Samuel Jacobson

Samuel Jacobson studies architectural history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

On Oikonomia: Saarinen’s Ezra Stiles College Open After $55M Renovation

under construction, 1961. Copyright Balthazar Korab Ltd.

NEW HAVEN, –Yale’s Ezra Stiles College, designed by Eero Saarinen and completed in 1961, reopened to students last month after a one-year, $55 million dollar renovation. The project was the last in a complete overhaul of all the residential colleges at Yale, which started in 1998 and has cost over $500 million (adjusted for inflation).

Students are happy with the work, praising the new brick pizza oven in the dining hall, shift from single to suite-style rooms, and improved furniture and lighting. Jon Rubin ’12 told the Yale Daily News (YDN) the renovated Stiles is “definitely a step up” from the college he lived in two years ago.

Museum Closure Exposes Financial Risk of Signature Architecture

© Michael Moran

–Although the American Folk Art Museum has avoided dissolution thanks to a cash infusion from trustees and the Ford Foundation, the institution’s ongoing financial troubles raise difficult questions about the relationship between signature architecture and cultural capital.

Video: “Cities of Opportunity” Interview with Rem Koolhaas

In this video from Cities of Opportunity 2011, architectural superstar and OMA founder Rem Koolhaas shares his views on the contemporary evolution of the city and his vision for the future of urban centers. Produced by accounting giant (a.k.a PricewaterhouseCoopers before their 2010 re-branding) and the Partnership for City, Cities of Opportunity 2011 “analyzes the trajectory of 26 cities, all capitals of finance, commerce, and culture and through their performance, seeks to open a window on what makes cities function best.”

AD Classics: Shrine of the Book / Armand Phillip Bartos and Frederick John Kiesler

Shrine of the Book and the Knesset, Israel Ministry of Tourism

The Shrine of the Book (Hebrew: היכל הספר‎ Heikhal HaSefer) is a wing of the Israel Musem near Givat Ram in , constructed in 1965. The building houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered between 1947 and 1956 in and around the Wadi Qurman.

The building was the result of an elaborate seven-year planning process funded by the family of David Samuel Gottesman, a Hungarian philanthropist who purchased the scrolls as a gift to the newly founded state of Israel. One architect, American philanthropist-cum-designer Armand Phillip Bartos, was chosed because he was married to Gottesman’s daughter. The other appointed architect, Frederick John Kiesler, had previously recieved funding from Gottesman to install the “Endless house” at the Museum of Modern Art. The architectural team also included the well-connected Gezer Heller, brother-in-law to Ibbi Hammer, future chief banker for the State of Israel and daughter of the Chief Rabbi of Budapest. Israelis objected to the choice of non-Israeli architects, especially Kiesler.

EXHIBITION: Le Corbusier & Pierre Jeanneret, Low Cost Furniture and Other Items from Chandigarh

Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret relaxing on the Shukna Lake on a pedal boat manufactured by Pierre Jeanneret, c. 1950. Photo by Sureh Sharma.

GENEVA–Galerie Anton Meier inaugurated the first exhibition in Switzerland devoted to the work  Pierre Jeanneret on September 20 at the Palais de l’Athénée. The exhibition, “The Chandigarh Project,” features a selection of furniture created for the Chandigarh capital complex on the border of Punjab and Haryana states in India. Intended to offer the public “clearer public insight into the humanistic work of Pierre Jeanneret, often overshadowed by his illustrious cousin, the show features pieces handcrafted on site for the new capital presented with “rare street furniture” as well as Le Corbusier’s symbols and prints. Highlights include teak tables, cane chairs, wooden armchairs, an a cast iron manhole cover with a recessed reproduction of the Chandigarh master plan as drawn by Le Corbusier in 1951. The exhibition comes after a scandal that erupted in 2010 when UBS decided to pull an ad featuring Corbusier. Debates continue involving the provenance of Chandigarh artifacts such as these, as dealers continue to buy items from Indian officials to resell abroad.

More information and photos after the break.

AIA Emphatically Urges Looser Credit, Notes 30% Drop in Architectural Employment Since 2008

Construction at 1 WTC, by ShinyThings VIA Flickr

The AIA has issued a “comprehensive look yet at the built environment’s role in economic recovery, highlighting six specific steps that will generate jobs and help grow the American economy.” Coming on the eve of President Obama’s major jobs initiative, the report cites George Mason University economist Stephen J. Miller in arguing that every $1 million in new construction spending supports “28.5 full-time, year-round-equivalent jobs.”

Miller and the AIA blame tight credit markets blocking potential progress in this area. The publication, “The Built Environment’s Role in the Recovery,” is issued with this problem in mind. “We’re putting these recommendations forward now because it’s time for the Administration and Congress to get real about creating an environment in which people are willing to lend and borrow,” said AIA President Clark Manus, FAIA, quoted in a recent AIA press release. “When credit flows to worthy projects, it unleashes the job creation potential of the American economy.”

KA-CHING: New Thoughts on the Value of Green

Harpoon House, a simple efficient home in Portland that’s expected to achieve LEED Platinum certification. The 28-foot tall home has one bedroom, one bathroom, a root cellar, and a roof garden. Photo by Matt Kirkpatrick at www.idwellingdeisgn.com.

PORTLAND–A recent study by Portland-based Earth Advantage Institute reveals that Energy Star and LEED certification for new and existing homes not only saves money but might also raise resale value. The study, conducted over four years in the six-county Portland metropolitan area, found that newly constructed homes with third-party certifications for sustainability and energy efficiency sold for 8% more on average than non-certified homes, and existing homes with certifications sold for 30% more. A similar study was also conducted Seattle, showing 9.6% price premium with certification. While the results are inconclusive, they are compelling.

From the Washington Post Writers Group VIA Los Angeles Times:

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/aug/28/business/la-fi-harney-20110828

BAM!’s Venice CITYVISION Concrete Island Spectacular!

CITYVISION First Prize - Alberto Bottero, Simona Della Rocca, and Valeria Bruni. Courtesy of CITYVISION Competition

Bottega di Archiettura Metropolitana aka recently won a Bjarke Ingalls-judged urban design competition for proposing to deal with the Venice, Italy’s rising water problem… with giant concrete bowl islands!

BAM!'s floating island scheme, courtesy of Venice CITYVISION Competition

Sure, the scheme neither addresses how the existing city should retrofit itself nor does it work out some key technical concerns–how does one move from one bowl to another? what happens when the bowls fill with water?–but with renderings so incredibly beautiful why besmirch oneself with such trivialities?

Read more at FastCo. Design

Video: Chris Burden / Metropolis II

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Chris Burden’s massive kinetic sculpture, , will debut at at LACMA this fall. The project took Burden and his chief engineer Zak Cook four years to complete.

Burden, a performance artist known for crucifying himself on a Volkswagen and once hiring a friend to shoot him in the arm, doesn’t have any particular interest in transportation or urban planning, he says, although he has used toys in his artworks since the 1970s. “Toys are interesting as objects — they’re the tools you use to inculcate children into adults,” he told Fastco Design. “They’re a reflection of society.” His mini-city is “modeling something that’s on the twilight of extinction: the era of the ‘free car,’” Burden says, referring to the idea of jumping into one’s car anytime and going wherever one pleases. “Those days are numbered, but think it’s a good thing. The upside is that cars can be faster and safer, and you don’t have to worry about drunk drivers. Think about it: The cars in Metropolis II are going a scale speed of 230mph. That’d be great to do for real in L.A.”

 

Arvo Pärt and Snøhetta Collaborate for Guggenheim Exhibition in Lower Manhattan

To a Great City by Arvo Pärt and Snøhetta, http://stillspotting.guggenheim.org

The second iteration of stillspotting nyc–a two-year multidisciplinary project that takes the Guggenheim’s programming into the streets of New York City–features Estonian composer Arvo Pärt and U.S. and Norway–based architecture firm Snøhetta in collaboration on urban soundscapes around . To a Great City, the Manhattan edition of stillspotting nyc, will be open to the public for two extended weekends on September 15–18 and 22–25, 2011. The installations explore the relationship between space and sound.

The architects have selected, and sometimes altered, urban spaces embodying the concept of a central tone, extending the perception of sound in the realm of space. Visitors will experience the confluence of music and architecture at five locations that quietly celebrate the city, ten years after September 11th. Around the periphery of Ground Zero, “participants may encounter a labyrinth created by The Battery Conservancy, reflect in an underground chamber at Governors Island National Monument, and enter otherwise inaccessible spaces in landmark skyscrapers.” Participants can visit spaces multiple times at their leisure to understand how their perception changes based on circumstances such as time, stress, appetite, and sleep.

Exhibition: stillspotting nyc: manhattan (To a Great City by Arvo Pärt and Snøhetta)

Venue: Five locations, starting at Castle Clinton National Monument in Battery Park, across from 17 Battery Place, New York, NY

Dates: September 15–18 and 22–25, 2011

Read the press release here: http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/press-room/releases/4219-stillspottingmanhattan

Video: Physicist Geoffrey West on Cities

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In this July 2011 TEDGlobal talk, physicist Geoffrey West argues that mathematical laws of networks and scalability govern the properties of cities. West demonstrates how wealth, crime rate, walking speed, and other aspects of a city can be predicted  based on a city’s population–universally, and with startling accuracy.

West’s presentation is constructed through a comparison of cities’ statistical similarities with the mathematical laws of biology. Both are dominated by economies of scale, but while the pace of life decreases as biological organisms scale upwards, the pace of life in cities increases. For example, doubling the size of a city systematically increases income, wealth, number of patents, number of colleges, number of creative people, the number of police, crime rate, number of aids and flu cases, and waste by 15% per capita.

Although some might find West’s fervent empiricism tiresome, his model of urban scientific inquiry holds massive potential both as data and methodological model for theoretical inquiry autonomous from practice. As a scientist, West is free from our field’s predilection towards theory as model for practice–he can speak of his observations, but lets them remain as such. Any practical suggestion would limit the versatility of the information he and his team have produced, forever linking that new body of knowledge with a delimited body of interpretations. By way of example: West’s argument is reminiscent of Christopher Alexander’s classic essay, “A City is Not a Tree,” in which Alexander argues that cities are fundamentally social networks, and that those lattice like-networks are in opposition to the synthetic tree-like networks designed by Modernists from Tange to Hilbershimer. Alexander’s essay, organized categorically and grounded in anecdotal models, is too oppositional to have easy currency outside of its use with respect to the projects it references and criticizes. Given that, it is not surprising that Alexander’s later work in A Pattern Language is more often identified as a political statement against modern planning ideals than as the dictionary of design strategies it purported assumed itself to be. West’s argument, organized systematically rather than categorically and grounded in data rather than anecdote, operates in an epistemological universe resistant to the political and able to be understood and applied in a wide variety of contexts for numerous related and unrelated causes.

Steelcase, Ecotextiles, and the Evolution of Green Business

Illustration by Tien-Min Liao, from Greensource

Growing demand for products, new standards, and continuing economic shifts are transforming business practices at , O Excotextile, and others reports Tristan Roberts in the Greensource feature “Green Manufacturers Examine Their Impacts.”

Carbon Negative Cement Wins Green Award

Novacem’s Carbon Negative Cement won Material ConneXion’s second annual MEDIUM Award. Photography from Material ConneXion

“If implemented, the material would take care of most of construction’s attempts at carbon reductions in one fell swoop,” says Material ConneXion Vice President Dr. Andrew H. Dent of the company’s selection for 2011 MEDIUM award. The selection, Novacem‘s Carbon Negative Cemement, replaces calcium carbonates used in typical cement formulation with magnesium silicates and uses a lower-temperature production process that runs on biomass fuels.

Typical cement is responsible for approximately 5 percent of man-made carbon dioxide; the emissions are caused by the processing of limestone and raw materials and the burning of fossil fuels.

Novacem associate engineer Daniel Bowden says that while the cement is still in development, it is already achieving strengths of up to 80 Mpa.

For information about the award and other cool new products follow this link: http://archrecord.construction.com/products/ProductFocus/2011/1108green_materials/

Modernist and Traditionalist on Establishment Bias Against Traditional Architecture

Kroon Hall , © Morley von Sternberg

Tensions mounted between modernist and traditionalist camps earlier last month when Paul Finch, UK Chairman for the Commission for Architecture and the Build Environment, praised the fact that modernists had won bids to design buildings for the 2012 Olympics. In response, Robert Adam, member of the Traditional Architecture Group, and Michael Taylor, senior partner at Hopkins, the firm that designed the Olympic velodrome, met for a discussion on hegemony, timeliness, and pastiche moderated by Guardian staffer Lanre Bakare.

The conversation is lively and aggressive. Ironically, the ‘progressive’ Taylor comes off as complaisant (“Let’s agree vast parts of our cities are covered in very bland modern buildings with too much glass and steel.” “There are some buildings where there will be common ground – for example, the works of Brunel, or Crystal Palace.”), and opinionated (“Anyone would recognise the problems with modernism and see values in traditionalism which they like, but the problem is traditionalism is fixed and isn’t something that people think is moving forward.”)  and Adams, a bit of a snob, (MT: People are benefiting from cars, aeroplanes and other modern technology, and so to take the appearance and facades of your architecture as one separate element which should make a very clear and literal quotation back to history seems to be inconsistent. And I think people struggle with that. / RA: I think only architects struggle with that. Most people don’t have a problem with a Ferrari in the drive and a Georgian house behind it.) proves to be keenly aware of traditionalism’s place in contemporary Britain (“The prejudice towards traditionalists is rather like sexism. It’s just in the culture. If you’re in the profession, that’s just what you do. When you’re delivering the prejudice you don’t really notice it, but if you’re on the receiving end of it, then it’s a problem”). More an exhibition of conflicting ideologies than a conversation about contemporary viewpoints, the discussion is a fascinating look into how two feuding camps see themselves and their place in the world at large.

Follow this link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/05/architecture-modernism-vs-traditionalism-olympics

Mayor Signs Contracts Drunk, Blames Design Firm

Mayor Resendiz, from his Facebook page via CURBED
Mayor Resendiz, from his Facebook page via CURBED

, N.M– Martin Resendiz, mayor of a small community near Las Cruces, admitted earlier this month to signing contracts with a San Diego–based parking design firm while drunk. The company, Synthesis +, is suing the city for nonpayment. Resendiz claims the contracts were never valid since the City Council did not approve them.

“The day I signed … I had way too much to drink. It was after 5 p.m. and I signed it (the contracts) and I didn’t know what I was signing,” Resendiz wrote in response to questions from Synthesis+ lawyers. “My sister had to pick me up.”

“Again, this was after two or three hours of us drinking, not exactly the best time to do business, not exactly the best time to read over legal documents, which he (Soltero) did not portray at any time to be legal documents,” Resendiz said in a deposition.

Soltero is a Synthesis+ executive. The deal is worth over $1 milllion; the drinking happened at Ardovino’s Restaurant in Sunland Park.

VIA The Washington Post and New Mexico Independent

Foster + Partners chosen for Thames Estuary Airport

New Masterplan,

From the people who brought you Masdar, an airport in the Thames Estuary.

Flights will be able to operate 24 hours a day at the planned site on the Isle of Grain, by the Medway in north Kent. London mayor Boris Johnson, previous champion of proposals to build an airport on two artificial islands on the Thames estuary, described the Foster proposal as ‘exciting’.

Foster + Partners previously  designed Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport, built on an island reclaimed from the sea.

UK “Architecture Minister” Mocks Profession, Cites Mr. Bean

John Penrose MP (R) and Prime Minister David Cameron MP (L), johnpenrose.org

A minor transatlantic controversy erupted last month after “architecture minister” aka Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with responsibility for architecture and the built environment John Penrose apparently compared architects with other negatively-stereotyped groups, noting architects are “just one of those groups people love to mock.” The comments were part of a longer blog post about Rowan Atkinson, Dreamland, and VisitEngland’s new Smartphone-based marketing campaign.

Bing Thom and the Surrey City Centre Library: How architects are using Facebook and Twitter for public design

Courtesy of

Facing an abbreviated schedule for the information-gathering phase of the Surrey City Centre LibaryBing Thom Architects (BTA) turned to social media for real-time public input. The result was spectacular!

in November 2009 Bing Thom, winner of the 2011 RAIC gold medal, was commissioned to build a $36M, 80,000 square foot library in the Vancouver suburb. Funds for the library project, from Canada’s Federal Infrastructure program, mandated that the money be used by strict deadline or be lost. But with little time for standard due dilligence , BTA launched a library websiteFacebook pageYouTube presenceTwitter account, and RSS feed, inviting public comment. The sites were populated with images of the project and invited users to publish their own images and text regarding their ideas for the future library in an online “ideasbook.”

The respondent group was more diverse than the crowd that usually shows up for public forums. The largest percentage of the library’s 487 Facebook fans, for example, are under 25. The second largest are women, age 35-44.

Check out FASTCO Design’s coverage of Bing Thom’s use of social media in the design of the Surrey City Centre Library.