Point of View

April 2011

Interactive Fun

04/28/11

Interactive Fun

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the average American is finding his or her relationship to health and wellness a bit… well… on the rocks. In a time of decreased fitness, increased processed foods, and a general lack of self awareness, most of us can’t figure out how to repair this broken relationship, though we really want to. A classic case of “it’s not you, it’s me.” Who’d have thought that the semester of health classes in high school wouldn’t give us the answers we’d need 5, 10, 20 or even 50 years later? Enter Kaiser Permanente’s interactive Center for Total Health--the therapist you’ve been looking for, that is, if you’re in the Washington D.C. area. The new center was created to begin the discussion on national health as well...

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Q&A: Hunter Lovins

04/27/11

Q&A: Hunter Lovins

For our 30th anniversary issue, I interviewed three pioneers in the green building movement: Bill McDonough, USGBC President and CEO Rick Fedrizzi, and Hunter Lovins. It turns out all three of them share a common approach to environmentalism. They engage with business, rather than confront it. I’d call it second (or maybe third) wave activism. And no one has been at it longer than Lovins, who in 1982 co-founded (with Amory Lovins, her ex-husband) the Rocky Mountain Institute. Today Lovins serves as executive director of Natural Capitalist Solutions, a non-profit dedicated to helping businesses, governments and civic organizations embrace sustainability. She is co-author (with Boyd Cohen) of a new book, Climate Capitalism: Capitalism in the Age of Climate Change. The following is an...

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Plastic Pollution

04/26/11

Plastic Pollution

Beth Terry shared these nurdles and plastic fragments found on Marin, Calif.'s Kehoe Beach in March 2010. Photo: Becca Harsch. Manuel Maqueda says we're stuck midway. We understand plastic pollution issues, but we don't have the solutions. The voice of the Earth is not being heard, Maqueda, co-founder of Plastic Pollution Coalition, says. He was driven to seek plastic pollution justice after a conversation with oceanographer Captain Charles Moore, who is also the founder of the Algita Marine Research Foundation. Moore shared with him what appeared to be a bag of sand which, Maqueda realized, was a bag of minute pieces of plastic. Moore told Maqueda, "that's the beaches of the future…. It's the global warming 30 years ago coming to us now.” Maqueda wanted to take action, to solve...

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From Reclamation to Renewal

04/25/11

From Reclamation to Renewal

Hong Kong Island (view from Kowloon), photo: wired-destinations.com. Our interdisciplinary team, supported by the Runstad Center at the University of Washington, recently went on a research trip to Hong Kong. We were there to view the city through a multifaceted lens, looking to identify success metrics and their outcomes within the built environment. This led us to interview a diverse array of government decision-makers, private developers, investors, consultants, planners, policy-makers, and community representatives. The themes that emerged from our conversations were not quite what we expected in this intensely capitalistic city containing the most skyscrapers in the world. The glittering towers and pulsing streetscapes are on a foundation that is not quite what it seems. Hong...

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Plastiki

04/23/11

Plastiki

Looking at my overstuffed book shelves I wonder if and when I might join the e-reader set. Just then a lovely book reminds me how this media offers something that no digital text nor fun web site nor quality documentary nor video on YouTube can: a personal, intimate, tactile experience with printed word and image, bound together in a package of elegant proportions. David de Rothschild’s Plastiki (Chronicle Books, 2011) rekindles my love of books. If you haven’t heard the name yet, Plastiki is a vessel and an adventure: It is explorer David de Rothschild’s project to build a catamaran of plastic bottles (12,500 of them “glued together”, the text notes, with adhesives made of sugar and cashew nuts, to be exact) and then sail it 8,000 nautical miles across the Pacific. Why? To...

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Minnesota Students in Haiti

04/22/11

Minnesota Students in Haiti

We are among six students and one professor, from the University of Minnesota Architecture School working in Haiti on the Collège Mixte LaConcorde Orphanage project, under the auspices of Architecture for Humanity (AFH), to design a school and orphanage complex from site-work to construction documents in Carrefour, Haiti.  AFH’s relief efforts here are currently being operated out of the Petion-Ville based Rebuilding Center, where they support reconstruction efforts through coordination and collaboration with other NGO's, education and training for Haitian masons and other building trades, and directing the design and construction of primary and secondary schools. We are privileged to work with AFH in Haiti on a number of projects over the course of our six week...

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The Rocky Road to Green Design

04/22/11

The Rocky Road to Green Design

Photo: Morley Von Sternberg. It’s ironic to think that some of the most pleasant and appealing structures in the U.S. have had some of the most painful births. Take Yale’s Kroon Hall. This $33.5 million LEED Platinum flagship building of the University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (FES), opened last spring, has the comforting exterior of a classic Connecticut barn set amongst Yale Gothic. Bordered by inviting courtyards and a water garden, its sun-filled 58,200 sq. ft. interior features red oak paneling from sustainably managed forests, healthy low-VOC workspaces and cheerful gathering areas for students and faculty. A 100 KW photovoltaic rooftop supplies 25% of the building’s electricity, its water is heated by photovoltaic panels embedded in the southern...

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04/21/11

Interior Design Films

Last month, attendees at the annual Interior Design Educators Council (IDEC) conference, were shown the best films chosen from this year’s Interior Design Education Video Competition. Aiming to change the public perception of the profession, the competition asked students to demonstrate the quality of interior design education and industry standards. This year’s theme:  “How is the public’s health, safety and welfare protection enhanced by the skills of fully prepared health care interior design practitioners.” The winning video, “Interior Design and Health Care,” was submitted by Louisiana State University students Colette DeJean, Leigh Hardy, Ryan Weilenman, Sarah Tull, and Alyse Lambert, with the guidance of faculty advisor, Danielle Johnson. It builds a strong...

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Selling Shells

04/21/11

Selling Shells

 One reason the U.S. government has been pushing for home ownership is because it’s said to reduce turnover and build strong communities. But, as I learned on a recent trip to Hong Kong, there may be other ways to get there. Some background might be helpful here: In many Asian countries, commercial building landlords don't finance tenant improvement allowances (the cost of paying for an office or retail tenant to customize their space), the way most do here. Leases are relatively short (often three years, vs our customary five to 10) but tenants tend to stay if the rents are reasonable, after all, they have invested in (and effectively own) an immoveable piece of the asset. In Hong Kong, as I learned, subsidized housing works in much the same way. Thirty percent of the population...

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SaloneSatellite

04/20/11

SaloneSatellite

When forecasting the trends we’d see at Salone, we imagined that designers would invent new ways to maximize space, and that portability and adaptive re-use would be seen everywhere. But we encountered one surprising trend: designers weaving new concepts utilizing the abstractions of Space, Place and Time. Here’s what we saw at the SaloneSatellite, featuring 700 young designers, 20 international design schools, an exhibition whose theme was “50+50 Projects- Designing the Future.” SPACE MAPPING gt_t2P, Parametric Design and Digital Fabrication Studio, based in Chile, creates a design “DNA” through digital crafting of “generative algorithms.” Their objective is to arrive at a custom template that can move from objects to buildings for efficiency, as well as the...

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Taking Action

04/19/11

Taking Action

All hands on deck. The greywater install team. Photo: Simran Sethi. A consensus is emerging that water conservation is about to become one of the preeminent issues facing humanity. A recent survey suggests that 36 states anticipate water shortages as early as 2013. Parts of Africa are already experiencing deadly tribal conflicts over water rights as climate change alters access, and these conflicts are sure to spread and increase in intensity as population demand grows and pollution pressures increase. As these obstacles play out close to home and across the globe, many in first world countries (Americans being among the worst) blindly waste precious resources. Of the world’s total water supply, 2.5 percent is fresh, but less than 1 percent is readily accessible for human...

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2011's Cream of the Green

04/18/11

2011's Cream of the Green

The six-acre green roof of the Vancouver Convention Center, one of the Top Ten Green projects of 2011. Last Thursday was Earth Day, and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and its Committee on the Environment (COTE) took the opportunity to announce its list of the Top Ten Green projects of 2011. As always, the list features a diverse set of projects, but this year’s crop is marked by an emphasis on community. Among the ten winners are two schools, a meeting house for a Unitarian congregation, a sewage treatment plant, and two mixed-use residential buildings – all of which have become invaluable to the townspeople who share their facilities. There is a clear message here: that sustainability is ultimately about people, and need not come at an exorbitant price tag. Here’s a...

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Play at Salone 2011

04/18/11

Play at Salone 2011

Jacopo Foggini at the INTERNI exhibition. Photo: Paul Clemence. The Milan Salone is going full blast and millions of micro to macro world views can be heard there. One moment you might see the exhibit of Italy’s largest design magazine, Interni, which challenged well-known “macro” architects to create “mutant and adaptable” larger than life building forms and the next, an up-coming artist’s micro-experiment to explore with video and dance such puzzling questions as why bees are disappearing from the planet. Clearly the Salone del Mobile is much more than a furniture trade show. It is a vast dialogue on multiple, curious, holographic, networked, and hive mentality  -- from the flood of global visitors to thousands of local teens crowding the streets, design revelers...

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Design, Science, and Unpredictability

04/12/11

Design, Science, and Unpredictability

Tim Brown and Michael Murphy at "State of Design." Photo: Sean Hemmerle. Assessing the state of anything, let alone the whole design profession, seems a daunting task today. But Tim Brown, the CEO of the design firm IDEO, and Michael Murphy, of MASS architects, got together to do just that at “State of Design” last month.  Responding to questions by Metropolis editor-in-chief Susan Szenasy, they turned the tables on the audience by arguing, among other things, for developing new methods of assessment. On the Social Sector Brown, just back from World Economic Forum at Davos, was the voice of experience: progressive but cautious. His comments about fighting for a larger relevance for design and tackling systemic problems came at an interesting time, just as IDEO is all set to...

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From the Field

04/11/11

From the Field

We’ve flown over Italy’s verdant fields, their shapes determined by borders of rivers and forests, a random patchwork that brings to mind a conversation between the land and its artistic expressions. In Milan, we’re set out to explore the Salone through the eyes of local artisans, those involved in creating the new neighborhoods of Isola. Designers, crafts people, and gallerists gave us pointers on navigating the city, the furniture fair, and what’s happening in Isola, the Green Island cultural and artistic event, curated by Claudia Zanfi who described it as a “progetto sull 'arte pubblica e la vita contemporanea,” or in the long form, “ an event which sets out to provide a moment of reflection, as well as giving space to planning energies addressing key themes such as...

Posted at 05:21 PM | Permalink | Comments

Places that Work: Holland's Sidewalks

04/06/11

Places that Work: Holland's Sidewalks

Years ago, a small town in Michigan, best known for its annual tulip festival, diverted waste heat from its power plant into pipes that run under streets and sidewalks in the central business district.  For generations Hollanders have appreciated their forefathers’ prescient decisions, especially in hard, freezing winters with their Lake Effect snow storms.  Thanks to the underground pipes, no matter how cold it gets, the sidewalks stay clear and dry, all because someone was thoughtful enough to use an industrial by-product that other towns blithely discarded. This early decision, which lead to the installation of 120 miles of tubes, have kept downtown Holland alive, even as towns of similar size have been decimated, with shops decamping to nearby malls. I have often driven...

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Collecting Type

04/05/11

Collecting Type

Photo: Irina Lee. Last week, the Metropolis art department headed up to MoMA to for a panel discussion between the museum’s design curator, Paola Antonelli and two renowned type designers, Matthew Carter (2010 MacArthur Grant recipient) and Jonathan Hoefler. The event was presented by the AIGA. MoMA recently acquired 23 typefaces for its collection, which are part of the new exhibition, Standard Deviation. We went to the event that night wondering how a museum acquires a typeface. “We just buy it—or if they’re nice, they give it to us,” Antonelli simply said. But the process is a bit more complex than that. To choose what should go into the collection, Antonelli gathered experts from around the world, including graphic design critics, designers, and historians. Their choices...

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Crowdsourced and Networked

04/04/11

Crowdsourced and Networked

Bio-filtering canals at the Expo 2015 in Milan. Hiving together at a watercooler, a railway platform, a trade show or a World Expo for “crowdsourced” ideas and innovation is as necessary for our evolution as the ideas buzzing on Twitter. Given our lightspeed online community of ideas, some may question the relevancy of World Expos today. But let’s remember that some of our most iconic architecture and design experiments were originally conceived for world expos, gems such as London’s Crystal Palace, Paris’s Eiffel Tower, Seattle’s Space Needle and Buckminster Fuller’s geo domes. Milan’s 2015 is perhaps the first world expo, as its promoters promise,  to be focused on the a “bio-diverse metropolis including the concept of a global kitchen garden, a large space for...

Posted at 03:23 PM | Permalink | Comments

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