Point of View

August 2012

The Other Social Network: ANEW + Teknion

08/31/12

The Other Social Network: ANEW + Teknion

In the inaugural post of our series on social sustainability, we featured John Peterson of Public Architecture, who had participated in a panel discussion titled “Sustainability Without Borders” at this year’s NeoCon. In this follow-up, we’ll focus on the two other participants in that panel. Rose Tourje is the founder and president of the non-profit ANEW Foundation, whose catchphrase “doing what’s right with what’s left” sums up the organization’s sustainable mission: ANEW helps streamline the process of finding homes for used or surplus furniture, building materials, and office miscellany. By taking the cast-offs from office remodels or manufacturers' discontinued product lines and placing them with organizations—mostly other non-profits or public agencies—that...

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Anatomy of an Acquisition

08/30/12

Anatomy of an Acquisition

It seems nary a week (or two) goes by without news of yet another “strategic partnership” or acquisition involving Perkins + Will (P+W).  Last week brought news that Envision Design—the Washington, D.C.-based architecture firm founded by Ken Wilson and Diana Horvat—had joined the P+W fold. For 13 years, Envision carved out a rather impressive niche as green interiors specialists. They designed offices for Greenpeace, the Environmental Defense Fund, and, three years ago, the LEED Platinum headquarters for the U.S. Green Buildings Council in Washington. We did a major story on the USGBC offices and got to know the firm well. So last week I called Wilson and asked him about the process of being acquired by such a savvy-acquirer. P+W’s approach can be best described as that of...

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The Green Team Part 2: Colors Only Your Dog Can See

08/29/12

The Green Team Part 2: Colors Only Your Dog Can See

Parks are not just for people they’re for pets, too!

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08/28/12

Smart Things

A hot button topic in architecture and design is intelligence; making cities, cars, products - even our wrists - smarter. What if your air conditioner was smarter? What if your smart phone could tell you when someone was in your apartment? What if your iPad told you that it was raining at home, but no worries, your windows are closed? I, for one, think this service is long over due. As a renter I need something simple, flexible, and that works without wires or crazy hardware installations. SmartThings promises to do all that, and more. The key difference between this setup and others I’ve browsed, is their developer strategy. Enabling an open source system with simple, cheap, and adaptable hardware - that anyone can use to build their own SmartThings - is what will really bring...

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Q&A: Peter Wheelwright

08/28/12

Q&A: Peter Wheelwright

I read fiction whenever I can carve out a quiet hour or two, which I must admit ruefully, is very hard to find in my frenetic metropolitan life. But when I come across a narrative that provides a richly grained context of place, time, connectivity with human foibles and a linkage to well-defined segments of humanity’s accumulated body of knowledge, I claim my right to slow down. Most recently Peter Matthiessen Wheelwright’s first novel, As It Is On Earth, gave me this gift of sitting back and reading for hours on end. The story of two brothers, haunted by the colorful past while thoroughly engaged in the painful now, rambles the earth from New England to Mexico. Wheelwright is an architect and associate professor at the School of Constructed Environments Parsons The New School for...

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Civic Waterfronts

08/27/12

Civic Waterfronts

Shimmering water stretches out before you. In the backdrop the city glitters and the stones whisper to the waves. A warm breeze blows through the trees while you, from your perch on a slab of granite, cool your heels in the flowing waters and admire the stars you rarely see. That’s what I imagine when I think of a waterfront part in New York City. What do you imagine? Collective yearnings to connect with nature are the very essence of our urban dreams, and also the ambition of every designer. Whether they work with silk, rubber, steel or oak, designers aim to inspire a connection to you, your life, and your environment. How would life in New York City be different if the water served a more civic purpose? When something is civic it has an obligation, a responsibility, to fulfill...

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Q&A: Rick Bell

08/26/12

Q&A: Rick Bell

This fall season’s shows and programs promise to bring important educational opportunities for anyone interested in the built environment. The most intense learning opportunities in New York City are coming to the Center for Architecture, home to the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIANYC). Among the upcoming programs is the exhibition Beyond Zuccotti Park, September 10–22, looks at public space as a follow-up to the Occupy Wall Street protests which put New York City in the national headlines. I have been involved with the Center’s programs (as a member of the Exhibitions Committee and program moderator) since it opened in 2003. On each visit to the building on LaGuardia Place, I discover a hive of activities on street level, in the basement, and...

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The Joseph Eichler Story

08/25/12

The Joseph Eichler Story

Photo by Chris Wehling. I first noticed Eichlers in Sunnyvale while driving around looking at homes. When I came upon them and felt like I had landed on the moon. They were the most interesting houses that I had ever seen!  And I didn’t know anything about them. I immediately drove back to my real estate office and asked people what these houses were, getting mixed responses: "Oh those homes are crap!" or "What is an Eichler?" It bothered me that realtors didn’t know what I was talking about. So I started to research Eichler. Turns out that there were 11,000 Eichlers in the bay area waiting for me to look at and meet the people who live in them. I started researching and hunting but could not find much about Joseph Eichler, his family, or his history. Then I came upon a book by a...

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Q&A: Laurie Kerr

08/24/12

Q&A: Laurie Kerr

Earlier this month the folks in Mayor Bloomberg’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability released a first of its kind report on the energy and water use of larger buildings in New York City.  The benchmarking report is the result of Local Law 84, which was enacted in 2009 as part of the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan. The legislation requires all privately-owned buildings over 50,000 square feet, or multiple buildings with a combined square footage of 100,000 square feet, to measure and report their energy and water use annually. According to the city, the law achieved a first year compliance rate of 75% (there are escalating fines attached to non-compliance), adding: “New York now has energy use data on more than 15,000 large buildings amounting to 1.7 billion square...

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Design as Destination

08/24/12

Design as Destination

Hilary Jay is a dynamo. She presides over DesignPhiladelphia at the University of the Arts,  an impressively democratic array of design events, exhibitions, lectures, open studios, demonstrations, and street happenings, reached by some 200,000 people each fall. Jay thus proudly stakes her claim on “design as destination.” DesignPhiladelphia follows Philadelphia's great tradition of free access to many important cultural institutions. Jay notes, “Most of our programs are free and open to the public. I work hard to remove barriers to entry. DesignPhiladelphia is a great equalizer.” PlayPhilly Big Chalkers, four-foot adult sized ‘sidewalk chalk’ crayons. Project: Giacomo Ciminello and Kristin Freese   Photo: Jackie Starker AIGA Pressed: A Hands-on Letterpress...

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Icon or Eyesore? Part 4: The Owner - Occupant Perspective

08/23/12

Icon or Eyesore? Part 4: The Owner - Occupant Perspective

        Our last post, The Preservationist Perspective, addressed a key issue we typically face regarding the value of mid-twentieth century modern buildings and their reuse. Here we examine the issue of owners and occupants. To preserve their sizable real estate investments, to enhance the value of their properties, and to ensure that their occupants/tenants continue to lease their spaces, owners must maintain and operate their buildings to suit all these demands. This is a growing challenge for many owners and operators of mid-century modern structures. As the call for the demolition and replacement of these buildings heats up, the root animosity towards them may go deeper than aesthetics alone. Henry Moss, Bruner/Cott principal and...

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Inside the Design Mind II

08/22/12

Inside the Design Mind II

Steven Holl, photograph courtesy of Mark Heithoff This year, the American Institute of Architects conferred its highest honor – the AIA Gold Medal – upon Steven Holl. I had the opportunity to talk with Steven about his sources of inspiration, a mid-career enlightenment, and his recent recognition as one of the most celebrated “American” architects. Andrew Caruso: Balancing your practice with teaching and art is clearly a part of the designer we know you to be. How do these explorations shape your design point of view? Steven Holl: Every project is unique: a site and a circumstance, a culture, a climate, a program. All of these forces are unique and you need a concept to hold the manifold pieces together, an idea that makes the project significant in its place and for its...

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Good Service, Good Design

08/21/12

Good Service, Good Design

What is good design? It achieves function in an efficient and inspired way. While this formula usually makes for some unique creations it can also reduce design to something that’s “cool”. But fulfilling a function also implies that design is a service. Designers meet the needs that feed the demands of the market (or the client); a new building, a teapot, a raincoat are just some examples of market-driven design. This month in Sao Paulo, Brazil BoomSPdesign will focus on the issues of good design, including its often ignored and less glamorous sides. The global forum opens on August 22nd and runs through the 24th. Perhaps the conference’s theme is best illustrated by the story of “Pipoca do Valdir” (Valdir’s Popcorn). Valdir's push cart, photo courtesy of BoomSPdesign....

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Swiss Treat

08/20/12

Swiss Treat

Pfifferling deli, photo by Paul  Clemence This summer I visited two design-obsessed friends in Basel, Switzerland. After a long morning weaving among the works of Herzog & de Meuron (the firm's hometown brims with their buildings), all I wanted was to quiet my burning brain with a plate of food - the simpler the better. It was already past noon, but we kept passing fine-looking options, because friends insisted on a new place called Pfifferling. When we reached the deli-cum-restaurant, I bristled at first. I was being bombarded once again by self-conscious aesthetics when I just wanted to fill my gut. Still, it was a beguiling space. At once bright, spare and elegant, it was enclosed by warm grey walls picked out with white details. All the saturated colors seemed to be gathered...

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Places that Work: Soundcape

08/18/12

Places that Work: Soundcape

In Orlando’s Peabody Hotel’s public spaces, a positive experience is created by the sounds of water flowing and splashing. Gently moving water makes us comfortable. Its rhythmic, primal sounds soothe away the everyday stresses of modern life. Though we have known, instinctively, about the psychological boost we get from listening to moving water--even before the effect was investigated by scientists or commercialized by the people who market desk top fountains--now we have the scientific evidence. The sound of moving water also works as an acoustical barrier, an excellent buffer that neutralizes conversations around us in these days of cell phone mania. In fact even at normal speech volumes, water sounds will generally keep a small group’s private conversation from intruding...

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The Olympics are over ... now what?

08/17/12

The Olympics are over ... now what?

Just as Danny Boyle’s cinematic representation of England’s transition from a pastoral, farming nation to the leaders of the industrial revolution, London’s East End has been going through a transition of its own in preparation for the Olympic Games. The next question that begs analysis, and dare I say it, the delightfully sarcastic judgment that so often begets British dialogue, is what happens next? When the athletes, officials, tourists, and hoards of security and soldiers leave the Games to patiently wait for the next spectacle of outstanding athletic feats, what is the next phase of Danny Boyle’s English dream? The London Olympic Committee, for all intents and purposes, has done a fairly progressive job of planning for the temporary nature of the Olympics. Finally, after...

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Elizabeth Scheu Close: A Tribute

08/15/12

Elizabeth Scheu Close: A Tribute

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR. On a hot June afternoon, dozens of us gathered to celebrate what would have been Elizabeth Scheu Close’s 100th birthday. The first woman architect in Minnesota dedicated to a modernist aesthetic, Lisl, as everyone called her, died at the age of 99 on November 29, 2011, a day when the design world lost a little of its buoyancy, a little of its tenacity. The memorial at the First Unitarian Society on Mount Curve in Minneapolis, was just down the street from one of the largest of the over 300 homes she and her architect husband, Winston Close, had designed. The chamber ensemble Artaria String Quartet performed. After all, Lisl and Win were accomplished amateur musicians, playing the cello and viola, respectively. In between compositions by...

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Two Week Charette: 2 of 2

08/13/12

Two Week Charette: 2 of 2

Week two of the teen design charette for Washington DC’s 11th Street recreational bridge was a flurry of activity. The students learned the history of the project from representatives of the Department of Transportation who explained that the bridge is at the end of its useful lifespan. Rather than demolishing the entire structure, the city saw an opportunity to salvage the existing concrete piers and explore the possibility of installing a new span across the Anacostia River. This new park would no longer carry 18 wheelers, instead it would support demonstration gardens, exercise facilities, and outdoor performance spaces. The city hopes to achieve four key objectives through building the new recreation bridge: improve community health, promote the environmental quality of the...

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NATURE | NEUTRA

08/11/12

NATURE | NEUTRA

Talk about biophilia, biomimicry or biodiversity and another bio comes to mind –  that of late architect Richard Neutra. He himself coined the term biorealism as “the inherent and inseparable relationship between man and nature.” Neutra, who was famous in life, passed away in 1970. His time has come again. We now face countervailing forces, both an atrophy of the senses and a passionate desire to reunite with the natural world. Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods speaks to a prevalent “nature deficit disorder,” as he calls it. So what does Richard Neutra's legacy hold for us now? He completed a ton of commissions across the country and overseas, was featured on the cover of Time Magazine and was considered a natural born salesman. His own firm actually carries on...

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The Green Team Part 1: Introduction

08/07/12

The Green Team Part 1: Introduction

Why a landscape architecture firm needs a research team

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Science for Designers: Complex Adaptive Systems

08/06/12

Science for Designers: Complex Adaptive Systems

Anatomical forms do not arise within one large undifferentiated collection; they develop as specific groupings of systems and sub-systems.

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Vertical Impressions

08/05/12

Vertical Impressions

The number of supertall buildings has already trebled in this century. With so many more of them on the drawing boards, the visual culture of 21st century urbanity is very much a work in progress. To speculate about the significance of this surging architectural form is to trade in science fiction. That is why the New York Skyscraper Museum’s edifying new exhibition, “Urban Fabric: Building New York’s Garment District,” may come off as frustratingly backward looking.  Meanwhile “Towers and Skyscrapers: From Babel to Dubai” at Barcelona’s Caixa Forum delves into the mythology and physics of the form, while never flinching at its silliness. “Urban Fabric,” which runs until next January, explores the crossroads between...

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An Uncommon Common Man

08/03/12

An Uncommon Common Man

Charles A. Bangert, Jr. was the kind of fellow you don't come across every day, possessing qualities you don’t always find in one person. He was down to earth, accomplished, meticulous, organized, humble, good-natured, good-humored, and kind. Charlie was an engineer, corporate manager, craftsman and artist, and most important, a mensch (person of integrity and honor). He and his wife Lu were nextdoor neighbors for some years. By the time we got to know them, Charlie had long since retired from the corporate life, 43 years as an engineer and general manager with the General Electric Company. Charlie was highly successful, smart with his money, and well traveled but never put on any airs. About those travels, their home was filled with art treasures, bronze Chinese figures on...

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Disney Green

08/02/12

Disney Green

Want to influence the next generation? Grab 'em young like cereal producers and others who advertise to children do. Reference point theory posits that our first exposure to a product or experience imprints and becomes the comparison reference for all things similar. Disney is leading the charge to ban junk food. It is embracing green. Debuted on Earth Day, the 4,500-square-foot VISION House inside the 100,000-square-foot INNOVENTIONS building is an integral part of the “happiest place on earth.” Green home awareness will imprint children with green design and products both prosaic and visionary, much as an earlier generation embraced recycling. VISION House’s purpose is to engender sustainable thinking, says Green Builder Media CEO Sara Gutterman. Disney expects 15 million...

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Everyday Sustainability

08/01/12

Everyday Sustainability

Nestled between the quaint urban scale of Carroll Gardens and edgy Red Hook and under the shadows of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE), stands The Delta. This new building aims to be an example of the most sustainable project in the city as well as to become an educational tool to promote that movement. Built on a triangular plot adjacent to the footprint of the BQE, on Hamilton Avenue, the Delta is the brainchild of Voltaic Solaire, a Brooklyn-based company that specializes in alternative energies; they are contractors who design and install solar and wind energy systems around New York City and beyond. Founding partners Carlos Berger, Ron Faia, and Mark Robinson decided to combine their eclectic backgrounds (Air Force skilled technician, real estate development, and designer for...

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