Many architecture students have just wrapped up their final studios and exams, and what an interesting semester it has been. Social distancing has forced the closure of schools, sending design education fleeing from studio halls to online portals like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. The translation—or, indeed, migration—has posed serious questions to inherited models of architectural pedagogy, particularly studio instruction. For instance, can Twitch really reproduce the same social fecundity of the studio? How to get everyone—not least the international students who returned home to different times zones after campuses were locked down—on the same schedule? Did your instructor ever figure out how to unmute themselves on that jury? (Tuition refund, anyone?) But what of the work itself? Does it betray the stress and volatility that are characteristic of a time disrupted by pandemic? Judge for yourself. Below, we pull together a baker’s dozen of virtual year-end exhibitions. Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture Earlier this month, CMU’s school of architecture launched the “System Reboot?” microsite, which collects thesis projects spanning undergraduate and graduate programs. Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation A fixture of the New York architecture scene, GSAPP’s student exhibition makes the jump online with a stirring statement from Dean Amale Andraos, for whom the site represents a “singular moment” in the school’s history. To the broad collection of work on view she ascribes a “deeply empathetic and with a revised global outlook.” Cooper Union Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture Like its uptown counterpart, The Cooper Union’s end-of-year show was always a calendar event for the city’s architectural community. On June 10, the school will unveil a virtual edition of this year’s exhibition. UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design This so-called “virtual yearbook” foregrounds the 2020 commencement speech, which was delivered by professor Walter J. Hood. You could be forgiven for overlooking the actual student work, which is tucked away in a PDF called Circus. Harvard Graduate School of Design GSD’s end-of-year exhibition will make its online transition on May 27, one day before the school’s first-ever virtual commencement. Conceived by the GSD’s digital and exhibitions teams, the web gallery will be viewable in perpetuity. IIT College of Architecture There is no replacing Mies van der Rohe’s Crown Hall as a venue. Be that as it may, IIT adapted to the current moment, producing Strata, a virtual open house that offers up a slice of student work across multiple programs and levels. Pratt Institute School of Architecture The recently launched Pratt Shows Portfolio Project aims to promote the best student work across the school's different design degrees, preserving them online indefinitely. Princeton University School of Architecture Princeton's UnBuilding Building is part web gallery, part manifesto. Dedicated to post-professional M.Arch thesis projects, the site makes a case for unburdening architecture of its claims to physical permanence. SCI-Arc As with all things, SCI-Arc adopted a maximalist approach to what can otherwise be a routine affair. A couple of weeks ago, the school broadcast its final studio juries over Twitch (30 streams in all), which can be viewed through May 31. It has also launched a more conventional website for hosting undergraduate thesis projects. UIC School of Architecture Earlier this month, UIC kicked off its annual student exhibition with a cocktail hour-cum-variety show, which it aired live on Zoom. For the curious, the feed is preserved on Youtube. University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning It’s no surprise that Taubman College, a hotbed of digital thinking and research, would easily make the transition from physical to virtual formats for its annual student show. The site features select work from nine studios, as well as projects from its MSDMT program. University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design UPenn’s YES 2020 virtual exhibition plays things straight—no exuberant frills or cross-platform tie-ins. Instead, the tastefully designed site reproduces student work in big, bold images. Yale School of Architecture “Year End (of the World)” is a sensational title for what is another tasteful rendition of the cumulative student exhibition. Tip: The site is best experienced visually, so you might want to start with the directory.
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An expanse of sustainable timber just clinched the Chicago Architecture Biennial's Lakefront Kiosk Competition
Officials with the Chicago Architecture Biennial today announced the winners of the Lakefront Kiosk Competition, choosing a team whose stated goal was “to build the largest flat wood roof possible.” Dubbed Chicago Horizon, the design is by Rhode Island–based Ultramoderne, a collaboration between architects Yasmin Vobis and Aaron Forrest and structural engineer Brett Schneider. Their pavilion uses cross-laminated timber, a new lumber product that some structural engineers call carbon-negative for its ability to displace virgin steel and concrete while sequester the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide during its growth. Ultramoderne's long, flat roof “aims to provide an excess of public space for the Architecture Biennial and Chicago beach-goers,” according to the project description. Their design rose above 420 other entries from designers in more than 40 countries, and will receive a $10,000 honorarium, as well as a $75,000 production budget to realize the kiosk. BP is providing those funds as part of a $2.5 million grant to the inaugural biennial. Three teams—Lekker Architects, Tru Architekten, and Kelley, Palider, Paros—were finalists for the top honor. Fala Atelier, Kollectiv Atelier, and Guillame Mazars all received an honorable mention. The Biennial has posted a selection of submissions to the Lakefront Kiosk Competition on its Pinterest page.
After the biennial, Chicago Horizon "will find a permanent home in Spring 2016, operating as a food and beverage vendor, as well as a new public space along the lakefront.During the Biennial three other kiosks will be installed along the lakefront. Details on those are due to be announced next week, but here are the preliminary project descriptions:
The Cent Pavilion, designed by Pezo von Ellrichshausen in collaboration with the Illinois Institute of Technology, is a forty-foot tower meant to convey silent and convoluted simplicity. Rock, the kiosk designed by Kunlé Adeyemi in collaboration with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago is a pop-up pavilion a public sculpture composed from the raw and historic limestone blocks that once protected the city’s shoreline. Summer Vault, designed by Paul Andersen of Independent Architecture and Paul Preissner of Paul Preissner Architects, in collaboration with the University of Illinois, Chicago, is a lakefront kiosk that consists of basic geometric shapes combined to create a freestanding hangout within the park.
The Chicago Architectural Club announced the winners of its 2014 Chicago Prize Tuesday, awarding five honors to speculative proposals for Barack Obama’s Presidential Library. Peace signs, notions of community ownership, and even drones enlivened the conceptual debate swirling around a closely watched project already wrought with its own political complications. Organizers said during a public unveiling Tuesday evening at the Chicago Architecture Foundation that they had received 103 submissions. Entrants were asked to sketch up concepts for the library on a site at the confluence of the Chicago River—one which is already home to a 53-story tower by Goettsch Partners, currently under construction. When CAC announced the topic in November, several potential library sites for the actual library had already been identified. Their locations—in and around the University of Illinois Chicago and University of Chicago campuses—exacerbated frictions between public space advocates, community residents and local politicians who would later agree to commit acres of Washington Park to the library developers. “We felt that this debate did not take place in public,” said Martin Klaschen, CAC's co-president, obliquely addressing why the competition chose the subject it did. “It's a political step that we intended not to interfere with the discussions of the other sites, and basically brought one more site into the debate.” In 2012 the prize touched on another hot topic: the imminent demolition of Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Women's Hospital. Despite the neutral site, winning proposals provoked debate on some political issues. One submission, Obama Drone Aviary from Craig Reschke and Ann Lui, earned a “dishonorable mention,” CAC officials joked, for its wry proposal to make Obama's the first drone-driven library in presidential history. Though it presented the concept with a straight-faced optimism, Klaschen said, the subject matter belies a critique of Obama's legacy as the face of a growing surveillance apparatus and military-industrial complex. (Lui has contributed work to AN.) Two winners were named: The design team of Zhu Wenyi, Fu Junsheng, and Liang Yiang for their ring-shaped library (seen at the top of this page) and museum crossing the Chicago River; and Aras Burak Sen for a spherical enclosure containing a “Bridge of Hope.” Honorable mentions went to two projects in addition to the drone aviary: Drew Cowdrey and Trey Kirk; and Dániel Palotai. Cowdrey and Kirk proposed “a mobile library” of portable galleries and collections that could be loaned for tours and community exhibitions, housed in a Miesian “crate” on the downtown site. “As the production of architectural narrative intervenes and conditions the visitor’s experience, we have chosen to liberate the archival core from its vernacular wrapper—recasting it as a naked and autonomous urban figure,” reads their proposal brief. Palotai's black-and-white proposal outlined an elegant series of spaces “between sky and ground” intended to speak of flexibility, personal interactions and community authorship of what could start as a series of blank canvases. SOM donated the prize money, a total of $3,250. The jurors were: Elva Rubio, Stanley Tigerman, Brian Lee of SOM, Andy Metter of Epstein, Geoffery Goldberg, and Dan Wheeler of Wheeler Kearns. Chicago Architectural Club has details, full proposal PDFs, and a video of the awards ceremony on their website.
Obama library round-up: Woodlawn, Lakeside, Bronzeville and more vying for nation's 14th presidential library
Speculation over the future site of President Barack Obama’s presidential library has picked up as a slew of Chicago sites—as well as some in New York, Hawaii, and even Kenya—made the June deadline for proposals. Ultimately the decision is up to the President and the board tasked with developing what will be the nation’s 14th presidential library, but dozens of groups are attempting to tug at that group's ears. (Even I used AN's June editorial page to consider the library's urban impact.) Here’s a round-up of some of the Chicago proposals made public so far. 63rd Street New York-based Michael Sorkin Studio released its plan for the library in January, proposing a campus stretched out along three blocks of 63rd Street in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. They’re “highly conceptual” designs, as are most floated so far, but the plan calls for a campus centered around a ring-shaped building and extending several blocks. The development would make use of dozens of vacant lots in a struggling neighborhood adjacent to the University of Chicago. Bronzeville There’s a concerted effort to bring Obama’s library to Bronzeville, the South Side neighborhood and “black metropolis” vying to become a national heritage area. One prominent site there is the area once home to the Michael Reese Hospital. Combined with parking lots on the other side of South Lake Shore Drive, the site would total 90 acres of lakefront property. It’s been targeted for other large developments, including a casino, a data center and housing for Olympic athletes during Chicago’s failed 2016 bid. A few years ago SOM led a team of designers and developers tasked with sizing up the site for redevelopment, and you can read their plans here. HOK recently floated a plan for redevelopment of the Michael Reese site, including a rendering (at top) of the proposed library. Lakeside McCaffery Interests and U.S. Steel teamed up to rehabilitate that industrial giant’s nearly 600-acre lake infill site in the neighborhood of South Chicago. It’s the largest undeveloped site in the city. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet first reported last week that McCaffery threw his hat in the ring for Obama's library. Renderings from SOM, Lakeside’s lead design firm, show a heavy walkway that twists elegantly upward around a glass box, jutting over Lake Michigan that appears here as if it were the world’s largest reflecting pool. Chicago State University Down the road from Lakeside, Chicago State University is also a potential site. It's situated in Roseland, where Obama worked as a community organizer. For the Huffington Post, Hermene Hartman argued CSU is the best place for the library, because it would have the greatest neighborhood impact. University of Chicago The U of C called the library "an historic opportunity for our community," and—to no one's surprise—submitted a proposal to bring Obama's legacy back to where he taught law. They set up a website for the bid, but no images or details are publicly available at this time. University of Illinois Chicago U of I is among the institutions of higher education vying for the library, and it has proposed three plans on the West Side: a 23-acre site in North Lawndale; an “academic” option at UIC-Halsted; and a “medical” option at the Illinois Medical District, which is also home to another long-vacant white elephant—the Cook County Hospital building. McCormick Place As reported by Ted Cox for DNAinfo Chicago, Ward Miller, president of Preservation Chicago, thinks the library could revitalize the underused Lakeside Center East Building at McCormick Place, the massive convention center on Chicago’s near South Side. Miller previously proposed that the building be considered for George Lucas' Museum of Narrative Art.
Aaron Betsky, director of the Cincinnati Art Museum for seven years, announced Thursday he’ll step down. Cincinnati’s WVXU reported that the museum's board will set up a search committee, and that Betsky will help pick his successor. Betsky, an architect, oversaw the first phase of a renovation for which he helped raise more $13 million, and increased the art museum’s endowment by 18 percent. His leadership was at times controversial, as when he oversaw an exhibit by artist Todd Pavlisko that included firing a .30-caliber rifle in the 132-year-old museum’s Schmidlapp Gallery. Before moving to Cincinnati he was the Director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam, and previously designed for Frank Gehry. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Board chair Dave Dougherty said Betsky’s successor will need a variery of skills:
* "Someone great at exhibitions, first and foremost." * "Someone who continues to have financial discipline." * "People skills." Dougherty said the art museum is a large organization, with many tentacles, and a chance to influence the broader community. And, of course, there’s a director’s all-important fund-raising role.Betsky was a finalist for dean of the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts at the University of Illinois, Chicago last year. That position ultimately went to Steve Everett, an Emory University professor of music. “The museum now has the programming and staff in place, and the financial stability that will allow me to openly pursue my next position,” Betsky said in a press release. “I feel that I have accomplished the goals that I and the Board had envisioned when I first arrived and would like to explore opportunities that may include or combine my academic interests and institutional experiences.”
From the abandoned foundations of the ill-fated Chicago Spire to the ghosts of would-be Tribune Towers galore, Chicago’s unbuilt legacy could rival the iconic skyline it actually achieved. An exhibition on display downtown, dubbed City Works: Provocations for Chicago’s Urban Future, confronts the city with its alternative skyline in the form of a panoramic wall design and a “Phantom Chicago” iPhone app. The overall effect evokes “a dream but also a nightmare,” in the words of curator Alexander Eisenschmidt. It also presents “a series of urban environments that are typical for Chicago,” meditating through the work of four prominent local designers on some of the city’s contemporary challenges: waterways, industry, shelter, and vacancy. To borrow Eisenschmidt’s metaphor, the aim is to turn potential nightmares into visionary dreams. Studio Gang’s work on urban waterways is well-known and their work here, titled “Reclaiming the Edge,” reprises the vision they laid out in Reverse Effect and other publications: a riverfront community and restored natural habitat nourish each other in a kind of urban symbiosis. After years of legal wrangling, Chicago’s Water Reclamation District will soon disinfect the wastewater it dumps back into the river, signaling some substantive progress on water quality. Meanwhile the Chicago Riverwalk grows along the waterway's main branch. UrbanLab / Sarah Dunn & Martin Felsen present “Free Water District,” a vision that also draws on Chicago’s aquatic resources. Rust Belt cities share many challenges stemming from deindustrialization, but they also share a common asset: water. UrbanLab’s piece envisions a Great Lakes region revitalized by water-focused industries, in a “megastructure-scaled public/private land/water partnership.” Stanley Tigerman offers a rumination on shelter in both the spatial and spiritual sense with “Displacement of the Gridiron with the Cloister.” His target is the “ineffable in architecture,” which is philosophical enough to mean many things to many people who might have very different ideas of the city’s urban aspirations. “The Available City” by David Brown displays a similar yearning, manifesting the city’s 15,000 city-owned vacant lots as blots of color bubbling up amid fractured neighborhoods. The bright colors, which appear to denote potential programs for unused space, could mean anything — adaptive reuse, public space, space-age capsule hotel — but the important thing is they reanimate dead spaces that total an area twice the size of the Loop. All four panoramas will eventually connect, sharing continuous topographic or development features. But until the closing days of the show they remain separate, traveling slowly along dotted lines that traverse the small exhibition space. “By pulling them apart,” Eisenschmidt said, “there’s a little suspense.” City Works, adapted from the 2013 Biennale in Venice, returned to its city of origin May 24. And these “provocations” are not Eisenschmidt’s first. In 2011 the University of Illinois at Chicago professor’s Visionary Chicago (reviewed here for A|N by Philip Berger) stirred conversation about bold building while the real estate market languished. The free show is open at Expo 72, 72 E. Randolph St., seven days per week through September 29. Listen to a conference on the topic, held September 22, 2012 and recorded by WBEZ. Watch 50 meters of the "Phantom Chicago" wall panorama scroll by:
Cities matter. In the Midwest recent headlines have read like an urban planning syllabus: post-industrial rebirth attracts a new generation of urbanites downtown, the roll-out of high-speed rail begins to pick up pace, and while innovative solutions to the region’s well-documented problems abound, a lingering fiscal crisis and unfunded pension liabilities threaten to squash even the most attainable aspirations. Those topics and more made the agenda at University of Illinois Chicago’s annual Urban Forum held Thursday, whose lineup included the mayors of Columbus and Pittsburgh, as well as U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “Metropolitan Resilience in a Time of Economic Turmoil” was the topic at hand. Sporting reindeer antlers, a protestor was removed from the conference for trying to confront UIC board of trustees Chairman Christopher Kennedy over an ongoing labor dispute at the University. His opening salvo may have summed up the emotional state of the intertwined crises of labor and urban redevelopment better than the slew of statistics his target subsequently laid out, but the numbers are indeed telling: Illinois faces the nation’s largest unfunded pension liability; Chicago and Cook County grapple with decaying infrastructure and persistent impoverishment—some 500,000 people in the suburbs live in poverty, outnumbering those in the city. Governor Quinn and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle skipped out on their scheduled appearances to deal with ongoing pension negotiations, but their deputy staffers filled in for the hand-wringing. It would cost so much just to “stop the pain,” said Deputy Mayor Steven Koch, and pay off debt interest at all three levels of government that doing so would bankrupt them instantly. At least they are not alone. “We have a particularly bad form of this disease,” Koch said, “but the disease is widespread.” Somewhat less grim was the following panel, which asked the top brass of Columbus, Las Vegas, and Pittsburgh to share their municipal travails. Facing financial crisis in 2001 and then again in 2008, Columbus “had to make a decision about what kind of city we wanted to be,” according to Mayor Michael Coleman. Service cuts were unavoidable, he said, but cutting too much could plunge the city into a spiral from which it would take decades to recover. Faced with cutting firemen and police, Coleman said he approached the business community with plans for a half-percent tax hike. They and the public supported it, he said, in lieu of further cuts. In Pittsburgh, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl recounted the steps he took to attract $5 billion in new downtown investment to the former steel city, which “hit the wall” around 1983. The ultra-green PNC Tower and a growing cadre of Google jobs were his celebrated examples, but he said investing in bike paths and other transportation infrastructure was critical to the revival of the city’s Bakery Square neighborhood. Secretary LaHood closed the day with a rallying cry for high-speed rail that minced no words. “High-speed rail is coming to America,” he said. “There’s no stopping it. We are not going back.” Though the secretary deflected credit for the policy change onto the President, he said his legacy would be safety, pointing to distracted driving restrictions now on the books in 39 states. “Everyone knows what’s needed in the United States,” LaHood said. “The issue is how do we pay for it?” Federal grant programs for multimodal transportation projects have expanded under the Recovery act, but LaHood said the key to sustaining growth was leveraging private money, in part through strategic loan programs. As for governors refusing to spend federal money on rail projects in their states, the secretary said, “Elections matter.”