Domino Sugar Factory Master Plan Development / SHoP Architects

© SHoP

Last Summer, Two Trees bought the Domino Sugar Factory site in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn to be developed into a new mix-use master plan. The previously proposed scheme by Rafael Viñoly Architects (seen here) consisted of four large towers along the East River water front, but the design was largely disliked by the community, and as a result Two Trees hired SHoP Architects along with James Corner Field Operations to have a go at the design. The result is a wildly different scheme, consisting of five towers with 60% more open space along the water front, 631,000 square feet of new office space (versus the previous 98,000 square feet), and over two-thousand new apartments. This marks a huge change for what could be considered as the most important waterfront real estate in Brooklyn, and potentially become the new image of Brooklyn for the whole world.

Design Excellence of U.S. Embassies: Openness and Security

U.S. Embassy in London / KieranTimberlake Architects

“The works of our artists, architects, and preservationists provide us with another language of diplomacy. A transcendent language that allows us to convey values that are at once uniquely American yet speak to all of humanity.  Increasingly in this world, art and architecture help us maintain our sense of openness and liberation.” — Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, April 12, 2010 

An embassy is much more than a building or a work of architecture; it functions as a symbolic representation of countries’ relationships to one another.  It represents the universal language of diplomacy – “communicating values and ideals, extending well beyond any moment in time”.  An embassy has the difficult task of representing two diametrically opposed concepts: security and openness.  The former typically overpowers the latter in importance, which is most probably why when we think of foreign embassies, it conjures up images of stately monolithic buildings surrounded by tall fences and menacing guards or “bunkers, bland cubes, lifeless compounds”, according to Tanya Ballard Brown of NPR’s All Things Considered.

More on the design excellence of embassies after the break…

Queens Museum of Art Expansion / Grimshaw Architects

Courtesy of Grimshaw and the Queens Museum of Art

Originally constructed for the 1939 World’s Fair, the resilient structure of New York’s Queens Museum of Art has been undergoing its fourth and most ambitious renovation since April 2011. This $68 million renovation, designed by Grimshaw Architects, will double the institution’s size, expanding the museum to a total of 105,000 square feet upon its completion in October 2013.

The West Coast’s Tallest: Wilshire Grand / AC Martin Partners

Courtesy of

Developer Korean Air has recently unveiled the designs for the new 73-story Wilshire Grand tower in the financial district of Los Angeles, California. AC Martin Partners designed the plans for the $1 billion mixed-use office and hotel tower that will reach 1,100 feet, making it the tallest tower west of Chicago once completed.

Read more after the break…

ULI Announces Finalist Teams for 2013 Student Urban Design Competition

“Connec+ Minneapolis” / Harvard University

The (ULI) has selected the finalist teams in the eleventh annual ULI Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition. Graduate-level student teams representing Harvard University, Yale University, a joint team from Ball State University and Purdue University, as well as another join team from Kansas State University, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and the University of Kansas are all advancing to the final round of competition, scheduled to take place in March and April. This year’s finalists were charged with proposing a long-term development plan for downtown Minneapolis that creates value for property owners, city residents, and the greater Twin region.

A $50,000 prize will be awarded to the winning team; and each of the remaining three finalist teams will receive $10,000. This year, applications were submitted from 158 teams representing 70 universities in the United States and Canada, with 790 students participating in total.

Where Does Zoning Fit Into Our Future City Planning?

NYC.GOV – Department of Planning

“Let’s dump the word “zoning,” as in zoning ordinances that govern how land is developed and how buildings often are designed. Land-use regulation is still needed, but zoning increasingly has become a conceptually inappropriate term, an obsolete characterization of how we plan and shape growth.” - Roger K. Lewis 

Zoning, a concept just over a century old, is already becoming an outdated system by which the government regulates development and growth.  Exceptions and loopholes within current zoning legislation prove that city planning is pushing a zoning transformation that reflects the current and future goals and needs of city building.  To determine how zoning and needs to evolve we must first assess the intentions of future city building.  

Planners, architects, legislators and community activists have already begun establishing guidelines and ordinances that approach the goals of sustainability and livability.  For example, the AIA has established Local Leaders: Healthier Communities through Design and has made a commitment to the Decade of Design: Global Solutions Challenge. has come up with Active Design Guidelines: Promoting Physical Activity and Health in Design and its Zone Green initiative in regards to updating its zoning resolution. In addition, Philadelphia has augmented its zoning to include urban farms and community gardens and it is safe to assume that many other cities will follow this precedent.  

So what is it about current zoning codes that makes it so outdated?  Follow us after the break for more.

Smithsonian Hires BIG to Rethink Historic D.C. Campus

Institution © Karissa Rosenfield / ArchDaily

The Smithsonian Institution has commissioned the innovative practice of Bjarke Ingels to reimagine the heart of its antiquated Washington D.C. campus. The Danish architect has agreed to an eight- to 12- month, $2.4 million contract to draft the first phase of a master plan that seeks to dissolve the notable impediments and discontinuous pathways that plague the area.

More on this news after the break…

Refurbishing America’s Shopping Mall

The Arcade Providence © PBN/Brian McDonald via PBN

One thing about a recession is that it accelerates the demise of dying trends and struggling establishments. In this case, it is America’s beloved shopping malls, which have been slowly in decline since their peak popularity in 1990. Now, in the wake of the 2008 economic catastrophe, American are riddled with these abandoned shopping meccas, from the mall to box stores and shopping strips, whose oversize parking lots are equally as useless as the spaces themselves. The question is, how can we effectively repurpose these spaces?

A perfect example after the break…

San Francisco Paves the Road to Zero Waste

© Flickr user Sudheer G.

Approaching zero- is a matter of changing the way our culture thinks about use and reuse.  It’s not an impossible task, and is leading the march to establish a feasible means of enacting public policy, structuring programs and educating the public on what it means to be “zero-”.  With a goal set for 2020, the Bay City hopes to keep 100% of its out of landfills.  Mayor Ed Lee estimates that the leading management company “Recology” is diverting nearly 80% of trash from landfills to be recycled or turned into compost.  This begins with a public policy that sets a standard and gains traction as citizens embrace the goals of the city.  Support programs reinforce these guidelines that eventually become habits and a cultural response to treating our environment.

Read on after the break for more on San Francisco’s road to “zero-waste”.

Which Bold Idea Should Win Bloomberg’s Mayors Challenge?

Courtesy of Philanthropies

During a time of crippling political turmoil, local leaders are stepping up to fulfill their role as pragmatic problem-solvers and combating the tough challenges – such as economic growth, environmental protection, public safety and poverty – facing our today. This empowering phenomenon is highlighted by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, a competition designed to further inspire America’s mayors and local leaders to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life.

Over 300 cities across the nation took the challenge and 20 finalists were selected in November. Now, it is your turn to vote on the idea you believe to have the greatest potential for impact. Five bold ideas will be selected in the coming weeks, each receiving national and local recognition. In addition, the winning city will receive a $5,000,000 grand prize and four other cities will receive $1,000,000 to help implement their ideas.

The proposals after the break…

ABI Reports Six Consecutive Month of Growth and Best Conditions Since 2007

January 2013 via Calculated Risk

Reflecting the strongest growth since November 2007, the January Architecture Billings Index (ABI) surged to a score of 54.2 – a sharp and welcomed increase from December’s 51.2* mark. Released by the American Institute of (AIA), the ABI is a leading economic indicator of construction activity that reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. By remaining above 50, January’s score illustrates the six consecutive month of growth for the United State’s design and construction industry. This trend doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, as the new projects inquiry index accelerated beyond last month’s reading of 57.9 and reached a score of 63.2.

“We have been pointing in this direction for the last several months, but this is the strongest indication that there will be an upturn in construction activity in the coming months,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA.  “But as we continue to hear about overall improving economic conditions and that there are more inquiries for new design projects in the marketplace, a continued reservation by lending institutions to supply financing for construction projects is preventing a more widespread recovery in the industry.”

Review the ABI Highlights in greater detail, after the break…

Ezra Stoller: Beyond Architecture

McMath Solar Telescope, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Kitt Peak, AZ, 1962 Gelatin Silver Print © Ezra Stoller, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

Now on view at the Yossi Milo Gallery through March 2, rarely-seen images by modernist architectural photographer Ezra Stroller (American, 1915-2004) captures a Post-War American landscape with stunning images of industry, technology, transportation and working class Americans. 

Beyond Architecture covers the full range of Stoller’s work, including photographs commissioned by Fortune, Architectural Forum, and House Beautiful magazines in the 1940s and for commercial projects for IBM, Upjohn Pharmaceuticals and CBS in the 1940s and 1950s. Included are photographs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s John Hancock Building, Chicago, and the United Nations Headquarters, designed by an international team of led by Wallace K. Harrison and including Oscar Niemeyer and Le Corbusier.

A selection of these images after the break…

Developing Adaptable Housing for the Elderly and a Path to Sustainability

Maxwan Architects + Urbanists

In recent years there has been a lot of talk in the United States about our aging population, mostly in terms of social security funds and medicare.  We have asked how we should deal with the impending problem that our elderly will outnumber the population that will serve as their caretakers.  While speculations for a solution have generally settled within the realm of the economy, urban planners and architects are asking a different set of questions and looking for solutions regarding how we .  It is important to note, that while most of the discussion has been framed about the aging “baby-boomer” generation, Jack Rowe – speaking at the symposium for Designing Homes and Neighborhoods for an Aging Population in Washington, DC - pointed out that this concern is a conservative estimate of the bigger problem in our “demographic transformation”.  In fact, the trend is far more expansive; medical advancements and a longer life expectancy mean that for the next few generations each aging population is expected to outlive its parents and will exceed the population of its children.  This makes the issue at hand a more over-arching concern, or as Rowe later states, an issue that all members of society must face.

This is why we must think about architecture and urban planning in terms of adaptability for the aging, as we have already starting thinking about it in terms of handicapped accessibility.

More after the break…

Preservationists Surrender to Hopeless Battle for Prentice

© C. William Brubaker via Flickr user UIC Digital Collections

In response to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks’ decision to reject landmark status to Prentice Woman’s Hospital for the second time in three months, the two preservationist groups challenging the City of Chicago have withdrawn their lawsuits. This eliminates the last barrier standing in Northwestern University’s way to demolish the historic, Bertrand Goldberg structure for a new biomedical research facility.

“We felt that we had done as much as we possibly could to demonstrate the significance of the building and ways to reuse,” stated Christina Morris, a senior field officer for the National Trust for Historic . “We just couldn’t see that we’d have any other outcome.”

For many, this news is disheartening as and preservationists from around the globe have fought in solidarity for much of the past year in an attempt to illustrate the importance of this one-of-a-kind structure.

More after the break…

LA Architecture School Boasts Stimulating Post-professional Programs

© SCI-Arc ESTm, Marcelo Spina Studio, Artificial Clouds

Two dynamic post-graduate programs offered by the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in Los Angeles have been charged with examining core contemporary issues facing architecture today. Spanning topics from advanced manufacturing methodologies and new building systems, to and design challenges faced globally, these post-professional tracks allow students to rethink architecture and design through the creative lens of the SCI-Arc community.

The architecture school’s Emerging Systems, Technologies & Media (ESTm) and Future Initiatives (SCIFI) programs are conceived as intensive one-year (three semesters) post-professional degrees in architecture, functioning as think tanks and research engines within the larger framework of the school.

Situ Studio’s ‘Heartwalk’ Opens in Times Square

© Ka-Man Tse, Times Square Alliance

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Situ Studio has unveiled the fifth edition of Times Square’s annual Heartwalk – a heart-shaped “room within the city” made of salvaged Sandy debris. Inspired by the “collective experience of Hurricane Sandy and the love that binds people together during trying times,” Heartwalk begins as two weathered ribbons of wooden planks that gradually lift to form an illuminated heart enclosure in the middle of Duffy Square.

People are already falling in love, as you can see Instagram’s #heartwalktsq is filling up with images of elated New Yorkers standing within the “heart of City”.

More images after the break…

The AIA Elevates 122 Members and Seven International Architects to the College of Fellows

The 2013 Jury of Fellows from the American Institute of Architects () elevated 122 members to its prestigious College of Fellows, an honor awarded to members who have made significant contributions to the profession. The 2013 Fellows will be honored at an investiture ceremony at the 2013 National Convention and Exposition in Denver.

Continue reading for more information and the complete list of newly honored Fellows:

13th Annual Structures for Inclusion Conference

© Iwan Baan

The thirteenth annual Structures for Inclusion conference (SFI-13) will be held March 23-24 at the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis Campus. The conference is preceded by the Public Interest Design Institute, a training program sponsored by the American Institute of Architects, that will be held at the same location on March 21-22. These are two major events that help compose the inaugural Public Interest Design Week, March 19-24.