Just a collection of my thoughts or links to other thoughts on architecture and design.

Monday, June 30, 2008

ShowCase: International Dance Party

ShowCase is a new feature on Archinect, presenting exciting new work from designers representing all creative fields and all geographies. We are accepting nominations for upcoming ShowCase features - if you would like to suggest a project, please send us a message.


About the machine The interactive machine International Dance Party is a complete plug 'n' play party in a box. The machine comes as a large, non-suspicious looking flightcase. Internally, it is equipped with cutting edge radar sensing technology, an ear blasting state of the art 600W sound system, tons of psychedelic light and laser effects, and even a professional grade fog machine. image

Through its dance activity radar, the International Dance Party detects and evaluates motion input from surrounding people in realtime. Several sophisticated transforming mechanisms let the flightcase turn into a powerful and boosting party machine, once the visitors start to dance within the machine's range of perception. imageimage

The audience controls the complexity of the generated music and the intensity of the light effects directly by the energy of its dance action. When there is no audience, or when the audience is not active enough, the machine stops its performance and transforms back into a transport crate. imageimageimageimage

imageAdad Hannah and Niklas Roy Montreal based video artist Adad Hannah and Berlin based machine artist Niklas Roy met each other for the first time in Wroclaw, Poland in 2005, where they decided over a beer to build this machine together. After quite a time of planning and discussing the project's details, Roy prepared the hardware parts and the machine's software in his workshop in Berlin, while Hannah organized the funding for the project. In October 2007, both met again in Hannah's studio in Montreal to assemble the device within one month. David Cheong aka Baddd Spellah joined them both in late 2007 to produce the generative music which booms out of the IDP. Niklas Roy, * 1974 in Nuremberg, Germany, is a Berlin based artist, designer and engineer who builds entertaining electro-mechanical sculptures, machines and devices. His work has been shown at Siggraph (USA), Microwave (Hongkong), Transmediale (Germany), VIPER (Switzerland), Emergences (France), LABoral (Spain), *.artlabs (Romania) and many other festivals and museums around the world, often winning prizes for its inspired inventiveness. Roy holds a degree in visual communications from the University of the Arts in Berlin. He is founder of Royrobotiks, a single member collective, which focusses on building artistic robots and he is member of the "Gruppe für Servicekunst und Dekorationsgestaltung". Currently, he develops "Gallerydrive", a fully automatic futuristic art exhibition and reception system (a collaboration between Royrobotiks and the artist collective //////////fur////). Adad Hannah, *1971 in New York, is a Montreal based video artist. His work primarily focuses on the intersection between photography, performance, and video, usually in the form of video-recorded tableaux vivants. His works have been exhibited around the world including Zendai MoMA in Shanghai (2008), the Vancouver Art Gallery (2007), the National Gallery of Canada (2006), Ikon Gallery (Birmingham 2006), the 4th Seoul International Media Art Biennale (2006), Casa Encendida (Madrid 2006), Viper Basel (2004). In 2004 he won the Toronto Images Festival Installation/New Media Award, and the Bogdanka Poznanovic Award at Videomedeja 8. He recently completed the six-projector installation Cuba Still (Remake) – a deconstruction of an unknown movie still from the middle of the 20th century and its subsequent reconstruction in video. Adad Hannah is represented by Pierre-Francois Ouellette art contemporain www.pfoac.com Baddd Spellah finds it very hard to write convincingly about himself in the 3rd person and not sound insincere or pretentious. He had hoped that inspiration would strike and bestow upon him some wry and witty words for this personal account but instead he copped out with this evasive literal obfuscation. Its an obvious tactic to obscure his identity and hide behind a mask of anonymity. While he'd like to think this creates a certain mystique its probably more accurate to say that his real life is not interesting enough to warrant summing up in this block of text.


What US Embassy Designs Say About America

Neighbors judge you by the looks of your house. So, what do America's embassy designs say about itself? Article | Slideshow


Milking the design community

Is this how we will attain a "green" future: turning to design and innovation to make small steps and rethink everyday items, such as milk jugs, rather than focusing solely or even principally on reducing consumer consumption, and alternative energy use? New York Times


Fuji Kindergarten in Tachikawa

Designed by Takaharu and Yui Tezuka, the school is "a building without redundant corners, one that promotes a sense of community, with generous open spaces and clear sight line". Detail magazine published a video interview with Mr Takaharu and Monocle a short video feature describing the owner's intentions. Tezuka Architects' website.


Olympic Stadium London 2012

For those who didnt see yet the masterpiece of Squint/Opera on the Olympic Stadium that was designed by HOK with Peter Cook for the London 2012 Olympics. A very inspiring VIDEO about what comes and goes in our contemporary cities.


New Ordinance With Major Impact on Los Angeles

Los Angeles wants to go green and limit the lot coverage on residential projects considerably. New ordinance goes effective this Monday, limiting the coverage to 25% of the lot and you get additional 20% with a LEED certification. ord. 179883(pdf)


Robin Hood Gardens design competition: The results

The top entries in BD and the Architecture Foundation's ideas competition for Robin Hood Gardens show that inspired refurbishment of the estate can give it a new vibrancy while reaching the required density levels. See the results


Prefab Buzz via Marmol Radziner

"For all the buzz surrounding prefab, few of these projects actually move beyond the conception stage to become built environments. The number of full-fledged modern prefab houses built nationwide in 2008 will be in the dozens, not hundreds." LAT | previously


Friday, June 27, 2008

The Dark Side of New York's Condo Craze

High-Cost Condos, Low-Cost Labor—and Threats of Violence to Union Organizers. In this age of housing gluttony, high-rise builders sink to new lows. All the while lone "Condo Mayor" becomes a commandment for the city's elite: Michael Bloomberg—live like him! By Tom Robbins. Village Voice


FW: AA Swoosh pavilion

The third in a series of end of year 1:1 structures by Intermediate level students of the Architectural Association. Photos and technical details on BD>>


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Top 10 Cities for Design in America

RMJM Hillier has come up with a list of America's Best Cities for Design. American cities with more than 500,000 inhabitants were judged according to criteria such as the quality of public transit, the number of LEED-registered buildings (indicating sustainable design) and how many of the city's employees work within creative industries such as performing arts or publishing.


Nano Vent-Skin

Nano Vent-Skin (NVS) is a project that aims to trigger new approaches to greener, more energy efficient structures. Conceived by Agustin Otegui, a designer in London, the NVS system consists of micro-scale wind turbines that are integrated into buildings and other structures to generate electricity. More


Olafur Eliasson & the East River

Today, 4 monumental, man-made waterfalls open to the public along the East River. They were created by the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, in conjunction with the Public Art Fund. WNYC's Pejk Malinovski took a boat ride around the project site with the artist, several weeks before it opened. Listen @ WNYC | USA Today | prev. 1 | 2


Tribune Tower For Sale?

Last week we read that the Chrysler Building was getting eyeballed by Abu Dhabi investors and now the Tribune Tower and the LA Times Mirror Square (just down the street from the Archinect HQ) are facing possible sales. NBC | LA Times


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New High Line Images

This morning, for the first time since 2005, we were blessed with new images of The High Line. Coming at you now in a series of three posts, a look at what's arriving soon to West Chelsea's elevated rail tracks. Phases 1 | 2 | 3 @ curbed.com


Oslo Gets its Space Station

The excitement about the new Opera House has just started to wear off before Oslo is planning a new project. On June 13, the winner of the competition for designing the new central station was announced. There were four strong competitors, but finally it was the Norwegian architect firm, Space Group, which got the honour of giving its touch to the capital skyline. Bustler


Jerusalem Bridge Calatrava

News item (with pics) about the inauguration of Calatrava's bridge in Jerusalem, which is opened Wednesday.


Forbidden Cities

The New Yorker's Paul Goldberger discusses Beijing's new architecture.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

FW: Solar Textiles

Sheila Kennedy, an expert in the integration of solar cell technology in architecture who is now at MIT, creates designs for flexible photovoltaic materials that may change the way buildings receive and distribute energy. These new materials, known as solar textiles, work like the now-familiar photovoltaic cells in solar panels. Made of semiconductor materials, they absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity. MIT News


Stream Restoration; Not Exactly

Cornelia Dean examines the inexact science of stream restoration. Once it was thought that restoring "the water channel" was key. However, as stream restoration has advanced it is becoming clear that in fact their are many factors at play and that "re-creating" one main channel can actually create non-natural streams. NYT + Full Entry


Hadid & van Berkel to Mark the 100th anniversary of the Burnham Plan

Zaha Hadid and Ben van Berkel will be designing pavilions in Chicago's Millennium Park as part of next year's 100th anniversary celebration of Daniel Burnham's Chicago Plan.


Grand Designs Writ Large

In a few weeks' time, Channel 4 Television in the U.K.will screen a series of TV programs that have followed every twist and turn of the urban renewal of a town. The series has been made across six years. It will feature a generation of young architectural All Stars - but was founded upon the wisdom of Denise Scott Brown. See David Barrie


Monday, June 23, 2008

Desert Town Unveiled

Ugh, more silliness from the Middle East…

In Abh Dhabi at the international property investment and development exhibition SMAQ's master plan for a site in Dubai was unveiled. The plan for a sustainable mixed-use development for 7000 inhabitants will be built within the next three years.


Something from Nothing

Why would a company want employees diving into its trash bins? Because at Sasaki Associates, one of the country's hottest landscape and urban-design firms that's shaping the Olympic village in Beijing, life is all about salvaging good from bad. Boston.com > Read | Look


Medellin, Colombia

On Iwan.com, photo Galleries of the Orquidearum, Botanical Garden and the Biblioteca Espana two remarkable and very different structures built on the periphery of Archinect's architecture world.


Battersea Power Station back in the news

London. Now is time for Rafael Vinoly backed by owner and developer Real Estate Opportunities (REO) to unveil a new proposal for this very difficult site. Property Week, describes it as "breathtaking". A former RIBA President says that Vinoly is a menace more in zerochampion >


To Design or Not To Design for My Autocrat?

In a long winding article, writer ROBIN POGREBIN wrestles the issue nearly all starchitects deal with: the Autocrat clientele. Among many statements for the article, Rem Koolhaas declines to comment. Bill Menkins, the editor of Architect's Newspaper is quoted saying, "to suggest that providing high-quality design justifies working" in China "is slippery ethics." NYT


The New Trophy Home, Small and Ecological

For the high-profile crowd that turned out to celebrate a new home in Venice, Calif., the attraction wasn't just the company and the architectural detail. The house boasted the builders' equivalent of a three-star Michelin rating: a LEED platinum certificate. The actors John Cusack and Pierce Brosnan, with his wife, Keely Shaye Smith, a journalist, came last fall to see a house that the builders promised would "emit no harmful gases into the atmosphere," "produce its own energy" and incorporate recycled materials, from concrete to countertops. NYT


Public Farm 1 at first blush

Metropolis Magazine: "The need for shade and cozy places to huddle and speak to new friends is what I look for in these installations in the garden. Much of the overhead area is left open and bare, seemingly unaddressed. It feels like a pulled-back version of what could have been." Whoops. Also, don't miss Dan Wood in his harvesting skirt.


Friday, June 20, 2008

CJM Now Open

About the Contemporary Jewish Museum just opened in San Francisco and designed by Daniel Libeskind; "Where traditional modern buildings were usually simple Platonic shapes, these buildings seem to be falling apart, or bursting outward. Once avant garde, this trend, sometimes labeled deconstructivism, is now mainstream," says the article in San Jose Mercury News. | Museum building | admirin' | what's inside?


Gehry's Serpentine Pavilion Construction

After all the outrage, praise, disgust, wonder and mixed emotions that the architectural model of the serpentine pavilion 2008 created, I am glad to announce that the building's construction photo gallery is up and running. Go on and express yourselves some more.


Winners of 38th Annual Los Angeles Architectural Awards

Today, the Los Angeles Business Council (LABC) honored the region's finest architecture design projects, including the new Los Angeles Green Building Award, at the 38th Annual Los Angeles Architectural Awards. Bustler


Dymaxion Dream

New Yorkers will get a chance to see the Dymaxion, Buckminister Fuller's failed but inspiring car. One of three that was ever built will be on display at the Whitney this month in a show called, "Buckminster Fuller: Starting With the Universe." The Dymaxion was placed at the zenith of the first wave of semi-scientific streamlining. NYT


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

OFIS Architects Complete Competition Winning Soccer Stadium in Slovenia

Eastern Slovenia's new football stadium in Maribor, designed by OFIS Architects, is now complete. Images and info at Bustler.


Friends of the American Supertall

A satirical response to the diminishing presence of American architecture in the news surrounding supertall towers that is highlighted by the NY Times article, Scraping the Sky, and Then Some.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Of Suburbs and Shanty Towns

Studio 360 does a show on the American suburb. It includes an interview with Teddy Cruz and a slideshow of his work.


Do we want to be citizens or customers?

CNN speaks to Rykwert about how buildings and spaces act as a metaphor for society, our transition from citizens to customers and the challenges facing the built environment in the 21st century. CNN | part of their Principal Voices series.


Abu Dhabi fund looking to buy Chrysler Building for $800 million

This is kind of sad.  There is something wrong to me about this.

Flush with dollars as oil prices reach record heights and remain there, Middle East economies are looking at newer ways to invest their money, and prime American real estate is their latest target. Domain-B.com


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Forgotten Eero

Slate's Witold Rybczynski presents a nice little slide show on the work of Eero Saarinen.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

An Architectural Zoo

With its grooming rooms, en-suite showers and double-domed roof, Norman Foster's new addition to Copenhagen Zoo is pure elephant bliss. Jonathan Glancey reports


Bathroom Efficiency

Design Odyssey has released an efficient bathroom unit combining two showers, a cistern, storage, sink, and toilet all in one swiss-army-knife-like unit. Pics and video after the jump...


Monday, June 9, 2008

Is the future of Urbanity in the East?

A building frenzy is raging in Asia, Russia and on the Persian Gulf. And cities like London and New York don't have the money to compete. Will Western urban landscapes soon look outdated? Der Spiegel


UNStudio wins German Concrete Award 2008

The jury of the Concrete Architecture Award 2008 selected the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany as one of three award winners in this year's competition. Bustler


The New, New City

Shenzhen and Dubai may have outstripped Paris and New York as civic models. But can an instant city ever feel like the real thing? NY Times


New York's Top Crane Inspector Arrested

In light of the criminal investigation following the second crane accident in as many months in NYC, the top crane inspector for the city's department of buildings was arrested today after incriminating documents were seized from his office: "The city's chief crane inspector was arrested on Friday and charged with taking bribes to approve cranes under his review and for taking money from crane operators who sought to ensure that they would pass the required licensing exam, an official involved in the case said." city room


First Person Singular: How to deal with Ken's legacy of tall storeys

The Telegraph's architecture critic Ellis Woodman discusses why the mayor's new planning advisor must propose a vision of what London's future will look like.



Main Entry: builder
Pronunciation: 'bil-d&r
Function: verb
Etymology: from boulder, to climb boulders.
Date: circa 1970
Synonyms: urban climbing, stegophilism
1. to climb a man-made structure designed for purposes other than climbing.

NYT Magazine - Architecture Issue

The NYT Sunday Mag does its architecture issue.


Crowded House

Architects that I like:

"MVRDV's radical, research-driven methodology has been a source of fascination to critics and competitors from the start. 'No one else has found as convincing a way,' writes the historian Lootsma, of 'showing the spatial consequences of the desires of the individual parties involved in a design process, confronting them with each other and opening a debate with society, instead of just fighting for one or the other, as most architects would.' MVRDV's history and Maas interview - NYT Magazine


Erector Set Sculpture

Artist Chris Burden has created a 65 foot tall 'skyscraper' made from 16,000lbs of stainless steel in Rockefeller Plaza. NYT


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Gehry Designs NYC's Tallest Residential Tower

Starchitect condos? Old news. Now real estate companies are tapping high-profile architects to design rental apartment buildings. In Lower Manhattan, Forest City Ratner Companies and Frank Gehry, FAIA—the team behind the controversial and recently downsized Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn—are erecting what will become New York City's tallest residential dwelling, Beekman Tower. Tenants will start taking occupancy in fall 2010, distinguishing the project as Gehry's first completed residential tower. ArchRecord


Post icon 'reconstruction' Rotterdam (UNStudio)

Images of a renovation project by dutch firm UNStudio. Ben van Berkel transformed a former post office building into a shopping mall and hotel. Go


Schindler's 1936 Fitzpatrick House donated to MAK Center

The modern, L-shaped, trilevel, 2,400 sq. ft. home is unusual because it was built as a spec house for a developer, Clifton Fitzpatrick. Current owner Russ Leland, who donated the house said, "I got tired of being introduced as the one who owned the Schindler Fitzpatrick House." LAT


people who buy glass houses

Are architectural landmarks a good real estate investment? - asks Slate's Daniel Gross


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

TREY TRAHAN Defining Local

From Archinect, an architect I rather enjoy and can't wait to see more of.

In January 2004, the gifted but little-known Louisiana architect Trey Trahan suddenly found himself thrust into the international spotlight at the age of 42, when his design for the Holy Rosary Catholic Church Complex was built. The construction of Trahan's exquisite minimalist scheme came just after the openings of the two most publicized churches of the decade, Richard Meier's Jubilee Church in Rome and Steven Holl's Chapel of St. Ignatius in Seattle. In contrast to those high-profile extravaganzas, Trahan's unassuming sequence of cubic structures, interwoven with his Holy Rosary's newly master planned series of buildings, seemed startling in its simplicity and its insistent focus on the display of light, detail and place. Trahan sets his work apart by exploiting the traditional Louisiana's strategies of clarity, understatement, opposition, asymmetry and proportion. At a time when many other architects are addicted to endless theoretical self-justification, Trahan is content to let his eloquent architecture speak for itself. Like his buildings, it requires close attention to appreciate its subtleties. He believes that only study, study and more study will reveal the best way to resolve an architectural problem. If, as Le Corbusier said, "creation is a patient search", then Trahan sees it as a tireless one. _Liz Martin

Liz Martin gets into a conversation with Trey Trahan after he participated in a symposium entitled Go Slow, Move Quickly, at Southern Polytechnic State University's School of Architecture in the Atlanta-metro area. LM_How did growing up in southwest Louisiana influence the way you think about craft, materials and building technology? TT_I was born and raised in rural Louisiana and as someone who has lived here all my life, I sometimes forget the wonderful cultural diversity of our state. The French and Cajun culture and the whole gulf coast region—those influences are not just the food and local regional flavor, but also the way people socialize and interact. I think people who move here find that diversity extremely rich and begin to understand that the lifestyle can affect and influence building. And of course there is New Orleans, with its own unique culture and an impact on not only here, but outside the region. As a kid growing up, I think the cypress trees and wetlands were an important influence. When working on Holy Rosary, we referenced Bousillage, which is a primitive form of concrete used in many Louisiana structures during the mid to late 1700s. We used this plastic monolithic material to convince the client that this was rooted in the traditions of Louisiana and the way natural light plays on this material. image

Trey Trahan in his office, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

LM_Talk to me a little bit about Bousillage. The texture, usage and exploration of materials seem to play a very active role in your design. Is the development of construction techniques a pivotal part of your design of churches and spiritual spaces? TT_ Bousillage is made from clay, horsehair and moss. We used one inch by various size cypress boards to form the building with a really stiff mix so that you can actually see the roll and movement of the concrete intentionally contrasting the hard linear edges of the geometry. imageimageimageimage

Holy Rosary Catholic Church Complex, 2004

The budget for the chapel was 360 thousand dollars and the original bid came in a little over 1 million dollars. Obviously, I was terrified thinking we would have to redesign the project, but we found we could get it in budget by moving from board formwork where the hours for carpenters were numerous to a process where we sent 3d computer files to a milling company in Florida and with a 5 axis router milled the forms. Most of the cost overage was in the labor for the formwork. Milling the boards and using a unique concrete mix reduced the budget to just under 360 thousand dollars. In our projects, we try to be creative with materials and construction methods so as to not compromise the design intent. LM_Tell us a little about how your firm operates. Master negotiator, material buff, chief cook and bottle washer: TT_We're approximately 15 people, at times we increase to 20 depending on the workload. As we grow we are testing different strategies, so to speak, that we can test on a building or small pieces of furniture. Those interests are growing and diversifying. While designing, I sometimes wander outside my comfort level, while at other times return back to the clearly legible, and I enjoy designing different types of projects and having that kind of exploration plastered over the walls in the office. Recently, we've begun to receive emails from Germany or France from people who are aware of our work and want to come work with us. At first most of our studio was made up of graduates from LSU, then later Tulane and ULL, now we're attracting people from around the country and world. This diversity adds a great richness to the culture of the firm and yes, it's my firm with my name on the door, but I enjoy a collaborative environment. I feel it's important to create an environment where everyone in the office feels they can be open, candid and express their different views. LM_Has your role in the office changed through the years as you've grown? TT_For me, more than anything, especially in the early years, those times of really intense effort are what I needed to move a project forward. Now we're building on that experience and starting to do work outside the region: a church in Colorado Springs, a stadium in Cincinnati, potentially a project in Toronto. Corbu may have been onto something when he said that "creation is a patient search,"_simplistically that is our mantra. imageimageimage

Nippert Stadium (top) and Fifth Third Arena (middle and bottom) at University of Cincinnati

LM_What are some of the advantages and disadvantage of practicing in a city that is not necessarily an active participant of the progressive architectural discourse? TT_ We typically are thought of as people who reproduce what other cities have done years ahead of us and that is the biggest disadvantage. There are few, if any, examples of architecture similar to our work, or where firms are pursing design like our work here in Baton Rouge. It's difficult to show potential clients a reference as a way of building confidence or finding local precedence. Oftentimes, our clients start off by saying that type of work looks great, but it's not appropriate here because they don't see any of it built locally. Our challenge is to jump that hurdle and attempt to develop an understanding by educating our clients to what architecture can be. We need to explain not only why it meets their basic needs, but also why it will stand the test of time. If you have rational reasons for what you're doing and the design decisions have deeper meanings, clients are not only accepting, they get excited about it. But then the advantages are along the same lines. We are beginning to see this strong interest in believing that the south can begin to participate in this movement of creating great architecture. I think it is actually much bigger than just great architecture, but believing that Louisiana can escape the politics of the past and excel in many things―with architecture being one of those ways. The idea that we can potentially be on the creative forefront, I find that challenge exciting and motivating. LM_How do you begin working on a building? TT_When I first began designing, I had an identifiable origin and very quickly an identifiable destination. One thing I've found as I've gotten older and more confident in my skills and the skills collectively of the firm is that the journey itself is terribly exciting. We enjoy not knowing where the creative process is going to take us, but at times we mix it up because we're also not sure where we are starting. Of course, we oftentimes begin with understanding the physical conditions of the site, but we quickly depart from there.


We are working on a few projects these days that are adjacent to bodies of water, like the Mississippi. We are intrigued with the parceling of that development as it moves from agricultural into more clearly definable urban centers. We start with those things, but we also do research into the culture and politics of the area, among other things. Early in my career, I think I was only capable of seeing what was obvious and to me it's similar to getting to know a person. You may initially find them to be physically beautiful, but over time find that there are wonderful characteristics within their values, convictions and personality that are much stronger than their physical appearance. I don't have that totally figured out in terms of architecture, but we're looking for that depth in our projects. We're hopeful this search will serve as an influence that in the end results in raw, genuine solutions. LM_Architecture at a variety of scales: furniture to stadiums, how do you maneuver between scales? How do you maintain or manage a process where your work on one level thinks about and details a project down to the square inch, like your Holy Rosary Church, to approaching designing a sports stadium, down to a piece of furniture? TT_ I think it's all about process. With a piece of furniture, it's identifying strategies to studying and evaluating the form, among other things. Same with a building, it's an investigation into its context. For a recent furniture commission, the client's needs were very influential in the design. The client spoke of wanting a desk that would be an important piece in the shop; felt soft like clothing; met the functional requirements of transaction; and at the same time incorporated a vitrine to display small objects. The client's needs made it different than a reception desk in a corporate office. We are early in the furniture piece, so I'm not sure we have all the answers, but it was a fun project for a great client that understood that the work can be much more than a piece of furniture -- that it can stimulate dialogue about it, which generates interest in the shop and hopefully results in increased sales. imageimageWith many of our projects, we try to integrate the systems, leaving the space itself along with the material and the visible details to create a unique project tied to the practical, or given, ingredients like site, budget, or client. This is a common thread in all our work. imageimageimage

On the Boards: Turner Industries, Inc, office project in Baton Rouge

LM_Do you have a particular architectural project you have found inspirational, and how has that inspiration affected your practice? TT_When I think about this question, I'm tempted to answer not with an architect or building, but a person. And that would be my grandfather and what he meant to me. He was my father's-father and I was named after him. My grandfather was a humble and extraordinary person that started with very little and worked very hard, and he did it with such dignity. My grandfather had a milk processing plant that I would go to as a kid and we would make real butter. He was a simple and quite man that spoke only when he had something to say, but was terribly genuine. It's the characteristics that I think great architecture possesses. In a way, I think that buildings do represent who we are, how we think, and what we want out of life. If I had to name a present day architect, I like Ando's work. I like the way I feel in those types of spaces. I am a person who believes we have too much clutter in our lives and our relationships. I am much more comfortable in an environment where the human is elevated by reduction. LM_Do you think there is poetry in construction? (312) TT_I do. I am fearful of how people think of construction, but at the same time excited about new materials and processes for building. I am hopeful we can return to one that is more poetic; and one that has a more collaborative relationship among all parties. For Holy Rosary, we had the contractors and sub-contracts sit down with us for a day, and we presented to them images of Corbu, Kahn and Ando's work and we spoke of just that -- the importance of their hand as artists, not only in placing the rebar, but also as artist in their respect for the formwork and its alignment in the finish; the artistry associated with vibrating the concrete and the mix of the concrete. It was an extraordinary meeting because these individuals who have never poured vertical concrete―only horizontal slabs – bought into the process and were so respectful of what we were seeking to create. LM_ Your work often centers on complex issues that are resolved simply. Can you explain your approach to design? I like the idea that you go from the general to the detail and then from the detail to the general. It's a double process-you can not think about building without thinking about materiality AND when you think about materiality, you start to think about the detail. TT_I wish it was as streamlined and as organized as when you just spoke, but its fun thinking about the much broader issues of planning, but at the same time thinking about how materiality manifests into a detail that supports that…I find that I can only fully understand and explore the joy of detailing when the broader issues in my mind are resolved; reflective of the complexity of the problem. It would be unfair not to mention that at times, we think we are in design development and we are close to moving into construction documents only to find that the level of information that reveals at that level allowed us to see things slightly differently, causing us to re-evaluate. LM_You were recently listed by a local magazine as "our 2008 people to watch" and your work has been featured in many magazines. Has this exposure given potential clients more confidence to go with your firm?


TT_In the past, I was as excited about clients as I was fearful of them. I think I've arrived at a point where I simply want to work with open-minded clients to build great projects. After a little bit of exposure and a handful of happy clients, I thought it would become much easier. We were getting invited to lecture at universities and conferences; won a few national AIA and other awards; our designs were getting published. For example, Holy Rosary has been published in 30-40 magazines around the world―it was even on the front cover of a Turkish magazine. In some ways, the publicity and honors lead to more calls, and in some ways I believe our work is what is advancing the firm. You learn a little; you work really hard. You learn a little more and then you work harder. At times, I question whether we are really advancing things and then over night the office elevates to a different level. With it the opportunities increase and you realize that the past few years were all about building that…whatever "that" is, but either way, it takes a lot of sweat equity to create architectural opportunities. LM_Many architects say to call your work "timeless" is the ultimate compliment and further that cultural buildings should be able to change with the times, how do you reconcile this opposition? TT_Sometimes it's really easy to be seduced by a beautiful move that at first appears to have elegant and appropriate qualities. But with further study and discussion, you begin to question the substance behind it. The honesty of the move in that it is not recklessly applied for the sake of sensuality or because it's an interest you have one day that has nothing to do with program, uniqueness of place, client, or cultural influences of the area. Then the "cool move" begins to fall apart, and I think good architecture, whether it's timeless or thoughtful should be about creating something on all levels. Architecture is so connected and rooted in not only intellectual discussion about these things, but intuitively understanding why a design decision is right. Once you've studied and tested a design idea and then studied it again, you reach a point where you know it's the right move, or the only move. Then you say: let's go ahead and advance it because it now makes sense. LM_How is your project with Brad Pitt going? What's the idea behind the Make it Right! projects? TT_The Make it Right! projects are about how you rebuild responsibly in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, which was one of the most devastated areas after Hurricane Katrina. How do you respond to creating a dwelling that is not only sensitive and respectful of the history and culture, but also responsive to the next hurricane, which is inevitable? And you also want to create something that is uniquely beautiful for a place. We recently found out that our design is one of the first five houses selected to be built. imageimageimageimage

Trahan's design above will be one of five homes lower 9th ward residents choose to have built for them by a foundation spearheaded by Brad Pitt.

LM_FINALLY, Tell us briefly about working on the superdome in New Orleans. For this project, you were working on the reconstruction of this area after Katrina. What were you/the city aiming for? TT_The impact Katrina had on New Orleans and Baton Rouge has been tremendous. The work until recently has mostly been clean-up, almost janitorial work to some extent. We were selected right after Katrina to renovate the Superdome and it was beyond belief to witness what humans will do when they are put in that extreme of a situation. It's hard to find the words to describe, but it was painful to walk that building just after Katrina. For us, the Superdome was a very large project, and challenging because it was iconic to the rebirth of the city. Although it was only an athletic venue, the hope was to give the people of New Orleans some sense that a normal life could return. The project was large. The Superdome has a roof of 9.8 acres and 1.9 million square feet. Our initial attempt to deal with the complexity of the project involved testing every system and that is what we used to identify the scope of work. One of the questions many people were asking was: how can the state, federal government and FEMA commit so much money to rebuilding a sports venue, when there are hospitals, schools and the basic necessities of infrastructure that are struggling? And then, I'll fast forward―on opening day, when we returned this iconic building to a time and place where people believed that the city could come back; it was incredibly powerful as an architect to have people of all walks of life come up to me and say you have no idea what your team has done giving my family the hope that we can stay here and rebuild our lives. Never had I experienced playing the role of an architect and felt that way and realized the power and the impact that we in this profession can have on people's lives. It's something I am very proud of. It's not a building I would ever claim to be my own, but it is the most fulfilling experience so far that I've had in my career as an architect. LM_Is it architecture's role to save cities, or is it simply a profession at the service of other, greater visions? TT_Well, a building that is iconic does bring a lot of attention and recognition to not only the architect, but the city. And in some ways it is really exciting, especially when you look at the success of Gehry in Bilbao, which solidified the star-architect where every city wants a building by Libeskind, Mayne, Zaha…you name it. But for me, I'm going to go back to my grandfather, who had this quiet presence that was extremely powerful. His influence on me made me realize a person should be as genuinely connected to who you are as an individual, as well as who we are as people collectively. So I think architecture does serve a greater role, but at times should exercise a healthy degree of restraint. Obviously I feel that we as architects don't have all the answers, but the desire to do good work for all walks of life is what I learned during my experiences working on the Louisiana Superdome in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Liz Martin is Professor of Architecture at Southern Polytechnic State University. In 2006, she was awarded one of Atlanta's emerging voices by the AIA/YAF and as a result participated in a group show at the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA). Liz's firm Alloy Projects is based in Atlanta with ongoing projects in Los Angeles.

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Constructing the Olperer House in the Zillertal Alps

Not really a news item but a movie about the construction of a spartan shelter for hikers and mountaineers at 2,400 m above sea level in the Zillertal Alps. More movies at Detail.de


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Architect Thom Mayne to Receive MacDowell Medal

The MacDowell Colony, the nation's leading artist residency program, will present its Edward MacDowell Medal this year to architect Thom Mayne. He will be the 49th recipient of the MacDowell Medal, which is awarded annually to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the arts. Mayne joins an impressive list of past recipients, including Leonard Bernstein, Thornton Wilder, Georgia O'Keeffe, and fellow architect I.M. Pei. Bustler


Athens' deserted Games sites a warning to London Olympics

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Le Corbusier's Ronchamp chapel stirs passions online

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2007 AMD Open Architecture Challenge Announces Winners

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Paris, Part Deux

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Monday, June 2, 2008

Learning from Lerner

The former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil is carrying his message of sustainability to the world's burgeoning cities. Lesson one: get rid of your car. Metropolis Magazine previously


Towers of Learning?

Some cool buildings in the UK.

Iain Borden explores some of the newest university buildings from across the UK for the Guardian. How wisely have they spent and will their shiny new buildings stand the test of time? Slideshow


Lost in the Clouds?

This looks interesting, I think.

Gehry is designing a tower of shimmering beauty near Brooklyn Bridge. Nicolai is enthusiastic. NYT