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Stewart Hicks: The Latest Architecture and News

The Architecture of Salvage

Buildings are like bodies with organs. When this is the case, with a little extra effort, buildings can be dismantled instead of demolishing them. Dismantling involves carefully removing salvageable components, storing them, and finding them new homes. While this solution is not always possible, it can be part of a sustainable effort that — in addition to keeping material out of landfills — preserves the history and memory embedded within unique materials and fragments. It also honors the human labor invested in our environment. This video explores the reuse of building materials and what it means to be surrounded by fragments with history. It also profiles institutions dedicated to the dismantling and dissemination of building materials, as well as artistic practices that reconfigure our existing built environment including Noah Purifoy and Catie Newell of Alibi Studio. 

How Architects Design for Less Lonely Living

Data shows that many more people are living alone, but the surprising fact is that living alone does not necessarily correspond with an increase in feelings of loneliness. Architecture has been evolving towards increases in privacy and private space for centuries. This video looks at architectural designs that attempt to reverse those trends by designing living scenarios that incorporate more opportunities for public engagement. These include Studio Gang’s City Hyde Park project in Chicago with its angled balconies. But the video goes deeper to look at examples that radically rethink residential architecture, its construction, design, and inclusion of public space.

Adaptive Reuse: From Pork to Plants (and Drugs)

Adaptive Reuse is an important aspect of managing a sustainable existence. Buildings contain massive amounts of embodied energy and the more we can adapt and repurpose them, the better. Buildings are also repositories of collective memories and histories. As we modify them, these layer in new and interesting ways. This video explores the topic through the case study of ‘The Plant,’ a food incubator in Chicago housed within a former pork processing facility. The building’s location and existing infrastructure made it a perfect candidate for its new purpose. John Edel, the founder of the Plant, has also made every effort to showcase the building’s history and to honor its heritage throughout the process of adaptation.

Following a Chicago Architect for a Day

This video follows Hiba Bhatty, an architect at Valerio Dewalt Train in Chicago, through a day on the job. The daily activities of an architect can sometimes seem mysterious. This is likely due to the fact that no day is really “typical.” Designing buildings goes through multiple phases, each with very different responsibilities.

How Kwon von Glinow Designed Their Own Live/Work Space

Winston Churchill once said: "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us." This quote almost seems written specifically for the architecture design firm Kwong von Glinow. Alison von Glinow and Lap Chi Kwong are married and partners in practice. For the last couple years, they’ve been designing and building their own live/work building in a northern neighborhood of Chicago called Edgewater. A model of the house lived in their dining room for months as they conceived of the house, making daily changes until it was constructed and they could move in. They shaped the design, now it shapes them. In this video, Kwong von Glinow takes us through this building — called the Ardmore House — and they explain how they designed it, what it’s like to live in, and how it has shaped their work since.

The Simple Architectural Idea That Took Over Chicago

In Chicago, black or silver-colored towers designed by Mies van der Rohe are sprinkled across the city from the north to the south. They all sprang up within a relatively short period of time and constitute — in combination with some faithful homages — what’s called the Second Chicago School of Architecture. This timeline makes it seem like Mies' strategies sprang out of nowhere and like they were born already fully developed. This video takes a look at how these tower strategies evolved from smaller projects to larger ones by paying special attention to their section. Whereas open plans promise ultimate fluidity, in section, Mies' buildings present another idea entirely. In this direction, difference and discretion dominate and symmetry rules. All of this is in service of developing a close connection between the occupant and the distant horizon.

Why Do Architects Insist on Using Flat Roofs?

It is a commonly held belief by non-architects (and even some architects) that gabled roofs are inherently better than flat ones. The argument typically goes that a gable demonstrates a ‘form follows function’ sensibility, easily shedding water and snow using geometry and gravity. So, flat roofs might leak. While that’s true, this video blows the roof off the topic by taking a finer look at some points that might change your mind. This includes Louis Sullivan’s original reason for writing the phrase “form ever follows function,” as well as the ability of flat roofs to offer outdoor public spaces, supporting green roofs, structural simplicity, wind considerations, among many others. There’s also another, competing functional/formal reason for why a low slope roof might be more prudent than a more aggressive slope, even in snowy areas like Chicago.

Inside the Painstaking World of Miniature Building

Courtesy of Stewart Hicks
Courtesy of Stewart Hicks

This video takes us inside a professional model-building shop in Chicago called Presentation Studios International (PSI). They make models for all kinds of clients, but mostly for developers and architects. We get a tour of the shop from Robert Becker, an architectural designer and former employee. He helps us understand how models are conceptualized a little differently here than within an architectural office or in school. Here, they are almost strictly miniature buildings with the job of faithfully depicting a building design and serving as a persuasive tool to motivate investment. Then, we hear from Martin Chadwick, a life-long model builder to talk through the process of making high-quality miniature buildings and landscapes.

Behind The Scenes of a Daring Renovation

This is the story of architect Grant Gibson’s journey with a house in central Missouri. Originally designed with his mentor, Doug Garofalo, the owners have recently commissioned Grant to design an addition to their award-winning structure. The problem is the original house was designed to make it difficult to add anything at all, and Garofalo passed away shortly after the original house was constructed. Now, Grant, along with his practice CAMES Gibson, needs to design an addition to this house that defiantly resists alteration and to do it in a way that respects the original design while remaining consistent with his own beliefs and design ethos. The clients work closely with Grant to achieve this new design and find a solution to this very difficult problem.

How Models Inspire Architecture

Models are useful to architects for all sorts of things, from the earliest parts of the design, all the way to marketing a building after it's built. But, what is it about models that makes them such an important and powerful tool? And, how do different architecture firms incorporate them into their own and unique design process? This video explores these questions by surveying three firms: Morphosis, MVRDV, and Herzog and de Meuron. Often firms have model shops and dedicated model teams who are responsible for everything from early design decisions to critical client presentations and even marketing the building. We hear from the folks who work in these model shops and breakdown how the three case study firms approach models in their own unique way.

The Architecture of Cottagecore

There’s been a recent popular interest in and adoption of an aesthetic born from agrarian retreats called cottagecore. It harkens back to the days of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other simpler times of settlers, pioneers, and traditional European settlements. Cottagecore includes flowers, woods, warm tones, thatched roofs, worn furniture, and other objects and motifs associated with country living. The restorative power of cottages and retreats has long been recognized, but their popularity and renewed interest coincide with the pandemic as our lives are marked by excessive time spent indoors and communicating solely through electronic mediums.

What’s Behind Architecture’s Hidden Humor

Architecture can be funny. Of course, it often makes for a well-disposed butt of the joke, like when Frank Gehry is satirized on the Simpsons, but buildings themselves can be funny as well. Philosophers like Kant believed humor was in the incongruity between what is expected and what is experienced. There are all sorts of expectations placed on buildings and an infinite number of ways that incongruity might grow between those expectations and what a building actually delivers. This video explores some of the most interesting of these humorous buildings through history, from Giulio Romano’s Mannerism, to SITE Architects BEST stores, and many more. Finally, it points to some contemporary practices that deploy humor to achieve more than just a chuckle.

Inside the Lost House of the Future by the Smithsons

The House of the Future was designed by Alison and Peter Smithson in 1956 to showcase what house designs might be like 25 years in the future. It is an interior-focused rectangle filled in with amorphously shaped walls, storage units, and a central courtyard as well as high technology of all sorts. It is like something out of the Jetsons. While the design remains unique in the Smithsons portfolio, it was highly influential in their student’s work and firms like Archigram built upon its boldly novel concepts. Despite this long and robust influence, the structure was physically standing for only a short time. In this video, the house is reconstructed and explored in real-time. What would it have been like to occupy The House of the Future? See for yourself.

How Architecture Depends on Photography

Architecture and photography are deeply dependent on one another. The first photograph ever taken frames buildings as its subject. Even more, it took an entire room to produce the image through a camera obscura. In the early days, buildings were one of the few subjects that could sit still for the 8 hours it took to burn an image onto a photosensitive medium. However, architecture is dependent on photography too. Buildings are large, slow, and immobile. Without photographs, it would be difficult to visit the important structures around the world. In this way, photographs are an easily shareable surrogate for buildings. But, photographs are not truthful 1:1 depictions so photographers have a lot of agency when it comes to how we experience architecture. This video offers some insight into this relationship and presents a few photographers as examples for how they interpret an architect's intentions and add their own voice. These include Julius Shulman, Ezra Stoller, Stephen Shore, Iwan Baan, among others.

Virtual Tour of the Unbuilt Slow House by Diller + Scofidio

Welcome to the Slow House, Diller and Scofidio’s (now Diller, Scofidio and Renfro) first building commission for Long Island, in NY. The crescent-shaped slug doppelganger, was a pivotal design for the firm — and architecture at large — when it was first revealed in 1990. However, the building was never built, living only through its extensive catalog of models and drawings. In this video, the Slow House is digitally reconstructed, analyzed and explored to discover unique elements lurking in its design that can only be revealed through a first-person experience. From delayed million-dollar views, to CCTV feeds of the water, to dozens of operable plywood doors and shades, the house is truly a machine for viewing. And now, you can view it for yourself. 

Factors to Consider During Site Analysis

Deciding where a building should go is a complex negotiation of visible and invisible, objective and subjective forces. Architects perform site analysis in order to identify and choreograph all these factors, but which factors do they focus on? This video is a survey (pun intended) of what goes into locating where a building should go on the Earth’s surface. From legal requirements like lot lines and setbacks, to infrastructural concerns like service hookup locations and pedestrian ways, to environmental factors like sunlight and topography, the video goes through how architects and contractors position structures. In addition to reviewing general rules of thumb, the video also includes some important architectural examples like the Casa Malaparte and OMA’s Student Center at IIT to inspire unique ways to approach the subject.

Worldbuilding: Architecture from Comics

Today, worldbuilding is an important part of creative thinking in a wide array of activites. From successful film franchises, to video games, and to comics, worldbuilding is what draws in audiences and allows multi-part productions to cohere around a shared setting. Of course, architecture factors into this too, it is the creative and technical discipline concerned with building the world, after all. This video breaks down how worldbuilding applies to architecture and focuses on comics as a case study to explore the opportunities in its consideration. Lastly, the video includes an interview with the designer of the exhibition ‘Chicago Comics’ currently on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Thomas Kelley discusses how worldbuilding factored into the relationship between architecture and comics in the design of the show with regards to scale, entry sequences, and color.

Exploring Chicago’s Lost Walkway System

Chicago was home to a massive elevated walkway dubbed the “pedestrian highway.” It connected buildings on the East Campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago and created a multilevel network of human activity. It was designed by the architect Walter Netsch, the architect of the Air Force Academy Campus and famous chapel in Colorado Springs. The walkway was gigantic and monumental. It was even featured in the horror film Candyman from the early 1990s. But, over time, the walkway fell into disrepair and the decision was made to demolish this piece of iconic urban infrastructure.