Irina Vinnitskaya

Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Announces 2013 National Design Awards Winners

Bengt Sjostrom Starlight Theatre / © Greg Murphy

Now in its 14th year, the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt is continuing its legacy to recognize outstanding achievement across a variety of disciplines in the design community.  The awards were established to “promote design as a vital humanistic tool in shaping the world”.  This year the recipients will be honored at a gala in October during National Design Week in New York City.  The goal of recognizing this achievements is to reinforce the idea that “everything around us is designed” and the potential for innovation and creation is present across all types of development. The winners of this year’s design awards were selected based on excellence, innovation and public impact.

Join us after the break for a look at the 2013 Winners.

A Clearer Definition for Smarter Smart Growth

High Line, New York, is a good example of what is to come. Image © Iwan Baan

As cities become more conscious of their environmental and social impact, has become a ubiquitous umbrella term for a slew of principles to which designers and planners are encouraged to adhere. NewUrbanism.org has distributed 10 points that serve as guides to development that are similar to both AIA’s Local Leaders: Healthier Communities through Design and New York City’s Active Design Guidelines: Promoting Physical Activity and Health in Design.  Planners all appear to be on the same page in regards to the nature of future development.  But as Brittany Leigh Foster of Renew Lehigh Valley points out, these points tend to be vague; they tell us “what” but they do not tell us “how”.  10 Rules for Smarter Smart Growth by Bill Adams of UrbDeZine San Diego enumerates how to achieve the various design goals and principles that these various guides encourage.

Landmark Preservation Versus Ownership

Vanna Venturi House / ; © Maria Buszek

After years of disconcerting reports that the historic David and Gladys Wright House by Frank Lloyd Wright was under threat of demolition by developers, we announced that a generous benefactor saved it from its fate by providing funds to buy back the property. It seems that this particular story is not unique.  An article on ArchRecord by Frank A. Bernstein lists several other modern architecture treasures that may soon fall under the same threat as they hit the real estate market.

Find out more after the break.

Video: Bianca Bosker Discusses Architectural Imitation in China

In ’s effort to modernize its cities, it has used architectural mimicry – essentially “copy-cat architecture” as journalist and author Bianca Bosker puts it – to rapidly and substantially “adapt to the market” for urban development.  Watch this video as Bosker describes the atmosphere of imitation that China has  adapted to bring western architectural styles to its housing market. Bianca Bosker is the author of “Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China”, in which she gives a tour of the various towns within major cities that have seen this rapid development.  Cities like Hangzhou has its own imitation of Venice, which includes man-made canals, townhouses, and villas.  Shanghai has its own version of Paris, Eiffel Tower included.  And Beijing has an imitation of the London Bridge.

More after the break.

The Danger of the Zoning-Free Approach

Houston, ; Flickr User JoeInSouthernCA; Licensed via Creative Commons

Despite the romantic notion about cities that develop organically have a rich diversity of form and function, we cannot overlook the deadly side effects of negligent city planning. As Christopher Hume of the Toronto Star points out, last month’s tragic fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas is a grim reminder that planning has a time and place and its ultimate utility resides in the initiative to protect residents and make for healthier communities. The tangle of bureaucracy associated with planning, zoning and regulations can give any architect or developer a massive headache. In some cases, the laws are so restricting that diverging from bulk regulations becomes very limiting.

The Presidio Trust of San Francisco Announces 3 Finalists for Cultural Hub Competition

Presidio From Southeast © Robert Campbell

is planning a new cultural facility on the former commissary of the military base that has been turned into a national park and has announced three finalists in its competition held by Trust, according to news outlet SFGate.  The 92,000 square-foot building is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and has an ambitious future that will be developed on this unique location.  The three finalists have diverse agendas that range from turning the future cultural center into a performance and exhibition space to an institute that focuses on sustainability issues.  The Presidio Trust is currently laying out guidelines in the next step of the competition that will likely be due in the fall.  The trust also plans to engage the public with a to-be-scheduled forum in June that will host presentations by the finalists.

Join us after the break for a look at the three finalists.

National Planning Awards 2013 Recipients

NYC Department of , Zone Green Courtesy of APA

The American Planning Association has released its list of 2013 National Planning Awards winners that exhibit the best planning efforts that create communities of lasting value.  Among the recipients are regional plans that seek to revitalize post-industrial cities, plans to preserve and rehabilitate native settlements, restore blighted communities, reassess planning and zoning in major cities, develop environmental conservation programs, regenerate access to our natural topography and develop guidelines and regulations for more sustainable approaches to building.  The projects are diverse and span a significant realm of urban reclamation and development.

Join us after the break for a look at some of this year’s recipients.

The Culture of Landmarks Preservation

Courtesy of Time, Inc. via the Frank Lloyd Wright News Blog

Ada Louise Huxtable was a renowned architecture critic who started at The New York Times in 1963.  Her probing articles championed the of buildings regarded as examples of historic design still imperative to the life of the city. Her arguments were leveraged by research and an in-depth understanding of architecture as an ever-relevant art form (“the art we cannot afford to ignore”).  Alexandra Lange of The Nation points to the connection between Ada Louise Huxtable’s writing and its influence on the culture of preservation that eventually resulted in the establishment of the (LPC) in 1965.

More after the break…

Is Neighborhood Planning the New City Planning? A Conversation Between Peter Eisenman and P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S

: Q&A Series. Is neighborhood planning the new city planning? asks P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S

As part of its Question and Answer Series, Bettery Magazine joined Peter Eisenman and P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S to discuss the development of cities on an urban scale and the recent diversion of this development into the small scale of individual neighborhoods. What follows is a discussion that essentially describes the urban condition as a constant dialogue between scale and function.

There is an unstoppable element of spontaneous development that is a result of the city’s imposing forces as the scale of the individual and the immediate community.  Running concurrently with these developments are municipalities’ own agendas that may start off as heavy-handed, but eventually become molded by the will of affected neighborhoods.  This dynamic nature of cities and their functionality is what makes their nature unique and in constant flux.  In response to Eisenman’s question: “Is neighborhood planning the new city planning?”, P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S addresses the balance of these two scales of development and discusses the four morphological states that city development could take.

Join us after the break for more.

Another Round of Human Rights Violations for the Sake of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics

Mikhail Mordasov/AFP/Getty Images via The Atlantic

Imminent domain has a new justification and it’s called the . Once again, the anticipation of the Olympics brings to light the slew of human rights violations that are permitted by countries as they prepare to host the games. So what is the real cost of hosting the ? We posed this question on ArchDaily last year in regards to Rio de Janeiro’s pick for hosting the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Summer Games.  And here we are again, looking at the controversies that surround building the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, , which has been preparing for the games for six years now since it won its bid in 2007. If Brazil’s practices with the favelas struck a nerve with human rights groups, Sochi’s is sure to spark more controversy.

More after the break.

Peter Williams for Architecture for Health in Vulnerable Environments (ARCHIVE)

Breathe House; Courtesy of ARCHIVE

is the founder and executive director of an organization whose goal is to improve global , using design to create healthier environments as preventative measures for tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria.  Architecture for Health in Vulnerable Environments, or ARCHIVE for short, has projects in countries all over the world, including Haiti, Cameroon, and Ethiopia.  ARCHIVE identifies and addresses the causes of poor health in disadvantages communities and uses strategies related to housing design improvements to create environments that promote better health.

New York City Preserves Public Housing by Leasing Infill Land

NYCHA, . Courtesy of Flickr User agentvladimir. Licensed via Creative Commons

For the past four decades, as cities faced financial pressures, high-rise public housing met its decline.  Cities throughout the country demolished public housing that was failing financially and socially, like Chicago’s Cabrini-Green Housing Project whose demolition was completed in 2011, to make way for mixed use developments that encouraged economic and social diversity by way of the HOPE VI Program. This strategy resulted in the uprooting and relocation of former residents who faced uncertainty throughout the process.

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) stands out among housing authorities in the United States due to its size – 179,000 units in 2,600 buildings across the city – and the fact that the buildings are relatively well maintained.  NYCHA has avoided resorting to demolitions to deal with its issues, instead resorting to special police services that costs NYCHA a purported $70 million a year.  Over the past decade NYCHA has been underfunded by approximately $750 million causing backlogs in necessary repairs.

To address the mounting costs of public housing, New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg has proposed an infill strategy that would attract developers onto NYCHA land and create a new layer of commercial space and residential units in public housing developments.  The goal over the next five years is to develop methods of preservation for the housing development and promote mixed-use and mixed-income developments to generate income for NYCHA.

More on the plan after the break.

The Uncertain Future of Seoul, Korea’s “Dream Hub”

Block H; Courtesy of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates

According to Business Insider and a number of other real estate development outlets, the “Dream Hub” project in Korea that drew designs from internationally renowned architects including Daniel Libeskind -designer of the master plan – MVRDV, Dominique Perrault, BIG, REX, KPF and Tange Associates is on the verge of collapse.  The Yongsan Development Corporation reportedly defaulted on a major loan repayment, citing difficulties in raising funds due to the real estate slump since the 2008 global financial crisis.  The collapse of the project is still speculative, as it is unclear how the next round of loans that are to mature in June will fare.  

The $28 billion real estate “Dream Hub” project was to develop 56-acres in central Seoul into a modern business hub.  In its planning it included shopping malls, hotels, department store, apartment blocks, and mixed-use office towers.  Follow us after the break for a recap of the projects that were planned for this development.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hoffman Auto Showroom Demolished

Frank Lloyd Wright’s drawing for the Hoffman Show Room (courtesy the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation) via Hyperallergic.com

In late March, one of the few Frank Lloyd Wright designs in New York City was demolished quietly at 430 Park Avenue.  This seldom-noticed interior retail space was home to the Hoffman Auto Showroom for over five decades and just as it was considered for by the Landmark Commission, the owners of the building applied for its demolition.  For many people, this may seem like an act of corporate greed or “corporate vandalism” and it may be so, but the landmark designation for interior spaces applies strictly to public space only according to ’s landmark laws.  

So was this space ever anything more than private property? Aside from having been designed by one of America’s most famous architects, did the design have “special historical, architectural or cultural significance”?

More after the break…

“If you Build It, Will They Come?” – The Architecture Foundation Discusses Cultural Centers’ Impact on Cities


The considerations regarding urban regeneration are far and wide. From the reuse of derelict infrastructure – like WORKac’s project in St. Petersburg’s New Holland Island - to the master-planning of cultural communities – like the design of Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi - to the development of an entire districts – like Foster + Partner’s master plan for the West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong – the design of cultural centers that range in program, function and attraction have been a keystone in redeveloping the cultural impact of cities.  The “Bilbao Effect” is still cited as proof that architecture has the capacity to revitalize cities centers and elevate their status in global design with these “architectural trophies“.  If you Build it, Will They Come?: New Cultural Projects in Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong and St Petersburg is a talk, organized by The Architectural Foundation that explores the relationship between grand urban cultural projects and the developmental strategies that are unique to each city.  The discussion focuses on presentations from designers of the aforementioned projects in an effort to find both the specific relationships that exist between development and the site as well as the general understanding of how cultural centers thrive and revive the urban environment.

More on each project after the break..

AIA/NCARB Survey Indicates Resurgence in Employment Rates for Architects

We have already written about the dauntingly high rates of unemployment that are awaiting architecture-degree graduates in the profession these days, but a recent survey conducted by the AIA/NCARB Internship and Career Survey reveals an optimistic view of job growth and job placement in the two years since the “intense economic contraction” of 2010.  The AIA writes, “emerging professionals have begun experiencing a rebound, with higher employment levels, more young designers getting licensed, and any remaining unemployment becoming, in most cases, mercifully short”.  

BIG Wins Europa City Development in Paris

Courtesy of BIG

Danish architecture firm, BIG - led by Bjarke Ingels – has been announced as the winner of an international invited competition for the design of Europa City,  a 800,000 square meter cultural, recreational and retail development in Triangle de Gonesse, .  Combining city development with an open landscape, Europa City creates a dynamic center of activity for visitors and residents, appealing to the variety of functions of city life.  Europa City is situated along the route from Charles de Gaule Airport to Paris and has a wide range of programs that is part of a larger initiative to attract international tourism into the northern parts of Paris.

More on the project after the break…

AIA Announces the 2013 Small Projects Award Recipients

Studio for a Composer © John J. Macaulay

Selections of the AIA’s 2013 small project awards have been announced, revealing a broad range of projects, varying in scale, program and function that bring attention to the value of architectural practice no matter the size or scope of the project.  The ten projects were selected on the basis of four categories: small project construction up to $150,000; small project construction up to $1,500,000; up to 5,000 square foot project in which the architect played a significant role in construction and or fabrication; and an inbuilt workhorse up to 5,000 square feet.  Among the recipients are MIN | DAYKariouk AssociatesJohnsen Schmaling ArchitectsMell Lawrence ArchitectsCooper Joseph StudioRobert M. Gurney, FAIAWRNS Studio, and Edward Ogosta Architecture.

Join us after the break for more information on the ten recipients and the projects that earned the AIA’s recognition for the 2013 small project awards.