Prisons are often seen as problematic for their local communities. After centuries of correctional facilities discouraging economic growth and occupying valuable real estate as a necessary component of towns and cities, many of these institutions have been relocated away from city centers and their abandoned vestiges are left as unpleasant reminders of their former use. In fact, the majority of prisons built in the United States since 1980 have been placed in non-metropolitan areas and once served as a substantial economic development strategy in depressed rural communities.  However, a new pressure is about to emerge on the US prison systems: beginning in 2010, America’s prison population declined for the first time in decades, suggesting that in the near future repurposing these structures will become a particularly relevant endeavor for both community development and economic sustainability. These abandoned shells offer architects valuable opportunities to reimagine programmatic functions and transform an otherwise problematic location into an integral neighborhood space.
Why repurpose prisons rather than starting fresh? The answer to this question lies in the inherent architectural features of the prison typology, namely the fact that these structures are built to last. People also often forget that prison buildings are not limited to low-rise secure housing units – in fact, prisons feature an array of spaces that have great potential for reuse including buildings for light industrial activity, training or office buildings, low-security housing, and large outdoor spaces. These elements offer a wide variety of real estate for new programmatic uses, and cities around the world have begun to discover their potential. What could the US learn from these examples, at home and overseas?
Ten projects have been named the top examples of sustainable and ecological design by the AIA and its Committee on the Environment (COTE) for the year 2015. Now in its 19th edition, the COTE Top Ten Awards program recognizes projects that adhere to the highest integration of natural systems and technology to produce spaces that positively impact their surroundings and minimize their environmental footprints.
For the second consecutive month, the US Architecture Billings Index (ABI) has indicated a “modest increase” in design activity in March. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the March ABI score was 51.7, up from a mark of 50.4 in February. The new projects inquiry index was 58.2, up from a reading of 56.6 the previous month.
“Business conditions at architecture firms generally are quite healthy across the country. However, billings at firms in the Northeast were set back with the severe weather conditions, and this weakness is apparent in the March figures,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “The multi-family residential market has seen its first occurrence of back-to-back negative months for the first time since 2011, while the institutional and commercial sectors are both on solid footing.”
Emerging from over 6,000 entries, three winners of the fourth Global Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction have been selected. The international competition, occurring every three years, recognizes designs that provide sustainable solutions to local issues faced by communities throughout the world. This year’s winning projects addressed sites in Colombia, Sri Lanka, and the United States and will receive monetary prizes ranging from $50,000 to $200,000.
The winning entries were selected from last year’s top-prize recipients in the five regional Holcim Awards competitions, a total of 15 proposals (see our previous coverage here). An international jury of industry leaders, led by Mohsen Mostafavi (Dean of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design), determined the winners of the 2015 Global Holcim Awards.
See the winners after the break.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) have announced the recipients of the 2015 Housing Awards. Currently in its 15th year, the awards are designed to “recognize the best in US housing design” and “promote the importance of good housing as a necessity of life, a sanctuary for the human spirit and a valuable national resource.” This year, the jury awarded ten designs in three categories. See them all, after the break.
The Living Building Challenge will now fulfill the energy and water requirements for LEED. As the U.S. Green Building Council announced, this marks an important step in the USGBC’s mission to make LEED an accessible platform that complements other construction rating systems.
The USGBC’s decision essentially equates the two systems in the fields of water and energy efficiency, recognizing projects that meet the Living Building Challenge’s standards within these areas as equivalent to LEED standards. By doing so, it encourages a spirit of collaboration toward sustainable goals across competing rating systems.
The Washington DC International Spy Museum is seeking permission to relocate to a new $100 million building designed by Richard Rogers at L’Enfant Plaza. Contingent on approval from the Commission of Fine Arts, as the Washington Business Journal reports, the new 100,000-square-foot, six-story proposed museum would be sited on an open area adjacent to the L’Enfant Plaza hotel.
“I think everyone in the city knows that’s somewhat of a dead area right now,” said Spy Museum Chief Operating Officer Tamara Christian to WBJ. “When we came to Penn Quarter, it was somewhat of a dead area. Now it’s completely energized, and we’re really hoping that we’ll be able to be a catalyst to energize L’Enfant.”
A 60-strong list of international studios has named the official participants of the first-ever Chicago Architecture Biennial - the “largest international survey of contemporary architecture in North America.” Chosen by Biennial Co-Artistic Directors Joseph Grima and Sarah Herda – who are supported by an advisory council comprising David Adjaye, Elizabeth Diller, Jeanne Gang, Frank Gehry, Sylvia Lavin, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Peter Palumbo, and Stanley Tigerman - each participating practice will convene in Chicago to discuss “The State of the Art of Architecture” and showcase their work from October 3 to January 3, 2016.
“The city of Chicago has left an indelible mark on the field of architecture, from the world’s first modern skyscraper to revolutionary urban designs,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “That’s why there’s no better host city than Chicago for this rare global event. The Chicago Architecture Biennial offers an unprecedented chance to celebrate the architectural, cultural, and design advancements that have collectively shaped our world.”
A complete list of participants, after the break.
Studio Gang Architects has gone public with what will be Chicago‘s third tallest tower, Wanda Vista. The massive mixed-use development, planned to open adjacent to the Chicago River in the city’s Lake Shore East community by 2019, will reach 1100 feet (335 meters) and encompass more than 1.8 million-square-feet of residential and hotel space.
Defined by three vertical elements, the tower is shaped to maximize resident views of the city and river below.
The AIAS has launched a new campaign, the Professional Advancement Support Scholarship, or PASS. The program, available for AIAS alumni pursuing licensure, provides incentive for recent graduates to take a portion of the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) by reimbursing them for successfully undertaking this task. Through a proactive approach, coupled with an informative blog series, the AIAS encourages aspiring architects to actively seek licensure to kick-start their professional careers.
Grimshaw Architects has been asked to collaborate with New York-based Beyer Blinder Belle on a $10 billion masterplan that will modernize Washington DC‘s 1913 Beaux Arts Union Station. Along with the potential to triple passenger capacity, the plan aims to make the station more accessible and efficient, while integrate a new three-million-square-foot, mixed-use development by Amtrak and Akridge over its rail tracks.
“Washington DC deserves a station that serves the region on a practical level whilst celebrating the gateway to the nation’s capital,” said Grimshaw partner Vincent Chang.
Snøhetta has unveiled designs for a new kitchen at “one of the world’s best restaurants,” The French Laundry in Napa Valley. The restaurant’s first major overhaul in 20 years, its kitchen will be expanded by 25 percent while the historic structure will remain untouched.
“An experience at any of Chef Keller’s restaurants transcends expectation. The kitchen is the starting point for an architecture of connection, energy and authenticity. As Chef Keller makes us aware, the kitchen is where all the senses are first ignited,” said Craig Dykers, Founding Partner of Snøhetta. “The French Laundry kitchen is both primal and innovative, setting the stage for culinary magic.”