Posts tagged with "San Francisco":

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Perfect Angle for Treasure Island: 68 Degrees

Sixty-eight degrees happens to be the best angle for the streets in San Francisco's Treasure Island project, a utopian vision of green, pedestrian-centric living. The planners have realized that nobody will walk if they're buffeted by blasts of wind that sweep the island from the southwest, so they came up with a compromise that blocks wind while giving cars enough clearance to turn. It was just one of the interesting factoids that came up during yesterday's tour, organized by the AIA SF for their Architecture + the City Festival, going on right now  (still time to catch one of the other tours and get in on the learning and schmoozing!). The main presenter, Karen Alschuler of Perkins+Will--who was involved with the project from the start, when it was just SMWM rather than the many firms in the mix today--gave a thorough presentation with a new aerial rendering: She painted a vision of how residents would commute to the city.  "You'll be drinking your coffee at the kitchen window, and see the ferry leave from San Francisco, which takes about 13 minutes to arrive, and you'll walk down to catch it." All homes on the island will be designed so they are a 10 to 15 minute walk to the ferry building. But the really primo residential real estate will not be on the island itself, but on adjoining Yerba Buena Island. The west-facing half of the island will be redeveloped as part of the Treasure Island project, with a series of townhomes stepping down the hill, with truly amazing views. Anyone like me who has driven around and around Yerba Buena looking for a spot to take in that view and has been thwarted will be glad to hear there's going to be a new public park right at the top. That park's in addition to the 300 acres of open space on Treasure Island itself, which is only 400 acres altogether.  To encourage fewer cars, the neighborhoods are built up densely around the ferry building. The current plan is to have retail and restaurants at the ferry terminal, and the hangar behind will be a farmer's marketplace (a la the Ferry Building). Besides Perkins+ Will, the team working on the master plan currently includes:  CMG Landscape ArchitectureSOM (condo tower), BCV (marketplace) and Page & Turnbull (historic restoration). Why so many cooks? The developer, Wilson Meany Sullivan, likes to encourage collaboration--and a little competition--to get the best results.  Just joining the group is Seattle-based Mithun, which is working specifically on the neighborhood areas. Talking to Gerry Tierney of Perkins+Will, the plan for the 6,000-8,000 residences is to put parcels out to bid by developers, who will work with individual architects, in order to avoid an architectural monoculture.  The design guidelines they are putting together will be "steadfastly modern"--definitely no historical pastiche. Their hopes are for something akin to the jolly Borneo Sporenburg in Amsterdam. On this brilliant day, where the city was so bright and clear, the vision seemed so close.
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Oy, Danny, What a Mezuzah!

Some of the greatest architects happen to be Jewish, such as Frank Gehry, Louis Kahn, and Robert A.M. Stern. Some are unabashedly so, and none more than Daniel Libeskind. The Polish-born accordion prodigy of two Holocaust survivors, Libeskind made his name designing for the Chosen People, beginning with his first and arguably best work, the Jewish Museum Berlin. Others have followed, such as the Felix Nussbaum Haus, the Danish Jewish Museum, the Wohl Center at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and, most recently, the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. As if that weren't enough, Liebeskind has now designed a mezuzah for that same museum. It was probably only a matter of time before this happened. (For the Goyim and non-New Yorkers out there, here's a handy explanation of what, exactly, mezuzot are.) Michael Graves designs toasters for Target, Daniel Libeskind judaica for the synagogue gift shop. It's important and good work, too, if you can get it, and probably pretty fulfilling. After all, Kahn's most meaningful project, at least to the architect himself, was his unrealized Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem. After the initial eye-roll induced by the thought of a Libeskind mezuzah, the true disappointment sets in. This was an opportunity for one of our (the world's and Jews') better architects to have made a really nice mezuzah. Instead, we get a glorified tchotchke no better than a Guggenheim-shaped coffee mug, another piece of pewter junk lying around the museum gift shop enticing foolhardy tourists. The problem is that Libeskind gives in to his worst habits with the mezuzah. While his work strives for poetry, looking to embody words, phrases, and ideas in concrete and steel, he too often has a tendency to take such metaphors too far. In the case of the Contemporary, "l'chaim," meaning "too life," is said to be the inspiration, and the form of the museum comes from the Jewish word/symbol/expression chai, a move that constrained the building as much as it enabled it. Instead of taking his inspiration for the mezuzah from mezuzot or some other Jewish source and creating a truly unique and worthy piece, Liebeskind clings too literally to the museum itself. It looks as though he just grabbed the nearest massing model and nailed it to the doorpost. Which is perhaps the one thing that makes this mezuzah quintessentially Libeskind's: Just like his architecture, it's impossible to tell which way is up.
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Not Just Invisible, Earthquake Invisible

Architects have, for obvious reasons, been fascinated with earthquakes for as long as they have been knocking over buildings. Lots of structural systems and building materials have been explored, but what about invisibility? Capitalizing on recent advances in invisible cloak technology, scientists in France and Britain think they can hide buildings from those damning shockwaves coursing through the earth. New Scientist explains the tech thusly:
The new theoretical cloak comprises a number of large, concentric rings made of plastic fixed to the Earth's surface. The stiffness and elasticity of the rings must be precisely controlled to ensure that any surface waves pass smoothly into the material, rather than reflecting or scattering at the material's surface. When waves travel through the cloak they are compressed into tiny fluctuations in pressure and density that travel along the fastest path available. By tuning the cloak's properties, that path can be made to be an arc that directs surface waves away from an area inside the cloak. When the waves exit the cloak, they return to their previous, larger size. [...] When it comes to installing them into buildings, they could be built into the foundations, Guenneau suggests. It should be possible to make concrete structures with the right properties. To protect a building 10 metres across, each ring would have to be about 1 to 10 metres in diameter and 10 centimetres thick. The concentric ring design can also be scaled down, and could offer a way to control vibration in cars or other machinery, he adds.
Now if only we could perfect fire-proof buildings. (Via Twitter, where BLDG BLOG also pointed us to what looks like a failed attempt at an earthquake-proof building--those tubes certainly look like what's described above. Which leads us to wonder if the old jibe that "Made in China" is a sign of inferior quality no longer stands.)
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Wish You Were Here?

If you couldn't make it out San Francisco for the AIA Convention this weekend (if you did, be sure to say hi to Sam and the rest of the gang), don't fret. The Institute has been kind enough to set up streaming video of many of the lectures and events, and you can even earn credits for it. Sure, you'll miss all the fun after-parties, like our own, but it also beats flying coach.
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Illusions at the AIA Convention

Another strange day at the AIA Convention in San Francisco. And perhaps the weirdest place of all is the Expo floor, where you can examine products ranging from stainless steel bathroom stalls to impact resistant drywall to powder coatings for steel systems (actually not a bad idea). But perhaps the strangest, and perhaps most intriguing product award goes to a company called Sky Factory, which manufactures "virtual windows" and "sky ceilings" which create the illusion that you have a beautiful waterfall or an ocean view outside your building. It's pretty simple: Printed images are sandwiched between acrylic panels and backlit with daylight-balanced illumination. The image catalogue includes "sunsets and sunrises," "trees and forests," "flowers and fields," "mountains," and "deserts" and moves to more bizarre backgrounds like "deep space" and "underwater." And the company offers a brand new product, called SkyV, in which moving HD videos are projected from the sky, to create an even more realistic effect. Yes, we are no longer living in reality. Instead, we can turn on the wall and see whatever we want outside. More strange but true architectural gems from the show: •Lego Play For Business: Lego's consulting arm which has worked with companies like Microsoft and RBS, using lego bricks to improve teamwork, project management, problem solving, creativity, and managing complexity. •Crystal Sensations: 3D crystal engravings formed through laser etching. The etchings are drawn directly from CAD files and created by making tiny cuts within a large crystal. Got more? Post them to the comments...
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AIA SF Awards; aka Back When Architects Made Things

Remember when architects actually built things? Oh yeah, that was last year. And to commemorate that fact in Northern California, the AIA San Francisco chapter just announced the winners of its 2009 Design Awards. Many of our favorite projects of the year were included, like SOM’s beacon-like Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, Stanley Saitowitz’s funky U-shaped Congregation Beth Sholom, and Mark Cavagnero and Paulett Taggart’s cool and sophisticated Sava Pool near Golden Gate Park. Speaking of Golden Gate Park, another big winner was Renzo Piano's California Academy of Sciences, with its rolling green roof, amazing aquarium, and various indoor biomes. Aidlin Darling’s 355 Eleventh Street, a very contemporary adaptive reuse of a turn-of-the-century industrial building in San Francisco’s SOMA district, won in both the Energy + Sustainability category and in the Excellence in Architecture category. Maybe next year we'll be giving awards to renderings? Or maybe just to the most likable architects? Keep your fingers crossed.