Posts tagged with "United Nations":

Placeholder Alt Text

Details emerge on the architecture of China's Uighur re-education camps

A chilling news documentary released by VICE News Tonight late last month highlighted the mystery behind China’s Uighur people, a minority Muslim group that’s been disappearing under the cover of night. The United Nations believes at least one million members of this community are being detained in "re-education camps" around the Xinjiang province in northwestern China, and their children are being taken to state-run orphanages—renamed “kindergartens”—where they’re indoctrinated into Chinese culture and customs.  Earlier this month, 22 countries sent a joint letter to the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights urging China to stop the mass detention and allow UN officials to investigate. According to government officials in Beijing, these camps have been created to curb Islamic extremism and ensure the safety of the Chinese people. Other reports have noted allegations of torture.  VICE News Tonight went undercover in Xinjiang to capture the dystopian world that’s been set up to control locals through a massive network of surveillance infrastructure and constant policing. The reporters even got footage of eight Uighur men being taken away after midnight in total silence. While it seems most people within Xinjiang know about these Uighur holding facilities, they don’t exactly know where they are located. So VICE News Tonight’s Isobel Yeung and her crew followed Google Maps and a series of coordinates to find the internment architecture that’s been both built and adapted for “vocational training” of the Uighur people. AN spoke with Yeung over email about her experience in Xinjiang and what her team uncovered about the Uighur’s plight during the production of They Come for Us at Night: Inside China's Hidden War on Uighurs, which premiered on VICE News Tonight on HBO on June 27th.  AN: What was your initial reaction to all the security infrastructure and policing set up in Kashgar?  IY: It’s a really intense set-up. There are surveillance cameras every few meters, facial recognition cameras, full-body scans, facial and iris scans, groups of armored police roaming the streets with big spiky clubs, police cars and armored trucks patrolling the streets… It’s unnerving and chilling to be in.  Did you notice how other Uighurs or Chinese people approached these interactions? It’s all become eerily normal for the people living there. I asked one Uighur woman who had just had her phone scanned and been strip-searched while entering a public space how she could handle being constantly treated as a security threat. She just shrugged and told me that she’d got used to nothing making sense anymore.  The documentary showed the rows of surveillance lights at the Urumqi bazaar. Were there other spaces in which you were overwhelmed by the number of cameras? Cameras were everywhere. Only when I was in the safety of my hotel room did I feel like I wasn’t being watched (and even then, we didn’t know if they’d bugged our rooms). In public spaces where there are likely to be gatherings, or on the front of public buildings like schools, hospitals, and markets there were more. Around any mosque there were clusters.  Can you explain the spatial context of the re-education campus you saw in Kashgar?  From AN: Yeung referred us to University of British Columbia law student Shawn Zhang and his work completed over the last few months pulling up satellite imagery of the camps throughout Xinjiang. See them all here Did anyone in the group of former detainees you spoke with in Istanbul talk about the architecture of the camps and their layout?  Over the course of six months, we spoke to many people who had spent time in the camps—in Istanbul, the US, and elsewhere in Europe. Some of them had been in detention centers that had been converted into camps, others had been in newly erected camps. One woman told us that there were many cells, with around 20 people per cell, and that interrogation and isolation cells were underground. Many of them spoke of the sounds they heard such as people arriving in the night, screams from other cells, people being beaten, chains dragging, and endless propaganda songs. Many of them said that there were cameras inside the rooms and cells, so they were being watched the whole time. This made it difficult to communicate with each other. They talked about having to make their beds with military perfection and about having to sit with their feet crossed, facing the front for hours on end while they were taught Chinese law. Can you explain the spatial context of the kindergartens in Hotan?  They were mostly in the outskirts of town often in run-down neighborhoods quite far from the city center. They look somewhat out of place given their surroundings. In your opinion, what is the architecture of the large kindergartens communicating to both the children, the Uighur adults, and the rest of the Chinese public?  These buildings look like brightly colored, garish castles. There are Mickey Mouse’s painted on the walls and bright patterns on the ground. They’re clearly designed with children in mind. Several local Han Chinese adults told us that these are examples of how the Chinese government is looking after Uighur children, which I think is the impression they’re trying to give. But they’re also heavily fortified with big barbed wire fencing, high brick walls, and guards at the entrance.  Did anyone discuss with you the programming within the schools and whether it was similar or drastically different than what normal Chinese schools look like?  No one really discussed the programming. One young Uighur child told me that they have “ethics” classes and Han Chinese classes and written on the front of one of the kindergartens are slogans emphasizing that ‘ethnic unity’ must be taught and the Chinese language must be spoken. So that’s clearly a big focus for these kids. 
Placeholder Alt Text

OCEANIX and BIG unveil a floating city of the future at the United Nations

The UN has just unveiled a floating city. Or, at least a framework for how floating cities will be built. Throughout the 2010s, a certain set of statistics found their way into every article about urbanism. You know them. They said that a certain percent of people would live in cities by a certain year; “68% of the world's population projected to live in urban areas by 2050,” according to a recent UN statistic. However, it’s barely the 2010s anymore! The new hot stat for the 2020s was used today by the UN to switch gears and justify exploring the possibility of building floating cities:
By 2030, approximately 60 percent of the world’s population will live in cities that are exposed to grave economic, social, and environmental pressures. Further, approximately 90 percent of the largest global cities are vulnerable to rising sea levels. Out of the world’s 22 megacities with a population of more than 10 million, 15 are located along the ocean’s coasts.
Serious stuff, all discussed at today’s high-level round table in New York hosted by UN-Habitat, the UN’s coalition on affordable and sustainable housing, along with the MIT Center for Ocean Engineering, the Explorers Club, and OCEANIX, a group investing in floating cities on this new marine frontier. Bjarke Ingels of BIG—architects of the "Dryline" around lower Manhattan—unveiled his design for a prototypical floating city today, which would be made out of mass timber and bamboo. This proposal would be “flood proof, earthquake-proof, and tsunami-proof,” according to Marc Collins Chen, co-Founder and CEO of OCEANIX. The renderings show a series of modular hexagonal islands with a productive landscape, where bamboo grown on the “islands” could be used to make glulam beams. BIG envisions the cities as zero-waste, energy-positive and self-sustaining. The necessary food to feed the population would be grown on the islands. BIG has put toether a kit of parts for each part of the man-made ecosystem: a food kit of parts, a waste kit of parts. Each island would be prefabricated onshore and towed to its location in the archipelago. What would living on one of these islands be like? "All of the aspects of human life would be accommodated," according to Ingels. They would dedicate seven islands to public life, including a spiritual center, a cultural center, and a recreation center. "It won't be like Waterworld. Its another form of human habitat that can grow with its success." Oceanix City, as it is called, features mid-rise housing around a shared, green public space where agriculture and recreation co-exist. Underground greenhouses are embedded in the “hull” of the floating city, while in the sky, drones would buzz by with abandon. The systems on each city would be connected, where waste, food, water, and mobility are connected. Because the cities are towable, they can be moved in the event of a weather event.  Land reclamation (creating new land by pouring sand in the ocean) is no longer seen as sustainable, as it uses precious sand resources and causes coastal areas to lose protective wetlands and mangroves. Could floating cities be the way forward for expanding our cities as we deal with the consequences of climate change and sea-level rise?  According to the coalition, “Sustainable Floating Cities offer a clean slate to rethink how we build, live, work, and play…They are about building a thriving community of people who care about the planet and every life form on it.” Doesn't this sound a lot like the Seasteading Institute, the infamous group of libertarian utopianists who want to break away from land and society altogether? For Collins, his floating infrastructure is less ideological, and more about infrastructure technology. These floating cities would be positioned near protected coastal areas, less ocean-faring pirate states and more extensions of areas threatened by rising sea levels. "These cities have to be accessible to everyone. We can't build broad support for this without populist thinking," said Richard Wiese, the president of the Explorers Club. The first prototypes will start small, even though they are thinking big. The 4.5-acre pods will house 300 people, while the goal is to scale the system by repeating the unit until the city can hold 10,000 people. Can floating cities be more sustainable and affordable than building on land? Would they only be for the rich? Would they be self-sufficient? Would they prevent climate gentrification and curb climate migration? Or, as has been the case in the past, will the idea prove too expensive to actually build?
Placeholder Alt Text

Ancient technology gets an update in sustainable cooling solution

“The way we cool our buildings right now is totally wrong,” said Indian architect Monish Siripurapu in a video produced the United Nations' Environment program. The words are bleak, but arguably true; the electricity and hydrofluorocarbons most modern cooling systems demand ironically warm the planet overall while they cool our conditioned spaces. On top of that, with global temperatures rising and worldwide populations growing, demands for cooling are only increasing. More eco-friendly options are urgently needed, and Siripurapu’s New Delhi–based firm Ant Studio has proposed an affordable, scalable, sustainable, and aesthetically appealing solution to the problem of air conditioning. Ant Studio’s mission is to combine “art, nature, and technology,” and its temperature-regulating solution is designed to be as much an art installation as a cooling system. The Beehive, as the system's first iteration is called, was built to ameliorate high-temperature conditions for laborers at the Noida, Uttar Pradesh–based manufacturer Deki Electronics, where generators and other equipment output their own heat, adding to high outdoor temperatures. The Beehive is part of a larger exploration by the firm that leverages terracotta tubes and water as part of a low-energy cooling system. The Beehive, so-named for its honeycomb-like structure, follows an Indian tradition of using earthenware to cool water. “Traditional architecture has so much wisdom,” said Siripurapu. The ancient process has been wholly modernized, with tools such as computational fluid dynamics modeling, as well as the addition of low-energy water pumps and, if needed, electric fans. But instead of using fans with the Beehive installation, Ant Studio’s cooling device was placed right in front of the exhaust vents of the diesel generator near where workers at the factory were active. This was able to drop the “scorching” air being expelled from the generator from 122 degrees Fahrenheit to 97 degrees Fahrenheit, while lowering the overall temperature in the area and reportedly consuming 40 percent less energy than other cooling systems, not to mention using no refrigerants. The cooling system consists of arrays of open terracotta cylindrical cones (designed in such a way to maximize surface area and fired at “mid-level” temperatures to maintain the clay’s ability to absorb moisture from the air) over which water is poured. The water, which adheres to the clay, naturally lowers in temperature due to evaporative cooling, which in turn cools the air passing through the tubes. The water can be recycled throughout the system, requiring only infrequent topping off, and biofilms of microalgae that grow on the clay surfaces can actually aid in air purification, according to the firm. Further, as explained in an informational video from the firm, “all materials are recyclable, reusable, or biodegradable.” While the Beehive at Dika Electronics took on a particular nature-inspired form, the system can be designed in all manner of shapes and sizes, and is inherently modular, making fabrication and assembling on-site simple. The overall hope with the project is to devise a system that is functional and visually appealing at the same time.” Ant Studio views the cooling systems as a work of sculpture as much as a functional tool. The terracotta cooling systems also could have broader social impact. Besides being a cheap, energy-efficient way to cool factories and public spaces, the craft required to manufacture the tubes creates local employment and skill-building opportunities. It also keeps alive traditional manufacturing techniques that provide a unique, hand-hewn character that industrial cooling systems certainly lack. The clay-based materials also mean a net reduction in embodied energy for these cooling systems. Ant Studio has also proposed a smaller system which they’re calling ETHER, a cooling device for personal use and small spaces that resembles something like a cross between a Dyson fan and an ancient artifact. Ant Studio’s cooling projects were one of the twelve winners of the United Nations’ Asia-Pacific Low Carbon Lifestyles Challenge and have been nominated for the Clean Energy Challenge from What Design Can Do, a “platform” and series of global conferences on design. Nominated teams are given the “opportunity to improve their project” with the final winners to be announced on March 6.
Placeholder Alt Text

United States withdraws from UNESCO (again)

As of January 1, 2019, the United States has officially withdrawn from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), one of the world’s best-known global cultural heritage and preservation organizations. The withdrawal was first announced in October 2017 after UNESCO recognized the old city of Hebron in the West Bank as a Palestinian World Heritage Site amid fierce resistance from the United States and Israel. The old city of Hebron is home to, among other relics and cultural sites, the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a sacred religious site known as the Cave of Machpelah to Jews and as the Sanctuary of Abraham to Muslims. At the time, the United States and Israel complained that the UN was engaging in “anti-Israeli bias” stemming from the recognition of Palestine as a member state of the UN in 2011. Previously, the UN had criticized Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, according to Al Jazeera. When the UN elevated Palestine to membership status in 2011–during the Obama administration—the United States stopped paying its membership dues to UNESCO in protest. By 2017 the past-due fees had grown to $570 million, The Washington Post reported, and then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson decided to initiate the process of formal withdrawal from the organization. As of 2019, the outstanding balance due to UNESCO has risen above $600 million. Following the withdrawal, Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, said, “At the time when the fight against violent extremism calls for renewed investment in education, in dialogue among cultures to prevent hatred, it is deeply regrettable that the United States should withdraw from the United Nations leading these issues.” The current episode marks the second time the United States has left UNESCO, following President Ronald Reagan’s withdrawal from the group in 1984 in an effort to thwart the recognition of Soviet historical sites. The United States rejoined the group in 2002 under President George W. Bush following the attacks of 9/11 amid a push to boost international solidarity by the U.S. The United States now hopes it can participate as an “observer state” on “non-politicized issues,” including the protection of World Heritage sites. The body is due to take up this new role for the United States when it next meets in April 2019.
Placeholder Alt Text

Yale University and UN Environment design self-sufficient tiny home

Yale University and Gray Organschi Architecture have designed and built a self-sufficient tiny house for UN Environment and UN Habitat, and the building is on display in UN Plaza in Midtown Manhattan until August 11. The Ecological Living Module contains 215 square feet of occupiable interior space and carves out another 16 square feet for a rear mechanical closet. The unit uses passive lighting and moisture collection, structural cross-laminated timber (CLT), food-growing green walls, and sun-tracking solar panels to shrink both the building’s embodied energy and resource needs. According to UN Environment, housing construction worldwide uses 40 percent of all resources produced every year and accounts for one-third of greenhouse gas emissions (not to mention the conflicts being fought over rapidly dwindling materials like sand). The module was commissioned just in time for the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, to illustrate the idea that sustainable urbanization can only be accomplished if buildings minimize their contribution to climate change. The Yale Center for Ecosystems in Architecture and Gray Organschi worked together to design and install the module in only four weeks. The building was fabricated partially in New Haven and partially in Brooklyn and assembled on the UN campus amidst heavy security and tight construction restrictions. In order to balance maximum sun exposure with thermal comfort, the module was designed with New York’s specific micro-climate in mind. The dramatically-sloped building is clad in dark cedar planks and is home to two cascading “farm walls”, one on either side, and Gray Organschi claims that in New York the home can produce over 260 servings of vegetables. Plants were used inside as well in the loft area, and a living wall in the upper loft area purifies air for the inhabitants. “Structure was used as finish,” explains Gray Organschi founding principle Alan Organschi. The same pale CLT used to support the building was left exposed inside to create all of the finished surfaces, from countertops to stairs. The timber was sourced from the northeastern U.S. and sequestered more carbon than the effort used to harvest it. The team optimized daylighting in the building by carving strategic cuts into the back and roof. An Integrated Concentrating Solar Facade was installed to both reduce the amount of incoming sunlight and harvest solar power; an array of tiny panels track the sun’s movement and focus light on the minimally-sized solar receivers. The team wanted to build a system that could be assembled with the least amount of effort, and that would use the minimal amount of toxic materials to create. After August 11, the Ecological Living Module will be partially disassembled and brought to San Francisco; the structure was built narrow enough to be towed by truck. After that, the module will be flown out for demonstration in Quito, Ecuador, and then Nairobi, Kenya.
Placeholder Alt Text

Trump pulls U.S. out of UNESCO, citing anti-Israel bias

Today the Trump administration announced the United States will leave UNESCO, the United Nations development agency, over the organization's alleged “anti-Israel bias.”

Leaving UNESCO might seem like typical Trump isolationism, but the U.S.'s beef with the organization goes back to previous administrations. After UNESCO accepted Palestinians as full members in 2011, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration axed its funding. With no funds forthcoming, the U.S. lost its vote in the agency in 2013.

The State Department briefly outlined its reasoning in a press release: "This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO."

The Israel controversy re-ignited this summer after UNESCO named Hebron's city center a Palestinian World Heritage Site. The city, one of the world's oldest, sits in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

UNESCO, officially the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is known mainly for naming and overseeing World Heritage Sites, a list that includes over 1,000 protected natural and built environments of great importance to humanity. In the U.S., listed sites include the Statue of Liberty and Independence Hall, as well as national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite. Worldwide, UNESCO also promotes education, gender equity initiatives, access to culture and science, and the pursuit of liberal democratic ideals like freedom of expression.

The U.S. will withdraw on December 31, 2018, but will remain active in the group as a nonmember observer.

Placeholder Alt Text

AN reports on UN-Habitat's new agenda to change global urban development

It's a dazzling bright afternoon as my plane flies over Quito, Ecuador. The pilot does a loop to come into land and we get a sweeping view of the Andes mountain range and the valley within which this city of 1.6 million dwellers rests, 9,350 feet above sea level. On my taxi ride from the airport I ask the driver, in my terrible Spanish, if he knows what Habitat III is and whether it's of any interest to him. 'Si...', he responds resoundingly. It's been all over the TV apparently and—of course, it's of interest, it means more business for him—he chuckles. As we drive along the motorway, with every lamppost we pass bearing the Habitat III branding and slogans of welcome in every possible language, I begin to realize how silly a question that was. Quito as a city has a clear and tangible relationship with the UN, perhaps more than most. Its Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems, one of the UN-Habitat’s success stories, are everywhere and, crucially, Quito was also the first city to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site. In the taxi, there's a palpable sense of civic pride coming from the driver as we get closer to the city. Later in the week, I will get to see this pride played out on a grand scale. Simultaneous to the Habitat III conference, which is located around Casa de la Cultural at the center of the town, a Festival of Lights is running to the northeast in the historic town center, which has been organized with support from the city of Lyon. Quiteños have turned out in droves on the streets to promenade with their families. The festival lights look good highlighting the features of the historic buildings but what's really great is the experience of being among the throng of people easing along the gradient of the street. Fathers lead the informal parade, often with their youngest child in arms sound asleep, (a stroller would be useless with Quito's steep slopes), there are locals of the quarter out supplying the crowds with grilled corn and plantain, and at the rear teenagers are hanging back passing furtive glances as different families cross paths with each other. The whole scene recalls images I'm used to seeing in town centers in Southern European cultures during summer festivals: It's a feeling of being connected at once to everyone in the bosom of the city. The taxi driver wakes me from my daydream induced by the winding mountain road, 'Alli es Quito...' he's pointing straight ahead. We're near the valley floor when I peer upwards through the windscreen from the back seat of the car to see rising from the hill top, a series of terracotta apartment blocks, like sentinels guarding over the city, which our road will soon climb up towards. When I arrive at the apartment, I realize that Quito is high up indeed. Higher than I'd accounted, I can feel it in my chest that the air is thinner. In fact, Quito is one of the highest cities in the world—it takes time to acclimatize. I wonder how the thousands of delegates from around the world are coping. The Habitat III conference ran from the 17th to 20th October and explored and discussed the New Urban Agenda, a document composed of 175 paragraphs on 23 pages. It lays out a vision for using the potential of the city, in the context of accelerating urbanization, to improve the wellbeing of everyone on the planet. The program for Habitat III was huge and there are hundreds of open events split into the categories of High-Level Roundtables, Stakeholder Roundtables, Special Sessions, Dialogues, Side Events, and much more. Some of the highlights were the headlining evening Urban Talks in which the current curator of the Venice Architecture Biennale, Alejandro Aravena gave the opening keynote. In his speech, Aravena fleshed out his belief in the ideas of Dr. Joan Clos, executive director of the conference: we need to invert our notion that good cities only come about after the creation of wealth and prosperity to one where good cities lead by setting the context for economic development—this is a critical principle underpinning the New Urban Agenda. Aravena compliments this concept with a detailed financial plan for building homes at scale through a relationship where the state and market are accompanied by a third element, the capacity of the people themselves—a dynamic which is exemplified in his half house model. Another of the Urban Talk treats was hearing Saskia Sassen, Richard Sennet, and Dr. Joan Clos in conversation, chaired by the Director of LSE Cities Richard Burdett. Sennet spoke on the importance of Open Cities, Sassen cautioned against the influence of private interests in the development of the city, and Clos stressed his point that the urban age must be planned and not left to instinctive development. A memorable moment came when, in a welcome aside to the gravity of their well-rehearsed speeches, we learn from Sennet that the late great Jane Jacobs was an accomplished Scotch drinker and could drink him under the table anytime. Unexpectedly, more than the talk of the New Urban Agenda is the talk of the vast queues and long waiting times to get through the venue security. This has been the greatest-attended Habitat conference with over 45,000 participants and it seems that the organizers somewhat underestimated the level of public interest. Judging by my unscientific survey of the crowds it appeared that many of the participants are local Quiteños from the general public, easily outnumbering the delegates from abroad—their civic pride in evidence once more. It's difficult to tell how much those who attended the conference were able to understand the New Urban Agenda—or indeed how much of it will actually be achieved over the next 20 years. However, the conference has highlighted key global urban trends such as the facts that cities are expanding faster geographically than their populations, as highlighted by the Atlas of Urban Expansion, and investment into urban development is going to have to increase by a magnitude several times greater in order to meet the demand of growing populations. Outside of Quito, this week at Habitat III might not have been the biggest news story, yet the emerging consensus around the global community's response to the challenges highlighted above—and their prioritization of the city in tackling them—are going to have profound implications for architecture and urban development over the next generation. A full review of Habitat III will appear in our December issue, then online as well.
Placeholder Alt Text

LPC votes to calendar Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo's Ambassador Grill and Lobby

Today the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted to calendar Kevin Roche and John Dinkerloo's Ambassador Grill and Lobby at ONE UN New York Hotel, previously known as the United Nations Hotel. Now that it's on on the LPC's calendar, the space is safe from demolition (for now). The luxe late modern United Nations Plaza Hotel Lobby (completed 1983) and Ambassador Grill & Lounge (completed 1976) at One United Nations Plaza were threatened with demolition when the current owners, Millennium Hotels and Resorts, closed the restaurant to commence a significant renovation that would have stripped the space of its characteristic mirroring, white-veined black stone, and trompe l’oeil skylights. Preservationists, naturally, were outraged. Advocacy groups like Docomomo's national chapter and MAS were joined by local preservationists Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, Theodore Grunewald, vice president of the Committee to Save the New York Public Library, and members of local Docomomo chapters who together rallied to save the spaces by asking the LPC to consider designating the lobby and grill as interior landmarks. There are currently 117 interiors that are New York City landmarks, and only four of those are restaurants. When reached for comment, a member of ONE UN New York Hotel's management team told The Architect's Newspaper that, with the General Assembly in session, the hotel couldn't answer questions about the status of the Ambassador Grill. "You picked the wrong time to call," said a woman who would only give her first name, Pat.
Placeholder Alt Text

William McDonough's multi-use ICEhouse can be quickly assembled using local materials

Architect William McDonough's Innovation for the Circular Economy house (ICEhouse) was a gathering space during the 2016 World Economic Forum. The temporary meeting space was designed to exhibit the “positive design framework described in the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, the sustainable development goals of the United Nations, and the reuse of resources implicit in the circular economy." ICEhouse experiments with McDonough's concept WonderFrame—a structural system designed for quick assembly, local materials, and a variety of uses. McDonough explained WonderFrame is “designed to help us find ways to utilize many kinds of affordable materials to create dignified buildings for people in a variety of situations. We are calling it ‘wonder’ because we want people to wonder what it’s made of, and ‘frame’ because it is meant to be whatever structure each community and culture may need, and constructed from whatever materials they have available in that place at that time.” ICEhouse is made up of aluminum and SABIC’s LEXAN. The walls and roof structure were assembled in only a few days, and Shaw Contract Group provided the flooring. To allow constant relocation, McDonough's building was designed to be disassembled and reassembled in a few days. After its week of use at the forum, ICEhouse will be deconstructed and transported to The Valley, Schiphol Trade Park, where it will be rebuilt on site.
Placeholder Alt Text

Video> Michael Adlerstein & John Gering on retrofitting the United Nations Secretariat Building

In addition to being AN's Midwest Editor, I was the special media correspondent for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat in 2014, interviewing tall building designers, developers, and other experts at the skyscraper think tank's Shanghai conference, and its annual CTBUH Awards ceremony in Chicago. In Chicago I interviewed two of the minds behind the recent overhaul to the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City (technically, in an extraterritorial space contiguous with Midtown Manhattan). Michael Adlerstein, of the U.N. Capital Master Plan & John Gering, managing partner of design firm HLW International, discussed the retrofit of the 1953 United Nations Secretariat Building, a finalist in CTBUH's 2014 awards. “Not many buildings in our time are looking at the exterior window wall and composition with the interior as one system. In many cases they're looking at them as either the exterior or interior,” said Gering. “What we looked to do was blend those two things together, and the end result was a lot of energy savings.” The handsome glass skyscraper exemplifies midcentury office design, drawing on the  expertise of its architects, Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer, and Wallace K. Harrison. But its outmoded performance standards left it in need of a serious update. In that sense the project to retrofit the building—which also included firms Heintges & Associates, Gardiner & Theobald, Skanska, and Rolf Jensen & Associates—is a case study for repurposing aging office buildings around the world. “All buildings need to be considered for recycling because they do incorporate tremendous embodied energy … And not just beautiful buildings and buildings where treaties were signed,” said Adlerstein. “I do feel the preservation movement has to move beyond iconic buildings.”
Placeholder Alt Text

On View> Shigeru Ban's humanitarian architecture highlighted by the Dallas Center for Architecture

Shigeru Ban: Humanitarian Architecture Dallas Center for Architecture 1909 Woodall Rodgers Freeway Dallas, Texas Through April 25 The Dallas Center for Architecture is presenting a selection of Pritzker Prize winning architect Shigeru Ban’s disaster relief designs. Ban’s humanitarian architecture has confronted some of the world’s most devastating natural and manmade cataclysms in the last 20 years. The Japanese architect is known for his pioneering designs for United Nations refugee shelters in the mid-1990s, using inexpensive and often recycled materials such as paper tubes and cardboard to make durable, shock-proof structures. Projects on view include the Tsunami Reconstruction Project (2005, Sri Lanka), Onagawa Community Center (2011, Onagawa, Japan, pictured above), Cardboard Cathedral (2013, New Zealand), and Paper Nursery School (2014, Yaan, Japan). Complementing the exhibition is a film screening on April 8 of a 2006 documentary about Ban, Shigeru Ban: An Architect for Emergencies. The film features extensive interviews with the architect about the practical, philosophical, and aesthetic aspects of his work. The exhibition is held in collaboration with Austin College, which will present Ban with the 2015 Posey Leadership Award at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science on March 26.  
Placeholder Alt Text

Pictorial> Inside the revamped UN Security Council Chamber

Wednesday afternoon, AN stepped inside the United Nations Security Council Chamber to see how the global institution had spruced the place up. No, we didn't just walk in there—you can't do that; it's the UN. We were invited by the Royal Norwegian Consulate. Anyway, after a six-year renovation, which was part of the UN's larger Capital Master Plan to renovate the entire East River campus, the truly awe-inspiring space has been returned to its original, mid-century glory. The chamber was gutted, upgraded, and then put back together with a few 21st Century bells and whistles thrown in—out with the ashtrays and in with the outlets! The Security Council Chamber was originally designed by Norwegian architect Arnstein Arneberg and given to the UN as a gift by the Norwegians in 1952. Every aspect of the Security Council Chamber reminds you that it is a Very Important Room. Let’s start with the iconic horseshoe table which is topped with placards and perfectly angled pencils at each seat. A gavel is positioned at the center of the table to mark the acting president's prime spot. Around the ambassadors' seats are the color-coded chairs: blue for advisors, red for member states, and green for visitors and members of the press. The chamber's high walls are covered in a wool Damask wallpaper. If that didn’t drive the point home that this is a Very Important Room, then direct your attention to the massive oil canvas where a phoenix is rising from the ashes. That mural is surrounded by marble. And that marble is bookended by heavy, detailed curtains. Originally, the curtains were left open to provide views of the East River, but since the table is shaped like a horseshoe, light was unevenly distributed on the Security Council members. “The people who were facing East got better seating because the sunlight would stream in and they would look happy,” said Michael Adlerstein, the Assistant Secretary General of the UN and Executive Director of its Capital Master plan. “The other people did not, they were in shadows and looked evil.” The natural light also started causing problems for this new-fangled technology called "television." Ultimately, it was decided to close the curtains and bring in more artificial light. With this recent renovation, the UN set out to make the chamber more energy efficient and increase security measures while not compromising any of the original design elements. To achieve that tricky goal, the space was reduced to its concrete shell, asbestos and contaminates were removed, new heating and cooling systems were installed, and measures were taken to fortify the space against a possible explosion. With all of those improvements in place, the room was reassembled with a few cosmetic changes—seats were reupholstered, marble was washed, the mural was cleaned, and tapestries and fabrics were scrubbed or recreated. Adlerstein said that, at the end of the renovation, the Security Council Chamber hadn't changed "by one iota.” Of course, a lot has changed in recent years, but all of it has been successfully hidden away in this Very Important Room. For more on the renovation, check out the video below the from the Royal Norwegian Consulate General New York