Posts tagged with "Washington D.C.":
Here we are in the year 2016, getting ready to ride in robot cars and eat meat grown in labs, but a skyscraper built out of wood still seems outlandish. Why? Wood is one of the world’s sturdiest and most versatile building materials. It has a single raw ingredient that doesn’t require intensive energy to produce: trees. The Horyuji temple precinct in Japan has wood structures that have been standing since about 700 AD. The onion-domed wooden churches on Russia’s Kizhi Island date to the early 18th century.
Today we have an innate distrust of tall wood buildings, a sense that they’ll roar into flame at the first spark. This distrust is, in part, a legacy of terrible 19th-century conflagrations like the Chicago Fire of 1871 and the Boston Fire of 1872. Those disasters and others led to the adoption of fire codes that prohibited wood structures above a certain height, saving lives in the process.
But it’s the 21st century, and a new exhibition at the National Building Museum in Washington challenges us to let go of our fear and embrace the future. The structural wood products that have recently entered the market are not your grandfather’s two-by-fours. Engineered timber beams have been proven in tests to be just as fireproof as steel, and arguably more so, since their cores as less likely to melt in a fire. They are also surprisingly strong.
In 2009, a nine-story apartment block in London was completed with an all-wood structure—load-bearing walls, floor slabs, elevator cores. Building with modern timber calls for a front-loaded process, which begins with sustainable forest management and expert milling (in close collaboration with the architect), and ends with a relatively quick assembly of prefabricated components. In other words, it changes how materials are sourced and how buildings are built. An overused cliché seems warranted here: Mass timber (the catch-all term for a host of different products) could disrupt the design and construction industries.
On display through May 21, 2017, Timber City occupies a single long room and part of the adjacent hallway on the second floor of Washington’s cavernous National Building Museum. Happily, wood is both the message and the medium in the exhibition design, by Yugon Kim and Tomomi Itakura of the Boston-based firm IKD. Information is presented on tall wooden boards propped against the walls. Large wood lozenges, stacked like pennies, hold the models. It’s a tactile and even olfactory show: Visitors can run a hand down a curved glu-lam beam, count the layers in a sandwich of cross-laminated timber (CLT), and compare laminated veneer to laminated strand lumber. Groups of tree stumps at either end of the room let you sit down for a moment to sniff the air (with so much wood, the room smells great).
Among the projects featured is a carousel pavilion in Stamford, Connecticut, that is just shy of completion, and a charter school in New Haven that opened a few months ago, both by Gray Organschi Architecture. The model of the carousel pavilion shows the undulations of precisely milled CLT in a cupola with three skylights, supported by a glu-lam rim beam. The UMass Design Building by Leers Weinzapfel Associates, now under construction in Amherst, Massachusetts, also makes extensive use of timber, including in its zipper-trussed atrium.
Those structures don’t exactly pierce the sky (the Design Building is four stories). But Framework, a project by Lever Architecture, will rise to 12 stories after it breaks ground next year in Portland, which will make it the tallest timber structure in the United States so far. Framework and another wood tower design by SHoP Architects, 475 West 18th (planned for a site on the High Line), won a prize from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is promoting tall timber—another sign this is not a passing fad.
For a small show, Timber City packs in a lot of information, and at times I wished it had more space to breathe. The Timber Over Time mural on one of the short walls is based on a clever conceit: It presents the history of wood construction through concentric tree rings. But as elsewhere, the text is small and dense. A board explaining the “forest-to-frame” life cycle is compelling—it really does seem to be a virtuous circle, with trees harvested at their carbon-storing peak, milled with little waste, and replaced by new growth—but I missed a more vivid sense of how trees become beams and boards. Too bad there wasn’t room to show footage from inside a factory or a time-lapse video of one of the buildings going up. (There is, however, a neat case of different wood byproducts that explains their uses.)
The exhibit is sponsored in part by the lumber industry, and it feels a bit like a sales pitch. But perhaps that’s necessary. The concrete and steel industries are huge; building codes are entrenched and slow to change (many of the early mass-timber buildings have gotten special code exemptions). Still an upstart, the timber camp may have to shout to make itself heard. Timber City proves that we all should be listening.
Timber City National Building Museum, Washington, D.C., through May 21, 2017
Even if the Redskins keep their name and leave D.C., the city is taking steps to ensure the area around RFK Stadium offers ample space for residents to play, too.
Events D.C., the city's semi-independent convention and sports authority, has unveiled plans to replace the ocean of surface parking that fronts the soon-to-be-demolished stadium with recreation space and a food market. The whole scheme, pictured in the gallery above, is designed by New York–based OMA.
The estimated $500 million proposal includes three ballfields (two for baseball, one for youth soccer), a 350,000-square-foot recreation and sports complex, and a 47,000-square-foot market selling groceries and concessions. According to the Washington Post, the sports center will host bowling, go-kart, and video-game facilities; a memorial to Robert F. Kennedy will be installed nearby, as well. To tie the programming together, three pedestrian bridges will connect the site to Kingman and Heritage islands.
“The RFK Stadium Armory-Campus—currently under-utilized—is poised to be transformed into a vibrant place that connects D.C. to the Anacostia River," OMA partner Jason Long told the Washington Business Journal. "Working together with Events D.C., we have formulated a plan that strategically locates new facilities that will draw people to and through the site, while refining the vision for larger redevelopments in the years ahead.”
As the 190-acre site is owned by the federal government, federal and local agencies must approve the plan before any shovels hit the soil. Half of the project will be funded by Events D.C. while the city, hotel tax revenue, and team leases will pay for the rest.
Although the Redskins moved to the suburbs years ago, the team is scoping sites for a move—maybe to D.C., or maybe not, if the team refuses to change its racist name. Regardless, the D.C. Zoning Commission gave its initial blessings to the BIG-designed stadium last month, and the commission is expected to give its final okay for the project at its February meeting. Right now, Major League Soccer's (MLS) D.C. United plays at the stadium, and it will continue to play tournaments on-site until the new stadium is complete in 1–2 years.
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The National Museum of African American History and Culture proves that architecture is still relevant
- Engage The Present And Future As Much As The Past
- Allow For Changing Narratives
- Universal Experiences In Addition To Places, People And Events
- Use Local Settings For National Issues
- Create Memorials With The Public As Well As For The Public
- Consider Ephemeral, Mobile, And Temporary Forms
- Memorials Beyond Physical Space
- Challenges Our Future Memorials Face
At seven feet tall and featuring 55-inch screens, the 30 kiosks coming to downtown D.C. will be much more than glorified digital ad machines. Designed by New York–based Smart City Media, the kiosks will feature timely information relating to nearby restaurants, retail, events, and public transportation. This pilot program is led by private nonprofit DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID), which is supported by the property owners within its 138-block area northeast of the White House and Constitution Avenue.
The kiosks will monitor noise levels, temperature, air quality, humidity, and barometric pressure. This data will be supplemented by an array of sensors placed on the BID’s buildings that will also monitor the surroundings. Unlike the kiosks, these sensors won’t have a conventional data connection; they’ll use a technology specially developed for “Internet of Things” applications: Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN). LPWAN devices send small bursts of encrypted data over radio to a base station. While the data bursts can’t be large—you couldn’t transmit a song or movie—the sensors gain range and long battery life (up to 10 years, depending on usage). Companies like Portsmouth, New Hampshire–based Senet—which is building a new LPWAN network in D.C. for this project—arebetting that LPWAN is the future backbone of smart-city technology. Conventionally connected sensors elsewhere within the BID’s buildings will monitor energy and water usage, along with waste production and data related to occupancy. Combined with public data—such as bike share usage—a formidable data set emerges for the entire D.C. BID.
Much like New York’s LinkNYC program, these D.C. kiosks will offer free wi-fi and pay for themselves with new digital ad revenue. However, the BID’s efforts will tap into deep technological infrastructure already in place in the nation’s capital. Soon, researchers will be able to map loads of information onto D.C.’s urban landscape.
After the sensors collect this data, but before it’s distributed to stakeholders, software from New York City–based maalka will aggregate that information and—in the words of its CEO Rimas Gulbinas—“slice and dice” it for easy sharing. BID members will log into maalka’s software to track the performance of their buildings, and the BID will roll out a private/public access point in the future. (The BID is currently determining what data sets will be public, as some information may be sensitive.) Once released, this information could be used for an endless amount of analyses, including exploring connections between the environment and health, measuring the impact of policy initiatives, tracking sustainability, and optimizing transit. “Once this data becomes available and collaborative cities provide data in the same way, it creates an opportunity for app development that is cross-city which has not existed until now,” said Wilfred Pinfold, CEO of Urban.Systems, a consultancy working with the BID.
As for the data itself, the BID isn’t claiming ownership. “We don’t plan on owning any data,” said DowntownDCBID director of sustainability Scott Pomeroy, “but we will protect data that our stakeholders want to have protected.” He added that transparency and openness are actually the main objective: “There’s a value in that transparency because it can be analyzed and worked with” by app developers, researchers, and policy makers, Pomeroy added. Nearby shops will be able to broadcast ads on nearby kiosks, meaning, “you’re going to get stuff that’s locally relevant as opposed to [the big box businesses] out on the street now,” said Smart City Media CEO Tom Touchet.
Among the many entities behind this kiosk project—including the BID, maalka, Smart City Media, and more—there is a strong consensus that this effort represents a recent convergence of technological know-how and political will-power. For example, the BID also operates an EcoDistrict initiative that’s committed to improving sustainability; the U.S. General Services Administration owns 30 percent of the buildings within the BID and has been a key driver of the initiative. D.C. city government also has its own PA 2040 initiative, a similar “Internet of Things” undertaking that may eventually integrate its data streams with the BID’s. Working at a district-wide scale, according to Gulbinas, there are new opportunities to experiment, engage with citizens, and get feedback: “What we’re creating is this living lab of live data…and if things work, they can be translated to other districts.”