August ABI Remains Strong

August 2014. Image Courtesy of CalculatedRiskBlog.com

Demand for design services in the US continue to increase, as momentum from July’s highest recorded strength since 2007 continues. The American Institute of Architects reported the August Architecture Billings Index () at 53.0, down from July’s mark of 55.8, and the new projects inquiry at 62.6.

“One of the key triggers for accelerating growth at architecture firms is that long-stalled construction projects are starting to come back to life in many areas across the country,” said Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. , PhD. “Long awaited access to credit from lending institutions and an increasing comfort level in the overall economy has helped revitalize the commercial real estate sector in recent months. Additionally, though, a crucial component to a broader industry-wide recovery is the emerging demand for new projects such as education facilities, government buildings and, in some cases, hospitals.”

A breakdown of regional highlights, after the break…

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“Shell Lace Structure”: Tonkin Liu’s Nature-Inspired Structural Technique

Courtesy of Tonkin Liu

Continuing recent research trends in the ways nature can inspire new architectural methods and typologies, London-based architecture practice Tonkin Liu in collaboration with engineers at Arup, have developed a single-surface structural technique called Shell Lace Structure. The innovative technique takes advantage of advanced digital design, engineering analysis, and manufacturing tools. Read on to learn about their upcoming book and exhibition that reveals the process behind this nature-inspired material.

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How 3D Printing is Saving a Frank Lloyd Wright Treasure

© Flickr CC User Josh Hallett

Among the vast coverage of  in the media, the technology is frequently cited as the ‘future’ of production, focusing on its ability to bring new things into existence quickly and cheaply. But does have to be all about the future? As this article originally printed by Metropolis Magazine as3D Printing Saves a Frank Lloyd Wright Treasure attests, 3D printing also has something to offer to the past; specifically, to a deteriorating Frank Lloyd Wright building whose ‘textile block’ was simply too complex to restore through any other modern techniques. Read on after the break to find out how this high-tech rescue mission is being achieved.

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Callous Indifference or Fetishizing Poverty: What Exactly Can Architects Do About Slums?

The Torre David in Caracas, the subject of ’s research for the 2012 Venice Biennale. Image © Iwan Baan

In an excellent essay for the Architectural Review, Charlotte Skene Catling deftly ties together a number of recent debates in the field of morality in architecture, from the false accusations aimed at Zaha Hadid by critic Martin Fuller to recent debates over whether architects have any responsibility to tackle poverty, an ostensibly political issue. Taking aim at one article in particular - in which Dan Hancox argues that architects such as Urban Think Tank who engage in humanitarian work are often ‘fetishizing poverty’ – Catling dissects the work of many of those in the field to find that they in fact do vital work to connect the top-down and bottom-up approaches that would otherwise never meet in the middle. Or, as Urban Think Tank’s Alfredo Brillembourg says, in opposition to the horizontal city of the 19th century or the vertical city of the 20th, “the 21st century must be for the diagonal city, one that cuts across social divisions.” Click here to read the article in full.

An App That Draws Impressively Accurate Floor Plans In Minutes

Courtesy of Locometric

RoomScan is an app for iOS which draws floor plans in minutes – touching your device to a wall is the only input required. Using the iPhone’s internal sensors, recognises a sequence of flat vertical surfaces, measuring the distance in between and creating impressively accurate plans. When you come to a door, you just tap the phone to the door frame and continue. Claiming that measurements are accurate to the nearest 10cm (or 6 inches), this app – the basic features of which are available for free - is not only great fun to play with, but also considerably useful in every day situations.

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RIBA Awards 2015 Royal Gold Medal to O’Donnell + Tuomey

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has selected Irish architects Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey as recipients of the 2015 Royal Gold Medal, one of the world’s most prestigious lifetime achievement for architecture. Approved personally by the Queen, the award recognizes those who have made a significant contribution to the advancement of architecture.

The praised the way O’Donnell + Tuomey came together in the early 1990s to combine ”Sheila’s quiet, studied ‘rationalism’ alongside John’s fluent, rhetorical ‘constructivism,’” commenting that “through their buildings, publications, exhibitions and teaching they have forged a confident new identity for Irish architecture.”

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Al Jazeera’s Rebel Architecture: Episode 6, “The Pedreiro and the Master Planner”

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The last episode of Al Jazeera’s Rebel Architecture series tells the story of Ricardo, an informal builder in Rocinha, Brazil’s largest favela. “A foreign architect would not get into this hole and dig. He would hire someone or would hire machines. But here in the favela, we are hands on,” he says in the episode. Ricardo has built over one hundred houses in Rocinha despite not having any formal training. Yet as Brazil prepares for the World Cup and the Olympic Games, life in Rocinha is changing. This 25-minute episode follows Ricardo as well as Luis Carlos Toledo, the architect behind the government’s regeneration of Rocinha, as the two seek to incorporate their solutions into the future of the country’s favelas.

Watch the full episode above and read on after the break for a full episode synopsis and a preview of upcoming episodes…

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Take a Walk on the High Line with Iwan Baan

View looking west along one of the Rail Track Walks. Image © , 2014 (Section 3)

Sunday marked the completion of the High Line, a three-phased project that transformed the once disused elevated rail tracks on Manhattan’s West Side into one of the world’s most respected public parks. With the first section opening in 2009, architectural photographer Iwan Baan has been documenting the entire process. Now, for the first time we present to you a photographic journey through the completed High Line designed by James Corner Field Operations with Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Take a look, after the break.

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Elemental, Arup, and Studio Tamassociati Win Zumtobel Awards for Innovation

Courtesy of Massimo Grimaldi and Emergency ngo

Jury chairman Winy Maas has announced three projects by Arup, Studio Tamassociati and Elemental as winners of the 2014 Zumtobel Group Awards. With a goal to promote innovations for sustainability and humanity in the built environment, the awards represent three categories: Applied Innovations, Buildings and Urban Developments & Initiatives. This year’s winners were selected from 15 nominees, shortlisted from a competitive pool of 356 submissions. 

The winning projects are marked by their innovative and ground-breaking character: “The voting to find the number one project was very close in all three categories, because in each case we were able to choose from among a large number of heterogeneous projects of high quality,” Described Maas. “One key criterion for the jury this year was the innovation factor, both in a technical sense and with a view to planning and participation processes as well as ecological and social challenges.”

See the winning projects, after the break.

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Hacking the Biennale: “Project Source Code” Uses Augmented Reality to Stage a Rebel Exhibition

Embryological House, 1997, Greg Lynn Form. Image Courtesy of Ozel Office

This year at the Venice Biennale, not all of the exhibitions are visible. Ozel Office of Los Angeles have “hacked” the Venice Biennale with the help of some major architecture firms: Asymptote Architecture, Greg Lynn Form, Neil M. Denari Architects, Murmur, and Oosterhuis Lenard. Together, these firms have created a rogue digital addition to the Biennale only accessible through a virtual portal revealing a world of levitating models, movable objects, and much more, activated by physical components of the Koolhaas-curated central pavilion.

Find out how you can hack the Biennale after the break.

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Three New Towers on the Cards for City of London

© Flickr CC User Darren Harmon

Just days after revealing that the Pinnacle has finally been scrapped, the City of London‘s Head of Design Gwyn Richards has told BD that three new skyscrapers are soon to be submitted for planning on nearby sites. Though Richards did not reveal the architects of the three towers, he singled out one of the plans as “a very considered response from an architect I have the utmost respect for,” adding “I have worked very closely with him and there’s a mutual respect. It’s a good example of cooperation between architect and planner to come up with a building that hopefully the public will see the value in.”

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Paul Goldberger on the High Line

The east-west orientation of the newly opened High Line at the Rail Yards allows you to “ride off” into the sunset along the rails. This view – nearly identical to that of the shot we shared this morning – is looking west along 30th Street towards the Hudson River.

This past Sunday, celebrated the opening of the High Line’s final section. More playful and untamed than its counterparts, the elevated park’s northernmost segment seems to have pleased the critics. As Paul Goldberger explained, the at the Rail Yards is “stunningly refreshing” and “gives you an altogether new, relaxed, low-key way of being on the .” You can read Goldberger’s take on the new portion of the  here on Vanity Fair. 

Spotlight: Gunnar Asplund

As a professor of architecture at the Royal Institute of Technology and often cited for his contributions to , Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund (September 22 1885 – 20 October 1940) was a notable theorist on the most important architectural challenges of his time, first exemplified by his lecture entitled “Our architectonic concept of space.”

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Master Plan Phase Nears Completion for LA Union Station

Open Space View in Forecourt. Image © Grimshaw / , Courtesy of the County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)

The New York office of Grimshaw and LA based Gruen Associates were officially awarded the Los Angeles Union Station master plan in July of 2012 after six initial proposals for the project. Now the Metro Board has begun to finalize plans and move towards implementation, with their Planning Committee scheduled to discuss the proposals in early November. Read on to learn more about how the plan has developed over the past two years and the next steps towards its implementation.

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WikiHouse Unveils World’s First Two-Storey Open-Source House at London Design Festival

© Margaux Carron www.margauxcarron.com

WikiHouse, the open-source platform for designing and sharing house designs that anyone can be manufacture and assemble in days with no construction skills, has unveiled ‘ 4.0′ their first ever two-storey design at this year’s London Design Festival. Built by a team of volunteers and costing less than £50,000, the new prototype on display at The Building Centre also demonstrates the possibilities of other open source systems, with the code for the electrics, ventilation system and sensors all available on open-source platforms.

More on WikiHouse 4.0 after the break

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The Berlage Archive: Thom Mayne (1996)

In this 1996 lecture Pritzker Prize winner Thom Mayne describes his views of architectural theory and his unique approach to the architectural process at a time when firms had begun the transition to 3D digital models. As one of the founders of Santa Monica based firm Morphosis, Mayne speaks about the evolution of their built and unbuilt projects in the late 70s and early 80s by giving insights into three general topics including objects, context, and the role of nature in architecture. His discussion touches on everything from music and art, to philosophical questions regarding the process of architecture and its role in society.

In the development of his first projects, Mayne reveals a preoccupation with objects, their materials, and their relationship to the craft of architecture. He also describes how context shapes his designs, using the example of his Sixth Street House of 1983. For him, the project’s site in was particularly influential to his work in the way that it is a “prototype of the modern metropolis” in which “…there’s no inside, there’s no outside, there’s no way of perceiving it, its growing, its moving, its changing, quicker than one can absorb it.” These notions of context were reflected in many later works, and tied into his interest in “the space between randomness and order.”

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European Winners of 2014 Holcim Awards Announced

Anthropic Park: Freshwater ecological reserve and remediation – Saline Joniche, Italy. Image Courtesy of Grupo Aranea

The Holcim Foundation has announced the European winners of its 2014 Holcim Awards for exemplary sustainable design and construction. In light of the complex and interdisciplinary challenges facing the building industry today, the Jury identified target issues of environmental, social, and economical performance alongside architectural excellence and high transferability as intrinsic objectives in the winning projects.

Teams from Italy, France, and Austria were all selected for approaching the challenges of sustainable construction with innovative creativity and social ethos. Each will share over $300,000 in prize money and will be considered for the global .

Read more about the winning schemes after the break…

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JAHN, LOGUER + ADG Presents Proposal for New Mexico City Airport

Courtesy of JAHN

Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido, chief designer and president of JAHN, has shared with us his net-zero design proposal for the new Mexico City International competition. Similar to the Norman Foster and Fernando Romero’s winning design, JAHN’s proposal is a symbiotic blend of sensitive cultural meaning and powerful energy efficiency. As per competition requirements to pair an international firm with a Mexican firm, the project was the result of a collaboration with local architects Francisco Lopez-Guerra of LOGUER and Alonso de Garay of .

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