The winter rains in the Bay Area, as usual, seem to be too much of a good thing. There's a fair number of flooded streets and general consternation about this stuff falling from the sky. But if we thought about it differently, it might seem more like manna from heaven. I did a little calculation this morning to see what was going down the drain. San Francisco is roughly 49 square miles and gets an average rainfall of 21 inches of rain per year, so if my math works out, that means about 18 billion gallons a year are largely thrown out as garbage (SF, like a lot of major cities, has a combined sewer system that processes rainwater as sewage.) The US consumed 8.6 billion gallons of bottled water in 2008, making it a multibillion-dollar industry. If SF harvested half of its rainwater, we could corner the US bottled water market! Amusing speculations aside, the concept of saving our wastewater is starting to catch on. Last Thursday, at a salon organized by Re: Vision and architect Michelle Kaufmann, Rosey Jencks of the SF Public Utilities Commission talked how to re-engineer the cityscape to keep as much as 30 percent of the rainwater out of the sewers. Here in SF, recent legislation requires all construction projects with a footprint greater than 5,000 square feet to have onsite stormwater management--which could take on the form of green roofs, cisterns, permeable paving, and other features, according to the city's Stormwater Design Guidelines. (An aside: Chicago appears to have beaten other cities to the punch in paving city streets with permeable concrete.) Meanwhile, the PUC has also come up with a whole series of projects, many which bring a sense of romance to the mission. We don't have a river here, as in L.A., but there are a couple of creeks that are good candidates for daylighting. Revealed instead of snaking underground through pipes, Islais Creek--which runs through the neighborhoods of Glen Park and Mission Bay (as shown in Jencks' slide above)--could be the grand public stroke, the visible symbol of the city connecting to its watershed. Like the other PUC projects, it's a question of getting the money to do it. Maybe the city could raise funds by selling its own overpriced bottled water ?
Posts tagged with "San Francisco":
Stanley Saitowitz’s highly original Conduit restaurant in San Francisco, which used slender and sculptural copper piping as a unique design focus, closed its doors in mid-January. Located on Valencia Street, the restaurant had won several design awards, including a 2008 AIA San Francisco Honor Award. On its Facebook page owner Brian Gavin noted: "The dining population shrank. We had a great first year,... then a roller-coaster second year. We just didn't have enough diners."
Launching last Tuesday, Dave Eggers' one-time-only Panorama newspaper celebrated the good old days of investigative journalism with a muckraking piece on the Bay Bridge. Its "above-the-fold" piece, "Unparalleled Bridge, Unparalleled Cost" (which, unlike the rest of the issue, is available online), is a massive 22,000-word exploration into the bureaucratic issues that have caused the new Bay Bridge to be delayed for years and go from an original estimate of $1.8 billion to a final cost around $12 billion. The scandal promised turns out to be a bit less dramatic: much of the price increase will come from paying the interest off the expected $6.3 billion price tag, which is something that Californians expect after all the bond initiatives we've been through. There's a forest of procedural details, which makes it hard to spot the trees, but one point that does come across is that architectural ambitions to best the Golden Gate Bridge with a "self-anchored suspension bridge" for the eastern span was partly responsible for the holdup. What you don't get from this particular article is a sense of what is so great about this design: if it will truly be architecturally spectacular, or more of an engineering feat of strength--a case of bridge boasting rights.
Even Union Square, San Francisco's high-end shopping mecca, sports the occasional empty storefront these days. To beautify a few for the holidays, the Union Square Association brought in four architecture firms to work their magic, a pro bono effort that also "highlight(s) the vibrant creativity of local architecture firms in a whole new way," says the press release. A delightful idea--but in execution, somewhat of a mixed bag, as you will see. Truest to the spirit of the assignment, Charles Bloszies'' window at 400 Post St. (above) features the work of local FIDM students, who made couture out of shopping bags à la Project Runway. A wooden plaque lists the posh stores that are still alive and kicking (or perhaps they donated bags?). On the other side of the square, at 393 Sutter St., fashion was also on the mind of FME Architecture + Design, which filled its storefront with a video of a runway show. Not sure whose, though. ( "Fashion" is the Twitter handle for ShoppingBlog.com, but maybe I didn't understand the instructions correctly?) One street south, Brand + Allen took over a space once occupied by Frette at 124 Geary, and spelled out the word "Pause" using a screen of cardboard tubes. There is a Chinese symbol behind the screen, to symbolize how Union Square is the gateway to Chinatown. Perhaps the subtext is: If the prices around here are too scary, take a deep breath and think of the affordable tchkotches just up the street. The furthest away from Union Square was Gensler's window at 101 Post St., which celebrates San Francisco's sister city of Shanghai--and Gensler's design of the Shanghai Tower. Nice building and all, but let's encourage people do to a little shopping, shall we?
It must be said that Curbed, in its short life, has become one of the preeminent sites for not just real estate but also architecture and planning news, one of—not the, mind you, as that would us—best places for info on the evolving built environments of New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. They are most certainly in our Top 10. Reaffirming that fact is a Top 10 of Curbed's own, a celebration of the best buildings of the past decade, something the site(s) weren't around to see the dawning of, though who cares, since neither were we. Each of the three Curbed sites asked local luminaries—Brooklyn's notorious Robert Scarano and our pal Eric Owen Moss included—to name their favorite new buildings in their respective cities that had been built over the last decade. Noticeable trends: lots of boldface firms, lots of glass, lots of big buildings, lots of Standard Hotels. We woulda voted for the Nehemiya Spring Houses, because it shows that any architect, with the wherewithal, can do stunning affordable housing in the outer reaches of an outerborough—which is not to say Alex Gorlin is just anybody, but, well, you know. Alas, we lost our submission form and could not make the main event. Here are the sites' countdowns, plus their runners-up: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco (no runners-up yet). We're told there's more Top of the Aughts coverage to come, so keep your eyes peels. And, if you're an obsessive reader like us, you may have noticed part of the celebration is a sexy new redesign, to which we give a hearty Mazel Tov and thumbs up.
For the last couple of weeks, every night's been a party as the Millenium Tower plays host to Icons of Design, one of those opportunistic design events where hopefully everyone wins: High-end real estate is shown off, designers display their creative chops, charities get money, and the public gets a chance to wander through fantasy, "cost-is-no-object" spaces. For me, a trip up to the 52nd floor--the building has 60 floors, but my ears were already popping on the way down--was a chance to gawk at the latest in curtain walls. According to John Ishihara of Handel Architects, the unitized curtain wall system was built in China and snapped together on site. The bottom windows are operable, with top hinges so that rain doesn't come in, and they open up 4 inches. There is a one-inch gap between the two halves of the mullions, which enables a "trickle vent"--if you don't want to open the window, you can still let in fresh air but not the noise of the traffic below, muffled by the aluminum framing and internal baffles. Being able to open a window made this space, 52 floors up in the air, feel a little homier than your typical sleek condo. And the interior design? Most of the designers went for tasteful opulence, with luxurious fabrics and exotic woods standing in for last century's patterning and gilding. Local stars Martha Angus and Charles De Lisle evoked a more contemporary sense of fun. And then there was the dining room by Martin Richards. With two enormous photographs (of a yoga teacher and her rocker husband, a takeoff on ducal Renaissance portraits), framed by lamps held by hand sculptures, the room was a like a modern version of Cocteau's La Belle et La Bête. Wouldn't it be fun to hold a dinner party in a space like that? The Icons of Design showcase is open to the public on weekends through November 22.
BRINGING SEXY BACK Johnston Marklee was already one of the hippest architecture firms in LA. But now they’ve catapulted several spots up the ranks. How, you ask? By designing new stores for Justin Timberlake’s clothing brand, William Rast, that’s how. The firm has already designed pop-up stores in London, Paris, and New York (to a chorus of screaming girls when Timberlake came by) and is designing more in Palm Springs and San Jose. And in November, the firm will open the brand’s flagship store in the Century City Westfield Mall. The architects haven’t met Timberlake yet, but will finally see him at the Century City opening. “I hear he’s very nice,” said principal Sharon Johnston, coyly concealing any desire to start screaming and desperately trying to rock JT’s body, as she darn well should. GERBIL CHATEAU Speaking of important celebrity news, we hear from the most reliable gossip source we know, Britain’s Sun, that architecture fanatic Brad Pitt spent $82,000 building a house and racetrack for his kids’ gerbils at his estate in the south of France. According to the authoritative story, the complex includes “a maze of tunnels, seesaws and platforms.” French gerbils. Brad Pitt. A racetrack. Mon dieu. We can’t make this stuff up. HOME TOUR HICCUPS AIA home tours are always an adventure, but rarely do they produce as much drama as the AIA SF’s fall home tour did in September. First, SB Architects’ Alabama Street residence ran out of money just prior to finishing up, so the firm reportedly worked out a deal with furniture store Room & Board, producing a staged effect that looked more like a showroom than a real house. There was also a last-minute switch in the itinerary when a loft in the Oriental Warehouse by Edmonds + Lee ended up with major water damage from a leak next door. The project was replaced by Cary Bernstein’s Liberty Street Residence. Perhaps getting your home on the AIA’s tour has become like the Sports Illustrated cover jinx? Beware, all you tour-aspiring architects. Send tips, gossip, and gourmet gerbil food to Eavesdrop@archpaper.com
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 Architecture, SOM (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.
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.
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.)
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.
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...