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Olivia Jia

Olivia is a current undergraduate at the University of Chicago double majoring in Sociology and Environmental & Urban Studies.

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Cities Designed by Famous Architects

07:00 - 9 November, 2018
Cities Designed by Famous Architects, An aerial view of the planned Masdar City.
An aerial view of the planned Masdar City.

While most architects are remembered for a monumental structure or commission, many of the most prolific names in the field at one point or another set their sights on designing the entirety of a city. Often venturing abroad to see their aesthetic vision come to life across unfamiliar territory (and often, an unsuspecting populace), city planning posed the perfect opportunity to realize one’s architectural doctrine across unimaginable scales. Below, brush up on some of the biggest ventures into urban planning. Whether these plans failed or came to fruition, they ultimately function as crucial insights into the consequences of an outsider defining sense of place and space for a foreign audience for generations.

In Tehran, Design Principles of American Suburbia Unexpectedly Persist

07:00 - 5 November, 2018
In Tehran, Design Principles of American Suburbia Unexpectedly Persist, Image courtesy of Flickr user Dennis Keller
Image courtesy of Flickr user Dennis Keller

Austrian-born architect Victor Gruen is perhaps best known for pioneering the design of the American mall typology. His visions for these spaces sought to incorporate various aspects of the city into a single enclosed or indoor space, with a particular focus on consumption and commercial activity. His sprawling designs functioned as the perfect complement to America’s burgeoning leisure-driven consumer culture as a booming economy and an increase in car travel reinforced the possibilities of this new postwar way of life. Perhaps lesser-known, however, is Gruen’s commission from the Iranian government to design an urban plan for the city of Tehran in the late 1960s.

Courtesy of Business Traveler. Milad Tower overlooks Tehran. Courtesy of Hi Tehran Hostel. A myriad of architectural styles converge–and come into conflict–in Iran's capital. Courtesy of The Conversation. A view of Tehran's skyline. outhdale Center. Courtesy of Life Magazine photo archiv. + 13

Can Future Cities be Timber Cities? Google’s Sidewalk Labs Asks the Experts

04:00 - 23 October, 2018
Can Future Cities be Timber Cities? Google’s Sidewalk Labs Asks the Experts, Courtesy of MGA. ImageMGA reenvisioned the Empire State Building in mass timber construction
Courtesy of MGA. ImageMGA reenvisioned the Empire State Building in mass timber construction

Steel and concrete facades have dominated contemporary cityscapes for generations, but as pressures from climate change pose new challenges for design and construction industries, some firms are turning to mass timber as the construction material of the future. But could it be used for structures as complex as skyscrapers? 

Reimagining Cities in the Face of Climate Change and Migration

07:00 - 16 October, 2018
Reimagining Cities in the Face of Climate Change and Migration, Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut proposes recycling ocean trash as building materials for his futuristic floating cities.
Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut proposes recycling ocean trash as building materials for his futuristic floating cities.

Migration as a result of changing climate has already begun. And while this poses enormous challenges for governments - particularly at a global moment that seems indisposed towards immigration and immigrants - there is also the concern that heritage will inevitably be lost. In places like Scotland, rising sea levels have put ancient sites at risk; the same is the case in island nations in the Pacific. As mounting environmental risks become more inevitable day by day, cities around the world are turning to more resilient forms of architecture and urban planning to combat both short term shocks and longer term pressures as a means of ensuring their future.

DeltaSync's floating geodesic domes propose an alternative space for human habitation and food production. Architect Vincent Callebaut's "Lilypad" project is a multi-use, floating ecopolis that is intended to house up to 50,000 climate refugees per floating structure. Manhattan will construct a massive wall and park to guard against rising sea levels, providing adaptable and interactive public spaces in the process.. ImageCourtesy of Bjarke Ingels Group Copenhagen-based firm SLA's "The Soul of Nørrebro" is an integrated climate adaption project that transforms the city's Hans Tavsens Park into a rainwater catching basin that will help irrigate the city and combat urban heat island effect.. Image© SLA / Beauty and the Bit + 11

Architecture: the Unsung Hero of Your Favorite Film

07:00 - 8 October, 2018
Architecture: the Unsung Hero of Your Favorite Film, Columbus, IN.
Columbus, IN.

How does the built environment--whether fictitious or entirely founded in reality--impact how we experience and process film? From lesser-known indies to blockbuster movies, the ways in which architecture and the built environment inform everything from scene and setting, to dialogue and character development has far-reaching effects on the audience’s cinematic experience. Below, a roundup of everything from recent releases to classic cinephile favorites uncovers the myriad ways in which film utilizes architecture as a means of achieving a more authentic and all-encompassing form of storytelling.

The Sims Lend Aspiring Architects a Hand at World-Building

05:00 - 5 October, 2018
The Sims Lend Aspiring Architects a Hand at World-Building, Some gamers work diligently to recreate historically-accurate structures or design their own renditions.
Some gamers work diligently to recreate historically-accurate structures or design their own renditions.

Avid gamers and casual observers alike have probably heard of The Sims, a life simulation video game and one of Electronic Arts' (EA) most popular franchises. The Sims, which has undergone multiple iterations and expanded its virtual universe many times over the past decade, allows players to dream and control elaborate stories for their Sims. This "virtual dollhouse," as The Sims creator Will Wright describes, also lends players the ability to endlessly customize and construct their own houses and cities for their Sims–a feature that has allowed many gamers to interact more closely with the real world of architecture.