Today's archidose #737

Here are some photos of the BRAC Kanon ("first ever green retail outlet in Bangladesh," 2011) in Dhaka, Bangladesh, by Iqbal Habib, photographed by William Veerbeek.

BRAC Kanon (Iqbal Habib), Gulshan, Dhaka / BD, 2014

BRAC Kanon (Iqbal Habib), Gulshan, Dhaka / BD, 2014

BRAC Kanon (Iqbal Habib), Gulshan, Dhaka / BD, 2014

BRAC Kanon (Iqbal Habib), Gulshan, Dhaka / BD, 2014

BRAC Kanon (Iqbal Habib), Gulshan, Dhaka / BD, 2014

BRAC Kanon (Iqbal Habib), Gulshan, Dhaka / BD, 2014

BRAC Kanon (Iqbal Habib), Gulshan, Dhaka / BD, 2014

BRAC Kanon (Iqbal Habib), Gulshan, Dhaka / BD, 2014

BRAC Kanon (Iqbal Habib), Gulshan, Dhaka / BD, 2014

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Book Talk and Review: How to Study Public Life

How to Study Public Life by Jan Gehl and Birgitte Svarre
Island Press, 2013
Hardcover, 200 pages

In the question-and-answer session that followed a book talk given by Jan Gehl and Birgitte Svarre at the Center for Architecture on February 5, Gehl said that politicians in Copenhagen revealed to him quite a compliment: "If you had not made those studies, we would not have tried to make Copenhagen a better city." Those and other public space studies are highlighted in the book he penned with Svarre, yet the evening focused mainly on what can be learned from their home city. How the Danish city has improved in the last five decades – the span of Gehl's career – is obvious to many people, especially those in the packed house at the Center. Nevertheless, Gehl clearly likes to recount how closing streets to cars, promoting bicycling and other measures have made Copenhagen lively, attractive, safe, sustainable, and healthy – the five-fold barometer he uses to gauge how much public space improvements actually improve public life.

How to Study Public Life
[Jan Gehl. Photo by John Hill]

For those who have seen Gehl speak, like myself, the book talk held few surprises. He bashed modernist planning that was the norm when he graduated from college in the early 1960s, most memorably described as the "Brasilia Syndrome" (designing patterns from the air) and 50 years later in the "bird-shit architects dropping their buildings on Dubai." He spoke about the influence of Jane Jacobs, William H. Whyte, and other contemporaries both on himself and other practitioners, admitting that it's been slow to seeing their ideas having tangible impacts on cities. Gehl also spoke about his work with the Bloomberg administration on pedestrianizing Times Square and in the creation of "more bike lanes in NYC in 4 years than Copenhagen made in 50 years." Yet even as these and other stories or statements are repeated in Gehl's talks, they are delivered with such zest and humor that it is easy to get swept along on his ideas aimed at achieving the five-fold improvements that have transformed Copenhagen, Melbourne, New York City, and most recently Moscow through his work around the globe.

How to Study Public Life
[Birgitte Svarre (and a younger Gehl on the wall). Photo by John Hill]

Svarre for a little while after Gehl, before he joined her on stage for some questions from the audience. Svarre's talk focused more on what is offered in the book, while Gehl's talk was admittedly a trip from 1961 (Jane Jacobs' book) to 2009 (NYC pedestrian streets). And while Gehl has penned a number of influential books that have been translated into more than 20 languages, his book with Svarre promises to be the most helpful for urban designers and administrators as they attempt to improve their public realms, perhaps inspired to do so by Copenhagen or New York City. As Svarre put it in her talk, "Jane Jacobs created insights but not tools," so their book is like a toolbox ready to be unpacked and used.

How to Study the Public Life
[Svarre and Gehl. Photo by John Hill]

In the book's seven chapters, Gehl and Svarre describe: who, what and where to observe; how to count, map, track and observe people in public space; and what to read as precedents. But it is the chapter with research notes that will be the most valuable to practitioners, since the documented studies are fairly diverse in terms of geography, technique and outcome. Most studies are from Gehl's practice, but they are not limited to his work alone, so we also read about Whyte's famous observations in NYC with time-lapse photography as well as newer studies that use GPS and computers to learn about the behavior of people in particular urban spaces. If anything, the variety of the chapter illustrates that while we have core needs and desires that we hope cities fulfill (the five-fold criteria, again), all spaces are different and therefore require some form of observation to determine what, if anything, should change. Thanks to Gehl and Svarre, urban designers have a helpful reference for getting started with the process of getting outside into public spaces to look and learn.

Vote for A Daily Dose of Architecture

A Daily Dose of Architecture is one of eight blogs nominated in the Architecture category of the 5th Annual JDR Industry Blogger Awards. Other categories include Interior Design, Remodeling, Construction Business, Green, and Microblog, and it looks like I'm in good company, with some known and new-to-me blogs in contention. If you like this little 'ol blog, head over to JDR's website and cast your vote, taking a look at the other contenders while you're at it.


Thanks to JDR for this opportunity. Voting ends April 11.

50x50: 308 Mulberry

American-Architects Building of the Week:

308 Mulberry in Lewes, Delaware, by Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, Architect:
this week's Building of the Week

Last week's Building of the Week (which I forgot to post):

Biomass Heating Facility in Lakeville, Connecticut, by Centerbrook Architects and Planners:
this week's Building of the Week

American-Architects is taking a state-by-state look at architecture in the United States for our 2014 Building of the Week feature. "50x50 - 50 Projects in 50 Weeks" presents one recent project from each state in alphabetical order, from Alabama to Wyoming. Projects are added every Monday.

Today's archidose #736

Here are some photos of the Bagsværd Church (1976) in Bagsværd, Copenhagen, Denmark, by Jørn Utzon, photographed by Flemming Ibsen.

bagsværd kirke

bagsværd kirke

bagsværd kirke

bagsværd kirke

bagsværd kirke

bagsværd kirke

bagsværd kirke

bagsværd kirke

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Gehry Atop Wright

While looking at an article on Curbed earlier today, I was intrigued by a photo of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Specifically, what was the undulating canopy atop the cylinder in the foreground, mounted in front of the Gwathmey Siegel-designed slab addition?

The rippling metal looked undeniably Frank Gehry, so my first thought was an exhibition on the architect who is responsible for the Guggenheim in Bibao, Spain.

Turns out Frank Gehry, Architect was on display from May 14 until September 14, 2001, an exhibition I did not attend but whose catalog I have seen. As part of the major retrospective:
A second site-specific architectural element [in addition to one in the rotunda] is a titanium-clad canopy above the sculpture terrace off Tower 5. The canopy extends over an outdoor café, which has been created especially for this exhibition. The undulating forms of this structure recall those used to create the façade of a hotel at Marques de Riscal (1998–present), a winery in Elciego, Spain, and dramatically mediate between the robust curves of the Frank Lloyd Wright building and the rectilinear vocabulary of the Gwathmey Siegel tower. This special installation provides a first-hand opportunity for visitors to experience Gehry's designs on a built scale. [Source]
A. Zahner Company was listed as a supporter of the exhibition on a press release for the exhibition, and not surprisingly they fabricated the aluminum and titanium canopy, first in Kansas City:

[Photo from A. Zahner website]

Then on the Fifth Avenue site:

[Photo from A. Zahner website]

A couple of A. Zahner elevations conveyed the scale of the canopy relative to the Wright museum:

[North elevation from A. Zahner website]

[West elevation from A. Zahner website]

And I think their photo from above captured how the canopy "mediate[d] between the robust curves of the Frank Lloyd Wright building and the rectilinear vocabulary of the Gwathmey Siegel tower":

[Photo from A. Zahner website]

Lastly, what I thought to be a now-forgotten element from a major exhibition about the world's most famous living architect (even then, four years after the Guggenheim Bilbao was completed), was embraced by at least one artist, Rachel Cozad, who moved the canopy and cafe to an otherwise empty field:

According to both Zahner and Cozad, the canopy was considered for permanent installation. It's kind of a shame that didn't happen, as Gehry's canopy seems to fit well atop the Wright building...better than in a field or a Kansas City parking lot, at least.

Tech Force Pen

Josh Wilson of Chicago is looking to manufacturer the Tech Force Pen, a "minimalist pen and ruler sleeve, precision machined from aircraft aluminum." Like many people he is using Kickstarter to fund his undertaking, and as of today he's a few dollars short of his $10,000 goal.

I get a fair number of inquiries from people asking me to push their Kickstarter campaigns, most of which I don't post about. But Mr. Wilson's design happens to align with the fact I carry around a separate pen and ruler in my pencil case, the former a Pixma Micron and the latter an orange plastic scale made from Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Central Park Gates, no less. So I like the idea of combining the two into one, especially in metal.

Coop Himmelb(l)au in NYC?

Could Vienna's Coop Himmelb(l)au be realizing a building in New York City? And a high-rise to boot? Per a description-free news item on the firm's website with the following renderings, that might just be the case.

[rendering from architect's website]

(Via Curbed, which has more speculative information on the project.)

Today's archidose #735

Here are some photos of Falconry in Zülpich, Germany, designed and built by students at FH Köln*. Photographs are by Chris Schroeer-Heiermann, who writes:
The fourth-semester project last year for architecture students at the FH Köln was a falconry, which we knew was supposed to actually be built on the grounds of a garden-exhibit in Zülpich, near Köln. So we approached the powers that be with 30 of the 120 designs which had been submitted, and one, designed by Viviane Bonfanti, was actually selected for realization. A group of 4 students were assisted by myself and 2 other professors and, with the help of a structural engineer, worked out all the details and logistics to make the theory reality.

We found a sponsor willing to pay for the materials and a local vocational school with an interested teacher and group of ongoing carpenters with a sense of adventure who then volunteered to build it.

So two weeks ago [as of January 29], after we laid the sole plate, the architecture students coordinated the erection of the rough-construction over the course of one week.
*Project team:
FH Köln Students: Viviane Bonfanti, Patrick Müller, Nadja Thielen, Nina Wester
FH Köln Faculty: Prof. Peter Scheder, Prof. i.V. Susanne Kohte, Prof. i.V. Chris Schroeer-Heiermann








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Documentary Review: The Rise and Fall of Penn Station

The Rise and Fall of Penn Station directed and written by Randall MacLowry
Based in part on the book Conquering Gotham: Building Penn Station and Its Tunnels by Jill Jonnes
PBS/American Experience, 2014

For an architect the two most facinating things about New York's Penn Station – the one from 1910, not today's incarnation – are the grand spaces of iron and stone and the unsuccesful fight to save the building from demolition only 53 years after it was built. In the design of Charles McKim of McKim, Mead and White, the former were influenced by the Roman Baths of Caracalla, and the main space was on par with the nave of St. Peters Basilica in scale and some might even say beauty, at least for such a utilitarian building. The latter involved Jane Jacobs, Philip Johnson and other people with otherwise divergent views who came together over the obvious architectural merits of the two-block-large edifice.

But in this one-hour documentary premiering Tuesday, February 18, on PBS, clearly the filmmakers are fascinated with overcoming the natural feature that made it take so long to bring national train service into Manhattan: the Hudson River. The design and construction of the tunnels under the river comprises a large chunk of the documentary, not surprising considering that writer/director MacLowry looked to the book whose subtitle is Building Penn Station and Its Tunnels.

With so many minutes given to the still appealing tunnels, as well as to the equally compelling story of how Pennsylvania Railroad president Alexander Cassatt (who died before the station was completed) made the station a reality, there is little time left to delve into the efforts of pre-Landmarks preservationists ("A few people protested, but to no avail" is all the narrator says about it), the station's demolition or recent efforts to make Penn Station once again a proud entry into New York City.

If MacLowry would have looked instead to Hilary Ballon's New York's Pennsylvania Station, which features the historian's thorough account of the building's rise and fall as well as "The Destruction of Penn Station," a photo essay by Norman McGrath, and "The New Penn Station" by Marilyn Taylor of SOM (then overseeing the transformation of the Post Office across the street into a new station for Amtrak), the documentary would have an emphasis on what Ballon calls an "unnecessary" marvel, the majestic above-ground station itself.

The tunnels, platforms and other pieces of the puzzle that make the railroad function are still in place over 100 years later, but the public face that Penn Railroad built to express its power did not need to survive in order for the railroad to keep going. This fact makes the demolition understandable but no less excusable. New York City is still grappling with this history 50 years later, and this documentary shows that a clear-cut narrative on the project is both difficult and worth more than a one-hour time slot.

Wheelwright Prize Deadline Is Tomorrow

The deadline for registration for the 2014 Wheelwright Prize is tomorrow, February 15. The prize from the Harvard GSD is "a $100,000 traveling fellowship open to talented early-career architects worldwide proposing exceptional itineraries for research and discovery." Last year's winner – the first prize that looked outside of the GSD – was Brooklyn-based architect Gia Wolff.

Some general information from the Wheelright Prize website:
The Wheelwright Prize is a $100,000 travel-based research grant that is awarded annually to early-career architects who have demonstrated exceptional design talent, produced work of scholarly and professional merit, and who show promise for continued creative work.

Throughout its history, Harvard GSD has had a strong global outlook, attracting deans, faculty, and students from all over the world. Moreover, a mainstay of the GSD curriculum is its traveling studio, which emphasizes the acceptance of ideas and practices with a diversity of origins. The Wheelwright Prize extends the school’s ethos, encouraging a broad-minded approach to architecture that seeks inspiration from unexpected quarters.

The Wheelwright Prize is intended to spur innovative research during the early stage of an architect's professional career. Now open to applicants from all over the world—no affiliation to Harvard GSD required—the prize aims to foster new forms of research informed by cross-cultural engagement. "The idea is not just about travel—the act of going and seeing the world—but it is about binding the idea of geography to themes and issues that hold great potential relevance to contemporary practice," says Harvard GSD Dean Mohsen Mostafavi.

The winner will be selected via an open call for proposals and a rigorous review process. The winner of the Wheelwright Prize will receive:
  • $100,000 cash prize to support travel and research-related costs
  • invitation to lecture at Harvard GSD
  • possibility to publish research in a Harvard GSD publication

The Wheelwright Prize organizing committee includes Harvard GSD Dean Mohsen Mostafavi, Professors K. Michael Hays and Jorge Silvetti, and Assistant Dean Benjamin Prosky.

#FolkMoMA Reuse

MoMA says it will dismantle the Folk Art Museum's bronze-panel facade and store it somewhere. How about tilting it up and making the facade a constant presence of the building they demolished, casting a shadow over the "Art Bay"?


Original photo of Folk Art facade by me. Original rendering of MoMA expansion by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. See alternatives to MoMA's storage solution at FolkMoMA.

Today's archidose #734

Here are some photos of the RMIT International Centre of Graphic Technology in Brunswick, VIC, Australia, by John Wardle Architects, photographed by Ximo Michavila.

John Wardle Architects. RMIT Printing Facility #1

John Wardle Architects. RMIT Printing Facility #5

John Wardle Architects. RMIT Printing Facility #7

John Wardle Architects. RMIT Printing Facility #6

John Wardle Architects. RMIT Printing Facility #10

John Wardle Architects. RMIT Printing Facility #9

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Framework of the Social Enterprise & the Future of Work #e20s

The Enterprise 2.0 is slowly coming to an end. We're at the final keynote round about 'Framework of the Social Enterprise & the Future of Work'.

First up Marie Taillard. Marie challenges us to look beyond the enterprise to the ecosystem. Where is the value in the ecosystem? Where is your customer at? Are we - at the summit - focusing enough on the customer? Internal and external can and should help each other.

Then Peter Vander Auwera about 'Corporate Rebels United, the start of a corporate spring?'. Our orgs no longer serve our needs. They cannot keep pace with the current world. Corporate rebels wants to address this. They love the organizations they work for and address the issues in the organization from a deep personal conviction.
21st century practices of new orgs according to corporate rebels:
  • organizational structure
  • leadingship
  • strategic options portfolio
  • decision making
  • lean execution
  • system innovation
  • self-expression
And Dion Hinchclliffe has the honor to close the conference. His talk is about 'Frameworks for Next-Gen Organizational Structure'.

Dion points to the large study done by McKinsey for proof that enterprise 2.0/social business is real. But most organizations (96%) are doing internal and external social business efforts distinct from each other. This is strange between internal and external are so connected.

Dion warns us to be careful with blueprints. People and organizations are unique, the way social business will work for them will be different as well.

Your social business team will never be big enough. Organize internal and external transformation, like advocate program. Because the network will always be bigger.

Dion shares his framework for social business, the importance of community management (relating to Rachel Happe's model), and (technical) standards. (I'll insert links later.)

There's a broad pattern in frameworks for next-gen orgs emerging:
  • decentralization
  • user-control
  • need to cope with constant change
  • adaptive processes
  • local autonomy
And that wraps up another great Enterprise 2.0 Summit! I'll write an overview blogpost in a couple of days, sharing my highlights and insights from the conference. Now, off to drinks! :-)