Irina Vinnitskaya

The Plant: An Old Chicago Factory is Converted into a No-Waste Food Factory

© Flickr user Plant

The old red-brick building sporting a “BEER” sign may not look impressive, but what is going on inside certainly is. “The Plant” is an indoor vertical farm that triples as a food-business incubator and research/education space located inside an 87-year old meat packing factory in the Union Stockyards of Chicago, .  The project was partly funded by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity with a $1.5 million grant.  Browse through the Plant Chicago’s Flickr Photostream and you can watch the space steadily transform into an urban farm that will grow fresh produce, farm fresh fish, brew beer and produce kombucha all while recycling the waste of the facility to make it a Net-Zero Energy System.

How does it work? Follow us after the break to learn more.

Update: Transitional Shelter Project in Haiti / MICA

© David Lopez

When we last heard from David Lopez and his students at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) they were in the process of constructing a prototype of the Transitional Shelter for Disaster Relief in .  The project started in a Design|Build studio in the Spring of 2011.  Acquiring funds to prototype the design became a challenge.  Students spent the summer and fall of 2011 completing the design and reaching out to organizations for donations and materials.  WorldwideShelters.org and Whiting Turner Contracting Company gave critical donations that made it possible to begin construction.

Follow us after the break to catch up on the status of the project.

Jane Jacobs: Neighborhoods in Action / Active Living Network

Here is a video interview, produced by Active Living Network, with famed author and social activist .  In 1961, Jacobs published The Death and Life of Great American Cities, a bold response to the city planning strategies of her time and the proposals by planners such as Robert Moses.  She used her real-world experiences and observations from her own street in the West Village of City to comment on how people interacted in neighborhoods – which areas were busiest, safest and most conducive to living.  In this video, Jacobs gives insight into how cities can bounce back from the environment created by the automobile through simple and affordable means such as “tree planting, traffic taming and community events”.

Read on for more after the break.

PUC Building: 525 Golden Gate / KMD Architects

Courtesy of

The PUC Building on 525 Golden Gate Ave, home of the Public Utilities Commission, could have been just another government administrative building.  But, the City and County of , along with KMD Architects, embraced the design challenge of achieving LEED Silver status.  Now nearing completion, the building is expected to exceed LEED Platinum requirements and has been dubbed the greenest building of its kind.  The architects had humble goals for the architecture as well, which included creating an “urban room” among the civic buildings in the area, creating a healthy and pleasant environment in the interior workplace to promote performance, efficiency and comfort, and represent the best value possible for the city and county of San Francisco.

Join us after the break for more.

Syracuse University Unveils First Phase of Marcel Breuer Digital Archive

Whitney Museum of American Art / Architect: and Hamilton Smith, Architects; Michael H. Irving, Consulting Architect

Marcel Breuer, born in Hungary in 1902, was educated under the Bauhaus manifesto of “total construction”; this is likely why Breuer is well known for both his furniture designs as well as his numerous works of architecture, which ranged from small residences to monumental architecture and governmental buildings. His career flourished during the Modernist period in conjunction with architects and designers such as founder of Bauhaus Walter GropiusLe Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe.

In 2009, Syracuse University’s Special Collection Research Center recieved a National Endowment for the Humanities grant with which it began creating the Marcel Breuer Digital Archive. The digital archive, available online, is a collaborative effort headed by the library and includes institutions such as the Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, the Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau, the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, Harvard University, the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution, the University of East Anglia, and the Vitra Design Museum. It is in the first phase, which includes Breuer work up until 1955, of digitzing over 30,000 drawings, photographs, letters and other related material of his work.

More about Marcel Breuer’s career and the archive after the break.

Instant City: New City Lazika, Anaklia Region, Georgia

Just over four months ago, President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia announced a plan to build a new city named Lazika in the Anaklia Region of northwest Georgia.  The news was driven by the desire to propel Georgia into a world market with an identity for the economic trade hub that its geographic location warrants.  Aside from a promotional video and a few scattered images on various Georgian websites, little has been exposed about the master plan that will give birth to the economic engine on the coast of the Black Sea, which leaves many wondering if this new city will in fact be built to solve Georgia’s economic and social problems.

According to a New York Times article by Ellen Barry, On Black Sea Swamp, Big Plans for Instant City, interviews with Georgian citizens indicate a variety of opinions about the viability of this “Instant City”. While some are excited about the prospect of a city strewn with skyscrapers, advanced infrastructure, and glitzy hotels, others warn of the design challenges and flaws associated with building in the Anaklia Region, which Barry describes as “a stretch of marshy land”. But looking at the city from the perspective of urban design, many critics, from Lewis Mumford to Jane Jacobs will agree that the complex social, economic and political characteristics of a city develop over time, and most effectively when they occur organically after a series of trials and errors as a city develops its identity. Historically successful cities have acquired their identities not by spontaneous rapid growth but by the personalities of its citizens, planners, economists and politicians over many years.  What is striking about this planning of Lazika, indicated by Barry’s report, is that “only one official is working on the planning of Lazika full time” with 10 to 15 part time workers, and the idea “came to President Mikheil Saakashvili just over four months ago while researching the ’s development”.

More after the break…

Richard Meier Honored at 2012 Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards

On April 19th, architect Richard Meier, known for buildings such as The Athaneum, the Douglas House and thd Getty Center was honored with the 2012 Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards by the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation at Ellis Island in New Jersey.  Meier was one of two recipients, the other former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, whose grandparents emigrated through Ellis Island.  Angela Lansbury was honored as well, having immigrated to America herself at the age of  fourteen.

Continue reading for more after the break.

Agro-Housing / Knafo Klimor Architects

Courtesy of Knafo Klimor Architects

Proposed by Knafo Klimor ArchitectsAgro-Housing was the winning project in Living Steel – Competition for Sustainable Housing (2007) for .  Part housing, part greenhouse, the proposal provides agricultural freedom to city dwellers.  A combination of rural and urban amenities, the proposal is an exciting take on individual urban farming.

For a closer look at this innovative way of thinking about a sustainable urbanity, join us after the break.

Manhattan Mountain: Re-Imagining SPURA on the Lower East Side / Ju-Hyun Kim

Courtesy of Ju-Hyun Kim

Manhattan Mountain, by Ju-Hyun Kim, is a design speculation over five of the most debated plots of vacant land in .  Collectively known as , the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, the five parking lots on the Lower East Side, just South of Delancey Street near the Williamsburg Bridge, were once the site of tenement housing until they were acquired by the Urban Renewal Plan in 1965 and demolished.  Since then, the other lots that suffered a simular fate and have been developed into various iterations of low-income and mixed-use housing developments.  But, for nearly 50 years these five sites have remained vacant as a continued debate rattles the community boards.  As the debate rages on between low-income housing developments, mixed low-income and commercial housing, and strictly commercial housing, these five lots serve as parking.  This is the largest undeveloped city-owned development south of 96th street.

Ju-Hyun Kim’s speculative proposal serves as an alternative to the current state of the land.  Read on after the break.

Reimagining the Waterfront Ideas Competition

First Place / Joseph Wood; Courtesy of Civitas - Reimagining the Waterfront

CIVITAS, the organizer of the Reimagining the Waterfront, has announced the winners of the ideas competition for the design of the East River Esplanade between 60th and 125th in City bound by the East River to the East and the FDR Drive to the west.  Joseph Wood of New Jersey, USA;  Takuma Ono and Darina Zlateva of , USA and Matteo Rossetti of Italy claimed first, second and third prize respectively.  The competition aspires to bring to new and fresh ideas to the conversation about this waterfront, which over the years has had many issues of disrepair.  Anyone who has attempted to bike down this path can appeal to just how unpleasant it can be – massive potholes that take up the whole path, traffic rushing by just a foot away just beyond a shoulder (which is not provided everywhere) and cobbled paths that create a bumpy ride.  The proximity to the East River, and the views of Randall’s Island, Queens, Roosevelt Island and the Queensboro Bridge are its saving grace.

There have already been many talks about the state of the East River Esplanade, particularly that it stops abruptly at East 53rd street at the foot of the Queensboro Bridge and starts up again around East 38th street.  Last summer MAS, an organization in NYC that advocates for intelligent urban planning, design and preservation, hosted a day-long charette to design an esplanade along the ConEd piers located between East 38th and East 41st Streets. MAS appealed to the community for ideas for “The Next Great NYC Waterfront” and worked alongside W Architecture and Landscape Architecture to produce a report, which can be found here.  With CIVITAS’s competition, the issues are again acknowledged to continue brainstorming the future of the waterfront.

The Architect’s Newspaper reviewed the competition winners in an article by Tom Stoelker, which are imaginative and considered.  The proposals of the winners and honorable mentions will be exhibited at the Museum of the City of New York between June 6th and September 2012 which will give the public access to some possibilities for the future of the East River Esplanade.

Join us after the break for more on the proposals.

Kulturcampus Frankfurt / Adjaye Associates

Courtesy of Adjaye Associates

The Kulturcampus designed for , by Adjaye Associates rests on the idea of grouping a city’s most important cultural institutions into the heart of the city.  The focus is on creating a micro-city on the city that is currently occupied by the University of Frankfurt, which will be vacated in 2014.  This micro-city is intended to be diverse collection of uses that will provide a space of gathering for the adjacent neighborhoods of the campus.

Read on for more after the break.

Finalists for the Masterplan of Tirana, Albania / Grimshaw Architects

Courtesy of

Grimshaw Architects is one of two finalists selected in a competition for the master plan of central , Albania.  The competition brief called for a comprehensive strategy that built upon the international identity of the city – particularly its waterways and the major boulevard running between them.  It also called for an integration of transportation links – a city-wide transformation to streamline the infrastructure and bring vitality into the experience of the city.

Read on for more on Grimshaw’s strategy to enrich Tirana.

Kickstarter: Cosmic Quilt – Interactive Installation + Student Workshop / The Principals

The Principals, a -based practice that work on industrial design and interactive environments, are posing a question to the design community: What would it be like if the environment we inhabit responded to our present in an active way? What if we shift the scale of the way in which our devices operate to the way our buildings function? The questions posed by are the considerations of a project called Cosmic Quilt that is planned to be exhibited on Design Week 2012 on May 19-21. In order to create a mock-up of this type of space, the group is enlisting the help of 20 students from the Art Institute of New York and the help of financial backer’s through Kickstarter.

More on the planned project after the break.

D.I.Y Urbanism: Almere Oosterworld / MVRDV

Courtesy of

MVRDV‘s proposal for an urban development in Almere Oosterworld, the Netherlands, is a template for a project that puts power into the hands of neighborhoods and communities.  This development strategy is bottom-up, inclusive and very intuitive to the needs of individuals and their communities.  It allows the design to develop organically and over a stretch of time as needs change and neighborhoods grow.  MVRDV writes that the proposal “is a revolution in Dutch urban planning as it steps away from governmental dictate and invites organic urban growth in which initiatives are stimulated and inhabitants can create their own neighbourhoods including public green, urban agriculture and roads”.  

Find out how it’s done after the break.

The Neutra Embassy Building in Karachi, Pakistan: A Petition to Save Modernism

The Neutra Embassy Building in Karachi, via Neutra Institute for Survival through Design

‘s Embassy Building in Karachi, Pakistan is a relic of the Cold War – an effort by the United States to express its authority and wealth in other countries.  The building is in the modernist style, designed in 1959, by an architect whose work is still admired today.  Until 2011, the Embassy was occupied by the U.S. General Consulate and was a symbol of modernity in Karachi.  The Neutra Institute for Survival through Design has begun a petition to help save this building from demolition.  It proclaims that this modernist icon is “the only surviving Neutra Structure in the region”.

More after the break.

New York City’s Green Infrastructure Plan

Skokie Public Library Green Roof © Skokie Public Library

As Larry Levine and Ben Chou discuss in their NRDC blog post ”New York and Pennsylvania: Among the Best at Planning for the Inconvenient Truths of Climate Change”, we have already seen what the progress of climate change has done to the most recent weather patterns and the harm it has caused to our infrastructure.  Rising temperature throws off climate balances making some areas wetter and others drier, complicating water supplies, farmland and infrastructure.  In the post, they point out the specific affects on densely populated urban areas and outdated infrastructure that cannot support heavy rains and increased runoff, which inevitably ends up in our waterways: , Albany, Buffalo, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  While many parts of the country lack a comprehensive strategy to respond to these mounting threats, nine states have created detailed reactionary and preventative measures to deal with climate change (see the NRDC report).

However,  public policies, regulations and reports are not always in sync with what people choose to construct or what actually gets built.  New York’s 2012 Green Infrastructure Grant Program is promising in that respect; it is a step towards bridging that gap that exists between building purely for utility versus building to keep cities livable, functional and safe.  The program focuses on storm water management, giving private enterprises the incentive to make responsible decisions that will alleviate the burden on the NYC sewer system. The grant has set aside $4 million for green infrastructure projects, which include green roofs, blue roofs, combined roofs, bioswales, permeable pavers and perforated piping.  This money is open only for use on private properties and businesses, or along streets that abut privately owned properties and are located on sites that drain into a combined sewer.  The full report is outlined here.

Follow us after the break for more.

Stickwork / Patrick Dougherty

Disorderly Conduct; Courtesy of Patrick Dougherty

Patrick Dougherty is best known for his sculptures that break down over time.  You may have seen one of his temporary works without realizing it.  Built primarily from tree saplings woven together, each sculptures is approximately a three-week construction project where Dougherty and his group of volunteers carefully create the habitat or environment of this a tangled web of all natural materials.  Because the sculptures are made of organic matter they disintegrate, break down and fall apart, becoming part of the landscape once again.  Most people see habitats and shelters in his work – which is what many of them are meant to be – but “castles, lairs, nests and coccoons” isn’t what usually comes to mind.  In an interview with Dougherty for the Times, Penelope Green discusses his only permanent work and the origin of his interest in what is referred to as Stickwork, now available through Princeton Architecture Press.

Patrick Dougherty has made over 200 sculptures in the 25 years that he has been creating .  But his construction work began when he was 28, working for the Air Force in the health and hospital administration.  He decided to buy property in North Carolina and build his own house from the materials on the site.  Collecting fallen branches, rocks and old timber, Dougherty was able to construct his home, in which he still lives with his wife and son, with a few additions.  By 36, Dougherty decided to return to school for sculpture and attended the art program at the University of North Carolina.  His interest in what nature had to offer led him to develop his tangled sculptures.  Each sculpture is different and depends greatly on the site.  Each project is different and depends on the volunteers that participate and the public that never fails to stop and watch the sculptures being woven together.

View some of his projects after the break.

56+55 Sumeru / Vastu Shilpa Consultants

Courtesy of

This residential project in Ahmedabad, by  Vatsu Shilpa Consultants follows the metamorphosis of an old vacant rowhouse into a renovated townhouse into a final fusion with the adjoining building.  The project began in 2004 and went through several modifications and additions.  By 2010, the adjoining house was purchased and 56+55 Sumeru was created.

Follow us after the break for more.