Last Sunday James S. Russell, architecture critic for Bloomberg News and a former editor for Architectural Record, mused on his personal blog about the possible influence Paul Rudolph’s Brutalist University of Massachusetts campus in Dartmouth may have had on Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the younger of the two Boston Marathon bombers who was also a student there.
Mr. Russell describes the campus as “a gigantic eerie, dozen-building concoction of grim ribbed-concrete hubris….” This is the sort of description that drives right to the heart of urban alienation. It’s Edvard Munch’s The Scream. This ability to sum up and drive the nail home is one reason he is the architecture critic for Bloomberg News. No side-stepping here.
For the eight consecutive month, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) is reflecting a steady upturn in design activity. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. Although the American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the March ABI score was 51.9, down from a mark of 54.9 in February, this score still reflects an increase in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). In addition, the new projects inquiry index was 60.1, down from the reading of 64.8 the previous month.
“Business conditions in the construction industry have generally been improving over the last several months,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “But as we have continued to report, the recovery has been uneven across the major construction sectors so it’s not a big surprise that there was some easing in the pace of growth in March compared to previous months.”
Key ABI highlights and details indicating higher employment rates for intern architects after the break...
With the advent of the High Line and the recent announcement about Chicago's Bloomingdale Trail, it's becoming clear that the 'parkway' is a powerful new force in urban planning, which has the potential to change the way cities around the world function. A new project in Pittsburgh seeks to harness these possibilities, as the city's history of industry has left its stamp upon the city in the form of a rusting industrial riverfront. A plan by Saski Associates envisages re-using this space to create a green belt, tying the city closer together. By adding pedestrian, cycling and light-rail transport routes, and creating plenty of green spaces, they hope to tap Pittsburgh's unrealized potential to be a river-front city, while encouraging geographical and social closeness amongst its communities.
More images and the architect’s description after the break…
The ongoing struggles in the world’s economies has produced several innovations in the field of Architecture. One important change has been for professionals and students to seek more interdisciplinary skills that better prepare them for these inevitable economic shifts. Schools have responded in kind, defining those skills in either intellectual, analytical terms (i.e. teaching students how to better critically analyze situations while eschewing superficial “theoretical” approaches) while other schools have emphasized a more practical approach.
InSB exemplifies the latter: a program that combines all aspects of AEC (Architecture, Engineering, Construction) into a single curriculum for both undergraduates and graduates. Founded by Tabitha Ponte and co-founder Arturo Vasquez, the school has an ambitious mission: to offer a truly integrated AEC education that is tuition-free.
From April 7th through the 13th, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) will be hosting National Architecture Week in an effort to increase public awareness on the role architects play as a force for positive change in our communities and to elevate the public’s appreciation of design.
Similar to previous years’ observances, National Architecture Week will be virtual and composed of daily pinboards on the social networking site, Pinterest, and an Architecture Is Awesome contest on Instagram. The intent is to use the two social networking platforms to showcase architects’ good designs and encourage architecture fans to share their thoughts and engage with like-minded professionals during the week.
Whole Foods has teamed up with New York’s local organic grower, Gotham Greens, to build the first commercial-scale greenhouse attached to a supermarket in Brooklyn. The 20,000-square-foot greenhouse, expected to open this Fall, will provide locally grown produce year-round to nine Whole Foods stores in New York City area.
Chicago is set to be the next U.S. city to park-ify on one of its abandoned rail-lines. First proposed back in 1997, the 2.7 mile, 13-acre Bloomingdale Trail and Park is proposed for a stretch of abandoned railway trestle dating from 1910, which has been lying unused since the turn of the century. And, even though it is already being compared to New-York'sHigh Line, the planners are adamant that the park will be an entirely different animal to its New York cousin.
Read more about Chicago's unique proposal after the break...
In an effort to “unlock people’s imaginations” about Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) of New York has challenged Santiago Calatrava, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, SHoP Architects and SOM to propose four new visions that exemplify the potential of the highly disregarded area.
The challenge comes amidst a heated debate on whether or not the city should restrict Madison Square’s recently expired special permit to 10 years, rather than in perpetuity as the arena’s owners - the Dolan family - has requested. This would allow time for the city to “get it right” and come up with a viable solution for the arena and station that would not only “improve the safety and quality of life for millions of people but also benefit the economy”. Think Kings Cross in London. With a thoughtful mix of public and private investments, the crime-ridden transfor station was transformed into a thriving cultural destination.
In an effort to generate innovative ideas for the re-use of one of the most important building sites in Detroit’s redeveloping downtown, Rock Ventures LLC has collaborated with Opportunity Detroit to launch the open ideas competition Redesigning Detroit: A New Vision for an Iconic Site. Entrants are challenged to create compelling visions for a new urban development on the famous 92,421 square foot Hudson's site that would play a significant role in the regeneration of downtown Detroit.
What makes an architecture school worth consideration are its special programs and initiatives. These programs, often run by a few faculty members, vary from addressing human rights and legal issues to working with local communities to remedy social and economic issues.
UCLA's Architecture and Urban Design (AUD) school has just such a program. Called cityLAB (not to be confused with the student-run, science-based UCLACityLab), it is in many ways unique to a university setting. Run by founder/director Professor Dana Cuff and co-directed by Professor Roger Sherman. It’s name is well-suited: a laboratory to test ideas and address issues arising from city conditions in ways that cannot be done by profit-driven firms. These issues include housing, commercial revitalization, and community and municipal collaboration. These projects have operated successfully on grants that support not just the work being done by the professors, but by staff and Graduate Student Researchers who are paid to work in all aspects of the projects.
The Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) has selected five design teams in a worldwide Architecture/Engineering Design Services solicitation to rehabilitate/renovate facilities that "represent American values and the best in American architecture, engineering, technology, sustainability, maintainability, art, culture, and construction execution."
An increasing demand for design services in the United States continues to strengthen the Architecture Billings Index (ABI). As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has reported the February ABI score as 54.9, up slightly from a mark of 54.2 in January. This score reflects a strong increase in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). In addition, the new projects inquiry index was 64.8, higher than the reading of 63.2 the previous month and its highest mark since January 2007.
“Conditions have been strengthening in all regions and construction sectors for the last several months,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “Still, we also continue to hear a mix of business conditions in the marketplace as this hesitant recovery continues to unfold.”
The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial saga continues, as Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) proposed legislation that would forego Frank Gehry’s controversial design and eliminate federal funding. Although Bishop’s radical bill would save $100 million in future funding, it ignores any possibility of compromise.
The NY Times published this amazing video of a spectacular art installation on the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge. Thousands of computer controlled LED lights can be seen during the night with this fantastic display. Enjoy!
The Urban Land Institute (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 Cities region.
The Smithsonian Institution has commissioned the innovative practice of Bjarke Ingles 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 plagues the area.
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 its peak popularity in 1990. Now, in the wake of the 2008 economic catastrophe, American cities are riddled with these abandoned shopping meccas, from the mall to big 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?
During a time of paralizing 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 cities 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.