DS26

#BIG is #IN!

Posted in Architecture, events, other architects by DS26 on 05.07.2011

Yesterday, day 2 of the Architecture & Design Film Festival in Chicago, we finally met the one that we feel represents the new generation of Architecture :

Bjarke Ingels.

Bjarke, founder of BIG, flies through Chicago often, but this time was a panelist in the session “Documenting Architecture”.

BobbyZ has always admired his work, and then I learned of the practice from Bobby, to also gain admiration. The maritime youth house, in collaboration with Julien – JDS, and VM house are the 1st projects I remember, in 2004-2005.

Today, BIG manipulates digital tools in a way no one had before him. Presenting his conceptual development and models, expressing the design ideas in a new engaging way. Immediately following the panel, they showed “my playground”… following people exploiting the spaces of various of his buildings, at different stages of construction :

The entire session was very good… and one thing stood out from Bjarke’s time for me… (i’m paraphrasing here) is that he is “creating work that is expanding urban space”. That particular thought I found profound, and definitely pertinent to not just architecture, but to good architecture.

We caught up with him, after the session, to speak to him about what is like (& how it happened) that he is where he is today… especially given his age.

We got a signature in our copy of “Yess is More”, a book now almost impossible to find… and my friend Lira & myself took a snapshot with the man.

Also in the panel was Rick Valicenti from ‘thirst’ a design collaborative who, little did we know, has done work with FAU (Florida Atlantic University), our own undergrad institution. When I heard that during introductions… I had to do a double take. I was pleasantly surprised (it is after all a smaller newer school).

Rick (far left below) had worked with Archeworks in developing a new “mobile food collective”.

Last, but certainly not least, was Iker Gil from MAS Studio (in the middle above)… presenting his project, the new documented Marina City Project, coming to the Art Institute’s Modern Wing in September.

I very much appreciate and admire this particular project because MAS Studio is actually trying to portray the life that is fitted, or developed, within the architecture. That is the entire purpose of what we do (architecture)… to generate space and, hopefully, improve quality of life.

>Iker, we love the pink kitchen by the way… just thought we’d let you know.<  :)

(+ I told him all about the fun for my Epic 30th at Marina City where “Goldberg meets Mies meets Wright… meets…”   found it relevant, given the venue)

Thanks to Zoe Ryan (far right above) for bringing such an inspiring and fulfilling session to @ADFilmFestival… and it continues.

~

Sir #Foster’s Weight

Posted in Architecture, events, other architects by DS26 on 05.06.2011

Last night was the 1st evening, the kick-off, of the Architecture and Design Film Festival.

For the 1st time the Festival has been brought to Chicago… it is usually held in New York.

The Festival opened with

“How much does your building weigh, Mr. Foster?”

A documentary of the life, architecture journey and current practice of Sir Norman Foster.

Foster + Partners

The title was, interestingly enough, based on a question posed to Norman one day by Mr. Buckmeister Fuller (he called Bucky), about one of my favorite buildings, one I studied early while in Architecture school… falling in love with his work… the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

(borrowed from Chris Ridley)

If you know Foster’s work you know that this is one of his most modest projects. Smaller in scale. And “just a box” like Bobby said… but I fell in love with the superior performance. With the mechanical systems. The double skin. The lattice system.

I fell in love with the mundane things, more “useful” things, Norman considered to make this project Mr. Sainsbury’s “most valuable piece yet”  in the collection.

All that said, Bucky visited and asked : How much does your building weigh?… opening up a whole new dimension for Norman (in his own words) in the consideration of material performance per a given a density… and one could assume cost, and other matters related.

I did like the movie, a bit slow, but learned many things. Norman is less harsh than appears. His story of the discovery of Architecture was interesting… and maybe even a bit familiar.

~

Pro (Save) Prentice!

Posted in opinion, other architects, projects, responsibility, sustainability by DS26 on 04.28.2011

In the recent weeks I came across the very controversial issue of the Prentice, a Goldberg-designed concrete structure, originally a women’s hospital in downtown Chicago.

I am a mid-century and concrete lover… all things cast-in-place, or raw exposed concrete, are my thing and I am with those in effort to save it.

Northwestern University, currently (and seemingly stubborn about it) are looking to demolish the place to build a new tower. A research facility. If you asked me that seems… counter-productive.

Demolition Costs + Expenditure in New Construction ≠ Gain

Plus, there is significant architectural value that is inherit of Prentice, and it adds to the significant architectural value of the city of Chicago.

As a (soon to be) builder – and aside from my design self (architecture licensing in progress) – what really hurts in this case is the disregard for the methods used in the creation of this project.

Why, you ask?… well, it is cost-prohibitive.

Meaning that the costs that are incurred in an all concrete structure or cast-in-place project, the labor costs, and its curvilinear form (which comes with formwork costs), all come together to insurmountable amounts in today’s market… not to mention the lack of craftsmanship that comes with today’s workforce.

Oh, and let me guess?

Northwestern wants a LEED certified building?… Am I right?…(yes! Probably.)

Have you not heard? :

The most sustainable building, is the building already built!!

I was reading and looking through the reuse plans that have been published, and all seem very adequate, achievable, and effective for their purpose. I especially liked the residential study (and can imagine that firm that actually came up with it – trying to add interior curvilinear value to Goldberg’s current curvilinear exterior shell).

But – and just throwing in my opinion here – a potentially more successful, and maybe a more easy model to sell, would be that of a hybrid project. An even more flexible one that those that have been presented.

I would have proposed a mixed housing + research facility, where Graduate and PhD students would want to move in to exploit this space as a live/work-share/work environment… that, as supposed to watching tv in the center of the structure.

~

the Target effect…

Posted in opinion, stuff by DS26 on 01.16.2011

Architects should look closely at a certain retail giant, and take note.


If you’re now finding yourself thinking

“what the hell is she talking about?… i’m an architect for god’s sake…”

… hence my point… & I’m going to walk you through this:

> The other day, browsing the tv (which is mostly crap by the way… don’t know what they’re thinking…), we ran into a documentary about Target. Everything about its inception, founders, business strategy, today and where they’re going.

We were quite surprised at how old Target is. Not originally named such, Target’s inception came to be from Dayton Dry Goods, a company founded in 1902 in Minneapolis. A family of entrepreneurs that constantly held their post dominating retail, though slowly and inconspicuously through “affordable” stuff (the downstairs store)

For years they continued to try, and try hard, to succeed with all of the best, newest, one of a kind stuff, when deep down their “downstairs” was what was soaring (they did not realize then…)

It took about 50 years, and a couple of generations involved, to realize that it was about quality, but about affordable quality, for the masses.

So… today Target is a place that, regardless of who you are, lower to middle class, professionals, the snobby and rich… even the elite above and beyond, you love the place because it is “affordable” (not cheap) quality and aesthetic stuff. Target, like other corporations we know, is almost cult-like in terms of its customers.

We, the profession of architecture (architects), have gone in the complete opposite direction of what makes sense. The opposite direction that those designers have taken, like Isaac Mizrahi, or the beautiful products by such as Liberty of London… and now William Rast (by Justin Timberlake) or my personal favorite Mossimo (because they have the best fitting jeans and tees I’ve ever encountered… and I’ve even bought $100 jeans before).

[ Remember… Michael Graves?… tea pot now a Collector’s item ]

Why can’t we take note, and realize that we are not above and beyond others… we serve others. Like retailers do. Like the hospitality industry does. The public.

Sure, we train and become highly specialized… but we’re still ones that must sell “our business” to the public. Really! Don’t you see it?

I know you would like to say “we don’t sell a product… we sell a service…” but blah blah blah! to that. We sell a product. You cannot deny that, even though not in existence, your design is a product… the product that is your client’s eventual built environment.

Have you ever stopped to think about why Contractors do better? Get respected more? Or make more money?… Even after not receiving or enduring as much education or training (not even close) as we do? You know, they could also make the same BS statement that “they provide the service of building construction”… but they don’t. They sell their clients a product. The building.

In the same way you should be selling your client a product. The building.

If you disagree, then look around you. Why are we in such depths of disarray in this market? No one has to be. No one should be.

Did you know Target recently opened their first store in the island of Manhattan?… Do you have a project in Manhattan?… Looks to me like Target’s got you beat (bahaha… bad joke)

But honestly… re-think your practice, re-think your strategy, and I would strongly recommend you put into perspective exactly what it is (& how it is) that you’re doing  it all. Put into practice “the Target effect”.

AND… if this at all sounds interesting to you… got get yourself some additional free business skills from Barnes & Noble, for the small price (or big depending how you look at it) of a stbx cup of coffee.

“Aqua Tower” … not all that!

Posted in opinion, other architects, projects by DS26 on 07.20.2010

“Aqua this…”  “Aqua that…”

So overly exposed, the new high-rise in Chicago has given a name to a woman owned and ran architecture practice, and it has caused serious commotion worldwide. Magazine covers, prizes, lectures, additional work, etc.

We, in part, do give Studio Gang credit because the simplicity of the solution, in terms of construction, has generated a (mostly) very aesthetic piece… one that most people do love (especially in Chicago).

I actually, in disagreement with BobbyZ, found the conceptual video compelling. I like to see datums that are brought in from significant city points to the project in question, and found quite interesting and complex that they no longer held to only the X & Y planes, but transcended into including Z.

[ Aqua Concept Video ]

In Bobby’s mind though, it was just an explanation after the fact, one that did not make so much sense.

“Laser beams melting a stick of butter…” – BobbyZ.

Much better, simpler, is the fact that maybe it emulates the river ?! Hence Aqua. Why so complicated ?!

With that said, we will tell you why we think is just  “not all that!”

Up close, it’s great. Just look at the picture above, and even closer, as in from the units’ balconies out toward the city, that much better. Very “sexy”, as Jeanne said herself during a published construction visit video clip.

From afar though, the beauty of the curvaceous slabs begins to, say… disappear.

As a matter of fact, even further, it gets completely lost. I did make a point to observe from the red line window.

Notice, in the picture above, the “gap” mid height of the tower. For some reason a double space, slab-less part had to be created. I would have guessed HVAC equipment, except it is enclosed with a curtain wall… that now makes me not sure of the intention.

Whatever the reason may be, it breaks the beauty that is created by the vertical continuity of the “curvaceous slabs”.

Also we find that the tower #fails at touching the ground. Again, an issue of the aesthetic continuity.

Being (as we are) big mid-century modern fans, Mies certainly, his work and the Chicago work of that time was concerned, always, with the way the building touched the ground. Opening views to the water, and allowing people to see and appreciate beyond the building was a must.

What the heck happened here ? …

One last negative, and this is back to my view from the red line, I found this intrusive, hideous, white box that sits at the very top, of-centered even, of the tower. You guessed it, this time it is an equipment room (& I now that for a fact), made of concrete.

I am not going to judge which way it should have been resolved. I know what we, in our (future) office would have done… but we were not a part of this project.

Like BobbyZ additionally so accurately expressed… “Still a developer’s project”, so maybe it was no longer up to the Architects to decide…

If we take Sears ( I could never call it ‘Willis’ ) or the John Hancock Tower…

unlike Aqua…

they begin, continue,and end  flawlessly…