The Walmart Supercenter is generally considered one of the great antagonists of architecture around the world – the hulking behemoth who sold its integrity for the consumer convenience of having everything in one place. Though the first Walmart Supercenter didn’t open until 1988, big box stores have existed in some form since the 1960s, luring in shoppers with low prices and curbside loading lanes. For all the user psychology design that goes into them, the original designs of these buildings rarely pay much mind to their architectural or urban consequences, excluding a few notable exceptions.
Regardless, for the past 20 years big box stores have continued to prosper, prompting tenants to leave their homes and move on to even larger structures, leaving behind giant, open frameworks – for sale on the cheap. In a recent essay for 99% Invisible entitled Ghost Boxes: Reusing Abandoned Big-Box Superstores Across America, author Kurt Kohlstedt explores the architectural potential of these megastructures, drawing inspiration from the architects and communities that have successfully converted them into valuable assets.
Featuring long spans capable of accommodating a variety of program types, these structures have been renovated into libraries, churches, museums and apartment complexes in cities throughout the country. One example Kohlstedt points to is the McAllen Main Library, transformed from a Texas Walmart by MSR Design in 2011, which strategically partitions the open floor plan into human-scaled rooms and zones identified by bright colors and furniture patterns.
The article concludes that as the way we live and shop continues to change, our built environment will need to adapt, and all of the various typologies currently found in suburbia will take on new roles. And while in their current form, big box stores are widely unloved, Kohlstedt argues it is that precise distaste that may save them in the end:
“In many ways, these various suburban typologies are particularly well-suited to adaptation: no one cares about what happens to unloved structures, making them perfect candidates for complete transformations.”
For more big box transformations and to read Kohlstedt’s analysis in its entirety, visit 99% invisible, here.
A heater from the DESIGN group combined with a lighting function. Light reflections perfectly highlight its unique design qualities. Captivating in its original beauty. A perfect combination of functionality and aesthetics.
modern interior design
Power LED: 3 x 1,2W
Color: warm white 3000K, cold white 5400K
Lifespan: 70000 h
Sydney-based architecture and urban design firm Stewart Hollenstein have unveiled a scheme to transform the North Bund (lower Hongkou) region of Shanghai. Centered around a 2.7 kilometer stretch of Changzhi Road parallel to the Huangpu River waterfront, the project proposes the creation of a new “People’s Avenue,” reclaiming the street for pedestrian use and providing a framework for the development of the district and the city at large. The plan calls for the design of a new market hall, city library, theater, community center and two museums, helping to establish a new “Cultural Spine” for Hongkou.
Central to the design is the redevelopment of the existing avenue. While current plans call for a widening of the street to accommodate a 10-lane highway, Stewart Hollenstein proposes instead that the road be gradually phased into a multi-modal artery, giving priority to pedestrian occupation. The new avenue will be lined with a continuous active edge featuring shops and restaurants to connect a series of larger public spaces, establishing a new identity for the streetscape and promoting a cleaner, healthier city.
“The vision for the ‘People’s Avenue’ is one that starts at the scale of the citizen and uses this viewpoint to transform the entire North Bund,” says Stewart Hollenstein Director Matthias Hollenstein. “The ‘People’s Avenue’ forms the backbone to a public domain network designed to be generous, vibrant and integrated with the existing heritage fabric and future cultural and commercial developments.”
Stewart Hollenstein’s scheme flips the typical pattern of construction in Shanghai by establishing public areas first, then framing the space with development. At the artery’s western end, existing buildings are razed to make room for a covered marketplace; at the eastern end, Shanghai’s Jewish Quarter is revitalized with the addition of a new community center and children’s museum. In between, public plazas are created in front of a new theater and art gallery and along the Hongkou Canal.
“With the development of many sites in the study area already underway, our proposal presents a new strategy where development and a well-defined public realm support one another,” explains Stewart Hollenstein Director Felicity Stewart. “This is not a pattern we are currently seeing in Hongkou District where development has little relationship with the street and is designed on a block by block basis rather than supporting street life.”
The design proposal will be presented by Felicity Stewart and Matthias Hollenstein at the China Australian Urban Forum on June 29th 2016 in Shanghai. The forum was envisioned as an opportunity for experts from China and Australia to discuss potential futures for Shanghai with the purpose of addressing issues such as liveability, sustainability, infrastructure and preservation.
Swept up in an age of digitization and computing, architecture has been deeply affected in the past decade by what some critics are calling “The Third Industrial Revolution.” With questions of craft and ethics being heavily present in the current architectural discourse, projects taking advantage of these new technologies are often criticized for their frivolous or indulgent nature. On the other hand, there has been an emergence of work that exemplifies the most optimistic of this “Third Industrial Revolution” – an architecture that appropriates new technology and computation for the collective good of our cities and people.
We’ve collected 7 of these projects, ranging from exemplars of engineering to craft and artistry; projects that 80 years after Le Corbusier’s modernist handbook hint at a further horizon – towards a newer architecture.
The winner of MoMA PS1’s annual Young Architects’ Program contest, Hy-Fi by The Living is a structure built from bricks of fungus. Though the technology for the bricks had been in use previously at smaller scales, such as in product packaging by by Ecovative, The Living saw the potential for applications in architecture and with the help of engineers at Arup, produced the bricks for this installation. The form was generated using a parametric software to minimize materials for maximum structural integrity as well.
2. Arabesque Wall / Michael Hansmeyer & Benjamin Dillenburger
Testing the limits of form finding in parametric design and digital fabrication, the Arabesque Wall is a 3-meter-tall ornamented wall with over 200 million individual surfaces. Devised through algorithmic design and 3D-printed, the project demonstrates the extreme capabilities of computational design, creating a piece that – though not necessarily functional – maintains a quality and level of detail that exceeds human craftsmanship. Although a highly experimental project on its own, the Arabesque Wall seems to exemplify the growing trend of high customization.
3. The Programmed Wall / ETH Zurich
Using a robot arm, The Programmed Wall features a series of logics defined by students in the laying of a brick wall. A robot in turn interprets this logic to produce an architectonic form. Although masonry is traditionally a highly skilled trade, other robots in the field have largely automated rank-and-file brick laying. However, rather than making masons obsolete, it has complemented them, allowing them to focus on more artful, high-focus areas of bricklaying that robots cannot adapt to.
A major advantage of increasing computation is the ability to structurally engineer complex forms that would be impossible with traditional, analog methods. The Labrys Frisae Pavilion by THEVERYMANY for Miami Art Basel used software to compute a self-supporting form made of thin sheets of material. While self-supporting structures like the Labrys Frisae undoubtedly have exciting forms, arguably their greatest merit comes from their ability to reduce material use: the Labrys Frisae Pavilion was constructed of sheets of aluminium less than 1 millimeter thick.
Blurring the lines between traditional craftsmanship and digital fabrication, the Grotto by Toronto’s Partisans is a sauna on the coast of Lake Huron. The project’s fluid interiors were developed through a combination of hand and digital modeling, as well as sketching and CNC milling. Despite their frequent use of digital fabrication methods, Partisans maintains a level of craft to their work by using a mixture of analog and digital design processes.
6. Moss Voltaics / Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia
Using bio-photovoltaics, this project harnesses free electrons produced in the growth of moss, using a modular system that encourages their growth. As moss is one of the few plants that can thrive in urban conditions, it was selected for this initial experimentation. However, the wall functions with any plants, to varying degrees of effectiveness, potentially introducing an aesthetic element to an environmental solution.
7. Eco-BLAC Brick / MIT Research Lab
Though technological advances in architecture are often expressed extravagantly, the benefits of embracing these advances can often be felt strongest in some of the humblest areas. Using boiler ash, a by-product of burning cheap materials for energy, Eco-BLAC bricks developed by MIT circumvent two problems simultaneously – the extensive landfills created by boiler ash, and the destructive practice of clay-fired bricks that is currently prevalent in India. Though humble, the Eco-BLAC brick is the culmination of years of material science and chemistry, with the potential for widespread ecological impact.
The Council on Tall Building and Urban Habitat have announced the winners of the 15th edition of the CTBUH Tall Building Awards. From over 100 submissions, the best buildings from four regions – the Americas, Asia & Australasia, Europe and Middle East & Africa – were selected, along with recipients of the Urban Habitat Award, the Innovation Award, the Performance Award and the 10 Year Award. TheCTBUH will pick a global winner from the regional selections later this year.
The towers were chosen by a panel of architects from world-renowned firms and were judged on every aspect of performance, looking in particular for “those that have the greatest positive impact on the individuals who use these buildings and the cities they inhabit.”
Read on for the list of winners.
“VIA 57 West is an inspired hybrid of the traditional courtyard block and high-rise tower. Its complex and intelligently orientated architecture maximizes occupants’ views to the Hudson River and activates the New York City waterfront with a dynamic new standard for integrated urban infill development.” – Juror Michael Palladino, Design Partner, Richard Meier & Partners Architects
“Shanghai Tower shows the greatest commitment to communal space in a tall building since Commerzbank Tower completed in 1997. It contains the world’s first truly ‘inhabitable’ double-skin façade on a skyscraper, which is not only remarkable for its intended greenery, but its incorporation into the tower’s overall ventilation strategy. The sacrifice of valuable floor area to realize this social amenity proves that the aspirations for Shanghai Tower went far beyond mere commercial gain.” – Juror Antony Wood, Executive Director, CTBUH
Finalists: Beach Road / Foster + Partners, Beijing Greenland Dawangjing Tower / Skidmore, Owings & Merrill , Jiangxi Nanchang Greenland Central Plaza / Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Shinsegae International /Olson Kundig, Sky Habitat Singapore / Safdie Architects
“The White Walls is a truly groundbreaking exercise in materiality, serving as a successful expression of the architectural and environmental values of the Mediterranean across the vertical axis. Extensive vegetation on the north façade and the presence of loggias on the south façade create a very real connection with nature, while the tower’s punctured concrete walls quite literally ‘bleed green’ with tangles of local plant species.” – Juror Karl Fender, Director, Fender Katsalidis Architects
Finalists: Allianz Tower Istanbul / FXFOWLE, Allianz Tower Milan / Arata Isozaki + Andrea Maffei, ECB – European Central Bank / Coop Himmelb(l)au, Grattacielo Intesa Sanpaolo Torino / Renzo Piano Building Workshop
“The Cube indicates a clear alternative to the extruded box typology that defines the majority of residential high-rises around the world, instead comprising a stack of completely unique villas in the sky. The tower is particularly successful in its structural design, which features a system of elegantly framed girder walls that add visual flair and allow for completely unobstructed floor plans.” – Juror Hashimah Hashim, Executive Director, KLCC Property Holdings Berhad
Finalist: Iris Bay / Atkins
“The Wuhan Tiandi Mixed-Use Development demonstrates that a master plan for a tall building neighborhood can include vibrant public spaces that offer a high level of intimacy, walkability, and social design. The disposition of tall buildings combined with an animated public realm creates a vibrancy that is rarely found in newly created communities. The Wuhan Tiandi complex offers a high quality of life for those that live, work, and visit – a quality of life that rivals long established tall building neighborhoods found elsewhere in the world.” – Juror James Parakh, Urban Design Manager, City Planning Department of Toronto
“Walking along the base of Hearst Tower, you might not even realize that you are right next to one of New York’s greatest architectural achievements of the 2000s. Built directly on top of a 1920s office relic, the tower made the world reexamine what’s possible in terms of preserving historic low-rise buildings in a dense downtown core. There’s also something cathartic about the juxtaposition between its classically reserved base and contemporary diagrid structure above.” –CTBUH Trustee Timothy Johnson, Design Partner, NBBJ
“It is rare to see a commitment to upgrade an existing building to this level of environmental performance. The extensive documentation of its energy upgrades and sustainability initiatives speaks for itself; TAIPEI 101 has been the subject of a tireless and exhaustive effort to become one of the most sustainable tall buildings in the world, and it has been successful in this mission. In addition to a comprehensive set of green technologies and systems installed throughout the building, a rigorous occupant engagement program really puts this project in a league of its own.” – Technical Juror Bill Browning, Co-Founder, Terrapin Bright Green
“The Pin-Fuse system opens the door to realizing increased resilience in buildings constructed in highly active seismic regions. By providing just the right amount of give under pre-determined axial loads, the system is innovative for its tested impact on repair frequency, costs, and structural longevity for buildings that have experienced an earthquake.” – Technical Jury Chair SawTeen See, Managing Partner, Leslie E. Robertson Associates
Docomomo US has announced the winners of its 2016 Modernism in America Awards, which honor projects around the country that highlight and advocate for the restoration of postwar architecture and landscapes.
The Modernism in America Awards is the only national program that celebrates “the people and projects working to preserve, restore and rehabilitate our modern heritage sensitively and productively. The program seeks to advance those preservation efforts; to increase appreciation for the period and to raise awareness of the on-going threats against modern architecture and design.”
The 2016 Modernism in America Award winners are:
Design Award of Excellence:
Mellon Square; Pittsburgh, PA
The Civic/Institutional Design Award of Excellence is given for the restoration of Pittsburgh’s Mellon Square. Envisioned as a cornerstone of Pittsburgh’s post WWII renaissance by Richard King Mellon and Mayor David L. Lawrence, this space was collaboratively designed by architects Mitchell & Ritchey and landscape architects Simonds & Simonds. It opened in 1955 as the nation’s first urban plaza designed with an underground garage and retail space as an integral composition. After falling into decline due to weather, system failures, and use, a Preservation, Interpretation & Management Plan was first developed in 2008 that informed the five-year restoration and revitalization project focused on recapturing the original design intent and solving persistent issues of decline. Jury chair, architect Frederick Bland noted, “As one of the nation’s oldest modern urban plazas – and an original component of the success story of Pittsburgh’s mid-twentieth century renaissance – this detailed and comprehensive restoration considers both daytime and nighttime uses, includes an interpretative display to convey the meaning of the design to the public, and establishes a maintenance endowment and public-private operating agreement the ensure the design’s longevity. While some modern urban landscapes around the country are being ripped out, Pittsburgh has found a more enlightened way.”
Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Building; Los Angeles, CA
The Commercial Design Award of Excellence is awarded for the restoration of the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Building in Los Angeles, California. At its completion, both the building and its architect, Paul Revere Williams, were central to the African-American community during the previous century and influenced the history of Southern California. For much of the 20th century Golden State Mutual Life Insurance was the largest black-owned insurance company in the western United States and the first in the region to write insurance policies to all people regardless of color. The company was a pillar of the African-American community, providing hundreds of African- Americans and other minorities stable, middle-class employment, and was front and center in the drive for civil rights as the site of numerous voter drives and community organization efforts, including a visit by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In selecting the project the jury noted, “The renovation of this lesser known modern office headquarters in Los Angeles embodies the ethos of “refreshing” a building rather than replacing (i.e. a light touch rather than a heavy hand).” The interiors have been restored to match the original 1949 design, and the building now serves the community as a center of the South Central Los Angeles Regional Center (“SCLARC”) campus. The property is listed on the National Register and as a Historic Cultural Monument in the City of Los Angeles.
Frederick and Harriet Rauh Residence; Cincinnati, OH
The Residential Design Award of Excellence is given for the restoration of the Frederick and Harriet Rauh Residence. Restoration of the house and property was accomplished through the collective efforts of the Cincinnati Preservation Association and a team of experts and spearheaded by Emily Rauh Pulitzer who had grown up in the house as a child. Her involvement in the restoration included funding the acquisition of the property, funding the restoration, and working closely with the restoration team to establish the appropriate preservation approach to all elements of the project. Mrs. Pulitzer extended the impact of the project by encouraging the educational events such as the recent symposium “Preservation of Modern Architecture in the Midwest.” Though once again a private residence, tours and lectures continue to be held that raise awareness of the issues surrounding the preservation of modern architecture. Speaking on behalf of the jury architect Fred Bland said, “An unusual example of the International Style of modernism in Ohio, this scholarly and holistic approach to the preservation of this severely deteriorated house and site will provide future generations a rich example of the full spectrum of many components of modernism. Not only will the building itself be preserved but also the landscape, furnishings, and art. A laudable added feature, a public outreach program including tours and symposia, is intended to engage and instruct the public.”
Michigan Modern; Michigan
The Advocacy Award of Excellence for is given to the Michigan Modern project. In selecting the project, the Docomomo US Board of Directors commented, “The role and impact of Michigan in introducing modern design in all aspects of living in the immediate postwar decades is without any precedent even today. The Michigan Modern project re-introduces us to that fact and, as a result, is groundbreaking in concept and approach as well as in its scope and ability to be a springboard for advocacy throughout the state. The project has also important educational components that continue to raise the understanding, knowledge and appreciation for the state’s considerable mid-century resources and design-related heritage. An early example of the project’s importance was the ability of the organizers to save from destruction the architectural records of Yamasaki and Associates and to make these archives of an important American architect available for research through the Archives of Michigan.” With the goal of raising awareness of the significance of the state’s Modern resources and design heritage, the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) received a Preserve America grant in 2009. The initial scope included development of a historic context on Modernism in Michigan; survey of 100 significant Modern resources; four architect interviews; and the creation of the Michigan Modern website (michiganmodern.org) to impart the information to the public. The project grew to include an exhibition entitled Michigan Modern: Design That Shaped America, a book of the same name due out later this fall, the funding of three National Historic Landmark designations, and has served as the springboard for advocacy and activism.
Citation of Merit:
Margaret Esherick House; Philadelphia, PA
The jury awards a Citation of Merit for the conservation of Louis I. Kahn’s Margaret Esherick House. The jury commented, “a rare residence by the master architect Louis I. Kahn, this house has been restored by owners who painstakingly sought to have the genius of Kahn shape their approach to the restoration. Extraordinary sensitivity to the original details included the services of a paint conservator; restoration of the idiosyncratic, Wharton Esherick designed, original kitchen, long outdated, and made useful by today’s standards by adding contemporary components in an adjacent utility area; and cleverly adapting the spirit of the character-giving shutters during the winter months, allowing a sustainable future for the house.”
The Met Breuer; New York, NY
The jury awards a Citation of Merit for the restoration of The Met Breuer. Speaking for the jury, Deborah Dietsch and Joan Blumenfeld, FAIA, FIIDA, LEED, ID+C stated, “For decades, Marcel Breuer’s Whitney Museum was threatened with insensitive additions and alterations. A once reviled building that has become a familiar and well-loved icon is one of the finest architectural examples of the brutalist period. Though the building hasn’t been threatened for 20 years, this project epitomizes the best preservation practices by respecting the original architect’s intentions, reinstating the design as conceived and leaving evidence of the architectural patina acquired over time. The Met Breuer is proof to other institutions and cities that such tough modern buildings are beautiful and deserve to be better understood, saved and cherished.”
The Shepley Bulfinch Architecture Firm Office; Phoenix, AZ
The jury awards a Citation of Merit for the sensitive restoration of the Shepley Bulfinch Architecture Firm Office at the Phoenix Financial Center, South Rotunda. The jury notes, “A lesser-known and exuberant desert gem, the original interior details have been carefully restored and brought back to robust life by a tenant. Development pressures have been avoided and the preservation of this building supports the revival of a city district. This is yet another example of how less is more… how restoration with a light hand values even the patina on original material if that material can be saved and restored, rather than replaced.”
Houston: Uncommon Modern; Houston, TX
The jury awards the Survey/Inventory Citation of Merit to Houston: Uncommon Modern project. The jury notes, “Houston has its share of noteworthy mid-century modern buildings, but this project – an exhibition, catalog, tour, and panel discussion – puts a spotlight on “outsider” modern structures in a city notable for the lack of zoning or a robust preservation ethos. This is the kind of preemptive work that can save buildings, sites, and neighborhoods without the fanfare of 11th hour campaigns.”
Citation of Technical Achievement:
United Nations Campus Renovation of Facades; New York, NY
The jury awards a Citation of Technical Achievement to the United Nations Headquarters Campus Renovation of Facades. This world-renown complex by a team of mid-20th century master architects, and in particular the iconic Secretariat building, had failing wall assemblies that were beyond repair and necessitated replacement. This undertaking utilized state-of-the-art design methodologies and rigorous analysis of the original glass and other facade materials, to achieve a historically appropriate visual outcome while meeting today’s energy conservation and security objectives. The project represents a significant addition to the body of knowledge essential for the preservation of early modern glass and curtain wall buildings.
Tower of Hope, Christ Cathedral; Garden Grove, CA
A Citation of Technical Achievement is awarded to the Tower of Hope, Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. Commenting on the project the jury noted, “Seismic upgrades are as necessary as they are expensive, causing some buildings to be lost to demolition rather than to be retrofitted. The success of this project, a dynamic assemblage of low and high buildings by a master architect, rests on patient research and a determination to find and apply creative solutions without compromising preservation goals. The project can serve as a model for others which might be lost to demolition.”
News and project descriptions via Docomomo US.
Benedetta Tagliabue (born 24 June 1963) is an Italian architect known for designs which are sensitive to their context and yet still experimental in their approach to forms and materials. Her diverse and complex works have marked out her Barcelona-based firm EMBT as one of the most respected Spanish practices of the 21st century.
Born in Milan, Tagliabue graduated from the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia in 1989. In the early 1990s, she married Spanish architect Enric Miralles and the pair founded their studio Miralles Tagliabue EMBT. Together, Miralles and Tagliabue designed some of the practice’s most notable works, including the renovation of the Santa Caterina Market in Barcelona and the enormous edifice of the Scottish Parliament Building – a building which critic Charles Jencks described as “a kind of small city,” reflecting the complexity and intricacy of the Edinburgh streets which it responds to.
However, following Enric Miralles’ tragically premature death in 2000, Tagliabue took over the firm as a sole director, completing the Santa Caterina market, Edinburgh Parliament and a string of other projects besides. In recent years, the firm’s most striking work has perhaps been the Spanish Pavilion completed for the 2010 Shanghai Expo, a design which epitomizes their philosophy of continuing curiosity and material experimentation.
To this day, Tagliabue refers to her late husband as one of her greatest influences, and in 2011 she founded the Foundation Enric Miralles, with the mission of promoting and teaching the philosophies of inquiry and experiment that are fundamental to his legacy.
Adding to the growing trend of timber-framed architecture, Tzannes has released plans for International House Sydney, the “first modern commercial engineered timber building of its size and type in Australia.” Located in the new urban district of Barangaroo, the building was conceived as a gateway to the area, linking pedestrian infrastructure systems and providing six floors of new commercial space.
Taking advantage of the structural capabilities of timber, Tzannes’ design features a colonnade of y-shaped members, giving the building a dynamic presence from the street and providing shade and cover for the pedestrian “Merchant’s Walk.” Behind the colonnade, the seven-story building is made up of two components: a two-story base housing retail that responds to surrounding pathways, and a simple glass envelope above that allows the building’s unique structural frame to be displayed from both the inside and outside.
The building has been sited to complete the streetwall on Hickson Road, complementing surrounding buildings and acting as a transitional structure between the street and the towers to the west. The design interacts with the two pedestrian bridges flanking the project, drawing people into the ground-level public space and connecting Barangaroo with downtown Sydney.
In addition to the extensive use of structurally engineered timber, the design for International HouseSydney employs recycled hardwood throughout. Noting the renewable and ecological character of timber-framed structures, Tzannes hopes that the project will be seen as a leader in environmentally sustainable design and will set an example for future development in the area.