Archive for December 11th, 2010

December 11, 2010

Which city is the center of America’s architectural universe? NY, LA, Chicago, or none of the above?

Is New York the creative center of American architecture? Is Chicago a second city? And what of Frank Gehry’s LA? I ask because, while riding the “El” into work today, I was perusing Robert A.M. Stern’s illuminating collection of essays, “Architecture on the Edge of Postmodernism.”

In one of these essays, “New York, New York: Pluralism and Its Possibilities,” first published in 1979, Stern writes of New York’s place as a center of ideas–a nexus of distinguished architecture schools, journals, museums and newspaper criticism that no other American city could match. He goes on:

“One comes to New York to see architecture being made, and not so much to see it. How different from Chicago, where the products of Mies’s talents and those of his followers are everywhere to be seen. Chicago is like Detroit or Hollywood–the product and the place are one; architecture is Chicago’s dominant plastic art, just as film is Holywood’s chief artistic product; they are company towns, urban villages grown up to produce and market one or two things. New York is a metropolis, a world capital; architecture is dreamed here, realized everywhere.”

Did Stern correctly characterize Chicago in 1979? And now, 31 years and a host of changes later, where is he right and where is he off base?

Here are some thoughts to get the debate going:

1) Stern correctly observed Chicago’s preeminence in architectural production–a standing that is as true now as it was then, at least if one takes multiple generations of a city’s buildings, and not simply contemporary work, into account. But while he acknowledged Mies, Stern left out the other heroes who made Chicago preeminent–William Le Baron Jenney, Adler and Sullivan, Burnham and Root, Holabird and Roche, Frank Lloyd Wright, Holabird and Root, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. A surprising lapse for a distinguished architectural historian, but maybe the literary stylist in Stern didn’t want to get bogged down with a long list.

2) Even in 1979, Stern greatly oversimplified when he characterized Chicago as an urban village grown up to produce and market one or two things. The city has long been the metropolis of the Midwest, a maker of tools, a stacker of wheat, a player with railroads and all that other stuff Carl Sandburg mused about in his famous “Chicago” poem. Today, Chicago is a global metropolis, regularly named one of the world’s top financial centers and the place that the Leader of the Free World calls home. More to the point, it’s no provincial design ‘burg. It exports its architectural talent around the world, just as it imports top design talent like Gehry, Koolhaas, and Piano.

3) New York’s position as a center of architectural energy has been greatly undermined, if not superseded, by the rise of Gehry and other Los Angeles architects. That’s not my observation. It came last year from New York Times critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, occasioning this heated response from William Menking of The Architect’s Newspaper.

My take on this debate: Bye-bye, 1979. New York may still lead in talking, but the essence of architecture is building. And great builders and thinkers can be found all over, the Web’s distance-collapsing influence making an architect or an architectural dreamer in LA, Chicago, or even Des Moines as important as his or her counterpart on Park Avenue. Hey, New York–start spreadin’ the news: It’s a multi-polar architectural world out there. Deal with it.


December 11, 2010



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December 11, 2010

Holograms Deliver 3-D, Without the Goofy Glasses

By ANNE EISENBERG _Published: December 4, 2010

Architects are finding that hologram technology helps them to communicate with clients, lawyers and engineers.

WHEN the famous hologram of Princess Leia says, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi,” in “Star Wars,” it’s science fiction. Now you can watch actual moving holograms that are filmed in one spot and then projected in another spot.

“The hologram is about the size and resolution of Princess Leia in the movie,” said Nasser Peyghambarian, an optical scientist at the University of Arizona and leader of a research team that recently demonstrated the technology, reported in the Nov. 4 issue of Nature.

The holograms aren’t as speedy as those in Hollywood. The images move a lot more haltingly, as the display changes only every two seconds, far slower than video sailing past at 30 frames a second.

But unlike science fiction, these holograms are actually happening and in close to real time: a fellow is filmed in one room, the computer-processed data is sent via ethernet to another room, and then laser beams go to work. Voilà: His holographic telepresence appears and moves, albeit somewhat jerkily, in apparently solid detail (until you try to put a hand through him).

Innovative research in holography is going on at labs and companies worldwide, said Lisa Dhar, a senior technology manager at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who is an expert in holographic materials.

“Groups are deploying new materials and methods to create compelling work” of both still and moving holograms, Dr. Dhar said.

The work has implications beyond the lab, she said. We may need to wait a decade before watching holographic movies at home. But even before the technology is practical for games and entertainment, it promises applications in advertising, the military, architecture and engineering.

Zebra Imaging in Austin, Tex., sells holographic prints that at first glance look much like ordinary 2-by-3-foot pieces of plastic — until an LED flashlight is shined at them. Then the patterns, burned into the plastic with high-power laser beams, come to life, said Al Wargo, chief executive. Out of the surface springs a model of a complicated building or an intricate network of pipes and mechanical equipment.

No special eyewear is required to view the holographic prints, which typically cost $1,000 to $3,000 each. The company has also demonstrated moving holographic displays in prototype at conferences, Mr. Wargo said. (It introduced color holograms in September.)

Zebra’s main customer has been the Defense Department, which sends data in computer files to the company. Zebra then renders holographic displays of, for example, battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Businesses are also Zebra customers, including FMC Technologies in Houston, which uses holograms of oil field equipment for sales and training.

Adam Andrich, global marketing manager for fluid control at FMC, says holograms are handy substitutes when the company wants to demonstrate its 50,000-pound equipment at trade shows.

“The holograms are a lot lighter,” he said, and they create a striking effect as they rise in shimmering volume in the air. “They are so realistic that every time we show them, people try to grab them,” he said.

Holographic prints may also find use among architects and engineers. Tina Murphy, a project engineer at HNTB in Indianapolis, says she already uses extensive 3-D computer modeling to plan before construction, but holograms can also help to communicate, particularly with a group. “We can show them to plant operators, lawyers, regulators and engineers,” she said. “With this one visual image, we can all communicate.”

The holograms are an inexpensive alternative to bulky, often fragile physical models of wood or polystyrene, says Jared Smith, a senior vice president at Parsons Brinckerhoff in Seattle, an engineering, planning and architecture firm.

“Slip them into a portfolio case and carry them,” he said. “Then shine a light on them and up leap these buildings in three dimensions.”

At the University of Arizona in Tucson, Dr. Peyghambarian created his displays using 16 cameras. Software rendered the images in holographic pixels, and laser beams directed by the software recorded the information on a novel plastic that can be erased and rewritten in two seconds. Dr. Peyghambarian says that the group is working on speeding up the rate and expects versions to be in homes in 7 to 10 years. Slower versions may be useful far sooner, for example, for long-distance medical consultation.

To help make those long-distance connections happen, Keren Bergman, a professor of electrical engineering at Columbia University in New York, is working on ways to send holograms not just from room to room, but also from Arizona to New York on the Internet. Dr. Bergman and Dr. Peyghambarian are collaborating as part of joint researchfinanced by the National Science Foundation.

One day, she may summon people to her lab by holographic telepresence, just as Alexander Graham Bell once summoned Thomas Watson (“Come here!”) with a historic telephone call. To introduce that memorable moment, maybe she will find a good quote from “Star Wars.”



December 11, 2010

Canton Tower in Guangzhou

The world’s second-highest building and its highest television and viewing tower just opened in time for the Asia Games in November 2010 in Guangzhou.

Architects: IBA Information Based Architecture, Amsterdam
Guangzhou Design Institute
Engineering: Arup

Its 610 metres in height and its elegant silhouette promise to turn the Canton Tower (or Guangzhou TV Tower) into the new landmark of this up-and-coming metropolis, and this despite the fact that the competition is stiff: an opera house by Zaha Hadid, open since May; the 440-metre-high Guangzhou International Finance Centre by Wilkinson Eyre and the 310-metre Pearl River Tower with integrated wind turbines by SOM, due to be completed in 2011.

The television tower rests on 24 bored piles of four metres’ diameter. Its dynamic effect is due to a simple geometrical twist: two ellipses, one at ground level and the other 450 metres above, are rotated relative to one another and connected via 24 straight steel tubes, resulting in the feminine waist that confers such elegance to the tower. After several storeys were positioned exactly, the tubes were reinforced with concrete to provide increased stability and fire protection. The open steel lattice structure supports 37 floors of varying heights, housing rotating restaurants, viewing platforms and cinemas; they are connected throughout by an elliptical concrete conduit for lifts, two fire lifts, stairs and shafts. Eight shuttle lifts outside the core connect the individual levels. The spatial effect of the up-to-80-metre-high free spaces between the floors is incomparable, lending the tower its translucence and lightness. The 10,000 visitors expected daily will have the chance to make the leisurely eight-minute ascent through the narrowing and widening of the mesh structure in one of the glass panorama double-decker lifts. There are also plans for glass gondolas for four to six passengers that will glide along the roof edge. Visitors running late for their sunset picture will want to take the express alternative: one of two high-speed double-decker lifts that take only a minute and a half to reach their destination, a 54-by-42-metre roof terrace with grandstand-style steps on which to sit and admire the view of the booming city once known as Canton.

December 11, 2010

Le Monolithe / MVRDV

Le Monolithe / MVRDV © MVRDVLe Monolithe / MVRDV © MVRDVLe Monolithe / MVRDV © MVRDVLe Monolithe / MVRDV © MVRDVLe Monolithe / MVRDV © MVRDVLe Monolithe / MVRDV © MVRDVconcept concept

Architects: MVRDV
Project area: 32,500 sqm
Project year: 2004-2010
Photographs: Courtesy of 

‘Le Monolithe’, an energy efficient mixed-use urban block located in the development area Confluence at the southern tip of ’s Presqu’île, has reached completion. The structure with a total surface of 32.500 m2 combines social housing, rental property, a residence for disabled people, offices and retail. The block is composed of five sections, each one designed by a different architect, following the  masterplan: Pierre Gautier, Manuelle Gautrand, ECDM and Erik van Egeraat. Landscape architects West 8 designed the public plaza.  designed the head section which advertises over the full façade the European integration by quoting the EU constitution. ‘Le Monolithe’ has been realized by ING Real Estate Development and Atemi.In 2004, ING Real Estate Developers had invited a group of international architects to design the masterplan, for which  was chosen as winner. Based on this masterplan, each architect was asked to design a section which together form ‘Le Monolithe’. The urban superblock is a mixed-use development comprising a mix of social and rental housing, offices and underground parking. The block is characterised by a large interior court with a raised public space overlooking the city, the new marina and a park, in this way resembling the French classical ‘Grand Gallérie’. The block is divided into five sections, each one designed by a different architect in order to achieve diversity and architectural variety.  is responsible for the head section in the south at the waterfront. Each part is unique in material, composition and architectural expression. The project forms part of the urban regeneration project ‘ Confluence’, a 150 hectare site located at the southern tip of ’s Presqu’île, where the rivers Rhône and Saône merge.

South building:

The interiors of ’s south facing building are protected from the sun by means of aluminium shutters as a reference to traditional local architecture. Apartments inside Le Monolithe offer a great diversity in order to attract different groups of inhabitants making the block a reflection of ’s population. Offices are divided into separate units of min. 500 m² which are accessed by three vertical circulation cores, providing individual access. Each unit allows for a flexible fit out, depending on the tenants’ needs and requirements. All spaces are naturally lit and ventilated.In June 2005, when  and The Netherlands voted against the European Constitution, decided to redesign the façade and integrate a reminder of the values, ideals and needs of the European Union. When all shutters are closed, the first article of the European Constitution can be read: “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.”It aims to advocate a possible ‘Yes’ for Europe in days of protectionism, accompanying the collective EU spirit of the gathered architects. The adjacent sections were designed by French and Dutch architects Pierre Gautier, Manuelle Gautrand, ECDM and Erik van Egeraat. Dutch landscape architects West 8 designed the public space.


December 11, 2010

2011 United States Best Architecture Schools

Infographic design: Kiss Me I’m Polish LLC, New York

And this years rankings are in…

In it’s 12th year of publication in DesignIntelligence, James Cramer and the Greenway Group have compiled the 2011 America’s Best Architecture & Design Schools . Cornell University  repeated as the No.1 Undergraduate Architecture program.  The most significant switch among the universities this year, the University of Michigan Graduate program grabbing the No.1 spot, nudging out Harvard (No.2) who had consecutively held the top position for the last six years.

James Cramer answered the ever popular question, why rank schools, “At university, students’ experiences can significantly enhance or diminish their interests as well as their likelihood for future success. This gives schools both tremendous opportunity and huge responsibility, since what happens in them has the potential to change the careers of individuals as well as the architecture profession as a whole.”

Cramer continues, “Another answer is given by the architecture firms that employ recent graduates. If the purpose of a professional degree is to prepare students for professional practice, then how well are degree-granting institutions performing the task? Ongoing research by the Design Futures Council and  shows that architecture firms and related professional practice careers are being deconstructed and reinvented at an accelerated pace. Beyond the economy, for example, the profession is being shaped by profound changes in technology, such as building information modeling. Can educational institutions keep pace with the changing needs of 21st-century practices? And so we ask in our survey, “In your firm’s hiring experience in the past five years, which schools are best preparing students for success in the architecture profession?”

After the break you can find the complete rankings divided into the following categories: analysis and planning, communication, computer applications, construction methods and materials, design, research and theory and sustainable design practices and principles as seen at Architectural Record.

Top 10 Undergraduate Architecture Schools

1. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
2. Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York
3. Rice University, Houston, Texas
4. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California
4. Virginia Polytechnic institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia
6. Southern California Institute of Architecture , Los Angeles, California
7. Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
7. University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas
9. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York
9. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California

Infographic design: Kiss Me I’m Polish LLC, New York

Top 10 Graduate Architecture Schools

1. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
2. Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
3. Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
4. Columbia University, New York City, New York
5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
6. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
6. University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio
8. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
9. Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri
10. University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California
10. University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas

Architecture Skills Assessment

Analysis and Planning
1. University of Michigan
2. Harvard University
3. Cornell University
4. Virginia Polytechnic Institute
5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
5. Yale University

1. Harvard University
2. University of Michigan
3. Yale University
4. Cornell University
5. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Computer applications
1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
2. Southern California Institute of Architecture
3. University of Michigan
4. Columbia University
5. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Construction methods and materials
1. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
2. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
3. University of Michigan
4. Lawrence Technological Univeristy
4. University of Kansas

1. Harvard University
2. Southern California Institute of Architecture
3. University of Michigan
4. Cornell University
5. Yale University

Research and theory
1. Harvard University
2. University of Michigan
3. Columbia University
3. Yale University
5. University of California at Berkeley
5. Cornell University

Sustainable design practices and principles
1. University of Oregon
2. University of Michigan
3. University of California at Berkeley
4. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
5. Auburn University

Architecture Deans Survey

Most admired B. Arch. programs
1. Auburn University
2. Cornell University
3. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
4. University of Texas at Austin
5. Syracuse University

Most admired M. Arch. programs
1. Harvard University
2. Yale University
3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
4. Columbia University
5. University of Michigan

December 11, 2010

John W. Chorley Elementary School / Paul Rudolph

chorley10 ©Daniel Huichorley7 © Daniel Huichorleymolitor04-big © Paul Rudolph Organizationchorleymolitor02-big © Paul Rudolph Organizationchorley5 © Daniel Huichorleyaerial01-big © Paul Rudolph Organizationchorley9 ©Daniel Huichorley8 ©Daniel Huichorley6 © Daniel Huichorley4 © Daniel Huichorley3 © Daniel Huichorley2 © Daniel Huichorley1 © Daniel Huichorleymolitor03-big © Paul Rudolph Organizationchorleymolitor01-big © Paul Rudolph Organizationchorleyblock01-big © Paul Rudolph Organizationchorleyblock02-big © Paul Rudolph Organizationchorleydetail01-big © Paul Rudolph Organization

It is always wonderful to stumble upon humble examples of architecture done by exalted architects, who are typically known and appreciated for their larger structures rather than their smaller-scale or less flashy buildings. In the case of , the local elementary school flaunts hints of the more recognized designs of  but at a more modest scale.Completed in 1964, the public elementary school is the first and only building designed by Rudolph at the scale of a child. The school is very progressive in it’s overall layout; the main floor is separated by walls that do not fully enclose the class rooms, leading essentially to an open floor plan which is referred to as a “continuous progress plan.”All rooms are open to each other, with operable walls that allow for flexibility of spaces. Another aspect of the internal design of the building is the series of saw-tooth clerestory windows that rim the top of the walls, allowing for a substantial flow of natural lighting and giving the feel of an older factory building.The area of the site totals around 27-acres, and the school was to be built for 918 students. Although these seems to be a moderately-sized school, Rudolph is successful in maintaining the feeling of a more relatable domestic scale for the children. The instructional wings were staggered along a spine of communal spaces, including spaces for art, music, guidance, physical education and administration. Each of the classrooms has a door to the exterior of the building and is also open within the wing, which enables teachers to teach up to eight classes at once.

The school has been in the discussion of many of the locals in , as the demolition of the building in the process of constructing a new elementary school was slated in 2009. The new school is proposed to be built near the existing site, also including a new parking lot which would extend to the present boundaries of the . Although it is not necessary to demolish the existing school building, there are proposals to do so anyways to maximize the site area for the proposed design.

Many others argued for the case of the historical building, hoping to convince as many citizens as possible that the cultural and historical aspect of having a building done by  is crucial to the identity of the city. As of the beginning of 2010, the Preservation League of placed the  on the 2010 “Seven to Save” list.

Location: , USA
Project Year: 1964-1969
Photographs: Paul Rudolph OrganizationDaniel Hui
References: UMass DartmouthPaul Rudolph Organization