A Turkish-American architect has designed a speculative funeral memorial for the late Jamal Khashoggi. In an immersive sketch, Selim Vural, owner of the Brooklyn-based Studio Vural, envisioned a traveling memorial for the Washington Post journalist who was allegedly murdered while visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul this October. Vural places the memorial in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., as a nod to President Donald Trump’s business links with the suspected murderer, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. An axonometric view of the memorial shows the design arranged in the outline of a keffiyeh, traditional Arab headgear, overtop green grass. “Our project addresses not only the criminal acts of the president but also the lack of closure of Khashoggi’s death due to his missing body,” Vural said in a statement. “The idea of a hybrid funeral/memorial arose from this duality.” Made with a pattern of polished red sheet metal, the layout references the specific keffiyeh that the Crown Prince wears. Layered on top of the metal are concrete planters, funeral flowers, and a black marble “coffin” (also a planter), rounding out a makeshift memorial that pays homage to a man who can’t be properly mourned or buried due to his missing body. “Although all planters can be interpreted as coffins of possibly other tortured journalists, this one is special, this is for Jamal,” explained Vural, “this is for his family, for his immortality, and has a sense of permanence.” In the renderings, Vural depicts the Crown Prince walking with Trump, observing the memorial which sits in front of the president’s home. The pointed planters lie in stark contrast to the round and skinny colonnade that accents the White House’s southern central facade. According to the architect, this funeral memorial aims to “bring serenity, calm, and closure to the violence and secrecy of the act” of Khashoggi's killing. It’s designed for him, but for all journalists—“heroes with pens,” as Vural noted. Last week the Committee to Protect Journalists released a report that found that at least 53 journalists had been killed worldwide in 2018. Since Khashoggi’s gruesome death was one of the most high-profile murders of the year, it’s sparked international outrage and caused potential trade tension between the United States and Saudi Arabia. The latest headlines detail that Trump doesn’t plan to punish the country for the crime in an attempt to maintain the country's long-held support for America’s foreign policy priorities, but growing global and domestic opposition to the Crown Prince may soon force Trump to change his outlook.
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Earlier this week, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) announced its new initiative to advocate for improved school design policies. Yesterday a representative from the architectural organization met with senior White House cabinet members to discuss legislation that promotes the design of open learning environments that enhance security and safety. Jay Brotman, AIA, the partner at Svigals+Partners who led the design of the new Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, spoke on behalf of the AIA in Washington. In his statement, Brotman presented best practices used for the school’s secure design and how his team collected input from the community, teachers, and students to address the most crucial needs. “The desire to craft design strategies that mitigate the challenges schools face is an absolute priority,” he said. “As architects, we do this every day. However, two ongoing problems prevent local school officials from implementing these solutions: a lack of access to quality school-design information and the ability to fund them.” Part of the AIA’s goal is to assist the government in creating legislation that provides pathways for federally-funded architecture and design services and grants. They also want to establish a “federal clearinghouse” of resources detailing best practices for school officials, architects, and design professionals to stay updated on the latest research involving safe school design. In front of the Federal Commission on School Safety, Brotman explained that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work in designing these facilities. “Whether it’s a retrofit or new school, each school must be designed for its unique student population, for its unique location, and to meet the needs of its unique community,” he said. “The primary goal is to provide an inspiring, health environment that promotes learning. Security features, while vital and necessary, should be as invisible as possible and incorporated into the school’s design. Failing to do so puts children’s education, emotional development and pro-social behavior at risk.” The AIA has yet to unveil any specific design prescriptions for school safety, but Brotman’s testimony is one step closer toward creating more awareness on the importance of safe education architecture. Yesterday’s meeting isn’t the first instance this month in which the AIA has spoken out on the topic. RTA Architects principal Stuart Coppedge, FAIA, presented insights into the collaborative design and community evaluation process to the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Commission on School Safety in early August while members of the AIA’s Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE) also gave recommendations for safe school design to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Donald Trump may want to build a wall on the border between the U. S. and Mexico, but the Obama administration is more focused this week on building a new fence—around the White House. The National Capital Planning Commission was briefed Thursday on plans for a new White House security fence that would roughly double the height of the existing one and have a new concrete foundation—a response to the recent rash of “jumpers” and intruders who have tried to break into the 18-acre compound at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. “We would like to be able to ultimately rebuild the fence as it stands right now. This is an immediate need,” said Tom Dougherty, chief strategy officer for the Secret Service. “The current fence simply is not adequate for a modern era,” Dougherty said in an earlier briefing to federal officials, a recording of which was broadcast by NBC News4 in Washington. “It is entirely scalable, depending upon the circumstances. And we now have a society that tends to want to jump over the fence and onto the 18 acres.” Plans by the U. S. Secret Service and the National Park Service call for the new fence to be about 14 feet high, compared to the existing fence that is about 7 feet high. Entrance gates would be slightly higher. The new fence would have 1¾ inch pickets and “anti-climb” features such as intrusion-detection sensors. Renderings also show spikes along the upper edge similar to the “pencil point” spikes that were added to the existing fence in 2015. Mills + Schnoering Architects of Princeton, New Jersey, has been working on the design, which must be approved by the National Capital Planning Commission and the U. S. Commission of Fine Arts. One challenge is “reconciling contemporary standards of protection with the historic and highly symbolic property,” according to a letter from the Fine Arts Commission to the Park Service and the Secret Service. Federal officials say the fence will be in keeping with the Park Service’s design standards for the historic mansion and surrounding area, which draws millions of visitors a year. The planning commission did not take any formal action on the proposal at its meeting. A preliminary schedule calls for the taller White House fence to be under construction by 2018. A later phase would include a new fence to surround the nearby Treasury Department and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
If last week's story on the apparent shortcomings of the Office of Urban Affairs may have shaken your hopes about the Obama administration's commitment to cities, planning, and urban policy, fear not. As we tried to point out, these things are happening, just not necessarily at the White House office whose name is synonymous with it. Case in point, two major announcements were made this week concerning sustainability, one at the GSA, the other at HUD. Yesterday, the General Services Administration announced that it had created its first Chief Greening Officer (terrible name, great news), whose job it would be to pursue sustainability initiatives throughout the agency's massive portfolio of buildings, some 350 million square feet. Taking over the new office is Eleni Reed, the former Director of Sustainability Strategies at Cushman and Wakefield, where she undertook a similar task of greening the company's vast office holdings. And on Monday, the agency submitted its sustainability plan to the White House with a target of a "zero environmental footprint," though a timeline for that is not clear. Meanwhile, over at Department of Housing and Urban Development, officials announced today that HUD would start scoring its grant applications for their compliance with LEED-ND, the U.S. Green Building Council's new neighborhood rating system. “Using the ‘LEED-ND’ green neighborhood rating system…it’s time that federal dollars stopped encouraging sprawl and started lowering the barriers to the kind of sustainable development our country needs and our communities want," Secretary Shaun Donovan said in a press release. It is not unlike one of the programs mentioned in last week's piece, about how the Office of Management and Budget is weighing its budget calculations in favor of programs that incorporate sustainable and pro-urban initiatives.