Video: Skyhouse / David Hotson Architect

Skyhouse is a house in the sky, a residential penthouse located at the summit of one of the earliest surviving skyscrapers in 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:

House Bill Proposes to Eliminate Funding for Eisenhower Memorial

Courtesy of Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial saga continues, as Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) proposed legislation that would forego Frank Gehry’s controversial and eliminate federal funding. Although Bishop’s radical bill would save $100 million in future funding, it ignores any possibility of compromise.

In response, the AIA stated:

Postcard from Roosevelt Island, New York

© Hassan Bagheri

This text was provided by San Francisco-based writer Kenneth Caldwell. Photos by Hassan Bagheri.

One friend said, “It looks a bit austere.” At first glance, it probably is. But like so many great minimal environments, it asks for patience and generosity. You give, and in turn it gives back.

This is also what the artists Mark Rothko, Richard Serra, Donald Judd, and, more recently, Olafur Eliasson ask. Trust them with your time and you may be rewarded with a small measure of serenity—perhaps even with the connection between art and the divine that Dominique de Menil was so focused on.

Designed by Louis Kahn, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park is an outdoor sanctuary at the southern tip of what is now called Roosevelt Island, created as a memorial to FDR. The park opened last fall. Kahn’s gift took 40 years to be realized, but it presents a path for human beings to treat each other to peace.

Continue reading after the break…

Video: Bridge of Light

The NY Times published this amazing of a spectacular art installation on the -San Francisco Bay Bridge. Thousands of computer controlled LED lights can be seen during the night with this fantastic display. Enjoy!

Domino Sugar Factory Master Plan Development / SHoP Architects

© SHoP Architects

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 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. in London / 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 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 since April 2011. This $68 million , 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 AC Martin Partners

Developer Korean Air has recently unveiled the designs for the new 73-story Wilshire Grand tower in the financial district of Los Angeles, 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 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.

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 “,” as in ordinances that govern how land is developed and how buildings often are designed. Land-use regulation is still needed, but 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 land use 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

Smithsonian Institution © Karissa Rosenfield / ArchDaily

The Smithsonian Institution has commissioned the innovative practice of Bjarke Ingels to reimagine the heart of its antiquated 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 San Francisco 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 .  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 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.

The proposals after the break…

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

ABI 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 Architects (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 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 Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. .  “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,

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 architects 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 , 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 design.  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…