#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.



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.


FLW Hides (i meant at Hyde)

Posted in opinion, other architects, projects by DS26 on 08.16.2010

yesterday we took a stroll a bit south from the house, looking for one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s (FLW) most famous houses : the Robie House.

in rendering, this happens to be one of BobbyZ’s favorite drawings of all time. i concur that it is pretty good (you would not find that kind of drawing at any starchitects office today).

we found the house hidden, a bit, in the intersection of 58th & Woodland Ave… surrounded by beautiful foliage…

the linear design and famed cantilevers are everything everyone (at least in architecture) expects them to be.

robust. strong. present.

even the details are not left untouched by FLW. brilliant pieces that serve mundane functions fill the house.

the window

the water drainage

the light fixture

wait a minute… WHAT IS THIS ?

… as we walked, and marbled, we stumbled upon sign after sign…


… and garbage cans… GARBAGE CANS ?!


one of the most beautiful shots to be taken, ruined by plastic. like it wasn’t enough we had to deal with people walking around with 80s headphones…


if FLW was alive today, we guarantee he would be apalled by such atrocity.

the man that would detail down ‘wright’ to the benches, lighting, glass, etc…

“no place for crap” we’re sure he would say.

even he would have not guessed that someone would one day ‘MISPLACE’ stuff around his work of art.

as trained architects, walking around.. we were…

saddened. disappointed.  in dismay.





“Chi-rrette” … WIAfund Award # 2

Posted in Women in Architecture by DS26 on 08.01.2010
Do you remember the post [ Meet Marla St. John… ] ?

Well, a new award has been announced as of this morning.


the WIAfund asks :  Can you connect and activate the space ?

On their website they post :

We all know Chicago is an Architecture ‘mecca’.

From Mies to FLW, and SOM, Gehry, Piano, Ando, and the new Krueck+Sexton, Gang…  all have created quite the compilation of architecture within the city’s fabric.

Now, you are next !!

For this award the WIA (Women in Architecture) fund calls you, emerging ladies, to design the next big thing (or small) on Chicago’s waterfront.

Download Award #2 Requirements or international form here

It is a “charrette” as the title quasi-depicts. The deadline for submission is 08/20/10… in just about 20 days.

Good luck ladies !


“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…

Does ~Ornament~ = “Form follows Function” ?

Posted in opinion, other architects, projects by DS26 on 07.19.2010

During one of our trips around the city, we ran into the Chicago Cultural Center (CCC).

Currently the CCC is hosting an exhibit on Louis Sullivan, and his “IDEA”.

When we think Louis Sullivan, we think Ornamentation.

Many of his projects were, at one point, located in the City of Chicago; sadly not much is left.

He had a signature style. Iron work ornaments that lived embedded in many staircases.

Plus many elaborate pre-cast and special pieces that lived in façades.

Today, one could not find such level of detail… not in design, nor in craftsmanship/construction.

That said, we walked, and we wondered :

How does Ornament become “Form Follows Function” ?

Form follows function is Sullivan’s most famous quote.

We think of that quote, and we think mid-century modern, clean, industrial… far from ornament, elaborate, or baroque-ish work.

So we read, and read, and read… (ok BobbyZ did the reading… while I worried about some pics and the blog post… Ha!)

Our findings :

Though Sullivan’s work was such an artistic, ornamented, craft-filled practice, one that developed complex hand-drawn construction documents like these, far from what one could find today

“Form follows function” was about the structure, and not the “ornamented” architecture that would compliment it.

We found out that Sullivan began in Engineering for the Army Corps. Working on infrastructures and such, mostly civil.

In his mind, “Form follows function” is the form created by the bearing conditions (of columns and beams) following the “necessity” of spaces, or owner requirements/program; also the use of steel, and maybe one could go as far as assuming the steel production method of ‘rolling’ or ‘extruding’ the material into the necessary members. The form of the steel to follow its necessary function, to perform structurally.

Whatever the case maybe ( and though none of us were there to confirm ) Sullivan’s work was inspired by the industrial and post-industrial times, those times’ design tendencies, new materials in use, and ( we are sure ) also his clients needs and requests.

Louis Sullivan will always live in the history of architecture, “Form follows function” will always be remembered, and The Carson-Pirie Scott Store will always remain a part of Chicago…