“Buoyant Ecologies Float Lab” by CCA/Digital Craft Lab.
Beginning tomorrow, the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, will host Designing Material Innovation, an exhibition being held on the College’s Back Lot—soon to be converted into their new campus by Studio Gang—which will put on display new approaches to material, fabrication, and design. Created through collaborations between architects and industry partners, the works combine technological innovation in materials research and fabrication with aesthetic and ethical approaches to form and appearance.
The exhibition, and accompanying symposium, has been organized by Taubman’s new dean Jonathan Massey and will feature five full-scale architectural prototypes and pavilions by CCA Digital Craft Lab, APTUM Architecture, Matter Design with M.I.T. Architecture, and T+E+A+M. Design of the exhibition has been carried out by Clark Thenhaus of Endemic Architectureand features a “confetti urbanism” that rearranges the existing furnishings of the Back Lot.
The government of the United Arab Emirates has announced the launch of the Mars Science City project, a $140 Million USD (AED 500 million) research city that will serve as a “viable and realistic model” for the simulation of human occupation of the martian landscape. Designed by a team of Emirati scientists, engineers and designers from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in partnership with Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), the 1.9 million-square-foot domed structure will become the largest space simulation city ever constructed.
Mars Science City will house a variety of program pieces for both researchers and visitors, including laboratories for the study of food, energy and water; landscapes for agricultural testing and food security studies; and a museum celebrating humanity’s greatest space achievements and educating visitors on the city’s research. Utilizing one of the techniques currently considered for Mars habitat construction, the walls of the museum will be 3D printed using sand from the Emirati desert.
Laboratory spaces will be outfitted with advanced technologies allowing researchers to test construction and living strategies under specific Martian heat and radiation levels. Plans for the city include an experimental living scenario in which a team will attempt to live within the constructed environment for a full year.
“The UAE is a great country with vision and understanding of the challenges we face and the rapid changes our world is experiencing,” said Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. “We believe in the potential of space exploration, and in collaborating with global partners and leaders in order to harness the findings of this research and movement that seeks to meet people’s needs and improve quality of life on earth.”
Michel Kozman has imagined a light-filled library for Hyde Park as part of the Archasm Hyde Park Library Competition that ran earlier this year. The competition, which attracted 378 registrations, called for “a stimulating and exciting approach towards the design of a library at Hyde Park.” The brief requested consideration be given to modern forms of media, including audiovisual and digital technologies, challenge the traditional library typology and become a zone within the park for knowledge exchange and gathering.
Kozman’s design entry was drawn from the park, for the park. Located on the lake edge, the building attempts to solidify the moment where water is disturbed and ripples outwards, resulting in a kind of rolling, droplet-shaped object. The form is then pulled, so it is leaning over its entrance. This formal condition is extended into the landscape, with an outdoor amphitheater curling up from the ground like a lip.
The building’s skin would appear woven and the space frame construction left exposed, creating a dappled, patterned light, denser where the heat gain is less desired and responding to its leafy context.
The library sinks inwards over four floors to an internal courtyard, and stainless steel panels are used internally to capitalize on reflections of the park surrounding. This would create an immersive experience, bringing the outside in and the inside out. The columns holding up the structure fluctuate in width and twist like tree trunks while the floor plates wave around the edges to create double-height alcoves below.
This dynamic scheme would be an interesting addition to London’s largest royal park. It is a unique design, full of light and air and would no doubt offer a place of respite on the city’s colder days.
Renewable energy experts from the University of Exeter in England have developed a glass block with built-in solar cells. The idea is that with the spread of technology, it is possible to build a house or a whole building’s facade using blocks that generate energy.
The product has been named Solar Squared, tests done at the university have shown that they guarantee thermal insulation and allow natural light to enter the building.
It is estimated that buildings consume more than 40% of the electricity produced worldwide, this technology would allow the production of electricity at the site of use. Researchers guarantee that another advantage is that the new solar blocks can be used in new projects or in residential remodeling.
The Exeter team has created a startup company, The Build Solar, to better develop the product. The company is now seeking investors to bring into the market in 2018.
Dr. Hasan Baig, founder of Build Solar and a researcher at the Institute for Environment andSustainability at the University of Exeter, explains in an article on the university website that the blocks invented by the group have better thermal insulation than traditional glass blocks, besides supplyingenergy to the building.
“It is now clear that the world is moving towards a distributed energy system, of which an increasing proportion is renewable. This, along with switching to electric vehicles, means that there are substantial opportunities for new ways of generating electricity at the point of use” says co-inventor Jim Williams in the same document released by the university.
With the launch today of Apple’s iOS 11—and with it, the release of the company’s powerful system for augmented reality apps, ARKit—Morpholio has released a new update to their popular Trace app that allows users to sketch over photographs with perfect accuracy. While it has always been an option to sketch over photographs in Trace, the new “Perspective Finder” tool superimposes a scaled grid over the photograph that helps designers follow the perspective of the image and measure their drawings accurately.
Perspective Finder works automatically when launching the iPad’s camera in Trace. Once it detects a surface, it automatically presents a grid which the user is able to rotate to their liking. They can also select the size of the grid, with each square indicating a real-world distance in the photograph. Users can then move around the space to capture the perfect view, with the grid fixed in place.
After an image has been captured, the photograph can then be used as a background for your drawing, with a perspective grid to serve as a guide that can be toggled on or off at will.
“Our app puts scale drawing at the center of the experience, letting designers work intuitively with an iPad Pro and their hands while not losing any accuracy in the process,” said one of Morpholio’s co-founders, Anna Kenoff. “The uses for Perspective Finder are as endless as the opportunities that AR has opened up. Stand in your kitchen to sketch a renovation, or in an open floor plan to layout a new office space. Look down over a plaza, garden, or streetscape to cast a grid and create a new landscape or planting plan.”
“Trace’s Perspective Finder uses ARKit to construct true vanishing points, horizon lines, and scale-accurate grids for you, meaning ANYONE can draw with the beauty and accuracy of a pro,” added Toru Hasegawa, another Morpholio Co-Founder.
You can find Morpholio’s Trace app, now with Perspective Finder, here.
In addition to their Perspective Finder update to Trace, Morpholio has also released an AR update to Board, their interior design app. Color Capture allows designers to sample colors from the world around them using their iPad camera and import these colors into their mood boards. You can see video and images of Color Capture in action above, and download Board here.
The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) has announced Tezuka Architects’ Fuji Kindergarten in Tokyo as the winner of the 2017 Moriyama RAIC International Prize. Established by Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama and the RAIC in 2014, the $100,000 prize is awarded every two years to recognize a single work of architecture from around the globe “that is judged to be transformative within its societal context and promotes the values of social justice, equality, and inclusiveness.”
“I feel now there is someone who understands this project well. I think it’s quite a unique prize because it’s about contributing to society,” commented Takaharu Tezuka. “It looks like a simple structure. But it’s a layering of many ideas combined.”
“This is a prize that will continue to acknowledge the important work of transformative architecture worldwide and its designers,” commented Raymond Moriyama. “No matter the scale or size of the building, the Prize provides an opportunity to recognize design qualities which make a positive contribution. Society is evolving, we hope, toward more equality and social justice. Architects can provide leadership by creating inspiring buildings in service to a community.”
Completed in 2007 in Tokyo, Japan, the Fuji Kindergarten is a single-story, oval-shaped building that encourages children to play and interact by breaking down the physical barriers found in the typical early childhood educational architecture. Large sliding glazed doors lining the interior of the ring are opened up for a majority of the year, allowing children to freely pass between indoor and outdoor areas, encouraging independence and socialization. An accessible roof becomes the main play space for the school, giving students an endless path to run, jump and play.
All these design decisions have led to a learning environment that improves learning ability, calmness and focus, even in children with behavioral disorders.
“What we want to teach through this building are values of human society that are unchanging, even across eras,” said Tezuka Architects in their submission statement. “We want the children raised here to grow into people who do not exclude anything or anyone. The key to Fuji Kindergarten was to design spaces as very open environments, filled with background noise. When the boundary disappears, the constraints disappear. Children need to be treated as a part of the natural environment.”
“What perhaps sets the Fuji Kindergarten apart is the sheer joy that is palpable in this architecture,” said Barry Johns, FRAIC, Jury Chair and a Trustee of the RAIC Foundation. “It is one of those rare buildings—comprised of a geometric plan, a single section, a roof, and a tree—that in their utter simplicity and unfettered logic magically transcend the normal experience of learning. This winning project should give all architects around the world reason for great optimism that humanity benefits enormously from the creation of such a deeply simple and yet sophisticated architecture of unquestionable redeeming value.”
In addition to the $100,000 grand prize, three $5,000 scholarships were awarded to three architecture students: University of Waterloo student (and ArchDaily intern) Osman Bari; Alykhan Neky of Ryerson University; and Tanya Southcott, McGill University. Winners were selected based on an illustrated 1,000-word essay on the following topic: Please describe the moment—the circumstances, the nature of the event—when you decided to become an architect, or when you knew that your decision to become an architect was the right one.
“The student scholarships are equally important to raise the aspirations of up-and-coming architects,” said Moriyama. “I congratulate the three winners and wish them well in their pursuit of architecture as a worthy profession.”
While in New York this July I visited MoMA’s retrospective of Frank Lloyd Wright, ‘Unpacking the Archive’, an extensive collection of Wright’s production to celebrate his 150 year anniversary. Despite his revered position as America’s protégé architect and seminal figure—and having studied his work in the past—a number of surprising and unexpected thoughts from the show stuck with me during my subsequent month-long journey through the American Midwest. Both a pioneer of radical experimentation and a deep-rooted member of the status quo, Wright’s projects draw from many cultural histories and are, at times, divisive. But is it time the architecture press retires from reinventing Frank Lloyd Wright, the tireless self-publicist, and instead focuses the spotlight elsewhere? I discuss my thoughts with architect, cultural historian and Wright scholar Mabel O. Wilson, who currently teaches architectural history and theory at Columbia GSAAP.
The 70’s Sedan screeched across the junction and pulled down a side street. From the back seat I could see plot after plot of abandoned colonial-style houses, their structural timberwork bowing as they collapsed into their overgrown gardens. We jolted up the driveway of the musky Detroit residence where a group of east coast artists turned estate sales merchants had set up shop. Stepping out onto the verandah I saw a plume of smoke billow upwards, thick and dark, and I suspected it must come from a house fire no further than three blocks away. An elderly lady, who I guessed must live around the corner, strolled by, her stick tapping the ground, and called out to us she was on her way to check out the scene. “Second one this week”, my friend gestured to her as she voiced her weary familiarity to the situation.
The Kettering neighbourhood, as with many areas of inner city Detroit—a city built for two million people now housing just 700,000—remains for the most part deserted, its spacious residences and antique contents sold on for markedly cheap. Once the centre of America’s automotive manufacture, it is now possible to cycle diagonally across a five lane motorway without a car in sight. Kettering, a majority black neighbourhood, has been slower than most to show signs of economic recovery and has for the most part missed the gentrification other areas of Detroit have experienced over recent years. House fires were common in the area and are often linked to evictions, retaliation or bankruptcy insurance claims. Perhaps due to this hardship, the local community was strong and people seemed to look out for one another.
While we might consider Frank Lloyd Wright as an architect of America’s bountiful Golden Age—that enchanted era which perpetually resides in the past—he was also a citizen who lived through the Great Depression and often wavered on the edge of bankruptcy himself. From his extensive written correspondence and journal entries, we now know he was acutely aware of the fragility of American cities and their infrastructure networks.
While we might consider Frank Lloyd Wright as an architect of America’s bountiful Golden Age—that enchanted era which perpetually resides in the past—he was also a citizen who lived through the Great Depression and often wavered on the edge of bankruptcy himself. From his extensive written correspondence and journal entries, we now know he was acutely aware of the fragility of American cities and their infrastructure networks. Echoing many theorists of his time, Wright popularized individual self-sufficiency and separation from the State, which subsequently led him to propose his most utopian schemes, such as Broadacre City, the original drawings of which I first saw at ‘Unpacking the Archive’.
Despite its extensive publicity, Broadacre City remained a paper project, and was first published in Wright’s 1932 book The Disappearing City. It projected the incursion of the American suburbs into the wild plains, but instead of fragile and atomised commuter settlements dependent upon the metropolis, his new ‘Living City’ would instead become a collection of household agricultural sites of production. Both radical planning proposal and utopian social vision, for Wright’s model to work the Federal Land Reserve would supply one square acre of property to each family to cultivate. His idea was markedly American and of the time, reflecting ideals of democratic capitalism with undercurrents of a deep unease with the unyielding vastness of the Great Plains which by that point had been settled for less than ten generations.
It was at this time, with no commissions materialising, that Wright moved his family ‘back to the land’—to a farm in Taliesin, Arizona, where he developed his Davidson Little Farms Unit project (1932-33), a large model of which is also unveiled at ‘Unpacking the Archive’. His grand vision utilized state-of-the-art prefabrication methods to produce ‘little farms’ on which each nuclear family could lead an independent existence, deriving their subsistence from the land, and therefore, as in Broadacre City, cut their attachment to the State, infrastructure systems and the wider community. The project built upon ideas proposed by Wright’s friend and warehouse company owner Walter Davidson, who suggested there needed to be a drastic reworking of the food supply chain into a situation where people in the main fed themselves, with any excess then sold into a common market.
While the US has since implemented radical mass farming and monocropping measures to lower the price of agro-produce and in theory make affordable food available to all, from my European perspective I was unsettled by how in so many inner city neighbourhoods, from Pittsburgh to Chicago, there seemed to be a desert of fresh and affordable food within walking distance. To find a shop selling fresh produce, the only solution seemed to be to drive to a wealthier neighbourhood, and for affordable food, to an out-of-town hypermarket. Stemming from concerns already present in the 1930’s, the fragility of the US food supply was again brought to light during recent disasters such as Hurricane Sandy which led to a surge in concerns over self-sufficiency. This was echoed in the growth of the Prepping subculture, which I covered for LOBBY in 2015. Rather than rely on state infrastructure, Preppers take it upon themselves to prepare for when disaster strikes, by hoarding food and planning escape routes through the city.
A key aim of ‘Unpacking the Archive’ is to reopen Wright’s lesser known work for critical enquiry and debate to mark the arrival of the Wright archives to MoMA and the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library in New York. Many of the pieces have been selected by recognised scholars or curatorial staff as being understudied, or harbour interesting juxtapositions when viewed next to some of Wright’s most seminal and best-known works. While exploring the exhibition, a drawing which caught my eye was the sketched perspective of the 1928 Rosenwald School, a courtyard schoolhouse with triangulated windows and a double-hipped roof. As Wright was not commonly known for academic buildings, I read further into the project to realise it was part of a scheme led by two prominent Chicago philanthropists, Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington, to supply prefabricated schoolhouses for black students across America.
The Rosenwald project provides an interesting example of how Wright begins to connect places of education to the the learning process in the understanding that architecture possesses agency within itself to alter behaviour. This was a radical concept for the time. The aim of the project was to upgrade the existing model of pattern-book ‘clapboard schoolhouses’ rolled out in black neighbourhoods and instead create buildings innovative both in terms of their construction methods and architectural style. As with all Rosenwald schools, the students were expected to help construct the building, the hands-on labor subsequently forming a vital part of their education. The project also exemplifies how Wright was prepared to implement ideas he had developed for his wealthier private clients for the greater good, adding what at the time would be considered luxury features—such as a spacious plan with a central pool—to what otherwise would be strictly utilitarian designs. Despite these progressive moves, interviews and letters from the time clarify that Wright strongly believed black Americans should be educated separately due to inherent racial differences, reflecting the cultural hierarchies and othering of non-white Americans at the time.
Further research into Rosenwald led me to Mabel O. Wilson, architect and Columbia GSAAP professor who hasstudied the drawings in depth and contributed an essay on the project for the exhibition catalogue. Speaking over the phone, she expressed to me the frustration she feels when researching Wright. “The bulk of Wright scholarship is always so hagiographic, it mines the words Wright put out for himself when touring the exhibition circuit, so now that the archives have shifted to Avery and Columbia where I teach, I think it does offer an opportunity to find different perspectives and ways of looking at well-known projects”. That does ring true, I thought, as the majority of the architectural and biographical literature on Wright might lead a reader into thinking he was a lone operator, a solitary dreamer and visionary with an insatiable production rate. The Rosenwald School project therefore puts forward an interesting case in that it exhibits how Wright worked progressively within a constellation of other well-known names of his time.
“The bulk of Wright scholarship is always so hagiographic, it mines the words Wright put out for himself when touring the exhibition circuit, so now that the archives have shifted to Avery and Columbia where I teach, I think it does offer an opportunity to find different perspectives and ways of looking at well-known projects” Mabel O. Wilson
Wright embedded himself in fashionable intellectual circles and socialised regularly with many prominent thinkers, records of which he kept in his diaries. “The number of other archives the Rosenwald School project touches goes to show that Wright was interacting and working between other major institutions and personalities of the time”, explains Wilson. “In the formative months of the project, Wright travelled with his uncle, the prominent Unitarian minister Jenkin Lloyd Jones and education reformer Jerry J. Adams, to visit and survey existing Rosenwald school buildings.” These trips heavily influenced Wright’s thinking especially in regards to education in minority and low-income communities. Due to the Jim Crow laws of the time, black students rarely had access to school buildings, despite paying the same state tax.
Wilson’s understanding of the Rosenwald prototype is holistic, engaging with both the constructional aspects of the project and the procurement process in equal measure, which she suggests brought to light important structural inequalities that cannot be overlooked. “When Wright says America, he means white America. That’s the transparency of whiteness that has always been constructed in the US. When [Wright] says ‘I have done projects for alien races, such as the Japanese and the negros’, he clearly does not see blacks as Americans. Rhetoric aside, that is part of his beliefs.”
Chasmic racial divides not only continue to exist within the present-day US but were markedly visible as I travelled through the Rustbelt towns. These divisions cut through every aspect of everyday life—the spatial, economic, and educational. If a neighbourhood appeared to have less access to services, money to repair roads or even access to basic healthcare provision, nine times out of ten it was majority black. It may not be surprising that many prominent black Americans I came to be aware of during the trip, such as Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, founder of Chicago, have been for the most part written out of the historical narrative. As in Wright’s day, racial divides still determine how and where students are educated. According to a 2016 GAO study, US schools are increasingly segregated, with the number of ‘apartheid schools’—schools in which black students make up 99% of the student population—on the increase since 2003. Over 1/6 of black students in the US are currently educated in such schools, many of which are underfunded and understaffed. The latest wave of racialized sentiment, which the current President has done little to repress, now threatens to worsen the situation.
By the time Frank Lloyd Wright was born in 1867, racial divisions already deeply stratified American society. Should Wright’s opinions on this matter therefore be confined to the past as irrelevant when appreciating his design work, which is, even by today’s standards, visionary and radically experimental? I discussed the topic further with Wilson. “Wright was clearly a student of [architect Louis] Sullivan, who was also grappling with the pressures of American identity,” she suggests, “I think he honestly thought they [his comments relating to the black community] were noble, as in, he did not go about it in a derogatory way. On one hand you have these very progressive ideas about education, that African American boys should be at school, but on the other hand he refers in several locations to them as ‘darkies’, a very racist and derogatory term used in the South. Wright is kind of a bundle of contradictions in that way.” Wilson believes Wright’s social philosophies cannot be detached from his design work, and these reflections instead open up new understandings due to the entanglement of architecture with other recognised disciplines of academic study.
In fact, Wright had originally approached Rosenwald as he knew his catalogue was soon to expand from schoolhouses into homes. Rosenwald’s construction philosophies conveniently overlaid onto his own, and if the schoolhouses were a success, Wright saw that prefabrication had the potential to franchize into other typologies.
While the bulk of Wright’s commissions were custom homes for wealthy clients, he did pursue prefabrication as a means of democratising construction—not unlike what WikiHouse promises today for digital manufacturing. For the Rosenwald project, Wright researched and tested a textile block system to create prefabricated panels that could be installed with minimum cost. It was a exploration of the commercial potential of architecture before the mid-century catalogue culture fully took off during the 1950s. ‘Democratization’ was a buzzword in American civil life during the time and featured heavily in Wright’s theoretical writings. He saw himself in the footsteps of the great industrialists by promoting democratization, but he was also acutely aware of the business benefits an off-the-shelf architecture promised.
Back in 1917, a full-page ad for Wright’s system-built homes had appeared in the Chicago Tribune with the headline ‘You can own an American Home!’ and went on to reassure the reader the ‘distinctly American design’ would ‘endure’, with ‘personality and beauty’, at a ‘guaranteed price!’ In fact, Wright had originally approached Rosenwald as he knew his catalogue was soon to expand from schoolhouses into homes. Rosenwald’s construction philosophies conveniently overlaid onto his own, and if the schoolhouses were a success, Wright saw that prefabrication had the potential to franchize into other typologies. The ethos of the Rosenwald project—how architects can expedite and make construction affordable to all—exemplified a seismic shift in the role and production of the the design industry during the twentieth century.
While in Chicago, I visited a number of Wright buildings, including his shingle-style home and studio in Oak Park, built when he was just 22 years old. Located on a ‘dirt road to the prairie’, a newly occupied zone of the sprawling Chicago suburbs, the house is constructed of a dark stained cedar with dentil moulding and wrap-around verandah. Wright rebelled against the dark and compartmentalised styles in fashion at the time to design a labyrinth of ‘rooms within rooms’, with groupings of windows which beam light across the interior. Dark corridors open up into spacious and bright rooms through concealed doorways. Looking to the future, Wright pre-wired the house to receive electricity before it was available in Oak Park, and utilized the recent invention of the power jigsaw to commission ornate timber detailing. The elaborate frescoes painted inside many of the rooms, including the children’s playroom, depict a series of romanticised scenes reminiscent of Native American mythology, as Wright seeked to define an aesthetic and spiritual architectural language meaningful to the American Industrial Age.
The elaborate frescoes painted inside many of the rooms, including the children’s playroom, depict a series of romanticised scenes reminiscent of Native American mythology, as Wright seeked to define an aesthetic and spiritual architectural language meaningful to the American Industrial Age.
The philosophy behind the frescoes evolved to become a main preoccupation in Wright’s career—to reinvent the aesthetic language of modern American design by leaning on symbolism from other visual cultures, including those of the Native American and the Japanese. How Wright’s domestic plans pivot about a central hearth speaks directly of Native American vernacular architecture, and can be seen in other projects presented at ‘Unpacking the Archive’, such as the Nakoma Country Club (1923-24), which also exhibits animal iconography borrowed from the Winnebago tribe who once inhabited the land around Madison, Wisconsin. This organicism has since been cited both as an attempt to divorce American architectural language, at least in part, from its colonial roots, and as a way of furthering the Frank Lloyd Wright brand. “There is a way in which Europeans arrived in America”, Wilson suggests, “they couldn’t quite figure out what the New World was about, therefore the native becomes some sort of an icon of the natural man. On one hand I think it was kind of sympathetic, but again it points back to the idea of a civilising force, which was so fundamental for the emergence of the modern world.”
Wright was no stranger to the role personal branding had in propelling his local office from drawing domestic projects into a household name then touring the international exhibition circuit. “Wright and architecture had, for many Americans, become synonymous”, writes exhibition curator Barry Bergdoll in his foreword to the MoMA catalogue. Born Frank Lincoln Wright, he changed his name around the same time he was establishing his practice at Oak Park, which has since been cited as a branding exercise. Wright’s personalised visual identity and Japanese-esque stamp evolved throughout his career, as did his penchant for self-publicism. Wright was known for calling his own press conferences and even appeared as Man of the Year in the 1938 edition of Time Magazine. He also featured on Mike Wallace’s television show and the game show ‘What’s my Line’ as he cultivated his pop-culture image. This aspect of Wright appears strikingly contemporary in the current political climate, with the current US president propelled into celebrity status not only as a cut-throat developer, but also with an acute knowledge of how to manipulate the mass media to influence popular thought.
While lauded as visionary and prophetic, The Mile High project in Illinois (1956) is often cited as a key example of Wright at his pinnacle of egoism. It stood at four times the height of the Empire State Building in New York, the tallest building in the world at the time. To present the project to the world, Wright called a signature press conference, this time with an eight-foot-tall drawing showpiece, which is displayed at ‘Unpacking the Archive’. “This drawing is a manifesto about architecture”, exhibition curator Barry Bergdoll asserts in a video explaining the project, “it’s also an autobiography of Wright.” Wright was savvy not only in his design work, but also in constructing his public image as a frontman, strengthening his networks, making deals and securing contracts.
“It is typical in architecture, that the great man gets the name and can claim everything, but in fact it is a collective production, the labour is distributed amongst many people, whose signatures, fingerprints and thoughts are all over the drawings.” Mabel O. Wilson
Wright’s propensity for self-publicity throws up interesting questions regarding the authorship of his projects. While as a designer he was undoubtedly extremely accomplished and productive, Wright also had a talented and international drawing team behind him who produced the majority of the physical material, the sketches, models and renderings, not unlike a major international design office today. “It is typical in architecture, that the great man gets the name and can claim everything, but in fact it is a collective production, the labour is distributed amongst many people, whose signatures, fingerprints and thoughts are all over them”, Wilson suggests. It is also less well-known that Wright employed the first practicing female architect, Marion Mahony Griffin, who penned some of Wright’s best known renderings, such as Unity Temple, which I also had the opportunity to visit while in Chicago. Many prominent Japanese draughtsmen also passed through the studio, the impact of which could be considered self-evident regarding the design and detailing of many of Wright’s buildings.
“Architectural education is one of the few professional educations where history is taught directly. Architecture draws on its histories – what architecture students are taught is what these histories are, what they mean.” Mabel O. Wilson
Wright was a pioneer of architecture as a laboratory of innovation, of progressive social reimaginings. He understood the profession’s problematic entanglement with money and political influence which determined—for the most part more than he could—what he built and where. Equally, Wright was an established professional who prioritised craft and construction detailing and the associated competencies of the master builder. It is the intersection between these characteristics that underpin his practice and produce such a fascinating figure to study. But what more is there possibly to know about Frank Lloyd Wright?
As long as Wright remains the uninterrupted frontman of American architectural production, copious talented practitioners will never gain access to the spotlight. Yet, each new generation brings a unique reinterpretation of the ‘great master’, linking aspects of his practice to the issues which matter in their present. “Architectural education is one of the few professional educations where history is taught directly”, suggests Wilson, “architecture draws on its histories – what architecture students are taught is what these histories are, what they mean.” In reflection, this is why it is important to keep these histories alive and under constant reimagination. The Wright archives being received in their new context has brought to the fore projects that have never before been studied. During my time at ‘Unpacking the Archive’, I was surprised how not only the ideas behind Wright’s projects had endured the test of time, but also the graphic style of much of the drawing work and models—an example of how history makes and remakes itself.
The wind rustles through the trees in the leafy University of Chicago campus as I look on at Wright’s Robie House with its almost impossibly cantilevered roof, an engineering feat today despite it being finished in 1910. As one of the best known examples of Wright’s Prairie Style, the house exhibits a strong horizontality in its exterior lines, supposedly inspired by the plains of the American Midwest. It stands gracefully quiet, upkept and manicured. The moment seems a world away from my time in Detroit. America’s endless supply of mystifying contradictions is part of its allure, and why I view Wright as a true American architect.
“America’s endless supply of mystifying contradictions is its allure, and why I view Wright as a true American architect”
Unpacking the Archive is available to view at MoMA until October 1, 2017. Readers may also be interested in the upcoming conference for the Society of Architectural Historians, September 13 – 15 in New York.
The office of MAD Architects, from our feature Office Still Life. Photo credit: Marc Goodwin/Archmospheres
Not long ago, marketing for architecture firms primarily relied on word of mouth. Golf games, dinners at country clubs and schmoozing were once a big part of the job description for the person in charge the firm’s marketing. The field, however, has shifted dramatically and fraternizing with wealthy elites in the hopes of them becoming one’s next client are getting replaced with competition entries, press kits, social media, and branding.
In the early 20th century, marketing one’s practice was actually forbidden by the AIA. Concerned that underbidders would produce something of a lesser quality, the first Principles of Practice adopted in 1909 by the association barred architects from marketing themselves and prohibited firms from knowingly competing with one another by offering to charge less for the same work. Advertising, even proposals and sketches, were prohibited by the professional organization as architects were essentially required to charge the same percentage of construction cost.
In 1972, the AIA finally agreed to allow members to submit price quotes, competitive bids, discounts, or free work such as proposals and sketches. As a result, marketing became an increasingly vital part of architecture firms; it helps bring in new clients, adds value to the brand, and helps to attract and retain top talent. Today, as Matthew Hoffman from Blank Space said, “architecture ventures can’t rely on answering RFPs anymore, we need to actively create opportunities for ourselves. It’s a completely different mindset.”
marketing is a collaborative process that requires excellent communication and critical thinking
This means that firms are looking to fill these positions with candidates that have an entrepreneurial spirit. At Blank Space, “for candidates [they’ve] hired, this has involved starting organizations at their University, crafting successful Kickstarter campaigns, and raising their own funding for an installation.” For New York-based firm Studio V, this is “someone who is outgoing and has a dynamic personality, with excellent communication skills, extremely organized and is able to manage up to the principal of the firm.”
Studio Gang is looking for a Marketing Director as the firm grows and begins work on a wider range of scales, types, and locations. They want a candidate who is excited to not only take on the role, but be fully integrated in the firm. Sarah Kramer, a Senior Editor at the firm, tells us, “marketing is not a siloed activity at our office. Just like design, it’s a collaborative process that requires excellent communication and critical thinking. Our ideal candidate would be enthusiastic about working directly with Studio leadership and our communication and design teams on proposals and other pursuits. They would be invested in understanding our work, approach, and mission; expert at identifying project opportunities that corresponds with our interests; and adept at conveying—verbally and visually—the specific ways in which we would address these projects.”
The marketing component at architecture firms is business to business as opposed to marketing to the general public. Amanda Sigafoos, who has been working as a Marketing Director for the LA-based Rios Clementi Hale Studios since 2008, told us that she imagines “that marketers at law and accounting firms have a similar job to [hers], but a marketer working for a tech company selling an app, or a marketer working for Mattel selling Barbie dolls, would have very different roles and responsibilities from [hers]. Job descriptions for these roles often talk about specific reporting and metrics that are important to their job success. They often have very targeted and specific campaigns for new products and trends. Product marketers are marketing to consumers as opposed to clients or collaborators.”
Compared to other industries, marketing architecture “is almost exclusively based on relationships. They are cultivated over many years, based on referrals from other existing relationships, or begin based on an earned reputation supported from other successful relationships. We don’t earn clients via billboards or radio commercials; we earn clients from thoughtful and appropriate proposals and the strength of our reputation.”
Most firms looking to fill these positions are looking for candidates with a background in the architecture and design communities
Sigafoos began her career in the field while still a student at USC’s Marshall School of Business. While completing an assignment for a class on sales, she reached out to Calvin Abe of Ahbe Landscape Architects to discuss the AEC procurement process and was later offered an interview opportunity for the position of Marketing Coordinator at his firm, which she ended up landing. After working at Ahbe for five years, she joined Rios Clementi.
When discussing her role with Archinect, Sigafoos noted that the position fills more duties than might be immediately obvious. At her current firm, she works on proposals and statements of qualification (sometimes submitted together, sometimes not), coordinates contracting and insurance certificate assignments, documents and tracks opportunity details in our CRM software, produces project photo shoots, works with our publicists on office and project PR campaigns, event coordination, and works with her team on award submission support, social media plans, website implementation, blog updates, office presentations, and more. One of her proudest accomplishments to date is the publication of RCHS’ first book, Not Neutral: For Every Place, Its Story.
Most firms looking to fill these positions are looking for candidates with a background in the architecture and design communities and the desired levels of experience, depending on the position and firm, tend to range from 1-5 years. The skills required, though varied from firm to firm, largely include strong communication and writing skills, a strength in graphic design, good organization and people skills, fluency in social media and SEO tools, and a proficiency in Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office. Sounds interesting? Looking for a new job? Take a look at our job board to find the marketing position for you!
“Plyscraper,” “woodscraper,” call it what you will, but the timber age is upon us. Brock Commons Tallwood House, the recently completed student residence building at the University of British Columbia(UBC) in Vancouver, now occupies a prominent position within architecture: the tallest timber structured building in the world.
Designed by the Canadian practice Acton Ostry Architects Inc., the project was a collaborative effort of a number of leading companies and consulting firms including Fast + Epp, Austria-based Architekten Hermann Kaufmann, and GHL Consultants Ltd., along with the renowned manufacturer of mass timber products and packages, Structurlam.
“We found that working with wood, we could reduce timelines for construction. The assembly of the wood structure went up incredibly quickly, faster than we even expected”, explained John Metras, Managing Director of Infrastructure Development at UBC.
Stretching up to a height of 53 meters, the building houses 404 students and comprises a mix of one-bedroom and studio units, study and social spaces, and a student lounge on the topmost floor. With the design and construction team working in tandem from the very beginning, the process was streamlined by a thorough testing of wood-to-wood connections on a two-story mock-up prior to on-site construction. This not only allowed the team to test structural stability, but also helped perfect the timeline of the project.
Even more pertinent to the pre-fabrication process was a detailed 3-D model, which helped various departments to collaboratively discuss and apply ideas prior to finalizing them for actual fabrication or construction. Owing to meticulous planning and the efficient integration of construction and design processes, Brock Commons was completed within a mere 70 days after the prefabricated components were ready for assembly – considerably shorter than the amount of time it would have taken to complete a concrete building of the same size.
Surprisingly though, despite wood being the main material used throughout the structure, the interior does little to reveal it. The structure is concealed behind drywall and concrete topping, mainly to comply with the accepted fire-safety codes and consequently speed up approval from building authorities. While Brock Commons could attract some criticism due to this particular aspect, the pros of the mass timber model still seem to outweigh the few cons. Not only is it economically viable, but when coupled with sustainable forest management, represents an altogether environmentally friendly method of building. It is light-weight and hence less prone to damage during earthquakes, but most importantly, due to the prefabricated elements involved, it is a speedy, hassle-free construction process contributing next to nothing to on-site traffic, pollution and noise.
Recent technological developments have certainly allowed for more efficient building processes and materials. More and more architects now rally for timber instead of concrete and steel, persuaded by its proven success and in reaction to the ever-mounting issue of climate change at hand. Several mass timber projects are already underway across the world including Shigeru Ban Architects’ plans for Terrace House in Vancouver. Once complete, the structure will surpass Brock Commons to become “the tallest hybrid timber structure building in the world”.
For more details of materials and the construction process of Brock Commons Tallwood House, check out our coverage of the project from last year:
Awarded every two years by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning in partnership with the Marcus Corporation Foundation, the $100,000 prize was established to recognize architects from around the globe currently “on a trajectory to greatness.” In addition to the cash prize, the award will support an upcoming design studio at the school led by Gang.
Gang was selected from a pool of nominees from 16 countries across 4 continents, all of whom were required to demonstrate a minimum of ten years of “proven, exceptional practice.”
“[Gang] is adept at outstanding design for all scales–from the neighborhood and urban scale to the detail of buildings and interior elements,” commented jury member John Czarnecki, Editor-in-Chief of Contract Magazine. “Her practice combines design thinking about the impact of architecture and urban design on cities as well as the creation of beautiful buildings rooted in context that will stand the test of time”.