ceiling glass facade, the Krause Gateway Center provides 360-degree views of the city and the art garden below, while housing offices for 800 Kum & Go and Krause Group employees. It also includes a two-story underground parking garage, a fitness center, large meeting rooms, and a dedicated art space. The focal point of the modern design is its sun-soaked interior lobby, created with a warm and welcoming atmosphere for visitors and workers alike. Sustainability, accessibility, and engagement with art are key elements of the Krause Gateway Center's overall design. The curtain wall exterior allows ample daylight into the office space while the elongated overhangs that divide the floors shade the interior and control temperature. An outdoor terrace and a green roof populated with sculptures offer breathing spaces for employees to access during the day. In addition to the unique, people-centric design, the building takes up just 25 percent of the project site, where over 100 trees and various landscape furniture dot the landscape for further public use. In the near future, RPBW will build out a café for the building’s Grand Avenue lobby entrance along with exterior seating.
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Renzo Piano reveals replacement for collapsed Genoa Bridge

The Italian government has sped up plans to rebuild the Morandi Bridge that collapsed in Genoa this August, and taken up the Genoa-born Renzo Piano on his offer to design the replacement for free. Salini Impregilo, the country’s largest contractor, and Fincantieri, a state-run shipbuilding company, have been chosen to build the new bridge and will be forming a new conglomerate, “PERGENOVA” to do so. During a heavy storm on August 14, the concrete-and-cable-stay Morandi Bridge was hit by lightning and collapsed, killing 43 and injuring dozens more. The bridge originally opened in 1967 to span the Polcevera Viaduct and connected the coastal area with Genoa’s port. The Renzo Piano Building Workshop leaned heavily on steel for the replacement bridge, and Piano claimed in September that, “This will last for a thousand years and will be built of steel,”  and would “have elements of a boat because that is something from Genoa.” The final design seems to bear that out. A 3,600-foot-long main steel deck will run across 20 spans, supported by 19 concrete piers. For the most part, the piers will be spaced out in 164-foot increments, except for a pair that has been placed 328 feet apart on either side of the Polcevera River. The bridge will literally be a shining beacon, as it’s expected to reflect sunlight during the day and use stored solar energy to power its lights at night. Fincantieri will be building the structure’s steel elements at its Genoa-Sestri Ponente shipyard and may spread the work to its other shipyards if necessary. The steel deck will be assembled in parts and welded together on-site to reduce costs and speed up construction. The project is estimated to cost $229 million, and construction is expected to take 12 months once the site is cleared.
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Columbia rounds out its Manhattanville campus with Renzo Piano's Forum

The third of Renzo Piano Building Workshop’s academic buildings for Columbia University is now complete, filling in the first phase of the school’s Manhattanville campus extension in West Harlem. The Forum, a triangular concrete-and-glass building on the campus’s south section, is the smallest of the Manhattanville trio but cuts an impressive, ship-like figure with its concrete entrance “prow." While Columbia’s factory-like Jerome L. Greene Science Center and stepped Lenfest Center for the Arts tower over the three-story, 56,000-square-foot Forum, all three buildings are elevated and glassy at street level to evoke a sense of openness. Whereas the Science Center houses Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, and Lenfest now holds Columbia’s Wallach Gallery, the Forum was designed to hold conferences, meetings, public events, and a 4,200-square-foot public café and program space at ground level. On the upper two floors, the Columbia World Projects initiative, which brings university research projects across the globe, will take offices, as will the Obama Foundation Scholars at Columbia. “In designing the master plan for the campus and its first three buildings, we wanted to help Columbia as a global university in the city and for the city,” said Renzo Piano in a statement, “so New York’s streets and sidewalks are woven into the fabric of the campus. This is not like the campus of earlier centuries. All the buildings are transparent, open to the public, and have amenities for the local community at street level, including plazas and green spaces for everyone to share.” In mentioning the “campus of earlier centuries," Piano is referring of course to Columbia’s central Morningside Heights campus, which is technically open to the public but bounded by walls and gates. The Forum’s materiality is tied to this openness and its programmatic requirements; the entirely glazed first floor invites in passerbys, and the stepped, precast concrete topper holds a 437-seat auditorium. The auditorium, topping out at 31 feet at its highest point, is clad in rough stone and wood acoustic paneling, while polished concrete and exposed pipes are used on the first-floor common areas. Bright orange carpeting and rounded rectangular windows further delineate the office and meeting spaces from the rest of the building. While every building in Piano’s Manhattanville triptych serve a specific purpose, dialogue with each other in both material use as well as planning, and are now finished, the Forum is far from Columbia’s last West Harlem project. Diller Scofidio + Renfro are designing the Henry R. Kravis Building and the Ronald O. Perelman Center for the business school, both slated to open in 2021, and Columbia still holds several open parcels in the area. Interested in touring the Forum? The building will open its doors to the (ticket-holding) public on October 23 as part of Archtober.
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Renzo Piano to “reinvent the ancient Athenian agora” in Baltimore

Johns Hopkins University has hired Italian architect Renzo Piano to design a building for its Homewood campus in Baltimore that will “reinvent the ancient Athenian agora for the 21st Century.” Hopkins commissioned the Renzo Piano Building Workshop of Genoa, Italy, to design a home for the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute, an interdisciplinary center dedicated to “strengthening democracy by improving civic engagement and civil discourse worldwide.”

The Foundation announced in June 2017 that it would commit $150 million to launch a joint effort with Hopkins to create the institute, assemble a faculty, and build a home for it on the Homewood campus. The project is called the Agora Institute because one of its goals is to reinvent the ancient Greek agora, or public gathering place. A budget for the building has not been established. The target completion date is 2022.

At 81, Piano is considered one of the world’s leading architects, with major projects on five continents and awards such as the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the RIBA Gold Medal, and the AIA Gold Medal. He is the subject of a retrospective that opened this month at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Past projects include the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; the Shard skyscraper in London; and, with Richard Rogers, the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris. Piano has worked with the donor before to design the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, Greece.

Piano said in a statement that he accepted the commission because he has “great respect” for what the university and foundation want to build. This will be his first project in Baltimore, which has a “sister city” relationship with Genoa. “I was attracted to the Johns Hopkins project for its humanistic nature and also because I have always been interested in making places for learning,” Piano said in a statement. “I am very happy and honored to start this new adventure.”

University president Ronald J. Daniels said he believes Piano is the best choice to design the project. “SNF Agora Institute seeks to reinvent the ancient Athenian agora for the 21st Century,” Daniels said in a statement. “The institute will serve as a forum for scholarly research, the robust exchange of ideas, and for sharing strategies to repair civic discourse and strengthen democracy in America and around the globe.”

As “a visionary who understands the power of public space to foster conversation and create community,” Daniels said, “Renzo Piano is the ideal architect and artist to give physical form to the SNF Agora Institute.”

 

The institute is envisioned as an “academic and public forum” that will bring together experts in fields such as political science, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, ethics, sociology, and history. Its mission, according to Hopkins, is to “forge new ways to address the deterioration of civic engagement worldwide and facilitate the restoration of open and inclusive discourse that is the cornerstone of healthy democracies.”

The building will house a director, 10 faculty members, 10 visiting scholars, and both graduate and undergraduate students. It will be the setting for a wide range of public events, including an annual conference bringing together “representatives of different viewpoints to examine contested public policy issues.” There will be lectures, symposiums, dinners, and performances.

A site for the institute has not been finalized, and Piano is expected to help make that decision, along with determining the building’s size. Given the nature of the project and stature of the designer, officials say, it is likely that Hopkins will want it to be in a prominent location facing out towards the city, rather than buried deep within the campus.

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Renzo Piano offers his expertise to rebuild collapsed Italian bridge

Renzo Piano has volunteered to help rebuild the recently collapsed Morandi Bridge in his hometown of Genoa, Italy. The world-renowned architect, who serves as a senator for life in the Italian Parliament, told the Observer last week that it’s his duty to respond to the national disaster and that he’d be happy to be further involved not only as an architect but as a citizen of Genoa. Earlier this month, part of the 51-year-old bridge snapped during a rainstorm, causing cars to freefall to the ground and killing 43 people total. The cable-stayed bridge was designed by structural engineer Riccardo Morandi and was considered an engineering marvel in its time. The August 14 tragedy raised worldwide concern over the functional lifespan of many bridges built in the mid-20th century. The Morandi Bridge was one of countless major pieces infrastructure in Italy, the U.S., and across the globe that have become dangerously fragile. Because the bridge was part of an arterial road in Italy, the A10 motorway, it must be rebuilt and has the potential to stand for unity and hope, according to Piano. “A bridge is a symbol and should never fall, because when a bridge falls, walls go up,” he said to the Observer. “So it’s not only physical but metaphorical—walls are bad, we should not build walls, but bridges are good, they make connections.” The architect, who lives in Paris, has an office that he designed in Genoa’s western seaside village of Punta Nave. In conversation with the Observer, Piano recounted growing up in the port city and visiting various construction sites with his builder parents. As a native, he knows what Genoa needs during this time of crisis and wants to offer his expertise. Though it’s too soon to talk about the specifics of a redesign, Piano said he believes a new bridge should convey a message of truth and pride. “It must be a place where people can recognize the tragedy in some way, while also providing a great entrance to the city,” he said. “All this must be done without any sign of rhetoric—that would be the worst trap. But I think we will stay away [from that] and instead try to express real pride and values. That is what Genoa deserves.”
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Jeanne Gang and Renzo Piano are making their mark on Canada with a spate of new projects

It’s time to go north of the border as The Architect’s Newspaper checks out some of the highest-profile projects that have been announced across Canada this year. A strong economy has driven construction across the country, and Toronto, in particular, has an abundance of notable buildings breaking ground. From subdued civic structures to prismatic rental towers, 2018 has brought a surfeit of high-profile projects to America’s northern neighbor. One Delisle Studio Gang Toronto, Ontario Studio Gang could end up making a major mark on Toronto’s skyline with its first Canadian project, a 48-story multifaceted tower. The rental building has been designed with 16 sides made up of overlapping eight-story hexagonal modules, and each segment will contain enclosed balconies and be topped with garden terraces for residents. The overlap of the modules resembles scales or the natural spiraling of growing plants, and the effect creates a different view of the tower depending on the angle of approach. An existing 1929 Art Deco facade will be moved over to the base of a neighboring tower, and the base of One Delisle will relate to the historic facade to maintain a cogent street wall. Toronto Courthouse Renzo Piano Building Workshop and NORR Architects & Engineers Toronto, Ontario Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW)’s first project in Canada will consolidate many of Toronto’s smaller courts into a centrally-located municipal building next to the city’s Superior Court of Justice. The building is reminiscent of Piano’s work on the Jerome L. Greene Science Center for Columbia University, both in its boxy massing and in its open ground level, created by raising the base of the building several stories. Despite the courthouse’s wide-open atrium space, the building has been designed with security in mind, and cameras, baggage checkpoints, and internal security corridors will be deployed throughout. The first museum in Ontario to focus on the history of the indigenous justice system will also be located inside. Construction is on track to finish in 2022.
The HUB/30 Bay Street Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) Toronto, Ontario The recently-revealed design for The HUB, a 1.4 million-square-foot tower proposed for Toronto’s South Core neighborhood, is the result of an international design competition for a building that would have a major impact on Toronto’s skyline. The HUB will float over the adjacent Toronto Harbour Commission Building courtesy of a cantilevering base, and create what Senior Partner Graham Stirk describes as 'a harmony' between the two buildings. The use of external structural steel lends the tower a more industrial feeling, and RSHP is promising that the tower will contain column-free office space and a multi-story atrium as a result. Toronto’s Spadina Line expansion stations The Spadina Group Associates and All Design Toronto, Ontario Construction in Toronto is not limited to new towers. Humbler additions to public infrastructure have also been taking shape. Toronto’s largest subway extension in decades opened late last year with six new stations, including two colorful facilities from the late Will Alsop’s All Design. The boxy, zebra-striped second story of the Finch West Station cantilevers over the building's main entrance and is capped with an enormous red window at one end. A concrete 'skirt' floats around the station’s base and offers shelter to riders who are waiting for a bus outside. Inside, Alsop uses touches of color to lighten up the polished concrete interiors. For Pioneer Village, Alsop wrapped the cantilevering station in Corten steel. This station is much rounder than Finch West and uses a red band around the base of the building’s front to direct riders to the main entrance. A geometric canopy rises from the station’s back and creates a covered waiting area for the two regional bus lines that service the station. The same polished concrete seen at Finch West was used inside. Barclay Village Büro Ole Scheeren Vancouver, British Columbia Vancouver has also seen significant growth recently, including the Shigeru Ban-designed hybrid timber tower. Ole Scheeren’s recently-revealed twin towers sit in Vancouver’s West End neighborhood, and according to Scheeren, they use balconies, setbacks, and offsets to create a more welcoming face in contrast to the typical monolithic glass tower typology. All of the terraces are planted, and a rooftop plaza sits on top of the base that links the two towers. Scheeren claims that the driving concept for Barclay Village was to elevate the concept of the village skyward to match Vancouver’s overall verticality.
The Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Inuit Art Centre (IAC) Michael Maltzan Architecture Winnipeg, Manitoba This curvilinear four-story museum from Michael Maltzan broke ground in Winnipeg last month, and when complete in 2020, the building will become the largest Inuit art gallery in the world. A double-height glazed atrium at the museum’s base will be anchored by a central 'vault' protected by curved glass, and visitors can freely examine Inuit artifacts as they walk around the ground level. An 8,500-square-foot gallery on the third floor will display Inuit art. The sculptural facade of the building’s stone portion was reportedly inspired by the “immense, geographical features that form the background of many Inuit towns and inlets.” The IAC is an extension of the neighboring Winnipeg Art Gallery, and every floor with connect with the original building.
 
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Brooklyn's East River waterfront is defining itself in unexpected ways

Taking shape along Greenpoint’s once-industrial waterfront district is a series of surprisingly contextual modern condo developments using red brick and exposed black steel to tactfully insert tens of thousands of new residents along this sleepy East River shoreline. The largest of them, a 30-story tower that is part of Handel Architects’ Greenpoint Landing, includes 5,500 units sprawled over 22 acres at the mouth of Newtown Creek, with 1,400 apartments renting for as little as $393 to $1,065. Initial renderings presented for public review surfaced as bland massing diagrams, but the subdued details of Handel’s build-out hold promise for communities becoming accustomed to glossy, glassy, boxy towers in districts where rezoning permits greater height and bulk. To the stakeholders’ credit, the developer showed them a selection of schemes to choose from, including designs by Renzo Piano Building Workshop. In contrast to Long Island City’s gleaming, generic masses and Williamsburg’s spotty, uneven edges, Greenpoint’s waterfront retains enough of its traditional shipping warehouses to sustain the contours of a characteristically industrial neighborhood along West and Commercial Streets, even if most of the industry is gone. Despite a major waterfront rezoning passed by the city council in 2005, until a few years ago, most of West Street continued to host storage for building material and scaffolding, a lumber manufacturer, and a crane and equipment rental company. After large portions of Greenpoint Terminal Market were lost to a ten-alarm fire in 2006, Pearl Realty Management adapted the remains into a studio-and-workspace rental complex, an extension of its Dumbo-based green desk co-working enterprise. Slowly, smaller firms like Daniel Goldner Architects, Karl Fischer Architect, STUDIOSC, and S9 Architecture populated the upland side of West and Commercial with renovated warehouses and upscale condos echoing the material palette of the existing low-rises. Much of the post-rezoning development along West and Commercial stalled due to the 2008 mortgage-backed securities crisis. In 2009, the former Eberhard Faber Pencil Company building became the Pencil Factory lofts, and Daniel Goldner Architects filled in the corner lot with a syncopated colored brick addition and perforated aluminum garage. The project struggled in the post-crash housing market. But in the past two years, a rush of new buildings began to rise up along West and Commercial with a distinct material selection: red and light-colored brick and exposed black-painted steel, with glazed entryways and antique fixtures. Karl Fischer Architect’s 26 West Street opened in 2016, its redbrick and black steel facade filling out the six-story street wall, its large overhang resembling a meat market loading dock. The warehouse modern–aesthetic even extends all the way around the mouth of the Newtown Creek, where a 105-unit building by S9 Architecture employs the same neotraditional style—red brick, exposed black steel, industrial awnings, antique fixtures. An upscale ground-floor grocery store warmed some nearby loft residents up to it after months of sound-based trauma from the drilling of pilings. With leases from $3,350 to $4,350, locals will never be at peace with the rent pressures that come with these buildings, but at least they have the virtue of not extravagantly showing off their residents’ income. Not everything conforms to this trend: The expansive 140-unit development under construction by Ismael Leyva Architects at 23 India Street more crudely fills in its zoning envelope with affordable housing ranging from $613 for studios to $1,230 for winners of the NYC Housing Connect lottery, capped by a 39-story, 500-unit condo tower that promises in every way to form a bland massing diagram in the sky. In any case, contextual exterior cladding is little consolation for a community that fought hard for its 197-a plan—completed in 1999 and adopted by the city council in 2002—which would have allowed significantly less bulk and height, aimed to retain more light-manufacturing jobs, and mandated more affordable housing along with waterfront access. Jane Jacobs, in one of her final written statements, penned a strong defense of the original community plan against the eventual zoning resolution. Of course, the trade-off forced by the city—an upzoned waterfront in exchange for publicly funded parks and developer-mandated walkways—has already helped reduce heavy-industrial pollution, killed a proposed Con Edison power plant, and reduced and eliminated waste-transfer facilities and truck fumes. Some residents are just waiting for the dust and noise of construction to subside, while others hope for another recession to slow down the accelerated activity. In 2009, Andrew Blum published “In Praise of Slowness," for the launch of Urban Omnibus that, in retrospect, should have a more durable life as a critique of fast development. For New York City neighborhoods, slowness provides a much-needed stability in the absence of state-level expansion of rent regulation to protect against predatory development. Yet if there had to be luxury condos facing the former industrial piers, the emerging Greenpoint warehouse modernism was a more subtle and site-specific solution than anyone expected or imagined.
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Renzo Piano design for Academy Museum of Motion Pictures exhibition spaces revealed

This morning, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures released new renderings by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop for its proposed museum space in Miracle Mile, Los Angeles. The design for the complex extends out of the historic May Company Building on Wilshire Boulevard into an adjacent, 140-foot-tall orb. The top section of the globe will be an open terrace and project space housed under a huge arcing glass dome, and the bottom section will be a crimson-walled, steel-encased theater. This theater will feature a state-of-the-art projection facility able to screen 35mm, 70mm, and nitrate prints for an audience of up to one thousand people. All told, the project will cost $388 million to build. The May Company Building, a 1939 structure that epitomizes the Streamline Moderne style, will be home to three stories of exhibition space (two permanent, one temporary). One of these spaces will be an entire floor dedicated to the "Oscars Experience," an exhibit commemorating the annual film ceremony for which the organization is best known. The building was previously home to a satellite space for the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, once referred to as "LACMA West," but the Academy inked a long-term lease on the structure and an adjacent parcel in 2014 for $36.1 million. The new renderings show that most of the iconic features of the building will be preserved, including the giant golden cylinder at its Wilshire Boulevard entrance. An additional, smaller theater and a flexible education space will be constructed underground between the older building and Piano's orb. The two above-ground structures will be connected on three levels by glass-encased catwalks. An outdoor seating area will also be build at the ground level of the orb, extending into the central lobby area of the May Company Building. As Kerry Brougher, director of the Academy, told Architectural Record, the museum was designed primarily from a filmmaker's perspective. “I think the fact that the Academy is part of the project makes it take on a different characterization than it might if it were a film museum in Milan or Paris," he said. With completion projected for 2019, the Academy Museum hopes to join the ranks of other movie museums around here and abroad, from the National Cinema Museum in Turin, Italy, to the controversial Lucas Museum, or New York's own Museum of the Moving Image, which Leeser Architecture revamped in 2011.
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In new book, Victoria Newhouse details the saga of Renzo Piano's Athens cultural center

The incredible challenges inherent in today’s mega-architectural undertakings triggered my interest in just how such projects are built. More than four years ago I began to track the design, construction, and completion of one of the most ambitious of these, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) in Athens. I could not have anticipated in those early days how the global economic crisis and subsequent political upheaval in Greece would affect the story of the $842 million building complex and 40-acre park. Even under these circumstances, the building was completed on time and on budget and is already inundated with visitors, both local and foreign; the new national opera house and national library will open officially this fall.

Almost as soon as I started to research the SNFCC, I was struck by the number of people, companies, and even cultures involved, the largest team I’ve ever seen on a cultural project. Project meetings were a veritable Tower of Babel, with Greek (construction workers) and Italian (the RPBW architects and one of the joint-venture contractors) foremost, and a good deal of English thrown in (many of the special consultants). Most of the time the group worked harmoniously. There were a few disagreements at the outset, but the site remained markedly congenial throughout the five years of construction.

A major reason for this coordination was the universal respect for Renzo Piano. The Italian architect was likened by one member of the Greek teams to “an orchestra conductor for his ability to work with all manner of collaborators.” His visits to the site were like the public appearance of a pop star, with admirers vying to get selfies with him. But there was also the fact that the SNFCC was the only important construction job in a city paralyzed by economic austerity. Seen as a symbol of hope for the nation’s recovery, it provided thousands of jobs in a nation wracked by unemployment. One of the Greek project managers expressed the general feeling on-site: “It’s a first, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Victoria Newhouse’s new book, Chaos and Culture: Renzo Piano Building Workshop and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens was published by the Monacelli Press in May 2017

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New book tells the story of the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center, but can a building this wasteful really be called "green"?

Last year, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, a 1.28 million-square-foot complex built into an artificial hill in Athens, was inaugurated to great fanfare. The building will provide two institutions, the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera, pristine new homes, and it is a significant addition to the Athens cultural landscape. This year saw a related achievement: the publication of Victoria Newhouse’s Chaos and Culture: Renzo Piano Building Workshop and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, a richly detailed account of the creation of the $800 million complex. The book could have been a dud; after all, as Newhouse herself notes, the realization of the Athens project was “nearly trouble-free.” But Newhouse lucked out, in part because Greece didn’t: The country was in dire financial and political straits for most of the time the complex was in the works, providing the “chaos” of the title. Only the commitment of the deep-pocketed Stavros Niarchos Foundation kept the project on track. But the plan was always that the complex, once completed, would be turned over to the Greek government, which would operate it with taxpayer funds—a result that now seems unrealistic. (Worse, the agreement between the foundation and the government stipulates that if the government fails to meet its obligation to operate the Center, it will refund the foundation’s entire investment in the project—money the government doesn’t appear to have.) So the book became as much a tale of politics and economics as of architecture. And right now, that tale is a cliffhanger: neither the library nor the opera house has fully moved into the building. True, there is some architectural intrigue, usually involving firms other than the always-dependable Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW): Newhouse details the master-planning work of the New York firm Cooper Robertson that preceded the selection of RPBW to design the complex. She then reports that almost nothing of the master plan can be seen in the RPBW design. And she delves into the hiring, in 2013, of the Dutch firm Mecanoo, to rethink RPBW’s library design. Newhouse writes:
The idea that work by Renzo Piano—winner of a Pritzker Prize, among numerous other awards—could be corrected by anyone, let alone a far less known firm, would be surprising under any circumstances. What made it especially so is the stark disparity of styles between the two offices.
But Piano prevailed: “Having initially greeted [Mecanoo founder Francine] Houben with his usual charm, the Italian architect barely glanced at the Mecanoo proposal in late 2013 before rejecting it out of hand.” In the course of writing the book, Newhouse developed expertise on subjects as diverse as the history of philanthropy in the Ottoman world and the acoustical preferences of Southern Europeans. The book is a kind of encyclopedia. But there is one significant lacuna:  Newhouse calls the building “a triumph of environmental sensitivity.” In fact, the building, despite incorporating enough “green” features to achieve LEED platinum status, is inherently wasteful.  First, it’s not clear it was needed in the first place. The Greek National Opera, though lacking a purpose-built home, has performed “with great success” at the Megaron Concert Hall in the center of Athens, Newhouse reports. As for the library, its existing building, also in the center of the city, could handle far more visitors than it received. Consequently, Newhouse writes, “no one was able to realistically define the new library’s purpose.” Neither organization had a director at the time the planning for the cultural center began. And with the country in economic crisis, the entire enterprise, Newhouse observes, “defied logic.” But the Niarchos Foundation was determined to build something important, and its resolve only strengthened when the Greek economy collapsed. True, Piano’s best buildings, including New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, exhibit an inherent modesty (as does Piano himself). But the Niarchos Foundation encouraged Piano to think big. After visiting the Athens site, he decided to give the library and opera separate buildings, facing a modern agora (through a pair of enormous glass facades) and set them into a manmade hill, more than 100 feet high at its peak. “It was an almost childish idea:  I simply lifted the ground’s surface to make way for the architecture,” Piano told the author. Creating the hill would involve building vast retaining walls, moving some 654,000 cubic feet of earth, and protecting all of it against seismic activity. That was accomplished by filling steel tubes with rocks, then hammering the tubes into the earth at 10-foot intervals, creating some 3,500 “gravel piles” in the process. Those processes required vast amounts of energy. Then came the planting of the center’s 40-acre garden, much of it on raised ground, and the extensive irrigation required to keep it alive in arid Athens—a process that involves both pumping water uphill and passing it through a reverse osmosis desalinization plant. The hill, that “childish idea,” is a grown-up energy consumer. Overall, operating the cultural center will require 14 gigawatt-hours of electricity each year, Newhouse reports. Producing that much power through the burning of coal—the predominant source of electricity in Greece—will create some 30 million pounds of CO2 or its equivalents, according to the best available figures. That’s about as much 1,500 average Greeks produce each year. True, setting the building in a hill could reduce the cooling load by as much as 7%, Newhouse reports. But counting that as an environmental victory is like counting gambling winnings while ignoring losses. And, true, the vast building has a substantial photovoltaic system. In fact, after the artificial hill, its most prominent feature is the canopy atop the opera house, a kind of flying carpet supporting 87,000 square feet (about two acres) of photovoltaic panels. That certainly sounds green. But the panels, even with the latest technology, will produce just 2 gigawatt-hours of electricity each year, or about 15% of the building’s needs. (And that’s if all goes well.) And even that power isn’t “free,” environmentally speaking. Thirty steel columns, braced by diagonal cable ties, support the p.v. panel-covered canopy, which is estimated to weigh 4,700 tons. The carbon footprint of structural steel is enormous. And solar panels themselves require energy to fabricate, transport, and install. There is no free lunch, energy-wise. Making matters worse, the Center is two miles from the nearest subway stop. Hard to reach by public transit, it contains 1,000 parking spaces, evidence of its reliance on private cars. LEED doesn't take any of that into account. It is essentially a checklist system, conferring points for “moves” like providing bicycle racks and using recycled building materials.  Whether the building should have been built in the first place; whether it could have been built closer to public transportation; or could have been significantly smaller than it is—the big-ticket items, environmentally—are the very issues LEED ignores. Of course, I understand the need for symbols, which can help uplift societies (especially societies as troubled as 21st-century Greece). And I believe that the Niarchos Foundation had the best intentions when it vowed to make the building green.  But the building it built is anything but green, and LEED is its enabler. With its “platinum” imprimatur, LEED sends a message that even unnecessary buildings, on sites ill-served by public transportation, and requiring vast amounts of energy to build and maintain, are good for the environment. Which, at this time of climate crisis, triggered by energy consumption, is a dangerous message to send. Chaos and Culture: Renzo Piano Building Workshop and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens is available from Monacelli Press.