Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Vote for 2014 Building of the Year

The work I do with World-Architects includes the Building of the Week feature on the American-Architects platform. For 2014 there were 49 such buildings, and voting is open to determine the Building of the Year. The screenshot below gives a peek of the buildings in the running, but head over to American-Architects to vote. One vote is allowed per person, and the deadline is January 31, 2015.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Book Review: Sand and Golf

Sand and Golf: How Terrain Shapes the Game by George Waters
Goff Books, 2013
Hardcover, 140 pages



Just like architecture and landscape architecture have reoriented their practices in part toward sustainable ends – designing buildings and landscapes that use less energy and respond to their local contexts – so has golf course architecture. What can be seen as a subset of landscape architecture, golf course architecture has often been held in less regard, since many courses, especially in the United States, are not open to the public and they have a heavy need for irrigation and pesticides, branding courses as resource hogs that do more damage than good. But recent years have seen the creation of golf courses that resemble their natural origins in the British Isles more than the modern courses that litter the U.S. and other parts of the world. Courses like those on the cover of George Waters' book Sand and Golf (Pacific Grove Municipal in California) point toward a way of designing according to a site's characteristics rather than importing a particular type of course to any location.


[The 16th Green at North Berwick | Photo: George Waters]

According to Waters, a golf course architect who has worked with Tom Doak, Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw, and other designers that share an appreciation of links courses, the key to designing a course that is "green" and follows the game's origins is sand; not sand in the sense of bunkers (just about all courses have them, regardless of where the courses are located and how they're designed), but sand as the base material that the course sits upon. It's no wonder that golf blossomed in places like Scotland and Ireland, where dunes evolved over time to create suitable landscapes for animal grazing as well as for a social game that involved hitting a ball with a club. But in the 20th century golf bloomed and courses were built on all types of soils, not all appropriate for the game as it was traditionally played or for the best grasses to play upon and maintain. And as golf's popularity grew so did technology, not only for moving earth but for the making of clubs and balls, meaning that golfers could hit farther and higher, which influenced the design of courses from a game played as much "on the ground" as "in the air," to one where the latter predominated. While to this day technology's influence has not subsided, the need to be more environmentally responsible has increased, accompanied by an appreciation of links courses by a number of designers and their desire to create courses for all abilities, not just scratch golfers.


[Pacific Grove Municipal | Photo: George Waters]

Waters' book is a strong argument for finding the right sandy sites for building golf courses, both inland and coastal, and then designing with the land rather than imposing one's will upon it. Sandy sites offer the greatest opportunities for moving the least amount of earth during construction and for using the least amount of energy in maintaining the courses over time. Yet in addition to these benefits, and the fact that links courses with their distinctive contours offer as much pleasure to high handicappers as low handicappers, Waters' words on the evolution of sites are particularly interesting. There is a tendency to see courses as static designs rather than dynamic pieces of dynamic landscapes; a hole is seen to have a certain form that needs to be maintained over time. But since a course is part of a landscape, it influences its surroundings, which in turn affect the course. This reciprocity can negatively impact certain holes, but it can also offer the opportunity for creative responses to change, be it in redesigned holes or completely new ones. Whatever the case, it stems from a thinking that acknowledges the naturalness of courses and the idiosyncratic characteristics that arise from being located in a particular part of the world.


[The 10th at Swinley Forest | Photo: George Waters]

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Today's archidose #809

Here are some of my photos of the Storefront for Art and Architecture, wrapped by curators Sebastiaan Bremer and Florian Idenburg & Jing Liu of SO–IL for their BLUEPRINT exhibition.

BLUEPRINT

BLUEPRINT

BLUEPRINT

BLUEPRINT

BLUEPRINT

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Today's archidose #808

Here is a sampling of some panoramic photos recently added to the archidose pool.

Maison des Associations - Fécamp by G2 architectes, photographed by David Cousin-Marsy:
Maison des Associations - Fécamp

Computer model of a Mies van der Rohe-designed golf clubhouse, by Heiner Engbrocks:
1:1 modell of a golfclubhouse, Mies van der Rohe

Kurkowa 14 estate - Apartamenty Kurkowa 14 by Maćków Pracownia Projektowa, photographed by Maciek Lulko:
Kurkowa 14

Visitor center at nature reserve Oostvaardersplassen by BKVV, photographed by Frank Stahl:
Buitencentrum Oostvaardersplassen

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Sorkin Builds


[All photographs courtesy of Michael Sorkin Studio]

If I had a nickel for every time I've read somebody comment in response to one of Michael Sorkin's opinion pieces something like, "What does he know? He hasn't built anything," I'd probably have, well, a dollar and some change. To me that point does not hold relevance for criticism and for being influential in the world of architecture; ideas take precedent over experience, or at least over a particular type of experience, since it comes in all shapes and sizes, not just from realizing a building from beginning to end. Nevertheless, these comments spring to mind as I look at construction photographs of Michael Sorkin Studio's Xi'an Office Building going up near the Xi'an Xianyang International Airport in China. Sorkin's detractors probably won't be satiated by this revelation, but I don't care; I'm just glad to see a creation of his come to life, even if it's halfway around the world from his New York City home.


[Project aerial rendering]


[Context view | Aerial from Google Maps]

The office building is made up of two pieces – a round building and a rectangular bar – and is intended to mark the entry to a new district just north and west of the airport. Construction of the project is visible in the Google Maps aerial, but not much else has accompanied it. So what kind of "new city" context the building will fit into remains to be seen, especially since, like most renderings of projects in China, it is depicted above in a generic landscape of roads, grass and trees. Like many buildings in China designed by architects from overseas, the project creates the landscape, rather than the other way around. In the case of the Xi'an Office Building, it's the round building that makes the strongest statement.


[Close-up of site | Aerial from Google Maps]


[General view from rectangular bar toward round building]

Although the cladding that is still to come will greatly influence the final building's appearance, the rendering above indicates that the arching structure will be left exposed. So these recent construction photos give a good sense of what is to come. Particularly striking is the way the the concrete arches span from the exterior to the courtyard, eschewing vertical exterior walls and giving the impression of a vortex in the middle of the building.


[A closer view from the rectangular building]


[Looking south from the courtyard]

The form harks back to traditional Chinese Tulou dwellings while also recalling contemporary buildings like Herzog & de Meuron's "Bird's Nest" stadium for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The sloping section of the building, evident in the photo at top, means that more sunlight reaches the courtyard and the spaces that overlook it. It also means the building looks best from the south, where it reveals the central courtyard for those approaching from the airport via car, and for those walking on the central axis from the rectangular building.


[Courtyard detail]


[Michael Sorkin on the job site]

Sorkin Studio's website shows another project in Xi'an, a mixed-use complex that would sit directly west of the office building, just across the busy north-south road. It's not clear if work has proceeded on this project with exhibition and convention hall, offices, a hotel, and a large shopping mall, but here's hoping Sorkin has some momentum in Xi'an and will get to keep building.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Today's archidose #807

Here are some photos of the Rowing Pavilion (2010) in Alange, Spain, by José María Sánchez García, photographed by José Carlos Melo Dias.

Alange, Centro de Remo y Piragüismo | 2009. José María Sánchez García

Alange, Centro de Remo y Piragüismo | 2009. José María Sánchez García

Alange, Centro de Remo y Piragüismo | 2009. José María Sánchez García

Alange, Centro de Remo y Piragüismo | 2009. José María Sánchez García

Alange, Centro de Remo y Piragüismo | 2009. José María Sánchez García

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Review: Performative Skyscraper

Performative Skyscraper: Tall Building Design Now by Scott Johnson
Balcony Press, 2014
Paperback, 164 pages



When in Chicago last fall I stopped by the office of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG) to do a studio visit for World-Architects. If any firm is known for tall buildings, it is AS+GG. Sure, there are bigger firms like SOM, KPF, and Gensler that are designing and building this century’s skyscrapers, but they lack the sharp environmental focus of AS+GG. Known primarily for the supertall Kingdom Come Tower, what will be, barring any surprises, the tallest building in the world when completed in a few years, the most striking project I saw on my visit was FKI Tower in Seoul. Its serrated exterior is not just a formal flourish; it is a means of integrating solar PVs into the façade to optimize the generation of solar power. AS+GG is not alone in using form, material and technology together to create more sustainable high-rise buildings, but the FKI Tower is illustrative of an approach where building form/expression and environmental performance become one.

Other AS+GG projects make similarly overt gestures and many of those are included in architect Scott Johnson’s book on what he calls the “performative skyscraper.” Just saying a skyscraper is “green” or “sustainable” is not enough these days; those words have been watered down by overuse and they don’t speak to particular approaches. “Performative,” on the other hands, clearly points to making tall buildings perform better, be it in generating energy, decreasing how much energy is used, or some other means of gauging a building’s positive contribution. The term also points to measurement as an integral part of the design process.


[AS+GG's FKI Tower | Photo: Namgoong Sun, via American-Architects]

Johnson’s book, which gathers many recent built, in-progress and unbuilt projects but doesn’t read like a collection of typological precedents, is organized into five chapters that build in scale and ambition, moving from internal environments to urban contexts: Performative Ecologies, Performative Skins, Performative Parametrics, Performative Neighborhoods, and Performative Cities. If my assertion that the middle section of a book says more about it than the rest, then the chapter on parametrics is key to Johnson’s argument for building better-performing skyscrapers. The first two chapters deal with a building’s skin and its internal environment, while the latter two chapters move beyond a tower’s enclosure and footprint. This leaves the middle chapter to focus on form and the process of realizing it.

Parametric modeling is often seen as a means of creating ever-more complex forms – blobs – that turn cities into playgrounds of odd forms vying for our attention. But this antagonistic view of the implementation of software for architects ignores the benefits of performance that are also a part of them. Sure, parametric modeling enables architects to create malleable forms in the computer, but they can also have measurable data tied to them. Architects can then, for example, analyze a form’s wind resistance or gauge how much daylight is transmitted over the course of a day, month, or year. This process does not have to result in curving towers that look out of place in some contexts, as should be apparent in AS+GG’s FKI Tower, which is basically a modern box with ridged edges.


[Detail of AS+GG's FKI Tower | Photo: Namgoong Sun, via American-Architects]

Even with parametricism at the book’s core, the last two chapters made me most optimistic about Johnson’s approach, since he looks at a larger canvas. He examines how tall buildings, in and of themselves or in concert with other buildings in a single project, can contain whole neighborhoods. This is not new (think of Chicago’s John Hancock Center or Marina City – the name says it all!), but it is happening at an increasing clip, so it is important to focus on the social life of tall buildings. He also examines how tall buildings work in urban assemblages, creating districts and even whole cities that perform better in various ways. Again, this is not new (New York likes to take credit for being traditionally “green” thanks to its density and prevalent public transportation), but if any century is the “century of the city” it’s the 21st, so considerations of urban performance should be part of the decision-making process.

That said, it pained me to discover in Joseph Giovannini’s preface that Johnson’s firm, Los Angeles's Johnson Fain, is responsible for Museum Tower, the controversial residential building in Dallas. The building was in the news in 2012 and 2013 for deflecting the sun’s rays into the north-facing skylights of the Nasher, the low-slung and much-celebrated museum designed by Renzo Piano. Like the “Walkie Talkie” building Rafael Viñoly designed for London, whose concave glass façade melted plastic on cars blocks away, considerations of context did not extend far enough when Johnson designed Museum Tower. This blemish contradicts the general idea of thinking of a skyscraper’s performance beyond its internal environment and its exterior curtain wall. In this case the curtain wall most likely benefits those living inside, but at the expense of a prized institution across the street. Regardless, this instance does not directly detract from the arguments that Johnson lays out ever so persuasively, but it does make me wish he would practice what he preaches.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Sculpting the Architectural Mind

This sounds like a conference worth attending, taking place at Pratt Institute in early March:



Sculpting the Architectural Mind
Neuroscience and the Education of an Architect

In recent years, architects have been mining new research in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, object-oriented philosophy, and experimental biology for design concepts and for accounts of the new conditions of materiality. Architects borrow from these discourses to formulate and justify a wide range of design processes, especially digitally-driven ones. But we have failed to discuss how neuro-scientific knowledge can impact architectural pedagogy. This conference considers the roles that applied neuroscience has played and might play in the education of architects.

The symposium is structured around invited presentations and panel discussions with neuro-scientists, architectural theorists, historians, philosophers, and artists. Hosted by Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture in collaboration with the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture. It is free and open to the public.

The conference is co-organized by Dan Bucsescu (Pratt), Michael A.Arbib (ANFA Liaison) and Ralph S. Steenblik.

Speakers will include:
Michael A.Arbib
Philip Beesley
Lawrence Blough
Dan Bucsescu
Edward Eigen
Michael Eng
Thomas Hanrahan
Deborah Hauptmann
Duks Koschitz
Sanford Kwinter
Eduardo Macagno
Harry Francis Mallgrave
Ralph Steenblik
Meredith TenHoor

Conference Schedule

Friday, March 6th

Opening Session 9:30AM -12:30PM
What the Hand Tells the Architect’s Brain

12:30- 1:30 PM Lunch

Afternoon Session 1:30 - 5:30 PM
Experiencing the Built Environment

5:30-6:30 Exhibition /Opening Reception

Saturday, March 7th

Morning session 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
The neuroscience of the design process for architecture

Lunch 12:00 -1:00 PM

Afternoon session 1:00 - 4:15 PM
Neuroscience of architectural experience

Closing Keynote 4:15-4:45
Closing Panel Discussion 5:00 - 6:00 PM

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Going Underground in DC

It seems appropriate that the drive to transform a unused underground trolley station into a venue "for presenting, producing, and promoting cutting-edge arts, architecture, design, and creative endeavors" should take place in Washington, DC. The city, after all, is home to Harry Weese's beloved METRO stations, which won last year's 25-Year Award from the AIA. And let's not forget that DC was home to one of the most important underground music scenes of the late 1970s and early 1980s, with bands like Bad Brains and Minor Threat and a DIY attitude that extended to the latter's Ian MacKaye's Dischord label. Dupont Underground, inadvertently perhaps, respectively embodies the desire to have something beautiful under the street level and a bottom-up means of accomplishing it.


[All images courtesy of Dupont Underground]

The non-profit Arts Coalition for the Dupont Underground describes their mission as "working to transform the unused Dupont Circle trolley station into an institution highlighting the District’s rightful place on the cultural map." The choice to focus on a piece of unused (since the 1960s) piece of urban infrastructure puts it in line with projects like the High Line, which is primarily a park, but which also serves as a canvas for artworks and performances, stemming appropriately from its location cutting through Chelsea's gallery district. Of course, unlike the High Line that threads its way over streets and between buildings, the old trolley line sits below and around Dupont Circle, the park and traffic feature that gives the historic district its name. Further, unlike the Low Line, which proposes to transform the micro-climate and experience of an old underground trolley station in New York's Lower East Side via innovative light scoops, the DU players treat their station with reverence, like a found beauty. The preliminary, informational renderings show minimal changes to the underground spaces.




The non-profit's efforts have resulted in signing a 5.5-year lease on the 75,000-square-foot space with DC's Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. Although this is admittedly a step in securing a long-term lease, the widespread support of the project is visible in DU's surpassing of its $50,000 crowdfunding goal – with 56 days left; even this early, earning the long-terms lease looks promising. Their initial transformation of the station will focus on the eastern platform, which makes up about a third of the total square footage. Once the space is brought up to code, the "blank canvas" will serve as a host for exhibitions, installations, performances, all sorts of events as a means of exploring what works underground. If those events parallel what DU has envisioned remains to be seen, but organizations in DC needing a unique venue won't be at a loss for where to look.




One area where I see potential is architectural lighting. The renderings clearly show how the ambiance of the spaces will depend upon the lighting – the type, location, intensity, etc. Why not invite lighting designers and artists into the space to explore how to illuminate the underground spaces, both to exploit the qualities of the old station and take it in unexpected directions? Then the usual exhibitions, pop-up shops and the like can follow. However it plays out, it's clear the Dupont Underground offers lots of potential for creativity on the DC scene.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Today's archidose #806

Here are some photos of Emerson College in Los Angeles, California, by Morphosis Architects, photographed by Riley Snelling; see more photos on the photographer's website.

EC-21

EC-15

EC-18

EC-11

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