As the San Francisco Chronicle's urban design critic for the last decade, John King is one of the Bay Area's most influential champions of good architecture. He chronicles the city's projects, both large and small, with an eye to how they how they affect the city. (Most recently, he sounded the alarm about how the America's Cup, with its proposed yacht dock, could change the waterfront for the worse.) His new book of short essays, Cityscapes (Heyday, 2011, $14.95), is based on his weekly column of the same name. Instead of a coffee-table tome, King's book is a very accessible, pocket-sized paperback. The 50 buildings—many unknown and unsung—are King's homage to the unexpected architectural delights that reward the careful observer. "I also wanted to highlight the often-provocative ways in which buildings of different eras overlap," King said. Here are two excerpts from the book, selected by King, that show the sweeping range of architecture in the city. Take it away, John! Roosevelt Middle School 460 Arguello Boulevard Timothy Pflueger is revered in San Francisco for such Jazz Age showpieces as 450 Sutter Street and the City Club. Don’t look for Art Deco at his Roosevelt Middle School in the Inner Richmond, though. This is 1920s modernism with an industrial European bent, a three- story block that comes alive in the snap of copper-framed windows amid chiseled brickwork, or the battlement-like accents beneath a tower of propulsive thrust. Throughout his career, Pflueger understood instinctively that a city’s most resonant buildings are the ones that strike a visceral chord, no matter what their style might be. Miller and Pflueger, 3 stories, 1930 Kayak House Mission Creek Park Infrastructure takes all forms in the twenty-first century, including such once-exotic tasks as keeping kayaks safe and dry, and this storage hut near the west end of Mission Creek is the most lyrical shed you’ll ever see. Imagine a graceful tent open at both ends, the long sides arcing up and in until the ribs slide past each other, tepee-like, one side cloaked in translucent blue plastic and the other in stained wooden slats. Nestled beneath the thrumming sweep of Interstate 280 near a mundane chunk of master-planned Mission Bay, blissfully dismissive of the drear and noise, there’s no big message here save one: Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well. MKThink, 28 feet tall, 2008
Posts tagged with "San Francisco":
Day becomes night. Alexander Brodsky: It still amazes me that I became an architect will be open at the Architekturzentrum Wien in Vienna, Austria through October 3. Described by the gallery as a "total installation," Archidose also notes that during the exhibition "the day becomes night, the dimensions of space and time appear to slowly dissolve as one paces an archaeological chamber of wonders. Having returned to daylight, a selection of Brodsky's completed projects provides insights into his architectural oeuvre." (More images after the jump.) Steel becomes ribbon. Streetsblog reports that San Francisco metaphorically cut the ribbon, unveiling a new public space on the two-block Powell Street Promenade. The Union Square shopping district is greatly improved by the eight six-foot wide Walter Hood-designed benches, constructed to resemble delicate ribbons. Above the fray. The Westerholt E-66 Observation Wind Turbine stands out among the 40 turbines in the Holtriem Wind Park: it’s unique observation deck provides visitors with panoramic views of one Europe’s largest wind farms—for a price. Visitors must climb a 297-step spiral staircase to reach the viewing deck, according to Atlas Obscura. Under the city. Produced by Silent UK, the documentary film Beneath the Surface trails urban explorers as they descend below the cities of London and Paris, says PSFK. The explorers climb through sewers, old subway lines, reminiscent of the NY Times five-day adventure last December under New York.
Ando's Silence. According to Dezeen, UK developer Grosvenor has partnered with the Westminster City Council on a project to open public space in Mayfair, London. The project aims to reduce unnecessary visual elements like signage and expand pedestrian areas. Architect Tadao Ando collaborated with firm Blair Associates to design Silence, an installation that intermittently produces fiber-optically illuminated vapor rising from the bases of trees. Power Plant Printer. MIT News has revealed an exciting new technology: printable solar cells. According to MIT: "The basic process is essentially the same as the one used to make the silvery lining in your bag of potato chips: a vapor-deposition process that can be carried out inexpensively on a vast commercial scale." So, not quite as easy as, say, printing out a power station on your inkjet, but still able to revolutionize the future of solar installations. Building for Birds. The City of San Francisco is making an example of a new California Academy of Science building. It's design for the birds. The San Francisco Chronicle notes the building's innovative fabric screen deterring bird-on-building collisions could be applied to other structures in the city. "Bird-safe design" is a growing part of the conversation, but the question remains: will altering the transparency of urban glass structures detract from the design intent? Déjà vu Design. Does that new building look strangely familiar? A new website called Post Post bills itself as the "comparative architecture index." By juxtaposing projects of similar design languages or forms, the site hopes to "to illuminate the interwoven and complex relationships of congruous trajectories within contemporary architectural practice." Have a look!
Major in Glasgow. The Guardian reveals images of Zaha Hadid's new Riverside Museum in Glasgow, which highlights the machinery, technology, and history of transportation. Pictured above, the museum reflects the shipyard structures on its grounds. The Guardian's Jonathan Glancey writes, "Riverside blends into the climate and culture of Glasgow and its riverscape, feeling like part of its great flow of architecture and history." How to be quick. With the new East River ferry, which will be the fastest way to make it to work? To be sure, the Gothamist conducted a commuter race. The ferry was a lovely time to rest but a bit of a steep investment, biking a slightly more dangerous route, while the subway remained the quickest method, getting one commuter to work not only on time but with two minutes to spare. Making Space. SF streets blog shares a new project generously offered to the city by Audi, announcing more to come for San Francisco pedestrians. The Powell Street promenade will bring public space to the commercial downtown, part of a set of P2P (Pavement to Parks) projects to create green space in major cities including San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. The Rome Prize. The Rome Prize fellowship for architecture goes to Lonn Combs. The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute professor and principal at New York based firm EASTON+COMBS will take the upcoming year to continue to explore the work of Italian architect Pier Luigi Nervi. Congratulazioni!
Missing Parklet. Who would steal a parklet? The Oakland Local spotted a worried Facebook page for Actual Cafe whose parklet, pictured above, disappeared last week. San Francisco is the city that invented the parklet concept--transforming parking spaces into extensions of the sidewalk--and we hear they're quite popular, so what gives? The cafe has security footage of the early-morning incident. Celebrating CityGarden. St. Louis' much acclaimed urban sculpture park, CityGarden, has been awarded ULI's 2011 Amanda Burden Open Space Award, named for NYC's Planning Commissioner who sat on the selection jury. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the garden topped projects in Portland, OR and Houston to claim the $10,000 prize. Chatham Scratched. DNA reports that plans to transform Chinatown's Chatham Square at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge have been put on hold. The $30 million project would have reconfigured the busy confluence of seven streets to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety, but with other construction projects already clogging the area, the city didn't want to make matters worse. Funds will be used for other Lower Manhattan projects instead. Directing Traffic. Robert Puentes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, has penned a feature-length article on the future of transportation for the Wall Street Journal. In recounting the good, the bad, and the ugly of transportation policy, Puentes calls for innovation and sustainability along with increased access to boost the economy.
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Polycarbonate sheets become an interactive bench, part of Fort Mason Center's upcoming SEAT exhibition.San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center will be the stage for an outdoor chair show set to open June 23. Called SEAT, the yearlong exhibition is being curated by artist and landscape designer Topher Delaney, of Seam Studio, and will include work by more than 40 designers, artists, and architects. Each team was given a site on the former Fort’s 13-acre waterfront campus, which now serves as an arts and culture venue. As one of the invited participants, San Francisco-based Nilus Designs is preparing an interactive piece called W.E.T: West End Terminal, an anthropomorphic bench created with carefully stacked strata of clear twin-wall polycarbonate. With a site at the northwest corner of the Fort’s third pier, the team headed by Nilus de Matran, wanted to create a seat design that would evoke the seaside location. The design came to resemble a beached sea creature and the team spoke in terms of “more muscle” and “too much bone” as the shape was modeled in Rhino. Because of the outdoor location, construction material needed durability, but also some connection with the environment. Clear, twin-wall polycarbonate had the necessary structural strength, and its cellular form will allow salt and sand to accumulate inside, making it one with the site. The bench, now in the assembly phase, will be formed from 208 vertical sections, cut from 34 sheets of 4-foot-by-8-foot, 16mm polycarbonate. Nilus does not own its own machining equipment, so they used the new San Francisco facilities of Techshop, a public machine shop that offers access to (and training for) a wide range of equipment. Polycarbonate was even a new material for Techshop’s employees, but the team successfully learned how to use a ShopBot CNC router to cut the sheets with a two-flute router bit. The fabricated pieces will be glued together, resulting in a 16-foot long-by-8-foot-wide form that is nearly 6 feet tall. The bench will also be interactive. An internal cavity wired with LEDs will glow when visitors stand on the bench’s mirrored acrylic platform—they can use laser-etched “dot” and “dash” buttons to send Morse code messages to others on the pier. The mirrored base, bolted to the pier’s surface, will reflect the sky and surroundings, but it will also offer an opportunity for the design to incorporate another interactive feature. Laser-etched QR codes will allow visitors to find information about Fort Mason and donors to the W.E.T. project, as well as details about the 2012 America’s Cup, to which most of the exhibition’s pieces will have a front row seat.
Transit Surprise. The Atlantic has the 10 best and worst cities for public transportation based on a report on transit and access to jobs from the Brookings Institution. The think tank ranked cities by the area served and the share of city jobs accessible by public transit. The results might surprise you: none of the cities with the best public transit are on the East Coast. HUD in Hot Water. The Washington Post alleged that "HUD has lost hundreds of millions on delayed or defunct construction deals nationwide" in its new investigative series "Million-Dollar Wasteland." The paper explores, among deals in other cities, a failed project in D.C. where speculators profited at the cost of millions for the city government. Graceland Saved. The flooding along the Mississippi River has spared Memphis' key historic landmarks. According to NPR, Graceland, Sun Studio (where Elvis Presley recorded), and Stax Records (which launched Otis Redding's career) were unharmed. But some of Louisiana's most valuable farmland is expected to be inundated by rising waters. Interior Award. Bar Agricole in San Francisco won the 2011 James Beard Award for Best Restaurant Interior, reported Fast Company. The restaurant, which serves French-inspired food sourced from local farms, features billowing glass sculptures, walls lined with strips of oak from whiskey barrels, recycled oak seating, and concrete banquettes. Restauranteur Thad Vogler collaborated with Aidlin Darling Design, which received co-ownership for its work.
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Ribbon-thin Ductal concrete creates sculptural seating at a San Francisco eatery.The Aidlin Darling-designed Bar Agricole has brought new life to a warehouse in San Francisco’s industrial South of Market neighborhood. Built in 1912, the renovated building is now home to the 4,000-square-foot “urban tavern” owned by restaurateur Thad Vogler. Taking an unconventional approach to realizing his design vision, Vogler commissioned work from the designer and a variety of trades in exchange for a stake in the business. One of those craftsmen was Oakland-based concrete design and fabrication company Concreteworks. Concrete isn’t the first material that comes to mind when designing restaurant seating, but Joshua Aidlin envisioned ribbon-thin fixed banquettes extruding from the wooden “hull” that would form one wall of the interior. The seats would complement other concrete elements, including the integrally colored concrete floor and board-formed concrete bars, but they would be made from an ultra-high performance fiber-reinforced concrete called Ductal. Developed by Canadian cement manufacturer Lafarge, the high-strength material is gaining increasing popularity for applications like furniture, facades, and other architectural design elements. With a guaranteed lifespan of 50 years, the material has four to eight times the compression strength of conventional concrete, allowing it to be used for very slender, lightweight structures. Working in their 12,000-square-foot, pre-World War II manufacturing facility, the Concreteworks team created metal formwork for the banquette’s dark gray Ductal elements; the at 5-by-5-by-5- foot pieces are formed with a seat on either side of a parabolic backrest. The entire cast form is only one inch thick. A special form with one seat and one flat side was made for the end of the seating row, and the curling base of each banquette is also cast from a separate mold. A three-piece host stand topped with two-inch reclaimed oak mirrors the seats, which are topped with slender, curving pieces of oak for comfort. Like the restaurant’s reclaimed elements and locally fabricated materials, Ductal will help the project achieve LEED Platinum certification because it requires fewer raw materials and limits fabrication waste.
Every architect has a mental file of unusual client requests, but few, if any, have been asked to make a wall dance. Yet, in essence, that’s what San Francisco architect Christopher Haas created—not for a client, but for a collaborator, Alonzo King, the San-Francisco-based choreographer. For King’s LINES Ballet company’s spring season that premieres April 15-24 at the city’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Haas created a wall that performs, but not as a soloist. The set's recycled cardboard walls, some 10-feet high and 32-feet wide, are pushed and pulled by the dancers. The performers also literally climb the walls. Playing off the classical pas de deux, the wall both supports and spotlights a male dancer (instead of a ballerina), who is suspended horizontally by the wall. At one of the most spellbinding moments, the wall practically overtakes a male soloist and then completely envelops the company. Historically, sets created by architects for dance companies have been sculptural backdrops that may be sublime, but nevertheless static. Even the recent and much anticipated backdrops by Santiago Calatrava for the New York City Ballet and Herzog and de Meuron for the Metropolitan Opera fell into that category. So Haas—best known as the project architect behind Herzog and de Meuron’s de Young museum—was taking a huge leap. This is the second time that Haas and King have worked together. They met in 2004 when Haas’ wife, Corinne, was a dancer in the company, and King was looking for sets for his “Before the Blues” production. Haas quickly answered the call, creating what he calls “simple, Donald Judd-looking boxes” out of copper and blackened copper scraps left over from the de Young, which had been lying around his studio. “He did them so quickly, and we hadn’t had much dialogue,” said King. “I thought, if there was that much artistic sympathy when we hadn’t spoken, how interesting would it be if we had a real conversation?” For this collaboration, that conversation between Haas and King began two years ago. Contrary to what you’d expect, the choreographer envisioned something large, heavy and architectonic and the architect wanted something that would respond to the dancers. “I really wanted to do something where we could explore the intersection of architecture and movement and see how the two relate to each other. If you configure space in a particular way, how does that affect the dancer? If the dancer can change the space around them, what opportunities do they create for themselves? I was really looking at the relationship between the body and movement and the built environment in space," said King. Both ended up getting what they wanted. King got a sculptural backdrop and Haas got his movable, interactive set. Haas created between 20 and 30 study models before ending up with a design that allows the walls to be manipulated into a variety of forms. About half of the cardboard planks—each about four feet long, eight inches wide and four inches tall—have a hole with two dowels and a rod going through them, enabling the walls to be folded. The rest of the planks have slots that run almost the whole length of the board, which allows the boards to hinge and the slotted pieces to slide through. The wall can expand to 50 feet wide and contract. Prototypes were made from the cardboard alone. Since the walls are so manipulated by the dancers, they don't wear well. So Haas sandwiched the cardboard between layers of 1/8-inch chipboard for added strength. Haas has also created another interactive set for this production: several thousand elastic cords attached at the top and bottom to aluminum tubes some 40 feet wide and 50 feet high. The intention is the same: the company “dances” with the cords. Haas chose recycled cardboard and elastic cord to illustrate the surprising beauty that can be found in such simple, light and inexpensive materials. And while King may be the first choreographer Haas has worked with, Haas was not the first architectural collaborator for King, who’s made dances with Shaolin Monks, central African pygmy singers and a sextet of Moroccan musicians, among others. King worked with Frank Gehry for a set to accompany Wagner’s “Tannhauser” in 2004 until the funding fell through. King said some of the same ideas discussed with Gehry are being explored in these sets: “How do you manipulate energies? How do you get involved in risk taking? What shapes don’t move? What shapes move through space? When do you feel cloistered and protected and when do you feel imprisoned?” For architects, Haas says its unusual to work in such a collaborative, changeable and organic fashion, in which changes may be made right up until the curtain rises. “It’s very different from an architectural project where you have a very finite static result,” he says. “That’s a really interesting part of this—the allowance for architecture to change and the end user to change it.”
Icelandic Borders. Today at 5PM, "the largest temporary public art exhibition... in New York City Parks history," titled BORDERS, will be unveiled at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza. The UN-conscious installation is a collaboration between the Parks Commissioner, an Icelandic Ambassador, and Icelandic artist Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir, consisting of 26 androgynous, life-size sculptures. Painted Trees. Gerry Mak of Lost at E Minor adoringly shares the curious images of the vibrantly painted trees around Colorado by artist Curtis Killorn. Because of the unexpected colorings, these trees do not look like they came from land, but from the sea. Green Carnegie. We were worried when gbNYC reported that the good ol' Carnegie Hall is planning to undergo a massively ambitious, full-spectrum retrofit this year. But don't worry, the architecture firm Iu + Bibliowicz, which is in charge of all this, swears to preserve "the building’s distinctive 19th-century architectural grace notes" while making dramatic green building improvements. Parking to parkletting. The SF Examiner reports that more temporary public spaces, called 'parklets,' are exploding throughout San Francisco parking spots. The public battle between those who want to park cars and those who want to seat customers out on the sidewalk seems to have a clear winner-- the Department of Public Works is stamping out countless approvals for businesses to have their own parklets despite complaints.
Tightening the Greenbelt. Per Square Mile explores why greenbelts fail to hold back city sprawl. Using London and San Francisco as examples, Tim De Chant writes that perimeter actually parks attract suburbs to form outside their borders. Role of a lifetime. The AIA has awarded Portland U's Sergio Palleroni the Latrobe Prize for his research on the role of architects in future public interest projects. A Portland Architecture interview plays well with De Chant's article above, as Palleroni casts a critical eye on Portland's sprawl. Going, Going. The list of the top seven endangered buildings in Chicago was today released by Preservation Chicago. Curbed Chicago pounced on list an hour after it went online. At the very top is a relative youngin': the 1975 Prentice Tower (by Mies student Bertrand Goldberg), whose uncertain fate AN's Julie Iovine covered in a recent issue. Bids 4 Bush... Bids for yet another NYC waterfront property are begin accepted by the New York Economic Development Corporation Crain's reports, and this one comes with a 99-year ground lease. The 130,000 square-foot property sits on Gowanus Bay at Bush Terminal in Sunset Park Brooklyn.
Hell's Gate. Gothamist reports that the NYC Economic Development Corporation is planning to spruce up a trail beneath the Hell's Gate Bridge railroad trestle on Randall's Island. The pedestrian and bike path will eventually connect to the South Bronx Greenway. Portlandia Greenway. A multi-use path planned since 2004 is finally getting underway in Portland, according to Bike Portland. The South Waterfront Greenway Trail might not feature those great archways from the Hell's Gate Bridge, but it does offer another innovation: separated pedestrian and bike paths. Biking JFK. Golden Gate Park could be much more bikable this spring. StreetsBlog says a bright green dedicated, bi-directional bike lane is planned along San Francisco's John F. Kennedy Drive and will eventually connect western neighborhoods with downtown and park attractions. Have you're say. The Brooklyn Greenway Initiative and the Regional Plan Association are hosting a visioning workshop for a planned greenway in Red Hook, Brooklyn. You can voice your suggestions for the Columbia Street Waterfront Park tomorrow, February 2 at 6:30PM.