This exploratory project is an output of Bay Area-based additive manufacturing startup Emerging Objects, founded by Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, who are professors at the University of California Berkeley and San Jose State University, respectively. They also co-founded the architecture studio Rael San Fratello, whose work primarily focuses on architecture as a cultural endeavor.
In recent months, legislators in California have begun a concerted effort to use state law to address the state’s ongoing housing crisis. The moves come amid worsening regional inequality that has pushed housing affordability outside the reach of many populations. Facing mounting pressure from a growing cohort of pro-housing YIMBY activists and increasingly grim economic and social impacts—including a sharp increase in the number of rent-burdened households and the number of individuals and families experiencing homelessness—state-level legislators have begun to take action where municipal leaders have thus far stopped short.
Demolition of the Paul Rudolph-designed Shoreline Apartments in Buffalo, New York, has accelerated, and the full destruction of the housing complex is being stalled by a single tenant. John Schmidt has refused to leave his unit in what remains of the brutalist buildings, despite having received an eviction notice, over what he feels are strong-arm tactics from developer Norstar Development Corporation.
The 450-foot-tall hotel will boast more than 600 rooms, around half of the complex’s total, plus a 41,000-square-foot spa and a few restaurants. At the tower’s base, guests can swim underneath waterfalls in plunge pools, relax in private cabanas, and partake in water sports in a giant artificial lake. Right now, the existing Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood hotel has almost 500 rooms, as well as a casino, meeting space, restaurants, and a lagoon pool.
The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has asked PAU to take its plans for the Domino Sugar Refinery back to the drawing board. While reactions from the public and commissioners were warm on the whole, commissioners debated whether the building, which has sat vacant for more than a decade, is a ruin or “armature” as Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) claimed, or whether the structure could—or should—be treated like an adaptable building.
Essentially, PAU intended to use the facade as a mask for a glass office building. Instead of sitting right up against the old brick, the new building would be set back ten feet from the old, and workers could get outside and up close to the original walls via metal latticework terraces poking through the glass envelope. The approach, explained founding principal Vishaan Chakrabarti, would preserve the bricks by equalizing the temperature and humidity on both sides while allowing the architects flexibility within a challenging original structure. A round-arched glass roof would dialogue with the American Round Arch windows that define the facade, while on the ground floor, the designers proposed a through-access from the Kent Avenue smokestack to the park and water that would be open to the public.
In Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, a new exhibition by Ai Weiwei presented by the Public Art Fund, the artist and activist takes on the security fence as a medium for urban intervention, with New York City as his canvas. Some of the works might be easy to miss, like the chain link fences suspended over a gap between two buildings on East 7th Street, just steps from Ai’s old basement apartment. But others, like the monumental Gilded Cage at Doris Freedman Plaza in Central Park, or Arch, nested under the Washington Square arch, are unmistakable and grandiose.
Why do so many architects use Alexander Calder sculptures in their renderings, even when the works have nothing to do with the institution or project depicted? The Calder Foundation has been tracking this phenomenon, and the results are featured in the images for this article.
A new exhibition at the Whitney Museum in New York explores mobiles—kinetic sculptures in which carefully balanced components reveal their own unique systems of movement—created by American sculptor Alexander Calder from 1930 until 1968, eight years before his death.
Americans define themselves through work; it builds character, or so we believe. The American Dream is premised on individual achievement, with the promise that our labor will be rewarded and measured by the things we collect and consume. For many, the sine qua non of the dream, our greatest collectible, is the single-family house. Of all our products, it is the one we most rely upon to represent our aspirations and achievements.
When Thomas Heatherwick—the nimble London-based designer known for work that defies easy categorization—unveiled his design for a new public landmark called Vessel at Hudson Yards to a crowd of reporters and New York City power players in September, questions abounded. What is it? What will it do to the neighborhood? And what does it say that Stephen Ross, the president and CEO of Related Companies, the primary developer of Hudson Yards, is financing the entire $250 million piece by himself?
It’s natural that Ross chose Heatherwick Studio to design his centerpiece, because the office’s creations stun. For the UK Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo, it extruded 60,000 clear acrylic tubes from a center space to create a fuzzy, crystalline object whose apparent fragility is as mesmerizing as it is clever. As the studio moves toward ever-larger and ever-more-public commissions, the people who will live with its work will need to seriously consider what it will mean for their neighborhoods and cities.
If I had to guess, I would say that it has been forty years since Columbus, Indiana, was the hot topic of cocktail conversations at design-related get-togethers in New York City. In those days, it was the supercharged patronage of industrialist J. Irwin Miller and his relationships with designers like Eero Saarinen and Alexander Girard that spurred a wave of innovative and provocative architecture in the small Midwestern town. Columbus, with a population of 45,000, has a Robert Venturi fire station, a John Johansen school, a park by Michael Van Valkenburgh, and several buildings by Eliel and Eero Saarinen, including the younger’s iconic Miller House.
The situation was dire: People were flocking to cities for work, but scarce land and lack of new construction were driving up rent prices. Middle-income residents couldn’t afford the high-end housing stock, nor did they want to enter cramped—sometimes illegally so—apartments. Luckily, a new housing solution appeared: In exchange for small, single-occupancy units, residents could share amenities—like a restaurant-kitchen, dining area, lounge, and cleaning services—that were possible thanks to economies of scale. Sound familiar?
It should: It’s the basic premise behind Carmel Place, a micro-apartment development in Manhattan’s Kips Bay that recently started leasing. The development—whose 55 units range from 260 to 360 square feet—was the result of Mayor Bloomberg’s 2012 adAPT NYC Competition to find housing solutions for the city’s shortage of one- and two-person apartments. Back then, Carmel Place needed special legal exceptions to be built, but last March the city removed the 400-square-foot minimum on individual units. While density controls mean another all-micro-apartment building is unlikely, only building codes will provide a de facto minimum unit size (somewhere in the upper 200 square foot range). What does this deregulation mean for New York City’s always-turbulent housing market? Will New Yorkers get new, sorely needed housing options or a raw deal?
The last twenty-odd years may have seen the remarkable comeback of cities, but the next twenty might actually be more about the suburbs, as many cities have become victims of their own success. The housing crisis—a product of a complex range of factors from underbuilding to downzoning—has made some cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, a playground for the ultra-wealthy, pushing out long-time residents and making the city unaffordable for the artists, creatives, and small businesses who make vibrant places.
This is the inaugural column “Practice Values,” a new bi-monthly series by architect and technologist Phil Bernstein. The column will focus on the evolving role of the architect at the intersection of design and construction, including subjects such as alternative delivery systems and value generation. Bernstein was formerly vice president at Autodesk and now teaches at the Yale School of Architecture.
This semester, I’m teaching a course called “Exploring New Value Propositions for Practice” that’s based on the premise that the changing role of architects in the building industry requires us to think critically about our value as designers in that system. After studying the structure and dynamics of practice business models, the supply chain, and other examples of innovative design enterprises, they’ll be asked to create a business plan for a “next generation” architectural practice. I’m agnostic as to what this practice does per se, as long as it operates somewhere in the constellation of things that architects can do, but there is one constraint—your proposed firm can’t be paid fixed or hourly rate fees. It has to create value (and profit) through some other strategy.