Seven Ways to Achieve Creative Success: The Rockwell Way

’s pop-up theater for TED. Image ©

The Rockwell Group takes advantage of a cross-disciplinary approach, with a diverse array of projects ranging from large-scale buildings to product and set design. In this article by Shannon Sharpe, originally posted on  as “The Rockwell Way we learn seven ways that the Rockwell Group has achieved creative success. Read the full article below to discover what drives this particular firm and how it could serve as an inspiration to anyone in the field of design.

How does the magic happen at Rockwell Group? “Pixie dust,” quips Marc Hacker, the firm’s in-house “Thinker.” All jokes aside, there is some truth here. From the animated Quan Yin statue in TAO Downtown to the shifting set of Kinky Boots, to the child-directed free play of the Imagination Playground, a distinct sense of magic imbues every one of these projects. All of them are driven not so much by a look, or even a sensibility, but by the endlessly curious creative process that shaped them. “I know this sounds trite, but it’s not about what’s true now,” says founder and president David Rockwell. “It’s about asking, ‘what if?’” What if an architect could be as experimental as a chef? What if the stage set became a character? What if your environment could transform with every step?

In the Rockwell Group world, asking “What if?”—also the title of a new book being released by Metropolis Books in December to commemorate the firm’s 30th anniversary—has led to an embrace of design at all scales. “On a given day, we could be working on an exhibition, a park, a master plan, an airport interior, a children’s hospital, and a night-club,” Rockwell says. “That confluence of things is probably what makes us most unique.” The process behind these projects —the Rockwell way—is really a set of permissions to roam and explore.

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The High Line’s Final Chapter is Complete; But Don’t Close the Book Just Yet

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

With the opening of the final section of New York’s High Line last month, the city can finally take stock on an urban transformation that took a decade and a half from idea to reality - and which in the five years since the first section opened has become one of the great phenomena of 21st century urban planning, inspiring copycat proposals in cities around the globe. In this article, originally published by as “The High Line’s Last Section Plays Up Its Rugged Past,” Anthony Paletta reviews the new final piece to the puzzle, and examines what this landmark project has meant for Manhattan’s West Side.

The promise of any urban railroad, however dark or congested its start, is the eventual release onto the open frontier, the prospect that those buried tracks could, in time, take you anywhere. For those of us whose only timetable is our walking pace, this is the experience of the newly opened, final phase of the High Line. The park, after snaking in its two initial stages through some 20 dense blocks of Manhattan, widens into a broad promenade that terminates in an epic vista of the Hudson. It’s a grand coda and a satisfying finish to one of the most ambitious park designs in recent memory.

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Reimagining 448 Local Libraries in Moscow, One Space at a Time

Interior Collage – #185. Image © SVESMI

SVESMI, an unassuming studio based in central , is at the center of a dauntingly complex project that may eventually see the renovation of 448 dilapidated and disused branch libraries in Moscow. Architects Anastassia Smirnova and Alexander Sverdlov balance their time between , which acts as their design studio, and Moscow from which, alongside architects Maria Kataryan and Pavel Rueda, they oversee the project at large. Faced by the potential challenge of reimagining over 450 public ‘living rooms’ spread across the Russian capital and demanding unusually high levels of spatial articulation and social understanding, the Open Library project is also unwinding the hidden narrative of Moscow’s local libraries.

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Reinier de Graaf: Mayors Should Not Rule The World

City Hall, centre of operations for Mayor Boris Johnson. Image © Flickr CC User alh1

This weekend, the first planning session of the Global Parliament of Mayors took place in Amsterdam: a platform for from across the world, triggered by Benjamin Barber’s book: If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities.

In this book the current political system and its leaders is dismissed as dysfunctional. Defined by borders and with an inevitable focus on national interests, they are not an effective vehicle to govern a world defined by interdependence. Mayors, presiding over cities with their more open, networked structure and cosmopolitan demographics, so the book argues, could do it better.

It is of no surprise that this book has been welcomed by the same political class as the one it praises: mayors. As was apparent during the first planning session of the GPM: a conference about mayors, for mayors, attended by mayors, moderated by mayors and hosted by a mayor, all triggered by a book about mayors.

I recognize many of the book’s observations. Many mayors are impressive figures and time appears to be on their side. Nation states (particularly the large ones) have an increasingly hard time and, in the context of a process of globalization, cities, and particularly small city-states, increasingly emerge victorious. Cities have first-hand experience with many of the things that occur in globalization’s wake, such as immigration and cultural and religious diversity, and are generally less dogmatic and more practical in dealing with them.

So far so good.

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How Three Colleges Brought Modernist Design to the US

Entries to the Trinbune Competition, such as this one by Gropius and Meyer, may have sparked debate about modernism in the US, but lost to a more traditional design. However, a decade and a half later, competitions for three colleges revived the debate. Image via thecharnelhouse.org

Though modernism was developed in the 1920s, and was popular among many architects by the time the 1930s arrived, in many places it took years for the style to gain favor among clients. In the USA, people often point to the 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower Competition as a turning point, the winning entry was actually a neo-gothic design. In this article, which originally appeared on Curbed, Marni Epstein looks at another potential turning point: three high-profile competitions in the late 1930s where modernist designs were (sometimes controversially) successful.

The Great Depression of the 1930s hit everyone, and hard—even architects and draftsmen found themselves out of work as development and construction dried up amid vanishing capital. They found a partial solution in the Historic American Buildings Survey and Historic American Engineering Record, two programs of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration that involved surveying and cataloging the country’s existing infrastructure. These programs, however, were a long way from the prestige, creativity, and financial rewards that came with new architectural commissions. The work available was limited, and what work existed was focused on the architecture of the past, not designs for the future.

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How to Design Offices for Clients Who Have Bigger Problems Than Design

How much impact can the configuration of an office have? Microsoft, Thames Valley Park by Perkins+Will. Image Courtesy of David Churchill

We spend a lot of time and effort debating and researching how to design the perfect office – perhaps too much time, according to Rachel Casanova, a Principle and Director of Workplace at Perkins + Will. In this post, originally published by as “When the Open Office Isn’t Always the Problem or Solution“, Casanova argues that we ought to be thinking about office design more holistically, taking into account not just the physical space of the office, but also how the client runs their workplace. At best, design can catalyse a more nurturing office environment, but for each company the way to achieve this may be different; there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ office solution. Read on after the break to find out why.

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21 Rules for a Successful Life in Architecture

The of BIG. Image Courtesy of BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group

Originally published by Entrepreneur Architect, Associate Professor at Louisiana Tech Kevin J Singh gives his 21-point rundown of how to have a successful and happy life as an architect. The list gives some pointers that will certainly help young students and graduates, but may well be useful to some of the not-so-young practitioners who need to refocus on what’s important.

The following is a compilation of my professional practice lecture on the last day of class. Instead of recapping the course or giving a final exam, I share with my students a presentation titled Advice as You Finish School and Start to Practice. I present a series of statements followed up with a brief explanation.

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The Green Building Wars

The Clinton Presidential Center by Polshek Partnership and Hargreaves Associates received a rating of Two Green Globes from the GBI. But would LEED have rated it the same? Image © Timothy Hursley

Originally published by Metropolis Magazine, this comprehensive analysis by sustainability expert Lance Hosey examines the current disputes within the green building industry, where market leader LEED currently finds competition from the Living Building Challenge, aiming for the “leading edge” of the market, and the Green Globes at the other end of the scale. Arguing for a more holistic understanding of what makes sustainable, Hosey examines the role that , and material industries such as the timber and chemical industries, can have in directing the aims and principles of these three sustainability rating systems – for better or for worse.

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In Defense of Rewarding Vanity Height

Center, the tallest building in the United States… arguably. Image © Joe Mabel via Wikipedia

Recently, ArchDaily editors received an interesting request from an anonymous Communications Director of an unnamed New York firm, asking us “In your reporting, please do not repeat as fact, or as “official,” the opinion that One World Trade Center in New York will be the tallest building in the United States.” He or she goes on to explain that the decision maker who ‘announced’ the building as the tallest in the US, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), is not officially endorsed by the AIA or the US Government, and that while their work is beneficial for architecture and as a whole, their criteria for height evaluation are flawed and have been criticized by many in the industry.

The desire to have the tallest building in a city, country or even the world goes back to at least the medieval period, when competing noble families of Italian hill towns such as San Gimignano would try to out-do each other’s best construction efforts (jokes about the Freudian nature of such contests are, I imagine, not much younger). Perhaps the greatest symbol of this desire is the decorative crown of the Chrysler Building, which was developed in secret and enabled the building to briefly take the prize as the world’s tallest, much to the surprise and ire of its competitors at the time.

With this competitive spirit apparently still very much alive, I thought it might be worthwhile to address the issue raised by our anonymous friend.

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On Top of the City: Behind the Scenes at the Leadenhall Building

View of The Leadenhall Building from the East along Leadenhall Street . Image © Richard Bryant – Courtesy of British Land/Oxford Properties

Settled comfortably around a black conference table – the only item of furniture in an office space still lacking its carpet tiles – on the 40th floor of the new Leadenhall Building, I had the opportunity to discuss with lead designer Graham Stirk and his partner, practice co-founder Richard Rogers, the forces that shaped their new building and how they came to be working in the City of London once again.

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners has a rich presence in the Square Mile, including the landmark Lloyd’s of London, standing directly opposite the Leadenhall Building. The firm has specialised in assured, sometimes assertive insertions within the City’s fine, historic urban grain, and so setting aside the sheer bravura of the 52-story, 225 meter skyscraper, with its sloping glass façade to the south (giving it the popular nickname of the Cheesegrater) the first question that arose was a simple one – how did the building come about?

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How to Design Elevated Cycling Structures that Actually Work

’s proposed SkyCycle. Image Courtesy of Foster + Partners

There’s no doubt about it – cycling in is a big deal these days. But, while cycle lanes and bike-sharing schemes are all well and good for our , the cycling revolution hasn’t yet brought us many examples of beautifully designed infrastructure to gawp at. This article, originally printed on The Dirt as “Do Elevated Cycletracks Solve Problems or Just Create More?” discusses two seemingly similar examples of high profile cycling infrastructure, examining why one is a success and the other a non-starter.

This year, two designs – one proposed and one built – for elevated cycletracks, which create bicycle highways above street level, have gained considerable media attention. They highlight questions at the heart of urban design: Should cities blend or separate transportation options? How can cities best mitigate the hazards created when cars, bikes, mass transit, and pedestrians mix? How can cities create low-cost transportation networks in increasingly dense urban cores?

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Brutalism: Back in Vogue?

The Barbican in . Image © Flickr CC User Rene Passet

Are Brutalist buildings, once deemed cruel and ugly, making a comeback? Reyner Banham‘s witty play on the French term for beton brut, was popularized by a movement of hip, young architects counteracting what they perceived as the bourgeois and fanciful Modernism of the 1930s. Though the use of raw concrete in the hands of such artist-architects as Le Corbusier seems beautiful beneath the lush Mediterranean sun, under the overcast skies of northern Europe Brutalist architecture earned a much less flattering reputation. Since the 1990s, however, architects, designers, and artists have celebrated formerly denounced buildings, developing a fashionably artistic following around buildings like Erno Goldfinger‘s Trellick Tower, “even if long-term residents held far more ambivalent views of this forceful high-rise housing block.” To learn more about this controversial history and to read Jonathan Glancey‘s speculation for its future, read the full article on BBC, here.

How Will We Design The Offices of the Future?

In keeping with present office trends, the Lumosity in San Francisco prizes lounge-like work environments, both informal and easy to personalize. Image Courtesy of Matthew Millman/Lumosity

For many years, the world of office design remained relatively stagnant, with a light, open plan office floor and a generously-sized cubicle about as much as most employees could hope for. But recently all this has changed: the world of the technophilic, fun loving “Generation Y” has taken over, and with it come offices that mix the best elements of the traditional office with design culled from living rooms, coffee shops and children’s playspaces. This will remain the future of office design for some time – or will it? According to Dr Michael O’Neill, senior research strategist at Haworth, the Gen-Y office’s days are already numbered, as he explains in this article originally published by Metropolis Magazine. Read on after the break to find out why.

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The Conflict Between the Global North and South at the 2014 Venice Biennale

A view from the floor of the Latvian pavilion. The sheets of paper carry images of Modernist buildings; the ceiling asks, “There is no in Latvia”, commenting on the lack of historical scholarship. Image Courtesy of NRJA

“Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014 is an invitation to the national pavilions to show, each in their own way, the process of the erasure of national characteristics in architecture in favor of the almost universal adoption of a single modern language and a single repertoire of typologies.” In this article, originally published on  as “Whose Modernity?“, Avinash Rajagopal investigates the conflict this mandated theme at the 2014 Venice Biennale unintentionally created between the Northern and Southern pavilions - with Northern pavilions tending to declare sole ownership over Modernism and many Southern pavilions denying that their countries were passive recipients of the North’s globalization. For more on how the Southern pavilions challenged the typical conveyance of architectural history, continue reading after the break.

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Light Matters: Whiteness in Nordic Countries

Dybkær Church, Silkeborg, . Architecture: Regnbuen Arkitekter. Image © Henry Plummer 2010

The Scandinavian countries have developed great buildings that resonate with both the scarce light in winter and the long summer days. Henry Plummer, Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has very carefully studied the various phenomena in the Nordic countries, with extensive photo journeys and brilliant writing that combines an analytical perspective with a poetic touch. His view of looks beyond the practical advantages of using reflective white spaces to facilitate bright rooms; the passionate photographer is much more interested in the light effects that play with the local beauty of nature and touch the human soul.

Read on for more about how Nordic light enters white spaces

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New York’s Oyster Bar: Serving up Reefs and Resiliency

’ designs for Pier 42. Image Courtesy of

As part of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects‘ ongoing blog at Metropolis Magazine about effective implementation of landscape design principles, this article discusses one of the more unusual methods developed to create resilience and prevent storm damage: oysters. Drawing on her experiences creating an oyster reef at Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects’ Pier 42 project in New York, Johanna Phelps explains the challenges and opportunities that arise in establishing this unusual type of natural infrastructure in an urban location.

Since Hurricane Sandy struck New York in 2012, the city’s waterfront design discussions have focused on ideas of resiliency and planning for storm events. The recent Rebuild by Design competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Presidential Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, featured six winning proposals that all envisioned a beefed-up Manhattan shoreline capable of handling large storm events and other hazards effects of climate change. Of the handful of ambitious designs, Scape/Landscape Architecture’s Living Breakwaters plan was the most interesting: the project called for the reestablishment of New York’s erstwhile oyster reefs, which the architects said would improve local ecology.

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Translating Smiljan Radić’s Serpentine Pavilion from Fantasy to Fabrication

The use of fiberglass allowed for the pavilion to be thin and brittle, but also had the strength to span a large face. The pigment made it fire retardant. Image Courtesy of Louis Webb Bird/AECOM

Settled neatly in the quiet hum of London‘s Kensington Gardens rests Smiljan Radić‘s 2014 Serpentine Pavilion, an ethereal mass of carefully moulded fiberglass punctuated by precisely cut openings. Radić desired a structure that appears thin and brittle, yet was strong enough to support itself, and his affection for the rudimental layered qualities of papier-mâché – his maquette medium of choice – inspired the use of fiberglass by AECOM, who engineered Radić’s wild ideas. In this article, originally published by as “Paper-Thin Walls, an AECOM engineer explains their solution. Read on after the break to find out more. 

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Is Bigger Better? HOK’s Acquisition of 360 Architecture and How Mergers Have Changed the Business of Design

World Expo 2020 Master Plan. Image Courtesy of HOK

International design, architecture, engineering and planning firm HOK has recently announced its plan to acquire 360 Architecture, a firm specializing in sports facility design. With HOK’s global influence and ’s expertise, the acquisition could bring about significant advances in sports facility design and expand the market reach for each firm. When it comes to the business of architecture, acquisitions such as this often enable large corporate firms to take on a wider variety of projects, giving them a competitive edge against famous designer names in the industry. But what else can we learn from the growth of the world’s largest firms?

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