When I visited Chicago, I had to visit one of the key actors on shaping a city that breaths architecture, from big part of the skyline to the Millenium Park: SOM.
I have visited SOM before, to interview Craig Hartman at the San Francisco office, but Chicago was were it all started back in 1936 with Louis Skidmore and Nathaniel Owings, and John O. Merrill who joined in 1939.
This time I interviewed Philip Enquist (FAIA), the partner in charge of urban design and planning. Philip has been involved in development and redevelopment initiatives for college campuses, existing city neighborhoods, new cities, rural districts, downtown commercial centers, port areas and even in a master-plan for the entire nation of Bahrain.
It was amazing to hear from him on different processes that have been shaping the most important cities in the world, such as Beijing’s Central Business District or the master plan for the Millenium Park. But I was also surprised about a project we presented to you earlier, the vision for the Great Lakes area, a project that shows a lot of responsibility as an architect and an example that we still have a very important role in our society.
After the break, the usual questions a bonus with what’s a good city, and some photos of the office.
Sustainability has become one of the main issues when designing for any architecture practice around the world, and not only thinking in technological aspects but also in the quality of the community environment. Awarded with the Young Architect Award by AIA Seattle, b9 Architects creates innovative, sustainable, modern architectural solutions utilizing open, connective spaces and maximizing access to natural light. Working through a comprehensive design process, they translate initial concepts into form through text, drawing and modeling, utilizing rhythm and pattern in order to create moments of contrast and difference. Through thoughtful site planning, energy considerations, daylighting and material choices, b9 Architects are committed to working towards achieving carbon neutrality in our built environment.
With this introduction, we would like to present an interview we made to Bradley Khouri, AIA, the Principal and founder of b9 Architects inc. Their work focuses on creating positive change in the urban environment through innovative place-specific modern architecture. Supporting sustainable, transit oriented, walkable communities, b9’s completed works include urban single- and multi-family housing projects, live-work dwellings and commercial interiors.
George is also a partner at Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. Given his position as a partner on one of the most recognized firms in the US and as the voice of the architects through the AIA, George has a very good idea on the current state and future of the profession. We did our usual set of questions, but also included two things that I find very important: The importance on pushing IPD and the role of the AIA during the financial crisis (and what lessons can be learned after it). We also recommend you to read our article on his position regarding small business taxes, part of his efforts to improve the way architects practice in the US.
We published each question as a separate video so you can easily watch them. On a side note, there is some audio noise due to a bad mic placement. My fault, won´t happen again.
This interview first appeared in Assembly, a new magazine that ArchDaily contributor Sarah Wesseler is working on.
According to the United Nations, 1 billion people currently live in slums. Over the next two decades, this figure is expected to double. In recent years, slums (also known, more neutrally, as informal settlements) have increasingly attracted positive attention from academics and design professionals impressed by their efficient deployment of scarce resources, community-based orientation, and entrepreneurial vitality. Architect Rem Koolhaas celebrated the slums of Nigeria in his 2008 book Lagos: How It Works, while Teddy Cruz has become well known for his work with shantytowns on the U.S.-Mexico border. And no less a traditionalist than design enthusiast Prince Charles, prone to harsh public attacks on contemporary architecture, has championed Dharavi, the Mumbai neighborhood portrayed in Slumdog Millionaire, praising its “underlying, intuitive ‘grammar of design’” in a 2009 speech.
Detractors claim that these and similar attempts to examine the slums through the lens of design romanticize poverty and ignore the sociopolitical forces responsible for their creation and proliferation. However, although some projects involving informal design are doubtless better conceived than others, in general there can be no real question that it is appropriate for architects and planners to concern themselves with a phenomenon fundamentally tied to design-related issues such as land use, infrastructure, and materials. And given the failure of so many top-down modernist schemes for housing the poor over the past century, it is logical for the profession to turn its attention to a housing model which continues to mushroom organically around the globe: the shantytown.
An ongoing research project being carried out by 26’10 South Architects, a young South African firm headed by husband-and-wife architects Thorsten Deckler and Anne Graupner, provides an interesting look into this type of work. The couple have spent the past year and a half studying the spatial dynamics of Diepsloot, a Johannesburg suburb created in 1994 to house the poor. Today, approximately three-quarters of Diepsloot’s residents live in slums.
Over the past decade, sustainable design has been transformed from a fringe movement to big business. However, given the sheer scale of the environmental damage caused by the built environment, it’s clear that far more must be done. To prevent future catastrophes, the industry must both scale up its green initiatives and increase their effectiveness.
On the quantity front, the entity most responsible for the explosion of green building is LEED. Developed in 2000 by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), the voluntary project rating system has won over the industry by providing both a convenient set of guidelines for sustainable practices and a clear marketing incentive for designers and firms to go green (or at least appear to).
While in Croatia, I took some time to visit Ljubljana, Slovenia, and interview OFIS Arhitekti. The practice was founded in 1998 by partners Rok Oman and Spela Videcnik, both graduates from the Ljubljana architecture school and the Architectural Association.
At the beginning of the summer we visited SYNTHe, a urban rooftop garden designed and built by professor Alexis Rocha (I/O Platform founder) with SCI-Arc students.
The SYNTHe project is a 3,000sqf structure located on the top of The Flat, a mid rise residential building in downtown Los Angeles, and its the first green garden approved by city official. The idea of this “green blanket” over at the top of the building is to reduce the building heat gain, reduce storm water waste (80% is captured and used for irrigation) and to establish a sustainable plant ecosystem that collaborated with air pollutants filtering. It also reclaims the rooftop area from HVAC, ventilation and fire control systems, giving a new terrace for the users of the building.
Inside this blanket, 1,500sqf are dedicated to the production of edible plant species, and we had the chance to taste them at the restaurant during lunch, very good. The species planted include:
Interview conducted, condensed + edited by Sarah Wesseler
What do research and development mean in today’s design field? To learn more about architectural R&D, I turned to KieranTimberlake, a Philadelphia-based firm that has earned wide acclaim for its innovative work in arenas such as prefabrication and sustainable design. Partner Stephen Kieran and research director Billie Faircloth spoke with me about the history and practice of the firm’s in-house research team.
A few weeks ago we were in LA for Postopolis!, and we toured around the city visiting interesting practices. One of our biggest surprises was Yazdani Studio. We started to see this firm because of their buildings for the Ordos project, so we decided to visit their offices and interview the principal, Mehrdad Yazdani.
Mehrdad Yazdani (BA Arch U Texas at Austin, M Arch at Harvard GSD) is a principal at Cannon Design, an international firm with several offices in the US and abroad. A big corporate office, with all the pros and cons it has. Given this, Mehrdad started Yazdani Studio as a small laboratory that benefits from the reach and resources of a large international practice, with the flexibility of a smaller design studio. This in-between position has allowed Yazdani Studio to work on several scales. Something I really liked when i visited their office was the large amount of test models I saw laying around for every project, a proof of the amount of experimentation at the practice.
During the AIA Convention 2009 we had the chance to talk to different AEC software companies, to learn how they are helping architects. We decided to keep the conversation on the same interview format we have been using, so you can hear it straight from the developers.
While in LA we had the chance to visit Standard, a small firm doing residential and retail projects. We visited their Tree House, featured earlier on AD, where i was able to see for myself the minimalism found in their works. A simple work, but with lots of well executed details and spaces designed to benefit from the views and the shadow of the tree.
The practice was founded in 1996 by Jeffrey Allsbrook (M Arch USC, studies at the at the Städelschule in Frankurt, Germany and at the Berlage Institute in Amsterdam) and Silvia Kuhle (Architect Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany, M Arch Columbia University).
Completed projects include residential, retail, educational, office and manufacturing spaces for a diverse clientele of artists, writers, filmmakers, clothing designers, educators and entrepreneurs in California, New York, Las Vegas, Paris and Mexico. While Standard continues to grow, its partners insist upon maintaining a practice that is rigorous and attentive. Direct accessibility and sustained dialogue between clients and the firm’s partners are viewed as essential to project success.
It was a very good talk, and i really liked their point of view on an central aspect of the profession: the clients.
Postopolis! LA has come to an end (at least for 2009). Postopolis! was discussion, debate and reflection around Architecture and a great variety of related topics: Art, City, Technology, Geography, Visualization, etc., which merged into a multidisciplinary conversation broadcasted live by seven different blogs. It’s impossible to resume in a couple of paragraphs what this days in LA were without thinking we suffered a big overdose of information that we need to take the proper time to digest.
Trying to sort out some ideas, I think at least five topics defined these days for us.
The event for itself, that concentrated expositions and discussions about some very interesting and diverse topics. From talks about the city and security with people from the LA Police Department to understand how some cities are reformulating the relation between cities and their citizens through technology, thanks to Ben Cerveny’s exposition. Complete list of everyone who participated can be found here.
Of course, being in LA, we were forced to travel through the city and it’s renowned highways. We realized how hard it is to move without owning a vehicle. But we also got to know a friendly side of the city, with many interesting and different central places to visit.
Finally, a special mention for the place where Postopolis! was carried out: The Standard Hotel in Downtown LA, a great renovation of a 13 floor building by Konig Eizenberg Architecture, where it seems that everything was specially design for the hotel which has one of the most interesting rooftops of LA.