Point of View - Point of View August 2011

 

STATING THE OBVIOUS

Yesterday’s New Orleans Times Picayune carried a front page story—fittingly, I guess, on the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina—about the Army Corps of Engineers’ new rating systems for the country’s levees.  The report gave a “near failing grade to New Orleans area levees,” despite the $10-billion effort to rebuild them after Katrina. The levees are designed to withstand surges from…

One City, Two Visions

On the one hand, New Urbanists say that cities should have minimal impact on their natural surroundings, while on the other hand world-class designs are defined by unconventional schemes that strive to minimize the use of non-renewables.  It seems, then, the twenty-first century building is a machine designed to rationalize its inputs while maintaining high function. But the agreement between…

Greening the US Government

During this year’s NeoCon, the largest contract furniture trade show held in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) introduced Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Pilot Credit 43, which applies to all Building Design and Construction, Interior Design and Construction LEED rating systems. The pilot credit supports LEED’s objective of encouraging building owners and facility managers…

MASterworks Awards

The Municipal Art Society (MAS) announced winners of its annual MASterworks awards last week, honoring projects that in its words “make a significant contribution to New York’s built environment.” In the past five years, the awards (in the Best Building category) have gone to a slew of well-known firms: Morphosis, Gehry + Partners, Renzo Piano Workshop. This year was no…

Tribute in Light

Photos: Robert Vizzini It was one of the most profound pieces of public art I’d ever seen.  The tribute first appeared on the night of March 11, 2002, six months after the World Trade Center attacks: twin beams of light, pointed to the heavens, emanating from close to the site.  It literally stopped me in my tracks. I remember standing…

Going Paperless

In news that will surely gladden the hearts (and backs!) of schoolchildren everywhere, the Yale School of Medicine announced today that it will give each of its students an iPad2 for classroom and clinical use. All paper-based course materials will be eliminated. “We started thinking about this about a year and half ago, shortly after the iPad was released,” says…

Building for Change

Homes in the Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina. Contrary to some politicians’ beliefs, climate change has become an urgent matter. This urgency calls on everyone involved in the designed environment to critically re-evaluate her or his relationship with the Earth. Here I want to address one of our major threats and resources: water. Today in coastal cities worldwide planners…

Game Change

Last week a local architect forwarded an interesting press release from Greater New Orleans, Inc., an economic development alliance for the region. It announced, with great hyperventilating fanfare, that Gameloft, “one of the world’s largest publishers of digital and social gaming,” would establish a new video game development studio in New Orleans. This was one of those Richard Florida-type stories…

Q&A: Framing Nature

Eva Hagberg’s latest book is a collection of gorgeous rooms with views of “nature” as the architectural elite frame it for elite clients. But Nature Framed: At Home in the Landscape (Monacelli Press, 2011) is anything but a book about windows. “This is architecture at its most primal: as a shift in consciousness from open landscape to delineated space,” the…

The Other New Orleans

Photo: Francesca Pedersen. The conventional wisdom about New Orleans these days is for the most part positive: an engaged mayor (with the obligatory “60 Minutes” profile under his belt), rebounding neighborhoods, improving schools, young people flocking in.  All of this is true, as far as it goes, but it’s an incomplete accounting. What has gone largely unreported in the mainstream…

A Chat with Steven Ehrlich

Recently we reported that Steven Ehrlich won the Maybeck Award for his outstanding body of work as an individual architect. Surely, we reasoned, his continued success has to do with his thought processes. So we asked him about it. We began with the idea of cultural specificity in architecture. This topic is of particular significance these days, since so many…

A Werneck Awakening

As the white winter sun poured into Gaspar Saldanha’s cloud-level window in Manhattan, the grandson of Paulo Werneck, artist and artisan of mosaic to Brazil’s most iconic architecture, the younger designer told the story of his famous relative. As he talked, I was soon diving like a Minoan mosaic swimmer into a warm azure and royal blue Paradise. Paulo Werneck,…

Move Over, Burj Khalifa

Earlier this month word come out of Chicago—specifically, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture—that His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, the nephew of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, planned to build the world’s tallest building. The Kingdom Tower, as it’s called for now, will top out at an almost incomprehensible 3280 feet. That’s roughly two-thirds of a…

Product Starchitecture

Le Corbusier designed a chaise longue, Mies van der Rohe had his Barcelona chair, and a bench by Frank Gehry was auctioned at an estimated $150,000 last year at Sotheby’s. Starchitects don’t just design buildings, and Zaha Hadid is no exception. An exhibition of her product designs, Zaha Hadid: Form in Motion, will open at the Philadelphia Museum of Art…

Places that Work: A Guest Tower

‘Tis visiting season. People are traveling to see friends and family members while the weather is generally pleasant. Humans are territorial animals, however, which is one of the reasons that those visits are seldom tension-free. We feel most comfortable when we have a clearly defined physical territory, and houseguests who leave their own territories at home, can disrupt those of…

Charm Offensive

If we need any further proof that the Danish architect and wunderkind Bjarke Ingels is destined for superstardom (and we don’t), here’s another piece of evidence: a new documentary on Parkour, the so-called “urban sport” where competitors race from one spot in the city to another as quickly as possible. (Fifty years ago this was called “playing on the fire…

Remembering Doug Garofalo

We were greatly saddened to hear about the recent death of Doug Garofalo, the Chicago-based architect and educator. At Metropolis we felt a particular connection to him: Doug was part of the digital wave that swept through architecture in the 1990s. His collaboration, with Michael Maltzen and Gregg Lynn, on the Korean Presbyterian Church in Sunnyside, Queens helped introduce an…

The Legacy of Ray Anderson

It’s impossible to overstate the impact that Ray Anderson—who died yesterday after a long battle with cancer—had on the built environment. An engineer and entrepreneur, he founded Interface Carpet in 1973 and spearheaded its growth into a multi-billon dollar enterprise. His now famous eco-epiphany in the mid-1990s set the company on a new course, one that helped transform not only…

Redefining Sustainability

Mesa Verde Balcony House. Courtesy National Park Service, nps.org The term sustainable has become one of those buzzwords that can easily be lumped in with granola and yoga. While it is hip to be sustainable, what exactly does this entail? Does buying green stuff like a hybrid and re-useable shopping bags make me more sustainable? Or is it about buying…

Herding Cats

Walking up the stairs of Coop Himmelblau’s Central Los Angeles High School No. 9. Photo: Dave Lauridsen I will admit, I was naïve. I should have known better. I have a fourteen-year-old daughter, after all, and negotiate that stark reality on a daily basis. But I had a vision: a cockeyed, unrealistic vision that high school students would (willingly) take…

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