The Indicator: Sheltering in Place

Rudolph’s UMass Dartmouth Library. Courtesy, UMass Dartmouth

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 ’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.

Positive Signs of Growth Reflected in Steady ABI and Higher Intern Employment Rates

Courtesy of Calculated Risk

For the eight consecutive month, the (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 () 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…

Plan Envisages Reusing Pittsburgh’s Industrial Past to Bring The City Closer Together

43rd St District View Back Towards Pittsburgh Courtesy of

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 , 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…

AD College Guide: InSB, Integrated School of Building

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.

Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco / Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects

Transbay Transit Center Aerial View; © Pelli Clarke Pelli / Transbay Joint Powers Authority

The revamped Transbay Transit Center in downtown broke ground earlier this week, a 1.5 million square foot development that will be part transportation hub, part public park and urban space, and part office and retail establishments.  The massive undertaking, designed by renowned architecture firm Pelli Clarke Pelli will bring together 11 systems of local and national transportation, serving 45 million people per year.  In addition to securing access to myriad transit lines, the project will also provide downtown San Francisco with a 5.4-acre rooftop park, designed by PWP Landscape Architecture, along with numerous cultural programs.

The project is budgeted at $4.2 billion and is projected for completion in 2017.  It is funded in part by the construction of a 1,070-foot tower that is adjacent to the Transbay Transity Center, which is also designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli and slated to be the tallest tower in San Francisco.  The tower will secure 60 stories of office space and will contribute to the projected $87 billion of revenue through 2030.

Join us after the break for more details on this project.

City Point / COOKFOX

© COOKFOX

City Point is a proposed 1.8 million square foot, multi-phase, mixed-use development designed by -based practice COOKFOX for the center of the rapidly transforming Downtown . The project will create an iconic presence by acting as a cornerstone for the skyline and establishing a critical mass of new growth. The three distinct phases of City Point encompass retail space, affordable and market-rate housing, office space and a market hall, which together create a strong base for growth and integration in the core of . City Point will foster a multi-use urban environment, connect subway commuters with green spaces, and create a vibrant heart in the downtown area.

More about City Point after the break…

The Debate Over Making It Right in the Lower Ninth Ward

The Float House / Morphosis, © Iwan Baan

Ever since the New Republic published Lydia DePillis’s piece entitled “If you Rebuild it, They Might Not Come” - a criticism of the progress of Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation – numerous blogs and journals have been in a uproar, defending Make It Right’s efforts at rebuilding the vastly devastated Lower Ninth Ward and presenting a much more forgiving perspective on the progress of the neighborhood since the engineering disaster that exacerbated the effects of in 2005. To date, 86 LEED Platinum homes have been designed and constructed by world-renowned architects, including Frank Gehry and Morphosis, at a cost of approximately $24 million.  Make It Right has promised to build up to 150 such homes, but DePillis‘s article points out that amenities in the neighborhood are low and the number of residents returning to the neighborhood is dwindling.  Make It Right has made a commitment and the debate that ensues questions whether it is going far enough in delivering its promise to rebuilding community.

Read on for more on the Make It Right debate…

Celebrate National Architecture Week with the AIA

2013 Institute Honor Awards for Architecture

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.

Five Ways You can Take Part in National Architecture Week:

Dialogue House / Wendell Burnette Architects

© Bill Timmerman

Architects: Wendell Burnette Architects
Project Team: Wendell Burnette, Christopher Alt
Client: Thomas and Laura Hyland
Structural Engineer: Rudow + Berry, Inc.
Electrical Engineer: C.A. Energy Designs
Landscape Design: Debra Burnette Landscape Design
Contractor: The Construction Zone, Ltd.
Area: 2,700 ft2
Year: 2012
Photographs: Bill Timmerman

Whole Foods Set to Build First Commercial-Scale Greenhouse on Brooklyn Rooftop

via Fast Co.Design

has teamed up with ’s local organic grower, Gotham Greens, to build the first commercial-scale greenhouse attached to a supermarket. The 20,000-square-foot greenhouse, expected to open in Brooklyn this Fall, will provide locally grown produce year-round to nine Whole Foods stores in City area. 

Four Architects Enlisted to Reimagine Penn Station

via Wikipedia

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 CalatravaDiller 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, as NYTimes critic Michael Kimmelman states, 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 station was transformed into a thriving cultural destination that benefited all parties. 

More after the break…

WEISS / MANFREDI to Design Kent State’s New, $40 Million Architecture Building

© WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/

WEISS / MANFREDI has been announced as winner of the international competition to design a new College of Architecture and Environmental Design for University in Ohio. The New York-based practice, in collaboration with the local architect of record Richard L. Bowen & Associates, was one of four national finalists selected from a competitive list of 37 applicants.

The winning proposal, dubbed the Kent State Design Loft, transforms the notion of a continuous studio loft into a three-tiered structure that opens to the city, connects to the public esplanade and surrounding landscape, and provides an abundance of creatively designed, flexible learning spaces that can be easily transformed to accommodate design crits, exhibitions and events.

“We are captivated by the potential for this project to become an innovative incubator for the arts and an internationally legible destination for the University,” said Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi.

The architect’s project description after the break…

Redesigning Detroit: A New Vision for an Iconic Site

© Opportunity

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  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. 

Submissions should consider the significant history of the site, its physical and cultural context, and its potential for the future. Successful proposals will demonstrate optimism about revitalizing Detroit, with great architecture providing a positive, catalytic impact on the community. The deadline for submissions is April 30. More information here

UCLA’s cityLAB at the School of Architecture and Urban Design

Backyard Homes Conceptual Rendering, image courtesy Daly Genik Architects

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.

’s Architecture and (AUD) school has just such a program. Called cityLAB (not to be confused with the student-run, science-based UCLA CityLab), 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.

Wyckoff House Museum / nARCHITECTS

Courtesy of

nARCHITECTS is designing a cultural education complex for the in Brooklyn on the site of New Yorks oldest house. The Wyckoff House has an immense history as it was the first landmark designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1968. nARCHITECTS’s educational complex will act as a portal between its present day environment and historical site. Due to its exceptional spatial and temporal intervention, the design was recently awarded an AIA New York Design Merit Award.

Five Firms Shortlisted to Rehabilitate U.S. Embassies Worldwide

US in Beijing, by SOM. SOM is one of the 11 firms shortlisted by the Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings (BOB). Photo © SOM

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.”

Each of the five selected firms, which include Weiss/Manfredi Architects, have “extensive renovation and restoration experience.” See them all after the break…

Video: Skyhouse / David Hotson Architect

Skyhouse is a house in the sky, a penthouse located at the summit of one of the earliest surviving skyscrapers in City and situated within the incomparable vertical cityscape of Lower Manhattan. The project involved the construction of a set of unique living spaces inside a decorative penthouse structure which had never before been used as a residence… The spaces of this residence and the vistas channeled through it ascend and descend through all four levels of the penthouse structure and into the three-dimensional cityscape surrounding it in every direction.

ABI Continues to Steadily Climb for Seventh Straight Month

via Calculated Risk

An increasing demand for design services in the United States continues to strengthen the Architecture Billings Index (). As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects () 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.”

Key February ABI highlights: