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New United States Courthouse Competition Entry / NBBJ

North © NBBJ
North © NBBJ

Claiming to be the most progressive, sustainable, and cost effective courthouse in the nation, NBBJ’s shortlisted proposal for the New Los Angeles Federal Courthouse serves as a model for future GSA development. The contrast between the free and informal spirit of Los Angeles with the formal structure and societal role of the Federal Courts illustrates an important duality that openly coexists throughout their phased design. At a larger scale, the structure becomes a mediator within the skyline, rising to a comfortable 256 feet tall to help transition the steep, urban high-rise topography of Bunker Hill and the mid-rise, ordered context of downtown. Read the architects’ description after the break to learn more about this high performance, multifaceted design.

2013 AIA Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture Recipients

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has announced two recipients of the 2013 Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture. In category one, the institute recognized Michael Pyatok, FAIA, of Oakland’s Pyatok Architects, as an architect who has dedicated his career to the theory and practice of public housing design. And, in category three, Ginnie Cooper, Chief Librarian and Executive Director of the District of Columbia Public Libraries, has been honored for spearheading the recent renaissance in library construction and renovation in the nation’s capital.

BIG Update: Planning Commission approves West 57th

After months of an “arduous” public reviewing process, BIG’s eye-catching West 57th apartment building in Manhattan has been approved by the City Planning Commission. The atypical design quickly gained international attention with its abruptly sloped, tetrahedral shape that rises from three stories to thirty-eight stories on an awkwardly sized single block site. Cleverly titled W57, the unique project was “born of logic”, as New York Magazine’s Justin Davidson would describe. It features a massive, football-sized courtyard with stunning Hudson River views and outdoor terraces for all 753 residents, along with a vibrant street life and close proximity to the Hudson River Park.

“Our approval will facilitate development of a significant new building with a distinctive pyramid-like shaped design and thoughtful site plan that integrates the full block site into the evolving residential, institutional, and commercial neighborhood surrounding it,” stated City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden before voting in favor of the project.

Find out what it took to get W57 passed, after the break…

Video: Bacardi Complex

Watch this video tour of the Bacardi Building in Miami, Florida, by the grandson of the original founder. The building, built in 1962, became the headquarters of the company for fifty years and has become an iconic modernist symbol in the city with an additional building added to the property in 1970. The building is designed by Enrique Guitierrez. The unique facade of the building was designed by ceramic artist Francisco Brennand using 20,000 tiles.  The building resonates with Miami’s culture and has become a landmark for nearby residents.  Tito Bacardi, who is the tour guide in the video, explains with pride how its the company’s legacy has become intertwined with the architecture – a building that represented Bacardi’s relocation from Cuba to America.

Chelsea Market Upzoning Approved by NYC Council

Plans for Chelsea Market along 10th Avenue; Courtesy of Jamestown Properties. Via Architect's Newspaper
Plans for Chelsea Market along 10th Avenue; Courtesy of Jamestown Properties. Via Architect's Newspaper

Construction has exploded along the High Line ever since it opened: condos hover over the rehabilitated track and look out onto the Hudson, while the new location of the Whitney Museum is making headway on the southern end of the park as Google moves into its NYC headquarters to a building just a few short blows away.  Now, the historic Chelsea Market may be looking at a facelift following approval from the New York City Council for increasing density in the building by developers, Jamestown Properties. The proposed vertical extension, which has made a brief appearance on a few architecture blogs, will provide the additional in demand office and retail space in the Chelsea neighborhood.

New United States Courthouse Competition Entry / Yazdani Studio of Cannon Design

Courtesy of  Yazdani Studio of Cannon Design
Courtesy of Yazdani Studio of Cannon Design

Yazdani Studio of Cannon Design and Gruen Associates have shared with us their second place proposal for the highly anticipated design-build competition for the new United States courthouse in Los Angeles, California. Envisioned as an icon within the city skyline, the triangular monolith provides a sustainable, 21st century courthouse that embodies the democratic qualities of dignity, stature, transparency, openness and accessibility. Located at a pivotal node connecting the Los Angeles Civic Center, the Broadway Historic District and Bunker Hill, the 550,000 square foot courthouse is surrounded by a lush civic space that plays an important role in the existing cityscape. Read the architect’s description after the break…

VIDEO: Federal Architecture

Democratic By Design is a short film, produced by the General Services Administration and narrated by Luke Russert, that tackles the issue of federal architecture. Buildings designed for the government typically have a familiar aesthetic. Washington, DC, is dominated by Neoclassical Architecture, building on the connotations of ancient Greek and Roman fora and temples as a symbol of democracy. But they perpetuate a sense of dominance and formality. Most of these buildings – city halls, courthouses, agency headquarters – were built in the 18th and 19th century, yet they leave behind a legacy and association in the architecture of the federal government.

US Census Bureau Headquarters / SOM
US Census Bureau Headquarters / SOM

On the contrary, government buildings built in the mid to late 20th century, specifically after 1962, have a more varied vernacular. This can be credited to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, aide to President John F. Kennedy. His one page document outlined guidelines for public architecture – an effort to contextualize and modernism government buildings. This video brings his words to life via well-known architects who have have designed federal buildings.

Join us after the break for a look at some of these buildings.

Never Built: Los Angeles

Is the American Dream Shifting Towards Density, In-fill Housing and Accessibility to Amenities?

Ipera / Atlas Architecture Consulting © Gürkan Akay
Ipera / Atlas Architecture Consulting © Gürkan Akay

A recent survey into the billing activity of architecture firms across the country has revealed a growing trend in homeowners’ preferences. The AIA Home Trends Survey released a series of charts, marking the rise between 2011 and 2012 of preferences for low maintenance, and energy efficiency home options with a rise in a desire for homes that have a proximity to neighborhood amenities. What this means is that home buyers are moving away from the auto-centric lifestyle of mid century suburbs and are coincidentally opting for the more sustainable choice where walking and public transportation may take preference. AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA, notes that in many areas, there has been a rise in interest in urban infill locations over exurbs, and a general push within communities for public accessibility and proximity to work places, retail options and open space. What is behind this trend? Is the influence of sustainable design breaking into the mainstream of the American home-buying conscience? Is sustainability changing the “American Dream”?

NYC Developers Race to the Top

© Adam Jackson
© Adam Jackson

It’s a race to the top as developers are reaching higher and higher with impressive glass skyscrapers that house exclusive apartments and panoramic views across Manhattan, level with some of the city’s tallest buildings.  Gary Barnett of Extell Development Co. is the man behind the 1,005 foot high One57 tower in Midtown Manhattan.  He announced last month that he would be developing the tallest residential building in New York City (without the help of a spire).  Adrian Smith, chosen as the architect for the job, is best known for his work on the Burj Dubai.  The new building, still in its early stages of design planning and financing, will tower over the Empire State Building at a planned 1600 feet, that’s just 176 feet shy of World Trade One, the tallest building in Manhattan.

Zaha Hadid commissioned to design Miami Skyscraper

The northern portion of the Biscayne Wall © Marc Averette via Wikipedia
The northern portion of the Biscayne Wall © Marc Averette via Wikipedia

The Miami Herald has just announced that Zaha Hadid will be designing her first skyscraper in the Western hemisphere in Miami: America’s Next Great Architectural City. The female powerhouse has been commissioned to transform a waterfront property, currently occupied by a BP Station at 1000 Biscayne Boulevard, predominantly into a residential high rise. The skyscraper will rise above the neighboring Museum Park and fill a void in the wall of towering condos, commonly referred to as the “Biscayne Wall”. Details of the design are expected to be released next year. This news comes shortly after Zaha’s loss to Norman Foster in an intense competition to design New York City’s next high-profile office tower on 425 Park Avenue. You can watch the A-list architects battle it out here as they present their ideas to the jury. As we reported last year, Zaha was also selected to design a Miami Beach parking garage at Collins Park, which was approved for construction by the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board last month. Check out the preliminary renderings of the Collins Park garage, after the break…

ABI Reports Strongest Business Conditions Since 2007

ABI November 2012 via Calculated Risk
ABI November 2012 via Calculated Risk

The numbers are in and the American Institute of Architects’ November Architecture Billings Index (ABI) has revealed positive business conditions for all building sectors for the fourth consecutive month. 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. Understanding this, the AIA is pleased to report that November has reached a five-year high with a score of 53.2, slightly up from 52.8 in October. Since August, the national billings index has continued to increased above 50.0 – the break-even point between contraction and growth – reflecting a steady rise in demand for design services. The West seems to be the only region in contraction, coming in at a score of 49.6. Additionally, November also sees the Project Inquiry Index at 59.6, marking the 47th straight month in which inquiries into architectural services has been increasing. “These are the strongest business conditions we have seen since the end of 2007 before the construction market collapse,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “The real question now is if the federal budget situation gets cleared up which will likely lead to the green lighting of numerous projects currently on hold. If we do end up going off the ‘fiscal cliff’ then we can expect a significant setback for the entire design and construction industry.” View the ABI highlights in greater detail, after the break…

AIA Releases Roadmap to Healthy Design

Local Leaders: Healthier Communities through Design; via AIA
Local Leaders: Healthier Communities through Design; via AIA

The AIA is joining numerous other city agencies in the promotion of healthy communities through intelligent design choices. A new document: Local Leaders: Healthier Communities through Design is a series of guidelines that offer architects and designers specific methods for the design of buildings and communities that encourage healthy lifestyle choices. Learn more after the break.

What Architecture Has to Say About Education: Three New Hampshire Schools by HMFH Architects

Never is the value of architecture so poignant, as when it becomes a tool to facilitate learning, development and exploration. Inspired by this video, which presents three new schools in Concord, New Hampshire that physically embody the educational philosophies of independence, collaboration, and creativity, we spoke with HMFH Architects to delve further into this vital question: how can architecture help children develop the early skills, creativity and inquisitiveness needed to become the independent and inspired adults of future generations? Find out after the break.

Mill Brook School: Concord, NH / HMFH Architects; Photographs: © 2012 Ed Wonsek McAuliffe Elementary School: Concord, NH / HMFH Architects; Photographs: © 2012 Ed Wonsek McAuliffe Elementary School: Concord, NH / HMFH Architects; Photographs: © 2012 Ed Wonsek Abbot-Downing School: Concord, NH / HMFH Architects; Photographs: © 2012 Ed Wonsek

The Pros & Cons of Revoking the DC Height Act

© Flickr User Rob Shenk
© Flickr User Rob Shenk

Earlier this week, Architect Robert K. Levy optimistically declared that the study which will evaluate the federal law limiting Washington building heights is a “win-win” situation for everyone involved. Writing for The Washington Post, Levy states: “By conducting a detailed, comprehensive city-wide study, the D.C. Office of Planning and the NCPC will produce analyses and recommendations leading to a fine-grain, strategic plan for building heights across the District.  Ultimately this study is a win-win proposition for all stakeholders.” But can the situation really be so rosy? While Congress spends 10 months studying and debating the possibility of making alterations to the capital’s zoning policies, urbanists, planners and citizens have already begun weighing in on the matter – and opinions are decidedly divided. Many question the true motivations behind the possible changes, and whether those changes will truly improve the livability and sustainability of the city  - or just alter it beyond recognition. We’ve gathered both sides of the argument so you can make your own informed decision – after the break…

Miami: America’s Next Great Architectural City?

Coconut Grove Condo / BIG; Image via DesignBoom
Coconut Grove Condo / BIG; Image via DesignBoom

Staten Island: A Microcosm of New York’s Post-Sandy Controversies

Hurricane Sandy damage north of Seaside, N.J. on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. © Governor’s Office / Tim Larsen
Hurricane Sandy damage north of Seaside, N.J. on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. © Governor’s Office / Tim Larsen

The power and destruction of Hurricane Sandy made New Yorkers acknowledge just how vulnerable the city is to natural disaster.  The storm pummeled Queens’ and Brooklyn’s shores, destroyed and flooded homes while Manhattan’s lower half was submerged and plunged into darkness for a week.  But arguably, Staten Island, New York City’s Forgotten Borough, received the brunt of the storm and the slowest level of recovery.  In the midst of the controversial clean-up, the New York City Economic Development Corporation decided to plow through the tragedy with pursuant talks of the planned developments on the St. George waterfront in Staten Island.  While some residents may be offended that the subject of the talks was not of the EDC’s recovery programs, the real controversy is the way in which the EDC is planning to go forward with its proposal.  It is planning to build the world’s largest ferris wheel along a vulnerable coast line that just saw damage from one of the worst storms to hit NYC in recent history. Read more on this development after the break.

Video: Glithero / Design Miami