AD Interviews: Eric Bunge / nArchitects

At the New Cities Summit – held last year in São Paulo – we caught up with of New York-based practice nArchitects outside of Oscar Niemeyer’s Ibirapuera auditorium. The summit’s theme was centered on the future of cities and Bunge was presenting his firm’s My Micro NY project, which was the winning design of former New York City mayor ’s adAPT NYC competition. “We’re kind of influenced by New York itself as a microcosm. Our project looks a little bit like a microcosm of the skyline. We’re interested in this idea of re-inventing what micro is and how much of New York you can inhabit,” Bunge said regarding the project.

According to Bunge, housing is based on regulation and therefore one of the most constrained things to design. “I think we can reinvent housing,” he told us.

Watch the full interview to learn more about Bunge’s thoughts on reinventing housing, the inspiration behind his My Micro NY project and how he strives to address climate change in his projects.

RIBA Norman Foster Travelling Scholarship Awarded to Student Investigating Climate Change

Buffer Landscapes 2060. Image © Joe Paxton; Courtesy of Foster + Partners

Joe Paxton of the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College , was awarded the 2014 RIBA Travelling Scholarship for his proposal “Buffer Landscapes 2060.” The £6,000 travel grant will enable him to study the impact of climate change in a number of locations, ultimately to propose some measures that might mitigate the threat of floods, droughts, melting glaciers and rising temperatures. A comment from Foster, after the break…

Michael Bloomberg Named U.N. Envoy for Cities and Climate Change

NYC. Image © CC Flickr User Arturo Yee

Former mayor Michael Bloomberg has been appointed to be the U.N. special envoy for and climate change. Upon receiving the news, Bloomberg tweeted: “ are taking measurable action to reduce emissions, emerging as leaders in the battle against climate change… I look forward to working with around the world and the UN to accelerate progress [to combat global warming].” You can read more here on USNews.

Case Studies in Coastal Vulnerability: Boston, Seoul, Hamburg, Bangladesh & New York

Water floods the Plaza Shops in Manhattan after Superstorm Sandy, 2012. Photo: Allison Joyce/Getty Images.

This article originally appeared in the latest issue of ArchitectureBoston as “Troubled Waters.“ 

The challenges of sea-level rise cross boundaries of all sorts: geographic, political, social, economic. Proposed mitigation strategies will also necessarily shift and overlap. Here, we present five case studies from across the globe that offer intriguing ways—some operational, some philosophical—to address the threats associated with climate change. Drawing on a research initiative focused on vulnerabilities in Boston, a team at developed these additional design-strategy icons to illustrate the layered approaches. They are adaptable, the better to meet the unique demands of each coastal community.

The Gherkin: How London’s Famous Tower Leveraged Risk and Became an Icon (Part 4)

Courtesy & Andrew Weigand

This four part series (originally published on Aggregate’s website) examines , the London office tower designed by Foster + Partners, showing how the urban icon engaged and leveraged perceptions of risk. In part one, author Jonathan Massey introduced the concept of “risk design” to describe how the Gherkin’s design managed the risks posed by climate change, terrorism, and globalization. In parts two and three, Massey examined the building’s treatment of risks associated with climate change and terrorism. In this final installment, Massey concludes by addressing the building’s engagement with risks posed to the City of London by globalization. 

Unlike New York and other cities in which zoning codes entitle landowners to some kinds of development “as of right,” the City of London regulates property development through case-by-case review by planning officers, who judge how well the proposed construction conforms to City-wide plans and guidelines regarding factors such as building height, development density, access to transit, and impact on views and the visual character of the area. In order to develop the Gherkin, the property owners and Swiss Re had to secure planning consent from the City Corporation through its chief planning officer, Peter Wynne Rees. The review and permitting process that culminated in the granting of planning consent in August 2000 spanned the planning office as well as the market, the courts, and the press. Rees brokered a multilateral negotiation so intensive that we could almost say the building was designed by bureaucracy. Part of that negotiation entailed imagining and staging risk: climate risk, terrorism risk, and, especially, the financial risks associated with globalization.

The Gherkin: How London’s Famous Tower Leveraged Risk and Became an Icon (Part 3)

Courtesy of Jonathan Massey & Andrew Weigand

This four part series (originally published on Aggregate’s website) examines the Gherkin, the office tower designed by , showing how the urban icon engaged and leveraged perceptions of risk. In part one, author Jonathan Massey introduced the concept of “risk design” to describe how the Gherkin’s design managed the risks posed by climate change, terrorism, and globalization. In part two, Massey examined the building’s treatment of climate risk. In part three, below, he explains how the Gherkin redesigned the risk imaginary associated with terrorism.

Mornings the Zamboni scrubs the plaza. Moving across the pavement in parallel lines connected by tight turns, the sweeper cleans the stone of cigarette butts and spilled food and beer left the night before by the underwriters and bankers who patronize the bar and shops in the building’s perimeter arcade as well as the adjacent restaurant that in fair weather sets up outdoor tables and chairs.

By pulling away from its irregular property lines, the tower achieves almost perfect formal autonomy from its context. The gap between the circular tower base and trapezoidal site boundaries forms a privately owned public space, a civic and commercial amenity in this densely built part of the City. 

The Gherkin: How London’s Famous Tower Leveraged Risk and Became an Icon (Part 2)

Courtesy Jonathan Massey & Andrew Weigand

This four part series (originally published on Aggregate’s website) examines , the London office tower designed by Foster + Partners, showing how the urban icon engaged and leveraged perceptions of risk. In part one, author Jonathan Massey introduced the concept of “risk design” to describe how the Gherkin’s design managed the risks posed by climate change, terrorism, and globalization. In part two, below, Massey examines the Gherkin’s enclosure and ventilation systems in detail to explain how the building negotiated climate risk.

In a poster promoting London’s bid to host the Olympic Games, the Gherkin supported gymnast Ben Brown as he vaulted over the building’s conical peak. The image associated British athleticism and architecture as complementary manifestations of daring and skill, enlisting the Gherkin as evidence that London possessed the expertise and panache to handle the risk involved in hosting an Olympic Games.

But a poster created three years later offered a very different image. Created by activists from the Camp for Climate Action to publicize a mass protest at Heathrow Airport against the environmental degradation caused by air travel, this poster shows the Gherkin affording only precarious footing to a giant polar bear that swats at passing jets as its claws grasp at the slight relief offered by spiraling mullions and fins.

The Gherkin: How London’s Famous Tower Leveraged Risk and Became an Icon

How does design change the nature and distribution of risk? In this, the first of four installments examining , the London office tower and urban icon designed by Foster + Partners, author Jonathan Massey introduces the concept of “risk design.” The series, originally published on Aggregate’s website, explains how the Gherkin leveraged perceptions of risk to generate profits, promote economic growth, and raise the currency of design expertise.

Designing Risk

Back the Bid. Leap for London. Make Britain Proud. Emblazoned across photomontages of oversized athletes jumping over, diving off, and shooting for architectural landmarks old and new, these slogans appeared in 2004 on posters encouraging Londoners to support the city’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games. Featured twice in the series of six posters—along with Buckingham Palace, Nelson’s Column, the Tower Bridge, the London Eye, and the Thames Barrier—was 30 St Mary Axe, the office tower known colloquially as the Gherkin for its resemblance to a pickle, or as the Swiss Re building, after the Zurich-based reinsurance company that commissioned the building and remains its major tenant.

The Case For Tall Wood Buildings

Courtesy of Michael Green Architecture

Michael Green is calling for a drastic paradigm shift in the way we build. Forget steel, straw, concrete and shipping containers; use wood to erect urban skyscrapers. In a 240 page report – complete with diagrams, plans, renders and even typical wooden curtain wall details – Green outlines a new way of designing and constructing tall buildings using mass timber, all the while addressing common misconceptions of , structure, sustainability, cost and climate concerns.

The Design Implications of President Obama’s Commitment to Climate Change and Sustainable Energy

January 21, 2013, Inaugural Speech; Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

This past Monday, President Obama made climate change and sustainable the focal points of his Inaugural Address when he declared that choosing to ignore these key environmental issues “would betray our children and future generations.” This is the first time in the last few months that the President has taken a firm stand for the future of our Earth, a direct result of Super Storm Sandy and a smart choice to reveal controversial policies only after re-election. Although Monday morning was not the time to outline a specific political strategy, President Obama made it very clear that this time around, denial of scientific judgment and Congressional opposition would not be reasons for failure to act.

Since this is a sentiment easier said than done, there is doubtlessly a long and difficult road ahead for the President and his administration. The White House has revealed that it plans to focus on what it can do to capitalize on natural gas production as an alternative to coal, on “reducing emissions from power plants, [increasing] the efficiency of home appliances and [on having] the federal government itself produce less carbon pollution” (NYTimes). According to the Times, they aim to adopt new energy efficiency standards for not only home appliances but for buildings as well, something that should spark the interests of architects and urban planners already committed to designing with climate change and sustainable energy in mind.

More after the break…

Local Solutions: Floating Schools in Bangladesh

© Joseph A Ferris III

In , where rising sea levels are having profound effects on the landscape, one nonprofit organization called Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha run by architect Mohammed Rezwan is fighting back by adapting, a true quality of resilience.  Rising water levels and the tumultuous climate is displacing people by the thousands; a projected 20% of Bangladesh is expected to be covered in water within twenty years.  For a country that is one of the densest populated state on the planet, this figure has disastrous consequences for a population that has limited access to fresh water, food, and medicine.  In response to these conditions, Shidhulai has focused on providing education, training and care against the odds of climate change by adapting to the altered landscape:  moving schools and community centers onto the water – on boats.

Two Degrees of Separation, Part 2: Architects Must Lead on Climate Change

Last week I asked how architecture can ramp up its efforts to do all it can to help limit . Sandy is a turning point. It will take action on the part of the profession and its members to make this turning point meaningful. Turning points are easily forgotten after the panels have been convened and the articles written. The vicarious thrill of crisis abates and everyone returns to business as usual, feeling better for having contributed to the discussion. If we listen to the scientists, we must not lose that sense of crisis and we must do more.

The recently-released World Bank report “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided”  indicates the magnitude of the problem. It is so vast and deep that it easily overwhelms individuals. As they discuss in the report, only collective, international action will lead to measures substantial enough to make a change in the trajectory the planet is headed for. Architecture can be a powerful collective in the face of such a challenge.

Continue reading The Indicator after the break

The Indicator: Two Degrees of Separation

© NASA Goddard Photo and Video

“…clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.”

Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World

Hurricane Sandy painfully clarified the deadly implications of . In fact, the superstorm was so forceful as a reminder of just what means in real terms that it played a decisive role in the presidential election.

Here in the US, the issue defines political divides. A recent Pew Research Center survey  shows 85% of Democrats believe climate change is a scientific fact, while only 48% of Republicans believe so. Another poll  shows 68% of Americans believing climate change is a serious problem and 38% believing it is a very serious problem.

The impact of Sandy may have played a role in bumping these numbers up but there is still no slam dunk on the issue when roughly 30% of the population still believes climate change is not real. For those of you outside the US this is your cue to roll your eyes and say, Stupid Americans.

Continue reading The Indicator after the break

The Threat of Coastal Flooding

Twitter User: @c_heller “Another photo out of Breezy Point. The damage is stupefying. (Frank Franklin II, AP) http://twitpic.com/b8sg51″

In light of the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy, as politicians quabble over the existence of climate change, we cannot escape the reality that our are vulnerable to natural disasters.   Coastal face the threat of as sea levels rise and storms, as we’ve seem over the past few years, have had more severe impacts on our cities.  The duty of architects, planners, and leaders is to build resilient cities with infrastructure that can stand up to the forces of natural disasters.

Join us after the break for a list of some of the largest port cities vulnerable to coastal flooding…

Rising Tides Competition results

bay_arc-som
BAY Arc by SOM - Winning entry

When driving between SFO Airport and on the edge of the Bay Area, I have always wondered what would happen when the sea level starts to rise.

Recently, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) organized an ideas competition (open to any professionals, not just architects) to address the sea level rise in the Bay Area, looking for innovative and creative  solutions to bring forward a  vision of a future estuarine shoreline applicable to the San Francisco Bay and beyond. 130 entries from 18 countries were submitted.

Six teams were announced as the winners, splitting a cash prize of $25,000. Among these entries we find interesting ideas, such as Faulders Studio’s laser light barrier that measures the sea level, powered by tidal ,  Kuth Ranieri Architects’s ventilated levee to balance the sea/bay water levels, or SOM’s smart membrane under the golden gate bridge.

But, as usual in some competitions, the honorable mentions bring more disruptive ideas, embracing a vision on a post-flood city instead of preventing it. There’s also humor among the honorable mentions, “Failure: Bring your boots” or “About Rising Tides: It´s the Delta, you stupid”.

Will our future be amphibious?

All the awarded entries after the break: