INSA, as the undercover street artist is cryptically known, is the net generation’s equivalent of the legendary graffiti artist Banksy. While INSA’s doodles also dapple the walls of buildings in London as well as around the world, the artist creates GIFs—or “GIF-ITIs” as he calls them—based on photographs of his own graffiti paintings. He shoots these over and over with slight alterations in each frame in a technique not unlike stop motion animation until he can make a loop of images—essentially what a GIF, or Graphic Interchange Format, is. In a cyber wasteland of GIFs composed of cat pictures and film snippets, INSA’s artistic “GIF-ITIs” have made waves online. Recently, Scotch whiskey brand Ballantine's commissioned INSA to create the world’s largest GIF in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, inspired by INSA’s trademark "Looking For Love" motif. Four days of work, a 20-person team of painters and over 619,000 square feet worth of paint went into creating a mural of repeating yellow and pink hearts. The mural was then photographed over two days with a camera-equipped satellite orbiting 430 miles above the earth. Given the massive wherewithal that went into the project, the result is a little underwhelming—to say nothing of the fact that it’s only viewable online. The end result is an animation of moving hearts with the before-and-after shots of boats pulling in and out of the harbor and the receding sunlight reflected on the water. INSA’s GIF-ITIs have even inspired an iPhone app, which enables the user to point the iPad at a GIF-ITI and watch it animate on-screen. Take a look at some of INSA's other work below.
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The Bjarke Ingels Group's plan to wrap Lower Manhattan in a landscape berm to keep floodwaters at bay was definitely one of the most architecturally interesting proposals to come from Rebuild By Design, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s competition to boost resiliency in a post-Sandy world. Last June, the plan—known as "The BIG U" or "The Dry Line"—also became the competitions's biggest winner. To implement BIG's ambitious vision, New York City was allocated $335 million, significantly more money than what was provided for the other five winners. Last fall, Daniel Zarrilli, the director of New York City’s Office of Recovery & Resiliency, told AN that the de Blasio administration was “absolutely committed” to realizing the plan, but that the end result wouldn't necessarily look like what we saw in the renderings. For one, the money would not be spent on the entire circuit, but rather one section of it on the Lower East Side. As the city continues taking steps toward make this plan a reality, a production company called Squint/Opera has released a pretty cool short film about BIG's grand vision. The piece is part of the firm's current exhibition HOT TO COLD at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. If you can't make it to D.C. for the exhibition, we've got you covered and have posted the video above.
While here in New York City, the antennas we cover tend to sit atop skyscrapers like the World Trade Center, for much of the American landscape, the tallest fixtures are spindle-thin television towers that keep watch over an agrarian landscape. But the view from atop those towers can be just as beautiful as the view from a $100 million Manhattan penthouse, as this drone video proves. A day on the job for project manager Kevin Schmidt involves scaling a 1,500 foot television tower to change a lightbulb. A vertigo-inducing video of the climb shot by Schmidt’s colleague, Todd Thorin, using a Quatrocopter drone sent pulses racing and went viral on YouTube—and for good reason: it's stunning. Shot for Thorin’s aerial photography and videography startup, Prairie Aerial, the footage shows Schmidt’s painstaking climb, rung by rung, as the ground becomes increasingly distant and the buildings mere pinpricks. The TV antenna in Salem, South Dakota is operated by KDLT-TV and has been inactive for some time, but a functioning light bulb is necessary to warn pilots to circumvent the sky-high mast. An employee of Sioux Falls Tower and Communications, the climber with nerves of steel has been screwing in light bulbs at dizzying heights for eight years on outposts in dozens of states through rain, shine, sleet, and snow. Even at wind speeds of 60mph, it’s business as usual. “Some of my friends can’t believe I do it,” Schmidt told USA Today. “They get scared on top of their house.”
Video> Optical illusions come to life in Stanford designer's mesmerizing 3D-printed zoetrope sculptures
Nature’s algorithms reign supreme in a series of revolving 3D printed sculptures by designer-cum-artist John Edmark, also an adjunct lecturer at Stanford's Department of Art & Art History. The sculpture sits on a rotating base and animates when it is placed under a strobe light or filmed using a camera with extremely slow shutter speeds. Consisting of petals and cube-like geometric angles arranged at unique distances from the top-center, the sculpture creates an optical illusion whereby the 3D projections appear to seethe from the top down and back again. Herein lies the magic formula: what the viewer is actually seeing is each petal at graduated distances from the top center. The placement of each petal is in accordance with Fibonacci theory, a number pattern inherent in nature which determines everything from phyllotaxy (leaf order) to the whorls in our fingerprint. “The placement of the appendages is determined by the same method nature uses in pinecones and sunflowers,” Edmark is quoted as saying. A third variation of the sculpture resembles stacked hollow donuts perforated with holes, which moves like a coiling snake. In the video, the sculptures are spinning at 550 rotations per minute while being rotated at 24 frames per second with a shutter speed of 1/4000 per second. The rotation speed is synchronized with the camera’s frame rate so that one frame of video is captured every time the sculpture turns 137.5 degrees—the “golden angle” in science based on the golden ratio that leads to the formation of spiral patterns. Edmark created the designs as part of his role as artist in residence for Instructables, a popular DIY network that was bought by software giant Autodesk in 2011. The artist rendered the computer models using Rhino software with a scripting program called Python. They were then exported as files and printed using a Z-printer 450. The Blooming Zoetrope Sculptures can be ordered ready-made from 3D printing site Shapeways, but for science geeks or enterprising DIYers, Edmark has offered to share the files to print at home with those who contact him through Instructables.
Visually and aurally mesmerizing, a new 3D projection by Turkish design studio Ouchhh immerses the viewer in a psychedelic, eye-of-the-storm experience of whirling fractals inside a darkened dome. To the tune of an eerily pulsating soundtrack, the viewer is plunged into darkness while a mapping of circular, geometric and continuous transformations plays out overhead. From an endless vortex of corkscrew-shaped fractals one minute to a net-like membrane to noodle-like coils the next, the seamless transformations exercise a hypnotic hold—glance away momentarily and you’ll miss one. The exhibition is currently on view in the Digital Dome of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. Ouchhh, the design studio responsible for the show, bills itself "a new media, multidisciplinary motion lab," whose specialization is 3D motion mapping and light installations. What the atom is a to physicist, the fractal is to mathematicians and subscribers of chaos theory—those infinitely repetitive patterns allegedly inherent in every living organism. The projection opens with the following explanation: “A homeomorphism, called a continuous transformation, is an equivalence relation and one-to-one correspondence between points in two geometric figures or topological spaces that is continuous in both directions.” The seething shapes can be quite dizzying to watch, but you’ll be hard-pressed to peel your eyes away.
Open offices have gone from unavoidable interior design trend to the target of some serious backlash. I moderated a panel last week for DisruptCRE's annual conference that tried to suss out what's driving office space design and culture today. I was joined by 1871 CEO Howard Tullman, Gensler global design leader and design principal Carlos M. Martínez, IdeaPaint president John Stephans and SpaceTrak CEO Kristine O’Hollearn. We met on the 99th floor of the Willis Tower. As the Chicago Tribune's Meg Graham put it:
Offices are no longer as simple as a couple of cubicles and a water cooler. But taking down walls and throwing in a ping pong table doesn’t automatically inspire innovation, panelists said Thursday at DisruptCRE. … The panelists discussed a growing hesitation toward the open-office trend. “We think that ‘open’ is over, that we’re going backward to more contained spaces, more identity, more sound control,” Tullman said. “We’re discovering that there’s a myth about multitasking — which is actually that you’re doing a lot of things poorly.”You can watch a video of the entire panel on Vimeo, and embedded here, in which we discussed how to encourage collaboration without embracing chaos.
Last week, AN took a walk along the High Line to check in on all the new development happening right alongside New York City's popular park. One of the structures we saw steadily rising was 860 Washington Street, a 10-story glass office building by James Carpenter Design Associates. The project has been in the works since 2009 but is slated to finally welcome commercial tenants this October. With the upcoming opening, the developer has released new renderings of the project on a glossy website and a video of James Carpenter explaining his very glassy design. According to the building's website, 860 Washington is where "glass meets green."
Shanghai Talks> Carol Willis of The Skyscraper Museum on balancing dense development with open spaces
Last year I served as special media correspondent for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat‘s September symposium in Shanghai. The topic was “Future Cities: Towards Sustainable Vertical Urbanism,” and among the many architects, engineers and other tall thinkers I interviewed was Carol Willis of The Skyscraper Museum. We discussed if there's an optimum height for tall buildings, and balancing dense development with open spaces. “You can have places that are characterized as high-rise cities,” she said, “that have opposing models of the way that land is used. The densification of space, the densification of energy…is complemented by the open space, public space, advantages of nature spaces that benefit us all.” Willis also wondered whether the current Asian boom in very tall buildings has an historical precedent. “The Chinese cities you see today that are growing their skyscrapers as an image of ambition and identity is very similar to the forces of capitalism that produced the Woolworth Building or the Insurance Company Building,” she said. “What I think is most fundamentally different between the Chinese cities and the American cities at the turn of the century is who controls the land.” You can read more on CTBUH's website and share the video from YouTube.
The film starts from above. We see a white canvas and not much more. That is, until Bjarke Ingels enters from the upper left hand corner dressed in all black. He tilts his head backward, addressing the camera perched above him, and speaks: “If documentary is to document our world as it already is, fiction is to fantasize about how it could be.” The starchitect adds “architecture is the canvas of our lives.” He then gets down on his hands and knees and starts drawing on the canvas below him. Okay, let’s back up. This artsy video was produced for The Future of Storytelling, an event series that asks "top thinkers" from diverse fields to talk about their work. The program's long-list of advisors includes Charles Renfro from Diller Scofidio + Renfro; Paola Antonelli, MoMA's Senior Curator of Architecture & Design and its Director of R & D; designer Todd Oldham; and Tom Wujec of Autodesk. The Ingels video, which is produced with Melcher Media (no relation to the author), has the starchitect traveling around the white canvas sketching out the idiosyncratic projects that have skyrocketed his firm's standing within the profession. As he explains his own work, he diagnoses what he sees as the main problem plaguing architecture today: “So many of our choices today tend to settle with reaffirming the status quo by replicating what’s already there rather than inventing what could happen next.” Ingels draws a series of boxes to signify that type of bland architectural repetitiveness. After he draws an "X" through those boxes and fills the canvas with drawings of BIG's work, Ingels plots a path forward. He says that architects must embody the spirit of gamers who play Minecraft and "build their own worlds and inhabit them through play.” Architecture, he says, must then become "Worldcraft”—“where our knowledge and technology don’t limit us, but rather enable us to turn surreal dreams into inhabitable space. To turn fiction into fact.” And with that, Ingels departs the frame. [h/t Selectism]
We know, we know, we know—the internet is being overrun with drone-photographed, time-lapse videos of cities and ruins. They are like cat videos, or BuzzFeed quizzes, or thought-pieces on Hillary Clinton's ground game in 2016: they're everywhere and they're unavoidable. But sometimes they're pretty great. This five-minute video by Victor Chu is called “Ultimate Aerial Video of NYC!," and, well, yeah, it kind of is! The video starts with a quote from (who else?) F. Scott Fitzgerald and then finds its way through the five boroughs with the help of an agile drone. Some architectural highlights include Four Freedoms Park, Hunters Point South Waterfront Park by Thomas Balsley Associates, and pre-demolition 5Pointz. The drone also travels directly through the Unisphere, which is known best from the 1964-65 World’s Fair and second best from Men In Black. [h/t Gothamist]
This Fall, I served as special media correspondent for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat's September symposium in Shanghai. The topic was “Future Cities: Towards Sustainable Vertical Urbanism,” and among the many architects, engineers and other tall building types I interviewed was Mun Summ Wong of Singapore-based WOHA. WOHA's work celebrates human-scale spaces in high-rise buildings. Take the PARKROYAL on Pickering, a cluster of hotels in Singapore that spruces up the standard podium with lush greenery and sleek, curvilinear geometries. Its 15,000 square feet of green space climb up through the towers' balconies and terraces, in a sense extending nearby Hong Lim Park. The project was one of CTBUH's Best Tall Buildings of 2013. In our interview, Wong discussed net-zero skyscrapers, urban sprawl and "using tall buildings as columns." Watch the video above, courtesy CTBUH, in which Wong envisions his ideal future city. "The way forward isn't to continue with two-dimensional master planning where cities can only grow sideways," Wong said. "I think skyscrapers can do more than be themselves."
About 10 years ago, the city of St. Petersburg, Florida started talking about tearing down one of its most well-known piece of architecture: a 1970s-era, inverted pyramid at the end of a city pier. The city would then replace that pier head with a more modern, but still architecturally significant, statement. So, a few years back, a design competition was launched, and it resulted in some of the most ambitious designs we’ve ever seen from a competition like this. The Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) created a massive, spiraling loop, West 8 designed a sea urchin–shaped pavilion, and Michael Maltzan Architecture envisioned The Lens, a massive circuit of bridges and pathways that connect into an angled canopy—or lens—that faces back toward the city. Out of that short-list, Maltzan came out on top, but nothing ever materialized and the inverted pyramid is still standing. Long story short: voters overwhelmingly rejected the $50 million plan at the polls, a new mayor was elected, and then, this fall, a second, more public-facing, competition was launched. Now, eight designs from that competition have been unveiled. While the teams competing aren't as well-known as those in round one, their designs are no subtle gestures. Each team received a $30,000 stipend for its work, meaning the second competition has already racked up nearly a quarter million dollar bill. That's on top of the millions of dollars poured into the first competition that didn't really go anywhere. All of the new plans come with extraordinarily splashy renderings (literally, there are dolphins splashing around in one), and long, detailed plans. One proposal is even paired with a video set to Frank Sinatra’s "Somewhere Beyond The Sea." Following public input, the City Council will approve one of these plans next spring. A St. Petersburg official told AN that funding for the pier has already been allocated and would not have to go back before the voters. For this round, each team was asked to work within a construction budget of $33 million. And now onto the proposals for round two: Prospect Pier FR-EE with Civitas + Mesh From the architects: Prospect Pier celebrates our unique geography, culture and history as a subtropical, waterfront city. In a reinvented Pyramid that looks to the future, it builds upon the Pier’s assets – a strong form floating over the water. Our vision is a journey that begins downtown, passes through a vibrant park and becomes a magical stroll over water before ascending through active, public spaces culminating in breathtaking views of city, sea and sky, high over Tampa Bay. Destination St. Pete Pier St. Pete Design Group From the architects: The St. Pete Design Group's concept provides the perfect marriage of historic icon and modernized, functional pier; a pure, crystalline pyramid is surrounded by fun, contemporary elements and activities within multi-leveled layers of shade. Varied attractions that will keep residents and tourists coming back include a larger Spa Beach, multiple dining options, a children's zone and a spectacular waterfall. Come fish, play, relax and remember. Discover the New St. Pete Pier. The Pier Park Rogers Partners Architects+Urban Designers, ASD, Ken Smith From the architects: The ASD/Rogers Partners/KSLA design honors St. Petersburg Pier’s robust, eclectic history while transforming it into a 21st century public place. It is a hub for activity; not only at the pier head, but all along its length. Flexible programs engage tourists and community alike – from children to seniors, nature lovers to boaters, fishermen to fine diners. The Pier does not take you to a place – the Pier is the place. It is THE PIER PARK. ALMA Alfonso Architects From the architects: The Soul of the City. Cultural Icon. Just as the Eiffel Tower image alone can conjure up an entire cultural experience by merely representing a fragment of the City, the Pier transmutations over the years have served as the symbol and spirit of the place that is St. Petersburg. Our project will recapture the past, embrace the present, and look to the future ALMA: The Soul of St. Petersburg. Blue Pier W Architecture and Landscape Architecture From the architects: The vision for the St. Petersburg Blue Pier lagoon park is a grand civic gesture bringing the pier, bay and natural landscape closer to the city. Blue Pier acts as a unifying element uniting the Bay with the City along a new axis of recreational and economic activity. Starting new allows us to set a new sequence of events in motion to make the pier even more successful and relevant for the coming century. rePier Ross Barney Architects From the architects: repier is a vision of St. Petersburg as a catalyst for more environmentally-friendly, physically-engaging, and socially exciting urban living. repier adds opportunities to engage with the water, creates marine habitat, provides places to snack and sit in the shade, and builds a social space that also generates electricity. repier projects progress and hope and provides St. Petersburg with a place that is useful and loved. The Crescent ahha! - New Quarter From the architects: The crescent as a metaphor for the growth of our community. A gathering place for the people of St Pete; a place for learning and play. A place that is self sustaining. How does one have a pier experience without actually being on a pier? Why not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is?" - Frank Scully Discover Bay Life VOA From the architects: “Discover Bay Life” respects the past and looks to the future by transforming the upland park and pier into a new destination for St. Petersburg. Just as life on the Bay continually transforms, so does life at “The Pier”. Three destinations - Bay Life Park, the Pier, and the Marine Discovery Center - become one unique destination for locals and visitors to discover and enjoy year around.