Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Staff unionizing, superstar collabs, and remembering design icons — the highest highlights of November 2019

Creating lasting positive impact through one’s work is a big aspiration for many an architect. The month of November was dominated by practitioners who work ceaselessly to move the profession forward toward a better future — whether it was remembering a pioneering architect’s decades-long legacy, more diverse scholarships, the ongoing fight for better affordable housing, workers unionizing, or challenging age-old educational approaches. And not to mention the occasional high-profile celebrity wanting to dip their toes into the world of design. In no particular order, here are the news and features highlights of November 2019 on Archinect.


‘Lair’ book explores the radical homes and hideouts of movie villains

Photo courtesy of Tra Publishing.

From “Blade Runner 2049” to “The Spy Who Loved Me” to “The Incredibles”, the book “Lair” by Miami-based architect Chad Oppenheim and editor Andrea Gollin is a fun journey into the architectural designs of villain’s lairs from 15 films. 

LeBron James will transform historic building into housing for students of his ‘I Promise School’

Photo: Allison Farrand.

Since founding his I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, NBA star LeBron James announced that safe housing will be added. “We’ve found that it is impossible to help [the kids] learn if they are struggling to survive — if they are hungry, if they have no heat in the freezing winter, if they live in fear for their safety,” James said in a statement.

Tensions with Notre Dame cathedral’s chief architect heat up over reconstruction plans

Notre Dame Cathedral on fire on April 15, 2019. Photo: Godefroy Troude/Wikipedia.

Following the April 15 fire that shocked the world, the beloved Parisian cathedral continued to make headlines in relation to its reconstruction plans. In November, tensions rose between General Jean-Louis Georgelin and the building’s chief architect Philippe Villeneuve. The spat centered around whether to restore the church’s historic spire or to remove it entirely.

Herzog & de Meuron’s 56 Leonard is finally getting its Anish Kapoor sculpture installed

Image © Anish Kapoor, 2017.

The development firm behind the Herzog & de Meuron-designed 56 Leonard in Tribeca began installing a new public structure by Anish Kapoor, which resembles the artist’s famous Cloud Gate a.k.a. “The Bean” in Chicago.

The 24 finalists of the 2019 Architectural Photography Awards

Exterior: The Twist Museum, Kistefos Sculpture Park, Jevnaker, Norway. Photographer credit: Laurian Ghinitoiu/APA19/Sto.

Celebrate the year’s best architectural photography from around the globe, the 2019 Architectural Photography Awards attracted a whopping 2,000 entries from 42 countries, from which 24 finalists were selected. During the World Architecture Festival, the overall winning prize went to Laurian Ghinitoiu’s captivating photo of BIG’s The Twist Museum.

Musician-turned-designer Pharrell Williams moves into architecture with a two-tower project in Toronto

Rendering of Pharrell Williams’ proposed two-tower development in Toronto. Image courtesy of Reserve Properties and Westdale Properties.

Like Brad Pitt and Kanye West, Grammy-winning artist and entrepreneur Pharrell Williams is another high-profile celeb who’s venturing into the world of architectural design. Pharrell teamed up with developer Reserve Properties and Westdale Properties for a two-tower residential project in Toronto called “Untitled”, based on the concept of celebrating the “universality of space”. The project is currently due to launch early next year. 

Apple begins construction on $1 billion campus in Austin

Image via Apple.

In late November, Apple announced that it broke ground on its upcoming $1 billion campus in Austin. Reports indicate that Studio8 Architects will be in charge of designing the 3 million-square-foot campus, which is currently scheduled to open in 2022.

Unlicensed? Don’t call yourself an “Architectural Designer” or “Design Professional”

Image courtesy Chris Potter/Wikimedia.

To all the aspirations architects out there, perhaps you’ll want to brush up on some laws that dictate how you communicate your professional aspirations and expertise. The rules are more strict than you may think.

WeWork employees embark on unionization effort

Credit: WeWorkers Coalition.

Amid WeWork’s collapse, employees launched an organizational effort to secure workers’ rights as the company contemplated cutting thousands of jobs. “We want our time here to have meant something. We don’t want to be defined by the scandals, the corruption, and the greed exhibited by the company’s leadership,” the WeWorkers Coalition stated.

LA’s Marciano Foundation museum closes amid staff unionization push

Citing poor attendance, the Marciano Art Foundation abruptly closed its doors indefinitely after it laid off about 70 visitor services employees, who had been attempting to unionize. Staffers decried the sudden shutdown as an illegal union-busting scheme, the LA Times reported. 

WXY replaces juvenile detention center in The Bronx with affordable housing

Image courtesy of WXY architecture + urban design.

WXY, Body Lawson Associates, and the New York City Economic Development Corporation are redeveloping the defunct Spofford Juvenile Detention Center in The Bronx into an affordable housing complex that contains 740 affordable housing units and a slew of community-serving uses.

Amid Hard Rock collapse investigation, New Orleans mayor calls for more women in STEM roles

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. Image courtesy of Agaton Strom/Flickr user PopTech.

In the tragic aftermath of the Hard Rock collapse, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell had been meeting with the expert architects and engineers studying the collapse when she she realized that “The majority of them were absolutely men.” A staff editorial piece on The Advocate highlighted Mayor Cantrell’s comments on the gender disparities she observed among the experts who were assigned to help her administration on the investigation.

The Bartlett launches new diversity-focused scholarship program

Image courtesy of Steve Cadman/Flickr.

The Bartlett’s Faculty of the Built Environment launched a new scholarship program to help bring students from under-represented communities to the school. Faculty Dean Christoph Lindner told Building Design that there are “young people out there whose experience and perspective we desperately need, who never think of applying to the Bartlett because they’ve never met an architect or a planner, a computer scientist or an engineer.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar unveils 12 million unit “Homes for All” plan

Photo: Lorie Shaull/Flickr.

U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar unveiled a plan that calls for the construction of 12 million new public and affordable housing units over the next decade. It would also establish permanent federal funding to ensure housing affordability across the country.

Giving Shelter; A conversation with Sofia Borges & R. Scott Mitchell about architecture’s potential to house us all

Archinect spoke with Sofia Borges and R. Scott Mitchell, who lead the MADWORKSHOP Homeless Studio at USC that addresses homelessness in LA. Borges and Mitchell talk about their complementary backgrounds, how they approach the complexity of homelessness in an academic environment, and how architects can make a positive difference in this dire issue.

Class action lawsuit filed in Hunters Point Library accessibility dispute

Photo © Paul Warchol.

Weeks after opening to the public, Steven Holl Architects’ Hunters Point Library began to quickly draw criticism for its lack of universal design. The NYC-based Disability Rights Advocates filed a class action lawsuit, stating that “after years of in-depth planning, [it] excludes persons with mobility disabilities from full and equal access to its services through reliance on stairs and other inaccessible features.” 

Amazon’s new homeless shelter inside their Seattle Headquarters is nearly complete

Photo © Mitch Pittman/Amazon.

Amazon designed their own homeless shelter inside their headquarters. Scheduled to open next year, the shelter will accommodate 275 people per night. The company “offered to pay for the space’s utilities, maintenance, and security for the next 10 years. It’s also covering the rent,” Business Insider reported.

First photos of Zaha Hadid Architects’ newly opened Leeza SOHO tower (and the world’s tallest atrium)

Photo © Hufton + Crow.

The Zaha Hadid Architects-designed Leeza SOHO tower in Beijing was successfully completed. Even before it was fully built, the tower’s 623-foot-tall, full-height atrium quickly caught widespread attention with these stunning construction photos that ZHA released.

How our demand for sand fuels a violent global black market

Photo: Sumaira Abdulali/Wikimedia Commons.

Vince Beiser for BBC Future tells the untold story about how a specific type of sand has grown into the second most consumed natural resource on Earth. Demand is so high that it has fueled global environmental destruction, growing black markets, and even “sand wars”.

Ray Kappe, founding director of SCI-Arc, and master of Southern California modernism, has died

Photo credit: Paul Petrunia.

With a career spanning over six decades, legendary architect and educator Ray Kappe founded the Department of Architecture at Cal Poly Pomona before leaving in 1972 to start the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). With his wife Shelly Kappe, students, and faculty, Kappe helped pioneer a new approach to architectural education.

R.I.P. Shoji Sadao, the unsung force behind some of Buckminster Fuller and Isamu Noguchi’s iconic designs

Photo via Wikipedia.

Architect Shoji Sadao played a major role in bringing some of the most famous designs by Buckminster Fuller and Isamu Noguchi into the world. Preferring to keep his name out of the limelight, Sadao will always be celebrated for his vital work and “how essential he was to both [Fuller and Noguchi] as a creative visionary and devoted friend,” the Buckminster Fuller Institute wrote in an obituary.

Architect and preservationist Dion Neutra has passed away

Photo credit: Naruki Nagata, via Wikimedia.

The son of famed architect Richard Neutra and a practitioner in his own right, Dion Neutra worked with his father on some of the firm’s most creative projects like the VDL II Research House. In his later years, Dion ardently fought to preserve his father’s iconic buildings.

MoMA PS1 pauses the popular Young Architects Program

Hórama Rama by Pedro & Juana, presented as part of the Young Architects Program 2019 at MoMA PS1. Photo: © Rafael Gamo.

MoMA announced that the reputable MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program (YAP) will be on hiatus for at least a year. According to Martino Stierli, MoMA’s Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, the museum has invited influential scholars and professionals, experimental architects and designers, and previous YAP winners to assess the program’s impact over the last 20 years and explore its potential for future generations.


Portable Us: Exploring States of Motion With Charles Weinberg and Shai Ben-Ami

Photo © Michael Shvadron via Charles Weinberg and Shai Ben-Ami.

This Thesis Review installment spotlighted students Charles Weinberg and Shai Ben-Ami and the inspiring amount of dedication they put into their thesis project, “Portable Us—Journey Anywhere, Nowhere, Everywhere.” Looking back on the process, the duo said they “learned the importance of staying dynamic when exploring new places and meeting people who see things differently in order to continue developing skills and networks.”

Living Walls: Balancing a Plant-Centric Process with People-Centric Design with Habitat Horticulture’s David Brenner

Photo © Garry Belinsky, courtesy of Habitat Horticulture

Fostering a life-long passion for plant life, David Brenner of multidisciplinary design firm Habitat Horticulture wants to shift people’s perceptions about plant life, which is often portrayed as “static accessories” to the built environment. “I’m eager to delve into the significance that living walls can have on creating environments for local pollinators, native endangered species, storm water retention, and better air quality. We have this unique opportunity to provide a substantial impact across the board,” Brenner tells Archinect.

“Decolonization Is a Gift”—CCNY’s Lesley Lokko on Questioning Architecture’s Inherited Futures

Photo courtesy of CCNY.

Archinect spoke with Lesley Lokko, a multi-talented architect, best-selling novelist, architectural educator, and now, the Dean of the The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York. Lokko discusses her long road to architecture, expanding the definition of an “architect,” and the importance of decolonizing design education.

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