Mega-Tall Skyscrapers Herald Economic Depression, Says Barclays

. Image © Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

The world economy has endured a series of crises over the past century, and architecture has recently been recognized as a harbinger of these crises. Two years ago, British finance group Barclays released an index of construction projects that correlate with the occurrence of economic downturns since 1873. Many of the tallest buildings in the world have been built at times of severe economic struggle, the most recent being Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, built during the Great Recession of 2007 through 2010. According to Barclays, “the world’s tallest buildings are simply the edifice of a broader skyscraper building boom, reflecting a widespread misallocation of capital and an impending economic correction.”

All the major financial crises in the past century, and the buildings that predicted them after the break…

The Indicator: Zombies

Back from the grave, the first post from The Indicator series by Guy Horton, published in 2010 at AD.

This town, is coming like a ghost town.
This town, is coming like a ghost town.
This town, is coming like a ghost town.
This town, is coming like a ghost town.

- The Specials, “Ghost Town”

When I look back at the events leading up to being laid off, I think of zombies. Of course zombies aren’t real so what I’m really thinking of are movies about zombies. I haven’t seen them all—there are hundreds—so the zombies I’m most familiar with are the pop-locking ones from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” or the funny ones from “Shaun of the Dead”. I never thought that that part of my subconscious that identifies with zombies would get triggered. But, then again, I never thought I would get laid off. There is a first for everything.

So, how does one identify zombies? As I learned from “Shaun of the Dead”, by the time you know, it’s too late. Remarkable as it seems, the people you least expect to become zombies are suddenly shuffling along shedding limbs and trying to eat you. They are, as it turns out, usually your close friends and colleagues.

When the economy began to falter back in 2007, architecture was one of those fields that began to experience a steady increase in zombie population. There were many rumors about which firms they worked for, whose softball teams they were playing on, whether they were more likely to be associates or principals. What about that Arch II with the mysterious limp and the foreign accent? Then there was the designer who always looked like he had had too many late nights out. Maybe those strange interns.

How small U.S. Architectural Firms are Profiting from China’s Economic Boom

Photo by Jose Maria Cuellar - http://www.flickr.com/photos/cuellar/

It is a known fact that larger architectural firms have been commissioned work in China for years, giants such as Steven Holl Architects and Goettsch Partners are known to have well-established satellite offices in Shanghai. Without a doubt, Chinese work has filled the void left by the less than impressive American economy, but it is only within the past decade that these projects have been extended to smaller architectural firms within the .

Find out how small U.S. architectural firms are profiting from ’s economic boom after the break.

Is the worst over?


ABI from Calculated Risk

According to Bloomberg Newsweek, US Architects should be seeing signs of improvement as the Architecture Billings Index has increased for the third straight month, up from 46.1 in March to 48.5.  Measured by the AIA, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) serves as an indicator of future building for offices, warehouses and retail properties.  The indexes are developed each month by asking firm participants whether their billings increased, decreased, or stayed the same in the month that just ended.  The score is generated based on the proportion of respondents choosing each option.  Breaking the index down regionally, the Northeast fared the best with 51, followed by the Midwest at 49.2, the South at 46.5, and finally, the West at 44.7.

However, we know that statistics often times don’t clue us in on the real happenings, so we’d like to hear from you.  What has been your experience?  Do you feel that the economy is finally turning around and the worst is over?  Or, are you worried, due to the latest economical problems with Greece and crisis of the Euro, that another crash is due to affect our profession?

Autodesk Assistance Program

1251390805-autodeskAlthough it seems that the economy has left behind it’s worst days, the fact is we are still going through an economic crisis. Many architecture offices and companies have had to let good people go. If you were one of them, you might be wondering how to advance your career in this challenging global job market.

In order to get ahead in the workplace, you need to invest in yourself by increasing your knowledge and expanding your skills. And the good news is that Autodesk can help you get back in the game.

With the Autodesk Assistance Program you can take action today to gain a competitive advantage in your field. The program offers free software license, free online training, reduced-cost classroom training and certification. You can go to official website to learn all the details.

The crisis paralyzed the construction of the Calatrava skyscraper in Chicago

The “Spire”, the designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, was going to be the tallest building in the United States. That title will have to wait, at least until the economic crisis affecting construction all over the world starts having better days.

“We’re exploring all of the financial options with the economy as challenging as it is, but clearly this is long-term,” project spokeswoman Kim Metcalfe said. “We’re working toward the success of the building. We continue to actively market the building. Clearly, the construction of the building is on pause, but nothing else about the building has stopped.”

The break in construction has left a hole 110 feet wide and 76 feet deep at 400 N. Lake Shore Drive, making the Spire a worldwide symbol of the recession and shut-down credit markets.

For more information, read this article on the Chicago Tribune.

Unemployed Architects


photo via Seattle PI

A few days ago I was googling “unemployed architect” to see what are they up to after being laid off during current crisis, and found 2 good examples.

The first one was the blog Unemployed Architect, ran by a women from Boston (who i´m pretty sure reads ArchDaily because of some of her video posts) who got laid off recently. On her blog she writes about how she spends her days, her new free time, waking up at 11AM, rediscovering the city, hanging out at Starbucks… but that took my attention was that she was applying to grad schools, as a way to evade the crisis. I recently spoke with some with a very active practice, and both partners were considering pursuing another masters degree, using the crisis as an excuse to slow down in the practice and focus on studies.

This reminded me that during the previous crisis, there were very good architects teaching at my school, now i see why.

But there was another news that took my attention.  John Morefield (27), an architect from Seattle, had a very good idea after being laid off twice in a year: he setup a booth at a local fair, answering home remodeling questions for 5¢. On the first day he earned 35¢. But that wasn´t his real earn, but the 7 conversations he started, with 7 potential clients he meet.

This way he started to build a network, also pairing these new clients with contractors he recommended. This resulted in Architecture 5¢, an office were “no project is too small for big ideas”.

A very good use of something that every architect goes by, when friends or relatives ask questions on remodeling, used as a way to overturn the crisis.

Architectural Billings Index Hits All-Time Low

In January, the Architectural Billings Index (ABI) sunk to 33.3, the lowest level in its 13-year history. The score has fallen below 50 for 12 straight months; a score above 50 indicates an increase in billings, and below 50, a decrease.

One of the profession’s leading economic indicators, the index is compiled by the American Institute of Architects () and is based on surveys sent largely to commercial firms. It reflects a nine- to 12-month lag time between architectural billings and construction spending.

Seen on Architectural Record. Read the full article, here.

Harmon Hotel in Las Vegas by Foster and Partners gets cut (and not due to the crisis)

A few weeks ago I went to , and was surprised by the amount of on-going projects in the middle of the crisis. One of those projects was The Harmon Hotel, Spa & Residences at the CityCenter’s gateway  to the Las Vegas Strip designed by Foster and Partners, a project that “will push the boundaries of the hospitality industry to new limits with a design strategy that combines a sleek, modern exterior with a highly luxurious interior” according to the architects.

And we just saw the news that the project got “cut”, but in a literal way. It wasn´t because of the , but actually due to construction flaws:  15 floors of wrongly installed rebar. This forced the developer to cut down the height -removing the condos portion of the building- resulting on a 28 stories tall building, instead of 49 as planned.

But what´s funny is how the project was -at least on the exterior look, because engineers must been working extra hours redoing shafts, elevators, etc- just scaled down.

In related news (cuts), back in October Foster said recession will not force him to cut jobs, and now his office is going to layoff 300-400 employees.

Seen at: Adaptation or Disaster? – LV Sun

Half of small architecture firms are short of work

We just saw this link on VariousArchitect´s Twitter, and thought it might interest you. Small architectural practices are bearing the brunt of the recession with 47% saying they do not have enough work, new research reveals.

The first set of results from the RIBA’s new Future Trends Survey – carried out in January – showed a marked difference between the fortunes of small and large practices with only 17% of the latter reporting they are under-employed.

More information on the original article, here.

(Photo via brewbooks Flickr)

Entries for the Young Architects Program at P.S.1 2009

Since year 2000, the  MoMA and the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center present the Young Architects Program, an annual competition that invites emerging architects to design a temporary structure at the P.S.1 ’s facility in Long Island City, Queens. This has been a field for experimentation for digital manufacturing, new materials and new construction techniques -all under a tight budget-, as we saw in 2008 with the P.F.1 installation by WORKac.

A few days ago we featured this years winning proposal by MOS, a lightweight aluminum frame using recyclable parts, and saw how the economical crisis is present on the project´s conception.

But also, the other proposals by BSC Architecture, !ndie architecture, L.E.FT architects and PARA-project explore this and other social/cultural concepts on their proposals, so we decided to contact them and feature this projects so you can get the whole picture.

I´d like to thank Michel (MOS), Martin (BSC Architecture), Paul (!ndie architecture), Ziad (L.E.FT architects), Jon (), April (P.S.1) and Meg (MoMA) for helping us out on this article.

And now, onto the proposals:

Economical Crisis and the Bilbao Effect


Guggenheim Bilbao, photo by envisionpublicidad

During the last few months we have been constantly featuring amazing works in ArchDaily, which show the good state of some economies, at least until the started to hit.

With the  announced tallest tower in the world now on hold, and while big firms in the US are laying off a large amount of their staff (I´ve seen a lot of coleagues with a lot of free time lately….), the inmediate future doesn´t sound promising. This crisis puts and end to an era of mega developments started by the Bilbao Guggenheim by Frank O Ghery, that brought a bonanza that created the stararchitects and put Dubai on the spotlight.

Will the projects that are now on the developer´s desk be put in motion after the crisis is over?

Robert Campbell wrote an interesting article on this on the Boston Globe that i recommend checking out.

What do you think?