The Indicator: Kickstarting Architecture’s Virtual Future

Robert Miles Kemp is going to be one of 2014’s Innovators of the Year. Mark my words. If I worked for Autodesk, I’d be calling him up right about now – or at the very least trying to steal his secrets.

And secrets they must be because Kemp’s little company, Digital Physical, has kept under the radar, housed away in some nondescript loft space in Los Angeles. What Mr. Kemp and his bearded acolytes have developed is something so simple, so obvious, and yet utterly revolutionary. It’s one of those inventions that all architects are soon going to realize they need – and clients will soon start to expect.

The “it” is Spacemaker VR, architecture’s first virtual reality system made for designers. Yes, you have to wear a VR headset, but you won’t care if you look like a dork because you (and your big clients) will be blown away by the fact that you’re looking, flying around a 3D model of a future-space – all while being firmly in the present.

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ELEMENTAL’s “Half-Finished” Housing Typology: A Success in All Circumstances

Courtesy of

Since they first developed the typology for their Quinta Monroy project in Iquique, Chile, the “half-finished home” has become something of a signature for ELEMENTAL: they have used the technique in multiple in Chile, as well as their Monterrey Housing project in Mexico. The typology began life as a way of dealing with extremely low budgets, allowing governments to provide housing to citizens at incredibly low prices, but nevertheless creating homes that would provide for the needs of residents and even gain value over time. Now, they have applied the theory to their Villa Verde Housing project, published just last week on ArchDaily.

Read more about the typology, and how it has been applied at Villa Verde, after the break…

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App Review: ‘Concept’ – An Idea Calculator

Interface on iOS. Image Courtesy of

Getting instantaneous, accurate structural dimensions in the early stages of the design process, or even when exploring the feasibility of a project, can often be challenging. In response to this, Vancouver-based structural engineering firm Fast + Epp have developed a new mobile application called Concept, a depth calculator which uses typical span-to-depth ratios for common steel, concrete and wood members to give you a quick overview of what dimensions a certain structural idea will require. In addition to this, the also includes project photos to give users an idea of how certain materials will be expressed in built form.

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Museum Round Up: The Box is Back

Clyfford Still Museum. Image © Jeremy Bittermann

In a recent article for the Denver Post, Ray Rinaldi discusses how the box is making a comeback in U.S. museum . Stating how architecture in the 2000’s was a lot about swoops, curves, and flying birds – see Frank Gehry and Santiago Calatrava - he points out the cool cubes of David Chipperfield and Renzo Piano. We’ve rounded up some of these boxy works just for you: the Clyfford Still Museum, the Kimbell Art Museum Expansion, The St. Louis Art Museum’s East Building, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien’s Barnes Foundation, and Shigeru Ban’s Aspen Art Museum. Each project begins to show how boxes can be strong, secure, and even sly. Check out more about the article here.

Five Teams Shortlisted for London’s Natural History Museum Redesign

Natural History Museum . Image © David Iliff (License: CC-BY-SA 3.0), via Wikipedia

Five architect and landscape architect-led teams have been shortlisted to redesign and re-imagine the grounds of London’s world famous Natural History Museum. The major project will aim to “create an innovative exterior setting that matches the architectural excellence of the iconic 19th Century site, whilst ensuring that the Museum grounds are easily accessible to all visitors.”

Without further ado, the leaders of the five teams are:

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Designing Parking Garages For a Car-less Future

The trend is part of a wider drive to rethink parking worldwide. Image © Paul de Ruiter Architects by Rien van Rijthoven

This intriguing article on The Atlantic  highlights a growing trend as cities become more focused on pedestrians, bicycles and public transportparking garages that are designed with alternative uses in mind. Developers are ensuring that these garages have ”good bones”, such as comfortable ceiling heights, that will allow them to be easily converted into apartments or offices in a future when many city-dwellers don’t own cars. You can read the full article here.

Four Architectural Innovations Make Time’s Top 25 Inventions For 2013

The Infinity Tower by . Image Courtesy of fastcodesign.com

Last week Time Magazine released their list of the top 25 inventions of 2013. The list covers both fun and life-changing new ideas, covering everything from the Cronut to the Artificial Pancreas – but there are also four architectural innovations that made the prestigious list. Find out more about them after the break.

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October ABI Reveals Decrease in Demand for Design Services

2013 October ABI. Image © Calculated Risk

After three consecutive months of growth, the American Institute of Architect’s () Billings Index (ABI) has reveal a slight decrease in the demand for design services. Keeping in mind that any score above 50 indicates an increase in billing, the ABI score fell from 54.3 in September to 51.6 this past October. In contrast, the new projects inquiry index was 61.5, up from the reading of 58.6 the previous month.

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Ann Beha Architects Selected to Rehabilitate U.S. Embassy in Greece

Embassy of the United States in Athens, . Image Courtesy of OBO

Besting a shortlist of fourAnn Beha Architects has been selected by the Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) to rehabilitate the U.S. Embassy in Athens’ chancery facility and campus. The mid-century facility, a protected architectural landmark, was originally designed by the famed Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius with the consulting architect Pericles A. Sakellarios.

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Khao Mo (Mythical Escapism) / Sanitas Studio

© Wison Tungthunya

Khao Mo, which translates as Mythical Escapism, is a reflective sculptural work by currently being exhibited at the Bangkok Art & Cultural Centre. The concept behind the work is based on city dwellers’ desire for a moment of escape from everyday life, along with the concept of the Chinese garden: a scaled replicated universe expressed through nature in order to create a sense of tranquility. According to the artist, “the smell of earth, the moisture and vapour that evaporate from the earth, the ordinariness and the emptiness allow the audience time to imagine.” 

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Gensler, LOT-EK to Design Google’s Showroom of Floating Shipping Containers

© James Martin/CNET

UPDATE: The SF Gate reports that the architects of the Google Barge have now been revealed to be San Francisco-based firm Gensler and New York-based LOT-EK, a firm with experience adapting shipping containers for retail design. 

A mysterious construction project in the San Francisco Bay has been making waves for the past couple of weeks. Moored off Treasure Island, locals apparently refer to it as ‘the secret project’ – and, until now, that’s about as much as was known about it.

Despite months of rumors and complete radio silence from Google, spokespeople have finally released a statement on the project, stating: “Google Barge … A floating data center? A wild party boat? A barge housing the last remaining dinosaur? Sadly, none of the above. Although it’s still early days and things may change, we’re exploring using the barge as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology.”

While it’s a shame about the dinosaur, Google’s expansion into technology retail is possibly even more intriguing, as it’s entirely new turf for the company: retail design.

More info and an artist’s rendering of what the barge could look like, after the break…

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Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Winning Proposal for Zaryadye Park: “Wild Urbanism”

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UPDATE: The video detailing Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s winning proposal for Moscow’s Zaryadye Park has just been released. In it the three partners discuss the central idea behind the proposal – “Wild Urbanism” – in which plants and people are of equal importance and “nature and are merged into a seamless whole.” They explain how each of Russia’s varied landscapes – its tundra, steppe, forest, and wetland – will be imported to the park and overlapped into ”enfolded nodes” that will house sustainable, artificial micro-climates that will allow for year-round use of the park. 

The Strelka Institute has announced the winner of the two-stage international competition to design Zaryadye park, Moscow’s first park in over 50 years: Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

The consortium led by the -based firm, beat out an impressive shortlist. Russian-led TPO “Reserve” came second and MVRDV third.

Zaryadye Park, 13 acres of land just a minute’s walk from the Kremlin and the Red Square, is hoped to “project a new image of Moscow and Russia to the world.” See the renderings from Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s winning proposal for Moscow’s new and most important public space, after the break…

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Rogers Stirk Harbour Announced as Winner of LSE Competition

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (Team E). Image Courtesy of LSA /

Shortly after the jury demanded further work to be done on the shortlisted proposals, The (LSE) has selected Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) to design the new Global Centre for the Social Sciences. Besting proposals from OMA, Hopkins, Heneghan Peng and Grafton, RSHP’s winning design was also voted the public’s favorite by an overwhelming margin.

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Kanye West Drops In on Harvard’s GSD

© Noam Dvir, Instagram User dvirnm

UPDATE: The Harvard GSD AASU has released a statement on Kanye West’s invitation and visit, which you can find at the end of the post. Dean Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean of the GSD, has also commented on the visit.

Kanye West surprised students at the Harvard Graduate School of (GSD) last night by dropping in un-announced before his Sunday night concert at the TD Garden in Boston. He gave a short motivational speech to the crowd that quickly formed in the GSD’s signature “trays.” West told the students:

I just wanted to tell you guys: I really do believe that the world can be saved through design, and everything needs to actually be “architected.” [...] I believe that utopia is actually possible—but we’re led by the least noble, the least dignified, the least tasteful, the dumbest, and the most political. So in no way am I a politician—I’m usually at my best politically incorrect and very direct. I really appreciate you guys’ willingness to learn and hone your craft, and not be lazy about creation.

GSD student Sekou Cooke, writer of “Keep Talking Kanye: An Architect’s Defense of Kanye West,” confirmed to an ArchDaily editor that West had in fact seen his post defending West’s right to speak-up about architectural issues and act as a role model for young potential architects of color. Although his visit with the student body was unexpected, West had been invited by Harvard GSD’s African American Student Union (AASU). Following a meeting with the AASU’s core group of leaders—during which West led a conversation regarding under-represented minorities in the design disciplines—the star was inspired to briefly address the rest of the students. West also gifted 300 tickets to his show to the GSD. In fact, in an uncharacteristic moment of insecurity, West told the crowd of students:

Tonight, this show, if you come see it—um, I’m a bit self conscious because I’m showing it to architects. So the stage does have flaws in it. It’s an expression of emotion so give me a pass on that.

See images and video of West’s GSD visit, after the break…

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Chris Downey: Design with the Blind in Mind

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are diverse places, home to a rich spectrum of people and lifestyles. Chris Downey, however, believes that there are only two types of people, “those with and those that haven’t quite found theirs yet.” Downey, a distinguished architect of over twenty years, lost his eyesight four years ago and found a new way of seeing the world. “If you design for the blind in mind, you get a city that is robust, accessible, well-connected…a more inclusive, more equitable city for all.” Hear his story, contrasting his daily life before and after this newly found “outsight.”

“Immersive Bowl-Shaped Structure” Proposed to be High Line’s Final Gateway

© James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, courtesy of the City of

Friends of the , along side James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, have unveiled what could possibly be the gateway into the third and final stretch of New York’s most prized parkway. Planned to mark the northeast terminus of the High Line at Rail Yards on 10th Avenue at West 30th Street, the “immersive bowl-shaped structure,” known as “The Spur,” hopes to bring a pocket of New York’s lush woodlands to the heart of the city.

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Zaha Hadid’s 2022 Qatar World Cup Stadium Unveiled

© ZHA

New details have emerged on and AECOM’s 2022 FIFA World Cup stadium in Qatar. Scheduled to begin construction in late 2014, the 40,000-seat venue pulls inspiration from a local fishing boat – the Arabian dhow – to influence its overall design.

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Australia Plans for Greener Cities by 2020

The Goods Line proposal. Image Courtesy of ASPECT Studios

As cities continue to attract more people, naturally vegetated areas slowly wither, leaving little to no green spaces for city dwellers to escape to, no trees to purify the air and enhance the environment. Australia plans to change this. The 202020 Vision is a concerted effort from the government, academic and private sectors to create twenty percent green areas in Australia’s urban centers by 2020. “Urban heat islands, poor air quality, lack of enjoyable urban community areas are all poor outcomes when green spaces aren’t incorporated into new developments and large scale building projects.” Read about the 202020 initiative here, “More green spaces in urban areas, says new national initiative.”