Architect Ken Yeang has been commissioned to design a 4,000-acre eco-city in the sea off the Shanghai coast. TR Hamzah and Yeang, the Malaysian sister company of Llewelyn Davies Yeang, is leading the design of the Shanghai Beach masterplan for an unnamed Malaysian client. The scheme, which is to be sited on reclaimed tidal flats, aims to create a “green community”, with offices, housing, theme parks, visitor attractions and hotels. The Shanghai Beach scheme is at a preliminary stage, and Web Structures, a Singaporean engineer, has been asked to do a feasibility study. Hossein Rezai-Jorabi, its group director, said: “The opportunity to reclaim almost 4,000 acres without damaging the eco-structure of the ocean is a challenge. If it’s feasible, and we believe it is, the plan is to create world-class architecture to revitalise the district as a tourist destination.” It has not yet been decided how many homes and offices the city will hold. The development is unrelated to the plans for Dongtan, the Arup-designed eco-city for 500,000 people that has been on hold since the Shanghai mayor, who backed the scheme, was arrested in 2006 on corruption charges. To read more, visit http://www.building.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=29&storycode=3139627&c=3.
The Mayor has revived proposals originally put forward in the Nineties. The original plans were by French architect Antoine Grumbach, who won a competition by the Royal Academy to design a habitable bridge and proposed building it between Waterloo and Blackfriars. However when Labour came into power in 1997 the plans were dropped, although some of the details were taken into account when the Millennium Bridge was constructed. It is likely a different location will be sought. Mr Johnson has regularly spoken of the need for a new crossing east of Tower Bridge and has asked advisers to investigate the possibility of building between Greenwich and Silvertown in the Royal Docks. The original plans were backed by business lobby group London First but a spokesman said they had not been consulted over the dusting-off of the old design. A spokesman said: “At the time our position was very much in favour and in theory that has not changed. However since the building of the Millennium Bridge we would much prefer to see one east of Tower Bridge.” Mr Grumbach’s designs had the bridge suspended from twin 35-storey towers on the north side of the river, containing flats with views over the city. It would be the first time London had a bridge with residential and commercial properties in 178 years – since the buildings on London Bridge were torn down. The medieval London Bridge, completed in 1209 in the reign of King John, contained dozens of packed-in houses and shops but as the bridge became further developed congestion meant crossings could take more than an hour. Mr Grumbach’s plans featured lifts, staircases and escalators to gain access to the bridge, including from water level. Called Garden Bridge, it also included proposals for hedge, trees and greenhouses, alongside spaces for live concerts and a “topiary café”.
To see a diagram of the proposed bridge, visit http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23685492-details/Living+bridge+over+the+Thames/article.do.
Abbey Apartments, opened on April 16th 2009, is where 113 formerly homeless men and women will try to rebuild 113 broken lives. Mike Alvidrez, executive director of the Skid Row Housing Trust, swings through the sunny courtyard, shows off the TV lounge, then climbs to the fifth floor sun deck where striped patio umbrellas sway in the afternoon breeze. In the distance: a panorama of the downtown L.A. skyline that would make most loft dwellers envious. These buildings raise intriguing questions about the power of design to change lives. Can the placement of a lounge really foster social interaction among people who often have lived for years, sometimes decades, in emotional isolation? If the street outside is a vision of urban grit, do residents really want a window to that world? If you put a nurse, a psychiatrist and a social worker inside a home, will residents eventually see them as extended family worthy of trust? For some initial answers, head to San Pedro Street and the new Abbey, designed by Santa Monica-based Koning Eizenberg Architecture, and the 2 1/2 -year-old Rainbow Apartments next door, by Los Angeles-based Michael Maltzan Architecture. Both are developments of the nonprofit Skid Row Housing Trust, which operates under the philosophy that the most effective and least expensive solution to homelessness is more homes — not a patchwork of shelters but permanent homes that feel safe, foster healing and look good.
Because most residents have at least two disabilities, and because substance abuse or mental health issues often caused or contributed to their homelessness, crucial services are provided in ground-floor offices. Residents can see a nurse, doctor, counselor or case manager in a setting that looks more residential than institutional. The Abbey’s polished concrete floor, board-formed concrete walls, exposed ventilation ducts and splashes of chartreuse paint all feel more like a loft than a waiting room. Alvidrez and Rysman say it’s no surprise that 2 1/2 years after opening, Rainbow has a sense of community that exists in none of the trust’s 20 previous projects, many of them rehabs of older buildings. Though studies haven’t quantified the connection between design and socialization in supportive housing, officials say the conclusion here is clear: The architecture builds relationships. Residents who once had little or no structure in their lives have formed a gardening group, an art class, a photography club and a women’s group, among others. Maltzan’s next building for the Skid Row Housing Trust is an eye-popping design that’s already garnering national attention in advance of its scheduled completion in late summer or early fall. Renderings of the New Carver Apartments near the Convention Center hint of the seemingly impossible: a dynamic, beautiful, livable home on a lot hemmed in by I-10. To read more about these projects, visit http://www.latimes.com/features/home/la-hm-homeless25-2009apr25,0,7591925.story?page=1, or http://www.skidrow.org/.
At the start, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis envisioned their film “The Greening of Southie” as the tale of the architecture and design of South Boston’s first green residential building and its development in the tight-knit enclave that is renown for its hardscrabble past. Their documentary is indeed a story of people and their culture. The 11-story luxury condominum building is the centerpiece of the 72-minute film that debuted a year ago on Earth Day on “The Green” at the Sundance Channel. The Macallen attained LEED Gold certification as a green building and was named one of the American Institute of Architects’ Top 10 green projects in 2008. The building is made from recycled steel and filled with fixtures and amenities that are designed to be aesthetically pleasing as well as environmentally efficient. It has a distinctive sloping green roof and a rainwater catchment system, features that contribute to the expectation that resource consumption at the building will continue to be far less than that in traditional buildings of comparable size. Water savings has been estimated at more than 600,000 gallons a year, with electricity savings pegged at 30 percent. Cheney and Ellis tracked the project through its completion and recorded the triumphs, such as the ceremony to mark placement of the final beam and the receipt of green building certification, and the many challenges that emerged for builders. Those included bamboo flooring that buckled, had to ripped out and reordered, and green roof vegetation that did not take hold and also had to be replaced. To read more about the documentary, and to see a clip, visit http://www.greenerbuildings.com/blog/2009/04/22/blue-collars-in-green-building.
The past decade has seen a greater emergence of green roofs and vertical gardens created by artists, designers, architects and urban gardeners to combat the lack of flora in the city than ever before. Buildings around the world from the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris (shown) to the Queens Botanical Garden in New York have embraced green walls or roofs for all their economical, environmental, and aesthetic values. Vertical farms and gardens are also being envisioned as new ways to feed local and organic foods to city dwellers. Largely based on the principles of hydroponics, the logic goes that vertical gardens would also be mostly self-sustaining, because they would capture large amounts of natural sunlight and water, and could use wind as an energy source. These and other urban parks and gardens have many potential uses beside promoting energy-efficiency. They could provide locations for a city farm or community land-trust; an outlet through which hundreds of people can learn about farming and agriculture; and the addition of much needed plant and animal life to the otherwise concrete jungle. A project of SEA (Social Environmental Aesthetics), and conceived by Papo Colo, Vertical Gardens is an exhibition of architectural models, renderings, drawings, photographs and ephemera that depict or imagine a vertical farm, urban garden or green roof. It features over 20 projects, both imaginary and real, by artists and architects that envision solutions for building greener urban environments. The exhibit runs till May 23 at 475 Tenth Ave in New York City.
To read more about vertical gardens, visit http://www.exitart.org/site/pub/exhibition_programs/SEA/vertical_gardens.html.
The Architectural Billings Index rose to 43.7 in March, up from 35.3 in February. It’s the first time the score has landed above 40 since last September. The inquiries score, which in February was 49.5, climbed to 56.6. The index, one of the profession’s leading economic indicators, reflects a nine- to 12-month lag time between architectural billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects produces the index based on surveys sent to architecture firms. A score above 50 indicates an increase in billings, and below 50, a decrease. In January, the billings score dipped to 33.3, which is a record low in the ABI’s 13-year history. The March uptick “should be viewed with cautious optimism,” says Kermit Baker, the AIA’s chief economist. “It will likely be a few months before we see an improvement in overall billings,” he says. “Architects continue to report a diversity of business conditions, but the majority are still seeing weak activity levels.” In terms of sectors, commercial/industrial scored 35.0, down slightly from February’s 35.5. The March institutional score rose to 42.9, up from 40.3, while multi-family residential increased to 39.4, from 35.7. The index also breaks down activity by region. The West had the lowest score (36.1) while the South had the highest (43.4). The score for the Midwest was 37.5, and for the Northeast, 41.8. To read more, visit http://archrecord.construction.com/news/daily/archives/090422abi.asp.
From the street, its four light-gray cubes, neon-green door and huge, perfectly square front window all look as if they could have been assembled from massive pieces of Lego. Inside, a three-story translucent staircase made of acrylic filters sun from the skylight up top to the basement below ground. Virtually every room of the 3,000-square-foot home has large windows displaying views of the city so vast they’re sometimes harrowing. James Zack and Lise de Vito, both architects as well as husband and wife, designed their house with the environment in mind. They used sustainably-harvested woods and solar panels to keep their average monthly energy bill to $80 a month. The couple also built much of the home’s frame off-site, shaving nearly two months from the 15-month project and keeping total construction costs to $1.5 million, or $500 a square foot which is moderate, by San Francisco standards. It was such features that led the American Institute of Architects, the profession’s trade group, to award the townhome a Housing Award, handed out each year to outstanding residential designs. The awards jury praised the couple’s house for its efficient use of a narrow lot, the “nice use of light,” and its many environmentally friendly features. It was such features that led the American Institute of Architects, the profession’s trade group, to award the townhome a Housing Award, handed out each year to outstanding residential designs. The awards jury praised the couple’s house for its efficient use of a narrow lot, the “nice use of light,” and its many environmentally friendly features.To see the slide show of the house, visit http://online.wsj.com/article/slideshow.
On May 4, 2007, a class EF-5 tornado (the highest rating, indicating winds of more than 200 miles per hour) destroyed 90 percent of Greensburg’s buildings. When the storm passed and the town’s 1,200 residents emerged from their basements, they faced a choice: Abandon Greensburg, or rebuild it in a way that would make sense for the future. Picking the latter, the town opted to become a model green community.
Working with Kansas City based design firm BNIM, town leaders adopted a sustainable master plan and mandated that all municipal buildings larger than 4,000 square feet be built to the equivalent of LEED Platinum. The plan also includes stormwater mitigation, a low-flow irrigation system, and the use of native plantings. And in an effort to address broader issues of sustainability, BNIM placed all civic buildings and activity generators along Main Street and recommended smaller lot sizes within a quarter mile of the thoroughfare. Now, nearly two years later, the first results of this eco-experiment are tangible. The initial wave of green buildings has gone up, and the world’s gaze continues to be fixed on this tiny town.
Greensburg’s boldest addition is the 5.4.7 Arts Center, built by University of Kansas students as part of Dan Rockhill’s Studio 804 program. Finished in May 2008, the 1,670-square-foot structure, which boasts wind turbines, photovoltaic panels, and geothermal climate control, received its LEED Platinum certificate a month later (the first for the town and the state). Soon after, the first townhouses in the Prairie Point development (LEED Gold) began rising along Main Street. They are now housing elderly residents and working-class families. The February 2009 opening of Dillon’s Quik Shop drew Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. While not up to LEED standards, the grocery and convenience store, which contains an ICF wall system and LED lighting, brought a modicum of normalcy along with its Yoplaits. Finally, residents didn’t have to drive 30 minutes, to neighboring Dodge City or Pratt, to get fresh fruit and a box of cereal.
Another slate of buildings should be finished by the storm’s second anniversary. Among them will be the BNIM-designed City Hall; the BTI-Greensburg John Deere dealership, on track for LEED Platinum; and the SunChips business incubator, started with $1 million donated by Frito-Lay. In addition, the concrete Silo Eco-Home, the first in the Chain of Eco-Homes will be up.
Given the financial challenges, it’s amazing how many houses have been rebuilt. Dozens dot the dirt lots around town, with 20 or so more in different stages of construction. Many are ranches and bungalows, styles typical for the area. But make no mistake, says Dixson: Beneath the traditional exteriors are energy-efficient elements, including passive solar heating, geothermal pumps, berm construction, and extra layers of insulation.
To read more about Greensburg’s rebuilding, visit http://www.architectmagazine.com/industry-news.asp?sectionID=1006&articleID=938849, or http://www.greensburgks.org/.
In difficult times, when the market goes suddenly from strong to weak, the survival rate drops with the Dow. Plans are left out in the cold. Only nine months ago, each of the buildings on the following pages stood a fighting chance of making the jump from architect’s drawings to glass, steel, concrete, and brick. Today, all are on indefinite, very costly hold. That doesn’t necessarily mean death; developers, with all they’ve invested monetarily and emotionally, routinely maintain that construction is poised to continue as soon as financing gets back on track. In the meantime, we are left not with towers or spires or bold cantilevers, but snapshots, renderings. Here are a list of buildings that have been highly anticipated, yet halted due to economic times.
1. Herzog & de Meuron for the Alexico Group.
LOCATED: 56 Leonard Street New York, NY
ANNOUNCED: September 2008
PLAN: A 56-story residential tower comprising 145 luxury residences, with occupancy originally expected in late 2010.
STATUS: Louise Sunshine, a real-estate consultant working with Alexico, says the project “is awaiting the completion of its financing.” Meanwhile, construction is stalled and the developer admits the time line has been changed.
2. UNStudio/Ben van Berkel for Sleepy Hudson
LOCATION: 5 Franklin Place
ANNOUNCED: April 2008
PLAN: A 20-story residential tower comprising 55 luxury apartments.
STATUS: Only 15 percent of its units had reportedly gone to contract by October, when the advertising campaign was scaled back. In December, the project was reported in default on its $28.3 million acquisition loan, and in March, the sales office closed. Wilbur Gonzalez of Brown Harris Stevens admits that construction has halted.
3. Kohn Pedersen Fox for the Port Authority
LOCATION: WTC Tower 5
ANNOUNCED: June 2007
PLAN: A 42-story tower for JPMorgan Chase & Co., with a cantilevered trading floor extending over St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.
STATUS: When JPMorgan acquired Bear Stearns last year, it found itself with a trading floor in midtown. According to representatives at the Port Authority, the project is on hold indefinitely.
4. Jean Nouvel for Hines
LOCATION: 53 West 53rd Street
ANNOUNCED: November 2007
PLAN: A 75-story tower containing luxury apartments, a hotel, and three floors of MoMA exhibition space.
STATUS: MoMA sold the lot to Hines in 2007 in exchange for $125 million and approximately 40,000 square feet of additional gallery space. The project is now awaiting planning approval, but according to a New York Times article in December, the project “has been delayed indefinitely.” A Hines representative says things are “status quo” but that the project is going forward.
5. Murphy/Jahn and Gruzen Samton for Time Equities
LOCATION: 50 West Street
ANNOUNCED: June 2008
PLAN: A 65-story tower containing 280 condominiums and a 155-room luxury hotel.
STATUS: Construction began last summer but stopped after a few months. In December, The Real Deal reported that “construction financing will likely be delayed until third-quarter 2009.” “The project is on temporary suspension right now,” says Dermot Johnson of Time Equities.
6. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for the New School
LOCATION: 65 Fifth Avenue
ANNOUNCED: December 2007
PLAN: A $400 million, 350-foot glass box with illuminated “quads in the sky.” The building, an expansion of the New School, would appear pink by day and glow purple by night.
STATUS: In a February 27 meeting with community leaders, the New School officially scrapped plans and announced that it will retain SOM to design a more modest structure.
7. Swanke Hayden Connell Architects for Vornado Realty Trust
LOCATION: Harlem Park (125th Street and Park)
ANNOUNCED: July 2007
PLAN: A 21-story office tower; Harlem’s first major office building in three decades.
STATUS: Construction was slated to finish this year, but it has yet to begin. Vornado’s most recent annual report states that it “delayed and substantially wrote down” the project.
8. StudioMDA/Behnisch Architects for Full Spectrum
LOCATION: Fulton St. and Ashland Pl.
ANNOUNCED: November 2007
PLAN: An $85 million mixed-income residential tower with 187 units and a 40,000-square-foot center for the Danspace Project.
STATUS: An ambitious project even in robust economic times, the development was recently reported by the Brooklyn Paper to be tabled indefinitely. The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development confirms it is helping the developers “identify a financing package that will allow the project to proceed.”
9. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for Brookfield Properties
LOCATION: 9th Avenue between 31st and 33rd Streets
ANNOUNCED: February 2008
PLAN: Two 60-plus-story office towers totaling 5.4 million square feet.
STATUS: Construction was reportedly scheduled to begin last June, with Condé Nast as a possible anchor tenant. But lease commitments have not been finalized and construction never began. “All of our developments are on hold right now pending tenant and financing commitments,” says Brookfield’s Matthew Cherry.
To view a slideshow of these projects, the current state of the building, and renderings of the design concepts, visit http://nymag.com/realestate/features/56154/.
As New Scientist reports, recent hurricanes have proven the mettle of rounded buildings. Because of their shape, they create less drag than rectangular buildings and up to 30% less pressure on the outside walls. In the case of these homes by Deltec, the spoke-like form of the floor and roof trusses distributes outside forces evenly throughout the structure. In 2005, this Deltec house managed to escape Hurricane Dennis nearly unscathed, while neighboring designs were blown to bits.
Meanwhile, seafront property poses another challenge: Waterfront property will probably always be valuable, even as global warming completely remakes coastlines. The solution: floating houses. Of course, the Dutch are experts at floating design, since so much of their country lies right at sea level. As New Scientist notes, Waterstudio specializes in floating houses. They’ve even been commissioned to build a floating mosque in Dubai. A little bit inland, where floating houses aren’t an option, the solution of course is to loft the house. But that creates its own challenge: How do you design a lofted building that doesn’t look terrible, that can blend in easily with neighboring homes? Dwell recently held a student contest to design concept homes for Louisianans, and several tackled the stilt problem head on. The design by Thomas Colosino and David Lachin of LSU solves it admirably.
The last design solution for disasters is to build structures that are both more resilient and less permanent. It’s also one of the oldest. For hundreds of years, the Japenese constructed entire cities whose buildings were made of just wood, bamboo, and paper. The purpose was two-fold: To create airy, easy to escape buildings less likely to topple and kill their inhabitants; and to make sure that even in the worst disasters, those buildings could be quickly replaced. Those strategies are being revived in Sichuan, in particular. Maybe the greatest design problem during the earthquake was concrete, which in China’s quick-build, lightly regulated economy is frequently shoddy and prone to collapse. China, in a way, had no choice: Many regions have been deforested. Yan Xiao, a professor of engineering at USC has conceived of a way around that, by creating a new, plywood-like material made of bamboo, which is ubiquitous in China. “Glubam” can be used in resilient timber-style buildings, which are a rarity in China. Using Glubam, Xiao has built dozens of schoolhouses and homes across the area. Shigeru Ban, a legendary Japanese architect, is thinking along similar lines, but he’s resuscitating the Japanese practice of architecture made from paper. Ban has experimented with paper for years, but the disasters have re-focused attention on the practice, and he recently produced a school house made of paper.
To see photos of these interesting design methods, visit http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/cliff-kuang/design-innovation/disaster-design.