Posts tagged with "Technology":

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Responsive fabric and cannibalistic materials: A look at MIT’s experimental projects

Academia has always been a hotbed for innovation, and as part of a new series on under-the-radar projects on university campuses, AN will be taking a look at the smaller projects shaking things up at MIT. Modernized applications of ancient techniques, robotically milled artifacts, and boundary-pushing fabrication methods are producing new materials and structures worth publicizing. Cyclopean Cannibalism For the research and design studio Matter Design, contemporary reinterpretations of ancient construction and crafting techniques are valuable sources of new architectural insight. The studio, a 2013 winner of the Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers, found that a Bronze Age stone-stacking technique was a fertile testing ground for exploring new uses of construction waste. Forming walls and structures by fitting boulders and large stones together without working or cutting them first, also known as Cyclopean masonry, is a technique that developed independently all over the world. The limestone boulder walls of the ancient Mycenaean Greeks were supposedly constructed by cyclopes, the only creatures strong enough to move such large rocks. The Inca used this methodology in the 15th century, but unlike the Greeks, they regularly disassembled previously-built walls for new materials, creating cities that were constantly in flux. This recycling of construction materials piqued the interest of Matter Design principals Brandon Clifford and Wes McGee, who wanted to apply the same principles of adaptive, sustainable design to the mountains of architectural debris clogging landfills around the world. The resulting “cookbook” is a prescription for turning cast-off precast concrete into new structures. In The Cannibal’s Cookbook, Matter Design has created a tongue-in-cheek collection of recipes for turning rubble into reusable materials. The limited-run book is one part primer on how to select stones based on their shape, one part practical instruction guide, and one part guide to one-eyed mythological creatures from around the world. Not satisfied with a theoretical tome, Matter Design teamed up with fabrication studio Quarra Stone Company to build Cyclopean Cannibalism, a full-scale mock-up of one of their recipes. The resulting wall, a curvilinear assembly of concrete rubble and stone, was installed at the 2017 Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism in Seoul, South Korea. Other Masks Cambridge-based WOJR, named after founder and principal William O’Brien Jr., creates work that bridges the gap between architecture, culture, urbanism, and art. In the exhibition Other Masks, the studio explored the intersection between architectural representation and artifacts, where drawings and models cross over into the realm of physical objects capable of being interpreted in different ways. During the Other Masks show, which ran at Balts Projects in Zurich, Switzerland, the WOJR team filtered architectural detailing through the lens of masks. Masks are artifacts with significant cultural value in every society, and transforming the facets, grids, angles, and materials typically found in a facade into “personal” objects was meant to imbue them with the same cultural cachet—and provoke viewers into wondering who crafted them. WOJR designed seven unique masks and a stone bas-relief for the show, enlisting the help of Quarra Stone to fabricate the pieces. Unlike its work for Cyclopean Cannibalism, Quarra Stone used robotic milling combined with traditional techniques to give the sculptural objects a high level of finish. Other Masks sprung from WOJR's unbuilt Mask House, a cabin designed for a client seeking a solitary place to grieve in the woods. Through this lens, WOJR created what they call “a range of artifacts that explore the periphery of architectural representation.” Active Textile The work of MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab is regularly publicized, whether it is the lab’s self-assembling chair or a rapid 3-D printing method developed with furniture manufacturer Steelcase that allows for super large prints in record time. The lab’s latest foray into active materials, Active Textile, is the culmination of a three-year partnership between lab founder Skylar Tibbits and Steelcase in programmable materials. Imagine a world where, after buying a pair of pants, a store associate would then heat your clothes until they shrank to the desired fit. Or a high-rise office building where perforations in the shades automatically opened, closed, twisted, or bent to keep the amount of incoming sunlight consistent. In the same way that pine cones open their platelets as humidity swells the wood, the fabric of Active Textile mechanically reacts to light and heat. The team thinly shaved materials with different thermal coefficients—the temperatures at which they expand and contract—using a laser to minimize waste, and laminated the layers to form a responsive fabric. The fabric was stretched between a metal scaffolding. Applied-material designers Designtex digitally printed patterns on both sides; the front was printed to allow the fabric to curl in response to heat, while the back allowed light to shine through. Active Textile is currently on view at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s The Senses: Design Beyond Vision exhibition through October 28. The Self-Assembly team is researching more commercial uses for the material, such as in self-adjusting furniture or programmable wall coverings.
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Zaha Hadid Architects exhibit presents promise and peril of parametric design

  To the late Zaha Hadid, “math was like sketching.” Since her death, this attitude to architecture and design has been continued by her firm, ZHA, chiefly through ZHCODE, a computation and design research offshoot set up in 2007, the work of which is currently on display at The Building Centre in London. Borrowing theorist Mario Carpo’s terminology, the exhibition at The Building Centre is titled Digital Turn and showcases ZHCODE’s methods and ideas while exploring how digital tools have changed our ways of making and thinking. This is the second of two in a series of exhibitions. Earlier in the year, Digital Turn had showcased the academic work of The Bartlett’s Design Computation LabDigital Turn is divided into two parts: tectonism and semiotics. The former looks at the structure and geometry of digital fabrication, while the latter examines the physical results of this and its relationship to various contexts. This setup essentially translates into parametric design versus algorithm and data-driven urbanism. Visitors to the gallery are welcomed by full-scale white EPS foam offcuts, called "foam grottos." The undulating formwork, made from robotic hot wire cutting, is indicative of ZHA’s sinuous style and serves as a threshold to the exhibition space while being a cue for what is to come. "ZHCODE have been a perfect fit for the show; they are a research team within a professional practice so the narrative worked well, offering a mix of live projects and theoretical ideas," a spokesperson for The Building Center told The Architect's Newspaper. "Inspiring exhibits such as Thallus and the Mathematics Gallery at the Science Museum initially caught our attention, and in conversation with ZHCODE we realized we could display a range of ideas not yet exhibited." Part of the exhibition is dedicated to the recently completed Winton Gallery at London’s Science Museum. Building on the work of Frei Otto, ZHA’s studies into the “minimal surfaces” of 3-D objects informed the design, with a triangle-based pyramid being “reduced” (read: imploded) to a curvaceous hanging module which served as a circulation device, as shown in image at the top of the page. Wile nonetheless interesting and insightful, some physical design aspects of Digital Turn feel as if they belong in the past, in a similar vein to the most recent ZHA projects which still feel like a vision of the future from the 1990s. Robotic hot wire cutting has been around for more than two decades and though it has advanced, it’s hardly a groundbreaking fabrication method. One wonders if the visionary British-Iraqi architect were still alive, how the studio would have moved on. In response to this, The Building Center said that "parametricism isn’t the focus of the show…We also wanted to understand what was next from the practice that coined this term." Showcasing the Winton Gallery, however, also reveals how parametric design does more than just produce fancy curves. It also serves as an organizational tool. The aforementioned floating module was used in tandem with a circulation strategy derived from the airflow around a biplane. Naturally, this airflow diagram produced countless curves, but it also allowed ZHCODE to produce massing studies for objects in the gallery that align with it. This kind of design process has also been scaled by ZHA in urban studies that derive from an algorithmic input. In one example, a computer program located potential infill sites in London, identifying “end of block” plots of land, or sites that can be found at the edges of tower blocks. As a result, it proposed that housing be built on these underutilized areas. Another notable example is an exploration into modular housing. By using a uniform lattice structure, residents can customize their dual-aspect unit’s facades, adding balconies or changing the window type in the process. It’s basically Alejandro Aravena’s half houses scheme but for the wealthy. And it’s that latter notion which, when coupled with derisory remarks from the current head of ZHA, Patrik Schumacher, on social housing and desire to privatize cities, leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Furthermore, the often overtly abstract nature of parametric architecture, an architecture reserved for museums, corporate headquarters, luxury hotels, and extravagant condominiums, doesn't counter this sense of elitism either. A welcome palate cleanser can be found in another exhibition at The Building Center from Royal College graduate Hannah Rozenberg, who won this year's Student Prize for Innovation. Her book, Building Without Bias: An Architectural Language for the Post-Binary illustrates how artificial intelligence isn’t always right and is even sometimes racist, as demonstrated by Microsoft’s "Tay" bot which ended up making racist, misogynistic, and genocidal remarks on Twitter. If a Twitter bot can do that, who’s to say an urban planning bot wouldn’t start redlining?  Does Digital Turn subsequently highlight that, while parametric design may be an incredibly useful design tool for both making and thinking, its urbanistic potential is something to be wary of?  The Building Center responded to this. "ZHCODE’s algorithmic design work on display in Digital Turn showcases the most advanced algorithmic design taking place today," it said. "For example, the computational study series exploring housing liveability measures shows how advanced algorithmic methods of design generate a formal outcome that guarantees multiple desired conditions are synthesized in a single solution to a particular site. The digital design method therefore provides the designer/architect with sophisticated options to site-specific problems.

"Still far from an autonomous design bot, relinquished of the architect's control, the project showcases the potential of algorithmic design. Hannah’s work recognizes the importance of these methods, but highlights that we are at a juncture where we need a robust analytical response to ensure we design and build our future for everyone."

Digital Turn  On view through September 14 The Built Environment Trust's RCA Student Prize for Innovation On view through August 29 The Building Centre Store Street London, U.K.
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The MIT Self-Assembly Lab prints squishy, tactile lighting fixtures

The MIT Self-Assembly Lab and Swiss designer Christophe Guberan have unveiled a range of new lighting and household items that are 3D-printed in soft materials and then inflated to their proper sizes. Liquid to Air: Pneumatic Objects is currently on display at the Patrick Parrish Gallery at 50 Lispenard Street in Manhattan through August 26. The Self-Assembly Lab team, consisting of Björn Sparrman, Schendy Kernizan, Jared Laucks, and Skylar Tibbits, were able to “draw” the malleable objects using rapid liquid printing. The experimental process is a collaboration between the lab and furniture company Steelcase and can be used to rapidly print large-scale products in a variety of materials. Prints are “drawn” in a vat of gel using a variety of extruded materials–everything from rubber to plastic–that only stick to themselves and not the gel. The prints are limited only by the size of the container holding them, don’t require supports, and can contain variable thicknesses within a single object, representing a huge leap forward for 3D printing technology. For Liquid to Air, the team printed table lamps, pendants, and sconces from silicone rubber and inflated them into round, buoyant fixtures with a malleable finish. Walking through Patrick Parrish Gallery, visitors are encouraged to touch the final products, which also include multi-chambered vessels used as vases and holders for stationery. A hands-on exploration reveals that everything is soft to the touch and rebounds after squeezing, demonstrating the potential of rapid liquid printing to create complex but durable objects. Liquid to Air isn’t the first collaboration between the Self-Assembly Lab and Guberan. The team has worked together since 2014, and last year they printed a series of mesh handbags and lighting fixtures for Design Miami 2017 and used rapid liquid printing to churn out unique pieces in a matter of minutes.
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Thyssenkrupp’s new Atlanta tower will test advanced elevator technology

International elevator and industrial company thyssenkrupp has revealed plans for a new headquarters complex in Atlanta that include both tower space for over 900 employees and a testing tower for the company’s experimental elevator systems. Thyssenkrupp Elevator Americas will be building the campus adjacent to The Battery Atlanta, a commercial and entertainment district developed by the Atlanta Braves and anchored by SunTrust Park. Thyssenkrupp reportedly has the go-ahead from the Braves for their “Innovation Complex," and the Braves Development Company is a partner on the project. The complex will include three buildings, including the 420-foot-tall testing and qualification tower as the project’s centerpiece. The test tower is slated to have a variety of uses; besides safety testing normal elevators, the company plans on using the 18-shaft tower to field test its rope-less MULTI system and the TWIN system (where two elevator cabins are stacked in the same shaft). Thyssenkrupp is no stranger to constructing technologically-advanced test towers, as the company completed an 800-foot-tall, spiralized structure in Rottweil, Germany late last year. The complex’s two other buildings will serve as more traditional office spaces and, judging from the renderings, will be clad in a glass curtainwall. The corporate headquarters is slated to be 155,000 square feet and will hold thyssenkrupp’s engineering and training offices, as well as space for company events and offices for executives. The remaining 80,000-square-foot building will house the administrative offices and shared services division. When the testing tower is complete, it will be the tallest of its kind in North America. The elevators the company wants to refine aren’t just science fiction, either; Atlanta’s CODA Building will contain North America’s first TWIN elevator system when the project is completed next year. The Development Authority of Cobb County has approved the sale of $264 million in bonds to help fund the project, and it's expected to bring up to 650 new jobs to Atlanta, so barring any major stumbles, the complex should be complete in early 2022.
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WeWork is using user data to chart their meteoric expansion

With a quarter million members in 283 buildings across 75 different cities (and another 183 locations in the pipeline), WeWork is on an expansion tear that’s grown to include retail, education, and maybe even full neighborhoods somewhere down the line. With the company’s first ground-up building, Dock 72, nearly complete in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, AN spoke with the designers and researchers who are making WeWork’s growth possible and tried to divine where the company is going next. In a conversation on the future of data and workplace design at the William Vale Hotel in Williamsburg, Devin Vermeulen, creative director, and Daniel Davis, director of fundamental research, discussed how WeWork is “refining the future of the open office.” Most architecture firms design offices as one-off projects and rarely collect feedback once the spaces are occupied, but because WeWork both designs and manages their co-working spaces, the company can collect post-occupancy data. Through the collection of data via user feedback and integrated sensors, the company has created a massive pool of information from which to build its design guidelines. Planning a floor layout within the constraints of existing buildings can prove challenging, and WeWork is constantly tweaking and updating its offices based on tenant feedback. Every WeWork location outputs a massive amount of what Davis calls “data exhaust,” the information collected as a byproduct of tenants going about their day. Davis points out that data is just a proxy for user interaction, and the feedback collected through WeWork’s room booking app or surveys is just one metric of how their occupants feel. The design of each location changes accordingly based on a user’s needs. Underutilized conference rooms can either be reconfigured to make them more appealing—cramped rooms can be reorganized, and dark rooms can be lit differently—or repurposed into different uses entirely. There’s no reason that a lesser-used conference room can’t be turned into a lounge if it draws tenants. Feedback is aggregated and forms the core of WeWork’s design guidelines worldwide. The key to translating those guidelines across 22 countries is that, as the senior vice president and head of design at WeWork, Federico Negro, describes, only 90 percent of the guidelines are used across all offices. The remaining ten percent varies to adapt to local markets. When WeWork expands into a new city or state, it hires local architects to adapt its traditional model. This might mean a long communal table in Scandinavian offices as everyone gathers to eat lunch together, or larger meeting rooms in China, where one-on-one meetings are eschewed for team gatherings. The local architectural team is vertically integrated with the maintenance staff and utilizes feedback on trash routes, the ease of changing light bulbs, and other practical considerations when creating a layout. As hyped as the bromance between Bjarke Ingels and WeWork cofounder Adam Neumann has been, the Danish architect won’t be contributing much to the company’s day-to-day architecture work; the first “chief architect” will be focusing his attention on marquee projects like the WeGrow pilot school. The ultimate goal of the collaboration is to help WeWork expand into neighborhood planning, something outside of their current design scope. WeWork’s furniture and lighting solutions may appear similar to what's used in other spaces, but everything at WeWork is designed and fabricated by in-house teams. The resultant pieces are tested in WeWork offices, tweaked, and rolled out as kits-of-parts for designers to mix and match as they see fit. On a recent visit to WeWork’s New York City headquarters in Chelsea, the sixth-floor lounge had recently been revamped with plants, technicolor couches, and custom lighting fixtures. The airy palette might have seemed novel to those familiar with the company’s darker coworking spaces of five years ago, but as WeWork grows and matures its aesthetic, what works in the headquarters will ultimately trickle down to its older locations. Negro describes the process as rolling out design like “software updates." Circulation has been given special emphasis in the company’s design considerations, according to Davis. While his team’s algorithmically-generated desk layouts may optimize the number of seats in a WeWork office, guiding people to navigate those spaces in a certain way helps encourage face-to-face interactions. The most obvious intervention is the staircase; at the Chelsea location, the stairs have been relocated to the center of the floor and connect to floating “sky lobbies." Each floor is anchored by its stair, and circulation flows around it out of necessity. That circulation can help guide and divide the energy of the floor, keeping raucous lounge get-togethers distinct from the more subdued private call booths or conference rooms. The company is continuing to expand into both new industries and client groups. During the time of writing this story the company announced that it would be jumping into the real estate brokerage game with WeWork Space Services. Enterprise clients like IBM now compose 25 percent of WeWork’s tenants and represent a new design challenge for the company, but having core information from its prior tenants is helping the design team navigate the transition, said Negro. As open offices continue to evolve, architects and interior designers have tweaked layouts and materials to optimize worker comfort and balance privacy concerns. Will the increasing availability of data help designers refine their solutions in the same way WeWork has done?
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Sasaki launches an incubator and hosts its second annual hackathon

Architecture and technology have always been inextricably linked, and with technology advancing faster than ever, contemporary architects have their hands full. Massachusetts-based planning and design studio Sasaki has a new initiative to help designers strengthen their skills. This past spring Sasaki launched an incubator program within its headquarters where tenants can directly interact with the firm's experts. The incubator includes a mix of tenants from a variety of industries, and Sasaki wants to leverage their interdisciplinary expertise to create an environment where teams can grow and cooperate. The incubator space is 5,000 square feet of both shared workspaces and research studio space. For the interiors, Sasaki chose to strip a former mill building back to the underlying structure, leaving the brick walls, wooden columns, and beams and joists exposed. The floorplan is open, though Sasaki has carved out several spaces for private meetings and conference calls. The Foundation has established a grant program for two-to-four teams on a nine-month fellowship, centered around four themes: climate innovation, transportation, accessibility, and placemaking. The incubator itself supports the aforementioned programming for grant teams and includes Sasaki as a design consultant for the those in the program. The Sasaki office and the Foundation have extended this spirit of collaboration to their second annual beyondAEC Hackathon. The Sasaki incubator will host this year’s Hackathon on July 20 and will encourage those in architecture, engineering, and construction to brainstorm solutions to real-world problems they’ve faced. The first beyondAEC Hackathon in 2017 drew 40 participants, including a handful of architecture students from local universities. Kyle and Jim Martin, inspired by engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti’s annual NYC-based hackathon, launched beyondAEC with the help of Sasaki. Kyle Martin says the hackathon provides an opportunity for local AEC practitioners to “foster a culture of design technology and push boundaries outside of their day to day practices.” Jim Martin added that they wanted to make space for “a culture of experimentation for participants to dive into and develop new ideas and learn from each other.” Sasaki will hold workshops to build up to the event through June and into July.
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Apple’s latest announcement makes augmented reality easier for architects

Apple has wrapped up its keynote at the 2018 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) and announced several big changes coming with IOS 12 that should shake things up for architects and designers. The biggest announcements focused on VR and augmented reality (AR), as Apple unveiled ARKit 2.0. With a presentation backed by a constellation of big names such Lego, Adobe, Autodesk and more, the sequel to Apple’s original AR infrastructure promised to bring a much more cohesive AR ecosystem to consumers. For architects and interior designers, Apple’s promise of easily digitizing and later placing real-world objects in an AR environment could have a huge impact on envisioning what a space will look like. If ARKit 2.0 succeeds, it could be used to decorate a room or to put different architectural options (literally) on the table without having to build physical iterative models. A collaborative, locally-hosted AR experience was also shown off at the keynote, with two players using their iPads to knock down wooden towers Angry Birds-style. One complaint about the original ARKit was the fragmented ecosystem and inability to interact with AR objects across apps. For IOS 12, Apple has partnered with Pixar to develop a new proprietary file format for 3D models, USDZ (Universal Scene Description Zip). USDZ files should be openable across all IOS devices, including Macs, and Adobe is promising native Creative Cloud support. The introduction of a streamlined system for sharing and examining 3D objects in the real world, and to create persistent AR experiences in specific locations, likely means enhanced functionality for apps like Morpholio once the new IOS rolls out. For those looking for more practical applications of the technology, Apple is also expanding its list of native AR apps. Coders who have measuring tools on the App Store likely won’t be happy with Measure, Apple’s in-house AR solution that allows users to snap a picture of reference objects and then tap to measure anything else. Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi took to the stage and used Measure to seamlessly calculate the length of a trunk, then his own baby photo. IOS 12 will get a public release when the latest iPhone model rolls out in September of this year.
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An experimental disaster shelter turns packaging into protection

Plastic bottles are thought of as inherently wasteful, but what if the containers could go on to have a productive second life elsewhere? An experimental prototype shelter designed by an architecture design studio at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York, wants to turn that packaging into structurally-sound shelters. Second Lives | After Bottles was first assembled on RPI’s campus where it endured real-world conditions and later moved to Industry City in Brooklyn for Wanted Design from May 16 through 22 (part of NYC x Design Week 2018). The installation was made possible through the use of a proprietary bottle patented by Friendship Bottles LLC, which uses grooves and wedges to create a tightly interlocking bottle design. Throughout the design studio, RPI students, educators, and engineers sought to design a shelter that would be self-tensioning, stable, and that used the least amount of materials. Even the bottles packaging has been integrated into the final design; the team has created a triangular wooden crate that can unfold to form a topography-following floor and acts as a base for the plastic walls above. 3D printed joints and cross bracing were used to connect bottles at angles other than what the bottles themselves allowed. Lydia Kallipoliti, project lead and Assistant Professor of Architecture at RPI, said that the aim was to ship as few materials as possible into a disaster area. With a 3D printer on the ground, crates of water and an assembly diagram could be shipped in and the required parts printed in-situ. The team found multiple uses for the bottles, running LED lights through the bottles making up the roof, and filling bottles on the side with water and food for easy takeaway. Testing is still ongoing to ensure that the final design would be tight enough to keep out rainwater. Another structure made from the same interlocking bottles was set up across from the Wanted exhibition hall, this one courtesy of RPI’s Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE). The CASE team has built their “testing chamber” by arranging the bottles vertically and have been monitoring the internal heat, humidity, and air quality. Making sure that the bottles aren’t decomposing and releasing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is especially important, as the UN has strict air quality guidelines for disaster shelters. Ultimately, the goal of Second Lives isn’t to introduce a new bottle into the plastic ecosystem, but to convert existing companies over, said Kallipoliti. If the Cokes and Pepsis of the world switched to a bottle that could then be used as a construction material, the worldwide reduction in waste would be immense.

Project Lead: Lydia Kallipoliti (Assistant Professor of Architecture, School of Architecture, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

Project Team: Adam Beres, Bryce Crawford, Amanda Esso, Reed Freeman, Emily Freeman, Jacob Laird, Deegan Lotz, Christopher Michelangelo, Arun Padykula, Raina Page, Abigail Ray, Daniel Ruan, Emily Sulanowski, Stefanie Warner

Collaborators: Tom Roland (Fabrication Coordinator, School of Architecture, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), Andreas Theodoridis (PhD Candidate, Center for Architecture, Science and Ecology/ Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

Structural Engineer: Mohammed Alnaggar (Assistant Professor of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

Sponsor: Friendship Bottles LLC, Timothy Carlson (Managing Partner)

CASE Project |Transitional Bottle Shelter Environmental Analysis 

Project Leads: Josh Draper (Lecturer, CASE, RPI), Alexandros Tsamis (Associate Director, CASE, RPI)

Project Team: Alexis Clarke, Valerie Kwart, Yiqi Song, Duo Zhang, Mohammed Aly

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Cross-laminated timber passes its first real-world blast test

Timber construction continues its march to mass market feasibility following a series of live blast tests on full-scale cross-laminated timber (CLT) structures. Through a series of tests conducted at the Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, the WoodWorks Wood Products Council and U.S. Army are putting together guidelines for framing buildings with CLT. As Engineering News–Record reports, the idea to test CLT for its blast resistance properties arose after developer and construction company Lendlease entered into an agreement to build hotels on army bases across the U.S. As Lendlease chose to frame some of their hotels with CLT to save on time and construction costs, they were told that CLT wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the Unified Facilities Criteria, the building code for the U.S. Army. This meant that the material would have to pass a battery of durability and security hardening-related tests before it could be applied in any real-world structures. While the Army allowed the construction of Lendlease’s first CTL hotel, the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, any future timber-framed buildings would require full-scale testing on a physical mockup before it could be approved. Lendlease reached out to WoodWorks Wood Products Council, who arranged the seven blast tests, Karagozian & Case Inc. (KCI), who developed and followed through on both phases of the testing, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, and the University of Maine. The tests were carried out in two phases–the first in late 2016, and second at the end of last year. Lendlease built the testing structures, each of which were exposed to successively larger blasts over a period of seven tests; two of the mock buildings were 27 feet tall with two-foot-tall parapets and window cutouts at 12 feet, and the third was 23 feet tall, with two-foot-tall parapets and window cutouts at 10 feet. Both “buildings” had 15-square-foot footprints. After exposing the structures to 32 pounds, 67 pounds, and 199 pounds of TNT (with 610 pounds used for the last test), KCI concluded that for blast exposure, CLT was equivalent to the standard steel-studded wall. Because CLT panels contain multiple laminated layers, the remaining wood provides additional strength at the point of rupture. The load from the blast is also more evenly distributed owing to the panel’s support on all four sides, allowing the force to be evenly distributed towards the joints. The U.S. Army Protective Design Center (PDC) has already released their report on the 2016 tests and will follow it up with their analysis of the second round of testing this June.
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Uber shuts down self-driving car business in Arizona after investigators release findings

Uber announced yesterday that it would be canceling any future autonomous vehicle endeavors in Arizona, abruptly terminating all 300 of its employees in the state (most of them test drivers). The move follows the release of the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) findings that the car involved in the fatal crash on March 19 in Tempe, Arizona, detected someone crossing but failed to brake. Uber had previously voluntarily suspended all of its self-driving testing until the review, involving the NTSB, National Highway Traffic Administration, and the Tempe Arizona Police Department, had concluded. While the ride-sharing company had intended to put its robot cars back on the streets in Pittsburgh, California, and Arizona, it appears that the return to the road may be scaled back. After canceling any future plans for Arizona, Uber will only definitively resume testing in Pittsburgh; talks between the company and California’s regulators are reportedly ongoing. “We’re committed to self-driving technology, and we look forward to returning to public roads in the near future," said Uber. "In the meantime, we remain focused on our top-to-bottom safety review, having brought on former NTSB Chair Christopher Hart to advise us on our overall safety culture.” The NTSB’s preliminary report, available in full here, doesn’t paint Uber in a flattering light. The safety board discovered that, as speculated earlier this month, the self-driving vehicle detected pedestrian Elaine Herzberg but failed to act. In the report, the NTSB writes that the car recognized that there was an obstacle in the road a full 6 seconds before the crash, but that the emergency braking feature had been disabled. Emergency braking is a tightrope that self-driving cars have to navigate; if the braking threshold is set too high, then the car will stop for “false positives” (ie, a plastic bag, a branch in the road) and create a choppy ride. If the threshold is set too high, the ride will be smooth but the car might plow through obstacles in its way, real or imagined. According to the NTSB’s report, “Emergency braking maneuvers are not enabled while the vehicle is under computer control, to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior. The vehicle operator is relied on to intervene and take action. The system is not designed to alert the operator.” As Uber scales back its autonomous ambitions on the ground, the company is still pushing ahead in the race to conquer the skies.
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2018’s TECH+ Expo explores VR, integrated solutions, and the future of BIM

The second annual TECH+ Expo, presented by The Architect’s Newspaper, has returned to Manhattan with a bevy of vendors, lectures, and talks about where architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) are headed. After a round of breakfast and networking on the expo floor, president and founder of programming partner Microsol Resources Emilio Krausz and AN’s publisher Diana Darling took to the TechPerspectives main stage to welcome attendees and introduce the two keynote speakers. Dennis Shelden, director of the Digital Building Laboratory (DBL) at the Georgia Institute of Technology, took the opportunity to discuss the challenges (and opportunities) that technology brings to the interoperability between AEC industries. Virtual reality, and the integration of models with the ability to walk through and coordinate with the trades, could ultimately save money and time for everyone. And looking ahead even further in the future? Augmented reality, where VR is projected into the real world, could help visualize projects in real time and could ultimately lead to a “Minority Report”-style future. Architect, technologist, and newly appointed associate dean of the Yale School of Architecture Phil Bernstein followed up with an industry keynote on computational design and integration. The field has already moved from hand drafting to CAD, and then into BIM, so what comes next? Bernstein presented six points that he felt were the next logical stepping stones, from using big data, to improving computational design, to integrating machine learning into the design process. The availability of data and cloud computing power could eventually help architects design more optimized buildings and reduce the waste that comes when expectations don’t line up with how a building actually performs in the real world. On the expo floor, companies were lining up to present the latest advances in virtual reality, 3-D printing, and rendering technology (and visitors all had the chance to win their own HTC Vive by throwing down their business cards). Implementation was a major theme this year, whether it was through IrisVR’s use of virtual reality to bring architects, engineers, and construction workers together for meetings, or Morpholio’s easy-to-use sketching tools. As Bernstein contends, architects will make fewer mistakes and save more money as the gap between ideas and implementation closes.  
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How has the internet changed architecture criticism?

As Christopher Hawthorne moves on from the Los Angeles Times and as new forms of criticism proliferate, we asked the architecture community what the role of the critic is today, and what it might be missing. What do you see as the role of the critic in architecture today? Why is it important? What aspects of architecture are not being addressed today by critics? What are the problems with criticism today? Here are the responses we received from those who drew attention to the role that technology has played in changing the discourse, from across the country and abroad. This article was originally published in our May print issue and was preceded by a selection of answers from architecture critics themselves. Stay tuned for further perspectives from practitioners, emerging architects, and scholars. Sam Jacob Principal of Sam Jacob Studio, professor of architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and columnist for ArtReview and Dezeen. Previously he was a founding director of FAT Architecture. “I think we’ve seen the decline of the traditional kind of critic (partly because there are simply fewer professional critic jobs) and the rise of a different kind of critic. This new criticism seems to spill over from blogs, from zines, even from Twitter, and inhabits or attaches itself to bits of the internet rather than a particular title. It’s criticism you follow in sporadic streams, link by link, rather than a joined-up totality. This fractured landscape allows a more partisan, more pointed form of criticism. And more voices, each skewed to a particular kind of idea around the significance of architecture. That’s meant, I think, two things: First more direct discussion of the politics of architecture and second, more discussion around the cultural significance of architecture. Both are important, both have given us new ways to understand architecture’s role in society. It’s really a more traditional idea of criticism that has declined. Forms of criticism like the building study, for example, where the critic acts as an arbiter of quality, and as a guide to the way we can understand architecture in historical and disciplinary senses. And this is a shame. It’s a form of criticism that is more expensive to produce (you have to travel) and is less opinion-led, less thinkpiece-y, and probably less clickbait-y, too. The danger, as this kind of criticism declines, is that it just becomes all opinion, written from the desk rather than the field. In this way it mirrors the transformation that’s occurred throughout traditional media. And while the greater diversity of voices is fantastic, perhaps we are losing a way of interrogating, understanding, and communicating ideas about architecture itself, where architecture becomes simply a cipher for other ideas, instead of considering its significance as architecture itself.” Charles Holland Architect, writer, and teacher.  He is the principal of Charles Holland Architects and a professor of architecture at the University of Brighton. “I think the role of the opinion-forming, influential critic is more or less dead. Everyone is a critic now. The rise of social media and sites like Dezeen where the architecture is presented without editorial comment and the critique occurs ‘below the line’ is a clear manifestation of this. The existing idea that critics define and drive artistic movements in the manner of Reyner Banham and Brutalism or Charles Jencks and postmodernism was probably overstated to start with but seems highly unlikely today. That’s not to say the there aren’t good critics around (critic Rowan Moore, for example, is great), but I think the landscape has shifted. The role of the critic today is messier and more ambiguous, blurring the roles between architect, critic, and curator with some people acting happily as all three. My social media feed is full of architectural criticism, only a small amount of which you could ascribe to a critic in the traditional sense. The ‘problem’—if indeed it is one—is that it is harder to establish a critical body of thought or momentum for any one particular position. This is a product of pluralism and a genuflection away from forms of authority, at least overtly. Criticism traditionally served the role of establishing value, of sifting through things to define what’s good, what’s bad and establish the ‘canon.’ That sifting doesn’t really take place with any clear rationale or legitimacy anymore, which is threatening and liberating in equal measure. Architectural and artistic movements are established through a kind of accumulation of works which address similar things and by events like the biennials, which aren’t criticism in the traditional manner, but which establish what is (supposedly) relevant or pressing at any one time.” David Ruy Architect, theorist, director of Ruy Klein, and Postgraduate Programs Chair at SCI-Arc “Criticism falls prey to the general degradation of institutional authority in producing and disseminating information in the contemporary situation. This is the problem posed by Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and other platforms of our telematic infrastructure. Any person or group with an account on these platforms can produce and disseminate information. Any person or group with an account can produce criticism. In 1976, Simon Nora and Alain Minc were asked by France’s president, Valéry Giscard D’Estaing, to issue a report on the dangers and possibilities of a computerized society. Astonishingly, given what’s happening in the world today, they predicted a coming society where anyone with access to the telematic infrastructure could manufacture and disseminate information, leading to a loss of trust in the veracity of information and to an erosion of the cultural coherence in the society. They warned that such a society might be ungovernable. This was nearly two decades before the first internet browser became available. It is sobering then to consider their recommendation for addressing this danger. They proposed a socialization of information. What this might mean in the twenty-first century remains unclear. A lot of good architectural criticism is still being written today, but it gets lost in the sea of information that is available. The dialectic of fact versus fiction has melted into a flat ontology of mere data. The cynic today would ask in boredom if it even matters that the news is fake. But this is true for all criticism today. There are only two options I see in the face of the contemporary situation. We would either have to rebuild the authority of old institutions (which seems impossible), or we would have to understand that communication and its politics will have to be hypothesized in a new way outside of the framework of criticism (because after all, how can you have criticism without authority?). As sad as I am about this, when anyone can disseminate information, when anyone can ‘like’ or ‘troll’ an idea, when anyone can invent ‘news,’ when the theater of criticism appears more important than the criticism itself (Fox News and MSNBC, for example), what role can any critic play outside of the limited audiences that consumes critique primarily for reinforcing existing opinions? It may be tempting to conceptualize some ‘post-criticism’ society, but as Nora and Minc warned, such a society might be ungovernable. Nonetheless, I continue to think about Nora and Minc’s proposal of socializing information. I consider it to be an important but enigmatic problem. If, miraculously, something can be figured out and implemented one day, I think criticism would have newfound authority. But I think it is premature to dream about the possible positive effects of such a rebirth and the roles the critic might play until we address how to construct such a structure in society. Strangely, I think every constituency thinks their opinions are not being properly addressed. I have my own complaints, but I’m pretty sure everyone has a complaint and feels underrepresented. This is true despite the irony that, no matter how marginal or preposterous, any opinion and orientation to society can be searched for online, and criticism can be found in support of it. With that said, speaking for my own values and my own small constituency, I am puzzled and dismayed by how the left end of the political spectrum seems to be abandoning architectural speculation and formal experimentation. I got into architecture out of a dissatisfaction with the world as given. How can the world be more progressive if everything remains the same or goes backward towards the historically familiar? I understand that in recent times formal extravagance was appropriated as a risk management device by large investors. But how can progressives abandon the project of imagining other possible realities? Isn’t this one of the things architecture does so well? Is demystifying power the only thing left to do? Instead of contributing to the ever-growing disenchantment in the world, can architectural criticism re-enchant some of these abandoned spaces?” Michael Young Partner at Young & Ayata and assistant professor at The Cooper Union. “One of the issues facing contemporary architectural criticism that has yet to be fully developed is how to deal with the dissemination and consumption of architectural images on social media. The primary responses thus far have been to treat it as either a wasteland or a wilderness. The wasteland response sees the image proliferation as out of control and debased, a condition to be excluded from disciplinary criticism. The wilderness response views the image accumulation as wild yet vibrant, a condition to be cultivated and curated. The problem lies in that architecture’s typical disciplinary approaches of criticality that aim to reveal underlying hierarchies, trends, and motivations cannot keep pace nor dent this image acceleration. Social media flattens access, evaluation, and debate. This is both numbing and exciting. It is where the wasteland meets the wilderness. And this requires a different paradigm for architectural criticism.” Ryan Scavnicky Visiting teaching fellow at the School of Architecture at Taliesin, administrator of the Facebook page “Dank Lloyd Wright” and on Instagram as @sssscavvvv. “I think the strength of memes isn’t just about its experimental form. It’s the same principle I apply to architecture but applied to criticism. With architecture, I’m always skeptical about what it actually has the power to do. So with criticism, we probably shouldn’t be focused on changing individual architects (have you met these people?) or critiquing specific buildings, but changing architecture culture in general. Memes focus on changing the student’s perception, loosening the bolts a bit and moving architecture culture away from toxic bravado and into a new space while regaining our singular command over the built world with a more public audience. I do this through producing and writing films as a YouTube comic-critic team with Jeffrey Kipnis via the SCI-Arc Channel and by running a meme account on Instagram. Internet memes are the strongest emerging form of cultural criticism today, thriving in the form of quick and digestible images pregnant with assertive positions. Critics must develop fresh audiences by using strange and experimental critical forms and reflecting those findings back onto the architecture discipline.” Ellie Abrons Principal of T+E+A+M and an assistant professor at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. “In the past, critics (and theorists, I’d add) drove architectural discourse and were vital participants in its culture. They had the ability to read work very closely and to interpret or understand it with focused attention and intellectual prowess and agility. Critics played a crucial role in contextualizing work, in situating it culturally and historically or finding affinities and overlaps with other fields. These days, there’s a dearth of criticism—you don’t see the same quantity and quality of writing that was coming out fifteen or twenty years ago. I see more and more architects writing about their own or their peers’ work in an attempt to play that role. But we’re not really cut out for it, so we end up with thought pieces or musings more than proper pieces of criticism or theory. I’m not prepared to say that it’s a bad thing – it’s just a new model. Contemporary intellectual, professional, and cultural life doesn’t allow the kind of patient and careful interpretation of work that we saw in the past. Our modes of attention have changed due to ever-expanding digital culture—images scroll by, while texts are limited to a caption or a few hundred words. Architecture in general (critics, but also architects, historians, and others) need to better understand how to participate in a world where ubiquitous digitality has altered the material, conceptual, and experiential context of our work.