Posts tagged with "Suburbs":

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Review> A Disciplined Approach to Misbehaving Urbanism

Keith Krumwiede’s Freedomland, an exhibition of architectural misfits, suburban follies, and developer nightmares, that just closed at the Princeton University School of Architecture Gallery, defies easy categorization. The pulse of the work is strong, its intention clear: to satirize the cringe-worthy packaging and wholesaling of a particular strain of the American dream of mass-produced, individualized suburban living by Toll Brothers and others through a series of reconfigured catalogue house plans. Producing their own kind of suburban fantasy, these new, recombinant figures populate an expandable Jeffersonian grid, complete with estate names like “Neo-Palladian Acres” and “The Villas at Broad Acres.” Several scenes of Freedomland are rendered as oil paintings after well-known American pastoral tableaux (in the show, the images are projected, but they were actually “painted” in China, of course). Others are shown as meticulously drafted arrangements of estates into neighborhoods and townships, each following—in their imaginary histories—a strict narrative of “cyclical regeneration” aimed at ensuring the vision of Freedomland as the most superior settlement plan in the history of American town planning (so claims the “literature”). A third part of the project, called A Game of Homes, pushes the representational qualities of the work toward absurd ends in a series of compound plans and elevations derived from the banal graphics of the catalogue drawings. At the center of any satirical project, whether political or social in nature, is a question of the target and the audience. If there is no correlation between the intended subject of the criticism and those meant to understand the attack, little friction exists, and little progress can be made. In other words, when one preaches to the choir, he rarely faces resistance. In the case of Freedomland, it is doubtful that any of the presumed targets—Toll Brothers, David Weekley Homes, etc.—have much to do with the world comprising the audience, that is, a certain subset of students and academically-minded architects interested in testing the discursive limits of architecture and urbanism. If not in its satirical function, the value of Freedomland as a pedagogic exercise may be in its extensions out into the discipline, both its recent past and current provocations. The Stirlingesque aggregations of A Game of Homes (thus far only in its infancy as an experimental planning mechanism), for example, suggest preliminarily a different model of housing that is much more radical about its programmatic and spatial ambitions than most proposals today. Likewise, the gesturing of Freedomland toward the difficult typological and graphic expressions of firms like Dogma and KGDVS, in which the idea of absence is often more powerfully represented than presence, brings the work into poignant dialogue with contemporary architecture, narrative, and social function. Ultimately, perhaps the greatest value of Freedomland is that it forces us, however timidly, to reconsider not only the current state of housing and its political, economic, and social structures, but also the nature of planning proposals in general, ranging from the polemical to the possible.
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BCJ’s Civic Center an Exercise in Democracy

Newport Beach's central government complex emphasizes transparency, sustainability.

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson's (BCJ) Newport Beach Civic Center is in one sense classically Southern Californian. With its light steel structure, plentiful windows, emphasis on indoor-outdoor spaces, and roofline inspired by ocean waves, it evokes a timeless delight in Pacific coast living. But it also represents something new, both for the city of Newport Beach and for civic architecture more generally. Built on a marshy site that had previously been written off as uninhabitable, the LEED Gold Civic Center and adjacent 16-acre park, designed by BCJ in cooperation with PWP Landscape Architecture, acts as a different kind of anchor for the automobile-oriented community. "It was shaped in part by a desire to create a great public space," said principal in charge Greg Mottola. "How do you make an urban civic space in the context of the suburbs?" The architects choreographed the Civic Center's entry sequence to transition from highway speeds to the pedestrian scale. The freestanding Council Chambers sits at the entrance to the complex, its white Gore-tex fabric "sail" doing double duty as sunshade and visual trademark. "The sail was really a way to help people understand the Civic Center at 40 miles per hour," said project manager Steve Chaitow. "You turn in there, and as you slow down the scale of the project begins to become more fine-grained." Past the Council Chambers and neighboring community room is the long, low City Hall building, which upends the traditional emphasis on monumentality in favor of democracy. "One of the key issues was the metaphorical and literal transparency of government," said Chaitow.
  • Facade Manufacturer Tower Glass (curtain wall), 9 Wood (wood ceiling), Metal Sales & Services (metal panels), VM Zinc (zinc panels, library and Council Chambers), Tenara Architectural Fabrics (sail)
  • Architects Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
  • Facade Installer CW Driver (general contractor), Tower Glass (curtain wall and metal panels), Italian Marble, Inc. (stone)
  • Location Newport Beach, CA
  • Date of Completion 2013
  • System glass curtain wall with curved roof overhangs, custom aluminum louvers, operable clerestory windows, stone cladding, metal panels, large sliding doors
  • Products glass curtain wall with Schüco automated windows, whitewashed hemlock, marble, limestone, Fleetwood Doors large glass doors, metal panels and shingles, Tenara Architectural Fabrics fluoropolymer fabric with ePTFE fiber base
The focus on transparency is expressed both in City Hall's plan, which eschews a grand lobby in favor of outdoor circulation and separate entrances for each department, and its glass facade. To create a public front porch for the building, BCJ covered each bay with a curved roof composed of whitewashed hemlock soffit on a steel frame. The panels provide crucial shading for the east-facing curtain wall, which opens onto the Civic Green. "That roof overhang is 20-30 feet, it's really out there," said Chaitow. "That's what allowed us to have this facade of glass and not pay a penalty." Custom horizontal aluminum louvers on the curtain wall's lower level furnish additional protection against thermal gain. The architects worked with Arup to study the structure blade by blade, to maximize shading without sacrificing visibility. The aluminum extrusions were also designed to stand off the curtain wall, to facilitate window washing. For ventilation, BCJ installed operable clerestory windows between each pair of roof panels. The windows run on an automated system and let in an even northern light that often negates the need for artificial lighting. "A big pull for the client and for us was to try to make this building responsive to its location," said Mottola. "It's been a pretty successful change for them as far as changing the culture at City Hall." Vertical aluminum louvers over City Hall's clerestory windows and other north-facing glazing prevent interior lights from disturbing the neighbors at night. The back-of-house spaces, including conference rooms and patios for staff, are gathered along an open circulation path along the west side of the building. The emphasis on common space prompted the mayor to remark, "I have met more of our City Staff in two weeks here than I did in seven years in our old city hall." Two of the Civic Center's other structures, the Council Chambers and community room, which both feature large sliding glass doors, are partially clad in stone. "We wanted to use some stone because it has a nice relationship to the concept of civic building, but we wanted to use it selectively," said Mottola. Brazilian marble was used on portions of the Council Chambers envelope, while the community room is wrapped in French limestone. The slightly darker French limestone serves to make the community room more recessive, highlighting the Council Chambers. At the same time, the location of the community room within the Civic Center as a whole reveals that it may be the complex's most important building. "The first project you see as you slow down when entering the Civic Center is the city's 'living room,'" said Chaitow. "That's intentional. Symbolically, it was important as a gesture about twenty-first century democracy."
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Report warns of runaway sprawl in Columbus, Ohio

By 2050 the city of Columbus, Ohio and its expanding suburbs could more than triple the city's footprint, according to a new study examining sprawl around Ohio's capital. The Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), Columbus 2020 and ULI Columbus hired the planning firm Calthorpe Associates to assess the development impact of current trends and make recommendations aimed at curbing patterns that could balloon the region's environmental problems and its residents transportation budgets. From the current city land area of 223 square miles, said the study, Columbus and its suburban jurisdictions could swallow up an additional 480 square miles by 2050 if current trends continue. The culprits include large lots for single-family homes and traditional suburban-style development. If population growth continues—MORPC said the region will add more than half a million new residents by 2050—the study warns Columbus will lose its ability to attract new residents and jobs. “These trends raise important questions about the vitality and competitiveness of our communities and region,” reads MORPC's website. The study is part of a larger effort dubbed insight2050 that hopes to chart a course for sustainable development in central Ohio. Calthorpe sketched out four development scenarios for projected growth in the region, which found effective planning could reduce that 480 square miles of new sprawl to just 15. Of course Columbus is not the only city to struggle with these issues. Last year The Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium made a similar assessment for the region emanating inland from Cleveland. Columbus' population and economic growth has come in part due to its expanding municipal boundary, which annexes small townships on the city's outskirts.
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5G Studio Wraps Legacy ER in a Zinc Robe

Medical clinic in the Dallas suburbs features a contemporary facade of perforated metal panels.

When Legacy ER commissioned 5G Studio to design an emergency care facility in Allen, Texas, the architects seized the opportunity to define an emerging building type. One of a growing number of freestanding emergency care centers (FECCs) popping up across the United States, the Legacy ER in Allen combines an emergency room and urgent care clinic under one roof. The Allen facility is the second collaboration between the care provider and 5G Studio, who also designed Legacy ER's FECC in Frisco. "Based on the Frisco project they saw it as a strength to their brand to design an outstanding facility," said partner Yen Ong. "Architectural identity is one of their brand hallmarks." Inspired both by traditional domestic architecture and the image of a physician's robe, Legacy ER - Allen's sculptural zinc facade punctures the monotony of its suburban surroundings. In Allen, "like in any suburban context, you have McMansions and little to excite you," said Ong. "We took the opportunity to reflect on the identity of the organization, and to try to create an episodic architectural intervention into that suburb." The architects looked at the site's context and saw a lot of single-family homes with pitched roofs. "We said, 'Let's start there,'" recalled Ong. "We began to take the idea of the sloped roof, but reflect it in a modern and a new way." They experimented with the form, and hit upon the idea of building a robe—like the physician's white coat—to enclose the program. The robe lifts at strategic points to create entrances and a mezzanine-level conference room. As at the Frisco facility, the designers chose zinc for Legacy ER - Allen's envelope. "In Frisco, we convinced Legacy ER that zinc is a good reflection on their brand," said Ong. "It's sustainable, very durable, and malleable. It had all the qualities we want and allows a lot of aesthetic freedom." Zinc holds up well under Texas's regular hailstorms. "What we found in the first building is that even if the hail scratches or dents it, it's surprising how resilient it is—it doesn't look like a damaged car body," said Ong. Ong also notes that zinc, despite its cool grey color, conveys an impression of warmth, an important consideration for a facility that serves people in crisis. In Frisco, 5G Studio found that the brightness of the interior lights at night rendered the exterior as dark and closed. To avoid a similar problem at the Allen clinic, they perforated the cladding and installed an efficient lighting system behind it. "The zinc panels essentially become light fixtures, emitting diffuse light on the exterior," said Ong. Gradients in the perforations insure a uniform distribution of light across the plane, to prevent glare. During the day, the perforations allow daylight to filter in through overhangs on the west and east sides of the building, where high-performance glazing (fritted or placed high for privacy) provides additional protection against solar gain.
  • Facade Manufacturer Rheinzink
  • Architects 5G Studio
  • Facade Installer UEB Builders (general contractor), Ramon Franklin LLC (roofing), Tepco Contract (glazing)
  • Location Allen, TX
  • Date of Completion 2013
  • System perforated zinc panels, glass curtain walls, standing seam metal roof
  • Products Rheinzink zinc panels, Rheinzink metal roofing, curtain walls and glazing from PPG and YKK AP, lighting from Eurofase (forms and surfaces) and dmfLighting (downlights)
Both the cladding itself and the roofing challenge the notion that advanced forms necessitate advanced construction techniques. "The zinc itself employed a very typical assembly; the roofing is standard metal roofing," said Ong. "We purposefully selected the very common method of standing seam metal roofing, but express it in a different way. We felt like the achievement on the exterior is not, 'Here's a sculptural form with an advanced cladding system.' It's to reinvent a standard assembly system." In contrast to Legacy ER - Allen's dynamic facade, the building's interior features blurred edges and soft natural light. The dissimilarity is meant to embody the two sides of the physician's nature. "We know that the physician owners are very competent, but, more importantly, they are human, and they are very good people. We wanted to reflect that duality in the facility," said Ong. "To achieve that we employed two different architectural languages: on the exterior, the building has very sharp geometry, which is reflective of the physician's professionalism and their ability. On the interior, there are gentle curves, and the daylight is diffuse. It's very gentle on the inside." Legacy ER took a risk in selecting a cutting-edge design for a medical clinic located in the Dallas suburbs, said Ong. "As much confidence as our client had coming into the relationship with 5G Studio, we didn't know how far we could push this next project. Frisco was nowhere close to this," he said. But the gamble paid off, and the result is a building that, beyond boosting Legacy ER's brand, sets a new standard for healthcare design. "We felt like this piece will challenge the perception that healthcare architecture is a subset of practice so burdened with technical requirements that it's nothing more than healthcare architecture," said Ong. "We hope to contribute to the notion that healthcare architecture is just architecture."
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Bittertang Farms’ organic amphitheater sprouts from straw in Lake Forest, Illinois

Work wrapped up this summer on Bittertang Farms’ installation at Ragdale, the nonprofit artists’ community in Chicago’s North Shore suburbs, and true to its plans the straw amphitheater springs forth from a lush hillside in Lake Forest, Illinois. Designers Michael Loverich and Antonio Torres of The Bittertang Farm won $15,000 earlier this year to erect the 102nd Ragdale Ring—an ongoing design competition for temporary outdoor theater spaces in north suburban Chicago. Based in Mexico City and New York City, the designers evoked the theater’s bucolic setting with straw-filled tubes of biodegradable material. Dubbed Buru Buru, Bittertang’s amphitheater creeps up from the soil with straw wattle tendrils. Wrapping around a framework of trusses, it forms a pentagonal opening whose womb-like quality is only enhanced by LEDs that illuminate the interior at night. Buru Buru’s organic elements are more than a formal nod to fuzzy ideas—the structure is actually meant to entwine with its natural habitat over time. In addition to sheltering actors and activating the rolling hills of Lake Forest, Buru Buru is also a substrate for growing grasses and mushrooms.
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Designer’s visualizations make economic inequality clear

Aerial of New York City Economic inequality is not hard to see — in Chicago, drive south on Halsted Street from Lakeview to Englewood, or bounce between Oak Park and Austin, or Evanston and Rogers Park — but sometimes it takes a visualization to put it into perspective. Designer Nickolay Lamm exposed the vast inequities of major U.S. cities by massing their local net worth with 3D green bars of varying heights. If one area had a net worth of $500,000, it was represented by a shape 5 centimeters tall. If one was $250,000, it would be 2.5 cm tall. In Chicago you can see the North Shore and West suburbs dwarfing west and near south side city neighborhoods. Lay that over this map of racial demographics and it’s not entirely surprising to learn economic segregation often lines up with racial divides. Chicago Chicago-Aerial-After-1024x449 Pittsburgh-based Lamm did this for several cities, but said New York carries a special symbolism:

I chose to do Manhattan instead of Pittsburgh because I know that, for many people, moving to New York City is the start of their journey to achieve the American Dream. The American Dream suggests that if you work hard enough, you can achieve it. However, it’s clear that the landscape in order to achieve that dream is not as even and equal as it appears on the surface.

 Central Park Central Park [H/T Bill Moyers]
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‘New Urbanist’ Open-Air Mall to Replace Chicago’s Purple Hotel

New plans for Chicago's Purple Hotel site don't have their predecessor's color, in any sense of the word, but many may view the mixed-use "town center" plaza as the antidote to the site's lurid history.  The quirky midcentury hotel in suburban Chicago seemed to escape its fate last year when architect Jackie Koo drew up plans to save the vacant hotel and its divisive color scheme. But demolition on the Purple Hotel in Lincolnwood, IL began late last month. Organizers of the village's end-of-summer festival apparently raised $5,000 for the local library through sales of purple brick. Renderings made public this week show a “new urbanist” plaza from Antunovich Associates that do not include anything purple; instead the 11 acres at 4500 W. Touhy Ave. would be home to an open-air shopping mall, functional green space, 110 apartments, a grocery store and a new 210-room hotel. About one third of the development’s parking spaces will be hidden underground. The design awaits village plan commission hearings.
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Building Community in the Twin Cities’ Suburbs

The economic hangover of suburban sprawl is well-documented in many U.S. metropolitan areas. But the cultural identity of inner-ring suburbs may too be shifting, as towns like those in Minneapolis' suburbs attempt to restore a sense of community. The Star-Tribune reports on two such towns, north suburban Columbia Heights and Brooklyn Park, that are taking a new approach to neighborhood building — call it reaching across the white-picket fence. Columbia Heights is launching a neighborhood association pilot project meant to connect longtime residents with newcomers, who live increasingly in townhouses recently built on former industrial sites in the city. Brooklyn Park, too, hired a neighborhood relations specialist to help “create neighborhoods, working with residents in a grass-roots way,” the city’s community engagement coordinator told the Star-Tribune. They point to nearby St. Louis Park as a prime example of a people-centered suburb. Suburbs across the nation are increasingly diverse and increasingly afflicted by problems thought to be the domain of inner cities, like widespread poverty and crime (note diversity and crime are inversely correlated — as an area’s percentage of foreign born residents rises, its crime tends to fall, according to the Brookings Institution). They’re even, paradoxically, increasingly urban. So it looks like whether or not the actions of Columbia Heights and Brooklyn Park pay off, the Minneapolis suburbs will look very different in 10 years either way.
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Northeast Ohio Group Fights Back Against Sprawl

051107_arch_suburbSprawl_ex The Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium is striking back against a wide-ranging problem that has scarred few regions more than this corner of the Midwest: sprawl. The non-profit is a collaboration between city, county, and regional government entities, as well as private foundations and academic institutions. It is funded by a $4.25 million grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, along with $2.4 million in local matching funds. As part of its final push in a three-year effort to chart a sustainable future for Northeast Ohio, the voluntary group has convened a series of public forums to persuade roughly 400 municipal entities in the 12-county area to reverse course before business-as-usual development trends further burdens the regional economy. New infrastructure to accommodate more suburban development would leave the region as a whole with a 33.7 percent gap between revenues and expenses, the Consortium estimates, if people continue to move away. If population loss is less severe, that gap could shrink to only 6.4 percent, but in that case local developers would need to sacrifice nearly 50,000 acres for suburban development. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports on the Consortium’s third way: A third scenario, labeled “Do Things Differently,” assumes that the region consumes only 4,100 acres of land through additional suburban development, but builds 2.5 times the amount of new urban housing than under the “Trend” or “Business as Usual” scenario. “Do Things Differently” also assumes that 20 percent more jobs would be located near transit than if current trends are allowed to continue. The result: a 10.4 percent surplus in local government budgets. Cleveland has made a push for high-density development and urban renewal, including recent developments around Cuyahoga County’s new $465 million convention center. But as Northeast Ohio attempts to escape its past, regional initiatives could play an increasingly important role.
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Massive Monsanto expansion in St. Louis suburbs has urbanists asking, “Why not downtown?”

Agribusiness titan Monsanto has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades to its research facility outside St. Louis, and design details are starting to pop up. Cannon Design will plan, design and engineer a new 400,000 square foot center for life sciences research. The expansion will bring 675 new employees to Chesterfield, on the western fringe of the St. Louis metropolitan area. Those jobs will be mainly high-paying research positions, encouraging for suburban Chesterfield after tax revenue sagged following 2009 layoffs at Pfizer, another major tenant of the business complex. But, as NextSTL points out, some urbanists would rather see such development closer to the urban core—namely in the CORTEX bioscience district in the city’s Central West End neighborhood. CORTEX would turn an old telephone factory and other industrial buildings into a biotech business district along Duncan Avenue.
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Foreclosed Forum: Suburbs, Cities, and Crisis

It might have been the first time that the works of Jay-Z, Malice, and Nas were evoked under the great dome of Columbia’s Low Library, but given the trend among young academics to cite rap alongside Socrates, it’s probably won't be the last. That the quotes were used in the panel discussion called “Suburbs, Cities and Crisis,” spoke to a slightly skewed perspective of discussing the suburbs within the confines of Manhattan. The panel discussion was held last Saturday by GSAPP and Temple Hoyne Buell Center to compliment the the Foreclosed exhibit at MoMA. CUNY’s Setha Low was joined by Robert Fishman of University of Michigan, Superfront’s Mitch McEwen, and Newark’s Urban Design Chief Damon Rich. McEwen compared Jay-Z’s “exalted freedom” within housing projects to that of Nas’s lack of hope impressions. Given the content, it might seem safe to believe McEwen was referring to conditions in the inner city, but she pointed out that the “suburb as ghetto” isn’t that far from current reality. She noted Parisian suburbs are experiencing the trend, but so are the Oranges of New Jersey. The show at MoMA responds to demographic and economic trends that were exacerbated by the foreclosure crisis. “Architects are repositioning to undo this violent work that we as architects and planners have undertaken,” said Rich. “The built environment helped create the crisis.” Rich also addressed criticism that Forclosed show was too theoretical. “It takes a theory to makes something happen,” he said. Later when the discussion opened to the floor, the general consensus was that theoretical work done at the architecture school often gets dismissed by the schools of economics, business and international studies—the very audiences architects need to engage. “How do we hitch them so that we do connect reality to theory,” he asked. “If the folks in development told us what research to do we wouldn’t have parametrics,” quipped McEwen. Fishman said that perhaps developers should have paid more attention to work coming out of architecture schools. “The economics didn’t take into consideration that the demographic movement was going back to the core,” he said. He added that the subdivisions promoted sprawl, and while they may have been cheap to build, developers never factored in eventual transportation costs. Quite often when developers do consider design a factor it's not always top notch. He cited advertising for Toll Brothers that trumpet “award winning design” but never tell you what award they won. Low encouraged the theoretical approach provided it kept in mind "the people holding the bag" of the foreclosure crisis. "There's a material reality that ripped us apart," she said.
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Quick Clicks>YAP, Biscornet, Glas Italia, the Gherkin

YAP to the Max. MoMA PS 1 and the MAXXI open exhibits of the now-transatlantic Young Architects Program, featuring the winners (whose concepts are now installed in New York and in Rome, above) and the finalists. Made of Glass. Designer Piero Lissoni utilized Glas Italia's prime material to expand the high-end manufacturing company's headquarters in Macherio, Italy. Azure reports that the new minimalist building is completely constructed out of glass, and looks best at night when the translucent structure becomes an illuminated box. Blight on the London Skyline. The phallic silhouette of the skyscraper, which won the 2004 Sterling prize, continues to generate controversy. The Telegraph records Ken Shuttleworth, a former associate at Norman Foster & Partners and the designer widely credited for 30 St Mary Axe, a.k.a. “the Gherkin,”  expressing regret for his design of the tower. French Flat Iron. Architectures completes the Ministère de la Culture’s coveted Biscornet commission: a modern residential building amid Paris’ Haussmannian stock. Architecture Lab notes that the trapezoidal-structure perfectly fits the slightly set back site on the Place de la Bastille, facing both the Gare de Lyon and the Bassin de l’Arsenal. The facade’s pleated metal panels shift to reflect the light and the time-of-day, emanating a golden shadow on the historic location.